Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 27 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

Everything seems to slow as Darcy steps through the doorway.

She can feel the magic that comprises the doorway itself: the golden warmth of Frigga's magic soft against her skin, followed quickly by the prickling cold of Loki's magic. She can see where he made changes to Frigga's magic, emerald braided together with gold, the two married together to form something different, something stronger.

Here, and there, Darcy can even see the clumsy twists that she herself applies when she acted as the focus to form the doorway. In her mind, they look something like the first stitches that a child makes when they learn to knit. Thick and sapphire blue, they lack the elegance of the other magics, and looking at them, she isn't surprised in the least that the doorway had manifested upside-down.

Her chest tightens when she looks closer at the clumsy sapphire stitches. Sees that each one is surrounded by an intricate web of emerald. Loki deliberately stabilised each of them when he changed the doorway. Worked around them, preserved them.

The magic inside her tightens, as if in sympathy. It rises like a tide, and she can hear it whispering in a thousand voices, all of them Loki's. The magic tells her the secrets of how Frigga created this portal, how Loki changed it. And she knows that, with this magic in her, she could create a doorway of her own, just by channelling a little of it.

She could create a portal back to Loki. She could design a whole world for them to live in, a world peopled with everyone they want, everything they need. It would be an illusion at first, but soon they would forget. They could live forever, if they wanted to. Have a family. Be together. Be happy.

The magic twists again, searing like a brand against the inside of her skin. Reminding her that it was created to be a weapon, to destroy, not to create. She made her choice when she took it within herself, knew what she was doing.

Happiness, ever after, these things are no longer a choice for her.

There is only the fire waiting to burn.

She continues moving through the doorway, turns away from the gold and emerald and sapphire of the magic. Hel will be waiting for her on the other side. Darcy tries to brace herself for what will be coming. Death is a certainty. Pain is almost as certain.

She tells herself that she can handle anything. Knows that she has to, if Loki is to be free.

You are no one.

The voice rises from the cacophony of voices. It speaks to her in the cadences of her own voice, but a younger Darcy, her words not yet edged with hardness, not yet armoured against the world.

You are no one. You are no one. You are no one.

Darcy before the magic would have been confused. The new Darcy - the one with liquid fire surging through her veins - knows immediately what the magic is telling her.

She siphons off a small amount of it. Not enough to destabilise the magic's centre, but enough for her needs. Light bleeds from the lines in her palms; she cups her hands together and the light coalesces into a tiny ball of emerald light. It rotates, its colour shifting to a deep sapphire. It is cool against her blackened palm, warm against her other, untouched, hand.

Darcy allows herself a moment to gaze at the magic she holds. Her magic, shaped by her own will. Then she releases it, lets it flow like water over her skin. In the span of several heartbeats, it has covered her completely. It sinks into her skin, and the black ripples away, her skin become featureless, white as marble.

"I am no one." Darcy holds up her hands. The freckles and almost invisible hairs on the backs of her hands are gone. When she turns her hands over, she sees that even the lines on her palms have vanished. "I am no one, and Hel cannot see me."

She smiles, and the magic within surges in warm approval.

When she steps through into her apartment, she tenses, but Hel does not appear.

The only sound she can hear is the whistling of the wind through the still-broken window. Outside, all she can see is the featureless grey of the sky. Nothing in the room appears to have been disturbed. Shards of broken glass still litter the carpet. The television is still on, a romantic comedy that she cannot identify playing.

Her physical body is still lying in bed, apparently asleep. Darcy's heart clenches as she realises that her body is curved in exactly the right shape to occupy the negative space left by Loki's body, her hand flung out, reaching.

She squeezes her eyes shut against tears, clenches her fists. Fights the urge to run back to him.

It takes all of her will to stay there, to make herself reach out to her physical body. A sapphire spark passes between her projection and flesh. The magic flows over her body, her skin turning featureless white in its wake. When it is finished, only her lashes, brows and hair retain colour, though even that is desaturated.

The magic rises again, and Darcy's physical eyes open. They are deep sapphire blue, a colour so vivid that it glows against the whiteness of her skin. She looks nothing like herself. She looks cold, powerful.

She looks like someone strong enough to defeat Hel.

The magic whispers to her, and she knows that it is time to return to her physical body. She does so with another touch, slides back into physicality. Bone and skin and blood pulls her down towards the earth, a smothering weight that sets her heart racing, adrenaline spiking through her. The magic roils within, burning through her bones until she feels like they will melt inside of her.

She focuses on her breathing, on slowing her heart rate. Just when she feels calmer, another wave comes. This one is emotion: everything she has felt in the time in the Asgardian rooms with Loki. It slams into her hard, and she is shaking: laughing and crying at the same time, her body shaking so hard that it rattles the frame of the hospital bed.

The magic twists and turns within her, and she realises that it is eating the emotions, burning them away to white the way it had burned away the black Hel marked on her skin. When it is done, she feels hollow, cold, intent on only one thing: destroying Hel.

She slides her legs out of the bed, stands. Wavers for a moment, her body weak, but the magic flows in, hardening her bones, her skin. She's still dressed in white scrubs, her feet bare. It takes a thought only to reform her clothes, and then she is wearing something akin to Sif's armour. Breastplate and gauntlets of intricately engraved gold, black leather leggings and boots, the boots reinforced with gold plates. Twin daggers at her hips, both in gold with what looks like malachite inlaid into the hilts. Here and there are accents of silk: a sweep of fabric across her shoulders, the suggestion of a skirt around her hips. All in Loki's green.

She knows she needs none of the armour or weaponry, but it feels good, all the same. It feels right.

She runs her hands over the hardened leather, the gold plate. She's still wearing Frigga's ring, though the copper has dulled now, several strands of the outermost knotwork frayed and broken. She can see the magic woven into the ring, knows she could repair it with a thought. She runs her thumb over the metal, warmed from contact with her flesh. She has no need for it now, other than as a reminder of why she is doing this.

Walking across the apartment, she feels strong, practically invincible. A thought crosses her mind as her boots crunch over broken glass: is this what Loki feels like all the time? Filled with magic, capable of anything and everything? Even her eyesight is preternaturally sharp; she feels as though she can see the very molecules making up the glass beneath her feet.

Another, more distant thought: the wonder at how gentle he has always been with her.

The magic pushes that away, focuses her on Hel. She moves to the edge, stands in the broken window. The wind whips her braid across her back, pulls at her. When she looks down there is no fear.

In the distance, she can see the branch of Yggdrasil, glowing with its sickly light.

The magic whispers to her, and she knows what to do.

She steps out into the air. The magic holds her up, lowers her gently down the side of Stark Tower. If there are people in the levels she passes, she does not notice them. Right now, they do not matter. Nothing matters but Hel.

Her boots touch down soundlessly on the pavement. Down here, everything is still. There is no one to be seen, no sound at all. Just the darkness of the sky, the darkness of the street.

The magic whispers again, and she raises a hand, releases a measured burst of sapphire magic. Watches it lift into the sky.

A sound like distant thunder, and a single shaft of light spears down, illuminates the street before Darcy. It is almost painfully bright to her magic-enhanced eyes, and she looks away. The dull sound comes again and again, and when she looks up again, there are another half dozen spears of light stabbing down into the city. She senses people in the shadowed buildings looking up, looking out. Senses their hope.

More and more shafts of light break through the dome, and then the dome itself is cracking open, pieces of darkness falling, revealing the blue sky beyond. The shards of darkness dissolve in the air as they fall, the only tangible sensation of the energy falling to earth a faint crawling across Darcy's exposed skin.

Darcy smiles, turns her face up to the warm sunlight. The magic surges within her, a cresting wave that longs to be allowed to crash back down over Hel.

A thought, and she is at the edge of Central Park. It is the same place she entered on the night of the labyrinth. There is nothing here now but the ash-strewn ground. In the distance, the branch of Yggdrasil, its light barely visible now against the blue sky. It still has power, though, and even as she looks, Darcy can sense Hel sending darkness up through the tree, seeking to reform the dome over the city.

Thunder crashes almost directly overhead, and Darcy glances up sharply. Has Hel managed to reform the dome so quickly? There is only a faint patch of darkness above Yggdrasil, little more than a deepening of the blue of the sky.

White light flashes in the corner of Darcy's eye. She turns, sees that a beam of light is projecting from Stark Tower.

The magic within Darcy knows it immediately: Jane's wormhole, open at least without the dome to block it.

The light flares, and white lightning crackles around the Tower. A shadow falls through the light, and the wormhole vanishes.

Darcy knows who has passed through that wormhole. Knows that the magic she holds will be a beacon to him. She wants to cloak herself from her eyes, but there is no more she can siphon from the magic without destabilising the weapon.

Air rushes around her, and then Thor is there, Mjolnir in hand. "Lo-" he begins, then breaks off, staring at her. "Darcy?"

Darcy smiles, knows that the expression sits oddly on her changed face. "Hi?"

Thor's eyes sweep over her armour, come to rest on her eyes. Remain there for a moment only before he looks away. "Darcy, what has happened to you. Has Loki…?"

"Loki is locked in his cell," Darcy says. "He didn't do this."

Thor's eyes flick up to Yggdrasil, widen slightly as he recognises it. "And this?" He pauses, his fingers tightening around Mjolnir. "And Jane?"

"Jane is fine. Apart from the fact that she hasn't slept in weeks trying to open the wormhole that brought you here."

"That was Jane's work? I might have known." Thor's fingers have not loosened from his hammer. "What has happened to Midgard, Darcy? Heimdall has been unable to see naught but a shadow. We feared…I feared…"

"It's complicated." The magic writhes within Darcy, reminding her that she does not have the time for this. "You need to go and rescue Jane. She's fine, but she's a prisoner in Stark Tower. Pepper, too. A man named Daniel Blackwood has taken over."

"Jane is a prisoner?" Anger tightens the lines of Thor's face. He no longer looks at Yggdrasil or at Darcy, but has turned towards the Tower, Mjolnir already beginning to spin.

"She's in one of the labs. I don't know which one. Blackwood will not be happy about the wormhole opening, either."

Thor glances over his shoulder. "And what of you, Darcy?"

"Don't worry about me." She uses the tiniest amount of magic, siphoning it from her shell and pushing it towards Thor. Focusing him only on rescuing Jane. It will fade quickly, but it will give her the time she needs. "Just go and help Jane. She needs you."

That was all that Thor needed to hear. He swings Mjolnir and lifts off.

Darcy breathes a sigh of relief that catches in her throat. The magic is growing more and more unstable within her, pushing out against her skin, which is beginning to feel as thin and brittle as porcelain. She needs to get moving.

She begins walking, not even wanting to use the small amount of magic it would take to teleport herself.

There are hundreds of shadow people surrounding Yggdrasil now. All are naked, and all are completely blackened. They stare blindly ahead, and as Darcy threads carefully through them, she sees that all of the whites of their eyes are scrawled with black curlicues as well.

In the central circle, she finds Beth holding Ravi in her arms. Ravi barely appears to be breathing, and his eyes are deep wells of black, even his irises swallowed by the darkness. Max sits on the opposite side of the tree, a figure that looks to have been carved from obsidian.

Hel is nowhere to be seen, though Darcy can sense her somewhere on the opposite side of the park. She has given up trying to restore the darkness, and is now sweeping the city, searching for the person who shattered the dome.

Darcy smiles grimly. The magic is a storm-bound ocean within her now, screaming to be released.

Darcy closes her eyes, extends a hand palm-out. Aiming for Yggdrasil. Aiming for Hel.

She releases the magic.

It burns through her, a joyous cascade, spilling out through her palm.

And suddenly a hand clasps hers.

Darcy's eyes fly open. Loki stands between her and Yggdrasil, the magic flowing from her body and into his. She tries to pull away from him, but the strength the magic gave her is already fading, and Loki is too strong. The magic flows and flows, and she can do nothing to stop it.

As the last of it fades from her, Darcy's armour becomes white scrubs again. Her heart falters, and her legs buckle beneath her. She would have fallen, but for Loki's grip on her hand. He wraps his other arm around her, pulls her in against his chest.

Everything has faded. Her skin is just skin again, and she cannot sense Hel. Her thoughts are too slow, her senses too dull.

"I will not allow anyone else to die for me," he says. "Least of all you, Darcy."

Darcy presses her face into his chest. She's shaking her head almost convulsively, holding onto him as though she's drowning. "No, no, no, no," she says over and over, as though it's a litany to reverse what he's done. "Give it back. Give it back."

Loki slides a hand beneath her chin, lifts her face up. There are tears shining in his eyes. "You would have sacrificed yourself. For me." There is something like wonder in his voice.

Darcy runs her hands over his chest, his arms, his face. "I don't want you to die," she says in a small voice.

Loki presses a kiss to her forehead. "And I will not let you die."

Darcy's heart is still stuttering, her ribs feeling as though someone is squeezing them together, making it difficult to catch her breath. "I'm not sure if you get a say in that at this point."

Loki grasps her chin again, finger and thumb pressed against the twinned pulses in her neck, eyes burning into hers. She feels the cold tingle of his magic moving over her skin, moving through her. A sharp pain twists in her chest, as though he has plunged a knife there. Loki's lips thin.

"The magic was not made to be contained by human flesh," he says. He presses a hand to the hollow between her breasts, his other hand still the only thing stopping her from collapsing.

That cold tingle comes again, deeper now, and she feels the tiniest portion of the magic siphon back into her. The pain recedes.

"I do not know what even that will do to your body in the long term," Loki says. "But it means you will live now."

Darcy can just sense Hel again now, a distant shadow in the world. Loki burns brighter than the sun with the magic, an emerald flame that will call to Hel. Darcy can already feel her turning, approaching slowly, warily.

Lightning cracks in the distance, and Loki looks up towards Stark Tower.

"You don't have to do it." Darcy is filled with a sudden wild hope. "Jane got the wormhole open. We can ask Asgard for help. You don't have to do this."

Loki looks at Darcy again. There is sorrow in his eyes. "You held the magic, Darcy. You know the truth of it. There is no turning back."

There is a thud behind Darcy. She turns to see Thor land, Jane in his arms. When he releases her, Jane is able to stand on her own, but she holds onto Thor's arm. Her face is tight with exhaustion, but she looks happy.

And why shouldn't she be? Darcy thinks. She has Thor back. She doesn't have to watch him die.

Thor stares at Loki, his face splitting into a smile. "Brother! You are free of your cell!"

Loki meets Thor's gaze. Fresh tears well in his eyes, spill onto his cheeks. It is the first time Darcy has seen him truly lost for words. Finally, he manages one single, strangled word. "Brother."

Thor's smile wavers. "Loki, what is wrong?"

"Everything." Loki turns his attention back to Darcy. Kisses her gently. She feels the tingle of magic between them, emerald and sapphire mingling. "Darcy," Loki whispers. "I wish I could have stayed. My love." His voice breaks on the last.

He closes his eyes for a heartbeat, his face creased in pain, and then he pushed Darcy gently towards Thor. "Hold her, brother. Keep her safe. For me."

Thor's free arm closes around Darcy, following Loki's command instinctively, though Darcy can see the confusion on his face. She pushes against his hold, but it is like fighting against steel.

"Thor, you can't let him do this!" she says.

Thor looks down at her, then back at Loki. Loki is turning towards Yggdrasil. On the opposite side of the tree, Hel is approaching, her teeth bared in a sharp, hungry grin. The tattered hem of her dress brushes against a blackened person as she passes; their form falls to ash from the light touch.

Hel looks only at Thor, Jane and Darcy. And Darcy knows that Loki is using the magic to hide himself from her. Hel doesn't know what's coming.

Darcy wants nothing more than to close her eyes, but she makes herself watch. She wants to remember everything.

Loki stands next to Yggdrasil, tall and lean in his dark green linen shirt and black trousers. His feet are bare, his hair loose and wild. Even now, Darcy is struck by his beauty, by the angles of his face, by the emerald of his eyes. She strains again against Thor's arm, wants to be with Loki, to burn with him, but Thor holds her immobile.

Loki looks at Darcy, his lips shaping words that she cannot hear.

He presses a hand against Yggdrasil, and magic flows from his fingers. Emerald and sapphire light spirals around the tree, forking along its branches in an echo of Thor's lightning. Hel breaks off stalking Thor, Jane and Darcy, turns back to the tree, screaming. Loki extends his other hand, and another stream of magic bursts forth, surrounds Hel.

Everything is still and silent, and Hel and Loki soundlessly explode, their bodies coming apart, bursting into a cloud of ash that obscures everything.

Darcy is glad now for Thor's arm around her was the ash flows over them. She tastes smoke, and when she presses her lips together, they are covered with grit.

When the ash finally clears, it reveals the skeleton of Yggdrasil. All of its light is gone, and every branch is charred black. The people surrounding it are blinking as though waking up, all of them looking about, confused. None of them bear a single trace of black on their skin or eyes.

In the silence, Ravi begins to cry thinly.

And Darcy begins to weep, too, great wracking sobs that shake her body over and over.

Of Loki and Hel, there is no sign.

They are gone.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 27 of 33

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