Dark Deceit: Dark Series 1
At the start of time . . .
The hand around Loki’s bicep squeezed harder to stop his struggle, the blood flow in his arm slowing, slowing, until finally coming to a stop. He was numb. He attempted to pull free from those strong fingers, but he got the handle of a hammer jabbed into his solar plexus instead, pushing all the air from his lungs and doubling him over. Loki’s knees gave out, letting the hand feel his slack weight. They had finally caught up with him, but it didn’t mean he had to make it easy for them.
“Walk properly or I’ll break your legs and drag you,” an all-too-familiar male voice thundered. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see the god’s free hand gripping the hammer so tightly his knuckles had turned white. Loki sneered at him and let even more of his weight drop.
Without releasing him, Thor backhanded Loki, smiling as blood tumbled down Loki’s chin from the freshly split lip. Loki stood up to spit on the other god’s sandals and smiled back sardonically. Thor glowered at him, raising his hammer as if to strike him, when a powerful voice jerked him to a stop.
“Enough!” The All-Father’s voice crackled and carried from behind them, echoing resonantly.
Thor glared at Loki, hatred boiling behind his ice-blue eyes. The god’s chest heaved with rage, his arm shaking with a fine tremor.
“Thor!” Odin boomed again, his tone not just a warning but a promise of punishment if Thor chose to ignore him. Loki blinked up at the other man, watching to see if he was going to listen to his father. Thor growled at Loki—baring his teeth—but lowered his weapon.
“Move!” Thor shoved Loki in the back, marching him forward once more. Loki stumbled—the ground becoming rockier, the air thicker. The breeze was hot on his face, the sun an oppressive beast beating against the skin of his bare body. The sting from the wound on his lip turned into a throb, pounding in time with his erratically racing heart.
A sharp rock bit into the heel of Loki’s foot, hobbling him instantly. His blood trailed behind him, following him up to the entrance of the cave that would no doubt become his prison, its dark maw open and waiting for him. Fear turned his stomach to stone, a cold sweat breaking out on his brow despite the blistering heat. Loki slowed his pathetic march, coming to a stop on the sharp rocky ground just before the shadowy entrance. This time Thor wasn’t so gentle with him.
Loki felt the full force of the war hammer in the small of his back. He chewed the inside of his cheek, not allowing the bastard at his back to know just how much that had hurt. Blood welled in his mouth until he either had to spit it out or swallow it. He swallowed, the metallic tang disgusting him.
“Keep him moving,” Odin said, stopping at his son’s side. Loki looked over his shoulder at the two men he had once considered his family.
Thor snapped his teeth, raising an arm, but Loki had no interest in being hit again. He put one foot in front of the other, shuffling along to his slow and drawn-out death.
The sudden change in temperature brought a rush of goose bumps to Loki’s naked flesh. His eyes took a long time to adjust to the gloom. They marched him in near darkness until he was sure he would collapse. Hours could have passed, but there was no way of telling. He realized then he would never see the sun again. The further they moved into the cave, the darker and colder it became.
Water dripped steadily from somewhere deeper in the cavern, the sound bouncing around—echoing. The darkness seemed to be closing in on Loki, making his throat close up and suffocating him. Panic bloomed when the stench of raw meat and spilled bowels hit his nose.
There was a small curve in the passage up ahead. The fine hairs on Loki’s neck suddenly stood on end. He slowed and the air behind him shifted as Thor no doubt readied to jam his hammer into Loki’s back again. Loki picked up his pace, fighting the feeling of dread sinking its hooks into his skin.
As they passed through the curved passage, Loki sensed they had just entered a much larger section of cave. The air seemed cooler, but it was still tainted with the smell of death. An orange flame jumped to life at his back, the glow casting shadows around the large underground chamber.
“Those rocks there,” Odin commanded from behind him. Thor wrenched on Loki’s arm, pulling him toward three massive limestone boulders next to a sheer rock face. Water was dribbling down the hard rock wall, trickling off, dripping into small pools at its base. Thor threw Loki down roughly, holding his arms down with one hand while catching a sinewy rope thrown by Odin in the other. Thor grinned down at him, satisfaction curling his lips smugly. He waved the rope in Loki’s face, Loki following the motion with his eyes.
“We should be thanking you for these cords.” Thor began binding his wrists together above his head. “We turned your son Vali into a wolf so he could tear them from his brother’s body.”
Loki’s eyes widened. Craning his neck, he looked around the cave, his eyes coming to an abrupt halt at the body of his son, Narvi, left violated and discarded on the floor. His stomach was eviscerated, the contents of his abdomen congealing in puddles of blood on the cave floor. Loki could feel bile working its way up from his stomach. As he turned his head, vomit burned up his throat and exploded from his mouth. Despite his blackening vision and spotty hearing, Thor’s satisfied laughter was clear and a rage began to build within Loki. Just as he tried to kick out of the other god’s grip, Thor caught his ankle and tightened the rope around it.
“No!” a woman screamed. Straining his neck, Loki looked for the source of the sound, noting Odin was nowhere to be seen.
“Sigyn!” he yelled. “Sigyn!” He desperately called his wife’s name over and over again until Thor cuffed him, breaking his nose. Cartilage snapped. Blood sprayed from his nostrils, covering his chest with warm droplets.
“Loki!” Sigyn’s voice was high, keening—desperate.
“Sigyn!” he tried to call back, but his throat had filled with blood again. A cough racked his body, forcing him to swallow the blood back, then he tried again.
“She can’t hear you,” Thor said, looking down at him. “But you should know we made her watch.” Thor was making a noose-like knot now. Roughly, he pulled it down over Loki’s head and tightened it. Breathing became even more difficult. Loki forced air through his mouth; blood dripped from his lips and trickled down the back of his throat.
Satisfied with the strength of the knots and the bonds, Thor stood up. “He’s ready,” he called. Loki strained to see Odin coming back into the main section of the cave. Sigyn was at his side, her hands bound in front of her. Tears had dragged clean lines down her filthy cheeks, making her look pitiful. She hadn’t even seen him yet. Her eyes were on Narvi’s body, lying motionless on the ground.
Odin pulled an ornate dagger from the scabbard on his hip. The blade gleamed in the dimly lit cave, but Sigyn was yet to see it. With his eyes fixed on Loki, Odin ran the blade sharply across his wife’s throat. Sigyn dropped from the All-Father’s arms like a stone, her body slapping the ground like a piece of meat.
Desperate gasping filled Loki’s ears, his wife’s dying gurgles and breaths guaranteed to haunt him for the rest of his days. Loki screamed out wordlessly, the noose tightening around his neck until he was fighting for his next breath. Odin’s sandals kicked loose stones as he walked over toward the platform Loki was bound to. His one clear, green eye seemed to pity Loki, while the obsidian orb in the empty socket of his right said you brought this on yourself. Loki tried to make his eyes say fuck you, but the delighted smirk on the All-Father’s face said he’d failed. Loki struggled against his bonds, only to have Odin’s hand land on his shoulder. “I would not bother to try to free yourself. I have warded these bonds to prevent you from fading away.”
Odin smiled at the growl that broke free of Loki’s lips.
“You do know why this has happened to you, don’t you, Loki?” Odin asked. “You had my son killed, and then you refused to weep for his loss. You damned Baldr to the cold, vast wastelands of Niflheim. He is your daughter Hel’s guest now, and will forever be. For the part you played, I have taken away your son Narvi so you may know the feeling of loss. I turned your other son against his own brother so you would know betrayal and guilt. I killed your wife for the simple reason that she would aid you.”
Odin looked over his shoulder, his chin rising slightly. The shuffling of feet filled Loki’s ears along with an ophidian hissing. The All-Father looked at him once more. “You remember Skadi, don’t you?” His voice was smug. “She’s brought someone to keep you company while you rot in this cave.”
The snow goddess approached the platform slowly. Skadi’s ice-blonde hair hung in her silver-frosted eyes. Everything about the goddess was white, except for her mouth. That was a bright scarlet red.
As more and more of Skadi filled his vision, Loki’s eyes widened. Wrapped around her body was a huge white snake. As she stroked its horned head with a light fingertip, cooing softly to the reptile, it turned its red eyes to Loki.
The hiss that escaped its mouth sent shivers along Loki’s skin. Its fangs were six inches long and growing. Its scales had an iridescent shine to them, its body an undulating rainbow in Skadi’s pale hands.
“Let’s give him a taste, shall we?” Odin purred, his green eye sparkling with amusement.
Nodding, Skadi brought the snake to Loki, holding its head over his foot. Poison pooled and dripped from its fangs, the sensitive skin on the top of his foot beginning to smolder where it landed. Loki cried out, gritting his teeth together.
“You’d better get used to that, Loki. You will be trapped here with this serpent until the end of time.” Odin turned to Skadi, touching her gently on the shoulder. “Say your goodbyes.”
Loki watched in horror as Skadi kissed the snake then placed it above his head. The snake’s body coiled around a stalactite hanging overhead, its head and open mouth positioned over his neck and chest. Loki licked his suddenly dry lips, knowing he was staring into the eyes not just of death, but of torment and torture, too.
Odin touched him on the hip. “Enjoy your time together, blood-brother.” The last word was a sneer. Despair rose up in Loki like a swollen river, the banks threatening to break. The sound of their retreating footsteps was what broke him. He yelled, he raged, he swore. He begged, he pleaded, he cried. But they did not return. Straining his eyes, he could see they’d left Sigyn’s and Narvi’s bodies to rot, to remind him of why he was being punished, why he must endure this torture.
A droplet of venom fell onto his throat and the scream that escaped his body left his throat raw. He could feel the poison sinking into his blood, burning, melting his flesh. Another struck him directly above his heart, his skin sizzling and smoking on contact with the poison. Loki screamed out wordlessly, writhing, pulling against his bonds until blood welled on his ankles and wrists and throat. Another drip. Another scream.
A part of him thought maybe this was what he deserved. He was despised by the gods. They treated him as a threat, as a rabid dog, not knowing when or if he was going to bite them. He was the trickster god, but it had been Odin who had welcomed him into the fold.
A burning started through his body, an all-consuming wildfire that could never be extinguished.
Odin. He was the one who deserved to be tied to the rocks. He was the one who deserved to smell the fetid breath of death as the corpses of his beloved withered and rotted at his feet.