Loki’s Last Stand by Matthew Calleja
The cave was dark and damp, as it had been for time unending. He couldn’t recall how long it has been since his own brethren betrayed him. This cave had been his prison for thousands of years, perhaps. Bound by chains made from his own son’s intestines, he had nothing to do but to wait.
He stared at his wife’s beautiful face, as he always did, as she held a bowl over his head. Wrapped around the stalactites of the cave was a snake, with its head above his and its mouth wide open. Its fangs glistened as venom oozed out incessantly. If it weren’t for his wife collecting the venom in her bowl, it would drip onto his face and into his eyes.
The bowl, however, would fill, and as his wife turned to empty it, he would grimace and writhe in pain as a stray droplet burned his eyes. His torment was so great that his flailing and squirming were felt on Midgard in the form of tremors that humans called ‘earthquakes’. Suddenly, the cave shook and shuddered with a force that seemed to come from the very foundations of the earth. Sigyn held on to her husband for dear life as she waited for the tremors to cease. Finally, they did. The cave remained perfectly intact. She was fumbling around in search for her bowl when she heard some noises from behind her. She turned and was amazed. Loki, her handsome husband, was standing, his fetters broken, his face contorted in a smile.
“Rejoice, wife,” exclaimed the wily Loki, “for the prophesied hour is at hand.”
Another sound shook the cave. However, this time it was no earthquake, but an ear-splitting howl, the great cry of a wolf.
“Fenrir has been freed! My son is ready, and so am I.” With that, he started walking towards the opening of the cave. This is it. Today, I will have my revenge. Today is the beginning of the end. Today, I will squash my brothers and sisters like the insects they are. Ragnarok is upon us.
Loki strode out of the cave and was greeted by blackness. An immense darkness had fallen on the lands, colder than the coldest of winters. He knew that the era of the Aesir was coming to an end, and his heart was filled with gleeful excitement. He had neither forgiven nor forgotten the bitterness he felt towards the gods of Asgard. Their betrayal had blackened his heart with unfettered rage. Although he had committed heinous deeds which resulted in the death of the most beloved of the Aesir, Baldur, he would never have expected them to be capable of such cruelty. Being the cleverest of the gods and known as the trickster, the plotter, he did not like surprises. This is precisely why he made his way to Helheim through the black frost before him in order to seek his daughter Hel, Queen of the shameful dead.
As Loki walked to his daughter’s, his heart beating apace, he could not help but think of his treacherous family. He had been tolerated—rather than loved—by his comrades, that much was true. In fact, he was only allowed to live in Asgard because of his guile and quick-mindedness. Every time the gods were in some sort of trouble, he would be the one they turned to for a solution; even though, most of the time, he would be the one to cause the actual trouble in the first place. Perhaps the final straw, the one that broke the camel’s back, was the death of Baldur. Loki never liked Baldur in all his radiant beauty. He deemed him to be pretentious and was jealous of all the attention Baldur received from the other gods.
One fateful day, Loki hatched a clever plan to get rid of Baldur, indirectly. He was successful, but the gods eventually caught wind of Loki’s schemes. Loki, as always, was two steps ahead of them. He retreated and hid away in a place far from Asgard. He plotted, as ever, a plan to escape from the gods lest they be ableto find him, and a counterplan in case his original plan failed. After long years of searching, scouring the earth to find his hiding place, they did. Loki escaped in the form of a salmon and swam upriver, even up a waterfall, to evade his hunters, but he was thwarted at the last second. The mighty Thor, the champion of the gods, grabbed hold of Loki as the latter tried desperately to slip from Thor’s grasp. Thor, however, held tight, and lifted him from the water. Loki transformed into his normal self as he gasped for breath. The gods then proceeded to tie him with rope and Thor carried him on his back.
“Where are you taking me?” squealed Loki.
“Don’t fret, little Loki,” said Thor with a wry smile, “you’ll see soon enough.”
They arrived in a cave. As they walked deeper and deeper into the cave, Loki could make out three figures sitting next to each other. As he approached them, he recognised who they were: his wife, Sigyn, and his two sons.
“They have done nothing wrong. Leave them alone! They do not deserve to be punished.”
Heimdall, the watchman of the gods, who disliked Loki most, said, “They are not the ones that will be punished. You will watch in silence.”
With that, he transformed one of the sons into a great wolf. Saliva dripped from the wolf’s snarling jaws as its bloodshot eyes fixed on Loki’s other son, the wolf’s erstwhile brother. Loki looked on in horror as his wolf-son pounced on his other son with newfound, ravenous hunger, brother tearing brother apart. The wolf let out a great howl and ran out of the cave, its hunger not yet satisfied, leaving its brother as a bloody, grisly mess of guts and gore. Thus, the family of Loki was greatly dishonoured, for there is no greater shame than when brother turns against brother.
Loki looked at his wife Sigyn with great pity, her eyes red and her cheeks sodden with tears, as he was brought to a rock at the back of the cave. Heimdall approached the butchered remains of Loki’s son and tore out his intestines. He tied Loki to the rock with his own son’s entrails, which were turned to solid iron by an incantation. Loki was tied face upwards to the rock, and what greeted his eyes as he looked up filled him with dread. A large snake was wrapped around the stalactites of the cave. It opened its mouth, and yellow droplets of venom oozed out of its fangs and fell into Loki’s eyes. Loki kicked and screamed in pain, and the gods looked on, content in their hearts to see their brother in torment.
“What grim fate awaits me?” asked Sigyn to Heimdall, her heart aching, her lips quivering.
Heimdall handed her a bowl. “Do with this as you see fit.”
With that, the gods exited the cave, and Sigyn held the bowl over her dear husband’s head.
All the years Loki had been imprisoned in that cave, he had been scheming and plotting to right the terrible wrong that had been committed against him. He imagined the battle he craved for most, the battle between him and Heimdall. He foresaw two possible outcomes of such a battle. He longed to plunge his sword into Heimdall’s heart, in full-out revenge for what he had done to him. He yearned to see him suffer and revelled in the thought of watching him die in horrible anguish. His mind was bent on bringing this to pass, thinking of all the ways he could end the watchman’s miserable life. However, being the cleverest of the gods, Loki did not omit the possibility of the situation being reversed, in which he would meet his end at the hands of the one who wronged him so. With this in mind, he spent all those years trapped inside that godforsaken cave scheming and plotting in order to achieve the victory he so desired.
* * *
Loki looked around him. As far as the eye could see, the battlefield was littered with corpses upon corpses. A low-lying smoke hung in the air. He was the sole survivor of his legion of the undead. That did not matter. The fire giants laid waste to the gods and their armies. Victory seemed imminent. Amid the fire and smoke, he searched desperately for the only god that mattered, the only battle that mattered to him. Suddenly, the ashen mist around him seemed to clear. A tall figure, sword in hand, walked towards him with the same arrogant confidence that he knew and despised.
“We meet at last, treacherous fiend!” exclaimed Loki, his heart brimming with anticipation.
“Don’t speak to me of treachery, Loki. You brought your punishment upon yourself. Now, let’s end it, once and for all!”
They leapt at each other. They were so evenly matched that the battle had no victor. Both Loki and Heimdall fell, battered, bloodied, and bruised, on the brink of death. This was an outcome that Loki had not foreseen.
“I won,” muttered Loki with a smile on his face, “It is over.”
“No, brother,” said Heimdall, panting his final words. “It is over for us, but the world will be renewed. A new cycle will begin. You have won nothing but death.” Loki looked around him, and he knew that it was so. He laughed one final time, coughing up blood as he did so, and closed his eyes, never to open them again.