A/N: It's finally done! Man, that took way longer than I thought it would. I apologize that this is almost a year later than I said it would be, but college hit me like a train. I'll elaborate more in the next chapter of Sweet Talking (not sure when I'll put that up, I haven't even started on it yet) but this year I discovered all my fun mental health issues and struggled to think creatively at all for a time. Plus, in between breakdowns, I decided I wanted this story to be the first in a series about Loki's life called Loki, Prince of Asgard, so I rewrote a bunch of scenes from the first three chapters to make it fit with what I have planned for later. But it's finally done! This is the longest fanfiction I've ever written and took my two hours to read aloud to my family. I'm still amazed the short story I was going to write for my little sister turned out like this, but here we are. Anyway, enough from me, let's go!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS HAVE BEEN REWRITTEN SO YOU SHOULD GO READ THOSE FIRST

Disclaimer: I don't own any Aesir, but the humans are all mine.

Hilda sat, head in her hands, as she tried to figure out what to do. The village depended on her to protect and care for them, but she was useless. She could not stop the invaders from taking her people, year after year. She had no idea what to do. There was a whole village depending on her, trusting her to lead them through these trying times. But she had not the first idea of what to tell them.

Oh, Frigga, she prayed silently, glancing toward the image of the goddess she kept over her hearth, grant me wisdom.

A knock on the door interrupted her troubled thoughts but did nothing to soothe her worried heart.

What now? she thought in despair. What further sorrows await?

"Come in!" she called aloud, trying to keep the hopelessness from her voice.

The door creaked open as Aghi entered, bowing slightly in respect of her higher status.

"Chief," he said solemnly, "two visitors have come to the village. They wish to see you "

Hilda tensed. The last "visitors" to come to the village had been anything but friendly. She met Aghi's resolute gaze and knew that he was thinking the same thing. He wore his sword on his hip and Hilda had her own within easy reach so if it came to a fight they were ready. Not that their weapons had done them much good before.

Still though, it was not as if they could turn them away. The strangers had done nothing against them so far, and it would be unwise to treat them as enemies when they had shown no animosity. Besides, one never knew who could be a god in disguise. Terrible things happened to those who disrespected gods in their midst.

She stood, nodding to Aghi. "I will see them."

He acknowledged her decision, stepping to the side to allow the two men past.

Their clothes were those of travelers, and they appeared to have been caught in the rain that had begun minutes before. Their skin was fair and hands calloused. Clearly, they had experience using the blades by their sides.

"I greet you, strangers. I am Chief Hilda, daughter of Yngvarr. What brings you to my village?"

The taller man stepped forward, his green eyes sharp and shrewd. Hilda instantly knew that underestimating him could prove to be a fatal mistake.

"Greetings, Chief Hilda the Kind," he said with a low bow. "I am Ulf and this is my brother, Bjorn. We are the sons of Erik. We were traveling by when we found ourselves unexpectedly run aground. We can easily repair our ship, however when we saw your village in the distance, we thought we would find out its name, to make sure we're still on course. Tell me, what is this place called?"

Hilda made sure her face was blank, but inwardly she was worried. They were quite some distance from another village, so two people traveling by themselves was highly unusual. Either they were lying or they did not fear attack. And if that was the case, they were either expert fighters or fools.

Ulf stepped forward and glanced about the room as she worried over her response. His eyes alit on the statue of Frigga and rested there for a moment before continuing on to take in the rest of the dwelling.

"This is Tonsberg. Where were you traveling to?"

"Edensville," he answered without hesitation, looking back at her. "So, we are definitely still going in the right direction. Tell me, what gods do you worship? We would pay homage to them before we leave."

"We worship Frigga, goddess of motherhood and prophecy."

Ulf and Bjorn both smiled warmly, and Ulf opened his mouth to speak again, but Hilda held up a hand to stop him.

"However," she continued. "I'm afraid you cannot sacrifice to her at present."

"What?" Bjorn asked, speaking for the first time. "Why not?"

"We were recently invaded by foreigners. They kidnapped many of our people, including our priestess. We dare not make any sacrifices in her absence, lest the gods strike us down for our arrogance. After all, our priestess was selected by Frigga herself to sacrifice for us after the great war with the giants. If we tried to have someone else do it, she might be offended."

At her words, both men glowered. Ulf scowled, but Hilda's eyes were on Bjorn, who had reached for his sword as rage filled his face. She later would swear that his eyes actually sparked with anger as he glared.

Aghi also reached for his weapon, but Hilda resisted the urge. They seemed to be more upset at her words than her.

"Who would dare affront Frigga so?" Bjorn bellowed.

"We do not know who they are," Hilda answered calmly. "All we know is that they come from across the fjord and return every few years to raid us. We are a village of farmers and cannot defend ourselves from them."

Ulf stepped forward and laid a calming hand on Bjorn's shoulder. The two brothers shared a long look before Bjorn relaxed slightly and removed his hand from his blade.

"I apologize for my fury," he said. "Frigga is a very important goddess to us, and it angers me to see her slighted so. My brother and I will see to it that this matter is put to rest. I assure you, the wrongdoers will see justice. So swears the son of… Erik."

Hilda blinked and Aghi startled. Neither of them had expected the men to offer to help.

"You are just two men facing a horde!" Hilda exclaimed. "You have no hope of being able to defeat them on your own! I insist you take some of our men with you."

"Chief," Ulf broke in. "With all due respect, you said yourself that your people are not fighters. Bjorn and I are both skilled swordsmen. Others would simply slow us down."

"But-" she started, however Bjorn interrupted her with a grin and a fierce smile.

"Trust me, we can handle them."

She would have protested further, but her eye caught the statue of Frigga. Is this divine intervention? Did you send these men to aid us, Allmother? she wondered to herself.

She looked into their eyes. A shiver wracked her body, though she could not have said why, and she knew that they were telling the truth. Somehow or another, these two would make good on their oath.

"Very well. Our attackers bear the mark of a raven in flight drawn in blood. Go then, and may the gods go with you. If you do this thing, we will forever be in your debt."

They bowed again.

"Thank you, Chief Hilda. We will return err long. May you be safe in our absence."

They left again, leaving Hilda alone with Aghi.

"Hilda, have you lost your senses? Two men cannot possibly fight against all of the raiders. They will be killed!"

Hilda, however, was staring at the floor where Bjorn had stood. The dirt had darkened and sizzled in the shape of two footprints.

"I think they'll manage well enough," she said quietly.

Aghi looked where she was gazing and gasped.

It was good that she had spoken to them courteously and shown them respect. After all, one never knows when they will meet a god in disguise.

"Bjorn" glowered as he stomped away from the village. "I cannot believe the disrespect these men have shown Mother! I will slay them all where they stand for their impertinence!"

Lightning flashed across the cloud strewn sky as "Ulf" strode forward and got in Thor's way, forcing him to stop.

"Calm down," he hissed. "Lest you start another fire in your rage."

Thor glanced somewhat guiltily at the sky and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as he tried to regulate his emotions.

After a moment, the thunder and lightning died out, though the rain continued unabated.

As soon as they were out of sight of the village, Loki dropped the illusion on them so as to save his energy for the coming fight. Though he didn't really feel much of a difference between his regular power level and his current one he still did not want to run out of energy on the wrong planet.

Loki glanced at Thor out of the corner of his eye.

"Aren't you going to drop the illusion on Mjolnir?" he asked.

Thor shrugged, unstrapping the "sword" from his belt and hoisting it in the air. "I think not. It's so convenient that it can disguise itself, and it is not as if it draws from my powers to do so. I believe I will leave it this way until we find ourselves in a fight."

Loki shrugged. "Fair enough. Now then. To business." Loki continued, changing the subject as they arrived in a clearing. "I too am furious with the way Mother's priestess was treated, but we must not forget what else we learned."

"Aye," Thor agreed thoughtfully. "Given that they worship Frigga, we must be on Midgard, for only the humans believe us to be gods."

"Meaning that we are still in the Nine Realms after all, thankfully. This will make getting home so much simpler."

Thor shot him a curious look. "But how did you know?" Loki raised an eyebrow and Thor elaborated. "That they worshipped one of us? There was nothing any of them had said that had narrowed down our location yet."

Loki smiled smugly.

"There was a statue that looked rather like Mother above her mantle. I took a chance and decided to confirm my suspicions," he explained.

Thor blinked. "I hadn't even noticed it."

"I'm aware. Now then, we need a plan. Once we have found Mother's priestess our way home is clear. If she is indeed one Mother appointed herself, she will have a charm to let Asgard know when the sacrifices are ready to be taken. We should simply be able to activate it and travel back to Asgard when the Bifrost is sent for it."

Humans weren't very useful subjects. Very few of them could craft enchanted items, they did not live long enough and were not durable enough to waste time training as slaves, and they were not strong enough to serve in Asgard's armies. The only use they had was as farmers, so Odin and Frigga had given several of them communication devices that would signal the gatekeeper of the Bifrost when they had a harvest to send up. Because the simple fools believed them to be gods, they called the liaisons "priests" and "priestesses" and the tribute "sacrifices". They really were so silly, but at least they helped provide for the people of Asgard.

"Aye, but we must find her first. I could take us through the skies with Mjolnir-"

But Loki was already shaking his head no.

"With the storm as it is our visibility will be low, but we need the storm to continue as there's a chance the fire is not out yet. Besides, if we're spotted it will give away our true nature."

Thor scoffed. "Let them know. Knowledge of our origins will not save them from Mjolnir's swing."

"In case you have forgotten, Thor," Loki replied in exasperation. "We are both of us without our armor and children besides. Not to mention they have far more numbers than we do. Just because the Aesir are stronger than humans does not mean a well placed spear cannot take us down."

Thor rolled his eyes, but with a wave of his hand acknowledged Loki's point. "Fine then. What would you have us do?"

"I'll turn into a bird and scout ahead. Once we know where and how many there are we can devise a strategy to swiftly take them out and rescue the villagers."

"And what am I supposed to do while you fly off?" Thor frowned.

"Wait here patiently." Loki smirked. "Unless you'd rather I turn you into a bird and take you with me?"

"No!"

Loki had been born a shapeshifter, but his ability to turn others into animals was much more recent and much less predictable. Last time he had tried to change another's shape, Thor had been a frog for a week.

"Then sit tight. I'll return shortly."

Without another word, Loki ran forward a few steps then leapt into the air. In the blink of an eye, where there had been a boy flew instead a bird, small and black as any raven would be, but with glittering green eyes rather than the normal blue or purple.

With practiced ease, Loki rose swiftly in the air until he was soaring above the trees. The rain was gentle enough that it did not bother him, and it glided harmlessly off his oiled feathers.

He quickly made his way across the land and over the fjord. The raiders had a head start. but they also had to herd unwilling people over land, whereas Loki could fly above it all.

He followed a river that drained into the fjord, hoping that it would lead him to his prey.

He was in luck. Two hours later, he spotted a large group of people slowly making their way by it. Swooping down, he saw that some of them were tied up and even more incriminating, they bore the mark Chief Hilda had told him of.

Taking note of his surroundings, Loki flew back the way he'd come for about fifteen minutes, before he could not maintain his shape any longer and was forced to land and turn back. Shapeshifting was as natural as breathing to Loki, but for some reason he always felt this pull within him, urging him back to his Aesir form. It was frustrating, being forced back into his original skin, but when he'd spoken to his mother about it, she'd told him not to try and fight it or find a way around it. She claimed that he might lose himself without the pull and find himself trapped in the wrong form, but Loki did not think he'd have that issue. Shapeshifting had never been hard for him. The tugging at his insides seemed far more forgein and outside of him than taking other forms ever had.

After about a half an hour, Loki's insides felt settled enough for him to return to bird form and continue on.

Luckily, because he was returning in a straight line back to where his brother waited, it was a quicker journey back. In less than an hour, he found himself once again gliding through the clouds and back into the clearing where he'd left Thor.

But Thor was nowhere to be seen.

Loki changed back into himself and landed on the wet ground with a thump as he stared dumbfounded at the empty clearing where Thor had been. Instantly, a million possibilities filled his mind. Had Thor been found and attacked by some humans? Had he seen an interesting animal and followed it? Had their parents found him and took him home, leaving Loki behind? Every scenario he came up with was worse and worse, until his stomach felt like a rock and tears filled his eyes.

Thor was gone. He was alone on a strange planet with no one to turn to. Despair overwhelmed his mind until-

"Loki!"

He spun around to see Thor landing, Mjolnir in hand and a grin on his face.

"I was practicing my flying skills! I also tried throwing Mjolnir to see if it would come back to me and, well, don't try that while in midair. Just now I went as high as I could to see how far above the clouds I could get, and it's really cold up there! I nearly passed out, but I didn't!"

Loki took a deep breath. "You- you were-" he started, trying not to yell. Anger filled him. He had been so worried. So concerned for nothing. And Thor was smiling.

"What were you thinking?!" he snapped, losing the fight with himself. "Wandering off and flying around on your own? If you had been seen-"

"I wasn't!" Thor interrupted.

"You don't know that," Loki hissed. "Your recklessness is going to get both of us killed!"

Thor scowled. "You were gone for hours! What did you want me to do? Sit here and twiddle my thumbs? I'm not like you; I can't do nothing for an eternity."

Loki sighed and threw his hands in the air. "Fine. Do whatever you want. See if I care." He turned and started to walk away, confident that Thor would follow him.

"Wait, Loki." Thor ran over to where he was and lay a hand on his arm. "Won't you at least tell me what you found out?"

Loki gave him a cool look, and pretended like he was thinking about it. He already knew though that he'd relent. After letting Thor squirm for a minute, he sniffed a little. "Well, alright then. There are about thirty enemies and fifteen prisoners. They're following an offshoot of the fjord in that direction. If you bring us there with Mjolnir, I can tell you where to stop us so that we don't get spotted by them.

Thor beamed. "Brilliant! I knew you could do it, Loki! Let's be off then."

He grabbed Loki around the waist and took off. Reluctantly, Loki mentally noted that the extra hours of practice really had helped his flying skills. It was a much smoother takeoff and ride this time. Not that he was willing to forgive Thor for scaring him like that yet.

"Loki! Look at this!" Thor yelled in his ear before going even higher, into the clouds

"What are you-" Loki started, but his words were cut off in a yelp as Thor suddenly took them down in a steep dive that turned into a loop.

"STOP THAT!" he yelled, but Thor was too busy whooping with pleasure to take heed and did it again.

This time, however, as they burst through a cloudbank, they nearly collided with a large black bird that narrowly avoided being flattened with a loud cry and a burst of ebony feathers.

"THOR! STOP THIS AT ONCE!"

Luckily for the contents of Loki's stomach, Thor listened this time, and Loki breathed a sigh of relief as they straightened out and began flying normally again.

"You're no fun," Thor complained. Loki kicked him.

Eventually, Loki told him where to set down, and they landed with enough space between them and their foes that Loki was sure they would not be seen or heard.

"Come on," Loki instructed his brother in a low voice. They crept through the woods, making their way nearly silently toward the unsuspecting humans.

"This reminds me of Aesir and Jotnar," Thor whispered in Loki's ear. "Guess you get to be an Aesir this time."

Loki rolled his eyes, but Thor had a point. It was not much different than their game, except that only one team knew they were playing and they wanted to retrieve people, not objects. Of course, any injuries they received could not be washed off with a wet cloth, and once someone fell, they would not get back up at the end of the game.

Loki shivered at the thought.

"This is real," he replied firmly. "It's not a game. It has consequences."

"I know that!"

But Loki wasn't sure he did. Not really.

Soon they found themselves peering through bushes at the enemy force. As Loki had said, there were about thirty of them, all armed with swords and spears, with armor that would not be easily pierced. Not by mortal weapons, that is.

"All right," Loki said in a low voice. "I'm going to restore the illusion of Bjorn and Ulf so that they think we both have swords, but we'll need a plan to take them out."

Thor frowned. "The prisoners are being kept under close guard."

"Right. We'll need a distraction if we wish to free them."

Thor surveyed the area, watching how attentive the guards were and how close together they all stood.

"Don't worry. I have a plan."

Loki jerked and looked at him in surprise. "You do?"

"Aye, I do. Follow me."

Suspicion filled Loki. Whatever Thor was thinking, it would not be good for the younger prince. Otherwise he would tell him immediately what it was. "Perhaps you should fill me in on this plan of yours."

"Nay, that would ruin the surprise. It will work, I assure you."

"Thor," Loki tried again, dread pooling in his stomach. "You are not supposed to surprise me, you are supposed to surprise our foes. Just tell me what you are thinking."

They had reached the edge of the clearing. Only a tree and a large bush stood between them and thirty armed men.

"Here, put your arm over my shoulder," Thor instructed Loki.

"Why?"

"Just do it. There. Now, go limp and close your eyes. Don't worry, I have you. You're not going to fall."

"Thor-"

"Loki, I promise you, this will work. Just trust me."

Loki sighed, but did as Thor asked. He only hoped he wasn't making an enormous mistake.

Holding his little brother's slumped form, Thor staggered out of the clearing.

"Get help!" he yelled. "Please, someone! My brother is dying. Someone help us!"

Loki's heart froze. This was Thor's plan? He was not distracting their enemies, he was drawing their attention! They would be killed!

But before he could follow that line of thought very far, Thor suddenly hurtled him through the air toward the men who were just beginning to look their way.

Loki's eyes flew open and he cried out as he collided suddenly with roughly five of their foes who'd been huddled in a group as they guarded the captives. Due to the force of Thor's throw, Loki knocked them all over, leaving them all in a heap with Loki on top.

"Thor!" he shrieked, scrambling to his feet. "What is wrong with you?!"

"Grab one of their swords!" Thor replied cheerfully, as half of the remaining men started yelling and cursing at him as they drew their weapons and charged the young prince.

The men Loki had struck had all been knocked unconscious. All but one, however, who was reaching for his blade. Loki quickly grabbed a different sword and slashed it at the man's hand. He hissed and drew back, but Loki didn't let him get away. Leaping forward, he swung the flat end of the blade toward his head, knocking him unconscious.

Loki didn't have a moment to rest, however, as five others were surging towards him with death in their eyes.

Thinking fast, Loki threw up an illusion of himself and stepped to the side several paces. As one of the men ran past, he tripped him, shoving him into another, then struck them both in the head, knocking them out as well.

The three others' momentum was too great to stop, sending them hurtling through the illusion of Loki and into the river bank. Gasping and sputtering, they breached the surface of the water, only to cry out and go back under as Loki threw a fallen tree at them that had been lying nearby.

Loki whirled back toward the rest of the enemy forces, only to see Thor laying them all out with Mjolnir. He twirled the hammer in an arc, knocking aside all who attempted to draw near. Then he lifted Mjolnir in the sky. Lightning surged down from the clouds to him, and Thor absorbed it all, then pointed the weapon at the hapless humans who'd frozen in terror at the sight of his abilities and electrified all who remained. With that, it was over. The only ones left standing were the two brothers and the people they'd come to save.

Loki drew near to the captives, holding his hands out in a placating manner. Their eyes were wide with fear, and they flinched back, looking for all the world as if they'd seen the dead arise. Loki snapped his fingers, using a quick cutting spell to free them all from their bonds, but still they cowered.

"It's all right," Loki said softly. "We're here to save you. We were sent by Chief Hilda to bring you home."

Curiously, the mention of their chief didn't seem to do anything to reassure them. For a moment, Loki worried that something had gone wrong and his allspeak wasn't working, but then a woman stepped forward and dropped to her knees in front of them. Her hair was silver and her garb simple, but despite that and the fact that she was kneeling, she had an air of authority and confidence about her that showed her to be no coward.

"Please, oh gods of Asgard, have mercy on us. I am Gerdur, daughter of Erik and priestess of Frigga. We have no quarrel with your people," she said quietly.

Loki glanced over his shoulder at where Thor was walking over to join him, and the two brothers shared a puzzled look.

This was the woman they were looking for, but she and the others seemed scared, despite Loki's reassurances. She had met Frigga before, and possibly other Aesir, so what was the matter? Had she never seen one fight?

Thor stepped forward. "Rise, Priestess Gerdur. I am Thor and this is Loki. You have nothing to fear from us."

Gerdur gave a half laugh. "Do we not?" She glanced down at Mjolnir. "Is that not Hela's hammer?"

Thor blinked and looked down at the weapon in his hand. "Who?"

"The hammer is one our father took from a great warrior," Loki said quickly. "Possibly from this Hela you speak of. Please, priestess, I promise we mean you no harm."

She hesitated for a moment longer, then slowly got to her feet. "Then I thank you for rescuing us from our captors. Tell me, how may we repay your kindness?"

Loki smiled at her warmly. "All we need is the benefit of your prayers. You see-" But before he could get any farther, a brilliant flash of light filled the clearing.

Loki and Thor whirled around to see the Bifrost retreating back into the sky, leaving behind a group of Aesir soldiers. And there, astride a great war horse, sat the Allfather, Odin.

"That won't be necessary," Odin said firmly.

"Father!" Thor cried out as Loki's face lit up.

However, Odin's face was not open, but cold and harsh, and Loki shrunk back, suddenly realizing how much trouble they were in.

Thor though, as always, didn't even notice their father's mood. He just grinned and held Mjolnir up. "Father!" he repeated. "You're awake!"

Odin ignored him, however, dismounting and nodding to the fallen enemies. "Bind them. We will transport them back with the villagers and let Chief Hilda the Kind decide what she'd like done with them," he ordered General Tyre and the Einherjar who'd come with him.

Loki felt dread pool in his stomach as he realized Odin was deliberately ignoring them. Just how mad was he that they'd broken into the Vault?

Thor was, of course, oblivious. "How did you find us?" he asked excitedly.

In answer, Odin held out an arm, and a large black bird landed on it. Loki recognized it as immediately as Muninn, one of Odin's raven familiars who patrolled the skies and acted as his eyes throughout the Nine. Odin had given them pieces of his magic, so they were smarter and stronger than most animals and could travel between the Nine Realms unaided by other forces. Most useful to Odin, however, was the fact that he could telepathically communicate with them due to the magic he'd given them. It allowed him to keep watch over many areas at once without having to be there himself.

Oh, no, Loki mentally groaned, remembering the bird they'd nearly hit while Thor showed off. Don't tell me...

Unfortunately, it seemed his suspicions were correct, for as soon as the bird noticed he was looking, it pointedly turned its back to him. The stupid birds were easily offended and had a long memory for slights. He would probably get his revenge by keeping a very close eye on the brothers and reporting them for every little infraction for at least a year.

But, Loki reasoned, better to be careful during mischief-making rather than being stranded on the wrong planet for an eternity.

"Muninn found you," Odin replied shortly. "I had him and Huginn start looking as soon as I woke up."

By now, even Thor was beginning to pick up on the coldness of his tone. He hesitated, his enthusiasm dropping down slightly.

"Father," he said quietly. "I am- I am very sorry for this."

"You should be," Odin answered, finally looking at him with a glare. "I am very disappointed in you." He turned and began to walk away, continuing to speak as he went. "You know better than to go along with one of Loki's schemes."

Loki's heart stopped.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the humans begin to give him weird looks and start to whisper to each other about him. Moments before he'd been their savior, but now they must think he was some sort of terrible troublemaker. Worse still, was the way the Aesir soldiers were pointedly not looking his way. They'd clearly heard, and Loki knew his father's words would be speeding through the gossip mills as soon as they arrived back on Asgard.

He tried to regulate his breathing and maintain a calm external appearance, but grief rose in his chest, choking him.

How could his father blame him for this? He and Thor had thought up the plan together, and he hadn't been the one to pick up Mjolnir, setting off the Destroyer! He'd saved them from certain death. Why was he the one being publicly chastised?

Thor glanced at him awkwardly then away at the ground.

They stood there in suffocating silence for a long pause as Odin approached Gerdur, who'd been staring at Loki judgmentally after his proclamation.

"Priestess Gerdur, I will personally see you and your people escorted back to your village. Your sacrifices and honoring of us have not been forgotten."

She bowed low again. "Thank you, All-Father."

Odin turned and leveled Loki and Thor with a harsh look. "General Tyre will bring you home now. I expect you both to go straight to your rooms and put on more appropriate attire. I will deal with you when I return." He half-turned as if to leave, stopped, and looked back. "And drop those illusions!" he snapped at Loki.

Loki startled and cowered, dropping his head in shame as he allowed Thor and his true visages to be seen. He'd thought Odin would be at least pleased they had not boldly walked in and declared who they were, but it seemed his foul mood would not be assuaged by any level of foresight.

With that, Odin remounted his horse and wheeled off towards the villagers. Tyre stepped forward then, and the brothers silently followed him to the Bifrost site and transported back home. Without a word, they made their way past Heimdal, who had apparently been awoken and was standing at his post. Loki stared straight ahead, unsure if his friend had witnessed Odin's rebuke and not wanting to see the look on his face if he had.

Tyre gave them a pair of horses to ride back to the city. They did not see their mother. Normally, Loki would have wanted to head to her straight away, but this time he was secretly glad. He wasn't sure he could handle two parents' disappointment right then.

However, to Loki's surprise, it looked like it was nearing dusk. He frowned as he tried to figure out how long they had been gone. It hadn't been a full day, had it? He resolved to ask his parents when they seemed to be less angry.

Thor went to his room and Loki his own. As the raven-haired sorcerer changed out of his torn and muddy clothes into clean ones, he tried to bring his emotions under control. It wasn't fair for their father to give him all the blame for everything, but it had been his idea. He could see where he was coming from. But, 'you know better than to go along with Loki's schemes?' Why had he said that? Yes, some of my plans go wrong, but why did he make it sound like I'm always suggesting dangerous things?

He tried to shove his feelings down, but the words of his father echoed in his mind. Tears filled his eyes, and in the quiet refuge of his room he buried his face in his pillow, quietly beginning to cry.

Odin oversaw the villagers's return, then made eye contact with the Chief and nodded toward her hut. She bowed and led the way into the silence.

"What may I do to serve you, All-Father?" she asked respectfully, bowing low.

"I have an item I need your people to watch over for me," he answered. "I do not believe it to be safe on Asgard any longer, and would like you to keep an eye on it. Be warned, however, that its power is immense. Far too much for a mere human. In fact, even a single brush of a finger against it would mean certain death for any of your people."

She hesitated. "We would be honored to do this for you, All-Father," she answered slowly, choosing her words carefully. "However, I am not sure how safe we can keep it for you. As you've just witnessed, we cannot keep even our own out of harm. I do not want to have you entrust this task to us only for us to fail."

"Do not worry," Odin reassured her. "You will not need great military strength to do this for me. In fact, I think it will be better for you to hide it away rather than try and display and defend it. The less who know you have it, the better."

She bowed low again. "Of course. It shall be done as you say."

Odin nodded grimly. "Good. Build something secure. Something that people will not recognize as a hiding place and put it there. Do not let news of its existence spread, or you will perish. Once you have done this, I will return and give you the object to store."

"May I see the item so that I may know how big to make the hiding place?"

Odin nodded gravely. "Very well." He reached into his bag.

Hilda gasped as the room was filled with the shining blue light of the Tesseract. There was no question in her mind of the object's power. She averted her eyes, feeling as if she'd just looked upon something forbidden.

Odin placed the Tesseract back in its case. "Send a sacrifice when its holding place is complete."

She nodded mutely, still in awe of what she'd seen, and Odin left without another word.

I will do it, she thought to herself as the door closed behind him. There's no question of that. But what have I gotten myself and my people into?

In punishment for their actions, the princes were confined to their rooms indefinitely.

Apparently, they'd been gone from Asgard for three days, sparking a world-wide panic as the kingdom tried to find out what had happened. The guards who had been on duty watching the Vault reported the noises they'd heard, leading some to think someone had broken in and used the Tesseract to snatch them away in the night.

It wasn't until Odin awoke on the second day, that they found out what had really happened from his connection to the Destroyer. Frigga and all of Asgard were relieved that they had not been kidnapped, but worried the children had killed themselves by trying to use an infinity stone.

When Mulinn reported that they were safe and alive on Midgard, there was nationwide rejoicing. Frigga, for one, was quite glad they'd arrived on a planet that was moving slower rather than faster than Asgard, so that the time they were gone was less for the children. She had worried they would starve before they could be found.

All in all, things could have been much worse.

One week after returning home, Loki looked up at the sound of a knock on his door.

"Come in!" he called, wondering if his mother had come to see him again.

Instead, the door opened to reveal the king of Asgard.

"Father!" he exclaimed, snapping his book shut and leaping to his feet. "I- hello." He closed his mouth and decided to wait for Odin to let him know why he was there rather than asking, but questions still burned in his mind. Why is he here? He never comes to my room, he always calls me to him. Is something wrong?

"Loki, I believe you and Thor have learned your lesson. Would you like to be allowed out of your room again?"

"Yes! I mean, yes, sir. If that's what you want," Loki hastily backtracked, trying and failing not to appear too eager. His room was so boring and he wasn't good enough at magic yet to sneak out without someone noticing. Or rather, he probably could, but Odin had his ravens watching the doors, plus Heimdal and Frigga, and he wasn't sure he could evade them all and didn't want to get caught trying.

Odin shook his head and smiled slightly at his reply. "I was thinking of giving you and your brother that history lesson I promised you."

Loki perked up. He'd been dying to hear the story of the war with Jotunheim for ages.

"Come."

Loki followed and found Thor waiting for them at the end of the hall. Evidently, Odin had fetched him first.

What if Thor was never confined to his room at all? a nasty voice in the back of his mind whispered. Father blamed you for it, after all. Perhaps Thor was never even punished.

Shut up, Loki retorted, trying to push the thoughts away. He wouldn't do that.

He discarded the hurtful notion and focused instead on where they were going. To his surprise, they did not turn to walk towards Odin's office, the throne room, or the library. They weren't even going to one of Mother's gardens, or any other place of the sort. Instead, they headed down. Down into the depths of the castle.

Are we going to the dungeons? Loki puzzled, though for the life of him he couldn't imagine why they would. The only other thing down here is… the Vault?

And indeed, it seemed he was correct. Odin brought them to the large double doors they had snuck through not a week before, and nodded for the guards to open them.

"Father?" Thor asked. He'd been uncharacteristically quiet on their walk, and Loki wondered if he was afraid of further punishment.

"If the two of you are so curious about what is in here, I would rather show you myself than have you sneak in and nearly kill yourselves by messing with forces you are too young to understand," Odin replied evenly.

Loki and Thor looked at each other then down at the ground in shame.

"Yes, Father."

"Now then, I believe I promised you a tale."

They both brightened and looked at each other happily.

"Oh, yes, please!" Thor begged, while Loki nodded in agreement.

He took them each by the hand as they started to walk into the hold of relics.

"Years ago," he began, "humanity learned they are not alone in the universe…"

They listened as he spoke, trusting and believing all he said. But it was all lies. Only years later, when it was far too late to stop the deaths and horrors that would come, did they learn the truth.

A/N: And with that, this story is finally done! Loki and Thor will return in the next story in this series, and Sif will be featured in my sister series, Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Please go check those stories out, but not before reviewing and recommending this one! Stay safe, everyone. :)