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21 August 2013 @ 12:36 am
Hail of Shadows 7/?  

It was cold, though cold in a different way than Jotunheim, and the wind whipped at him. He spun in the air, falling, and as he tumbled, he tried to glimpse where he was. Blue and white, grey and green whirled around, and he gripped Mjolnir tightly and tried to exert some sort of control.

Clouds gathered to his call, and the wind strengthened, pushing at him to slow his fall. Then something hit him hard in the side out of nowhere, and he punched the attacker off him.

"Damn it! Stop! Struggling! I'm trying to help!" An artificially amplified voice yelled above the wind and Thor realized his attacker was Tony Stark.

Iron Man grabbed him and this time, Thor allowed it. The colors stabilized into the sky of Midgard above and the city of New York and Iron Man below.

Thor clutched his friend's shoulders. "Did anyone else come through?" he demanded.

Stark took a second to answer, glancing upward, and answered, "JARVIS says no. Though there's still time - it's open."

"The portal!" Thor realized with a sudden jolt of fear and shoved Stark off him. He threw Mjolnir upward, to rise higher and higher, desperate to go back through. "We must help him!"

Above him, the clouds swirled around the portal's opening, exactly where it had been before, high above the city, but it was closing… the dark circle in the middle narrowing… He was not going to reach it in time.

Desperately Thor hurled lightning at it, trying to keep it open. "LOKI!" he yelled.

But it was for naught. The portal closed, before his eyes, and immediately the sky began to clear.

Thor let himself fall, overcome. Loki hadn't made it through behind him. He was Malekith's prisoner.

Stark tried to break his fall, but Thor still landed hard. But it mattered not at all. He climbed to his feet, ignored the shattered floor he'd left and retrieved Mjolnir, calling it to him with an impatient hand.

Stark landed beside him, and flipped up the faceplate to expose a concerned face. "Didn't expect to see you back so soon. Welcome. Even if you just scared the pants off a bunch of New Yorkers, expecting evil aliens back again."

Thor barely heard him, as he walked past to the edge of the walkway and looked up at the sky. "Heimdall!" he bellowed. "Heimdall. Tell Father. Malekith has him! Malekith is in league with Thanos. Bring me home!"

He waited, hoping for that transition as Odin grabbed the tesseract and pulled him back, but nothing happened.

"I'm guessing he can't hear you," Stark said, standing at his side.

"He hears," Thor answered bleakly. "I hope he hears. But I must wait." He realized Stark had caught him in his plummet out of the portal, and said belatedly, "I thank you for your assistance."

"Sure. Once the portal started to open, I was on deck. Literally on deck, up there, fixing the sign, and I was going to fight the evil aliens. There were no evil aliens, but there you were, doing a great falling rock impression, so I thought I'd better catch you before you made a big hole in my building. Then you went and made a hole anyway." His tone was dry and sort of annoyed, but his eyes and the grip of his hand on Thor's shoulder put a lie to that.

Stark headed back to the inside of the building, shedding the Iron Man suit as he went. He gestured broadly, "Come in. You want a drink? And you can tell me what the hell that was all about."

Thor cast his eyes once more at the dissipating clouds, revealing blue sky and sunlight, wishing for a return of the shroud of clouds. It all seemed wrong that the sky should be so bright when his heart was so dark. Thor glanced up at the sky, hoping that the energies would seize him and pull him back home, but when nothing happened he turned and followed Tony within. The room had been repaired, the glass all replaced, and Thor presumed it had been longer on Earth than it had seemed on Asgard, time enough to fix most of the damage inflicted on the building.

Stark went to the alcohol storage cabinet and poured for both of them. Thor was conscious this time of the glass, now knowing it was not Earth custom to throw breakables on the floor. It was good though, this whiskey.

"So, I heard you yell his name, so let me guess, your supervillain brother screwed things up again?" Stark asked. "He escaped and made trouble and was about to attack us?"

"No." Thor's hands clenched to restrain himself from backhanding Stark for the insult. He reminded himself that Stark did not know of all that had happened beyond the confines of Midgard. "It is much more complicated than you know. We had been on our way to warn you of a new threat, when an old enemy ambushed us."

Stark seemed stunned by that, his mind forced to reorient itself to information he did not expect.

"Wait. So, Loki was not in jail? Is that what you're telling me? After all he did - he tried to conquer the planet, killed a whole bunch of people, and he's free?" Stark demanded, incredulous, and in growing anger. "What kind of justice do you have there on Asgard?"

The reminder felt like an abrupt return to Jotunheim down his spine. Thor had put aside Loki's fell deeds in his attack on Midgard, and he would rather not think of them now either. "He was made well," Thor answered brusquely. "My mother was able to pry loose the thorns of madness and thrall from his mind. Just now, Loki sacrificed himself so that I could bring warning of the enemy we face." He paused and made note of Stark's surprised and disbelieving expression. Thor drained the cup and set it carefully on the surface of the table. He added more softly, "You name him villain, and I understand why you see him thus, but we discovered there was a hand on the Chitauri and on Loki, too. That hand will make his attempt but a feint with a wooden sword, when the steel falls upon this world."

Tony hesitated, gaze flickering as he thought, and when he nodded it was with a weary inevitability, "You telling me there was a bigger big bad behind him, pulling the strings?"

Thor nodded. "Just so. An ancient power named Thanos the Eternal. He was made immortal and very powerful through intervention of the Celestials, and he believes the only fair match for himself in all the universe is Death herself. So to win her hand, he seeks the subjugation and death of every being in the Nine Realms until he wins her."

"And I thought I knew some psychos," Tony muttered. "Damn. So he's tough, and hard to kill. So are our friends. It'll be fine."

Thor wished Loki was there - this was the part he had been intended for, to explain the seriousness of this foe. "You do not understand. Thanos is not 'hard to kill', as I am myself; my father, Odin Allfather, battled Thanos millennia ago, and could not wound him. My brother has spent every hour of every day since his release, seeking magics that will unmake Thanos, without success. To all the knowledge of Asgard, there is nothing which will end him."

Tony gave a little laugh. "You can't mean nothing nothing."

Thor did not share his humor but leaned toward him, in earnest hope that Stark would understand the gravity of the situation. "Odin Allfather thrust him outside Jormungandr, and only an artifact of immense power such as the tesseract can create a portal to breach that barrier. That barrier is the sole true protection we have." Stark appeared to be finally taking this threat seriously.

"You're going to have to tell me about this barrier later," Stark said, and waved a hand. "But go on."

"That is why Loki was sent with me -- he understands the nature of such things better than I do." That was not the only reason, but Thor felt it was not proper to speculate on his parents' motives to send Loki on this quest. "Thanos first attempted to cross through by corrupting Loki and gaining the tesseract, and now that has failed, he has allied with our ancient foe Malekith the Accursed. And just now, as we visited Jotunheim, we found Malekith there before us. He and Loki fought, and Loki pushed me through the portal." It was maddening that Loki had done something so recklessly brave.

Why did you do it, Loki? We could have fought together. I promised Mother I would bring you home again, safe, but not an hour out of Asgard, you slip from my grip once more.

Thor's gaze slipped past Stark to the sky through the windows, wishing he could see that tear in space-time that would be a portal announcing Loki's escape. But Malekith was mad, not stupid, and he would not let it be so easy. Thor swallowed hard, barely able to find his voice under the pressure of his dark imaginings. "Unless he can contrive some escape, Loki is now his prisoner. Malekith relishes the suffering of others, and he will have no mercy for his most hated enemy. Perhaps you find it just, but I cannot think of it as anything but horror that the Accursed will torture and murder my brother."

He glanced back at Stark, who shook his head once. "Torture and murder? Nope, not justice." His voice seemed light but his brown eyes held sympathy; little for Loki himself perhaps, but at least for Thor. "So you have to wait for your interdimensional ride to go to his rescue?"

Thor nodded, miserable. Until his father pulled him forth, he had no path home nor path to rescue Loki. Brother, stand fast. I will come for you, I swear.

The box was small and dark. There was a power dampening spell inscribed in the metal, over every surface he could touch with his fingers. Loki could conjure nothing at all inside, not even a spark. There seemed air enough, from somewhere, though he could find no holes in the surface.

Not that the box needed to stop anything, not with the collar Malekith had snapped around his neck. It felt like a thin metal circlet, flimsy as aluminum, but it would not break or come off, no matter what Loki did to it. Like the box, it too was carved in sigils, but this one tightend the collar like a noose every time he tried to conjure something.

Malekith's spell and Kurse's strength had forced Loki into the box, despite his struggles. Malekith's laughter was the last thing Loki had heard before the box shut.

No sound, no light. In his cramped position, head forced next to his knees, there was little room to shift position. The box shifted with movement, but not as often as it should have, being carried, and Loki could tell nothing of direction or if they were still on Jotunheim at all.

He had to run his fingers over the rough inside of the box to remind himself that he was not in the abyss again. The darkness pressed on him, from all directions, and he felt as if he were falling again. A scream bubbled up in his chest, but he held it back, reminding himself feverishly where he was and what had happened.

I am not there, not there, not there again. Not falling. Not falling. Not in the void. Not there.

But the creeping monster of nothingness hooked its claws in him, as past and present darkness tangled.

Not there. Not there. Not the nothing.

Fingers rubbed on the rough walls, desperately tracing runes to remember. As he fell.

Crossposted from DW There are comment count unavailable comments over there. Feel free to comment wherever.