Summary: When Thor died, he took Loki's world with him. Loki volunteers as the ritual sacrifice at his brother's funeral.
Author's notes: Based around the 10th century account by Ahmad ibn Fadlan of Viking funeral rituals.
Warnings: All sorts - Consent issues, deathfic, suicide, themes of torture and incest. Oh, and a burning longboatful of angst.
The angel of death walked with him between the tents. She walked a respectful distance away at the start, while he moved with his head held high and his legs steady. After the third tend, his feet began to drag, and her hand came to rest under his elbow, steadying. By the fifth tent, she gripped his arm in her wizened claw of a hand, and her strength was greater than it seemed. He leaned into her. There were so many tents yet to come, for all of Asgard had loved their crown prince and all of them enough to show that love at his funeral.
The angel had to all but carry him into the tent of Hogun, the prince's close friend. The end was near, and he wanted to feel more relief than dread. He dropped to his knees the moment he was released, and Hogun crouched to lift his chin. "Loki," he said in a low voice. "Can you do this?"
Loki's voice was slow to come, and hoarse. "I can last long enough. I swear it."
It wasn't the answer to the question Hogun had meant, but he nodded and spoke no more. He guided Loki gently to a blanket at the back of the tent, pushed him onto his elbows and knees and entered him. Loki gasped, even though his body was so numb he could barely feel it, and swayed with the motion as Hogun took him. The cock inside him was large, but no larger than most and Hogun moved quickly, merciful. He reached a peak as soon as he could manage, and leaned close to whisper in Loki's ear, "Tell your master... that I do this because of the love I bear him."
Barely were the words out when his hot seed slicked Loki's insides. Loki shuddered under it, and told himself that he imagined the wet drops that landed on the back of his neck. Hogun was not a man prone to tears.
Afterwards, Hogun took a cloth to wipe his spending from Loki's thighs, and the mingled spending of every warrior who had come before him. The cloth was a soft as any he could find, but Loki hissed with pain anyway. As he rose to leave, Hogun caught his arm, uncharacteristically sentimental, and offered him a shallow bow. Shallow, yes, but more than Loki merited now, when he had taken on the status of nithing, of an absent person, a nothing-man.
The angel's hands supported him as he dragged himself to the next tent. Sif's tent. So close now to the end. He tried to keep his feet when the angel released him, but then he had been trying for the last five or ten tents and hadn't managed it for an hour. He fell to his knees, almost forward onto his hands, but Sif knelt before him and caught him by the chest. "Loki," she breathed.
It was a broken sigh of grief, and the tears that had been standing in his eyes since the very first tent spilled uninvited. "He's dead, Sif. Thor is dead."
Her forehead pressed against his own as her shoulders shook. "And now you as well."
His eyes were closed when she pulled away and stood. He didn't want to open them. "How... How should we...?" Women weren't customarily part of a ritual such as this, but warriors were. When Sif replied her voice was clipped.
"Just use your tongue. Be quick, Loki. I don't want to have to think about this."
He bowed his head. Of course Sif would want this to be over as quickly as possible. It was a surprise that she could bear to be touched by him at all. He made the offer that a few of the men before her had accepted, "Shall I change my form to one more pleasing?"
"Loki, no!" Her voice was so appalled that he couldn't help but look up. Her face, her eyes, the soul behind them was so utterly broken that it took his breath away. There were tears on her cheeks and she said again, "No!"
He lay on his back on the blankets and she moved herself over his mouth. He pulled her close with both hands, as he could not trust himself to raise his head, and tasted her for the first time. It was a minute, maybe two, before both her fists hit the dirt above his head. Another minute before the first gasp broke through her stoicism. Her body trembled above him, and he was relentless. "Oh," she breathed at last. "Oh, Loki. Loki. How could you-- How could you think I would want anyone but you? How could you think that tonight?"
He felt her begin to tighten and twitch around his tongue, and his hands convulsed on her hips. "Tell your brother," she gasped, "Tell him that I do this for love of him!" She writhed in his grip and spoke in a desperate whisper. "And of you. Loki. You stupid son of a -- Ahh!"
There was a rush of wetness against his tongue, and he drew back to swallow the taste of it. Sif climbed off him, still shaking, and he struggled to sit. She watched him desolately.
"Can I change your mind?" she asked. "Do not do this--"
He shook his head. "No," he said shortly. "Not you."
She caught him as he stumbled to the tent flap, and kissed his lips dry. He kissed her back for one second of indulgence, then all but fell into the waiting arms of the angel.
She walked him to the last tent, the one he knew would hurt him the most, and the little bird of doubt fluttered its wings in his chest. Still he ducked inside, and stumbled to the post in the centre before sliding inelegantly to the floor. He had wanted to keep some dignity in store for this tent, but it seemed that on his last night in the world even that would be denied him. He dropped into an obeisance to the tent's occupant.
"Loki," said Odin. "Son."
"My king," Loki whispered through his pinched and aching throat.
The man who had been his father knelt and lifted him to sit back on his heels. "Will you now reconsider?" he asked roughly. "Asgard has lost its crown prince. Will you deprive it of its second son as well?"
Loki surprised himself by a bitter laugh. "Please, father," the word dripped sarcasm. "Don't let's lie to ourselves. Not so late as this. I am no son of Asgard."
"Then your mother. Must she lose two children?"
"She loses only one." Loki risked a look into Odin's milky blue eye. What do you lose this night, Allfather? Why would you have me change my mind?
"You yet have friends in Asgard, boy. Would you throw them all away? There is so much in you that would be lost. No other can do all the things you do."
Loki made a sound that was neither laugh nor sob, but something that was both humour and despair in equal measure. "I have left journals enough, Odin, that you may discover my secrets." If you can find them. "Please. Let me have this decision as my own."
His argument, almost meant, was too convincing, and Odin left a gasping emptiness inside Loki as he reluctantly nodded. "On the bed," he rasped.
Loki crouched on his hands and knees, but Odin shoved at him. "On your back, child," he said. "I owe you that much."
Loki shuddered. "I don't want--"
"Then you owe me."
A nithing could not be allowed to refuse a king. Loki turned over slowly, lowered himself onto his back, and spread his legs. He fixed his gaze on the canvas above him and waited for it to end.
A shaky moan left his throat as Odin's cock stretched him open, and there was no strength left in him to hold it in. It was followed by the first sob of pain, and he saw in Odin's eye disgust and horror. The gallows god lasted no more than two thrusts before his length began to soften inside his son. Loki bit his lip and turned his head to hide his face as much as he could, but it did no good. Odin moved his hips, but his cock was fully soft.
Loki gasped frustration. He would not suffer this ordeal to be drawn out any longer than it could. He chased after the last scraps of magic in his tattered soul and cast around for a face to wear. Not Frigga. He couldn't do it, and Odin would not want it, not now. Inspiration struck and he shivered into the form of his own sire. Or dam, or whatever Laufey had been to him. He covered himself in old scars and fresh wounds and spat illusory blood from his mouth as he snarled up at the man braced over him.
"You win," he gasped helplessly. "You win at last, Allfather."
He let his skin feel as chill as it should, and Odin's eye flew wide. He snapped his hips, pushing up against his ancient enemy and his stolen child. In moments he was hard again, and Loki struggled ineffectively against him until he came with a wrung out gasp. Under the illusion his body was wracked with sobs and he waited for them to die away before he allowed the veil to fall. Odin withdrew and sat back as though he had suffered some defeat.
"I am sorry," he said. "I could not--"
"It's not over yet," Loki interrupted him. He would hear no apology.
Odin lifted him to sit, and pulled him close. He pressed a scratchy kiss to Loki's brow, a mash of his lips so hard that Loki felt the teeth behind them. "Whatever you may believe, my winter's child," he whispered, "you were my son."
Were. Loki leaned his feverish brow against his king's lips, and then stood. He passed out of the tent and to his death.
His angel of death led him to a flat of wood wide enough to lift his body, and he collapsed against it. His legs would never have to carry him again. Her bony hands gripped his shoulders, pulling him into place on the board. A faceless crowd gathered around him, and he felt the sway as he was lifted, but he didn't see who lifted him. The sky was dark, and Loki's eyes were darkening, and the firelight from the torches and burners was not quite enough.
There was a shout, and Loki was raised into the air, a jerking motion fast enough to force the air from his weak lungs. Spots danced across his vision, bright and dark, and he knew he should see something but he was too pressed to cling to consciousness. He couldn't die yet! Not when there was worse indignity to come. He curled his hands into fists and whimpered. It dawned on him that the board was back on solid ground just as the voice of the angel sounded out, "What did you see?"
Nothing. He licked his lips and begged uncaring providence that his voice would be steady. "I saw... my mother and my father," he recited. "They beckoned to me."
His head fell to one side, listless, and his eyes fell upon the queen. She was sobbing without shame, all propriety abandoned. She was allowed, Loki supposed. It was the funeral of her son. Though she sat by the Allfather, she did not reach a hand to him for comfort.
Loki wondered if he still smelled of sex, but the thought was shaken from his head as the board was lifted again. He gasped, and looked upwards. The stars of the Midgardian sky mocked him. So distant, and their light still too bright for his eyes.
"What did you see?" asked again the angel of death as the board touched dirt.
"I saw..." Loki choked, took a beat to breathe. "My family. And all those who love me. They beckoned to me." I saw nothing.
His head whirled, and he wondered if the wetness on the board under him would be red or white. Then he was lifted again. Desperate this time, he knew what he should see. So since he would not see it, he forced himself to remember it.
He thought of Thor's face in his final moment. The way his eyes had widened, and then sought out Loki's across the battlefield. The way he had called his brother's name. His outstretched hand. The spray of blood and cloud of smoke that had separated Loki's sight from his, and Thor's life from his fleshly form. He remembered the knowledge, how it had hit like a sheet of ice, that it was all over.
For the mighty Thor, and for the worthless brother he left behind.
"What did you see?" Loki's eyes snapped open. He had not even felt the board touch ground.
"I saw my master," he said and forced it to be the truth. "He beckoned to me."
There was the sound of sobbing in the crowd, and Loki wondered which of Thor's lovers it was. The angel of death fitted her hands under his arms and pulled him up. The crowd around him thinned and retreated until he was alone with her.
"You still have time," said the angel. Loki looked into the eyes of his friend and teacher. Gulveig had been a constant ally of his, a fellow seidmadr. Now she was the hand that would kill him. "You can change your mind yet, Trickster."
"And return to Asgard?" he asked, tired in more than body. "Be their prince again after this? No, Gulveig. My time was up the moment Thor went from my brother and friend to cooling wormfood. I'll carry on."
Gulveig nodded, her eyes hooded and grave, and motioned to six heavyset men who waited. Loki didn't recognise so much as one of them, a mercy he blamed on his angel. As they approached he turned his head to whisper to her, suddenly hurried and desperate. "I wish you luck with those people, my friend. You be strong. Don't let them take you, Gulveig! I pray for luck for you!"
"And I wish the same for you, on your journey."
Then there were rough hands on him, pulling him towards the final tent.
The sound of fists bashing against shields rang in Loki's ears. He knew the reason for it. None of the mourners at Thor's funeral wanted to be haunted by the dying screams of a nithing. But he welcomed the sound to drown out his own thoughts. And besides. He didn't feel he had the strength to scream.
But then he was lifted by the hips and sank down onto the cock of a man whose name he couldn't recall and it wrung a gasp out of him. He was bent forwards and when a second man entered him alongside the first he did scream. Like a broken floodgate he screamed, he screamed with hoarse voice and broken mind and he screamed as loud as he could until someone thought to stop his mouth. Out of instinct he tried to bite, but there were strong hands on his jaw and the back of his head to hold his mouth open and force hard flesh down his throat until he couldn't breathe.
Loki's eyes rolled back in his head and he blocked out as much of reality as he could. For a moment there was a hand on his cock but when it received no reaction it moved to grope along his thigh. There were fingers laced into his hair, pulling. Somebody took his hand and pressed it to their cock, or somebody else's cock but he couldn't force his fingers to close so he stopped trying. And at all times there was at least one man inside him, taking him with such ferocity that he wanted it over, he wanted it over even though he knew what waited for him after.
One by one, each of the men found completion in his or over his skin. Their seed was hot and stung where it met his flesh and Loki shuddered with shame.
But then, at last, it was done. And Gulveig, witty Gulveig, the angel of his death, had a dagger in her hand. Loki watched it catch the light though he could not even lift his head. It was wicked sharp and the edge of it was greedy for him. It was going to kill him. That edge would drink deep and that would be the end of Loki. Lie smith, Silvertongue, most cunning sky walker and the unquiet thought. Loki himself. All bound up in a sticky drop of blood that would roll down the dagger's shaft and meet Gulveig's fingers.
She leaned close to place a kiss on his head, and though he did not feel her lips his eyes never left the wicked edge.
Then, though he didn't see his angel's signal, the men who had taken him laid their hands on him again, lifted him with a gentleness that made him sick, and carried him to a bed with soft blankets. Loki's eyes were still on the knife, but as the material scraped his overwrought skin he remembered what this tent was. It had been pitched for Thor, the dead and mourned Prince Thor. These blankets were all blankets he had slept in. Before he had died. He turned his head to breathe against the bed, and promised himself that the scent of his brother was real, though he knew it was a lie.
Strong hands held his left and right wrists, his right and left ankles and a thick rope was wrapped around his neck. It left bruises where it was pressed against his throat. The glint of the knife's edge was filling his world now, and the imagined scent of Thor. Thor, and the dagger. His brother and the instrument of his passing. The dagger, Thor. His lover, his death. Thor was his downfall. He cast himself back into that moment, the smoke filled battle where, Brother, look out! had turned into, Thor, you have killed me.
There were tears in his eyes again, or perhaps he had still not stopped crying, and he breathed the unscented air from the blankets. Then the rope around his neck was pulled tight and he would never breathe again.
He tried, he tried to lie still, but now that he could not move a single muscle under his own power the fear he had kept suppressed was free to rule him. He pitched on the bed, pulled with weak limbs against the strong warriors who held him down. No. No, he didn't want this. He couldn't die, not Loki! He was Sin Sly, the unfettered flame. There was no world, not without Loki in it! Not without Thor!
Not without Thor.
And as Gulveig lifted the dagger in her hand, Loki wished he had the chance to take one last breath.
They laid the body of the sacrifice in the ship before it was set alight. It was not the custom. It was something obscene, in truth, but the king commanded it and the reproachful unforgiving eyes of the queen meant that none spoke against it. And so the bloody and profane corpse of a nithing was laid in among the offerings next to the crown prince. As the boat was pushed out on the waters, they burned together, and their ashes sank one indistinguishable from the other into the sea.