Continuing Tales

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 11 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds. ~G.K. Chesterton


The sun blazed in the sky above Asgard, filling the giant tournament coliseum with brilliant light, as the wind caught the thousands of colorful banners and flags and set them fluttering. The thunder of the cheering crowd flooded Loki's senses as he stepped out of a door beneath the bleachers and onto the torn sand. He paused, and glanced above and around him at the vast, flashing masses. All of them directed their shouts toward the center of the ring, where, amidst the wreckage of war engines, three ragged-but-grinning warriors stood: the golden-haired Fandral the Dashing, dark-countenanced Hogun the Grim, and red-bearded Volstaag the Valiant, all newcomers to the court. And now, due to their triumph in the tournament, they had earned the coveted position of Thor's personal warrior entourage.

Loki strode through the shadow of one side of the stands as the cheers resounded all around and above him, his long green dress cape fluttering around his ankles. Servants had begun to enter the arena floor, cleaning the mess and raking the sand flat again. Loki eyed the destroyed machines, and raised his left hand slightly to send invisible magic coursing out from his fingertips, making certain all of the tournament spells had been put to sleep.

"Ah! This is the one!"

Loki halted, his head coming around. Fandral strode toward him whilst removing his leather bracers. The blonde man shot him a grin. Loki frowned. Fandral was closely followed by Hogun and Volstaag. Volstaag had the same look of brash glee on his face that Fandral did, but Hogun's black eyes were unreadable.

"Can I help you?" Loki asked.

"You already did," Fandral crowed. "The pageboy told me you were the one in charge of the illusions and dangers in this tournament."

"Indeed, I was," Loki answered, narrowing his eyes and studying each of them in turn.

"We were just wondering if that was as challenging as they possibly could be," Volstaag rumbled, grinning at his friends. "We were told that the creator of these illusions was a master—that he could maim or kill his foes without even touching them."

Loki raised an eyebrow.

"Are you complaining that you weren't maimed this afternoon?"

"I think he is saying that your reputation has been exaggerated," Hogun said, straight-faced.

"Thank you for translating," Loki said coldly.

"What my friend is saying," Fandral laughed, putting a hand on Volstaag's broad shoulder. "Is that we hope you aren't disappointed. You mustn't be, you know. I doubt you've been tested against warriors of our caliber before."

"You shouldn't listen to stupid gossip," Hogun scolded Fandral. "If he could maim people without touching them, don't you think he would have been out here in the contest with us, trying to become one of Thor's best?"

"You're right, of course." Fandral looked at Loki with interest. "You've doubtlessly just performed illusions to amuse the All-Father in the past, am I correct?" He glanced at the others. "I've heard of monarchs who keep illusionists as they would keep minstrels or jesters."

Loki's mouth hardened.

"It's too bad, really," Volstaag said. "It would be nice to have someone in our band that could fight like that."

Loki's eyes caught a flash of red far past them. He turned back to the three.

"Pardon my curiosity, my lords, but may I ask the name that this pageboy used to identify me?"

"The Illusion Master," Hogun answered.

"Yes, that is one of my titles," Loki answered. Then, he raised his voice and his head. "Thor!"

The three jumped, and their eyes went wide. They had never heard someone call him by just his given name.

"What do you want?" Thor bellowed back, in an impetuous, familiar tone. Loki didn't answer—he just folded his arms and waited.

Thor, his armor flashing blindingly, his red cape billowing out behind him, strode across the tournament field, hopped over a piece of machinery, and swung around the tall form of Volstaag, smiling.

"Ah, my new friends—I see you've met my brother!" he thundered. The three went ash white. Loki buried his smirk. Thor came up beside Loki and put an arm around him.

"Not officially," Loki said, unveiling his crooked smile now. Fandral looked shaken, Hogun's face went tight—Volstaag gulped.

"Volstaag, Fandral, Hogun," Thor slapped Loki's back. "This is my younger brother and right arm, Prince Loki the Cunning. It's best you know him, and know him well—he'll be coming or going wherever I come or go. And don't cross him," Thor pointed Mjollnir at them good-naturedly. "He can cut you into a thousand pieces by just looking at you. I've seen him do it." Thor slapped Loki again, then turned toward the exit. "Shall we go to the hall, Loki? I hear our feast is waiting for us!" Thor strode off. Loki inclined his head to the three stunned warriors.

"My lords," he purred, then turned and strode out, keeping exact pace with Thor, at his right hand side.


Loki stood on the roof of the lab, gazing up at the late afternoon sky, his brow furrowed. The wind gusted from the south, and it felt cooler than normal. Thick clouds gathered on the horizon. He slid his hands into his jeans pockets and took a breath to try and loosen his chest. It didn't work.

Someone was touching the Cube. With their hands, ungloved. He could feel it—feel the energy from the Cube pulsing and jerking in reaction, much as a captive fish would twitch away from a prod. It tied his insides in knots—he had completely lost his appetite. It even made what remained of his rib injury twinge.

He would be entirely healed in a matter of days. And the memory of his plan resurfaced now like the skeleton of a ship dredged up in a storm. He stood in silence, studying that hulk in his mind, feeling his blood go cold.

He clenched his jaw and lowered his head. The scientists were getting close to discovering the true nature of that device—he knew it by their speech and their confident manner, and by everything he had heard Jane and Erik discussing.

If he wanted the Cube, he would have to move. Soon.


Jane shoved the lab door open, stormed inside and flung her purse down on the couch where Fenris' blankets were neatly folded.

"Crap!" she roared. "Crap, crap!"

Footsteps creaked on the metal staircase that led to the roof. She didn't look up—she knew it was Fenris. Instead, she kicked her desk chair. It rolled across the tile floor.

"What does that word mean?" Fenris asked, stopping where he was.

"It's an expression of frustration," Jane said, clenching her fists. "Although there are probably stronger ones I could use at the moment."

"Why? What's wrong?"

She finally looked up at him—he stood halfway down the stairs, his hands in his pockets, his demeanor quieter than usual. It was irritating to Jane, who wanted to fling something across the room and scream. She settled for whacking a hand down on her computer keyboard—the screen sprang to life.

"What's wrong is that it's overcast. Completely, totally overcast—I think it's cloudy from here to the freaking Mason-Dixon Line, and it's going to stay that way until the middle of tomorrow. See? Look at that." She pointed to her screen, which showed a meteorology map of the country—and it did indeed display a large, slow-moving section of clouds covering at least two states. Including theirs.

"Why is that a problem?" Fenris asked, coming the rest of the way down the steps and nearing her, his brow furrowed.

"Don't you remember?" Jane cried. "Or did you forget too? Darcy probably has—and I know Erik did!" She stopped, and searched his puzzled face. "You really don't remember, do you?"

"I—" Fenris started.

"Never mind, it doesn't matter," Jane muttered, her throat threatening to choke her. She turned back and bent over her purse, rifling through it for her trailer keys.

"Jane, what happened?" Fenris asked quietly. Jane furiously dug through the contents of her bag.

"This morning, SHIELD decided they would shut me of the physical examination of the Cube," she snapped. "They reminded me that I'm only a consultant, and as such, I shouldn't be around when they do anything that dangerous. Of course, I was more than a little offended, because at this stage I know as much about it as any of them do, so I put up a fight." Jane huffed, starting to take things out of her purse now and pile them on the couch. "Then, Agent Coulson 'asked' me to go home. Erik didn't fight him, and made me get in the van so he could drive me. And, just to make me happier, the whole drive home, I watched the clouds come out of nowhere cover the whole sky. At first—ha, silly me—I thought it would clear off. But then I looked at the radar on my phone." Jane snatched her keys out of the very bottom of her purse. "And so now my whole day is trashed."

She could feel Fenris' eyes on her, but she already felt like a baby for throwing this tantrum, and she couldn't stand to look at him.

"That's unfortunate," Fenris said.

Jane whirled around, strode toward the front door and shoved on it.

"It doesn't matter," she muttered. "Who cares about a bunch of falling rocks anyway?" And she left the lab, and a silent Fenris, behind her, and stomped to her trailer as the

wind picked up even more and the sky darkened.


Jane sat on her bed, still dressed. It was past midnight, but again, she could not make herself sleep. This time, it was because her heart sat so heavy inside her she could barely breathe.

She had been looking forward to the meteor shower so much. It had been a long time since she had seen one—and they always reminded her of the first night she had ever witnessed such a phenomenon. One warm summer night, when she was twelve years old, her daddy had taken her hand in his—a firm, gentle hold—and had led her to the top of a high, grassy hill to watch. And as the meteors streaked across the sky, Jane had realized right then that her future was in the stars. Those blazing specks of tumbling light had inspired her, lit a fire in her soul. That fire had carried her through years of schooling, years of successes and failures and ridicule and heartache. But right now, her soul just felt tired. And dark. And alone.

Every time she thought she was making headway, they would knock her five steps back. Every time it looked like things were about to line up, she would find out her compass was all wrong.

Jane twisted where she sat, and leaned back against the wall, sighed, and lifted the Lokistone out from underneath her collar. It was now attached to a chain and an oval setting that had belonged to her grandmother. At first, she had put the Lokistone in a jewelry box, but she couldn't bear shutting it in the dark like that. So she had set it out on her dresser, but then she worried it might get knocked off. So she had dug around in an old shoebox and found the silver setting, devoid of the turquoise stone it had once held. During one of the trips to the bunker, she had dropped both the Lokistone and the chain-with-setting off at the local jeweler to be fitted together—and now she wore them around her neck, resting against her breastbone.

She fingered it, turning the stone back and forth in the little light of her lamp. There had been a few times recently when she could have sworn it had heated up against her skin, just for a moment. And another time, she had been almost positive that it had glowed, or emitted some sort of sharp light for just a moment. Oddly, this didn't bother her. Instead, it reminded her that she wasn't crazy, that there were powerfulbeings in another realm that had come across a rainbow bridge not long ago and changed everything. That she was right. That she had always been right.

But the stone hadn't glowed or heated up in a while. And at the moment, it felt cold to her touch, and looked slightly duller than she remembered. She bit her lip, hear heart sinking. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, her forehead going tight as she fought not to let all her disappointment and frustration swamp her. She let out a long sigh. It shook. She reached up and pressed a hand to her eyes, keeping tears at bay.

The stone flashed. Jane jerked, blinking rapidly. The light faded, and the stone looked the same as it had before. She frowned and sat up straight.

A knock came at her door.

She swung her legs around and put her feet on the floor, glancing at the clock. It was ten till three in the morning. Tucking her necklace under the front of her shirt again, she got up and edged to the door. Carefully, she worked the latch and pushed the door open a crack.

She saw no one. She opened the door a little further and looked out into the parking—

To see Fenris standing about ten feet away, dressed in his leather and his full, shining armor, his green cape hanging from his shoulders down to his ankles. He glanced up from fingering his right-arm bracer and met her eyes—she could see the whole of his striking figure in the light of a street lamp and the neon light of the tower on the lab.

"What are you doing?" Jane hissed, pushing her hair out of her face, for the cool night wind blew it in her eyes. Fenris put spread his hands out to the sides.

"I was under the impression we were to watch a meteor shower tonight."'

Jane sighed and leaned her head against the doorframe.

"Yeah, well…We can't now." She gestured helplessly to the sky, where not one star was visible through the thick clouds. Fenris glanced up.

"Hm. I see no reason why that should stop us."

"Um, it's kind of hard to see a meteor shower through clouds," Jane pointed out. "Unless you have X-ray vision."

"Did Thor never take you flying?" he asked, then met her eyes again.

"Um…" Jane said, confused. "Yes. I mean, we sort of…blasted off and then landed hard out in the desert somewhere…"

Fenris sighed and shook his dark head.

"Yes, the man never has been known for his touch." He held out a pale hand. "Come with me. I'll show you how it's done properly."

Jane hesitated, looking at him sideways and holding tight to the doorframe, her stomach going tense. Fenris dropped his hand and rolled his eyes.

"Oh, don't tell me you trust that oaf but you don't trust me. I was flying circles around Thor when he was still trying to get Mjollnir to come back to him without hitting him in the face."

Jane burst out laughing, then covered her mouth with her hand. Fenris smiled. Then, he ducked his head a moment, and when he met her gaze again, his emerald eyes were clear and steady.

"Come on, Jane," he said quietly, holding his hand out again. "You don't want to miss this."

Jane stood for a long moment on the top step of her trailer, looking back into his eyes. She swallowed hard. He waited, his hand still held out to her. Then, before she knew what she was doing, she took a step down. Then another. And she reached out and grasped his fingers.

He pulled her toward him, then let go of her hand and turned her so her back was to him.

"Stand on my feet," he instructed. He nudged her closer, and she stepped back and stood up on his boots, and inadvertently leaned back against his chest. She blushed, feeling awkward. The back of her head bumped his breastplate, and she had the fleeting realization that he was actually taller than she thought.

Then, he slid his arms under hers and wrapped them firmly around her middle. She sucked in her breath as she was suddenly encased in strength and hardness—her arms rested on his, and her back pressed against his chest, all of which was covered in armor.

Then, she felt him lean his head down toward the left side of hers.

"Ready?" he asked. She gave a weak laugh.

"I suppose," she managed. He didn't answer. His arms tightened around her…

And then she felt herself being lifted off the ground. She gasped. Fenris' cape fluttered, and then they were rising, up and up, so she could see the roof of her trailer, then the roof of the lab, and then they were past the tip of the tower.

Swiftly and smoothly, they climbed higher and higher, until she could see the lights and rooftops of the whole town stretched out beneath them. Darkness surrounded them, pressing down on them, as they left civilization below. Jane gulped, offering a silent prayer of thanks that she wasn't afraid of heights—for nothing stood between her and the ground except Fenris' feet and arms. She glanced up.

Straight above them hung a canopy of black cloud, as impenetrable-looking as a stone wall. She glanced up and back. Fenris' head was tilted upward, and he gazed straight toward the sky.

She felt him take a deep breath, and pull her even closer. And then…

They entered the cloud.

Jane shivered, drawing her shoulders up as wind and cold suddenly rushed around her, tickling her skin with millions of droplets of water. She could see nothing all around her except darkness, and the cloud whispered and whirled through her clothes, chilling her to the bone. Fenris picked up his speed—the wind whipped her hair and her stomach plunged. His cape flapped like a flag behind them. Up, and up, through swirling, freezing darkness, and then—

They burst out of the clouds. The deep blue sky exploded with millions of crystal clear stars, and the full beaming moon shone down across a canyon of milky white-and-silver-gilded clouds that towered over them like monoliths.

Jane gasped, electricity shooting through her body. The vast dome of the endless sky seemed close enough to touch with her fingertips, yet Jane felt as if she was standing on the surface of the moon.

Fenris let them drift down a bit, until the dome of a star-kissed cloud enfolded and curled around their feet and ankles. All around them, looming clouds drifted like immense ships under full sail, taller than any skyscraper. One side of their soft forms was blanketed with purest white light, and the other side bathed in the blackest ink of night. Each a different shape, each staggeringly colossal, stretching their peaks up and out of sight—some looking like sheep's fleece, others like strands of feathers, some like sparkling cathedral domes, and others like the jagged Rocky Mountains. And the stars…

They truly looked like pinpricks in the floor of heaven. Jane swept her dazzled eyes over all of them, feeling like she was seeing old friends for the first time. They twinkled down at her, as if winking in recognition, and almost seemed to draw nearer. Jane couldn't speak.

Fenris' arms shifted around her. She adjusted her grip on him. He leaned his face down toward hers again.

"Here they come."

She took a breath to ask him what he meant—

And then they shot across the sky, blazing and burning and blinding, bearing light far brighter than the stars or even the moon:


Fallen stars.

Countless dozens flared straight across her vision, cutting across the light-skirt of the moon and vanishing into the clouds like birds plunging into the ocean. No sooner would they disappear than Jane's flashing eyes would be caught by a dozen more as they broke through the atmosphere like a legion of angels descending, streaking by in a flare of brilliant glory.

Sometimes, one or two would slice through higher or lower than she expected, and at other times they would charge past all in a concerted line. Each time a new one appeared, chills raced across Jane's skin, sending a shiver straight down her spine. She couldn't tear her eyes from the sky—her heart pounded in her chest and her breaths came quick and sharp.

Then, she felt Fenris' soft lips against her ear.

"Are you cold?"

She blinked, swallowed, then let out a breathless laugh.

"Yes," she declared, and vapor issued from her mouth.

He moved and rested his chin on top of her head—she felt him do it. Then, he turned his hands and enveloped hers in his, entwining their fingers and squeezing her icy thumbs. Warmth rushed through her from the crown of her head down to her heels, and from her fingertips to her heart. She gasped, stunned, and surprised tears sprang to her eyes. She swallowed hard again, then smiled foolishly and leaned her head back further under his jaw.

The meteors continued their swift, short-lived downward race, enrapturing Jane completely and burning the sight of them into her memory.

At last, one final meteor—the largest of all—trailed downward all alone, bright and quick and stunning. Then it was gone. The sky was still.

Jane took a breath, a shiver passing through her as she came back to herself. The flap of Fenris' cape was all she could hear. The cold, moist wind touched her face, and warmth rested in her hands and her head.

"Shall we?" Fenris asked, and his voice vibrated through her head.

"Do we have to?" she murmured.

"Now what good would all of this be if you died of cold?" he asked. Jane smiled.

"I would die happy."

He said nothing. She felt him swallow.

"Hold on," he whispered at last, and then they sank down through the cloud.

Seamlessly, Fenris pulled her back down out of the sky, back through the whirling dark, back through the pressing black of the highest reaches, until the lights of the town spread out like a carpet beneath them. Without a rush or a jerk, he guided her down to the roof of the lab, parallel with the tower, and set her down as lightly as if she'd taken the last step from her trailer to the gravel.

Jane stepped off his shoes and turned around, their hands and arms sliding out of each other. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked up at him.

His black hair was wind tossed, and strands fell across his brow. He looked striking and noble in his clean uniform and armor—so similar, yet so different, compared to the way he had looked when she had first seen him. His green eyes followed hers, shining in the neon light. And something tightened his brow, troubled his soft mouth. He didn't speak—but his gaze penetrated through her, stealing her breath. For just an instant, he bent toward her, his eyelashes fluttering. She did not step back.

Then, he drew in a deep breath and straightened, and glanced out over the hidden hills. Jane cleared her throat.

"Thank you," she murmured. His eyes flashed back to hers, and he smiled reflexively for a moment.

"I couldn't have you so upset," he said. "It makes me fear for my life."

Jane laughed, finding it impossible to take her eyes from him. She forced herself to lower her head.

"Come on, I'm not that scary," she said.

"You haven't seen yourself," he chuckled. Jane grinned, and risked looking at him again. He was smiling when he met her eyes—but his smile faded the longer they looked at each other. She swallowed, something staggering her heartbeat.

"I'd…I'd better go to bed," she managed. He nodded quickly, glancing away.

"Um, thank you," Jane said again, awkwardly reaching for his hand—though as soon as she took it, she felt silly.

But he instantly caught her hand up in both of his, his grip gentle, turned it over and pressed a kiss to her palm. Again, warmth shot through her, straight to her chest.

"It was my pleasure," he said, meeting her eyes again, for just an instant. Then, he inclined his head, let her go, and looked back toward the horizon. "Goodnight, Jane."

She studied his profile for another long moment, then felt a slow smile spread across her face.

"Goodnight," she murmured, turned and headed toward the door.

She paused as her hand rested on the handle. She reached up, and pressed a hand to her chest, frowning.

And then she blinked.

The Lokistone was warm.

"Hm," she mused. She opened the door and slowly walked down the stairs, smiling to herself and rubbing the stone with her thumb.

Fallen Star

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by Alydia Rackham

Part 11 of 27

<< Previous     Home     Next >>