5316/No Solitude in Death

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No Solitude in Death
Date of Scene: 23 February 2021
Location: Asgardian Embassy
Synopsis: Loki reads into trouble. Thor saves his brother from being lost in Astral space, right?
Cast of Characters: Jane Foster, Loki, Thor

Jane Foster has posed:
A message pinned in place somewhere in the Triskelion speaks to the unfortunate visitation that ended in despair. As with all matters involved in custody, a fight -- legal or physical -- likely brews. For the subject of said well-intentioned recovery was swept away from the sanctuary afforded in a medical suite personally monitored by a brilliant biochemist.

Credit to Thor for practicality: he thought to bring said empty vessel not to the Avengers Mansion where someone no doubt might have paid for a hasty grave, nor a helicarrier where another victim of bad luck compounds the demands on the system. He has not run off to bloody Oklahoma of all places with no purpose except ahoying at the nearest doctor. No, the Crown Prince of Asgard delivers that ne'er-do-well of Asgardian wit and discovery to the embassy.

Only fair.

She's been maintained very well, for all that, the cannula in her arm indicative of nutrients in through a feed positively primitive by physicians' standards in the higher realms of the Nine, no doubt. Amora's use of a brushed green tunic in pure Asgardian style, likewise, still remains, though laundered several times to ensure nothing amiss there. Indeed, at the most superficial levels, Jane is asleep.

At the most superficial levels, Earth is beautifully peaceful and settled by a single race in perfect harmony. Sing a song of war, a dirge to go with that wine.

But there, on a pleasantly elegant bed away from visitors or other Aesir who might rarely descend, far past the reaches of couriers, messengers, and the USPS delivery man with their sharp eyes, rests that brunette in stately emptiness. It truly /is/ empty. Whatever devices were dragged down or out to sustain her, they have to be present, because without them, the needs of most basic life will fail. Not the grimmest of ends, but not too thrilling, either.

Waxen skin, bruised eyes, they don't paint a picture of Sleeping Beauty about to leap up and sing to the birds or ask where her birthday cake is. Something is inherently wrong on a level that vibrates past scholarly guesses into a keen awareness.

Her aura is /gone/.

Loki has posed:
Loki promised, he did. He'd promised that he wouldn't barge into SHIELD to either look at Jane or to abscond with her. That, that was all Thor. In a way, the younger brother is actually quite proud of his elder brother, having pulled off such a heist against his 'friends'.

When it comes down to it, however, the needs of gods outweighs the delicate sensibilities of mortals.

The presence of the younger Prince had initially set the Embassy into something of a tizzy; guards were walking a little more upon eggshells, and the amount of visitors that came to the Embassy to get even the barest glimpse of one so infamous rose almost exponentially. That, however, has died down, and Loki roams the halls with mild disinterest. He'll not be a prisoner in such a place.

There, in the backrooms, far from the view of anyone, however... that's where he sits. Loki is settled upon a chair, his elbows on thighs, and his head is canted, staring at the lady lying in state, as it were. Brows are creased in the puzzle, thankfully far away from the view of even his brother. He'll not show his concern and puzzlement to any.

A delicate jaw shifts and the younger prince rises and approaches Jane's form, green eyes still locked.

"Where are you?" is whispered.

Jane Foster has posed:
Why worry about barging into SHIELD when the guy with the cape and the big A status does it for you? A promise made is a promise kept, unbelievable though that may be. Thor makes plenty possible... and plenty less plausible, but keeping a positive outlook counts for something.

Many over the few and all that. Machiavellian politics barely scratches the concerns of gods, no doubt.

There in the backroom, then, a mortal and a god; a trickster and the truthsayer. Scientist and magician. Pick one of the many conundrums that define them apart from one another, dichotomies in flesh, status, life, and it may apply. With the sustenance afforded by simple magics or advanced Aesir technology, Jane Foster is a fragile thing. Trouble so easily flicked away, removed as a thorn from the side of Yggdrasil, and no distraction for Thor Odinson or his family forever more.

Where indeed. She remains a silent audience to Loki's inquiries; there is that much. Basic function in the lizard brain doesn't exactly speak to the absence entirely of higher brain activities, and especially given the wit and intellect buried in there, something ought to exist. Something ought to colour her aura, but there is absolutely nothing but the dimmest life-glow to suggest this one isn't totally dead. Just by every measure other than 'we have something that keeps her breathing.' Deadweight, the responses to various stimuli simply don't exist: cold, heat, pain, they aren't present. Thor hauling her here produced absolutely no response. No one is home, nothing is there, and the only thing to vary -- at all -- is that benighted little bracelet on her wrist. A dull gold bangle, not especially interesting, it weighs nothing and won't be removed.

Hit it with Laevateinn or a spell, it refuses to shift. Yank it off with force enough to dislocate her arm, it won't go (arguably neither will the arm, quite). It glows, of course, to the arcane eye. Burns like a certain stubby-handled hammer with almost no distinction between the two, brewed in the cosmic tempest at the beginning of the greatest storm known in Aesir annals and a good deal before that. The mark of a Sky-Father's excellence... stamped in a little bit of jewelry that wouldn't net more than $500 in any jeweller in the area. Indistinguishable on all fronts, it bides its time. It's totally not mocking him.

Mjolnir wouldn't do that.

Right? Smug bastard of a hammer, smug bracelet.

Loki has posed:
Loki stands beside the still form, his gaze falling to that bracelet that gently glows with a power that he does recognize. Here is no illusion. Here is something born in the fires of the dwarves, created of that very stuff that has no equal in any of the universes, known or un-. Thor describing it, explaining it did him no good; he is not one blessed with ability of magics, instead relying on brute force and a not-quite-controlled sense of lightning storms. It present and before him, however?

Reaching out, Loki touches it, cold and unresponsive in hand. Such a thing, if he cared, would mock him, declare him 'unworthy'. This isn't his measure, however. Pulling his hand back, it balls into a light fist as it falls beside him, and he exhales in a forced breath before he turns away to begin pacing.

All this keeps her alive; he could pull the plug, allow her soul to remain, but would the bracelet allow it? What sort of affinity does it hold?

Loki's circle of pacing the room brings him back once again, to the side with the jewelry adorning her wrist, and his gaze is pulled back to it, only to rise to her form. The breathing is such that would only barely sustain life; her features, hardly becoming.

A soul departed and the body recognizes it not. Useful? Perhaps...

How to pull words from such in an inanimate state?

Loki takes a few steps back to settle in his chair, and sits quietly, the magics beginning to wrap about him in a familiar cloak. None will arrive to bother his travel, leaving his body behind to search for answers...

Within the room, then, the prince's body stills, the breathing becomes shallow, and green eyes are unseeing to the 'here and now', instead, beholding visions far beyond Midgard, deep into the universe itself.

Jane Foster has posed:
The bracelet is no illusion, in truth of fact. Just a golden loop wide enough to span a woman's arm, given enough clearance to settle around the wrist, and not an inch further than that. Golden in every respect except the fundamental business of uru defies the soft, malleable qualities of that namesake metal prized by pharaohs, kings, and thieves. One of the most feared substances in the universe when put to weaponry rests on her arm, casual as can be. It might give options of smacking someone effectively with unconscious effort.

A touch at barely basal temperature confirms a spark. Not strong, but definitely there, the equilibrium of woman and bangle disturbed. A leap of a sizzle hints at the ozone-charged incantation stolen from that mother of all storms, quiescent only by purpose. It would sting, no doubt, for a lesser soul.

It fails to judge him, exactly. Perhaps that is a blessing; this one bides its tongue. Learning from mortals?

The bracelet holds its own secrecy. Heimdall on that shining bridge might shake his head, were he given to turn his starry eyes to his charges down on a distant space. An empty vessel, a missing soul, and where goeth those who are not apportioned by divine decree or destined whim?

Two bodies, then, are left in a room to suffer the same fate: Thor no doubt choosing that moment to run in and curse the gods.

From the astral side, the wound is clean, a shivering tracery of faint blood trails radiating outward from the shoulder. The terminus faces up; repaired, knit with emerald etchings and powdered vines that hold together the flesh to the memory of what it should be healed. A nasty thing: the damage done to the mortal vessel seethes with a sting of death, a kiss of wrath, and something else. Darker rainbows, bitter oblivion.

Loki has posed:
While the soul of Loki may be departed, yet he has full control of his path, and his destiny apart. He's had those who have tried to bid him remain apart from "mortal" body, and each time, the victory was to the astral journeyman. The younger of the princes has a wealth of knowledge and ability behind him; yet he keeps his power understated so that few truly understand his ability. There's a touch of truth here, a bit of show there, and only the truly discerning may put everything together. And perhaps get a glimpse of what he is capable of doing.

In his astral form, his clothing has changed from the Midgardian suit to the more familiar greens of leather and cloth. High boots of deep black leather with bucklets adorn his feet, and at his side, the dagger Laevateinn sits, mostly hidden by his jacket, but present. He steps forward, leaving the 'slumbering' body upon the chair, and approaches, putting a hand out to trace the injury. Pulled from her shoulder, undoubtedly by a weapon to draw a soul from its vessel. Even the valkyries can't do that, are banned from doing so from a live being.

There are rules.

Loki pulls his hand back as he feels the darkness, the direct opposite of the Asgardian magics; even his aren't like this. It pulls, it warns, it.. almost seems to pulse at him, mocking him as perhaps the jewelry does.

Jane Foster has posed:
The path begins in the flesh, but it hardly ends there. To Loki's gifted perceptions, it takes on a tinge of the frozen depths of winter. A cold so bitter, so numb, that it bears the killing frosts that slay wildlife and condemn child or elder to an early grave before spring surrenders to the hardened earth. Yawning hunger gnaws with ice-rimed teeth and broken nails into warmth skin, weaving tiny crystals into the mended soul wounds. Not there except as trace amounts, burnt out by Amora's enchantments, but they still hold some strength.

Death wounds always do.

Death is a road, one not easily travelled even by a mystic, following paths that the living cannot simply trod. Otherwise everyone with a grudge might end up in the Underworld in its various forms to see Grandma, hash it out with old enemies, and bargain badly.

Behind the frozen concoction sinking down on that hoarfrost road woven into the astral, the younger prince of Asgard might know not the real threat of ice. But hunger, the terrible ache in the belly and clutching the vital soulstuff, is undeniable and another kind of assault.

Yet in those broken footsteps lie a wrongness, something that ought to be fleeting and mobile turned peculiarly static. Black ice edges splotches what could be footprints: memories, scattered bits of them. Waves crashing against a shore. Bodies entangled under furs, not for love but sheer desperation. Hungry teeth in the livid dark, snapping, fear and resilience buttressed against a wall of spears, arrows, rusted swords. Another jerk, striking like a match: something alien, black, sickly magic rooted beyond where most mortals would ever dare tread.

A flash of midnight in the cavedark has the signature of undeath. Something black, awful, and the superimposed violet death's-head marking unlife being hurled. Behind that, a heated rage, so old as to be turned into a living horror of itself. It doesn't belong to Jane. A mortal of her years does not have the means to weaponize wrath into a poison on the very psyche like that.

Even his aren't like that magic. To fall into that venomous rage is to find himself shrouded in the bluelight of deep places deprived forever of the sun. To taste what the other side of ruin looks like, awash in weird wavering twilight that never manages to rise beyond the deepest ultramarines, navies, stone-grey. To know faith, a horrifying conviction, behind the bitter kiss of salt and iron of blood.

Broken laws. Broken rules. Broken magic in its darkest inversion, something charged to spells that never should have been touched.

Thor has posed:
Thor hasn't been himself lately. There is, of course, the unusual matter of his don't-call-it-a-heist. (He left a note and everything.) But that's not all: his normal, unmistakably loud presence has been subdued by the knowledge of his own ignominious deed. Thor, Son of Odin, Napper of Kids. He has barely shown his face in the meadhall. He has checked in on Grani at Avengers mansion only a few times. He hasn't been back to the Triskelion at all.

He mostly just skulks around his apartment: pacing dents into the floorboards; watching television with a grim, baffled expression; and stopping by the embassy to check in on Dr. Foster far more frequently than any sort of sense would demand. So it is that he sticks his head in now, shorn locks looking darker than they do when allowed to grow. He instantly spies the lanky scarecrow stuffed into its suit and then folded into its chair, and his blue eyes narrow. He rounds the door with speed belying his size and slams it shut behind him -- although he immediately cringes at the noise this produces.

"Loki!" he hisses, glaring icy daggers. "What in Hel do you mean by not calling me?" There is no response, and Thor rises to his full, impressive height. "By Odin, you will answer me, brother!" His brother does not. "Loki?" It's unmistakable: there's concern there, now. "Loki!" Okay, anger, too. Thor strides to the chair, arms crossed. "I swear, brother, if this is another prank..."

He stoops down to Loki's eye height, tapping his foot. "You can stop faking now. Loki?" He reaches out with one mitt of a hand and shakes his brother's shoulder. "Loki? Wake up. Loki!" Two mitts for two shoulders. The shaking is getting pretty serious. "Loki! Have you fallen prey to this same devilment?? LOKI!! First Jane, now you, too? A curse on all foul magicks and the sorcerers who wield them!!"

Loki has posed:
The astral planes open wide to the spell caster. This has been his road many times, and will be in the future. Each one diverges, leading to a place different, each with its own siren's song.

The one that Jane has travelled, however, or has been brought unwillingly is one that gives even Loki pause. He'd not admit it, but the black, freezing cold touches his frost-giant born heart and chills even that. At first, he thought it the work of Jotun, and easily enough the world could be brought to heel either by the brothers or by the All Father. It'd been done before, after all. But there is a familiarity to a wisp of it, a fleeting feeling though it may be, and he frowns.

Suddenly, before anything more can be done, can be investigated, there's a hard pull, a clamourous need to return to his body, and even as his astral self is yanked back and settled unceremoniously back into his body, he finds himself being shaken like a ragdoll under the force of Thor's barely contained .. concern.

Loki flails his arms up; he's disoriented for the moment, and makes several utterances that simply don't sound either kindly or brotherly. Instead, as he regains his wits, he finds himself in the room with the oaf that is his brother and the still, well, still form of Jane.

"Wh-- ge-- let go! Stop it.. Thor!" is sputtered. "Can't you see--"

An annoyed breath exits the younger brother and his tones turn directly into complaint, "I was tracking her until you came.."

Jane Foster has posed:
The pleasant rooms converted to Aesir use in the embassy do not lack character or amenities. Certainly nothing for an empty vessel to complain about when Thor begins shaking his brother.

The only consolation on Jane's state, currently, is that nothing changed. Complete indifference to time or temperature allows her to remain in a state of suspended animation in a sense, medically induced to keep ticking along to a drumbeat of her pulse. No cares of age yet descend, though she might have a good decade or two before the ravages ever catch up in that perpetual sleep. Hollows under closed eyes evince no traces of concern for someone landing in the breadcrumbs left behind by something old and malicious, or the woman entrapped in the explosive bursts dappled across ten realms and endless space.

Undrjarn is silent upon the efforts entangling kin. It barely so much as gleams, matte in its golden gloss for the moment. What benevolence rests on the wax tulpa in likeness of a woman is only found in the fact they have privacy for the squabbles at all.

A stain remains for Loki, that vicious, black hate. That oily rainbow, poisoned at the source, reflecting no light. Delighting only in the suffering, it might be an unwelcome taste on the magical palate. But like lutefisk, pretty much immediately recognizable in the future.

Thor has posed:
As soon as Loki stirs, Thor leaps back, stance low, clenched fists held up in a loose guard. "I knew you were faking!" he shouts. "Trying to knife me again, eh? You'll have to do better than that to--" What Loki is saying slowly gets through to him (or perhaps it's just the lack of forthcoming daggers), and Thor peers sidelong at his brother. His jaw works as he considers this new information, but at least he lowers his fists and stands upright again.

"If her soul was stolen from her body by some evil we do not understand, was detaching your own soul from your body really the most prudent way to investigate?" he asks. For all his seeming boneheadedness, Thor's innate canniness does occasionally produce a point that makes smarter men feel a little bit silly. "Did you at least learn anything?"

Loki has posed:
Loki is mostly aware that there is nothing within that shell of a mortal at the moment, and so is free to sound almost petulant in the face of his older brother. "I was not--" and he huffs his annoyance and irritation in the lack of words following. Arms flail again to try and get some air, to push Thor back so he can at least rise against what could be yet another onslaught. "Will you stop it for one moment, Thor?"

A finger is held in the air, green eyes focussed directly upon Thor's blues.

"One.. no.. one... shhhh.. stop it."

Another breath is taken as dignity is attempted, and pulling at his suit jacket, Loki brushes off unseen dust where Thor'd touched him, roused him, disgustedly. Once the cat has cleaned himself, as it were, he stares at his brother, and looks to pull patience from the air.

"Tell me, brother.. exactly //how// would you have approached this? Stared at her until something relented and freed her? Or, perhaps using a pathetic magic wielder from Midgard, one who knows nothing of these things, or of the many realms that lie around us? Of course it was the only way." Loki begins to pace, his gaze moving between Jane and Thor, back and forth. "There is nothing out there that has had a chance of besting me yet." Bravado, certainly, but it's born of experience. So far, anyway. He fashions his expression into a theatric bit of hurt, "Really, you should have more faith in me than that."

Still, he paces, the unease settling in those green eyes as he stops once again at Jane's side. "I learned a great deal, actually."

Jane Foster has posed:
Lutefisk's malevolence has not been scented, yet. Not tasted, precisely, by those unfortunately at risk for the tainted nature of dark magic that only pools in certain parts of the worlds.

Places the All-Father probably enjoys wreathing in fire or smiting with Gungnir repeatedly. Places of ruthless cruelty, like no battles and every meal serving up lutefisk, hakarl, and side-dishes of casu marzu that not even a dark elf could love. Maybe worse, a chaser of century eggs.

Places that belong to tarnished hellscapes, to monstrously wicked lands carved up for no good purpose.

Or, you know, 158 Svartalfheim Street; maybe Suite 100, Hvergelmir, Niflheim, Niflheim, N0N 0N0.

Thor has posed:
Thor would surely claim that he is being very patient with Loki's exaggerated response to a mild shoulder shake. An impartial narrator might note that not only do Thor's eyes roll, but his entire head lolls back as he silently implores his fellow gods to spare him his brother's preening and fussiness. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

"Perhaps I would have called on my fellows to stand at my side, so that I would not be alone and vulnerable while scrying my tea leaves or having magical naptime," Thor suggests pointedly. "Fellow, singular, in your case, I suppose -- you do have a way of making friends. But surely I am at least as worthy of the faith you ask of me."

He crosses his arms and peers at Loki for a second, and lets a rejoinder about Loki being bested by mere mortals in recent memory pass unsaid. Instead, he simply moves on to the point at hand: "What did you learn, then?"

Loki has posed:
"This 'magical naptime' as you call it..." and when the barb strikes, Loki frowns and brings his arms up and crosses his chest, a gesture that easily indicates he's going into defensive mode. Now, once there, his tones turn loftily petulant. "I won't say."

So there.

"I have to go back to Asgard and do some research on it, but until then?" Loki looks unmoved now, the insult sneaking under his skin. "It isn't safe for you and your fellows to try and follow the trail." He may be overexaggerating it, but then again, he may not. Hard to tell with him on his best days. "If you have any care for them."

Smiling tightly now, an expression that doesn't even begin to reach those green eyes, Loki looks ready to depart as he drops his arms and begins to circle around the supine Jane to reach the door.

Thor has posed:
Thor takes two steps to block Loki's exit, although he holds up a palm, subordinating the repositioning to the gesture; he doesn't go so far as to attempt to grapple his brother (although that's not unheard of, by any means).

"Do not toy with me, Loki," he says in a tone of warning. "I will give you time for your research if it is truly needed, but for now, speak plainly. I upheld my end of our bargain. What have you learned as a result?" Thor is uncharacteristically grave in voice and expression, seeking to push past their sibling rivalry with Jane's life on the line. Even his breath seems tightly controlled.

Loki has posed:
Loki stops, his expression inscrutable. Green eyes meet pale blue, and it's a level gaze. Siblings aside, this has become a matter of pride with the younger brother, once again having to prove himself useful, 'worthy'. He'd started out for curiosity, to ostensibly help his brother with a puzzle, and now? He's given fair warnings, an honesty that, while not beyond his ability, is a rarity in some cases. He doesn't always lie, it's just how he couches his phrasings, and in this?

He's been forthright.

"Then bring her back, Thor. I'm done with her. Bring her to your friends, your 'fellows'. Let them track her to find what I discovered, and then hope they have even a measure of understanding what it is." He's angry, pulling up the pain of feeling second rate and channeling it. "The bracelet is real. That is the reason you'd brought her here." It sent sparks through his hands; it's most decidedly 'alive'.

"As for the other thing? If you want her rescued, you'll have to be a great deal more trusting." Which means, she is still out there, still 'existant', and he still fully believes she can be brought home.. all wrapped up on a single statement, with a bow.

"It is truly needed."

Thor has posed:
Thor is no stranger to the pitfalls of pride. Honestly, if he owes Loki for one thing more than any other, it's forcing him to learn to look past it when it matters. That doesn't mean he isn't ever susceptible to Loki's goading, or that he doesn't occasionally backslide into the petty oneupsmanship that has for so many centuries characterized their relationship -- not by any means. It just means he's learning. And with Jane Foster's soul in the balance, he is more focused than usual.

"If returning her to SHIELD will not impede our progress, then I shall," he says, tightly controlling his voice as well as his diction. Yes, he intentionally looped Loki into that 'our.' He continues, "I can be trusting, Loki. Sometimes to my detriment. Continue to be forthright with me, and mayhap our cooperation will bear fruit." The thunderer shifts, uncomfortably, then realizes he's still standing in the way of the exit and shuffles aside.

He turns to look at Jane as Loki leaves, and though his frown could be interpreted as a silent vigil, in truth he is considering whether to have an electronic letter sent to Nadia or just lug Jane back to the Triskelion in the cradle carry so beloved of agonized superheroes bearing their injured female allies..

Loki has posed:
Loki stands stock still, not a movement escapes the man as he waits for Thor, the sentry, to move. He listens impassively, though somewhere in the back of those green eyes, not only does he listen, but he hears. He hears the inflections, the intonation, the words pulled and spoken with care and clarity. "It will not," Loki assures. "The question is, do you wish her to remain where she cannot be reached?" By him, of course. "Here, she has the protections of Asgard. There, you have no control over who has access to her."

Just saying.

"I'll be in my study if you have any questions, and should I discover anything new?" He'll be sure to study it further first.. gleaning all information out of it. It's what he does.

Once Thor steps aside, Loki leaves the room, leaving behind his brother and the soul-less Jane. It's not three, four steps, however, when that bright light that everyone (at the Embassy anyway) recognizes immediately, and when it fades, the younger prince is gone.