Chapter 49: Battle for the Nine Realms
In the great forge of Nidavellir, Tony and Eitri were hard at work one perhaps one of the most ambitious projects of the former's life. He picked up a work hammer and began pounding away.
In a refuge on the very edge of Asgard, Sif and the Valkyries escorted Hank and a finally conscious Wasp inside. There, they were greeted by Heimdall. The Bifrost Guardian rose to greet them, golden eyes shining.
"I am glad Sif and her warriors found you in time," he told them. "Your aid will be paramount in the coming battle."
"Thank you," Hank replied. "I'm Ant-Man."
"I am Heimdall, once guardian of the Bifrost, now protector of the refugees of Asgard."
Ant-Man and Wasp looked around, seeing countless citizens of Asgard huddled within the refuge. Both heroes felt their hearts go out to them, Hank especially. He turned to Heimdall, steely determination in his eyes.
"Whatever we can do to help, you just name it."
Heimdall smirked in response.
On an elven skiff, Widow was piloting across the stars, following an enchanted compass to Asgard. On the main deck, Faraday and Hawkeye were readying their quivers with enchanted arrows, enough for an entire army. Spider-Man triple checked his web shooters and web fluid, ensuring he'd be prepared for the fight, and Panther just stood at the helm, looking out into the distance.
"How is your stockpile?" he asked of Spider-Man.
"Fine," he replied. "But without that many spare cartridges, gonna need to make every shot count."
"I must admit, you've shown great resilience for one so young."
"Nah," Spidey dismissed, walking up to him. "Just fighting the fights that need to be fought. It's what I've always done. Only difference since joining this team is…" he looked out into the starry skies before him. "The fights have gotten a lot bigger."
In another part of the stars, enchanted chariots raced across the skies, pulled by trios of massive white rams. On one of the chariots was Hulk and Rick, the latter wearing some armor given to him by the rescued prisoners. He flicked the reins, grinning widely.
"This is one of the coolest things I have ever done!" Rick declared.
"Not bad," Hulk remarked.
Down in the Asgardian Palace Dungeon, Frigga, the former Queen of Asgard, was standing in a large cell. Unlike the other prisoners, she was granted a comfortable chaise lounge to rest on, as well as several books, and even some fresh fruit to eat in lieu of prison food. She looked out beyond the magical barrier of her cell as several captured beings were led in.
"Even more prisoners to grace these darkened halls," she lamented. "Will this conquest ever end..."
"Have the books I sent you lost their appeal?" Loki asked, materializing in her cell.
"Is that how I am to wile away eternity?" Frigga questioned, turning to face her adoptive son. "Reading? Losing myself in books to forget all that has befallen the realms?"
"I've done everything to make you comfortable."
"And yet I feel nothing but concern for what you're doing."
"What I'm doing? I'm merely giving truth to the lie I was told my entire life. That I was born to be a king."
"A King?" Frigga challenged. "A true king would not need to pillage and plunder as you have, nor would they cause such harm to their own family. Think of all the lives your conquest has taken."
"A mere handful compared to the lives Odin has taken under his rule."
"HE'S NOT MY FATHER!"
That outburst set Frigga off, causing her to tense before turning back on Loki.
"He rescued you from an icy death on Jotunheim! He raised you as his own and gave you a life Laufey never would! He had his faults, but he did his best! We both did!"
"He used me. I was never a son, only a tool. He's not my father… he never was."
Frigga's fists clenched.
"Then am I not your mother?"
Loki paused, turning away before responding.
"... you are not," he whispered.
Tears came to Frigga's eyes as she let out a breath.
"Always so perceptive… of everyone save yourself."
Unwilling or unable to continue the talk, Loki dispelled his form, vanishing into green light and leaving Frigga alone once more.
Loki soon awoke from his trance, finding himself in Odin's chamber. He turned towards the former King's still form.
"We were taught that you can still see and hear everything around you while in that state," he snarled, walking over to him. "I could kill you. You'd know it was me and be helpless to stop it…. But that would be too merciful for you. Instead, I will prove I am a greater ruler than you or Thor could ever be. I will do what you failed, unite all the realms under my hand. Bring about a new age for Asgard. And then, if I'm feeling merciful, I will bring you out of this slumber to view my handiwork first hand, and let you serve out the reminder of your days serving me!"
He then turned and stormed out, unaware of a single tear sliding down Odin's face.
On the Bifrost Bridge, Loki's army stood waiting, guarding the entrance to the Golden City. As they stood guard, the multicolored light of the Bifrost shot down in front of the army, blinding them and forcing many to step back.
"The Bifrost," a soldier recognized. "It's opening!"
"Perfect," a Frost Giant boasted. "More rebel warriors to crush!"
As he said this, Hulk came flying out, roaring loudly and wielding his axe. He smashed through the swinging club of the Frost Giant before smacking him across the face. This caused the giant to topple backwards, crashing onto the bridge.
"You wanna crush something?!" Hulk called out. "Then try me!"
Rick and the Warriors Three came out of the pillar not long after that, the latter trio jumping from their mounts with weapons drawn. Volstagg leapt off his chariot and swung his axe down hard on a Frost Giant.
"For Asgard!" he cried out, slicing at the giant and causing him to drop to the ground.
Once all three warriors touched down on the bridge, Loki's warriors moved in to face them.
"By Loki's decree, all those who oppose him shall be executed on sight!"
"Traitors," Fandral accused. "We will never bow to Loki."
Hulk wasted no time darting forward, axe at the ready.
"Hulk, wait!" Fandral called out.
The soldier, shockingly, managed to completely knock Hulk aside, sending him flying into one of the fallen Giants. Rick saw this and went wide-eyed.
"Hulk!" he shouted, turning his mount to charge at the soldiers.
He whipped his reigns, causing the rams to fly faster as they plowed through the soldiers. They all fell and Rick cheered, until a stray Frost Giant axe swung out, slicing through the chariot and scattering the rams. His cheers turned to screams as he began plummeting.
"Rick!" Hulk cried out, charging forward.
Unfortunately, a barrage of trolls and soldiers kept him from reaching his friend in time, but thankfully, that's when the elven skiff came soaring across the skies. Spider-Man instinctively leapt off and shot out a web onto the skiff, swinging down and catching Rick just before he hit the ground.
"Thanks man," Rick told him. "I owe you."
"Actually, you owe me two," Spidey replied. "We were half way through sneaking into the palace when you guys sounded the alarm."
"You're just jealous I'm wearing sweet viking armor and you're still in your onesie."
"Dude, I fought a literal DRAGON! Trust me, I have nothing to be jealous of."
Spider-Man plopped Rick on the ground before shooting another web onto a Frost Giant. He swung upward and shot a ton of web into the Giant's face, causing it to cry out. Spider-Man then flew onto the Giants head, kicking it in the chin and causing it to stumble until it fell off the bridge.
"Good luck getting that out!" he called out, zipping back to the ground.
Hawkeye and Faradei unloaded their arrows on another Giant, causing it to fall. Widow drew duel swords before leaping down with Panther, striking down several soldiers. She joined up with the Warriors three, who watched her with shock and awe.
"This mortal fights like a Valkyrie," Fandril declared.
"Most impressive," Hogun commended.
Faredei steered the ship around, knocking several giants off the bridge, sending them crashing into the water blow. He then jumped free himself, firing an arrow or two as he did before landing gracefully. Hawkeye followed soon after, nailing an oncoming cyclops in the eye, taking him out before landing on the head of a troll. He then let out another barrage of arrows. They nailed several soldiers in rapid succession before he leapt down and ran to catch up with the others.
As he ran forward, an ogre came up and swatted him aside, knocking him to the edge of the bridge. He picked himself up as the orge loomed over him, ready to strike. Before it could, a barrage of biostings nailed him in the chest. Everyone looked up to see several Valkyries flying in, accompanied by Heimdall, Ant-Man and Wasp. The two Avengers were wearing epic looking armor enchanted to work with their Pym Particles. Ant-Man leapt off his horse and grew giant sized, nailing a giant in the face. Wasp flew through the battlefield, blasting every soldier and creature she could. They all fell to the ground upon impact, leaving three more Frost Giants for them to deal with. Giant-Man scooped up Hulk and tossed him right at them. Hulk raised his axe above his head, screaming the entire time. He sliced into one of the Giants, causing it to fall to the ground before lobbing his axe at the head of another one. Hulk then punched the leg of the third Giant, causing it to kneel over in pain. Hulk then took to the opportunity to sock the Giant on the jaw, knocking it out cold.
With their foes defeated, the heroes regrouped, grateful to see one another alive and well.
"Man, am I glad to see you guys," Wasp shared. "Can you believe it? I rode a flying horse. Through space!"
"Through a wormhole, technically," Ant-Man corrected. "We're in Asgard."
"I could've told you that," Hawkeye remarked. "It's Loki. He's behind all of this."
Hulk growled upon hearing that name.
"Trust me, we all know," Rick declared. "We saved the Warriors Three from a massive slave wagon. They told us everything."
"And if the Norn Stones were Asgardian," Spider-Man spoke up, "then it's safe to bet that the Masters of Evil were carrying out Loki's plans on Earth."
"Meaning we were able to halt his plans for the time being," Panther added. "Though no doubt, Loki will recover from that loss."
"So, the Masters of Evil worked for Loki?" Wasp questioned.
"More likely, the Enchantress was serving as a middleman between Loki and Zemo," Natasha pieced together. "Probably with the promise of a chance at Thor."
"Vile witch..." Sif sneered. "Why can she not accept Thor has chosen another with grace as I have?"
"Some women just won't take no for an answer," Spidey remarked. "Not that… I'd know anything about that, but-"
"Enough," Sif cut off. "It is time to show Loki the error of his ways."
As the Warriors of Asgard walked off, Hawkeye quickly stepped in front of them.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he spoke up. "We're not going to just sit on the sidelines, here lady."
Sif then pointed her sword at him.
"Stand aside, mortal," she insisted before Widow held out her own sword at her.
"That's not how we do things," Widow told the Valkyrie. "We have just as much at stake as the rest of you, and we're not sitting this out."
"You overestimate your chances. Loki has managed to tap into the Odin Force itself. He is too powerful for any mortal to fight."
"Uh, hate to break it to you," Wasp spoke up. "But we kicked Loki's butt on day one."
"Look Sif," Ant-Man interjected. "Thor's an Avenger, and Earth is just as much in the crossfire in all of this. "We're in this together."
"He may be right," Heimdall admitted. "We require every warrior we can find to end this fight."
"And they don't call us Earth's Mightiest Heroes for nothing," Spidey declared.
"Hey, speaking of being together," Rick spoke up. "Has anyone seen Iron Man? Or Cap and Falcon for that matter?"
In Helheim, Cap, Falcon, and Bucky continued to look up as Hela rose from her throne. She ran her hands over her headpiece, causing it to reside and allowing her auburn black hair to to flow down, covering one of her eyes.
"James Buchanan Barnes, preferred name, 'Bucky'," she declared, walking down to them. "Steven Grant Rogers, and Samuel Thomas Wilson. All three of you have cheated death, but this was not your doing. Now, there is a chance to rectify this oversight. All of you can rest now, a rest you all deserve."
"Sorry, but no," Cap declined. "Our work isn't done. Besides, there's still a job to do. Zemo and his forces are still on the loose."
"And you think I will simply allow you to leave my realm? I care little for the machinations of my father's toys."
"Your father?" Falcon questioned.
Cap went wide eyed upon hearing that.
"I play along with my father's games because it amuses me. He doesn't even know he's a small part of a much bigger game."
"What are you talking about?" Cap asked.
"It matters little. But, I will concede that returning you three to the mortal plane will make the coming days far more interesting."
"So… you'll send us back?" Bucky asked.
"Yes… with one condition."
"And what might that be?" Cap inquired.
"Should any of you fall in the battle ahead,"she explained, walking up to Cap. "Your souls will belong to me for the rest of eternity."
Cap scowled in response, knowing what he had to do.
In a special chamber in the palace, Loki walked up to what appeared to be a large withering tree. He placed his hands on it, which seemed to cause energy to flow from the tree and into his own body. As he did this, two crows, Huginn and Muninn, perched on the tree to glare down at him, menace in their beady eyes.
"My lord," a soldier spoke up, getting Loki's attention.
"What is it?"
"There is trouble."
Later, Loki reentered the Throne Room, taking his seat and summoning a glowing orb. Inside, he saw the gates of Asgard being breached by the Avengers and the Asgardian Warriors. From where they were left in chains, both Thor and Jane saw this and grinned.
"And thus the Avengers come to thwart your plans once again," Thor taunted.
"I bet Hulk's gonna enjoy smashing you into the ground again," Jane declared.
"He won't get the chance," Loki promised. "If your mortal friends wish to do battle with the forces of Asgard, then so be it."
Loki then summoned a curved horn into his hand before blowing into it.
The sound of the horn echoed through the city, getting the attention of the Avengers.
"What was that?" Spidey asked.
"If I had to guess," Heimdall replied. "Trouble."
As if to prove the all-seeing guardian right, the entire world seemed to tremble. Everyone looked around, just as everything shook a bit harder.
"Footsteps," Wasp realized.
"My spidey senses are going nuts," Spidey spoke up. "Think it's more giants?"
"Nah," Hulk replied. "Feels bigger."
In the distance, a large, looming silhouette moved towards them, towering almost as big as the palace itself. As it came into view, everyone could see that it was a massive, roaring mad wolf made almost entirely out of ice.
"Oh yeah," Wasp agreed. "Definitely bigger."
"Loki has gone mad," Sif let out. "He has summoned Hoarfan, the ice wolf!"
Hoarfan took a massive breath before unleashing a large ice blast at the group, forcing them to scatter.
"Ok," Spidey spoke up. "This might be bigger than the dragon."
He quickly shot a web and swung away before Hoarfan brought a foot down on top of him. Hawkeye and Faredai unleashed a barrage of arrows, but they seemed to do little damage. As the wolf raised a paw, Hulk tried leaping on top of it. This seemed to do little as Hoarfan just threw him off, sending him crashing into a pillar. Ant-Man grew giant sized and leapt onto his back, hoping to bring the beast down. However, merely touching the icy wolf caused a thick layer of ice to gather on his arms. He dropped to the ground, biting back a cry from the bitter cold numbing his limbs. He didn't even have time to react before Hoarfaan brought his paw down on him, crushing him.
As Giant-Man groaned in pain, Hoarfan turned to the other heroes, growling at them viciously.
"We're… we're not going to win this," Wasp realized. "Are we?"
Hoarfan then lunged at the heroes, only for Cap's shield to fly in out of nowhere and strike it on the nose. Hoarfan reeled back as the shield returned to Cap's hand as he stood on a building with Falcon and Bucky on either side of him.
"We're not out of this yet, Avengers!" Cap called out. "Strike from a distance! Keep him off balance until we find a weak spot! Let's move Avengers!"
Their hope renewed, the Avengers sprung into action. Wasp flew upwards, blasting at the wolf's back and causing it to cry out. Falcon flew in the opposite direction, firing both bullets and flechettes at Hoarfan in an attempt to slow it down. Bucky leapt onto the ground and opened fire on the wolf as Widow rolled next to him.
"You good?" she asked.
"If by that, you mean 'am I no longer a puppet for Zemo', yeah, I'm good. Death Goddess purged my mind."
"Ah… happy for you."
The wolf then tried bringing a paw down on them, forcing them to roll out of the way as Spider-Man swung by, firing a few web shots at the wolf.
"Hey Cap!" he called out. "You caught up on 21st century cinema?!"
"Depends, why are you asking?!" Cap replied, using his shield to block an ice blast.
"Ever seen Empire Strikes Back?"
"Refresh my memory! Which one is that one?!"
"The one on the ice planet!" Spider-Man answered, swinging around the wolf. "With the walker thing!"
Cap then smiled, realizing what Spidey was planning.
"Good call. Falcon, give him a hand! Hulk, Giant-Man, once he's laid up, pick a leg and take him down! Widow, Wasp, Panther, Hawkeye, go for the eyes and mouth!"
"Sam!" Bucky called out, tossing him a grappling launcher.
Falcon flew in low, scooping it up before flying towards Hoarfan.
"Thanks!" Falcon called back, shooting the cable at one of the wolf's front legs and flying in the opposite direction as Spider-Man.
The two quickly bound up the wolf's legs, allowing Hulk to leap up and ram into a high leg while Giant-Man did the same for a front one. The resulting strain, combined with the web and cable, forced the wolf to fall to the ground. Once Hoarfan was down, Hawkeye and Faradei fired arrows at its eyes, prompting Wasp and Widow to fire their respective stings that ignited the arrows and caused them to flare up. When they hit, Hoarfan roared in pain, then slumped to the ground.
Panther took this chance to leap into the jaw of the creature, prompting Cap to toss him his shield to block the oncoming stream of ice. Hulk leapt in after him, wrestling with the tongue of the creature to keep it from closing its mouth. Bucky reached into his belt and pulled out a grenade, tossing it to Panther. He caught it and unclipped it before chucking it down the creature's throat along with a vibranium dagger. He then jumped free just as the grenade went off. This caused the wolf to come crashing down, much to everyone's delight.
"This is only the battle," Cap reminded. "We've still got one last fight to win."
"What about him?" Clint asked, gesturing to Bucky. "Is he gonna be a problem?"
Bucky shook his head.
"Whatever HYDRA did to me isn't working anymore. I'm myself… for the first time in decades."
"It's true," Falcon confirmed, landing near them. "Cap and I saw it happen. Norse Goddess of Death killed the Winter Soldier, and now only Bucky remains."
"I know I still have to answer for everything I did, and I have no intention of running from that," Bucky added. "I just… I want to do something right for once. Fight for a cause because I want to."
Clint gave him a look before turning to Natasha, who nodded.
"Alright," he decided.
"We'll sort everything out later," Cap promised. "For now, we've got work to do."
Loki watched on in displeasure, waving the orb away in frustration.
"It seems we have something in common, Loki," Thor boasted. "We've both underestimated the might of mortals."
"They took down Hoarfun," Jane said in awe. "That… That was impressive."
"You speak as though the Avengers pose any threat to me," Loki remarked, his confidence returning as he stood up. "You forget, the Tree of Life gives its power to me now. I can wipe them out with a wave of my hand should I choose."
"And yet you don't," Jane noted. "The would-be king prefers to cower on his stolen throne like the spineless snake he truly is."
Loki snarled before turning and preparing to strike her. Before he could, the doors to the palace were blown open, causing everyone to turn and see the Avengers and the Warriors of Asgard entering side by side.
"Knock knock!" Spidey called out tauntingly. "Is this a bad time?"
"It's over, Loki," Cap told him. "We're giving you one chance. Surrender."
"I think not," Loki replied before blasting at them.
The group moved out of the way as Cap acted first, throwing his shield at Loki. it collided with him as Hawkeye, Widow, and Wasp fired arrows, knives, and bio stings respectively. Loki summoned a mystic shield that deflected them all as Sif ran up and swung her sword. Loki brought up his spear to block it, smirking as they met face to face.
"Hello again, Sif," he greeted. "You're looking well."
Sif didn't even dignify his greeting with words, instead electing to twist on her heels and try to attack him. He blocked again, this time punching her in the gut with a magically charged fist. His sent her flying as Fandril and Hogun attacked from either side. He held his staff vertically to block them both, twisting it so they'd go flying in opposite directions. As he finished doing that, Panther leapt down and brought his claws down on the sceptre, forcing Loki to step back. Not missing a beat, Loki side stepped and batted Panther aside, causing him to roll on the ground before landing upright and being greeted by a blast to the chest.
"Do you really think you fools can-"
Suddenly, a ring made out of webbing landed on one of Loki's horns, much to his annoyance. He turned and saw Spider-Man perched on a step behind him.
"Hey, I got the thing on the thing," he cheered. "What do I win?"
"How dare you-"
"I win me?... that makes no sense."
Loki blasted at Spider-Man, forcing him to flip backwards onto a wall, firing webbing at his eyes that disoriented him a bit. Cap took advantage of this and ran up to him, striking him repeatedly. Finally, Loki managed to block one of Cap's shield blows with his staff, tearing the webbing from his eyes before jabbing the sceptre into his chest, knocking him back. Giant-Man came running up next, prepared to smash him before Loki froze him in place. Loki then noticed Falcon flying towards him, but quickly used the sceptre to catch him and toss him into Giant-Man, knocking them both to the ground.
Loki then felt bullets hitting his skin, forcing him to turn and see Bucky shooting at him as he moved in closer. Loki just smirked, flicking his wrist to send magic that knocked the gun out of his hands. Bewildered, Bucky threw a punch with his metal arm, only for Loki to catch it.
"You must be truly desperate," Loki remarked.
"Not desperate," Bucky corrected. "I'm the decoy."
Loki raised an eyebrow before Widow to attack from behind, kneeing him in the back and causing him to kneel over slightly. He quickly recovered as the two ex-assassins moved in, forcing Loki to fend them off. As he did, Rick snuck over to Thor. He tried grabbing his binds, but was shocked by the magic.
"Ouch," he whispered.
"Forget about me," Thor insisted. "Get to Jane."
Rick nodded before heading over to Jane, already pulling out his lock pick kit.
"Thank you Fandral for the replacements," he muttered as he began working on her chains. "I can't believe Loki tried to pull a Jabba the Hutt."
"I should consider myself lucky he put me in a dress and not something else," Jane replied. "Still, I think it's time I got some vengeance of my own."
"One step ahead of you."
Finally, her lock clicked open, just as Loki batted Widow and Bucky away. Hulk came charging up next, rage unbound.
"Hulk smash puny god!" he cried out, raising his fists.
Loki just held out a hand and blasted the Hulk back, sending him crashing to the ground.
"Who's puny now?"
Suddenly, Jane came up behind him, wielding her now loose chains like a weapon. She got Loki around the throat, tightening them like a garot. Finally having enough, Loki took hold of the chain and crushed it in his hands, turning towards Jane blasted at her, knocking her into the steps.
"Jane!" Thor cried out.
"Enough!" Loki commanded, swinging his staff so it sent out a wave of magic energy that knocked everyone back.
The floor of the Throne Room was littered with fallen heroes, all of whom were groaning in pain from the assault.
"Did you honestly believe that this would turn out any other way?" Loki mocked. "Did you honestly believe that you would be able to turn the tide and defeat me? You may be heroes on Earth, but here…"
He then noted Hawkeye notching an arrow.
"You are less than nothing," he continued, flicking his finger and causing the arrow to turn to ash. "With your defeat, I may now bring the gift of subjugation to your troubled and hopeless planet. There may be others to resist, but they will soon see the truth… humanity was made to be ruled. In the end… you will always kneel."
Finding a last bit of resolve, Cap forced himself up, planting a foot on the ground so he could stand up right. Loki watched this in amusement.
"Not to men like you," Cap promised.
"There are no men like me."
"There are always men like you..."
"... then you will be the first to die," Loki promised, aiming his sceptre at him. "And who will be left to save your friends?"
Cap steeled himself as Loki fired. Just then, a massive bolt of lighting shot down between them, absorbing the blast. As the lightning cleared, all parties present, even Loki, were astonished to see Tony, now clad in a fully silver Iron Man suit made out of Uru.
"How about me?" he declared, electricity dancing across his arms.
This caused the Avengers to perk up, slowly getting back to their feet along with Cap.
"What kept ya?" Cap remarked.
"Needed to dress for the occasion," Iron Man replied.
"You dare to-!" Loki began to curse before getting a good look at the suit. "Your armor… it is Uru."
"Yeah," Iron Man confirmed. "Same metal as Thor's hammer. And I am just dying to see what it can really do."
Iron Man then fired a magic blast, knocking Loki through the throne as well as the opposing wall.
"Free Thor!" Iron Man instructed. "I'll hold him off!"
Iron Man then flew after Loki, prompting the others to get over to Thor. Hawkeye used one of his enchanted arrows to destroy Thor's stocks while Falcon went to check on Jane.
"Is she alright?" Thor asked as he finally straightened up and stood tall.
Jane was already coming to, groaning as she did. Falcon smirked a bit as he helped her up.
"You are one tough lady," he told her.
"Guess all my time wielding Mjolnir made me a bit more durable than most. Come on, we need to wake Odin up."
"No," Thor called out.
"Yggdrasil is the source of the Odin Force. Loki has somehow corrupted it. You must break Loki's connection to it."
Jane nodded, turning to Panther, Ant-Man, and Rick.
"I could use some help with this one," she admitted. "Can I count on you?"
"You know it," Rick reassured.
"Good," Cap agreed. "The rest of us will help Iron Man."
"Fine by me," Thor agreed, donning his helmet. "I would have words with my brother."
Outside, Loki managed to stabilize himself midair as Iron Man approached him. He fired another blast at Loki, but this time, Loki shielded himself from the attack before returning the blow in kind. Iron Man cried out in pain as Loki flew up to backhand him aside. Iron Man tumbled through the air before stabilizing himself, ready to fly right back at Loki. Loki flew up to him and grabbed him by the chest, surging him full of energy.
"Normally, I'd consider dealing with mortals beneath me," he admitted as Iron Man cried out. "But you have earned my attention.
Just then, Cap's shield flew up, knocking Loki's hand free of Iron Man. Wasp took the opportunity to fly up to Loki and blitz him with her bio-stings. He started to become overwhelmed by the constant firing, allowing Falcon to dart towards him and flip midair, allowing him to kick Loki in the chest and knock him back.
Back in the Palace, Thor stood over Mjolnir, seeing it contained behind a barrier of pure magic. Jane walked up next to him, taking his hand in hers. Their grips tight, they both extended their free hands, summoning the hammer. As before, their combined might shattered the spell containing it. Jane dropped her hand, allowing Thor to claim his birthright.
"Give him Hel, Thor," Jane told him.
Back outside, Loki had just managed to knock Falcon aside. Wasp flew in to blast at him some more, but the shots did little as Loki just plucked her out of the air.
"I shall relish destroying-"
He was suddenly cut off by a web to the mouth, causing him to release Wasp as Spidey swung past.
"You talk way too much," he quipped, narrowly avoiding one of Loki's blasts. "And that's saying a lot coming from me."
Spider-Man then shot two weblines and tugged on them hard, sending him flying right into Loki and kicking him onto a bridge below. As he picked himself up, Cap leapt onto the bridge and threw his shield at him, knocking his sceptre out of his hands. He then ran up to Loki, leaning back as the villain threw a magic blast at him. He then straightened out and tried throwing a punch at Loki's face. He ducked under it, forcing Cap to go for the gut. Unfortunately, Loki caught it with one hand before shooting his other one to Cap's throat.
"You will all suffer," he promised.
Cap then brought his hand down on Loki's freeing himself before leaping up and kicking him.
"Not today," he retorted.
As Loki stumbled back, he summoned the sceptre back into his hands and blasted at Cap, knocking him back. Loki then turned and saw Hulk running at him at full force. Loki just smirked and brought his sceptre down on the bridge, shattering it. Hulk quickly leapt off the crumbling stone he was on and plummeted towards Loki. Loki just held out his hand, grabbing Hulk, and slamming him into the ground.
"I believe I shall kill you first," Loki promised.
He brought his staff down, but one of Widow's swords blocked it, earning his attention.
"On second thought," he corrected. "It seems there will be a line."
"Damn right," Widow snarled before using one sword to try and take Loki's head.
He quickly brought up his sceptre to block it, pushing forward to send her back. She then tossed one of her swords past him, causing it to land in Bucky's hand. The two swung their swords at Loki, causing him to kneel as he brought his sceptre up to block the attacks. He quickly shoved them off and struck the ground, sending a shockwave that knocked them both back. Before he could make another move though, the sky darkened, streaked with lightning that cracked violently. The chaotic god paled slightly at the sight, especially when he saw his rip roaringly pissed brother descending from the heavens.
"Loki!" Thor cried out, charging at him.
Meanwhile, Jane, Ant-Man, Panther, and Rick all made their way to the sacred chamber where Yggdrasil was resting. The tree was a skeletal husk of itself thanks to Loki's tampering, and the sight made Jane sick.
"I can't believe Loki would do this..." she whispered.
"How do we even begin to fix this?" Ant-Man questioned.
"Magic fertilizer?" Rick offered up.
"I believe the solution lies within the energy flowing through the tree itself," Panther offered.
"How can you tell there's energy going through it?" Ant-Man asked.
"I can see it."
"Wait… you can?," Rick spoke up. "Uh… how?"
"Thor allowed Wakanda's scientists and shaman to study his hammer. It was… informative."
"He mostly did it for me, so I'd have a more scientific basis of what it could do," Jane added. "But, that's another story. What do you see, Panther?"
"That the tree is only receiving energy, but distributing it as well. This lines up with what we know of mythology. The tree of life holds together all of reality, just as all of reality feeds into the tree."
"Yeah… this thing looks like it's barely holding itself together, much less reality," Rick insisted. "Honestly, I'd chop this one down and plant a new one."
"We are NOT chopping down Yggdrasil!" Jane snapped.
"Agreed," Panther concurred. "We do not know the effects such an action would have on the nine realms, of which earth is a part of."
"So what are we gonna do?" Ant-Man questioned.
Jane looked around, then her eyes fell on Huginn and Muninn.
"Wait… maybe they can help."
"What, the creepy bird?" Rick asked.
"Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory," Jane corrected. "They're connected to Odin, and my personal theory is that they're how he keeps an eye on things in the Odinsleep. Maybe they can help us figure out how to help Yggdrasil."
"Well, when is Asgard," Ant-Man said with a shrug, growing until he was eye-level with the ravens. "Uh… greetings. Can you help-"
The ravens responded by screeching at an extremely high pitched cry, one that sent all three of them to their knees, covering their ears.
Back outside, Thor clashed his hammer against Loki's sceptre repeatedly, not letting up for even a second.
"Yield, Loki!" Thor demanded.
"Never!" Loki replied, blasting at him.
Thor blocked the blast with his hammer before throwing it at him, sending him crashing into a building. The impact knocked his helmet off and caused him to lose his sceptre, but he just seethed with rage as energy poured out of his hands.
"You think you've won? You haven't! I will never surrender! I will never give up until I have you at my knees!"
As Loki shouted, more and more power expelled from him, and his facade of rage and control slipped, showing genuine fear and pain. Iron Man saw this and flew up to Thor.
"He's losing control of the Odin Force!" Thor realized, becoming horrified. "His body is not used to the power, and his chaotic nature is causing it to go wild!"
"So, what would happen if he lost control completely?" Wasp asked.
"Well, based on what we know of the Odin Force," Spidey spoke up, "I'd say take him, along with half of Asgard, out in one big bang."
"Worse than that, my friend," Thor replied. "Without control, the Odin Force could cascade across all the Nine Realms, destroying everything. This would mean Ragnarok."
"I take it that's bad?" Hawkeye asked.
"Ragnarok is our word for the end of days," Sif explained. "The end of everything."
"Yep..." Hawkeye winced. "Bad."
"Thor..." Loki let out, fear lacing his word. "Help me!"
"Loki, you must keep the Odin Force contained!"
"I- I can't! It's too much! Too much!"
Pulses of power were beginning to echo out, cascading across all over Asgard and beyond.
On Earth, the citizens of New York looked up into the sky as energy cascaded overhead. Many of them screamed in terror, fearful as to what this could mean.
Back with Jane's team, the trio had been driven to their knees, clutching their ears to try and save their hearing. Ant-Man forced his head up, seeing something glowing amidst the roots of Yggdrasil. An idea forming, he shrunk down, slipping between the roots for a closer look. What he saw made him gasp, then his gaze hardened. He emerged from beneath the tree, growing into Giant-Man.
"I understand!" he shouted, wrapping his arms around the brittle husk of the tree and pulling with all his might.
"Wait!" Jane called out. "What are you doing?!"
Finally, he managed to tear the tree out by the roots, leaving a large surge of glowing energy in its place. The energy began to solidify, forming a brand new, healthy tree. The tree's glow blinded them all as it reached out into the aether, reclaiming the Odin Force.
Outside, Loki suddenly felt his power weakening. He watched it be snatched from him, dropping to the ground hard. He looked up, seeing it returning to the palace, and knew immediately where it was headed.
The Odin Force shot down into the prone body of the sleeping Allfather, just as the three members of Jane's group came running in. Cautiously, Jane approached Odin as the light show ended.
"Allfather?" she called softly.
Odin's sole eye shot open, crackling with light.
Back outside, now fully drained of the Odin Force energy, Loki laid on the roof of a building. Panting slightly, he picked himself up as the heroes began to gather around him. Nervously chuckling, Loki dust himself off, flattening his hair and getting it out of his face.
"Well… I commend you mortals… you clearly bested me. Perhaps we can… discuss my transgressions back on Midgard?"
A large shadow then loomed over him, causing him to turn around and see Hulk standing behind him.
Hulk then grabbed Loki and smashed him on the ground repeatedly. When he finally dropped the chaos god, Loki was groaning and not moving. Wasp snorted, laughing while falling over in midair.
"Nice one, Hulk."
Hulk just smirked in response.
"You know," Spidey spoke up. "After everything he put us through, that's pretty cathartic."
"Tell me about it," Tony agreed, lifting his faceplate.
Thor then walked over and grabbed hold of Loki, lifting him up.
"Come brother. You have much to answer for."