Shadows of the Past

The Strength of a Mortal

Chthon darted forward and Angborn raised his dagger. It struck him as a little odd that Chthon wasn't using a weapon. As Angobrn soon realized, he didn't need one.

Chthon grabbed the dagger with one hand and brought up his other hand in a palm strike. The strike caught Angborn on the underside of his chin, knocking his head up. Now the colors blurred and he saw stars.

The god tossed the dagger to one side and smiled as Angborn crashed into Loki. Both of them toppled to the ground. Loki didn't stay down long. He was charged thankfully and he focused his magic to his hands, spiking his power levels with an augmentation spell.

"That's enough from you Jötunn," Chthon snapped. He stepped forward as fast as a blur and grabbed Loki by his collar with one hand, interrupting the spell, turned, and threw him through one of the glass walls. Shards of glass rained down. Loki banged into the porch outside and fell off of it out of sight.

Chthon sighed, "That mortal never learns. Most do after a while. They know that they have a master and follow orders. Does Loki? No, he never does. I swear he does the exact opposite of what I want him to do."

He just took out two Asgardians in one move, Jane thought numbly. Her eyes fluttered to the broken wall, he's strong to. She didn't know much about gods, but immortal seems accurate. His hand wasn't even cut.

Chthon turned his head towards Jane, features still hidden by the hood. She and Darcy stepped back. Darcy's eyes fluttered to the kitchen counter where her Taser was. Should she? No, she really doubted it would do any good.

"Heh," Chthon seemed to smile, revealing red wolf-like fangs. "You humans, the most mortal of the races my kin and I created. You are still as selfish as ever. You are too scared to risk your own life for another's, especially for one who is as different as being from another world. Predictable."

Jane's eyes flickered to Angborn's dagger on the ground.

"I wouldn't do that," Chthon warned.

Jane clenched her teeth in frustration. She didn't stand a chance against someone as powerful as him. It would be best to just sshut up and let him take Loki. Loki's the enemy. Remember New York?

Yes, Jane did remember New York. She remembered how easily the Avengers had won. Loki knew Odin would have him executed, but he still let Thor take him back rather than let the Chituari win. Compared to Thor, Loki was a supervillain, but compared to Chthon, Loki was the hero.

A shadow in her mind skittered away like a cockroach exposed to sunlight. "Hey!" Jane shouted at Chthon, "Stay out of my head you!"

"Strong-willed," Chthon apprised. And impressive that you managed to sense my presence in your mind. What type of human are you?

Loki shook his head, and stood up. He glanced back towards Jane's lab. He could see Chthon standing before Jane and Darcy. Good. While he's distracted now's my chance to get away. He didn't move.

Why couldn't he move? Jane faced Chthon boldly while Darcy hung back. Angborn was starting to come to, but was not yet on his feet. Now would be the chance to leave them and bolt. They are humans, and Angborn's just an Æsir. I'm Jötunn. They're both my enemies. He couldn't abandon them.

"Son of a," he swore and vaulted back onto the porch.

Chthon smiled and pointed a hand at Loki without turning. The glass shards glimmered and sudden rose off the porch and attacked him. Loki's eyes got wide and he ducked his head and raised an arm in defense.

Darcy wasn't sure if she screamed or if Jane did when the shards hit Loki. Loki's image wavered and suddenly dissolved into emerald sparkles.

"What?" Chthon hissed, turning. An illusion!

The real Loki darted past Chthon to try and grab the dagger. Chthon turned his way and flicked a hand. There was some sort of telekinetic force involved and Loki was knocked back. One of Loki's hands touched the ground and he used it to twist so he landed on his feet.

Chthon apprised him. "It seems your intelligence has suffered if you have not already tried to leave. A pity."

"I'm the first to say I'm no saint," Loki smiled, "but I won't leave Angborn alone with you."

Jane made a move for Angborn's dagger but Chthon threw a small bundle of eerily colored red sparks and she jumped back as they exploded on the floor. Chthon glanced at her. "Foolish mortal."

"Foolish you," Loki corrected.

Chthon looked back. Loki was gone. He frowned. Obviously, Loki wasn't going to abandon them so where was he? "Come out mortal. Thanos has a debt with you to settle. You promised us the Tesseract and we would give you Earth to rule. Yet the Tesseract is on Asgard due to you letting your brother win."

"Thor is not my brother," Loki promised, voice echoing. "I just think I'd rather be in his custody. Asgard will kill me, you, what was it you told me would happen if the Tesseract was kept from you? 'You think you know pain? We will make you long for something as sweet as pain,'" Loki quoted.

"You let yourself be defeated on Midgard. You left the Scepter next to Tesseract knowing Selvig would tell the Avengers it could be used to close the portal. A failed mission is one thing but treason is quite another," Chthon promised.

"Like I said, I'd rather deal with Asgard."

I cannot tell his location from his voice but his soul is a different matter. Loki's soul, once a pure emerald green was tainted black infecting it. Chthon could sense where his Tesseract was, and Loki's soul was tainted with the alien blue of the Tesseract.

He smirked and grabbed air. Loki's invisibility faded as Chthon grabbed his shirt and threw him into Jane's monitors with explosions of sparks. Some of the monitors fell and landed on him. "Yes, but it is treason you shall answer to."

Jane risked taking the step forward and ducked down to grab Angborn's blade.

Chthon didn't realize what was happening until Angborn's dagger flashed past him and Angborn, now standing, caught it. He whirled back around to Jane's smile and slashed at her face with clawed digits.

Jane jerked back, but realized that she couldn't dodge it. Loki raised his hand towards her, and she felt a force push her back out of his reach. The heel of her sneaker landed on one of the shards of glass from the destroyed coffee table, and her foot slipped.

Chthon missed. The air rippled against his strike. It almost looked to Jane like his claws were tearing fabric instead of air. She cracked her head against the wood floor. Darcy yelped and knelt by Jane.

"What a fool, wasting your magic to save a mortal," Chthon sneered at Loki. He grabbed Loki's sleeve to drag him up and Loki tried to punch him. Chthon caught the hand and twisted it, breaking the arm.

Angborn plunged the dagger downward at Chthon. It would have been a killing blow had it connected. As it was, Chthon grabbed Angborn's wrist and threw him back into the wall with one hand and threw Loki back near the glass-covered floor with the other.

Again Chthon traced a rune in the air with his hand and the glass shards hovered into the air. Loki froze as they suddenly coiled around into the bars of a cage. He touched one and the shard cut his hand deeply, although it healed quickly enough. "Ah!" Caught.

With his other hand, Chthon used another rune. The rune flashed but nothing seemed to be happening. Chthon was standing between Loki and Angborn so Loki couldn't see. Darcy did. Vines lifted off the cream-colored plaster behind Angborn as the warrior again stood, curling themselves loosely enough around him that he didn't notice.

"L-l," Darcy tried. She shook her head, "look down!"

The vines tightened against his arms and Angborn was dragged back a step to the wall, arms spread on either side of him.

"What in," Angobrn muttered as he tried to drag his arms free.

One of the vines raised itself like a snake and struck his hand, burying itself into his skin. The dagger dropped to the ground. Darcy could see the vine spreading, new leaves growing under his skin. She felt a little ill as drops of blood plittered to the ground.

"Angborn!" Loki shouted. The worry in his voice surprised himself.

Angborn struggled but more vines grabbed his feet and pinned him in place. The one vine continued to grow under his skin and Angborn favored the arm, pain clear.

"Yes, pain is an unusual feeling for you Asgardians," Chthon smiled. "You heal so quickly that you barely feel pain from your injuries. That attack is a different matter." He tightened the hand he had traced the rune with and you could see Angborn jump as all of the vines burrowed themselves into his skin like worms.

Vaguely, Darcy heard a lapping noise and the vines turned -they-they're drinking his blood! Now I really feel sick. Oh, wake up Jane! I don't know what to do.

"And as for you," Chthon turned back to Loki. "I had such high hopes for you. For you to be an ally and not a General that had to be broken to our will. We give you control of one of our Command Ships and you deliver us the Tesseract. You had such rage against Asgard that I believed all I had to do was nudge you in the right direction and turn you lose. But when you discovered that we intended to raze the Nine Realms to the ground you fought back and Thanos ordered me to remind you who was in command."

Loki looked at the ground. He was still kneeling on one leg, as high as he could get in the prison of glass shards.

"Yet, you remember how to kneel," Chthon laughed and Darcy felt nails raking her spine.

"I was born to be a king," Loki relented. "Thor robed me off that right when he threw me off Asgard and you offered me a chance to become one and to watch Asgard burn. It was too tantalizing to resist. Yet, you intended to betray me."

At Chthon's silence, Loki continued. I knew I was right! "If I had given you the Tesseract, you would have given me Earth and then you then you would take my scepter and turned right around to let me feel the Tesseract's burn. So the simplest solution for me was to keep you from getting the Tesseract. Keeping the Tesseract from you meant losing New York so I lost New York. It is as simple as that."

Chthon sneered and turned away back to Angborn. It looked like the Æsir had passed out from the pain. Loki must be taught a lesson for betraying us, but this one has heart. He would never aid us willingly, but I should be able to break him into becoming a General.

Loki didn't know what Angborn told those humans, but the only reason he had lost New York was because the Chitauri were going to double cross him. I was caught off-guard when I realized their true motives for the realms, but I learned quick enough to just be quiet and focus on my own goals of hurting Thor. Loki's body glowed as his aura of emerald magic became powerful enough it entered the visible spectrum.

Chthon paused as he sensed the magic charging. My, this child does not learn.

Loki's magic exploded outward and the shards of his glass prison went every which way, scorching the wood floor. "The difference between you putting me in my place then and now, is that now I have my magic." A nice bluff he supposed, but he was afraid that he had just burned it. Would Chthon buy it?

Go Loki! Darcy mentally rooted. Wait a minute, when did I start cheering for Loki? He might be pretending that the whole reason he lost New York was tactical, and that he has no sentiment but he's supposed to be the God of Lies right? Oh well. Go Loki!

Chthon kicked his foot up, and Loki's dagger was tossed into the air towards him. Loki caught the blade between his fingers. Confusion clouded his blue-green eyes. Why did Chthon give me back the weapon?

"You think you stand a chance mortal? Then try," Chthon taunted him. "How desperate are you to stay from my grasp?"

"How desperate am I?" Loki asked. "You claim me to be king, but plan to kill me. You stay in my head so that if I try and go to sleep, you'll be there," he touched the scratches on his cheek. "The Nine Realms are mine to rule or mine to burn. They are mine! Not yours! And yet you chase me down and threaten to bring me before Thanos. You have made me very desperate and you might not be glad you did." He fell into a fighting stance and paused. "Wonderful, now I sound like Fury. How did that happen?"

"Your ambition is little, born of childish need. You bear no conviction and seek throw a temper tantrum when it does not go your way. I do not fear you." Chthon promised.

"Now you're confusing me with Thor." Loki promised. He took a step forward. The first step was lazy but as he put his second foot down a shockwave exploded and Chthon was suddenly thrown through a wall. Loki appeared where Chthon had been standing in a position to suggest he had struck.

"How did he?" Darcy whispered as she looked at him in awe. He-he's so fast, I didn't even see him move! "I guess it's a good thing he wasn't trying to win before."

Jane stirred and moaned quietly. Darcy reluctantly looked away from the battle. "Jane? Hey, wake up. I think you're about to see the best part."

Chthon shook his head as he pushed himself up to his feet. You couldn't tell with the hood hiding his eyes but he looked in shock. He felt a pain in his chest where his soul had once been. I have spent too much time away from Chitauri Space. I need to stop toying with this mortal and end it.

"Just to let you know," Loki smiled, "I've never actually used that much speed in a fight before. I always like keeping a few aces up my sleeve so I've never use more power than is needed. It keeps everyone guessing just how strong I am, including you apparently. A little gift from the Tesseract that it gave me as a child. You want conviction? Fine, I'll show you conviction."

Darcy helped Jane sit up and leaned her against the wall, trying not to look away from the fight.

"Like I said. You've made me desperate." Loki repeated the same move and Darcy focused, I won't miss him again. This time she saw him – somewhat. His dagger glowed emerald as he struck at Chthon. Even the flash as the dagger moved was a second slow as if light couldn't keep up with him.

Chthon managed to grab one of his arms this time but Loki simply tossed the blade to his empty hand and struck with that. Chthon sidestepped the blow, and turned to throw Loki.

Loki landed on his feet, sliding on the tile and pounced again. Neatly, Chthon dodged the blows, blows Darcy couldn't even see. Chthon shoved Loki away. His hand, the hand with Loki's blood under the fingernails seemed to have shadows clinging to it and they wraithed about it. He swallowed.

"You know what this does," Chthon rasped. "You have felt the pain enough times before. Surrender and allow me to take you back to your master." Loki's hand holding the blade trembled badly enough that the blade was shaking. Good, he still fears me.

The blue in Loki's eyes faded and their natural gold sparkles appeared. "I am not Thanos's dog, not anymore and I fear I've forgotten how to kneel. If you want me to do so, then you must teach me again."

Chthon sighed. "Why must you always be so difficult?"

"I am the God of Mischief and Lies," Loki shrugged. "What do you expect?"

Chthon swung his hand downward as if he was slicing the air and Loki raised the blade in front of him, whispering. There was a clang as if the blade had caught an invisible sword about to cut him.

"I'm also a quick learner," Loki promised, dispelling Chthon's curse before it could harm him.

Why isn't he engaging him again? Darcy wondered. Why is he staying still? "Oh," she whispered when she realized that Loki was between Chthon and Angborn. He doesn't want to move and risk Chthon turning his attention to his friend. She glanced at Jane as her friend warily pulled her feet under her, crouching.

"How about we get Angborn out of the line of fire so Loki can concentrate?" Jane whispered.

Darcy nodded.

There was no cover but the two superpowers were busy enough that they didn't notice the humans moving as they clashed again. Chthon now used some of his real speed and caught Loki's uninjured arm, breaking that as well. Loki hissed. "Now you've got two broken arms. When you return with me I'll be sure to count off all your ribs as I break them."

Loki ducked free and Chthon slashed after him. Chthon's claws barely scratched Loki's gold armguard, but Loki's eyes widened as he realized what was going to come next. The scratches were not the true injury. Neat strips like claw marks tore themselves through the metal as the delayed wound materialized. Blood splattered across the floor, plenty of it.

Loki held his right arm close to his chest as it went numb. His sight wavered, darkness threatened. He shook his head to clear it. Then the pain hit, forcing him down to one knee.

Chthon laughed softly, "It seems you have remembered how to kneel after all. My training with you has given you a high tolerance to pain but even that I fear, is not enough. It will take hours to stop the bleeding and weeks to stop hurting."

Loki shook his head stubbornly and stood back up slowly.

Chthon stepped forward and grabbed Loki by the throat, hoisting him into the air. "No? Then let's see how much magic you have to spare." Golden light traveled from Loki to Chthon as Chthon siphoned directly off Loki's lifeforce.

Jane gulped. "Get me that," she pointed towards one of the kitchen knives. Darcy ran to get it.

Jane took it from her and started trying to cut the vines. The vines didn't like that and a tendril snapped up and struck Jane across the cheek, cutting her. She stumbled back and Darcy caught her. Darcy bumped into the counter and Jane's teakettle of hot water fell to the ground, splashing water everywhere.

The vines weren't even dented from Jane's cutting. Jane tugged at the vines with her free hand but a thorn materialized and went through her hand. "Ah!"

Darcy grabbed her arm and helped pull the hand off the thorn. "This isn't going to work Jane, those guys are too far out of our league."

Jane rubbed her hand, frustrated. The vines suddenly sagged around Angborn. "Huh?"

"Jane look," Darcy pointed towards the ground. The spreading water had reached Angborn's feet and the vines wrapped around his legs were recoiling from the liquid, wilting.

"A plant that doesn't like water," Jane muttered. "I guess they're like Gremlins. Darcy, get me some water. Let's give these guys a bath."

Chthon dropped Loki back to the floor. Loki didn't catch himself, and landed hard. He didn't move.

The Elder God turned back to have a look at Angborn only to find him gone. "What!" The vines were limp on the floor, dead and wilted and soaked.

Jane still had a cup of water in her hands. Darcy had managed to tug Angborn under the counter out of the line of fire. She peered around the corner to see Jane facing off against Chthon again.

"Hey," Jane asked, "are you like the Wicked Witch of the West?"

"The what?" Chthon asked, frowning in confusion.

Jane threw the water. Chthon screeched as the water hit him and he backed away, clutching his face. Smoke wafted. "I guess you are like the Witch," Jane hummed.

Loki's eyes opened when he felt liquid splash on his face. It wasn't blood. "Water?" he looked over. Chthon's face was burned. Water had hurt him? "Oh for the, water!" He stood, clutching his still bleeding arm.

The ice crystallized around Loki's hand in the shape of a dagger as his skin turned blue. The blue coloration traveled across his form and black ridges decorated his face like stripes. His eyes were crimson when he opened them without any of the Tesseract's blue.

"That looks so freakin' cool," Darcy muttered.

"That's his Jötunn form, his natural form," Angborn whispered.

Darcy jumped and hit her head on the counter. She looked down, holding her head. "You're awake! Uh, what's Jötunn?"

"One of the races of the Nine Realms like humans or Asgardians," Angborn tried to sit up but Darcy put her hand on his chest, feeling the color rise by how close they were. Angborn didn't seem to notice. "Now you get to see some of his real power."

Ice started to spread along the floor around it and frost decortaed the glass. Loki smiled, revealing fangs.

"Foolish child!" Chthon shouted. "When I return you to Chitauri space you will be no ally, but a slave."

Loki couldn't entirely stop himself from flinching back. The air glittered and turned into snowflakes that hovered in midair. "You don't like water, God of the Chitauri. Let's see what you do with ice."

Chthon looked at the snowflakes, "unique skill," he muttered. "Why do you have to be a Royal?" He summoned another coiled bunch of sparkles. They jumped off his hand towards Loki.

Loki sliced the attack with Angborn's dagger, rendering it harmless as he brought his free hand up and punched Chthon, hard. Chthon shimmered himself and Loki's attack harmlessly passed through his incorporeal form. Loki's eyes got huge and Chthon struck him, his hand perfectly corporeal. Loki crashed to the ground.

"You don't learn so I'll just have to teach you," Chthon promised. "But first," he turned his head to where Jane, Darcy, and Angborn were. Jane could see the burn marks on his face. "To deal with the troublemakers." Red lightning crackled around his hand.

Jane stepped back. Suddenly, Loki was between them again.

"Do stop this idiocy," Chthon scolded Loki. "You have no reason to protect them."

"Yeah, well if he didn't Thor wouldn't be happy with him." Jane shot fearlessly.


Suddenly, a memory flashed before Loki:

The Asgardians had just defeated Lorelei, a mage who had tried to use her magic to bend men to her will and take over Asgard. Her magic made essentially men fall in love with her. Usually just hearing her voice was enough but for some she needed touch. Loki had kept his distance enough that he hadn't fallen under her spell but Thor hadn't been so lucky. She had been stopped and was currently in the dungeon. Thor had been knocked out in that fight and when he had woken up, Loki had been there in a chair in Thor's room, reading a book and waiting.

"I wonder if you're quite done worshipping Lorelei," Loki had asked once Thor had opened his eyes.

Thor had given a sheepish nod.

"It wouldn't be surprising if you really did like her, you go through girls quick enough."

Thor bristled. "Hey! I do that because I don't, ah… none of them I love. You'd think that of all the girls on Asgard I would find one I really like."

Loki shook his head in amusement.

"It's easy for you to say brother, you've got Tilaria," Thor whined. "I just haven't found one yet."

"You will," Loki promised. "Although she'd have to be pretty stubborn to put up with an oaf like you." He looked back down at his book.

Thor picked up his pillow and threw it at Loki.

Loki was looking at the book in his lap and didn't realize the danger until Thor's pillow hit him in the face. He jumped in surprise and nearly dropped his book. "Thor!"

Thor crossed his arms with a smile.

Loki eyed him and then put the pillow behind his head and leaned back in the chair again.

"H-hey! Give me back my pillow!"

"What? So you can throw it at me again?"

Thor huffed, "give."

"Nope, you just lost your pillow privileges," Loki promised, "again."

"That's not even real!"

"It is now."

Thor glared at him. Then his glare softened and he looked at the floor. "Do you think I'll find a girl?"

"Yes," Loki repeated. "And if she really is stubborn enough to put up with you, then that makes her my sister and my responsibility to."

"Would you help keep her safe?" Thor asked. "I seem to have a habit of getting hurt in battle but you always seem to get away unscathed."

"If you find one, then I will," Loki promised.

"Can I have my pillow back now?"

"No."

"Brother!"


Why am I remembering that now? Then Loki realized it, Thor found one – Jane. "I gave my word," Loki said quietly. And since I gave my word I am bound to it and won't break it.

This is impossible! Chthon thought frantically. How could he – a mere mortal – have such inner strength as to be able to stand so fearlessly against me? That human has given him even more by mentioning his foster brother's name. He is a mortal! I am a god! He is supposed to bow down before me but his nerves have been steeled. A mortal! How could I have miscalculated so badly?

Worse, Chthon realized that he had spent too much time toying with all of the mortals. His energy was low. His lifeforce was tied to Chitauri Space and he had spent too much time away from it and burned too much power. Now, Loki's Jötunn magic was active and he knew that he could hurt him. If Chthon pushed a confrontation then he risk killing Loki and he must stay alive, no matter what.

"You are like Hel," Loki smiled, "without a physical body, you can only be away from your home for so long. After that your energy fades and you're forced to return. It looks to me like you're out of time little ghost."

Chthon snarled fiercely and finally allowed himself to succumb. The lightning crackled around him and collapsed inward. He was gone.

Loki stood for a few seconds more and then collapsed to the floor, energy spent.

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