Friday, October 31, 2014

Announcements

This is to inform you, our friends, that Sigs is in a very bad way.  She did not quite recover from her depression of earlier this year, and a wide variety of factors have converged to drive her back into it: a combination of world events, a continuing disappointment in her Christian brethren for their love of unbelievers' "wisdom", pregnancy hormones, a cancer scare, and something of a crisis of perspective.

She has decided to focus her attention, for the time being, on our home and growing family, and I am not about to forbid her; she is no fool, so I will not be one, either.  Therefore, I will wrap up this roleplay arc.

At that point, we are debating whether to continue in the path this story has established, take it somewhere new, or simply reboot the roleplay to the meeting of these two characters and play it all anew.  The first option may be a bit dull, uneventful; the second would require a sequence of events that may seem contrived; the last, while I am not entirely pleased with the evolution of Loki in this iteration, I fear may sow confusion.

As we debate this--and we do welcome input from the people who must endure it, meaning you the readers--Sigs wants to go back to her homemaking posts, as it is "Fall Cleaning" (women and their rituals...).  I myself may soon, I hope, deliver the treatise I have been writing on the question of whether Christian men ought to look to heathen whoremongers for marriage advice, and how we ought to comport ourselves.  Even if nobody reads it, even if nobody accepts it, it is a burden on my soul that I must discharge. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Staying Frosty

Loki travelled south.

For days, he went afoot, resting seldom and eating less.  He could not, dared not.  He must lead his enemies away from his consort and his daughter, away from the command centre and the heart of his work.  When he closed his eyes to sleep, he saw his loved ones dragged away, crying and screaming for him, to be imprisoned and tormented. Then he would awaken, his heart pounding and his ears ringing, and resume his journey.  He could not let it happen, not again.  Not again.  Not ever again.

From time to time, he let himself be seen by the humans--or, rather, let an illusion of himself be seen in full regalia, stalking proudly through their midst.  It could only be an illusion; he was in rather poor condition before too many days had passed, and the last thing he would do was to show weakness.

The reactions of the witnesses were both predictable and satisfying: terror, fear, apprehension, and the arrival of authority figures who, too late, made play they were trying to capture him.  Ah, yes, he still had it.  He was to be reckoned with.

But at last, at last, he had laid enough of a false trail that he might turn his eyes to Outpost Four.  A week thence, he came a-sauntering down the street in the middle of a small town, using the same image of himself in fine fettle, but nonetheless his own face, form, and native raiment.

The village was neat, projecting order and beauty at once: its snug houses sided in boards painted yellow or white or eggshell, lawns well kept, gardens of flowers and vegetables--a study in scrupulous tidiness and pride in one's home.  As it was a brisk and pleasant day, many of the womenfolk who dwelt here were out of doors, sitting on their verandas, kneeling in their gardens, all at work and all quite happy.  Children, boys in knee pants and girls in dresses, played in the grass and the road, without fear.  There were some few men, not scheduled for duty, doing the heavier work of keeping a home.  A church bell rang forth, clear and bright, to mark the hour.

A group of children shouted and abandoned their play, preferring to follow behind him as it were a parade.  The men saluted him as he went by.  Some of the women curtseyed; others waved.  He acknowledged them all with a faint smile and a regal wave.

Loki, under disguise as a land developer, had bought up this village--at quite generous prices--and every last person living in it was now in his employ.  It was quite the respectable place, safe and prosperous, and it had already been featured in the news for its excellence.  Many, of course, had called it "Stepford", but it was no cheat.  He had made careful selection of minions with well-behaved families, and their gratitude for such a fine place to live made them more secure and stable--and more loyal to him.

Here was he building the beginnings of his kingdom on Midgard.  All of his work in those remote places, heretofore, had been a sham, a means to keep Sigyn as far from harm as he could do.  She had thought him to be building goodwill among the neighbors, but instead, he had been building this.  Soon, very soon, he would bring her here that she might take her place as the undisputed queen.

As he passed down the main street, from out of a quaint corner grocery stepped Melvin Jacobs, one of his administrators.  Jacobs nearly dropped his parcels and began to salute.

"No mind," Loki said quickly, forestalling the salute; Jacobs looked grateful.  "Rather than begin with pleasantries, I must inquire about my family."

"Safe and sound in the ou--downstairs, sir," Jacobs said.  "Need a lift?  I'm going that way.  My shift starts in an hour."

"I'll take it, thank you," Loki said.

Jacobs, thanks to a generous salary, could afford a car worthy of its current passenger.  As they bumped along the dirt road leading to the feigned mine shaft, Jacobs updated his liege lord on the current state of operations.  "Your family and your dog got here twelve days ago, and I put them in your suite."

"Good."  Loki was finding it difficult to stay awake now, between the drone of the car and the fatigue.  "To which employee do I owe their safety?"

"Um."  Jacobs coughed.  "It was a contractor, sir.  None of the regulars were close to Montpelier at the time."  He wrinkled his nose.  "Phew, I think someone hit a skunk.  Sorry, sir, we haven't been able to police the wildlife here yet."

But Loki would not be distracted.  "A contractor?"

"Yes sir."

"Which contractor?"

"Um," Jacobs said again, and Loki anticipated his answer.

"You hired Wilson, I gather?" he asked with deceptive mildness.

"He was the only one in the area, sir."

"I hope," Loki said with particular menace, "that there were no incidents."

"She didn't mention any to me, sir."

"And where is Wilson now?"

"He took off; said he'd had to delay another contract to do ours.  But Signe--um, Her Ladyship authorized payment and put him back on call.  He'll be available for Operation Green Giant when you're ready to put it in motion, sir."

"Sigyn has been at work here?"

"Yes, sir, for a few days.  She really improved the place, got some things handled that...well, sir, I was going to have to ask for help, but not now."

"Splendid."  Loki smiled to himself--though the image with which he was cloaking himself changed not a whit.  Sigyn was ever the faithful, loyal, dependable one, and he was the better for having her.  He wanted badly to see her now, very badly.

Jacobs, however, was sniffing the air again.  "Good God, did it get up in the undercarriage?  Boy..."

Loki sniffed and feigned disgust.  While he could feign the appearance of cleanliness, smells were not something he could control--and after weeks of walking about in these clothes, they had become rather ripe.

"Well, should go away about now," Jacobs said cheerfully, pulling up to the mine shaft and gaining entry.  "Welcome back to Outpost Four, sir."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Recess

Sigyn kept the door locked.  It made her feel safe--not that she was afraid of physical harm, but she was almost convinced the minions were judging her.

She had started out trying to make herself useful while she waited for Loki to arrive, so that she wouldn't dwell on his absence and worry herself into gray hairs and an ulcer.  She had untangled ninety percent of the interpersonal disputes, settled up accounts with Wilson, and created a new filing system.  Jacobs, bless his soul, was not the administrator she was, no matter how he tried.

But...she began to remember the things she had read, and when she tried to show Jacobs what she was doing and how so that he could do them and even improve on them, she could not shake the nagging feeling that he was resenting her the whole time.  She was doing his job.  She was stealing his job.  Even if the end result of all this was that she made his job infinitely easier, he didn't want her there, poking her nose in.

He never said any of this, but men didn't say things like this--not to the face of the boss's wife.  No, they took to the Internet to bitch about it anonymously.

So, after a few uncomfortable days, she stopped trying to help in the office.  She simply couldn't bring herself to do it.

The next day, she toured the facility.  She'd never been there before, so it was all new.  And she was curious about what Loki had been up to--a little hurt that he hadn't confided, but she didn't expect to know everything.

But...knowledge asserted itself again, and she began to feel the weight of the stares from the minions--all of who, every last one, were male.  And then she began to believe that those stares were glares.  She was female but not available, and therefore worthless to them--and a worthless woman was only a nuisance, contemptible, hate-worthy.

Worse still were the men who didn't ignore her, the ones who treated her with courtesy and friendliness.  She used to appreciate it as kindness, when she had believed they couldn't possibly want anything from her, but she saw right through it now that she knew she was beautiful: They were trying to seduce her by being nice.  That was the standard tactic of beta orbiters.  She could no longer stand when they smiled at her, opened doors, stepped aside to let her and the Squish through, offered to carry things and walk Fenris for her--because it was just a con game.  They were waiting for something to come between her and Loki so they could step in.  Some of them were probably not waiting.

After a married minion offered her what she had once thought was only gentlemanly courtesy, she felt such revulsion that she simply retreated into Loki's private suite and locked the door.  And there she had stayed for days with Squish and Fenris, going on crying jags and worrying about Loki.  She had little else to do now.

There had been inquiries--phone calls, knocks on the door--but she refused to come out now.  She couldn't bear it.  She just wanted to be left alone.  She wanted to go home.

The suite was nice, though it wasn't home.  At first, seeing how cushy and woman-friendly it was, she'd panicked and thought it was a place for Loki to carry out affairs.  But it had slowly dawned on her that it was to her taste.  There were pictures of the family on the walls and tables.  She'd opened a closet and found it full of clothes she'd thought had been lost in the move to their last home--both his and hers.  The bathroom vanity contained duplicates of all her preferred toiletries.  There was a crib made up with frilly pinkness at the foot of the bed, and the bed had sheets that she liked.

He'd planned all along that his family might stay here.  It made her feel all gooey inside.

But it wasn't home.  Nowhere was home now; they could never go back.  If Thor had known where they lived, it was a sure bet other people did.  She mourned for the house, the garden, the greenhouse, and the privacy of the deep woods.  She missed the small town and its residents.  She missed her belongings.

She had no problem with starting over.  What she had a problem with was that, the longer she heard nothing from Loki, the more she worried that there would be nothing to start.  What would she do without him?  What could she do without him?  Could she even want to live without him?

She spent more than a little time just holding Squish and staring at nothing.

One day, she was doing a little mending, watching Squish trying to climb up on the sofa, watching Fenris gnawing on a steak bone, thinking that she needed to send out for more newspapers for Fenris, wondering what the weather was like because she hadn't seen the sky for days...and there was a knock on the door.  Her heart stopped for a moment, and she began to tremble.

Something told her everything was about to change drastically...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Flooded

Sigyn had lost track of which direction they were traveling, or how far they'd come.  Wilson had turned the radio on the Women's Talk Channel, and the sound of feminism had made her headache worse.

"For God's sake, change the channel," she groaned.

"Don't you want to break the glass ceiling?"

"I'm thinking to break some glass, but it isn't a ceiling."

"I thought girls liked talking about oppression and exploitation and girl power and stuff."

"Turn it off.  I'm having flashbacks to college."

"That's what I'm talking about!"  Wilson punched the air between them.  "Keggers, sorority babes, and wet t-shirt contests!  Though I never understood those.  I mean, how do you figure out which shirt wins?  By how much water they can absorb?  Color fastness?  If you're using a cheap t-shirt, that'd turn your boobs blue, wouldn't it?  And that's just not real sexy."

"God as my witness, Wade..."

"Unless you're a Smurf, in which case that's probably completely hot.  You know what?  Now that I think of it, Smurfette's one fine, foxy lady.  I'll bet you'd look like her, that blond hair and all.  Maybe I have a floppy white hat you can try on and we'll see."

Sigyn must be forgiven for what she did next, because nobody should have to endure what she was putting up with.

"You want to know what a feminist looks like?" she snarled.  Then she snatched up one of Wilson's leftover burritos.  "The only reason why you like these burritos better than empanadas is because you, a man, are invested in the superiority of phallic symbols.  Phallic symbols."

"Woo, I love it when you talk dirty!"

"In order to achieve a glorious, egalitarian society, we must cast out all the phallic symbols until the Feminine is embraced respectfully!"  And with that, she opened her window and threw the burrito out.

"HEY!"

"The casting out of the aggressively masculine will continue until I no longer hear the outcry of Woman against Her oppressors!"  Sigyn picked up another burrito and pointed at the stereo.

"Hey, don't mess with my Mexican food."  There was a subtle growl in what he said.

"You hurt me and you know who you answer to, Crazy McNinja."

"Okay, okay, okay!"  Wilson pushed a button on the stereo.  Unfortunately, it retuned to what sounded like the All Yodeling Classics channel--but it was better than Feminism Today.

Without a word, Sigyn handed him the captive burrito.

"Jesus, lady, you're just as bad as your man.  Except he'd be all like, 'Silence that dreadful din, you curst miscreant, else I'll slit your weasand all the way back to your neckbone.'  And then I'd be all like, 'Is that even English?'  And he'd be like, 'Yes.'  And I'd be like, 'What's a weasand?'  And he'd be like, 'Fancy not knowing that.'  And I'd be like, 'Well, I think I want to keep my weasand unslit, even if you slit it in another language.'  Hey, do you think that'd make me able to speak other languages?  You know, if I survived it.  Which I would.  I always survive.  I'm still here, so that proves it.

"Wait a second.  Maybe I didn't.  You remember that movie with Bruce Willis where he was really dead all along?"

"I had that one in my Netflix queue."  Sigyn sighed.  "Spoiler alert next time."

"Hey, I saved you a couple hours right there, so you're welcome.  Anyway, what if I really am dead and don't realize it?  Except now I do, so now I can't be Bruce Willis.  But doesn't that make you psychic, like you see dead people?  Can you read my mind?  Can you see everything I'm thinking of?"

"You can't be dead.  Dead men tell no tales."

Wilson drummed his hands on the steering wheel.  "That makes soMuch.  Sense.  So I must be still alive, which sucks because it means I don't get next to Death.  But that was easy anyway.  No wonder the boss man chose you for his baby mama; you're smart."

"Will you stop that?  I'm his wife."

"Can't be.  No wedding."

"You...You don't need a wedding to be married."  Sigyn felt her face heat up.

"Hey, that's the law.  And I know the law.  You know why?  'Cause I've broken it so much.  Only career criminals and lawyers really know the law--which is the same thing, when you think about it.   Which means I can represent people in court!  Like Phoenix Wright, but way cooler.  Check this out:  OBJECTION!"  He thrust one finger up and forward, and nearly broke his hand on the windshield.  "Ow, really thought I had more clearance there."

"The law is stupid."

"Yep, that's why I break it all the time.  Anyway, no wedding.  Well, that's a shame, because weddings are so romantic.  I always wanted a big ol' white wedding.  You think I should go with a big fluffy ruffly number, or just a tasteful sheath with some beading down the front?"

Sigyn stared at him, trying to come up with a tactful answer.  "Um, I think anything white would clash with your suit there."

"You've got a point."

"Anyway, I think the bride traditionally wears the white dress."

"You're such a heteronormative crusader.  Oh well, that'll save me on alterations.  And it'll still be romantic."

"Romance is overrated." Sigyn suddenly felt an upwelling of unexpected bitterness...and she looked away, out the window.

"Uh-oh, sounds like someone didn't get candy in February."

"Valentine's Day is a worthless Hallmark holiday.  It doesn't mean anything."

"You want to tell ol' Dr. Wade what's wrong?  We can hug it out at the outpost."

"No, thanks."

"Oh well, your loss.  I'm an amazing hugger.  Everyone says so.  People need hugs, and I give 'em a big hug, and then they're like, 'That was amazing.'  And I'm like, 'You say that now, but will you respect me in the morning?'"

Sigyn started beating her head, slowly and softly, against her window.

She would have liked a wedding: a chance to throw a lavish party for everyone she loved, who came together to be happy for her and Loki.  But...whom would she have invited?  Her family had ejected her.  She had no friends.  Her co-workers...

...Her co-workers, she now knew thanks to Loki's revelation, had only feigned friendship in hopes of getting sex from her.  Inviting them to a wedding or reception would have made them resent her, even though none of them had had the courage or initiative to ask her out themselves.  They almost certainly had expected her to read their minds, and now probably thought she had known--and enjoyed leading them on, worst of all.

She wasn't sure if she could face the minions at the outpost, knowing how much they must hate her, knowing that every act of kindness would be an attempt to line up as a rebound romance or an affair partner.

She felt cheated, cheated because she had thought they were being nice because they liked her when really, it was only a scam to get her to let down her guard and her pants.  Talk about roundabout, passive-aggressive bullshit...

"Yep, that it is," Wilson was saying as she tuned him back in.  "See, now, a guy like me, I'll come right at ya if I want something.  I'd be all like, 'Hey, you're hot.  Wanna do the Hokey Pokey?'  And you'd be all like, 'No, I'm married,' and I'd be like, 'That's cool; he can join us and we'll do the Loki Pokey.'  And you'd be like, 'Where's my gun?'  And then your man would turn me into a newt.  And I wouldn't make a good former Congressman, even though I have the criminal record."

"Hang on," Sigyn said.  "What are you talking about?"

"My criminal record?"

"No, the thing about coming right at me.  Why did you say that?"

"It's convenient to the plot.  Or maybe comic relief.  I dunno sometimes."

"I don't get you, I really don't."

"Nobody gets me, baby.  I'm the wind."

At that very moment, Wilson turned the car off of the dirt road and up to the mouth of what looked like an abandoned mine.  He took out a garage-door opener, pressed a button, and the boards across the mine shaft parted.

"Creative," Sigyn said.

"Yeah.  Not as cool as the SHIELD hovering aircraft carrier, whatever they call it, but it's pretty cool."  He pulled forward into the darkness and onto an elevator, which began to descend slowly.

"You've been on the Helicarrier?"

"Yeah, once.  But that was a different contract and there's this confidentiality thing.  You know, me being a lawyer-ninja and all.  I can't discuss previous clients with you, or I'd have to kill you."

The mine, it turned out, was a front for Outpost Four, which was a lot more comfortable than one would expect from a cave.  Minions milled around in the loading bay into which they descended.  Sigyn goggled at everything--this was an expensive outpost--while Wilson sang the Batman TV theme, substituting "Deadpool!" for "Batman!".

The journey was no sooner over than Sigyn practically hurled herself out of the car and into the face of the outpost administrator, Melvin Jacobs, who had come to greet them.

"Signe," he greeted her.  "Or...uh...milady."

"Sigyn will do, Melvin," she said, taking his hand firmly.

"Not according to His Lordship, milady."

Meanwhile, Wilson had extracted the Squish from her car seat, and was bouncing her in his arms.  "Who's a hungry little Tesseract?  Who is?  You is!"

"Tesseract?" Jacobs asked, utterly baffled.

"Don't ask," Sigyn muttered, and took Squish from Wilson.  To her annoyance, Squish began to cry immediately and reach for Wilson again.

"Huh.  Well, all right.  Wilson, I'll cut you a check after we've got them settled in.  Till then, you're free to do whatever--well, as long as you don't destroy anything or kill anyone."

"You take all the fun out of life, Mel!  Well, anyways, where's the john?  I gotta drain the weasand."

"Uh, it's...over there."  Melvin pointed, and Wilson patted Squish on the head before sauntering off.

"Melvin," Sigyn said, watching Wilson go.

"Yes'm?"

"If you ever hire Wilson for an escort mission again, you'll need your life-insurance policy."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wreckage

Sigyn tightened the baby harness across her chest, kissed the Squish on top of her little sleeping head, and went on through the night.  She could not circle back to check on Loki; that would risk capture for all of them--and SHIELD, or whoever was now Loki's enemies, would use her and the baby to get to him.

Fenris kept pausing to look back, and whimpered softly for his master, but he obeyed when Sigyn snapped her fingers.  She would feel much the same way as he did if she could afford to feel right now, but someone had to keep a level head here.  She would do her feeling later.

The flashlight did light her path very well, but she could only use it sparingly, and very close to her feet.  It meant she could not watch the horizon or even yards ahead, and could get no notion of how far she had gone or had to go.  As her journey wore on, she began to feel like it had been hours, days, and that it would go on forever.

At last, though, she arrived at the road.  She would have to stay off of it, to one side.  It wouldn't help anything for a passing driver to see a woman, a baby, and a dog walking along at this hour of the night.  She hoped there wouldn't be any ticks in the brush.  She couldn't deal with ticks right now.

Her legs tired.  Her back ached.  Her eyes strained for light and she had a marvelous headache by dawn, when she arrived at the truck stop near Montpelier.

There was one, bored clerk at the register, who did not look up from his comic book as the door chime sounded.  He didn't even seem to notice Fenris, despite the "no dogs" sign in the window.  There was also a man seated in one of the booths, dressed in a trench coat and fedora with his back to the door, stuffing down one of a stack of foil-wrapped burritos.  The space between the coat collar and the fedora was red fabric...

Oh, great, Sigyn thought.  Of all the people...

Sigyn drifted nonchalantly past the man, as if heading for the cold case in the rear, to let him identify himself.  She prayed silently that it wasn't--

"Oh hi!"

Crap.

"Heyheyhey!  Or should I say it like Fat Albert?  Hey hey HEY!  Did you ever watch that cartoon?  You always struck me as the cartoon-watching kind of kid.  I'll bet you watched My Little Pony, too.  I mean, you talk in that pinky-pink font and everything.  That cartoon was great stuff, especially that T-Rex guy."

"Tirek," Sigyn corrected him, sliding into the opposite seat.  "Hi, Wilson."

"I knew you watched it!"

"I only remember his name because they brought him back for the new one."

"Yeah, I know.  Are you a pegasister?  I'm a brony.  I'm totally a brony."

"You're not a brony if you only read Cupcakes and Apple Family Massacre, Wade."

"Hey, those are classics."

"Those are fanfictions."

"Those are the best kinds of episodes!"

"They're not--Wait."  Sigyn frowned.  "Those were text stories, not animated."

"It's all the same when you're me," Wilson said, and his mask contorted as if the face under it were smiling.  It was...not a pretty sight.  "I just open up the file and look at the cells behind the narrative boxes.  It's their best animation yet, I tells ya."

"You wha--?"  Sigyn shook her head briskly; she would ask, but that way lay madness.  "Never mind.  Can I see your phone?"

"Yeah, unfortunately it's not invisible yet.  Though that would be cool, wouldn't it?  An invisible phone.  Invisiphone?  It'd be like Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet, but not!  I wonder if I could get lasers--or rockets--Oh, wait, brainstorm--stay with me here--laser rockets.  They're like rockets, but then you have an app, and you're like, 'I'm firin' mah lazors, pew pew!'  And then they fire lasers that make cool sounds like brrrrrrrr-pew!  Maybe the rockets could be shaped like sharks, and then they'd be laser shark rockets.  Holy crap, that'd be awesome!  I'd better get a patent on this quick before that asshole Stark steals another one of my ideas."

She propped her weary head up on her fists and closed her eyes.  "I phrased that badly.  Can you show me the text?"

"Sure, here."  Wade scooted the little phone across the table to her.  She quickly confirmed the message--Melvin at Outpost Four had directed him to bring a car and collect her--as he added:  "So, you want to get something to eat before we go?"

"I'd better," she said.  "Those burritos smell good.  Did you leave any for anyone else?"

"Nooooope.  All this beany goodness is mine."

"Great."

"But Tesseract there can have a couple of bites when she wakes up."

"She's too youn--Wait, what?"

"Isn't that her name?  Tesseract?  Your man calls her 'Tessie', so I just kind of assumed her name was Tesseract."

"It's Eisa."

"Ohhhhh right."  He laughed.  "That'd be silly, naming her Tesseract.  But your man's kinda strange--"

"Oh, that's rich, coming from you."

"--so anyways, I can eat and drive if you unwrap the burritos for me.  Wow, that sounded dirty.  Heh, I'm going to have to use that on someone, maybe that Russian chick.  She can unwrap my burrito any ol' day, you know what I'm sayin'?"

"Okay, thank you.  Getting food and stuff."

"I'm saying she's hot."

"I got that."

"Hotter than a habanero."

"Ignoring you."  Sigyn paid with cash, and the clerk continued oblivious.

"Hotter than a leather seat on a summer day, but you want your skin to stick to her."  Wilson swept his remaining burritos into a paper sack and followed her out the door.

Sigyn decided to change the subject by force.  "Did you remember to bring a car seat?  Eisa's not old enough for a booster, and the last thing we need is to get ticketed at this point."

"Hey, for Tesseract there?  Only the best.  Check it out: luxury sedan.  Boom!  Satellite radio, TV, Bose speakers, built-in machine guns...It's got air-conditioned seats, even.  That's pretty awesome, but they make you feel like you peed yourself.  I tried them.  I was all like, 'Hey, this feels pretty cool.'  Heh, bonus pun; you're welcome..."

Sigyn wondered, as they pulled out of the parking lot to the endless background noise of Wilson's chatter, where Outpost Four was.  She had a feeling, though, that even if it was right next door, this was going to be a long ride...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Skies Were Opened

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.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

We Interrupt This Broadcast...

It seems appropriate right now to update you on some things about the blog in an out-of-character post.

We're both going to be updating our personal blogrolls over the next while.  There are some sites we visit now that we've found edifying and full of goodness, and some we stopped visiting because they became, um, less than edifying and full of foolish talk--or, at least, enough so that it's not worth rummaging through the foolishness to get to the goodness.  Some we stopped visiting for other reasons.  It's not personal, though, despite how much some people would dearly love to make our disputes personal.

We've been updating the pages in our sidebar, too.  We've added the page "Tales of the Trickster", which links you to the various storylines LoA has written here.  (While we talk out our dialogue, he does most of the writing.  You probably noticed.  I'm good at telling you what's good and bad writing, but I can't write well to save my life.)

My reading list has been updated over time, so if it's been a while since you looked at it and you're interested (though I can't imagine why), go have another look.

We have a backlog of posts we've been meaning to write, so once this particular storyline goes where it's going, LoA has some interesting things to share.  He promised you all a post on why he opposes the wholesale adoption of Game by Christians, and he says that's what he plans to do first, unless something comes up.

So that's where it's at.  Please enjoy the rest of "Reaping the Whirlwind"!