A Punch and Judy Sort of Guy

Chaos, knew Loki, is always easy at first. Maintaining it becomes exhausting and exhaustive, like riding a whirlwind that could spin out of the barely tamed illusion of his control at any moment, and the greatest danger to that control wasn't more chaos being tossed into the mix. It was the small, mundane, utterly simple things that made up the majority of the background dark matter of a given life.

Normalcy. The small shit. Screwed it all up every time. Screwed the best of his plans up with a regularity that probably meant there was a pretty good philosophical text in there somewhere.

It drove him absolutely over a wall, honestly. Normalcy was not his thing. Maybe it never was, though he'd spent his youth at least trying to pretend, but it sure as hell was highlighted as a giant problem for him now.

Which led, at least intellectually, to why Loki was currently flopped in the golden throne of Asgard in a doglike exhaustion, in a grandiose audience hall that was gloriously, silently empty for once in the decades long hell that had been his first two weeks acting as the old King of Asgard, and lined neatly along the floor at the base of that imposing throne like little soldiers was, so far, twelve small stone bottles of nightwine. Empty, he would hasten to clarify. As empty as the heads of squabbling councillors that liked to be worked up over the galaxy's most minor shit.

This was not what he'd signed up for. Loki was all for the tangly wrangling of a political society, the nuts and bolts of making sure the wheels of the world were well-oiled and that the ports ran on time. Socio-economic graphs? His thing. Anthropological data necessary to understand the demographical interplay of the nine realms? Okay, he might be a little bit distanced on a lot of it, but Hel, it could be pretty interesting. Social engineering? He loved it.

He was not all in on the meandering minutiae of, say, a man worked up enough to complain for forty-five minutes to the King of Asgard and the Nine Realms about a border dispute that involved his favorite cow. No, I had not been ready for that level of, if you'll excuse me the pun, bullshit.

I'm starting to understand why Odin seemed like he was angry all the time.

I mean, really.

There were three uncorked bottles left, lined up along the armrest of the throne, their coming fates in no doubt whatsoever. Each bottle represented a season's worth of berry harvest from the outer reaches of enchanted Alfheim, a complicated wine full of airy cheer and flavorful enough that the berries themselves seemed to burst on the tongue. Each small bottle priceless, granted as tithe to the All-Father over centuries.

Which is amazing, he thought, staring blankly. All that artistry in each and every sip. And they've got the collective alcoholic content of a soulful hermit's piss. A dozen bottles and I'm still fighting to feel any buzz.

I should have gotten into the Dwarven mead. That'll rip up my brain cells properly.

Maybe tomorrow night.

He lifted his head an inch or so, Odin's coppery robes rustling light along the gold, studying the ceiling through the tiniest bit of haze over his eyes. His thoughts were chock full of the deadly normalcy of the daily court that he'd already decided he hated, so he wasn't quite certain what he was trying to see at first. Then he focused on the old murals above him. Sort of tacky, really. Odin, posed peaceful and watching in the center with a handful of key moments of Asgardian history splayed all around him.

Loki blinked rapidly a couple of times, finally spotting Laufey. The noble enemy, with whom Odin wanted to forge a lasting peace. The whole point of this particular circular mural, long centuries of trying to rework Asgard as an honorable and peaceful culture who warred only when they must. That worked out real well for everyone, didn't it? Loki grimaced and popped open one of the remaining bottles of wine with his thumb, glaring at the painted cameo of the dead frost giant and then saluting the two kings with a saucy waggle of the booze. Can't fault you for the real lesson buried there. Fake it till you make it, yeah? Thanks for everything, Your Majesties.

He dropped his head again, still staring up at the ceiling, though it was a little fuzzier now.

It was odd, though. He'd never noticed before, and maybe it was just the wine. But for the moment, it looked for all the world like the dimensions of the ceiling were off somehow. The pillars and rising walls seemed to sink into the mural like… like…

A false ceiling?

Loki blinked and promptly forgot the thought, realizing he was drowning on the horizon beyond tired. The wine had finally done that much for him. He staggered up from the throne, used a snap of his fingers to clean up the bottles, and went to sleep off what was going to be a disappointingly mild hangover.

. . .

The other thing about pretending to be Odin for the vast majority of a given day was trying to remember he wasn't supposed to be able to see out of his right eye. That had taken a few days to get used to, including the bit where he kept whacking his shoulder on doorframes and ornamental pedestals while trying to practice with the eye in question squinched shut. Real fun. Left a hell of a bruise one morning when he forgot where he'd put Gungnir, tried to Odinize his vision before greeting the morning's servants, and damn near stabbed himself through the shoulder with the pointy end.

The spear looked very nice now in the upright and out of the way display he'd promptly had installed by the side of the throne. Old king, very tired, why hold it all the time? It was just sensible, really.

He didn't tell anyone the display actually looked like a Midgardian umbrella rack.

But funny thing about being blind in one eye.

Idiots kept thinking he was deaf on that side, too.

Which lead to how Loki was currently dimly paying attention to Day Two of Very Angry Cow Man in the center of his knot of baffled-looking family while actually listening intently and with growing irritation to two councilors just off to his right in his, well, blind spot.

"At least he's dead. With it happening so fast after the loss of the Queen, we don't have to worry too much about what the historians are going to say. They can shove it in a footnote. The great losses of the Second War of Svartalfheim, tucked in with the big listings. They can put his name up at the top. Highlight it. Whatever. Just so long as it's not a huge thing."

"Just cover it up? He was still a prince. I mean, our prince. Jotunheim's prince? Look, anyway, point is-"

"Most of the people outside the palace don't know anything, they just flow from one slow disaster to another like ducks. Look, the crown prince is off doing who knows what and the king is grieving - look at him, he's not even paying attention to Jurgen-"

"I wouldn't, either. Why didn't he marry the cow if he's so wound up about this?"

"And with that whole frost giant thing…"

The voices faded out, still clucking and making disapproving noises.

It's a PR problem, really, Loki thought, false calm covering up a completely acidic fury and a desire to absolutely murder the entire mead cellar in lieu of the council. Someone else controlling the narrative.

Small problem with that. If there was one thing he couldn't effectively do as Odin, it sure as Hel was start sticking up for the dead, freshly unmourned, adopted son of Asgard.

Good thing I don't have any major self esteem issues.

At the end of the audience, he gave Cow Man an extra length of paddock, told the financiers to just shovel money at the neighbor, and then told the guards that if Cow Man showed up again, the All-Father was on vacation for a century, please leave a message.

The guards good-naturedly laughed at that. Ha ha, a fine joke, Your Majesty.

Somewhere else at that same moment, a mindwiped Odin was probably getting a hot foot massage from a nice nurse in a human nursing home. It was supposed to be a good home, anyway. Place had high reviews. Loki wasn't completely heartless.

Loki had a single taste of envy, then realized he could be tasting a keg of the hardest fucking Dwarven brew made in fifteen thousand years instead and promptly nipped off to get on schedule with that.

. . .

"If the problem… if the problem is public perception," said Loki with cheery slurriness to the old portrait of Odin he'd found in a storage room across the hall from where he was having his private kegger, "then the solution is the same thing. Public perception. Can't speak ill of the dead, so they won't do that. But if they can also avoid… ah… talking about the dead completely, they're going to…"

Big gulp.

"Do that."

Another big gulp.

"Fucking hel, I think I can already see and hear my brain pulsing through my eyes."

The portrait of Odin did not offer any medical advice on the topic of audiovisual hallucinogenics induced by heavy drinking.

That was in character, decided Loki. He had never been the most helpful of father figures.

"All right. So. The trick is… to make them talk. To not let things get forgotten. To, uh, to get the story told."

He looked down at the stone bottle of mead in his hand. Asgard did not have journalism in the same sense that many worlds had. They had jongleurs and bards and historians and other various great oral traditions. It left his options slim. It was disturbingly easy to be lost in Asgard's history - it was why young men becoming great warriors and forging grand tales of their own heroism was often so important. Lives were so long that small stories and footnotes shrank into the background like dust.

I don't want to be forgotten.

He drank that depressing thought down with an absolutely suicidal knock off the bottle, which was probably a metaphor for his life.

"Frigga… wouldn't want either of her sons to be forgotten." He swallowed, the world seeming not quite balanced any more. Things felt a little spinny. "So there's that angle." It was probably true, although he felt a little iffy trying to speak for her now, after what had happened. It felt not quite right.

"And Odin would feel guilt on her behalf over it."

That was a little better. Obviously none of this was about him trying to mentally sort out his own place in the world.

Obviously.

"Okay." Loki inhaled, unable to feel his toes and physically incapable of thinking about the three scheduled meetings he had tomorrow morning. "Okay. Okay."

So what the hell did any of that lead towards? What was he supposed to do about his image problem?

. . .

Fifteen minutes later he was not sleeping it off.

Instead, Loki was hunkered over a desk in the back of the dustiest part of the palace library, laughing like an absolute asshole, two more bottles of mead sitting in front of him like the gates of judgement day, and there was glossy gold enchanted ink all over his hand and also all over the margins of the paper before him.

Was it petty, what he was doing? All because he'd overheard a couple of Asgardians basically go 'Oh, thank god that guy's dead'?

Probably.

Was it also about getting a lot of built up anxiety, anger, and displacement out of his system?

Oh, definitely.

He told himself he didn't give a single damn about any of that, though, and just kept writing.

. . .

THE TRAGEDIE OF LOKI OF ASGARD

(title not final, ye gods, that's terribly unimaginative)

ACT 1, PROLOGUE

(A gloomily lit cell, no furniture, one small brazier that flickers with a handful of guttering coals. A FIGURE is centered neatly on the stage where he is slumped against the back of the wall, half in the gloom, half not. His hair may as well be an executioner's hood. SHADOWS flicker in and out along the sides of the stage, acting as the mostly silent chorus for this sequence. Men, women, the helmets of guards. Some are recognizable as historical figures from the history of Asgard.)

The Figure (mournful and alone): Am I to be locked away? Forgotten, buried, hidden away for other's shame? Everything I did, I did for this realm. For the people. I would die for them. I have served them. Now they shun me. I'm a secret, but who made me one? Who made me what I am?

(The SHADOWS seem to shudder in lieu of The Figure's own despair. Soft wails are heard, but not to intrude on the melancholy of this sequence)

The Figure: If I were only to be given one more chance… one more chance to do everything for this realm… I would take it. Just to be asked. I give away all my curse against others. I would do anything… I would take it all back. Forgive me. Remember me.

(The Figure's voice trails off. There is a distinct tone of sadness from the SHADOWS, and then silence for no less than two minutes.)

(After two minutes, the shadows seem to seep back. A LIGHT grows at the edge of the stage, blazing, but not yet visible on the stage itself.)

The Light (his voice is hesitant, as if wishing for a reconciliation he knows can never happen): …Brother?

. . .

"Oh Gods, it's terrible." Loki reread the first few fragments he'd been able to draft together through eyes almost gone blind from booze, completely delighted with himself. Drunk, it had taken three hours to write fifteen hundred words, several hundred of them a soliloquy that should have been a subtle commentary on Jotun/Aesir relations, but really just came across as kicking the entire existence of King Laufey metaphorically in the balls for what would be approximately ten minutes of drawn-out performance.

It also killed the pacing.

"I'll move it into Act Two," he said, numb hands fumbling for the mead and then realizing both his bottles were empty. "Is this a three act play, or a five?"

He didn't know. It was going to be kind of important if he wanted to unfuck that pacing problem.

"Shit."

He also didn't really care right now. He had a different set of priorities to consider.

. . .

It's extremely difficult to get down several flights of stairs, avoid guards because you're too godsdamned drunk and lazy to put your illusion back on, and wend your way back with another three bottles of mead cradled in your arms when you can't feel your legs.

I wish I could fit that into the play somehow.

Maybe I could put in that time Thor threw up on himself at high feast instead.

. . .

Thor throwing up on himself became a recited flashback to break the tension just before the thrilling fever pitch of Act Four, where the two brothers were trapped amidst the boiling armies of the Dark Elves, the ghost of the dead queen leading them together into the fight for the survival of the realms.

Act Five was going to be the death scene. Just the death scene, Loki figured, now blinking probably a good three blinks a second and having to go to the bathroom pretty much constantly now. Bookend it with the prologue, and fade into a 'subtle' epilogue with Odin bemoaning what had been done to his son, what he'd done to his own son, the innocent little jotun boy he'd brought into his home.

It was the frog story, though. Loki really wanted to get that in. Shapeshifting yourself, pretty easy once you got the knack for it. Full on transfiguration of someone else, that was still neat as hell. A lot of sorcerers couldn't do it. He'd pulled it off when he was still a teenager. That was worth something.

He settled for a reference to it, grudgingly, as 'Loki' lay apologetic and mournful in his weeping brother's arms, dying at an absolutely a glacial pace that could allow for another two soliloquies if he damned well felt like shoving them in.

Maybe he could write a follow-up sometime. A proper comedy. The Frogs of War.

If the mead didn't kill him, first.

. . .

Come dawn, Loki woke up under the table, surrounded by fourteen (or was it twenty-eight? He couldn't see quite right) empty stone bottles, a mouth full of hair, a stomach making threatening noises, ink all over his hands and arms and, he realized, his face from when he started rubbing at it in an attempt to see if his skin was still there because gods knew it didn't feel like it -

maybe I'll have the mead cellar locked, oh my gods, now I want to die

-And when he staggered semi-upright he saw the rest of the play he'd somehow written in a maddened blackout frenzy.

It probably needed editing. He shifted through a couple of pages, his head doing the sort of threatening jostling that meant if he turned too quickly, his brain was going to just give up and slosh out of his ears. If he were going to be honest with himself, the damned play-slash-'autobiography' would legally require editing.

He decided he wasn't going to edit any of it. Not the four self-serving monologues in the middle of Act Two as the brothers hashed out their mistrusts of each other. Not the overly complicated set dressing the battle scenes were going to need in later acts. Not the hamfisted wailing at the end, and certainly not the bit where Thor threw up on himself. None of it. All of it was going to stay in. Even the unimaginative title.

It wasn't as if anyone was ever going to see the stupid thing.

Loki swore to himself one oath. If the half-assed play ever got discovered, it was a commission. Certainly he didn't write it.

(Really, he'd been so godsdamned drunk it could possibly pass as a legal excuse.)

This was entirely someone else's fault.

Nothing to do with him.

. . .

Loki hired the city's best theatre troop the next week, claiming a king's guilt and sorrow over a sundered family.

In reality, of course, he'd gotten mad at something another councilor said behind his back. Not to mention a reading of an early draft of the recent histories. Sure enough. Footnotes.

The 'playwright' he'd 'commissioned' was now permanently off world, having claimed his gold for his name and told to get gone. At least Loki had stuck with that promise to himself.

. . .

The Tragedie of Loki of Asgard ran for six months, two shows a week, and the critical reviews were absolute bile. Loki didn't care.

The people loved the damn thing so much they petitioned to have it continue after its scheduled final curtain. Everybody loves a good sob story, and sometimes the worse it was, the better. The 'king,' soulful and still grieving, turned them down with great apologies. Promptly deciding it would come back for an anniversary streak in a couple years or so, after the statue got built.

Oh, yes. The statue.

PR problem, my ass.

Anyway, there would be a big deal made about bringing the Tragedie back. Maybe with some additional scenes to flesh out a few of the thinner details in the third act, where it was already pretty bogged down. A special anniversary edition, if you would.

And a full backing chorus for the whole thing.

It kept things fun for a while, as Loki kept sorting out months of weirdly dramatic property law snarls while trying to make some actual improvements to the place.

Cow Man stayed away.

Loki officiated sixteen marriages. Those were terrific. He loved doing them, so if people asked, he showed up. No complications. Happy people at the happiest moment of their lives, and nothing he could screw up except an open bar. There were no wars. He stopped paying attention to what was going on elsewhere in the galaxy, and for a while, he even forgot about Thanos.

. . .

And then Thor came home.

. . .

"Oh, shit."

~ The True Tragedie of Loki of Asgard, Finale.

11/15/2017 All Marvel rights go where they belong. All relevant faults go towards the unreliable narrator. He's not a very good playwright, to be honest…