The days following the attack on Asgard were brutal. A quarter of the warriors who fought in the defence of their home had died in service, and were given the proper burial along with the Queen’s. The training yards were empty, as the remaining warriors were too busy with the new patrols and the replacement of weapons.
Thor knew it was only a matter of days before Malekith would return for his prize. Everyone else was either grieving or preparing. The halls were grim. The people were anxious. The atmosphere was tense, waiting.
It was maddening for the future king.
“She is in here.” Sif motioned to Thor, showing him the bed where their friend lay in the healing room.
The young woman looked so fragile. Her skin was deathly pale, her hair had lost some of its luster. She lay with fine strands of gold linked into her body, which was keeping her from dying of dehydration while she healed.
Thor just shook his head. How could he have let this happen? His mother, his training partners, his sister, Jane. They all trusted him, they looked to him to make the right choices. And what had he done? He had let Malekith walk into Asgard and injure and slay nearly all of them. “When will she recover?” He asked the healer tending to her.
“We do not know. She lost a lot of blood. We were able to seal the wounds in her body, but she is still half mortal. Her body cannot produce blood as fast as we thought. She is stable but…she isn’t improving.”
Sif took her friend’s hand. “She was the only one to survive the attack in the throne room.”
And then Thor made up his mind. He knew what he had to do. If his father would sacrifice his people, his warriors, his friends for this, Thor had to do what needed to be done.
The dungeons were mostly empty, since many prisoners had been killed while trying to escape their cells. It didn’t matter though. Nothing mattered. His mother was dead, his love was barely alive. He had nearly nothing.
The sound of heavy footsteps caught Loki’s attention. They were different than the usual guard’s footsteps. He stood in front of his cell to see who was coming to see him, surprised to see the large frame of his brother.
He stood poised, his face calm and indifferent. The mask was on, and it was time to hide his grief.
“Thor.” Contempt. That’s what he should feel. “After all this time and now you come to visit me.” The mocking smile on his face then slipped away. “Why? Have you come to gloat? To mock?” This question wasn’t just a façade. It was his true self, wondering why Thor, of all people, had come to see him. He wondered if he was coming to tell him his beloved had died. But Thor cared for Noelle as well, and wouldn’t be pleased with her death.
And anyways, Loki knew that she was still alive, he could feel her body trying to rebuild, but it was an intense process. She needed his strength, but he had little to give. His emotions were spent and his mind was drained. If she couldn’t get better…
“Loki enough.” Thor didn’t have time for this game they played. “No more illusions.” Loki’s eyes grew wide, surprised that he had been caught. He must be losing his edge. He let out a small breath of defeat, and closed his eyes, feeling the magic fade away and strip him bare.
The room was in utter chaos. Furniture had been thrown and broken into splintering pieces. A table was overturned, books scattered the room, some with pages hanging out from the spines. The back wall had scuffs to it, as if some object had repeatedly thrown against the wall.
Sitting on the ground in the midst of this mess was Loki, his pride gone. His hair was long and messy, knotted in places. His clothes were loose near the neck as if he’d been picking at the fabric, pulling it away from himself so he could breathe. His feet were bare and the bottom of one had a splash of blood on it, presumably his own. His skin was pale, paler than usual, and his face looked as if it had aged, with fine lines and edges visible. His expression was bleak.
Thor knew Loki would be grieving. They all were. He knew Loki would especially be grieved to find his soul mate had come in close proximity with death, and was still dancing a fatal dance with it. But this…this was enough to crack Thor’s resistance to his brother’s charms and lies. This was the real Loki, the man behind all the illusion and anger and spite. The man who had a heart and had loved his mother dearly, who was deeply in love with a woman and wanted to keep her heart beating a little longer.
A man just like Thor.
“Now you see me, brother.” His voice was sad, shaky. Thor wondered if he had been crying. He walked around the side of the cell, to get closer. He needed to speak to Loki as secretly as possible. He hoped that if any guards reported seeing him here to Odin that it would be passed off as sharing their grief. “Did she suffer?” Apparently Loki assumed the same.
“I did not come here to share our grief.” Thor glanced around, rubbing his wrists. They could grieve later. Once all was right again, they could grieve their mother properly, and hopefully Noelle would be well again. “Instead I offer you the chance of a far richer sacrament.”
Loki’s face livened up a bit, and he realized this was his only option. His curiosity was peaked. “Go on.”
“I know you seek vengeance as much as I do. You help me escape Asgard and I will grant it to you. Vengeance, and after with this cell.”
Loki looked away, his eyes moving rapidly, going over everything that had come to pass, and everything that could happen. And he wanted vengeance. He wanted to kill the creature who had slaughtered his mother. He wanted to kill the ones who had nearly taken Noelle. He wanted this so bad, he could already smell their coppery blood in the air.
Then he laughed quietly. “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help.” Thor was desperate. He needed a way to Svartalfheim. Loki knew the way. This was his only hope, and without this crucial piece, the plan couldn’t even begin. He was banking on his brother’s desire to avenge their mother and his beloved. He was banking on his brother’s capability of being moved by love…and he hoped against hope that Loki still had a heart.
“What makes you think you can trust me?”
“I don’t.” Thor was saying it more to himself than to Loki. “Mother did.”
Loki’s face softened. His mother had trusted him too…once. And she was willing to trust him again…and then he sent that thing right to her…
“And you should know that when we fought each other in the past, I did so with a glimmer of hope that my brother was still in their somewhere. That hope no longer exists to protect you. You betray me, and I will kill you.” He knew it would break Noelle’s heart. He knew she would never forgive him. She may even try to kill him afterwards. But he couldn’t risk his kingdom on this. Not the lives of thousands of innocent people. Not Jane.
Loki’s face broke into a half smile. He tilted his head forward. “When do we start?”
“Now.” Thor knew the way to open cells. He had done it multiple times. But he never thought he’d be freeing this mad man. He walked to the corner of the cell, tapped the spot on the stone, and the golden wall nearest to him began to disintegrate.
“I’ll remember that for next time.” Loki remarked, standing up. Thor passed him a bundle, and averted his eyes while his brother changed.
“You’ll be placed somewhere else. Somewhere even magic cannot penetrate.” Thor kept watch. If a guard happened to walk by, it was all over. He and his friends would be exiled, or worse, executed.
Loki narrowed his eyes. “You knew.”
“Of course I knew. I was the one who convinced her to speak to you, for her own sake. The ordeal was tearing her apart.” Thor remembered the anxious, confused and depressed woman Noelle had become. And he remembered how much better she seemed once Loki was back into her life. But Loki couldn’t be indulged any further.
“I also have one condition.” Thor turned to see his brother dressed in his leathers, smoothing his hair down.
“She doesn’t find out. She isn’t included in your plan. She stays here, and she heals. You can never tell her I did this.” Loki was adamant about this.
“Why? Afraid she’ll give you the silent treatment again?” Thor was a little amused at how easily his brother bent for Noelle. The only person who he could compromise with.
“I made a promise to myself and to her.” Sighed, looking into his cell again. “I’ve given her enough grief and heartache. It would be much better if your plan worked and she never knew about it.”
Thor nodded. “And if the plan fails? She will find out.”
Loki nodded sadly. “Then Odin will finally execute me, lock you up, and she can go on living without being blamed for what we did.”
Something was happening.
My body was heavy, and I was unable to move it or open my eyes, but I could still think. I could still feel. And I knew, in my mind, something wasn’t right.
‘Loki, are you in your cell?’
I hated this. I hated how I was stuck like this. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know where Loki was, or if he was okay.
I hated how everything had turned out to be. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Every time Loki and I were getting better, improving, something messed it up for us. Something went wrong.
I felt anger build in me. All the anger and bitterness I’d had, I brought it all up. If I could move, I’d be having a full out tantrum.
‘Yes, child. Feel the anger. Let it build inside your heart.’ A raspy voice echoed in my mind.
If I had been awake I might have screamed. But I wasn’t. The shock and silence in my mind was deafening after that voice.
That voice was so…familiar.
And why was I hearing this voice?
‘What do you want?’ I asked tentatively.
‘Only what you desire most. You desire love. You desire what you deem yourself worthy of: peace and love. I can help you. I can grant your wish.'
This wasn’t right. I didn’t like this voice. But it had a coaxing tone to it. It made me think about his offer, even if it was only for a second. I shouldn’t have considered it at all. I wanted these things, yes. But when people offered to grant wishes, usually they came with a price. At least that’s how Disney wishes worked.
‘I don’t want your help.’
‘Then you will die.’
And then I felt as if flames were licking up my body, and beginning to boil my blood.
The healers watched as the delicate gold chains began to vibrate. This was not good. The one closest to Noelle’s bed felt her forehead.
“She is hot to the touch…why has a fever developed now? She has been stable.” The healer puzzled this. It was odd. The girl should be getting better.
“Take her to the soul forge. If she is producing a fever, this might only be the first sign of something worse.”
Five women lifted the young woman and carried her out of her bed and to the soul forge. But it gave no detail to her sudden fever, only signaling that it was climbing fast.
Her vitals began to change, her heart beat picking up. The healers applied healing magic to her, to soothe the fever to calm her erratic heart.
This seemed to make it worse.
“What in the nine realms is this?” The eldest healer cried out. “It’s as if her body is…fighting us! As if it doesn’t want to calm.”
“How odd.” They all agreed. They had never seen anything like this before.
“We must keep her as cool as possible. Keep the fever from rising, and keep her heart steady. Do what you must.” The head healer instructed sharply. This one has been through too much to simply die like this, she thought to herself, and then busied herself with her herbs and remedies book.
As I finished off the last dark elf, I felt a small bit of satisfaction creep into me. Only a small bit. I wasn’t finished yet.
I had felt Noelle’s condition worsen, just as Jane released the Aether. Which was puzzling. She had been doing so well…she had been stable.
And then it hit me. The voice. The Other. Thanos. It all connected in one piece. He was responsible for this, there was no getting around it. He was the one who was whispering to me. He was the one who said he’d find me. He’d kill me, torture me. But how did he get to Noelle? How? She hadn’t struck a deal with him. She had nothing to do with this!
I didn’t have time to think about it. I was running short on time. My anger spiked as I looked over to find Thor being pummeled by the hideous beast who murdered my mother. This is it. I would finish this beast, and then I would go back to Asgard. I couldn’t let her die for the things I did. For the deal I sealed.
I’ll find her, and get her out of there. I’ll heal her myself if need be. I couldn’t have another person I love die on my account. I can’t survive her death being my fault.
I picked up one of the dark elves weapons, and began to make my way to help Thor. Each step made me angrier, and each step I felt Noelle struggling to breathe. I’m coming for you, Noelle. Just keep your heart beating. Whatever it takes.
I was struggling. Breathing was hard. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. My blood felt like it was boiling, and my brain was probably melting. And I was trying. I was trying to breathe, to make each one deep, and take in as much air as I could. I was trying to stop my heart was beating so fast that it was probably bruising my ribcage. But there’s only so much you can do when your body is paralyzed.
I could feel people around me, putting cold things on my forehead, trying to give me potions and poultices, anything that would help. But you can’t fight a curse this way.
I was starting to feel dizzy. If you could even get dizzy while laying down. I was losing focus. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I was losing, and I was getting tired. I felt sleepy, and it was tempting to just give in and rest. To just rely on the people around me to keep me alive. But I didn’t think this thing would let me live.
The feeling was getting harder to resist. Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out. I slipped a bit, and felt myself being tugged down into an abyss, one that promised peace and rest.
I felt myself letting go…letting go…
Until suddenly it was as if something stabbed me in my chest.
I cried out, and I could distantly hear someone else screaming. Maybe it was me. I didn’t know. The feeling of my blood boiling had stopped, the pressure on my chest was gone, and the presence of malicious intent was gone from my mind. But the stabbing pain didn’t let up. It intensified.
It felt as if my body was being ripped in two. It hurt. It hurt more than anything I had ever experienced. The pain went deep, into my bones to the tips of my hairs, into my mind and my heart. It was like I was being torn apart, piece by piece, bit by bit, until there was nothing left of me.
After what seemed like hours, the pain suddenly stopped. But I felt different. I felt dead inside, and empty. I felt bare, like something important had been ripped from me. And I was searching inside to find out what I was missing. It was like searching for something precious you lost in the grass at a park. You were looking desperately, fearing it would be gone forever, never to be seen again. I searched and searched, looking for what was missing.
I could hear people moving about me, shaking me. I could hear someone speaking, but I didn’t know who.
When I finally found the strength to open my eyes, I found six women standing around me, speaking urgently. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, I was still searching myself.
“My lady…My lady can you hear us?” Was the first words I heard.
“I can.” My throat hurt, like I had a cold or the flu. My voice was empty, and scratchy. People were checking my vital signs. They were praising their potions, thinking that they worked. But I didn’t think that was it.
Suddenly, the healer’s parted, and I recognised the man with white hair and a matching beard and golden eye patch over his right eye, looking coming forward to inspect me himself.
Odin took one look at me, and his left eye widened. And then he shook his head, and left.
I had felt that burning before…but the first time it had only lasted a second. It hadn’t been so horrible. But I guess the pain of your soul fusing is much less terrible than the feeling of it dying.
The emptiness. The feeling of missing something, of being ripped apart, feeling like I’ve been left bare…
That evening Thor came to see me.
“I know what happened.” Was all I had to say. Thor looked so sad.
“He told me to tell you he loves you.” Thor sat in the chair next to mine, and kept me company for a good half hour. We didn’t speak.
There was nothing for me to say. My brain had stopped working. My heart was numb. I felt frozen in time, and I was waiting for reality to finally fall and break. So I could mourn the loss of Loki, the only man I ever loved. So I could then move on to grieving, and learn to cope. Because that’s what I had done before. But this time was different.
How do you even start to mourn when you’ve lost your heart?
How do you live with only half a soul in you?