Jane Foster scrolled down the article on her laptop and kept reading the paragraph. She was reading the Pose Edda, translated as best it could be into modern English. This article was one of the ones that detailed the human record of Norse mythology – or as Jane now knew, of Asgard.
She had found several places where the human's record of the Realms did not match up with what Thor had told her, but it was close enough so she read it anyway. Her green tea sat next to her on the table and she picked it up to take a sip.
Another laptop was knocked off a chair.
Jane paused with her tea half-raised to her lips. Darcy, cheeks red, gently picked up her fallen laptop and set it back on the chair, glad that SHIELD stuff was hard to break. She adjusted her new headset again, trying to get used to it. The headset was a wireless hands-free recorder that recorded everything Darcy saw and heard from her Point of View.
"You know," Jane said as she took a sip of her tea, "if you set that on the table it would be less likely to fall."
Darcy tried to ignore her and tapped the keys on the laptop, bringing up her headset's program. "It's more comfortable on the floor." She shook her head as that train of thought drifted towards Angborn. Geez, is this what Jane feels about Thor? Angborn probably wasn't ever going to come back to Midgard again anyway. Stop thinking about him!
Jane didn't reply.
"It's no weirder then you drinking that stuff," Darcy snapped.
Jane finished off her tea. "It's soothing and it calms my nerves." She got up to refill her mug.
Darcy muttered about no sense of taste and hit record. Instantly an image of Darcy looking at the laptop appeared on the screen. "It works!"
Jane rolled her eyes in good humor as she poured the hot water into the mug from the tea kettle and set another tea bag in it. Her equipment started beeping as she finished, startling her so badly she almost sloshed hot water on her hand.
Darcy's head snapped up and she closed the screen of her laptop shut without stopping the recording as she stood, leaving her headset on. "Oh, who's coming now? Is it Angborn? Or Thor?"
Darcy betrayed herself when she mentioned Angborn, and Jane gave her an amused look as she sat down at the computer station to check out the monitors. So Darcy's sweet on an Asgardian to, is she?
Jane's smile turned to a frown. "I don't think it's the Bifrost. The wavelengths look to be the same base but they're all over the place, unstable."
Darcy bit her lip, "friends?" Thor had assured them that the rest of the Realms would ignore Jane even with her relationship to Thor because she was human, but Darcy still got worried at Jane's look.
"I don't know," Jane replied honestly.
Suddenly the room lit up with a blinding white light, and both humans were forced to cover their eyes. The light faded. They didn't see anyone outside the glass walls that led outside. Darcy was quicker than Jane and darted over to the back door. She almost walked into the glass door in shock. "Jane! Thor's brother is here!"
Darcy got the door open after a moment and raced to the patio to where two figures were lying unconscious on the ground. The ground was not scorched in its normal, intricate pattern from the Bifrost; burnmarks simply radiated from its passengers.
"Loki?" Jane asked quietly.
Darcy hopped off the patio to Loki and Angborn. Well, I guess I get to see Angborn again after all.
Angborn opened his eyes slowly trying to ignore the brightness. Where did Loki take us? One of the lava pools of Muspelheim? Those were bright.
"Hey, are you okay?" Someone asked in clear English as they touched his arm.
We're not alone. Loki. Angborn jerked his arm back and sat up quickly, grabbing his dagger form the ground as he did so, and raising it.
Darcy yelped and fell on her butt. "Don't kill me!"
Angborn hesitated. The person spoke in English so he switched to English. "Where?"
"Uh, Earth," Darcy offered, "New Mexico."
Angborn's dark eyes focused on her. "You're the mortal," he replied. He looked around and saw Jane standing on the patio of her lab, her eyes huge. "Midgard? Why the Fel Midgard, after New York? Loki? Loki?"
Loki didn't respond. He was unconscious. Angborn shook his friend's shoulder gently and when that didn't stir him, checked for a pulse. There was one, but it was soft. Loki said he didn't want to go to sleep, Angborn remembered. There wasn't much he could do now.
"Um, can you?" Darcy asked, waving a hand at Angborn's bloody dagger.
Angborn glanced at it, and then sheathed it and picked up Loki. "May I bring him inside? The teleport here has drained him badly." He didn't wait for an answer.
Darcy stepped aside before finding her voice. "He attacked New York," she blurted out.
"Would it interest you to know that Loki lost on purpose?" Angborn asked.
"He-he what?!" Darcy stuttered under Angborn's rich, chocolate brown eyes. She looked at Jane, who had also heard the statement.
Jane watched him curiously as she held open the door. It would be better to let Angborn in then try to fight him. Angborn was an Asgardian after all, one of Thor's people, she wouldn't win.
Angborn didn't say a word more until Loki was laid down on the sofa with a pillow under his head. Darcy noticed that Loki was wearing some sort of weird metal bracelets. Then Angborn sat on the floor by Loki and leaned against the sofa, speaking at last. "Loki was not villain at, uh – New York you call it. Thanos made him. Once Loki was on Midgard though, Thanos couldn't force him to try and win so he tried to lose."
"Who is Thanos?" Jane asked.
"He is the leader of the Chitauri Legion and he ordered the attack on Midgard. He was planning to take control of New York and use it as a staging ground to invade all of the Realms. Loki knew that so he lost on purpose and since Thanos no longer has a base for his invasion, the attack was called off. By letting Thor take him prisoner, Loki ended up under Asgardian protection. Thanos isn't pleased his general betrayed him."
Darcy sat in a chair. Loki lost on purpose to save the Realms.
"You never thought it odd that an Asgardian prince, an Archmage, was beaten by a group of humans and one Æsir?" Angborn shook his head. "Odin's right, you humans are shallow." He leaned against the sofa, worn out.
Darcy could feel herself turning red again. Great, now Angborn was made at her.
He looks exhausted Jane noticed, and bloody, as if he'd just been through a war. Jane stood and fetched the plastic cup her tea was in, still untouched. She fished out the teabag, stirred it, and walked back over to hand it to Angborn.
Angborn looked genuinely surprised by her action but took the mug with a quiet "thank you" and eyed the drink. He took a sip. "Green tea. I never could understand how someone could drink this stuff."
Darcy's redness faded and she let herself smile. Finally, someone that agreed with her.
"Of course, Loki promised it was an acquired taste," Angborn continued with another sip before setting it on the coffee table next to him.
Jane's response choked off. "Loki drinks this?"
Angborn nodded slightly, "he says it helps sooth his nerves."
"Oh he does, does he?" Jane pointedly looked at Darcy.
Darcy ignored her and instead asked Angborn, "what are those bracelets Loki's wearing?"
Instantly, Angborn's relaxed manner tensed. His beautiful eyes fluttered over to Darcy and then to Jane. "You noticed I looked like I had been through a war, didn't you Jane?" He didn't wait for an answer. "I have. Against Thor and his father Odin. I tried to kill Odin, but I believe I failed."
Both humans froze. Odin was the King of Asgard so Angborn was…
"You're a traitor," Jane said flatly. She regretted her wording when Angborn looked her way, hand on his dagger.
Angborn changed his mind and set his hand on the coffee table instead. "Loki was being escorted to his execution less than an hour ago. Those bracelets are what's left of his restrainer cuffs. He had to break them to be able to use his magic. I helped him get away after his magic was freed. Yes, I am a traitor and a deserter and an outlaw and anything else you can think of."
"You're not going to kill us?" Jane asked, pressing her luck. "We know you're a traitor."
"So does everyone else on Asgard," Angborn shrugged. "It was a public execution, the arena was full."
Did he just say arena? Darcy thought curiously.
"I'll wager you haven't figured out that Loki was actually helping Midgard when he attacked New York, have you?" Angborn added.
"How?" Jane asked. "Four million people were killed in the attack."
"Thanos has other Generals. Loki made sure that it was he who was sent to Midgard. Any other of the Generals would have tried to win." Part of the reasoning, Angborn was sure, was over Loki's vendetta against Thor. He knew how much Thor liked Earth and that would have made it a tantalizing target to him.
Angborn tightened his hands. "Odin never bothered to consider that as much as Loki hates Thor and Asgard he didn't want the Realms to fall. When he sentenced Loki last week he never bothered to remove his muzzle to let him speak in his defense."
"On Midgard, all are innocent until proven guilty. A judge oversees and a jury of fellow humans listen to evidence presented. Witnesses and evidence are presented and the accused can also give his side of events," Jane explained.
A shadow of a smile appeared briefly on Angborn's features. "Odin would be, I believe, jury and judge. He alone decides the fates of those who come to him for trial. He has let his vendetta against Loki's father, Laufey, cloud his judgment with Loki I fear." He sighed, "it seems Loki is right again, heh, he always is. I never understood why he thought a republic would make a good government, but it seems it does have some advantages."
"So you're not going to hurt us?" Darcy asked quietly.
"I do not hurt innocents," Angborn promised. "Some Asgardians do, but they are few and I am not among them. As Loki was teleporting us here Heimdall unleashed an energy wave and it collided with the Bifrost's lightning. That's why the design scorched onto the ground was off. I believe it will be sometime until they can chase after us. With luck, we'll be gone by the time Asgard does come."
"The Asgardians don't believe Loki threw the battle?" Jane asked, "he was raised on Asgard. I would think he has some support."
"Odin hasn't given anyone a chance to say anything and Loki's muzzle was not removed after New York until his execution just now."
"That was a month ago. Shouldn't he have I don't know, starved?" Darcy piped in.
"Asgardians can last longer than humans, mages even longer since they can siphon off their magic as a substitute."
"That doesn't sound good," Jane frowned.
"It is not advised for any long period of time, but Odin's dark magic has forced Loki to rely on that of that," Angborn shook his head. "When Asgard comes maybe you could tell them what I told you. They might believe you better then they will one with a traitor's brand. Unless it's Jaro or his Blood Wolf squad," he frowned, "If they are the ones then you're better off having SHIELD speak to them on your behalf."
"Blood Wolves?" That didn't sound like a friendly squad to Jane.
"They win first and play fair never. Woman are considered second and preferably submissive." Angborn wrinkled his nose slightly. "The most lethal fighter on Asgard is a woman. Loki only ever beat her half the time."
"Who was she?"
"Her name was Tilaria," Angborn looked over at Loki. "She was, she and Loki, how to word this? She meant a lot to Loki," he managed finally. "She was kidnapped but we never found a body. It hurt Loki greatly."
Jane looked down to her hands in her lap. It seemed Thor was right, Loki did have a softer side, just not one that he showed often.
Loki coughed suddenly and a trickle of blood slipped past his lips. Angborn straightened. His friend's breath caught and he seemed to cringe away from something.
"Is he having a nightmare?" Darcy asked as she tried to move into a better position to see.
Loki's head jerked suddenly as if he had been hit and scratch marks appeared on his cheek, bleeding. Where did that come from? Angborn thought as he stared. A nightmare, yes the mortal was likely right, but not a normal one. He said he couldn't go to sleep or else something bad would happen. Angborn shook Loki's arm, trying to wake him up. "Loki!"
Loki coughed again and his knuckles bruised as if he had punched someone.
Who is he fighting? "Sorry Loki," Angborn muttered. He raised a hand and punched him. Loki's eyes opened and he jerked into a sitting position so quickly he nearly banged heads with Angborn.
Jane's equipment chose that moment to start beeping, alerting her that more company was coming. "Who now?" She growled in exasperation. Was it Asgard come to reclaim its prisoner?
"Loki!" Angborn grabbed one of Loki's arms as his friend tried to punch him. "Loki relax, you're safe!"
Loki shoved him back and Angborn crashed the coffee table as he fell. The Jötunn bolted to his feet and backed up. He obviously still thought he was in a nightmare. His eyes focused as he realized he was awake. "Angborn! I told you I can't fall asleep! Why did you let me fall asleep? When I sleep my shields drop, he can get in my head and the injuries are always real!"
"Who?" Angborn asked as he stood and shrugged off the ruins of the table. He closed the distance to Loki and grabbed his arm. "Who is he?" He remembered Thor telling him about his conversation with Loki on the Helicarrier. "Loki, tell me."
There was a bang and Jane jumped back to avoid sparks as one of her monitors exploded. The power buildup of a portal was so great it shorted out the monitor. That's not the Bifrost, that's for sure, and it can't be good.
Loki shook his head, "I need to go back to Asgard, now! Angborn I have to get back there!"
"What?! We just got away from there! If you go back they'll kill you!"
"No! You don't get it! I have to go back! Asgard has Barriers around it, protecting it. Midgard doesn't have any."
"Loki, just relax. Tell me who."
Red lightning crackled outside from the storm clouds and struck the ground, condensing together. A figure materialized in the red lightning and the lightning retracted back into the clouds. Loki cringed back. Instinctively, Angborn stepped in front of him.
The new intruder was no bigger than Loki. A dark blue cloak covered his body and the hood was pulled up to hide the upper half of his face. Gold glittered from a wire frame he wore on his face and his skin was a washed out blue-violet. Weirder still, he had two thumbs on each hand.
Definitely not from the Nine Realms, Angborn decided.
"Chthon, ally to Thanos." Loki introduced quietly, voice hoarse.
"Cht-you can't mean…" Angborn whispered as he slowly drew his dagger.
"The Elder God of Death," Loki whispered. "One of the creators of the Nine Realms. He likes traitors as much as Thanos."
Chthon turned to face the two of them, ignoring the humans. "Step aside mortal," he addressed Angborn, voice cold with a hiss to it. "Thanos has need to see his general."
Angborn raised his dagger, not flinching. I don't know what this guy's play is but Loki's scared of him. He noticed that the fingernails of Chthon's right hand were bloody. This is the same maniac that attacked Loki when he was sleeping, isn't it? "You're lucky I threw my sword at Odin," Angborn actually smiled and nudged Loki to step back. "You might just stand a chance at giving me a workout."
"Angborn," Loki hissed," he's an immortal, a god."
"I recall you calling yourself that a month ago," Angborn replied levelly.
Loki glared at him. "I wasn't being serious. You can't kill him. It's like trying to kill Hel and you know well that worked out."
A bit of color appeared on Angborn's cheeks. "She didn't have to put me in a coma to get her point across. Well, she's the God of Death for the Nine Realms and he," he flicked his dagger towards Chthon, "is the Elder God of Death so their powers have to be similar so I've got a scale to work with."
Loki shook his head frantically. Angborn really didn't stand a chance against Chthon.
Chthon watched their exchange curiously. "Allow me to retrieve him, before I take him by force."
"Do you want to go back to the Chitauri Loki?" Angborn asked, shifting his stance so he could look at Loki and Chton at once. He wasn't sure but he thought he saw a glimmer of something in Loki's blue-green eyes as Loki shook his head no.
"Then you're not going," Angborn replied simply, stepping back to look at Chthon directly. "If you want my prince god, then you come and get him, if you can."
Chthon apprised the mortal standing in his way. What did Loki do to gain such strong loyalty? Did he charm the warrior? No, Chthon could sense that no magical persuasion had been involved. Intriguing. "Foolish, but if that is how you wish it I shall kill you first mortal."