Continuing Tales


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 15 of 26

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If there is one thing Darcy has picked up from David, Max, Franz and Jane it is this: Gravity is a bitch. It's something Loki probably knew well, too, but he never talked about. In retrospect that was probably just another big warning sign that Darcy, Steve, Thor and Jane all missed.

Gravity is the reason that to board Stark's interstellar craft you first have to hop aboard a thing that looks like a really big airplane that takes you out of the atmosphere and then docks with said interstellar craft. From there you float down a tube and enter the space going vehicle, where gravity hits you again like a ton of bricks and you stumble to the floor. Then it's kind of like an airplane flight. You haul your carry-on luggage down an aisle to your seat and stow it in the overhead bin.

Which is what Darcy is doing now. Only she's not so much stowing as slamming. When the bag doesn't quite fit, she starts banging on it with her fist. Beside her, Steve's hand goes to her shoulder.

A smooth voice that doesn't belong to Steve, says, "Easy there, Doris."

Turning, Darcy says, "Fuck you, Stark." He didn't remember her name when she ran into the control room two weeks ago with Steve, and he still doesn't. When Steve had awkwardly explained, "This is Loki's...girlfriend," Tony had looked her up and down and said, "Not what I expected."

Now Steve says, "Her name is Darcy," squeezing her shoulder, probably to restrain her from strangling Tony. Tony's not in an ironman suit, not all that tall in person, a lot older than he looks in his publicity photos, and she has rage on her side, so she's pretty sure she could do it.

Tony Stark just smiles blandly at her and looks at his watch. "Oh, we'll be departing for Jotunheim in five minutes. I have to give my speech. Enjoy!"

"Come on," says Steve. "Let's sit down."

Darcy looks around what is the shuttle to the Jotunheim. It's packed with reporters and photographers from several major news networks, some guys in suits that may be diplomats, or maybe lawyers, and soldiers. Lots of soldiers. Jotunheim isn't the safest place to travel. There seems to be some sort of civil war going on. She only sees one or two other women.

She doesn't belong here. But apparently Loki had a contract; she was to be on this voyage to his homeworld as a photographer.

Stark decided to honor the contract, even though all intelligence from Asgard says Loki is dead. She remembers Thor showing up at Stark Tower, five days after the ships bound to the moon had dropped off their solar panels, headed to Jotunheim and come back with enough precious metals to pay for the entire moon-solar-panel-power-plan fiasco three times over.

Thor's head had been bowed. "Loki has been declared dead. His body burned without befitting a traitor." Shaking his head he'd said, "I cannot believe it."

Darcy still can't believe it either. Ducking her head, Darcy slides into her seat. There is a small porthole and she gazes out. There is Earth, just as beautiful as everyone always says it is from space.

Beside her Steve says, "Would you look at that?"

Darcy starts to cry, because Earth is so beautiful, or because Loki is gone, she isn't sure. Gritting her teeth, she clenches her fist until her nails bite into her palm. She misses him. And the hollowness she feels is so similar to what she felt after David died. But there is something else - this time she is soangry. Angry at Stark and Fury for using him - even if they had a plan for him to come back to Earth they had to know it was a one-way trip, a suicide mission. Didn't anyone else read the myths? And she's angry at Loki for lying to her, and angry at herself for not seeing through his lies - it was all there, right in front of her face the entire time.

Taking a deep breath, she slips out one of her cameras and takes a picture of the porthole. Down the aisle Stark is talking about Stark Industries' skyrocketing stock, and their dominance in interstellar travel for the foreseeable future.

Stark had seemed remorseful about Loki's death. And she knows this is partially for show, he's just being the consummate salesman. Still, Darcy finds herself restraining the urge to puke. Next to her Steve says, "I think I might be sick."

Darcy heaves a breath. Stark shuts up and sits down. They're about 60 seconds from launch when all of a sudden all of the cell phones in all the reporters' pockets start buzzing. The phones work in space; they're Stark was part of Stark's speech.

Someone at the back of the cabin shouts. "Mr. Stark, we've got reports that Mitsubishi and Daewoo are about 3 months away from an interstellar craft. How do you comment?"

And then someone else shouts, "Mr. Stark, reports are that Volkswerft, Fergusen, Austal, SAS, and ASNAR are working on their own vessels."

Shouts rise from throughout the cabin; it's an unintelligible soup of acronyms and names that Darcy doesn't recognize. Darcy and Steve are just close enough to Stark to hear him say, "That's impossible, there is no way they could have the technology that fast, unless..." And then he wipes his forehead. "Loki...that fucker sold us out."

For the first time since Loki disappeared, Darcy smiles. But it's more of a smirk.

"Perfect chaos," says Steve. She glances over at him. He's wearing the same smirk she's got on.

x x x x

Jotunheim is dark and cold, although at the end of the first day Darcy hasn't seen anything beyond the particular gray rock fortress that passes as a palace of King Vili. Jotunheim has been, since the great war, a feudal world. There are many kings. Laufey had been the most powerful and most despised of all of them. Now he is gone, and his son Hellbendi is trying to exert a semblance of the same control, but he has been failing.

There has been some trade between Earth and Jotunheim for the past twenty years. Just a trickle, minerals from Jotunheim carried on backways of the World Tree exchanged for food and weapons. The kingdoms like Vili's with the most successful mines haven't been thriving precisely, but they've had a lot more food - and they've been better armed. They've been able to just barely resist Hellbendi's control. Now that Earth can use space ships to carry goods between the realms, trade is exploding. What this means for ordinary people in the little kingdoms Darcy doesn't know.

No one knows. No one is allowed out of the fortress.

It's been a long day, full of speeches by diplomats from Earth, and by King Vili and his generals. Darcy is glad it is over. Right now she and Steve are being led down long corridors of giant stones packed with snow. Her arm is in his, which should feel awkward, but doesn't at all. Everywhere she looks, frost giants who are not in ice armor do it. It is warming, and they are warm blooded creatures.

All the other humans were ushered someplace else. Steve and Darcy are receiving "the royal treatment" and being taken to quarters by King Vili himself and eight silent guards. The guards probably don't speak English. Darcy's learned that the ability is magical, and only frost giants with magical training are capable.

"You are friends of Lopt," says King Vili. "And he is a friend of mine." Turning, he looks down and graces them with a toothy smile. Lopt is one of Loki's many names in Earth mythology. He went by it here. Darcy supposes going as Loki-the-guy-who-almost-destroyed-your-world wouldn't have been wise.

Vili's giant yellow eyes blink. Darcy forces herself not to swallow. Vili is about ten feet tall. His hairless skull is wide and crested with a bony ridge. His teeth are too big, and too sharp, and they don't allow him to fully close his mouth. Instead of fine lines on his face like Loki, he has deep valleys and intricate raised dots.

She gets the feeling that Vili doesn't really consider Lopt a friend. His smile is too wide. His behavior to her and Steve a bit too unctuous. But she does think Vili wants to stay in his good graces.

"Thank you," says Steve.

The King cants his head. "A pity he is not on this mission. Is he in Alfheim perhaps? We would like to trade with the elves too. The ancestors said they have lovely mead."

"I'm not sure," says Steve. Darcy and Steve have been instructed not to let anyone know Loki is dead. It helps everyone that King Vili and others want to be in his good graces.

Darcy shivers, and Steve squeezes her arm and entwines their fingers.

Vili's eyes drop to the motion; the guards glance too. Canting his head again, Vili says, "I was going to give you separate quarters, but perhaps I have misunderstood your relationship."

Steve and Darcy both straighten at once.

"Pardon, Your Tallness?" says Darcy, and then blushes furiously at the mistake in royal etiquette.

Vili's lips pull apart dangerously and Steve tenses at her side. A loud barking comes from his mouth and he says something in a low guttural language to the guards and they all do the same. It takes a moment but then Darcy realizes they're laughing. And good naturedly at that.

Wiping an eye with a talon like fingers Vili says, "Your fingers say you are lovers. Do you want the same room, Your Smallnesses?" One of the guards must understand a little English because he chortles.

Steve and Darcy both look down simultaneously at their fingers and let them slide apart. Steve does that thing where he blushes down to his neck.

Darcy feels herself going hot. How many times did Loki link his fingers with hers just like that after she was withDavid? All those times when she thought he was being sweet - was he copping a feel? She huffs a breath and drops Steve's arm with too much force. "It doesn't mean that where we're from," she says through narrowed eyes.

Vili shrugs and starts down another passage. "Right this way," he says.

Memories start playing in Darcy's mind.

When she'd seen Loki after he'd met his other self he'd linked their fingers.

And when she'd gone to the Stark holiday party right after Max and Franz were born, feeling tired, overwhelmed, and completely unbeautiful, Morgenstern-Loki had taken her hand. Linking their fingers he'd told her, "You look radiant." The lie, the affection, it had made her feel better.

Had he known it then what the linked fingers meant to Frost Giants? Or was it just instinctual?

Certainly he must have known when he came back from Jotunheim. That time on the couch when Darcy had almost forgotten herself...and then when he'd been so badly burned...

Was he just copping a feel or just expressing longing for something he couldn't have?

By the time she reaches the fur skinned covered doorways that lead to her rooms, she's settled on both. She's touched nearly to tears...and still so furious.

She's scowling when King Vili claps his hands, and out of the furs comes the first female frost giant she's seen. She is about Darcy's size, but her form is angular, not feminine, despite her delicate heart shaped face. It takes a moment for Darcy to realize she's a child.

"This is Eisa, Your Smallness. She will be your maid," says Vili. One of the guards barks another laugh. But it doesn't sound at all cruel.

One side of the girl's face is covered in lovely intricate swirls, the other is nearly free of markings. Her hair is black and straight. She's dressed in a plain light beige dress that looks like it is made of wool and contrasts beautifully with her skin. A mercenary part of Darcy's brain is calculating the best possible angle to take a photograph, and another part is wondering if she is a little bit like what Loki's half blue little girl looked like. The corners of Darcy's mouth turn up in a bittersweet smile.

The girl catches her eyes and turns a deep shade of ultramarine. Bowing her head, the girl holds back the fur skin curtains - there is very little wood in Jotunheim. Darcy gives a last look at Steve, and then steps through. The curtain of furs falls back with a soft sigh and Darcy hears Eisa's feet behind her.

The room is lit by sconces on the walls that cast a blue light. The walls are draped with tapestries, between which are a few narrow windows in walls made of stones held in place with cement, not snow. It is warm. There is a squat wood burning stove in a corner, from the grate she can see an orange glow. Darcy blinks; no, not wood-burning - there is a bucket of coal set beside it. There is a raised platform draped with furs she thinks must be a bed.

On an intricately woven rug at the center of the room is her luggage. The trunk she stowed the majority of her photography gear in looks unharmed, but she goes to it immediately. Eisa follows her.

King Vili has promised an "official portrait taking" to be held a few days hence but hadn't allowed any pictures to be taken today. He'd cited security concerns. The 22nd century worries amid the 13th century surroundings are in odd contrast.

Opening the trunk up Darcy finds everythingintact. There are various cameras, lenses, battery packs and storage cards; she also has a small printer, paper, digital tablet and a battery to recharge her electronics. As she inspects each item she glances up to see Eisa peering down with poorly disguised interest.

Smiling, Darcy says, "Hi." She doesn't expect an answer, since the ability to understand languages is rare.

To her surprise, Eisa beams back and says, "Hello! You're Darcy Lewis. You are an artist, and a friend to Lopt. I know Lopt. Sometimes he would stay in this very room. He helped me learn the All Tongue. He said of course you would talk to me even though I am only a maid and a child, and he was right."

Heart aching a little, Darcy says, "Well, of course I would talk to you."

Narrowing her eyes, Eisa says, "He also said you would show me pictures."

It is such an obvious display of fishing that Darcy snorts.

Eisa blinks and looks suddenly a little fearful.

Instantly feeling sorry she's frightened the girl, Darcy says, "Of course I will show them to you. I just need to unpack."

Bouncing on her feet the girl says, "Of course m'am."

Infected by her enthusiasm, Darcy finds herself smiling. But then Eisa says, "Will Lopt be coming later? I haven't seen him in a while."

Darcy's face falls. "No, I don't think so."

Eisa's face mirrors Darcy's concern. "Do you know where he is?"

Looking back to her gear, Darcy attaches a lense to one of her cameras a little too forcefully. Biting her lip she says, "No. No, I don't."

x x x x

Loki opens his eyes to warm white light. The bed beneath him is comfortable, but the bedclothes are too tight. The wounds in his stomach are only the slightest bit sore. The room around him is unadorned and windowless. Worse. It is magicless.

No. That isn't quite right.

He looks down. His hands are bound on his stomach by the same magic dampening cuff he wore when he had been returned to Asgard after the Chitauri's first invasion of Earth.

And the tight bedclothes are actually restraints.

He curses. There was a moment, a beautiful, bright and shining moment, when he thought for once he'd pulled off a scheme without a hitch. Not being dead is a serious let down. He clenches his teeth and tries to hold back the wave of rage he feels building up inside of him. He must think.

With a deep breath, he tests the bonds holding him down by trying to pull himself up. He gets nowhere. So he tries again with more force. This time the muscles in his injured abdomen constrict painfully and the bonds at his shoulders and hips almost seem to burn.

There is the sound of shuffling feet and a soft voice says, "Don't," and then the face of Eir, the chief healer, is suddenly above him. Her hair is dishevelled. Dark circles are under her eyes. Her clothing looks unkempt. "Odin himself designed those restraints centuries ago; you won't escape."

Eir is a close friend of Frigga, and she has attended Loki, Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three on more occasions than he can remember. She has never looked so tired, or sounded so weary.

"How long have I been here?" he demands.

"Two weeks," she says. "As have I."

Cursing again and trying to twist his hands free from the magic dampening cuff, Loki says, "Don't expect me to thank you for patching me up."

"Believe me," says Eir, her voice bitter, "it was not my first choice. And now I'm sure I'll see all my handiwork undone."

Loki's eyes slide to hers. Of course he will be punished. He feels the prickle of sweat on his brow. Will they give him to the Chitauri? If that is their plan, he must find a way to escape - or take his own life before they do.

He feels laughter rising at the back of his throat. Take his own life. He's zero for two on that score, isn't he? It's like the universe can't let him go.

There is a knock at the door. Before Eir has even answered it, it swings open. Sif enters, her eyes blazing, her hand on the hilt of her sword.

Loki is about to let loose a biting retort - like how it took bindings for her to get him back in bed for her again.

But then Odin steps in. The coldness in his eyes takes Loki's breath away.

Glancing at Loki, Odin turns to Eir. "You will tell no one of this, not even Frigga, on pain of death."

Loki swallows, even as he tries to keep his face impassive. He can't see Eir's face as she bows and exits.

Then Odin looks back to him and shakes his head. "This won't do," he whispers.

He touches Loki's shoulders. A familiar tightness and slight burning returns to Loki's skin.

Odin has made him revert to him to his Asgardian form. Loki screws his eyes shut, rolls his head, and wills whatever little magic he might have left in him to return his to his true form. In the background he hears Odin say, "Now you are almost ready to face the Twelve Judges of Gladsheim like a man."

The judges...he may be able to convince them of how much he deserves execution. But then the word 'almost' make his eyes snap open. Sif is scowling. Two new guards are entering the room. Between them they carry the muzzle.

Loki screams.


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 15 of 26

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