Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 8

“I know where the trail is leading.”

 

“Where?”

 

“A secret passage to Muspelheim a fire giant named Bjorn showed me.”

 

“Then she’s in Muspelheim, and they didn’t want to risk Heimdall knowing.”

 

“I thought…she’s alive.”
Thruor sighed and stopped the bike. “If anyone would know how to keep a mortal alive in Muspelheim, it’s Surtur. The snag is…”

 

“We don’t. We can’t rescue her without her being burned to a crisp. And if I give in he’ll kill her anyway.”

 

I knew that with absolute certainty. He’d kill her and he’d somehow make sure I couldn’t…

 

“He will.” Thruor furrowed her brow. “But as long as he thinks he can use her as bait he’ll keep her alive.”
Which meant I couldn’t go charging to the rescue. I hopped off the bike and blinked back the tears. “I knew this would happen.”

 

“So did she.”

 

I nodded. “She thought I was worth the risk. I couldn’t…I couldn’t chase her away, but what do I do now?”

 

Thruor considered. “A few things. The first is to make sure of her safety if he does kill her.”

 

I winced. “Meaning?”

 

“You need to have a talk with your sister.”

 

I shivered. The idea was…well…rather intimidating.

 

“Don’t worry. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. But you have to do that. Meanwhile, I will talk to every witch we know about spells that might be useful.”

 

And we did know quite a few witches. “Talk to Angrboda, too, she might have some ideas.”

 

“Good idea.”

 

“So, how do I find her?”

 

“Well, you start by going to a place of the dead.”

 

“A cemetery.” I thought some more. “A big cemetery.” It wasn’t like we didn’t have one, although most of the people buried in the really big cemetery had fallen in battle.

 

“Exactly. I’ll give you something she likes.”

 

Which meant it was alcohol and I couldn’t buy it myself. “Don’t be caught corrupting a minor.”

 

She grinned weakly. “I haven’t yet, have I.”

 

That grin got an even weaker response from me. But it did cheer me up just a little bit.

 

I might not be able to go charging in all guns blazing, but…there were things I could do.

 

And for this?

 

For this I would forget it wasn’t my task to kill him.

 

Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 7

The shoot went well. Three outfits, and done. I grabbed lunch and headed home. Kanesha was due in about thirty minutes.

 

She did not show up. I called her.

 

Her cellphone gave an out of range error. I did not panic. Yet.

 

I checked. She did not have her sword with her. I grabbed it as well as mine and tried her phone again.

 

Out of range error.

 

So I called Thruor. “I think they have Kanesha.”

 

“I’m on my way. Sit tight.”

 

She was right, I should not go outside without backup in case they were still around. Or do something foolish.

 

“So…”

 

“She’s late. Her phone is giving an out of range error. She’s not armed.”

 

“Kanesha manages better unarmed than many armed.”

 

“I know, and I wouldn’t be worried if it wasn’t for the error.”

 

Thruor closed her eyes for a moment. “How about your dog friend?”

 

I had been close to panic, I realized, not to think of that. I called the fyrhund.

 

He padded in off the balcony somehow.

 

“Track Kanesha,” I told him, keeping my own sword in hand and Kanesha’s on my back.

 

I wasn’t leaving it here. When we found her she was going to need it. Something about it made me uncomfortable, though. As if it was all wrong in terms of weight.

 

It was not made for me, I knew that. For now I put it down to that.

 

Not made for me. Not made for her either, as far as I knew, but it answered to her hand.

 

I knew I should not try to use it. Besides, there would have been something rude about that.
The fyrhund set off. Thruor’s steed, in bike form, was waiting outside. I tugged on a helmet, we couldn’t afford to be stopped, and hopped up behind her.

 

Chasing the dog down the street. We probably looked like we were trying to catch it.

 

It could run fast enough not to hold us back, though, and I sensed that it had her scent.

 

I sensed that it knew exactly where to go. But what if she was already dead?

 

No.

 

If she was dead I would know, I would know in every deep part of my heart. And then they would not be able to use her as bait.

 

Kanesha was alive.
Somewhere.

 

Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 6

Loki setting the demoness on the fire giants might give me a respite.

 

Or it might make things worse.

 

Hoping for the former, I headed to work the next day – keenly missing Monica. Nobody else quite…it was not to say they didn’t understand me.

 

No, really, it was the reverse. I didn’t understand them. I enjoyed talking their language, but they seemed to come from some other world.

 

They were all talking about the gang violence – so that was how the news had rationalized away the minor demon invasion. I was glad that my black eye had already healed. If I had been mortal I would have had some explaining to do in makeup. Although, I could probably have told a slightly modified version of the truth and got away with it this time.

 

“The world’s going to hell in a handbasket,” a brunette near me said. “They really should send all the Mexicans home.”

 

I bristled, but didn’t say anything. I’d learned to ignore casual racism – it really was a minority, and I had to be professional.

 

And make sure I didn’t sit next to them for makeup.

 

“About time we took America back for decent people,” another girl said.

 

I bristled even more, and vacated as soon as I was finished back to the changing room. “Ugh.”

 

“You didn’t end up sitting between Alicia and Josephine, did you?”

 

“More or less.”

 

“Build a wall, send the Mexicans home, only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.” The other girl, who’s name escaped me, wrinkled her nose. “I know you’re safe. I saw your girlfriend.”

 

I laughed. “Doesn’t make somebody immune to being racist. I know plenty of racists who date black people.”

 

“You don’t seem the fetishist type.”

 

I considered that. “Hard to tell. Josephine doesn’t exactly wrap herself in a confederate flag, does she.”

 

The girl laughed. “I’m Maureen.”

 

“Jane,” I said, extending my hand. “Surprised we haven’t properly met before.”

 

“I wanted to be sure you weren’t, you know, like them before saying hi.” She wrinkled her nose again.

 

“I actually appreciate that you know I’m not.” Which I did. Although the last thing I really needed was another friend to get hurt.

 

“So what do you think about the gang violence?”

 

I shook my head. “I think it was drunk idiots that started it. Nothing to do with skin color. Just people being stupid.”

 

She nodded. “Yeah. People always are. Sometimes I wish benevolent aliens would invade and tell us how to live better.”

 

“Yeah, but then we’d be slaves.” Which was why I wasn’t supposed to…we weren’t supposed to actually interfere with people’s choices.

 

“I suppose, but I’m worried we’re going to blow up the planet.”

 

“We won’t,” I reassured her. Wishing I felt more confident than I did that the planet was not going to be blown up. “I’m more worried about climate change.”

 

“I suppose we can adapt to that.”

 

“If we aren’t too unwieldy.” I liked her, I decided.

 

But I couldn’t risk anyone else.

 

Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 5

Ten minutes later, my dad showed up. “Okay, so you have an exhausted angel on your couch. That’s new.”

 

Sarael made an annoyed noise that was probably something rude in angel.

 

“He said he couldn’t make it to a church.”

 

Loki laughed ringingly. “Well, your couch is more comfortable than a pew anyway.”

 

“So, what happened with you and the demon?”

 

“We had a very interesting conversation.” He looked entirely innocent.

 

In a way that implied it really was an interesting conversation. “Spill it.”

 

“I’m your father. I don’t have to tell you anything.”

 

“You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t intend to tell me something.”

 

“Thank you, Kanesha.”
She was handing him a can of coke. He cracked it open and took a swig.

 

Kanesha rolled her eyes at me past the god of chaos.

 

“So. Spill it.”

 

He grinned. “She’s hunting fire giants.”

 

“That’s evil.”

 

“The worst thing she can do is banish them. Giant souls aren’t useful to Hell. And maybe they’ll banish her.”

 

I shook my head. “I won’t even ask how you managed that.”

 

Probably a combination of charm and interesting ideas.

 

“What? It’ll keep them distracted for a bit. Maybe long enough for you to do something.”

 

“I still don’t have a long term solution. And don’t suggest marrying somebody else. He’d kill them.”

 

Loki gave Kanesha a speculative glance. “The thought had crossed my mind, and at one point he wouldn’t have. Now? He’s insane.”

 

“I know.”

 

Kanesha pulled out two more cans, offering one to me. I took it.

 

Sarael was just kind of glaring from the couch, rather as if he was suffering from some form of angelic hangover and we were making entirely too much noise for his head to deal with.

 

“So, in the absence of a good plan to make him less insane…”

 

“If we could fix Muspelheim’s issues.”

 

“Might work. Might be too late. Might need his help to fix them.”

 

“The king being linked to the land and all.”

 

Loki nodded. “Exactly. But it’s probably the only way to save him. Otherwise, well, Muspelheim needs a sane king.”

 

At least he didn’t say queen. At least he wasn’t on that bandwagon, at least not yet. “Well, you aren’t a good candidate.”

 

He laughed. “Oh, me? King of anything? That’s the comic book character who wants that.”

 

I grinned. “That and the ridiculous helmet.”

 

He snapped his fingers and was suddenly wearing the entire Marvel Loki outfit.

 

“Definitely ridiculous.”

 

He snapped them again and changed back. “Yeah, I don’t know why they had that view of me. Wrong hair color too.”

 

“Did they get anyone’s hair color right?”

 

He considered that. “Odin’s.”

 

All of us laughed at that. Even Sarael.

 

Episode Thirty-Three, Taken, Scene 4

“You had lunch with Charles without me?” Kanesha pouted.

 

“You were in class.”

 

“Point.” She wasn’t too upset. “I’ll just have to do the exact same thing back, although I can’t make you jealous.”

 

“He’s ace,” I pointed out.

 

“Right, and I’m gay, so you know there’s absolutely no chance of anything.” She grinned teasingly at me.

 

“Hey, remember, it just means you beat out more competition.”

 

Kanesha grinned again and then pulled me in for a kiss – something she could never have done without my full cooperation. Of course, she had it. When we both came up for air, though, I pulled away. “I also fought demons without you.”

 

“Nah, I dealt with the one that found its way onto the NoVa community college campus.”

 

I winced. “Sorry. I was kind of occupied.”

 

“Hey, if I can’t deal with a demon on my own I’ve been wasting all the time I’ve spent training.”

 

I decided she had a point. “There were quite a lot of them.”

 

“I kind of worked that out. But none left.”

 

“Except the big one, which my dad said he would deal with.”

 

“Deal with.” Kanesha air quoted.

 

“Hey, I’m not his keeper.”
We would probably have continued in this vein for some time, with an obvious end point, but somebody knocked on the door at that precise moment.

 

I opened it, and it was a highly disheveled Sarael.

 

“More demon problems?”

 

He nodded. “Can I just…rest up here…for a moment? I don’t think I can drag myself to the nearest church.”

 

He looked like he’d been dragged through several hedges, some backwards and some forwards.

 

I headed into the kitchen. “I don’t suppose I can get you anything.”

 

“I don’t need to eat, but…” A pause. “No, I don’t think you can. Just let me flop on your couch.”

 

He did so. “What did the demon do?” Kanesha asked.

 

“Oh, we missed a bigger one. I did manage to send it home, but it was…” A pause. “Trying to use a kid as a shield.”

 

I winced, stepping back out. “Kid okay?”

 

“Kid will be having nightmares for weeks, but…”

 

That could have been a lot worse.

 

Episode Thirty-Three, Taken, Scene 3

“So,” Charles said, sticking his fork in a piece of his lunch. “It’s been…”

 

“I was on vacation. And…well…”

 

“Busy. So was I.” He managed a grin. “It’s fine. Friendships between people like us…sometimes have to take a bit of a second fiddle to politics.”

 

I opened my mouth to say it wasn’t exactly politics. Realized it absolutely was and closed it again.

 

Definitely politics. “I know,” was all I actually managed to say.

 

“And I’m figuring it’s god politics I’m not allowed to know about.”

 

I considered that. “More that I don’t want you dragged in when somebody is burning things down. I don’t want the next thing to be burned down to be your house or something.”

 

“Hrm.” A pause. “Suppose the cops can’t do anything.”

 

“The arsonist is very good at making it look like an accident.”

 

“Which is another way of saying they’re using magic.”

 

I nodded. “Yes. And it’s blackmail, and I won’t give in.”

 

“Good. You give in and whoever it is owns you.”

 

I thought about that. “I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.” Especially given what he wanted from me. “Still working out how else to stop it.”

 

“You may be right. I may not want to be involved.”

 

“I don’t plan on…” I tailed off. “You probably don’t. Oh, be careful, there’s a ranking demon in town.”

 

He nodded. “Another succubus?”

 

I shook my head. “No. At least I don’t think so. I should have more information soon.” I let out a breath.

 

“If there’s anything I can help with, let me know.” A sincere offer.

 

“There really isn’t at this point. I just wanted to, well, talk to you. Remind myself we’re still friends.”

 

He grinned. “That’s help in and of itself, I know it is.”

 

I thought about that and then nodded. “It definitely is. Having friends. Having people to fight for.”

 

“Just don’t get yourself killed.”

 

“I won’t.” I didn’t remind him how tough I was. I took the concern for what it was. A friend, sort of an uncle figure.

 

“Or ruin your outfit.”

 

I laughed. “I try not to do that either. It’s sometimes unavoidable, though.”

 

He was actually making me feel better, even if our conversation was not exactly normal.

 

But then, what else were friends for?

 

Episode Thirty-Three, Taken, Scene 2

Whatever Loki was up to, the demon prince (princess?) was not doing anything right now. I headed out of the war zone to find something to eat, but with my senses alert. Sarael stayed on watch.

 

I was pretty sure he was not physical or corporeal enough to actually need to eat. Certainly I had never seen him do so.

 

But still, we were not that different. What were my choices turning me into? Something more fire-based? No, that had started before I decided I wanted to help the fire giants not fight them. But then, maybe that was based on a choice I could not remember.

 

Heck, maybe I’d made the decision before and that was the real reason Odin had exiled me. It did not feel right, but it was a possibility I could not afford to entirely dismiss. Just in case he…

 

Well, no.

 

He hadn’t done anything to me yet. I flopped, exhausted, into a seat outside the closest place with food, which turned out to be tacos.

 

Tacos I could do. I wouldn’t have minded alcohol, too, but I was going to be a good girl.

 

“Who hit you?” an older male voice asked.

 

“Somebody I hit back harder.”

 

I turned to look. Just some guy – no sense of magic or anything else unusual about him.

 

“I’d hope so. Unless you started it.”

 

I thought on the matter. “I didn’t.”

 

“Then good. More girls need to defend themselves. Only way you’ll get some guys to back down.”

 

I decided not to correct the assumption – especially as I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d got the shiner I hadn’t really noticed until he pointed it out. It would be gone soon enough. “Yeah.”

 

He grinned and stood up. “You keep it up.” I saw him talk to the waiter on the way out, and realized he reminded me of the Senator.

 

I also realized I hadn’t talked to Charles in so long he might well have forgotten the sound of my voice and that I should fix that. Well, no, we’d talked briefly. I’d told him I was going on vacation and told him I was back.

 

That wasn’t enough. But I wasn’t about to call him right now. I had other things to think and worry about, after all.

 

Like exactly what my dad was getting up to with that demon, who had summoned it and how we were going to get rid of it.

 

I finished my tacos.

 

The waiter told me the check had been taken care of. Which made me feel guilty – free food because I had let a man believe his own mind’s lies?

 

But it made me even more determined to call Charles.

 

Episode Thirty-Three, Taken, Scene 1

There were demons everywhere. Whoever had opened this gate had been powerful and sloppy. Or, of course, this had been their intent.

 

Some black witches were crazy enough to try and start an infernal invasion. No, I needed a better name than that.
Warlock. Right. That was the right term for people like that, a term which didn’t insult Clara.

 

My sword was having fun, though. To be honest, so was I, and I was secure in the knowledge that anyone who remembered this night would remember it only as a nightmare.

 

Besides, it was good practice. Individually, none of the demons were anywhere close to being as good as me. As a group? I was glad I had Sarael to partner with, and the angel was good.

 

Probably better than me, but then, who knew how old he was. Probably older than me.

 

“You’re enjoying this,” he accused.

 

“Guilty as charged. Remember what I am.”

 

“Yeah.” He cut the head off another demon. “Of course, I can’t say this isn’t close…”

 

“…to what you were made for?” I responded as I thrust towards a demon’s heart. It burst into flames.

 

“No, not at all, but to what we’ve become.”
There was something sad about that, and I thought I’d work it out. Later. When I wasn’t fighting a demon horde. Right now, that was about all the banter we had time for.

 

Another demon went down, but a third jumped me from behind, dragging its claws through my shoulder.

 

I spun to deal with it, but that hurt, and it hurt with a sting that suggested it wouldn’t heal as well as normal. A flesh wound, though.

 

A badge of honor. And the horde was thinning out. Thinning.

 

And then gone.

 

“I think we got them all.”

 

“We got all the stupid ones. We’ll be cleaning out imps and the like for weeks.” He looked at me. “May I?”

 

“What?”

 

He reached for my injured shoulder. I let him, even if I wasn’t sure angel healing magic would work on me. It did, at least to a point. The wound was still there, but the sting vanished.

 

“What was that?”

 

“That kind of demon is venomous. Wouldn’t have done you permanent harm, but…”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Now I could ask him what he meant, but it still felt like the wrong moment. Not what he was made for but what he had become.

 

Thruor, and some of the things she had said about choices and our nature. The angel was not so different from me.

 

Neither, of course, was the demon.

 

Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 30

Then he and I both looked towards the window at once.

 

“Okay,” he said. “That’s rude.”

 

I wasn’t sure what he meant. I sensed something. Some disturbance. “I can’t identify that.”

 

“Demon trouble.”

 

“Not Tyz’vel.”

 

“Nah. But somebody high ranking.” He considered that. “I’m tempted to go say hi.”

 

“And see if you can deflect them?”

 

A grin. “Well, depends on what they’re up to. They could just be after a night on the tile.” He snapped his fingers and vanished.

 

I glared at the space where he had been, grabbed my sword and started to head towards the disturbance by rather more mundane means.

 

They might be after Derek again, although I doubted it. This was somebody high ranking.

 

This was somebody up to something big, and I didn’t need it. I didn’t need this level of distraction.

 

Probably, I should have left it to my dad. He could handle demons, one way or another.

 

But I couldn’t, as usual, stand to sit aside unless there really was nothing I could do. Besides, I wanted to know who it was.

 

I got about a block before Sarael fell in next to me.

 

“Who is it?”

 

“One of the high princes. Not Lucifer, but not far below him.”

 

“My dad went to try and distract him.”

 

“Or her, hard to tell from here.” Sarael arched an eyebrow. “Distract. Right.”

 

“Hey, it might work.”

 

“Crazy god,” he grumbled.

 

“I know.” I wasn’t going to deny that there was madness in my father, albeit madness that at least sometimes had a trace, just a trace, of method to it.

 

Okay, maybe more than a trace.

 

“You must get your sanity from your mother.”

 

“I do,” I admitted. “So, any thoughts?”

 

“I think we should mop up the lessers who came through and let crazy gods do their things.”

 

I smiled. “Well, I have my sword.”

 

“As do I,” the angel said, smiling back.

 

Sending demons back to hell the hard way suddenly struck me as quite a fun way to spend the night.

 

But the prince, likely that was something big.

 

Something political.

 

Something I hoped I could avoid being involved in.

Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 29

“You’re right,” Loki said. “Surtur would never rebalance things in a way which weakens his military might. He also fancies himself as the Allfather.”

 

“That doesn’t gel with sacrificing himself to fix…”

 

He lifted a hand before I could finish my sentence. “Actually, it does. How did Odin get wisdom?”

 

I shuddered. “Oh, so he thinks…”

 

“And while it probably wouldn’t work per se, it’s entirely possible he could die and then come back worse, and Hel wouldn’t have anything to say about it because he’s leveraging stuff older than she is. Older than we are.”

 

I shuddered again. “Which is why it’s not my task to kill him. Because I’d probably end up…”

 

“Triggering something. Or there’s…” Loki considers that. “I think I know what that means but yes, try and refrain from putting a sword in his heart unless it’s genuine self-defense.”

 

“Don’t murder him.” I let my breath out. “I didn’t plan on it. Considered it, yes. Planned on it, no.”

 

“Good.” A pause. “I’d rather get things back to the status quo, myself. Anyone who replaces him is going to be an unknown quantity.”

 

“Says the chaos god.”

 

“Ah, but I’m actually a reasonably predictable chaos god.”

 

I laughed. “You are at that. I know you’re going to hit on everything that moves.”

 

“Not everything!”

 

“Oh, come on, you were hitting on Sarael.”

 

“Waste of time.”

 

“You were still doing it.” The banter cheered me up. Surtur would not rebalance things, but… “What if the efreet is wrong and somebody other than Surtur could force the rebalancing?”

 

“Hrm. Would have to be….” He tailed off. “I couldn’t do it. It would have to be somebody bound to Muspelheim. So, that eliminates both of us.”

 

“What about an entire bunch of well born fire giants forming a circle?”

 

“Might work, if you can get enough of them. And get it past under his nose.”

 

“Yngva did manage to rob his armory.”
“She must work there,” Loki mused. “Are you…”

 

“I’m returning the dagger. I think that as difficult as this is, it’s more feasible than destroying a whole bunch of weapons.”

 

“Well, then…”

 

“And I’m not calling her until you leave.”

 

He looked puppy dog hurt.