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Coming Home

By Shelby Lee Samples

Other / Fantasy

Chapter 1

           The muzzle silencing Loki and the chains binding him were all an act, basically there to humour the mortals into thinking that he was contained. Thor knew different, as did Loki, but neither did anything to prove that otherwise. Their departure from Central Park was quick and before either knew it, they were standing on the broken remains of the Bifrost. Weakened by the fight – and from such a beating that was delivered by the mindless beast that makes play he’s still a man – Loki stumbled before he was able to catch his footing, aided by Thor. “Brother, are you all right?” He asked concern in his voice. His grip on Loki was strong, but gentle, and he did not release him even after he was balanced – the sentimental fool.

  Loki started to speak, obviously to tell Thor that he was all right and to get his hands off of him, but his words were muffled off by the muzzle. Shooting a glare in his direction, Loki had to wait a good five seconds before the oaf realised that in order for him to talk, the muzzle needed to go. And after Thor let out an ‘oh’ of recognition, the muzzle was removed. The shackles soon followed and they were off towards the Palace. There were no guards waiting for them when they arrived back in Asgard, no horses or assembly to watch Loki’s walk of shame to the dungeons. It was only Thor, and as they quickly made their way down the Rainbow Bridge, he soon found that Thor was supporting almost all of his weight, his body weakened, drained completely of energy, and he was surprised that he had yet to collapse out of sheer exhaustion. Then again, he really wasn’t – Loki was never one to show weakness and, if he did, then he was really too tired to hide it. Now was one of those times. Right arm wrapped around Loki’s waist, Thor’s left was hanging onto Loki’s arm, keeping him from sagging, and he fought to keep from shrugging out of his grip, because he didn’t want to think about how he needed Thor’s help, his strength to keep him standing. The walk alone was getting to Loki and he was panting, beads of sweat dotting his face and neck.

  When they finally reached the Palace, there were no guards standing outside, no patrol walking around the perimeter on the outside nor were there any walking around the halls. It made it much easier for Thor to lead him straight to the King and Queen’s wing of the Palace. The doors opened on their own when they neared and they soon found themselves standing in a spacious common room. Lost to his ailments, Loki did not realise until he was yanked to a stop that they had finally reached their destination. Thor had released him and then barely caught him before he could fall to the stone floor. He clung to Thor’s arm for only a moment before he caught himself and soon pulled free with a snarl. He needed to get it together, to pull himself from the haze he found himself in. He was not weak and he would not let them take advantage of him in his moment of uncertainty. He shot Thor a heated look before he turned his attention to the room they were standing in. Loki recognised it easily and could recall a long time ago how often he and Thor visited and played with their mother and father. It was hard to believe how much had happened, how much they had changed in that time.

  The sound of light footsteps was heard from the other room and they turned their heads in that direction. Soon enough, Frigga came through, her eyes lighting up at the sight of Thor and Loki. It didn’t take long before tears formed, brimming at the surface. She opened her mouth to speak, having already made her way to Loki before another set of steps met their ears, coming much faster. Odin was in the room and at Loki before he had the chance to blink. A hand was wrapped around his arm, pulling him past Thor, past Frigga, and into their bedroom. “Lay down, son,” He ordered, his voice frantic as he pushed Loki onto the large bed, his one eye – as blue and as clear and sparkling as Thor’s – searching every inch of him as though looking for an injury. But Loki wouldn’t believe that he cared, because he was not Odin’s son, wasn’t his blood or his family. He was merely a stolen relic with no use.

  “Oh, Odin, do not do this now!” Frigga said as she followed after them, her voice almost as frantic and as anxious as the AllFather’s. She was wringing her hands, her gaze unable to look away from Loki. She appeared as though she wanted nothing more than to wrap him up in her arms and hold him like she did when he was a child. But times had changed, and Frigga knew that Loki would never allow that. His pride and his pain would never allow her to embrace him like a child. “We just got him back!”

  “What is going on, father?” Thor demanded. He seemed conflicted, like he did not know how to feel. He was taking in the serious look on the AllFather’s face and the worried one on Frigga’s. Something was going on, something that they weren’t telling him and it agitated him – Loki could see that – and made his heart race out of anger and of fear. “You said to bring him to your chambers urgently when we returned, but you did not say why. For what purpose –”

  Loki did not know what was going on, but he did not like it. He blamed his stilled tongue on the fatigue and the pain that was wracking through his body; otherwise, he would have been demanding answers right alongside Thor. And that alone was shocking, because he and Thor had nothing in common, had no shared interests or concerns. They were two completely different people who were now strangers to one another. Sitting up from where his father had pushed him down onto the bed, Loki had only just opened his mouth to demand some sort of explanation before Odin was pressing down on his shoulder, making him fall right back to the soft mattress.

  “– There is no time,” The AllFather said before placing his hand on Loki’s head.

  And Loki was soon lost in pain as the darkness surrounded him, taking him down, down, down.

           The fear was overpowering, suffocating him until he was sure that he would die. He had hoped to die. He wasn’t surprised, though, when it never came – luck and good fortune never did with him. He tried not to be disappointed, tried to reason with himself that that was just the way it was. Why should he gain luck and good fortune when he lied and deceived?

  The ropes wrapped around his too-thin arms ripped at the skin as he was yanked roughly through the rocks. His bare feet were torn apart as he stepped on the sharp points, and no amount of begging would slow them down, no amount of pleading would get them to show him the slightest bit of mercy. He was useful, they had said. He had a purpose, which was why they weren’t going to kill him. But break him … that they could do.

  And break him they did.

  Bound to a jagged rock, they split him apart. He screamed until his voice was hoarse, struggled until the ropes cut into his skin, making him bleed, but they would not stop. They beat him with rocks, shredding the meat from his bones, tore the skin from his body. No questions were asked, no inquiries of who he was or what he was doing on their barren Realm were given. It was all just pain.

  But there was finally relief, finally a moment of peace. They let him be and allowed his body to heal. It took time, but muscles were put back in place, his skin knitted itself back together, broken bones righted themselves. It soon became easier to breathe … until they returned.

  And then the pain started all over again.

  Emerald green eyes snapped open to an unfamiliar room. For several long, fleeting seconds, Loki panicked, unable to identify where he was before his brain caught up with him and the memories of earlier came back. He was in Asgard and he was safe. Or at least he hoped he was. Closing his eyes again, Loki focused on calming himself down, on getting his breathing evened out, on chasing back the memories that were still fighting to claim him once more. He did not know how long it took, but when he opened his eyes, Thor was staring down at him, the expression on his face a mixture of concern and relief, as though he did not know if Loki would wake or not. The look angered him.

  “What did you do to me?” Loki demanded breathlessly, as though it was him instead of the AllFather who had hurt him, who had added to the pain that he was already experiencing. He did not feel strong enough to move – his entire body ached and throbbed and felt heavy. He did not remember feeling so drained when they first arrived. Of course, he had to also take into account whatever the AllFather had done to him. The pain had been sharp and overbearing, weighing down on him and forcing the breath right out of his lungs. It was a fight to breathe, a fight to keep his head above the water. It was a right that he had failed.

  “Our Father …” Thor started before hesitating. He looked as though he was waiting for Loki to snap, to correct him for addressing the AllFather as our father instead of your father. Nothing was said, though. Loki continued to stare up at Thor, waiting for him to continue. So he did. “He went into your mind and sought the truth before it could become lost and twisted in the rest of your memories.”

  Loki did not know what disturbed him more – the fact that the AllFather had been inside his mind and could have seen anything, or the fact that he had seen those memories, those horrors. And it angered him, because he had no right to go into his mind, had no right to violate those boundaries. Regardless, the news was enough to rouse Loki, and he pulled himself up until he was propped on his elbows. The act had him out of breath. He would not accept the help of Thor, would not lose himself to the pain and the exhaustion like before. Loki swatted his hands away when he tried. He did not need his help – he never did. He never would.

  “Where is he now?” Loki asked, staring intently at Thor as he started to pull himself up into a sitting position. He needed to see the AllFather, needed to know what it was that he saw. It could have been anything and he had to be prepared for damage control. Loki didn’t know what he would do once he confronted him, but he was resourceful and would come up with something to say to convince him of his intentions. But Thor stopped him, placing a hand on his chest and pressing down, bringing Loki back to rest on his elbows. “I would speak with him!”

  “You can’t,” Thor replied, his features appearing tired and worn, and if he looked like that, Loki could only imagine what his appearance must look like. But the thought was pushed aside immediately after, confusion and annoyance and fatigue settling in as he stared up Thor.

  “And why is that?” Loki snarled, unable to at least keep the annoyance out of his voice. But no matter how frustrated he was becoming, he didn’t have the strength to push himself back up into a sitting position. His muscles ached and his head was starting to throb and all he wanted to do was lie back down and slip into the nothingness that sleep brought.

  “Father has fallen into the Odinsleep,” That was enough to silence Loki. It was not that he was worried for him – he had witnessed it the last time he fell to it, had even been the cause of it – but it was the timing that shocked Loki and sparked another flame of anger and resentment inside of him. Once again, when Loki needed him, he was unavailable. But Thor – ever the fool – took his silence for concern and placed a hand on top of shoulder, giving it a squeeze. “He was able to hold off long enough to send word that you are innocent and will not be held accountable for what happened in Midgard.”

  Loki numbly nodded his head, unable to come up with an appropriate response, his tongue once again failing him. He waited for Thor to continue, but it looked as though he was waiting for Loki to say something, to react outwardly in some form to the news that was given. Thor must have been expecting a smile, perhaps even a hug, but it did not come and it would not come. Loki held no love for the AllFather, not anymore. Raising his eyebrows, Loki shot Thor an incredulous look before motioning with his hand to continue. “And what else?”

  Thor blinked and had the audacity to look sheepish before his expression returned to concern and Loki was really starting to hate that look. They were not friends, not brothers, not anything to each other anymore. He did not wish to spend any more time in Thor’s company than need be, and he could feel his patience wearing thinner and thinner the longer Thor stayed in his presence. “You will, however, have to be held responsible for your actions against Jotunheim. You were in control of your mind and had tried to wipe out the whole Realm,” That he did. But Loki couldn’t blame himself for his actions, because – given the chance – he would try to do it again in a heart-beat. Loki did not say that aloud, though, as it wouldn’t help his case. As it were, he was facing a charge of genocide. Thor’s next words, however, surprised him. They made no sense and Loki could not wrap his head around the reasons. “You are under house-arrest until father awakens. Mother’s garden, your chambers, and the library are the only places you are allowed to go. Wards have been put in place to ensure that you abide by those restrictions.”

  “But … why?” Loki asked, unable to understand. The sentence was too light for the extent of what he had done and he could feel the throbbing in his head increase the more he thought about it, the exhaustion pulling and intensifying the more he tried to grasp why he was being shown such mercy. He had tried to kill all of the Frost Giants, had tried to destroy that entire Realm, and he was only placed under house-arrest? It made no sense to him. Only it suddenly did with such clarity not a few seconds later – pity. The AllFather had been in his head, had known what he had gone through after he fell from the Bifrost. It was all pity and it made Loki sick, made his stomach cramp painfully, his fists clenching into tight balls. How he wanted to hurt. “Oh.”

  If Thor realised that Loki had made the connection, he gave no indication. Putting a hand on Loki’s chest, he pushed him back down onto the comfortable mattress, ignoring the snarl that followed, as well as the hateful glare that was thrown in his direction. Instead, Thor pulled up a chair and sat down, leaning back against it.  “Rest, brother,” He said. “I will escort you to your chambers once you have healed.”

  Loki wanted to refuse him, wanted to spite him and stay awake for as long as he could, but after a few minutes of rebellion, he soon realised that that was an impossible task. He was too sore, too angry, and just too tired to think and act and feel, and, the pressure against his skull was almost too much for him to handle. The bed that he was lying on was incredibly soft and, the longer he laid on it the more difficult it was for Loki to keep his eyes open. He fought the exhaustion for as long as he could, but he was fighting a losing battle. His eyes soon slipped closed, and sleep overcame him.

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