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07 November 2014 @ 12:56 pm
A Crocus in the Snow, part 11  


JOTUNHEIM

Provoking the Frost Giants in Dark Elf guise had seemed such a good idea, Sif reflected, as she and Loki ran. The plan was supposed to be "poke Frost Giants with Svartalfen-shaped stick and watch as Frost Giants go kill Dark Elves." In practice, they had forgotten to consider the middle part: being pursued by at least twenty armed and furious Frost Giants. Across ice. Toward Dark Elves.

She laughed, because what kind of absurd story was this going to be? Her laugh felt like it went backwards in her throat, when her foot slipped and she nearly fell, stumbling to one knee and then pelting after Loki again. He laughed at her.

"No fair. You're using some magic to keep your feet!" she accused him.

He glanced back over his shoulder at her, blue Svartalfen eyes not as bright as his teeth in a grin. "I'm graceful." But he caught sight of their pursuers o behind her. "They're gaining!"

She ran faster, half slipping with each step, until she was running in a barely-upright state of almost skating. Her next boots she would put in retractable spikes for traction.

Loki turned to face their pursuers, hands blazing with green fire that he hurled at the ice behind them. She didn't know if that was meant to attack them, break the ice, or melt it, but it seemed to do little to slow the giants down.

He swore. "Sif, hurry!" he shouted.

She was already running as fast as she could, and decided she might as well hurl herself into a slide. She launched herself to land on both feet, slightly turned, sliding fast across the slippery ice field.

But the ice grew rough and she stumbled out of the slide, trying to run again.

A deep voice called out something from ahead of them, and she looked up to see Dark Elves coming led by Algrim. Loki called something back in their language and Algrim sent his contingent forward to attack the Frost Giants.

She glanced to Loki in alarm that he was going closer. This wasn't going to work. This bluff was never going to work. But she saw the reckless glint in Loki's eyes and knew he wasn't going to stop, pushing the illusion as far as he could, as the Dark Elves passed them.

Algrim got nearer, and she stood aside and bowed her head respectfully, trying to be completely insignificant and not test Loki's illusion too strongly.

He hurried right past, weapon drawn, and she smiled in relief. Until he turned back around. "Your weapon."

She glanced at her glaive. Even if he didn't recognize it in its extended version, it was not a Svartalfen weapon.

"I found it, my lord," she answered, eyes downcast, hoping he bought the bluff. Her hand tightened.

He walked nearer, squinting suspiciously. No, this was never going to work. "Oh hell," she muttered and swung. The instant her blade struck his armor, the illusion over her dispersed.

"Aesir!" he exclaimed and counter-attacked.

"Sif!" Loki yelled. His haste betrayed him though, and for the first time, his feet slipped out from under him. He slammed backwards to the ice, as other Dark Elves realized who he was and started his way.

Sif wanted to help, but Algrim didn't give her any opportunity. He was skilled and strong, and she didn't have her shield, only her long double-blades for a longer reach and to keep back the dagger in his other hand. He found the footing just as treacherous, and that kept the tempo of the fight slower than it would have been.

"We will eliminate you, Aesir vermin, and haul the traitor to Malekith's dungeon where he will suffer for a thousand years."

But he was too focused on her, not on their surroundings. "Not if the Jotunn have anything to say about it," she told him, and then smiled, throwing herself to one side as the Frost Giant came up behind Algrim and a huge fist punched him across the ice.

Rolling, she came up, looking around frantically for Loki. He had regained his feet also, and was fighting three Dark Elves, as all around the Frost Giants clashed with the elves.

The one who had hit Algrim came after her with a snarl on its face and those blazing red eyes. The eyes were less unsettling to her now that she'd seen Loki with those eyes, but one giant was still a fearsome foe.

She battled it, keeping clear of its grip and shattering its ice weapon with her blade before stabbing it in the side, and whirling to block a Dark Elf at her back.

Loki had worked his way to her and took another of her attackers from behind. He called to her with a wild grin, "How long do you think we'll last?"

"Longer than they will," she shouted back and he laughed, throwing himself into a short slide to avoid a spear bolt.

But, looking at the numbers of the enemies, she had to admit that they were only two against many, and Loki's usual strategy of illusion was of little use on the empty field. He was holding his own, hand to hand, so far, but it was not going to avail him for long. He would tire, make a mistake, and an enemy blade would spill his red blood all over the white snow. Which was, she believed, the end he had expected from the beginning of this quest.

But that was not the end she wanted. Not after all of this. Even as she fought two more Dark Elves, bringing them down with one perfect twirl of her blade, she whispered so Loki couldn't hear, "Heimdall. Send help."

She looked toward the city and the ship, to find another group of Dark Elves approaching, this one led by Malekith himself.

They were about to be overwhelmed.




ASGARD


Thor hurried to the receiving hall on word that the king had summoned him. He was glad the king had stirred and retaken command; Thor had gone to inspect the defenses and cheer morale, but he knew he had little knowledge in leading this sort of defensive battle. Freyr, as Warmaster, had charge of the tactics. Thor had found himself nodding and smiling at whatever Freyr had said, his mind wandering to Loki and Sif, wishing he was with them instead.

The king sat in his great throne, looking improved by his short rest. He sent his aides away to speak to Thor alone.

"As I thought, Loki and Sif succeeded in turning Malekith's ship aside, yet now they are caught between the jotnar and Malekith's force," Odin said. "You must assist them. And then bring them home."

Thor made a fist, excited that he was being sent to them finally. "Yes!" Then hastily he cleared his throat, knowing that wasn't exactly appropriate response to have. "I, uh, of course, I do not wish them harm but it's good news that they have averted the attack."

Odin's smile was nearly hidden by his beard. "It is." But when Thor turned to leave, Odin lifted his free hand and called him back, "Thor."

Thor turned back, curious. Odin hesitated and said in a lower voice. "Loki will resist returning. Tell him there will be justice. I trusted him, now he must trust me. Now, go with haste."

Thor nodded and left. In the corridor outside, he met his mother, who seemed to be rushing to meet him. She gripped his arm, looking urgent. "Be cautious, my son," she chided him. "Help them, but return yourself."

"Of course," he reassured her.

"And remind Loki of his promise to me."

"Promise?" he asked curiously.

She smiled and patted his cheek. "He made me a promise. When it seems he will not return, remind him of it."

She was obviously not going to tell him, though he was worried that she and Odin both believed Loki would not return home. Thor decided he would force Loki back to Asgard if he had to; better to deal with Loki's anger than to have him vanish into the undercrofts of the universe again. "As you wish."

Her smile faded, looking into his eyes, and said nothing. "Mother?" he prompted, uncertain.

She shook her head a little. "Nothing. Just thinking that I could not bear it if both of you had been harmed." Her hands came together, fingers weaving anxiously, as she turned away, as if she could barely endure the thought of one son so hurt.

Thor felt that he would never have let it happen to himself, but then, before this, he would have said Loki wouldn't either. There was so much he didn't understand, but he wanted his mother to be happy again. He leaned in close to kiss her cheek. "I will bring him home, Mother, I promise."

She nodded, but still looked troubled. "Then we will all help him heal. And to heal our family of all that has torn it asunder, in these recent days."

"Not torn," he corrected, "Cracked, perhaps, but we all live, and cracks can be mended." Thor wanted Loki back as his brother, not the rage-filled stranger who had taken his place on Midgard. It might take time, but at least, knowing the terrible truth, he thought he had a chance to make it happen.

"Then go on," she urged him. "I await your return most anxiously."

He bowed to her and hurried down the corridor to make his way to the Observatory.

There, Heimdall informed him with unsettling calm, that Sif had called for him to send help. Since Sif would only ask for help if they were in dire trouble, Thor swung Mjolnir and told him, "Send me to them."

Heimdall was already prepared, having lowered the shield so that the Bifrost seized Thor and hurled him through the branches of Yggdrasil.