Engaged (Part Three)

Another light reverberated across the battlefield. However, it wasn’t destructive. Comforting peace spread, followed by warmth. A figure materialized in the middle of the chaos. Asgard’s lost queen stood with a mother’s stern expression.
The soldiers dropped to one knee as she passed by.
Frigga waved a hand, and the soldier running towards the raging girl flew backwards. “Aura,” the queen called.
The partial fire demon paused at the familiar voice. Could it really be? She pivoted. The fires encompassing her slightly dying.
“Aura, hear my voice. You are a sweet and innocent child. This is not your nature.” She didn’t give the maiden a chance to respond, casting a spell that carefully changed Aura back into her normal form. Her aura radiated light. She turned around. “Unless anyone wants to challenge me, I will tend to my sons.”
Everyone remained quiet. Created a path for the very-alive queen.
Frigga went to Loki first. “Thank you, Profician. I’ve always known he was in good care with you.”
Profician ran a hand through his long, peppered hair. “Even though he constantly scares me with his antics. Though he gets it from you. You know, your entrance wasn’t very subtle.”
She smiled while she removed the rock shard. “Indeed he does. I was going to wait longer and let everyone sort everything out. But when I saw Aura out of control, Loki unconscious, and Thor in tears, I had to reveal myself.” Placing a healing spell on Loki’s forehead, she reached out her other hand to her conscious son. “Thor. Come to me.”
His head lifted. Eyes moist. He managed to pull himself up and go to her side. “Yes, mother?” He turned away. His voice softened as the gravity of his realization sunk in. “Y-you are not my mother, are you?”
“Thor, look at me.” She waited until he faced her again. “I have been your mother since Odin married me. Granted, I would have loved for Gaia to raise you. She was such a kind soul, tending to the Midgardians in their prosperity and death. But that has never stopped me from loving you, or Loki, as my sons. Don’t you see Loki as your brother?”
He looked at the unconscious man on the ground. “Though I now know he is not my blood, I have never stopped seeing him as one.”
Frigga put a hand on the side of his face. “And though you were not born of me, there has never been an instant where you weren’t my son.”
A few tears shed. “Will you teach me of her?”
“Of course. Whatever you wish to know, I will tell you.”
Jormungandr suddenly let out a loud hiss, startling most people. The male fire demon had trapped him in a flaming cage. His crimson eyes found Aura, who was back in her normal form. In turn, this forced him to revert back to his alternate shape. He could feel her fear. She expected someone to kill her. His arms crossed. “Release me.”
Tuy grinned. “You’re not much of a foe to fire, are you?”
His fangs bared. “I said release me.”
“Since you’ve asked so politely.” He extinguished his fires with the wave of his hand.
Jormungandr snarled at him when he passed by. Headed for Aura. Only stopping when Frigga teleported in front of him. He didn’t react to this phenomenon. Hardly anything phased him.
The queen forced him to hands and knees, strolling right up to his face. She smirked as he grimaced at her magic. “I’m very aware of what the Norns have done with you and Aura. However, I want my own insurance.” She placed both hands on his head. Whispered an enchantment. A new rune burned into his skin. Her eyes smoldered. “Any pain you inflict upon my Aura, you will feel tenfold. Understand?”
He solemnly nodded, not liking the feeling of his leathery skin being branded once more.
Thor gazed at the snake man in wonder. He didn’t remember seeing a ten-foot-tall man at the rallying speech. His attention returned to Loki when he groaned. “Brother? How do you fare?”
Loki put a hand to his head. “I feel like I’ve been dropped off a cliff and into the waters of Rikr Sjorfoss.” He suddenly shot up. “Where’s Odin?”
“Dead. That blast…it destroyed him completely.”
His eyes flickered to him. “Thor, I’m sorry. It was either him or everybody else. You know that blast would’ve destroyed everything.”
Thor embraced him. “I know. No one will blame you for what happened. It was the consequence of his own actions. He was determined to take Asgard with him until he perished. He desired to have this Realm, and all Realms, go with him in the afterlife. In a way,” he took a breath, “I am thankful he is gone.”
“Asgard is yours, now. You’re the rightful heir.”
He shook his head. “Nay. It belongs to Mother.”
“What?” Loki’s eyes widened as Frigga approached them with Aura alongside her. He rose. Then finally smiled. “I really shouldn’t be surprised, should I?”
She laughed. “Where do you think you learned your skills? Besides, did you think a dagger could kill me? Especially when it was the one I crafted for you? You have to be smarter than that if you want me dead.”
Aura was glad the queen was alive. She truly was, but she feared what would happen to her with what she had done. So she hid behind Queen Frigga, refusing to look at anyone.
Loki inspected his love. “Are you alright, Aura? No one hurt you, did they?”
Frigga came to the young maiden’s aid. “There’s no need to fret; all is well. We shouldn’t dwell on the past because the future is uncertain.” Her gaze swept the area. “Many fear the future. I think the two of you should rule together. It would be best, with Thor’s battle knowledge and Loki’s political nature.”
Thor contemplated the suggestion. He didn’t want their mother to be left out. “Why not all three of us? We shall rule as a family. What do you say, Brother?”
Loki breathed deep. “I do support your idea. However, I think it would be better if there were four of us.”
Frigga stepped back, eyes sparkling, as Thor seemed confused.
Removing an item from his pocket, Loki got down on one knee. Took another deep breath. “I’ve promised myself for a while that, as soon as Odin was gone, I would do this.” He held out a green glass ring boasting a petite rose of the same nature. His gaze lifted. “Aura, will you become my bride?”
Aura stood in stunned silence, expression blank. He was asking her to marry him? This was much sooner than she expected. What was she supposed to do? What was the proper thing to say? He really wanted her to marry him? Surely, this wasn’t real? Was it?
Loki searched her frozen form. “And…I broke her.” He sighed. Rubbed his face with his free hand. “Again.” He rose, not at all comforted by her continual staring.
“…Really?” she managed.
“Yes. I love you with all my heart. I’ve wanted to ask you for some time. It just hasn’t been safe until now.”
Her expression hadn’t changed. He truly desired her hand? She had imagined this moment before. Imagined their life together many times. Now it was real. Much more real than she expected.
He sighed again. Glanced at the ring in his hand. Perhaps he had been wrong in what he thought was a mutual desire.
She suddenly threw her arms around him. Buried her head in his chest.
His heartrate increased. “Is that a yes?”
“Yes!” She nodded. “I will become your bride.”
Loki’s face flushed with relief. He wrapped his arms around her. Kissed the top her head. Then held her back so he could have eye contact. He was exhausted, but his expression was of joy. “You have made me the happiest man in the Realms.”
Aura giggled and reddened as he slid the ring on her finger.
Thor threw both fists into the air for triumph. He yelled for everyone to hear. “It took a rock to the knee, but my baby brother has become engaged!”
The soldiers and magicians alike began clapping. Many laughing at Thor’s statement.
Profician conjured a tissue and dabbed both eyes. “Oh, how they grow up so fast. I’ll need to practice my water explosions for the ceremony.”
Frigga put a hand on Loki and Aura’s shoulders. “I have waited for this awhile myself. You do realize I expect grandchildren, correct?”
Aura giggled again, but Loki gave his mother an impassive glance.
The thunder god summoned Mjolnir to his hand. “There shall be a tournament to decide the best man. I shall win, of course.”
Loki’s eyes rolled. “As far as grandchildren go, we’ll see. As for the tournament, we’ll see.”
Thor grabbed them both in a giant hug. “Words cannot express my jubilation.”
He was about to respond when he noticed Aura crying. “Put us down, meat head. You’re hurting her.”
Releasing them, he looked sheepish. “I am sorry.”
Aura wiped away her tears. “I’m not hurt. I’m just really happy, too.”
Loki smiled and kissed her forehead. Pulled her into another embrace. “For that, I am thankful.”

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Engaged (Part Two)

Aura surveyed the battlefield. There didn’t seem to be any deaths. Yet. She wanted to make sure Loki was okay. Not that he had any reason not to be…. She just had to be sure. The vision of what could be frightened her more than anything.
Jormungandr felt her growing worry. It didn’t take him long to spot his previous prisoner. “He’s over there.”
The maiden smiled up at her new friend. “Thank you. Please disarm the soldiers without killing them.”
With a nod, he picked up the nearest of Asgard’s troops. Held the terrified man before his gaze. He desired nothing more than to eat the fleshling. He was starved, and before him spread more than enough food. His mouth watered. Maybe he should torture them first. Venom added a certain acidic flavor.
The soldier screamed and flailed, calling for someone to help him. This only promoted the Tormentor’s idea to devour him. Sink fangs into flesh. Watch the light fade from his eyes and swallow him whole. He opened his jaws.
A sudden wave of compassion drowned him. He shook his head. What would cause such a feeling? His eyes locked onto the curious creature, who healed a magician with a side wound. Turning to the soldier, he snarled. He couldn’t eat him. Not with her kindness pouring into him. He didn’t think this was how the relationship would go. What would he eat? He submitted to plucking away weapons and armor. Scowl remaining.
Aura finished healing the magician. “Are you alright?”
The student pushed herself up. “Thanks to you. Tell me what I can do to help.”
“Well, I need to get to Loki.”
“No problem.” With a wink, she used a torrent of wind to knock down a line of soldiers. A line leading straight to the god of mischief.
“Thank you.” Aura proceeded forward.
But Odin had spied Loki first. He made his way through the fight, knocking aside both soldiers and magic users with his staff. Not caring who was injured or sent flying backwards. Only one thing stopped him, and that was reaching his true enemy. He grabbed Loki by the throat and teleported them away.
She sprinted. “No!” They were gone. Her hands balled. That was the second time Loki had been taken away from her. Odin would kill him. If only she had gotten to him sooner. She held her head in her hands. Not from shame but anger. The flame appeared in the void of her mind.
Take it.
Crying out, she reached for that flame and underwent transformation.
Jormungandr suddenly grinned, revealing pointed teeth. His master had changed. Was filled with rage and the desire for destruction. Now he could change, as well. He shifted into his gargantuan snake form. His tongue flickered with contempt at all the screams. As much as he missed his human form, this would never get old.
Tuy Oxido strolled up with hands behind his back. “So the great Tormentor isn’t a myth after all.”
The snake smiled. “You’ve heard of me.”
“Of course. Not only am I a master of fire, I’m a study of all magical creatures. And should myths be believed, you have quite the record.”
“Would you like to put it to the test?”
It was Tuy’s turn to grin. Both hands produced fire. “It would be my honor.”

Odin and Loki appeared in a desolate part of Asgard. No other life present. No witnesses.
The mischief god smirked. “I’m surprised you don’t want anyone to see what you’re going to do to me.”
The Allfather had both hands around his staff, attack stance ready. “I don’t want my palace contaminated by your remains.”
“If you call this nonsense off, no one has to die.”
Odin circled. “Why do you insist on lying? I shall rid the Realms of your unholy tongue.” He sent a blast of magic, disintegrating his foe.
Loki’s voice echoed. “You think it will be that easy?” Though he also understood taking down Odin wouldn’t be so easy. And if the king was beyond reasoning, then he would have to break him.
“Illusions? Face me. Face me, you coward!”
“He is not the coward. You are.” The voice came from Borr, who appeared on Odin’s right. Then left. In front, behind, all around until over a hundred of him surrounded the current king.
Odin whirled to face each one. Head turning as they all began to speak.
“You’re not a true king.” “You have failed me.” “You have failed your wife, your kingdom.” “You have failed your son.” “You’ve lied to Thor, and you know it.” “You’ve manipulated Asgard far more than Loki has.” “You’re the real snake.” “You are a disgrace unto my name.” “I no longer call you my son.”
“Silence!” The Allfather shot blasts at all the illusions of his father. “This is trickery. Nothing more than evil magic. Be gone!”
Loki gritted his teeth from his hiding spot, even though he was cloaked in invisibility. Aligned his magic with the staff’s. His illusions needed to remain. If anyone could break Odin, it would be Borr. A drop of sweat trickled down his temple. Keeping up with the staff’s magic took more out of him than he expected. Then again, he wasn’t fully healed from the Tormentor’s venom.
All of the Borrs spoke as one. “You are the one who must go. You are nothing but a failure. A poor excuse for a king. You don’t deserve the title of Allfather.”
Odin roared at the still-standing illusions. “I said be gone!” He slammed the staff on the ground. A shockwave of strong magic leveled everything within several miles. The staff cracked almost all the way down the middle. It glowed with power about to be unleashed.
The rock Loki hid behind shattered. But not before driving a piece through his thigh. He didn’t think Odin would use that much power with his weapon damaged. However, he only gave his injury a grimace, whirling around to face Odin. His invisibility was gone.
Asgard’s falling king strode towards him. “I will destroy you if it’s the last thing I do.”
Loki kept an eye on the staff. “It will be the last thing any of us do if you use that again. Have you not noticed it splitting?”
“Lies! Everything you say is lies.”
“If you use it again, it could destroy Asgard.”
“I control my staff. It doesn’t do anything I don’t want it to do.”
Loki moved, rushing Odin and teleporting them back to the battle. Perhaps if he saw his troops, he would reconsider his course of action.
But the Allfather deemed this as yet another illusion. Of course the Trickster wished to deceive him further. His voice boomed. “If anything, it will come back on you. How many times have I framed you? I even charged you with Frigga’s murder, though I’m the one who ordered it to be done. Watched her die at the hands of your dagger.”
His emerald gaze surveyed those in battle. The majority had ceased fighting. He straightened as much as his damaged leg allowed.
Odin continued. “If I want to destroy Asgard, I can do so with but a few words. I’ve manipulated the Realm so excellently, the people have no idea. They kill each other when I want them to. My soldiers go to war simply because I say fight. Once I’m through here, they’ll go to Midgard and destroy it because I wish it. I despise Thor and his attachments to that Realm. All because of his mother, Gaia. Even after I killed her when he was a newborn, his love for Midgard remains.”
Mjolnir thunked to the ground as the thunder god heard these words.
The soldiers looked at one another. Threw down their weapons. The magic users stopped their spells. The only ones moving were Profician and fire demon Aura.
Loki held up his hands. “Think about what you’re doing.”
“I know exactly what I’m doing.” Odin raised the staff, which radiated power. “I’m getting rid of you. You will never be a thorn in my side again.” The staff’s glow increased with charging magic.
The god of mischief made a decision. Pulling out his orb, he held it out in a clenched fist with his other hand open. Aura was on this battlefield. As was Thor and innocent lives. He wasn’t putting Odin’s life above a multitude of others. A thick force field formed around the king.
This, Odin didn’t notice, blinded by his rage. Before he could send a stream of magic, the weapon splintered past its point. His hand was instantly seared. Fused with the staff’s metal. And before he could scream, the contained power went supernova.
An initial surge exploded. Sucked back into the staff. Regurgitated at maximum, filling the domed area with blindingly white light. Gathering even Profician and Aura’s attention.
Loki’s eyes closed as he secured his stance. The orb burned in his fist. More than just a drop of sweat fell from his face. This amount of magic he expected. However, it took every bit of his magical prowess to keep the blast contained.
The power swirled. Raged against the force field. It took several moments, but it slowly subsided. Dissolved into nothing. All that remained was a charred crater. Odin had been reduced to particles.
He staggered. Eyes rolling back, he slumped to the ground.
Thor sunk to his knees. The realization of what took place hitting him.
Profician rushed over to his former student. Quickly analyzed him. “That rock shard doesn’t look good. Healer. We need a healer. Aura—” His head snapped up. “Right.”
Aura’s whole being was on fire. Her red skin burned. Charcoal hair ethereal. Her tail whisked back and forth. All-black eyes reflecting her fire. She continued going after Odin’s men. Set them ablaze. Water-based and healing magicians followed in her wake.
It didn’t take long for her to notice those who trailed her. She began attacking the magic users. Producing streams of blue flames. Even when she was doused with water, her magic didn’t cease. If anything, her fire grew hotter. She had lost control, and she wanted everyone to feel her wrath.
Noenflamme jogged up to Profician, her small dragon companion following her. “I’ve tried reasoning with her. She’s too far gone.” She looked at Loki. “Is he dead?”
The old master ruffled himself up. “No, he’s not dead. He does need healing, but I think he’ll last long enough until we get Aura calmed down. I don’t want him waking up to,” his head sunk between his shoulders as screams echoed, “this.”
One soldier had enough of seeing his comrades burn. Even if they were healed. He snatched a sword. “If that creature is too far gone, I’ll destroy her like the monster she is!”

Engaged (Part One)

“Loki, reinforcements are coming!”
The mischief god knocked out a soldier who gave him particular trouble and turned to where Thor pointed. The next wave had indeed arrived. A much bigger wave. He made his way over to his brother. “Tiring yet?”
He blocked a sword with Mjolnir. Proceeded to rip it out of the soldier’s grasp. “Nay. However, I do believe this next batch will be far greater than even we can handle.”
Loki gave a nod. Dodged a strike, grabbed the soldier’s arm, and flipped him on his back. “I’ll let you do the honors.”
Thor thrust his hammer into the sky. “Now!”
As one, the magic users revealed themselves. Eagerly joined the disarming battle. For many, it was the first time they had been in any kind of fight, and they were anxious to use their abilities. Especially since no killing was allowed.
Odin remained at the back of his battalion with Heimdall. His eye widened when the magicians dismantled their shrouds. With an angered cry, he sent in a third wave. “I will not lose to sorcerers.”
Heimdall smiled to himself. “In the princes’ defense, my lord, they were handling themselves quite well. And Loki hasn’t even touched his magic yet.”
The Allfather glared. “Remember which side you are on. Lest I be forced to kill you, as well.”
He broadened his stance and continued watching the battle—if it could be called that—in silence.
Loki had noted yet another wave had been sent. He surveyed his troops. They proved themselves helpful for now. But the Asgardian soldiers progressively became more aggressive, out for blood. He wanted to hold off on his magic as long as possible. He wasn’t fully recovered from the venom, and it would take everything he had against Odin and the power of the staff.
However, it wasn’t an option anymore. There were thousands of soldiers and only two hundred magic users at max. He threw up a force field behind him to stop an attack as he went straight for the heart of the battalion. Odin remained somewhere behind the ranks. The king wouldn’t miss this battle.
“Going to the center of the fun without me?” Thor asked as he hurled Mjolnir through a crowd of soldiers, knocking down a line. It wasn’t enough force to kill, but it was enough to hurt.
Loki grinned, fighting alongside his brother. Maybe this was like older times. It was them against the world. Granted, they had help in this battle, but in this particular area, it was only them. And they fought together like a well-oiled machine. They knew each other’s patterns and adjusted accordingly.
“We need a way to get rid of these weapons permanently,” Thor called out over the sound of metal clashing against his hammer. “None of us possess armor.”
“The elders are already working on it.” Loki moved under Thor’s swing and swept the feet out from under the soldier they tag-teamed on, also turning the young man’s sword into a stick.
Across the battlefield, a handful of elder magicians had set up a perimeter. Four manned a reasonably sized force field while two used magnetic magic to draw in only the various kinds of weapons. Extra elders aided the unexperienced. Many soldiers were placed under sleep spells. Others saw nothing but dancing lights around them. The magic users created walls of earth and fire, corralling many soldiers. Strong wind magic sent many troops to the ground.
Odin turned to Heimdall once more. “Send in the slaves. I want them dying over my army. Then we can get rid of them without alarming the people.”
Heimdall never took his pale eyes off the scene. “No one is dying, my lord.”
“For all your Sight, you are blind! Look at how my soldiers fall. Those sorcerers are killing them. I want the slaves to die in their place.”
Now the Gatekeeper faced him. “The soldiers are not being killed. Only disarmed and rendered unconscious or asleep.”
Odin’s anger kindled. “Fool! They are being slaughtered. If you say otherwise, you side with the traitors.” He sent Sleipnir into battle. “Trample them all!”
“You are the one who is blind. Blinded by your ambitions enough that you refuse to see the truth while it is before you.”
“Then you side with them and must be put down like them.” Odin swung his weapon, only to have it blocked by Heimdall’s sword. “I expected more loyalty from you. You know you cannot break my staff.”
“I am loyal to my king. You are not the king I know or serve. Nor can you break my sword.” He parried another blow.
Sleipnir galloped into battle, caring little for who could fall under his hooves. Though everyone yelled and scattered from his path. He headed straight for the force field. Tail streaming like a proud war banner behind him. Ebony muscles rippling as he urged himself faster.
An unconscious soldier slowly came back to the present. Groaning, he put a hand to his head. Froze when he heard a familiar thunder behind him. He rolled to his back. The large war steed came straight for him. Without showing signs of slowing. He screamed for the horse to stop.
Loki suddenly appeared in front of the fallen soldier, arms held out. It didn’t take him long to see what dispersed a section of battle. “Sleipnir!”
The eight-legged horse slowed and reared before him. Enraged his charge had been challenged.
He remained undaunted. “Sleipnir, you listen to me. I gave you four extra legs. I can take them away.”
Wide-eyed, the soldier crawled backwards. “That horse is a mindless beast. It can’t understand you.”
Sleipnir’s ears flattened as he pawed the ground. An angry snort came from his nostrils.
Loki lowered one arm and moved the other in front of him. “Is this what you wanted? To be a blood-thirsty monster? That is not what I had in mind when I selected you from the stables those years ago. I enchanted you to help people, not kill them.”
He pranced from side to side but didn’t force his way around the obstruction. Another snort.
“There was a reason I chose you from the other foals. All you wanted to do was run. And you wanted to run with a purpose. I gave you that purpose. I gave you the extra set of legs. I’ve never wanted control over you, but I want you to remember your purpose.”
The black horse reared again. Clarion call bellowing and startling the soldier. He landed hard on his front four legs. Tossed his mane.
“Is this what you want?” Loki stepped forward, forcing Sleipnir back. “Do you want to be the mindless machine that does Odin’s bidding? The murderous beast who’s feared? Well? Is this what you want?”
Sleipnir halfway reared, tossing his head once more, but finally settling down. He continued backing up as Loki continued claiming this ground. Offered a quieter neigh.
He crossed his arms. “Are you done with your attitude now?”
Nickering ensued. The great beast nudged him with the front of his head.
Chuckling, he patted the well-muscled neck. “Yes, I forgive you. But I want you to go to the stables. I don’t want to see you out here again.” He watched Sleipnir trot off before turning to the soldier and holding out a hand.
The young man stared at him incredulously. “You just saved my life.”
“We are not here to kill you. We are only here to stop Odin.”
“I—” He was at a loss for words but let the god of mischief help him to his feet. Then quickly jogged away, dare Odin see what happened.
A flash of light caused Loki to pivot. He saw a tall, ashen-skinned being. One look at the blinkless red eyes told him who it was. Every fiber in his being tensed as his nostrils flared. Black magic formed around tightly balled fists. He would kill this being. Setting his jaw, he strode forward. Abruptly stopped.
Humanized Jormungandr lifted Aura off his shoulders and set her upon the ground. She smiled up at him. Spoke words Loki couldn’t hear. The Tormentor began picking up soldiers, plucking away their weapons and armor.
Odin, too, saw the light of teleportation. He briefly took his attention away from Heimdall. Everything in him froze. It wasn’t possible. The snake had been permanently made a snake. How could this be? Loki. It had to be. That was the last person to visit the Tormentor. Leave it to Loki to being in an unpredictable variable.
Heimdall’s battle cry returned Odin’s focus. The albino brought his sword straight down, using all the strength he possessed.
The Allfather blocked with the staff. Stood his ground without give.
The ancient weapons clashed. An ear-piercing ring drowned out all other noise. They only touched for a few seconds, but it was enough for the staff to build up a surge of power.
As soon as Heimdall felt the growing magic, he released the downward force of his sword. However, he wasn’t quick enough.
A shockwave spread over the battlefield.
Odin remained on his ground, pushing his staff further up even as the shockwave radiated. His added resistance caused strain on the weapon. It cracked down the length. Sending another blast of power.
Heimdall took the brunt of the blow as he was the only give. He flew backwards and tumbled a few times before remaining still and unconscious.
He smiled. With that threat out of the way, he could deal with the real problem. His good eye scanned the battle until he found Loki.

A Pair Off to War

“Breathe, curious creature. Relax and breathe.”
Aura’s eyes slowly opened. All she could see was dim light. Everything else remained blurry. “What?”
“You exerted power beyond your strength and fell unconscious.”
“Oh.” She rested her head against the rock. Her body ached. “How long…?”
“I have no concept of small time. I can only tell days from nights by the slight change of temperature from the higher rocks.”
She tried pushing herself up, vision clearing. “I need to help Loki and Thor. I need to, need to free Jormungandr.”
A strong hand kept her sitting. “You have freed me.”
Her deep blue eyes found the human figure squatting in front of her. She blinked a few times. “Jorg?”
“I suppose I could say quite literally in humanoid flesh.”
After her head finished clearing, she studied his new form. He was long and lithe, cut but not overly muscled. His head was bald, earless, had no eyebrows, but still retained the blinkless red eyes. A bare torso revealed dark, ashen skin traced with green-tinted runes and scars. Loose, black pants finished him off. A forked tongue appeared, and a smile showcased his pointed teeth.
She shook her head. “Why didn’t you do that before?”
He rose to his ten-foot height. Gestured to the deep scar in his midsection. “The cursed wound kept me from shifting. Every time I tried, the wound would reopen. The only way I wouldn’t bleed out was by staying in my true form. Only then would it mend enough to keep me from dying. That was how Odin kept me underground.”
“I see.” Her gaze fell. “I’m sorry I couldn’t heal your scar. I don’t know how, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to master it.”
“Scars are badges of honor, not shame.” He squatted again to be more at her level. “They’re testaments. Proof you’ve fought battles and won. I earned all my scars, and I proudly wear them. My scars prove I’m still fighting, still surviving. Still living. And that’s the majority of the war, there. Living when others want you dead.”
Her eyes lifted. There was definitely more to him than he let on. If he was a true torturer, he wouldn’t value life as much as he had just claimed. “So you will help us?”
He lowered his height even more, making eye contact with her. “As I’ve stated before, I will help you, and you alone. What do you require?”
“Aid in this battle. You know Odin needs to be stopped. Loki and Thor have already started the battle. Those who can fight from the magic school wait in shrouds to join. In the vision Trillenger showed me, Odin doesn’t factor you as a threat. You will throw him off-guard.”
“Who is Trillenger?”
“I—I’m not sure. They’re three ancient beings who sent me here. They’re scrys. That I know for sure. They have magic pools.”
He was amused with her careful statements as she tried not to offend them. “You’re sure Odin won’t suspect my presence?”
She nodded. “You weren’t in the vision at all. And he was making a point to slay all who could threaten him. I don’t think he’ll know what to do when he sees you on the battlefield.”
A grin traced his lips. “Excellent.”
“But there’s one rule. You cannot kill anyone.”
His smile dropped, tongue flicking out in aggravation. “But it’s a war.”
Aura pushed herself up. “It’s to show Odin’s true nature. Loki and Thor are making a point. Odin is the killer; they just want to be peaceful. Besides, if their party is seen killing Asgardian troops, the people won’t trust them. Only disarming of weapons is allowed. Can you agree to such terms?”
Jormungandr mulled it over for several moments, a slight hiss escaping him. “As much as I’ve been dying to sink my fangs into a few beings, I will agree to your terms. As long as I can watch Odin fall.”
She gave a nod. “That is fine.” Then she looked up. “Trillenger, we—”
Before she could finish, they both were teleported back to the scrying room of the magic school.
The Tormentor collapsed to one knee, covering his eyes with an arm.
Aura rushed to his aid. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been living in dark tunnels lit by meager torches for several millennia. I’m not accustomed to such light.”
Her eyes slowly looked around the room. She hesitated. “We’re not even outside….”
“Silence,” he hissed.
Trillenger moved upon him. They placed a spell over his eyes, allowing him to see in light. Whispering incoherent words, they inspected all his runes.
He slowly removed his arm. His slit pupils eventually adjusted, but a grimace remained. Then he froze as he the three beings circled him. The triplets were more ancient than anything he had ever come across. He couldn’t discern their true nature, and it unsettled him. When they traced their bony fingers across a few of his raised runes, it took all he had not to lash out at them. His skin crawled.
They settled for his right arm, holding it out so they could see the underside. A long green rune made of many smaller ones etched down his forearm. “This is the one we seek. This is a combination of spells that binds you to Odin. It cannot be undone nor destroyed. It can only be changed. But it will bind you to another.”
The Tormentor wanted his arm back. He didn’t enjoy them touching him. Seeing their pupil-less stares turn upon made him cease thinking. “As long as I am freed from Odin.”
All of their gazes shifted from him to Aura, though they remained speaking to the snake. “As you wish. You will find your hatred for living things and your desire to torture vanished. They were Odin’s wills, not yours. Though be warned. Should your new master wish the same things, you will fall back into your vile life.”
“Then who is to be my new master?”
They bent over his arm, making preparations. “One who wishes you to be free.”
His blinkless gaze fell to Aura.
The young maiden’s eyes widened with realization. “I have no desire to be anybody’s master!”
Trillenger straightened, voices hardening. “Would you rather him be bound to someone who would use his powers for evil? Like Odin has done? Do we need to show you what kind of future that would hold?”
She shrunk back. Not meaning to have made them angry. “N-no. I do not need to see that future.”
“Good,” they huffed. “We have always chosen you to be the permanent master of Jormungandr. Your heart is pure. It’s your desire to not be a master that makes you the perfect choice. He will still be free because that is your wish. It is when he gets out of hand that you can command him. Do you understand, child?”
Remaining silent, she nodded.
They turned their stares to the other being. “Do you object as well?”
Jormungandr shook his head. He did not wish to anger these beings. The power they possessed made him feel small. A feeling he wasn’t used to having. He also assumed they had the power to do whatever they wished.
Giving final glares to the pair, they resumed their task of rewriting the rune. They erased the symbol of Odin. Replaced it with a symbol they designed for Aura. Sealing it into his arm, they backed away. “Now you can aid the others. Do you whatever you must to keep Odin from prevailing.”
He studied the revised mark. Touched the new engraving on his hard skin. Inside, he felt different, too. He didn’t feel choked with hatred or bloodlust. He felt…free. It was odd, strange. Curious like the creature who would now be master over him. Glancing at the young maiden, he shook his head. He knew nothing about her. Yet, he knew everything he needed to know.
Trillenger seemed agitated. They had moved, standing around the transportation pool. “Are you two going to stand here or help the princes? The battle will be over before you get going.”
The former Tormentor gave a nod. In a swift motion, he picked up Aura and placed her on his shoulder. She wouldn’t be able to keep his pace. Especially if he ran. He acknowledged the triplets one last time. His long and smooth gait carried him to the door.
They dragged talons for fingernails across the stone of the pool, making the other two cringe. “Are you taking the long way? Or would you prefer the fastest way?”
Jormungandr turned around. “Was that necessary?” But he went to the pool and carefully stepped inside. Avoiding their soulless glares. Instead, he glanced at the girl on his shoulder. He could feel her rising nervousness.
Aura gripped his neck tighter as the waters surrounded them. Trying not to squeeze too tightly. She didn’t want to choke him. Uncertainty touched her heart. Though she tried staying resolute. They were, after all, off to war.

Befriending the Snake

Aura watched the engagement with rapt attention. It was just Loki and Thor against a number of soldiers she lost count of. And she knew this was merely the first wave. Odin had thousands upon thousands of men. Yes, Loki and Thor were exceptional fighters, but even they would tire eventually. “Where are the magic users?”
The triplets leaned around her to see the pool. “They are enshrouded with concealments. They wait for their command.”
She grew anxious when six soldiers piled Thor. “Odin’s men are out for blood.”
“You doubt the princes?”
“No.” She watched Thor emerge victorious, laughing as he stripped the weapons from the men. Her eyes found Loki, who expertly avoided oncoming attacks and placed well-positioned kicks and strikes to disarm the soldiers. She sighed. Why did she have to stand here and watch? It was apparent Profician dumped her so he could join the battle.
Lifting her hands into view, she balled them. Maybe if she could call upon her alternate form, she could be of service. Her brows furrowed with determination, but all she could summon was a small flame around each fist. “I know Loki told me to remain here, but I need to help.”
“You have helped. You rescued Loki from the Tormentor and nurtured him back to health.”
Her eyes lit up with an idea. “Jormungandr…he wasn’t in the vision…which means he’s a factor Odin doesn’t consider. Surely he could help ensure victory. Can he be reasoned with?”
Trillenger paused. “None have tried.”
She turned, startled by how close they hovered around her. “I can try. If I can reason with him, he could help with the battle.”
“Many would deem your idea suicidal. He is voracious and knows no concept of life.”
“He spared me. For an unknown reason, he spared me. I don’t think he’s as heartless as he seems.”
The three were truly intrigued by her passion. “After what he did to Loki, you want to reason with him?”
A nod. Courage rose inside her. “Yes. I think I understand him. I only need to speak with him. Please, how do I get there from here?”
“Come.” They moved to a pool with black waters. Held out hands. “We will send you to the heart of the cavern.” They helped Aura into the ankle deep liquid. “Should your plan fail, we will bring you back.”
“Thank you.” Despite her courage, fear tinged her heart. She watched the waters come alive and surround her. It was as if the waters were hugging her, and she felt it comforting. Then they fell. Her eyes had to adjust to the dim light. She was, indeed, in the heart of the Tormentor’s cavern.
One glance at the blood-stained slab in the middle of the space sent her emotions to the edge. Memories were not fond here. But she swallowed down the knot rising in her throat. She had come with a purpose. Though she knew not the outcome. She stepped into the shaft of light, avoiding the rock slab and refusing to close her eyes for the images she might see.
A shiver coursed through her as the cold seeped to her bones. “Jormungandr?” Her voice echoed through the tunnel. She wondered how long she would have to wait when movement made her pivot. Some of the stone had come alive. Black coils wound in and out of openings, along the natural bridges above her head, and passed through the tunnels. She slowly turned around. Gasped.
A massive black head loomed in front of her. His red eyes, easily three times the size of her, seemingly glowed from within. “Has the little fire demon come back to play?” He flicked out his tongue.
She backed a few steps, cringing when the tips of the forked tongue brushed against her. Her eyes searched the coils that closed in on her. She regretted returning to this place. Especially coming alone. She wanted Loki.
“Well? You can’t demand your lover from me. What is it that you want?”
Her eyes closed despite her efforts. She couldn’t carry out the mission she assigned herself. She wasn’t strong enough.
Think of Loki and Thor.
It was the same voice that whispered Jormungandr’s name to her in the throne room. One that seemed familiar and foreign at the same time. One she knew she could trust even if she didn’t know who it was. She opened her eyes. Gaze searching the ground for answers. Then she lifted it to the Tormentor’s expecting expression. “I…” She breathed deep. “I came to warn you…to help you.”
He reared back his head with an acidic laugh. “Warn me? Warn me of what? That your frost giant so-called-king will come and slay me? No, I highly doubt that.” He wrapped length around her and lifted her to head height. “And what could I possible need help with?”
This was a bad idea, what she was doing, but she needed to think of Loki and Thor. Thought of the vision she had seen. She felt meek and small, but this was how she could help. Convincing Jormungandr to join their cause. “Odin’s wrath.”
The snake remained silent for a moment. Cackled again. “Why should I fear Odin’s wrath?”
“You failed. You—”
“Silence,” he hissed, squeezing her. “Tell me how I failed.”
Choking a bit, she caught her breath to answer. “You…didn’t kill Loki. That was Odin’s order. Yet, Loki is wandering the surface alive. Who do you think Odin will go to for punishment?”
Jormungandr’s tongue flicked out. He looked off to the side, tongue protruding again. His head whipped back to the girl in his clutches. “Odin cannot harm me. I am a force to be reckoned with.”
“But he has harmed you.” Aura softened. “Hasn’t he?”
“No.” His jaw locked in place as he dropped her. “I am free to do as I please.”
She landed hard on her hands and knees. Tears tried forming, but she blinked them away. “Why haven’t I seen you above ground?” Lifting her head, she studied him when he remained silent. “I am a servant. I know what comes with a servant’s life. You want to be something you can’t because of Odin. You are as much a slave as I.”
He struck at her but stopped with his fangs in front of her face. Hissing, he rose again. “You know nothing.”
Trembling overcame her, but she must finish what she started. “I know you have a wound on your underbelly. When I exploited it, I could feel the magic. It’s a curse used by Odin that keeps you in line, isn’t it?”
The Tormentor stared at her for several moments. Said nothing. He finally shook his head and moved his endless length. Recoiled his head back into a tunnel.
“Wait! Please let me help you. He’ll kill you!”
He stopped moving. Then his coils rewound. Head dropping into view. “Why do you care?”
“Because,” she pushed herself up, “he’s claimed enough lives already. And he will continue claiming more unless he’s stopped.”
“I cannot be freed. Not so long as I have my wound. You have no reason healing me. I tortured and almost killed your lover.”
She blinked a few times. “I-I know. It will haunt me for some time. But we cannot let Odin win. I have seen that future. Nobody benefits. He has waged war against Loki and Thor. Then he will turn to Midgard. He will take slaves and destroy that Realm. After that, he will do the same to the other Realms. We need your help. He must be stopped.”
A sharp hiss escaped him when she mentioned the destruction of Midgard. He wasn’t fond of the idea of helping Loki, but he wouldn’t allow Odin to touch his home Realm. The curious creature made a point. The old fool needed to be stopped. Needed to be killed. “I will help you. Only you. But I must ask. What’s in it for you? Certainly you aren’t just going to heal me for nothing.”
More blinking. His question startled her. “Must I seek something in return? I have no reason to demand anything from you. Healing is in my nature.”
He studied her. “I know the sound of lies and mockery. Yet, your words are sincere. You would show me kindness simply because it’s your nature?”
“I need no other reason.”
His head tilted. Tongue flicking out. This creature was very curious indeed. And for whatever reason, he couldn’t bring himself to hate this fleshling or cause her serious harm. He didn’t think she could heal him. Didn’t think anyone could. Perhaps he could let her try. She genuinely desired to help him. He pulled away coils, revealing the un-healing wound. Still fresh from his encounter with the fire demon. “Very well.”
Aura inclined her head. She felt no hostility and walked fearlessly among him now. Winding through his maze of a body until she reached his mauled underbelly. Taking a deep breath, her fingers glowed white as magic seeped from her hand, which she placed in the wound. Wincing as Jormungandr twitched and hissed. The wound was much deeper than she anticipated. Her other hand joined in as she leaned into the healing.
Every one of the Tormentor’s muscles tensed. The curse fought the healing as he expected. But he didn’t expect the immense amount of pain. Fiery lightning of pain coursed through his entire length. His serrated fangs exposed, and he sunk them into the rock. Keeping still the best he could.
White light traced up her arms, highlighting her veins like cracks on her skin. Her eyes closed as she poured more power into him. Desperately trying to un-write the curse. It was old, though not quite as powerful as she deemed it would be. It was his sheer size that required so much energy. She didn’t think she could heal him. Then again, she didn’t think she could do anything. But she needed to heal him. Needed to set him free.
Her jaw set. Soon, she stopped thinking. Started feeling. She stopped trying to tell the magic what to do and simply let it work. After some time, the resistance lessened until it finally ceased. She felt healing. Felt his muscles binding together. Felt his flesh closing and scales reforming. The gash closed, and the curse was erased.
She left her arms straight as her eyes fluttered open. The world around her spun and faded. She teetered. Never had she used such magic. Her body trembled. Everything reeled. She swallowed, though there was no moisture in her mouth. “Jorg…” Falling, her world went black.

Battle-Ready

Aura was finally able to step back from the pool. Her skin prickled, and her heart beat wildly. She shook her head. Why did she have to be shown such horrors? She even had to watch herself die at Odin’s staff. “That’s not what’s happening now, is it?” Her voice softened. “Because I’m still alive.”
Trillenger nodded in unison. Their raspy voices breaking the stillness. “That is what would’ve happened if Loki didn’t stand against Odin. And it’s still what could happen if he and Thor fail. Do you understand why the battle is so important now?”
She swallowed. “Yes, I do. I didn’t realize Odin was that wrathful. But if his staff has so much power, why hasn’t he used it before?”
The three cackled. “Because of his pride. He believes he can defeat everyone without using magic. Not only that, he’s jealous of Mjolnir. Mjolnir can only be wielded by someone who is true to their heart. You only need to be the ruler of Asgard to wield the staff and its unlimited power. That’s why he guards it with such ferocity. And that’s why there will never be another ruler after him if he gets his way.”
“What do you mean?”
“If he wins, if things occur as you saw, his final act will destroy everything. When Asgard is the only Realm left, he will take it with him when he dies. He will unleash all the powers of the staff at once, causing the Realm to cave in on itself. His end goal is to be the end.”
“What about Thor? Why won’t he make Thor his successor?”
“Odin decided long ago he wouldn’t allow Thor to take the throne. After he found out about Thor’s love interest in the Midgardian, he has deemed his son weak and unfit to be a successor. He obviously won’t allow Loki to take over. Odin believes he is the only one fit to rule Asgard. Therefore, once he dies, Asgard and the Nine Realms will die as well.”
Aura’s eyes widened as she fully realized the situation. If they failed…Odin would have his way and desimate the entirety of the Realms. Taking Asgard with him in the end. There would be no life, no legacy. Only emptiness and darkness. That meant the fate of the Realms, the fate of everything, depended on them defeating Odin.
Her eyes darted across the stone floor. She understood now. Understood what Loki meant about some people have to die, though she didn’t think Loki knew of Odin’s ultimate plan. Odin needed to be killed, not taken prisoner. And she had been so worried about Loki sparing him. She returned to the pool with newfound determination. “I need to see what’s going on right now. I need to see Loki and Thor if they’ve reached the palace by now. Please show me what’s currently happening.”
Trillenger smiled and touched the water. The ripples faded away, revealing a smooth surface upon which images played. “Here is what you seek.”

Loki remained on high alert as they dismounted at the base of the palace. Though Thor continued carrying on about battles they had fought together. He had tuned his brother out some time ago. His focus resided in the surroundings. There weren’t as many servants flitting about. No one came to take the horses. The atmosphere was heavy. Had it become this docile because of recent events, or was everyone preparing?
The great halls leading to the heart of the castle were all but barren. If there was a person, they didn’t acknowledge either of the brothers. Loki set his jaw. If this was a normal situation, everyone would be overjoyed at Thor’s return and appalled by his own. They didn’t receive a glance. Even Thor had grown silent. Something was amiss.
He received the answer to his reoccurring question when they entered the throne room. Heimdall stood in Thor’s place at Odin’s right side. Trolonde stood at his left with a forlorn expression. Nearly all the royal guards circled the hall. All were armored and equipped with weapons. Someone had alerted Odin to their coming. Not that it changed anything. But they had been spied on, and the fact he didn’t know who grinded his nerves.
Odin’s grip tightened on his staff. He was shocked Laufey’s son survived and escaped the Tormentor. It wasn’t something he expected. But he remained regal as ever, clad in full battle armor. “So, Loki, it seems you truly are un-killable. The questions remains: are you unbreakable?”
Thor stepped forward to draw attention away from his brother’s torment. “We have not come to fight, father. We have come to seek council and end the invasion that would be on Midgard.”
“I assumed you of all people would love to return to Midgard.”
“Not in such manner that you seek. Not to slaughter and enslave innocent lives.”
Odin leaned forward. “You do not know what is right for the kingdom of Asgard. Only I do. You should know it is wrong to challenge your king.”
“I know what you are doing—have been doing—is wrong. I may have been blind to your deeds, but I am no longer.”
“Lies! You have allowed this silver tongue to turn you against your father? You are weak! Therefore, you are worthless to me.”
Thor clenched his hands. “What father forces one son to send his brother to death?”
“One who knows what’s best for the kingdom. Are you against me now?”
“We are not against you, father. Please. Listen to our plea.”
Odin sat back. “Tell me why I should listen to you. He is nothing but a fugitive with a death sentence. You have been manipulated by the one you call brother.”
Loki met the Allfather’s gaze with an equally chilling one. “Are you certain I am the one who’s manipulated him? I have opened his eyes to the truth. Shall we visit your enslaving history upon him?”
“You and your incessant lies!”
“Father,” Thor pleaded. “Listen to us. The time does not call for an invasion on Midgard. There need not be bloodshed.”
“No. You come into my palace, thinking you can start a war with me. I shall not hear you.”
Loki glanced around, shifting his weight. “You are the one with armed soldiers. We bear no weapons, nor have we mentioned fighting you. We have only come to reason with you.”
“Silence!” Odin rose from the throne, stepping out toward them. “I will tolerate this no longer. You have no right here, for you were sentenced to death for an attempt on my life, as well as assassinating Frigga.”
“Loki would never harm our mother,” Thor roared, fists balling once more. “I know him well enough to know that be true.”
“And,” Loki added, “how could I have killed her when you made Thor sew my mouth shut? I’m seeing a continuity error here.”
Odin pointed his staff at him. “Only because you are a scheming serpent, you see what you wish. And you,” he pointed his staff at Thor. “You are dead to me. It is an outrage that you would side with him against me.” His tone lowered. “You are not the son I raised, nor the son I know. I no longer call you Odinson.”
“My lord,” Heimdall stated, stepping forward.
“Dare you question me as well?”
The albino studied the pair below them. Neither possessed armor. They came in peace. Odin claimed they wanted nothing but war. How were they the enemy? He wanted to say something in their defense. Though Odin was growing mad, he still had to obey his king. With a long breath, he returned to position. “No, my lord. I live to serve you.”
“Well spoken.” He stationed himself in front of his throne, staff in right hand. “If it is war you want, then it is war you shall receive. Leave my palace before I terminate you both for conspiring against the king. Know this, Loki. Whatever fate befalls Asgard because of this will hang over your head for eternity.”
Loki flashed his signature grin. “Hasn’t anything bad that’s happened to Asgard been blamed on me? Why would this be any different? Come, Thor. Let’s leave the old man to his foolish ways, as his contaminated mind will see nothing but his arrogant self.”
Odin watched Thor turn around. “And know this, Thor. You will never make it far in the Realms without my name. Everything you are is because of me. Nor will you ever be able to redeem this hammer.” He waved to Mjolnir, calling it to him.
Thor whirled around and thrust out his arm. Mjolnir paused mid-air. Without hesitation, it returned to its rightful owner’s hand. Thor’s fingers wrapped around the leather-bound handle. A smile crept over his face. “The dwarves fashioned this for me. I have made myself in battle.” Static surged from the hammer to him. “I shall state this once and no more. You no longer possess the power to make me doubt myself. I bid you happy fighting.” He marched straight past Loki.
The god of mischief couldn’t help but shake his head. He faced Odin, and holding out his cloak, performed a mock bow. Sarcasm dripped off his tongue. “My king.” Then he left as well.
Trolonde leaned over to his king once the two brats left. “I am not questioning your judgment, but why not smite them here, my lord?”
Odin walked down the steps from his throne, heading to a back exit. “Because it would not bode well to the people of Asgard if their king murders his own sons. If the soldiers slay them, they will appear as traitors. And set an example to anyone who would betray me.”
The head magician followed. “That is an excellent plan, my lord. This is why your wisdom reigns and none other’s.”
Heimdall sighed and eventually trailed behind them. He didn’t know how much longer his loyalty to a mad king could last. His right hand found the pommel of his sword attached to his right hip. He might have to make the ultimate treason himself.
Loki caught up to Thor in the main corridor of the palace. “Are you alright?”
“Verily. I have Mjolnir once again.”
“Yes, but Odin disowned you, cast you aside. As he has done unto me.”
“His demeaning words have no effect on me. I am my own man, enslaved by no one.” He nudged Loki with an elbow. “My little brother aided my realization. Besides, my family is you. And perhaps the fire-haired maiden.” He gave a sly grin.
Loki smiled to himself. “Perhaps, indeed.” He would have to see how the next events played out. But maybe he would be able to take her as his bride and give her a new life. As long as the consequences of being royal didn’t come between them.
Thor clapped him on the back. “We shall celebrate your love when the fighting has ceased. Though I am surprised father didn’t lecture as long as normal.”
“It’s simple. He’s ready for battle. Ready to be rid of us for good. Speaking of which.” He paused when they exited the immaculate palace doors and entered the courtyard. “I do believe we have been ambushed.”
A battalion of soldiers stood at the ready. One spoke up. “From orders of King Odin, we are to defend Asgard from all attackers and traitors. That includes you.”
“I presume they want a challenge. Thor, were these not the same men we helped train in combat? Whatever shall we do?”
The thunder god smiled, geared for fighting. He brandished Mjolnir. “I believe another training session is in order.” Smile broadening, he swung at the nearest soldier.

Odin’s Truth

The eight-legged horse reared, his breath visible as it came from his nostrils and open mouth. His ebony coat a grim monition against the purity of snow.
Odin waited for his excited mount to return to the ground. He checked his army behind him. They stood ready. His gaze fell among the Midgardian troops before him. He could see their fear. Knew their trembling wasn’t from the cold. They had a right to be afraid. He raised his staff and pointed it at the rival army.
The Asgardian troops didn’t need another command. With a battle cry as one, they rushed forward.
He remained motionless atop his steed. Felt his forces fly by him. Contented pleasure swelled within him. They would slaughter this Realm. The first of many. He watched his troops for some time. Listened to the comforting tune of metal clashing metal. His fingers twitched. The Midgardian knights resisted better than he anticipated. He kicked Sleipnir into motion.
The steed galloped onto the battlefield. Crushing both dead and alive Midgardians under his black hooves. Trampling across the brown and red snowy ground.
Odin desired laying waste immediately. He could use his scepter in one fell blast. But that was too easy. Midgard needed to be an example. A warning. He drew his sword and cut down all brave enough to face him. His troops rallied on either side of him. Blood flung through the air, splattering against his gold armor. Victory glistened in his eye.
Sleipnir pushed harder. Excited by the carnage. He spotted fleeing strays. Pumping his eight legs harder, he chased them down. Breath puffing out regularly like the machine Odin geared him to be. He cut in front of the broken Midgardians.
Asgard’s king smiled. Dismounted. If these weaklings couldn’t face war, he would make them face him. He rose his crimson stained blade. Laughed as his adversaries cowered in fear and didn’t attempt escape. One strike beheaded the few.
“My king!” the general cried over the last echoes of striking metal. He held up his own severed head by the hair. Blood dripped from the slice. “Their army has been defeated!”
Odin gazed among the battlefield. Death followed his army’s wake one more. And he hadn’t lost a single soldier. Another proud victory. He sheathed his sword, mounted his warhorse, and returned to his troops. “I want everything in this Realm burned. Select 1,000 obedient women and female children as slaves. Kill all the men. This Realm will never populate again. Return to me when you’ve succeeded.”
The general gave a nod and repeated the orders to his men.
With a satisfied smug, he sharply turned Sleipnir and called Heimdall for the Rainbow Bridge. He returned to Asgard. Pleased the albino Gatekeeper refused making eye contact. He kept his mount at a steady pace while he crossed the expansive bridge connecting Heimdall’s fortress to the rest of Asgard.
The great sea, Rikr Sjorfoss, surrounding the Realm’s Outer Wall and acting as the border churned and roiled beneath them. Roar of the continuous waterfall deafening the horse’s hooves. Sleipnir pawed at the bridge, eager for more battle. He shook his head which rid his black mane of still-wet blood. The rest had dried as flecks on his coat. Lightning peeled across the sky. A violent storm rolling in. The horse broke into a gallop.
Odin didn’t mind. Another flash reflected off his armor. Thor knew what he had done and was protesting against it. A smile curled his lips. All the more reason for the failed son to die. His grip tightened on his staff.
Rain poured from the dark clouds. Sleipnir never faltered. He carried his master through Brek, Asgard’s trading citadel. Rocketed along the muddy road that led to the Inner Wall and the palace.
The king ignored the filth thrown upon him. Ignored the rain slanting against him. Nothing would stop him. His stallion burst through the Inner Gate. Bore him unto the palace. He left the steed outside. Marched through the halls of his domain. His two sons confronted him in his throne room.
“How could you slaughter Midgard?” Thor cried. He held Mjolnir so tightly, his knuckles were white. “They have done nothing to provoke such actions.”
Odin smirked. “Are you against my decision?”
“Father—”
“Are you against my decision?” he boomed.
His chest rose and fell hard. “Yes.”
Odin calmed himself. “Then you shall die.”
Thor’s jaw slacked. But before he could respond, his father’s sword plunged into his chest. His eyes widened as they found the sword then his father’s unrelenting expression.
He twisted the blade as his eye gleamed. “You were never meant to rule Asgard. You were always weak. You failed being my son.” Ripping out his weapon, he watched Thor’s pathetic heap fall to the floor. He reached for Mjolnir.
“That’s not yours.”
Odin shifted his gaze. A seething Loki met his eye. “It is now. Unless you’re foolish enough to think you can stop me.”
Loki released a series of magic attacks.
He calmly rose, protected by a force field from his staff. “Your magic has no power here. You will die like Thor. Then the slaves will be next.”
The mischief god radiated green power as his rage grew. An uncommon tactic, summoning all his power for one blow.
Odin called upon the ancient magic of his staff. Moved faster than the eye could catch. He speared Loki through the torso with his scepter. “I should’ve killed you with your parents all those years ago. Now, I’m redeeming myself.” A pulse of power, and he disintegrated Loki’s body to ash. Straightening, he watched the ashes settle to the floor. Strode from the throne room. No one would stop him.
The chief of the royal guard bowed before him. “Your order, my king?”
“Destroy every last slave.”
A nod, and he left to gather his forces.
Odin passed through the palace halls at a steady gait. Screams and wails echoed among his steps. Drawing his sword, he slaughtered the slaves who dared cross his path. Then he saw her. The half demon he had once hoped to use as leverage if the need arrived. The slave Loki loved so much.
Aura revered him with wide eyes. She was frozen where she stood.
“I’ll allow you the same death as your lover.” He impaled her with his staff. “May you both rot in the Underworld Realm.” A pulse of power, and she turned to ashes. He gave it not another thought and returned to his warhorse. His fraction of mounted troops he had left behind gathered around. He pulled himself into the saddle once more. “We head for the traitorous magic school.”
Sleipnir reared, clarion call bellowing out among the ranks. He led the charge outside the Inner Wall and to the south. The storm had subsided with Thor’s death, and he had open land until the school. Adrenaline surged through his thick veins. Urging his legs faster. He quickly pulled ahead of the other horses. His master gave no retribution, so he continued his pace.
Odin pulled his horse to a halt when they reached the school. Waited for his soldiers to catch up. He pointed his staff at the ornate building. Cast a spell that rendered anyone inside powerless. “Slay them all! I want none alive!” He sat tall on Sleipnir as his troops rushed by him. He loved the feeling of his soldiers going to war. And he waited patiently for his men to finish executing their objective.
Soon, an explosion rocked the structure, exciting the warhorse. The soldiers retreated outside. The school crumbled upon itself, dust and flames emerging from the rubble. Any stray magic users were cornered and instantly killed. Their bodies thrown into the raging fire.
He watched the flames lick the sky. Watched the smoke rolling from the heap. Pride swelled his chest. Another enemy had been annihilated. The smell of burning bodies reached his nostrils. A repulsive yet pleasant smell. There was nothing more satisfying than the smell of his enemies’ charring corpses.
Midgard burned. The magic school burned. Slaves massacred. Thor and Loki no longer stood in his way. He turned Sleipnir toward the palace. This day rendered beyond victorious. Leaving the destruction behind, he returned home. Returned to his beloved throne. Thor’s blood and body remained on the floor. Loki’s ashes shuddered with every passing breeze. He smirked at them. Standing before his seat of power, he awaited his chief of the royal guard.
“My king?”
“Bring before me every Asgardian, Aesir god and goddess, and any taking refuge on Asgard. I will question their intentions. Any who doubt me will perish.”
“Yes, my king.” He threw a glance at the body and ashes. “Shall I fetch someone to clean this?”
“No.” Odin sat in his throne, head held high. “They are my examples.”
The chief bowed. “As you wish.” He left the throne room, armor clinking with every step.
Asgard’s king saw out his decree. He interrogated every soul who stepped foot in his throne room. Personally murdered any who seemed problematic. The death count grew with each passing day. Bodies piled around the throne room. Blood stained the floor to the point it couldn’t be cleaned. Within the week, the whole palace reeked of decomposing flesh. But he became accustomed to the stench. Became accustomed to the crimson splotches on his armor and sword. The staff he reserved for the gods and goddesses.
After he was content with the bloodbath he induced on Asgard, Odin turned to the other Realms. Bestowing them with the same fate as Midgard. Their armies were destroyed. All the men slain. One thousand compliant women and female children brought to the palace as slaves. Each Realm burned.
Odin remained on his throne. Each victory fattening his pride. He proved time and again he held the most power. He commanded the best militia. Asgard became a lethal force to be reckoned with. He was the king. King of all Nine Realms that had been condensed to one. He was the king of Asgard who ruled with an iron fist. His face constantly contorted to a smug grin. Nothing stood in his way. And not a single being could stop him.