Morgyn's Eclectic Library
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The Avengers (movies), Norse Mythology
Gen, Adult (Violence, Abuse of children)
Fenrir, Angrboða, Phil Coulson, Loki, Clint Barton, Fandral, Sif, Volstagg, Hogun, Sleipnir, Odin, Jörmungandr, Vali, Tony Stark, Nari, Sigyn, Steve Rogers, Laufey
10,920 words, Complete
Alternate Universe, Crossover
Archer, Battle-Mage, Trickster, and Warrior
A Trickster's Children

Come close, pup, and listen to me. A story I will tell you, if you listen. One you might have heard from the mortals before, but they have only remembered the distilled essence of the hate of the gods they adore. It is a story of the gods, after all, and not a tale of the victors who proclaim their truth to all, so the stories all will know are twisted to make the defeated into something less, something darker and evil.

I do not say more dangerous, for the defeated are dangerous enough, even in chains. Only that the victors will paint themselves as heroes and their enemies as villains and monsters.

It is a story of brothers, strong and powerful in their own ways, and of their sister, the most dangerous of them all to those who held power.

When the sword was drawn from his jaws, Fenrir barely held himself back from lunging out of the cave he had been in for an endless time. When the chain that bound him to his form was snapped, he let himself slip into a human skin, though he almost had forgotten how. Hands touched him, and he flinched, but they only wrapped him in warm blankets, and moved him onto something that moved. Taking him from the cave he had lived in most of his life.

"It's all right, you're safe now." The voice was unfamiliar, male, and very certain. Fenrir drew in a breath through his nose, imprinting the smell on his memory - metal, soap, and seiðr - so he could always find the man who had brought him out of his captivity. There were others, too, but they do not speak, only listen and obey the one who spoke.

He was taken into a place that moved and stunk of metal, and roared like a dragon. There was another place, quieter and enclosed as a home might be, but smelling nothing of smoke or dirt or wood. Fenrir did not move save where he was taken, and he listened and waited to find out who had brought him out of the cave and how they knew where he might be found.

The seiðr-weaving always feels like he's been wrapped up in swaddling, as if his mother is always cradling him, even when he gambols about on four paws instead of his two feet. No one sees him with paws and fur and claws and teeth, though. No one but his mother whose seiðr wraps him, and the dogs who he chases and who chase him in turn. It is a game, after all, and it's better than having to remember to take care not to hurt the human children.

But now it's been shattered, and it feels strange and frightening. He stares up at the man who'd invaded his mother's hall, falling back into the familiar and safer form, with teeth to bite if he comes too close. Sniffs, testing the air for the unfamiliar scent - snow, anger, seiðr, blood, fire, and fear. The man is glaring at Fenrir's mother, and he growls softly when the man takes a step closer, the hair rising along his spine.

It makes the man look down at him, surprise in his smell. "You are nothing but a pup, Angrboðason. Think you that you might stop me from doing as I please?"

Fenrir bares his teeth, taking a stiff-legged step toward the man, like he's seen the dogs do to strangers who come with the smell of blood and metal. Threatening, because he is defending his mother, and he will be a warrior some day and warriors always defend their mothers.

He feels his mother's hand on his back, smoothing his fur down for a moment before she picks him up, holding him close to her chest. "He can but try, as any son would do for their mother, no matter that he is but a boy. Leave him be, Loki, and do not again break my weavings."

"Then do not make so clumsy a one about so young a child." The man crosses his arms, and doesn't stop glaring at Fenrir's mother.

Fenrir wiggles around in his mother's arms so he can bare his teeth at the man and growl at him again. He doesn't like the man, and he wishes he would leave, so Fenrir can have back the seiðr-weaving from his mother.

"It is not clumsy save by the standards of the gods." His mother is angry, he can hear it and smell it, and it only makes him try to growl louder at the stranger.

"And so it is clumsy, and I did not teach you this for you to be clumsy about it." The man gestures widely, and there is the smell of seiðr and ash and ice before Fenrir feels the touch of a weaving, winding about him like one of the cats winding about his legs, and he struggles against it. He doesn't like the cats, and he doesn't like this seiðr-weaving, different from his mother's.

A howl ends in a shriek of defiance as the weaving forces him back into the two-footed form, glaring at the man from his mother's arms. "Let go! Make him let go, mama!"

"No." The man is looking at him with an expression that Fenrir has never seen before. Curious, but not just curious, and it makes Fenrir shiver and bare his teeth in a gesture that doesn't carry the same threat as it does when he wears fur and sharper teeth. "You have the same eyes as your brother, pup."

"I don't have a brother." Fenrir frowns, wiggling in his mother's arms to try to get a better position to glare at the man, and where he might launch himself at him, if he could get out of the seiðr-weaving. "Just me and mama."

The man looks over Fenrir's head to his mother, raising an eyebrow. "You have never told him of your older son? Of our son?"

"Why should I tell him of a brother he may never see? You have never brought him back to me." His mother's arms tighten around him again, almost too tight, and she takes a step back from the stranger, as if putting Fenrir out of reach. "I would not give him such hope when even I cannot see Jörmungandr."

"It would not be safe to bring him back here, unless you would want to see the mortals kill him for what he is?" There is a sharp sound in the man's voice, like anger and like fear, and Fenrir can't figure out what it actually is. Maybe he could if he could smell it, but the seiðr-weaving has taken that along with his fur and teeth. "As they would if they saw this son of yours."

"It is not my blood that makes him as he is, anymore than it makes Jörmungandr as he is." His mother sounds much the same as the stranger, and Fenrir leans into her, whimpering softly. He doesn't understand what she's saying, what it means for him, but he knows it has to mean something.

The stranger doesn't speak, only studies Fenrir for a long while, long enough for Fenrir to squirm uncomfortably, and struggle to get down - get down and hide, because the stranger is starting to frighten him, and he can't protect himself as well without his teeth.

"He is my son, then?" The stranger reaches out, and Fenrir's mother steps back again, taking them both out of the stranger's reach. He glares, anger making his eyes seem to glitter like the stars outside. "You cannot keep him from me."

"I will not let you take him from here, and keep him from me as you have kept Jörmungandr from me. He is my son, is Angrboðason, not Lokison, no matter that your blood runs in his veins."

"My blood in his veins makes him as much my son as he is yours." The man follows his mother, until they are crowded against the wall, and Fenrir bares his teeth again, glaring at the stranger. "And I will not have my son remain in a realm of mortals, who shall only see him as a monster and dangerous."

When he reaches out again, Fenrir lunges, biting down as hard as he can on the hand that had come too close, tasting blood despite having only blunt human teeth. He growls around his mouthful when the stranger curses at him, and refuses to let go until his mother strokes her hand across his head, murmuring comfort in his ear.

"You will not have my son."

Seiðr-metal-soap stayed close to him once he was settled into a bed more comfortable than any he had known since he was a young child, until another man came in, murmuring in Seiðr-metal-soap's ear, too quiet even for Fenrir's sharp hearing to pick up.

A hand was warm on his shoulder for a moment. "I will return later, Fenrir. First, there's someone who wants to see you." Seiðr-metal-soap left, the other man staying, though he didn't take the seat Seiðr-metal-soap had been sitting in.

This one smelled like sweat and open air and feathers. A hunter, perhaps, though he didn't seem to wish harm on Fenrir. Why he remained while Seiðr-metal-soap left, Fenrir wasn't certain.

"I'm Clint." Feathers-air-sweat spoke quietly, watching Fenrir through eyes that were the blue-gray of an overcast summer sky. He didn't say anything else, just waited, as if he was keeping watch over Fenrir until someone else arrived.

A familiar smell preceded the next person into the room, and Fenrir struggled to sit up, growling when Clint tried to keep him from doing so. He had not seen his mother since he was a child, and he will not meet her again while curled up like an invalid.

"Fenrir." She looked as he remembers, hair pale as snow and eyes like summer skies. Smelled like fire and seiðr and home. Her arms were as gentle and strong as they were when trying to protect him from Loki, and he clung to her, to that memory of home, with all the strength he had.

"He brought home another pet." The speaker, golden-haired and smelling like a dog in heat, snorts with amusement. "This one becomes a wolf, I hear."

Fenrir bares his teeth in a silent snarl, keeping crouched in his hiding space under a lounge. He doesn't like these four who have invaded the room he'd found food in. They talk of him like he's less than they, just because he likes to have four feet and fur and teeth rather than look like them. Even when he does, no one likes him, because his eyes are red and his mother isn't from their realm.

"He calls the thing his son." That's the woman, blood-steel-anger scent and dark hair. Pretending to be better than his mother because she uses a warrior's weapon instead of seiðr-weaving. "Perhaps he's the mother of it, like of that horse?"

This time, the growl escapes him, threatening and fierce. His mother is not here, and he will not have them call Loki who brought him here his mother! Fenrir won't even call him father, no matter what he says.

The four are quiet for a long moment, and then he hears the clatter of armor and the shift of fabric as they move, one of them crouching to look under the lounge. Fenrir growls at him, though he refuses to move. This one is the one with red hair who smells always of food.

"What are you doing under there?" The man reaches out as if to grab Fenrir, and Fenrir snarls, snapping at the hand as it gets too close. "Hogun, Fandral! Help me with this, he's trying to bite me."

The lounge is lifted away a moment later, and Fenrir snarls, backing away as the man reaches for him again. Snapping because he doesn't want them to touch him, and he doesn't like how they talk of his mother, or of him. Let them prove foolish enough to come too close, and he'll teach them not to insult his mother!

"I'm not going to hurt you." The man tries again, trying to grab Fenrir by the scruff of his neck. "Stop trying to bite me!"

The golden-haired one laughs, grinning as he watches Fenrir. "It's Loki's pet, Volstagg. You can't expect it to be anything other than dangerous."

Fenrir snaps again at the hand reaching for him before he moves again, darting to one side to avoid being caught before he charges at the golden-haired man, silent and furious. He's no one's pet, and he will not allow anyone to call him such. The taste of blood in his mouth is as satisfying as the yell of pain the man lets out. He refuses to let go, even when the others try to pry him loose, clamping down harder when the silent one reaches for his jaws.

"Get off, monster!"

A growl escapes Fenrir's throat, and he glares at the golden-haired man. He isn't a monster, and he isn't a pet, and he won't tolerate them calling him either.

It takes them a long while to pry him off the golden-haired man's arm, and Fenrir tries to lunge again as the silent one gathers him to his chest, one hand wrapped firmly about Fenrir's ribs, and the other holding his back feet. Carrying him away from the others, and into the hallway.

"You need to learn how to fight as a warrior instead of a wolf," is all the man says as he takes Fenrir back to a familiar pair of doors, a set of rooms beyond that Fenrir does not like and does not wish to remain in. He can't even escape when there is no response, as the silent one waits for Loki to return, holding Fenrir in a grip that does not break, no matter how much Fenrir struggles.

"He bit Fandral." The silent one speaks again only when Loki comes down the hall, his expression bland and scent all anger and fear. Fenrir struggles more, and snarls, glaring at Loki when he feels a seiðr-weaving settle around him, forcing him once more back into the two-footed form he is coming to hate - mostly because he is expected to remain in it unless he's in his own room and alone.

He lets out a wordless shriek of anger, striking out with his fists even as Loki takes him, and struggles with all his strength as he's wrapped snugly in Loki's cloak.

"I am aware." Loki nods his head to the silent one. "Thank you for returning him to me, Hogun."

The silent one merely nods, and departs, leaving Loki to carry Fenrir into the rooms that he keeps trying to tell Fenrir are his home now.

"Where is Hel?" They were the first words he spoke since he'd been taken from the cave. His voice was rough from disuse, the words slow and stumbling. His mother had not moved from beside his bed since she arrived, save when Clint made her go to eat and to rest. When she did so, Coulson - as Seiðr-metal-soap had finally been introduced - took her place. Watching out for Fenrir as if he were kin.

"She is on Niflheim." Coulson looked up from what he was working on, watching Fenrir for a long moment. "She knows you're free, and safe."

Fenrir watched Coulson in turn, silent as he thought on that. His sister had always come to him in person, not in dream or seiðr-woven illusion. That she was not here would mean he was now on Midgard, rather than in the cave under Asgard where he'd spent so much of his life.

"How were you allowed to go to Asgard, a mortal, to free me?"

"King Thor was willing to allow certain individuals from Earth to visit Asgard, though he was not aware of all the reasons we wished to visit. Mr. Stark was able to locate you, as your sister had asked, and to devise a manner of freeing you that would not upset the balance which was necessary to prevent Ragnorak."

Thor, not Odin. His uncle, not the Child-Thief who had stood in silent condemnation of the children of Loki for their very existance.


The horse is like none of the others, standing on eight legs like a spider, rather than four. Fenrir tilts his head to one side, regarding him for a long moment before he reared up to put his paws on the edge of the stall, sniffing the air. Sieðr is almost a stink in the stall, something grasping and avaricious and binding, and almost hiding the smell of the wind and ice and horse.

A soft nose touches his, and Fenrir startles slightly, drawing back a little before he settles, reaching out to lick the nose that had touched his. A friendly enough greeting, and the eyes of the horse hold more intelligence than the others in the stable. Another as aware of Fenrir in four feet, but dimissed as a monster simply because he has too many feet and the wrong hide.

Dropping back to the floor, Fenrir doesn't hesitate before he leaps, landing lightly in the stall, the horse standing its ground and not snorting or striking out as a normal horse would. As they do, when they're loose and he has four feet. They treat him as a danger as much as the Aesir have since he was brought here.

Fenrir lifts his nose to touch that of the horse, before he finds a comfortable place in the straw to curl up to nap. Here he can hide from the expectations and hate of the Aesir, and he has someone to watch over him he might be able to trust. That he already trusts, even though he's only just met the horse - his brother, if the Tormenters Three are to be believed.

He doesn't know how long he's been hiding before the sound of a heavy tread wakes him, and Fenrir shifts, curling further into the corner of the stall. The horse shifts slightly, to stand between him and whoever is coming. Protecting him, as no one else has done here. Perhaps he is Fenrir's brother, if they are both Loki's sons, as all that he's heard would have him believe.

"You do not belong here, boy." That voice is one he hates almost more than any other. The one-eyed man who stinks of the same sort of seiðr that is woven too-tight about the horse, and who is acknowledged lord of this hall. This realm. "Come out."

Fenrir snorts, and stands, stiff-legged and wary. He doesn't move from the corner, but waits for the one-eyed seiðr-lord to come into the stall. If he wants Fenrir out, he shall have to force the issue with more than words.

There's a soft sigh, and after a moment, the stall is opened. The horse shifts slightly again, putting himself between the one-eyed and Fenrir. One-eyed pauses, studying the horse a long moment. "You will move, Sleipnir. This is not your quarrel."

Sleipnir. It is an interesting name.

His new-found friend and maybe-brother stamps a hooft, and shakes his head, snorting. Refusing to move from his protective stance and place. Refusing to allow One-eyed to approach Fenrir closer - perhaps worried that the seiðr-lord will bind Fenrir as he clearly has done Sleipnir. If it is to this form, it will be a relief that no one shall expect or force Fenrir to walk on two feet with limited senses and pretend to be like those around him.

One-eyed sighs, and reaches out to take hold of the halter that is fixed about Sleipnir's head. The stink of seiðr grows for a moment, and then One-eyed leads Sleipnir out of the stall, and to another which is empty, into which he shuts Sleipnir. Leaving Fenrir alone and unprotected, if not defenseless.

Fenrir growls, low and warning, his head tilting down in defiance, his teeth bared. Stiff-legged and with the fur along his spine standing up. Watching One-eyed to see what he will do, and not trusting him to be any better than any other of this realm.

There's another quiet sigh, and One-eyed gives Fenrir a disappointed look. "You do not belong here, boy. Return to your father's rooms, and to your proper form."

His proper form? Fenrir glares and snorts. As all others, One-eyed thinks he knows what Fenrir should be, and that he can force Fenrir to be what they wish him to be. They call the two-legged and limiting form his true one, but this one is as much a true form as the other, if not more so of one.

The disappointment deepens, and hardens somewhat, a hint of anger entering into One-eyed's seiðr-stink. Fenrir can feel a hint of it crackle in the air, reaching for him, and he snarls loudly, backing deeper into his corner of the stall.

"You will return to your father's rooms, boy." One-eyed's voice is firm and commanding, demanding in a way no one else has attempted recently, not since he's grown too large to hide under lounges and behind curtains. They fear his size too much.

Fenrir barks sharply, refusal and defiance against the seiðr-lord who he has never acknowledged as his kin, much less as his lord. He is a hostage in this realm, not a subject, and will never acknowledge anything else. Angrboðason, subject only to the laws of his mother's hall and lands.

He spent long in regaining strength and skill in a body which he had little experience in since he had been much smaller. Not even a full warrior when Odin Child-Thief had bound him and imprisoned him and left him to languish in dark and lonliness for his transgression. For his refusal to be as others, remaining in but a single form.

Now, he was allowed from the tower which he had been brought to, allowed to explore the Midgard city where his mother now resided with her suitor - and Fenrir liked this Clint Barton far better than he had ever liked Loki.

Today, he had been asked by the one called Coulson if he would accompany him to a different part of Midgard. Fenrir had been willing to go where Coulson wished to take him, trusting him as he had once only trusted a horse called Sleipnir, twins called Nari and Vali, and a young woman called Hel. It was good to have another he might call kin, for all that Coulson was no blood-kin of his, nor like to be consort of Hel.

They traveled by a thing called a jet, that smelled of metal and stranger things that Fenrir still had not yet learned names for, and landed in a place Coulson called Iceland. A trek from where the jet might land took them over rock and grass down to a beach where the waves roll up cold and loud. Where a wavering figure of seiðr-weaving stood, tall and dark of hair and red of eye as all those Fenrir could call brother - and sister - were.

"His name is Jörmungandr." Coulson remained at the edge of the beach, away from the water. "Hel asked I bring you here, that you and he could meet."

Little pup, little serpent, do not whimper. You are safe, here among us, away from those who condemned us. And even should they come, we will not allow you to be taken from us all. The Child-Thief is banished to his sleep, not to wake until Ragnorak, and the Aesir-Queen born of Midgard. She will not allow the Aesir-King to be foolish as his father.

The grass here was soft under his paws, and Vali let out a soft sigh before he flopped down and rolled, wriggling against the ground. He could hear mortals exclaiming, and knew that sooner or later they'd bring in someone to contain him, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Or perhaps it was that he knew the most likely responders would be those mortals his sister had told him of, that were her allies and who would not harm him simply for being trapped as he still was in this form.

Rolling back onto his belly, he let out another sigh, resting his head on his paws as he watched the mortals, waiting. It wasn't terribly long before a whine that had begun at the edges of his hearing resolved into the sound of someone traveling with speed, a man armored in red and gold who landed a short distance away.

Vali looked up, gape-grinning before he let out a quiet bark, almost an inquiry. He hoped the mortal had the sense to realize that Vali meant no harm.

Peering around a corner, Vali grins when he sees no one down the next corridor, and he waves Nari forward. "Your turn," he whispers, and Nari shares his grin before dashing toward an alcove that looks large enough to hide them both if someone comes along. As soon as Nari is safely to the alcove, he beckons Vali to follow, and they continue like this down corridor after corridor, chosing at random because they can, and because they can always find their way home, no matter how turned around they get.

It's down one twisty corridor with no doors they find the most interesting thing. A crack in the wall, just big enough for them to slip through, and a dusty tunnel that they have to squeeze through at points, wiggling like little worms. And beyond, a cavern that's lit from a crack in the roof.

"Vali." Nari's voice is barely a whisper as he stares at the occupant of the cave, biting his lip. "What do we do?"

Vali's the older, the one who leads, the one who knows what to do when Nari gets scared or confused. He stares, too, at the wolf which has a sword through its jaws, driven into a rock. "We try to get the sword out, of course."

"What if we can't?" Nari always thinks of things that Vali forgets, and then Vali plans more, because he knows what to do then, too. Except this time, he doesn't know what to do, because an adult could never get down here, and besides, an adult had to be the one who did this, and what if they accidentally try to get help from the one who did this?

"I don't know." Vali slowly approaches the wolf, reaching out a careful hand to touch its head. It snorts, a quiet whine escaping it. "It's ok. We aren't going to hurt you. We're going to try to help you."

The wolf snorts again, but this time it sounds more like mother when they've said something impossible again. Vali rolls his eyes, and gently pets the wolf's head.

"We have to try. Because this is mean." He doesn't like it, and he doesn't think it's right. If a wolf is mean, it should be killed, but otherwise, it should be left alone. They can't help being wolves, after all.

Nari comes over after another moment, and pets the wolf as well, as Vali looks over the sword and how it's in the stone. It looks like it's very far in, maybe too far for him and Nari to be able to pull out until they're bigger. He frowns, not liking it at all. "We need father's seiðr to get this out, I think."

Which means they can't do it, because even though Vali doesn't think their father did this, he would have to tell Odin, and then other people would hear about it, maybe even the person who did this, and that can't happen.

"So what do we do?" Nari continues to pet the wolf, looking over at Vali with distress in his eyes. "We can't just leave him here."

"We have to. But we can come back." Vali scratches around the wolf's ear, like he does for the hounds at home. The wolf leans into it a little, and Vali scratches harder, so he doesn't have to lean more and hurt himself on the sword. "And maybe we can sneak some food, too, and feed him."

The wolf's tail thumps against the floor, like the dogs when they're happy, and Nari smiles suddenly, leaning down to hug the wolf, as if he were a person. "He knows what we're saying, Vali. Don't you?" Nari pulls back to look down at the wolf, his smile as cheerful as any Vali's seen.

Another thump of the tail, and a faint whine, as if the wolf really does know what Nari and Vali are saying. Vali grins, matching Nari's smile, and he buries his face in the wolf's ruff a moment, hugging it. Even if the wolf is being badly treated, he's more interesting than anything or anyone else in Asgard so far.

They stay with the wolf for a while longer, petting him and talking to him and scratching his ears, but eventually, they have to leave, so no one comes looking for them there. Vali wants to keep the wolf just their secret for now, their friend.

When they sneak back into their room, their mother is waiting, and scolds them for running off. Vali says they've just been looking for a way to the training grounds, so they can watch the warriors spar, and they got a little lost. Nari just smiles and gives their mother a wide-eyed look that always makes her forgive them anything.

"Well, don't do that again. Your tutor was quite upset." Their mother pulled them both to her, hugging them close and pressing a kiss to the tops of their heads. "I'm glad you found your way back already, though. Your father would have been very worried."

"If papa will take us to see the practice grounds, we won't sneak away from our tutor again. Promise." Vali smiles up at their mother, and she chuckles, shaking her head a little.

"I will talk to him about that, my little loves, but I cannot promise you that he will."

The reassurance that she will - and her not noticing the exact wording of Vali's promise - is all that they need, and the twins share a look before allowing her to mother them and spoil them.

"Ok, so he's what?" The man in the red-and-gold armor is smaller without it, at least physically. His ego takes up as much room as Loki's ever had, or even Vali's own. Vali gape-grins at him, and wags his tail. "Some kind of giant sentient wolf?"

"No." That's a man that it had taken Vali a long few moments to identify, because he'd always seen him as a wolf before, and Vali had been a boy. Fenrir, his brother, and the reason he's like this, and Nari is dead. Well, tangentially. The cause of the whole mess isn't going to actually make a problem for them again. "He's Vali, and he's seiðr-bound to be a wolf."

"Huh." The other man drains his drink, something that smells stronger than mead, and less pleasent. "Any way to undo that?"

Fenrir looks troubled, crouching down to stroke a hand over Vali's head. "I don't know, Stark."

"There. That's better." Vali wipes his hands on his trews before petting the wolf's head. "I wish we could have snuck more, but mother is starting to watch us more closely. She's worried about what we're doing, I think."

They'd been gone for months, home on Vanaheim, before they'd been able to talk their mother and father into taking them to visit Asgard again. The passage down to their wolf had been a tighter squeeze this time, and Nari had been worried they would find the wolf dead or gone.

"At least we're able to get some food down here." Nari is brushing the wolf's pelt, picking out bits of rock where they've fallen, as if the roof hasn't been entirely stable. That's a possibility that Vali doesn't like. It means they'd be in danger, and so would their wolf. "It's better than nothing."

"I know." Vali scratches behind the wolf's ears, leaning against it comfortably. "I just wish we could do more." He glares at the sword that still keeps the wolf's jaws pinned to the rock. They're stronger than when they had first found the wolf, but they still couldn't even budge the sword between them. It is infuriating, and Vali's almost tempted to ask their father for help. Loki wouldn't have trouble getting down here, after all; he's a shapeshifter, and could probably get down here easier than they can.

"Maybe we can." Nari leans against the other side of the wolf, who thumps his tail in approval as they lean their heads together over him. "Aunt Freyja started teaching me some seiðr before we left Vanaheim, remember?" He tilts his head slightly, so he can catch Vali's gaze. Red meeting red, and thoughts all but passing between them without the need for speech. Maybe they could use the seiðr their grandfather's sister had taught some little of to Nari to loosen the sword enough for Vali to pull it free.

"We have to try, don't we?" Vali buries his fingers deep into the ruff of the wolf, studying the sword for a long moment. "We have to try."

Nari nods, and after a moment, he moves, sprawling on his belly so he could get a better look at the rock the sword is driven into, and where it and the sword meet. Closing his eyes, he reaches out to touch the rock with light fingers, focusing his attention on his task. Vali watches his brother as he waits for Nari to tell him to pull, holding still as not to interrupt his concentration.

Both jump, though, when there is a sharp crack, and turn as one to face the intruder who appears. Vali's eyes widen as he takes in the familiar armor and visage of his grandfather.

"All-Father." His voice cracks, and he makes a face at the squeak. Nari doesn't speak, but he does reach out a hand to grasp Vali's. Solidarity, even in the face of familial disapproval. "What are you doing here?"

"What I should not have to do." Odin gives them both a look that speaks of greater disappointment than Vali can imagine sneaking away warrents. Especially when he and Nari are trying to help an animal in pain. "The monster was imprisoned for a reason," their grandfather says gently, though his expression is anything but gentle. "You should have come to me with your concerns, that I could have prevented this."

"He's not a monster." Nari's voice doesn't crack, but there's a sharpness in it that reminds Vali of Loki when they've made their mother turn over their punishment to him. "He's just a wolf, and no one should have done such a thing to him. Whoever did this to him is the monster."

"No." Odin sighs, and shakes his head. "He would cause great harm and havoc if allowed to roam - indeed, did such before he was bound and caged. You must understand that, and you must leave him to his punishment."

"We can't, and we won't." Vali squeezes Nari's hand, taking strength and comfort from his presence just as Nari does with him. "Nari is right, whoever did this is the monster. A wolf only acts as a wolf because it is a wolf. A wolf that harms livestock or people would be killed, not hurt like this. How can you defend a person who would do this to a wolf, no matter what the wolf did?"

There is silence a long moment, and a growing sense of dread in the pit of Vali's stomach. He doesn't like the distant expression on Odin's face, the sense that his grandfather was more than disappointed in their actions. Or the sense that he's missing something, something vital.

"You did this." Nari's voice is strained, almost strangled, and Vali tightens his grip on his brother's hand further. Staring at Odin as their grandfather's expression went more distant, and almost cold. The dread in the pit of his stomach is growing, and for once, he can't think of what to do, standing frozen beside his brother, over the body of a friend, waiting for the sense of impending doom to break.

He would never actually remember what happened after that.

"So, that makes what, five kids?" Stark was pouring another glass of drink - glasses for everyone, really. And a bowl that was far easier for Vali to drink from, though he wasn't certain about this particular drink.

"Six." Fenrir was leaning against Vali in the same way Vali had leaned against him when he was a wolf. "Sleipnir, Vali, Nari, Hel, Jörmungandr, and me." Fenrir scratched behind Vali's ears, and Vali leaned into it, welcoming the contact.

"And three of you are here, one in Asgard, and two... where?" Stark didn't look like he was confused, and Vali thinks he was just looking for confirmation of something.

"Niflheim. Our sister is Queen there, and Nari..." Fenrir sighed, burying his fingers in the ruff of fur about Vali's neck. "Nari is dead, and thus with her there."

Sleep, pup, and dream well. You will grow up strong and fierce as us all, and we will none of us let you be hurt. Dream of the hunt, running beside us, horse and wolf. Dream of the ocean, and the rumble of a serpent's mighty heart beating in time with the heat of the world.

And when you wake, I will tell you of the queen who broke the power of the arrogant Aesir, and gave the other realms once more their freedom and their agency.

Her seiðr-illusion was as solid as her real form, curled up in a chair in the common room of the tower. Waiting for someone to wake and come out, smiling when Steve startled at the sight of her. She liked to see how people reacted to her appearance, though she thought his reaction was more to her simply being here, rather than to how she looked.

"How are my brothers, Captain Rogers?" Her smile widened when he blinked and frowned at her knowledge of his name.

"Who are you?" He didn't move from the doorway, watching her instead with a mix of trained wariness and natural curiosity.


She wakes in an unfamiliar room, on an unfamiliar bed, shivering in a chill that speaks of a fire allowed to go out, or never kindled. Hel reaches for the woolen gown that should have been laid across her bed, and frowns when even that is missing. Letting out a huff, Hel sends out tendrils of seiðr to search for some hint of the familiar, and finds nothing. Not even the steady rhythm of the forest and the mountains that her mother's hall is nestled in. All is dead, muted and strange.

A strangled noise escapes her, something almost a sob, though she wouldn't acknowledge it as such. Drawing in a deep breath, Hel sits up on the edge of the bed, refusing to hesitate before she set her feet on the icy floor. Stone, not wood, and she hisses quietly as the cold seeps into her flesh, numbing her feet almost instantly, and creeping ever upward.

She doesn't stumble, to her surprise, as she searches the room for something to wrap about her over the linen shirt and trews she wears to sleep. There is no sign of any clothing, and after a moment, Hel wraps herself in seiðr-born wool and leather, though it does little to warm her with the speed she wishes.

It takes a moment to find the door to the room, hidden cleverly in the sinous lines of carvings that decorate all the walls. Hel curls her lip, and closes the door behind her as she studies the hall in which she finds herself. There is a dais upon which she stands, as if it is the hall of a lord or a king, and a throne which is bone-white and gleams sickly with strange seiðr.

Beyond, there is nothing to the hall but walls hung with tapestries and a great set of doors that are carved as elaborately as the one which she had stepped through a moment before. No fire-pit, and no warmth. No warriors or women, nor even a thrall or child. Nothing which could tell her whose hall she had been brought to.

"The hall is built for you, Hel." The voice startles her, and Hel narrows her eyes, wondering who had spoken. Her mother had warned her of her father's theft of her brothers, but they had thought her well enough hidden to avoid such a fate. She had even begun to think of who she might marry and where she might make a home in the lands of her mother's people.

"And who are you, that you think you might build me a hall for which I have not asked?" She does not move from where she is, winding seiðr about her fingers that she might have a chance to defend herself.

The throne shifts, and a man comes around it, watching her with steady regard from a single blue eye. Not Loki, then, but perhaps, she thinks, Odin. For there is seiðr here, and no lord of Midgard would wield such - nor, indeed, would most of the gods.

"I would not see my granddaughter made second to a mortal man." The words sound kind, but Hel does not believe them. Her mother's father is dead many years past, and her father's father she will trust no more than she would her father.

"So you take me from my mother's hall, and bring me to this place, where there is naught but a winter chill and a bare hall for me to rule?" Hel laughs, weaving the seiðr caught in her fingers into the form of a knife. "My mother's father is dead, and I acknowledge no kin not of her kin. You are no grandfather of mine, and I will not submit to your rule, nor accept this gift you would give me."

"You can go no where else, Hel." Odin doesn't even glance at the dagger in her hand, holding her gaze instead. "You are barred from Midgard, and the other realms are mine to bestow halls upon where I see fit. I have given you this hall, and a portion of the dead to rule. You have no choice."

"There is always a choice." There's a hitch in her voice she doesn't intend, and Hel tightens her grip on her knife. "And I will never accept a gift from you."

"Call it recompense, then."

"I call it a prison." Hel doesn't let him try to cajole her into acceptance further. "And even a captive would chose death over slow decay. It is what it just."

"Decay will not touch you, and the dead are your charge." Odin sighs, giving her a disappointed look. "Take good care with your duties, granddaughter."

Hel snarls, and lunges at him, but Odin vanishes before she can drive the dagger home, leaving her alone with naught but the cold and her own enraged screams for company.

"You were barred from Earth." Coulson was watching Hel warily, more so than he had in quite some time. Of course, right then, she was more visible to the others than she would normally have been, and he was quite awake, so she was little surprised he was wary of her.

"And I am not truly here." Hel loosened the weave of her illusion, passing her hand through a lamp overhanging the chair she sat in. "It is only an illusion."

"A more solid illusion than Raindeer Games uses." Stark shrugged at her glare, leaning against the bar. "Didn't think there was anyone who was supposed to be better than him at magic."

"Father is a master of illusions, but that does not mean no one else can master them, or other ways of weaving seiðr."

Just because Odin had forbidden her Midgard - and Hel had screamed herself horse with rage when she found, even as she discovered ways to other realms, every path that might lead to Midgard was closed to her - did not mean he had barred her from other realms. And Hel refuses to remain in the hall he had called hers, and be bound by a thief's rules and desires.

This place, though, is new, and Hel tilts her head, studying the barren landscape. Like Niflheim, it is all ice and darkness - Jotunheim, she thinks, from what she recalls of the tales of the gods. There is something in the distance that might be structure, or might be simply mountains carved of ice. She can't know unless she travels there, and for a moment, she hesitates.

But only for a moment. She is, more than anything, her mother's daughter, and she cannot be seen to fleeing something, even if it is stranger than most anywhere she's been. Lifting her chin, she sets out toward the tall spires, drawing her cloak closer about her against the chill of the realm.

She's aware of her watchers before she's crossed the plain between her and what she's becoming more convinced are the shattered remains of what must have once been massive buildings. Beautiful, too, she decides, the closer she comes. For all that they're made of ice that this realm will never be warm enough to melt, there's a stark beauty to ice that she's beginning to appreciate.

There are other watchers, a few making themselves obvious, as she comes close enough to truly admire the ruins. It feels as if they're trying to herd her in one direction, and in stubborn refusal to be made to do anything, Hel wanders in a different direction. Studying the ruins, and ignoring both the obvious and hidden observers.

At least until one tries to approach too closely, and she raises a hand, seiðr glowing pale as winter snow, waiting only a thought to be woven into whatever she wished. She's learned much of offensive weavings in between her wanderings, the dead who knew such things in life teaching her all they know. For what use have they for keeping secrets from their mistress?

"The first of you who tells me I must go where you direct me shall die in fire." Her voice is steady, the same harshness to it she remembers from her mother when a threat was made against her hall.

There is silence a moment, before one of the Jotnar speaks, sounding in no way cowed by her threat. It appeals to her.

"King Laufey would know who tresspasses upon his realm, Aesir-pale and yet with eyes of our world."

Hel looks over at the Jotun for a long moment. "I am Hel Angrboðadottir, and I am not of any thief's kin. My mother's father was mortal, and from him comes the shade of my skin."

There's a chuckle from the Jotnar about her, and she raises an eyebrow. One of them departs, likely to tell their king what she had spoken of.

"You know, then, of the Aesir they call All-Father."

"Child-Thief!" Hel spits, her lip curling in anger. "Stolen from out my mother's hall, and barred from my home by that one. Call it not by honorable title, but as it is." She is aware the seiðr about her hand is glowing brighter and bloodier now, anger feeding the energy, and she draws in a deep breath, shoving the emotion down as best she can, and unraveling with care the seiðr she has gathered in threat, that she does not cause harm she does not intend.

There is silence about her, until she hears another Jotun approach, and a gravelly voice speaks, the words lighter than she expects. "Angrboðadottir, granddaughter of Skadi our subject. Who is your father, then, Hel Angrboðadottir?"

Hel turns to study Laufey for a long moment, not wanting to speak of her Aesir father, the one she claimed no kin to. "I am told he is Loki Odinson. I acknowledge no father."

There is a whisper of sound around her, an angry sound like the muted roar of an avalanche in the mountains beyond the forest that bordered her mother's lands. Hel began to wind strands of seiðr about her hand again, to weave into a defense if she needs to do such against the Jotnar.

Laufey smiles, and chuckles, watching her for a long moment. "Laufeyson. Loki Laufeyson." His voice is low, and Hel doubts it carries far - only carries far enough that she can hear what he has said. Words that make her take a half-step back, and blink in surprise. Surprise that she thinks she should not have so much, for she already knows that Odin is not one she could trust.

There is silence, that of winter and graveyards, as she meets Laufey's gaze, and holds it. Studying him and turning over his words in her mind, deciding if she might trust this Jotun who she knows no more than she does any other. "I am still Angrboðadottir, bestefar."

"You could talk to the Aesir-king about lifting the banishment." Fenrir was leaning his head against Hel's knee, his eyes closed as she stroked his hair. "You could help Nari like you did Coulson, and we could all be together, like you said."

"There is still Sleipnir." Hel had thought about trying to give Nari the same choice she had Coulson, but she knew she could not. The weaving would fall apart or it would break - or it would trigger Ragnorak, and that, above all, she could not allow. Her own sharply-spoken doom pronounced on all the dead in her care. "And Nari will not take the choice. I will not force it upon him."

"Upon Asgard, then?"

"Only in Niflheim, in my hall. But if the Aesir-king gives Sleipnir his freedom from the Child-Thief's seiðr-weaving, he can join you here." It would be enough for her to have four of her brothers together, safely in the care and company of mortals. Freedom for those she could see freed.

She rarely stays in her own hall, preferring the company of others and the hospitality of realms beyond the cold dark of Niflheim. It is, though, still become her fortress, her safety and her stronghold, if for no other reason than she would not allow the hall to remain tainted by anything of Odin's seiðr. The feel of it against her mind was colder than the realm the hall was built in.

Now, she holds a boy just becoming a man, stroking her hand over bloody hair, letting her seiðr wrap around him and through him to heal the wounds that had killed him. Others tend to most of the newly dead, but this one had refused all, his tattered soul trying to fade entirely until she had forced him to look at her. Had wanted to hear from his lips that he wished to die entirely, rather than what other options he might be granted.

Seeing instead the familiar red of her kin, and pale features akin to those of Loki softened by the roundness of youth, framed by black hair. A brother, she knew, though only of her father's blood. Nothing of him made her think of the half-faded memories of her mother.

"He told Vali if he wished to share the nature of the monster, he could keep that form in body and mind." The words are muffled, but clear enough, and Hel stills her hand, resting it gently between the boy's shoulders. "He turned him into something he's not. Is Vali here, too?"

He looks up, red eyes meeting Hel's gaze with mingled loss and rage in their depths. Begging, without words, to tell him that this Vali is not here in Hel's hall, is not bound to the realm of the dishonorable dead.

"I have not heard of any other coming to my care so soon on your heels." Hel shifts her hand to his shoulder, a reassuring grip. "What name have you, little brother?"

"Nari." He frowns a moment, studying her closely. "I did not think I had any sister."

"My father is Loki, though I do not often call him kin." Hel tucks a strand of hair back from Nari's face. "I will call any sons of his my brothers, though, for that kinship I cannot reject." She had grown to womanhood with no brothers or sisters, and she finds she wishes she could have known both Jörmungandr and Fenrir. That she could have met Vali and Nari without a death to bring them to her.

Nari is quiet for a moment, before he draws in a deep breath, and buries his face into her breast, clinging to her like a child to its mother. Weeping once more, and Hel tilts her head down to rest her forehead against his hair, and allowing herself to shed tears, too, for this brother that had been murdered by the interference of another.

"Who did this to you and to our brother Vali?" Her voice is quiet, and she weaves a shield for their conversation as she asks. She will not risk the guardian hearing that she knows who might help the Child-Thief in his harm of her family, and telling Odin what has been heard.

"Grandfather. The All-Father." Nari's voice is muffled, and Hel hugs him close when he speaks the damning words.

"The Child-Thief. Murderer, War-Monger, Power-Mad." Hel whispers the angry kennings, the dangerous epithets. "He is not even Loki's father, but the one who stole Loki, to be raised as his."

Nari lifts his head at that, blinking at Hel. "The All-Father is not our grandfather?"

"No." Hel sighs softly, stroking back Nari's hair. "He is the son of Laufey, the King of Jotunheim. Did you not wonder at why your eyes were ever red as those of the Jotnar?"

"I never asked, nor thought it strange. My mother is of Vanaheim, and Vali and I spent much of our childhood there. Only after we found the wolf did we wish to spend time upon Asgard, and then only because we wished to help him." His expression crumples, anguish in his eyes. "Now who will care for the wolf? The All-Father will not; he was the one who bound him there in the first place."

Hel is quiet for a long moment, contemplating Nari's words, and the pain so clear in them. "I will, for I am not bound to this place. And the Child-Thief's gatekeeper is not as all-seeing as he would like to think of himself as being. None shall see me there."

And if the wolf is another of her kin, she will make sure he never thinks he is alone, and she will make Odin Child-Thief pay for what he has done. How, she isn't certain yet, but Hel knows there must be a way to do so. A small smile crosses her face, and she absently begins to stroke her brother's hair once more.

"Do not worry. I will take care of everything."

"It worked." There was a smug smile on the face of the boy - teenager, at most, Clint thought - who had appeared abruptly in the middle of the common room. He looked around himself, a slightly lost expression replacing the smug smile rather quickly. "I think," he muttered, looking more lost by the moment.

"Are you looking for someone?" He gave the kid a brief smile, making a mental note of the red eyes, like Fenrir and Hel and the wolf they called Vali. He'd bet his bow that this was another of their siblings.

"Um. Maybe?" The boy shrugged. "Hel said Vali and Fenrir were here. I wanted to see them again, and to see if I could make the weaving like she showed me."

Bingo. Clint grinned, and pushed off of the couch he'd been sprawled on, asking JARVIS to pause the movie. "They are. Come on, I'll show you where they're hanging out right now."

As the hall has become her fortress, so the rooms behind the throne have become her sanctuary, woven through with her seiðr - all the tricks she's learned to hide herself from the eyes and ears of the gate-keeper and of Odin. She'd created rooms next to it for Nari, so that he will always have a place to feel is home, no matter that he is dead. Right now, she's just glad she's left him only the same door to approach her as she has anyone else. Hel doesn't want to harm her brother in her rage.

Digging sharp nails into her palms, she screamed, fury making the sound a shriek. One brother dead, one bound and cruely pinned, and one made a beast in mind as well as body, though she has already seen the care the royal house of Vanaheim is putting into releasing Vali's mind. Vali and Nari, Fenrir and Jörmungandr. Her father, herself.

"Is there no one of our blood you would not harm?" she snarls, though she knows the one who should most bear her rage cannot hear her words, or see the rage in her face. "How many others are there that you have cursed to fates crueler than even a dishonorable death, Aesir-king who is naught but thief and murderer and nĂ­ðingr? How many brothers or sisters shall I find if I search the dead you put in my care?"

Hel takes in a deep, shuddering breath, and lets it out in another shriek of rage, reaching for the nearest item, heaving the crock of icy water across the room to shatter against the wall. She will not leave her rooms until she can control her anger enough to weave seiðr, but there is little she can do to relieve the fury born of painful knowledge save to destroy all that is in it.

A hesitant knock on her door makes her stop her reach for the basin that been next to the crock, struggling for a moment to shove the rage back down enough that she could respond without screaming at whoever had come to speak with her.

"Hel?" The voice is soft, and newly familiar, Nari sounding as if he's not quite sure he's safe if he were to open the door. Or perhaps, at all.

The rage doesn't vanish as she thinks perhaps it ought to at his fear, but it's easier to push to one side, to ignore it for a moment as she goes to open the door. Nari watches her with worry in his expression for a long moment before he speaks, quiet and soft as he tells her their father is at the entrance of her hall, wishing to speak with the one who rules here.

"What would bring him here?" Hel murmurs to herself, since she doesn't trust that Nari's death is what has done such a thing - she does not trust that he would care so greatly when he has done nothing for Fenrir, and he trapped far closer to Loki. She draws a deep breath, reaching out to absently brush Nari's hair back from his face, resting a hand on his shoulder a moment. "I will speak with him, then."

She waits, though, long enough to make sure her face bears the blue color of her blood-kin, the lines familiar now, and proclaiming her blood lines to anyone who could read them. Laufey's blood through Loki and Skadi's blood through Angrboða. Proud and refusing to hide it as she knows her father has, for how else would her mother describe him as pale and green-eyed?

Outside, in the chill dark of Niflheim, a cloaked figure stands, waiting patiently for her to come from her hall.

"Who would wish to speak to the Queen of the Hall of the Dead?" Hel does not stray far from the doors, though she closes them behind her, barring any entering them that lives beyond herself. She will not even allow Odin to step within the bounds of her hall unless he surrenders up his life.

"Loki Odinson." It is a strangely penitent voice, her father's, rough with grief and the suggestion of tears.

"And for what purpose do you come?" Hel crosses her arms, watching him with narrowed eyes, though she has her own suspicion as to why Loki is here. She will not let him take Nari from her, though, and make him a ghost in the realms of the living, when he might be as close to alive as any might be in her hall.

"I would know where my son is." Loki shoves the hood of his cloak back, meeting her gaze with red-rimmed eyes. Tears shed for her youngest brother, when she cannot believe he's shed tears for her older brothers, or for her.

"Think you to ask the All-Father such a thing? For surely he would know where his own kin would be sent in death." Hel is not willing to be kind to Loki, nor to make it easy for him to be certain where Nari is.

Loki lets out a broken laugh. "The All-Father who did nothing to protect him? Who punished him for some rebellion that he will not tell me?"

"Rebellion?" Hel's own laughter is high and sharply bitter. "Is that what the All-Father says of their actions?" She does not care right now if the gatekeeper and Odin both might hear her. This is her realm now, her hall, and she will burn them if they come to chastise her.

"I shall keep the care of Nari Lokison, and all who pass into my hall, be they mortal, Aesir, or other. None shall pass forth from here once they have entered these gates save myself."

She does not wait to allow him time to speak, slamming the heavy doors behind her, a snarl on her face that she cannot smooth away. Tears shed for a son born of his wife, a desire to find him, and not once has he sought her out, not once has he visited Fenrir in his prison. Love given only to the proper children, the ones who bear Aesir-pale skin, and the blood of the gods.

"None shall pass out from this hall that enter into it through the passage of death until Ragnorak." Hel's voice is as cold as her realm, the words weighted by seiðr. "All who come here are mine, and mine they shall remain until Yggdrasil burns and all the realms fall to chaos and destruction."

"You were destined for Valhalla." Nari was watching Coulson from where he'd curled up next to Vali and Fenrir. "My sister could not have done what she did if you had been one of the dishonorable dead."

"Oh?" Coulson raised an eyebrow, watching Nari curiously.

"None shall pass out from the Hall of the Dead that enter in through death until the coming of Ragnorak and the end of all the realms." Nari shrugged, and smiled. "I'm glad, though. You saved Fenrir. And Vali." His hand scratched absently in the thick ruff at Vali's neck. "If Thor lets Sleipnir free, then we'll all be safe and free. He's the oldest of us, the longest held by Odin's seiðr-binding. Hel can't free him herself, though, no more than she could Fenrir, or Jörmungandr."

"Why not?"

"It would trigger Ragnorak. And Odin wins."

Remember, little sister. Always remember. We are the monsters the gods fear because our freedom at their hands ends the world, or so they say. And they will call you monster, when you grow to be strong and proud of being your father's daughter. Call you liar and trickster and monster and evil because they cannot understand that we are not bound by their rules. That we are the chaos and the change they fear, us and our father.

And now, sleep. I will tell you another story tomorrow.

The Archer and the Battle-Mage (next story in AU)

Posted: 23 April 2013