Episode Thirty-One: Roads: Scene 10

“How did nobody die?”


“I don’t know. It seems like we can’t go five miles, though.”


Kanesha frowned, then relaxed. “I don’t see anyone being petty enough to just crash a truck in front of us. Unless they had very bad aim.”


I laughed a bit at that, but weakly. The trooper had been right. If we’d been closer we’d have been hit. If somebody had been trying to hurt or scare me, though.


Maybe scare, although they should know it wouldn’t work. Nobody had died.


“I think it was just an accident, but I mean, seriously, so far on this trip we’ve got shot up in a CIA safe house, had to deal with Unseelie, been harassed by a Celtic god and now nearly run off the road. Why do you stay with me?”


She grinned. “Because it’s fun?” Clearly not entirely serious. “Or maybe I just can’t help it.”


She knew what I was really asking. We both did. But there was really nothing to be done about it. I was who I was, and I wasn’t going to break up with her to protect her. That bit of the YA romance had never appealed to me. “I know I can’t help wanting to be with you.”


If she hadn’t been driving, I would have kissed her. But the rest of the day went without anything going wrong.


And the next, so maybe it was just the first part of the trip that was jinxed. The second night we stayed in a hotel in upstate New York, in a beautiful place. It was nice to not be in a city.


It was nice to relax, and I had, while not forgotten about the riddle, managed to put it out of my head far enough that I suspected the right insight would come anyway.


And there was no sign, anywhere, of giants or Aesir. Fairies, yes, little dryads and nymphs living in the woods. They kept their respectful distance from me and me from them.


No reason to be enemies, that was for sure. And this was their home, and I treated it with respect.


Maybe I would finally get the vacation I had been hoping for. Or at least part of it. I stepped out into the hotel grounds and looked up. It was dark enough to see the stars.


Not quite the stars upon stars effect I’d seen in Africa, but certainly a reasonably good display. The depth and size of the universe, and I felt very small. Whatever I was, this was about Earth.


Whatever was out there would live even if I messed this up. Alien races, perhaps, on thousands of worlds.


With their own gods, gods I would never know or have to deal with, yet ones I might be linked with, part of the same thing.


The stars were slowly dancing. I smiled up at them, knowing they were only balls of fire.


Knowing they were also alive. Knowing they were real.


Knowing that everything had so many levels of truth that you could not merely pick one.


Episode Thirty-One: Roads: Scene 2

I don’t think time meant anything in that place – maybe it was some adjunct of faerie. The mountain, though, was as dry as the plain.


So? So I started looking for caves. For some reason I was reminded of Odin stealing the mead of poetry. If I could turn into an eagle, this might be so much easier. Shapeshifting, though, was still not a skill I had.


Loki kept refusing to teach me. There was probably some information in that, too, but I wasn’t in the mood to try and tease it out. I was in the mood to solve this riddle.


No caves. For want of a better idea, I started to climb. I knew that in the real world, the stars were other suns.


Here, though, they seemed to get closer as I climbed. Maybe that was what I was supposed to do. Tug a star down from the sky.


Maybe they were people, like in Narnia.


But I had no water of youth for old stars. Eventually, though, I reached the summit. And stood with the stars literally around me.


They were still cold. If anything, they were colder than the world around. Stars were supposed to be hot.


Trees were supposed to need water and light.


I reached out and touched a star. It was so cold it almost burned me. “What should I do?”


And I was not entirely surprised to get a response.


“What is your nature?”


“Fire,” I admitted.


“Of course.” The voice might be the star. It might be something else. “And what else?”


“War.” Another admission.


“Then why are you here?”


“Because somebody feared what I might do.” Maybe the stars, whatever they really were, were prisoners here too.


“And what would you do?”


“Go home. And convince people I’m not the one who’s planning on burning the world.”


“Where is home?”


I thought about it. I realized I didn’t have a great answer. “Not here.”


Laughter. The star became a woman. A star-nymph. “So, you would go home.”


“But I would rather like to help the tree.”


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 5

“You’re right,” Kanesha said, a bit sadly. “But my credits will transfer. The question is, where do we go?”


“Surtur will find me wherever. So…I’m not sure. But it might slow him down long enough to find the person destined to kill him.”


She sighed. “There’s…”


“I don’t think there’s any choice at this point. He’s convinced I’m key to winning Ragnarok and saving his people. Even if he’s right…”


“…he doesn’t get to destroy everything.”


I thought of what Sigyn had said about even me agreeing when the time was right. I thought about prophecies. I hoped… “Sigyn’s worried humanity will take care of that for him.”


Kanesha shuddered. “So am I. But…well…maybe humanity should screw up or not on our own merits, right?”


“Exactly. I honestly would like to help him if there was another way this could happen. But he’s so certain it’s the only solution. So…where shall we go?”


Kanesha thought. “Where would he not expect us to go…”


“Not the deep south. I’m not risking you.” It really was that bad.


“It’s not that much better in the north, but…we could go to the Midwest?”


“Maybe…lots of Scandinavians. I’d blend in, you wouldn’t, and it would still appear as if…” I tailed off.


If I was on my own, it would be easy. Go. Keep moving. Kanesha, though? She deserved what of a life she could have. Her choice to love me, but…


“It would be a place he’d think of to go himself.” She considered that. “So? We don’t go that far.”


I paused.




“Ugh, no.”


“Hear me out. You have enough money coming in that we could live in a good part of Baltimore. It would make sense, it would still be within reach of our friends, and he’ll expect us to go halfway across the country.”


“You have a point.”


“And I can make college arrangements there easily enough. And it’s only until…”


“I can’t promise. Heck, what they said might mean there isn’t a person or they aren’t even born yet.”


“Then we do what we have to do to stay safe.”


I put my hand on hers. “I don’t want to take everything normal and ordinary from you.”


“You already have. I don’t mind.”


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 4

“So, the plan is to find out who it is.” She kept blue eyes on me evenly. “What if you don’t like the answer?”


I shook my head. “The only alternative is to try and take him out myself. He’s crossing lines even amongst his own people.”


“He’s desperate. Or insane.”


“He claims his land is dying.” I let that hang there. “I think he genuinely believes…”


“That he has to cause Ragnarok to save them.” She kept her tone grim. “There are other ways.”


“I hope so. I’m not destroying everything to…”


“To bring rebirth. But I don’t think it’s time for that yet.” She brushed back her hair, regarded me. “When it is, even you will agree.”


“I…” A pause. “Okay, maybe if the world goes all Mad Max.”


She grinned. “Maybe it will at the end. I don’t know yet.”


“I don’t want to know.”


“If it does, it may well be the mortals’ fault. They have gotten very short sighted of late.”


I nodded. “Maybe it’s because fewer people can afford to have kids.” I shook my head. “Point is…I don’t know. He showed me some things, but how could I tell? I don’t know what Muspelheim is supposed to look like.”


“Your father does.”


A pause. “Hrm. I could compare notes with him. Except I don’t want to encourage him towards thinking it’s time for the world to end as well.”


“And it wouldn’t take much.” She sighed, reached for her dessert – cherry cheesecake. “I don’t know who it is.”


“I wasn’t thinking it likely you did, but I thought it was worth a try.” Worth a small try, anyway. Besides…I hadn’t talked to her in a while.


“The Norns would.”


“The Norns aren’t talking. As usual.”


She laughed. “Definitely as usual. Of course, would you want to know everything in the web?”


I shuddered. “No. But I know it’s…”


“You understand more about fate now. You know you have choices. It’s a matter of which ones you can live with.”


“Part of me would like to know where they all lead. But…” I tailed off. “How do I protect this city?”


“Leave it.”


And I knew she was, absolutely, right.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 3

Which would not be easy. If the Norns were talking, they would have talked. They weren’t. But it was clearly the next step.


Find out who it was. Give them help and support. Take him out. Hope his replacement had more honor.


My people need you echoed in my mind.


One way or another. Angering me into either joining him or killing him. Maybe he didn’t care which any more.


Who’s task was it? I assumed somebody on the inside. Maybe the woman who I knew wished to be his queen.


Would she be better? I almost, almost thought I understood Surtur, but he had thrown away his honor.


He claimed Muspelheim was dying.


Was he claiming that Ragnarok and renewal were needed? Or did it only need change?


I shook my head, feeling I should talk to my father about it, but he wasn’t showing up even for cayenne brownies. Busy? Distracted? Trying to come up with a way to stop Surtur?


Would he be the one who ended up…no, that would certainly only make things worse. I loved my father, but I was entirely aware of what he was. What he is. Trickster.


Not meant to be king of anything. And he knew it, I was sure of that. Odin’s left hand. The one who did what the king could not.


And who had been released from imprisonment.


Or allowed to escape. I thought I had an insight then, although I also thought it unlikely to be true.


Maybe Odin felt he had served his term. Maybe Odin thought he was too much of a rallying point while imprisoned.


I wasn’t about to ask a raven. I wouldn’t get a straight answer anyway. Little chance of those under the best of circumstances. Not with ravens, Norns, Odin or my father.


Thor or Tyr might give straight answers if they had them. I doubted they did.


And Monica…well. No. Monica wouldn’t give one either, and I had a feeling I could still ask her if I really wanted to.


Which left?


It left my mother. I was fairly sure she didn’t know who it was either, but I knew if she did she would tell me. Which put her ahead of most others. And she seemed more likely to have a clue than Thor or Tyr.


Calling her wasn’t that easy, but I’d worked out how to get her attention. And where to be – Sigyn liked food, good food and lots of it. I headed to an Italian place I knew which sold fantastic pasta in large quantities.
She also liked cherries, I knew, and I checked the dessert specials. Perfect.


She showed up five minutes later.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 8

I took as instant a dislike to Los Angeles as I’d expected. And I rapidly realized that Sigyn’s gambit would not truly work.


Maybe it was that part of me that came from her, but I knew leaving would not stop me from caring. And if Surtur knew I still cared, he would not change his plans.


Goddesses can be wrong. But then, so could I.


The city sprawled below as the plane descended. True, DC sprawled too, and ran into other cities, and threatened to run all the way to New York and create an east coast megalopolis. But there was something about this city that said it didn’t care.


Didn’t care how far you had to travel to find anything green. Didn’t care how much water it greedily sucked up.


Maybe we were both right and both wrong. Maybe I had to leave, just not here. The airport was as busy and obnoxious as any airport I had been to. The heat was as stifling as DC, except somehow worse.
And the entire place felt as if a pall of evil fell over it. Or maybe I’d seen too much urban fantasy that cast Los Angeles as an evil place.


I couldn’t be sure, even as I flagged down a cab to take me to my hotel. Which wasn’t particularly expensive. I wasn’t spending a lot on this trip – they were refusing to pay travel expenses, which I decided was a bad sign.


They clearly wanted me, but they also wanted me to, what? Prove I was serious, maybe. Prove that I really wanted to work for them, to travel this far.


The agency wasn’t far from my hotel, but for right now, I needed dinner. I texted Kanesha to tell her I was there safely, then headed for the nearest place that looked reasonably cheap. I rapidly discovered that cheap in Los Angeles was even harder to find than cheap in DC. I finally found a “deli style” restaurant that would sell me dinner for less than $25, ordered the beef stew, and settled down.


Maybe nobody would notice me here. Maybe nobody would know me. That might almost be worth it. Then again, if that pall of evil was real then whatever or whoever was causing it certainly would become rapidly aware of my presence.


Not much I could do about that. I was here, and it would notice me, and we’d probably…dance around each other a little.


Unless it thought it could crush me. I shook my head and ate my stew, although that thought made it taste less wholesome than it might have. It was still pretty good stew, although I wasn’t sure it was worth the price.


But anywhere I went was likely to be expensive. My meeting was in the morning and I decided to go to my room and rest.


I wasn’t able to sleep.


Oh, I dozed off a couple of times, but when I did, I felt as if I was under attack. It did occur to me whatever it was would hide me from Surtur.


But…whatever it was was doing things to people in this city. There was no way it wasn’t. And I was, once more, off my turf and completely alone.


I couldn’t fight this, so the best thing for me to do was get my business done, give a polite no, and retreat until I could.


Strategic retreat again.


Downtime – Sorry Everyone!

This site will go down on Sunday, July 24, and stay down for at least two days for a server overhaul and updates. The maximum expected downtime is one week.

Everything, including new scenes, should be back for you to read when it comes back up. However, I will be unavailable from July 27 through July 30, so if there’s a problem it might not be fixed until the 31st.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 15

“I want to know what the politics really are,” I said, finally. “And order what you want – I’m buying.”

Her lips quirked. “Alright. You want to know who your rival is.”

I lifted a hand. “As far as I’m concerned, she can have him. I have absolutely less than no interest in being your queen.”

“Her name is Geirfridur. She has been courting power for centuries.”

I nodded. “So, she just wants power.”

I wondered if she intended to stab Surtur in the back on his wedding night.

“You don’t want her in charge. She’s worse than Surtur.”

“Worse how?”

“Surtur is honorable.” The woman let out a breath. “Not many of us like him, but he keeps his word.”

I nodded. “And Geirfridur is…let me guess, unpredictable?”

“Put it this way, I don’t want to be her personal guard. My survival would likely be…questionable.”

It did put a twist on things. “But you don’t really like Surtur.”

“Very few of us want his war. And if he marries you, he’ll step it up to the next level. But if he marries her…she’ll probably kill him, take over and then destroy us. Of course, he could also…”

“Then maybe we need to find somebody else. Somebody who he might listen to. A good influence.”

She sighed. “There isn’t anyone. The only thing we respect is strength. If he marries Geirfridur and she kills him…” A pause.

“Somebody will have to assassinate her.” I paused. “He could also what?”

“Marry both of you, of course. Geirfridur doesn’t like that idea, but it wouldn’t have to stop him.” She didn’t give me time to digest that before continuing. “In our tradition, if you kill the king, you become the king. Believe it or not, it actually lessens assassination attempts.”

I laughed. “You’re implying nobody wants the job?”

“I believe humans have a saying in this language. Herding cats?”

I laughed again. “Well…I don’t particularly want it either.”

The conversation very much put the idea of saying yes to Surtur then murdering him off the stove. “If he dies without anyone directly causing it?”

“The throne would pass to his younger brother. Who would last maybe a month.”

I nodded. “Thanks.” I thought I understood the situation. They didn’t like Surtur, but nobody wanted his job. And if they made it look like an accident – they’d probably have civil war.

I did not want his job either. But the only way I could see to deal with this part of stopping Ragnarok was to replace Surtur with somebody more friendly. Somehow. And it would have to be somebody they would accept, or that person would be assassinated.

Somebody they would accept…

Episode Nine: Fairies: Scene 9

“I’ll go inside.”

“Alone?” Warwick was raising an eyebrow.

Mike laughed. “Warwick, she’s a hunter. She’s better equipped than we are.”

I thought I would dispute that where Mike was concerned, but was inclined to agree about the rather more unknown quantity of his partner. In any case, I slid out of the car on the driver’s side, ducked around it and went in.

“You look awful,” the receptionist said.

“Yeah. That’s what happens when somebody burns your house down and you have to couch surf.” I was annoyed at her shallow comment, and honestly a little gratified when she looked horrified.


“Police think so, anyway. Hopefully they’re wrong and it was just the wiring. Can I talk to Mr. Sams?”

“Hold on.” She picked up the phone to contact him.

I looked around, feeling a sense of relaxation start to come over me. The magazines, the colors. This world that I was worried I might have lost forever. It meant something to me. Thruor managed, though.

But Thruor, I suspected, would just go to another city and become Thea something else, build her reputation again. She had a patience I did not, a patience I had not yet built. And did not build ties to ordinary people.

To mortals. I shuddered a bit.

“He’ll see you. He was worried about you.”

I stepped into the office in back, brushing back my hair.

“Good. You’re alive and unburned.”

“You heard what happened, then.” I let out a breath. “We’re not sure what started it. Electrics, probably.”

“Do you have a place to stay?”

“For now…” Was I making enough to rent a room for me and Kanesha? Could I risk letting…no. They’d split us up.

“Social services should find you something.”

I didn’t tell him that that was what I was afraid of. Then two things happened at once.

The first was a strong sense of menace.

The second was his phone ringing.

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 5

The one thing they don’t tell you about stakeouts in cop shows or detective novels…they’re boring. Well, okay, sometimes it’s mentioned in novels, but in cop shows they always cut to the good part.

I was bored very, very quickly indeed, but I couldn’t complain, because I knew if I did, Seb would realize how bored he was.
The vampires didn’t return for a couple of hours. When they did, they had prey. The prey wasn’t struggling that much despite not being marked. Probably drunk.

I wondered if vampires got drunk off of other people’s blood alcohol. It struck me as the kind of thing that might happen. But then, they had no inhibitions to start with. Or sense of refinement, or any lingering humanity.

Either way, I took the time to note that as they dragged the woman to the culvert, then moved at the last possible moment. I was glad the victim was all but senseless. It meant she would stay down as I struck one of the vampires, feet first, knocking him away from her.
Seb was spraying holy water into the face of the other. A good move, I thought, but I wasn’t about to wrestle with the vampire. I was stronger than he was, that I was sure, and the sword was out and in my hand in a moment.

The beast tried to run rather than bite me, and I took its head off from behind with one quick motion. I did wish they turned into dust like in some versions of the legend, but there wasn’t exactly much I could do about that.

Head and body dropped to the ground, stinking of rot, and I spun to stab into the one on Seb. The holy water had slowed it down only for a moment, and now it had him lifted off the ground, making a sort of growling, roaring sound. I say it, because I couldn’t quite tell if it had once been a man or a woman, but now it was neither. It dropped Seb to turn to face the real threat, not even bleeding from the wound.

Some instinct told me that meant it hadn’t fed recently, but this one didn’t go down as easily as the first. Seb was moving to drag the woman clear of the fight. That was totally the smartest thing for him to do. I cut the vampire’s hand off, but it ran, leaving it behind.

I was forced to chase it, so I did. It jumped over the fence at the back of the park, vaulting with its remaining hand. On the other side of the fence was a garden. From inside the house a deep barking came that sounded like a German Shepherd or the like. I was very glad the canine was inside the house. The vampire was running for the narrow gap between that house and the next. Somebody was yelling at the dog to shut up. In a moment, they’d look outside to see what it was barking at.

I ran. The vampire ran slightly faster, hopping over the side gate and running out into the street.

…where it was hit by a car. I stopped on the sidewalk, watching the body get tossed down the street, hoping against hope that the driver was a jerk and wouldn’t stop.

Of course, I got the one person in all of DC who wouldn’t do a hit and run. Of course.