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30 October 2014 @ 03:34 pm
A Crocus in the Snow 8/?  


JOTUNHEIM

Sif waited and watched. She longed to act, to fight, to take blades and heads, but she bit her lip and kept still. It was not yet time. If she acted too soon, they would kill her -- there was nowhere to go, trapped on this ship, and at least for now, the Dark Elves were content with keeping her guarded so she could eventually watch Asgard fall as Loki had requested.

Nor was Asgard in danger, at the moment at least, as the warship was set to open a path to Jotunheim, not Asgard. She was not going to mention anything or provoke Malekith or Loki until they were at Jotunheim, to make sure Malekith didn't change his mind and go to Asgard after all.

Surely the king had put up the shield and Heimdall was guarding the Bifrost by now, because they knew the attack was imminent, even if they were ignorant of Loki's plans to betray them. But still, the mission was to stop the attack, and so far it was delayed.

Loki kept glancing her way and smiling, in a very taunting, smirking manner that she wanted to smack off his face. But she returned a stony glare that promised his death, and his smile widened in amusement. It was very frustrating.

The ship readied to transfer, buffeted about by the uncertain new energy patterns as the Realms came into alignment, but then the power cells warmed and hummed, Dark Elves said something in their harsh tongue, and the ship was yanked from Svartalfheim… somewhere else.

She stumbled, feeling dizzy and sick to her stomach briefly. The transfer had been strange and rough, not at all like the Bifrost or even Loki's personal way to jump from Realm to Realm.

After a moment of consultation with his people, Malekith turned to Loki. "We have come. To Jotunheim. Where do we go?"

"Loki, no! Tell him nothing!" she called, knowing her objection would fall on deaf ears, yet compelled to implore him anyway.

"To the city ruins," he answered easily, ignoring her as if she'd said nothing at all. "We can go on foot from there."

"The Frost Giants will see us as we land," Malekith said.

Loki gave him a sideways look, unimpressed with the objection. "You have thousands of troops on this ship, do you not? I fail to see a problem."

"I need my warriors against Asgard. I cannot affort to have many fall here. Plus the weather is hostile."

"The weather of Jotunheim is hostile, how shocking," Loki retorted dryly, rolling his eyes. "You were the one who wanted to retrieve the aether, Malekith; blame Odin if you want to complain that the Realm is inconvenient," he sneered in contempt.

Sif had to bite her lip so she wouldn't smile, not wanting to give Loki that satisfaction, but it was a little funny how scornful he was with his own putative ally.

Malekith didn't argue or seem too angered by Loki's remark, lifting a hand to prevent any of his warriors from reacting to the implicit offense.

"Land the ship," he ordered. "Algrim, prepare a detachment for the surface." Malekith glanced, very disgruntled, at the displays. "They're out there somewhere, even if the weather is hiding them."

Algrim looked at her very suspiciously, as if once he was gone she would try something, she just smiled at him, and wondered how many Dark Elves she could kill with her hands bound.

The squad leader of Malekith's Einherjar, whatever he called it, stepped toward to reassure Algrim that he had her under control. Sif rolled her eyes, and after she saw Loki smile in amusement. He hardened up his expression when he saw that she'd noticed, but still, that was a crack she wanted to exploit, to get him to change his mind about this.

Though, Norns have mercy, there was no way the Svartalfar would change their mind, not after what she'd heard. That was troubling, to know that such a tragedy had happened because of Asgard -- there could be no justification for Bor's act in destroying an entire people.

The ship landed and it wasn't long before soldiers reported to Malekith and he was ready to go below. "Come, my friend, let us go take the aether. It appears the Frost Giants are keeping their distance, from Algrim's report."

"Certainly," Loki agreed and followed Malekith. He paused then and glanced over his shoulder at her and suggested, "I think Sif should come with us. It seems risky to leave her here, away from our supervision."

She sneered, "As if I want to watch you betray everything and everyone."

Malekith hesitated, gaze going from Loki to her as if he suspected something, but then he admitted, "If she gets out of hand, what's the worse that can happen? She runs off into the snow? The weather or the giants will kill her quickly enough. There is no Bifrost here, Sif of Asgard," he warned her. "No one is coming to your rescue."

"No one needs to rescue me," she shot back.

"You will," Malekith threatened. She glared at him, unimpressed. Malekith spun away. "We go. Bring her."

In a separate lift from the one carrying Malekith and Loki, the Dark Elves put blades against her skin, and while she could have tried something against one, that many seemed a foolish risk when she'd have better opportunity in the snow and ice fields outside than trapped on this ship.

Which Loki knew, but perhaps he was counting on numbers to keep her docile, or perhaps he realized she wouldn't want to leave without either cutting his throat or hauling him back to a cell for his treachery. Loki enjoyed dangerous games where his own control was a tenuous thing, though he looked curiously relieved when she and her minders joined them in a bare corridor full of Svartalfar.

The air already felt chill, but she refused to pull her cape over her arms, as they group headed through warriors and to an open door.

At the threshold she paused to take stock of her surroundings. Malekith's ship had landed itself in the deep canyon to one side of the ruined city, so that a ramp from the upper third of the ship could allow Malekith to step out. She frowned; this should be a similar vantage to when she'd been here not long ago, but the ruins and ice scuptures seemed different, even more tumbled. Some of it was scars from the battle, but there was far more than she remembered leaving. One of the ridges also appeared strangely lower as if in some earthquake.

The Svartalfar nudged her down the ramp and she turned to wait, as Malekith and Loki followed. Loki also hesitated at the top of the ramp, frowning.

"Loki?" Malekith prodded. "Is all well?"

"It looks… different," Loki murmured, and Sif was glad for the confirmation. "Changed," he trailed off, and looked more troubled as he glanced behind them, at the cliff-edge which seemed closer to the ruins than she remembered it being as though part of it had crumbled away.

"Can you still find the aether?" Malekith asked.

Loki grinned, but to Sif's eyes it seemed more forced, as if he was distracted by other thoughts. "Oh yes, certainly. The temple is this way."

Sif saw no Frost Giants as they trod roughly in the same direction they had gone before to confront Laufey on that ill-fated trip. Loki had discovered his own blood by accident then, somewhere in the midst of these towering columns of stone and ice which were now remnants of lost ancient glory.

She was wrong. There were Frost Giants. She nearly stepped on the arm of one, lying underneath rubble. There was a second as well, both plainly dead, caught in a landslide from above of fallen stone and dirt and ice. Once she started looking, she saw more bodies, partially covered by snow or debris.

Loki stopped on sight of them. "Like father, like son," he murmured, before catching himself, clenching his fists. Then more loudly, he said with a more sardonic tone, "Well, that explains why they haven't come to meet us."

"Are they all dead?" Malekith asked, with mild interest. "Asgard's doing I presume. To punish your kind in your stead?"

"Oh yes," Loki answered, more quietly. "To punish them for being my kind."

"Then let us find the aether and punish them," Malekith strode ahead with his guards, Loki slow to follow after.

"Asgard did no such thing," Sif declared. "That's a lie and you know it."

"When Thor shattered the Bifrost what, exactly, do you think it was connected to, Sif?" Loki returned, his meaning plain.

She stared around at the destruction, aghast. "But-- no," she protested. "That's not what-- But that means that you--"

She was so busy confronting him about this, that she noted the whistling noise as only the wind whistling through the stones.

But Loki's head snapped up and, all at once, he threw himself at her bodily, shoving her to the side and slamming her to the ground. Landing with a heavy thud, she was about to slam her fists in his face, when the giant boulder crashed to the ground atop where they had just been, making the ground tremble beneath her.

Loki grinned down into her face. "It seems they're not all dead."

"Get off me, or I will kill you right now," she promised in a dark whisper.

"I save your life and that's how you repay me?"

She was about to retort, but she felt his fingers moving between the press of their bodies. But not to grope her like she thought at first.

At her manacles. What was he doing?

So close, almost his mouth on hers, he murmured, "Be ready."

Then he rolled off her and stood up. She followed, wondering what he'd done to her manacles. She tugged at them, but they were still fastened. Her gaze went to him in confusion. "Be ready" - ready for what?

Had this whole thing been a trick against Malekith?

A few of her erstwhile guards had not been so lucky against the giant boulder that had been hurled at them from the ridgeline. Malekith's warriors were tending their fallen, as another detachment was sent with Algrim to find the Frost Giant attackers.

Malekith frowned at Loki. "You still save the Aesir witch?"

"Warrior, Malekith. Sif is a warrior, not a witch," Loki corrected, walking with casual grace a few steps away from her, but no nearer to Malekith. His tone was different, too; it held a warmth that had been lacking before.

Malekith didn't hear it. "While Algrim tends to our foes, we need to find the aether swiftly, before the giants call more to their defense. Where is it?"

Loki's smirk was sly and then he broke into a laugh. "Oh, you are a fool, Malekith. Did you believe for one second that I would let you touch the aether? No, it is quite safe, I assure you. And nowhere near us."

Malekith blinked, staring at Loki as if he didn't understand what Loki said. Sif smiled, relieved that she was right.

"You betray me?" Malekith demanded in shock and growing anger. "For Asgard? For those monsters?"

Loki's humor died. "We're all monsters. But your race is dying, and I will not let you drag everyone else down with you." He snapped his fingers in her direction and the manacles opened and fell from her wrists. "Sif." He grabbed something from beneath his coat and tossed it through the air at her, and she snagged her sword by the hilt reflexively, staring at him. He'd had it all along. Whatever he'd put in that weapons bag had been something else.

"Shall we go, my lady?" he asked.

"You—" she spluttered, anger rising over her surprise. "You utter bastard! You--"

He smirked widely. "Just saved Asgard! You could be a little grateful."

Malekith exploded into fury, realizing the trick had been on him all along. "You saved nothing! I will rip your flesh from your bones, traitor!" He held out his hand, a violet, nearly black blade appearing. It was as long as a sword, but when he pointed it at them, it shot out a bolt of energy.

Sif spun aside and extended the other blade of her weapon, glad for its comforting feel.

But Loki didn't flinch. He held up a hand, palm facing Malekith and redirected the blast right back at him. The blast didn't hit him, but it kicked up an explosion in the ice and rock near his feet. The friendliness and brotherhood dropped out of his expression to reveal open contempt. "I have walked in darker realms than yours, Malekith. You are old and weak."

"KILL THEM!" Malekith howled. The other Dark Elves moved against them, unholstering weapons. "Kill them all!"

"Be glad to!" Loki shot back, and she had to giggle, more in relief than at his snotty jest. He wasn't with Malekith after all.

The Dark Elves had spread out on the ice to keep watch for more Frost Giants, and there were only about thirty of them nearby, with several gone with Algrim to find the attacking giants.

She twirled her weapon and glanced over her shoulder to make sure she had no enemies at her back. Loki was to her left, long dagger in each hand now, his attention still on Malekith in case Malekith attacked with power again. But he seemed to have learned his lesson trying to attack them with seiðr, and hung back, behind a screen of his soldiers, as the rest came after Loki and Sif.

As they waited for the first to attack, she shot a glare at him. "You – you played me!"

He grinned, a flashing bright thing in this dark, chilly place. "I thought you knew!"

The first two came into range, one with a spear and another with a humming energized sword. Sif went after the spear first, leaving the sword for Loki. But the spear wielder was no match and fell quickly to her blade. She whirled to check Loki. His eyes met hers as the Dark Elf he battled fell to the ground between them.

"How was I to know?" she demanded, whirling to deal with another, then when it was down, she glared at him.

He threw a dagger to take another elf in the throat, who was coming up behind him and pulled another from his dimensional pocket. "I called my mother a witch! What more did you need?"

She brought down another two. "You could have warned me!"

"You're a great warrior, Sif, but a poor actor." He ducked a blade meant to take off his head and twirled his daggers into reverse grips, coming up from a crouch to bury the blades in two attackers on either side. One blade stuck in the body and he had to kick it free, making him more of a still target, so she moved closer to help him. Fighting side-by-side, he added, "Besides, you'd have doubted me anyway. The purity of your outrage saved time."

She thought that was probably true, though it didn't make it easier to take that he'd lied to her. This was not the time for long discussions though. "So, what's the rest of your plan?"

"I hoped the Frost Giants would take care of our Dark Elf problem for us, but they're staying back. Most inconsiderate of them. We should go before Algrim returns."

She didn't like to hear his plan involved running away, but she had to concede that standing their ground long enough for the rest of the Dark Elves to come pouring out of the ship was an even worse plan. "Go where?"

"Anywhere but here, for starters?"

"This plan needs work," she complained. "But let's go."

They turned and ran. Sif hoped Loki had some idea where they were going, as he darted around columns that still stood, heading away from the ship and the high cliffs over the deep icy valley to the south.

The Dark Elves pursued them. Rounding another ruin, Loki yanked her sharply back against him and gestured. She saw an image of him and herself jump over a fallen log and head into the icicle-laced forest, just in time for the leading pursuers to see and follow after.

She stayed beside Loki, trying not to breathe, as the pursuit followed. She presumed they would have been invisible if the Svartalfar had looked backward, but she was still tense. Loki's illusions were not always perfect when they covered more than himself.

He watched after the Dark Elves, his left hand still gripping her upper arm but more as if he'd forgotten he was doing it, as he concentrated to keep the spells intact to lure the Dark Elves into the woods.

Then, they were all out of sight, and he leaned his head back against the stone, blowing out a breath silently as he let his shoulders relax and he released her arm.

Eyes catching the dim blue glow from the sky, he examined their surroundings again, and gestured her to follow after him.

This time they didn't run. They walked and kept to cover when they could, careful to walk on ice not loose snow so left fewer prints. They both kept watch all around, for Dark Elves and Giants both.

She put her cloak over her arms, as the wind felt much colder now that she had stopped fighting. "Where are we going?" she asked softly.

"There's a storm on the way. I was hoping for shelter."

"We could call for the Bifrost."

"I doubt it would open. The city shield is up by now. But the convergence is passing. He spoiled his chance." Loki smirked, very satisfied.

A very loud noise over head made her glance upward, as two small versions of the Dark Elf ship darted across the horizon, heading toward the forest. She heard the sounds of more, and she and Loki flung themselves underneath an overhang of ice as another pair flew overhead. Her eyes met his. "So he's going to be extra intent on killing us, you mean?"

"Small drawback," he agreed, but his smile seemed mirthful. "He's going to have to find us first."

A cold wind swirled more strongly beneath their overhang, and she shivered, wishing she'd thought to bring her fur cloak. "We should find that shelter you mentioned. Before we freeze."

He nodded and glanced at the dark sky, though she could see nothing at all up there as the clouds gathered more thickly. There was just enough light to make the first snowflakes look like ashes as they fell.

"This way," Loki decided and headed toward what Sif devoutly hoped was a thoughtful goal, not just a random direction. She also hoped he had better sense of direction than she did, as the snow started to fall harder. The swirling snow covered their tracks, but also made it increasingly likely they might be going in a circle and not even know it.

"Do you know where we're going?" she demanded, raising her voice over the whipping wind. "Are we lost?"

He held out his arm to stop her from moving forward, and she looked down to find herself only steps from the edge, where this plateau suddenly dropped away for the great valley of Jotunheim beneath. They were back at the edge. "Why are we here?" she yelled at him.

"Caves," he answered, and started picking his way along the broken edge.

This was a fantastically terrible idea. Some gust of frigid wind could pluck them right off and dash them to the valley floor. And while maybe they could survive it - though it was a very long way down - Sif would rather not try.

But Loki had other ideas, and she followed him. At least she didn't have to worry about the enemy, since only a fool would try to fly in this weather.

She shivered again, noting Loki rubbed his hands together as if he were also feeling the cold.

Then they found what Loki had been looking for -- a river of ice several hundred feet wide was making its slow journey from the northern mountains behind them to break off and plunge to the valley floor. Because of the instability of the Bifrost when it had caused the massive earthquakes, part of it had broken off 'upstream' and collapsed, leaving a wall of ice and exposed bedrock.

Loki gestured her to stay where she was and he jumped down to stand before the wall that towered high above his head. He lifted his hands and using the slippery words that could never stick in her mind after she heard them, he called seiðr to him, surrounding himself in a halo of green and gold light that shimmered in the ice before him.

The snow stopped falling and she felt warm in the backlash of his power, and hoped Malekith couldn't find them because of it.

But a depression formed, door-sized, pressing into the ice, carving it out, hollowing a cave for them.

She saw him slump tiredly, and the glow went out. She jumped down to him. "Loki!" She grabbed his arm as his knees sagged.

"I am all right, it will pass," he murmured, but didn't pull free. After a moment, he straightened again and headed for the entrance he'd made.

"Inside the glacier?" she asked in disbelief, but followed anyway. "Are you sure it'll hold and not crush us to death?"

"Let's not stay for a hundred years and find out," he advised dryly. Cupping one hand before him he called a pale blue light and led the way into the passage that was just high enough he didn't have to bend his head.