Brooding 44

Clint clenched his jaw and wished he could come up with a better response than what immediately popped into his mind – “I object!” – since he realized Odin was both judge and jury in this court. He did not have long to stew, however, for Odin continued speaking as though the Human no longer existed.

“Loki, I summoned you here to inform you of what I discovered regarding your… condition… on Jötunheim.”

That startled Loki enough to break his gaze from his lover. Even Thor and Frigga seemed surprised.

“Jötunheim!” Thor echoed. “You went there while we were on Midgard?”

Odin nodded once. “I found Loki’s half-brother Býleistr had succeeded Laufey as king. A third of the realm lies in ruins, so he has moved the seat of his rule to a stronghold in the western mountains. He refused to speak to me until I told him who had wrought such destruction upon his land.” Odin paused, staring searchingly at Loki. “He found it ironic that you had been the one to kill Laufey and destroy his throne. Upon your birth, their priests and prophets had predicted as much.”

Loki’s mouth fell open for a moment. He recollected himself, swallowed hard, and asked, “Is that why I had been left to die?”

“That,” Odin confirmed, “and the fact that you were a ‘curse-born’ – having both male and female within one body, making you small and weak. The Jötun consider them unfit to either fight or breed.”

A laugh escaped Loki’s lips, harsh and bitter. “Imagine that,” he said, showing his teeth in a manic grin. “Yet here I am, heavy with child and in chains for causing chaos on three realms.”

“I informed him of your current condition,” Odin continued steadily, “and asked if it is common in Jötunheim. He assured me that no curse-born has ever borne a child before since they are killed immediately upon their own birth. You, being Laufey’s child, could not be killed outright, for there is an ancient law that forbids any Jötun who has murdered one with royal blood from being king, whether they do so directly or by ordering another to do the deed. So Laufey consulted the priests, and they determined that abandoning a child on the stone altar to their gods was not murder – if the child died, it was ordained to die by the gods; if it lived, it was also by the will of the gods… although they did not stipulate how long you would need to survive on your own before they would consider your life to have been spared by the gods.”

“How barbaric!” Frigga cried out, unable to restrain herself. The other Asgardians looked appalled, and Clint was horrified.

“So… since you were the one who plucked me thence, do they consider you their god now?” Loki asked Odin, sarcasm permeating his words.

“No,” was the All-Father’s stern answer, “and neither do they consider your life to have been spared. I was an interloper who had meddled with the natural course of events, thereby responsible in part for allowing the prophecies to be fulfilled. Laufey did not know that I had taken you alive; he assumed you had been slain and devoured, as the Jötun would have done in our place. Had he known that you yet lived, he might have shown more care in how he comported himself, for you were foretold to someday wreak havoc upon their realm and become his slayer – as, indeed, you did.”

“So I was merely fulfilling my destiny,” Loki retorted. “How… tedious. Had I known about the prophecies, I would have done something more… unexpected. Turned him into a bilgesnipe, perhaps.”

“Býleistr demanded your death,” Odin told him, hoping to put an end to his sauciness. “He cannot order your execution himself, else he would forfeit his throne, but he proposed that, should I be amenable to arranging it on Asgard, it would go a long way toward repairing the uneasy truce between our realms.”

Loki paled, but before he could utter a word Frigga moved to stand between him and her husband. “You would not!” she declared in a low voice. Thor moved to her side, effectively blocking Loki from Odin’s view.

“Father, you cannot seriously be entertaining such a demand,” he began, his thunderous tone matching his mother’s. Odin rolled his eye and scowled.

“Of course not!” he snapped. “Jötunheim has been utterly defeated and is now subject to Asgard – they have no right to demand the terms of their own surrender. Even so, it is now impossible to place Loki on their throne to rule as regent, for he has killed Laufey by his own hand. Destroying a third of their land with the Bifröst might have been overlooked as the deed of a conqueror, but the murder of their king cannot.”

Thor staggered back a few steps as the import of Odin’s words struck him. “You mean… you had intended to place Loki… on the throne of Jötunheim?”

“Why else did you think I had brought him back to Asgard, to rear as my own son?” Odin said, enunciating clearly as though talking to a slow child. He looked over Thor’s shoulder at Loki, whose face had gone beyond pale to a deathly white. “You accused me, when I told you of your origins, of imprisoning you here until I had use of you. That ‘use’ would have been no more nor less than the rule of Jötunheim. If that seems too paltry a prize for you, then you may hate me as much as you wish; but I would have given you the birthright your own father had denied you. I was waiting for Laufey to succumb to his old age, hoping that by then you would have matured in your judgment, learning to use your powers for the good of your people. Instead you took matters into your own hands, using treachery to bring Laufey’s men into the very heart of this palace – for what? to humiliate your brother? to make a mockery of my dominion? – thereby proving that you had no more right to rule than Thor did at the time. Both of you have sorely disappointed me, behaving like impulsive, headstrong children! But now the damage is done. Loki, you have plotted your own course and followed it, beyond even my ability to correct, and so you must pay the price for your recklessness.”

The All-Father stood, leaning on Gungnir as though weary from the remembrance of these events, and stared down at Loki, who was struggling to remain steady on his feet. The revelation of Odin’s plans for him had caught him completely by surprise; to know that he had spoiled his own chances for a throne and a crown – even of a desolate realm of perpetual winter like Jötunheim – was almost worse than any punishment Odin could mete out. Feeling faint, Loki prayed to any deities who might condescend to hear him to not let him fall on his knees and humiliate himself any further.

“Loki Odinson,” the All-Father pronounced with an audible sigh. “You are still my son, whether you will or no, and I feel that whatever shortcomings you may have are at least in part a reflection of myself. So, for pity’s sake, as well as for the sake of your child, who has done no wrong, I will allow the father of your child to abide in Asgard for as long as he deems necessary. Do not take this privilege for granted, however; rather use this opportunity to learn the value of life – even the life of a Midgardian mortal. For if you count this Human dear, so did others who lost their husbands, wives, children, and friends in your attacks on Midgard and Jötunheim. The Æsir guards who were killed by the Frost Giants you let into the vault also had families, but they will never see their beloved ones again until they meet in Valhalla. Remember this, and ponder how you have wronged so many.”

Loki, downcast, did not respond, which in itself was an unwontedly penitent response. Satisfied, Odin resumed his seat on the throne.

“Býleistr was willing to provide information on Jötun physiology, particularly as it relates to pregnancy,” Odin informed them all in a more conversational tone. “I have given the healers the writings he provided. Although a normal Jötun child gestates for two years, they had records from long ago when Jötun raiders to Midgard had brought back some females as slaves – it seems the two races are not incompatible for mating. A number of them bore children, and their gestation period was much shorter than the Jötun norm, due to their smaller size owing to their Midgardian heritage. They were born fourteen to fifteen months after conception. However, most of the women died in childbirth since the babes were still too large for them.”

Frigga turned to Loki and grasped one of his hands in reassurance. “I will make sure you are safe,” she whispered to him. “You need not worry on that count.”

Loki acknowledged this with a nod, pursing his lips. He still looked stricken from the earlier news.

“The half-breeds were forced into servitude as well,” Odin continued, “and some of them were bred again by the Jötun. In fact, when you were born,” he said, addressing Loki directly, “Laufey investigated your mother’s genealogy since you were much smaller than even the usual curse-born. He discovered that your mother was a descendant of one of those Midgardian women. She was one-eighth Midgardian, in fact, so you are one-sixteenth Midgardian yourself.”

This time Loki thought he really would faint since his mind was reeling from all the information. He felt a strong hand gripping his arm, steadying him, and turned to find that Clint had stepped close to him, having noticed his distress.

“No wonder we’re so compatible,” Clint dryly quipped, his sharp eyes searching Loki’s face.

“Indeed,” Loki managed to murmur. Chained as he was, he could not even reach up to touch Clint’s supporting hand, but he leaned into it to express his gratitude.

“As the child will be more than half Human,” Odin said, speaking primarily to Frigga now, “it would be reasonable to assume its characteristics will be more Human than Jötun: smaller, with a shorter gestation and less magical ability. The records on the half-breeds should provide some insight.”

Frigga nodded, looking relieved as well as anxious to read them for herself. Odin had not mentioned the large quantity of food he had taken to Jötunheim as a gift for the new king to distribute to his subjects, which might have been construed as a bribe or concession to get this information, but he knew his Queen would not have objected to his methods.

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2 Comments

  1. Mamahub

     /  2014/06/21

    I’ve been reading this story all along and I apologize that I haven’t left you a comment before now. It is an excellent fic that I am definitely enjoying. I particularly appreciate the heartfelt love and affection that Clint and Loki have for one another (plus the hot smex of course!).

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Mama! I’m so glad to know you like the fluff as well as the smut. It’s turned into a much longer story than I originally intended (as they all do…). Huggles for reviewing!!! XD

      Reply

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