Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 5

The stars went out. That might well have been a good thing, a sign that the barrier was thickening again.


Muspelheim was not supposed to have stars. Other realms did. Muspelheim had its own fire, its own light.


Its own beacons to keep away the burgeoning darkness that threatened to flow into us now. But it was not over yet.


Surtur, though, was startled. I got in a good one, and abruptly, he backed off.


Was he done with fighting? I should press the issue now and kill him, but something still held me back.


“Looks like things aren’t going your way.”


“No, those dwarves did something.”


He did not mean Ebba and Jorun. I dreaded to think what the dwarves had done. Made sacrifices of their own?


“Well, the barrier is back up.”


“For now.”


He was right. It was very thin. “Maybe we can talk like civilized people…no, I don’t think so.”


“You were never civilized,” he accused me. “And now you challenge me.”


“Only because you started it.” My lips quirked. But we had stopped fighting again.


Another breather.


“Heck,” I added, “Maybe you should, you know, check on your armies. I’ll be here when you’re ready to resume.”


He laughed. “Neither of us can win.”


“Perhaps that’s the case. So maybe go do your job.”


“While you come up with another way to kill me.”


“You haven’t left me with much choice.”


I still had no idea who had come through the rainbow bridge. Whoever it was had done precisely nothing to interfere or help me.


Maybe somebody had just opened it so we would start looking for who or what came through.


“There’s always a choice.” And then he broke and ran.


I let him go. “End of round two.”


“Round three will be soon enough,” said my father’s voice. “Well done.”


He, at least, approved.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 4

I felt something shift. And the break was starting to get my breath back. But what shifted was something in the land.


The realm waited. I closed my hand around the blade of my sword, then held it above the tree.


“Don’t.” Mike.


“It’s my choice.”
And the blood dripped onto the bark even as I jumped down, landing on the far side of it from Surtur.


My choice.


After all, I could not…no, I could not wait as I had planned, wait until all the fighting was over before accepting the part of my heritage that truly called to me.


I stood there. “I will not be your queen, Surtur. But I will not abandon this realm.”


“Foolish woman.”


“I never claimed otherwise.”


“I will end your life now and send you to your sister’s realm.”


“And I will still win.” I felt the fire flow through me, through my veins, as if replacing all of the blood I had lost to the battle. “I will still break the cycle.”


Had this been what they, what anyone, had expected me to do? I stood with my blade ready. “Hesitating? Not ready to dance again?”


His blade leapt forward as if of its own volition. “Always ready to dance.” There was some sadness in it now, though.


The tree was budding. The tree budded and leaves of fire exploded from it. Brightening the mountaintop, for it was still night, and had always been night and always would be night, and perhaps that meant it was too late.


Or perhaps it merely meant Sunna had the sense to stay out of the way until she knew it was too late for her.


A sensible goddess. I might have done the same thing, but I was as I was. Loki’s daughter.


But also born of the fire. Choosing the fire. Maybe I had a long time ago, but there had always been the opportunity to go back. Until now.


Thruor had struggled to her feet, but Mike was moving her away. She was clearly in no state to fight without healing.


“I wanted a different dance,” he said, sadly.


Whichever one of us died now it did not matter. One of us would. If it was truly not my task to kill him, then this was my task.


To fall here and now and break the cycle. Just like my brothers.


Was it always going to fall down to us?


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 3

He repeated the shout. “Let me show you!”


And he did. I saw in the spread of his hand his men protecting a child from some kind of great flaming cat.


I saw them preparing for war.


I saw them, though, also helping build barns and houses. “I care about my people.”


“Then why do this!” I yelled from the tree. I felt kind of stupid.


“Because I want to keep caring about them.”


“I know.” Did I tell him there might be another way? No, because I knew he would not listen.


Or trust the dwarves to do it. They were hanging back, I knew, because I needed them. Mike, though, was in a ready stance. Thruor too.


Both were looking, I suspected, for a moment when he was not paying enough attention.


Thruor leapt forward, but she timed it poorly. He flung her back. She landed painfully against the mountain and did not immediately rise. Alive, I could tell that, but at best winded, at worst broken.


That gave Mike more pause. To his credit, he did not rush to her as I might have, but stayed ready.


“Your friends are loyal. I will let them live.”


I smiled. “You value loyalty, then.”


“I value honor.”


“You cast yours aside.”


“So I could win the war.”


“You’re losing. Look around you. Everyone is losing. The only one who wins this war is my brother.”


I could almost feel hot breath on my neck at that.


“He would listen to you.”


I laughed, “Why should he listen to anyone? He fulfills his purpose. You’re opening the gates early.”
And there would be something afterwards. Perhaps not something I would understand, perhaps not something I could experience, but something. Even if the worst happened it would not merely be eternal darkness.


Even if…


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 2

Could do this all year. Had we, already? I had no sense of the passage of time, and then the wind swirled around us, formed a barrier for a moment.


I stepped back, caught my breath. But the second I stopped fighting… “I can’t do this,” I said to Thruor. “I can’t keep it up.”


I knew my father was here somewhere. I sensed him, but I did not see him. “I have to, but I can’t.”


I was tiring, I thought, faster than my opponent, and he was lunging towards me again, a blow I barely met with my blade.


I could have loved him. I knew in this moment that we could have loved each other, could have built something special, had he not had it so in his mind to start a war. Now I wondered what I could do.


Tried to think, even as so much of me was taken up in the fight. Then I jumped up, with my off hand I grasped a branch of the tree, and managed to pull myself up into it.


He couldn’t get to me. Would the rift start to grow again.


He laughed. “Am I a dog now and you a squirrel?”


I thought of Ratatosk. “Squirrels serve a definite purpose.”


But I was still smaller than he. I could be up here, he could not.


Time, freezing again.


My father watching. Was he here, was I sensing him because he was scrying from elsewhere? Either way, he wasn’t giving me any advice, neither was Odin. Nobody was.


Thruor wasn’t holding Mike back any more. The two dwarves were circling, but not attacking.


Not my task to kill him.


But did anyone else want it? What happened if I chose to do something I was not tasked with?


Did that break the cycle?


Would loving him have, after all? I thought not. “We both made our choices,” I added.


“I only want to rule in peace,” he lied.


“I am enough my father’s daughter to know that is not true. You were not made for peace.”


“And you were?”


I shook my head. “Not sure I was either. But I do not want to end the world. I do not want to bring destruction on everyone I care about.”


“I protect those I care about!”


I was not sure how long I could perch here, but I felt something, as if the tree was starting to stir.


What choice of ours had made it so? I wished I knew.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 1

Time stopped.


I don’t mean time seemed to stop. Or maybe I do. For me, time very definitely stopped as Bifrost opened.


What I saw in Surtur’s eyes mingled fear and hope in equal measure, and then?


Then he attacked me.


It was as if something else broke. This time I was not the one starting the fight.


He was.


It was the moment, I knew, in which he gave up on claiming me as his bride. We fought for the realm.


We fought because we had to, fought, then broke off, then fought again, and our fight drifted away from the gateway.


I did not know who had come through, but I sensed how vital this was. I had to win, but once more I could not.


Once more, neither of us could truly defeat the other.


Once more, we were evenly matched and evenly tired. Our blood mingled on the earth.


Fire flickered around us.


I knew we were being watched. Not my task to kill him, but I could not disengage. Whichever one of us disengaged first was likely to die.


I would not, could not let him kill me. The wind howled, or was it the wolf, the great wolf who now waited, on the very edge of chains that we might even now be sawing against, breaking, negating Tyr’s sacrifice.


I still did not know who was now on the mountain with me. I dimly saw Thruor holding Mike back.


Keeping him out of a fight in which he could not compete. Besides, the fire around us might have burned him, might even burn us.


I could actually, for the first time, feel the heat. Or what seemed like the first time, anyway.


But we could not… “We could do this all day.”


He laughed. “We could do this all year. You would have made such a worthy queen.”


And while we fought, it did feel that time stopped, as if this deadlock held off everything that was to come.


The stars brightened.


Fenrir howled, howled in frustration. He too was my brother, but they did not trust him. Perhaps if they had things would be different.


“Sorry, brother,” I murmured. I meant it. Surtur’s blade slashed into my arm in the moment of my guard being down.


I focused all of my attention, once more, on the fight.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 28

No. He had alienated me.


He climbed, and I stood there, next to the tree. Knowing that I would not kill him.


Knowing somebody else might. Knowing the end game had to happen.


It might not be my task, but I would do it if I had to. I wish I knew what would break the cycle for sure.


What would put things back to normal. Or whether there really was a normal.


And then I saw him. He saw me.


“You would not.”


I smiled. “Would not what? The cycle’s turning, if we don’t break it somehow…”


“With you I will win.”


“Without me you will lose. You know what happens then.”


“Are you in so much of a hurry to die?”


I smiled. “No.” But I would if I had to. “But I am not twisting around every way I can to avoid it.”


“Join me. I know I…”


I cut him off. “You lost any chance of that when you resorted to threats.”


“To save my people.”


“To save your people and yourself. With yourself as the most important element of this.”


He flinched as if I had struck him.


“The king is the land. It is you who ails. It is you who has forgotten honor.”


“Then what? Do we fight?”


“No.” I took a deep breath. “Not my wish. Unless you intend to attack me.”


He looked as if he was about to. “I…”


“Whatever you feel for me, you threw it away, you cast it off. You have nothing left.”


“Except.” He pointed up at the rift.


“To let your world and people die with you. Is that it?”


“If I have to. It will restart the cycle, and there will be a new world.”


A new world. I smelled the acrid stench of fire and blood washing over me.


It was stalemate. I drew my sword.


Knowing I would have to defend myself.


Knowing we would fight again, and again, with no resolution, stalling things, slowing them down.




…for me to see rainbow reflected in Surtur’s eyes.


I did not turn to see who had opened the bridge. Any option was, I thought, good for me.


Bad for him.


Rainbow reflected in his eyes and the rift starting to grow again.


This was it. This was the breaking point.


This was the end.

Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 27

I closed my eyes. I could feel him coming.


Not my task to kill him, but I knew I had a task here nonetheless, even if I was not entirely sure what it was.


Maybe I had already done it.


What if Thruor killed him?


What if…


The dwarves. It boiled down to the dwarves. Twin heirs. Who decided which one ruled. Which was older they had not told me.


Maybe they were not the heirs, maybe the dwarves did not allow women to rule.


Maybe…they had come here for a reason of their own, but I trusted them, cared for them.


I could think of worse.


A sense of something being disturbed, of a door opening.


Of a way opening. I opened my eyes. “Somebody’s coming.”


“I know,” Thruor said, hand on hilt. But whatever it was they were…taking their time.
With the barriers thin, maybe this meant they were coming a long way. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it wasn’t Coyote or Lugh. Somebody who did not truly belong here, but who had an interest in helping or hindering.


Above me, I heard wings. I looked up. A dragon circled. Watching, not attacking. I wondered who’s side it was on.
Dragons were usually evil.


Usually. Not always. Perhaps this one had simply come to see what came of this conflict, what came of the king. It was, of course, a fire dragon, trailing smoke from its wings.


It was not the same one I had so foolishly tried to ride. Well, as long as it did not trouble me, I would not trouble it.
The feeling of something approaching came, though, from three directions. Surtur. The dragon.


Whoever or whatever was hammering on the barrier between the realms.


It occurred to me in that moment that Coyote’s realm would be the perfect place for Loki and Kanesha to come in peace.


Maybe it was both of them.


Maybe it was something that meant to destroy me. I could not assume this was an ally that approached.
Surtur, climbing the mountain. Alone.


It was the end game. He needed to be alone. I did not. That, perhaps, was the difference.




He did not need to be alone. He simply was alone, any friends he might have had were gone.
That was the difference between us. I had not alienated my people, those who cared about me.


Only him. I had only alienated him.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 26

He did not come right away. Likely he was still catching his horse.


Poor beastie.


But I was happy to wait. This might be the end of everything, or at least the end of my everything. No anticipation this time.


Just enjoying every second of existence. Wishing she was here, yes.


Wishing that that last time, her walking away with Loki, had not been the last time. Which it had to be.


She could not be here.


I could not leave.


That was why gods did not love mortals, and I had been warned. She had been warned. We had both known it was a bad idea and done it anyway. Then again, perhaps that was the entire history of women who love women.


That right there, because when had it ever been a good idea by any definition other than the one which was woven all in with the way we loved each other.


I could have chosen otherwise.


She could not, she was born to be as she was. Or her soul had chosen it before her birth. Maybe one day I would understand.


The stars were unborn gods.


Not the real stars, though, and perhaps I only saw them as stars because of something in my own mind. What was real?
The tree was.


The power that echoed across the land was. The tree was still dead.


When it bloomed I would know I had won. It was still dead, so things were still undecided. Uncertain.


I did not know whether I was going to win. I cared.


Win or lose, though, that was the last I had seen of her, walking away.




Never to come back into my life. I would find somebody else, I would release her soul.


Which I could do, but I did not. Not yet.


Thruor would take care of her if I could not. Or Hel would. I trusted my sister.


So I did not release her.


It would have been too much like breaking up, letting go, moving on, when what I so dearly wanted was the opposite.


“I love you, Kanesha,” I murmured to the tree, as if in that way she could hear it.


Hear it and know it to be true.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 25

And it boiled down to why it had to be here. Feeling a lot better for soup and rest, I stood with my hands on the tree.


“It is dead, right?” Thruor asked.


“As a dodo. But not permanently. Besides, I don’t think it’s the tree itself that matters.”


“It’s the land.”


“Right. And what I’m doing might, might just resonate with Surtur as me being willing to change my mind about being queen.”


“Are you?”

She looked at me with serious blue eyes. I returned the gaze. “I might have no choice.”


The slightest of nods.


“We do what we have to do, right?” I wondered how often she hated her job, how often she wished she could choose differently.


No, she had chosen to be what she was. She was Thor’s daughter, she could be many things. She had chosen this.


I would choose it too, but she herself had told me it was not an option.


“We do.” A slight smile. Slightly sad.


“I can’t bluff him any more. I have to make this about the two of us.”


“You do.”


It was not my task to kill him.


It was also not my task to wed him. I hoped.


Even if I thought he actually might be willing to share.


No, but this would end now. And perhaps I would only be remembered as the one who stopped the cycle.


Or as a murder victim. Like my brothers.


Like my brothers who had never had the chance to become whatever they would have been. I was older.


I was not much older. I was a woman.


I was not sure I was ready to be a queen.


But I rested my hand on the wood and made a promise. One way or another, I would save this land.
And something started to shift, not a sudden shift, but a slow tectonic drift.


I felt it. Perhaps Thruor felt it.


Certainly Surtur felt it.


Now he knew what was up here.


Would he come back? “If he comes back, we do not attack him.”


Thruor nodded. “No. We do not. But anyone he brings with him.”


“We chase them off the mountain if possible.”


I was in charge. I was absolutely terrified.


I was very sad.

Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 24

Needless to say I woke up horribly stiff. With Thruor checking on me.


“He got clean away, right?”


“He did. You did well, though.”


“Not well enough. I’m starting to think it is so much not my task that I should go do something else and let the rest of you try without me. Or…or just stay here.”


I was still exhausted. Not sure why I was quite so tired.


“That’s blood loss talking.”


I shook my head, “No, I was already thinking.”


“Shut up and drink this.”


She had, of all things, a thermos flask. It was full of some kind of heavy, meaty soup. Probably just what I needed right at that moment. So, I shut up and drank.


“Okay, so, Surtur is terrified of what he’s being asked to do to stop this. He’s going to redouble his efforts to cause the end,” Thruor said, finally, while I finished the soup.


“And everything I’ve done has made it worse.”


Except the one thing I had not done.


“Say one thing that’s made it better.”


“Got rid of the demons.”


“Which were here because of me.” Maybe it was still blood loss talking. I felt pretty useless. A good fighter, and maybe more than that.


Just not doing the things that needed to be done in the right way. “Where did he go?”


“He camped in the foothills. At least he has to find his horse.”


I laughed. “Then maybe we still have a chance.”


But with what weapon? What we needed, I thought, was something more sophisticated. Mike’s magic gun wouldn’t do it.


Well, maybe it would, but he had never been a sniper.


“To do what?”


“Give him no choice but to come back up here on his own,” I said grimly.


“He’s never going to do that.”


“He is if he thinks it will change the outcome. If he thinks I have found a way to save Muspelheim without having to reset the cycle and without him dying.”


I was not sure how to achieve it, but I knew who would be.


That person was not here. So, I had to come up with the answer myself.


Still, when all else has failed, it’s often worth asking yourself exactly what Loki would do.