The Nightmare

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"You look quite tired, brother," Thor told me, placing a crushing hand on my shoulder, "Why, I've seen corpses with more life than you. Look at those circles beneath your eyes!"

"Thank you for that keen observation," I replied, wanting to punch that goofy grin off his face, "But I'm just fine, thanks."

Unfortunately, I wasn't going to get out of conversation that easily.

His hand gripped my shoulder more firmly, trying to coax a moment of sincerity out of me.

"I care about you, Loki. I want to be sure you are well rested to enjoy all the festivities when I am crowned king tomorrow. It's not every millennia such a celebration happens."

My stomach burned just thinking of Thor hailed a king, someone whose head was filled with more meat than brain.

"I'll keep that in mind," I told him, forcing a smile, "I don't want to ruin your special day."

He laughed heartily, the tone grating my nerves.

"You could never ruin any day, Loki."

My fake smile turned genuine at hearing this.

Not because of the heartfelt sentiments of my brother, but because I remembered the special surprise I had planned for him in the form of several uninvited guests from Jotunheim.

"There he is!" Thor exclaimed seeing my joyful expression, "I knew my happy brother was hiding in there somewhere. Now, why don't you go and get some rest before you really become a corpse."

He laughed again and slapped me on the back causing me to almost fall from my chair.

"I'll try."

Not wishing to hear anymore about how deep the darkened circles were under my eyes I walked away and went back to my room and locked the door.

The curtains were still closed hiding the windows, only a few rogue streams of the Asgardian sunset sneaking past the thick fabric.

Every step took effort as I finally flopped myself onto my bed, my arms and legs weighted by the fatigue of many sleepless nights.

The problem wasn't because I couldn't sleep. The problem was that I could, and once I did, the most vicious nightmares consumed me.

I would always find myself deep underground in a cavern, naked, my wrists and ankles chained to a large rock. Surrounding me stood the court of Asgard, Thor and my father among them.

And they laughed.

Pointed.

Mocked.

But that wasn't the worst part.

A great serpent was positioned overhead, its fangs shooting a stream of venom that flowed down my naked flesh.

I'd writhe and cry out in pain, but none of them would stop their taunts.

None of them except a woman I didn't know.

She was radiant. Blonde curls tumbled down to her shoulders, a flush of pink brightening her porcelain skin.

But it was her eyes that allowed me to know hope. Vivid blue shone into me, the sensation of cool water taming the rage in my soul.

Holding a wooden bowl she would place it beneath the stream of venom, allowing me some brief moments of relief. But the bowl could only hold so much until she would have to dump out the poison, the waterfall searing my skin once more.

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