Hidden Within

Ruination

At the words, several things happened at once. The Tiefling king's expression twisted into that of pleased recognition, eyes sparkling in realization upon finally having the opportunity to fulfill his long threatened declaration. All of the Tieflings of whom had been observing from the ceiling above dropped down as if on command, lips drawn up in vicious snarls, tails twitching eagerly. Tony Stark secured his armor, became Iron Man, and Steve Rogers shifted in earnest determination, shield raised, allowing his state of mind to swarm his posture as that of the patriotic Captain America. The Warriors Three let out glorious shouts and lunged at the creatures drenched in the color of blood. Sif let out a shriek of fortitude as she stormed alongside her allies. Adeline dashed back to where she had been chained as a captive, searching desperately for her sword, and then turned to steal a stray shield from its placement alongside the steps of the grand throne – careless as to what the King would do. Thor raised his hammer as Rollnick charged for him, growling ferociously, eyes shimmering in utter detestation.

There were many Tieflings to battle against, but under Loki's observation, with their team, luck was on their side. And it would have to be – because the battle against the race of Drengrheim had begun.

Adeline surged forward, rushing toward a stray Tielfing, of whom had chosen her as his target. She raised her sword in outrage, and leaped in the air, eyes dead set on the red being's angered position. She brought down the weapon, slicing through the creature's shoulder, and causing it to slid backward in utter agony. She lifted the blade once more, but, this time, was blocked by another of sharp, red tinted steel, plunging back against her.

The Tiefling snarled her way, shoulder trickling horrifically, dark, nearly black liquid seeping to the floor in a puddle of pain and suffering. But she didn't care. These monsters, these foul creatures, deserved to die the most agonizing of deaths.They had killed her father, they had tortured her, and they had hurt Loki.They would perish.

She stepped back, raising the weapon again, much to the ache of her arms, but lifted one leg at the same time, driving it forward in a forceful bruising kick to the gut, sending the creature shrieking and falling to the floor. She swallowed, steadily regaining herself as she pushed aside the pain of her wrists and the other injuries her bondage had brought upon her, before dashing to the Tiefling's location, curled up on the revolting castle floor.

She glared down at him, observing the look of terror in his eyes, as he attempted to reach the sword he had lost grip of once hitting the ground. And in one single motion, with no hesitation, she brought her blade down onto his chest, allowing the weapon to sink into the body of her enemy, attacking his red skin with no mercy, hardly distracted by the enormous puddle of blood already forming beside her feet.

Her mind was blank, besides the overpowering red vision of rage – the anger, the fury, the resentment. He deserves a gruesome death, and so that is what he would attain. She yanked the blade from his body, watching as a tiny trickle of blood inched its way out of his mouth, as his eyes remained open wide, the same look of horror and anguish still present in his long since vanished emotions.

And then she just stared, just stared at his frozen being; no movement, no rising and falling of his chest, because he was dead. He was dead.

"Adeline!"

She whirled around, petrified eyes landing on that of Loki, darting toward her on the battlefield. She took the moment to observe her position, her location; the Warriors Three were violently hacking away at other Tieflings, the others Loki had brought along doing the same, leaping, striking and beating at the creatures. Thor was vehemently tossing his hammer this way and that, attacking the one Adeline knew as Rollnick with unbelievable force.

No, no. She would kill him. Not Thor. She needed to kill him.

Loki approached, thwacking aside the red beings that plunged forward toward him, throwing his palms in the air and sending his powerful green aura their way, causing them to fly backward in retreat. "Adeline," He called again, stopping before her, taking in the sight of the dead body beside her.

She glanced up at Loki with hopeful eyes, "Loki, please."

Loki furrowed his brow in confusion, taking a glimpse at their situation, on the lookout for any approaching enemies. Adeline then gestured to Rollnick and Thor with a faint nod of her head, and Loki knew. He knew. He grasped her hand and surged forward, sprinting through the crowd of snarling Tieflings, darting some, and lunging for others, using whatever magic he could with the hand that remained.

He approached Thor, ramming into his brother's side, shoving him out of the next attack from Rollnick and sending Thor's hammer flying back into his hand. The blonde sibling looked up in protest, but Loki shook his head and whirled around and out of his brother's way, revealing a vicious Adeline flying toward the Tiefling with newly released rage. Thor bobbed his head in confirmation and dashed from Loki's sight, rushing into further battle before a new target, eyes wide with fury as he continued to exchange blows with his infamous hammer.

Loki swallowed, glancing once more at a confident, enraged Adeline Crow before plunging back into the war field.

Another red being crawled toward him, mouth wide, bearing sharp teeth, tail in the air, and horns pointedly sharp. Loki dodged his charge forward, fleeing to the side, and landing a kick along the oblivious creature's ribcage. He removed his dagger, grabbed hold of the Tiefling's neck, and rammed the weapon into his side without any present reluctance.

Once the body fell to the floor, his eyes narrowed in concentration, on the look out from one person, and one person only – King Gallien. But no matter how hard he searched, the being was vacant from view. Just where he was, Loki was unsure. And that couldn't be a good thing.

Before he could dwell on the subject any further, a throbbing pain shot through the entirety of his body, and he spun around in confusion. Another creature was roaring his way, steady blade in hand of which had just been sliced through the back of Loki's lower ribcage. He glanced down at his stomach, cringing as he took note of the seeping crimson liquid, and gently placed a hand on wound, using the other to fling a deathly, forceful blow at the Tiefling's terrifyingly repulsive expression.

It flew back with a shriek, and Loki gritted his teeth in anguish – the wound wasn't too deep, not too serious, but hurt like Helheim itself. The creature was on its feet again, however, limping slightly but worryingly determined. Loki went to raise his palm again, only to be met with a twisted, white smile, rumbling his way in waves of unwarranted shudders.

"You'll get what's coming to you, Loki." The voice was demonic, villainous, and utterly petrifying.

Loki swallowed thickly and narrowed his eyes in distaste, "What are you talking about?"

And then it laughed. The revolting, hideous beast laughed. "The king has something special sought out for you."

Loki chuckled, ignoring the shiver slowly crawling like a vengeful spider up his spine as the enemy came closer, "Is that right?"He swallowed, and smirked back at the being, removing his hand from his side and grasping his dagger as hard as he could, the blood making it difficult to hold on to, "Well, I believe I have the same in mind for him."

He then brought the blade up into the being's gut and watched as he continued to smile, even through death, even through suffering. Loki narrowed his eyes and pulled back, watching as the creature fell to the floor, motionless, and yet still unnervingly pleased. He cleared his throat, shook his head, and lunged back into battle.

Adeline leaped forward, screeching angrily as she smacked her captor across the face with her shield. He stumbled to the floor, growling in irritation as he lifted a clawed hand to the blood seeping from his head wound. Adeline watched, scowl in place, as he looked up at her, eyes glowing in ferocity.

He then lunged once more, grasping hold of her shoulders and knocking her to the floor, the force of his weight keeping her firmly in place."Adeline Crow," He hissed dramatically and grinned.

She quickly lifted her shield yet again, and brought it across his jaw with all the strength she could muster. He fell to the side, and she hurriedly crawled over top of him, pinning him to the floor, her sword raised in her other hand.

"Would you look at that; Little Lady Crow being a hero, hm?" He snapped and she shrieked in aggravation, prepared to bring the sword to his neck for a deathly slice, only to be shoved violently to the side, his long, flexible tail ramming into her side and tossing her harshly to the floor.

He sneered, and climbed onto her once more, allowing no sort of movement now. He grabbed hold of the shield and tore it from her arms; next he went for the sword and propelled it across the castle floor; then, he grabbed both of her wrists and planted them firmly on the ground. She let out a faint scream, breathing heavily as the agonizing soreness grazed against his iron clad fingers.

"Go on then, Adeline. Be a hero." He sniggered, and in one solid movement, his tongue slowly revealed itself, long and reptilian, tasting a line up her neck toward her cheekbone. She skewered her eyes shut, gasping in revulsion, trying desperately to release herself from his hold.

He snickered again, lifting her body speedily and slamming her back down onto the floor, her head banging against the marble ground. "Open your eyes!"

She opened them, but she didn't look at the monster currently above her. She turned her head and stared straight at Loki, one side of his body bleeding messily, as he raged on against the approaching Tieflings like that of a brewing storm. And that was all it took – to watch his determination, his strong-willed efforts to defeat a race so keen on battle and violence. The way he moved, like a being of the night, graceful and soft and gentle, when his expression screamed cold and tortured and guilt-ridden. Loki. Her Loki.

The Tiefling holding her down shrieked in anguish and leaped from Adeline's body, teeth revealed and shining white and sharp, tail flickering in agony. He held the base of his hands, red and burning, charred like the wood smoldered by a now diminished set of flames. Adeline smirked in her own success, feeling the swarm of heat now brewing in her cheeks, in her skin, in her bones, in her heart.

She sprinted forward, shouting gloriously as she reached forward, placing both hands on each side of Rollnick's neck, and squeezed endlessly. She watched as he screeched, noting the steam rolling off her fingers in waves as it made contact with his red skin. She continued, thrusting everything she had into choking the monster, the beast, of which she no longer wanted to see alive. Rollnick's eyes rolled back into his head as he gargled slightly under the burning pressure of her grip.

Now she was the flame, and he was the forest.She was the wild-fire and he was the unlucky victim.

And when he stopped trembling in her grasp, when he fell to silence, she released him, observing as he fell to the floor beside her feet.His neck was blackened, handprints marring his delicate, crimson skin like that of an infinite tattoo.Her tattoo – a charred, burnt aura of demise that proclaimed glory, and victory for her very core.

Relief. She felt relief.

Until a panicked voice called out to her and her head shot up, taking in the frazzled sight of a still bleeding Loki. "Adeline, look out!"She whirled around in her stance, revealing the sight of an outraged, gruesomely vicious Tiefling King sprinted her way in a livid charge.

Loki swallowed thickly, and tossed aside the Tiefling he had just planted his dagger firmly into. He sprinted forward, ignoring the creatures that wished to battle him, of which followed angrily behind, only to be taken out by his allies. He knocked any aside that chose to get in his way and merely hurried toward Adeline, his line of sight locked on that of the blonde now struggling to defend herself.

Adeline lunged for her shield and sword of which Rollnick had hurled to the side in their scuffle, nearly tripping over said dead being lying wide-eyed on the floor. She knew Loki was coming, knew he was on his way. Just hang in there, Adeline Crow. She grabbed hold of the shield, leaning in to bring it up to her chest as a thorough block against any coming attacks. Only, she was too late.

A forceful, clawed hand shoved her to the side, causing her body to fail her and her trembling knees to give in as she melted to the foul, blood coated ground. She raised her own nimble palm to her jawbone, panicking as she pulled back and revealed leaking blood from the painful claw marks now marring her skin. With a silent cry, she looked up at a grinning King, glaring down at her with an expression of twisted pride across his revolting features.

He reached down to take her in his grasp, but she quickly rolled to the side. Using her shield to steady herself, she whirled to her feet, reaching for her weapon, prepared for anything. The king sniggered to himself and took another step her way. "I see you did great work of Rollnick, Lady Crow."

Adeline shivered and nodded with a shrug, "You're next."She darted forwards, blade in the air, angered by his smug overbearing appearance. She was fast, but he was faster. His reptilian-like movements sent Adeline falling forwards, failing to lunge at him, and rather simply lunging at the ground instead. With a shout of frustration, she shot upwards again, sword out in front of her, its position eager to sink into the Tiefling's very core. But as she dashed forward, she was caught off guard again.

Loki rushed toward her, taking notice of Gallien and Adeline's position. His heart sunk to the bottom of his chest, churning and burning and dying positively agonizing deaths somewhere within his very bone structure. The King had the blonde in his grasp, one arm tucked tightly around the base of Adeline's neck, just strong enough that she couldn't wrench free, hands desperately attempting to free herself.

In his other hand he held tight to an intricate dagger, with a red, crystallized blade on both ends, one pointing directly at Loki, and the other at Adeline. Gallien was smiling, grinning really, viciously, like a villain, like a merciless demon come to rip Loki of everything he loves.

He then looked at her – at Adeline. Her bottom lip was trembling, her once pristine blue eyes were tarnished with the glistening threat of tears, and her nimble fingers were steaming in outrage – the fire within her doing nothing to burn the King's figure, his armor too strong, too overpowering.

With a teasing quirk of his head, the Tiefling brought the dagger closer to Adeline's heart, and she squirmed reluctantly, to which Loki zoomed forward, now standing just before the monster and his odd weapon of choice.

"No," Loki murmured in a hushed tone, eyes darting from Adeline to Gallien, "Wait."

Gallien shifted slightly in suspicion and patience, as though awaiting any words Loki had to convince him of doing otherwise.

Slowly, Loki took another step forward, as Adeline shook her head in desperation."I know what you want, Gallien." Loki swallowed, dropped his head, and then revised, "I know who you want."

The king before him chuckled in deathly amusement, vision darting from Adeline, to Loki, to the dagger, and back to Loki.

Adeline observed as an unspoken sentence, an unspoken conversation rather, passed between the two of them. Loki's eyes were dark, and clouded, as though in a daze, as though the real Loki had somehow left his body and ventured to another world, another realm – away from this, away from her.

She fell desperate at the inclination of that, and instead focused on the blade before her. It was gold; merely the steel attached was a bright red, its texture like that of a crystal. She was brought out of her attentive gaze at the weapon so near her, so ready to end her life, by Loki taking yet another step forward.

And they were close now. Adeline could thoroughly look into his eyes, and somehow, now, she saw him. Deep inside, Loki was there: hidden within.Hiding. Hiding from the situation, hiding from the thought of Adeline's death. But she couldn't do the same – the nerves, the reckless thoughts, the desperation. It was all there, keeping her from hiding. She was falling deep in the black hole of hope – an emotion terribly hard to escape from.

Loki glanced up to meet the enemy's eyes once more, and Adeline fell motionless.

"Should we let her watch, then?" Gallien asked with a smirk, amusement buried within his foul tone of voice.

Adeline was panicking – like the clouds of a brewing storm, like that of a frightened victim to the lightning and the thunder, she was panicking."No, Loki," She choked, scarcely able to remember how to breathe, desperately attempting to free herself from the King's hold on her, "No, stop. No."

It was a mantra now. The "no's" and the "stop's" were continuously plaguing her mind, exiting through her mouth in a hopeful trial to clear it.But it wasn't working – it was working at all.

"Please, no." She murmured once more, "Stop this. Don't."

Loki met her eyes, deep dark blue landing on the fair shade of her own, and she was reminded of a frail memory – a memory before all the suffering, all the torture, all the anguish.

He had looked up from his book and was now staring at her with curious eyes. His eyes. From where she stood, she couldn't be sure if they were gray or light green. But she could tell that they were sad. Was she the only one that could see this? The loneliness, emptiness, or solitude burning within him?

"My lady, if you are to be my new babysitter, I do sincerely wish to know your name." Loki teased with an almost kind smile of honesty.She hesitated and then observed the young prisoner, gazing at him, meeting his eyes.

Only now, did she realize, that they were neither green nor gray. They were a fair blue.A blue so appealing she was hypnotized into answering his innocent question.

"Adeline Crow." She breathed and watched as his grin deepened in value.He looked down at the floor beneath him and visibly swallowed. "Lady Crow. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

And yet, she was reminded of a time before all the romance, the happiness, the adventure, the intrigue, and the love.But any memory, any recollection, was lost when Loki closed his eyes, shut tightly, crinkling the skin at either side.And once more, Adeline panicked.

Gallien shifted his grip on her, the dagger remaining in place at the level of her heart, and Loki's.Then, with a laugh, he crowed, "This won't be pleasant for either of you."

The world moved in slow motion. Adeline kept her eyes on Loki's, though they remained shut, and paid no mind to the dagger driving its way outward, in the opposite direction of her heart, and, instead, toward Loki's. She didn't watch as the end of the sharp blade pierced Loki's torso, or how the Tiefling King leered in triumph. She did watch, however, the red veins of light crawl up Loki's cheeks, his arms, his forehead, his neck; his every inch of visible skin. And she saw his eyes again, as they opened, burning a bright orange, like that of fire, as his entire body turned to molten lava.

The crystal in the dagger glowed and faded, Loki burned and fell to ash, and the villainous monster removed the blade, releasing Adeline Crow from her mounted position in his arms. But now she was too dazed to move. She was plagued with disbelief, a shock so incurable she couldn't think straight. She merely gazed down at the layer of armor and gold at her feet, his dagger, his cape, his cloak. His body had burned – his body had charred, and dissolved, and he was gone. He was gone. Her Loki. Her Loki had vanished – had disappeared before her eyes in a burst of burnt flesh. He had simply evaporated, petered out, faded away. How it was possible, Adeline Crow did not know. And the fact that he was no longer standing in front of her reawakened her very fears.She couldn't breathe.

"Abandonment. Loss. Grief." She stated softly, quite relieved by her willing admittance.

Loki narrowed his eyes, "But those are only emotional fears. You have no fear for physical objects, animals, people?"He questioned with a sincerely curious expression.

Adeline smiled, "Of course I do. But emotional fears are far more powerful and certainly more painful."

Thor glanced around the battlefield, eagerly taking a moment to check in on his allies. He saw the Warriors Three fighting victoriously, the Avengers successfully taking out steady numbers. The Tiefling army was diminishing, not many were left, and for that he was glad.

They were winning – they would be glorious. But where was his brother? Where was Adeline?

His eyes vibrated vigorously over the war field, landing on the state of Rollnick, neck charred with dark, blackened handprints, eyes wide, and mouth open. He then spotted the Tiefling King, but he was running – he was sprinting away, fleeing in some sort of strange act to vanish.

Thor's brow furrowed as he whirled his head around once more, catching a glimpse of the blonde haired woman, standing dead still in her dirtied, blood soaked uniform. Another red creature was bounding toward her, moving at a steady pace, angry and snarling.Thor shook his head in confusion – why wasn't she moving?

With a huff of frustration, he surged to his feet and tossed his hammer forward, so forcefully it flew directly for the approaching monster, smacking hard into his torso, flinging him backward into another group of the enemies. He darted past the few rivals that remained, and loomed over to Adeline, reaching forward, and placing a firm hand on her shoulder.

First he noticed the claw marks still leaking red blood on her neck.Then, he noticed the widened eyes, frozen in shock, unmoving, and so very unsettling.Next, he noticed the dried tear marks running down her cheekbones; the trembling fingers; the quivering bottom lip.And finally, he noticed the direction her eyes were staring, directly down at the floor, fixated on a heap of armor.

Loki's armor.

Thor desperately turned to the woman; eyes narrowed in concern, in worry, "Adeline." No recognition, nothing."Adeline." He repeated, placing both hands on her shoulders, and shaking gently. Nothing.He spared a glance around at the battlefield. His team was finishing off the last of the Tieflings.

It was nearly over. But the fear in his gut told him otherwise.

"Adeline, please." And with that, the blonde's eyes found Thor's, but apart from that, she remained motionless."What's happened?" He asked hesitantly, staring sternly at the Fire Elf.

The blue eyes returned to the floor, and Thor was merely responded to with the shake of her head.

He swallowed, looked away for a mere moment to dispose of an approaching Tiefling, and then turned back. "Where's Gallien?"

Her eyes returned to his and Thor saw what he had regretted most: an uncanny amount of fear, dread, horror, and panic. Adeline Crow was deathly petrified. And Thor didn't know what to do.

He cleared his throat, blinking away the tears as his mind put together the puzzle plaguing Adeline's thoughts, sparing a single glance at the floor.Loki's dagger. Loki's armor. Loki was simply, utterly, unexplainably gone.

"Stay here, Adeline." Thor commanded firmly, removing his hands from her warm shoulders. "I will return in a moment."He had to finish this. Finish this war – this battle against a foe so gruesome they deserve not to exist.So he left the woman standing there, eyes glazed over, expression twisted into eerie blankness.

After what felt like a century, Adeline knelt to the floor. She fell to her knees, simply too tired to remain standing, and landed just before the heap of armor. She reached forward, and took hold of the small, deadly dagger, laced with gold, bronze and hunter green. She grasped it tightly, as though it were her whole world – her very life. She then brought it to her heart, and skewered her blue eyes shut, rocking back and forth on her knees in utter desperation. The tears fell now, at a steady pace, but she wasn't bothered. She let them drop gracefully to the ground; let them pour from her as though she were the base of a waterfall.

"Don't you EVER leave me, Loki Laufeyson. Don't you ever leave me alone, understood?"

Loki chuckled and sighed, bobbing his head up and down in confirmation. "Understood."

He smiled comfortingly to her, and she immediately relaxed.

"Good."

She held the dagger tighter, cringing in betrayal, in hatred, in terror, in fear, in disbelief, in agony, in anguish.

The loss of love – to have loved and to have loss.

"You promised." She whispered against the metal of the blade, shaking her head profusely, dropping her head in her arms, and tossing the dagger to the side.

"I suppose I have to let you out of my sight, Loki Laufeyson."

Loki scoffed and shook his head, "And that bothers you, Lady Crow?"

"Yes," She chuckled, "Because I am your babysitter."

He bared his teeth happily at this, his smirk crooked as he gazed at the woman in his arms."Well, I've already promised you, Adeline. Or don't you remember?"

Adeline narrowed her eyes, and bit her lip.

"I will never leave you alone."

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