It had been hours since Loki had been dragged out of the throne room. Just how many hours it had been, he didn’t know, and at this point, didn’t care. He had been screaming and fighting the whole way back to his chambers, and even then he had banged on the door for hours after, all the while continuing to shout and scream. He didn’t care that ultimately it did him no good. He just wanted out. He needed out.
He only fell silent when from complete exhaustion he collapsed on the floor between the door and bed. When he awoke a few hours later, he was still alone, though he could tell that someone had entered while he had been asleep. A tray of food had been placed on the table, as well as a bucket of ice and a think, sturdy cloth.
Loki stood up and glanced down at his hand. It was badly bruised and slightly swollen, especially around his knuckles which had carried the brunt of the force as he’d hit Thor.
Wincing, Loki dumbed some of the ice onto the cloth and wrapped it around his injured hand. It was a wonder that he’d not sustained any more serious injuries from fighting Thor. Even at this rate, it would be a good few days before he could use his hand effectively again.
As the ice began to numb his pain, he stared distastefully at the food that had been brought. Though he had not eaten much through the entire day, he was still not hungry even now. How could he eat, knowing Caedra could at any moment be taken to Midgard and be gone forever? Loki still couldn’t believe that only that morning he had held the young child asleep in his arms. Already it felt as though she had been gone for days. He needed to get her back. She would only be safe once she was once again in his arms.
But Loki was trapped. Thor had not been lax when he had commanded Loki’s room to be locked with magic. And even if Loki could undo the spells, there was still the matter of the guards outside, and of course, Heimdall. He would most definitely be keeping a close eye on Loki at this time.
Loki paced furiously around his room, trying to think of a plan. How could he have been so foolish, so ignorant to forget his judgment? What had he been thinking? Why had he expected Thor to let him go after Caedra, or at least go with him? It seemed Thor would not show as much kindness as he once had. It seemed that Loki was not the only one who had changed.
Thor took the last few steps to Heimdall’s observatory. Well, now it was just the broken edge of the Rainbow Bridge, but calling it the observatory still sounded better.
Heimdall stood by the very edge of the bridge, his sword in his hands as he stared out into the abyss. Though his back was turned to Thor, he was still aware of his presence. “If you have come for more information of the captors, there is not much I can tell you.” He said slowly. “All the information I can give I already said to you and Prince Loki, and these men have not returned to my sight since.”
Thor stayed where he was, his blue eyes steadily focused ahead of him. “There is something you still haven’t told me about them.” He said.
Heimdall slowly turned around to Thor. “My king?”
“When you say them, you said you did not know where they were,” Thor paused, studying the guardian. “But you do, don’t you?”
Heimdall remained still for a moment, contemplating whether or not to admit that he in fact had not revealed anything prior of their location. But as always, his duty to Asgard and his king overtook his personal judgment. “I thought it best not to disclose any information of their location in front of Prince Loki.” He answered.
Thor tilted his head up slightly. Though he did not appreciate that Heimdall had held back such valuable information, he understood why. Had Loki heard where Caedra and Sif were being kept, he would have done anything and everything within his power to go after them – which would be going against Odin’s judgment. Yes, it was better that Heimdall had kept information to himself at the time.
“Where are they?” he asked.
“There is a village not far to the west of here,” Heimdall answered as he looked to the place with his sight. “It is a very small, desolate place. They will not be hard to find. From what I did see, these men hid behind the second building off the main road. If you hurry there you may still find them.”
Thor nodded slowly. “Thank you, Heimdall.” He said as he turned to leave.
“What will you do, my king?” Heimdall inquired. “Will you lead an army after them?”
Thor paused and turned back to the guardian. “No,” he replied. “An army would only alert them and give them time to flee. I will go by myself and retrieve them.”
Heimdall gave a slow, approving nod. “Farewell, my king,” he said as he turned to once again stare out into the abyss.
Thor walked quickly to where he’d left his horse farther back on the Bridge. There were just a few necessary preparations he would have to make before he could depart, though he did not intend to be gone for very long.
It was late into the night, but still Lucius and Dronicus were awake. Sif was more or less awake as well, though she feigned sleeping as she leaned up against the tree. At her side, Caedra lay curled into a tight ball, asleep after the exhaustion of crying had overtaken her.
Sif had tried to undo or somehow cut her bonds, but they were still too strong to break and her captors would see if she tried to pull them loose with her teeth. She had, at least, managed to loosen them slightly. Given a little more time…perhaps she could get free.
As was his incredibly annoying habit, Dronicus was pacing around the edge of the camp, staring out nervously into the darkness. “Why hasn’t he come already?” he complained to Lucius.
Lucius, who at least had been trying to sleep, sat up irritably and glared at him. “We’re not being paid to ask questions. He will come whenever he pleases, and we will say nothing of it.” He reminded Dronicus. “And would you stop moving around so much? You’re making too much noise!”
Dronicus paused from his incessant pacing for a moment, though he couldn’t keep still and quickly resumed moving. “We should be paid extra for waiting so long.”
Lucius gave a frustrated sigh. “We were already paid handsomely for taking the girl. If – and it is doubtful – we were paid extra, it would be for taking that woman as well.” He paused and glanced at Sif. “Though he may very well pay us less.”
Dronicus glanced over to Sif, and noticed her movement. “Hey!” he said quickly, moving towards her.
Sif was impressed that the fool had even noticed she had been moving at all. He was always so jumpy and paranoid to notice anything of true importance anyway. She stopped moving and opened her eyes, glaring at both of her captors silently.
“What are you doing?” Dronicus asked, standing over her.
Sif glared up at him. “Can one not move when they sleep?” she asked. “It was nothing more than a vivid dream.”
“Check her bonds,” Lucius called, eyeing Sif suspiciously. He did not doubt that she was somehow trying to get free.
Dronicus moved closer to Sif, though he was careful to avoid Caedra. For whatever reason, he didn’t like the child. It appeared that he was afraid of her. He grabbed Sif’s arm and glanced down at her bonds. In the darkness they appeared to still be tight. He met her harsh gaze. “And what lurks through your dreams?” he whispered, his voice like the hissing of a weak snake.
Sif’s glare held as she looked at him. “Nothing that would ever involve you,” she snapped.
“Dronicus!” Lucius snapped before his companion could reply to her. He withdrew his dagger from his side. “Someone is coming!”
Dronicus quickly stepped away from Sif and pulled out his own dagger as both men watched to see who would approach out of the darkness.
“Who goes there?” Lucius called in a low voice.
“A friend,” came a reply from the darkness. The voice was low and rough, and reminded Sif of the sound of stone slabs scraping against each other. She gave an involuntary shudder.
Both Lucius and Dronicus lowered their weapons, though they were still cautious. “What took you so long?” Lucius asked with a hint of resentment in his voice. “We’ve been waiting here for over a day. It’s a wonder we’ve not been caught yet!”
“You’ve not been caught because of the enchanted stones I have you,” the man in the shadows replied rather matter of fact like. “You do still have them?”
Lucius nodded. “Yes, we still have your precious, magic rocks. Though they stopped working earlier.”
“What? When?” the man asked quickly.
Lucius gave a slight shrug as he thought back. “Not too long after we arrived here. But if the Asgardians had seen us, wouldn’t they have come by now?”
“Fool,” the man snapped, stepping out of the shadows and into the light of the fire. He was a tall man with dark brown hair and very pale skin, almost sickly in color. He was well muscled and obviously knew how to handle a sword. But it was his eyes that were the most unique – and frightening. His eyes were orange-yellow, and seemed to flicker red in the firelight. Never had Sif seen an Asgardian with such eyes. But that then brought an interesting question to her mind – was he even Asgardian? She did not know.
The man approached Lucius quickly and grabbed one of the stones from his hands and studied it. “We must leave immediately. If the Asgardians saw us, they will be here soon.”
Lucius, though not appreciative of being criticized, did as he was told. He had Dronicus began to quickly gather their things.
“What will we do with her?” Dronicus asked, glancing at Sif.
The man turned around quickly, apparently unaware that she was even there. “What is the meaning of this?” he roared, looking back to Lucius and Dronicus. “You were only to take the child!”
“It’s not our fault, Titus!” Dronicus interjected, whining like a child in trouble. “We couldn’t get the girl alone and we couldn’t leave this woman to call for the guards!”
Titus’s yellow eyes flashed in anger. “And do either of you realize who this woman is? She is Lady Sif, one of Thor’s closest allies. His haste to come will be even greater if he knows she was taken as well, and I guarantee that he knows.”
“So we take her to Midgard with the girl.” Lucius replied with a shrug. “What does it matter?”
“It matters,” Titus snapped. “To me. But you have done enough. We will take both of them to Midgard. Now, do you have the rest of the stones ready?”
Thor gripped the pommel of Mjolnir as he dismounted his horse. This village was just as desolate as Heimdall had said it to be. In the darkness, the whole place seemed void of life, and Thor doubted it would have looked any better in the daylight.
His long strides carried him down the road and into the village. He did not doubt that he could handle these men, but he was concerned that if a fight were to ensue, something might happen to Sif and Caedra. If either was hurt or worse, killed, there would be no place in the Nine Realms for these men to go that Thor would not follow.
Thor passed by the first house and continued on down the road. Heimdall had said he’d seen them behind the second house, so that is where he would go. Even in the darkness, he could see the very faint glow of a fire in the distance. He was getting close.
“You,” Titus said, glancing at Sif, “Bring the child.”
Sif glared at him. Though he did frighten her somewhat, she refused to show it. “I cannot so long as my hands are bound,” she replied dryly. She doubted that he would cut her free, but the statement had been made to prove she would not obey his word as a child would to their parent.
Titus was unmoved as he continued to glare at her. “Bring. The. Child.” He commanded, emphasizing each word.
Sif could have stared him down had they had the time, but she was well aware that Titus was eager to leave, and she did not wish to find out what he would do to Caedra to make them hurry, or even to merely prove that he was not a man to be questioned.
Holding his glare, Sif turned and gently nudged Caedra to awake.
The child stirred and opened her eyes, looking up to Sif with a pleading and frightened gaze. “Is Loki here?” she whispered, keeping her voice quiet for fear of Lucius striking her again.
Sif shook her head slowly. “No, child,” she whispered.
“Where is Loki?” Caedra asked. “Is he coming?”
“I don’t know,” Sif replied. No, Loki would not be coming. He wouldn’t even be leaving the palace, but how could she explain that to this young child? Better to let Caedra think he might come. “But we are going somewhere for now,” she added. “You must stay close to me. Understand?”
Caedra nodded silently as Sif stood slowly and took hold of her hand.
“Everything is ready, Titus,” Dronicus informed quickly.
Titus glanced at the stones, though he didn’t take the time to study them. “Are you sure they are the right ones?” he questioned.
Dronicus nodded. “They are the ones you gave to us,” he replied.
Titus gave a short nod. “Very well,” he said, stepping over to the stones and waving his hand over them slowly. A blue light appeared from within them, surrounding the area in an eerie blue glow.
Sif recognized the light as an effect of dark energy, though she had never seen it used in such a manner. The light grew brighter as Titus poured his energy into the stones. Within a few short minutes ere would be enough energy to transport them.
As Thor approached, he saw the blue light of the magic as it appeared, and he too recognized it as dark energy. Despite the use of the stones (which was something he had never seen used before), it was the same magic Loki had the ability to use. Well at least Thor knew he had come to the right place. With a steady stride he continued forward.
Dronicus, ever jumpy and searching for things that were not there, was the first to notice Thor’s approach. In fear he looked to his companions. “Titus!” he called warily.
Titus lifted his gaze from the stones and looked to Thor, his yellow eyes almost completely red now as his hands moved to his sides.
“Thor!” Sif cried, overjoyed to see him there. She tried to move closer to him but all three of her captors blocked her path.
Though he was relieved to see that Sif and Caedra were both still well, Thor showed no emotion towards that fact. He stared straight at Titus, the rage already visible in his blue eyes. “Release them traitors,” he commanded, his voice echoing into the darkness.
Titus laughed, a sound even more frightening than when he spoke. “Or what, Asgardian?” he sneered.
Thor raised Mjolnir into the air. “Or die,” he answered. Clouds began to roll in as lightning flashed around them. As Thor shot the lightning towards them, Titus threw up his hands – but not in defense. He had cast a spell.
A wall of energy shot up from the ground, stopping the lightning from reaching them and making it unable for Thor to cross. Each time he tried to approach, a blast of energy sent him back. Titus smiled in amusement.
“I would love to stay and watch this continue, but I’m afraid I have my own plans to attend to,” he said, and with a wave of his hand, the wall of energy turned into solid stone.
The stones on the ground were now energized enough, the portal open. All that was needed was for Titus to place one last stone down…
The stone wall shook as Thor thrust Mjolnir against it. Crack appeared all over the structure. It would only last for a moment longer.
With the attention of her captors momentarily off the stones, Sif took the moment to her advantage. She pulled against her loosened bonds and was free. She pushed past Lucius and Dronicus and grabbed for Titus’s hand, knocking the stone out and sending it flying into the darkness as she tackled him instead. Both struggled as Sif kicked at him, knocking the bag of remaining stones from his side.
Thor was almost through. Just a moment longer and…
Lucius and Dronicus pulled Sif off as Titus reached for a stone – not the one he originally had - and set it with the others just as the wall crumbled away. Dark energy surrounded Sif, Caedra, Lucius, Titus, and Dronicus, spiriting them away before Thor’s eyes.
Thor rushed forward, but they were gone. All that remained were the stones on the ground, both the pile and bag that Sif had knocked free.