Hey, all. Here's the next chapter. I hope you all like it. I want to post the last chapter next week, but I'm starting college tomorrow, and I haven't finished writing it yet, so we'll see what happens. Also, Sweet Talking is now on all of the sites I post on, so go check it out. Enjoy!
Thor groaned. He was pretty sure he wasn't dead, because from all accounts once you were in Valhalla you didn't hurt anymore. But perhaps he was wrong. Because he hurt so much, he wasn't sure if it was possible to continue living.
Thor wasn't sure how long he lay there like that, but after an eternity of agony, some of the feeling started to return to his body. Cool grass tickled his arms and neck, while a dry breeze brushed against his face. He could hear a fire crackling merrily nearby and felt its heat on his skin.
What had happened? It had been a long time since he'd felt this sore after training, but perhaps he'd tried something new? The fire was getting uncomfortably hot. Someone should bank it. It wasn't even that cold out right now.
The scent of smoke filled his nostrils, and Thor wrinkled his nose. Why did it smell so bitter? They usually burned woods that gave off a pleasant aroma when lit.
There was a whimper from beside him. It sounded like Loki. Loki? Loki! The Vault!
It all came rushing back then. Their trip to the Vault, the Destroyer, Loki picking up the Tesseract, the mind-numbing pain of transport.
Thor bolted upright and looked wildly around at their surroundings. They appeared to be in a small clearing in the woods. To his right lay Mjolnir. He must have still been holding it when they departed. And to his left… Thor's eyes grew wide as he took in the scene. Loki lay unmoving beside him, and the young prince was encircled by fire. Thor could just make out the Tesseract lying a few feet away, deep in the flames.
Without a moment's hesitation, Thor grabbed his younger brother and pulled him out of the clearing and into the woods. He didn't stop until he'd dragged him quite a distance from the danger, then he carefully laid him down. Loki was drenched in sweat, though he did not appear to have been burned. That was one small mercy at least.
Thor knew that fires could spread very quickly, and if he was forced to carry his brother the whole way out, they most likely would not escape.
"Loki!" he said, shaking him by the shoulders. "Wake up! Please, we're in danger! Loki!"
But Loki only moaned and turned his pale face away.
Thor bit his lip and sat back on his heels. What should he do? There was no way he could carry Loki to safety all on his own, and indeed, he didn't even know where safety lay. They were most likely no longer on Asgard, and they might even have left the nine realms all together.
"Loki, please wake up. I need you," he tried again, but his brother didn't even move this time. He was as limp as a discarded doll. Or a corpse. Thor changed tactics. "Heimdall! Can you hear me? Please, get help!" But there was nothing. Of course, there was nothing. They'd intentionally planned this for after his shift. He was probably fast asleep.
Thor covered his face with his hands, tears pricking his eyes. They were going to die, both of them, and it was all Thor's fault. Why did he have to pick up that hammer? Thor gasped, and promptly choked on smoke. He coughed and ducked lower to the ground where there was clearer air. Mjolnir! That was the answer. His father had said that if you swung the hammer in a circle, you could use it to fly. He'd be able to circumvent the woods completely!
Thor rushed back towards the clearing, but stopped short. The fire had grown, and the heir of Asgard could no longer see the hammer through the flames. What now? His father had said that Mjolnir could be summoned to the hand of its wielder. Well, he'd been the last one to hold it, so maybe that counted.
Thor held out his hand and concentrated, bracing himself for the burning hot metal that he'd hopefully soon be grasping.
Come to me, Mjonir, he thought forcefully. Come.
There was a long moment where nothing happened, and his spirits sank, but then, out of the flames, flew Mjolnir. It shot through the air and into his waiting hand.
"Yes!" he shouted, holding it up into the air.
Amazingly, it was not scorching at all. In fact, it was still the same pleasantly cool temperature that it had been in the Vault. Must be part of the enchantment, he reasoned as he hurried back to Loki's side.
"Hold on, brother," he said quietly as he slung Loki's slack form over a shoulder. "I've got you."
He gripped the hammer tightly and took a deep breath. Luckily Thor had asked many questions about how Mjolnir worked, so he knew what he needed to do in order to fly. In theory, at least.
Thor made sure the hammer's leather strap was around his wrist, and then he began to twirl it in the air, slowly at first, but he gradually built up speed until the hammer was a blur beside him. Then he released the hammer right as it was heading in the upward motion again, and let it fly out of his hand so that only the strap kept it on his wrist. Thor was jerked straight into the air, and he let out a whoop as he flew. He probably should have stood in a clearing to do this, but luckily Mjolnir obliterated all of the branches above them. And suddenly, they were clear of the trees and flying in the open air. Thor tightened his grip on Loki. It would not do for him to have saved his little brother from the fire only to drop him hundreds of feet to his death.
Mjolnir seemed to obey his very thoughts, and it started to carry him in a more horizontal direction once they were above the trees. He spotted blue on the horizon and angled them towards it. Seconds later, they were there.
Now how to land? Thor decided the best course of action was to simply will Mjolnir to stop. That should do it, yes? If Loki had been awake, he would have warned Thor that such a deed was surely a mistake, but tragically, Loki was unconscious, so there was no one to let Thor know he was being foolish.
Mjolnir did indeed stop pulling them along, and immediately Thor realized his misstep. He began to plunge straight downward. While a fall from several hundred feet would probably not kill the thunderer, it would definitely hurt, and Thor didn't want to jostle Loki. Frantically, he began to spin the hammer in a circle above his head in an effort to slow his descent. It almost worked. He was falling too quickly to build up the speed he needed, so while he did slow somewhat, it was not nearly to the extent he wanted to.
Thor hit the ground with a thud, creating a small crater. Normally, he would have rolled on impact to ease his landing, but he was carrying Loki, so Thor decided he would take the full brute of the force in his legs. It hurt. Thor cried out and dropped Loki, falling to his knees. Tears sprang into his eyes unheeded. Why had that hurt so much? He'd been expecting pain, but not like this. Was there something wrong with him? Had their magical journey somehow weakened him?
After several moments, Thor turned to Loki and placed a hand on his head. He was burning up.
Thor got up and with shaky legs made his way over to the ocean they'd landed beside. He pulled off the scarlet cloak he was wearing and dipped it into the cold water, then took it back to his brother. Thor dabbed at the pale boy's face and neck before laying the clock onto his forehead.
Several agonizingly long seconds passed where Loki continued to just lay there motionless, and Thor wondered if he'd been too slow. Was Loki dead because of him?
But then, Loki stirred, and Thor's heart leapt in his chest. His younger brother groaned and shifted, before he cracked open a brilliant green eye.
"Thor?" he rasped.
"Yes!" Thor said eagerly, leaning in. "I'm here. You're going to be okay."
Loki frowned blearily. "What happened?"
"We were in the Vault, remember? And I picked up Mjolnir, and the Destroyer came out and would have killed us, but you grabbed the Tesseract, and we were teleported here," Thor explained.
"Where is 'here'?"
"That I don't know," Thor confessed. "When I awoke, I found us surrounded by fire. I was more concerned with getting you out of there than determining our location."
"Fire?" Loki asked in surprise.
Thor nodded. "Yes, indeed. I believe it may have been sparked by the Tesseract lighting the grass on fire. It is very hot, yes?"
Loki shivered, and propped himself up on an elbow. His color was slowly starting to return to normal. "Yes, far too hot. But tell me, how did you get us away?"
Thor couldn't suppress a grin. "I flew us here," he said smugly. "With Mjolnir."
Loki's mouth dropped open. "Truly?" he asked incredulously. "That is amazing!"
Thor beamed. "I know! It was splendid!"
Loki sat up fully and took a deep breath. "I feel much better now. Thank you."
"I was quite concerned for you," Thor said quietly. "Why did it affect you so much more than I?"
Loki shrugged. "It was most likely because I was the one actually holding the Tesseract. Regardless, I don't believe we can use it to return home. Not only would using it again most likely kill me, I had no control over where it sent us, so the point would be moot."
Thor nodded seriously. "Agreed. We shall have to find another way."
Loki started to stand, and Thor offered him a hand up. Loki dusted off his hands and looked around.
"How long was I asleep?" he asked briskly.
"Only a few minutes," Thor answered after thinking for a moment.
"What about you? Do you have any idea how long you slumbered?"
"No," Thor said slowly. "But I don't believe it was for that long. If the Tesseract truly started the blaze, then it has been less than an hour since we departed Asgard, or the fire would have been bigger."
Loki nodded and clasped his hands behind his back. "Right then. Assuming the Tesseract did indeed ignite the blaze we are no longer on Asgard, as it is daytime when it had been night. We are also not on Jotunheim, Muspelheim, Helheim, Svartalfheim, or Nilfheim, just based on the appearance of the land. That means we are either on Alfheim, Midgard, or Vanaheim." He hesitated a moment before adding, "Assuming we are still in the nine realms at all."
Thor bowed his head. "Loki," he began miserably. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-"
"Let's not get into who did want," Loki interrupted kindly. "All that matters now is getting back home in one piece."
Thor smiled. "Thank you, brother."
Loki smiled back. "Don't worry about it. Now! The first order of business is determining where we are. We should see if we can't locate any inhabitants."
"I think I passed over a village on my way here," Thor announced brightly. "We can fly over and talk to them."
Loki nodded. "Alright, let's go."
Thor turned around. "Get onto my back," he instructed, before looking over his shoulder with a mischievous grin. "Unless you want me to carry you like a little baby again," he teased.
Loki scoffed. "I just used one of Father's most powerful relics and managed to survive. A little respect, please," he groused as he wrapped his hands around Thor's neck.
Thor laughed. "Hold on tight, brother. I'd hate to drop you."
Loki opened his mouth to retort, but before he could utter a word Thor twirled the hammer and took off into the air. Later Loki would deny it fervently, but Thor made sure to tell everyone who would listen that Loki shrieked like a girl when they entered the air.
Once they were high enough Thor moved into a hover. There was a village close-by and past it was the forest they'd landed in.
Loki frowned at the amount of trees on fire.
"Can't you do something about that?" he yelled in Thor's ear.
"Give me a moment," he responded.
Thor concentrated, reaching for his powers. They were more elusive than normal, and Thor found himself straining to grasp them. Finally, with a supreme effort of willpower, Thor managed to use them.
Lightning cut through the sky, and thunder rumbled.
Thor quickly brought them to the outskirts of the village, and as they touched down it began to rain.
As Loki released him and took a step back, Thor put his hands on his knees and panted.
"That was… harder than usual," he gasped. "It was the same… earlier. I think there's something... wrong with me."
Loki smirked. "I could have told you that," he quipped. At Thor's annoyed look, he relented. "Alright, I understand what you mean. I think you're right. My magic feels… off as well. Let's proceed into the town to find out our location, but I don't think we should tell them about our weakness. Or, come to think of it, until we know if they're allies, we may not want to tell them who we really are at all."
Thor nodded. Loki was always so smart. "What shall we tell them then?"
Loki smiled and held up a hand. Green wisps played over it. "Oh, I have a few ideas."