Burning from the Inside

Loki describes his journey via the Tesseract

Burning from the Inside collage

 

Kneeling behind a THRONE, a CLOTHED, ARMORED FIGURE known as THE OTHER, bows. 

THE OTHER: 
The Tesseract has awakened. It is on a 
little world. A human world. They would 
wield its power... 

THE OTHER faces a HORNED SHAPED SHADOW. LOKI. Loki is handed the 
CHITAURI SCEPTER, a long golden handle, fitted with a blue gem 
encircled with silver blades. 

THE OTHER: 
But our ally knows its workings as they 
never will. He is ready to lead. And 
our force, our Chitauri, will follow. 

TENS OF THOUSANDS of CHITAURI stand ready in a 
seething mass of neat rows and columns... 
the ground simply QUAKES. 

THE OTHER: 
The world will be his. The universe 
yours. And the humans, what can they do but burn? 

(Source: The Avengers (Marvel Studios, 2012) ) 

____________________________________________________________________ 

Time moved differently in Sanctuary. I don't know how I knew it, but I did. I could feel it, like a heavy miasma around me, suffusing everything with a sense of dread. I labored for months... years?... working on reaching the Tesseract. She was finicky, infused with such power. Almost a living thing in a way, how she pulsed and reacted to admittedly clumsy prodding at first. I'd never felt anything like it. At first, the Tesseract had seemed almost dormant. There was a base level of power there, but not much reaction to stimuli. Either that or I wasn't using the correct stimuli. All the while The Other lorded over me, the fallen Prince of Asgard, their prize. 

It had been my foolish idea to ally with Thanos. After falling from the Bi-frost, I had no friends, no allies, nothing and no one. He had power. He had resources. He said he could give me what I wanted in exchange for retrieving this Tesseract for him. Now, I am no errand boy, not for anyone, but I could see the potential before me. I pride myself on being an unrelenting opportunist and I needed a way out of this. 

The problem with working with beings much more powerful than yourself is that if you do not please them, you risk some pretty dire consequences. My work was taking too long. I am clever and I am thorough. I knew magics my ‘allies’ did not. I alone could reach out to the Tesseract and open the door from this side of the Universe. I alone could use it to transport me across unfathomable distances to where it lay on what we called Midgard. 

Earth. Thor’s precious realm with his precious mortal. The place where my brother turned into someone I didn’t know any more. Banished there by our father, well, his father, as I later found out, Thor somehow, in the span of a few days, managed to redeem his worthiness while Odin slept. My friends all betrayed me – the rightful King of Asgard – and brought him back to The Realm Eternal. 

We fought. To this day, I do not understand what possessed him to protect the very monsters he said he would slay when he was King. Three days on Earth and suddenly Thor the brash, Thor the arrogant, reckless, and dangerous is a friend to Jotunheim? My confusion was only second to my outrage. 

By that point, I knew I was a Jotun, you see. I wanted to wipe them out not only for Asgard, but for myself. The touch of another frost giant was what originally revealed my true form. If there were not other frost giants, my secret was safe. I’d already killed Laufey, my real father, as he attempted to assassinate Odin. I was a worthy son of Odin; I’d saved his life and I was going to make sure Jotunheim was never a threat to Asgard again. 

But I digress. To make a long story shorter, after being rejected by both my brother and my father for doing precisely as they would have done in my place, I chose to leave Asgard, rather than stay in disgrace and be unseated from the throne that was rightfully mine. 

I fell. The destruction of the Bi-frost created a wormhole. I expected to be killed. That was my intention. It was a better alternative than living as a monster. 

Little did I know that there were monsters far worse than I out in the dark reaches of space. I came across a number of them. Injured, alone, I was no match. By the time I presented myself to Thanos, I was already weak. 

That was a mistake. 

Thanos doesn’t have allies, you see. He only has weapons. He takes people and he turns them into what he needs them to be. I heard stories of his daughters, Nebula and Gamora, and they were the same. He has a process and it’s a very effective one. 

I know this firsthand because I was foolish enough at first to think I could simply offer my services and make a fair exchange. Thanos doesn’t do fair exchanges. He demands utter loyalty and compliance. Yours truly isn’t the biggest fan of either of those, so you can imagine how well that went over. Unfortunately, Thanos has ways of getting what he wants, whether you want to give it to him or not. 

By the time I started work on the Tesseract, I’d wished I’d died in the Void so many times that I lost count. His persuasions were fiendishly clever, subtle, and catered uniquely for the individual targeted. I fought him. I did. For a long time. Eventually, even a god has a breaking point. I like to think I didn’t break, just cracked a bit. 

But it was enough for him to get in and once he’s in your head, that’s when the real torture begins. He took everything I thought I was and he twisted it. I could feel it happening but I couldn’t fight it. Memories changed, feelings changed, but somehow through all of it, I manged to retain some small core of who I really was. We’ll get back to that bit later, though. 

It hadn’t been so long since I’d started work on the Tesseract and already they were getting impatient. The mad Titan wanted progress now. For as old as he claimed to be, he was not a particularly patient person. The Other, his mouthpiece and Overseer, was not particularly patient either. 

I put them off as long as I could. Not because I wanted to stay, but because I couldn’t afford to be wrong. I needed time to work out a plan to escape him, but I had to move slowly, carefully, so that not even he could detect what I was doing. Once the link with the Tesseract was established, it was just a matter of finding the right key, if you will, to unlock the door. 

It took far too long. There were so many threats, so many times they dragged me away to remind me of what it was they could do to me if I failed them. Each time, the work got slower as I got weaker. He wasn’t doing himself any favors and I was more determined than ever to make him regret ever crossing me. 

The day finally came. He had granted me the scepter with the mind gem to link me to their armies – the Chitauri, they called them. Ugly fuckers, but hopefully effective. I was assured they were obedient, vicious. I felt like a husk of myself by this point and wondered if I would even make the journey intact. I supposed either way, I would be escaping. I preferred to not accomplish that by incinerating myself, however. 

I had a plan. I would go to Midgard, take the Tesseract, bring his armies through the wormhole it could create with the designs I had worked up to harness its energy, and then I would destroy them. His precious Chitauri would arrive only to be slain. Not immediately, though. During the inevitable chaos of battle, I would take both the scepter and the Tesseract and abscond with them. With those two artifacts, I could control whomever I wanted and travel wherever I wanted. He wouldn’t be able to catch me. Sounds cowardly? You try facing a Titan and thinking a strategic retreat might be in order. 

I needed to fall back, regroup. I would take my vengeance, but I needed time. First, I needed to get away. 

Scepter in hand, Thanos himself bade me farewell as I knelt before him. I was sick, exhausted, in pain, but I managed the spell to connect with the Infinity Gem on the other side of the Universe. I told her I needed her to help me, to open the door for me. I told her to reach out for me and I would reach back. Together, with her power and my skill, we would make a link and I would pull myself through to retrieve her from where she’d been abandoned for so long. 

I didn’t know it would burn. To a frost giant, heat is anathema. Thanos had found this out long ago and used it quite generously against me. Forced into my Jotun form, it was easy for him to make me utterly miserable. Not even the ice magic inherent to the Jotnar could withstand the flames into which I was thrown and left. So many times I wished I would just die, and yet I survived. 

I like to think that was for a reason and not simply because I am too stubborn to do the right thing at the right time. Now, so close to my escape, I masked my excitement with grim determination. 

Eyes closed, down on one knee and clutching the scepter, I reached out to the Tesseract and I felt her reach back. Her touch was a thousand times worse than any of Thanos’ tortures. I felt like I was burning from the inside, my heart the coal of a newborn star. It consumed me, turned me to ash and flame again and again. It ripped me apart into a trail of sparks across the Universe, a flash of light that could only come from my incineration and total annihilation. It was the most horrible thing I have ever felt. 

It was a miracle I didn’t arrive shrieking. It was a miracle I arrived at all. With a burst of flame and smoke pouring off of me, I realized I’d done it. 

I only dared open my eyes slowly, for fear that I’d gone nowhere at all and that I would see a very disappointed Titan before me. Instead, I saw people, soldiers approaching. They looked like mortals. My elation at not being dead was short-lived. I couldn’t afford to let them capture me. I couldn’t even afford to let them get close. 

So I struck first. The best defense always was a good offense. There weren’t that many of them. Even in my weakened state, I could take them. I was still a god, after all. 

I really had no other choice.

 

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