Shadows of the Past

Bloody Clarity

Loki vaulted over the side of the house and sand crunched under his feet as he landed and drew Angborn's dagger. His magic made a little mew of complaint when he reached for it making Loki cringe. He had drained it too much in his fight with Chthon and everything else he had been doing recently. For sure he could manage a few low-level charms, but it seemed like he'd have to do most of the fighting with steel.

Loki used a pinch of his remaining magic to reach out telepathically to Jane. She hadn't moved from her spot on the roof, too surprised. *Jane!*

"Huh? Loki?" Jane asked aloud.

*There are Star Guard coming.* Loki explained. *Turn off the power. I can see in the dark – they can't.*

The urgency in his voice hurried Jane and she stood quickly. "All right." Loki's touch vanished from her mind, and Jane looked over the side to spot Loki and then ran back inside her lab. She started down the stair case to get to floor level when she suddenly realized what she was doing.

Why was she helping Loki? He was responsible for the death of four million innocents and the decimation of New York. The Asgardians coming are Thor's people coming to take Loki back to asnwer for his crimes. Loki had stayed though and helped even risking the ire of Chthon. New York was not the full story.

Jane opened the door to the basement and quickly ran down the steps, jumping the last few. Loki was not Thor's genetic brother, but that didn't mean they were enemies. She shut off the generator so she could turn off the power without it kicking in and then thought to turn off the phone lines as well for SHIELD would surely call. All things considered, it probably wasn't a good idea to let them know that she was letting Loki bunk in her lab or that she had fought an Elder God on his behalf.

Loki hid around a corner as the Bifrost opened. His eyes were closed so he wouldn't be blinded, but he opened them once the light faded. He used a mirror across from him and altered its reflection with his magic to reveal his new company.

He wasn't surprised by the sight of white uniforms. "Blood Wolves," he growled. Hadn't Odin learned he like hunting wolves? Is he worried that if he sends more Raven Blades they'll defect? Would they? Loki paused, unsure, but shook the thought off. That was something to brew over later.

Their armor shone from the porch and interior lights of Jane's lab as they walked over. Come on Jane, Loki thought quietly, give the Shadow Prince some shadows to work with. If he attacked now, they'd see him coming. Fighting five on one while he was exhausted with no magic and only one arm fully working – surprise would be nice to have on his side.

Angborn was still asleep in the other room. Although Loki wasn't sure about Thor, Angborn had never fought against him. He had freed Loki in the middle of his execution and thrown his sword at Odin, cut Heimdall's throat to help commandeer the Bifrost so Loki could get a dose, and then stood against an Elder God – and that was just in the past 12 hours. Oddest of all, Angborn had done all of that knowing Loki was Laufey's son and hadn't cared.

Throughout the entire mess of Thor's botched coronation and his attack on Jötunnheim and subsequent banishment to Midgard, Angborn had been on Vanaheim. He, a few other Ravens, and a couple of squadrons of Star Guard had been helping put the Marauders and their leader Nira in their place.

Angborn would have been completely unaware of the chaos unfolding on Asgard, and he would have returned to Asgard by portal only to find the Bifrost destroyed and Loki presumed dead. Then New York had happened and four million innocents had died by Loki's order. Yet, Angborn had still helped him.

Loki knew that he could trust him, and that he had at least one friend.

How would Angborn feel if Loki continued on his path to destroy Asgard? Could he really force Angborn to choose between his home and his friend? What about the other Raven Blades, the ones that might very well defect to his side given the chance and had already helped him escape his execution. No, it wasn't fair on them. There were innocents on Asgard just as there had been innocents in New York. Maybe he'd just kill Odin and Thor and satisfy himself with that.

The rain outside thickened and lightning flashed across the sky as the five of them started walking up to the porch. Loki held up his bad hand and pointed his fingers towards the mirror, pulling them to one point as he looked at the lead Blood Wolf. The image magnified on him. Jaro was leading the squad.

Jaro flicked his hand to Loki's icy patch job on one of the walls. Loki saw Jaro's lips move and read 'he's here.' This scrying charm didn't let him hear, but his lip-reading made up for it.

Jaro didn't bother with a door. He just drew his sword and swung it against one of the glass planes, shattering it and sending more glass flying into the already wrecked room. His first step stopped mid-way in the air as all the lights in the lab cut out.

Loki released the charm with a wave of the hand and raised his dagger with a smirk. Jane had done it just in time.

"I smell a trap," Jaro muttered. He signaled his men to spread out and be quiet.

*Jane* Loki ordered *Stay down there and stay quiet until I tell you to come out. Jaro saw my ice so he'll know you're letting me stay here as a guest. That makes it worse for you. There are good Æsir and bad Æsir and Jaro's a bad one like me.*

*You're upset not bad* Jane argued instinctively.

*Jane-*

*I'll listen to you* Jane promised.

Loki dismissed the mindspeak and went quiet. He sharpened his sight and the colors in his view turned into shades of green and dark white with hints of black. The details were as clear as day and Loki knew his eyes would be glowing like wolf eyes – night vision.

"Remember our orders. Odin wants Loki back alive," Jaro ordered.

Loki's rubber soled boots were silent on the soft wood floor and his lack of noisy heavy armor aided in that effort. Silently, he slipped into the kitchen and plucked the Taser from its drawer in the counter. He knelt down and threw it. The Taser skittered loudly across the floor and banged into the table leg.

The Wolves jumped at the sudden noise and whirled around raising their blades to hit something. Their back was to Loki. Loki took advantage of that and pounced, cutting one Wolf down. The others were alerted they were under attack only when the body hit the ground. By then Loki had already jumped to another target.

Lightning flashed from the storm, giving away Loki's position. His Blood Wolf target raised his sword in vain and Loki kicked the sword away, glad his boots were steel-toed. He carried through with the kick with his other foot and pulled his toes back so the blade in his heel turned red. Just to be sure he brought down his dagger between the Wolves' ribs, tearing it into the Wolves' heart and twisting it.

The other two guards quickly took the offensive. Loki dropped his dagger and ducked under – between their falling blades faster than the eye could track as his extra training with the Chitauri kicked in. His fingers trailed on the Wolves hands as he spun and the blades slipped from their owner's hands. When the Wolves finished the swipe their hands were empty. Loki raised the two stolen swords to their owner's throats. He had taken their blades from their hands midstrike.

"M-mercy," one of the Wolves gulped, "we surrender."

Loki sighed. "I wasn't trained to take prisoners. Thanos doesn't want prisoners." He sliced downward and blood splattered on the floor. The prince looked at the new bodies curiously, like a child looking at a toy they had just broke.

"Four kills," Loki whispered. That was odd. Weren't there five Blood Wolves? He tightened his grip on his blades and ran from the room in realization. Where was Jaro?

Angborn winced as he sat up in the bed. He couldn't see anything but he there the air glimmered with the Bifrost's magic. He knew Asgard had finally caught up to himself and his prince. His head spun and the cuts all over his body throbbed. No, Asgardians were not used to pain.

Loki would need his help. Angborn tried to stand and the pain made him collapse to the floor. He managed to grab the side of the bed so he didn't end up flat on his back. It took time for the world around him to stop spinning.

Stubbornness only got you so far, and Angborn was afraid that his body had reached his limit. He wished wistfully that he had Loki's stamina, but he was no mage. If Tilaria was here, she'd scold him for even trying to move and probably hex him so he'd be forced to stay in bed.

Perhaps he couldn't help Loki, but there were two civilians here. He should at least check in on them and make sure they were out of the crossfire. Angborn breath came out as a hiss as he grabbed the sheets on the bed and pulled himself up.

Slowly he stood. Pain from Chthon's ridiculous vines raced throughout his entire body. No, he was most certainly not battle fit. The door opened as he steadied himself. Someone was there, but it was too dark for him to see exactly who. "My prince?" He asked cautiously.

Lightning flashed from the window, illuminating the white armor of the figure in the doorway. That was not Loki. Angborn reached for a dagger that wasn't there. Jaro's sword reflected the lightning as he brought it up to attack.

Darcy had a hand over her mouth to keep from making a sound. Two white boots were walking around her room. She didn't know who they were or what was going on, but she knew her visitor was not Loki. The voice hadn't sounded too friendly either. I'm fine so long as he doesn't look under the bed.

"Come out come out little mortal," Jaro cooed. "My boys are taking care of the Jötunn and I've already killed the traitor. Come out and let my boys take victory as they should with a woman."

Sorry but I'd just as soon keep my clothes on, Darcy thought fiercely. She remembered hearing the sounds of a fight in the guest room next to hers before she had ducked under the bed. By traitor he can't mean Angborn, can he?

Jaro knew the mortal was here somewhere but where? He tapped his sword against his leg and shook it to try and get some of the traitor's blood off of it. Some of it splattered across the bed skirt. There was a quiet thump from behind the cloth. Heh, found you.

Darcy held her breath although her head hurt. Is that Angborn's blood? Did this lunatic hear me?

Jaro quietly set his sword on the bed and knelt. He reached under and grabbed Darcy quickly, dragging her out. Darcy screamed – loudly. He backhanded her as he dragged her up right and threw her onto the bed.

He tried to pin her down but she screamed again and he put a hand over her mouth. As a simple human, she wasn't strong enough to break his grip. She bit him though, hard, and drew blood. Jaro growled as he punched her, tearing his hand free.

As Jaro brought up his hand to deliver the foolish mortal a second blow, a boot came into his line of sight and kicked him across the face. The force behind it threw him backwards and into the dresser, turning the furniture into a heap of wood pieces. Jaro spat blood and looked up at his attacker as he picked up his bloody sword. Darcy had run to her savior without hesitation and now clung to his arm.

Loki was holding a sword in each hand, their hilts emblazed with faux rubies of the Blood Wolves. He gave no sign that he knew Darcy was clinging to him as he apprised Jaro. His eyes held nothing – no warmth, no emotion, just the eyes of a predator sizing up his next kill. Then that faded and they returned to their normal guarded appearance. "Whether it's Vanaheim or Midgard you Wolves never change."

Jaro drew his dagger with his empty hand and smiled. "The girls are just as pretty."

*Jane's in the basement* Loki addressed Darcy telepathically *get her and go*

Darcy jumped when she heard Loki's authoritative voice in her thoughts. Loki tugged his arm and Darcy reluctantly let go so he could fall into a fighting stance, both blades pointed at Jaro, one raised above his head and the other straight in front of him. Lightning flashed again and thunder cracked as rain fell.

*You're still here* Loki chided her *Go!*

Darcy hesitated and then ran.

Jaro fell into his own stance, holding the dagger in front of him. Odin had given it to him before he had come, and he had told Jaro that the poison that coated the steel was an old toxin Asgardians had used during the war with Jötunnheim. An infected Asgard would feel little more than dizziness and a headache, but a Jötunn would pass out in a few minutes and die in an hour. All he needed was to scratch Loki and he would win.

Jaro attacked first and Loki met the sword with one of his stolen blades, dodging the swipe of the poisoned dagger as he brought up his own swing. The Blood Wolf had to disengage. Loki pressed the attack, disgusted by Jaro's behavior, and Jaro went through the wall into the next room.

Jaro somersaulted from the blow and landed on his stomach, his breath leaving him and sword clattering away. His head rang. Realms, no Asgardian was that strong. Jötunn monsters must be stronger. He pushed himself to one knee, glad he still had his dagger.

Loki stepped through the wall after him and was met with a red sight. Blood was splattered over the walls and was pooling on the floor. Lightning flashed again, revealing a figure lying on his back by the door.

One of Loki's stolen blades clattered to the ground when he recognized the body. Jaro's sword was bloody before I fought with him, Loki noted belatedly. "Angborn!"

He forgot all about Jaro as he knelt by his friend's side. "Angborn! No, no, no, wake up!" Angborn didn't wake up. His brown eyes were still open, cloudy and glazed over, and his once green tunic was stained a sticky red. "Wake up!" Loki ordered. "You have to wake up! You have to! You can't die!"

Then Loki realized what had happened. Jaro had slipped away while Loki had been fighting the other Wolves and had murdered Angborn. It looked like Angborn had been awake, but Loki had taken his dagger from him so he was unarmed and still weak form Chthon's curse. There was no way he would have been able to fight back.

Jaro finally managed to get his breath back. Silently, he picked up his sword and jumped at Loki with his poisoned blade leading while the prince was busy closing Angborn's eyes. Loki stood in one smooth move and deflected the dagger away with the back of his hand. The feathertouch was sloppy though and his hand was shaking. The dagger sliced open the back of his hand slightly, drawing blood.

Jaro didn't get a chance to smile before Loki punched him, knocking Jaro clear out of the lab and into the sandy ground outside. It was made muddy from the same soaking rain that quickly drenched Jaro. He jumped back to his feet as quickly as he could, boots sinking into the mud as Loki pounced on him with one of his stolen swords.

Rage lit Loki's emerald eyes and they glimmered red from his Jötunn blood. Jaro barely managed to bring up his blade in time to block Loki's sword. Loki flicked his wrist as he stepped and twisted the dagger from Jaro's hand along with almost a finger. It landed in the wet sand with a thump away from the combatants.

The prince pressed the attack. Normally his fighting style was graceful, focusing on speed and a few precisely timed strikes to kill. Now he swung the sword as hard as he could as if trying to break Jaro's sword.

Jaro could do little more then hold his ground and hope Loki didn't break his sword. Why wasn't the poison working? Odin said it would work! Is Loki's rage so great that he's ignoring the poison? He floundered a bit in the mud that clung to his boots while Loki simply altered his technique for the mud and fought on unhindered.

One of Jaro's feet slipped and he splat to the ground, rain pattering on his face and getting into his eyes. Loki brought his blade down in a deadly arc, but Jaro rolled to one side and the blade merely gouged the ground. With an animalistic growl, Loki jerked his blade free of the mud. He killed Angborn!

Loki's eyesight blurred momentarily and his equilibrium slipped off center. He shook his head to try and clear it. The effects didn't go away and he stepped sideways to stay on his feet. What's going on?

Jaro let out a breath and lowered his blade to point at the ground. "Finally started to work. Your magic must have been countering it."

Countering what? Loki saw the back of the hand where the cut still bled. His veins around the cut were an angry red. The dagger... "Poison."

Jaro smiled. "Odin said to bring you back alive but Angborn wasn't to survive this little scuffle." He easily sidestepped Loki's wild swing and punched him. The sword slipped form Loki's fingers as he collapsed to the ground.

"The poison would kill you in an hour but right now, it'll just knock you out." Jaro promised, "It'll be nullified once you're back in your cell Jötunn."

Shadows started to creep into Loki's sight and the mud felt cool on his face. "NO," he growled, forcing himself up.

Jaro kicked him across the face before he could do so, and Loki collapsed again. Just for good measure he kicked him in the ribs, bruising them. "Stay down you."

No, Loki thought desperately, trying to draw his magic up to fight the poison. He couldn't reach his magic. I can't go back to that cell. Angborn gave everything for me to stay free. I can't go back, he can't have died in vain!

Darkness…


Flashlight beams danced over the ruins of Jane Foster's lab. The storm clouds had moved out and the sun's light was just starting to turn the remaining clouds pink as it rose. Natasha Romanoff headed the SHIELD team. Broken glass crunched under her feet and there was simply too much blood for her not to step in it.

Romanoff held a flashlight in one hand and her ICER pistol in the other. The signs of a battle were clear but there were no bullet holes anywhere, a sign in favor of Asgardians. Jane's monitor station was destroyed and broken hardware littered the area. Vines seemed to have grown out of the wall but hung limp and wilted now.

"Clear!" Romanoff called as she walked around the room.

The call was echoed as the team checked over the lab room by room.

It was lucky Jane and Darcy had managed to get away and luckier still that Romanoff had talked Jane into carrying a phone that connected her to SHIELD. Over the line Jane had been babbling about Asgardians and a god and Loki. Jane's technology and Prince Thor's affection for her made a valuable asset that had to be protected so sending in one of the Avengers team didn't seem so drastic. Besides, Romanoff had been between missions and if Loki really was involved it was probably be best she was here. Romonoff hoped he was because she dearly owed that monster for slaughtering the people of New York, and for what he did to Clint.

Over her comm her team reported that there were no bodies found. Either there had been no deaths or the dead had been taken back to Asgard. Romanoff nudged open a door that wasn't quite latched and walked in, leading with her ICER. There was a hole in the wall leading outside and a lot of blood.

She touched her comm, "change the report. I have one body." She knelt and checked for a pulse in vain. "Confirmed dead on arrival. His clothes appear Asgardian in origin."

Romanoff did a quick sweep of the rest of the room and walked outside. The rain had washed away any evidence of a fight but Romanoff would bet there had been one.

"The lab's secure. No other bodies found," an agent informed her over the communicator.

"Understood Ward," Romanoff confirmed and holstered her ICER to better kneel by the body. It was a male, early twenties, red hair. She used her flashlight to nudge one of the sleeves up. There were scratches all over the right forearm that almost looked like leaves. She connected him to the vines that grown out of the wall.

Grant Ward lowered his hand from his earbud and holstered his ICER as well. "Secure the area," he ordered, "and give the residents the cover story. Get a forensics team and start analysis."

"Yes sir!"

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