Sequel to Loki: For All That is Lost and Loki: Blood Royal
The towering doors of the throne room of Heven’s palace opened before the man with the heavy brow and the thick, snow white hair that almost gave him the appearance of being a native resident of the planet on which he now sought to do business. The female with the lemon yellow skin that accompanied him began the trek, her master following a few measured steps behind, towards the throne on which Loki sat. The King of Heven donned a black tunic with green embellishments, an imposing and striking crown upon his head, the golden horns reflecting the light that shown down from the painted sky on the ceiling above like sunlight.
Loki’s overbearing appearance and demeanor were intentional as he knew well the reputation of the man who came before him. He had very few occasions these days, and hadn’t for the sum of a handful of years now, to appear so intimidating. He feared at times he was ‘getting soft’ as he grew more comfortable in and accustomed to his position as the King of such a peaceful and joyous realm and his role as a loving husband and father. Even his dealings with Jotunheim had lost the hard edge that once they had, since placing Skrymir on the throne as his regent and representative. Of course, he still found plenty of opportunities to foment mischief, it was in his nature after all, but it was now in the form of the benevolent fun it had once taken long ago as a young boy on Asgard before Sigyn’s exile had hardened his heart.
“Your majesty, I present to you Taneleer Tivan.” the meek female retainer of the man she had just introduced said as she bowed low before Loki and stepped aside. Tivan strode up to stand in the place she had just vacated and also bowed low with a series of flamboyant hand gestures.
“King Loki of Heven and the Jotunheim, Prince of Asgard, son of the great Odin, I am honored beyond measure to be in your presence.” Tivan said in an overly worshipful, almost grovelling tone.
“As you should be.” Loki said to him.
“Your great deeds are known throughout the universe, your name now synonymous with that of ‘savior.’ It is said even death falls trembling to its knees begging mercy before you.” Tivan said in his drowsy drawl.
“I’m not sure I would go so far. Death and I have an...understanding.” Loki responded. He had expected from Tivan’s reputation for his bread to be heavily buttered by the man, but had not expected it to be slathered on quite so thick. “Your reputation precedes you as well. It is said that most anything one may seek out can be procured by the Collector. There are two things I have been informed you possess which interest me today.” Loki said.
“They only recently came into my possession.” Tivan responded. Tivan reached into his voluminous cloak with both hands, then withdrew them, holding them out in front of him, each now wielding an object that Loki’s eyes fell upon. In one hand, a clear box, a small flame flickering within it and in the other, what appeared to be a large stone that stretched from the tips of Tivan’s fingers to the heel of his hand with smooth dark green and black crystals mixed within the grey rock. “The sole remnant of Asgard to have been thus far discovered...and this, a flame that burns even in the dark void of space, the only relic known to have survived from Odin’s vault.” Loki stared at the objects, enamored, as he rose from the throne.
“The price is as we agreed?” Loki asked.
“It is...unless you would be interested in a trade. Perhaps something from among the treasures within your own vault?” Tivan answered.
“I’m afraid that will not be possible. I am willing to add a generous gratuity to the price for delivering them to me. If any other such relics were to come into your possession in the future...”
“Of course.” Tivan responded, bowing his head.
The sentry at his post guarding the doors of the vault of Heven opened them wide for Loki as he approached holding the two objects he had just procured, one in each hand. Loki entered the vault, the doors shutting behind him and made his way to the back of the vault where a golden cauldron upon a pedestal sat. He had commissioned it recently to hold that which he held now in his right hand. Spread across the bottom of the cauldron was a bed of small, black coal like stones. Sitting the stone in his left hand down at his feet, he lifted the clear covering from over the flame and transferred it to his hand and looked upon it as it burned in his palm, then lowered his hand into the cauldron. The flame spread and rose across the black stones. Loki stared into the burning cauldron for a few moments, mesmerized, as he replayed the last moments his eyes had fallen upon those same flames on Asgard, as he placed Surtur’s crown within them and recited the words that were the death knell of his home world. He picked up the stone at his feet once again and turned from the cauldron.
Taneleer Tivan entered his ship, his female retainer following dutifully behind him. Once inside, she retracted the gangway and closed the hatch as Tivan, his shoulders drooping in exhaustion, dark patches under his eyes, removed his cloak and tossed it aside.
“You will be able to sleep now?” the woman asked.
“I certainly hope so.” Tivan answered. “It is a shame that sleep is one of the few things that money in any of its forms cannot buy.”
“Go and rest. I will return us home.”
“Thank you, my dear.” Tivan responded, turning and disappearing through a hatch.
Loki lay in bed alone, finally having drifted off into slumber after lying sleepless for a time, unused to sleeping alone after so long and without Sigyn’s peaceful and calming influence to assist him in the endeavor. Suddenly he bolted upright with a shout of fright, breathing heavily, sweat dripping from his forehead. Disoriented, he glanced around the dark room, wide eyed, unable to remember as the dream quickly slipped from his memory banks what it was that now left him feeling terrified, his heart racing. He had not had a nightmare for as long as he could remember. Unlike Sigyn as a child, he had rarely been plagued with them throughout his long life. He had almost always envisioned himself as the hero in his dreams, easily vanquishing the foe, whatever or whoever it may be, however powerful and menacing. As he wiped the sweat from his brow, struggling to recall that which had disturbed his rest, he heard it, a muffled sound coming from the great room of the royal chambers. Puzzled, he tossed aside the blankets.
Entering the great room, Loki wearing a long black and gold trimmed robe, heard the rhythmic music emanating from the speakers of the record player on the table where the stone, the only remnant of Asgard thus far discovered (though he was sure there had to be others) lay where he had placed it. ( watch?v=KX412tBpxMg)
...Getting down, so deep I could have drowned
Now, I can’t get back the way I used to be
But I kept on looking for a sign
In the middle of the night
But I couldn’t see the light
No, I couldn’t see the light
I kept on looking for a way
To take me through the night
I couldn’t get it right
I couldn’t get it right
New York City took me with the tide
And I nearly died from hospitality
Left me stranded, took away my pride
Just another no account fatality
But I kept on looking for a sign
In the middle of the night
But I couldn’t see the light
No, I couldn’t see the light...
Loki raised the lights and crossed the room to the table, scouring the room with his eyes for any sign of a presence. It was unlikely, however, as a sentry was continually stationed outside the doors. The only way anyone could have entered without being noticed would be with an angelic transport cylinder. He knew of only two people other than himself and Sigyn who possessed them. The head of security and Mariel, Sigyn’s highest ranking lady of the court and attendant. Loki removed the needle from the record and turned off the record player.
“Is anyone here? Show yourself!” Perhaps Sigyn had returned to play her own prank in retaliation for the one he had successfully pulled off but days before, he thought. It struck him as highly unlikely, however, for a couple of very important reasons. “Mariel?” he called out. Maybe Sigyn had put her up to it in her stead. Again, Loki received no answer. It was the only explanation he could think of at the moment, though it also didn’t set right with him somehow. Something felt off, though he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was. Even the air in the room felt heavy, though he convinced himself that sensation was merely a result of the unnerving circumstances.
Loki placed his hand on top of the cold, hard stone. He ran the tips of his fingers over a few of the smooth, green and black crystalline flecks that glittered on its surface. He could feel a strange sort of energy flowing from it, though nothing that reminded him of any of the other powerful relics he had experience with. It didn’t feel as if it was anything that could be harnessed or used for any specific purpose like that of the mind stone or the Tesseract, just the residual energy that had once flowed throughout Asgard, that any living being on any planet imbued with life would sense from the ground beneath their feet. It was not for any power that he believed it might have had that he had jumped at the chance to possess it.
Perhaps, though, the energy he did sense from it that it possessed had been enough to wreak havoc with the jury rigged Midgardian electronic that sat nearby. Maybe Sigyn had left the needle on the record being in a hurry and having been quite harried, as he recalled, before her departure. It had been more than a month, almost two, since she had last visited her island, her refuge, the place where she went to “recharge her batteries” as she put it and she had obviously been in need of it. It was only his scheduled audience with Tivan that he had made before her plans were brought to his attention that had precluded him from joining her for the moment. It was rare for Loki not to join her and assist with the arrangements, thus why she had been “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” as she had described herself, another Midgardian phrase she often employed that Loki found endearingly peculiar. Midgardians seemed to have a particular affinity for poultry for some reason Loki could never comprehend. All varieties seemed to be quite dull witted even for animals in Loki’s view, but then, he found many Midgardians to be so as well.
Removing his hand from the stone, he glanced once more around the room, convincing himself upon finding it as devoid of anyone other than himself as it had been when he had first done so, that his last explanation for the strange event he had just encountered was most likely correct. Turning from the table and crossing the room, he returned to the bedchamber, though he couldn’t shake off the unsettled sensation that it, along with the nightmare that had awakened him, the details of which he couldn’t recall in the slightest, had left him with.
Sigyn lay sleeping in the back bedroom of the house on her island, the window cracked open, the salty sea breeze flowing into the room billowing the curtain slightly. She had long ago replaced the old, yellowed lace one with a newer version. The record she had put on the stereo had long since reached its end. Beside her, in the spot where Loki usually slept, Leiffrid dozed. To share a bed with his mother was a rare treat for the dark haired boy who lay clutching the stuffed wolf that his uncle, Thor, had given to him while still an infant. It had obviously seen better days since it had been bestowed upon him over three years prior, its seams restitched in various places, its faux fur matted down in others, yet he refused to relinquish it even after being offered his choice of newer companions.
Two strong arms slipped themselves under the slumbering child, lifting him from the bed and carrying him into the other bedroom, now decorated to reflect the interests of a child of Leiffrid’s age. Loki knew it would in the future have to be redecorated to also include the interests of she who now made use of the cradle in which Leiffrid had once slept, or perhaps it would be necessary to once again call upon Clint Barton’s skills to build another room, or while he was at it, two, perhaps even three. It wasn’t as if there was no room to expand. They had an entire island after all. Placing Leiffrid gently down into the small bed, Loki covered him and returned to the bedroom where the boy’s mother peacefully slept. Loki peered into the cradle on the far side of the room before changing and sliding into the bed beside Sigyn, wrapping an arm around her. Awakened by the unexpected sensation, Sigyn rolled over to face Loki.
“I didn’t think you were coming until tomorrow morning.” Sigyn said quietly.
“It is tomorrow morning...there. The sun was just rising as I left. I thought I’d join you a bit early.” Loki said drowsily.
“How did your meeting go?” Sigyn asked.
“The Eternal Flame now rests in the vault.” Loki replied.
“That’s a relief. When you first told me about it...if it had fallen into the wrong hands...things have been going so well...I think I worry more when they do.”
“There’s nothing to fear. It is now secure from those who would wish to use it for any nefarious purpose.” Loki said. Sigyn, even in the darkness, could see his fatigue reflected in his face.
“You haven’t slept, have you?” she asked.
“For a short while. My rest was disturbed.”
“Disturbed by what? The two most likely to do so are here.” Sigyn said with a smile.
“I had a nightmare.” Loki replied.
“You had a nightmare...you?” Sigyn said, puzzled.
“Strange, I know. I don’t remember at all what it was about.”
“It’s been awhile since you’ve slept alone and with all of us gone...I’m sure that’s all it was.” Sigyn said.
“You’re likely right. By the way, you didn’t happen to put Mariel up to any mischief did you?” Loki asked.
“No. Why would I?” Sigyn questioned.
“I thought perhaps you had planned a retaliatory operation after my last bit of fun.”
“You mean when you nearly caused me to become the first Queen of Heven to shit herself while sitting on the throne?” Sigyn asked. Loki couldn’t help but chuckle, grinning at her reply. “No...not yet...but I will...and when you least expect it. Why?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing...when I awoke from the nightmare I found-” Loki began before finding himself interrupted by the sounds of a hungry infant’s fussing from the cradle across the room. Sigyn threw the covers back. “I’ve got her.” Loki said, rising from the bed. Crossing the room he reached into the cradle, lifting the infant within it. “Shhh...it’s alright, Frigga. Did you miss me? Of course you did. How could you not?” Loki returned to the bed, transferring the baby into Sigyn’s arms before lying down and pulling the blankets over himself.
“Now what were you saying-?” Sigyn began to ask as she turned her head to find Loki asleep.
Sigyn looked at the stone that sat on the table in the great room of the royal chambers as Loki stood at her side. She ran her fingers over it much the same way Loki had previously.
“To think this is all that’s left...” she said sadly. “Maybe we should give it to New Asgard. That would make more sense than keeping it here.”
“Perhaps.” Loki replied.
“I wish I’d had the chance to see it just one more time.” Sigyn said wistfully. Leiffrid, who had been sitting on the floor playing with a set of interconnecting blocks, his wolf sitting beside him, looked over and stood, picking up the stuffed animal and walked over to stand beside Sigyn, grasping the edge of the table and standing on his tip toes to get a better look at the stone that rested upon it.
“What is it?” Leiffrid asked.
“It’s a piece of Asgard, the place where your father and I lived a long time ago.” Sigyn told him.
“Can I touch it?” Leiffrid asked.
“Of course.” Loki replied, lifting Leiffrid up to sit on the table. He reached out, placing his hand on the stone. A strange expression crossed his face.
“Why did you blow it up?” Leiffrid asked, looking to Loki, troubled.
“That’s not quite the way of it...” Loki replied, surprised at Leiffrid’s question. He turned to Sigyn, “Did you tell him...?”
“No. We’d agreed to wait until he was a little older.”
“Leiffrid, who told you this?” Loki asked.
“The ant in the rock.” Leiffrid answered.
Elpida, the adopted mother of Zosime, opened the door to her quarters, the baby Frigga in her arms, at the sound of the chime to see Sigyn standing in the corridor outside.
“Sigyn...come in.” Elpida said. Sigyn noticed the troubled look on Elpida’s face.
“Is something wrong?” Sigyn asked as Elpida transferred Frigga into her arms.
“I’m not sure. It’s probably nothing. Everything’s fine now. I checked on them just a few minutes ago, they’re sleeping.” Elpida said, obviously reticent to divulge what had occurred.
“What is it?”
“Leiffrid...I’m not sure why...he didn’t seem to know himself...” said Elpida, “Zosime...he hit her.” Elpida told Sigyn.
“Leiffrid? I’m so sorry. Is she alright?”
“She’s fine, really. I suppose it was a typical children’s squabble. Everything’s alright now. They returned to their play after.” Elpida said as she led Sigyn to the door of another room within her quarters, opening it. On the floor, toys scattered about them, lay Leiffrid and Zosime lying on their sides facing each other, each with an arm stretched out over the other, Leiffrid clutching his wolf in his other arm.
“Whatever was the trouble, it seems it’s water under the bridge now, but I’ll most certainly have a talk with him. It’s not like him at all. I always hate waking them.” Sigyn said. “They remind me so much of Loki and I.”
Elpida approached the two children, gently moving Zosime’s arm from it’s place over Leiffrid and rousing him.
“Leiffrid...Leiffie...your mother’s here to take you home now.” Elpida told the boy. Leiffrid, sat up, drowsily rising to his feet. Sigyn put a hand out and he stumbled a bit towards her, taking it, his wolf in his other hand.
“Thank you, Elpida.” Sigyn said.
“I will see you tomorrow, Leiffrid.” Elpida said.
As Sigyn walked down the corridor, Leiffrid’s hand in hers, she looked over at the boy who walked beside her.
“Leiffrid...Elpida said that you hit Zosime today. Why did you do that?”
“The ant in the rock told me to. She said that if someone doesn’t do what I want, that I should make them. She said someday I could be an ezzer...exer...extra-tooth-ener.” Leiffrid said, struggling with the word. Sigyn looked over at Leiffrid, troubled by his words.
“Leiffie...sweetheart...you know it’s not right to hurt anyone. There’s no ant in the stone. It’s just a rock. Nothing could live in it. Besides, ants don’t talk. I know it’s fun to pretend, your father and I used to all the time when we were little just like you-”
“I’m not pretending!” Leiffrid exclaimed, defensively.
“We’ll talk about it later when your father returns home.” Sigyn said.
“Will father destroy Heven too?” Leiffrid asked.
“No, of course not! This is our home.” Sigyn told him.
“But Asgard was his home, too. You told me so.” Leiffrid responded. Sigyn stopped, kneeling down before Leiffrid, holding Frigga in one arm, placing the other reassuringly on Leiffrid’s shoulder.
“Your father didn’t want to destroy Asgard, he had to. There was a bad lady there and it was the only way to defeat her, to save the people there. She wanted to kill everyone, not just on Asgard but other worlds too. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. Let’s talk no more of it now. Someday your father will tell you the story when you’re a little older. Then you will understand. Alright?” Sigyn asked. Leiffrid nodded. Sigyn rose, taking Leiffrid’s hand again as they continued down the corridor.