Last Embers: A Loki Story takes place before the events of Thor.
In the palace of Asgard, the son of Odin, the son who had not been chosen, stood stolidly on the balcony of his chambers. His expression and his jaw set as hard as the stone under his feet, Loki gazed out over Asgard. Looking back, it had been painfully clear upon whom his father’s favor rested since the days of his and his brother’s boyhood. He had known for some time that he had little chance of ascending to the throne. It had not been unexpected or in any way a shock. Yet to hear the words finally and openly spoken had cut deep nonetheless and Loki continued to feel the sting though more than a week had now passed since the Allfather had handed down his decree.
A cloud passed above muting the daylight. Loki could not help but feel it a fitting allegory of his life, the great shadow of his brother he had existed under as long as he could recall. He felt the darkness welling within him, a darkness he had always carried whose origin he could not define, the same darkness that he had unleashed upon others at times...his brother, the other children with whom he’d grown up that were his and his brothers’ playmates and had so often teased and chided him. He was different, he’d always known it to be so, though he didn’t know exactly how or why. He had always felt himself to be on the outside looking in, not in possession of the key or the password or whatever was necessary to open the door.
Along with that darkness was a void within him, a great chasm that yearned to be filled. Its origin was also unknown to him, though he had sensed it as well for as long as he could remember. As a boy his father had told him he was born to be a king. What was there for him now? What was his place? What was he to do with the long remainder of his life? Was there any meaning to his existence and if so, what was it? He stood pondering these questions, far from the first time, as he gripped the cold, hard stone railing.
He would have made a far better king than his witless oaf of a brother, Thor, whose answer to every problem was to rashly rush in headlong and bash away at it with his fists and his hammer. Loki was surprised that Thor had the mental capacity to put his boots on the right feet. Odin had said many times to them both over the centuries that a wise king did not seek out war, so why in the nine realms had he chosen for his successor the son most likely to do exactly that?
“Loki….” the gentle, soothing voice of his mother reached him from the middle of the room behind him. Loki continued to gaze out at the scene before him as she made her way to the balcony.
“Mother.” Loki acknowledged Frigga as she came to stand by his side. Both stood in silence for a few moments.
“I know that your father’s decision has been difficult for you to accept.” Frigga said. Loki gave a short, sarcastic laugh.
“I must say, Mother, you are most talented in magic, however, it pales in comparison to your gift for understatement.” Loki replied. He turned from the balcony, walking away from Frigga back into the greatroom of his chambers.
“I understand why you’ve been melancholy but how long do you plan to keep yourself locked away?” Frigga asked as she followed Loki.
“Does it matter? It seems no one, aside from yourself, is in the least concerned as to where I am or what I do. They’re far too occupied celebrating my brother’s greatness.” said Loki scornfully as he recalled how Thor had been thronged with well wishers after the news had broken, not a single soul approaching him to commiserate with him. He had made his exit from the throne room and his long, solemn walk through the palace’s corridors alone and unnoticed as if his father’s announcement had rendered him invisible, as if he had at that moment winked out of existence.
“Your father’s decision was not made out of a lack of love for you. You are his son. He and your brother both care for you very much.” Frigga replied.
“They have quite an interesting way of expressing it.” Loki said with disdain.
“There is another that has asked after you as well. She is most concerned about you.”
“And who might that be?” Loki asked skeptically. He could not fathom to whom Frigga could be referring.
“I have just recently returned from visiting my mother, your grandmother.” Frigga informed him.
“I’m afraid her journey is nearing its end. She is not faring well.” Frigga said sadly. “She wishes to see you. She’d like you to spend a few days with her. It has been quite some time since your last visit.”
“What a brilliant idea. That’s exactly what I need to lift my spirits...to spend my time with an old woman with one foot in her grave.” Loki said sarcastically before instantly regretting his words upon seeing the pained expression on his mother’s face. “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Maybe you’re right. Perhaps a few days away from all this would be a welcome respite.” Frigga’s expression changed to a warm smile. Approaching Loki, she took his hands in hers.
“I’ll go now and make the arrangements. She will be pleased to see you.” Frigga said before kissing Loki’s cheek. She turned and made her way to the door, exiting Loki’s chambers. Loki turned from the door, walking back towards the entrance to the balcony. He returned to the spot where he had been standing before Frigga’s visit, staring once more out over Asgard as the sun began to set.
Frigga was right. It had been quite a long time since last he had seen his grandmother. As a boy they had been quite close. As he had grown to manhood they had seen each other less and less often as other concerns and interests had taken up his time and attention. After the passing of his grandfather, Frigga had offered to relocate her to her own chambers in the palace but she would not hear of it, instead choosing to remain in the isolated cottage near the edge of the forest not far from the mountains and the seashore.
Hearing familiar voices and laughter below, Loki saw Thor, Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun and Sif come into view. He could only guess they were on their way to continue celebrating. They would likely be doing so for at least another week or two. Loki turned to once again exit the balcony and ensconce himself in his chambers. As the group of revelers passed by below, Thor looked up to catch a glimpse of Loki as he turned his back and stepped away from the railing.
“Brother!” Thor called up to Loki. “Would you like to join-” Thor began to ask as Loki entered his chambers, leaving the balcony empty. Thor continued to look upwards for a moment, an expression of distress crossing his face.
“Don’t concern yourself. Let him brood.” Fandral said to Thor.
“You know Loki. He’ll get over it and be back to his old self soon enough...unfortunately. I for one am quite happy to celebrate with our future king...and drink him under the table for good measure!” Volstagg gleefully exclaimed.
“Am I to take that as a challenge?” Thor said as he grinned, returning his attention to his friends, they cajoling him forward along with them.
Loki approached his grandmother’s cottage, a trunk in his hands. To the right of the cottage was planted a mid-sized garden, varying types of edible and non-edible flora blooming and bursting from the ground in their plots, some entwining themselves around poles and trellises. His mother was not one to exaggerate but surely his grandmother’s health could not be as dire as his mother had described if she were capable of maintaining it, Loki thought to himself.
A young woman, perhaps slightly older than Loki but not by much exited the front door of the cottage as he approached. She wore a simple, green Asgardian gown, her reddish golden hair arranged in plaits.
“You are the son of Odin, the Allfather, the prince, Frida’s grandson…”
“Yes, I’m Loki. And you are…?”
“Revna. I see to Frida’s needs...when she will allow me to do so. She has been quite anxious for your arrival.” Revna answered. Loki was unaccustomed to hearing that anyone was anxious to see him.
“How is she?” Loki asked.
“She’s having quite a good day today. Your impending visit I’m sure has played its part.”
“Does she have many bad?”
“From time to time...she is not always herself.” Revna replied.
“Rubbish. Who else would I be if not myself?” the voice of an elderly woman said as she stood in the doorway of the cottage. Revna turned as Loki looked past her to see Frida. The old, somewhat stooped woman in the grayish blue dress stood there leaning slightly on a short staff, her long wavy white hair falling over her shoulders.
“Loki, my boy….it’s been far too long. Come closer and let me get a good look at you. My eyes are not what they once were.”
Loki deposited the trunk onto the ground and made his way to his grandmother.
“Amma….it is good to see you.” Loki said as he reached Frida, she putting her staff aside and embracing Loki before pulling back and gripping both of his arms. Standing shorter than Loki she looked up into his face as she examined him, her wrinkled visage smiling warmly.
“You have grown into quite a handsome young man. You must be exhausted from shooing off the droves seeking your affections.”
“Not exactly.” Loki said. Frida turned from Loki, entering the cottage.
“Bring your things and settle in. We have much to talk about. Oh….and leave your friend outside.” Frida said to him.
“Who do you mean?” Loki asked puzzled as he had come alone.
“The friend on your right shoulder.” Frida answered. Loki, confused, turned his head to look to his shoulder. Upon it sat a large, hairy multi legged creature. Startled, Loki’s eyes widened as he took in an audible sharp breath and swiftly moved his hand up to brush it off from where it had perched itself only to watch it disappear in a flash of light. As it did so he heard the sound of Frida’s laughter. Grinning for the first time since the day Odin had announced his choice, Loki watched his grandmother’s back as she hobbled away from him.