To Vanquish Darkness Is To Know It | [The Golden Age, MSL pre-Ragnarok]

Loki finds something interesting while cleaning up Odin's dark magic.

 

Odin kept many secret rooms within the palace; this was not news to Loki. He was starting to realize, however, that the Allfather’s secrets were far more extensive than he ever imagined. Loki had worked his way through two workrooms already. He sorted the items into groups by type and then went through them meticulously. Odin had been collecting for so long and with so little organization that Loki suspected he didn’t even know what all he possessed. That was one of the traps of dark magic. It got inside you and drove you for more and more. It became an obsession and Odin had most definitely been obsessed.

He was obsessed even now. Loki could tell it was driving him mad being kept away from these places and the things they contained. Odin sent notes and messages several times a day. Loki responded to none of them. Odin remained sequestered, though, and did not break his word to stay away from what Loki was doing. Loki could just tell that the Allfather still felt the pull of the dark magic upon him. He was no doubt concerned about what would become of his collection. He should know that Loki was taking the utmost care to ensure each piece was handled correctly.

This room, for example, was mostly books. There had been a few shelves of artifacts and a number of shelves of supplies, mostly harmless. Loki had five groups set apart to send to different realms, as well as a few other piles of things, like items that required more study, and items that could be destroyed. It was Loki’s intention to destroy as little as possible, but some things just weren’t safe under any circumstances. He didn’t intend to make putting this collection back together again easy at all. Within the five groups destined to be taken from Asgard, there were five more groups, each to be sent to a different corner of the destination realm. Loki’s hobby of cartography came in handy making the decisions of what should go where. It would go where it was unlikely to be found, difficult to use, and almost impossible to match back to any of the other pieces in the collection.

As Frigga had said, it was the right thing to do.

Loki couldn’t stop thinking about her. “Some things cannot be undone,” she’d told him. More and more, Loki was starting to hear this as “But there are things which can be undone, if you just know how.” Loki could attempt what Odin had tried – to resurrect her. He could maybe even do so for Thor or one of the others, but how was he supposed to make that decision? He caught himself not just sorting through Odin’s belongings, but reading them cover to cover. This was knowledge he was likely to never see again and while he wasn’t studying every aspect of it, Loki did skim for topics that interested him in particular: resurrection was chief among them. He was no necromancer and the more he learned about the art, the less appealing it became. He’d had enough of obedient but stupid minions. The Chitauri army had more than fulfilled any need he’d had for that. There was much more to necromancy that simply summoning shuffling undead servants, however. To properly cleanse Odin of the taint of his dabblings in the dark arts, Loki needed to understand what he was dealing with. It was a good thing he was a quick study.

Each night, he visited Odin and worked more on the cleansing, the day’s studies still fresh in his mind. This pattern continued for weeks on end. They were making progress, but slowly. The longer he worked on it, the more convinced Loki was that he knew exactly what he was going to do once he’d finished. He was going to try to join Thor, Fandral, and Frigga. It was a long shot, but remaining here without them was guaranteed failure. Who knew—since he was a Jotun, he might end up with Kyrmir. That idea pleased Loki as well. In all, death sounded appealing. The irony of it wasn’t lost on him. After all the struggle to stay alive and defeat Odin that he should decide to take his own life seemed like a waste. Loki’s legacy would be unknown to Asgard. He would avert a dark future they never even knew they risked and then he would find a way to make himself history. It was a lethargic sort of resolve, unlike his usual manic focus. It loomed like a dark cloud on the horizon, a sure storm coming.

Late one night, after spending hours with the Allfather, Loki returned to the current workroom he was sorting through. He’d taken to just sleeping in them, what little he did sleep. He didn’t dare take the materials from the rooms for fear of contaminating anything else with them. On a broad couch, he stretched out, an arm over his eyes as he closed them to rest them. He didn’t mean to fall asleep. In his dreams the dead came to haunt him. Frigga blamed him, Thor and Kyrmir pleaded with him, Clint shook his head with disappointed disapproval, and Fandral laughed at him. Loki awoke with a start, heart pounding. He sat up, cradling his face in his hands until his breathing calmed. He knew they were just dreams, manifestations of his own guilt rather than actual hauntings, but that didn’t make them feel any less real. Unwilling to slip back into the trap of sleep, he picked up another book at random and started reading.

A third of the way through Vitsmunir Hvíslanna, or ‘Wit of the Whispers’, Loki nearly dropped the book. His hands began to shake as he re-read the description of a spell called Nithe Ontkenning—‘The Negation of Failures’. It was described as an incantation that would allow the caster to project his own consciousness to himself at a specific point in his own history. The intention of the spell was to change a single decision or moment and thus change some future event that had turned out badly. The battle with Odin certainly qualified as that. Nithe Ontkenning enabled a mage to go back and whisper advice in his own ear, so to speak. It was a subtle working, nothing like changing time itself or actual mind control, just an attempt at influence, and was limited to the mage’s own mind and timeline. His mind started to spin with the possibilities and he kept reading.

Loki’s excitement was dampened when he reached the part of the spell explaining the cost of it. All magic had a cost. That cost could be physical, mental, energetic, or some combination thereof, but there was no such thing as free magic. The more powerful the spell, the higher the cost. All magic was constrained in this way and this spell was no exception. Tampering with timelines was expensive. Since this was dark magic, the spell required sacrifice, specifically that the caster give up ‘something valued more than life itself’ and that thing could not be a paradoxical thing. For example, a mage could not sacrifice his wife in order to cast the spell to go back and influence a moment that would result in a timeline where that sacrifice was undone and his wife remained unharmed. It was the intention of the spell to cost dearly and cost in blood. Time loops and sacrifices were permanent. If a dark mage slew his own child to power a spell, The Norns did not make refunds, and the spell was not even guaranteed to work. It was a chance to influence, not a guarantee of change. Very expensive, indeed. There were other requirements that were not so dire, but Loki did not pay them much heed. The ability to project his consciousness and form was something he’d learned from Frigga long ago, so he stood a good chance at being successful at that part. Also, thanks to the lingering influence from the Mind Gem housed in the Chitauri scepter Loki had wielded on Midgard, Silvertongue retained an enhanced ability to influence others’ thoughts, though he rarely used it. He feared that if he ever opened up his mind to another now, since Thanos had broken into his, he might never be able to fully protect himself again. It was not a risk he was generally willing to take when there were other ways to do what he needed done. He’d escaped Thanos’ control, but the cost had been high. Now Loki felt like he would forever be compromised by it.

There was nothing Loki had anymore that he valued more than life itself. He didn’t even value his own life enough to keep it. He couldn’t power the spell with a sacrifice of what he didn’t have, and that wasn’t the sort of currency he could go out and simply acquire. The sentiment and the sacrifice would have to be genuine; there was no trickery or faking in such things. In his current state of mind, it was not likely to happen naturally. Loki didn’t even know if he was capable of caring about someone else that much still. He felt like his heart was so splintered it couldn’t possibly be intact enough to love like that again.

Yes, he loved Thor. He’d always loved Thor. He’d loved them all in their different ways and realized now what a rich man he’d become with that. That knowledge just reinforced Loki’s decision to end it all when he’d completed Odin’s cleansing. Loki even loved Odin still, but he refused to admit it. That love was stained and torn, ripped to shreds by recent events, but beneath that lay a thousand years of Loki desperately seeking Odin’s love and approval. Silvertongue didn’t think it qualified for the necessary sacrifice, however. There was no purity in it anymore. His love for Odin wasn’t a shining gem; it was a wound.

With a sigh, Loki closed the tome and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. How like the Norns to tempt him with the exact thing he needed when he hadn’t the means of using it. They were spiteful bitches, he’d always maintained that. The three of them were the Norse goddesses of fate, and Loki thought they had a sick sense of humor. This just proved that belief once again. Loki was tired of all of this. He could feel the same darkness that lured Odin in and captured him grasping at his own psyche. Fighting it off every minute of every day was starting to take a toll. He had dreams about the magic, about using it and letting his grief wash the Nine Realms in blood. It whispered in his mind lies about suffering and power. Loki just had to remind himself they were lies, but that got more and more difficult as time went on. It was a race now and the reward for winning would be his own death.

Another two weeks passed and Loki was nearly finished with the final cache of Odin’s materials. Shipments had already been sent off to various locations to hide what he’d collected, scattering it across the Nine Realms and further. What few things could not be risked to allow to exist, Loki destroyed, even though it pained him to do so. Knowledge, even forbidden, dangerous knowledge, was to be protected. In this case, it was a choice between protecting the future of the realms and its people or protecting the knowledge. There were things that would have to be forgotten or stricken from the record. Some of the artifacts Loki couldn’t destroy. One in particular, a small chest of carved bone, could be nothing other than a soul jar, or hirðasál, as the Æsir called it. After consulting with Odin to ensure it hadn’t been used, Loki sealed it away and hid it so that none other might attempt immortality with dark magic. He’d been interested in that very thing himself for most of his life; now, he didn’t care.

In the final shipment to be disbursed, Loki thumbed through a tome that he was debating on including. It alone wasn’t particularly associated with dark magic; it was merely a book on the mechanics of magic. It had a misleading title—‘The Netherbane Equivalence Syllabus’—which was likely how it had ended up in Odin’s collection. Loki doubted Odin had even consulted it, otherwise he might have transferred it to the royal library himself already. The idea struck Loki like a physical blow and he sat down abruptly. His hand rested on the passage that had so engaged his mind suddenly:

In a magical exchange, an equivalency may be achieved when the medium of exchange is not strictly defined.

As a trickster and a mage, Loki knew this principle but coming across it now, in the context of his recent discovery of the Nithe Ontkenning spell, it had new meaning to him. He could do this. If there was a loophole to be found, then Loki would find it and he would exploit it. With his own death already in mind, then technically that act might qualify as his sacrifice. He valued his own death more than life at the moment. If he were to give up his plans of suicide, would that sacrifice work to power the spell? He couldn’t risk asking Odin about it, even though his knowledge was vast. This still fell within the realm of dark magic and Loki had worked long and hard to cleanse Odin of it. He was nearly done. To tempt him back into it now with research on this particular thing would be to undo all of his efforts and risk never being able to reach this point again. No, Odin would have to be cleansed and never know of it. More secrets. Loki shook his head, setting the book aside as he rose again. He felt new energy rushing through him, something he hadn’t felt in a long time: a glimmer of hope.

With the final items packed and sent off, with the exception of the Vitsmunir Hvíslanna containing the spell Loki needed, he made one final visit to Odin to ensure that the Allfather was indeed cleansed of the taint of evil that had infected him. Odin passed every test Loki knew how to administer. They sat for a long time, discussing his remaining vulnerability to dark magic and how he should never again attempt its use. Loki wasn’t sure he trusted Odin to abide by that prescription, but there wasn’t much he could do to enforce it that didn’t require him to remain in Asgard as his father’s jailer. Loki couldn’t do that. He had more on his mind now than just this.

If he returned to Midgard, to The Warehouse, despite its dilapidated state after the battle with Odin, Loki would still have his research on the ley lines and could tap into them again. He’d done it before. He also still had within him the lingering power from Dimitri’s blood. Despite his exhaustion, Loki had never been a stronger mage than he was right now. It had to be enough. All he needed to know now was whether the sacrifice would be accepted. There was only one way to do that: he needed to pay the Norns a visit.

 

 

The Norns were not pleased to see him. Loki considered that fair because he wasn’t glad to be there, either. The three of them resided at the Well of Urð at the base of Yggdrasil. It was no mean feat even getting to them, but Loki had experience using the secret paths along the branches of the World Tree. He’d slipped many times between realms using these shortcuts, and it didn’t take him long to find his way to them by following the waters said to nourish Yggdrasil itself. No other creatures in the Nine Realms had such power over destiny. If any would know if Loki’s sacrifice would work, it would be them.

The discussion rapidly devolved into an argument, however. Loki pled his case fervently, claiming logic was on his side and citing both tomes, which he’d brought with him as evidence. The Norns wanted more.

“How can I give you more than my life?” Loki demanded, frustrated. “There are no others I value more and I cannot make a paradox to sacrifice those already lost to me.”

It was Urðr herself, who represented the past who spoke first in response. “Are they truly lost to you?”

The Norns tended to speak in riddles and while Loki generally found these to be intellectually bracing, he had no time or patience for them now. “That is what I am trying to determine!” he blustered. “Are you not listening to what I am asking you?”

“We hear you, son of Odin, son of Laufey,” said Verðandi, the goddess of present fates. “In this moment, think of what you still have.”

“I have nothing,” Loki growled, tiring of their games. He should have known getting a straight answer out of them would be nigh impossible.

“Not true,” Skuld, the weaver of that which is yet to come, contradicted him. “You are here, you speak, you have purpose. Without what you hold most dear, we would not be having this discussion.”

Loki’s brow furrowed for a moment as her words sunk in. What he held most dear? He’d lost everything. All he had now was pain and memories. He looked up sharply. That was it. His stomach tightened and churned at the prospect. They were right; he did value those most of all. More than his own life since he was willing to give them and his life up. That had been a joint prospect, though, the solace of possible oblivion. This was something else.

“You want my memories of them?” Loki hardly dared speak it. His voice was wary, his stance matching it.

“Only the best ones will do for this sacrifice, trickster,” Urðr cautioned him. “You are violating the spirit of the incantation already.”

“There can be only one point you may influence and while we will accept your sacrifice, we cannot guarantee that your power is enough to achieve the outcome you desire. You know this.” Skuld almost looked rueful as she said it. Of the three, Loki disliked her the least.

“I’m not asking for a promise,” Loki assured her. “I’m asking for a chance.”

“Choose your moment to strike wisely, Silver Tongue,” Verðandi instructed him. “You will have only one opportunity. You must find the critical juncture that falls within your ability to influence. We cannot tell you when or what this is. Your past timeline is yours to interpret. Skuld has not yet woven into your future and what Urðr has made can be unraveled. Destiny is mutable, yours especially so. We know you sense this in your conflicted heart. Others do not see all the possibilities but you often do, Loki. This is why you will always be torn.”

“I am neither conflicted nor torn on this,” Loki asserted fiercely. “How do I know which memories will suffice?” He didn’t want to give up more than was necessary. All of his learning, his childhood, recent years… he didn’t know what they wanted from him.

“Your heart will tell you this answer. We cannot.” Urðr’s voice held a note of finality. His audience with them was drawing to a close.

Loki didn’t have all that he wanted from them, but he had enough. Enough to try. He sighed and nodded. More specificity would have been appreciated. The Norns never had been especially good at providing that, however. Still, he was grateful for their guidance and gave the three of them a deep bow. Loki might not like them, but he respected their power. It wasn’t smart to anger those who could influence your fate negatively. Sometimes it was unavoidable. This was not one of those times and he took his leave in peace, armed with the knowledge they’d shared with him.

 

 

 

Back on Midgard, Loki hesitated outside of the Warehouse. It had been damaged in the fight against Odin and outside of it sat Mjolnir, hidden by one of Loki’s illusions so that none would see or try to tamper with it. He doubted very much any mortal could lift it, but Thor’s death was not common knowledge on this realm yet. If they were to see his hammer left behind, even the slowest of mortals would realize something was wrong. Rain drizzled down, reminding Loki even more of his brother as he finally walked toward the ramshackle building. Loki’s workrooms were on various floors of the warehouse, including a few underground. Those would likely be undamaged and he’d long since moved his most precious belongings and research there for safekeeping. Loki spent the night in the bed he used to share with Thor and in the morning got to work.

 

 

Three days later, Loki had an intricate map of his own past timeline with decision branches identified and marked to the best of his ability. Decisions were made every second, of course, and each affected reality on a quantum level. Most people didn’t operate at that level, though, so he limited his schematic to conscious decisions and tried to include even the most seemingly insignificant ones beyond choosing what to eat on a particular day for breakfast. Then he started eliminating candidates. It was a process of taking each identified decision and extrapolating out all the possible branches from it. It was lengthy and complicated and occupied every waking moment of his life. Loki slept as little as possible, barely ate, too focused on his work to break away for either until they became absolutely critical to continue. The map expanded to take up one workroom, then two, then most of the sub-basement in which they were located. It looked like the work of a madman, lines crisscrossing in every direction and notes scribbled along every one of them and at each intersection. Sitting in the middle of it all, his hair lank and eyes sunken at his lack of care for himself, was Loki.

There was a pattern. There had to be a pattern that would reveal itself to him so he would know which moment to choose. He was sitting staring at the mess surrounding him when a familiar voice tinkled behind him. Loki jumped up, startled out of his obsessive reverie by the intruder.

“Harbinger,” he greeted the crystalline construct that served The Agata. Loki’s wards had never prevented it from coming and going as it pleased. Loki had intended on asking The Agata about that. If his initial summons of her gave her rights to free entry indefinitely, he would have to be careful about extending invitations.

“The Agata sends her condolences,” the creature replied. The Agata always did keep abreast of news in the Nine Realms. It was good for business.

“Thank you.” Loki bowed his head briefly but his brow creased and his eyes flickered with suspicion. “I doubt very much that she sent you here merely to convey that, Harbinger. She might have done so herself if that was the case.”

“You are correct,” it chimed, as if pleased that Loki had guessed there was more to the visit. “The Agata herself could not come because I bring you this.” The Harbinger folded its shape, opening up what passed for its chest to remove an item. Loki recognized it immediately.

“The Heart of Findua,” he breathed out in shock. “Why?” He, Thor, Fandral, and Kyrmir had made a difficult quest to obtain the icon for The Agata from a Lich king whose realm forbade the use of magic. Loki had made the entire journey bound in cuffs that negated his magic. They’d barely escaped and the residents of the realm who’d helped them had been killed or captured. None of them had been pleased at the cost. The Heart of Findua itself was a magical item, though the tales of it were wrong, or at least incomplete. It might serve as a protective talisman, but it was also a draw of magical energy.

“The Agata only needed it for a specific use. That time has passed. She is willing to lend you the Heart if you wish.”

Loki blinked, uncertain what use it would be to him at the moment. “I beg your pardon?”

“Here, take it.” The Harbinger held out the glass case in which the Heart, an actual heart, was kept. “The Agata said that you, of all people, would know what to do with it.”

Loki rubbed his eye and pushed his hair back, but stepped forward to take the artifact. “That’s all she said?” He still had no idea what she’d been thinking.

“She also said she does not expect to have it returned because it will be drained by the time you are through with it.”

“Drained? Of what?” No blood flowed through the Heart any longer and hadn’t for a very long time.

“The thing the Heart seeks,” the Harbinger said, folding its chest closed again in preparation to depart.

“It seeks its mate,” Loki countered, still frowning in consternation. “That’s what created it in the first place. In the Lich’s realm, it was used to-” Loki’s brows went up in sudden surprise. “It’s a battery!”

“The Agata knew you would understand. Good luck, Loki,” the Harbinger mused and blinked away the same way he’d come.

 

 

Loki had to seal the Heart of Findua away for the time being since it drew upon his magic and the magic of anyone or thing in the vicinity. It was the same reason the Lich had prohibited magic in his realm. It was an obvious beacon to any who could sense such things. Loki didn’t need any attention as he prepared for working this spell. It took another two days, but finally all the lines of his projections seemed to converge and overlap at one juncture. It wasn’t foolproof, but it was enough evidence for him. The map pointed to the decision to take Mjolnir away and hide it far from Odin’s reach.

Odin had managed to summon the hammer anyway, and it was directly the cause of Thor’s death. Loki knew what he had to do. They had to keep the hammer, had to reinforce Thor’s bond with it instead of trying to avoid it. The mistake had been in thinking they couldn’t overpower Odin’s will to summon it. The hammer had been given to Thor. His bond with it should take primacy, despite the fact that Odin had taken the hammer from him and banished him once before. Thor had proved himself worthy and regained it. It was his. Loki could help him strengthen that bond. He’d always resented Mjolnir too much to consider it until now. They could still make the trip to Jotunheim. Loki would conceal the true location of the hammer from Odin and Heimdall’s sight and let them believe they’d taken it away. He would still enchant axes for Thor, but when the time for battle came, his brother would have his mighty weapon and he would have it more than ever before.

As giddy as he was at the prospect, Loki still hadn’t decided specifically what to offer as his sacrifice. Exhaustion hit him hard that night, and he fell into Kyrmir’s bed this time, wanting to rid his mind of his last memories of sleeping next to Kyrmir’s body on Jotunheim. Kyrmir wasn’t here, but his scent was and that would have to do.

Perhaps it was that scent that inspired Loki’s dreams that night. When he awoke, he knew precisely what the Norns wanted from him. These were the memories he cherished most. Here, the Warehouse, his relationship with Thor, meeting Kyrmir, working with Clint, even finding Fandral. They had been terrible, desperate times at the end, yet underlying all of that there was something Loki hadn’t found much of in his life—contentment. He’d been happy. He’d healed.

He was going to have to give all that up.

 

 

He spent the next days walking through the Warehouse as the Heart of Findua charged. It was linked now with the Earth’s ley lines which ran beneath the building and converged in triplicate there. The web of power was amplified at such points and Loki had learned how to concentrate it further and direct it. It hadn’t even been that hard to integrate it into his system. The Heart required very little in the way of transformation in order to absorb magic. That was what it did, and it wasn’t too picky about the type. Loki, too, sat with the Heart and held it in his hands, allowing it to feed upon his seiðr and the remnants of power lingering from the dragon’s blood he’d absorbed.

So many memories were contained in the Warehouse. Loki touched things, smelled them, wore them. He knew he’d not remember it in the end so he wanted to savor as much of it as he could before giving it up. He remembered the scent of Kyrmir’s cooking, the ferocity of his lovemaking, his laughter. Loki visited Clint’s nest on the upper floor of the Warehouse, slept in his bed curled around his pillow. He traced fingers over the weapons in Clint’s footlocker, committed to memory the shabby condition of half of the furnishings in his quarters, the results of Barton’s dumpster diving forays, Loki suspected. He put on Fandral’s finery, parading around in front of a mirror as Fandral himself might have done. Finally, Loki remembered Thor. Their relationship had blossomed into so much more than just brothers. Loki had never expected that, but it brought him more joy than he’d ever thought possible. It was Thor who had nursed him through the devastating after-effects of Thanos’ torture when Loki was certain he’d never even touch another being again, let alone enjoy it. It was always Thor at his side. He hoped it would be again. While Loki would lose what he’d gained from those years, there was still hope it could be regained again. If they’d done it once, they could do it again. The loss didn’t have to be forever, at least not functionally.

With a calm acceptance Loki rarely experienced, he readied the spell amid the remains of their lives.

“O Mighty Nornir!” He called out, the Heart of Findua in his hands above the makeshift altar he’d built for the occasion. “Magic requires sacrifice, power requires wisdom, fate requires guidance. I offer you the healing of my own heart in exchange for the beating of the hearts of others. I invoke the spell of Nithe Ontkenning to undo my failures and humbly request your aid. As payment for this aid, I freely give you the best of my memories which have made me happiest and most whole. I value these more than life itself and more than my own death.”

He didn’t expect an answer, but he got one. Thunder boomed outside and Loki smiled.

This had to work.

He started the spell, powering it with everything stored within the Heart of Findua. Without these parts, he didn’t stand a chance. Perhaps the Norns were not as spiteful as he thought.

“Twist and Weave
Spin and tie
All the threads
We live and die.”


Loki chanted raising the Heart overhead, making a clear offering of all it contained. His voice rose as the incantation unfolded, the wind of the storm outside swirling through the broken windows and holes in the Warehouse. His eyes glowed with unholy determination as the ley lines surged through him and the Heart. The spell still required blood so he withdrew a dagger and used it to slice his own forearm. Loki could feel something dark rising to drink in the blood as it fell upon the altar. He set the Heart of Findua down in the spattered puddle of crimson and it seemed to pulse with a grotesque parody of life.

“Take me back
To my moment in time
All the threads
Must entwine.”


The hammer, the hammer, the hammer. It was a mantra in his head as he chanted. Must keep the hammer. The spell triggered on the final words and it felt like being yanked out of his body, then Loki was there. He stood next to himself as he conversed with Thor about what to do with Mjolnir. He remembered the discussion well. For a moment, he was simply entranced with listening to Thor’s voice, to seeing him again. It would be all too easy to get lost in the moment and forget why he’d come. Leaning in, Loki whispered in his own ear, the devil on his own shoulder.

“The hammer is Thor’s. He must keep it.”

His own voice continued talking, making points about how Odin could also summon the hammer.

“The hammer is Thor’s, not Odin’s. He must keep it,” spellbound Loki insisted to himself silently. “Odin granted him the hammer. Odin found him worthy. Use that paradox against him. He cannot contradict his own magic without it all crashing down around him. Keep Mjolnir!” Loki wasn’t sure how long he had to try to make his case to himself in the past.

Thor suggested putting it somewhere it would be difficult for Odin to summon it quickly. Even Mjolnir had travel time. Loki was starting to worry he wasn’t getting through, that the spell was failing. He’d have to pay the price for the attempt even if it failed. Then his own voice spoke up and countered Thor’s idea as he’d done so many times in the past before. This time, though, it mattered more than either of them knew at the moment.

“The most difficult place for him to summon it from should be your own hand, brother.”

Thor nodded and smiled, then clapped Loki on the shoulder. “You are right, Loki, as usual. Will you help me make sure that is true?”

Loki smiled and his consciousness remained in the past just long enough to hear his own reply.


 

“Yes, of course.”