Title: After the fall
Whether it was day or night mattered not; the dungeon was dark and cold, hidden deep beneath the ground, with heavy walls beetling over the narrow pass leading to the surface and a shallow water pools springing from the floor, feeding the mold that crawled into the bricks like tumor.
The air was foul and the silence was overwhelming, interrupted only by heavy breathing and a sound of flesh hitting flesh.
Loki couldn't scream any more.
He couldn't talk, he couldn't cry, any sound he made came out as a coarse moan. His throat was scorched and his bones were cracked, sweat dripping from his face as his body twisted in agony.
A dozen eyes red as blood streaming down Loki's face and burning as infernal fire peered at him from the darkness.
They came after the fall.
His doubles, a fruit of his broken mind, loathed and perverted as he was, appeared before their master at their own will.
They were all still himself, but in a form of Jotunns - blue and scarred, dressed in rugs, and thirsting for blood, the blood of their own.
They taunted him from afar at first, whispered into his ears sweet falsehoods about his family; murmured soothing lies of what had never come to pass; and when he tried to send them away, they leered and laughed and jeered at him.
They didn't make a sound but he could hear them scoffing in his mind, like a cold wind going through the rusty autumn leaves.
Like a hiss of snake, piousness and spiteful.
A dirty runt.
You should have died long time ago.
Loki dig his nails deep into his own flesh in futile attempt to wake up from the nightmare, but it didn't help.
You should have never been born.
Look at us!
You are a monster, a dreadful freak! You are disgusting, the ones like you should not be walking the earth.
You were a burden. You think they loved you?
They laughed behind your back, they lied into your eyes, they hated you, they wished you never had existed.
Your father wanted you to fall from your horse and break your neck.
Your mother urged to strangle you in your sleep.
But you lived, and fell, and lived again.
Why couldn't you die?
Why couldn't you succeed at least once in your miserable life?
Why couldn't you free the realms from your pitiful existence?
You should have perished and rotted away by now, turned into dust you've always been.
He fought them off with words and spells, but magic failed.
He tried to shut them out but their poisonous voices overcame his will.
He prayed for oblivion or death but it never came.
And then they laid their hands upon him.
Dozens of blows, over and over again, everywhere, harsh and hard and with no remorse or mercy; kicks and slaps and bites all over his body.
Their hate poured from all sides, hit him in the chest, and abdomen, and legs and arms, broke his bones and ruptured his skin.
He didn't resist it, he didn't want to. He deserved just that, the misery and hate.
He just wished it to be over, wished one of them would land a final blow and end his life, for it was not his, it was stolen, it was a borrowed time and date had come to pay it back.
And when another kick broke his ribs and blasted air out of his lungs, Loki smiled weakly, welcoming darkness as a dearest friend he was long waiting for.
He finally felt nothing, the pain was gone and numbness overwhelmed him, he didn't see or hear no more and finally he closed his eyes and gave himself up to the oblivion.
A little boy emerged from the corner where tiny ray of sun burst through the bricks and pierced the twilight, and ran over to Loki's motionless form the moment the prince's eyes shut, shielding the battered body with his own.
This double was small, tiny even, with dark hair and huge blue eyes that looked upon the Jotunns with mix of horror and anger.
“Just leave, I beg you, leave! You've done enough to harm us already!”
The boy sobbed as a battered body beneath him shivered slightly from the cold.
“look at us, just look...We are barely alive...”
“You are supposed to be dead, because that's what you want.”
“No! No, it is not true...”
The boy looked upon Loki's bruised face and brushed long raven locks from blooded forehead.
“It's not true.”
He stubbornly stuck out a lower lip and frowned at the others,
“ We don't want to die, we just...we just want to go home.”
He tried so hard, he clenched his fists, but couldn't stop tears from streaming down his cheeks.
Jotunns looked at him in disgust and growled,
“But you don't have a home, you filthy rat! You're unwelcome, you are unwanted! You don't have a home, everyone hates you! You are pathetic! You are alone, forever alone!”
The boy crawled closer to Loki and wrapped himself around the prince's broken body.
“No, you're lying, no. I'm not going to listen to you, go away!”
The Jotunns snarled at him and dashed forward, trying to grab the boy, but he threw his hand out and a ring of fire encircled him and Loki, shielding them from the monsters.
The boy tugged closer to his real self's form and covered the man's ears with his palms, hiding his face in the crook of Loki's neck.
“Do not listen to them, no no no, they are liars, they are all stupid liars! You are not alone, I am here and I'll protect you from them, from us, from everyone, I promise...Just don't die, please, promise you won't leave me alone, I'm scared, Loki, just don't die...”
Then he lied down and stilled, his tiny body shaking with quiet sobs in tact with Loki's uneven breath.
As the fire kept burning, the Jotunns kept circling around Loki and the boy as a pack of sharks smelling the fresh blood, but both of their prey were unmindful of them.
A long time had passed before the boy calmed down, but when he did, he lifted his head and reached down to kiss off a single tear tracing down Loki's cheek.
Then the fire died off.
Jotunns leered, pouncing around their prey and waiting for a moment to strike, savoring the horror written on boy's face.
The boy shuddered and tried to crawl away, to hide from dozens of unforgiving claws and teeth and crazy burning eyes, but a shaky hand grabbed his forearm and Loki whispered, “stay”.
The boy glanced on Loki's pale face and suddenly all fear left him, leaving weird strength and solemn determination.
“Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. I'm not leaving you to die alone.”
He reached for Loki's hand and pulled it in his own, squeezing hard to enforce the contact, and closed his eyes, bracing for the end. The Jotunns charged through the dungeon, roaring, and froze in movement as a royal voice echoed through the hall.
The twilight swirled through the dungeon and whirled, condensing into a tall dark figure looming over the rest of the clones. The figure stepped out of the fog and snapped his long fingers.
The Jotunns wailed in pain and burst into myriads of shreds of ice, leaving no trace but a dull glistening on the bricks just as a morning meadow embroiders the sleeping grass at dawn, just before it is burnt away by the rays of sun.
The boy gaped in shock as the monsters perished, and then tensed, preparing to fight.
The figure stepped closer and lingered for a moment, allowing the boy to take a good look at it.
It was another double, just like himself, just like the real Prince lying beside him, only this one was...different.
He was taller, older, his face had more scares and his hair was longer. His posture emanated royalness and his eyes were gleaming with power, dark and consuming. Those eyes...like a firestorm concealed beneath the ice.
The boy looked down at Loki he was protecting and then back to the man, and the man smiled at him.
“Aren't you a brave little one? Don't be afraid of me, I won't hurt you. I won't let anyone else hurt you ever again.”
The man strolled forward, bending a little so his face was one level with the boy's eyes, and held out his hand.
“Trust me, little one."
The man's voice was soft as velvet, and it enveloped the boy from all the sides, sending waves of pleasant shivers through his bones, making him fuzzy and warm inside.
"Go on, take my hand, allow me to take care of you.”
The boy looked at him with eyes full of hope, and reached for the offered hand.
“Can we go home now?”
The man petted the boy's head.
“We have no home, my sweet.”
“But you've said...”
“We have no home yet, my dear. But soon, don't worry, soon we will have a home.”
The man pulled the boy up and cradled him in his arms. His lips curved into a smile as tiny hands wrapped around his neck in a tight embrace.
“Our brother...and father...”
“They are not our family, they never were.”
A silent sigh escaped the boy's lips and the man ruffled his hair in consolation.
“But they will come searching for us, I can feel that.”
“Then let them come, we will wait for them, we'll make them bleed, we will make them pay.”
The boy nodded in agreement, and then...the two faces of a boy and a man smirked at each other, smiles identical, and
a bright spark blasted through the hall and the boy disappeared, consumed by the shadowy figure.
The man bended over Loki and run his fingers all over the wounded body, letting strings of green magic flow from the fingertips, piercing the skin, fixing the bones, healing the wounds that an eye won't see.
When the work was done and the body was healed, the man cupped Loki's cheek and caressed Loki's lips, pushing a bit inside, just teasing the warm wetness with his thumb, enjoying every moment of it with weird fascination, liking his own lips in the process.
Then he withdraw and slapped Loki's cheek gently.
“Wake up, my prince, it is time to conquer.”
The double smiled wider as Loki steered, and then rose and dissolved into the air as Loki's eyes snapped open.