Culture & Lifestyle
Published March 13, 2024

'Marvel: What If… Loki Was Worthy?' Exclusive Excerpt Reveals Thor's Secret Child

In an exclusive excerpt from Madeleine Roux's 'Marvel: What If… Loki Was Worthy?: A Loki and Valkyrie Story,' Odin and Frigga learn that Thor fathered a child before he died.

So many worlds, so little time. Infinite possibilities, creating infinite realities. Long have I watched the trickster god sow chaos. But... what if Loki saved Asgard from Tony Stark’s revenge?

On sale April 2, Madeleine Roux's Marvel: What If… Loki Was Worthy?: A Loki and Valkyrie Story—the first adventure of an epic new Multiversal series that reimagines the origins of iconic Marvel heroes—imagines a world where Thor died protecting the Earth from a Destroyer unleashed by Loki as a prank. Now, Asgard's resident God of Mischief is paying for his crime, exiled on Earth with only his new friend, Brian the Gecko, for solace—that is, until Valkyrie interrupts his wallowing with his late brother's last request.

Together, Loki and Valkyrie are on the hunt for Dr. Jane Foster so that they might pass the hammer Mjolnir to Thor's rightful heir. As Loki struggles with the ghosts of his past, he'll face another challenge in Tony Stark, who swore revenge on those who consider themselves gods and forged Asgard's own weaponry into a lethal suit of armor. So, when Asgard looks to Loki for salvation, Loki must answer the question: Am I truly worthy?

In advance of Marvel: What If… Loki Was Worthy?: A Loki and Valkyrie Story's release on April 2, check out an exclusive excerpt from the novel, where Odin and Freya learn of their granddaughter's existence from the Valkyrie known as Rūna.

'Marvel: What If… Loki Was Worthy?: A Loki and Valkyrie Story' cover

By Madeleine Roux
Release Date: April 2, 2024
Format: Hardcover
HC ISBN: 9780593724354
eBook ISBN: 9780593724361
Also available as an audiobook from Penguin Random House Audio

"There is more," said Rūna. Her eyes glowed with fear. Silence fell. Whatever she had to share required great courage to pronounce. "Thor fathered a child on Earth."

Odin surged to his feet. "A child? An heir? Yet he hid this from us. Denied us . . . Why?"

"Let your heart not be moved to paranoia, husband, not when it might be filled with joy instead."

But Odin didn't seem to hear her. "Thor reveals the last hope of Asgard to a Valkyrie and his poisonous brother, but not to his own father! To his king! There must be a reason. He would not hide this from me. He would not . . . He would not lie to me."

Rūna and Frigga locked eyes. She was not so naïve as to assume children were completely up front with their parents. "Thor is a man of eras and centuries, not a little boy sneaking sweets. Perhaps our son had good reason to conceal him from us."

"Her," Rūna corrected gently. "The child is a girl, and she bears your name, great queen."

Frigga held her hands over her mouth. A protective fire rose within her. "How old?"

"Very young," said the Valkyrie. "She has not seen ten summers, I believe."

"Tender as a spring shoot," the queen whispered. Her attention then fell on Heimdall. He observed all, and nothing was beyond his godly sight. "Heimdall . . . Have you seen her?"

The gatekeeper shifted uneasily in his golden armor, hands resting on the crossbar of his sword. "Aye." 

Odin stumbled away, toward Mjolnir, pacing and tearing at his hair. "Traitors! Traitors and liars! I am surrounded by them!"

"It is my duty to watch and observe," said Heimdall. "It is not my responsibility to judge."

Rūna took a step back from Frigga. Her eyes were panicked as she now saw what her information had unleashed. A living grandchild . . . It could drive Odin utterly mad. The pain of losing his sons had robbed him of all temperance and reason. Presumably there was a mother involved, one whom Thor cared for, and it was not their place to rip a child away from her home.

"Not even ten summers," Frigga repeated, speaking up. The situation must be navigated carefully, lest the tempest of Odin's rage come on. "She is not the answer to our woes, not a princess grown or trained or prepared. Let her existence be a balm on your spirit, Odin. All of our son is not lost. His strength and goodness may persevere in her."

"If she be his child, then she will be my heir, and Asgard will claim her," said the king. Now his angry gaze was fixed on Frigga, but she did not shrink.

"Perhaps one day, but not yet," she replied.

"No! Now!" Odin thundered. "Now, before our withered kingdom collapses."

"She is untrained, with only a Midgardian's education," said Rūna, perhaps regretting what she had done. Frigga would not abandon her in that regard.

"Take counsel, All-Father, act not in haste but in love. We must approach this with care, lest we take into our house another child and repeat the mistakes of the past." Before he could argue, she raced on. "Aye, mistakes. Ones we might seek to address by gaining both what was found and what was lost."

"Pah," spat the king. "I know your mind, and I scoff at it."

The overwhelming, wintry sadness that had held Frigga hostage melted away. Enough was enough. She nearly leapt the distance between her and Odin to take him by the shoulders and shake him until he relented. 
Instead, she spun toward Heimdall and mastered her fury. That was what they needed now—not more hotheaded spitting, but cooler heads prevailing. Here was a queen's duty and a mother's burden, to stand for children thought lost and devoured by their inner monsters.

"Heimdall," said the queen, steely. "Show me Loki. Show me my son."

"Do not do it," Odin muttered. "This is . . . distraction. Desperation. False hope."

Heimdall considered them both, then a small, almost mild smile tugged at his lips. Beneath his high, winged helm, his purple eyes twinkled. The space above the focusing iris wavered, rippling like a pool disturbed by sun showers, and then, gradually, the swells parted, revealing a dark-haired man sitting alone on a dirty sofa. A tiny lizard was perched on his forearm, staring up at him. Light shifted across his face, bleaching his skin to the color of bone. He was watching something, though his expression betrayed nothing. His skin was waxen, his hair limp and overlong. Stacks of books rose near his feet, cluttering up the table that held three different cups with three different liquids.

The tomes were decorated with titles like So Long and Thanks for All the Trauma: Escaping the Toxic Family System, It's OK That You're Not OK, and Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. A translation of Beowulf lay cracked open on the couch beside him. Heimdall, as if reading her mind, bless him, focused in closer, revealing a passage from Beowulf that Loki had underlined and circled.

'Twas a fearful affliction to the friend of the Scyldings
The king and his council deliberate in vain.
Soul-crushing sorrow. Not seldom in private
Sat the king in his council

Loki's hand touched the book, his fingertips moving over the highlighted lines as if trying to absorb them through the skin. He looked shriveled. Withered. Absently, it seemed, he raised his hand, lifting the lizard higher, and he kissed it on its pointed nose. Frigga clasped her hand to her chest.

"No more," she murmured, shaking her head. "I can bear no more."

"Was that supposed to move me?" Odin grunted, heaving a dry chuckle. "Punishment is not meant to be pleasurable."

"Where are the legions of soldiers? Where are the plots and schemes? Where is the ambition that made early man of a quiet child?" Frigga went to the Bifrost iris, clutching the low, golden railing that guarded it. Her chin quivered as she glared at her husband, resenting his bitterness, resenting more that she had let it leach out of him and into her, corrupting a queenly heart. "Do you not see, Odin All-Father, that our punishment has brought about that which all judges most desire: reform. Look here, and look closely: Here is your son, one who is now of both Midgard and Asgard. He strides both realms and could make himself a guardian for our grandchild."

"Hasty," Odin muttered, trembling. "No, no, wife of mine, be careful that you do not place your womanly tenderness above your sovereign wisdom."

Beside her, Rūna gasped, rigid. "The queen is right. Thor thinks his brother might be redeemed, and while I was in his presence, Loki made no move against me. Believe me, it nauseates me to say as much, for I despise him also, but the prince believes there is worthiness in him."

"Worthiness?" asked Frigga. "He said that word?"

Rūna nodded. Frigga gently touched the warrior's gauntlet. Odin was hers to manage. Hers to deal with. Rūna took a polite step back. Again and again, in the still and lonely jail of her chambers, Frigga returned to the words her son Loki had spit at her with such consuming pain.

Where was I supposed to hold all this so-called love? How was I to receive it when my hands were already occupied with carrying so much shame?

She had tried hard with Loki. He was not an easy child. But then . . . Frigga could not remember if she had been the first one to think that, or if a nurse had expressed it, planting a tainted seed. Was Loki difficult, or had she stopped a bit short when she stroked his cheek, felt a twinge of uncertainty when she tried to hold him and comfort him? Had she smiled at Thor more often, laughed harder at his boyhood antics, and had Loki, being just a child, felt those almost imperceptible ripples, and had they built, until little lapping slights became waves . . .

When had it started? Who had made him?

The feasting hall of Valaskjalf boasted a sprawling mural of the prophecy that ended and re-created the gods, Ragnarok. She did not know who had put it there, whose hand had painted the wheel of time as it spun, the gods of Asgard spilling into the abyss, the Great Winter arriving to plunge them all into annihilation and starvation before the wolves Skoll and Hati at last catch the sun and moon, their forever prey. Frigga herself was depicted in the mural, losing her footing and free falling from the easterly end of the wheel. It had never bothered her. Everything eventually ended. A prophecy was a prophecy, and attempting to outrun or escape the Twilight of the Gods was stubbornness breeding pride. After their death came rebirth, a chance at life anew. But her sons were painted onto this wall, too, Thor's hammer raised, incandescent with lightning even as he flew toward his doom, and Loki below him, hands at his sides, palms up, face a mask of grim acceptance as they reached the end. His robe, in this artwork, was decorated with serpents and daggers.

Who chose this for us? Why had it never filled her with resentment? Was there no way to change the cycle? No way to break it . . .

How old was the boy when he first heard the words God of Mischief and noticed himself in that mural? If a different picture made by different anonymous hands had foretold his early death, or Thor's, would she have stood by and tolerated it? Or would she, armed with foreknowledge, fight, fight, and claw against such rank unfairness?

They would not repeat the mistakes of the past. She vowed it.

Frigga rushed by Rūna, pushing her husband aside. She stood over Mjolnir, ever stunned by its presence and power, and in one smooth motion, with an ecstatic exhalation, reached for the leather-wrapped haft. Odin cried out in wounded shock. The air sang with lightning, a charge surrounding them, filling the dome, the fine hairs on Frigga's arms snapping to attention. Yet Mjolnir . . . released. She would remember it like this: that the hammer wanted to move. It did not yield, but insisted, with the quiet, sure pressure of a commanding general.

"If we are wise, if we are patient, if we guard our hearts against the impulsivities of weaker souls, we shall regain a son and come to know our granddaughter," said the queen. "Asgard lays no claim to the child of Thor until she takes up her place willingly."

"No! What are you doing?" Odin shouted, lurching toward her. "The throne of Asgard will have its heir, I swear it! I will see it done!"

Frigga took up the hammer, at once too heavy and too much, but the choice was made.

When had it started? She could not go back. They would start again, and they would start again now.

Now, Mjolnir whispered.

Nervous, eager, Frigga answered with word and deed: "Whosoever holds this hammer," she said, "if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

And Frigga threw down the hammer, sending it soaring to Midgard. Heimdall aided its path: She felt it as soon as the weapon left her grasp. The lightning gathering in the tower went with her, a sizzling white tail, as Mjolnir left them, Thor's spirit departing, whatever part of him that might linger going with her.

Frigga turned and dusted off her hands and stared into the eye of her furious husband. "How's that, my lord, for womanly tenderness?"

Order your copy of Madeleine Roux's Marvel: What If… Loki Was Worthy?: A Loki and Valkyrie Story today!


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