Rating: R for violence and sex (but mostly violence).
Pairing/Characters: Loki/Sigyn, Asgard & Co.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not profiting. Don’t sue.
Summary: It dawned fair and clear, the day they sewed Loki’s lips shut.
Link to Chapter 1: Here
When the goðar gathered the next day, it was with new purpose. The shock and restrained panic of the invasion had settled, and matured into iron resolution. They came in groups of twos and threes, voices muted with worry but spines ramrod with determination. They clustered about the map table, staring at the spill of red across the southern border of Asgard, and waited for the Royal Family to convene.
Thor was the first to arrive, accompanying Týr, the scarred Goði of the Einherjar, and his presence, formidable in the confines of the War Room, was as a balm to fraying nerves. He had grown much, since his exile, all said it, and his prowess as tactician and general had increased tenfold.
The Allfather was next, escorted by the Queen. Huginn and Munnin, each black and glossy as chipped obsidian, fluttered from their lord’s shoulders to the back of his chair as the Monarchs of Asgard passed. Odin stayed at the head of the map, and Frigga, as her right, took the foot, together announcing their dual reign.
It surprised no one that the Traitor-Prince came last, impeccably dressed and his head at an arrogant tilt. He claimed a place opposite Thor, incautious of who he jostled to take it. From one side, old Njörðr glared, and from the other, Idunn, unflappable even in the face of spoiled princes, offered a dry glance. Neither said a word, however, nor anyone else, for the Allfather knocked his knuckles against the table.
“Come, Loki, and tell us what you have found.”
The second prince straightened from where he had been inspecting the tokens scattered across the map. His mutilated face was impassive, though he spoke freely enough. “The bulk of the Chitauri force is at Eyrarbakki, some three phalanges of leviathans. The balance are at Mjóifjörður, and here, at Húsavik.” He tapped the map over each city, sending ripples of energy through the image. “It’s a piece of strategic genius. With these three not only do they control the Gléra estuary and the home port for the Ægirjar, but they hamstring the entire southern trade economy. It’s a siege they want, and they’ve set themselves up magnificently.”
A flutter of murmurs wove through the listeners, but Loki was not finished. “The Chitauri military is built around their leviathans. One leviathan holds two hundred infantry and is escorted by one hundred fifty skiffs, each with one pilot and two snipers. As the Watcher said, all told there are sixty leviathans arranged in six phalanges.” He prodded a token. “That is barely two thirds of one hive, and the Other clearly said hives plural.”
Murmurs rose to shocked noises and muffled incredulity. “That’s thirty thousand!” Freyja exclaimed, pounding her fist against the lip of the table. “And you say there are more hidden elsewhere? Our Einherjar barely account for six thousand, and the City contingent of longships is no more than three hundred!”
Loki nodded, face grim. “We will have to muster the reserves, and hope they can mobilize before the Chitauri advance.” He looked around at the shocked expressions. “Oh yes, they mean to advance. This is an invasion, after all. The Other unwisely showed me their plan, and it is brutal in its simplicity. They will take all our resource-rich territories long before they get to the Kiol Range, and once there it will be a but a trifle to lay siege to the City. They mean to flank us; Mysen is one of the first northern targets, as well as Hamar and Halden, and from there they will clear the surrounding fjordlands until we are a solitary island in a sea of Chitauri. We won’t last very long.”
“That remains to be seen,” Odin said. “Týr, Njörðr, what news do you bear?”
“The muster has already been sent out, Heimdall’s horn saw to that,” Týr said. “The fjordlanders and those in the north mountains should be here within days; those to the south, anywhere from a week to a month, depending on distance and how fast the Chitauri advance.”
“It will be slow,” Loki cut in. “The leviathans are not speedy. Perhaps a month for them to reach the Kiolar.” Týr curled his lip, but nodded. He had been one of the more vocal opponents in Loki’s trial, though he had accepted the gentle ruling with greater ease than some. Nevertheless, he glared at the Traitor-Prince, absently running his fingers over the stump of his hand.
Beside him, Thor shifted. “A month is not long, when it comes to readying for war.” Loki threw him an annoyed glance, but Njörðr interrupted.
“We will have to stretch it as much as we are able,” he said. “As for the Ægirjar, coastal warfare is our forte. Our warships are not as maneuverable as a skiff, but we can slip into crevices the leviathans cannot, and these are our home seas. We know them like we know our own hands. We can hold the City, if not the surrounding lands.”
“Let it be enough,” Thor said.
“It won’t be,” Freyja retorted. “Not if they hold another thirty thousand in reserve, and another after that.”
“We can’t just summon an army out of thin air, sister,” Freyr said. “We have what we have, and as the Crown-Prince said, it will have to be enough.”
Loki stirred from where he had settled back to listen. “No, it doesn’t. We have resources yet untapped.”
All eyes turned once more to the second, lesser son of Odin. He was silent for a time, marshaling his thoughts. “We speak only of physical might, but that is not the only strength on Asgard. Do we not bolster the longships with enchantments? Is not the armor of every soldier worked with rune-seiðr? We are surrounded by magic used passively. Why not use it actively?”
There was silence. The Allfather, quietly listening until now, spoke the question in all their hearts. “What do you propose?”
“The collegia are filled with fully-trained seiðr-workers. We might, in a month, be able to bring them to some kind of fighting force.” He stood tall, and looked at no one but his father.
“Seiðr, in war?”
“That is a cowardly—”
“It certainly does broaden the force available to us.”
“But… most sorcerers are women, no offense Freyja—”
“Is a month enough time?”
“It is a good plan,” Odin said. “What we do not have, however, is time. A month is insufficient to adequately prepare the collegia to fight, not when they are also consumed with bolstering our City’s defenses. See me when we break, Loki, and we will speak further.”
Loki’s eyes were wary, but he nodded. He glanced to his brother; Thor was recalling something, he always tilted his head so when he tapped his memories. He met Loki’s gaze, a speculative gleam in his own eyes. Loki broke away, confusion plain on his narrow face.
The Queen stepped into the gap. “What of our stores? There will be many mouths to feed in the coming month, and in those that follow.”
The Grovesmistress raised her silver head to address the þing. “The summer wheat was abundant, this year. Our granaries are full. We face great odds, but it seems the Norns chose to weave us some small mercies.”
“Yes, but the richest fields are in the south, in Chitauri possession,” Thor said. “Our good fortune is theirs, as well.”
Idunn shrugged elegantly. “That is so. They do not, however, have access to the rich fisheries of the northern coast, or my bumper crop of apples. Further, I have received word from several country jarls who are willing to bring their tithes before the second harvest, with the influx of reserve and refugee. Were the city to swell to twice its current population our stores would yet last six months. Were it to grow to three times, they would last three.”
Thor inclined his head, conceding her point.
On it continued, long through the day and into the night, and all knew it would continue for days after that. The eyes of the city watched the palace, hopes guttering in the dark wind from the south, and the Diar-Þing sought to pull salvation from thin air.
He was kneeling, his breath shallow and rapid, sharp in his straining lungs, and the jagged stones beneath him cut into his knees. Over him, Thanos loomed, black against the starless void, hungry as a wolf.
“Magic is not a toy, little king,” the Mad Titan said. “It is not meant to be used for tricks and the amusement of others; it is a tool. Theatricality is a waste. Illusion is a waste. Subjugating others without purpose is a waste. You are wasteful, Asgardian.” He twitched his fingers, and the loose rib in Loki’s chest shifted. Loki gasped in pain. “There is much in you that is inferior. Much weakness. Say it.”
Loki whimpered, forced into rigid posture by the knife-pain in his ribs. The words were bitter on his lips. “I am inferior. Weak.”
“Mercy is weakness. The only mercy you should show is to offer the kind hand of Death. Say it.”
“M-mercy is weakness. Death is the only mercy I will d-dispense. I am sorry, please, I am sorry.” Bodies, cast aside like broken toys, flashed before his mind’s eye. They had been so fragile, those alien creatures, mere wisps of flesh. They died in droves. Loki couldn’t control his shivering.
Thanos stretched a hand to his face in a parody of a caress. “You are weak, Loki, Son of Laufey. You have potential, if you can but overcome your childish urges. Look beyond revenge, know Death is awaiting you with generous arms. What is so trifling a concern as family in Her equalizing embrace?”
“Nothing,” Loki murmured, and he thought of Thor. He thought of Asgard. He thought of simple sunlight on his skin, and of gentle slumber. He pushed them away. Those were not for him, anymore. He drew up memories of countless slights, a dozen little wrongs and those fewer wrongs far larger. He remembered sunburn and nightmares.
“Ah, you learn.” Thanos grinned, more a feral baring of the teeth than a true smile. “Love is a mighty thing, little king, but it must be directed. Death has no need for love, but it can guide you to Her side.
“You learn, yet you resist it at the same time. As you must show no mercy, know that I, too, reject it. Learn from my example. Stand.”
Tears fell. Loki didn’t bother wiping them away, more would follow. He knew what was coming. He staggered to his feet, arm tucked to his side to brace his rib, and tried to meet the Mad Titan’s gaze—but the force of Thanos’ presence overwhelmed his meager courage. He clenched his teeth, so as not to bite off his tongue.
Thanos raised a hand, and power surged through Loki’s body like a lover’s caress, hideously intimate and cruelly invasive. Pain, sizzling, nerve-melting pain, pain of the body and pain of the mind, memories dredged to torment him, the blackest of emotions to crush him, the subtlest tap of a fingernail against the mooring of his soul to his body. The cold breath of Death rose blue on the back of his neck—
Someone was touching him, pinning his arms. He lashed out, striking at his attacker with both fist and craft. He heard a yelp, the hands vanished, and he threw himself out of the bed, trailing sheets and the last ribbons of sleep as he went.
He blinked. He was in his rooms, not on that half-blasted chunk of dead earth. It had been a dream. He touched his side, but the gash over his ribs was gone, long healed to a ropy scar.
“Loki?” Sigyn’s voice startled him. She was nursing a split lip, and her eyes were wary.
“It was a dream,” he said. He wasn’t sure if he was explaining or begging for forgiveness. His sweat was clammy on his skin.
Sigyn ran her tongue over her lip, sucking off the blood. It had already clotted, but it would bruise magnificently in the morning. She shrugged, then reached out a hand to him, beckoning. It had not been the first time he had dreamed. “Come back to bed.”
He did as she bid, struggling against the lingering tremors and aftershocks of psychic pain even as he wrapped himself around her as tight as he could. Her arms came around his shoulders, and she stroked his back soothingly.
“Can you tell me?”
The bare thought of it, of spilling his shame and weakness before Sigyn, nauseated him. “No,” he said roughly. “I can’t. Not yet.”
“Alright.” She stroked his back, tucked his head beneath her chin, and began talking.
It was nothing of any great importance, just noise to drive away his ghosts. First a story of one of her friends insulting a superior in her hearing, then a rambling treatise on the state of her plants. Her work on the Bifröst followed; she felt she might be reaching a breakthrough. Maybe. She mentioned her father. Messages had been coming rarer, lately, what with the lines clogging with military transmissions, but Njall had put one through two days ago saying he was returning to the City. Sigyn was relieved, Loki could tell, and as her happiness rose the pace of her words increased until they were fair tumbling out in excitement.
Soothed by the bright warmth of her presence and the pleasant shiver of her hand carding through his hair, Loki fell back to sleep.