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The Nameless Thor AU
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: This particular iteration of Thor and Loki belong to Marvel.

AN: For rayemars, because she harassed me into writing it. Inspired by this art by wantstobelieve.

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- One -
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It is a cool, windy day when word reaches the temple that the invaders have crossed the border, the message carried down into the valley from the towns above. The messenger stumbles from his mount, shouting out the alarm, and everything seems to pause for a long, silent moment, while his hawk cries in the skies above, while the fire-keepers stand unheeding of their robe hems swaying dangerously close to the edge of the flames.

In the wake of his cry all activity in the temple bursts into a frenzy, and the acolytes are run off of their feet in the hurry, gathering all the tribute and piling it onto the carts that are bound to the citadel.

When the first of the outer towns falls, the high priests and priestesses assemble, and the first ceremony is enacted: a fine bull slaughtered and left to rot in the gully below, an ill omen to drive ill intentions away from their door.

When the second town falls, it is the fattest of the cows and her calf whose necks they break and whose blood they use to paint the eternal symbols of protection across every entryway and along each passage that leads to the heart of the temple.

A third town falls, and the prize stallion is slaughtered, yet the invaders continue to cross the land, and when the fourth town falls, proud Ashtree Water, finally lost, then for the first time in decades the outer-dwellers scrabble down the hills and into the Valley. Theirs is a land of shadows and secrets, and the children of Raven Breach only flee to its protection when no other choices remain.

The youngest acolyte gives his life for the promise of their safe passage, and yet still the intruders advance.

Loki sits at the highest peak of the temple's tallest roof and watches as the refugees stream down the winding path to the sanctuary, watches as they flinch from the white-clad acolytes and the blood that stains their fingers, watches as they scuttle through the endless halls and partake of food and drink and healing, and then continue on, through the winding paths that lead through the forests, past the outlands of the Deep-Valley Dwellers and down to the Steps of the Black One, where the citadel of the Concealed One awaits.

In the morning, the second child is sacrificed. The next day, the third, and fourth, and on it continues until the sixth day, when the invaders reach the Valley.

The few high priests and priestesses that still remain gather the acolytes that yet live to them, speak the words of magic and claim the last sacrifices, the most beautiful and the wisest of the temple's children, whose blood will keep the temple secure, whose power will be magnified in death to keep the whole of the Valley eternally safe.

Not for them the crudity of the sword, or the freedom of the pyre, for their power must be pure and their spirits bound so that the magic will hold fast and turn away all those whose intentions would threaten the Concealed One.

And so it is that Loki's hands will mix Loki's own poisons, for none can match his skill at his art, and so it is that his spirit-sister's clever fingers will spin the blessings and curses that will lace their garments and jewels.

Loki holds his tongue as the high priests and priestesses anoint his skin with oils, as they perfume his hair, as their numbers grow smaller by the day, until only four remain, to ensure that the sacrifice is carried out, to speak the last of the curses over their cooling bodies and to carry the tale back to the citadel, where glory awaits.

Loki flicks his fingertips against the surface of the wine-dark brew he has wrought and smiles.

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While his spirit-sister sleeps, Loki builds pyres, tall and holy, one for each child whose sacrifice meant nothing, and sings each once-bound spirit into freedom with hatred in his heart.

When she wakes from her deathly slumber, his spirit-sister rages, laying curse after curse upon him, and when the invaders' campfires light the edges of the valley with their unearthly glow, she slits her own throat with the blade for the kindling.

It is a slow, hideous death, and Loki takes up his own blade to ease her passage, though he knows she will not thank him for it.

With the last breath in her body she curses his name.

The proper thing would be to leave her body in its place of honor, leave her spirit eternally bound to this place, as she wanted, but Loki remembers her, sweet and laughing and fiercely proud of her station, and cannot bear the thought of her as naught but a wraith.

He burns her body instead, as it should be, and though his is only a single voice, he sings the prayers for freedom and joy, and knows when he is finished that it is right, what he has done.

No spirit shall be bound to this place, doomed to madness and despair, save for those of the cowards who left them here to die.

Loki scatters his spirit-sister's ashes to the winds, turns his back to the golden flames of the invaders, and sings his first curse to the evening wind, to be carried down through the forests and curl into the ears of the Deep-Valley Dwellers, to ghost past the farmhouses and lanes and into the heart of the citadel, into the ears of the Concealed One himself.

He is an acolyte of the Black One, the finest spell-singer of the temple, and he will have his revenge for what they have done.

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