Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
The flames dance higher and higher into the night sky amid the suffocating pall of smoke, as more and more books are tossed into the great fire; Heimdall has to turn away from the sight of so much literature and philosophy, art and knowledge, the history of a thousand years reduced to ashes.
He tells his colleague that the smoke is hurting his eye unbearably, and the man nods sympathetically as he orders the next condemned batch to be consigned to the furnace.
Outside, the air is cleaner, and the moans of the buried scholars are already dying away. Heimdall surveys his handiwork without pleasure, mechanically scanning the rows of heads for any sign of life.
Loki is staring at him, his eyes surprisingly serene, though the stitches criss-crossing his lips have formed his mouth into a grotesquely twisted half-smile and the encrusted blood stands out starkly against the pallor of his emaciated face.
"It is my duty to the Emperor," Heimdall says stiffly, and Loki does not answer.
II.burning books, burying souls
The flames dance higher and higher into the night sky amid the suffocating pall of smoke, as more and more books are tossed into the great fire; Heimdall cannot turn away, since any sign of disgust or regret would be dangerous - there are eyes and ears watching and listening for the slightest hint of disloyalty to the glorious Revolution, even in the screaming, frenzied crowd hungrily baying for the confessions and blood of the enemies of reform kneeling in rows in the square. Those who have not already collapsed are forced to remain with their heads bowed as obscenities and worse are thrown at them by Red Guards.
This is only a short prelude. Heimdall watches as epithets such as "running dog of the West" and "traitorous snake" are hurled at the two boys hauled out and flung at Loki's feet, forced to recant their previous behaviour and denounce their father. Loki listens in silence, and only when they have finished, weeping, does he ask in a hoarsely gentle voice,
"Where is your sister?"
The older boy looks up with anguish, but before he can speak, the nearest guard slaps Loki hard across the mouth, drawing blood, and snarls that if he hears one more word from the prisoner, his children will join him.
In the instant before Loki's head droops again, Heimdall catches a glimpse of his eyes, boring straight into Heimdall's own single one; their expression holds hate, sorrow and something unfathomable.
"It is my duty to the Party," Heimdall says softly, and Loki does not hear.