Hidden Within

Salutation

"Go on ahead!" Thor commanded, nodding towards the exit of the throne room, just as guards came pouring through the open doorframe of the arched architecture.

Barton, Romanoff, and Sif took off through the palace halls, and away from Thor's position with the Warriors Three, and Loki; their regal armor bellowed out behind them, and their weapons shimmered with ferocity.

Thor lifted his hammer toward the approaching guards, and a gust of wind had them all falling backwards and onto their hindquarters. The Warriors Three pushed forward and raised their own swords and axes to more Asgardian knights, carefully commencing battle, without the ill will to murder the protectors of Asgard. Loki hurriedly replicated another illusion of himself, which he then sent after Sif and the other two members of the "Avengers", mind spurring with all the sounds, sights, and smells he was currently processing. He then drew his dagger and summoned forth any magic he could currently muster, thoroughly knocking down a handful of guards with an aura of green sparks.

Thor glanced over, catching eyes with his brother, before he smirked and lunged forward once more, as the conflicted battle went on. A bulky man wearing Asgard's glistening gold armor sprinted toward the dark prince, but he then dodged the pointy end of the man's sword, twisting his body in a manner that shouldn't be possible, and spinning until he was behind his target so he could then lift a knee and slam it down into the guard's lower back, knocking him to the floor with a loud clatter. The Warriors Three still pounded onwards, driving their weapons forth, and shoving the Asgardian enemies to the ground. Soon, Loki found himself back to back with his brother, their shields lifted in amusement, both feeling the honorable rush of adrenaline and, much to Loki's regret of course, even the noble surge of elegantly performed teamwork.

"This way." The shadow of Loki ordered, and Barton and Romanoff quickly followed without protest. Sif was at his side, trudging onward toward the location of the much-needed skiffs.

When Loki made no move to converse further, Sif quickly leaned closer to his side, raising her head calculatingly and fixing him with a cold, mocking gaze.

"Is it true, Loki?"

The illusion raised an eyebrow, mouth turned down into a hard line, as he observed the petulant warrior. "Is what true?"

"Have you really found someone to love you?" It was said with so much mockery and insult that Loki had to turn away.

The shadow shouldn't have felt even the slightest emotion, despite the cruel jab, but he did – he did feel. He felt the despair return in thought of losing Adeline Crow and being alone again. He felt the anger toward his brother, and the whole team they currently worked with – for if they didn't succeed in their goal, Loki would kill them all for failing, and then he would punish himself.He knew he was being unreasonable – but who was ever reasonable when it came to love?

"I have." Loki sighed, glowering daggers at the mindless woman beside him, "And I suggest you keep quiet about it, insolent fool."

Sif smirked, brow turned downward and shadowing her eyes, as she turned away and hiked on, the row of docks and skiffs finally in sight. Romanoff and Barton hurriedly jogged toward the transport, heading straight for the golden ropes securing the boats to their posts. The dock was still as Loki remembered – paneled in brown planks, the skiffs resting just atop a cloudy shoreline of deep dark royal blue, connected to a railing lined with elegant gold embroidery.

How utterly hateful.

"Arrogant bastard!" The Captain yelled upon flinging himself at the rather enraged Tony, who had long since called upon his suit and was punching blindly at the other man. "Spangley Iceman!" Stark yelled, tossing his arm back and bringing it straight into the clanging metal of Captain America's circular shield.

Rogers chuckled and pushed his fist back against him with the defense of his barrier, causing Tony to growl and throw yet another punch. The baker at this point had fallen to the floor, rolled up in a ball that Stark ultimately thought made him appear as though he was a rather ruined dumpling.Suddenly, the shouts of a far larger group of authoritative guards could be heard over their squabbling and they instantly froze against one another, eyes locked on the shiny metal armor approaching them at a far faster pace.

"Shit." Stark mumbled and the Captain turned to him hesitantly, blinking blankly, and arching his head for a mere moment, to obliviously peer over Tony's shoulder. There, he saw the definitive form of Loki, eyes like blades, dark and eerie as they stared him down. He sent the illusion a quick nod and shoved Stark away from him. At first the "Iron Man" was confused but when Rogers inclined his head toward the alley that held the distant figure, Stark jaw immediately stiffened in understanding.

"Let's go." Cap whispered and they both sprinted toward the long, shadowed crevice, dashing and dodging humble citizens in the crowd that had gathered to watch the scuffle with intrigue and confusion. They neared the dark prince, and slowed their pace with curious caution, watching as the villainous eyes flared with disapproval.

The illusion raised an eyebrow, lips pursed in detestation. "Got a little carried away, did you?"

Stark and the Captain merely returned the glare, and stood a little straighter, eager to tune out the "villain's" scolding.

"Worthless oafs." Loki mumbled, inaudible to the already riled up "Avengers" and turned to walk onward, positive that the two twits would follow.

"And where now?" Rogers asked, a brow arched in suspicion upon creeping behind Loki down the narrow space of the alleyway.

"A shortcut, to the palace, and then to the Skiffs," The shadow of Loki informed them, "The others will be waiting for us."

Both Tony and Steve nodded, eyes fixed on where they were walking, observing the intricate walls of the Asgardian crevice, each tile appearing different on the ground beneath their feet.

"I hope you know, Loki," Stark began, receiving a glare from Cap that obviously meant to say, Leave him be, but the billionaire carried on, "I still want to kill your ass for what you did." Tony suddenly found himself increasingly angry; thinking over what he had originally pushed to the side in an act to help Thor avenge his mother, avenge Asgard – the fact that Loki had killed thousands of people, destroyed his home, his city."You deserve punishment. You deserve hell." He continued, "And I would be more than happy to deliver it – in anyway that proves hurtful to you."

The Captain turned to him, eyes set in a harsh glower, fuming at Stark's pushy personality."Stark," He snapped under his breath, teeth grinding together, jaw set in a firm straight line.

Loki spun around at that, eyes and expression merely void of emotion, void of hurt or anger.He went on walking, simply shuffling backwards while glaring at the two men in front of him.

"I assure you, Tony Stark," The shadow of Loki began, "You may harm me, scold me, insult me, beat me, and walk away with merely a few broken bones, and punctured organs – but if you dare lay a finger on the only thing that matters, in the entire cosmos, to me, in this very moment, you will not live to see the light of day again," Loki spit out, eyes narrowed in the smallest amount of outrage, the emotion betraying his cold personality. "You will never remember what it feels like to be loved, or touched, or spoken to. You will forget all that makes you human – I will grant that to you, Mr. Stark. So, please," He paused, only to smirk, "my dearest friend; do not make any foolish decisions."

"Loki! Are they ready yet?" Thor lunged forward, hammer flying and knocking several guards off their feet.

The darker prince tossed an unconscious guard away from him, and spun to face his brother, shutting his eyes to focus for a mere moment. He saw them, Sif and Romanoff and Barton; they were untying the last of the roped up posts, and freeing two boats, which began to float far more effortless at the lack of constriction. He also saw the two morons: Stark and Rogers, who were trotting behind him and nearing the very end of the shortcut he had guided them through – they were nearly to the docks.

"Now, Thor."

His brother nodded to him, finishing off the last of the Asgardian warriors running at him, and shouting out to Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg, evidently telling them to move on and toward the loosened skiffs. Loki nudged another attacker out of the way, as he meandered toward his sibling, hand raised and glowing in case any other idiotic guards wished to test him. Once they had gathered, they quickly took off in the direction of the dock, weapons ready in case they were needed, prepared for anything that was to be thrown their way. They took the same route as Loki had earlier with the others, weaving through hallways, and dodging elegant décor until the dull, brown shade of the paneled flooring was seen. The five of them witnessed Romanoff and Barton already climbing onto the boat as Sif held it steady, and the other two "Avengers" hurriedly jogging through the small crevice of a shortcut illusion Loki had led them down.

They all took note of each other and then speedily got to work. Thor dashed forward guiding Sif onto the unsteady, golden boat where she instantly sat beside Black Widow and Hawkeye. Rogers climbed onto the second skiff, with Stark close behind, moving quickly to allow the Warriors Three a position on the small, intricately designed vessel. The two Loki's that had worked as guides immediately vanished on the dark prince's command, and soon Loki found himself beside his brother, helping the other to climb aboard without the deadly divergence of someone falling overboard.

Shouts, commands, and orders could be heard emanating from behind palace walls, and the team soon realized they had to get moving – fast. Loki shoved Thor onto the skiff that held Romanoff, Sif and Barton, and then instantly raced to grasp hold of the strange lever used to control the mechanism's powerful engine. Fandral took the role of steering the other, and then with a heavenly rumble of ignition, they were off.

The skiff soared over the waves of Asgard's ocean, disrupting their consistent flow, and displaying ripples just over top. Splashes of refreshing cool water could be felt, sloshing against the cheeks of passengers aboard the golden, winged boats, feeling both succulent and fresh as the drive of adrenaline kicked in once more. While Loki steered the vessel, Thor was stood on the boats bright surface, gazing upon the direction they were heading in and hesitantly gazing back behind them for signs of pursuers.

"Loki!" The shout came from the other boat, and the darker brother had to strain to take note of it. Fandral was calling out to him, eyes solid in all seriousness, for which the God of Mischief was thankful, "Lead the way!"

Loki sent him a nod of confirmation and met eyes with his brother, who was gazing at him with both a solemn and oddly determined look. Loki smirked, eyes lighting up in excitement as he readied the ship. But his overall joy was shattered by the sound of gunfire, bursting like geysers along the waves of water behind them. Each of the riders ducked their heads, weary of being fired out, resulting in both disbelief and suspicion.

Thor whirled to glimpse at Loki, "They're shooting at us?"The surprise in his voice was so very enthusiastic; the dark prince was literally forced to roll his eyes.

"I think they're aiming more for me, brother." He shrugged in all honesty, steering the vessel away from the still continuous spurts of gunfire of the ship flying just behind them and overhead.

"Don't flatter yourself!" Tony snickered loudly from his seat on the skiff, scowling at the dark-haired god, eyes glowing in self-recognition. Rogers turned to him with an arched brow, confused by the words exiting Stark's limitless, hardly silent, mouth – as he always was."What?" Tony grinned vigorously as his metal armor clattered against the rim of the golden boat, "I did knock over a Asgardian baker, in case you forgot."

Smiles dawned upon everyone's expressions, except Loki's.

Instead, he focused on the point ahead of him. Just what he was looking for. Directly before his gaze, there sat the crevice of a large, gravel canyon – gray, dull and triangular before him. He aimed the boat in its direction, and yelled out an important command to those beside him, "Follow me!" He exclaimed, "No matter how insane you think this may be, just follow me!"

He got the approval and confirmation he was looking for before lining the ship up perfectly with the narrow entrance of the large, cracked rock.

And it got closer.And closer.And closer.

Smaller and even smaller and even smaller.

"Loki, we aren't going to fit!" Thor spluttered out, frozen still by his brother's determination in the idea of entering the barely visible canyon crevice.

The Warriors Three, Rogers and Stark all kept on shrieking.Barton, Romanoff, and Sif merely covered their eyes.Thor repeatedly spat out Loki's name.And Loki simply grinned a mischievous grin.

xXx

They had made it into Drengrheim – or what seemed to be at least.

The land was barren, dry and merely covered in enormous hills of grey, seeping sand. The sky was a deep shade of blood red, and almost no stars or planets could be seen its flat surfaced appearance – it was all too terribly cloudy, hidden by the deep, dark auras that seemed dangerous and deadly to a new eye.

All that sat upon the skiffs were silent as their vision set straightforward upon the distant, vicious structure of a castle. Its architecture was horrifying; sharp slopes looped off of every edge and corner, its construction a shadowed black and white, bleeding grey blood as gooey droplets of further constructed design hung off its doors, windows, and balconies.

It was absolutely terrifying. Even to Loki.

And Adeline was in there. Alone with creatures who wished for nothing but war and destruction. The more Loki thought about it, the more frightened he grew. He would rescue her – he would save her. She would live. No matter what happens, no matter what he or any of the others do or are forced into – she will live.

This is what he thought about – and only this – as he slowly turned the skiff to point directly at the large structure.

A/N: Shit is about to hit the fan. :3

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