Lessons (2,596 words) by LokiOfSassgaard
Fandom: Thor (Movies), Thor (Comics), Loki (Comics), Norse Marvel
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Loki, Odin
Summary: Loki has had a parade of teachers since he was old enough to cast magic on his own. For some reason, they never seem to stick around for very long.
Odin was Loki’s first teacher, imparting upon him not the magic he needed to hide himself, but the fear of what would happen if he let it slip in front of anyone. As soon as Loki was old enough to speak and understand words, Odin was there, warning him of the dangers.
At first, it was Odin’s own magic that was used to keep Loki hidden, until he had the control and fear to do it himself.
These weren’t lessons that Thor received. These lessons were private; only for Loki, and Loki alone. And they were powerful lessons. Lessons that terrified him. Lessons he had listened to, internalised, and memorised before his fourth nameday. Though the magic was an innate ability, he had to learn to control it. After learning to control it, he had to learn to ignore the hot, itchy feeling it left under his skin. He hated the form his father made him wear, but he didn’t hate it enough to ignore the warnings. Nor did he hate it more than the magic Odin forced on him when he would not use his own. Loki’s magic was hot and itchy, but Odin’s was suffocating and unbending. And so Loki learned to control the magic that kept him hidden away from any who might wish him harm.
Loki was five when he discovered he could make sparks with his fingers. Brilliant green sparks that lit up an entire room. It was that same day he discovered the sparks could set fire to things like rugs and tapestries. His hands were burnt, and his hair and eyebrows singed before he was rescued by the Einherjar outside the nursery. It wasn’t until he was in the man’s arms, watching several others stomp out and douse the flames that Loki began to cry.
Later, in Eir’s chambers, while he ate the bowl of fruit that had been given to him as an effective distraction, he listened to his parents talk about him from the other side of the room.
“How was he able to do such a thing?” Frigga asked, looking back and forth between Odin and Eir. “That wasn’t Jötunn magic. It’s not even seiðr.”
“No,” Odin agreed. “We’ll need to find him a master. I’d thought to put this off a while longer, but I think we’ve waited long enough.”
Loki looked down at his hands, burnt and bandaged. He was allowed to wear his natural form in Eir’s chambers, and he could see patches of bright pink poking out from under the bandages, vibrant and angry against the dark blue of his skin. He had done that, with his own magic. And rather than being scolded and punished, his father spoke of finding him a master to teach him more. He supposed that wasn’t so bad.
As soon as his hands were healed, Loki was introduced to the man. He was an old and wrinkled Álfar sorcerer with hair the colour of silver and a face that seemed incapable of smiling. But at least Loki was allowed to wear his natural form with the man.
So that he was free from distraction, Odin had said.
Loki had expected to be doing a lot more magic, but it seemed all the old sorcerer wanted to do was talk. Loki was only just starting to learn to read, much to the old man’s consternation, as apparently he was meant to be writing everything down. Instead, all he could do was listen as the man talked endlessly about different types of magic. Jötunn and Asgardian and seiðr and Álfar, and Loki seemed to have innate abilities for all of them.
He learned it was seiðr that let him change his body, to look like an Asgardian. And that it was forbidden to ever use seiðr on another person, though the old man did not say why. Loki had Jötunn magic that let him create ice and make things cold, as well as Asgardian magic that let him speak to other races and be understood.
Álfar magic was supposed to be difficult, he learned. It wasn’t something that only Álfar could do, but most who lacked Álfar blood never got very far with it. The old man thought Loki might get as far as controlling a small flame, but held little hope beyond that. Hearing that, Loki quickly lost interest.
A week later, he was standing in front of Odin, getting shouted at for using seiðr to give Thor a goat’s head. Keeping his fingers crossed, Loki swore he’d never do it again.
Seiðr was forbidden to practise on other people because of how it was practised. Asgardian magic came from the realm itself, and Jötunn magic came from being Jötunn, but seiðr came from a different energy. He could use his own spit or breath to change himself in other ways, though making himself look like anything other than himself seemed an impossible feat.
But he learned other things. He learned that he could use his own spit or breath to change other people as well. And if he had their spit or even blood, he could do dark, forbidden things nobody would talk about.
His new teacher was careless, and often left books out though. And one such book held dark, terrible secrets he almost certainly wasn’t supposed to know about. Loki stole the book, using a seiðr trick to make it not invisible, but unnoticed as he took it to a hidden chamber nobody visited. With a stolen knife, Loki set the book out on the floor and leaned over to read the instructions on how to ward a room with his own blood. But the trick was getting the blood in the first place. He could have used someone else’s, but the book said his own would be the most powerful. After several false starts and aborted attempts, he finally worked up the nerve to drag the blade across the heel of his hand and drawing far more blood than he’d expected. Wincing at the pain and the mess, Loki worked quickly, using his finger to gather up the blood from his hand and copy down runes from the book. It was an old language he couldn’t read, but he was careful to get it exactly right.
Once he was done, he stood back, holding onto his still-bleeding hand with the other. Knowing there was only one way to test it, he started to shout.
“Help me! I’m stuck in here!” he shouted as loudly as he could to the door.
He stood silently, listening and waiting for any sign that someone had heard him. Surely, Heimdall would have heard him and alerted someone. But nobody came.
“Anybody! Help!” he shouted again.
Again, nothing. Confident the magic had worked, Loki sat back down in front of the book and turned to another page with instructions on how to make himself unseen.
Painting on his own chest was gross and sticky, and infinitely more difficult than the door had been, because he kept wanting to draw the runes upside down. Once he was done, Loki had to test to see that he’d done it right. Making sure his tunic wouldn’t smear his hard work, Loki slipped out from the chamber to find some trouble to get into. He found Odin in the throne room, talking with some men Loki had never seen before. Not even trying to hide himself, Loki walked up to the men and stood next to one of them.
His heart stopped for a painful moment when Odin stopped speaking and looked not right at Loki, but very near to him. Loki knew Odin could not see him, but somehow the old man knew he was there. The deep frown told Loki everything he needed to know about how effective his spell had been.
Then Odin dismissed the men, and Loki tried to slip away with them.
“Loki!” Odin said sharply, stopping him in his tracks. “What trick is this?”
Loki realised he did not know how to release the spell. So he ran.
He learned later that his room had been found as well, when he went to retrieve the book and found his teacher, several Einherjar guards, and Odin all standing near a patch of ground where Loki had spilled and smeared his blood onto the floor.
“The boy is seven years old!” Odin shouted. “He’s not ready for this! What makes you think this should be anywhere near him?”
For the second time that day, Loki didn’t know what to do, so he ran.
Herða was Loki’s next teacher. The librarian knew where to find all sorts of things. With the realm still chattering about the goings on with Midgard, Loki’s curiosity only grew. It was Herða who taught Loki how to use the Alltongue to read the mortal languages, though the books Asgard’s library had from the realm were few and not terribly interesting. Still, Loki read every single one of them, finding mainly stories about the humans’ religions and the new gods they followed, along with a small collection of dry histories. He had been told about some of the ridiculous things the humans would do for their gods, but quickly came to realise that he had been fed a very watered down and sanitised version of events.
Herða taught him other things as well. She taught him how to use the library itself, and where to find books he might find interest in. And then she showed him the area where the magic tomes and scrolls were kept. Amongst them, shelf after shelf of Álfar and Dökkálfar tomes and grimoires. Loki recalled his lessons a few years earlier, with the bored old Álfar man who wouldn’t teach him any Álfar magic.
It turned out the man was boring for no reason at all, and that Álfar magic wasn’t that hard at all, if Loki stuck to the simpler spells. The sparks he could create could be held in his hand, static and permanent. He could control flames the same way, and even conjure his own light.
It was no wonder Odin had turned the old man out.
His next teacher was a woman. A halfbreed, both Álfar and Vanir. She too spoke a lot, but now Loki was able to take notes and write everything down.
Vanir sight magic gave him intense headaches, but he quickly learned that Álfar magic had a certain knack to it. Like seiðr, the magic came from somewhere inside him, of his own energies. Like seiðr, there were magics that were forbidden. The magic Loki was allowed to learn, he picked up quickly. Casting illusions was his favourite. He could make duplicates of himself, or anyone else. Then, he could make them do things; move around as if they were their own person. Making them speak was harder, but getting them to make any sound at all only meant he’d just have to practise harder.
Loki also learned that the magic he wasn’t being taught was still held within Asgard’s library. Dökkálfar magic, forbidden for reasons entirely unlike seiðr. While seiðr was forbidden because it required an inherent violation upon another person, the Dökkálfar magic was forbidden because it allowed the wielder the power to be places and do things he was not allowed to do. Things like walking along shadows, or bending the very boughs of Yggdrasil herself to travel without Bifröst or hidden paths.
When books began going missing from the library, hidden away in brand new hiding places nobody else could get to, Loki found his teacher dismissed without ceremony.
Loki hated his new teacher. It was bad enough that he had to sit through the insufferable lessons while already beaten and bruised from the training ring. But the boring old man seemed to insist on Loki learning the very basics. He drilled Loki on seiðr he had mastered years before, making him take notes on magic he could perform in his sleep. Magic he occasionally had managed to perform in his sleep.
In his own chambers, Loki worked on other magic. Astral projection was still miles beyond his grasp, but he had other ways of achieving the same end result. The Vanir magic still gave him terrible headaches, but the more he worked it, the easier it got. He got better at making his duplicates speak and sound natural, and at making them move like they should.
When the old man reached out to slap Loki to attention during another deathly boring lesson, he acted as if he were about to have a heart attack at his hand swiping right through the duplicate Loki had sent in his place.
Loki lay sprawled out on on his bed, lying on his stomach with some ancient Dökkálfar tome in front of him when Odin let himself into the bedchamber. Loki looked up lazily, utterly unsurprised at the old man’s aura of irritation.
“What have I done now?” Loki asked.
Odin bent forward to pick up the book, and for a brief moment, Loki held his breath. Even having the books in his possession was forbidden, let alone learning to do anything from them.
“I see,” Odin said, dropping the book back onto the bed so it lost Loki’s place. “So this is why I keep paying people, just to dismiss them.”
“I’m learning nothing by doing the same thing day in and day out,” Loki said, flipping through to find his place again.
“And what do you intend to do with this new knowledge of yours?” Odin asked.
Loki shrugged. “I haven’t been made privy to that part of the plan yet.”
Above him, Odin hummed. “I’ve been told this comes to you quite easily,” he said.
“Easily enough,” Loki said. “Yes, I know. I shouldn’t be doing it at all.”
“And how about your other studies?” asked Odin.
Loki pointed to his desk, where a stack of scrolls and loose parchment sat. “Arnar’s lessons are at an inconvenient time of day. I’ve quit going.”
Odin hummed again and turned to the desk to inspect the treaties and histories Loki had taken from the library to read on his own time.
“Loki, what am I going to do with you?” he asked after a long moment.
Loki waited, just long enough to give the impression that the question had gone unheard. “Give me access to the library’s basement,” he said finally.
He knew what was kept down there, though the wards prevented him from getting in even with all the tricks he’d picked up. Loki watched Odin consider the question, fighting some internal battle within himself.
“And what will you do with that?” he asked finally.
“I haven’t been made privy to that part of the plan yet,” Loki repeated. “I assume you intend to tell me sooner or later, but for now I’m doing as I’ve been told and sticking to my studies. I just find it easier to do on my own than with someone breathing down my neck.”
For a moment, Loki thought Odin would refuse him. Then, unexpectedly, something within him seemed to deflate.
“Speak with Herða in the morning,” Odin said. “Norns know it’s only a matter of time before you find a way to break in anyway.”
“So it is possible?” Loki asked, suddenly wondering what he’d missed.
Odin only shook his head. “Pray, don’t make me regret this, Loki.”
Loki watched him leave, waiting until the door was closed again before returning to the page providing instruction on manipulating another person’s memories.