Continuing Tales


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 22 of 26

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Loki snaps the fingers of his right hand and lets green flame arise from his thumb. His other hand is on Darcy's shoulder, her arm around his waist. They've just materialized on one of the paved trails at Morningside Park. It's that stage of dawn where the lamps lighting the park trails have turned off, but it is still dark outside. The air is dry and chill without a hint of dew. It's been a very dry fall.

Loki snaps his fingers again as the first flame dissipates. Fandral would not have asked him to bring Darcy here if he'd called regarding a mission, so this is a personal matter.

"Why do you think he called us here at this time of morning?" Darcy says. "Not even the jogging fanatics are up yet."

Loki suspects he knows. For the past six years Loki has urged Fandral to tell Thor about Doug and Jessica. Fandral hasn't done so, though he has quietly 'come out' as the humans say, to many of the other Avengers. And of course, now Thor has probably found out, and Fandral is going to blame Loki because even if it could have been the fault of one of a dozen others, as always in these matters, it's always Loki's fault.

He snaps his fingers again. The flame rises high.

From down the trail a figure comes towards them walking fast, blonde hair glistening in the low light. "Loki," says Fandral drawing closer. "I am sorry."

Is this some sort of trap? Loki scowls and immediately starts scanning the park for potential enemies, but they are alone.

"Sorry for what?" says Darcy.

Fandral stops about three paces away, his face drawn and pale. Swallowing, he straightens and meets Loki's gaze. "Nari was arrested in Asgard."

"What!" says Loki, stepping out of Darcy's embrace.

Holding up his hands, Fandral says, "Hogun helped him escape and got him to the Bifrost site in New Mexico. Nari is injured, but Thor is minutes from there and will aid with all his skills."

"Hogun?" says Loki in disbelief. A raspy noise is coming from Loki's chest; it takes a moment to realize it is the sound of his own breathing. He feels Darcy's hand on his arm.

Thor has skills in healing Loki will never have. He blinks his eyes. He still wants to go to his son but doesn't have enough energy to jump from New York to New Mexico. And...he blinks...Fandral is leaving something out.

"Where is Valli?" Loki says lowly.

"I am so sorry," says Fandral, and he comes forward and puts his hands on Loki's shoulders. Somewhere far away, Darcy says, "Oh no."

"Valli is dead," says Fandral.

"They will all die in fire!" Loki screams.

Or someone with Loki's voice screams.

There is the sound of bird wings, and a sound like thousands of twigs snapping. And then the dimness of the dawn is replaced by the flickering light of green flames.

x x x x

Darcy sits next to Loki on hard chairs outside of the intensive care unit. They are in the same hospital in New Mexico where Jane, Darcy, and Erik brought Thor so long ago. Men and women in white coats and blue scrubs walk by without a glance.

Not looking at her, Loki leans his head against the wall behind them. "Darcy, when the Chitauri came to claim me while I was a prisoner of Asgard, Nari and Valli aided Thor in my escape. But it was Nari, Nari, who thought to steal books and scrolls from Asgard's archives on Jotunn history and culture. He shoved them into my arms just before Thor used the Tessaract to bring me to Earth."

Slumping forward he wipes his face with his hands. "He'd put a letter in one of the books. It said, Father we are not monsters."

Darcy bites her lip. She's heard the story before, but now it is all the more poignant.

"He's all I have left," says Loki staring at the floor.

It doesn't hurt Darcy that he says it. She understands. Nari is Loki's child, his last child. He spent hundreds of years with Nari and Valli...and as for her...

Well, she loves her children more than she loves Loki, too. So she hurts for him, not from his words.

She rubs his arm, and he grabs her hand and slips his fingers between hers. His grip is so tight it hurts. She lays her head against his shoulder and feels tears slip from her eyes.

Apparently, Odin and the Diar, nervous at the restlessness in the Nine Realms building since Earth started transversing the stars, was anxious to subvert unrest at home. Unrest in Asgardese is the same as 'change of any kind.' Nari's peaceful attempts to institute reform and include a greater number of Asgardians in the political process were seen as a threat. Valli's popularity among the ordinary warriors and his loyalty to Nari were perceived as even more dangerous.

So Nari was arrested, with the hopes that Valli and anyone loyal to him would rise - and be wiped out. It worked well. What ultimate plans there were for Nari never had time to come to fruition. Hogun, aided by unknown forces in the Realm Eternal, helped Nari escape before he faced the Diar. But Nari took a spear wound to the abdomen during the journey. If he were human, he would be dead.

Loki's jaw clenches. If it wasn't a medical emergency, Darcy imagines he'd be in the thick of things. But Loki doesn't trust his powers of healing. Once Darcy cut herself while slicing vegetables. Loki had cradled her hand in his as blood dripped to the floor. "I'm sorry," he'd said sorrowfully. "I would heal it for you, but with my powers, you'd probably wind up with two heads or something utterly repellent."

So he sits and he waits, his blue skin in stark relief against the white of the hospital walls. Darcy waits with him. His foot is tapping nervously on the floor. A cup of tea beside him alternates between boiling and freezing.

Darcy knows why Fandral chose the park to tell him the news and why Fandral asked her to be there. He knew how Loki would react.

There were a few minutes as the flames raged around Loki, Fandral, and her when she thought none of them would escape. She'd wrapped her arms around Loki and shouted, "Nari! You have to live for Nari!" At the last moment, Loki seemed to hear her as she chanted his son's name. He teleported them all to the fire's edge.

Director Fury, much older than Darcy remembered, had been waiting for them there with a black car. He'd escorted them to the airport. The flight had been turbulent, and Darcy's not sure if it was real turbulence or magical in origin.

It strikes her that for the past few years she'd forgotten that Loki, under the control of Thanos, had nearly taken over Earth. That he'd slipped into madness when he'd learned of his heritage and nearly destroyed a world. Dodging of domestic duties aside, Darcy had thought of Loki as basically...well domesticated. But the fire in the park, the turbulence on the plane, his threat to make all of Asgard burn - she was in the eye of the storm the whole time.

As if to punctuate that thought, the tea cup beside Loki begins a rolling boil and then shatters. The scalding liquid splashes on Loki and he doesn't even seem to notice. His orange-red eyes are focused on a point down the hall.

Dary lifts her head and follows his gaze. There is a man who looks of Asian descent walking towards them. He wears human clothing, a long trench coat, black pants, and a gray shirt, but his hair is long and tied back in a foreign looking style. "Hogun?" she whispers.

Loki nods.

Hogun approaches them, hands tucked in his pockets. His eyes flit from Loki to Darcy and back again. Darcy sees a slight flare of his nostril, a twist of his lips-is it disgust at Loki's Jotunn form or her imagination? She squeezes Loki's hand as Hogun says, "How is Nari?".

Loki says nothing.

So Darcy speaks. "He made it through surgery, but his condition is critical and he hasn't woken up. Still, the surgeon has operated on Thor before and is familiar with Asgardian physiology. He believes he will make a complete recovery."

Hogun nods and looks away.

"I suppose I should thank you," says Loki.

Hogun turns to Loki. "I did nothing for you. You brought the threat of war to Asgard. Your actions made our young restless and foolish. I did this only for Nari. He was the only one who kept Valli and others who thirsted for revolution in check, and the only one who offered a way through this crisis without violence."

Loki's body stiffens.

Hogun looks away again. "Without Nari, Asgard will fall into civil war within the century. We need him."

"You can't have him," Loki snarls. "You don't deserve him."

Raising an eyebrow, Hogun turns to Loki. "Maybe not."

A doctor Darcy recognizes approaches, and Darcy squeezes Loki's arm. The doctor meets Loki's eyes. "He's awake."

x x x x

"How are you doing?" says Darcy, knocking at the door to Nari's room in Loki's penthouse. Well, Loki says it is Darcy's penthouse too, since it is joined by a staircase now, but she rarely comes up here.

Nari's room is nearly the size of Darcy's whole apartment, and the furniture, while not garish, oozes expense. Nari is sitting on a seat built into a bay window. Not answering her question he says, "This place is a little much. Your sons are going to come home for the Time of Thanks Feast and they will see this -" His jaw tightens and he looks away.

Not for the first time, Darcy finds herself thinking how much she likes Nari.

"Loki thought that you'd be more comfortable if you recovered in a style you are accustomed to," she says.

Nari rolls his eyes. "We were disowned. Neither of us have dwelled in places this grand in a while."

We is Nari and Valli. It's been a few months now, but still Nari and Loki both speak of Valli in the present tense sometimes.

Obviously catching his slip, Nari takes a deep breath.

"I'm sorry," says Darcy.

He shakes his head and leans against the back of the window seat. "You know,I expected this would happen, that the Diar would do something like this...and Valli would..." Swallowing, Nari closes his eyes. "He shouldn't have tried to come for me."

"He loved you," said Darcy. "Like you love him."

Nari looks at her. "I did love Valli. He was my brother." He rubs his eyes. "He was also a psychopath."

Darcy doesn't let her jaw drop. It was something she'd thought about after meeting them that one time in Jotunheim. Loki's sons seemed to be like Loki, split in two. Valli was the part of Loki that set forests on fire without thinking. Nari is the intellect, the ability to see beyond the status quo, to imagine and to scheme things that are better and different. And Nari has Loki's ability to charm - though Loki says Valli had glamor, too, but that Darcy was too mature to see the glamor in violent rebellion.

Meeting her gaze, Nari says, "Please don't tell father I said that."

Darcy nods. "I won't."

Looking around, Nari says, "Maybe we can give this space to Franz and Max when they come home, and I can sleep in their room?"

Darcy raises an eyebrow.

Nari smiles at her. "I bet father will take me up on that suggestion if I lay off talking about my plans to go to Oxford for a week."

Darcy lets out a laugh in a short huff. "That's true."

As much as she likes Nari, she isn't entirely fond of Nari living with her and Loki. And it's mostly Loki's fault. Loki fights and henpecks Nari constantly. "Don't sit like that you'll stretch your stitches...What are you talking about going to Oxford to study English Law? Stay in New York, go to New York University and study American law...I don't care if you think the English system will work better in Asgard, you're not going back to Asgard! Eat more chocolate; it is nutrient dense and you are a magical creature and need your calories."

It is driving Darcy crazy. And probably Nari, too, though he doesn't complain. To her anyways.

"I am going to the library," she says. "Would you like to go?" His Loki sized intellect needs fodder.

"Yes!" says Nari, clutching his side and slowly rising to his feet. "Can we take the underground serpent?"

"Sure," says Darcy with a smirk. "We can take the subway."

"I'll get my keys," says Nari, walking to a sleek dark dresser.

"It's okay, I've got mine," says Darcy.

Nari raises an eyebrow at her.

"I do this time!" says Darcy. On their last expedition to the library she thought she had her keys but had forgotten them. They had to call Loki. She pats her coat to show him. When there is no familiar jingle, she scowls and starts searching the pockets of her pants.

"It's alright," says Nari, holding up his and giving them a shake. "I've got mine."

He walks slowly towards her, like an old man. It doesn't suit him. Despite some gauntness, a slight furrow to his brow, and a bit of an unhealthy pallor, Nari looks young. And he's gorgeous. His broad jaw and high cheekbones would fit in any fashion magazine or on a Hollywood leading man.

"Want a hand?" says Darcy, lifting an arm.

He sighs and slips his arm into hers. "Yes."

Darcy laughs mentally. Is there some sort of karma that she will be the crutch for beautiful men? Her brow furrows. And not just a physical crutch. She won't leave Loki now, she can't. He's just too fragile.

"Where is father, by the way?" asks Nari as they step out of the apartment towards the elevators.

"Oh," says Darcy. "He said something about teaching Fandral to use simple fire spells today."

"Hmmm..." says Nari. "I would have thought that too argr for Fandral."

"You'd be surprised," says Darcy, restraining a snort.

The word fire spell would have frightened Darcy after what Loki said about setting Asgard aflame. But Nari had put the idea of vengeance to rest quickly with a succinct, "My mother still lives there, Father."

She squeezes Nari's arm. Another reason to like him.

Tilting his head as they walk to the elevator, Nari says, "Nothing much will probably come of it. If Fandral had much talent for magic it would have manifested itself by now."

"Really?" says Darcy tensing up. "Loki warned me to not be surprised if he comes home with a few burns."

Nari laughs. "Oh, that wouldn't surprise me a bit. But by Asgardian standards, nothing much will come of it."

Darcy relaxes. For a moment there...she shakes her head. Loki is in mad overprotective daddy mode; he wouldn't do anything dangerous.

x x x x

The air of Muspellsheimr, realm of fire, is heavy with smoke. Loki and Fandral move along a path that traces the border of a wide mesa and take shelter by a boulder.

"How many do you think there are?" Loki asks.

Fandral pulls a pair of binoculars from the Stark Industries' flame retardant armor he wears. Loki's used up too much energy getting here to make them invisible, so to give themselves camouflage they've rolled in the red dirt at their feet. It coats their armor and skin. For once in a very long time they almost are the same color.

Lifting the binoculars, Fandral peers out over the mesa covered with tents of dragon hide, arranged around a circle of red dirt. Loki can just make out hominid shapes in dark armor with flames for hair. "At least 500. A full war host of Fire Ettin females. They'll stay on the mesa another few months, sparring with one another, until a faction emerges victorious - then they'll pack up and leave and claim their male prizes in the valley below."

Narrowing his eyes in a vain attempt to see better, and because the heat is making them dry and itchy, Loki says, "The branch of the World Tree leading to Idunn's Orchard will open just 40 paces to the right of that center circle -"

"Sparring pit," Fandral clarifies.

"-in exactly one month's time." Loki finishes and scowls. This is supposed to be the easy part of the journey.

Fandral squints. "Splendid." He tucks the binoculars into a pocket in the vest of his armor. Not looking at Loki he says, "They're essentially in heat...for battle. But, well, you might try diplomacy."

Loki raises an eyebrow. Fandral has more experience with Fire Ettins than he does. If Fandral suggests diplomacy as a possibility...

From behind them comes the scrape of rock on rock. Fandral and Loki both turn. The air around them shimmers, and then three female forms in heavy black armor emerge from the waves of heat. The flames of their hair rise above their sunshine yellow faces and twist in red, blue and white flames towards the sky. They are each easily two feet taller than Loki and Fandral.

"Ladies," says Fandral bowing low. "So pleased to meet you."

They all smile, baring razor sharp teeth. One steps forward. "Oh, look, our dinner can speak!" Laughing, they all pull their swords.

...or maybe diplomacy won't be an option.


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 22 of 26

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