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21 October 2014 @ 03:16 pm
A Crocus in the Snow 4/?  


The great warship seemed to get bigger the farther down the path they went. They had not yet reached the valley floor when Loki stumbled. Alarmed by this strange gracelessness, Sif glanced at him, as his hand seized her arm to keep himself upright. His head was down but she could see that his gaze was glassy, seeing something far away in his own head. His lips moved as if he might be talking, but she couldn't hear any of the words, and faint expressions passed over his face, quickly suppressed. It was some sort of magical sending, though she hadn't seen it happen to him in a long time.

Trying to walk without drawing attention, he kept his feet moving, his grip on her upper arm tight so she could guide him. The group reached the bottom of the path and the Dark Elves gathered around them again. Loki lifted his head sharply and blinked himself alert again. One of them poked Loki with the tip of his spear, and Loki turned an icy glare on him to make him step back. But after, Loki seemed troubled, frowning, and crossed his arms as if he felt cold. She frowned and whispered, "Are you well?"

He nodded once but didn't explain, flicking his eyes in the direction of their escorts meaningfully.

So she held her tongue, too, though she was a little sorry that he had relinquished her arm. The grip had been tight, but a welcome reminder that they were each other's backs in this place.

The ship loomed high over their heads, as Sif and Loki crossed the featureless, flat plain, with their escort of a dozen Dark Elf warriors. The army made way for them, opening a path to what seemed to be some sort of launch facility at the base of the great ship.

Large doors at the bottom slid aside for them, into an dark room, lit only by a stripe of glowing red all around them at eye-level. When the doors closed again with a thunderous slam, they were left in the near darkness. Suspicious, she put a hand on her hilt again, waiting.

Her eyes adjusted allowing her to see the warriors who had come in with her, six of them, but they'd lost their previous escort leader. That meant they were getting a new one.

Loki affected a lack of concern about their situation, keeping a faint smirk on his lips as he waited. She couldn't reach that level of pretense, and settled for pacing.

The inner doors finally opened. Another Dark Elf appeared, this one taller and larger than the others and he wore no mask, so Sif knew he was a leader of some kind. Her guess was confirmed when Loki didn't treat him with the same contempt he'd given the footsoldier and instead greeted him by name and a short nod. "Algrim."

Algrim saluted him with both fists to his chest. "Prince Loki." Algrim's voice was deep and his eyes were a bright blue as his gaze cut to Sif. "You bring an Aesir?"

"She insisted," Loki said, glancing at her and giving a small shrug. She wasn't going to argue with that, since it was true enough.

Algrim considered that, but then ordered her. "You will leave your weapon here."

"No. I will not." She tried a smile, with absolutely no intention of giving up her blade with thousands of possible enemies all around.

"You will not see our king bearing weapons."

"We mean him no harm," she answered. "And it is dishonor to imply otherwise."

"And would you let me approach your king armed, Aesir?" he retorted.

The answer to that was, of course, no; no Dark Elf would get within a hundred paces of Odin Allfather with a sword, and traditionally one put weapons aside when entering a home. But it rankled that he would dare try to part her from her weapon.

At Algrim's gesture, one of the warriors approached with a long fabric sack and held it open.

Loki removed the throwing dagger from his left vambrace and dropped it hilt first into the sack, then held out his open hand. "Sif, we have no time for protracted negotiations. Nor will your sword help us if this goes awry."

"Damn it," she muttered. But he was right. It felt a little bit better to relinquish her sword to Loki and put the hilt in his hand, rather than put it in the sack herself. Irritated, she pulled her dagger from its sheath at her back. "Then you surely want this, too."

Algrim glanced at it with disdain. "Your table cutlery you may keep."

Her mouth dropped open at that insult. Table cutlery? She was tempted to put it in his neck to prove it was not used for cutting her meat at the table. But she spied Algrim's smirk and narrowed her eyes. If Algrim thought she was so easily provoked for his amusement, he was in error. After all, she'd spent centuries around Loki, so he would need to provoke her better than that. She replaced the dagger in its sheath, and glared at Algrim. "I will take back my blade when we go. Mind you take care of it."

"We shall, Aesir."

Loki dropped her sword into the sack with a flourish. "There. Now, we are disarmed to your satisfaction, are we not?"

Algrim looked at him. "You are yourself a weapon, Prince Loki."

"Aren't we all?" Loki grinned at him and spread out his hands from his sides. "The sack appears too small for me, so this will have to do."

"Come, this way," Algrim ordered curtly, not exactly pleased by the situation, but at least they appeared to be going inside the ship and heading toward Malekith.

She glanced at Loki, annoyed that he'd given up exactly one dagger. It was a dagger he shouldn't even have, a dagger he must've called magically from his hidden pocket dimension, since he hadn't had one in the cell. And if he had one, he certainly had more. But she had only a dagger that Algrim thought was a table knife. Loki felt her look and turned his head to meet her eyes. He smirked, looking a little too pleased by this situation.

There was a short corridor and then what looked like a bank of tube transports rising the length of the ship. Although they looked narrow, with small little doors, and dark as a cave, the interior proved to be roomy enough for six people.

The lift rose quickly through the inner core of the ship, indicators flashing quickly in a language she couldn't read. They could be going to some dungeon cell or a midden heap for all she could tell, but when she glanced at Loki's face - since he could read the language and had been here before, even if he hadn't necessarily been aware of the path to get inside as an actual prisoner- Loki seemed unworried and calm.

It was only when the lift slowed, did he stir to reveal any sort of interior concern. He glanced down and worried at his lip in thought, before his eyes flicked to her. Then he faced forward and strode out of the lift with quick, confident strides as if he'd made a decision.

She followed. This was some sort of command deck, with two levels and controls spread around in a semi-circle. It was dim, with the farther reaches of the space too shadowy to know what was there, but there were platforms and bridges between the platforms that spanned deep gaps down to lower levels. There were many warriors, but Malekith was easy to identify as he had the most ornate armor and the others deferred to him as he issued commands.

Algrim led the way to a narrow, railed bridge that crossed to the central dais where Malekith stood and a few senior control staff worked on pedestal controls. Algrim stepped aside to allow Loki to cross, but then, planted himself in her way. "You go no closer."

She decided to be flattered by this estimation of her danger and raised her hands in lack of threat, smiling at Algrim. "I'll just… wait here then."

Loki didn't glance back at her as he crossed over.

Malekith didn't try to play any games about not expecting him, turning immediately to watch him cross. He grinned, startlingly bright in the gloom. "My friend! You have arrived as you said."

"Of course!" Loki exclaimed with enthusiasm. "Would I miss it if I had any chance at all of being here?"

They clasped forearms and Malekith pulled him into an embrace, slapping him on the back. Loki stiffened, but Malekith seemed not to notice. Sif hoped idly that Loki was going to slip a blade in Malekith's ribs, but Malekith stepped away unharmed.

His gaze slipped behind Loki to Sif herself, and the smile died away. "Why did you bring the Aesir here?"

Loki's eyes flicked to hers, his expression suddenly cold and disdainful. "I had to bring her with me, as part of my parole."

"She is not with us?" Malekith asked.

"No," Loki answered, and before she had a chance to decide what he meant by that, Malekith made a sharp gesture.

Algrim and other guards suddenly surrounded her, lances and blades bared in a tight circle around her. She whirled, dagger in hand. "We come under a parley!" she objected. "How dare you attack us! Guest-right is sacred law across the Realms-- Loki!"

But when her gaze found Loki, it was to find him standing there, his arms folded, watching her with a smirk. Malekith watched them both with interest, as the whole terrible truth sank in.

It was all a lie. All of it.

Loki saw the realization in her face and his smile widened to a grin.

"You betraying traitor!" she yelled at him. "Traitorous son of a bitch, you lying, scheming--"

She hurled her dagger at him, her fury doubling when he plucked it from the air without a flinch. There was a blade at her throat and another one in her side, but she ignored them to glare at Loki. Traitor. Liar. This had been his plan all along.

"Ah, poor Sif," he taunted in mock pity, "Usually so tough, but give you a little sad story and you turn all soft."

But… it had been real. It had to have been real. The king had agreed… yet it was a lie. Loki wasn't trying to make peace, he was joining Malekith in his attack on Asgard. Loki offered her dagger to Malekith, hilt first. "Keep it," Malekith said, waving a hand dismissively. "What do we do with her?"

Loki considered, gaze resting on her coldly, "She did have her uses, so it seems only fair that she live long enough to watch her precious Asgard burn. Loyalty like that should be rewarded," he sneered at her hatefully.

"I will see you dead for this!" she swore at him, as Algrim snapped manacles around her wrists.

Loki gave an unconcerned shrug. "I think you'll have to get to the back of the line."

She shook her head, not understanding how this was happening. "What about your mother!" Sif demanded. "How can you do this to her?"

Loki frowned at her. "My mother? I don't know her. Oh, you mean the witch in Asgard? She's not my mother."

"She loves you!"

"She tolerates me," he shot back. "But then if any of you had ever understood the difference, we wouldn't be here, would we? Toleration of the foundling monster, amused while it danced for your amusement. Well, those days are over, and I will have my revenge on all of you who betrayed me."

His eyes were fierce and bright, and she looked into them, searching out any clue this was a trick, any hint this wasn't real. But she found nothing, only hate and rage now unveiled.

His lips twisted in a parody of a smile. "So relax, Sif, and watch your precious Realm crumble and fall into the void to be consumed by Jormungandr." Turning his back on her, Loki joined Malekith at the central control console.

"Prepare to launch," Malekith commanded.

Sif watched them from her place amid guards, Algrim at her back watchful. She would bide her time and wait for her moment.

She would kill them to save Asgard from Loki's treachery. If she could kill only Loki, she would. Perhaps it would be enough to end the attack, and if not, it would be her last act to end him. She would gladly give her life to stop him.

Stay focused, wait for your chance, because it will come, she told herself and tried to ignore the pain in her heart and the knowledge that he'd used her. He'd played on her sympathies, woven his lies, and now he was free because of her.

As the ship purred to life, she settled to wait for her moment to strike.

Loki glanced at Sif, and had to smile to see her all tense and glowering at him. Anger made her eyes shine and in this dim light, she seemed especially beautiful.

Not that this was the best time to tell her that, but eventually, when this all ended, he would.

If it ended.

No, it would end as he wished. He would save those who deserved to be saved, and all the rest could fall to the void, where they belonged. Odin feared Ragnarök, and he'd always feared Loki would bring it one day, and so Loki would, if not the way they expected.

Certainly not with Fenrir, as the mortals would have it. Had he spoken aloud, the words would have been sardonic, but in his own head, the words were wistful. His heart clenched with remembered grief and pain, not only for Fenrir, but all that he had represented.

His own voice is high and tight… "Please, not where anyone can see, please…" Begging, because Master Tyr likes him to beg and because Loki doesn't want to do this in the stables. He shrinks back and peeks through his hair to see how Master Tyr is taking this plea.

Master Tyr points to the floor. "Kneel, creature. With the straw and the other beasts. If you get to it, no one will see, will they?"

Loki glances at the main doors and shakes his head, first once, then again and again in frantic denial. The words fall from his mouth in impulsive defiance. "No, I won't."

Terror washes through him, hearing his own refusal, and he screams as Tyr picks him up by the collar of his tunic and throws him into the stable door. He smashes into the wood and the harder wall behind, and falls to his knees, hurt and trembling, helpless as Tyr comes for him and grabs his hair to wrench his head back. He says something vicious, but Loki can't hear him, because Fenrir is there, having forced his way through the main doors. The wolf hurls himself at Tyr, growling and jaws snapping... The world shatters into blood and screaming…

Loki's hands clenched to fists and he forced his mind away from that memory, only to find others bubbling back up through the cracks widened by Gungnir, cloying as spider silk to hold him in that darkness. So many. Such filth and horror and weakness to turn his stomach and freeze his heart.

Put it away. It is long over. I lost control and blurted the truth, and now everyone knows, but that makes no difference. I need to lock it away again and forget it.

Sif is going to kill me if I am not careful, so I need to focus on the plan and get this done.

But even though he put it from his active memory, using his training to block out the past, the emotions remained as a seething cauldron in the deepest caverns of his heart.