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12 November 2014 @ 10:14 pm
The Ice Demon and the Hydra, part 2  

Leaving Asgard was simple enough. He'd found - and used - the doorway to Midgard before, though it had been some years ago. He had lied to Thor about needing a distraction to escape Asgard, though the fear about the city's defensive shield had been true. High energy sources in general made teleportation impossible. But Thor had been so insufferable and clingy, Loki had thought he needed a task or he'd want to follow and then he might realize he could come with. Loki didn't want Thor blundering around, throwing Mjolnir, and otherwise getting in Loki's way.

Because I'm going to do things you're not going to like, brother. Your heart is too whole to do what must be done. And while your fury burns hot and reckless and then sputters out quickly, mine is ice and deliberation and takes a long time to warm. I would rather not have you mewling in my ear about honor and such foolishness, while I slaughter them. They murdered children and they do not deserve the protection of honor. I will kill them and they will remember to fear the Ice Demon.

The path spat him out with unexpected vigor, sending him stumbling across uneven ground. But he caught his balance and first inhaled the crisp air - it tasted like spring. There was still snow on the heights, but here, the spring grasses and flowers had already shown themselves.

There was also an unpleasant and new sulfurous stench on the breeze - the smoke of combustion and oil, not the smoke of charcoal and food. It was the stink of the invaders and their vehicles.

He turned to look down to the town. He'd put himself on the ridge, not expecting there to be houses only a few hundred meters downslope now. The town had grown but the houses and buildings below seemed much the same, though now there were horseless, motorized vehicles, not carts.

The castle remained, and fury filled him at the sight. There were iron bars across some of the windows, including the one which had used to be the queen's bed chamber. And there was a new flag at the highest tower - red and black and white. He lifted a hand to set it on fire, but lowered it. Not yet.

There were new boats in the harbor and larger ones in the sea beyond - these with motors, not sails. The market square was deserted, and in fact the entire town seemed very quiet, except for the black and grey clad soldiers walking their patrols.

He stood there, watching. The church with the tesseract was behind the town hall from this vantage, but the spire was still there. He would have to go there later to fetch the tesseract, but first he wanted to watch.

Unlike you, brother, I am not entirely a reckless fool. I will bide my time, bank my fury, and then attack.

He'd almost come to believe there were no people at all, but as the sun set he saw a young man get up on the roof of his house and dart across to another roof, crouching low to the roof line, making his way to the south edge of town and vanish.

Loki smiled to see it. Ah, resistance. Good to know.

Then activity began and several of the homes belched carriages and drove across the bridge to the castle, where the lights were coming on in some festive display. The sight of a couple alighting from the carriages in fancy dress made him smile in eager anticipation.

Oh. A banquet. For me? You shouldn't have. You really shouldn't have.

He wrapped an invisibility glamour around himself and started down.

In town proper, everything was much worse than it had seemed from above - the town was far too quiet, with even the sounds of approaching supper muted. Occasional sounds of babies crying were quickly hushed, and he caught furtive glances out the curtained windows. It all reeked of fear.

There were papers nailed to the street lamp pole and he paused to read them - announcement of curfew, promises of money for those that came to the occupation authorities with reports of any illicit activity, the threat that any one caught with weapons or harboring 'undesirables' would be executed.

He hesitated in the square again, at the darkened splotch on the cobblestones where the people had been murdered.

Elsa, I am glad you are not here to see what has been done to your people. I will destroy these invaders like I promised. Too late for some, I know, and I regret that profoundly, but it will be done.

There were guards at the end of the bridge, standing in their grey uniforms and black boots, and they saw nothing, eyes and senses blind to what was before them.

Loki stabbed them both before they knew there was any danger to them, piercing their hearts in one quick blow between the ribs. Then with his free hand, he lifted the dying bodies by the collar and threw each into the water. He examined the weapons - a multiple round version of the same rifles he'd last seen more than a century ago - and thought scornfully, "Projectiles still. I left too early before I could drag them to more advancement." Though he probably shouldn't complain when their primitive weapons were what he was going to use against them.

The rest of the way was clear, up to the courtyard. Here there were more people: some soldiers, and some civilians, at least in civilian dress, waiting around. They were the carriage drivers for those who had gone in to the banquet. But even the soldiers were low-level minions. He needed the officers first, who would be with the queen and whatever others had been invited to this farce.

He glanced up at the wrong flag on the tower and, smirking, held out his hand. Ice crept up the pole, winding around it and then across the flag until it drooped heavily, coated with clear ice. A moment later it was too heavy for the flimsy rope holding it, and the flag fell free of the pole.

Now it begins.

The throne room was empty, they must be using the solar to the west as a formal dining room. Still wrapped in the invisibility glamour, which as Thor had reminded him shielded neither sound or scent, but his footsteps made little sound on the carpet of the hall and his scent was nothing compared to the stink of the vehicles and the candles and the fish being served for supper.

Loki walked right past two more guards, breaking their necks from behind and hauling both into the servant's corridor. They wouldn't be hidden long, but in a few minutes it wasn't going to matter.

Then changing the glamour to a civilian evening suit and making sure it was properly buttoned, he pulled open the doors to let himself in.

The war-time dinner party had made some effort at 'festive' even if it seemed there was only a few paltry fish on the table, some brown bread, and jam, and last years tinned peas. But there were bottles of wine from the south, and the invading officers seemed in high spirits.

At the head of the table, a blonde woman of some indeterminate not-young age was wearing a blue gown and a veiled look of disgust as she listened to the be-decked officer next to her. She wore no tiara or crown, but Loki sensed a faint thread from her of recognition, that his power and blood recognized her. She was the one who had called him. There were other officers there and a few women companions that were too young and too resigned to be actual wives of those officers, but were likely townspeople pressed into companionship.

There were a few older civilian men as well, some chatting quite pleasantly, others more surly to the occupiers.

There was, however, no empty place setting, so Loki thought he would begin there. It would establish his identity to Birgitte and possibly her people, and she would listen to him when he started to ready her escape.

Letting the doors slam behind him drew a puzzled attention at first from both the Germans and the natives. Loki waited until the conversation died and in the following silence, with all eyes on him, he gave a nod of his head to Birgitte. "Queen Birgitte. It is lovely to make your acquaintance. Though I am distressed that there has been no place left open for me to sit as there ought to be."

Her head lifted and her blue eyes looked very like Elsa's, as understanding dawned there, and she stared at him in open wonder before recovering herself. "Um, yes, I do hold to the tradition, sir. Two years ago there would have been a plate and a chair according to the ways of Arendelle. But as you see, my table is not entirely my own."

"Yes, I see that. It is not you I would ever blame for this forgetfulness."

He strolled nearer and one of the officers, not the highest ranked near Birgitte, but a midlevel man, blustered in German, "Who are you? How dare you enter this place?"

"How dare I?" Loki returned in the same language, offended. "Really, I think you are the one with the daring. This is my place, not yours."

The senior-most officer, a colonel seated beside Birgitte, leaned forward. "Your place? You are from Arendelle? What is your name? Where are your papers?"

"My papers?" Loki rolled his eyes at that. "I need no papers. Fool." He circled around the colonel to address Birgitte. "You called?"

"I did. And you came." She smiled at him in gratitude.

"I sorrow I did not come sooner."

"Who are you?" the colonel demanded. "Where is your identification? This is a vassal state of the Third Reich, and you are to surrender your papers immediately or you will be arrested."

"Vassal state?" Loki wrinkled his nose in distaste. "Arendelle is no vassal state, and certainly not to a corrupt and foul thing that would murder children in the street. And I am here to end it."

"You alone?" the colonel asked, with a smirk.

"How else was I to make the fight more fair?" Loki retorted. He vaulted up on top of the table, as the others gasped at his daring. He straightened to his full height, head nearly brushing the chandelier. It held electromagnetic lights that burned with a lot of heat waste; Arendelle should have something better. "Now then, how many of you others keep to the tradition? That way I know which ones I let walk out of here."

A young woman looking up at him suddenly gasped. "The place that waits!" she exclaimed. "At Christmas dinner!"

"Oh, I am elevated to Christmas dinner! Elsa would be appalled, but I find it utterly delightful. That's new." He idly kicked some candlesticks out of the way and knelt before her. "Tell me about that."

"Uh, we put out a plate with a dried plum on it, so that," she inhaled a deep breath and her voice quavered, "that the Ice Demon will keep the house safe."

"Pagan superstition," the colonel sneered.

Loki straightened and let the illusion on his Midgardian clothes fade so that his combat leathers appeared, enjoying the amazement on their faces at the simple trick. He addressed the German officer, "No, colonel. Not superstition. Because you did not leave a plum on my plate at Christmas dinner, and so, like the plagues of Egypt, your house will not be passed over. Which," he smiled at the colonel, "is rather delicious irony, is it not?"

The colonel sneered at him, "You are a Jew?"

Loki tilted his head back and laughed. "No, no, colonel. Such a small mind you have. I am not one of those passed over; I am the one bringing the retribution. I am the protector of these people, I am the monster they tell stories about. I am a god." He reached up and crushed one of the glass bulbs between his fingers to pull the heated tungsten wire; it was too hot for him to touch without harm, but he kept his face impassive and dropped the still-glowing bit of wire into the German's ale. The drink exploded into a cloud of superheated gas, shattering the stein, and everyone pushed back, some shrieking with fear. The colonel and several of his men pulled weapons. Though several of them had shaking hands, the colonel's was steady, his face twisted with hate and fear.

"You are sitting in my chair, Colonel." Loki held out his hand to form a staff of ice in it, thinking of Elsa as he did it. His blood seemed far less vile when he thought of it as hers. He let his eyes turn to Frost Giant scarlet, as his amusement faded away for pure unbridled rage. "I am the Ice Demon and your lives were all forfeit the moment you crossed the border to Arendelle."

The colonel got the end of Loki's ice spear in his throat. The second man he saw with a gun, he gestured with his free hand, igniting the powder in the bullet and the weapon exploded in the soldier's hand. The dining hall dissolved into projectiles and screaming.

Loki hadn't hadn't had this much fun in ages, hitting Germans in the head with his ice staff and kicking a tureen of soup into another's face and then breaking his neck with a well-placed boot.

Birgitte was not idle either, ducking out of the way, and stabbing another soldier with her fork right in the eye.

But the gunfire got out of hand - the bullets themselves were more stinging insect than pain, but they were irritating, because he still felt the force of each impact. Plus the smell was bothering his nose. And likely one of the mortals, perhaps Birgitte herself, would be injured.

So he pulled more strongly on a thread of power, gathering it into his fist, before he flung it all back out in a narrow, focused stream, and did not err in his aim as the powder in all the weapons combusted at once.

He shielded his face with his sleeve from the concussive blast and shrapnel of metal and bone. There was an unfortunate scent of blood in the wake of the explosions. As the smoke cleared he saw that the enemy were all down, moaning, if not dead.

Birgitte stood unsteadily for a moment, clutching the arm of her chair to steady herself. "Oh my God," she whispered, eyeing the carnage.

"We have little time," Loki said, striding to her. "They will come to investigate. You need to be away."

She looked up at him, blonde hair in golden wisps around her face. "You killed all of them."

"Not all; not yet. First, you need safety. Is there a place to go?"

Thinking quickly, she said, "King Hrothgar of Norway escaped to Scotland last year. I could join him and we could run a resistance from there. Britain so far is free. I need a boat. Or a plane."

"Aircraft are too risky. But there are boats in the harbor."

"Harald, Kristoff," Birgitte called. "We must go."

Loki turned to see who she addressed, half-expecting to see a familiar face then rolling his eyes at himself. Kristoff was long dead, what did he expect? This Birgitte was not his grand-child, but a distant descendant. Those days were long gone.

Still, he was a bit relieved to see that this Kristoff was dark haired, as he picked up a sidearm from one of their erstwhile occupiers. "Ready, my queen."

Birgitte addressed the others in the room. "We will send these Nazi invaders into the sea. You must all believe and hold firm."

"Go, Your Majesty," one of the young women urged her. "We will be frightened and confused."

The others near her agreed and one added with a smile that Loki appreciated, "We will be sure to spread the story of what happened here."

The one who had told Loki the story of the plum looked at him with awe and satisfaction, "I heard that the Germans are looking for the gods. They will be very sorry that they have found one."

"Oh, yes," he agreed. "Keep yourselves as safe as you might. Fight those who can be fought. I am but one, and I cannot do this alone. None of us can." Though as he stalked back to the door, blood and bodies scattered in his way, he thought that at least this much he had done mostly alone.

There were four soldiers hastening toward the dining hall on the other side as he opened the door. They fired their weapons at him, and he ducked out of their path, twirling the ice staff to kill three and nearly the fourth, except a gun fired behind him to strike the enemy soldier instead.

Loki glanced over his shoulder and Kirstoff shrugged. Loki gestured him up to join him, as they cleared the way for Birgitte.

"We need a way to get to a ship," Birgitte said. "The docks are guarded…"

Loki pondered that problem as the palace guards and attendants joined them, picking up weapons and killing as many of the invaders as they could.

"They will rouse the garrison," Kristoff warned as several low level Germans ran away, across the causeway.

"We need a boat," Birgitte said. "We have the men to take a ship from them, but we have no motorboat or dinghy to get there."

"Ah, my dear, you are descended from me and the Snow Queen. You need no boat when there is ice," he said and leaned over the side of the causeway, targeting the nearest ship. Then weaving seiðr as fast as he could - wishing it was as easy for him as it had been for Elsa - he made a path of ice across the surface of the water. "Go. Swiftly."

Kristoff was first to climb the wall and test the ice. It was more like a raft, bobbing under his weight, but it didn't break.

"Hurry," Loki urged them. "I cannot hold it if I have to fight them, too."

"Come with us," Birgitte urged him.

"I have invaders to kill," he told her with a grin and then seized her under the arms. "Pardon my hands but you need to go." He set her on the ice path and then handed her one of the guns, and turned his eyes on Kristoff. "Keep her safe."

"With my life, my lord," Kristoff promised.

In the end twenty people ran across the ice bridge and attacked the German boat. Loki watched as long as he could, holding the ice for them, while they slipped on board and took it over.

He let the ice go and hurried across the causeway, as German vehicles and soldiers started to go across in the other direction. In the dark, it was easy to walk unseen. Later, I will kill the rest of you. But first the tesseract and I will burn you all with it.

The square was now busy with soldiers roused from their supper or their beds, running for the castle and the harbor, but Loki ignored them all to head for the church.

The entire front of it was ruined, lying in rubble, as if the entire façade had been hit with Mjolnir. Though it must have been that beast of a vehicle off to the side with the immense canon barrel. Loki's abdomen tightened in dismay and dread at the sight. Why attack the church?

He approached more slowly, warily. The church was dark and seemed abandoned. No attempt had been made to repair the façade, which seemed odd and ominous unless it had been a recent event. He stepped over some wires, and slipped into the dark vestibule. Eyes adjusting to the starlight, he paused his step to see the carving of Yggdrasil standing uncovered against the wall. That was also new and strange, to be so open about their lingering devotion to the old ways, though if he and the plum had become part of the Christmas tradition, perhaps there was a little more blending than he had expected…

He focused on the lower part of the tree, where Jormungandr was depicted, and its eye that was the trigger for the drawer that hid the tesseract. The drawer was still there, but his heart was uneasy. Why would the invaders crush he front wall of the church? Why would this paneling be exposed so openly?

Knowing he had little time, now that the invaders had been roused and the queen had escaped, he reached for the snake's eye and pushed it.

The drawer popped open. It was empty. But that was not the worst.

An electromagnetic current surged through his bare fingers and into his body. The pain was excruciating, overloading every nerve, but he couldn't move to free himself. It only stopped when his legs collapsed, and he fell to the floor.

Trap. Fool.

He raged at himself, but impotently, as his body would respond only with twitches.

Get up, you idiot. This was a trap. You are under attack.

But he couldn't move, even when he heard the sounds of boots approaching. Then an oddly mellifluous German voice said, "You are too late. What was yours is now mine. As are you."

Loki forced his head to turn to see a human, dressed in a black uniform, with a special pin on his coat lapel, an octopus? How strange…

"I have tracked you through the centuries. And your cube of power. I know your secrets, and I knew if I hurt them enough you would come. And here you are." His lips lifted in a satisfied smirk, as the truth hit Loki like a blow:

He was luring me here. Birgitte and Arendelle were the bait, and I fell into it like the biggest moron in the Nine Realms. Thor was right, damn him.

His fingers could wiggle. He was getting his control back. In a moment, he could be on his feet again.

Where had they found that kind of power? This was more than they'd had at the palace for the lighting.

"You are confused?" the German asked lifting sharp eyebrows curiously. "When it was you who gave us the power source? A gift to another queen according to the story…" He nodded to his left deliberately, and Loki turned his head to see the officer's men there, beside an open metal case and within was not the tesseract, but something round.

It was the child's ball Thor had given to his grand-niece, Princess Birgitte.

They had stolen Birgitte's present. The cold rage filled his chest at the offense. Bastard, I will send you to hell.

"It is small compared to the jewel I now possess. But strong enough, yes?"

The fury gave him strength, needing to punish this mortal for this insult, and Loki pushed himself to his feet. His legs felt like water, his muscles twitched randomly, and his spine burned with the aftereffect, but he ignored all of it. "Those jewels are not yours."

"Everything is mine. You will help me usher in a new age of greatness."

"You are delusional, mortal."

"No, it is you who are delusional. You are a god, but I will take your power." As he talked he gestured his men to gather their things and go, and he turned and started heading outside. "As you will see."

Steps still wavering, but feeling stronger by the second, Loki followed him intending to stab him to death and take back the ball. He reached the front empty wall of the church.

To find all that equipment and vehicle noises he had heard, the grumbling and creaking, had not been sent to the castle. Some of it was here, especially the large beast with the armor plate and treads, and the very large gun pointed in his direction.

He lifted a hand, intending to combust the propellant in the shell, but he was too late.

The world exploded into fire.

Loki stirred slowly, aware only of pain at first. Getting skewered by the manticore had been a pleasant day by the river compared to this. His skin seemed too tight on his flesh, his bones all ached, and yet when he tried to move, his muscles responded sluggishly.

What had happened? Where was he?

He opened his eyes, or at least it felt like he did, because it seemed darker with his eyes opened than when they were shut. There was no light at all.

He tried to move again, more aware now, and found that his wrists and ankles bore some kind of metal cuffs. Worse he was locked in a metal tube of some kind. There was not even space to bend his knees more than a little, although he was able to reach up to his face and confirm that his eyes were open, it was just a featureless darkness inside this confinement. He reached for seiðr, finding the threads thin and distant, hard to grasp. The bindings and close confinement made it difficult to use the supporting gesture, but after a moment he conjured a thin pale glow.

The best thing he could say was that it proved he wasn't blind. Otherwise, he saw the plain metal surface of the tube - perhaps it was a missile casing, it was difficult to tell what it had been before holding him - and he saw the metal cuffs.

They had taken him prisoner.

This was intolerable. They couldn't possibly succeed at this. He was stronger and smarter and he had powers of which they had no understanding at all. He would laugh at their temerity, if only getting hit by a tank shell weren't quite so painful.

He turned his left hand to expose the little lock to his sight, thinking scornfully of how stupid they were to think such a thing would hold him. Seiðr feathered inside the small lock, and it clicked. A moment more he had that wrist free, and he shoved at the top of the tube, expecting the lid to come off against his strength. It didn't budge. He pushed harder, bracing his shoulder. It was fastened down tightly, and the metal didn't show a dent for his efforts.

Instead of smashing at it like a fool, he felt for the seam, where it would have to be weaker, and pushed again. This time it moved, slightly, when he put his strength against it, but found that he wasn't quite as strong as he should be, still recovering.

How had these primitives even figured out how to tap into the energy source in the ball? It should be beyond them and their internal combustion engines, projectile weaponry, and general ignorance of how the universe worked. Even if this German officer had stolen both tesseract and child's toy, he couldn't possibly understand them.

Which was, presumably, what they wanted him for. He was going to have to teach them a lesson about offending gods, and not taking the Ice Demon seriously.

Angry, he shoved at the seam again, shifting it enough to crack open and let in a sliver of bright light. But someone must've noticed on the outside, because the metal of the tube suddenly lit up with live current. Trapped in it, the power ran through him, frying his nerves as his body rattled helplessly against the tight walls of his cage.

It ended, leaving him panting and weak. He had barely started to recover again, maybe ten minutes later, when they charged the tube again, leaving him shaking in reaction.

Dread started to seep into the places were arrogance had been, as he realized that his captors were, it seemed, quite capable of doing that, again and again, sapping his strength with each jolt. It seemed ridiculous, but nonetheless true, that they had found a way to keep him prisoner with very little danger to themselves.

He tried to weave seiðr as soon as he gathered enough strength to control it, between each charge, but all he accomplished was freeing his other wrist. He couldn't focus the power on what he couldn't see outside, and he didn't have space enough to pull the cuffs off his feet. Simply wedging the lid up proved useless, as there was something else holding it down.

After two hours, he was finally resigned to the fact that he was trapped. He would have to wait for them to make a mistake or change his circumstances by opening the tube. Humans were impatient and quick - he was immortal, he could wait.

Being resigned to waiting didn't make waiting hurt any less, though, and he started to tense between each charge, even though he knew there was nothing he could do. They had stripped off his boots and with the metal cuffs attached to his ankles, there was no position he could adopt that protected him from the power surging through him.

He thought about calling to his mother, but held back. All she would do was send Thor to rescue him. If he rescued Loki again, so recently after the manticore, Loki would never hear the end of it. The rest of his long life would be nothing but Thor hovering over him, believing Loki couldn't do anything for himself.

So he instead hid himself from view, so neither Frigga nor Heimdall would see him stuck here and send Thor to his rescue. He would rescue himself and show his family that he was not the helpless weakling they all tended to believe he was.

He was strong and tough and clever, and he could get himself out of this. Or so Loki believed.

He was wrong.

Thor entered his mother's room where she was sitting before her fire, having finished scrying. He was hoping she would be relieved and smiling when she turned to greet him, but instead her brow was knitted in worry.

She found a smile for him, but that did not erase the concern in her eyes. She held out a hand for him to come nearer.

"You did not reach him?" Thor guessed. Loki had not contacted her since he'd left, so she had finally decided to contact him for herself, and get information.

She shook her head once, glancing back at the hearth and pressing her lips together. "No. It felt... different. Before, when he hid himself, I could touch the shroud, but this time, it was as if there was a wall. An outside force. I would say it is a high energy barrier of some kind, but Midgard does not have that sort of knowledge."

"Loki does," Thor pointed out.

"Of course, but he would need a source; his strength is not so great as that."

Thor hesitated, knowing to tell her would reveal something Loki had kept to himself. But she needed to know. "He told me before he left that he had found the tesseract. That he intended to use it to exact his revenge."

She lifted her head, her eyes wide in shock and dismay. "The tesseract? You are certain that was what he said?"

Thor nodded. Only now seeing her reaction did he understand the power now in Loki's grasp. "Yes. He said it was in recompense for Father never offering him the Casket of the Ancient Winters."

She shut her eyes briefly and then shook her head. "So he takes the most powerful and dangerous weapon in the universe, in exchange for an artifact for which he has no use?"

"An artifact he feels should be his."

"Perhaps it should be, but the tesseract... He should know better than to use it in this way, it will attract attention to Midgard." She frowned again. "Yet it is strangely diffuse, so perhaps..." She trailed off, gaze distant, then looked at him again. "I am uneasy. If he is shielding himself deliberately then that is his choice, but he may not realize the tesseract has this effect."

Thor knew that if Frigga was uneasy about something, there was something ill happening. Her power was less showy than Loki's tended to be - especially since most of his were oriented to combat - but she was powerful and Thor had learned long ago to heed her. "Shall I ask Father to send me to check on him? Perhaps to acquire the tesseract, he will finally be amenable."

Odin had been most displeased with Loki's escape, as expected, and so it had not been a surprise when Loki had hidden himself away from sight. But once Odin found out about the tesseract he might decide it was best to take back both errant son and lost weapon.

Her gaze went back to the brazier, as she considered and after a moment, nodded. "We shall ask," she answered. "It has been months, and I have felt nothing from him at all."

That worried Thor more than anything -- Loki would not have lightly broken his promise to contact Frigga. Even if he was busy slaughtering invaders and doing other things of which she would not approve and he had lost track of time, he should still realize he had not reached her once.

"The mortals do not have the power or skill to keep him from reaching you," Thor said, hoping it was true. "It must be his choice, and you know he has said that mortal time often slips past him."

"There is power on Midgard, though," Frigga murmured. "I find it hard to believe their sorcery is so adept to harm him, but no doubt there is some. Remember his story about Fandral's son and the princess with the magical hair? The sorceress hid the princess from Loki's effort to find her."

"That sorceress is long dead."

"Someone taught her. Someone could have taught others. Or written it. Knowledge is rarely lost forever. And Loki himself was not that careful when he was on Midgard for those many years." She rose, determination chasing away her worry. "I will seek the king's counsel. And we will determine what to do."

She left but Thor lingered in her room, newly worried about this danger he had not even imagined before, that some sorcerer might have caught Loki in some net. But it seemed ridiculous that someone of Loki's skill and power could have been overcome. It was more logical to assume that Loki was hiding himself again, as he had during his long sojourn to the mortal world.

It turned out that was what Odin believed as well. Though infuriated by the news about the tesseract's recovery, even that was not enough to change his mind.

"I can go to Arendelle," Thor tried to persuade him. "Surely he started there, and I can trace him through whatever stories he has left behind. He intended to bring war to them, not hide in the shadows. I cannot believe he is so difficult to find."

"He intends to take this weapon and interfere in a war I specifically forbid!" Odin slammed Gungnir on the floor, still angry. "This is his attempt to trick us into involvement, and I will not."

"But, Father--"

"No. You are forbidden Midgard, and if you are found plotting to disobey this order as your foolish brother did, I will strip Mjolnir from you and have you confined," Odin ordered harshly. "The mortals have brought this on themselves, and Asgard will play no part."

Thor bowed his head, knowing there was no other choice. The king had decided. If Loki needed help, he would get none from Asgard.

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