Loki awakes in the rubble of his home, swearing someone will pay for this outrage. He wonders how he is still alive. The Frost Giants breached his keep and had overthrown him, he recalls. So much he remembers before he lost consciousness.
He casts a spell to have the walls tell him what happened. He relives events. How Thor, now dressed in gleaming new armor, defeated the Frost Giants. Loki is disgusted to learn how Thor helped him and carried off his erstwhile captive Iceman, doubtless to return him home.
Angrily, he curses at the idea that he owes his hated stepbrother his life. He decides that Thor is not his immediate concern. Where are the Frost Giants of Grundroth? He activates a scrying mirror and sees them on Midgard, breaking Odin’s ban by venturing into the mortal world.
They are in a Norwegian fjord. Grundroth reminds his people that they know Hela has cursed Thor with brittle bones and his armor will not save him, for they shall call up the oldest and mightiest of Thor’s ancient foes from the sea and then nothing will prevent the thunder god’s destruction.
Loki likes the idea. He decides Thor’s eventual doom is certain and so is Grundroth’s. He enters the non-despoiled tower of sorcery. Loki concentrates. Separating his spirit from his body, he travels to Midgard, the Andes Mountains, a vast landing field, which the Celestials departed some time ago. There he finds what he was looking for: a gleaming lake of solid slag. He intends to use the shining metal to destroy Grundroth and his followers.
In the great hall of Volstagg, the engine of destruction Kurse sits unmoving. Once, he was a dark elf, who fell to his death but was resurrected by fate. He slew his greatest foe, Malekith, and ceased caring for living. He has sat silently in this room ever since Heimdall brought him hence to listen to the laughter of Volstagg’s children. But even children’s laughter did not rouse him. Now he hears them crying and moves. He sees the two Earth boys, Mick and Kevin, trying to rouse the unconscious Asgardians. Kurse recalls his own children. He picks up the two boys and the girl Hildy they are holding and walks outside.
Meanwhile, Thor arrives in in Manhattan, near X-Factor headquarters, carrying Iceman. Thor is concerned. Iceman still radiates the cold Loki forced from him with his device. He suggests a hospital. Bobby tells him the others will help him. Thor flies off and Beast greets Iceman. Thor muses he can understand Iceman’s reluctance. He knows about prejudice against mutants. He enters the apartment he rented as Sigurd Jarlsson.
Elsewhere, at the end of a great glacier at the far northern coast of Norway:
The Frost Giants ofJotunheim row towards their destination. Their leader Grundroth orders Snotri, a dimmer member of his party, to summon the enemy of Thor. When he doesn’t understand what to do, Grundroth tells him to take the end of this cable and carry it to the bottom of the sea.
In the meantime, Kurse has taken the children to Balder’s hall where the Aesir too are like statues. Balder still moves slightly and caws like a bird while pointing at one of Odin’s ravens. One raven pulls a small vial from Balder’s belt pouch and gives it to Kevin, who wonders what he should do.
In Norway, the Frost Giants wait impatiently until a pulling at the line tells them someone has swallowed the unwitting bait. They pull the line up. It snags. Suddenly, an orange dragon comes up, snarling this had better be good! Disappointed Grundroth bursts out he isn’t big enough. He can’t be him. Who is he?
A foul tasting snowball wakes him out of a sound slumber, the beast snarls, some ragged fishermen try to catch him with a clothesline that wouldn’t hook a minnow… they insult his appearance and then fail to recognize him! Rarely has he encountered such ill-mannered food so eager to be eaten!
They are not food! Grundroth snaps. And they seek the great Midgard Serpent, enemy of Thor! Not some garrulous refugee from the fisheries of Earth!
The dragons warn him to watch his tongue. Fin Fang Foom is the oldest of dragons and Grundroth is less than fish bait to him. But what is a Thor? Is he worth their lives?
Grundroth boasts he is the thundergod, mightiest of warriors of the Asgardians and wielder of the hammer Mjolnir. He would make fish bait of Fin Fang Foom.
The dragon scoffs and asks why they seek this Midgard whatever. Jormungand is the world serpent who encircles Earth and Thor’s mortal enemy, is the reply. Now as never before, he has a chance to destroy his hated foe. Indeed? Fin Fang Foom asks interested. Grundroth explains that Hela cursed Thor with brittle bones. This is the time for the serpent to strike. While Thor is off in New York, far away from his friends in Asgard. They merely act in the Midgard Serpent’s best interest.
And their own as well, Fin Fang Foom remarks dryly. But he should like to meet the warrior who wields a weapon mighty enough to defy the power of Fin Fang Foom. And if he proves amusing, perhaps he won’t devour the rest of them when he returns. He flies off.
One of the Frost Giants bursts out this can’t be the one they were looking for. Grundroth smirks. He feels their fishing was not in vain. He wonders if they should have described Thor’s new appearance?
Thor is in a small park in Brooklyn, musing, He decides he must confront Hela about the curse, but she will be on guard. Stealth seems impossible and his power is no longer what it was.
That moment, Fin Fang Foom’s claw hits him. The dragon orders him to stare into the face of death. For he is Fin Fang Foom, and the son of Odin will learn to his eternal regret—
He breaks off and apologizes when he gets a good look at Thor. He fears he mistook him for somebody else. The red cape, you know?
Thor agrees there are quite a few worn in his line of work: And that is? the dragon asks. The odd job of removal here and there, Thor replies. He takes it the dragon is searching for someone in particular. Perhaps he might be of some assistance. He is fairly familiar with most other wearers of such capes. Who does he seek? Thor, he is told. Not a social call, Thor presumes. Hardly, Fin Fang Foom scoffs. He is an ancient enemy and Fin Fang Foom has recently discovered that he is suffering under a considerable handicap. One hates to do the dishonorable thing and take unfair advantage, but really, history only loves winners, Custer and the Alamo excepted. And historians care noting for the moral niceties of the victors, especially in this day and age. A pity really, but if the old stories are true, he and Thor are destined to slay each other in a fair fight. Poppycock, but he intends to forestall any such possibility.
He knows of this Thor, Thor remarks. Fin Fang Foom hardly seems large enough to provide him a worthy opponent. The deception of appearances, the dragon replies. It’s not like the good old days when life and death were simpler. Take these frail mortal who gather about them now. Who would have thought that they would harness power enough to one day challenge the gods themselves? The lesson of the ants: strength in numbers.
The name Fin Fang Foom is unfamiliar to him, Thor remarks: Merely a nom de guerre, is the reply, but he has half a mind to lay waste to these creatures and their hovels right now. A suitable demonstration of his power for the Doubting Thomas before him.
Thor suggests he reconsider. Mankind has harnessed the power of the atom and such devices might even harm a dragon. And the cost, should he remain, would be paid in terms of human suffering. He is a so-called superhero himself. His job is to prevent such suffering and if Fin Fang Foom threatens the city, he must face him first.
Fin Fang Foom admits he speaks well for one so overmatched. He is certainly the most interesting food he has met in quite some time. He suggests a bargain: If he can lift Fin Fang Foom’s foot, they shall go and find some place far from the madding crowd and he will kill him there in peace and quiet. If he does not accept, he shall slay the entire city.
Thor steps forward and grabs the clawed foot without hesitation. It doesn’t budge. A mightier heave. And nothing. He calls on every ounce of his prodigious strength and this time -- victory. Fin Fang Foom is impressed and tells him to climb onto his back. They shall depart this city for the green hills of Earth and a cleaner battlefield where an honest warrior might perish in glory.
Thor retrieves his helmet and points out the dragon is quite sure of his victory. Does he not remember the aphorism about the mills of the gods? ‘Tis said they grind slowly but exceedingly small. As they fly off, the dragon remarks he has always though aphorisms were the refuge of minds too small to encompass an original thought. Thor considers them symbols of larger wisdom that speak directly to the heart and not the mind. But, of course, there are those to whom symbols themselves are anathema. Only to those with no heart, the dragon replies. And has he a heart? Thor asks. Merely the illusion of one, he is told.
They escape the press. Fin Fang Foom remarks they live by symbols and die by them too. But in the end they’ll find story here. Only the illusion of one.
They land. Thor asks if there is nothing he believes in. That question is rarely asked of dragons. Their overwhelming presence is enough to silence the most curious tongue. A dragon believes only in himself. But he has lifted his foot as it has been done only once since before the beginning of time, and out of respect for that feat he will grant him a boon. He will tell him his name before he destroys him.
His true name is in the depths of time. He knows much about illusions. Ever and anon, he wears them as he wanders in the world. But now he has brought them into his time and the hero is doomed. Never again shall he lift a limb or draw a breath. The time of illusion has passed and the name of the illusion is Jormungand, for he is truly the Midgard Serpent.
The form of Fin Fang Foom is torn apart and shed like an old skin as the far larger Jormungand emerges. The truth shall be his death knell. He is nothing but a simple-minded hero who spoke so well and knew so little. Till Heimdall’s horn sounds on that final day and Odin is swallowed by the wolf, the life of Jormungand is deathless! His wyrd lies in the hand of the thundergod of the Vikings, and in his hands only. No other does the Midgard Serpent fear. But Thor is already a mere shadow of his former glory. On the day he will break the ancient prophecy and him. Then will Jormungand tower above the fates themselves!
Throughout the world, as the snake sheds his skin, all things are suddenly silent and suspended in timelessness while the serpent dances alone. Almost alone. The Frost Giants were old when the serpent was new. And they can also move. One of them cries out the birds have frozen in flight. The wind no longer howls. Grundroth realizes this can only mean one thing. The World Serpent is loose. That dragon was truly Jormungand. And if he has shed his illusions, he must have found Thor. He tells them to hurry; they must see Thor’s doom with their own eyes.
What a pity, Jormungand leers. He neglected to ask his foe’s name before he revealed himself. Never mind. When he is dead, Jormungand shall take another guise and gather his friends in mourning. The women shall weep their lamentations and cry his name aloud. And he shall know his foe. But now he must face his gods, nameless and afraid.
Only a fool has no fear, Thor replies calmly. Jormungand is flabbergasted that his small foe is not suspended. Calmly, Thor puts on his helmet, announcing he has many names. Vingthor, the Hurler, Longbeard’s son, has he been called. Hrodr’s foeman too. In Tyr’s ancestral home, wisest Hymir knew his name as Veur. Unhappy Hrungnir’s playmate some have called him. East of Elvigar, in Giantshome they whisper Hloriddi’s name. His father called him son. His mother called him darling. And beneath the vaults of heaven, he is Thor Odinson, the Thunderer, Jormungand’s fear! For he is the wielder of Mjolnir, the crusher, the enchanted mallet of thunder and lightning that Jormungand’s father hates. It too has another name. In the fury of the storm, it howls its rage and shrieks this name aloud. The hammer sings the death of Jormungand!