Chapter Eleven: Punishment
They all came upon two oak trees that stood six feet apart from one another. Identical in shape and size, Skadi told them they were at the entrance of the cavern. Extending her hand, she informed the young god’s to enter. Thor smiled in accomplishment and forced the first captive to proceed forward. Reluctant, Loki was the first to go.
The scenes of an ever-growing forest were forfeit, as Loki’s perspective changed. Damp and dark, rigid stalagmites grew to the cave’s ceiling. Its coarse and abnormal curves declined in structure, weary in age. Small, loose stones littered the ground, and florescent larvae shined among the stalactite’s tips. Water dripped from the cavern, never ending and ever-relenting. For it did not change tune nor overstay its welcome. The winds that penetrated this vast, empty abyss howled like cries in the night. If left long enough, one could go mad within their own thoughts in a place such as this.
Unafraid, Loki walked further inward and noticed eight tunnels separated in different angles and a circular stone table resting in the middle. Examining its peculiar placement, the god noticed Runes etched among its side. Running his hand across the indecipherable symbols, they began to glow. Backing away, the cavern’s tunnels lit up. Portals from different worlds popped up in each entrance, waiting to be used.
Thor threw Mjolnir at Loki, knocking him off his feet. “You dare flee, you worm!” Calling his hammer back, Mjolnir retracted from the floor and returned to his hand. Aiming the weapon at Loki, thunder erupted in the cave.
The captive god threw his hands up and laughed. “One would flee if one knew where such openings led.”
“What magic you conjure to activate the bridge,” Thor asked forcefully.
“No magic dwells within. Perhaps it’s a sign by Allfather to grant me haven,” Loki guessed.
Unamused, Thor raised his hammer. The god knew that if answers weren’t provided by such a snake, he would have to beat such a being to confession. Slamming Mjolnir onto Loki’s chest, he let out a painful grunt, followed by shortened gasps of breath. The annoyed god asked him yet again how he activated the bridge. Loki, the stubborn and prideful god he was, only antagonized Thor further.
Before Thor unleashed another powerful blow to Loki, Skadi closed the entrance to the cave and spoke. “Only one with giant’s blood can use this bridge. For there are few and far between.”
Panting, Loki slowly pulled himself up. Both he and Thor gave dirty looks to one another, animosity building with each passing second. Not caring for such petty squabbles, Skadi placed her hand on the stone and recited the passage. “Måtte Jotunheims verden dukke opp blant oss.” The Runes glowed a bright blue hue, and the stone table turned to the third portal on the left. Waves of energy rippled from the doorway, its lighting shining ever so vibrant.
“Traversing among this bridge is quite unpleasant,” Skadi warned. “I suggest bracing oneself.”
Putting Loki, Váli, and Narfi together, Thor took front as the other two soldiers guarded the rear. A tingling sensation overcame their bodies as they felt something amiss. Looking down at their hands, they began dematerializing into specks of light. Loki’s sons looked at him in worry as a beam shot straight at the lot. Engulfing the cave in such radiant and sparkling beauty, the bridge took their floating remains and shot them across worlds to Jotunheim, land of the slaughtered giants.
Materializing on the edge of a snowy cliff, all gods except Skadi fell to the floor, nauseous, drowsy, and weak. Both soldiers leaned over the ledge and puked, feeling as if death were close to having one’s soul. Thor, the great and powerful, could not keep his façade and endure such sickness. Resting Mjolnir by his side, he sat down and prayed to Allfather for a speedy recovery. Narfi and Váli consoled one another, assuring each was whole, and Loki, of all, was the only one to not feel the bridge’s full keen sting. Rising to his feet, he gander upon the frosty mountains ahead. For the first time since infancy, he was back in his homeland.
Loki walked up to Skadi, eyeing all that surrounded him. He breathed in the crisp afternoon air and smiled. He had no recollections of his home or the feeling he would have. The only teachings of his home world were only through stories and images. Feeling completely overwhelmed, he leaned down and touched the snow below him. Watching the white flakes fall through the seams of his fingers, he balled his hand into a fist and pressed it against his head, remembering that feeling.
Skadi looked over at the god and analyzed him. With a confused tone, she asked, “Why would a giant such as yourself kill a god loved by all? Has our kind not suffered? Have we not endured enough bloodshed?”
Loki’s moment of bliss faded. Sighing, he dropped his hand and turned to Skadi. “One did not kill the god but aided another. Intentions for Baldur’s death were not in heart.”
“If such a thing was not foreseen--” Skadi paused briefly. “Then why commit such acts?”
Loki stared at the ground, realizing that someone should know the truth of his crime if he were to perish. “When forced into servitude, I sat and watched a family grow and thrive among one another. The warmth they shared, the loved they gave, it was a feeling I long to know. Growing older, I was shown hatred, for no god claimed me as equal. Forgotten, abandoned, and afraid, I did such antics to feel. All I yearned for was compassion. Even a sliver, but no such thing came.”
Thor abruptly pushed Loki, causing him to fall into the snow. “Do not twist this gracious giantess’ mind. No being will believe such lies. Now, up with you filth, your punishment awaits.”
A briefly bruised and vulnerable Loki rose from the ground and walked forward, not daring to look back. Skadi dissected his words and actually felt sorrow and pain for the god. He was still a giant among her eyes, even if he did not look to be. For he may be of mischief, but in this instance, what he told her was the first complete truth in a long while.
Poking and prodding Loki, Thor forced him to walk until they came upon an entrance to another cave. It was smaller than the other. A boulder the size of a horse blocked the opening, waiting to be entered. Pushing Loki aside, the god lifted the boulder with his bare hands and tossed it to their side. Grabbing Loki by his rags, he forced him inside. Looking around, it was barely seven feet in height and had a musk scent floating about. Although bare in form, it would prove most useful in what was about to transpire.
The two soldiers followed behind with his son’s and placed them against the wall, waiting for Thor’s command. Skadi soon followed and entered the cave. She looked at Loki with sympathetic eyes before turning her attention to Thor. Letting him know that her part in this was over, Odin’s son bowed and thanked her for being such a hospitable host. Bowing her head back at the god, she gave Loki one last look, who, surprisingly enough, also bowed at the giantess. Not because of her leading to his doom, but for just listening and giving him a decent conversation, even if it was abruptly short. Leaving the cave, they were now left alone where Thor could finally unleash his cruelty.
Binding Loki’s hands, he pushed him to the side and snapped his fingers at one of his soldiers. Pulling out a vial, they placed the item in Thor’s hands with delicate care. The brutish god examined the potion and smiled. He has waited a while to come up with the perfect punishment, and now, here, all he wanted was to relish at the moment.
“You, boy,” he said, pointing at Narfi. “Come.”
Loki’s youngest son walked to the god and stood in front of him, unknowing what was to happen. “If my end is met, let it end with me and be done with it.”
“Quite a noble child,” Thor expressed impressively. Turning to Loki, he asked, “Are you sure he is of kin? For he is just.”
Grabbing the boy’s neck, he placed his forehead against the child’s. “My boy, if such punishments were swift, I would have back in our realm. Alas, my vision is far more grand.”
Pushing him to the center of the cave, his two soldiers grabbed Váli by his arms and held him in place. Loki’s oldest struggled as Thor slowly walked up to him. Opening the vial that resided in his hand, his men forced Váli’s mouth open as he hovered the potion above. Turning to Loki, he told his old foe to bear-witness to his ultimate plan. Pouring the liquid into Váli’s mouth, he forced him to drink until the last drop was given.
Telling his men to release him, Thor threw Váli toward Narfi. Clashing together, they both fell to the ground. Váli started to yell in pain as Narfi checked on his brother. The eldest warned him to flee as something brewed within. Narfi, loyal to the end, would not leave his brother’s side. Loki tried going to help his son’s, but Thor stopped him in his tracks.
“Watch,” Thor whispered, “Watch it all unfold.”
Bones started to crack. Limbs began to elongate and warp. Váli led outcries of helplessness, as his fingernails fell off and were replaced with claws. His teeth fell from his gums, and more carnivorous fangs protruded in its place. He looked at Narfi with his now bright yellow eyes, fearing the worst. With one last bit of consciousness, he yelled out for his brother to leave before transforming into a wolf.
Narfi back away and hugged the wall behind him. The brother he once knew was gone and instead replaced with a vicious animal. Unable to be vocal, Váli whined and panted slowly, feeling the primal instinct consuming him. Narfi called out to him, hoping some recollection of his brother was still within. Narfi’s hopes were diminished when Váli howled in the cave. Now overtaken by the wolf, Váli’s eyes hungered for flesh.
Growling at Narfi, his brother begged him to stop. He kept imploring Váli of who he was at heart, but no such words were of use. Only the animal was left in the cave, and it only yearned, for one thing, survival. Pouncing on Narfi, Váli began ripping his brother apart. Limbs flew, and blood flowed. Thor forced Loki to watch this unspeakable act until he saw fit. Seeing the wolf tug on his son’s intestines, Loki watched in horror as his son unknowingly killed his own brother.
Thor clapped his hands together. “What a marvelous display! Vivid than I could have mustered. Quite a show.” The wolf turned around with blood-soaked fur and growled at Thor for disturbing his meal. “Oh, silence, dog.” Throwing Moljinor at the animal, he caved the wolf’s head in, killing him instantly.
Loki fell to his knees as he stared upon his two dead sons. The thoughts he had escaped him. The emotions he felt were numb. He did not know what to do or how to act. All he knew was they were dead for a crime not of their doing. Looking down at the ground, he closed his eyes and silently cried in shame.
Thor walked over to Narfi’s dead body and bent down. Grabbing his intestines, he told his men to bring Loki. Dragging the defeated god over to him, Thor turned the intestines into iron chains with a trick he learned from Allfather himself. Binding one hand to a wall, Thor reciprocated the same action for the other. He then pulled Loki’s hair back and placed chains around his neck, cementing them to the ground behind the god. Now looking at the ceiling, Loki had nothing to do but replay his son’s deaths.
Snapping his fingers at his men, they brought Thor a bag that would only intensify Loki’s pain. Reaching inside, he pulled out a snake and placed it on a single branch resting right above Loki’s face. The reptile slithered around, getting comfortable, and then hanged down, opening its mouth. A drop of its venom escaped its fangs and landed inside Loki’s eye. His screams were so intense, the ground below rattled their very feet. Thor smiled and told the god this was the plan he had wanted to come to fruition. To not only experience the death of his son’s, but an eternity of pain to follow along with it.
One soldier tried being courteous and picking up the remains, but Thor stopped his fellow comrade. “Let his son’s rot among this cell with their father.” Letting go of them, the soldier backed away, following Thor’s command. “Enjoy vermin, for none with come in aid.”
Venom dripped into Loki’s eye again. The god could do nothing but scream in anguish. The words Thor spoke were muffled as his own pain was immense. The happy god expressed how he would love to sit and hear the sounds of Loki’s pain, but alas, he had to go back to Asgard. Saying his farewell, he and the soldiers left the cave. Placing the boulder back into position, darkness took the god. With venom dripping in his eye, Loki would spend his remaining days in agonizing solitude until the end of Ragnarök commenced.