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
Loki hurled his gloves at the desk as he entered his rooms, growling in frustration. “They are blind, willfully blind!” He tore away his cape to cast it over his chair before pacing across the floor. “We live or die by desperate leaps, but my father stands firm while the whole earth rises up to swallow him whole. I have no wish to die for the scruples of an old man!”
Sigyn followed him, vanishing his cape into its pocket and tidying his gloves. Her heart didn’t match her outward calm, roiling instead in apprehension and nipping despair. She ran his gloves through her fingers to steady herself. “I am sure the Allfather knows what he is doing.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Loki snarled, his eyes angry and wet. “He listens to what I say, but he does not hear, it has always been so. The Chitauri are vast, this is but a fraction of the numbers they command, and look at us! All our vaunted might and still they slaughter us like livestock! Does he not care why? Does he not realize superior skill is nothing in the face of superior numbers when the tactical advantage was never there in the first place?”
Sigyn looked down, afraid. Loki was right. The Chitauri were sweeping through the fjordlands inch by lazy inch, waging a war of attrition the Æsir had no hope of winning. Everyone was ragged about the edges, even Thor was showing the strain of so many battles and so little hope. Refugees streamed in every day, slowed to a trickle from the flood of weeks previous, but enough to bloat the City’s population to unconscionable levels and put even more strain on her dwindling stores. Unless the war could be brought to a head it would be lost without the slightest doubt. The Diar-Þing grew increasingly desperate each day the Chitauri tightened their grip.
Loki threw himself into the chair his cape had so recently vacated and buried his head in his hands. “The Gauntlet is the only way,” he mumbled. “That, or the tesseract, but the Allfather trusts that as little as he trusts the other, and I fear even its great power wouldn’t be enough, anymore—for what good is power if you have no way to direct it?”
Sigyn came up behind him and rested her palms on Loki’s shoulders, seeking to ease the knots out of his muscles. “You could, perhaps, borrow without permission.”
He snorted, head lolling. “Yes,” he said. “I could.” He said no more than that, his face set in bitter lines as he glared into the middle distance. Sigyn rubbed his shoulders, her mind creeping along uncertain pathways, and Loki kept his unaccustomed silence. A quiet, dignified despair permeated the room.
Asgard would fall. Thousands of generations she had reigned supreme among all the Realms, since time immemorial, and Sigyn would witness her fall. She pressed back against the tears.
The City gongs rang in warning, cutting through the moment. Sigyn let her hands slip from Loki’s shoulders. He rose, and the crushed anger and resignation in his eyes was wretched to behold. He summoned his armor to him with a half-hearted gesture, and it appeared with muted flashes, scarred and tarnished and untended past the necessaries to keep it sound.
“Go,” Sigyn said. “I’ll be right behind.”
She told herself it was his burden of hopelessness that distracted him from her lie. He nodded, and vanished with a twist of his hand, bound, no doubt, for the War Room. She gave a shaky sigh, and instead of following, made her way to the lowest corridors of Glaðsheimr, instead.
The shadows leaned heavy on the lamplit walls, in the halls beneath Hliðskjálf. So far down and the whispering echoes of the mustering army, dulled by space and obstructing stone to the faintest hush of air, were the only sounds to be heard. The guards stood motionless before the door to the weapons vault. Sigyn thought she recognized the younger from the battle in the throne room. She wasn’t sure. She hesitated, gauging her choices, then shook herself.
It was time, or else it was no time at all and she should leave right now. Emerging from the shadows, she let her boot scuff against the floor. The younger guard glanced her way, and his eyes widened in recognition. “M’lady! What are you doing here?”
So it was him. Sigyn bowed her head to hide her lie. “The Diar has need of… of a device in the vault, and has tasked me to retrieve it.” She knew better than to invoke the Allfather’s name.
The elder guard glanced her way. “Why you?” His eyes were flat and hard.
She clung to a certain truth. “I am convenient. I am far enough in their confidences to be able to help, but distant enough not to know too much. Why must I explain myself?”
“It’s our duty,” the elder guard said, fingers tightening on the shaft of his halberd. “We question anyone who wishes to enter the weapons vault, save for the Allfather and the Crown-Prince.”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” said the younger guard, glancing nervously between the two.
The elder shrugged. “We’ll die, either way. You’re too pretty to be a spy, anyhow.”
The younger gulped at this dire, belittling proclamation and hurried to open the doors. “The unlocking spell is attached to the right fire pot,” he said. “Strike it before you set foot on the last step. Whatever you take, make sure you warm the plaque on its base with your hand before you move it. That’s the counterspell for the armaments.” Sigyn nodded her thanks, too sunk in nerves to muster a smile, and stepped through. The doors clanged shut behind her, and she was plunged into the black of the vault.
It was a vast space, and by the looks of the rough walls it was a natural cavern, buried beneath the Throne of Asgard. In the very center of it, raised on a shaft of rock and to all appearances suspended in the open air like a fly in a spider’s web, was the cache itself. Sigyn crept down the stairs. Fire pots burned, but could do little to turn aside the plucking black. She struck the spell and pushed open the doors.
She found herself in a narrow hall, scantily lit. The walls fell in a slant, lending a claustrophobic air. She shivered and clung to the walls as she advanced.
She looked into every niche as she passed, curious despite herself. Here, a stone eye, its glassy center misshapen and shot through with hideous colors, peering out at her. There, a frost giant’s severed head—only its gaze tracked her progress, and its lips curved into a sharp smile. A giant goblet brimming with flames. Something which resembled nothing so much as a giant chunk of polished granite etched with strange runes.
She went down the line, but only when she was two niches away from the pedestal that would have borne the tesseract did she find it. A massive hand formed of hammered gold, its articulated joints and subtle proportions glorious to behold. Sigyn stepped closer, and she counted the six enormous gems set into the back of it: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. There is power to be found in a rainbow, she thought, and swallowed.
This, then, was the Infinity Gauntlet, the terror of the Gem Wars. It was this that Odin had forbidden Loki to use. Sigyn knew a moment’s dread. Who was she, to take so lightly the warning of the Allfather? What good could she do, with so great a weapon? Her skills at sorcery, while not poor, were far weaker than many she could name.
She wavered, and Loki’s words came to her. We live or die by desperate leaps, and my father stands firm while the earth rises up to swallow him whole. I have no wish to die for the scruples of an old man. She steeled herself, unclenched her hand from her skirts and pressed her palm against the metal plate embedded in the stone. It was cold beneath her touch.
Countless moments passed, and she saw the wisdom in forcing a would-be thief to wait before he could seize the object of his raid. Finally the metal warmed, and a pneumatic clank echoed beneath the vaulted ceiling. She jumped, startled, and forced her heart to calm before reaching trembling hands to the Gauntlet.
It was lighter than she had expected. It weighed no more than her satchel burdened with notes and books, and even as she gauged its dimensions they shrank, shedding girth and length—though not weight, never weight, she thought wryly—to something her own small hand might comfortably bear. Her breath quickened, and she knew fear.
Once more doubts skewered her, spilling into her quavering heart warnings and dire predictions, and avowals of her own foolishness should she proceed. Sigyn forced them back. Truly, Asgard was at dire straits, and Sigyn had never been one to take the wiser course.
She sucked in a breath, and slipped the Gauntlet over her fingers.
Her mind expanded. It gave a rolling sigh and, gentle as a spreading infection, reached to the horizon. Her thoughts stretched so wide she couldn’t pull them close enough to think, no matter how she yanked, and into that void trickled knowledge, poured knowledge, so much knowledge she marveled at the breadth of it. Knowledge of magic, knowledge of the stars and all their satellites, knowledge of the invisible forces that wound them all together. It folded up against her recoiling mind and grafted the strength of its support to the fine membrane she had become, bolstering and tweaking, and with its aid she saw her previous understanding of the universe’s miracles had been as a blind man’s understanding of color—incomplete, even with the aid of the most advanced theoreticians Asgard could provide.
Just because she could, and for the joy of creation, she constructed an entire universe, every particle of dust, every photon of radiated light, and set it spinning through the infinity of her new mind. She prodded it through its theoretical workings, witnessed its rise and fall and eventual collapse, and she laughed at the power of it. She wondered how much better it would be to create such a thing in truth.
The darkness of the weapons vault throbbed around her, and she walked to the stairs. She had no need to, she could move the fabric of reality beneath her feet to wherever suited her, but she enjoyed this. She enjoyed walking. The guards at the door started at the sight of her, and their minds fluttered against the vast sinews of her thoughts like birds, hollow-boned and fragile. She cupped them close. The heartbeats of their souls raced in fear, and some new part of her stirred in the deeps.
She soothed their fear, and eased away their panic. She brushed the fabric of their urðr as she did, and saw that the elder, a man named Björn, had nightmares and chronic pain, and that if not for his duty he wouldn’t bother with living. She saw the other, called Þórvér, a youth barely out of boyhood, missed his mother, whom he had left to escape from his father. Their guilt, and their resentment—for both longed to join in the escalating battle above—was bitter and savory on Sigyn’s tongue.
“Be calm, gentlemen, and attend your duties,” she whispered through their souls. “There is no need to fear.” She watched the fabric of their fates unravel to make itself anew, and it pleased her to create such swift results—she, who had battled against impenetrable walls longer than she could remember.
Up the stairs… through the winding halls… Sigyn walked, and she felt all those about her, and knew all the things she had done or ever could do to them. She heard the footsteps of the ant on the flags, she heard the groan of distant planets as the rock of their base turned once more to face their suns and expanded in the warmth. She felt the draft that sent the drapes behind the throne billowing as she passed, and while the cold gust was unpleasant, the undulating dance of the curtains soothed her annoyance. She let the draft remain.
Beyond, she could hear chaos and screaming through the coliseum of the throne room, trickling through the columns and from above with the passing aircraft, and she danced to the subtle symphonies in the sound. The Chitauri were winning, of course. Superior skill was nothing against overwhelming numbers. Sigyn recalled her purpose in obtaining the Gauntlet, and immediately a hundred different possibilities came to her. Some were… more elegant than others. She discarded those many inefficient and ungainly and regarded the decent few.
That one. It was perfect: simple, refined, and deliciously ironic. She was small as she made her way across vast floor, and she laughed at the contrast. Then she laughed for sheer joy, for she bore the salvation of her people and the fruition of her magical research in her grasp.
The Causeway was an abattoir. Souls flickered and rose from the fallen bodies, some clinging stubbornly to life while others slipped into the ether, and Sigyn brushed against them. An urge rose in her, foreign and of a source beyond her expanded insight, that she pull those loosened souls into her. She resisted the urge. It was weak, yet, and she was wary of so alien a wish as consuming another’s spirit. She passed the battleground, and the Chitauri drones collapsed in her wake.
Everywhere she walked the Chitauri fell, and as she peeked into the madly sprouting, branching and withering futures around her she saw the thread of a story: a story told over bitter mead to eager ears by solemn veterans, of a faint slip of a woman, beautiful as the burning rays of the rising sun she held fisted in her hand, her eyes white with power, and of the enemy soldiers who died in her wake. They told of her pleased smile, beatific and crooked, and Sigyn passed those story-tellers with her hand raised in blessing.
The densest knot of fighting arose at the juncture of land, sea and sky. Sigyn could see the strife written through the ship-stained clouds and feel it in the vibrations on the bridge beneath her feet. She tracked the spoor to their quivering, violent source, following the wounded Causeway to the rocky shoals ahead, and around her the shadows cast by the colossi pooled dark and cool.
A heavy, groaning roar drew her attention, and the clatter of shattering masonry. She turned, and as she did a cadre of leviathans surged overhead, shattering millennia of architectural heritage beneath their armored bodies. Sigyn shielded herself from the falling stone, and in her burgeoning fury dashed the beasts to the streets below. This was her land, her home, and these insects were destroying it as a child might destroy another’s toys out of spite. It was time to end this petty fight.
She summoned her power, a depthless well of pure strength, and loosed her small frame from its anchor in the cosmos. She floated freely, caught outside reality, and with a hum of satisfaction she drew the material of time and space into new position before reattaching the weft of her matter to the warp of the universe.
She emerged in the heart of the Æsir line, before the united scions of the House of Odin, and, smiling at the expression of shock and confusion mirrored three times over, turned to face the oncoming Chitauri. It took but a wave of her gauntleted hand to obliterate them, and another to sweep from the sky the skiffs that harassed the Ægirjar. They fell like cast stones into the ocean.
She read the Allfather’s intent well before he made his move, his mind broadcasting his battle cry even as he made plain to loose it. She caught him with a thought, stringing through his mind a psychic drug fit to calm him to her purposes. She turned on her heel, and the Swaying One slipped from Odin’s grasp to clatter against the Causeway’s crystal face.
“Now is not the time to obstruct me, Allfather,” she said to his vacant eye. “I would win your war for you.”
His sons trembled at her polyphonic voice, the one cresting a wave of angry recrimination while the other descended in a whirl of horror to the lurking guilt within. She reached out to him. “Oh, Loki. Do not fear for me, for I have grown beyond the mortal chains of thought, and can see the glorious future that awaits. This is the defense you would have sought; rejoice, then, and hope.” He was as a stone beneath her touch. She smiled. He would bend, soon enough.
She inhaled, and Time slowed; she exhaled, and Time stopped.
It was with a child’s wonder she touched the droplet of sweat that had frozen in its course down Loki’s cheek. It broke free from its temporal bonds as she touched it, slipping over her fingertips and smearing against his skin. Loki stared at her, but only if she stood constant; a step in any direction and his gaze unfocused. Sigyn found her hands, even the one bearing its gauntlet, knotting in her skirts, and she looked away.
Over his shoulder, the smoldering wreck of a longship drew her eye. It hovered a bare ell above its destruction against the bloodied rocks, gasping smoke from amidships and ægiri from the rails. She pressed her hand to Loki’s motionless chest, then let it fall as she stepped around to aid the frozen soldiers. A snap of her fingers and the ship was set to rights; a sweep of her hands and those sailors that had fallen, or had leapt overboard in scanty hope of survival, were once more restored to its decks.
It wasn’t enough, for in the distance she saw yet another longship burning, and below, on the rocky spur that bore up the City’s gates, she saw with crystalline clarity the arterial spray of an einheri’s death. She bowed her head in sorrow, but raised it with determination, for she had the resources to right this insult to the might of Asgard. She raised the gauntlet before her, and closed her eyes. Unseen to her, the orange gem set in the knuckles began to glow.
Sigyn anchored a lifeline in the now and sent her mind down the woven thread of time to infinite ages past, to the birth of Asgard. She saw the mighty sorcerers of legend as though they had come to shadowy, half-remembered life, saw the building of that disc of land that would become her home and the home of all the Æsir for generations to come. Her head swam with knowledge and her smile widened in awe, for she saw the construction of Bifröst. The Ancients had truly been worthy ancestors.
She released her hold on Time, letting the lifeline slingshot her back to her present. Images and sensations flickered by at incredible speed, and as she neared the now she jerked her head to the side, searching, for she had sworn she felt something familiar, something reminiscent of her herself. It was gone before she had time to find it, and she reemerged on the Causeway to chaos, for letting go of the Past had also released her grasp on the Present. Odin bellowed, Thor’s hammer was raised to strike her down, and Loki stood as though frozen still, torn between his brother and his lover.
Sigyn scowled, and Mjölnir vanished from Thor’s hand to appear in Sigyn’s own. She stared down at it, then cast it aside into the sea below. “Do not obstruct me, Hammer of the Giants. I have seen your salvation.” Thor’s eyes, and Loki’s as well, were wide and wary. Sigyn felt the fear seeping through their souls, and she laughed. “Think you the Dwarves, or the hand of Odin himself, can work a thing stronger than the Universe? Come, see the might of my hand!”
With that she faced the shattered remains of Bifröst. She twisted her hands at her sides, gathering her strength to her, and raised them. Gases materialized at the end of the world, swirling in the bow of shattered rock and crystal that once held the Observatory and congealing into a cloud shot through with infinite colors. Sigyn pressed them together, gathering hydrogen and helium and trace others, and forced them to such great heat they became neither liquid nor solid nor gas, but something more. Still the gases swirled, spinning a corona around the nascent star. She cast aside the debris that would have become planets; it was useless to her purposes. The gravitational pull gnawed at her defenses.
Behind her, the Allfather restrained his men from touching her. He did not know what she planned, she saw, but he could read the signature of the magic she played out easily enough, and he knew slaying Sigyn would doom his Realm.
All of Asgard stopped to watch the rising star, drone and ás alike, and it grew until it dominated the heavens, until all there was to see was light before them and crushing void behind. The star flared, its light ferocious and blinding, and it leached all the color from Sigyn’s sight but for the glare of the gems in her gauntlet. She manipulated the magical tides governing the sun’s growth, goading them faster and faster, and slipped it free from the fabric of Reality that she might accelerate its life without consuming Asgard in its fire.
It burned until its fuel faltered, and the skies darkened as it shrank into itself. All around her Sigyn could see the armies blinking and rubbing their eyes, squinting as though it were the dead of darkest night. She smiled, and raised her gauntleted fist.
Something like wind rushed over the City, tearing at the trees and blowing spume from the waves. The Einherjar’s capes billowed, the longships, both those aloft and those on sea, tossed in the torrent; Loki and Thor’s hair, and her own, for that matter, was thrown into knots.
The Chitauri, however, were blown from their feet by the force that struck them. Leviathans lurched and bellowed against the pull, skiffs wheeled and bucked and infantry rose from the City canyons like dust from so many pollinating flowers. They soared overhead, clashing together and screaming their fear, and Sigyn smiled as she threw them into the dying sun.
Then came another gust, greater than the first, and none too few trees came uprooted, but Sigyn steadied the Æsir on their feet, and sent the longships to safe berth. Stone and debris from the broken City fell into the gale, flying past at hurricane speeds toward the blazing star.
From the south rose the massed hordes of the Chitauri. The debris of their camps, clouds of their technology, the shelters and tangled cables used to contain their leviathans. Sigyn scoured the face of Asgard clean of their filth, and all of it, every last scrap she could find, she sent into the rapidly diminishing star.
It still wasn’t enough. There were more Chitauri than this, more of them staining the universe and tapping Yggdrasil to suck the sap from Her veins. Sigyn reached her arms wide, stretching her fingers for the very last sensation of their prickly minds against her own, and drew them in.
Three great ships appeared from the black, hovering over the City like jagged thunderclouds the likes of which the Thunderer could never best, and Sigyn howled her hatred at them. She reached farther, searched longer, and more and more ships flared and appeared in the skies above Asgard until a veritable armada of Chitauri spun in the air. Sigyn reached, and she found the Chitauri homeworld. She brushed against it, almost scoured it bare—but the faintest inkling of mercy, stretched and screaming somewhere in the back of her mind, convinced her otherwise. She let them stay, let the children and weak and those warriors on leave live. But the rest, she decided, would die.
Before her, framed between the Causeway’s pylons, her star collapsed into sucking blackness. She caught its magic before it could slip into the singularity and be lost to her, and with it she reined the dying star to her will.
She felt Thor’s attack before he made it, and even with her mind divided between holding the Chitauri hiveships at bay and warping a black hole while protecting her homeland from the force of its gravity she still managed to cast him an idle backhand that sent him tumbling down the Causeway.
“Thor!” Loki scrambled after his brother and bent to check he still breathed.
Odin took advantage of her distraction, planting Gungnir and leveling his fear-filled eye. “You would destroy an entire race?”
“You would stop me?” her voice sang with violence and anger. “You bear them no more love than I.”
“No people deserves to die. Not the Jötnar, not the Chitauri. You do not need the blood of an entire species on your hands.”
Sigyn laughed. “I am the Goddess among gods, Allfather. I am the Universe incarnate. What is one species against the billions I hold in my mind?”
“You are also Sigyn Njallsdóttir, and when you wake from this dream you will see what you have done and it will crush you.”
“I will not wake, Odin, for I will not allow it. The Gauntlet is mine.” She blasted Odin back to join his sons, and with a wrench of her fist the black hole locked into place. Into its maw she poured the hiveships, and she savored their death screams as they fell over the event horizon. She controlled their descent, watching as the remnants of their mass compacted together into a point finer than any needle, stronger than uru, harder than adamant, and she rammed into the very core of the singularity. It punched through, tearing reality and opening into void beyond.
The final ship of the Chitauri she held back. With a deft twist of her hands she shredded in the sky, and after casting the corpses of her foes into the black she melted the shards to cast them in the form of a new Observatory. She saw, now, the brilliance behind its predecessor’s construction: the mechanism bowed inward to trap the black hole, and its ley lines, so cumbersome in her equally cumbersome models, were not constructed with conventional magics in mind, but with the intent to harness the tidal forces of a singularity. It was beauty and simplicity bound together in one and her heart swelled with pride.
The outside she sculpted into a graceful sphere, and around the inside she fashioned leaves and buds and growing stems from the cooling metal. Beneath the steely foliage, and this was her especial pleasure, peeped the stars in the precise vectors they showed in the celestial vault beyond.
It was glorious, but it was not quite finished. Subduing a wormhole demanded power, Sigyn saw, and she had seen, too, that even the Ancients had pondered the dilemma long and hard. Her own dilemma was far less arduous.
The Æsir were no longer the great builders they had once been—but there was at least one, small, glowing bit of contemporary ingenuity Sigyn deemed fit to use. With a twist of time and space she pulled the tesseract from its moorings in the Bifröst model and manifested it beneath the Observatory keyhole. It slipped into the mechanism with a tiny quiver, and took to its new purpose with a will. Its magics bent to hold the gate open, stabilizing it against the vagaries of its own hungry pull, and settled down peaceably to wait for the Gatekeeper’s command. Sigyn smiled. With a final, smoothing caress, she joined the magical pulse of the new Bifröst to the lifeline of the Causeway, and to the greater engine of Asgard. The atmospheric barrier firmed and rainbow flared beneath crystal with renewed fervor.
It was done.
Sigyn tied off the magics, anchoring them into their new homes, and stepped back from her working. Her body buzzed with the feedback of spent energy as she turned to the Allfather.
It was not Odin who met her but Loki instead, and it was one of his daggers, glowing green with the strength of its enchantment, that bore his reply. Sigyn reared back, staring in shock at the hilt protruding from her chest, and the distraction was time enough for Thor to hammer Mjölnir to the back of her skull. She dropped to her knees, sending ripples of color through the rainbow glass of the Causeway. She saw stars wheel overhead, and the Allfather’s stern eye as he raised his spear—
And then she knew nothing.