Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 15

There was another thunderlike sound…and a wind that rushed around us, under the tent, and then we were under open sky.


Judging by the commotion – and a few screams – we were not the only ones.


“Who did that?”


“I don’t know,” I admitted. I was not going to let him kill me. And the tent being gone meant we were surrounded by a ring of blades.


They could easily keep Mike and Thruor from interfering.


I was outnumbered, outgunned, and absolutely certain my opponent could not be killed. “Nice wards, by the way.”


He smiled. “And I left no loophole in mine for your father to exploit.”


“There’s always a loophole.”


“Also, your father is not here.”


“Don’t count on that.” Okay.


Loophole. Other than the sword Thruor had mentioned, that we did not have.


What would Surtur or his witches not have thought of? What would not have occurred to them?


Frigg had forgotten about mistletoe. Surtur would have remembered that. Something from Jotunheim? No, because they fought at the borders and passes all the time.


What would Surtur consider harmless? Or had he…no.


If he had, then I was dead, and I was not accepting that, not yet.


Mike had already died.


I had a horrible thought, then I pushed it out of my mind. She was safe. She was with my mother.


“Surrender, Siglaugr,” he said, sadly.


“Never.” If all else failed, I could force him to kill me, and that might break the cycle.


“So be it.”


He drew his blade. “This time I will not hold back.”
Then I was dead. I did not want to accept it. I hoped Mike and Thruor would run. I hoped this would work.


I lifted my blade to defend myself, but I hoped that something would happen.


Where was my father?


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 14

Likely whatever had just happened had distracted Surtur, and we moved into the tent warily.


I was not sure my glamors would fool him. He knew how I moved too well, and he would pick up on my efforts to change it.


It did not for a moment. “Not now,” he said to me.


“Why? Too busy trying to keep us all from getting eaten?”


His eyebrows elevated upwards.
“I’m working on it. But you know the rules.”


“Somebody has to die.” He kept his gaze on me. “I won’t kill you. You can’t kill me.” He glanced between the others. “Maybe we could…”


“Somebody important. Somebody who matters.” I kept my eyes on him. “And my family lost enough last time this happened.”


“I’m not falling on my sword. We are winning.”


“That,” I pointed upwards, even if there was canvas in the way. “Does not look like winning to me.”


“Then I will have to do what I don’t want to do.”


I kept my gaze on him, even, my hand on my blade. “If you think you can.”


“You are outnumbered. I will spare your friends.”


It had come to this, then.


“I won’t leave her,” Mike said. He wasn’t drawing a blade of his own, not yet. But there was a strength in his voice.


“Who even are you?”


“Her foster father.”


The look on Surtur’s face showed he’d misjudged something. That he felt he’d made a grave error. Then he drew his sword and rushed…




…who was ready for it and darted so lightly to the side it seemed he was made of smoke.


The guards were frozen, the two in the tent. Any outside were not coming in.


Afraid to intervene, I supposed.


Thruor was less so, her blade meeting his. “I think not.”


“Somebody who matters.”


“He doesn’t count.”


Because, I realized, he’d died once already. And it was my responsibility.


Surtur laughed. “Smart, smart woman.” He lifted his sword.


Thruor struck. But although she drew blood, she did no real damage, and he brought his blade down.


Disarming her. She rolled to the side to recover her sword.


“So?” he inquired of me. “Have them leave.”


“They won’t. They’re my friends, not my minions.”


It was a stalemate. He was not attacking.


Neither was I.


The guards had moved, and there was no way Mike or Thruor was sneaking up on him.


Where, in all of this, was my father?


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 13

I made myself forget about swords that we did not have, could not get and which, of course, might be merely rumored.


“I know how we get in.”


Thruor raised an eyebrow.


“He can’t possibly have all the food supplies he needs in that tiny kitchen.”


She grinned. “Got it.”


Which meant waiting for a shipment to arrive and sneaking in with it, possibly knocking out a couple of innocent workmen to do so.


I wasn’t above doing so. Once inside his perimeter…


…we had to trust he was not warded. We had to trust that he was not so well protected it was all a waste of time. It could not be a waste of time.


I was not giving up, even though I likely should. Even though I might be more productive on a holding action.


Besides, it might be that the dwarves would break the cycle. Except then they would die, because somebody had to.


I was selfish enough to want it to be Surtur, not any of my friends.


Somebody had to die. Somebody powerful. I looked at Mike for a moment. “Okay. Assuming he’s not warded against any weapon…”


“If he is, then somebody might be actively maintaining that.” He smiled. “I’ve talked to sorcerers.”


“Take that person out, goodbye wards. But we’d need to work out who it is. We can’t just kill anyone not wearing armor.”


“Well, we can but…”


But I wasn’t about to end up killing Surtur’s valet. Unless I had to. Of course, somebody that loyal might well throw themselves in front of my blade anyway.


He nodded. “So, how do we pick out the magic users?”


“Mostly women. But not exclusively,” Thruor said. “He might also have, bluntly…”


“A camp follower in there.” I shook my head. “His funeral on that.” Did fire giants have STDs? I did not want to know the answer to that question.


Then I realized we had to move now.


We had been spotted. The warrior was little more than a boy and he had a spear lowered at Mike. “Stop. Whoever you are.”


Thruor had apparently made them look like fire giants. “We have a message for the king.”


“I’ll let one of you past.”


I shook my head. “We were ordered to stay together.”


“Even here?”


Pretending to be too unimaginative to question orders, I grumbled, “I wasn’t given any exceptions.”


“Somebody just tried to kill him. He’s not going to let more than one into his presence at a time.”


“I don’t think,” I said, “You should have told us that.”


The boy flushed.


“Well…maybe we’ll wait out here until he’s feeling less paranoid.”


The boy shook his head. “I’ll ask him.” And he vanished into the group of tents.


“That tears it,” Thruor grumbled.


“We could disappear and change faces again.”
At that moment, though, there was a clap as of thunder overhead. Ozone flowed through the air.


The rift was widening, the jaws opening. What respite we had was over.


The boy’s voice. “Come in.”


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 12

Dying trying seemed even more likely when I saw what Surtur had done. He’d pulled himself into his shell. A shell made of field fortifications and elite guards.


This time he was not going to come out. He knew as well as I did that our fight was a waste of time and energy.


This was the point at which I needed my father, but he was still nowhere to be found. So. What would he do?


What would Loki do? “We need to be sneaky.”


Thruor nodded.


“Think you can glamor yourself and Mike to look like fire giants? In those uniforms?”


“I can try.”


She wasn’t as good at it as I was, but then she wasn’t the offspring of a trickster. And I would have to change myself a little too.


It was as easy as it ever was. I still felt as if I had lost nothing power wise, although I knew what I had given up.


It was worth it. Disguised, I thought we’d just walk in, ready to fight if needed. He no doubt had sorcerers with him who had a chance of spotting us, but it might give us enough time.


What were we going to do, though?


What if it was not Mike’s task to kill him either? That was my hesitation. What if none of the three of us could actually do it.


Somebody should stab Surtur in the back.


And he had more guards. Maybe somebody had already tried and failed. “Could it be that he has himself really strongly warded?”


“Meaning that only something he did not ward against could finish him off?” Thruor frowned. “It could be. I don’t think any of us has the magical ability to detect it.”


It seemed entirely likely. “He has sorcerers in there who would know.”


“These would be the people most loyal to him.”
And therefore, yes, least likely to talk. But if he was warded, we had to find out what would get through the wards.


Thruor furrowed her brow. “There’s one weapon the dwarves forged that will get through any wards.”


“We don’t have it.”


“Or know where it is.”


Likely in the dwarven armory. Or would the sisters have brought it?
They would not have known it was needed. “Do we know what it is?”


She nodded. “A sword.”


But not the one I carried. “Well, we don’t have it, so…no sense talking about it.”
A slight look of chagrin crossed her features. “I thought maybe…no, you’re right, there’s no time to search for it.”


And we had not known it was needed before.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 11



“So, we have a distraction, and the dwarves have gone off to do their job,” I told Thruor. “What happens if Mike kills him?”


She frowned. “I have absolutely no idea, but most likely the giants would not accept him.”


I nodded. “Most likely not.”


“They might accept you.”
“They see me as an alternative. They do not want me.” I understood the difference there.


“But after what you have done, they will likely accept you.” She kept her gaze even.


“Too late for regrets on that.” And it also meant I was more likely to die. “I might not survive anyway.”


“Perhaps not.” She kept her gaze even. “If so, I will miss you.”


“And if I’m stuck here?”


She smiled. “I will visit.”


I appreciated that promise more than I had suspected I would. I would definitely miss her.


I did not invoke, for now, Kanesha’s name. We would work something out. Or not. Maybe it was better to let her get on with her mortal life anyway, let her be who she was without me.


I had, after all, hijacked everything she was. But if she loved me…which she did. I shook my head. “Did you see where my father went?”




“Eh. He can catch up.”
She laughed. “He’s probably right behind you or something.”


I wasn’t going to argue with that as a distinct possibility. My father could be anywhere, disguised as anything. I was pretty sure he hadn’t left again…but with the barriers even thinner, he might have.


“Let’s go.”


I picked up my sword, and we slipped away. I trusted the giantess I had left in charge because she cared about these people.


She did not want the world to end.


That was all I had to go on, and if she was planning a coup of her own.


Somebody should stab Surtur in the back. Maybe she knew that somebody, maybe I would get there to find the task had already been done.


What if it was somebody who then ran? Why had I not thought of that earlier?


Because I faced up to my responsibilities. That was my mother’s influence.


Right now, my responsibility was to stop this or die trying. The latter seemed quite, quite likely.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 10

It was not as good a draw off as I had hoped. Surtur’s push had to be interrupted. I studied the battle, then turned to the woman. “Where would you strike to ruin his day?”
She gave a couple of indications then smiled. “Do you want me to?”


And I would go…not stab Surtur in the back. “I cannot kill him. I now think the universe will not allow either of us to win.” I found myself slipping into slightly archaic language.


“It happens. But there are others who will take the chance.”


And others who would…well…I would live with my choices. As long as I got to live with them. “I don’t mind being the distraction.”


She grinned. “And I will be your distraction.”


She did not say how likely her survival chances were. I did not ask her name. It felt as if doing so would make this too personal.


Or maybe I just did not want to know the name of somebody else who was probably going to die.


Maybe I was still going to die. I felt more confident now, as if having this support said something.
The law, though, said it would go to the one who killed him. But then, I had never wanted the throne.


Which some might argue made me pretty well qualified. I was not one of them.


I turned to the dwarves. “Do you think, with help, you can get to the forges?”


Ebba nodded. “With local help, yes.”


“Do it.”


“So, you go with no backup?” she teased.


“I still have two warriors with me.” And if either of them killed him? Well, we’d go on from there.


I knew Thruor would not, I knew she could not. Mike was an open question, though.


Could one born mortal be a king in one of the realms? I did not know, and I had nobody to ask. “And possibly a trickster,” I added.
Jorun laughed. “Wherever he went.”


I realized Loki was, indeed, missing. “He probably shapeshifted into something.”




I grinned at the dwarves.


They both gave me dwarven “okay” signals and faded off into the crowd, no doubt to find themselves a guide.


Their mission was important too, but sending them off now? Something in my gut told me I needed to.


I only hoped they both survived.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 9

The idea of splitting Surtur’s forces was very appealing. I glanced around. “Stop here. Where they can see us.”


I meant it for all those who had followed me. A pregnant woman nodded. She was very pregnant.


I hoped for a better future for her child. Or at least one akin to what they had had before all of this. A child should be born into something at least resembling peace. Something that had perhaps never been here.


Not true peace. But then, we did not want it. Giants quarreled for a reason – because full blown peace was boring. Many humans shared that trait.
Whatever I was right now, and I was still not sure except that I felt as if I was going to burn up any moment, except I knew I would not. A peculiar balance of fire. Or maybe not so peculiar. In any case, whatever I was right now, I still shared that trait. I still enjoyed a good fight.


I was not looking forward to round three with Surtur simply because I still had not fully recovered from round two. Otherwise?


No. I still would not be looking forward to it, because it seemed that we were being prevented from defeating each other, held in a stalemate.


Or, most likely, as if beating him, killing him, required some property or weapon I personally did not possess.


Loki was up to things I did not know about. We stood on the ridge, but I did see people start to move towards us. In twos, in threes, but not stopped or challenged.


Mutiny was the word for what was happening, an ugly word. Or perhaps it was that even uglier word: Coup.


Except that I was not using force to claim this realm, not using force to make it mine. Not truly a coup, then.




It might still become one. I shuddered more than a little bit at the thought. I did not want it.


Well, I wanted the fight. But I still did not want to fight conscripts. Only people with a real quarrel with me.


I thought, oddly, of Skadi’s history. The goddess of winter. Who was likely trying to protect Jotunheim right now with Angrboda.


Maybe. She might be in Asgard. I did not know, and I could not afford her more than that thought.


A woman walked up to me carrying a banner. “We are yours…” Then her lips quirked. “No offense, but we are rather not Surtur’s.”


I laughed. “None taken. You do not know me.”


“He is preparing a major attack, multi-pronged. If he gets…”


“He will thin the barriers further. I know.”


“We have already had strange monsters here.”


“That was an accident. They will not return.” I wished I could be more secure in my promises to her.


But her gaze was even. “What do you wish?”


“Just to secure this position.”


“Somebody could stab him in the back.”


“Somebody could,” I responded, evenly. I was past worrying about the honor of assassination. Against somebody who had tried to force a woman to wed him, it did not seem nearly as dishonorable.


“He is too good for most, though.”


“I know.”


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 8

The energy was still high as we reached the overlook of the plains.


Things were different from the way we had left them. The dwarves had managed to block the entrances, and there were mages, working on new ones. I sensed they were also trying to get to Jotunheim.


On the interface, ice and fire would meet and fight as they had in small skirmishes for thousands of years and always would.


They could be friends, even lovers, but we were meant to be opposed. I wanted to apologize to Angrboda.


Then I knew she had known all along. She was not a fool and she was absolutely a mother. A mother to monsters, but a mother nonetheless.


I thought of Skadi, frost giant and goddess. I thought, oddly, of her relationship with and separation from Njord.


She knew about loss. She also knew about relationships that were doomed from the start.


Yet, she had not loved him. She might have mourned a might-have-been, but she did not mourn a love that still shone in her heart even though it could not be.




I had been warned. “They’re…”


“Working on Jotunheim. I can tell. But not trying Asgard yet. Once they open something there…”


“Please tell me the one I sensed was you.”


“Of course.”
Which meant he’d left Kanesha where?


“You left her with my mother,” I mock-accused.


A grin. “Maybe I did.”


That was actually scary. Or would be if I thought I would see her again. But… “Loki. Who’s task is it to kill him?”


“I can’t tell you that.”


“Be…be careful.” I thought he was evading because he had decided to do it himself, to turn on one who had, I knew, been a long term friend.


“Who, me?”


“You, trickster.”


A laugh. “You are the one who needs to be careful.”


“I know, although if the barriers are down far enough…”


“…then it stops mattering.”


“So, you be careful.” I grinned at him, albeit weakly, then turned my face towards the army.


“Wonder how many of them we can get to mutiny,” he mused.


“A lot of them are conscripts.” I smiled. “Let’s give it a try.”


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 7

Leaving the mountain felt like leaving a friend. Maybe I would get to come back here.


Maybe I would not.


I still felt the sense of fire within me. And the sense of wrongness in the capital that was for the dwarves to fix once we had the war dealt with. The barriers were thinning again.


Whatever they had done, it was temporary. I walked down the mountain. The horses were waiting, but I felt it was no longer my place.


I walked. And I wished the woman I loved could be at my side, but the choice I had made to bind myself to Muspelheim was also a goodbye.


Loki would make sure she was safe if I could not. She could not be here, not for any length of time. It was too dangerous.


It was too painful to lose her, but I had to stay on task. This was my realm now.


One way or another.


And perhaps it was noticed, because as I walked we were joined by others. Perhaps some recognized my father.


They were the “dregs” of the land, the children, the elderly, those who could not fight in Surtur’s war.


The stars shone brightly again, but I was no longer afraid of what they signified.


I was no longer afraid, even, of the end of the world – because I had done my best and made my choice and I could leave everything, now, to wyrd.


To wyrd, that is to say to chance and destiny both tied together, to that which was set and that which was in the roll of the dice.


Bones falling to the ground.


Dice were not made of bone any more. But the ones in my mind were, carved on the bones of the fallen.


The fallen who walked behind me.


I had the support of warriors, the strength of dwarves. “Kind of wish Angrboda could be here.”


Loki laughed. “She’s busy.”


“I’d imagine. And besides, she would melt.”


And I would freeze now if I went to Jotunheim. We would have to meet somewhere else, if we both lived.


“As long as she…”


“If we win this, she will live. If not…” There was sadness in him.


I remembered what the prophecy said he would do, had to do. I felt that sadness echoed in myself.


I was selfishly glad it was not my task to kill Surtur.


Truthfully, I did not want to. Not to wed him or work with him either, not after what he had done.


I simply did not want to…because this was all such a sad end for one who had ruled well for long.


But the people were still following me. They wanted to see what I could do.


They wanted to understand what was happening.


The fire trees were blooming.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 6

The dwarves were patching up Thruor. “I’m not going to wait here.”


Loki nodded. “You did what you needed to do here.”


“And you approve.”


“Your mother might not, but I think I can talk her around to it.”


I looked down at my hands. I did not feel that much different. “I think I chose this without realizing it when…” A pause. “When I accepted the loyalty of a fyrhund.”


He grinned. “That certainly helped. But we still have to get rid of Surtur.”


“Do we?”


“Yes. I know…”


“Honestly, I think he does care about this realm and these people. He just has a poor way of showing it. But…”


“And then you were told it was not your task.”


“Right. Maybe that was meant to be a distraction, but every time I come close to doing it I find myself staying my hand.”


“Because it is not your task.” Loki’s lips quirk. “There’s another prophecy you don’t know about.”


“Which you aren’t going to tell me.”


“I can’t.” He turned towards me, brushing back a strand of red hair that had fallen across his face. Looking quite vulnerable. “Afterwards.”


Meaning it was something I would mess up if I knew. Not my task. “So…he checks on his armies. If it is not my task I should…”


“You and I both know we’re going to go after him.”
Was he going to do it for me? Was there…what was he keeping from me? But Loki was silver tongued, a liar, but always the one who brought the gods what they needed.


I trusted he would do the same thing for me. If I was still a goddess, which I was not sure about.


I still felt like me. But I knew I looked different, unless I made an effort to change my appearance.


“Yes, we are. Where did you stash my girlfriend?”


Loki laughed. “You’ll have to trust me on that one.”


“How mad is she?”


He shrugged. “Trust me. She does.”
Which meant he was up to something else, but I wasn’t about to push it.


We both knew we were going to go after Surtur, after all. Together.