Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 20 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

The woman stands wreathed in shadows. Her features are blurred by the darkness, making it impossible to determine who she is.

Darcy's heart pounds, and her blood rushes in her ears, loud as the sea beating against stone. At first, she thinks it must be Hel standing above her, but there is no fear, no slide of ice through her veins. This is not Hel. This is someone different. Someone, perhaps, as powerful, though, as Hel, if not more.

The woman reaches out a hand. Her fingers are long, her nails trimmed short. Darcy hesitates a fraction of a second, then takes it, lets the woman draw her to her feet.

As their skin meets, a warm tingle moves over Darcy's palm. It feels almost as though the air trapped between their hands has filled with static electricity mingling with the heated, shimmering air that rises off an open fire. It is soothing, and Darcy feels her heartbeat slow, become more even.

The woman's other hand comes up, and she presses two fingers to the centre of Darcy's forehead. That tingling warmth comes again, and Darcy feels something shift within her. Like a door opening, like a fall of stones turned to nothing more dense than light.

Darcy's awareness of her body retreats. She sees her mind as a still, dark pool, flickering golden lights dancing over the surface.

And then the memories come, rising like bubbles from the dark depths of her mind, rising towards the golden lights.

She sees the moment she met Thor, unconscious against the Bifrost-marked desert sand. She feels the woman smile as Darcy, in memory, tases Thor.

Thor eating his body weight of pancakes and Pop-Tarts.

Thor and Jane.

Thor saving them all from the Destroyer.

The golden lights dip lower, and more memories rise.

The first time Darcy saw Loki, seemingly catatonic in his cell. The woman's smile fades, then, watching Darcy bring Loki's trays. Packing up the untouched food to take to others.

Darcy touching the barrier, yelling her frustration and anger at Loki. That warm tingling over her skin from the contact.

Darcy dreaming herself on top of Stark Tower, standing on the precipice. Loki behind her, supporting her, as the dream shifted to the house.

Darcy dreaming of Yrsa, of Bera.

Loki projecting. Saving Darcy from the hole in the street. Warning her not to enter the labyrinth.

Darcy in the labyrinth, offering up her pain.

Darcy bringing Loki food, bringing Loki books.

Loki, showing Darcy the truth of his origins.

Darcy dreaming of the masked ball, of dancing with Loki, retreating to the bedroom with him-

The woman breaks contact then, withdrawing her hand from Darcy's. Darcy leaves her hand outstretched for a moment, half blinded from the rush of memory. She lowers it slowly, her palm still tingling where the woman had touched her.

That tingling is familiar. And she knows, suddenly, who this woman is.

"You're Frigga," she says. "Loki's mother."

The woman - Frigga - inclines her head.

"You should have asked." Darcy blurts out the words without thinking. "Some of those memories, they weren't mine to share."

Frigga stills. The shadows gather close, a solid weight against Darcy's skin. Darcy's breath hitches in her throat. What is she doing? Isn't it bad enough that she tased Thor, she has to go and say something like that to Frigga as well?

"I - I'm sorry," she says.

"You should not apologise," Frigga says. "It was wrong of me, to take without permission. It has been a long time since I have had dealings with one of Midgard. I forget that your ways are not ours." She pauses, the weight of the shadows lifting somewhat. "For what it is worth, you have helped to answer some questions that I have had about my son. I did not know of Yrsa. She was Odin's doing, not mine. And I have oft wondered of Loki's attachment to solitude."

The shadows in the room lift entirely, are replaced by flickering golden light. The space is small, intimate, holding little more than two chairs flanking a fireplace. Everything is gold or warm wood, the chairs upholstered with blue silk.

Frigga inclines her head, a small smile curving her lips. She is tall, what Darcy would describe as statuesque. Her honey blonde curls are loose but for two jewelled combs. Her gown is silk, of a colour caught between gold and olive, darker emerald glimmering in the folds. Plates of gold armour wrap her waist, cap her shoulders.

Frigga sweeps across the room, sinks down into one of the chairs, indicates that Darcy should do the same. Darcy finds herself trying to imitate Frigga's easy grace as she walks. Any chance she has of emulating it ends when she looks down, realises she's wearing white scrubs, her hair loose and bedraggled.

Frigga's eyes twinkle as she smiles. "You can garb yourself however you choose here."

Darcy looks up. "This is a dream?"

"Of a kind."

Darcy closes her eyes, concentrates on changing her clothes. She imagines the kind of clothes she feels safe and comfortable in: jeans, a sweater, knitted cap and boots. When she opens her eyes, she sees only dark emerald velvet. It's the gown she wore in the ballroom dream with Loki, the green trimmed with gold. Her hair is arranged in neat curls, and she can feel the soft bite of the two combs holding back strands from her face. She feels her cheeks flush.

"His colours suit you," Frigga says, smiling again. "Come, join me."

Darcy sits down, arranging the skirt of her gown so the slit falls to the side. She settles her weight, and she flushes again as she realises she's not wearing anything underneath the gown. The thought rises unbidden, that if Loki were here, she could easily cross her legs, allow the fabric of the skirt to fall aside. Loki would kneel at her feet, his hands sliding from her ankle to her knee, higher…

She pulls herself away from the thoughts, her cheeks hot. Frigga, thankfully, is concentrating on a small table that sits next to her chair. There's a breath of warm air, and two goblets of chased gold appear. Frigga holds one out to Darcy.

"It helps to ground you in the dream state, to eat or drink," Frigga says.

Darcy gulps at her wine. She tastes spices, the wine as warming in her belly as the fire is on her skin.

"It was you who constructed Loki's cell, wasn't it?" Darcy asks. "Or at least, you placed the spells on it. I think everyone assumes that it was Odin who did it, or ordered it, but he didn't. Or maybe he did, and then you changed things."

Frigga smiles over the rim of her goblet.

Darcy looks at Frigga's blue eyes. Though she knows that Frigga and Loki are not actually related, she can see something of a resemblance in the light behind their eyes.

"That gap, that crack, whatever it is that allows him to project out of the cell. You left that deliberately open for him to find."

Frigga sets her goblet down. "I merely allowed him opportunities, should he seek them. Doors he could open."

"More than one?"

"You're astute." Frigga smooths her skirts. The fabric appears darker here, more emerald than olive. "Little wonder the spell called to you."

Darcy chokes inelegantly on her wine. "Called to me? Nothing called to me. I was just the only person idiotic to go down there."

"There is nothing foolish in compassion, Darcy. I may call you Darcy?"

Darcy's throat was dry despite the wine. Frigga, Queen of Asgard, was asking her permission. "I'm pretty sure you get to call me anything you want to."

"I am not Queen here," Frigga says. "Here, we are merely two women together. Equals." She looks into the fire for a long moment, absently pinching at the folds of her skirt. "Part of what I wove into the making of the cell was a calling. A spell to call the person I needed. Who my son needs."

"I'm not-"

"You must not underestimate yourself, Darcy," Frigga says. "It was a very specific spell."

"So it was all just a compulsion?"

Frigga smiles. "No. It called you once only. After that, you were free to make your own decision. You could have walked away."

"Oh." Darcy wraps her arms around her waist, strokes her fingers against the plush velvet of her gown. "And the dreams? Were they part of the spell?"

"The dreams…were not of my creation. I do now know of their cause." Frigga looks at Darcy, her blue eyes piercing. "You have seen of my son's origins. The mistakes that we made. I would like to add also that I wished to tell him the truth from the beginning. It was Odin who sought to hide the truth. He wished Loki to believe himself no different to any others. The difference was there, anyway. Loki was always smaller than the others, his talents unlike theirs."

"His magic."

Frigga nods. "He was scarce more than a babe when it manifested. He had conjured roses growing from the wall of his room, roses with petals like liquid gold. All because his mother had been sad, and he wished a bouquet to make her smile." And Frigga does smile, her eyes soft with memory. "I began training him then. Knowing that while I was helping him, I was also hindering him. Magic is primarily a feminine occupation in Asgard."

Looking down, Darcy sees that she has been rubbing at the tattoo on her wrist without realising. She sees, too, that at the edge closest to her fingers, the lines are beginning to darken to black again, raising up like scars against her skin.

Frigga reaches out a hand, waiting for Darcy to nod before she takes Darcy's hand in hers. "Loki has sought mostly to use his magic in trickery, or as weaponry in battle. This is the first time I have seen him create something out of true compassion." The green lines grow warm beneath Frigga's touch, until she reaches the black. Her fingers still. "This is a darker magic than any I have known. Older, perhaps, that even that of Asgard. Blacker than anything Loki has known, and he has known blackness indeed. I am surprised that he was able to contain it, strong as his magic is. He must have been truly motivated."

Darcy takes her hand back, balls her fists into her stomach. "Saving his own life is pretty strong motivation. And before you say it, yes, I know I was stupid for giving away my memories. I'm just a stupid little girl who had no idea what she was doing, blah blah blah. Anything you can say I've already thought myself."

Frigga leans back in her seat, hands folded in her lap. "I would say instead that you are human, Darcy. It is part of being human - and part of being Asgardian, though you would few who would admit it - to move away from pain. It is part of what makes your race survive." Frigga picks up her wine again, looks into its depths. "Tell me, if you could, would you take it back? The memories? Your pain?"

"If it would accomplish something useful. It would at least make my pathetic life worth something." Darcy surprises herself by her answer. Surprises herself more with the fact that it is honest.

Frigga taps a finger against her goblet once, twice. "What would you consider useful?"

"Getting our world back the way it was? Making Lo- She bites off the sentence.

Frigga's eyes flick up, fix on Darcy. "Say it. There is no judgement here. And I will bind you to nothing."

Darcy closes her eyes, breathes out slowly. "Making Loki see who he really is. What he's really worth."

Silence stretches out, and Darcy's heart quickens. She fears that she has said something wrong, but when she opens her eyes, she sees Frigga smiling at her.

"You have a strong heart, Darcy Lewis."

Frigga flows to her feet, holds out her hands. This time, Darcy takes them without hesitation. There is no tingle of magic between them, just the warmth of Frigga's fire-warmed skin. Hard callouses line Frigga's palms, and Darcy wonders what work she did to develop them. She's never thought of a Queen having to use her hands for anything.

"With your permission?" Frigga asks.

Darcy knows she should ask what Frigga is actually asking permission for, but the warmth in the other woman's eyes is enough to make her nod.

The room around them dissolves into golden light. The sparks spiral around them, a galaxy of fire, and then circle out again, reforming into another room.

This one is much larger, with a high vaulted ceiling and wooden floor softened by a scattering of intricately patterns rugs in shades of green and gold. A large fireplace chased with gold is set into one wall, the fire burning within releasing a sweet resinous scent. Two chairs flank the fireplace, a table between them holding the same two golden goblets.

More chairs, these more plush than the ones by the fireplace, are arranged in a small circle at one end of the room, a low table between them. The chairs and table are carved from a warm-looking wood that Darcy cannot identify, and they and the fireplace chairs are upholstered in what looks like gold silk.

A long table of the same warm wood is pressed up against one wall, a series of cupboards and drawers beneath. The surface of the table is empty, though Darcy can see marks here and there that look as though water has been spilt, something burned to ash and scorched the surface.

The walls are deep emerald, undecorated but for a painting above the fireplace. It is a forest scene, and one that reminds Darcy of Bera, though she recognises nothing in it. Two doors lead from the room, one at each end.

Frigga allows Darcy time to take the room in, then holds out her hand again. Darcy takes it, lets Frigga lead her to one of the doors.

Beyond is an antechamber of sorts, the walls the same emerald, the floor covered with the same wooden floorboards. Two more doors lead off this chamber, but Darcy scarcely notices them, her attention immediately riveted on the window that all but fills one of the walls.

Outside, she can glimpse the edges of golden towers, a sea that appears to flow to nowhere at all. And beyond them, what looks like deep space, blackness dotted with jewel-like stars and constellations.

"Is that…is this Asgard?" Darcy asks. She has crossed to the window almost without awareness, and stands with her nose practically pressed against the glass. No matter how much she contorts herself, she can see little of the city itself.

"It is an image of it," Frigga says, joining her at the window. "A dream of it."

"An illusion?" Darcy turns reluctantly from the window, takes in the green walls. "You created this for Loki."

"It is a replica of his suite in Asgard." Frigga points to the two closed doors. "His library is through that door. Bedroom, dressing and bathing chambers through there."

"Library?" Suddenly Darcy wants nothing more than to know what kinds of books Loki deems important enough to keep in his library. This thought is followed rapidly by the desire to know what his bedroom looks like. She feels her cheeks flush.

Frigga holds out her hand again and leads Darcy back into the main chamber. Darcy allows herself a last longing look at the other doors before she allows herself to be led.

Frigga doesn't miss the look. "Time passes here at the same rate as in Midgard, and there is something else you must see."

They cross to the other door leading off the main chamber. Here Frigga pauses, though she keeps her hand still in Darcy's. Her fingers tremble now.

"I cannot pass through this door," Frigga says. "My presence would not…be welcome. You may pass through, but know that you cannot be seen or heard right now."

Frigga presses her hand hard against Darcy's, then slides her fingers away, moving to stand by the wall next to the door, facing away. When Darcy grips the door's handle, that warm tingling she associates with Frigga's magic moves through her. She glances over at Frigga. The other woman is pale, her lips pressed into a thin line, but she nods. Darcy pulls the door open.

And looks into Loki's cell.

The door opens onto the slim space between his table and chairs and bathroom corner. The curtain shielding the bathroom shields Darcy's view of the cot beyond. She can see the edge of its shadow, but nothing more.

She notices these things only because she doesn't want to look at the rest of the cell. But she cannot look away for long, her eyes drawn inexorably to the floor.

The once-white floor is stained black almost entirely. Black with blood. Darcy's blood.

The blood has dried to a thick, greasy-looking substance, raised in crests and waves here and there. It looks like a frozen ocean on a moonless, starless night. Outside the cell, the corridor is similarly stained.

So much black. So much blood.

Darcy rubs the scars running through her tattoo, wondering that she managed to survive the loss of so much blood.

She looks back over her shoulder. Frigga has not moved, but her eyes are on Darcy, bright with unshed tears.

"You must…you must see him," she says, her voice breaking. "See him, Darcy. Please."

Darcy steps into the cell. A tingling on the back of her neck, and she turns to see the door closed. It looks only partially there, like a heat shimmer in the deep desert. Experimentally, she moves her hand closer to the handle, and the door solidifies. She lets her hand fall, and the door fades again.

She swallows hard as she turns back to the cell. It is so small, she hadn't realised. How could anyone stand being shut away down here? Nothing to do, nothing to look at but the white walls, white floor?

Black floor now, she corrects herself, taking another step away from the door. The blackness yields slightly beneath her weight, and she swears she feels warmth bleeding up through the soles of her slippers.

Another step, and she is in the centre of the cell.

She keeps her eyes fixed on the black at her feet. She can feel Loki's presence on the cot, like a weight dragging at her mind. She feels as though she cannot breathe.

See him.

Frigga's words echoing in her mind, she turns, and she sees Loki.

He is curled in a foetal position on the cot, his back pressed to the wall. He holds his knees against his chest so hard that his hands are bloodless and waxen. His eyes are closed, his forehead creased as though with pain. He barely appears to be breathing.

Every part of his exposed skin is splashed with black. His hair is clotted and matted with the stuff. He is covered with her blood.

Darcy falls to her knees, uncaring of the black beneath her, uncaring of anything but Loki.

A muffled sound comes from the guard room, and Darcy's head whips around. The gate is closed, but from beyond she can hear something like scraping. She focuses only for a moment on trying to identify it, then turns back to Loki.

He is even thinner than the last time she saw him, his eyes bruised and lips chewed bloody. Darcy reaches out a hand to him, but stops short of touching him. Her hand trembles as hard as Frigga's had. Frigga had said nothing about whether Darcy could touch or be touched, and she could certainly feel the floor beneath her. She moves her hand forward a half inch.

Static hisses in burst sharp as gunfire as the intercom activates. Darcy jumps, but Loki doesn't react.

"You can stop pretending to sleep," a voice comes over the intercom. Darcy recognises it immediately: Daniel Blackwood. "I know that you can hear me, Loki. And that you can hear what's happening in the next room. Bots are down there constructing the first of a series of barriers. This one is a brick wall. Next will come solid concrete, then steel, then bricks, then more concrete. I'm told there will be some Stark tech that will be able to monitor any changes in fields down there, too. Basically, we're building you a nice cosy tomb, Loki. One that we'll know if you're trying to project out of. We'll be adding some toys to your cell, too. And I'd just like to add that I'm personally quite interested in seeing how Asgardian biology interacts with some of our poisons."

Darcy glares at the intercom. She can hear the satisfaction in Blackwood's voice. Can hear him wanting to goad Loki into trying something, trying anything.

She turns back to Loki. He has not moved, but his eyes are now slitted open. Even the bright emerald of his eyes seems faded.

"Darcy?" he asks, his voice cracked and weak. "What happened to Darcy?"

"Ms Lewis?" There is actual glee in his voice now. Darcy curls her hands into fists as he continues. "You did a real number on the poor girl, Loki. All of that blood everywhere…" Blackwood laughs, low and nasty. "Poor girl. She was so innocent."

Loki's eyes open fully. He stares at the intercom, his gaze going straight through Darcy. "Was?"

"You killed her, Loki. She's dead."

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 20 of 33

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