With their business concluded, Thor and Loki were headed back to Asgard. Loki had managed to make a deal with Alfheimr that was beneficial to both realms. He even found a nice little cottage not far from the village but distant enough for privacy. He couldn't wait to tell Nikolas. Loki was unable to keep the grin off his face as he thought of being married and living with his one true love.
Nik was emotionally numb as he was stripped from his clothes and washed. Freezing water and washcloths that felt like sandpaper helped ground himself to what was happening. ~How could King Odin do this? What plans does he have for Loki? I need to get back to my prince.~
He was given rough gray tunic and brown trousers. Then Nikolas was dragged deep into the dungeons, where hardly any light made it through. The stone walls were damp and cold. The noises rattled Nik to the core. He never thought he would be back here again. He flinched when a loud painful scream echoed through the halls. Nikolas was unsure if it came from a prisoner or a slave. He supposed it didn't matter. They were practically the same thing down here.
They stopped at a lonely cell. No others close to it. Barely lit from the torch hanging outside on the wall. A dark stain in the middle of the floor that Nik could only assume was blood. He shivered. His slave training was about to begin...again.
Loki made a beeline to his chambers as soon as he was done reporting his success to his father. He opened the doors and stopped. The smile he had been sporting since Alfheimr now gone. His rooms seemed almost abandoned. If it hadn't been for the servants cleaning, he would think they had been empty for days. ~Where could Nikolas have gone? Perhaps mother knows. Maybe she convinced Nik to sleep in different chambers until the wedding. Bad luck to see my fiance or some such foolishness?~
He searched the rooms his mother had given Nik awhile back but found nothing. Frantically he made his way to the All-Mother's chambers. He didn't have the patience to knock, he simply threw the doors open and stormed in. "Mother?! Have you seen Nikolas!?" Frigga, hearing such emotion from her son's voice came running. "Loki? My dear, are you alright? How was-"
Loki turned wide scared green eyes to the Queen. "Where's Nikolas mother?" Frigga looked at Loki confused. "Whatever do you mean?" "WHERE IS HE?!" The All-Mother calmly approached her son and cupped his face with her hands, looking deep into his eyes. "Calm yourself my boy. I have not seen him in a day or two but I'm sure he must be around." Loki grabbed her hands. He didn't try to remove them from his person, he held on as though his life depended on her.
"Where mother? He is not in my nor his chambers? I was sure he would be eagerly awaiting my return to hear that I have acquired a home for us." Frigga pulled her son into a hug and kissed his temple. "We will find him darling."
Nik wasn't sure how long he had been in Vanaheimr for. Time had no meaning. He had no access to a window or the outside to know when the sun rose or set. He was hardly given enough food to mark when breakfast, lunch, and supper were. It drove him mad. He lay bleeding on the floor of his cell.
This was worse than the first slave training. Then again as far as Vanaheimr was concerned, he had been rogue for about four hundred years while he was in Asgard. Not to mention the fact that the king said he would be killed if he came back. Suppose this was all a lesson for Nik. He could hear deafening footsteps coming down the hall towards his cell.
What would it be this time? Would they use the horrid whip? Would the guards pass him around, using him for their pleasure? Would they cut him? Burn him? He never knew what sick and painful agony they would inflict upon him. It was different every time they came for him. It seemed less like slave training and more like flat out torture.
It had been weeks since Nikolas had disappeared. Loki grew despondent. He stayed in his chambers. Yet he couldn't stand them. Too many memories of his love. He ignored his princely duties to the realm. He couldn't eat or sleep.
Queen Frigga was beside herself. She didn't know how to help her son. She tried scrying, lithomancy, and dowsing. She even had Heimdall search the realms, only to come up empty. ~Where could Nikolas be? How could he just vanish?~ The All-Mother had spent enough time talking to Nik to know how much he truly loved Loki. He wouldn't leave him, especially so close to being married.
Two months of Loki moping around, Odin had enough. He decided to visit the second prince. "Loki, I must speak with you." Loki, surprised by his father's visit instantly met the All-Father. "Father? What is it?" Odin sighed and sat at the small table in Loki's chambers.
"It has come to my attention that you have been quite distraught over Nikolas' disappearance. I wished to spare you from this, but it seems that perhaps knowing the truth would be for the best. A few days before your return, I had spoken to Nik. I knew you would soon be married and leave for Alfheimr indefinitely, so I wanted to see just how serious he was about you.
I told him that if he didn't marry you and left that I would free him as a slave and he could do as he pleases. He all but jumped at the opportunity and departed that very night. I am sorry my son. I did not think he would do this. I suppose it's only to be expected considering what he did in Vanaheimr."
Loki sat there, shocked and angry. He cleared his throat. "Thank you for telling me Father. I should have known better." Odin stood and bent down to hug the prince. "He had us all fooled. Don't be so hard on yourself son." With that said, Odin left with a grin on his face.