persephone_kore: (write on fire)
[personal profile] persephone_kore
Title: A Tale of Two Lokis
Authors: Khilari and Persephone_Kore
Summary: Thor and Loki were not the first of Odin's loved ones to bear those names. After the events of the movie, Loki is planning his next moves when he discovers a frost giant imprisoned in a volcano, who proves to be both the uncle he was named for and Laufey's first child. Soon Loki has a new mentor, Asgard is shaking off isolationist tendencies, Jotunheim is receiving foreign aid, and Earth is suddenly and vividly reacquainted with the existence of aliens....

Chapter 12

‘We’re going to have a problem with material,’ said Lopt. Pages of observations, Loki’s neat print and Lopt’s scrawl, were scattered over the desk between them.

‘It’s amber, isn’t it?’ said Loki. ‘A special type, I take it.’

‘Very special. The Vanir normally start the process by making a tree.’ Lopt stretched and sighed. ‘It would be almost impossible to steal the crystallised resin, especially with most of the nine worlds looking out for us. And, besides that, each tree is attuned to the magician who grew it. We’re going to have to improvise. A lot.’

‘Why not make a tree as the Vanir do?’ asked Loki.

‘It’s fertility magic,’ said Lopt. He picked up a piece of paper and began doodling leaves in the margin, deep in thought.

‘Fertility magic may not be my best area, but I completed the simpler exercises without trouble,’ said Loki. ‘I don’t see what good it does to give up on creating a tree without even trying.’

Lopt put the pencil down carefully. ‘You can do fertility magic?’

‘I did just say so,’ said Loki, annoyed. ‘Do you disbelieve me?’

Lopt shook his head. ‘Frost giants can’t do fertility magic. Or, if any can, I’ve never heard of it.’

Loki closed his eyes. He was a Jotun, there could be no doubt of that despite the flicker of hope caused by Lopt’s words. But he had been able to do the normal spells, to grow blue daisies and roses the size of dinner plates. He’d found it difficult, more so than nearly any other type of magic and that, along with Thor teasing him for spending so much time on flowers, had led him to focus on other things. But it had not been impossible then and knowing he was a Jotun shouldn’t make it impossible now.

‘I can,’ he said. ‘Tell me how the Vanir do it.’

It started with an ash key.

‘Ash for world-walking,’ said Lopt, in the half distracted way of someone reciting something they had memorised a long time ago. ‘Willow for healing. Yew for protection. Birch for...I don’t know. But I’m sure about the ash.’

They picked a bunch of them, ripe and brown by this time of the year, so as to have backups. Loki picked one healthy looking one and separated it ready for use.

‘According to the internet they take two winters to be ready to plant,’ he told Lopt after doing some research.

‘We’re going to have it fully grown and flowering in a month or two, if we manage to do this the same way as the Vanir,’ said Lopt. ‘So I think we can speed up germination. And I’m certain we can manage to chill it.’

‘…It needs to be protected from severe frost.’

‘We can use the fridge if you’re worried,’ said Lopt. ‘Although I’m sure you could tone it down if you tried.’

Loki looked thoughtfully at the seed. ‘Is the flowering important?’ he asked.

‘It tells you that the tree is ready for the sap to be taken,’ said Lopt. ‘If it doesn’t manage to bloom it hasn’t absorbed enough magic.’

‘I thought you didn’t know fertility magic.’

‘I can’t do it. That’s not the same as not knowing it. Besides, falconskins aren’t the only things the Vanir use sap for. I was spying on their techniques for Odin.’ He sounded completely unabashed by it. Not that Loki felt he should be ashamed, but it was the sort of thing Thor and his friends would despise.

‘So that was how you made yourself useful during wars,’ he said. ‘I’m surprised glamour would get you so far, it failed us on Vanaheim.’

‘That was the currency,’ said Lopt. ‘And I wasn’t glamoured when I was spying. I was shapeshifting.’

‘You mentioned shapeshifting before,’ said Loki. At the time he hadn’t thought much of it, but it probably had more uses than he’d considered. ‘But I’ve never seen you do it.’

Lopt disappeared and in his place stood a large white dog. It wagged its tail at Loki, tongue lolling out in a doggy laugh, before turning back into Lopt.

‘You could teach me that,’ Loki observed.

‘I could,’ said Lopt. ‘But it’s a difficult discipline. Still, I will if you ask.’

Or command, thought Loki. Perhaps Lopt only offered so easily because he would rather be asked than ordered. The dark lines of runes had become a normal part of Lopt’s appearance to him, it was a jolt to recall exactly what they meant. ‘Why so difficult?’ asked Loki.

‘You have to forget,’ said Lopt. ‘Forget that you are not the creature whose form you have taken, then forget that you have forgotten. The better you can do that, the more layers you can take it through, the better your shapeshifting will be. Only excellent shapeshifters can lose themselves. Only the best are able to lose themselves but don’t.’

‘That,’ said Loki. ‘Sounds more like poetry than magic.’

‘Poetry and riddles,’ agreed Lopt. He grinned. ‘There’s a reason Odin takes an interest in both.’

Loki looked away. ‘There’s no time for this now. I need to focus on the tree and the falconskin.’

The seed resisted his efforts to convince it to germinate. Tucked up tight in its shell it remained stubbornly the same ash key it had been to start with. After days of throwing magic at it, pushing it to take what he was offering, he succeeded only in cracking the shell and killing it. The second fared no better. Loki knew that the anger he felt with himself for failing was unnecessary, but he hated to fail. Especially at this. It felt like his frost giant nature conspiring against him, as it had all along.

‘You’re trying to do a difficult spell in an area that isn’t yours,’ said Lopt. ‘Give yourself some leeway.’

‘You expect me to fail,’ Loki snarled. ‘But I can do this. I will.’

Lopt backed off. Loki got the impression that he was amused but hiding it. Which was all the more infuriating and pushed Loki into trying still harder.

It was the fifth seed that finally worked. Loki had been holding it cupped in his hands. He’d dropped his glamour in order to chill it at the same time as working on forcing magic into it (somehow his body temperature always dropped when he wasn’t glamoured. It meant he didn’t have to think about a cooling spell, at least). Suddenly it went from resisting everything he was pushing at it to drinking in magic so fast it felt like it could have been used as a mildly effective defense against spells.

He went to find Lopt feeling slightly dazed and found him going over their notes again.

‘It’s taking in magic now,’ said Loki.

‘You look like you need to sit down,’ said Lopt.

‘I’m fine,’ said Loki. ‘It just decided to start quickly. Does it need to be planted now?’

Lopt came over to look at the seed cupped carefully in Loki’s hands. ‘It looks like it,’ he said, pointing to a tiny rootlet showing at one end. ‘Looks like it did decide to start quickly. Good thing we already prepared the pot.’

They got it bedded down and watered, with the pot stood in a sunny spot in the front room. The tree seemed thirstier for magic than it had been for the water and Loki was reluctant to stop giving it after the slow start and the ruined seeds.

‘Just don’t make yourself ill,’ said Lopt. ‘Remember that I can’t do it any good.’

Loki did start pacing the magic he gave it, at least to the point of not exhausting himself. It seemed to be enough, nevertheless, and tiny seedling leaves, so dark green they were almost black, showed by the end of the first day. A few days later it was a sapling, only a few inches high as yet, but recognisable as the tree it would become.

It was not, Loki thought regretfully, a handsome tree, with its grey twisted trunk and dark ragged leaves. It grew vigorously, though, and greedily drank down all the magic Loki could feed it.

‘The ones the Vanir grow look different, don’t they?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ said Lopt. ‘But it doesn’t matter. Not so long as it works.’

Once it bloomed they would know, one way or the other. As buds finally started to show on its branches Loki found himself unable to sleep. He would wind up kneeling beside it instead, feeding it still more magic.

Then, one morning, he walked into the front room to find it had bloomed. Every tiny blossom was a perfect blue-white star and the air around it smelled of snow.

‘That’s…interesting,’ he said, reaching out to touch one of the blossoms.

‘It’s beautiful,’ said Lopt, looking up from where he had been reading the newspaper. ‘But it shouldn’t be possible.’

‘Don’t say such things in front of it,’ said Loki. Not that the tree understood language, but it was very magically sensitive. Best to keep certain concepts away from it.

‘I suspect it’s hardier than you give it credit for,’ said Lopt. ‘It’s certainly been determined enough to grow.’

‘And now we gather the resin,’ said Loki. He found himself oddly reluctant. The resin had, of course, been the point. But the tree had been difficult to grow, at least at first, and he’d put a lot into it. Cutting it to take resin felt somehow riskier than it was.

‘It’s not as if it will hurt it,’ said Lopt. ‘It might be magically sensitive but it can’t feel pain.’

‘I know that. I was worried about damaging it, there’s no guarantee I could grow another,’ said Loki. He brushed his hair back with one hand. ‘We may as well do it. Do you have the spells we’ll need worked out?’

‘Yes,’ said Lopt. ‘You’ll have to do the cutting though. I’m not quite sure how it would react to me doing magic around it, although it seems…cold weather proof, at least.’

The spells around the cutting were to make sure they got a decent amount of sap, mostly, instead of it stopping flowing once the cut was sealed. Loki had to do them three times after the tree drank his first two efforts.

‘Do the Vanir ones do this?’ he asked after the second time.

‘No idea,’ said Lopt. ‘I never saw the Vanir having problems, but they might just have had more experience. Or better behaved trees.’

‘Don’t complain about it. It’s the only one we have, or are likely to have,’ said Loki.

That time the spells took, and when he nicked the branch sap formed a swelling globe over the cut. Ash tree sap was thin and sugary, this was thick resin like dark honey. Loki gathered it with the blade of his knife and scraped it onto the plate Lopt held, the rim of which was already decorated with the runes they needed. Loki said the few words necessary to activate them and watched the resin harden into a messy blob of amber.

‘…Should it be blue?’ he asked, after a moment.

Lopt picked it up and held it against the light to look at it. Which caused it to promptly resume a honey colour. Putting it down again, or turning to look at it under the light, made it go back to being blue.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ said Lopt. ‘But I don’t see any harm in it. And it feels like the same stuff the falconskin used.’

The boy was sleeping deeply, a small smile on his face, and Loki felt an odd tenderness at the sight. The boy had been sleeping so badly lately, always getting up to feed the tree.

‘Like having a newborn baby in the house,’ muttered Loki as he went through to the front room, where the tree stood flowering innocently in its corner. Except with newborn babies the first time they let you sleep through the night wasn’t a sign it was time to draw their blood and crystallise it. Loki shook his head, he wasn’t sure where that analogy was going but it didn’t seem to be anywhere good.

He walked over to the tree and ran a finger over the blossom. It really was beautiful. Sigyn would like it. (There was a trick to this, like with shapeshifting, and it was the same trick. Forgetting that he had another reason for doing this, a reason that he was bound not to act on, and then forgetting that he had forgotten.) He broke off a spray of the little starry flowers and, holding them gently in one hand, stepped into extradimensional space.

He didn’t have a falconskin this time and wished he did. Even his old skyshoes would have been an improvement. The memory made him grin; they had been the only half-successful attempt at replicating a falconskin. Just as fast, but only a tenth as manoeuvrable. No one but him had ever been willing to use them more than once, and even for him it had been almost as terrifying as it was exhilarating. Having them now probably wouldn’t make the journey safer, but it would still be faster.

Once again he made himself invisible as he entered the palace. It wasn’t that he thought he’d be unwelcome now, but he didn’t have time for questions. There was only one person he was here to see.

Sigyn was in the same room that had been hers a thousand years ago, sleeping with her face turned toward the window so that the planes of it caught the moonlight. Loki dropped his invisibility and bent down, stroking her hair back from her face. She woke instantly, blinking up at him for a moment before smiling.

‘Should I be jealous you came here to see Odin before me?’ she asked.

Loki laughed, low and soft. ‘This time I came only to see you. And I brought you flowers.’ He tucked the little spray of blossom behind her ear.

Sigyn reached up for it, taking a moment to untangle it from her hair. ‘They’re lovely,’ she said, looking faintly puzzled at the smell of snow. ‘Are they from Jotunheim?’

‘Did you ever see anything like this in Jotunheim?’ he asked, and then distracted her from answering with a kiss. They had long since worked out how to do this without burning or freezing one another, but her lips still felt hot against his mouth. When they drew back for breath Loki sat next to her on the bed and took her hand.

‘How have you been?’ he asked. ‘Do we need to talk about any of it?’

She laughed at him. ‘No. If there’s nothing you need to tell me we can move on to other things.’

Loki squeezed her hand. ‘You should probably tell Odin that his son is as well as can be expected. And I’ve been having more fun than he might think. My binding…’ he trailed off. He’d been going to say it was not onerous, but the truth was he hated being confined despite his growing affection for his captor. Despite even how much he’d enjoyed working on the falconskin.

Sigyn lifted his hand and kissed the wrist where the first band of runes lay across it, the way she would kiss a bruise - as if love could be applied like salve. Loki sighed and shivered at the touch of her tongue. ‘Will you kiss all of them?’ he whispered.

Sigyn looked at him, solemn and smiling. ‘Come here,’ she said, and Loki willingly obeyed.

Loki had left all too soon. Sigyn knew this had been necessary and was just as aware she hadn't exactly made it easy. Somehow, after a thousand years barely leaving his side, five months apart felt like an eternity.

Now she lay languid but nowhere near sleep, retracing his skin in her mind and breathing the cool snow-scent of the flowers he'd left her, petals soft against her face.

Did you ever see anything like this in Jotunheim?

Sigyn sat up abruptly.

She twirled the spray of flowers in her hand. She'd never seen anything quite like them anywhere. Springtime flowers in autumn were only strange until you started traveling between hemispheres and worlds, but these were a strange shape, naggingly familiar, and infused with so much ice magic that her fingers were growing cold.

Three minutes later, she was in a guest room and shaking Freya awake.

Freya woke up rapidly and not very graciously. She grabbed Sigyn by the wrists, teeth bared, and Sigyn felt a thorny binding spell start to wrap around her as well. She burned through it, a little more forcefully than was probably really necessary, just as Freya yanked her down so they were nose-to-nose. Freya, as usual, smelled of some brain-fogging medley of flower, fruit, fragrant leaves, and desire. Sigyn easily shook off a sudden urge to kiss her, but had somewhat less success with the keen wish for Loki to come straight back (which hardly needed Freya's help) or the feeling it was time for breakfast.

"Oh, it's you," Freya said, sounding disgusted. She let go.

"Yes, it is." Sigyn brought the spray of flowers absently back to her nose. "Who were you expecting?"

"I was hoping for someone I could legitimately injure for waking me up at this hour," Freya said crossly. Her eyes narrowed. "Loki's been here."

"Yes. He brought me these." Sigyn held out the flowers. "What are they?"

Freya sat up and took her by the wrist to examine them. "Strange--"

"I knew that part."

"Shush." Freya ran her finger along the twig, delicately. "Modified ash, infused with -- oh." Rage-fueled magic washed out from her in a shockwave. It broke and parted around Sigyn, but the ash-spray grew six inches and wrapped roots around her hand. A carved-wood spiral bracelet around Freya's arm sprouted like a vine, and the earth under the palace heaved.

"Enough!" Sigyn growled. She shot to her feet and forced Freya back and down by the throat -- with the hand that didn't have a tree grabbing it -- and sliced through the connection to the ground before there could be any real structural damage. "Control your temper, Vanadis!"

Freya's eyes looked close to throwing sparks. She shut them for a moment, and the air stilled. "Let me up."

Sigyn let her go. "What was that about? What have they done?"

"I'll explain in a minute. But we need to put that in water."

Sigyn looked at the tree, which was now hopefully trying to poke its roots into her hand. It itched. "Not dirt?"

"We'll have an easier time soaking it loose to start."

Freya coaxed the baby tree off Sigyn's hand by holding it in a basin of iced mineral water, which she then filled with rotted leaves and sand until the mixture was cohesive enough to move to a small pot and drain. She still wouldn't answer the question properly until they had rousted Frigga out of bed and invaded Odin's study.

"Your son and brother," she said to Odin, punctuating this with a stamp of her heel but thankfully no further earthquakes, "have taken apart a falconskin." She gestured at the tree Sigyn was still carrying. "They think they know how to make one. So they grew that."

"Under other circumstances," Odin said, sounding a little annoyed and a good deal as if he was trying not to laugh, "I'd congratulate them."

"They grew an infused tree!" Freya shouted. "Two frost giants! I helped teach your son fertility spells, and he's Jotun! What did you do to that child?"

"I brought him as an infant to Asgard at midsummer," Odin said dryly. "Frigga and I infused him, and established a shapeshift, so he wouldn't have to fight the climate so much."

"And to hide him, I suppose?" Freya frowned. "That must have been a challenge."

"Thor was the only one of the family who was properly awake for the next week," said Frigga. "That was a challenge."

"But what," Sigyn asked, "are they going to do with falconskins?"

The others looked at her. "What anyone does with falconskins, I should think," Freya said irritably.

"No, I see your point." Odin shook his head. "The casket can move armies; it has. If the goal is conquest, why turn its power to making falconskins? Unless they want something the casket can't do, and are working to merge and change incompatible types of magic...."

"Or just gloating," Freya suggested sourly.

"I don't think so," said Sigyn.

"The mortal seers!" Frigga's hand came down on the desk. "And the Norns' babbling. Perhaps they were not so mad after all. Odin, perhaps we should speak to Muspelheim again."

Loki woke near dawn with the vague feeling he’d overslept before remembering that the tree didn’t need to have magic poured into it anymore. Still, he wouldn’t be able to sleep again now. He padded through to the kitchen for a glass of milk, still in his pyjamas, and paused to give the tree a smile. The flowers stood out all the more against its dark leaves. Would it later produce fruit? The scent of snow was unlikely to attract bees to pollinate it. Ashes were wind pollinated anyway, but it wasn’t entirely like an ash anymore. He’d have to ask Lopt.

The thought caused him to still. The apartment felt empty, to all his senses, and, abandoning the idea of milk, he went over to Lopt’s bedroom and quietly opened the door. The bed was untidy, but only because Lopt never made it in the morning. It didn’t look like it had been slept in.

Loki took a deep breath, more angry with himself than with Lopt. He was the one who had been stupid enough to leave loopholes in a contract with a being known for finding them. But Lopt had seemed so…tractable. Resigned to being bound and oddly complacent about it, willing to enjoy work on the falconskin even knowing the use it was intended for. He’d threatened Loki once and then shown no signs of following up on it.

Loki went to get dressed. When Lopt returned Loki would have to face him, and he would need to do it with at least some dignity.

Lopt appeared before the sun was up, stepping into the front room with a sleepy, contented smile. He yawned and walked over to the window, apparently not caring that he was unglamoured, to look out at the early morning streets.

‘Lopt,’ said Loki.

The giant turned, startled, and then looked sheepish. ‘You’ve caught me, then,’ he said. Loki had expected more alarm.

‘Where have you been?’ he asked.

‘With Sigyn,’ said Lopt, smiling again. It seemed obvious what he had been doing, although Loki suspected him of using that assumption as cover.

‘I thought you’d need my permission for, oh yes, “conjugal visits”,’ he said. ‘What have you told her?’

‘This is the first I’ve managed. Your permission would have made it possible sooner,’ said Lopt. ‘You can’t blame me for missing my wife, surely. And I haven’t told her anything, or disobeyed your orders.’

Loki shook his head. ‘Who else have you crept away to visit?’

‘Odin,’ admitted Lopt. He held his hand up when Loki tensed. ‘I needed to talk to him. We’d been at odds for a thousand years over a misunderstanding and, even when I thought he’d imprisoned me so I couldn’t stop him taking Midgard, I missed him. He’s my brother. It wasn’t about your plans.’

Loki drew back, unsure whether the words had even been meant to wound. Odin and Lopt’s situation was not his and Thor’s. ‘I doubt you failed to mention me though. What did you tell him?’

‘That I was shocked by your poor grasp of history,’ said Lopt.

‘Do not mock me,’ snapped Loki. ‘You are lucky I don’t order you to stay in the house until I say otherwise.’

‘That really is what I said,’ Lopt replied softly. ‘I couldn’t say more, not without revealing your plans. I did have some questions for him though.’

‘What did he tell you?’

‘That you tried to destroy Jotunheim,’ said Loki. ‘I’d guessed as much from what you said on Vanaheim, he only confirmed it. And he asked me not to kill you.’

Loki turned away. ‘I’d already bound you not to,’ he said, voice firm. Would Lopt have killed him without the binding or without Odin’s request? Even though he had dragged him out to celebrate and toasted him? Even though he had rescued and reassured him earlier than that?

‘I’ve never actually killed anyone,’ said Lopt.

‘You said you’d been imprisoned for killing the last son of Odin to try to take over Midgard,’ said Loki. He wasn’t sure now whether he’d ever believed it. How could he have been so at ease around Lopt if he had?

‘I said I’d been imprisoned for his death,’ said Lopt. ‘He was at war with a friend of mine. I gave that friend a weapon capable of evening the odds. I wasn’t actually expecting him to defeat Thor with it.’ He sounded a little amused by the memory. From what Loki had heard of his brother’s namesake he could see why Odin would have been alarmed.

‘And he killed this son of Odin’s?’

Lopt nodded. ‘Baldr. They were at war.’

Loki let out a breath. It didn’t sound like Lopt had intended to kill him, then. In fact he had gone out of his way to save him, and the more Loki thought about it the less he was sure it had been necessary. Binding someone to help with your plans didn't necessarily force them to assume you hadn't meant to plunge into danger. And he had just left Lopt behind to be captured, though he'd been assuming at the time that he'd been conspiring with Sigyn about it.

‘When you came after me, when I left Vanaheim,’ he began, ‘did my binding actually force you to do that?’

‘No,’ said Lopt. ‘But you’re my brother by blood or my nephew by choice. I don’t want you dead.’ He sighed. ‘I don’t think anyone does.’

‘And did Odin also tell you I’d killed Laufey?’ asked Loki, flinging the words like a challenge.

‘Oh, yes,’ said Lopt. ‘It’s extended my patience with you considerably.’ His smile was humourless, sharp and brittle, eyes burning with memories. Loki had, he realised, somehow assumed Lopt incapable of hate despite the fact that he was a frost giant. Or perhaps because of it; having realised he wasn’t a monster or a wild animal, Loki had assumed he was a docile pet. A domesticated frost giant. But the feelings showing on his face now were as complicated and painful as Loki’s own.

‘You…wanted him dead?’ said Loki.

‘For a long time. But it wouldn’t have been politic for Odin to kill another king. Taking me in offended Laufey enough. He’d been hoping I’d been kicked out soon enough to die from it.’

‘If that’s true why keep you so long? Why not abandon you the way he did…’ Loki swallowed.

‘He left it too long,’ said Lopt bitterly. ‘At first he thought I’d just been born small and might grow later. And no one is allowed to abandon a babe they’ve suckled. So he had to wait until he could at least pretend he’d meant me to survive.’

‘He…suckled…Laufey?’ said Loki, sure he’d misunderstood something in that sentence.

‘Ah,’ said Lopt. He pressed his palms against his eyes for a moment, visibly calming himself down. ‘You don’t know about that, do you?’

‘Know about what?’ Loki demanded. Frost giants might not look entirely like people, but Laufey hadn’t looked remotely female.

‘Frost giants only have one sex,’ said Lopt. ‘We usually use male pronouns around the Asgardians - they tend to regard males more highly and no one wants to be called “it”. At least unless there’s a reason to do otherwise. Gerd switched to female pronouns when she fell in love with Frey, she was planning to bear him children and it made it easier.’

‘Bearing children,’ said Loki, feeling dazed. ‘Can you? Can I?’

‘Yes and yes,’ said Lopt. ‘You don’t have to,’ he added quickly. ‘Really, it doesn’t have to make any difference if you don’t want it to.’

Loki considered that. He wasn’t male. Physically, anyway. He still felt the same as he had before finding out and he’d always thought of himself as male. He’d always thought of himself as Asgardian, too.

‘…I’m going back to bed,’ he said.

Lopt patted him on the shoulder. ‘I’m sorry. If I’d realised you didn’t know I’d have found a better way to bring it up.’

‘It’s fine,’ said Loki curtly. ‘I’m sick of not being told things. I just need some time to think.’

He didn’t actually go back to bed, just sat on the edge of it staring at his hands and wondering how he could know so little about himself. Jotuns were very different from Asgardians, but not in quite the ways he had thought. Different physically, different culturally. But capable of the same depth of feeling, the same love and hate. Lopt had hated his father but never thought of taking revenge himself, he was no warrior. Loki hadn’t thought about frost giant women before, not until he’d seen Gerd on television, and then he’d been surprised by her existence. In a way it didn’t surprise him that there weren’t actually any, only that he himself…

Lopt too, he’d been thinking of him as male. Although now he knew otherwise it wasn’t so hard to think of him that way. The way he’d bent over his hand, shaken so badly by the pain. But that was Asgardian prejudice. Sif would kill him. Lopt, he suspected, would only laugh. But he was starting to think Lopt hid things behind laughter the way Loki hid them behind silence or sarcasm. Lopt had more depth than he’d been showing, he was, after all, Loki’s slave.

Loki winced at the thought, for a moment unsure how it had ended up that way. He hadn’t set out to enslave anyone, but Lopt had hardly seemed a person at the time. And now it was too late to set him free, when he knew so many of Loki’s plans. Later. When Loki had his kingdom Lopt could have his freedom. It would have to be enough.

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January 2014


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