A Rat

Thor was practically skipping after they were released from class for the day. The instant they were out of the classroom Loki took off his jacket. Slítas shook himself, uncoiled, and pulled his head back as if he were going to strike at Loki.

"Don't snap at me," Loki scolded him. "I didn't know we were going to have classes today. From now on every Tuesday and Thursday, we'll be in class with Hárekr. Most Wednesdays we'll be with Snotra, so I suppose you'll have to get along without me."

"Snotra?" Thor stopped hopping around and fixed Loki with a sharp look.

"If we have lessons with Hárekr again then we'll probably have them with her again," Loki rationed. "Of course, since I'm a mage now, some of my time with her will be diverted to learning my magic."

Thor glared at the smugness in Loki's voice, "lucky," he muttered. "You'll still have lessons with me on Friday."

Loki nodded agreement. The princes had extra lessons on Fridays that no one else had to help groom them for the throne. "At least we get Saturday and Sundays off, and I don't have to deal with Snotra as much."

Thor shoved Loki playfully at his brother's pleased smile.

"Fandral, Hogun," Thor greeted the two as they came out into the hallway. "You want to come down to the docks with us?"

"Us?" Loki leaned back, "what us? I heard no mention of docks before this."

"If Jaro really can get an airship then I bet we can to," Thor reasoned with his own logic. "We're the princes, and you're a silver tongue."

Loki eyed him, but Thor didn't seem to mean it poorly. He wanted to coast above the waves as much as his brother, so didn't disagree.

"So, do you want to?" Thor repeated.

"That sounds fine," Fandral replied cheerfully.

Hogun nodded agreement of his own.

Slítas stopped glaring at Loki, and turned his head to the doorway. The target of his hostility shifted. Loki threw out his magic in that direction when he saw Slítas's ire, but only sensed four children. One of them however was Jaro.

Ignoring the conversation occurring between Thor and Fandral, Loki watched the doorway. A moment later, the red-haired boy came out of the room. Loki sharpened his hearing so he could hear what they were saying.

"Real nice work there piggy," Jaro sneered at the red head. "You got us assigned homework. I don't like homework."

The red head stepped back at the venomous tone, "I-I."

He didn't do anything though, Loki knew. Hárekr only said he listed off the assignment. We were going to get that essay no matter what, and this essay is more like a story then an essay. There was no reason to complain.

"Loki," Thor asked him.

Loki turned away from Jaro and that red-haired boy, letting his hearing return to normal. "What?"

"Do you know how to fly one?" Thor repeated.

"An airship?" Loki frowned, "what, do you expect to steal one?"

"NO," Thor replied quickly.It was far too quickly.

"Yes," Loki corrected. "That will get us into trouble." He noticed Slítas drop from his arm to the floor, but didn't say anything.

"We get into trouble anyway," Thor whined.

"No," Loki corrected, "you get into trouble and I drown."

Thor hesitated at the sudden strike of venom in Loki's voice. His eyes darkened, hurt by the tone.

"I didn't mean it," Loki promised. "I just remember."

Thor didn't respond. If Loki let me teach him how to swim then maybe he wouldn't be so bothered by that memory. There was scarce enough chance of that now, but Thor resolved to try.

Slítas crept up on Jaro and his friends as they kept taunting the other boy. He wasn't noticed, an odd thing since he had black scales on white tile. When he got close enough to Jaro, he coiled back and launched into the air.

Jaro screamed when Slítas sank his teeth into his neck. Slítas's tail coiled around Jaro's right arm to pin himself in place. The red-haired boy jumped back in shock, a movement echoed by Jaro's friends. Loki flinched in surprise and spun around. Thor, Fandral, and Hogun froze.

Ignoring the stares, Jaro reached behind himself with his free hand, fumbling as he drew his dagger. Slítas couldn't see the blade, but Loki did. He dropped his jacket and felt his magic rise.

"No!" He shouted, flashing out a hand in front of him. A telekinetic force slammed into Jaro's hand and threw the dagger down the hall.

Jaro's hand went numb and then flared with pain. He grabbed Slítas's neck and tried to strangle him. Biologically speaking, it's not possible to strangle a snake. Jaro didn't seem aware of that fact.

Loki's magic was still bright as he saw a chance to stop Jaro and tugged the blade back down the hallway. When Jaro stepped back the heel of his boot came down right on the blade and his foot shot out from under him. He crashed to the floor, the breath knocked out of him. The wayward blade was kicked forward and Loki raised the toes of his boot and brought them down perfectly on the blade.

Slítas unlatched his jaws from Jaro's throat and raised them above his head when Jaro tried to squirm. Jaro froze when he saw the serpent above him, staring at him with piercing emerald eyes. The snake's mouth was open and Jaro's blood colored his white teeth red. A drop of it fell onto Jaro's cheek.

Slowly, Slítas opened his hood. Then he surprised everyone, including Loki. A pair of fangs as long as his head unfolded from the roof of his mouth and extended down, wickedly curved. He hissed, a low, threatening sound. The crystals that grew by his eyes were a brilliant crimson red.

Then Slítas released his hold on Jaro's uninjured arm and slithered to one side of him. Jaro sat up, utterly terrified, and Slítas raised himself on the tail so he could look him in the eye.

"Slítas," Loki said in a scolding voice.

Slítas slithered back to Loki, leaving the boy on the floor, and jumped up to Loki's arms. Loki was surprised by the move, but hid it well. His cobra would have to be able to jump high to strike Jaro in the neck.

Jaro stood slowly, terror in his blue eyes.

"Sorry Jaro," Loki tossed in a careless voice, "Slítas must have mistaken you for a rat."

The terror in Jaro's eyes was replaced by anger.

Loki removed his foot from Jaro's blade and held the hand without a cobra over it. His magic did as he bid for once, and the blade levitated off the ground to hover just above his hand.

Jaro reigned in his reply. He stepped back as Loki extended the hand towards Jaro and the blade shot through the air to hover just in front of Jaro's nose. For an instant, Jaro stood there, and then he grabbed the blade out of the air with his right hand.

"Monster," Jaro breathed.

Loki felt Thor stand up beside him, and so Jaro stopped the subject. He hated bullies. The only reason why Jaro was picking on that red head was because he knew Loki was studying magic, and might not be so easy of a target anymore.

Jaro whirled around and shoved past the red head. He felt a throbbing pain from his hand that Loki had attacked and cradled it to his chest. His friends fell in step behind him a moment later.

Once they were gone, Slítas retracted his fangs and hood. Loki could feel Thor's eyes on him, but ignored him and bent down manually to pick up his jacket. Slítas returned to his normal position and Loki was able to put the jacket on.

The red head looked over at Loki. "That's a scary snake," he said.

Loki shrugged nonchalantly. He was pleased that Slítas had stopped Jaro and put him in his place. Let's see how eager he is to bully anyone now.

"I know I've seen you before," Thor told the red head. "What's your name?"

Vornstagg, Loki told himself – or something like that.

"Volstagg," the red head told Thor.

I was close, Loki thought.

"Do you want to come to the docks with us?" Thor asked him. "We're going to see if we can get an airship."

Volstagg was a little off guard by Thor's personality. "Certainly," Volstagg told him, "After lunch."

That sounded like a good idea to Thor. "Come on, we can get lunch at the market."

Volstagg thought about it for a moment, and then followed Thor back over.

"Hi," Fandral greeted him, "I'm Fandral. The silent swordsman on my left is Hogun."

Hogun turned his head at Fandral, "I told you to stop calling me that."

"A sentence," Fandral put on a shocked look.

Hogun narrowed his eyes slightly. He'd get Fandral back for that.

"Volstagg," Volstagg greeted the other two.

"Come on," Thor repeated.

The three boys walked after their prince. A few paces behind them, Loki followed. His eyes glittered Tesseract blue briefly.

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