Ozymandias: King of Kings

The Decay

"The pain was incredible. He underestimated how powerful Loki's knives were, how deeply they cut. But Jane was still there and unarmed, and he needed to get up and protect her, never mind his own pain. He struggled to stand, almost getting up, then felt his head explode with pain, and through the thousand colors and white lights and agony he heard his brother sneer.

"Hail, Son of Odin, King of Asgard. See how far you've fallen, dearest brother. I told you that you were foolish to trust me," Loki mocked, smirking at his brother's pain. "Now, I shall take what is rightfully mine through destroying what is yours."

With that, Loki left his brother writhing in agony, clutching his head while trying to remove the deep knives, so deep in his side, and turned to Jane. Her eyes widening in fear and understanding that her protector was gone, she turned to run – nowhere. The vast plain was endless and without escape. She swallowed hard, choking on dust amidst the swirling wind that whipped her hair and stung her eyes, and turned to face Loki, holding back the tears.

"Not going to run, dear Jane?" he asked, mockingly polite. "Come now, your King allows it. Run, little one. Run for your life." He stalked toward her, his long hair slicked back tightly, his eyes locked on her deep brown ones.

"She refused to back down. Walking to meet him, Jane looked up into his cold eyes, leaned forward, and whispered two words into his ear, words that sealed her fate. But Jane Foster was never a woman to go down without a fight. True, her time on Asgard and in the neighboring realms had frightened her, pushed her beyond her limits, and made her question everything she believed, but Jane knew that this was her final test. She had to be brave, now, in the face of death.

"Bite me," she whispered into Loki's ear, and leaning back, she pulled one arm at striking distance to his face, offered up a prayer, and shot out at him.

"He caught her arm with ease, tightening the grip on her wrist until Jane cried out in pain. He leaned forward, lips brushing against her ear, and whispered:

"Maybe later, dear."

He relished in her futile attempts to jerk away, brought on by his words. Smirking, Loki released her wrist and in one smooth motion, returned a stinging slap to her face, grasped her whipping hair in one hand, and flung her around his body, throwing her at his feet.

As Jane looked up in immense pain, she looked pleadingly into the eyes of the dark-haired man before her, the man who stared back – staring, not seeing. His eyes were cold, and Jane's stomach plunged with the sickening feeling that had forgotten everything; that he had forgotten them.

But Loki had remembered. In that split second, staring back into the small woman's dark brown, frightened eyes, he remembered their first meeting; he remembered their hours spent arguing about star charts and the physical properties of the Bifrost while Thor practiced in the yard. He remembered finding her alone, on the balcony, during a grand feast given in her honor, a feast he had reluctantly been allowed to attend. He remembered their walk in the garden that night, and he remembered the kiss underneath the sky that sung with purple and blue and stars of unending light. They were drunk on passion and, in that moment, he swore they would be together.

Loki snapped back to reality as Jane cried out his name, pleading with him, begging him to remember. Her hair whipped violently in her tear-streaked face, and Loki caught a glimpse of color tucked behind her ear. Green leaves and red berries. A holly sprig. Loki's eyes widened, and as Jane realized what he had seen, she wrenched the spring from her hair and laid it at Loki's feet in an final gesture of love, in a last attempt to save herself and Loki from hatred and death

But Loki was silent.

Jane awoke with a gasp, with a pale sheen ghosting over her sweating skin, glistening in the moonlight. She felt sick. Not waiting for a chambermaid, she dashed from the warmth of her bed - too warm - and out to her balcony, where she promptly emptied the contents of her stomach into some waiting and unsuspecting flowerbed down below. She stopped and clung to the railing, pressing her cheek to the cool marble stone, allowing her breathing to slow as the soft scent of honeysuckle drifted lazily upward, caressing her shaking frame.

"Only a dream, only a dream," she soothed herself as she sunk to her knees, still trembling beneath the full moon.

"Mom," she whispered against the stone pillar, "Mom..."/

Sleep brought a welcome unconsciousness.

"Lady, Lady."

The voice was drifting through the darkness and as Jane's eyes opened wearily, the light of the rising sun also consumed the blackness of her sleepless night. Her back hurt. She was not in her bed. Glancing around, Jane remembered her fitful night of sleep, her mad dash to the balcony, her abhorrent crime committed upon the flowerbeds below. She groaned as she saw the face of Iduun, her favorite handmaiden. The woman's eyes were creased with worry.

"Sorry-" Jane attempted to speak, but a harsh, grating sound escaped her throat instead. The older woman held up a hand.

"Do not speak, only gesture. We have one priority right now: are you feeling well enough to attend the Feast of Futures?"

Jane nodded. Iduun's eyes narrowed.

"We will see. Stand up."

While she often appreciated the handmaiden's straightforward nature, Jane presently hated the woman for making her stand and walk on her own. Nonetheless, she attempted to stand and walk, nearly collapsing after three shaky steps.

Idunn sighed beside her.

"No good, no good at all. It's bed rest for you today, My Lady. With any miracles left in this universe, you'll yet attend the Feast."

Jane's stomach plummeting, making her mind roil with the sickness and anxiety. If she did not attend the Feast, Loki would be unable to seal their marriage bond for the upcoming year. Yet the disturbing dream still haunted her memory, like some shadow lingering in the background, and some small, terrifying part wondered if it was for the best. Whichever way, Jane had no strength to argue.

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