1964-05-31 - Act II: Loki Bound
Summary: Kai's night just isn't getting any better.
Related: Loki Bound
Theme Song: None
rogue kai 

Kai stretches, and he says with a laugh, "Nowhere tonight. I'm so blitzed, man. I'm just, like, wow. Floating in outer space." He's also taken enough drugs to kill half a dozen people. "I'm going to just, like, get painted, and then look at it, and then when I get home, I'm going to see if my old man will take a picture. He's going to think it's so cool."

In that spirit, he just relaxes and lets his head swim. Sure, he's a little dizzy, and though he's laying down, he's got a sense of falling, but that's just the maddening quantities of intoxicants doing their work. "I'll go home when I'm straight," he says. "It won't be too long."

So it might seem. The chance of lucidity and clarity to the mind assuredly awaits, given a bit of water and a bit more patience. The music takes on a more lively beat, thumping on the down strokes, and those nearest to the corner where Pan puts away his paints and cleans off his brush is witness to the thunderous clap of hands and feet, the gyrations of bodies almost indistinguishable from male and female. The lights rise and flicker, sometimes going lower, and in another room comes an excited shriek when a bulb completely goes out. The swelling cacophony has a beautiful melody underneath, through the percussive drumbeats and the skirling electronic notes that might be a piper recorded through a washing machine. As the beats per minute accelerate steadily on a rapid uptick, Shel looks hopefully up at Ember.

"Dance with me?"

The copper-skinned man shakes his head, and reclines back. "Take your friend."

Shel holds out a hand to Kai and the bright joy in his eyes is reflective of the exuberance gathering people up from the cushions, into motion. "He's being so picky. Dance with me. Come, it will be so much fun. This beat is wild!" It truly is, a playful storm over the sea, a triumph of tumbling winds and fresh equatorial rains that beckon hands to be raised to the sky and the first drops splattering on the skin.

Kai thinks about this. On one hand, he's so comfortable here, and the paint is drying. Pan warned him against dancing because the sweat might make the painting run. On the other hand, Shel smells of the forest. Then, there's the beat thudding through him like a surrogate heartbeat. Loki wouldn't like to see him dancing with another man. But it's innocent. It's just dancing. And? Somewhere deep down? The prospect of Loki's jealousy thrills him just a little. He wants to be grabbed by the prince, ruthlessly possessed.

That's just a small thread of wickedness. Ultimately, it's the beat that draws him to his feet. He warns, "We can't go too crazy, or my painting will run." This is a pressing concern. He's art now. This is living the dream.

"No, we just stay here. No one's going to be stupid enough to step on Ember or Pan." Shel hops up to his feet and scrambles a few steps forward, laughing when it's like swimming through water and the detachment of his mind from his body is so vast. "Have you ever seen the sky as a rainbow that fills up everything, and floated up into it? It's amazing."

He sighs, and the delicious lick of sweetness left by the grapes makes him grin the wider. The coiling, insidious beat is nothing like the regular music scene, linking up hints of proto psychedelic with the tribal influences of the Subcontinent. He steps up to Kai and pulls the elf's hair aside. "Careful. You got painted up to your neck. I'll watch out for it." Henna sinks into the flesh, thirsty skin hardening the measure. He holds out his hands and turns, putting Kai to the side rather than the crowd. More people press in, and the whirlwind of motion is all the more hypnotic when he starts to move. The pale man's vest flies and accentuates the way he bends practically like a snake, sinuous as any acrobatic oiled for the performance to a demanding maharaja.

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 17

The way the two of them move together is enough to draw glances. The elf is naturally agile, light on his feet. He moves in concert with Shel, his pale body shimmering with that subtle silver-blue in the changing light. "I want to see that," he says, moving in close so he can speak to Shel's ear. "It sounds far out. How do you do it?" A new drug for Kai to try? He's in.

Kai gets lost in the dancing. The bodies undulating on the floor give him energy, but Shel's the only one that scans as a person in his galaxy. "How did you learn to move like this?" he says with a dizzy, delighted laugh.

"I let go," Shel calls back. He might be a foot or a thousand years away. He turns and churns as the driving timbre beats higher and faster, urging feet to smack the ground, palms to skim over skin, and breaths to come fast and hard. He shifts and turns and twists, unafraid to show off his agility. Not even like anyone else is paying attention, other than Ember nodding approvingly. The crush pushes in, narrowing their space, flooding behind them to take advantage of some open space. True to form, no one pushes in Pan. He has elbows to apply as necessary. Ember is tall enough, broad enough, to keep anyone lost in their abandon from coming too close.

The trilling notes and the thumping low bass shakes the floor of the Vault. It sends a roar through the blood, a frisson up the back. Maybe a touch too loud, but it suits for all the revelers surrendering to the madness, to the afterglow of not giving a damn. But as they press in, the space shrinks down and down. Shel grabs Kai's arm gently and tries to pull him out of the midst of it, pointing to his back and seeking the space nearest the doorway they were both in. Ember flanks them through the thin screen of bodies, not letting his boy toy get out of sight.

"More space," calls the bare-chested dancer, laughing and skin slick with sweat. "Good for you, keeps the paint up. Show them the tree, it's so crazy good!"

So many glazed, bright eyes. So many smiling faces. It's the nearest thing to transcendence in the flesh.

"Letting go," Kai says joyously. This is him at his truest self, despite everything he's lived through; he's a joyful creature. The Unbreakable Kai Alffson. When he's grabbed, he lets himself be led. It makes sense. There are too many people around, and he's art. He has to be preserved.

Kai also takes Shel's advice. He lets go, moving to the music. He's all sensuous grace, and his movements take him through dances both innocent and lecherous, modern twists on the traditional as well as just movement for the pleasure of it.

The world spins, and he spins with it, seeking out that transcendence. Of course it occurs to him there could be danger, surrendering his wits, but with risk comes reward.

Risk of the sweetness, a kiss to the brow before Shel steps back with a smile. He's already turning as Ember hands him another little bottle, like so many of the ones around. The party drugs are plentiful tonight, and he gleefully swallows down the fizzy drink. The poor man's knees nearly buckle when the hit to his bloodstream follows in a minute, but that's a small price to pay to be part of the universe consciousness.

The copper-skinned man bars a pair of dancers from getting too close. Art must be preserved. He uses his shoulder and broad arm to bar them from coming in, but the hands flow over the muscular bicep and forearm. Hands, dozens of them, reaching out, pulling for Kai with a weird gravity that only comes from a mob. Shel blinks and backs away from them, rocking his body, keeping up the frenetic rhythm in a way that only amphetamines and a kick of something harder than H and far more insidious than LSD can do. He deftly inserts himself behind Ember and shoves Kai through the door, calling, "Go to your old man!" It's a bit loud to be heard over the music, but with adoration in his eyes and joy in every mad beat convulsing his body, he's given totally over to the spirit of the party. Liberation, as it were.

Outside the door, the night is cool and almost clammy by comparison. What is sultry by regular standards means less to the shirtless man leaving the sweltering jungle inside the Vault. The dark door creaks shut, leaving the blank walls facing him. It's an alley he is in, along with the rest of the tangled labyrinth in this section of the village. Where it's not even really a village so much as a ghetto of a kind, all towering heights and narrow crevices between, a place with its own kind of geography and terrain. But the air is almost sweet, and where the frantic music hums in his veins and skull rather than from speakers secreted just about everywhere, maybe it's kind of purer. The wetness on his back is a degree off from his skin, taut, and electric. Every nerve sings. Anticipation flares and rises in the bloodstream with the crystallised and powdered drugs that even an accelerated healing factor and imperviousness to mortal toils can't fight off. Not when the system is overloaded and the glittering beauty of the stars and moon, smeared through the glow of distant streetlights, is so damn hypnotic.

Then. Then he might hear it, the vibration in his bones, the sonorous thumping hum of his own heartbeat, the thick loam and the woodsy air breathing around him like a veil. Clean. Exhilarating, even if the ground is so far and the sky so perfect.

From basso chords humming outside human hearing, a soaring, liquid trill plays higher, and higher, gathering energy in the ambient force of a dance and the responding grumble of a diesel engine, harmonic steel.

Kai throws his arms in the air and yells out in the dark, wordless enthusiasm. This what he lives for. Transcendence, beauty unspeakable. And now, he's going to go home and throw himself at his lover without shame. Not that he's ever got a surplus of that to begin with. But oh, he has intentions.

Loki. His old man. The thought brings a burst of giggles to him. The dark, fallen prince of Asgard is his sweetie. He throws is head back and laughs. Because everything is fizzy and floaty and beautiful. And big. Things are big now. He matters by virtue of his associations. That wasn't something he ever wanted, but what can he do?

Then he feels the vibration, and the chords come. He goes quiet and whips around. Where is it coming from? That's not music, that's magic. He starts creeping toward a dumpster in case he needs to hide. It could be Loki, it could be Strange, or it could be another crab, and he's just no in a place where he can deal with that right now.

It's music, in truth, a groundswell that reaches a pristine, aching hum. It pours out in a sound that blends five octaves of the same note. The lowest comes first, like the purple anvilheads precluding a storm. The middle notes dance up and down on lightning crackles, rolling in brassy shades where the highest peals up in a supersonic twinkle. But the voice of the music is more brass than percussion, for all that it fits inside the primeval dances.

Somewhere in the streets, a few people stop to listen, heads tilted. He might see them looking up and laughing, then doing an informal jig around and around. Shopping bags fly on their arms.

The crescendo is no less grand than the William Tell Overture, or the Ring Cycle finding the glorious ride of certain winged women. It spills higher and higher, a bubble rising from the depths to the surface. Surely it might pop and the rain will fall when it does.

Until the first of the interruptions runs awry to the brassy and bronzed notes, and a dark, deep ululation reflects off the concrete walls and the pitted ground and the metal dumpster altogether. It shakes up the trash in bags, things not to be mentioned; they smell to the high heavens. That ululation is joined by another, and another, and another.

The trill of a horn. And the children of Alfheim, from their safe bowers in the silvery trees, know fully what that sound means. For the sylvan depths of their lighthearted, enchanted realm sometimes stir to an awful call. One that brings out the Queen's riders and sends children for the vaults, hurried in by terrified parents. The sweet bliss rattles the night to its foundations, and it seems so few here even realise it.

The Hunting Horn of Faerie trills.

Tonight, the avenging face of nature itself rides.

The music stays Kai, bringing him back into the alley proper and away from the rubbish. Maybe it isn't a crab come to claim its elvish husband (he's no bride!) The horn cuts through his haze of floaty exultation, pulling at sobriety he can't quite reach. Even raised in Midgard, he knows to fear that horn. Maybe it's imbedded in his bones, or runs with his blood that's just gone cold.

Avenging nature rides, and the elf flees from it. Down the alley his footsteps patter, blindly seeking any place he can hide, any door unlocked or whose lock he can pick with shaking hands. His silvery shimmer is extinguished by panic and a primal need to hide. He whimpers like an animal.

Sweet, dark ichor plays when the horn blows, a strident note repeating itself with sharp demand upon the ears. The note no sooner falls than rises again, coursing upon the fading echo of its last presence. Rolling spikes flare in high staccato pitch as the turbulence speeds up.

It calls.

It calls to whatever primeval forces ride in the gloom, the ruin of many a poor village and restless life. The blood seethes with the twinkling, brassy clarion punched right into the middle of the chest, its message engrained in the marrow. Run. Run. Run.


Kai is afraid of very little, truth be told. Less than he should be. It makes this deep, cloying terror all the worse. He becomes a mindless thing, running blindingly as fast as his legs will carry him. He runs into the street, unaware of traffic or other people he might be pushing past.

Some thin thread of hope slices into his panic when the honking of a car horn startles him. He starts to wave his arms and yell, raving, and he runs in the street. Maybe he'll get arrested. If the pigs come, if they take him away, maybe he'll be safe.

The plan might have more viability if it weren't so late, and if there were more traffic to cause a disturbance. It's the thought that counts.

Darkness along that alleyway is no different than it was before. Nor the pedestrians far at the other end, where a glimpse of the dancers on the sidewalk fades away into diesel fumes and a blur of dingy storefronts, shops carved out from the unimpressive tenements that tower to the sky. His run carries him through the back alley labyrinth of Greenwich Village, a place where the higgledy-piggledy design of overlapping streets intersect at cross angles. The tidy green of Washington Square Park is far away from the likes of this.

This. The caw of a hooded crow from an overhanging lamppost.

Beams swiping over him in a hot sizzle as a truck swerves to avoid him, throwing a cloud of belching smoke and fumes.

This. The boil of heat from an open door from one of the clubs, and a figure staggering out, laughter on the air and a loping stride.

Yelps and whines become a chorus of bays, sobbing and yipping and coughing in frantic conversations between shepherds and Afghan hounds and terriers and chihuahuas.

This. Nightfall coalescing in black fragments from doorways and beneath awnings, figures turning on their heels and striding purposefully. Some need make it no more than twenty paces, ten feet, and the bleeding asphalt giving up a heat shimmer or a cloud of steam from the pipes below form their mounts. Ghastly things bred between beast and man, for some. Others are gawking memories carried by vanished glaciers, hoary creatures of an earlier epoch with massive shoulders and powerful jaws, ripping teeth and rending claw. Some are plated and barded, ten feet at the shoulder, and others swoop low on impossibly delicate, membranous wings stretched far enough to brush either side of the alleyway.

Come, cries the Hunting Horn of Faerie, and the lords of the Svartalfjar, the black court of winter, the nightmare reverie of Annwn, they do…

Shadows dancing along the street walls to the lyrical wail of the Hunting Horn are fair game as means to enter this world, drawn along by the siren song. The snuffling of a wet nose echoes in the alleyway amidst the clattering of panicked retreat and growing wail of canines knowing on a primal level that they cannot — and will not — escape an encounter from this hoard. Tree branches painted in shadow on the outer walls from a streetlight's lurid amber glow pull away to form antlers that never existed beyond need but to gore. Tines sharpened to dagger-tips crown an Elk that never was in this world, but could always be within the nightmares of human hunters. This one turns and steps with mocking lightness, each impact upon asphalt accompanied by a click-click. No member of Cervidae ever had wicked hooks at the end of each toe. Baleful black eyes, alit in the centers with a pinprick of green, attempt to pin the Alfheimian in place as it snorts, releasing a breath of hyper-chilled air. Astride it, the well-known white mask of a Svartalf merges seamlessly into this reality, solidity atop wispy shadow of a form. No reins, just the shared lust for dancing in the puddle of Kai's spilled entrails — this drives them. The Elk actually lifts its lips, bearing rust-stained blunt teeth and a four-set of canines, both top and bottom, that mismatch perfectly. It steps towards him with a graceful click-click, click-click, ears laid back.

Run, little Elf.


|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 3d20 for: 44

Kai stares up, and up, and up at a sight that will bring him screaming awake for decades to come. This is the first time he's laid his eyes on one of the Svartalfjar. Those big, moon-glinted blue eyes are wide with shock, horror. He backs up slowly, hands held forth like he could possibly placate the thing with anything short of his death. "Turn back," he says, his voice trembling, "or you bring down upon you the wrath of the fallen Asgardian prince."

He doesn't owe them the warning, he doesn't expect them to heed it, but it's like speaking the words gives them reality, renders them prophetic. Loki will avenge him.

But first, they have to catch him.

He turns and blots, fleeing as fast as his legs will carry him.

One. Two. Fifteen.

Their mounts, for all have the benefit of one. Mathematics is never a strong suit for the average person on a battlefield, but the gaggle of converging forces stream from the back roads and the side alleys. They ride in their triumph as the howling wail of the horn finally fades away. Its rumbling retort lies in the silent padding of paws on concrete, and the click-scritch left by deeply enameled claws upon brick parapets and stone.

The white-masked, dark-cloaked beings are identical unto themselves and yet differentiated, like the horses on a carousel. So too they can ride at madcap speeds, jumping and falling in their whirlwind descent. It goes, as three spur ahead in a wedge formation. The windborne takes to the sky on the rustling of thin vestigial claws and feathers. Harrowing cries erupt in a chorus of baying echoes that erupt from myriad directions, acting as a mutual sonar to detect that which might be too fleet to see.

The Norns spin their threads at the hour of a man's birth. They do not bow, even to the Trickster or Odin. Perhaps they've severed snapped threads and frayed the course, three centuries past. A shadow scythes over him, thrown by the streetlight blotted out by the raven that wings after them.

Kai's shoes pinch. The henna on his back is slick and wet. The moon hides its face.

A slow tilt of the Svatalf's masked face, with its doll-blank eyes and tapered ears, is followed by the lowering of the Elk's monstrous head. Its wet lips pull back farther still to reveal black gums to accent the ivory blunt-and-serrated teeth alike.

Who cares about avenging? The tang of the fleet-footed Elf's fear floats on the breeze with palpable lust-driving force in the wake of his retreat. The bray of the monstrous forest-Fae is nearly saurian and sparks lift from its sudden lurching drive after him. Its rider keeps seat with supernatural skill, but of course none of the Drivers of the Hunt are without the ability to remain atop their mounts. This particular Svartalf takes precious delight in being at the forefront of the wedge that pursues Kai, leaning low over its mount's plunging shoulders. No sweet child of Bambi can run like this, long strides covering stretches of ground impossible. Furrows left in its wake bleed liquid shadow.

Still, all through the chase, rings the sound in perfectly harried metronomic pattern: click-click, click-click.

Tick-tock, tick-tick.


Kai's legs ache and his chest burns. Cops don't give him nearly this kind of challenge, but they've at lest given him some practice. He knocks a trash can over behind him out of habit, and he ducks into blind corners, leading the chase toward Hells' Kitchen and familiar ground.

There's something about knowing it's the end, that there's no possible way out, that pushes one to near supernatural endurance. It's the brain burning through every last bit of energy it would otherwise reserve on the off chance it might make a difference.

And it does; Kai runs further and faster than he ever knew he could, and it gives the dark ones a merry chase. A great improvement to their evening, surely. It's the elf's way, after all, making people around him happy.

He runs through every last reserve of energy that's in him, and his muscles start to shake. He stumbles, and he presses on, but he's like a toy winding down.

His last thoughts - what he thinks will be his last thoughts - are of his prince, and his heart aches. It's just not fair to have only just found him only to be one more reason to grieve and rage.

The sinuous winged form passes overhead and reaches out with those long, grasping talons. It veers away when a building corner comes too near, the ruffling wind blown in a weirdly thin billow over Kai.

Let him run.

Another takes its place, a brawny figure enveloped in a cloak of ragged shadows and black, dripping fungi swept over torso and arms in some plated, weird armour. He steers the ghastly hound he rides, a thing of balefire eyes and miasma in the archaic shape of something gone before the mammoths strode over the plains. It's more a hyena than anything else, and loping almost eagerly, surging in the elk and rider's wake.

The chattering and keening between them has a strange symbiosis, a kind of language that echoes down the concrete valleys of an urban hellscape. Steady accompaniment to their prey. He falls, he trips, he rises.

They're closing in, even as one of the riders strafes a volley of darts bone-white and soot-tipped, creating a perilous path to charge through. Well, for the Alfjar. Not so much them.

The prey stumbles and it's electrifying. No doubt Kai can hear the redoubled efforts of the creatures on his heels — the panting, slavering, snarling, drooling, thudding…click-clicking on ground never meant to withstand the pummeling blows of the Hunt. An echoing trill sounds after the fencing of blowdarts scatters in the path of the Hunted.

A low humming whirring announces the next barrage of attack. The bolas leaves the Elk-rider's smoke-stuff hand with unerring aim for the Alfheimian's flashing legs. The lengths of leather — call it leather, for all that it's the hide of some unfortunate trophy — is rolled once and again with shards of obsidian to slice mercilessly into clothing and skin alike. The weight at the end? The thickly-grown skulls of some creature with six eyes and a three-fold eruption of fangs set to embed into the prey's musculature and hold tightly. There's no unwinding this weapon without agony.

And that's all before the great nightmarish Elk drives down upon the prey and runs it over. Cloven talons flash while tendons strain those staunch legs to straight-limbed precision. The impact sounds of weight upon flesh are horrifying. Wet snaps of bone might accompany the unearthly force driven towards the Elf.

Kai wants to cry out. Please! Please, no, please! It's an effort of his dwindling will not to beg for mercy. He doesn't want to die. He's not done yet. He does give a satisfying cry though when he's knocked to the ground, and a scream when he feels his bones break.

He's not done yet. He just found something to do that matters. The Avengers, a way to make his time in this world mean something. Bruised fingers clutch at the ground, and he tries to pull himself along, but his hands shake too hard.

He's not done yet. His prince will wonder what happened, and he'll come looking. Will this push him back into darkness? It's not fair. Kai has to get back to him. He tries to pull his knees under him, then yelps as one of his legs proves immobile, the bone snapped.

Kai fights to move one millimeter ahead, one hair's breadth, then another, til the last flicker of light inside of him dims and dies. When it does, it's a mercy, truly. He falls limp and still, not feeling any fear or pain anymore.

One salvo down and the second has to follow, the third holding back for the opportunity. They all circle like the wolves they are, driven by a lupine force older than civilisation itself. Hunger. The smell of the woods and loam, primeval rot and heady magic blend together on their advance.

Astride the stalking hyena, the next of the svartalfjar kicks into springing motion, and that lopsided gait is hardly an impediment. Its vast shoulders roil beneath an ashen hide. The rider is barehanded, unlike the mounted archer coming up the fore, and the two insidious beings melt together into one horror of white teeth fit to crack into bone, shadowy poisons dripping from the hot, hungry maw.

Cold, so very cold, if the flesh could feel that impact of a bite.

Another ululating moan runs through them in a glorious tidal ripple. Howls and cries mostly unknown to the human populace triangulate their quarry, and they converge, hunters one and all after their fallen fox.

The third makes to pull a dagger from a belt, a long, curved thing of serpentine edges giving off whispers of mist and smoke.

"Oh, you don't want him to miss all the fun he's having," hisses a low tenor, ripe with deep mirth and an affliction of vague dismay. Pulling a glove from his ringed fingers, the white-haired elf pushes back his hood and takes to foot.

He assesses the unconscious figure. "What would be the point of that?" Particolored eyes flick to the masked rider astride the elk. "You, for right of first blood, pick him up the old-fashioned way or else the dogs are going to tear him apart. Too premature. Death is the byproduct, after all, not the punishment. I'll turn your eyes to coals in their socks and leave you smeared in honey in the Bloodbriar Fens if you let him die before we get back."

One of those rings forms a slim point, nothing unusual as a mount. He turns it around and jams the point into the fleshy part of Kai's bicep. Might as well be hit by lightning and smelling salts.

The white-masked Svartalf is wordless. But no matter — actions speak more than words anyhow. The sting is sure to rouse the Alfheimian to semi-coherence. All the better to draw the attention of the nightmarish Elk currently snuffling at the clean break it caused in the Elf's legs.

Its rider commands it just in time to prevent the fanged, black-lipped mouth from cutting out a clean chunk of leg muscle from the skin and it brays again in complaint, beetle-black eyes rolling back with their flickers of gaseous-green light. Chastened for its ears lying back, it picks Kai up by the neck — literally. The off-set canine teeth top and bottom touch tip-to-tip about the Elf's neck while the flat molars, meant to grind bone to dust, indent firmly enough to nearly cut bloodflow from reaching his brain. It lifts the weak body from the ground, head tilted at an angle…but only to keep the cervical vertebrae from parting due to weight stress. The drool of the Elk is no less unkind; it begins to sizzle and itch upon contact.

Kai stirs, his handsome face pinching in anguish. He was so desperate to survive until he fell into darkness. Pulled back out, all he wants to do is be done. There's no escape from this, not with his legs hanging useless. His fingers twitch as the burning draws him further from the sweet cessation of pain. He whimpers, and he squirms, his shoulders giving a token shove against the elk's mouth.

"What do you want," he manages to get out, his voice wavering. He knows of the hunt, but not of survivors. They've got him. Why aren't they done?

"Why, to make you one of us," chimes another of the hunters happily enough.

Is that Shel's voice?

Yes. Yes, it is. Albeit as the damn elk….

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