It was against Thor's nature to skulk, to lie in wait, but finding his wayward brother demanded it. He had made himself to look like an ordinary human--insofar as he could--and lingered as a traveller among the people of this remote village in Vermont.
It had taken time, but at last, loitering about the supermarket, he had spotted a familiar cascade of sun-golden hair. There was Sigyn, dressed well--better than most women he had met in this realm--and pushing a shopping cart with a little baby, decked in furbelowed pink finery, seated in it.
He had followed her to her vehicle, and had he doubted his brother's survival before, those doubts were now ended. For there was Loki in the flesh--lean, dark, quiet, discussing political affairs with other men of the village. When Sigyn approached them, he immediately lifted his daughter from the cart and tossed her up as she squealed with merriment.
At last, they departed, and Thor began the task of asking after them. "Logan King" was the name Loki used now, he discovered. When he asked where they lived, the villagers immediately declared themselves late for supper and departed, each to his own home.
After some searching, he did find them, and that very night he determined to bring his brother to justice.
Amid a storm of his making, he arrived in armoured glory. No sooner did his feet touch earth than all of the lights in the house went out.
"LOKI!" Thor boomed out. "I WOULD HAVE WORDS WITH YOU!"
"Oh, do stop that tiresome shouting," Loki's voice said from behind him, and he turned. Loki, in full armour, stood there, looking quite weary. "If you wake the baby, you will have to contend with the wrath of her mother."
"Loki, I have come to--"
"'Bring me back to Asgard that justice may be done upon me'," Loki yawned. "You say that every time. And how do you mean to evade the same justice for your own part, hmm?"
"I have learnt better," Thor said, "and I know you well enough now that your illusion does not fool me." He turned his back on the image, to the house again. "Loki, come out! We will settle this business of your meddling with Marvel at once!"
There was a sharp, ripping pain in his back; the illusion--it was not an illusion!--had crept up behind him and stabbed him! "Very well, do let's settle accounts," Loki hissed into Thor's ear.
Thor elbowed Loki in the gut, and as the smaller man staggered back, he whirled about with Mjolnir in hand. Loki dropped to all fours, then spun on his hands and swept Thor's feet from under him with his legs. Both were standing again in a trice, circling cautiously as rain began to fall, and then went to it.
Loki was every bit as fast as Thor remembered, but the last time they had fought, Loki had been trembling on the brink of madness. Now, his eyes were clear and awake, and he was less aggressive and more thoughtful in his attacks. He was on defence, dodging, weaving, moving out of Thor's reach and striking at range. Thor realised that Loki was leading him deeper and deeper into the woods, away from the house, but there was no helping that; Loki was his objective.
They did mighty battle, which must have awakened the whole countryside, and it was good. A dark shape loomed out of the trees: a barn, its far end collapsing under the weight of its age. Thor saw an advantage and took it; he struck the side of it with lightning, exploding it and spraying Loki with splinters.
"So you've improved your aim," Loki panted, his face streaming dark blood--and fainted suddenly, falling down through a pair of broken doors and into what looked to be a cellar. Thor heard the sounds of his tumble down the stairs, and then there was horrifying silence.
"Loki?" Thor called out tentatively, peering down into the cellar. This was, like as not, a trap; Thor knew it. Loki had certainly had plenty of time to lay a trap.
"Come out of your stable, you mare," Thor tried. "Come out and be broken to harness!"
There was yet no sound. Thor began to be convinced that Loki was injured, unable to answer--and whether he would decide on mercy or vengeance, neither would be served by leaving the man down there. Thor took a firmer grip on Mjolnir and, slowly, descended the stair.
"Loki?" he called once more, at the foot of the stair. Darkness yawned before him. Loki could not have gone far...He stepped forth into the lightless reach.
Not but a few paces in, and a metal door clashed shut behind him. Thor shouted wordlessly and brought Mjolnir to bear against it. There was a ring of unyielding metal, and the cage remained undamaged.
"Now, now," Loki said, suddenly appearing in the light of a lantern he uncovered, "that will avail you nothing. So shall we skip the bit where you try to escape and go straight to explaining why you are trespassing at my home?"
Thor was in no mood to parley, gathered Mjolnir's energy to strike--
--and there was naught.
"It is called a Faraday cage," Loki said. "It would take much too long to explain to you, but suffice it to say you'll not be 'zapping' your way out. Nor beating your way out, either; I made it of quite stern stuff."
"What do you mean to do with me?" Thor demanded.
"Do? Don't be absurd." Loki paused. "I would say, 'Don't be stupid,' but you can hardly help that, can you?" He chuckled. "So, what brings you here?"
"You lied to me, and you insulted me, and now I am degraded before the men of this realm thanks to your meddling."
"Tut," Loki said. "Now you know how it feels. Now you understand how it burns, how it grates to endure those endless slanders about my manhood, that I would ever dwell in a woman's form!"
"I never said those things of you."
"You permitted Marvel to say them. You permitted Marvel to publish them. They made me to be a woman and you did nothing!"
"I did not know! And that does not give you the right to answer in kind!"
"No, it gives me the right to kill you for allowing it." It was not the threat that troubled Thor, but the tone in which it was delivered. Loki spoke coldly, without emotion--and Thor knew well that when Loki was beyond feeling, he was beyond restraint.
"So that is your game," Thor said, swallowing down his fear.
Loki laughed, his teeth bared in a smile like a shark's. "What? To slay you? Oh, not right away. No, I think I shall keep you here for a time, until I may savour the experience." He put his hand close to the cage wall, and it hummed faintly. "I would not recommend you touch this, by the bye. Might give you a nasty shock."
Thor scowled. "You will not get--"
"Away with this, of course not. We shall see." And with a grand whirl of his cape, Loki went up the stairs and left Thor alone in utter darkness.
Thor took up Mjolnir again, and began pounding on the walls of his cage, roaring out his anger.
Loki blew out his lantern and summoned his "mortal" clothing. From the pocket of his jacket, he drew an electric torch, and made his way back to the house.
Of course, he was not going to stay to put an end to Thor and his incessant stalking. He was leaving as soon as he had gathered a few things of value. Sigyn was long gone, with Tessie and Fenris in tow, and the house was silent and empty, so he moved quickly.
A few texts ensured that a car would collect his family and take them to Outpost Four, and that, three days hence, a few local minions' sons would explore the barn and "discover" Thor there and help him to escape as well--if Thor could not find the convenient weakness Loki had left in his trap.
Villain he may be, but he was hardly a monster.