Actions

Work Header

Rulers Make Bad Lovers

Chapter Text

“Thor, no!” Balder tried to block his way, but Thor was far stronger. He threw his brother aside and forced the door to his father’s antechamber open.

 

Odin was sitting where Thor had left him. His smile was wicked, his good eye gleaming with madness.

 

“Why?” Thor asked.

 

Balder entered the room behind him, holding his shoulder. Thor should have felt sorry for him, but he had no pity for any of them. The line of Odin was rotten. It was filled with liars and Thor was tired of being lied to, of being used and told he would understand eventually.

 

All he understood is that he had been left vulnerable and easily manipulated.

 

“I never favoured you,” Odin said. “ You are weak, easily led. You would have married that witch and he would have whispered filth into your ears, would have had you destroy everything I built.”

 

Thor slammed his hand into the wall, making the room shake.

 

“What have you built?” he snarled. “The only things you’ve ever made are me, Balder,your other sons and anything good in us has come from our mothers.”

 

“I built an empire,” Odin shouted. “I expanded far past what my father ever did and I protected what I had. Do you know what the dwarfs demanded in exchange for Loki, when that fool got himself captured? They wanted me to tear down Asgard, to give them back their gold in exchange for that wretch.”

 

“Gold? You let him suffer for seven years for gold?” Thor said, horrified.

 

He wanted to tear down the palace with his bare hands. He wanted to melt down every bit of gold, to give all of it to Loki and hope that was enough to buy his forgiveness. He beat his fist against the wall again, hard enough to crack the stone. He would begin now. He would break Asgard down to its foundations.

 

“You never said,” Balder said, his voice full of confusion and Thor spared him a glance, his hand paused. “You told me the dwarfs asked for something we couldn’t give them. The gold is only a covering. The palace is stone. We could have given it back!”

 

Balder was looking at his father as if he did not know the man in front of him. He looked at him as if he was a stranger.

 

“I did it for Asgard! The golden palace is a beacon to our people. Loki is a servant. He understood. Besides, it did him good to learn humility,” Odin said. There was no contrition in his voice, no regret.

 

He believed what he had done was justified.

 

Thor shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing. Loki had been imprisoned for seven years and the man who could have freed him had done nothing. He hadn’t cared. He might even have known what sort of fate he was sending Loki to and still he sent him.

 

No wonder outside the palace the world burned.

 

“You did this from spite? People will die!” Balder cried.

 

His own horror echoed Thor’s.

 

“This is more important than the people. This is my legacy,” Odin said.

 

“You are mad,” Thor said.

 

“I am the King. Loki betrayed me. He gave you what he would not give me and I have punished him as I see fit.”

 

Thor stared at his father. His blood ran cold.

 

“You and Loki…” Thor could not finishing the thought.

 

“You would never have been born if Loki would have given me what I desired,” Odin spat.

 

“Jealousy and spite,” Bladar muttered.

 

Odin pushed himself up from his seat. He took a faltering step towards Thor, then another, propping himself up on his scepter.

 

“Now you cannot have him either,” he hissed. “He is a monster and all the people will soon know. They will demand his head and you will bring it to them, because you are their King.”

 

“I will not harm him!” Thor shouted.

 

Balder flinched, but Odin did not move.

 

“Even when he destroys? When he kills? He will sweep through the whole world like a plague, consuming all who live there. He devours men as easily as he breathes,” he said.

 

“No!”

 

“Mjolnir can slay him. Save your people, prove your worth and become a son I can be proud of.”

 

“Never,” Thor shook his head firmly.

 

Whatever Loki was, whatever he had done, Thor loved him. He wouldn’t kill the man he loved. It was a monsterous thought and he hated his father for putting it in his head.

 

Balder hung his head, unable to look at either of them. Thor wanted to hate him, but Balder was as much a pawn in this plot as Thor had been. Odin had been playing them all off against each other. Balder had simply been a useful piece at the right time. He hadn’t known what would happen. He hadn’t known the depths his father had sunk to hang on to power or to punish those who rejected him.

 

“Pathetic” Odin said, turning away from Thor. “At least you will never have Loki, and that child you sired with him will never inherit the throne.”

 

“Child?” Balder looked up, gazing at his father in shock.

 

“Loki is with child?” Thor demanded. He could hardly believe the words, but he remembered how Loki had seemed to glow when he entered the Hall. Thor had thought he was pleased that he had been right, that Thor would be King, but now he thought Loki might have been delighted for another reason; a secret reason known only to himself.“You knew and you still let me…”

 

“Why should you have what I do not?” Odin said calmly.

 

Thor did not hesitate. He surged forward and grabbed hold of the old man.

 

He closed his hand tight around Odin’s mouth. He wanted him to stop talking, wanted to force every cruel word back into the man’s mouth and make him choke on them. He held him as Odin struggled, his grip tightening until finally the old man stopped moving, until the scepter he had clutched fell from his limp grimp. Only then did Thor withdraw his hand.

 

He set Odin’s body back down in his chair and stood quietly in front of it.

 

“Father,” Balder said softly.

 

He came to stand at Thor’s side. There were no tears in his eyes.

 

“He is dead,” Thor said.

 

He should feel something, some horror at the fact that he had taken a life, but he felt nothing. He was not even frightened of what Balder would do. He was completely numb.

 

If Balder wanted to take his head and have the crown for himself, Thor did not think he would care.

 

His father had destroyed the most important thing in Thor’s life. Nothing else mattered.

 

“Yes,” Balder said, looking at Thor. “And you are King.”

 

He held out his hand, as he had done when he swore his oath to Thor.

 

Thor took it.

 

**

 

Odin’s funeral and Thor’s coronation were the same day.

 

Balder lied faultlessly. He told that Odin had had a fit, that had Thor tried to hold him down to keep him from injuring himself, but that they could do nothing for him. He was sorrowful. No one doubted his word.

 

Thor said nothing. His eyes were red-rimmed, his shoulders heavy and people took his grief at face value. They believed he was mourning for his father.

 

No one mentioned Loki.

 

The crown was set upon Thor’s head and he shuddered, unable to bear the weight of it. He was no ruler, no leader to these people, but he was their King all the same.

 

Bells were rung. They chimed out across a shattered Kingdom. There was no feast, no dancing and no jubilant clothes in bright, happy colours. The nobles at his coronation wore black.

 

Instead of celebrating, they buried the old King.

 

Loki’s fire raged uncontrollably outside the Palace. Even when there was nothing left to burn, the flames continued.

 

Jord winced at every blackened section of earth, every scorch mark left and Thor knew now why his mother and Loki had never been on friendly terms. Their dispute was older than Odin and his meddling. Loki destroyed all that Jord built.

 

**

 

The fourth day of the unending fire, Thor called a council.

 

His mother, Balder and the once Queen Frigga were the ones he called. They were the only ones he knew, the only ones he trusted.

 

“When will this stop?” he asked, gesturing to the window and the fire that raged outside.

 

“I’m not sure it can be stopped,” Jord said.

 

“Is Loki angry with me? Is that why he’s doing this?” Thor questioned her.

 

He wanted to make some sense of the destruction. He could understand if Loki was doing this to hurt him. As cruel as it would have been, Thor would have understood. To simply cause chaos for the sake of it was something he could not comprehend.

 

His mother shook her head firmly.

 

“I don’t believe he’s in control,” she said.

 

Frigga agreed. “For nearly a hundred years, he has been bound and this power has been subdued. He has focused on other things, other magic. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing now or how to stop it.”

 

“So the Kingdom will be destroyed because Loki does not know how to control himself?” Balder asked.

 

He held himself stiffly, his arm in a sling. Thor hadn’t meant to hurt his brother, but when Balder had tried to bar him entry to Odin’s rooms, Thor hadn’t been in his right mind. He feared he might never be in his right mind again.

 

He had killed his father and he had yet to feel remorse for it.

 

“Loki can be killed,” Jord said. She spoke without emotion. “He is an Old One, but we can still die. The fire will die with him.”

 

Frigga’s face grew pale.

 

“No, there must be another way,” she said.

 

Jord grimaced. “The land is suffering. Thor’s people are suffering. Please, this needs to be ended.”

 

“A few days,” Frigga suggested. “Just a few more days. He may come back to himself.”

 

They both looked to Thor to make the choice; Frigga pleading and Jord with her face set in grim determination.

 

Thor already knew what his heart had chosen.

 

“We will wait,” he said. “We will see if Loki can stop himself. If he can’t….”

 

“Can you kill him?” Balder asked.

 

If it were anyone else, Thor would have struck them, but he knew his brother was not taunting him. Balder did not ask him to goad him. He asked because he knew Thor was weak.

 

The crown weighed too heavy on Thor’s head. It was nothing, just more stolen gold. He could break it in two it he wanted, discard the pieces, but that would not destroy the weight of leadership. He should be focused on his people and on the land. He should want to protect them. His mother was suffering and that should be his priority. He should want to protect her.

 

He shouldn’t want to protect Loki.

 

“You can get close to him,” Jord said. She cupped Thor’s face in her hands, forcing him to look at her. He hated to see the scars the flames left on her, but he endured it. She was enduring worse. “Thor, you are lightning and thunder. You will be safe. You can defeat him and you will have Mjolnir.”

 

“Could Mjolnir kill Loki?” Balder asked hesitantly.

 

Frigga let out a little cry at her son’s words. Thor was glad he could not see her face.

 

“Mjolnir is magical. It will never fail. If Thor lifts it with the intent to kill, then whoever he strikes will die,” Jord said quietly.

 

“And that was the worth our father wanted us to have?” Balder’s voice rose in anger.

 

“Your father claimed an empire, Balder; he wanted a son who would follow in his footsteps,” Frigga said consolingly.

 

Thor shuddered. The last thing he wanted to believe was that he was like Odin.

 

He was though. He had killed his own father. He had been planning to wage a war on the dwarfs. He was letting the Loki’s fire rage on because of his own selfishness.

 

Thor was not a good man. He was not worthy of anything but his father’s legacy of war and blood.

 

“And the child?” Balder asked. “You could really kill your own child?”

 

The silence left in the wake of his revelation was overwhelming.

 

Thor risked a look at his mother to find her face had hardened to stone.

 

“You lay with Loki,” she said, the words an accusation.

 

Thor did not deny it.

 

“You lay with him and you got him with child!” Jord’s voice rose, her anger harsh. “You stupid, foolish boy, Thor! How could you? Loki doesn’t know how to love, he is incapable and you created a child with him! He will poison that child, like he poisons everything he touches!”

 

She shook with anger. Thor could hardly stand it.

 

“I have tried to keep you safe from him!” Jord cried and now there were tears in her eyes.

 

Thor felt his heart shatter. He had betrayed his mother. He had betrayed his Kingdom. In his selfish pursuit of Loki, he had destroyed everything else held dear to him. He did not believe his mother would ever forgive him.

 

She might though, if he struck Loki down and ended the twisted, wicked thing once and for all. She might, if he buried his feelings for Loki in Loki’s grave.

 

“I will do what I have to do,” Thor said, pulling from his mother’s hold. “I am the King and that duty must come first.”

 

The words sounded hollow to his own ears, no matter how much Thor tried to fill them with conviction.

 

**

 

Thor tried to call the rain to him.

 

He had done it before, had made the skies open and the rain fall, but nothing would come. The sky was thick with black soot and smog from the fire that encircled the palace walls, but Thor knew no clouds had gathered behind that darkness.

 

He had never learned to control his power. There had never seemed to be a need before. The thunder and lightning came and went as his emotions did.

 

His mother’s words echoed in his mind - “ You are lightning and thunder. You will be safe. ” but Thor was numb. He could not bring the storm when he felt only emptiness inside of him.

 

**

 

Frigga found him on the sixth day, standing on the battlement, staring out at the devastation and the fire that burned on even when there was nothing left to destroy.

 

“Thor, I know that Jord and Balder have given their council on what you must do, but I come to plead on Loki’s behalf,” she said.

 

Thor did not look at her. He couldn’t.

 

The fire showed no sign of abating.

 

Thor had begun to hate Loki for being the cause of it.

 

“Loki loves you. I know he loves you,” Frigga said.

 

Thor laughed bitterly. Loki did not know how to love. That was clear to him now.

 

His mother had tried to warn him. She had wanted to protect him from this heartbreak, but Thor had been so certain of himself. He had never listened to anyone’s warnings when it came to Loki and now they were all paying the price.

 

“What do you know of love?” he asked. “You would not have been Queen if not for Loki. He sold you to my father, like some prize mare to be ridden. None of us would be here if not for Loki and his meddling.”

 

From the corner of his eye, Thor saw Frigga flinch.

 

His words were cruel, but Thor knew he spoke the truth. The sooner Frigga saw Loki for what he was; a grasping schemer who thought only of his own happiness, the better it would be for all of them.

 

“I know that Loki loves you,” Frigga repeated, defiant.

 

Thor shook his head.

 

If Loki loved him then he would have stopped himself. He would have found a way to prevent all of this. Loki had always been so clever, controlling everything and everyone. Thor had always been too in love with him to see him for what he truly was. He had accepted Loki’s deflection and lies, never wanting to scare Loki away by pressing him too hard about his past and about the magic he contained.

 

Now Thor hardened his heart to Loki and everything they had ever shared.

 

It had been six days, the fire still raged, and Thor had sworn to do his duty by his Kingdom.

 

“He did not want to be my father’s whore. He wanted his life to be easy and he would have used me to gain that.”

 

Thor had meant nothing to him. He had simply been useful. Loki would have used any of them to gain what he wanted and Thor had been the one foolish enough to fall for his charms.

 

Thor was not expecting the gentle hand that touched his shoulder.

 

“Do you really believe that?” Frigga asked quietly.

 

Thor hesitated, then nodded.

 

He had to believe it.

 

“And the child?” Frigga said. “Do you really believe that was simply meddling or trickery?”

 

Thor didn’t say anything. He couldn’t.

 

He stared out across the burning land, the ashes of his Kingdom and eventually Frigga left him alone with his pain.



**

 

The people flocked to the gates of the golden palace. They had lost everything. Their crops were destroyed, their homes in ruins. The food in the stores ran low and eventually Thor persuaded his mother to return to their home, to the eternal summer, and fetch provisions. He wouldn’t let his people starve.

 

He looked for all options, spoke to scholars and witches, consulted with the soothsayers and the storytellers, but there was no hope. Loki’s fire was unstoppable. Loki would not be able to quench himself.

 

The only way to end it was to end Loki.

 

Every day Thor visited Mjolnir. The song became stronger with each return. The hammer had already tasted Loki’s blood and now it hungered for more.

 

His father’s words rung in his memory, harmonizing with Mjolnir’s song. The people would demand Loki’s head now they knew what a monster he was.

 

Thor could be a great King. He could be a glorious king. He could destroy the evil that ravaged his land. It would be easy with Mjolnir in his hand.

 

Thor had been King for nine days when he came to his decision.

 

He saddled his horse and took up Mjolnir.

 

He rode out into the flames in search of Loki and an end to the destruction.

 

**

 

Loki sat beside a clear blue lake. He had made his camp at the water’s edge. It was the only thing that couldn’t burn. The trees around the lake edge were aflame. It wasn’t anything Loki had done intentionally. His fire spread were he did.

 

It had been so long since he’d been wild like this. He had never known how to control himself and now it was worse. He’d spent too long in the service of mortal men. He’d had the safety of his binding.

 

It would have all been perfect as Loki planned it. The blood right would have passed to Thor as would the throne and Loki would have been loved. Thor wouldn’t use Loki’s power to hurt. He wouldn’t want to enslave giants or conquer land. He would want to repair the scars his forefathers had left.

 

Loki would bear him a child and if Thor ever left him, that child would take the blood right.

 

Now none of that could be.

 

There was no binding and Loki had caused too much devastation to be forgiven.

 

He turned his head at the sound of hoofbeats. He already knew it would be Thor.

 

Thor would be the only one who could withstand his fire. He was made of the storm.

 

Thor was too noble to let him ravage the land. He had given Loki as long as he could and Loki was grateful to him. He had made peace with his fate and his place in Thor’s story.

 

Death, Loki’s sister, had found him to tell him of Odin’s passing. She had cried her tears into Loki’s embrace, had promised him a place at her table for him and his son.

 

Thor rode towards him. Mjolnir dangled from his belt and on his head sat the crown of Asgard. His horse, a skittish thing, pawed at the ground but did not bolt. There was nowhere but the lake to go that was not consumed by fire.

 

“I knew you would come,” Loki said.

 

It had been inevitable.

 

Odin had made Loki the monster Thor had to slay to ensure his Kingship. It was almost poetic.

 

He waited for Thor to dismount his horse. He didn’t run. There would be nowhere he could go that Thor couldn’t find him.

 

“So, now you know what I am. You know why your mother fought to keep you from me. You know that I am more than any witch. You know I cannot be trusted. You know everything.”

 

Loki spread his hands out in front of him, laying bare his secrets. All but one. He would not tell Thor of the child. He would not bring that grief to Thor’s door.

 

“Loki…” Thor walked towards him hesitantly.

 

He was waiting for an attack, but Loki no longer had any fight in him.

 

“I will not fight you, Thor. I know I have done awful things. I know you cannot forgive me.”

 

Loki stood and turned to face the lake. It was so calm here, even with the fire raging all around them. He pressed his hands to his stomach, closing his eyes and let go of the future he had planned, the dreams he had had. He said goodbye to his child. He said goodbye to Thor.

 

Then Loki knelt at the water’s edge, his head bowed, awaiting Thor’s blow.

 

“Come,” he said. “Put out the light.”

 

He felt the air shiver as Thor hefted Mjolnir. It would be a clean death. One blow.

 

Loki was proud. He did not cry.

 

He heard the whistle as Mjolnir spit the air and tensed for the blow he knew was coming.

 

Instead, the hammer flew passed him. Thor threw it as far as he could, into the depths of the lake. A great splash of water rose up and swallowed Mjolnir. Ripples spread out across the tranquil surface of the lake as the hammer sank.

 

Then, there was silence.

 

Thor dropped to his knees. He wrapped his arms around Loki.

 

“I love you,” he whispered.

 

“Please!” Loki gasped.

 

He had been ready. He had prepared himself. He was ready for Death and would embrace her warmly when she came.

 

He had hoped Thor would show him mercy and kill him there, where there were no witnesses. Loki could not stand the thought of being paraded through the streets, of facing a public execution. He had always known people would celebrate his death, but if Thor took him back to Asgard then he would have to see their faces, he would have to see their lust for his blood to spill.

 

“I do not care what you are,” Thor said. “I still love you, Loki.”

 

“I can’t stop, Thor. I can’t,” Loki said.

 

He trembled in Thor’s arms, waiting for Thor to realise that this could not be undone. Loki was not something controlled. He was chaotic and the fire he had within him was as anarcich as he was.

 

“I know, I know,” Thor whispered. He pressed kisses into Loki’s hair, his tears mingling with the dark strands.

 

Loki felt the first drops of rain on his hands, clenched in the dirt. He saw them as they fell on the lake. The scent of the rainstorm was a comfort he had longed for. It was the scent of Thor.

 

The rain fell steadily. There was no anger in it. There was no lightning, no thunder. Just the steady drumming of rain.

 

“Look,” Thor said.

 

He tipped Loki’s head up, made him look passed the lake, to the trees that had been aflame.

 

The rain was quenching the fire.

 

“We are two halves, Loki,” Thor said. “My rain, your fire. You destroy and I will soothe. New life will come after us.”

 

Loki smiled, blinking back tears.

 

“I always knew you were my favourite,” he said.

 

Thor laughed softly, but his expression grew serious again.

 

He placed a hand on Loki’s stomach.

 

“You would have sacrificed this?” he asked.

 

Loki swallowed. “You know,” he said flatly.

 

“My father. He couldn’t resist telling me how I had damned not only you, but our child as well.”

 

“I wasn’t going to use our child to plead for my life,” Loki said. “You would have had to kill it anyway. It’s part of me, it could be another little flame.”

 

“You are a proud fool,” Thor said fondly. He pushed back the hair from Loki’s face and kissed him again.

 

Loki softened at that kiss. He had thought of nothing but Thor during the last nine days. Each time he slept, he awoke with the hope that everything had been a terrible dream and he was still in bed with Thor in Volstagg’s inn. Then he had seen the flames and known that with each house that was destroyed, each family that was left homeless, he was destroying Thor’s love for him.

 

He hadn’t destroyed it though. Thor was here, kissing him.

 

He had thrown away Mjolnir.

 

Loki pushed Thor away from him, breaking their kiss and looked back at the lake, at the place where the hammer had disappeared.

 

“Seven years I suffered for that thing and you throw it in a lake?”

 

Thor laughed loudly. It startled his horse who kicked nervously at the ground.

 

“Mjolnir is blood-thirsty. It sings to me. It told me to cleave your head from your shoulders.”

 

Loki nodded. That was what he’d been expecting, a swift execution by Thor’s hammer.

 

Mjolnir was a weapon of war and Odin had wanted a worthy son, one who could wield that power. Loki had found him that son.

 

Neither Loki nor Odian had not counted on Thor being stronger than Mjolnir.

 

“What now?” he asked, “I can’t control myself and you can’t let me go free.”

 

“I don’t plan to let you go,” Thor said, tightening his grip as if to reinforce his words. “I plan to give you a new binding.”

 

Loki nodded in understanding.

 

Thor was being merciful, but Loki was still an enemy of the Kingdom. There would still need to be consequences for his actions.

 

“A prison cell? Sending me back to the dwarfs?”

 

“I am going to marry you, Loki,” Thor said. “I am going to bind you to me. I will live as long as you will. I will forsake the mortal side of myself and stay with you.”

 

Loki took a deep, shuddering breath.

 

“Your crown…” he said.

 

Thor couldn’t do that and retain his crown. He couldn’t marry the monster that had nearly destroyed Asgard, he couldn’t make that creature his Queen.

 

“I never wanted to be King,” Thor said. “I only wanted you, Loki. I would have been content to live out my life on the farm, to see you once a year, as long as I got to see you, as long as you returned to me.”

 

“Always,” Loki said breathlessly. “I always came back to you. I will always come back to you”

 

“Good,” Thor said. He reached down to his belt, grabbing his hunting knife.

 

Loki froze but Thor held up his own hand. He cut deep into his palm and then offered the knife to Loki.

 

“Blood magic,” he said. “Let this be our wedding vows.”

 

Loki took the knife. It felt heavy in his grip. He dragged it across his palm, gasping as his blood bubbled up from the cut. He set the knife down in the dirt beside him.

 

Thor pressed their hands together, their blood mingling.

 

“Mine,” he murmured. “You are mine, Loki and I am yours.”

 

“Yours,” Loki echoed, lacing their fingers together. “I am yours and you are mine.”

 

He felt the sparks of magic jumping between them, their blood intermixing. They were beings of magic. They did not need spells to bind themselves together. They needed only their own words, their strength of their hearts and what came naturally to them.

 

Thor kissed him to seal the binding. Loki clasped his hand tightly, unwilling to ever let him go again.

 

“Let me take you home,” Thor said.

 

Loki knew he would follow Thor anywhere. He would never be parted from him again.

 

**

 

Thor rode back to the palace with Loki in his arms.

 

He rode through his people, who cheered their King and jeered the man in his embrace. Loki hid his face, unwilling to show them that their words hurt him.

 

Thor had refused to chain him. Loki trusted Thor. He knew he was not walking in to a trap and he would have accepted shackles and chains if it made his people feel safer, but it was a pointless exercise. Loki’s magic could not be contained by chains and he could melt through them if he wished.

 

An armed guard met and escorted them to the grand Hall.

 

Frigga was seated on the throne. In Thor’s absence, with his blessing, she had taken on the royal duties.

 

Loki expected her to be disgusted with him, to spurn him for the fires he had caused and the damage he had done. Instead, she rose from her throne and came to him. She hugged him.


“How do you fare? How is your child?” she asked.

 

Loki was not surprised that she knew. Of all people, Frigga would have been the first one he would have told. He would have wanted to assurance that his baby grew strong and healthy before he told Thor. Now that had been taken from him. Both she and Thor had learned of the child’s existence from another.

 

If Loki had not been so proud, so assured of his victory, that would not have been the case.

 

“Both of us are well, my Queen,” he answered.

 

Frigga smiled warmly at him. It was disorientating.

 

She turned her smile to Thor, nodding in greeting.

 

“And how are you, Thor?”

 

“I am abducating,” Thor said.

 

Frigga raised an eyebrow. It was the only hint she gave that Thor’s announcement came as a shock to her.

 

“It is my fault that Loki was unbound. I never wanted to be King and my actions prove that I am not worthy to be one, not when faced with the real requirements of ruling,” Thor continued. “I do not think the people will protest.”

 

“Who will be King?” Frigga asked.

 

“Balder,” Thor said. “He is a good man, a kind man and he has trained for this. He will make a excellent King.”

 

Frigga nodded. She allowed her smile to grow even wider and Loki could not fault her for it. Balder was her son. It was natural she had wanted this for him. Without Odin’s poisonous influence, Loki could even admit to himself that Balder might make a good ruler.

 

“And you, Thor, where will you go now?” Frigga asked.

 

“I am returning to my mother’s farm,” Thor said.

 

“Mjolnir?”

 

“Slumbers at the bottom of a lake. If you or Balder ever have need of me, I will take up Mjolnir for you and defend our lands, but for now, I have put that cursed thing somewhere safe.”

 

Frigga nodded again. She glanced from Thor, back to Loki.

 

Loki wished suddenly that he did have chains. Thor and Frigga were the only two people who he had ever regarded as friends. They had allowed him a freedom he shouldn’t have had. He should have been dragged back behind Thor’s horse, not carried in Thor’s arms like a maiden he had rescued.

 

There needed to be restitution. Loki could not escape without punishment.

 

“And Loki?” Frigga asked lightly.

 

“Loki is coming with me,” Thor said.

 

Frigga studied him hard for a moment. Then she nodded in understanding.

 

“He will live in exile with you as his guard. I think the people will understand that punishment,” she said.

 

Thor slipped his hand in to Loki’s and held it tight.

 

“I can think of no more fitting punishment,” he said. “Than for Loki and I to live in atonement together.”

 

Loki remembered when he had lain on the hillside by the back of Jord’s farm, dreaming that he could always be there. He had dreamed of a day without a King, a day without the old binding weighing on his shoulders. He had dreamed of staying with Thor in the eternal summer for as long as the world continued to turn.

 

Now Thor would give him that dream and it was more than Loki had ever deserved.