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17 September 2013 @ 11:30 am
Hail of Shadows 14/?  

Thanos circled his prisoner slowly, while Loki tried to keep him in view as much as possible. Not that it mattered truly, since there was nothing Loki could do, but he pretended to himself that it would be better to see something coming. But there was no use pretending he was not afraid; for the first time, since this had started, he feared for himself, for the Nine Realms, for everything.

Loki whispered, "Malekith, what did you do, you fool?"

Unexpectedly Thanos answered, "Malekith's panicked cry for help to me had some unfortunate consequences to him. His efforts here are pathetic and slow." He dug one fingernail claw into the back of Loki's neck, pushing Loki forward against the chains until he could go no further, as the claw then ripped slowly downward. Loki shut his eyes and clenched his jaw. Thanos felt stronger than Malekith, as if an echo of that massively strong physical form that Loki could barely remember consciously but haunted his dreams was inside Malekith, too. When he stopped, there was a stripe of bloody fire down Loki's spine. "I know how to encourage you properly." Malekith's hand seized Loki by the throat and he leaned in. "Open the portal, toy. You know what I can do to you."

Loki had to bite his lower lip to keep it from trembling, but collected enough breath to answer, "Your astral form may possess Malekith, but you are not here in full strength. I will never open the portal to let in the rest of you," he snarled in defiance. "Never."

"You fear me. Your fear makes you weak." Thanos dragged his nail down the front of Loki's chest, flesh parting for it as he smiled to see the blood. "I will make you into my pet, eager to suffer because it pleases me."

He brushed a hand over Loki's head in a mockery of caressing his hair, forcing his head back, more and more, until his back arched and the metal cuffs bit into his wrists. "Please me, toy. Suffer."

Thanos let go and whipped around, foot extended, straight into Loki's knee. There was a horrific snapping sound, like wood cracking, and Loki cried out at the sudden agony that shot up through his leg. Then, though he tried to avoid it, Thanos snapped the other one as well and the second scream was louder still.

The agony tore through him as his knes bent the wrong way. Shuddering, he gasped unsteadily, short breathless moans, grabbing for his control but it kept slipping away. Not only did it hurt, a lot, but it shouldn't have happened at all. He should be stronger than this, his body tougher… Yet Thanos, possessing Malekith, had broken his bones as if he was just a child again. He was weakening; the power that made him invulnerable was fading. Suddenly terror was far stronger in his body than pain.

Thanos laughed and leaned near to drink in Loki's uncontrolled reactions, inhaling his fear like something intoxicating and pleasurable. "Mm, this body seems strong enough. Stronger than you." He seized Loki's chin. "Pet, be defiant. Tell me you will resist forever and ever, even when we both know you will end up on your knees, begging to serve me."

Loki could barely scrape his voice together but he did to whisper hoarsely, "No."

"This is the body, next I break your mind," Thanos warned. He paused as if to give Loki the chance to be defiant, or to break and give him what he wanted, but when Loki said nothing, Thanos gave a little smile. "Shall I let you dread what comes, toy? Let this agony fry your body until you give me whatever I want if I make it stop?"

Thanos walked to the door, leaving Loki in the room alone. He hung from the chains, unable to put weight on his feet. Even the brush of them on the floor sent shockwaves of pain through him.

He tried to think or to feed the energy to the collar and break it, but his mind kept spinning in useless gibbering circles. Thanos was here, had possessed Malekith. Thanos had broken his bones, something not even the green monstrosity had managed. He was weak; his immortality and invulnerability were fading.

Don't give him what he wants. You can't. The Nine Realms will be destroyed. You are their protector, you must hold on.

But there was no holding on against that pain. Consciousness fled, trying to escape, only to land in memories that were little better than the present, except that they would end.

Memories of falling. Of fear. Of pain.

He was on the floor of the eastern hall, on his back, his every bone felt shattered. It hurt so badly, hurt so much… He could barely breathe and so his voice was a whisper: "Thor? Are you… there?"

He couldn't turn his head; something was wrong in his neck. He could move only his left hand, but he found nothing to grasp but the cold tiles of the floor. "Thor?" he whispered again.

From far away, he heard Thor's laughter, echoed by his friends' and the clink of cups and loud toasts. "To Freyr, who can make the birds fly!"

Instead of trying to speak again, Loki gathered his power and slowly, like stacking bricks together, he built the illusion of himself standing and tried to beckon Thor - someone - to help. But the illusion crumbled away when he had no strength to hold it. No one seemed to notice above the carousing.

"To the feast hall!"

"Thor?" Loki tried to call after him, but the sounds diminished away as the warriors all pelted from the practice hall, the sound of their laughter extra knives in his pain.

"Father? Mother?" he tried, even fainter, hoping they could hear. "Amma?"

But no one came. No one cared. He was alone.

Loki started awake, out of his hazy semi-consciousness. It took a moment to remember where he was, but he wished he hadn't roused at all as an unwary movement made everything below his hips seem on fire. There was also a strange sound echoing in his ears, like a gasping dog's whimper. It was highly annoying and he wished it would stop so at least he could have silence. It was not until he shuddered that he knew the sound was coming from his own throat, and even then it was hard to stop. But he needed to, since what had roused him was the door opening.

Someone gasped loudly and footsteps made hasty taps on the stone floor toward him.

"What has he done?" Sigyn whispered in horror as he lifted his head. That small motion sent vibrations through his chains and back down into his bones, the shattered ends sparking against each other, and he bit his lip hard. "No. This is - Malekith should not have done this. How is this even possible?" She shook her head, impatient with herself. "Never mind. I can help you."

"No," he blurted, alarmed. "No, leave it." His hands were trembling in their bonds, but he couldn't stop, though the shaking made him hurt more.

She looked into his face and shook her head. "Why? I can heal it, I promise. I have not the skill of Queen Frigga, I know, but I have some."

He tried to stop shaking long enough to get the words out, "No. He'll know you helped, hurt you--"

She smiled with surprised pleasure. "You're concerned for me?" Her hand gently patted his cheek. "I can handle Malekith."

"It is … not," his voice emerged scratchy and weak, "not Malekith. Thanos. Thanos possesses him, Sigyn. Thanos did this."

She pulled her hand back to frown at him, shaking her head once in confusion. "Thanos? But I've seen nothing…." she trailed off, gaze flicking aside as she recalled something. Her pause gave him time to collect himself better, breathe and focus; he put the pain into a box and closed the lid. It was still there, but dull-edged enough to think.

"He told us not to disturb him in his work room after the attack, and when he emerged…" Her eyes met his, horrified. "He was different. Calmer. You think he is Thanos?"

"He is."

"Possessed. That is why he will not go above. He cannot stray too far from the point of contact or lose his puppet." Her jaw tightened, and her eyes glinted with fury.

He knew that was his key -- he had his moment -- he should leverage that anger against Thanos. But both she and Thanos had mentioned something about an attack, something that had angered and distressed Malekith sufficient to call for help from his stronger ally. It could not be Asgard, bottled up behind Kurse's stopper, and no one else would have the strength to reach here. He was wary of a new player he knew nothing about and had not predicted. "Attack?"

She explained to him, "The jotnar have come. Malekith was furious when he saw them. He was not prepared for a second line of battle and put us under siege. They have come for you, as you knew they would."

He hadn't known that at all, and he had no idea how it had happened, but he certainly wasn't going to admit it. So he gave a little nod as if he'd expected it all along. It was irritating to find out they'd involved themselves - somehow - and made everything worse. They must have come for the paltry vengeance of that one warrior Malekith had killed. Laufey had been too quick to seize his chance to avenge his fallen warriors on Odin, and so it seemed these Jotunn were just as blinded by vengeance.

Not that it was a stupidity the Jotunn suffered from alone. Everyone in the Nine Realms wanted vengeance, never seeing how easily it was exploited by those without the same sentiment. Even himself. He should have known better than fall in the same trap, and yet he had. It was all so monotonously predictable.

Yet here before him was Sigyn, surely with more cause to revenge than anyone, and her expression was not satisfaction at his suffering, but concern.

"I will help you," she decided. He wanted to stop her, but all he could do was sway backwards, and even that made him clench his jaw to keep from crying out at the renewed fire in his legs from the movement. The rest of him suddenly felt terribly cold and he shivered again. She shook her head and touched his cheek with her fingertips, smoothing the skin along his jaw. He wondered what she saw in his eyes to be so gentle. "Be easy. I will place everything where it should be and start the healing. Your body will heal itself the rest of the way. It'll take longer but should seem less like you had help."

"Why?" he managed to ask. "Why would you … risk… for me?"

"Because he stole my brother--"

He shook his head minutely in denial. "No. You were going to help before you knew that. So, why?... Is it a trick?"

"It would serve you right, if it were," she said, "considering how you try to manipulate me. But no." She considered and answered softly, "We're the same, you and I." Her touch slid down his neck, tracing the narrow ridges there that were jotunn markings. He flinched from her deliberate touch that reminded him of what he truly was. "I too hide who I am. Because my father was ashamed of my face."

Then, astonishingly, he felt the soft feather of power as an illusion released and Sigyn's face changed. Her skin darkened from the pale white of the dark elves to a more golden tint, her white hair to the color of honey, and her eyes turned bright, leafy green. Even her ears, the larger pointed ones, changed shape, shrinking to more elegant curves. "My mother was Ljosalfar," she explained. "My father and brother make me hide it, so the people never know I'm a half-breed freak."

Her gaze met his in challenge, looking for his reaction and expecting revulsion, but he could only stare, pain held in abeyance by his amazement. "But you are beautiful," he murmured.

The words stunned her, as if she'd never heard them before. Then she snorted dismissivley. "You would say that even if I were a horrible hag since you want my help."

He grimaced, realizing his reputation was working against him. "I would say … we are the same. But here… I need not lie. Half-breed you may be, but not a freak."

She stiffened as if she wanted to argue, and the illusion snapped back over her. "You're not a half-breed, what do you know?" But her temper was quick to diminish, and her lips quirked in a wry smile. "I suppose you do know something of it." She knelt down and her hands were gentle on his upper legs. "I am sorry," she murmured. "This will hurt. Brace yourself."

He inhaled as deep a breath as he could manage and let it out, trying to center himself and keep a cool void where the pain would not reach him. "Begin."

It hurt, but when she was finished, the gentle warmth in his legs chased the pain away and it was almost pleasant to hang there in the haze. She brought another cup of water and this time he said nothing as she held it for him and let him drink it all. But their eyes met and when she pulled the empty cup from his lips, he said, meaning it, "Thank you."

Her fingers trembled and she took a hasty step back, turning away. "I cannot free you," she said, "So do not look at me like that."

"You helped me and I thanked you. Nothing more."

She turned the cup in her hands and snorted a laugh. "'Nothing.' You have a strange definition of 'nothing,' Loki Silvertongue."

But it was true. She had done enough already. He would not wish Thanos on his worst enemy -- well, maybe Malekith, but not at Sigyn's expense. "I am here of my own choice, Sigyn," he said. "I knew the consequences when I pushed Thor to Midgard and stayed behind."

She raised her eyebrows. "You could not have planned Thanos entering in astral form; do not try to convince me you knew that was to come."

"Well, not exactly that. But I knew I would have to hold against cruelty long enough for the army to defeat Svartalfheim. I did not plan for you either, but I am grateful." He gave her a smile. "Thank you for showing me the truth. You should go to Asgard; people would admire you and there you could be yourself."

"Could I? You cannot," she murmured.

He glanced at his arm. He'd grown more used to the color and the black nails on his hands, but it still made his insides clench with revulsion whenever he thought about what he truly was. "I … it is not the same. There is no place for this flesh on Asgard."

His family might profess not to care about the truth, but everyone else certainly would. He was not a true son of Odin, he was not even Aesir; he was of the enemy. Didn't he get enough scorn from the warriors for simply being a sorceror? "Books and magic" one of them had sneered, as if those things were useless. That was who he was though: books and magic, and enemy blood besides.

"The Jotunn army is here for you. Perhaps if Asgard will not accept all of you, then you should go to those who do."

He wondered if she was trying to turn him against his own as he was trying to do to her. Or if she simply meant well. But it was irrelevant as he would never deal with brutes who thought leaving infants to die was a good idea. "They do not, not truly. Perhaps they see that Malekith possessing myself and the Casket of Ancient Winters risks their realm as well. But they despise those who are small and weak." Like the Aesir did, making Asgard and Jotunheim more alike than different, though neither would ever see that.

Sigyn chuckled softly in disbelief. "They think you weak? Then they are fools. Even when I hated you, I knew better." She let out a disgruntled sigh while he was pleased that she'd put her hatred officially in the past. "We are both, it seems, surrounded by fools."

"That we are."

It was such a pleasant chat that he nearly forgot he was still chained up. But sounds in the corridor outside reminded them both with a start.

"I should go." But she lingered, looking at him. He could see the conflict in her eyes, before she blurted, "I'll do what I can to help you."

She hurried out, carefully dousing the light again and shutting the heavy door behind her.

The more tactical side of his mind was pleased his plan was succeeding so well, despite or perhaps because of Thanos' surprise appearance, but mostly he was pondering Sigyn's mixed blood and what that meant. A small knot of anger lodged under his ribs at Durn and Malekith for making her hide that beauty under a dull and typical Svartalfen face.

Gritting his teeth, he moved his legs to let his feet take some of his weight again and take pressure off his shoulders. Everything ached as the bones knitted again, but without the intense pain of before.

He expected to be left alone for awhile, and let himself doze to help the healing. But it seemed quite soon that the door was flung open, crashing into the stone behind it. He flinched violently and had to clench his hands at the renewed surge of pain from the unwise movement.

Guards rushed in to take up places along the wall. Thanos strolled in behind them. "Time to move to new, better chambers."

Loki wasn't fooled by the 'better' - this wasn't meant to be 'better'. Not for him. He darted a glance to the doorway, but Sigyn was nowhere in sight. He hoped she wasn't in trouble, but ultimately there was nothing he could do. Either she would help or she could not; he had to keep his focus on what was most important. He had to hold onto his strength, push the fear away, and resist whatever Thanos was planning. Somehow.

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