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28 October 2014 @ 03:31 pm
A Crocus in the Snow 7/?  


SVARTALFHEIM



The great warship launched slowly, rising high above Svartalfheim. There, they hovered, awaiting the convergence. Sif knew little about the event, save that it was a rare alignment of all the Realms that made them all close enough together that ordinary power was enough to make their own Bifrost.

But Malekith seemed pleased with the launch, if impatient while they waited, pacing his small command deck space like an imprisoned animal. Loki waited with more seeming patience, lounging against the rail with his arms folded as if at his ease. He watched Malekith pace until he finally snapped in irritation, "Stop fretting. It will be soon. Can you not feel it? The Realms are in constant motion and now they draw nearer to one another. The boundaries grow thin."

Malekith halted and peered at Loki curiously. "You are not anxious?"

"We have both waited for this moment. It will come."

"What if the city shield is up by then?" Malekith asked. "This is taking too long."

The shield had to be up already. Heimdall would have gotten the command from the Allfather not long after she and Loki had left. Even though the Allfather hoped Loki would succeed, Sif was sure that he would plan for contingencies where he failed. Hopefully he also planned for the contingency of Loki's betrayal.

"You can still lay waste to the rest, and the shield is not impenetrable," Loki informed him calmly. "Wait until the convergence is at its height. You will need less energy to travel and have more available for the attack."

"Yes, excellent idea," Malekith agreed eagerly, snarling, "We have been exiled and trampled underfoot by the Aesir long enough. They destroyed my Realm, murdered my people, and I will unleash the darkness upon them, so they will taste my revenge."

"Yes," Loki agreed, grinning. "That will be a great day." He hesitated, and asked, "What darkness do you mean? If you intend some sorcerous attack, I will need preparation to join your spell…"

"To take the aether," Malekith told him. "I will attack and take back what Borsson stole from us and I will unleash the darkness upon Asgard until it is pulled into the void."

"Ah. I see. I thought you meant more figuratively, as I did with Jormungandr. Because….." Loki started and then stopped, frowning.

"What? Is that a problem to destroy it so utterly?" Malekith asked.

"No, no, not at all. But the aether... if that's what you truly want, you should know, it's not in Asgard."

"It sits in the Treasury. You told me so yourself," Malekith said.

"I did," Loki confirmed. "I saw it there and I assumed it was real. But when Odin foolishly let me put a hand on Gungnir, seeking to read my mind before he let me free, I read his in turn. I discovered the aether's true location. It hasn't been in Asgard for a thousand years; a simulacrum sits in the Treasury to snare the unwary."

"What?" Malekith stalked closer to peer at him closely with suspicious eyes. "Is this some game, Loki? Some trickery, Trickster?"

"I have no reason to lie about it. And think about it," Loki told him impatiently, straightening and spreading his arms in invitation. "Even Odin Allfather isn't stupid enough to keep all the Infinity Gems in the same place. The Cosmic Cube was sent to Midgard, the Gauntlet is on Asgard, and the aether..." he trailed off suggestively.

Malekith asked, "Where is it?"

Sif shook her head, horrified by this turn of events. Odin had warned that no secrets would be kept in their joining with Gungnir, yet it seemed that he was the only one whose secrets were revealed. "Loki, no! Don't tell him!" Sif implored. With the aether, Malekith would have the power to do almost anything, including bring down Asgard's shields, or make a portal that didn't require the Bifrost.

Loki glanced at her, smirked and answered, "Jotunheim. Odin stole the Casket of the Ancient Winters from them, and left the aether in its place. Hidden. But I know where it is. We can get it after we attack Asgard. It will be simple enough, once we control the Bifrost."

"No," Malekith spun away. "We go to Jotunheim first. And collect the aether."

Loki grabbed his arm, yanking him back, glaring at him furiously. "You said we would bring down Asgard. I'm here for your vendetta against them, not collecting power trinkets," he snarled.

"Patience, my friend. With the aether in our hands, think of how we can make it burn." Malekith clapped his shoulder and went to some kind of communications panel behind his seat to tell his people to change the course. "And once we have the aether, we will need neither Bifrost nor convergence to travel the arms of Yggdrasil."

Sif watched them, wanting to curse, wanting to kill, wanting to stab herself for being such a fool, for believing him. Believing the trickster, believing Loki. She should have known better, should never have been suckered...

But then, in the midst of her furious despair, she noticed the curl of Loki's lips in a faint version of his usual self-satisfied smirk. That smirk shifted to a sullen pout as soon as Malekith turned around, and she frowned.

Why was he pleased about this? What did this gain him?

He hated Jotunheim, too, so it wouldn't bother him if Malekith attacked them. The aether would make an attack on Asgard more possible.

Yet. Something niggled at her, a little worm of doubt that warned she wasn't thinking, only reacting.

Would Odin have hidden the aether on Jotunheim, risking its discovery by his enemies? He might have hidden it away from Asgard, that much she believed could be true, but there?

She looked at Loki again, tracing his profile with her eyes. That skin was no more real than anything about him; he'd made it clear that he was no Aesir and he felt no loyalty. So why not change it? Malekith knew the truth, and the Dark Elves probably would trust him more if he weren't Aesir in appearance. Yet he stayed pale-skinned. Maybe because he hated his Jotunn skin more, or maybe because he still felt a part of Asgard. He must have sensed her regard, but he refused to look at her. But was that because he didn't want to see her condemnation and rage at his betrayal, or because he was afraid he'd give away the truth?

Was she the one tricked, or was it Malekith? But surely if he'd planned to trick Malekith, he would have warned her so she wouldn't try to kill him.

Since he'd said nothing, he was still a betraying traitor. And that meant the aether really could be on Jotunheim, and Loki intended to use it against Asgard.

Even if Loki was mad, that didn't mean Malekith was, too. Perhaps he could be reasoned with.

"We came here to negotiate peace!" she exclaimed, drawing both their attention. "Even if that was never Loki's intent, it was mine. Can we not… bring this enmity to an end some other way? King Bor is long dead, there are few on Asgard who remain of that time. All those children born after are innocent of whatever fault was done to you."

"Fault?" Malekith hissed, eyes like silver in his sudden rage. He stalked to the edge of the platform, directly across from her. "Do you not know his fault, Aesir?"

"I know there was a war--" she began, and he silenced her with a sharp wave of his hand.

”Do you not know how he and your kind came to my Realm in conquest, incensed that we had dared find a way off Svartalfheim that did not depend upon your monopoly of the Bifrost. King Bor of the Cursed Name butchered my people, thousands of them until the blood wet the stone, but he was not content with such carnage. To teach us a lesson of Asgardian power, he used the tesseract to crack Svartalfheim's spine, to send molten rock and ash and dust into our air until we choked and died. The trees burned, the green withered, and our children withered with it. Until we are all that remain. Not a child has been born since he stole the aether away from us. Not one, Aesir. So speak to me not of your innocent children -- I have none. I will have none. So I must be satisfied with my vengeance."

Her mouth opened, shocked and horrified at this story. "I-- I had no knowledge of this. I-- I doubt many Aesir do."

"Your king does, Lady Sif. I know because I told him. I humbled myself before his great throne, begged his mercy, and do you know what he said? There was nothing to be done. He locked us out of the Bifrost, so that we would die. Alone. Unremembered."

"But no," Sif objected. "That can't be. That's not what-- the king would never--"

"Never?" Loki repeated and laughed once in scorn. "Do you not know Odin at all? When he stole the Casket of the Ancient Winters, he ruined Jotunheim. Like father, like son. It makes me curious which Realm Thor will someday destroy to make sure that all Nine remain under Asgardian leash."

"No, no, he would never…" Sif was still stunned. To have lost all their children, and to have no more? To have no hope for the future? Ancestors, that was terrible... "Surely we could help you? All our technology, all of yours… together… could help…"

"We want no help from butchers," Malekith snarled.

"Do you think they have sat idle for five thousand years, Sif?" Loki asked. "They have sought every remedy, magical and mundane in all our Realms, and those beyond. For naught."

"In all the Realms? What of Midgard?" Sif asked.

"The rats?" Loki retorted and laughed in scorn. "They know a little and think it is much. They have nothing to offer."

She had to agree that the Midgardians were not very advanced yet, but remembering Jane Foster and her fearless way of looking at the universe, she thought that was something to value as well. "But they are clever. Unafraid to try new things. Please, there has to be another way, Malekith. I understand your thirst for vengeance, and I know I would share it if I were you--" she glared at Loki, who smiled back unafraid, before turning her gaze back to Malekith, "but there has to be another way. Destroying Asgard will not bring your people back."

"Nothing will," Malekith said curtly. "But at least we will know as our race dies that yours died first, crying out in the darkness."

He turned from her then and stalked away, finished with the conversation.

She didn't realize Loki had stayed where he was, not following Malekith, until he mused aloud, "It is curious that Odin Allfather thought peace was even possible with this grievance, is it not? He must have thought me Silvertongue in truth to halt Malekith's revenge. Or he never understood their grievance at all. As he has never understood mine. So sure I would be grateful to him for saving my life, as he is so sure the Svartalfar were merely exaggerating their claims and distress. Or," he slowed and offered with a sly grin, "or he knows perfectly well that they will never stop and he sent me here to atone for my sins in the only way left for me."

She took his meaning and was horrified. "Loki, no."

His smile turned bitter. "Ah, yes, did you think there was forgiveness in his mind, Sif? I assure you there was not. He sent me here to plea for peace and to die by Malekith's convenient hand, as nearly happened last time. But at the last moment, I choose another path." He glanced to Malekith and the other Dark Elf watchers. "My grievance is not so weighty as some, but I assure you, my hate is no less."

She shook her head in desperate denial, as Malekith came back to Loki's side and held out his hand. "Imagine what we can do together, with the aether in our hands, my brother," Malekith declared.

Loki barely hesitated before clasping arms with him. "We shall rip them apart."

"Loki, no." But her despairing voice barely emerged from her throat, and Loki ignored her completely as he turned his back on his family and sought brotherhood with one of the other monsters.