The cosmos was vast, and unpredicted, full of matter and life, of darkness and nothingness, but it existed and thrived. The Asgardians had another word for it. They called it Yggdrasil, the world tree, and within, it held all the nine realms in its branches, spanning the entire cosmos, giving home to many galaxies and nebulas. It was vast and great, glorious and intimidating, but even so, this would not stop the Odinson. Or so he believed. He would find his way back, to Midgard, to Earth, to find his brother, and to return to Jane, or be lost in the stars, in the branches of the world tree, doomed to damnation.
Such was the curse of a promise.
Coldness. That is what he knew. Of no other thing was he aware, only the cold. The woven threads and cloth of his cloak had become brittle and unmoving, his armor had crystallized, the steel coated with a thin layer of ice. The same crystalline mass pricked his face, and had even spread to his hair.
He was drifting, helplessly and hopelessly through the darkness, suspended by the cold, his own body having become a living prison for itself. Mjolnir was trapped in the icy grasp of his fingers, stretched outwards from his arm, towards the beyond. She carried him as far as she dared, but appeared to be at the end of her own rope.
This could not be the end.
“Look around you,” a familiar voice echoed in his ear, one that he knew would be accompanied by a sneer. “This is the end, and you know it. You should save us both time, and give up while you can, brother.”
“Loki?” Thor’s lips nearly cracked when they parted, but he dared not believe what he heard. His eyes begged to open, but they would not grant him this.
“Oh, he’s awake after all.”
“This… cannot be happening.”
There was a silence. He expected to hear the voice again, but whatever sounds there once were, had been swallowed again by the ringing silence.
He was alone.
“You’re right,” the voice of his brother returned, with the same unrelentingly mocking tone, “But I’m afraid being right hardly matters when you’re nearly dead.”
Deep down, Thor knew it, but idiotic hope had gotten the best of him, along with grief, and desperation. It was delirium.
“Leave me be.”
The voice laughed right in his ear.
“What’s this? The mighty Thor admitting defeat? The God of Thunder succumbing to a little ice?”
Thor gave the voice in his head no response.
“And after so many battles, so many near-death experiences, now is when you choose to give up.”
Thor thought of reaching out with his hand and strangling the voice, knowing full-well what it meant. His own mind was calling him a coward.
“But that is your choice. Who knows, perhaps they’ll sing songs of this back home. Of the mighty prince of Asgard, who lost himself in the stars. It’s nearly poetic, if you think about it.”
“Shut up, Loki,” he muttered.
“Tsk, tsk. I’m only trying to help. If you would rather die, by all means, go right ahead. But you will fail. And I know how much you hate to fail. You will lose father. You will lose mother. You’ll lose me. But I sense that isn’t what’s most important to you, now.”
“You made a promise, didn’t you? To come back for her. For Jane.”
Thunder rumbled in the darkness, echoing through the void.
“If you fail, you’ll lose her, and she will know that you broke your promise.”
Again, it boomed, resonating to the stars the sound of an inward struggle.
“Perhaps you don’t care. Perhaps you never really loved her in the first place.”
It sounded again, louder than before, and Thor’s icy shell splintered.
“But we both know that isn’t true. And if that isn’t true, then you can’t fail, now, can you?”
From beneath his frozen cage, light began to spark at his fingertips, and Mjolnir began to glow. Soon enough, a shard of ice was freed from his form, blasted away by a strike of lightning, followed by another, and then another, and finally, in the act of a brilliant, thunderous storm of light, Thor had freed himself from his cage, with one, final crack of thunder roaring to the cosmos a sound of victory.
At last, he bade his eyes open, and when they did, he knew that he would not see his brother. His brother whom he had always known was capable of being a voice of reason.
At first, he thought that he had lost sight of his path, and had begun to think his quest a futile one. But it was as it always had been. Thor was never what drove himself, but found that it was others that put that spark in him. He could never fight alone.
Looking ahead, he laid eyes on the stars, on the dazzling swirls of nebulas, and there he saw his path; an unrelenting forward.
“I will return to you. To all of you.”
He slipped his hand inside the leather strap of Mjolnir’s handle, and began to spin the weapon. Slowly, she picked up speed, faster and faster she spun, until she was but a blur at his fingertips. The hammer sprang to life as he hurled her forwards, and he soared onwards through the darkness, more determined than before.
Where was he destined?
He knew that his heart would guide him.