For much of his young life, Loki had no reason to believe he was different from any other boy. More clever and talented, certainly, but that was the extent of his perceived differences. He grew up happy and privileged and sheltered, a prince of the Golden Realm, ignorant of the powerful secrets his parents were keeping from him.
The blissful tapestry of his life began to unravel the morning he woke up to a patch of blood on his bedsheets, and it would continue to fall steadily apart over the next several centuries before finally ripping asunder the day Frigga died.
She had known from the beginning, of course, that the whimpering babe Odin placed in her arms so long ago was a Jötunn child, but this had not dampened her affection in the slightest; she loved little Loki from the moment he first looked up at her with his dewy eyes and quivering lip, though it wasn’t until she was giving him his first warm bath that she discovered he was indeed unique, blessed with two sexes instead of one. This did not matter to Frigga, but she was concerned—and understandably so—about the difficulties Loki might face once he came of age. For this reason she withheld her knowledge from Odin, believing it would cause unnecessary tension within their newly-expanded family, and to Loki she never mentioned a thing.
Not directly, at least.
The closest she came to telling him the truth was the time she discovered Loki and Thor were skipping their studies to go swimming. Loki was incredibly persuasive, even as a young child, and one of his favorite activities involved urging Thor and a contingent of their shared friends to sneak out of Old Bjarte’s history lesson to go for a swim in the nearby spring. Old Bjarte, as his name implied, was older than darkness and nearly completely blind, so Loki would cast illusions of himself and the other students reading quietly in their lesson books while their real counterparts would be creeping through the halls, giggling and shushing each other, with Loki in the lead. They’d sneak past the sentries and run down the little dirt path to the spring, leaving a trail of cast-off garments as they all tried to outrace one another to the water.
It was a flawless scheme but somehow Old Bjarte found out about it, and Loki and Thor were forced to confess their habitual truancy in front of their frowning parents. Odin had given them equal sentences—Loki for instigating the mischief and Thor for squalling and blaming his brother in a most unprincely manner—but Frigga had taken Loki aside once they were dismissed, kneeling down so she could look her son directly in his eyes.
“You mustn’t swim with your brother or his friends again,” she told him quietly. “Not during lessons, not even on free days. It is neither safe nor appropriate, darling.”
Loki thought it was terribly unfair and began to cry, knowing that his mother hated to see him in such a state. “Not safe? Why? Is swimming really that bad? Is the spring dangerous? Why did no one tell me? It’s not my fault! Why are you punishing me? I didn’t know!”
“Oh, Loki.” Frigga sighed and rearranged her gown so she could sit on the floor beside him. “The spring is safe, and you may swim anytime you like, just not with the other children.”
“But why? It’s boring to swim alone! There’s no one to play with! Thor still gets to swim with the other boys, why not me?”
“Because you are much more special than the other boys, Loki.”
Loki had immediately ceased his sniveling and perked up, just as Frigga predicted he would. Children, she knew, were ridiculously self-centered, and Loki was perhaps the vainest boy she had ever known. Hopefully she would be able to cure him of that before it became a problem.
“There is great magic and power hidden in your body, Loki,” she said to him, “and it must not be shown to any of your friends. If they knew, they might try to take it from you.”
Loki’s eyes widened. He knew very little about sex at this tender age, but he understood magic, and he was fiercely jealous of his abilities—what few he possessed compared to his stronger, larger peers.
He hugged himself defensively, looking troubled. “Have I been showing them my secrets all this time? Have they learnt anything?”
“I don’t believe so.” Frigga gave him a wan smile. “It’s not the end of the world, Loki. You are not forbid from playing in the water. Anytime you want to go swimming, I will take you myself. And I’ll teach you water magic, how does that sound? I know it won’t be as much fun as playing with your friends, but—”
“No, that sounds great!” said Loki with a gap-toothed grin. “Learning magic is more fun than getting splashed in the face by Thor.”
Frigga had laughed, Loki had hugged her neck, mollified, and thus his innocence was preserved for a little while longer.
It was a decision she would regret for many years to come.
Loki, only just turned thirteen and now entering the stage of his life where the natural aging process began to slow, appeared before Frigga one day with a grim, ashen face and said to her plainly, “Something is wrong with me, Mother. I’ve been bleeding for three days and nothing in the healing room can stop it. I think I’m dying.”
Frigga’s heart promptly shattered. She dropped what she was doing and pulled Loki into her arms, begging his forgiveness.
Alarmed, he asked what for.
“For not telling you sooner,” she said, blinking the tears from her eyes. “For raising a naïve young man who should have been made aware of his wonderful differences. Oh, my dear Loki, I am so sorry.”
Loki was utterly confused and still very frightened, believing his death to be close at hand. Frigga assured him it was not, and dismissed her attendants. She led her son to a more private room, sat him down, and told him the same honest, difficult story that mothers have been telling their daughters since time immemorial.
Loki was devastated. After the initial horror and shame had passed, grief set in, wringing rivers of tears from his already overwhelmed body. Frigga did her best to answer the questions he demanded of her, though hindsight explained a few of them, such as his natural aptitude for magic, a talent long considered to be the dominion of women, and certain aspects of his psychology—his knack for languages, his articulate speech, how he expressed his emotions, his social interactions, the effortless way he moved between both sides of Asgardian society. He was surprised to learn that his unconscious impartiality toward the sexes was making him quite popular with his friends and the general public.
“You’re going to be a wonderful king someday, Loki,” Frigga assured him.
“Maybe I’ll be a queen instead,” he said icily, “then one day I might tell this same lie to my own crying, bleeding son who will never ever be king.”
His words cut her deeply—as he intended—but she was still his mother, and he had never before seen such hurt in her eyes as he did then. His bitterness evaporated and he apologized for being so insolent. Frigga understood his frustration and forgave him, hugged him, and bolstered the resolve she needed to speak her next words:
“You must tell no one of this. Until we find answers to some of your questions, it would be best if this remained a secret between just the two of us.”
“But why? What’s wrong with Father knowing? Or Thor? How am I going to keep this a secret from him? We spend so much time together.”
Frigga tried not to think about it, but a mother’s imagination is most creative when it comes to envisioning the worst scenarios that might befall her children. She wasn’t worried about Thor teasing or antagonizing Loki for his anatomical differences—no, that could be remedied with a little discipline and reprimand; it was the thought that, in a few years’ time, Thor might take a keen interest in those anatomical differences and . . .
It wasn’t likely, but it was possible, and that was enough for Frigga.
“I’m afraid they wouldn’t understand, darling,” she said. “Perhaps someday you may tell them, but not yet. Not until you yourself have some idea of . . .”
“Of what I am?” he finished sharply. “Until I discover the curse that’s made me into this freak?”
“You are not a freak, Loki, nor are you cursed. You’re my bright, talented, beautiful son, and we’re going to walk this path together. I love you and I am here for you, darling, no matter what.”
Whether he believed his mother’s tender words or not, a change came over Loki after that day. His magic began to take on a dark, menacing tone. He spent less time studying the craft with Frigga and instead taught himself, holing up in the dark corners of Asgard’s great library or sneaking out at night to scour the black markets for books of a less wholesome nature. Frightening illusions and mind-altering charms became his favorite tools, and terrorizing the palace waitstaff was an endless source of amusement to him. He cultivated his fluency with words and thus grew to be a master of doublespeak, manipulation, and back-handed compliments. He was a convincing actor and a more convincing liar, fooling even his parents—at least until he was finally caught, sometimes years after the fact.
As far as family was concerned, Loki’s relationship with Thor changed much in the same way his relationship with everyone else had: he distanced himself and built up a protective wall behind which he could hide his shameful bleeding and effeminate characteristics. He watched with envy as his peers broadened with muscle and sprouted whiskers while he himself remained slim and hairless. He did gain some height, and while his voice eventually deepened, it remained smooth and soft, lacking the typical masculine gravel. He was bitterly jealous when he saw how normal and well-liked his brother was becoming, how he was growing into the ideal image of Asgardian manhood: brawny, bearded, handsome, with legions of female admirers and more than a few male admirers. And Loki, to his horror, discovered he was among that number.
At first he didn’t understand it, the heat that would pour up from his neck and turn his face red whenever he and Thor were alone together, the way his heart would stammer and his mouth would go dry, his palms turning into cold, clammy knots. Even worse was the way his beastly, disgusting body would yearn for him, for his own brother, that vile place between his legs weeping and oozing and squelching until he was forced to excuse himself and go change his underclothes. He didn’t have the courage to tell his mother about these embarrassing reactions, and he would rather die than admit they were because of Thor. So he bore them as best as he could, lonely and silently. He tried to educate himself by studying all that was written of female biology, and eavesdropped on conversations between young women as they whispered and giggled to one another.
All it did was confirm what a truly depraved, abominable monster he was.
He decided his best option was to simply avoid Thor at all costs, but Thor had begun to notice Loki’s increasing coldness toward him, and the more Loki tried to evade him, the more Thor sought him out.
“What have I done?” he would ask time and time again, pursuing Loki through the halls of their home. “Have I offended you somehow? If there is a fault for which I’m responsible, if I have wronged you in any way, I would have you tell me so I might correct it! Don’t leave me to suffer in my ignorance!”
One time—the last time it would happen—Loki finally turned to confront him, his eyes blazing with fury. “You think you know suffering, brother? You don’t even know the meaning of the word!”
“Then explain it to me!” Thor cried. “Tell me why you recoil from my very presence! Where do you go when you hide yourself away? Are you hurting, Loki? Is it because of me? Is it something I’ve done?”
Loki tried to resume his stride, but Thor slapped a hand on the wall in front of him, blocking his path. He leaned in close, his face full of anguish.
“We used to spend every minute of every day together,” he said brokenly, “and now I barely know who you are. The only time I see you is at mealtimes, and you never speak to me then. You don’t even look at me. Even now you will not meet my eyes. Loki”—he put his hand beneath Loki’s chin and lifted it until they were staring at one another—“please, whatever it is you’re hiding, whatever it is that’s causing you this pain, you can tell me. I can’t promise I’ll understand everything you say, you’re so much more clever than me, but I promise I’ll try. You’re my brother and I love you.”
Loki stood frozen against the wall, his repugnant body already beginning to respond to their closeness.
Thor’s hand left Loki’s chin and slipped around to cradle the back of his neck, a gesture he was fond of using on his lady friends when he spoke to them intimately. Loki was instantaneously paralyzed.
“You’ve changed so much,” Thor said with a smile. “Your hair, your behavior, your magic, everything about you. Even your smell. Oh, no, don’t be embarrassed, it’s not a bad smell. It’s actually quite nice. Me, I stink like a wild goat, but you . . .”
He trailed off, his thumb beginning to caress the smooth skin of Loki’s neck. His eyes darkened and his smiled faded.
“It’s a sweet smell,” he murmured, “like some kind of lily. A thick, wet scent, but made of flesh instead of grass. You smell of it now. It’s strong and cool and . . . it’s you . . .”
Loki knew just what it was that Thor smelled, and even though the thought made his insides churn with dread, the hot, damp feeling between his legs continued to spread.
Thor leaned in close and inhaled the warmth that rose from Loki’s collar. “I’ve missed you, Loki. We used to be so close, you and I. We were inseparable. What happened?”
“We grew up,” said Loki in a hoarse whisper. He could feel the heat radiating from his brother’s face, and knew he was equally aroused. “And we’re growing apart, as we should. It is natural. Just as wolf pups leave their littermates behind to form their own packs.”
“But we aren’t wolves, Loki. We are Aesir.” Thor leaned still closer, his voice dropping to a low rumble. “We are blood. We are kin. We are inseparable. I don’t ever want to be without you, my brother. You belong to me, and I to you.”
Loki put his hand on Thor’s chest, intending to push him back, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. His body wanted him, his mind, his heart, every fiber of his being longed to press against Thor’s warm, solid weight and feel the part of him that would unite their flesh as one. All he had to do was reach down and touch him, and Loki was certain—absolutely, utterly sure—that Thor would have him, right here and now, in this very hallway. He wondered if Thor was as big as he suspected, if it would hurt when he put it in, if there would be blood, like what some virgin women experienced. He wondered if Thor was a gentle lover or rough and wild, what it would feel like when he spilled inside him, if his body would accept the seed it was given and . . .
That mortifying thought was enough to jerk Loki back to his rational mind, and before he was even aware of what he was doing, he had drawn the little push dagger from his belt and thrust it between Thor’s ribs.
Thor cried out and staggered back, and Loki fled in terror, his pulse pounding in his ears and the fragrant gush of his vim gliding between his legs with every leap and bound.
“Loki, wait!” Thor called out, but Loki was already gone, dashing through the darkened courtyard, flying up the staircase and down the long corridor to his chambers. He burst through the doors and slammed them shut with a thought, their heavy latches bolting securely without the aid of hands. He stormed toward the bed, but instead of flinging himself upon it, he fell to his knees and scurried beneath it, like he used to do when he was a child.
There, away from the prying, ever-watchful eyes that seemed to surround the kingdom of Asgard, he lay in the darkness and wept for himself, for being such a revolting, reprehensible person. For being cursed with this abnormal body. For lacking the power to control it. For allowing his lust to ruin his relationship with his brother, the only person in the world whose opinion still mattered to him. He sobbed and gagged on his sorrow and moaned the same two words over and over: why me, why me, why, why me . . .
But even his tears weren’t enough to extinguish the flame that had been lit inside him, and when at last he had cried himself out, he slid his breeches down around his thighs and touched himself, surrendering to his fantasies. Safe in this private little world under his bed, he allowed himself to think of Thor. He thought of his brother lying down with him, holding him, caressing him, kissing him, making love to him. He thought of Thor slipping himself into that terrible emptiness that lay between his legs and soothing the ache that clamored there.
It had been a long time since Loki had seen Thor in the nude, certainly before they were adolescents, so the smooth wooden phallus he conjured in his hand was only an approximation. He pushed his breeches down a little farther, until he could open his legs just wide enough, and slowly eased it inside.
He groaned—partly out of relief, mostly out of shame. He was so wet and ready that the only resistance he encountered was the narrowness of his sheath as it stretched around the imitation cock. Soon that too was remedied as he began to work it in and out.
“Brother,” he sighed to the underside of his bed, moving the billet rhythmically back and forth, pressing it ever deeper inside him. “Ah, Thor. . .”
His flesh smacked and sucked against the polished wood, becoming coated with the clear, viscous fluid that issued from his vaginal walls. It dripped down to the phallus’ base and covered his fingers with its slick, flowery warmth. He bit his lip and closed his eyes, and filled the slow, decadent minutes with his depraved wishes.
It was better this way, hidden safely in shadow where his foulness could be isolated from the rest of civilized society. Here no one knew how sick he was. No one saw the grotesque images parading through his brain, one erotic indulgence after another. No one heard his breathless whimper as he climaxed for the sixth and final time, his finger rubbing rapidly against the little nub that brought him so much pleasure.
No, the world, if indeed it was watching, saw only a disheveled young man crawling out from under his bed, his cheeks flushed and his dark eyes gleaming wetly with remorse.
In the following years, still long before the Golden Realm would glimpse its last sunrise, Loki discovered that there was a rhythm to his cycles, certain days when his magic became erratic or disappeared altogether—typically just before he bled—and days when he was unstoppable, thrumming with power and energy. There were days when he loved Thor with all his heart and days when the sight of him was enough to set his teeth on edge, where if Thor so much as laid a careless hand on his shoulder it would come away with a blade embedded in it.
It was more than just hormones. It was his body’s way of reminding him when it was best to conceive, but that was far less disturbing a matter that the development he’d noticed in Thor’s own physiology.
His brother was astonishingly, supernaturally fertile.
Even before he had fully grasped the concepts of reproduction, Thor’s powers of potency had been noticed by their parents. Life seemed to spring from the very ground upon which he trod; patches of earth that had been barren and wasted since the beginning of time grew green and lush. He could purify the stalest, most stagnant water and render it drinkable. His touch alleviated pains, poisons and aches more effectively than any potion. The weak and orphaned animals he brought home quickly regained their strength and grew into healthy, flourishing adults. Loki remembered spying on the private meetings held between their parents and many sad, childless couples. He would watch from the shadows as Frigga gently bade Thor place his hands upon the unfortunate pair and bestow them a blessing of fruitfulness. That blessing was always fulfilled, if the numerous joyful messages that came weeks later were not evidence enough.
And many years later here they were, two young Aesir, one bearing a terrible secret that, ironically, happened to be the other’s field of expertise.
Loki spent many long, solitary hours of the night wondering if Thor was the reason he had begun to bleed, if he had in fact been sterile at birth like some of the chimeras he read about, and his brother’s presence had spontaneously sparked his womb into production. If that were true, then Thor was also responsible for the unwholesome, incestual urges that had possessed Loki’s entire being, and if that were the case . . .
. . . then none of this was Loki’s fault. It was Thor’s. The anguish, the humiliation, the cramps, the bleeding, this hideous, defective anatomy that made Loki want to curse his parents and die, it was all Thor’s fault.
Before that dreadful day when he finally learned who his real sire was, this was the truth that had set Loki free. He was no longer responsible for anything negative or unpleasant that happened in his life. He could blame it all on Thor.
And he did.
The alienation of all his childhood friends, and his subsequent loneliness and despair: Thor’s fault. His physical inability to grow stronger and more masculine: Thor’s fault. His increasing resentment toward Odin and the rift that opened up between him and his mother: Thor’s fault. His desperate longing for equality. His descent into greed and madness. His fall into oblivion. His feverish ambition. His failure as both conqueror and king. His villainy. His imprisonment. His mother’s death. His rage. His last great act of deception. The love that lay like a deeply-buried relic in the loamy black soils of his heart.
All of it was Thor’s fault. Unquestionably. Irrevocably.
And several hundred years later, when Loki’s greatest fear finally became a reality aboard a spacecraft bearing the last of Asgard’s tattered remains, he would blame Thor for that, too.