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.


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