#3 - Circus Slave
“Hey, Brute, did you clean up the elephants' place?”
“Brute! The lions and the tigers are waiting for their meal!”
“There is a tent to raise, Brute! Hurry up!”
“Faster, faster, Brute! You're too slow! Do you wanna feel my whip on your ass so you can speed up a bit!”
“Brute, move that body of yours into Princess Python's lot. She's got some use for those rippling muscles you got!”
“Hah! It's such a pleasure to see how submissive he is, Ringmaster!” The Clown says, grinning, while the towering blond slave carries out yet another order from one of the Circus' crowd.
“I can't believe how lucky we got to find him helpless and without his hammer out there. It's god's gift for our business,” the Ringmaster comments, “if our dear Princess Python won't wear him down with all her kinky fantasies…”
“I doubt so,” the Clown smirks, “he's a god, I bet he could go on for centuries like this”.
“Just be sure he gets his daily dose of drugs to keep his mind more susceptible to my hypnotic ray. We can't risk for him to lose control… even without his hammer he would mop the floor with us with his bare hands!” Ringmaster states.
“That's true… how long do you think we can keep him as our slave?”
“As sad as it sounds, not for long. It's too dangerous for us and I'm not a fool, eventually his friends in the Avengers or one of those lofty Asgardian Gods is bound to find him… we will have to dispose of him sooner…”
“Dispose? What do you mean?”
“I think we can sell him to someone else who's more equipped to keep him as a captive. I already contacted some possible buyers,” the Ringmaster explains.
“Princess Python won't like this…” the Clown grins.
“She'll enjoy the memories of these past few days…” the Ringmaster comments.
His eyes lost in stupor, the slave called Brute continues in his appointed task, moving crates around. Aside from his strongly built frame and the long unkempt blond hair you would hardly guess he's actually Thor, the Thunder God.
Totally undetectable, Loki's invisible form barely manages to suppress his laughter at the amusing sight of his humiliated half-brother.
“Where is he? He has disappeared without a trace,” Sif's worried face strikes a dormant and almost forgotten chord in Balder's soul, * as she frantically paces back and forth in the hall of Odin's palace.
(* Balder had feelings for Sif before he fell in love for Karnilla, the Norn Queen, Alex)
“You have been looking for him for days, now! We need the All-Father's skills to find him, milady!” Balder comments.
“I hoped your beloved Karnilla could have mastered a search spell…”
“She tried, dear Sif,” Balder explains, “but there is a screen obscuring even her powerful magic.”
“Zeus' doing, I'm sure. When Thor left with Hercules to confront the Olympian he was too weak to battle that treacherous god in his own realm…” Sif angrily comments, eliciting a puzzled look on Balder's face, not used to see her so out of herself.
-Somehow I know Loki must have a part in this,- the God of Light thinks, -but it seems that fair Sif is not even thinking about this possibility.- Then he adds: “Odin is still resting, no-one can interrupt Odin's Sleep. What are you doing here…?”
“I have asked for Frigga's intervention. She is using her magical skills to find Thor.” Sif explains.
“What about Amora? She hasn't been seen of late, maybe she knows…” Balder cuts his sentence as soon as he sees the angry glance that the dark-tressed goddess shoots at him at the mention of the Enchantress' name.
But before either of them can speak again a valet announces that Frigga is ready to receive them. Without a word the two Asgardians enter the presence of Asgard's true Queen.
A secret place
“Any progress in detecting the hammer's location, brother Cadmium?”
“No, brother Cobalt, the specific signature of its Uru metal cannot be traced worldwide.”
“We have to be more patient, my brothers,” the gaseous form of Fluor hisses, “but eventually we will add to our brotherhood the enchanted Uru element, and then the world will hear again about the Elements of Doom!”
“As soon as it can be traced we must teleport the hammer and its wielder to the appointed facility. No delay will be tolerated!” Uranium reminds to the other elements on monitor duty.
Sleep is the only state in which poor captive Thor can find some rest. For in his sleep his sub-conscious is finally free. At least, in his dreams, the Thunder God can enjoy anew the crystal clear Asgardian sky, the taste of Asgardian beer, the companionship of his fellow gods…
In his sleep he can ignore the humiliating tasks he has to perform all day long for his captors, the abomination of being used and abused in many ways. In his sleep his indomitable will strengthens with each passing day. Yes, the Thunder God might be a captive today, through the wicked conspiracy Loki built around him, but no spell can bind Thor's brave soul forever… an unquenchable flame burns deep inside his proud self, brighter, warmer, preparing to burst out when the proper time comes…
Meanwhile, sleep remains his only solace, until dawn, until the humiliation starts anew…
“I'd give one hand to know what Frigga is saying to Sif and Balder,” the God of Mischief comments, “but I cannot risk sending a magical probe inside Odin's palace. Not even my magic is powerful enough to leave no trace for further detection. But I know Frigga cannot have found Thor's whereabouts… my power can easily prevent that, coupled with Zeus' edict that separated my accursed brother from his enchanted hammer.”
Turning around Loki's eyes fix themselves on the only person listening to his ruminations. A terrible torture, indeed, but Amora, the Enchantress, has not a say in the matter, bound in magical restraints and stripped of her magic by the use of a powerful artifact Loki crafted specifically for her.
“I bet you would love to know about Thor, my dear,” Loki grins, “and I am tempted to let you have a peek at him. But this savoring thought must be put aside for the moment. You will soon be freed of your bindings, and you will be able to track down the god you love, poor judgement you show with that choice! You must act as if my conditioning had not taken place. But you will obey my orders, no matter what… until the right moment to strike at Thor comes.”
With those words Loki smiles evilly, then he starts performing the last portion of the incantation binding the Enchantress' will to his own. Amora won't be even conscious of this dependence, in normal cases: she will act as if nothing had happened and she will fool herself in the wrong belief she's her own mistress, but Loki's influence slowly will push her into the right situation and then Thor won't have any chance.
“There, it is done!” Loki amuses himself with the perfection of his control spell, “now you can be displaced to your residence. You won't remember your imprisonment, you will just go and offer yourself to help Sif find Thor, no matter how much you hate this. What I foresaw that will happen afterwards will secure that my next step involving Sif and the depowered mutant, Magneto will have a higher chance of success. * Why that look, my dear? You should thank me for this. I will make sure that you will be at Thor's side for the time being… with Sif otherwise enthralled you will be able to easily dupe my half-brother into the inevitable culmination of my plan… now go!”
(* Did you read AVENGERS # 8 and the outcome of this particular plot? Alex)
With a wave of his hand, Loki dispatches the Enchantress to her task, confident that she cannot break his conditioning, then he goes back to his machinations, scrying Thor's poor condition and more…
“… so I cannot help you beyond this point, dear Sif,” Frigga is finishing to explain how even her magic couldn't find a trace of Thor, save for the last glimpse she had of him at the entrance of the Olympian citadel.
“Then I will go to Olympus and confront Zeus on the subject!” Sif says, determined.
“I will go with you, milady!” Balder adds.
“No, my friend, you cannot come,” Sif replies, “even though I hate to admit it, if a goddess asks to speak to Zeus, he will hardly refuse. But he would see the presence of a god as a challenge to his authority, risking a conflict that we know we cannot win. If Thor could not best the Supreme Olympian, I doubt we could.”
“Your words ring true, milady,” Balder admits, “but they are painful to my warrior soul. We should storm the Olympian citadel...”
“I understand your frustration, dear Balder,” Frigga interjects, “but without the All-Father to lead us we cannot risk a war between Asgard and Olympus. Sif's plan has a chance to succeed. She could either appeal to Zeus' gallantry or trick him to spill out Thor's location while he boasts about his power.”
“I like this, but Sif will need my help for this,” Amora says, entering the room, no visible trace of her connection to Loki detectable even by Frigga's magic.
“Amora? Who let you in…?” Sif asks, irritated.
“I called for her,” Frigga explains, “two goddesses are better than one to open a breach in Zeus' self-control.”
“Do not fume, my dear,” Amora speaks to Sif with just a hint of sarcasm in her voice, “we must find Thor together, and when he's back he will be able to choose whose love he appreciates the most.”
Silently and somberly Sif unsheathes her sword, drawing intricate patterns in the air and calling forth her ability to teleport. With a smile Amora adds her magic to Sif's effort and the two goddesses disappear from sight.
“I don't mean to be disrespectful, my Queen, but I question your decision to have Amora at Sif's side,” Balder says.
“It is better to keep an eye on Amora, and having her team up with Sif is the best way to do so for now.” Frigga explains. “Trust me, o brave one. Now send a call for the Warrior Three to meet me tonight. A delicate matter requires the presence of Asgardian witnesses and they are the perfect choice.”
“I will do as you wish, my Queen,” Balder bows and leaves.
“So many things to keep track on,” Frigga murmurs to herself, “I hope you will wake up soon, my beloved,” she adds thinking about the sleeping Odin.
“You cannot go past the Gates of Olympus, Asgardians! Your kind is not welcome these days,” Ares states, standing at the entrance of the citadel which is the home of the Greek Gods.
“We are requesting an audience with Zeus, God of War, on behalf of Asgard's Queen. We will not leave Olympus without seeing him!” Sif replies, determined.
“Sure thing, Ares,” Amora interjects, “you know that your father would be disappointed, were you to turn away two goddesses asking to be admitted to his presence.”
“Well, now that you mention that, I would be glad to answer any question you have for my father in my private rooms.” Ares responds to the Enchantress' alluring words, stepping closer.
“Your private rooms? I would rather face the hordes of Mushpelheim alone!” Sif, visibly offended, says.
“I should have known! The same arrogant attitude the God of Thunder showed when he attacked us without a reason!” * Ares turns toward Sif. “But Olympians do not accept to be ordered around by a bunch of barbarian gods!”
(* An Olympian-sided version of last issue's events, Alex)
“Barbarians! You dare offend the Golden Realm? By Odin's beard you will discover the differences between an Olympian goddess and an Asgardian one!” With these words Sif slams her powerful fist on Ares' face, then she grabs him, lifting him up easily and throwing his astonished form against the Gates.
A few guards unsheathes their sword, ready to challenge the two goddesses, but Amora's magic is already at work. Although the sorceress is not pleased with Sif's stroke of pride she quickly casts a spell that paralyzes the attackers. But Ares is not so easily subdued and he's wielding his weapon, ready to confront Sif, which is more than eager to trade blows with him.
“Enough of this!” A strong female voice speaks. “You have already been humiliated by the Thunder God, brother. I doubt you would like to suffer the same humiliation at the hands of his fiancée. I will speak to the Asgardians.”
“But, Pallas, I cannot condone their treacherous attack…” Ares protests.
“Our father has spoken, Ares! He wants me to escort the Asgardians to his presence. Be grateful you won't have to see how dangerous a fighting goddess can be!” Pallas Athena, Goddess of War and Reason, then turns toward Sif and Amora. “As you can see, Lady Sif, not all the Olympian goddesses are frail and submissive. There are warriors among us, as well.”
“Your words are true, Pallas,” Sif replies, “and we thank you for your kindness in leading us to Zeus.”
“I spoke to my father and I convinced him it's reasonable that he would grant you an audience,” Pallas explains as the three goddesses approach Zeus' Palace, “but that's just as far as Reason can go with him. Just remember that there are other arguments you can bring up with Zeus, even though they are so offensive to me to even mention them.” *
(* Pallas Athena, also known as Athena Parthenos, has chosen to remain a virgin, not to taint her Reason with lower Passions and Lust, Alex)
“I'm sure Sif shares your feelings on the subject, Pallas,” Amora ironically adds, eliciting an angry glance from Sif, while Athena completely ignores the remark.
“We are there,” the Olympian says after a while, “Zeus is waiting inside.”
The whip leaves a red mark on Thor's naked shoulder, submitted to yet another punishment for one futile reason or another. In fact, the Circus of Crime doesn't need a reason to enjoy the perverse pleasure of humiliating their captive god. The sheer sense of power they get from abusing such a powerful being is intoxicating for them.
But they wouldn't be so sadistically happy if they knew the turmoil inside Thor's sub-conscious. The rage that only waits to be released to right these wrongs. A rage that is slowly eroding the Ringmaster's control…
“I received you, my fair guests, to let you understand that I bear no enmity with the Asgardian people, despite your tendency at recurring to violence at the slightest chance,” Zeus speaks with calm, savoring the moment and enjoying the sight of the two beautiful goddesses, always appealing to his lowest appetites.
“We thank you for your kindness and your magnanimity,” Amora replies immediately, to prevent Sif from showing her stubborn and predictable reaction. “I truly hope you will grace us even further by sharing what you know of the Thunder God's whereabouts. I am sure you know he's been missing of late.”
“I don't know if my kindness extend to that point, dear Enchantress,” Zeus grins, “Thor has deeply offended the Olympian Gods with his recent assault on our citadel. His current predicament is the result of the punishment I inflicted on him for his arrogant behavior. I specifically avoided involving Asgard's ruler out of respect for your tradition, that forbids to interrupt Odin's Sleep. I could have chosen a worse solution for him, but I decided he just needed a lesson in humility!”
-You need that as well, boastful one,- Amora thinks, worrying if Sif will be able to keep her temper in check any longer. The dark-tressed Asgardian is clearly using all her willpower not to attack the Supreme Olympian, despite the inevitable conclusion of such an ill-conceived act. So the Enchantress speaks anew: “Gods are likely to fall into the clutches of pride, Zeus, and Thor is no exception to that. But I guess he has learned his lesson by now, so you can show him your mercy.”
“Thor's punishment lasted only a few days, Enchantress,” Zeus says, “how can an immortal be taught a lesson in such a short time? I would say that a few years at least are required for the experience to have a durable effect on a proud soul!”
“Years?” Sif cannot contain her anger anymore. “Asgard cannot wait for years, nor Midgard! Thor and Hercules are needed to protect mortals from the evil poisoning their lives! How can you fail to see that? And they are both victims of your silly games of supremacy!”
“You have to excuse my fellow Asgardian, for her imprudent words, o Supreme Olympian,” Amora frantically tries to avoid the ensuing argument, but it's too late.
“You are as arrogant as the Thunder God, milady! And I have had enough of your Asgardian pride… I will be glad to reunite you with your beloved so you can share his punishment for the years to come!” Zeus' eyes flare with anger.
“You don't have to bother with that. I'm joining Thor with my own means of transport!” Sif replies, smiling, as if she had just got a silent answer to her question on Thor's location. “Amora join me with your magic and we'll be gone in mere seconds!”
The Enchantress is as puzzled as Zeus but she doesn't need to be urged to leave, considering the angry look on the Olympian's face, so she adds her spells to Sif's own teleportation ability and the two goddesses disappear.
In a blinding flash of light the two Asgardians materialize in the middle of the main tent while clowns are performing their number. The crowd obviously thinks this is just part of the show, but the Ringmaster knows better than that, so he dispatches the Gambonno brothers to retrieve their slave…
“Why are we here…?” Amora asks as cheers come from the male part of the audience at the sight of the gorgeous goddesses.
“Thor is near! I could sense Mjolnir's presence in Olympus through its trans-spatial signature that I am used to know. My own teleportation powers have always been attuned to Thor's own ability to open a stargate through his hammer's magic. Even though Mjolnir is currently blocked by Zeus' power from rejoining its rightful wielder, the hammer is still in mystical contact with Thor. I could ride back the contact spell that binds them once I could pinpoint and isolate Mjolnir's resonance. That's why I let you do the talking, Amora… or did you fall for the ruse of the brainless and angry goddess unable to check her emotions?” Sif smiles at Amora.
“Very clever! But why should Thor be a prisoner in a vulgar place like this?” Amora asks, looking around at the cheering crowd and noticing how the clowns are all scrambling to leave the circus ring.
“Because we got a gift from heaven and we are willing to keep it!” Ringmaster says. “And our slave here will convince you not to try and stop us. We call him Brute but I'm sure you know him quite well with another name! Brute, capture them!”
“Thor? A slave? How dared you…?” Sif's words are cut short as the goddess has to put aside her anger and disbelief to defend herself from the attack of her beloved. Though unarmed, Thor's fists are too dangerous even for the Asgardian's resilient body.
“Hela may take them!” Amora swears, “They know I cannot risk to harm him with my spells!”
“But you can try to free him from whatever control these men have on him, while I distract him!” Sif suggests, avoiding Thor's charge, while hitting him with the flat of the blade on his side. The crowd goes wild watching what they think just a staged fight between the built warrior and the graceful sword-wielder.
The two lovers engage in a struggle made of brutish growls and clumsy attacks on Thor's part and of continual attempts at dodging on Sif's side. Meanwhile Amora easily tracks down the source of Thor's forced behavior and she turns to face the Circus of Crime.
“Yes, my dear, look at me!” Ringmaster orders, activating his hypnotic hat. “Now you are bound to my will and I order you to help Thor against your ally. Subdue her and we'll end up having three gods for our pleasure!”
“Of course, my master!” Amora grins, raising a hand and using a spell to shatter Ringmaster's hat. “How could you think that would work with a conscious Asgardian? You could hypnotize Thor only because Zeus had defeated him!”
“Hey, boss, I told you we should have left while Thor kept those two busy…” the Clown comments.
“I think it's too late for that!” Amora says, wrapping all of them in a single spell of containment.
“Are you feeling well, Thor?” Sif asks, seeing the Thunder God as he stops his attack, suddenly freeing himself of the mind control.
“Not well, milady!” He turns toward the Circus of Crime. “I will have to devise a fitting punishment for those mortals, but I know that Zeus is the one that will pay for the indignity visited upon my person!”
“But you are still missing your hammer…” Sif starts to object, but she stops as she sees a golden hue surround Thor's bare-chested form.
“What is this new treachery…?” Thor's words are cut short when he disappears in a cloud of swirling colors.
“Amora, what has happened to him?” Sif is worried.
“He's been magically summoned somewhere. I couldn't recognize the magical signature,” Amora explains, approaching her fellow Asgardian, “but that's not your problem anymore!”
With a quick motion, the Enchantress casts a spell on Sif, a spell augmented by Loki's own magic. Immediately aferward Loki's visage appears in mid-air and a smile spreads on his lips as he contemplates Sif paralyzed at Amora's side.
“So, my pet, you managed to catch her off-guard. What about my hated half-brother? From your location I gather that Zeus couldn't hide Thor's location to your charming skills.”
“Actually it's Sif that managed to track down Thor. But he's been snatched away by an unknown magical force. Not Zeus', I'm sure of that. That distracted Sif so I could use the spell you… programmed me to use in such an occurrence.” Amora's voice betrays her anger as she admits her forced slavery to the God of Mischief.
“Oh, don't worry about Sif. She will now rejoin the Avengers and I will take care that she gets a permanent interest among them to keep her away from Thor. * She will only remember a blurred memory of all this mess. You, on your part, can go on with the plan and find Thor… stick at his side until the proper time comes. Now free the Circus of Crime!” Loki orders.
(* see the last scene in AVENGERS # 8, Alex)
“Why? These mortals took advantage of an Asgardian god! I won't let this sin go unpunished…”
“Do as you're told, my pet! I orchestrated Thor's captivity under the Circus' control. They amused me with their wickedness, so you can let them free. Track down Thor and stay at his side…” Loki disappears with a contented look on his face.
Grumbling, Amora dispels the confinement spell holding the Circus of Crime. At the same time a dazed Lady Sif teleports away using her powers to reach Avengers Mansion and the insidious machination Loki built up to make her fall in love with Magneto. Then, the Enchantress chants a spell of scrying and soon after she teleports away.
Thor emerges from the cascade of swirling color only to see a scene of war and mayhem: at the center of which two familiar figures welcome him.
“I did it! He's here! Now we can relocate the Oracle to a safer place and gather the remaining allies before we launch our final offensive!” Doctor Strange shouts as the Vision, at his side, helps Thor stand up. *
(* This same scene takes place at the end of AVENGERS: VISION QUEST # 3, Alex)
“I apologize for summoning you without your consent, Thunder God,” the Vision says, “but we need your strength. Only you can stop our foe long enough to ensure certain victory in the future!”
“I am ready to fight, Vision. But who's the enemy who can fill with fear you and your friends?” Thor asks, seeing Quasar, Adam Warlock, Crystal and the Golden Jocasta gather at Strange's side. He notices also that Mjolnir is firmly held in his right hand.
“That would be me, Thunder God!” a familiar and yet different female voice answers from behind.
Then Thor turns, noticing at the corner of his eyes Vision's team disappear with a huge chunk of complicated machinery. But what really troubles him is the sight of the opponent he has been summoned to stop or to detain…
“NEXUS, goldilocks! NEXUS is the name, the last you will hear for all eternity!” The being formerly known as the Scarlet Witch states, then the real fight begins.
Next: Well, you guessed it: it's THOR vs. NEXUS in a fight that will push our already tired and abused hero beyond his godly limits. Plus, more of the Enchantress and her reluctant alliance with Loki and do not forget the Elements of Doom and their plan! As for the Vision's team, check out AVENGERS: VISION QUEST. On the other hand.