Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 28

Somebody vaguely familiar, but whom I couldn’t place. I slid down and then threatened the horse with my sword hilt.

 

Kanesha must have done something similar, because hers turned and ran. Mine snapped at me first.

 

“Loki’s daughter allied with Unseelie. The rumors must be true.”

 

“Convenience only.”
“So you say.”

 

He didn’t introduce himself. Clearly, he expected me to know he was. I wasn’t about to admit that I didn’t.

 

“You’ll forgive me for not believing you.”

 

I knew abruptly that this person intended to do something to me. And probably not kill. “Kanesha, run.”

 

I could sense the power running off him. He meant to imprison me somehow, I was sure of it.

 

“The mortal…eh, the mortal can do nothing to prevent this. I will not allow you to end the world.”

 

I drew my sword. “I do not intend to. But you’ve already said you don’t believe me.”

 

Father, I thought. But it was as if my thoughts came up against a barrier.

 

Whatever he planned on doing to me he’d already started. I could feel it.

 

“Why should I, when you arrive on Unseelie steeds?”

 

I reached for fire. It answered, but sluggishly. “Why should you not? If I planned on starting Ragnarok, then why am I telling Surtur where to go?”

 

“You want all of the glory for yourself.”

 

The fire rose up around me, but it was pallid, weakened. “Who are you?” I asked, finally.

 

“You don’t know?” A pause, as if he was trying to decide whether to introduce himself or not.

 

“I don’t remember.” Maybe honesty would win him over. Because I knew I couldn’t fight this person.

 

I absolutely knew that. I also knew he was not Aesir or Vanir. But he believed I could end the world.

 

“It doesn’t matter.” He lifted his hand and my fire was extinguished as if he had thrown a whale tank full of water on me.
“It does to me.” I hoped Kanesha was clear. Hoped she could call help. I wasn’t getting out of this on my own.

 

Not this time.

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 27

“So, you called her?” Aidan asked me, incredulous.

 

“I didn’t feel like fighting you. You aren’t worth it.”
The Lady laughed. “Come home, Aidan. I can think of plenty of things that are more fun than…this.” She waggled dismissive fingers at the town.

 

None of the desultory looking people seemed to be watching, other than a kid on a swing, back, forth, back, forth.

 

Something about her was bothering me. She was, well, creepy. I narrowed my eyes and murmured to Kanesha. “See the kid?”

 

“What about her?”

 

“Don’t think she’s a kid.”

 

The Lady apparently heard us – pointed Sidhe ears and all – and turned towards the girl. “You too.”
The girl sighed and hopped off the swing. “Oh, come on. You never let us have any fun.”

 

“You need to grow up first.”

 

It couldn’t be this easy. Or maybe it could. I was abruptly glad I’d made her promise to return us safely, or I figured she’d be tempted to leave us here to walk back.

 

Then again, from the look on Kanesha’s face, I had a feeling she’d prefer that as a course of action.

 

I mounted. “So…”

 

“So, the horses will take you back to your vehicle. They know what they will get from me if they do anything else. I will deal with my children.”

 

“And these people?”

 

“Not my concern, but the spell should wear off in a matter of hours.”

 

I nodded, turning my horse back towards the highway. Of course, I had a feeling it was the one really in charge.

 

Although, it wasn’t as ugly a thing as I’d thought at first. It had its own…charm. As long as you didn’t think too much about the fangs.

 

“That was too easy.”

 

“I want to know what happened in Faerie while we weren’t looking,” Kanesha noted. “And I’d love to fly on the wall of her sending them back to their rooms.”

 

“So would I, but I don’t think we’re welcome. She didn’t really need us.”

 

“Maybe she planned on threatening more along the lines of setting us on them.”

 

I nodded to her, letting the horse take its own pace and route. I’d definitely rather have Asgardian horses. But, well, these weren’t bad.

 

Except for the fangs. “Be careful when we dismount,” I added. “She only promised to return us and our gear unharmed. Which means…”

 

“They can take a chunk out of us once we’ve been returned. Got it.”

 

I actually unhooked my sword and held it in my left hand as we rode, so I could dismount and get clear quickly. Kanesha did the same thing.

 

We made it back to our car only to find that somebody else was already there.

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 26

“Come,” she said, finally, after a moment.

 

I didn’t like the idea of fae transport, and I was right not to. Three more of the scaled, fanged, and obviously carnivorous horses awaited, tacked up.

 

“Don’t worry,” I murmured to Kanesha.

 

“She didn’t give her word.”

 

That was a point. “I do ask for a promise on one thing. That we will be returned to this place unharmed. And with all of our possessions.” I added that because it was obvious we’d have to secure our swords to the saddles.

 

“Granted,” the Lady said, with a slight smile. “If you will promise in return that you will not try to sharpen your sword on me.”

 

I laughed. “Granted.”

 

It seemd a fair enough deal. I helped Kanesha into the saddle before I mounted. She held the reins awkwardly. I made a mental note to find her riding lessons. The consort…or at least girlfriend…of a goddess really should know how to ride.

 

But the Lady kept the pace slow, or slow for these horses, perhaps out of awareness and deference to Kanesha not knowing what she was doing.

 

I rode next to her, then murmured. “Should buy you riding lessons.”

 

“…might not be a bad idea. Just not on ones with fangs?”

 

“The ones we have have wings.”

 

“Or extra legs.”

 

I grinned. But I didn’t know of any fanged horses. Other than these guys. Who no doubt would carry us into a lake and drown us if they hadn’t been ordered not to. I wondered how intelligent they were.

 

But in surprisingly short time, we were at the outskirts of a very sleepy little town.

 

I didn’t feel anything wrong, and glanced at Kanesha. If it was an area effect thing, I hated to say or even think it, she would be our canary.

 

“This place does look like it should be filmed in black and white.”

 

I wasn’t sure what they saw. Motorcycles? Ordinary horses? But the Lady rode to the very center of the place, to a village green with a duck pond that had not one single duck in it. It looked almost British, I thought.

 

“Come out, Aidan!” she yelled.

 

Silence.

 

“Want me to be intimidating?” I asked her.

 

She gave me a feral grin. “I think you don’t need to do anything to be that.”

 

Kanesha’s horse didn’t want to stand still. “Quiet,” I murmured to it, which had some effect – maybe the horse was intimidated.

 

Then Aidan came stalking out of a nearby store. He did not look happy.

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 25

The fairy vanished again. Figuring she would be a while, we went to a hot dog stand and got ourselves lunch. Hopefully it wouldn’t end up also being dinner.

 

“So, dwarven steel hurts and scares fairies, but not as much as cold iron.”

 

I nodded. “That might be worth remembering.”

 

“For all kinds of reasons.”

 

She was right. I didn’t generally have an issue with fairies, and I didn’t want to create one where one did not exist.

 

This time, though, I hadn’t created the problem. If he’d ignored us, I would never have noticed him, never have been remotely aware of his presence or his plans.

 

Pleasantville.

 

I shuddered. A morbid part of me wanted to go look, see what was going on, but that was a good backup plan.

 

If the fairy couldn’t convince Unseelie that we were a good neutral party. That we had no interest in the conflict between the Courts.
Which I really didn’t. Until they forced me to take sides by being assholes.

 

Well, I could make that part clear too. I finished my hot dog right as the storm started.

 

It drenched us before we could get to the car, then when I turned around…then I saw the Lady of the Winter Court.

 

“That was unnecessary,” I grumbled under my breath, but the rain, hail, and lightning had already stopped.

 

“I see the godling likes getting wet no more than the mortal,” she said in acid tones.

 

“I don’t like getting wet unless I intend to, no.”

 

She laughed. A ringing laugh. “So, why do you care about my…servant’s…affairs?”

 

“He harassed me and then attacked my consort,” I said, simply. “I was quite willing to ignore him. Heck, I probably wouldn’t have noticed him.”

 

“Fool. Maybe I should just let you beat him up.”

 

“It’s tempting. But he has led me to oppose his plans.”

 

“And you do not ally with the Summer Court.”

 

“No,” I said, with a bit of a wry half-grin. “Except that I protect mortals and have occasionally protected stray fae from fools.”

 

“Ah.” She studied me. “I see now. The Trickster’s daughter. But honorable, I suspect.”

 

“In my way.” I knew about Fae honor. The importance of promises.

 

“Not so far away from our way, from the encounters I have had with Aesir and Vanir over the centuries. You dislike breaking your word almost as much as we do.”

 

“Which is why I am not giving it.” I grinned at her. “I cannot promise we will not end up opposed.”

 

“A smart woman. And I will not give mine, but I will try and bring this one to heel.”

 

“And the mortals he is abusing?”
“No concern of mine, but I would suspect whatever harm he has done will fade with time.”

 

It was, I knew, all I would get out of her.

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 24

The fairy wasn’t even skeptical. “I’d imagine you can, although only as…no offense…muscle.”

 

“None taken. I don’t mind being muscle.” And if dwarven steel gave fairies pause, then, well. “Our swords…”

 

“Dwarven steel will not kill us, as cold iron can, but it causes more pain than most.”

 

I nodded. “Hence why he ran. And at the…” I grinned. “If he’s scared of us, we can use that. Chase him back into Faerie where you guys can deal with him?”

 

“We can only do so much. He is, as you guessed, of the Winter Court, and quite high in favor there. And he is controlling humans.”

 

“Is he using them to their lasting harm?” Kanesha asked, thoughtfully.

 

“Not yet, and he’s likely to be careful not to. He’s turned a nearby town into…I believe the word is…Pleasantville.”

 

I flinched. “Okay, and he’s claiming it’s all for their own good.”

 

“More claiming that he can…domesticate the humans so they cause no more trouble.”

 

“Well, I’m not about to go for this.” I grinned at Kanesha. “Besides, trouble is what makes humans fun.”

 

She mock-punched me.

 

“I see the two of you are not simply friends.” No judgment in her voice.

 

“Maybe,” Kanesha muses, “I could check out his Pleasantville.”

 

“And get brainwashed? No thanks.” I didn’t mind being muscle.

 

“Or we could just ride right into it and challenge him.”

 

I laughed. “You’re turning into a Valkyrie, with that suggestion.”

 

“There are worse things to turn into.”

 

The fairy cleared her throat. “Reversing the brainwashing is something we can do easily once he’s not actively powering it.”

 

“Do you want me to knock him out?” That would definitely count as muscle. “I wish I had a witch with me.”

 

“Eh, witches.” She smiled. “Knocking him out might work, temporarily, but he’d only start it up again.”

 

And I couldn’t kill him without cold iron. Not permanently. All I could do, apparently, was scare him and piss him off. I glanced at Kanesha.

 

“Could just stab him with a wrought iron fence.”

 

“Could. Although I’d imagine he’d have friends who’d come for some old-fashioned vengeance.”

 

“Could also…”

 

“Can’t talk to him. But maybe we, not being affiliated with either Court, could talk to his boss. Or worse, his mother.”

 

The fairy laughed. “Maybe you could at that!”

 

“Let’s try it. I mean, if we meet here, the only person in real danger is Kanesha, and she’s well protected.” I didn’t like the idea of talking to ranking Unseelie, but…

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 22

Not liking this at all, I hesitated and narrowed my eyes, trying to see through the glamor to establish what, exactly, the car was.

 

All I saw was a twisting shape, though. Not demonic. Fae, but the bad kind of Fae. Probably only following me because I was magic, probably nothing personal. I didn’t think, anyway, that I had done anything to upset the Winter Court.

 

“Ho!” I called.

 

Somebody got out of the car. Somebody unseelie, I could see the overlay of their glamor, a tall, thin man, and their elfin self. “A godling.”

 

“You followed me.” Not an accusation. Not really. A mere statement of fact.

 

“Of course I did.”

 

“I’m not here to interfere with whatever you’re worried I’ll interfere with. Unless you push me.”

 

That unseelie feeling meant that this one was up to no good, firmly so, but I was willing to ignore it unless he decided to make it my business.

 

Which I had a feeling he would.

 

I continued, “Wouldn’t even have known you were there if you hadn’t started tailing me.”

 

He snorted. “Don’t trust your kind.”

 

“Mutual.” Which wasn’t entirely true. I didn’t have a huge problem with fairies.

 

But I had a problem with this one. He stank. He radiated a feeling of wrongness almost equal to a demon, something which I wanted to purge with fire.

 

“So, what assurance do I have that you won’t?”

 

“My word.”

 

“Not good enough.” He glanced past me, and then made a run for the car and Kanesha.

 

Who jumped out and drew her sword. Seeing that, I elected not to trip him, this time. I figured she could handle it.

 

I was right. She stepped to the side and had the blade across his chest.

 

“You even think to touch her and if she doesn’t kill you herself, I will.” I strode over to the Unseelie. “Congratulations. You’ve made me very interested in your affairs.”

 

Kanesha was grinning a bit, although I could see the tension in her. She didn’t have any resistance to fairy magic. He was going to try something.

 

No, he was going to whirl on me…and start to prepare a spell.

 

“Oh, don’t bother. Go back to fairy, and I’ll forget we had this meeting.”

 

I hadn’t forgotten about the car.

 

I wasn’t even surprised when it turned into a chariot drawn by two scaled horses.

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 23

Kanesha was trying to get him in the back, but he was just too fast. I dived to avoid the spell, rolling to come up next to our vehicle. My sword was on the floor in the back. I tried to get the door open, but he managed to get off a different spell.

 

One which apparently electrified the outside of our car. Neat trick. I had to give him tactical points for it.

 

So, I had to do this unarmed. I wasn’t taking Kanesha’s blade.

 

Especially as she got him in the shoulder. He hissed…and then abruptly ran.

 

His chariot charged us, although not to hit, but just to slow us down before it ran after him.

 

“What was that about? It’s steel, not cold iron.”

 

“I don’t know. Maybe fairies don’t like dwarven steel? Maybe he just can’t handle a bit of pain.”

 

Most likely he realized it was dwarven and decided not to mess with people who might be allied to dwarves. Or something. “Let’s get out of here before he comes back with friends.”

 

The car was no longer electrified. Kanesha drove. I rode a rather more literal shotgun than normal, blade next to me. But we were definitely thinking about stopping whatever that fairy was up to.

 

It couldn’t be anything good, and I wasn’t just judging by Unseelieness at this point, although that was usually a fair bet.

 

“So, what do we do?”

 

“I think…we find a place where we can talk to the Summer Court.”

 

“Good call!” Kanesha grinned at me. “Nearest wood should work?”

 

“If I can find a fairy ring.” Which might be challenging, but she pulled up in a tiny little park that was mostly trees.

 

It should work, and I started to search while Kanesha kept watch. I wasn’t about to take on a group of Unseelie fae of uncertain power.

 

But the Summer Court needed to know they’d decided to attack me. Or he had. I could be nice and assume he was acting, if not alone, then at least without direct orders from anyone else.

 

I could decide only to be mad with him.

 

And there. Fairy ring. “Wish we had a witch.”

 

Kanesha shrugged, stepped forward, and held just the tip of her sword inside the ring.

 

It shimmered, and she pulled back the blade before the portal opened. I was starting to think the dwarves had not been entirely honest about that sword.

 

Or perhaps not entirely honest with me. It would be a very dwarf kind of thing to not tell me everything my girlfriend’s sword could do so she could surprise me. And really, it wasn’t strictly necessary that I knew.

 

A fairy stepped through. Her first words were, “Point that somewhere else.”

 

Kanesha laughed, and sheathed the sword. “Happy.”

 

“Dwarven steel in mortal hands. That has not happened for centuries.” Then she turned to me. “Ah. And I see why.”

 

Aha. So it was just a dwarven steel thing.

 

“I protect those I care about.”

 

“So, what do you want?”

 

I considered it for a long moment, then, “Little problem with an Unseelie Sidhe who chose to attack me and mine.”

 

“Ah. That one. We really need to work out the best thing to do about him.”

 

I smiled. “I can help.”

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 21

She found us a place that sold burgers, fries, and the best fruit pies I’d had in my memory.

 

I had a dim memory that dwarven pies were better, from perhaps some childhood trip, but it was still behind a veil. Existing, but not fully retrievable. But I couldn’t…no, I could relax.

 

I just couldn’t pretend to be normal. It would be lying to myself. And I spent enough time lying.

 

But I could be me, on vacation. That was probably better anyway. I finished my pie slice and sat back with a sigh. “I wonder if this place ships frozen pies.”

 

“Mmm…that would be good, wouldn’t it. Except we’d never agree on a flavor.”

 

“That’s why we get all of the flavors.” Well, maybe not all, but. “Stock up.”

 

“Hrm. Maybe we could get one of those coolers on the way back.”

 

Reluctantly, “I think it’s slightly too far, and Angrboda’s not around to do a cold spell for us.”

 

Kanesha laughed. “I bet she would, though.”

 

“Oh, she’d want something from me in return, but she’d do it.” I still wasn’t sure why she liked me, it was an awkward friendship. But it was definitely a genuine one.

 

“Well…we should probably get the check?”

 

I was in no hurry to move, perhaps having eaten slightly too much pie. But Kanesha was right – somebody else would want the table. “I don’t want to go back to normal.”

 

“What’s normal?”

 

“Being shot at.”

 

She laughed. “Or fireballed at, more likely, of late.” She tailed off as the waiter came over with the check.

 

Hopefully he hadn’t heard. Or he had misheard it as something more legitimate.

 

I knew we couldn’t entirely rely on that phenomenon, though. But…it was nice to know most people would mishear us.

 

And we got out of there with no incident. It was only the next day that we grew a tail.

 

It was a blue car, battered, rusty, no front license plate. Very convenient, that, but wherever we stopped, it parked nearby.

 

At lunch, I glanced at Kanesha. “You see that, right?”

 

“Yeah. Shall we?”

 

“You stay with the car, just in case they have friends.” I headed over to the blue car. For all I knew it was a friend, but I doubted it.

 

And I smelled something very off about the car as I approached.

 

Something not dissimilar to the Valkyrie’s steeds, but something…not nearly as clean and pure.

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 20

We didn’t get out of there before noon. The diner gave us free sandwiches, but wanting to get clear, we took them with us.

 

“I wonder who they were.”

 

“I’m still thinking some kind of safehouse. I don’t know. For all I know…or care…they were mob.”

 

She laughed. “Maybe.”

 

“Mob, CIA, foreign spies, I don’t care, they got me shot at, so lunch is only a small repayment.” Not that I was as annoyed as that. I still took the first driving shift, figuring I was likely to have less of the shakes than she was.

 

The road was clear, though, the city in our rear view mirror. I hoped that was the worst thing that would happen.

 

“It’s better food, though.”

 

“I still think whoever they escorted out that night was the chef being fired.”

 

Kanesha laughed, and made a gun shape with her hand.

 

“Hey, don’t joke about terminating people.” It was tasteless. It was still funny, much like a game of Cards Against Humanity, which Clara had managed to sneak past her parents and introduce us to.

 

“I don’t think it was, or I wouldn’t joke.”

 

I just kept us going north. At least we didn’t have a schedule, or a plan. Just…the road and each other.

 

And that tension knot in my stomach had finally relaxed some. A mundane issue, or what seemed to be, had sort of reminded me not everything was my problem.

 

Then I thought of the girl in the subway.

 

That wasn’t my problem either. My real issue was that I wanted everything to be my problem.

 

I wanted the power to fix them all, but I didn’t have it. And I… “You know. I want to fix everything.”

 

“Yup.”

 

“And I both want and don’t want more power. How mixed up is that?”

 

“Very, but it’s part of why I love you. You want the responsibility but not the power. Wrong way around.”

 

I laughed. I wondered how right she was. Thinking about it, I fell silent as the miles rolled past under our wheels.

 

Kanesha had her phone out and was looking for restaurants.

 

But I no longer felt any kind of normal.

 

Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 19

The broad-shouldered man went down a moment later, but there was no sound of a shot.

 

I wasn’t even sure how she’d done it, before she turned her attention to us. At that point, she drew a gun.

 

Kanesha ducked under the table. I followed her, but I could hear her walk over. Something strange about her gait.
Almost like a concealed limp, hidden behind the training she demonstrated, hidden within her ability.

 

Sensing that hiding under the table would not do it, I waited until the last possible moment before exploding out from under it.

 

She wasn’t expecting that. The gun went off, the bullet hitting the bench. “Hello,” I said as I reached for her gun hand. “I don’t appreciate being randomly attacked.”

 

She hissed. “I can’t leave witnesses.”

 

“Sorry to disappoint you.” She was fast.

 

I was faster, my hand striking into her jaw and then her solar plexus. She dropped the gun and doubled over. Honestly, I’d probably done some real damage.

 

Yeah.

 

I’d broken her jaw. I didn’t feel bad about it at all. I grabbed her gun and stood up. “Kanesha, check on that guy.”

 

The waitress was coming out of the back room with a gun.

 

“I think this is your trash,” I said, holding the woman’s weapon on her, but she was too busy trying to hold her jaw together.

 

“He’s still alive,” Kanesha said. “But stabbed. The knife’s stuck in him.”

 

Which was why she’d pulled the much more obvious gun. “Don’t pull it out.”

 

The waitress nodded. “I’ll call for an ambulance. Are you hurt?”

 

“No. I guess she thought you guys had a lot of cash.”

 

She looked at me. Looked at Kanesha. Then, she winked at me and went behind the counter to find the phone.

 

She knew I knew it wasn’t that. I knew she knew I knew. We could both pretend we didn’t know and then she wouldn’t have to arrest or silence me.

 

I did have contacts, anyway. I wasn’t asking what this was really about. But this did mean we were stuck here waiting for the cops.

 

Having called them, she found some twist tie handcuffs and secured the woman. “I’ll vouch for the fact that she was trying to kill you.”

 

“Thanks.” And she had been. The fact that she wouldn’t have succeeded was immaterial.

 

My adrenalin levels were still up, though. Also, I was rather annoyed that something that wasn’t even anything to do with me was interrupting our vacation.