Drip. Drip. Drip.
The sound echoed incessantly across the quartz and iron walls that formed the underground prison.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The acid drops fell one after another into the rusted bowl suspended by trembling hands just above his head.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
There were but two other noises that dared pierce the silence of the desolate cave. The first was an apology.
“I am so, so sorry, my love,” Sigyn would always say. Her voice was no longer as melodic in his ears; the remorse on her lips had lost all meaning. “The bowl is full again. I’ll be back as soon as possible.” She exited the cave, taking the bowl with her. This, of course, led to the second noise.
Loki writhed in agony as the acid slid down his face, lighting fires on his skin as they trickled towards his mangled lips. His hoarse shouts rang hollow in his ears over and over again as it reflected off each and every rock in the watery cavern he was bound to. Eyes shut tight, he struggled against the bonds, straining over and over, desperately trying to rip himself free.
Loki never liked to think about what it was that bound him to this rock. His throat always tightened, choking him, when he remembered seeing his sons rip each other apart while the Aesir watched, his eyes burned hot when visions of Tyr taking his children up in his arms and wrapping them around Loki’s crippled form invaded his memory. Sometimes he could still hear Heimdall laughing as it happened, his golden teeth shining a sickly yellow that bounced across the crystals growing on the ceiling.
How long had it been since that snake started spitting its venom onto his tattered face? How long had it been since that dwarf sealed his lips shut and he was banished from Asgard? How long had it been since he forged that spear from mistletoe and sent Hodur on his way to murder Baldur? That was one thing Loki was able to savor: watching the smug look wash away from every face in Asgard as Yggdrasil’s darling god fell to the ground, slain by the one thing that never swore Frigga’s oath of peace. They had learned that day. They had learned that Loki’s promise was not empty. He would take everything away from them. He would make them pay for everything they’d done to him.
Sigyn hurried back into the cave, her faint footsteps growing more and more audible. As she approached, she winced at the sight of the skeletal features of what had once been her husband. Loki knew what she thought of him. She would never admit it, but she loathed him. The way she looked
away every time their eyes met, the way she grimaced every time he tried to strike up a conversation amidst the dripping silence, they spoke for themselves.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
It was safe for Loki to open his eyes once more. As he did, he saw the form of Sigyn pale with frost. Snow was piled on her shoulders and icicles dangled between the amber locks of her hair. Each shaky breath she took summoned little clouds that quickly dissipated in the humid cavern air. It was clear to Loki that old Jokul Frosti was giving this winter everything he had.
It had never occurred to him until just then, but Loki dearly missed snow. It had been so long since he felt the chill winds of Jotunheim upon his skin, so long since the cool sensation of ice had been there to soothe his soul. The last time he’d been there was shortly before hiding in the very cave that became his Hell. He’d grown tired of the fires of Muspelheim, though they concealed him well from Odin’s sight for a short time. But he’d remained for too long. The All-Father found him and led all of Asgard on a witch hunt.
Loki’s mind continued to dri , something he’d grown a bit too comfortable doing in his cage. He’d almost started regretting some of his decisions. He only found his way back to reality when he heard Sigyn’s voice once again.
“Loki? Loki, I think there’s someone here.” There was an urgency to her tone. Loki hadn’t heard emotion from her in a long time. He turned his attention toward her.
“I’m flattered, someone’s finally taken the time out of their busy schedules of killing jotuns and stuffing themselves to pay a visit to little old me,” he replied with a biting sarcasm that he hadn’t had the chance to make use of in what felt like an eternity. His voice had certainly grown weaker over the years, more than he’d realized. It was deeper, more gravelly than ever before, and it grinded in his throat like pebbles crunching beneath an army’s boots. Sigyn took one hand from the bowl, and timidly pointed at the mouth of the cave.
Squinting towards the growing light, Loki could make out the silhouette of a young woman. Her face was concealed by the shadows of stalactites that reached down just far enough to block the light of her lantern. She walked with an ethereal grace toward the edge of the underground lake, seemingly drawn by it’s crystal clear waters.
Loki could almost make out her face now, or half of it, anyway. Her eyes and nose were angular, much like his own, but the rest of her face was much so er, more refined. There was a grimace painted across her lips, as if she’d never smiled in her entire life. Her skin was a pale shade of blue that would’ve made the water before her jealous.
“You know,” the woman began in a chiding tone, “I always thought it was Mother who gave me my looks, but now that I’ve gotten a good look at you, it appears that I was mistaken. I’m your spitting image.” She turned to face Loki, revealing the other half of her face. Bones pierced the scarred and rotting flesh like knives, as if they were trying to escape from the cage that was her body. The smooth roundness of her eye was exhibited in full glory as it rested loosely in its sunken socket, bouncing ever so slightly as she made her way towards Loki’s own broken visage. He smiled as he finally recognized the half-corpse in front of him.
“It sounds like you’ve inherited my tongue as well,” Loki responded, feeling a warmth grow from beneath layers upon layers of ice, “and while I must say it’s nice to see you again Hela, but why exactly are you here? I never thought gawking at the unfortunate to be a pastime of yours.”
Hela scoffed. “2000 years of acid baths must have finally drilled a hole through that thick skull of yours right into your brain. Give it a minute. I’m sure you’ll manage to use that oh-so-infallible mind of yours to figure it out.” She reached for the chains binding Loki to the stone.
2000 years. It had been 2000 years since Loki saw the light of day, 2000 years since he proclaimed to all the nine realms that he would wreak havoc on them. Of course, that’s why Hela was here. Loki had a promise to keep, and she intended to make sure he followed through. A searing heat began to emanate from the shackles that wrapped around Loki’s limbs and torso as they began to liquefy in Hela’s hands. He fell to the ground in pain, his wrists throbbing with every heartbeat. He remained on the ground for a few seconds before Hela and Sigyn ran to either side of him, helping him up.
He was free.
“Thank you, both of you,” Loki said, feeling his body fill with a power he had sorely missed. With a wave of his hand, his naked body was adorned in thick furs decorated in rich greens and violets. He walked with an unsteady pace towards the entrance of the cave and felt the glorious chill of Fimbulvetr on his ancient wounds. Blizzards blasted swirling flurries of snow and ice as far as the eye could see, the only light coming from Hela’s lantern.
Loki looked toward the faint outline of Yggdrasil in the far distance. It was finally time for his revenge. It was finally time for the end of all things.
Ragnarok had begun.
Jill Cook, is a game design/cinema arts dual major at Lindenwood University. She currently works as a librarian while continuing to create as much art as she can between assignments.