Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 10

I wasn’t even sure why I felt I couldn’t make Kanesha that promise. I had no intention of ending the world, after all.

Maybe it was just the sense that now I needed to know everything. Or nothing. Not just enough to be dangerous and confusing.

It all made sense. Which meant it was time to confront Thea. I found her outside a night club. She was dressed in, pretty much, head to toe black leather.

“Thruor,” I said, very quietly.

“Worked it out?”

“Kanesha worked it out,” I admitted. “Your dad showing up didn’t help.”

She made a wry face. “The man is as subtle as a young bull.”

“Which is probably why Loki pranks him so much, right?”

She laughed. “Oh yes. He’s an easy butt. I’ve tried to tell him that.”

“How did Loki get out?” Maybe she didn’t know. “Kanesha thinks it means…”

“I suppose it was time. Sigyn probably helped him. His wife. The goddess of fidelity.”

Which meant she’d be loyal even to a guy who… “Yeah. I get the impression he isn’t big on fidelity.”

“He loves her.” Her lips quirk. “But fidelity and Loki don’t go together, no. What did he do this time?”

“Stole one of your mother’s bracelets. Thor was threatening to shove him into the reflecting pool.”

“He’d just swim back out.”

I’d wanted to say that myself. “So. It’s all real, then. Who am I?”

“I can’t tell you that, yet.”

“Because I might remember something I’m angry enough about to take Loki’s side.” I kept my tone flat. “I can’t imagine what that might be, but…”

She let out a breath, then started to walk down the street. Not so fast as to discourage me from following her. No doubt she intended for me to do just that. “Jane…”

“You have to do what you have to do. If that means not trusting me, so be it.”

“There’s two versions of the prophecy. Most people don’t know that. Either Baldr is restored and Ragnarok is…significantly delayed. Or he is not, and it happens very soon.”

“Okay, so, Baldr is dead.”

“Hel could release him. She won’t.”

I nodded to that. “Hel is Loki’s daughter. I know that much.”

“But not his slave or servant. You don’t piss her off. Even he won’t piss her off.”

I had a sudden flickering image, perhaps a memory. Beautiful, white hair, one side of her face that of the loveliest woman I’d ever seen, the other black and rotten. The fair and foul sides of death.

Hel. “She scares me and I don’t even remember why.”

“Good girl. She might decide she likes you, but that’s almost worse than the alternative.”

I didn’t want to think about what that meant. “But if she does, maybe I can talk her into letting him go.”

“She and Odin both have power over death. For somebody to be freed from it, both have to agree.” Thruor sighed. “Odin will not allow her to release her brothers.”

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 9

The community center was pretty quiet. And this time I wasn’t the only white person in the room – there was a freckled redhead playing ping pong, badly, against a boy. Actually, they were both pretty bad at it, and neither seemed to particularly care.

I envied them for a moment. We sat at a quiet corner, and Kanesha slid me a can of coke. I popped it carefully. I trusted her, but that fairy might still be around and shaking cans was, after all, a classic. “So, what have you worked out?”

“I think Mr. Otter is the Norse god Loki.”

I spurted the drink I’d just started to swallow. “Oh. Joy. You’re serious.”

And then I remembered what I’d read. “Big Guy’s Thor. Which means…oh, how can I have been so dumb?”
“Thea. Thruor. A valkyrie. Which explains the other biker chicks that hang out with her. They run in packs.”

I let out a breath. “Crap. You know, in Wagner, doesn’t Odin get mad with a valkyrie and exile her to Earth?”

Brunhilde. That was her name. But it didn’t feel right and besides, that was Wagner.

“That’s Wagner. He was being romantic. With rings of power and all, although there is one. The ring that produces 9 other rings a day or whatever it is.” Kanesha shook her head. “Norse gods wandering around.”
“Ragnarok.” The word came out of my mouth before I thought about it.

“If Loki’s wandering around then he’s not tied up in a cave and if he’s not tied up in a cave, that supposedly means Ragnarok’s at hand and we’re all doomed.” She was actually turning slightly pale.

“Unless somebody talks him out of starting it.” I fixed my eyes on Kanesha. Or into it. Crap. “He likes me.”

“He does, doesn’t he.” She met my gaze. “That could be why you’re important. You might be able to talk him out of it.”

And if I got my memories back I might not. I couldn’t imagine myself being angry enough about anything to take the entire world down, but what if… I let out a breath. “This is probably more than I’m supposed to know.”

“Or it’s a house of cards,” Kanesha pointed out. “I mean, there’s no guarantee that I’m right or even remotely close to being right.”

“Castles in the air, but I don’t think so. It kinda fits. I need to go back to the library this weekend and read those myth books again.” I couldn’t remember half of what I’d read.
Who was I? The first thought was the Wagner thing. A valkyrie, exiled…possibly even exiled for liking Loki. “If he did escape, then how?”

“I don’t know that one.” Kanesha recovered some color. “Promise me you won’t help him start Ragnarok.”

“I…” I wasn’t sure I could make that promise. “I don’t want to, I know that, but what if there’s stuff going on we don’t know about?”

She closed her eyes. “I don’t want the world to end.”

“Neither do I.”

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 8

I’d already put the incident mostly from my mind by the next day. I’d got the picture – Mr. Otter was an inveterate prankster and that was why nobody liked him. Oh, and a thief. He’d stolen the horn, too. Its owner, though, hadn’t come looking for it like that.

Maybe the horn had been part of an overall plan, not just a random theft. Thea’s father.

Thea wasn’t her real name.

I did say mostly, right? But I had to be an ordinary girl for now. I had to go to school, watch out for fairies, and try to get the right level of grades – not too good, not too bad. That was enough to be worrying about.

As I’ve said before, people in fiction never seem to care about these things. People in fiction wander around with guns even where it’s illegal, shoot places up, never get arrested, never have to hide from the cops.

People in fiction have it easy. In reality? I had so many secrets inside me at this point that some of them were bound to get out.

Which was why I sat next to Kanesha. “Bumped into Thea’s old man yesterday.”

“She has one?”

I laughed a bit. “She does seem rather like somebody you’d expect to spring full grown from somebody’s forehead, doesn’t she. But yeah. Mr. Otter stole some of his wife’s jewelry, apparently as a joke.”

“Mr. Otter’s going to end up…”

“Shoved into the reflecting pool, if that guy catches him. Otters swim, though, so I’m not too worried.”

“Sounds like they secretly get on.”

“Maybe.” I considered that. “I think there’s a very complex network of relationships I’m not seeing.

“Was Thea’s old man a really big guy with red hair?”

“You’ve met him too?”

“…oh crap. Look. I’ve been doing some reading, and I think we need to talk out of school.”

I nodded. “I’m working every night this week, though. I don’t get off until 8:30.”

“Right. And home isn’t a good place for it either. Uh…there’s the community center.”

I’d already trusted her friends once, so I nodded. “Does it stay open that late?”

“Stays open until 10. Gives everyone a chance to get home before curfew.”

I made a face, thinking about how many times I’d violated curfew this summer and got away with it. Of course, curfew was later in summer. Of course, people had just assumed that Thea was a relative.

Which she might be. Otter and Big Guy being related would explain that affectionate exasperation. Not brothers, no. I got the feeling Otter was older…in reality as well as appearance, and with the bike, I wasn’t sure I trusted appearance any more.

“Okay. I’ll go there after work tonight.” It should give us enough time and we could also walk home together, but she seemed not to want to talk about this in public.

What on earth had she worked out?

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 7

I had to work that evening. I saved the second brownie for right before my shift, but made sure nobody else saw me eat it.

Prue had agreed, after all, that they were good, but said they needed something else. She’d suggested cinnamon, and I figured if I could manage another batch.

If. Brownie mix wasn’t exactly something that only cost a few pennies and I did have other things I needed to spend money on.

I did notice a couple of guys who looked familiar come into the store. One of them nodded to me in a respectful manner, though, and they didn’t cause any trouble, so I was happy to have them stick around.

The truce was holding. I just hoped that fairy wouldn’t show up again, but it was apparently taking some time to think about its next trick. I was contemplating mine, but no immediate ideas came to mind. So, I just endured my shift.

I’d probably be working retail or waiting tables to cover cash most of my life, I figured. I was doing better in school, but not as well as I could. I was still trying to moderate it so people wouldn’t wonder why I’d improved.

Or ask me if I had my memories back. That wasn’t a question I wanted asked. I’d answer with the truth, of course, but I didn’t want people being suspicious that something else was going on.

And then there was Prue. What did she know? Maybe she would have an idea for another prank if the fairy came back. It might not. Retaliation might not have been in its plans.

Then another guy came in. I noticed him immediately because he was simply too big to fit indoors without looking ridiculous. And looked a lot like Thea except for being red haired where she was blonde.

Our eyes met, and I knew this was another person I knew. He came up to the counter and tried to whisper, “There you are.”

I say tried because he was one of those guys with a booming voice, so his whisper was anyone else’s indoor voice. That I could tell immediately. “I’m on shift until 8:30,” I informed him.

“Alright. Then you can make me a meat lovers’ sub.”

I moved to do just that, noticing that the two cultists had their eyes on him too. They knew him as well, but I wasn’t about to go over and ask. So, I made him his sandwich like he was anyone else, some random guy off the street.

Which he wasn’t. And he clearly wanted to talk to me, but it wasn’t that urgent, or he’d have interrupted my shift. Which would be bad. I needed this job. Had to have a job, anyway, or the social workers would disapprove of me and I’d have to get my clothes from Goodwill.

The social workers disapproving of me I didn’t care so much about. They’d do that anyway. He took his sandwich, paid, and headed off to a corner booth (which he took up most of) to eat it. Guy had to be six six at least and built like a pro wrestler.

When I clocked out, he got up and followed me outside.

“Thanks for not, uh, interfering with my work.”

“Do you know where Mr. Otter is?”

“No. I haven’t seen him in a couple of days.” So that was why he was in a good mood. “He pranked you, didn’t he.”

That resulted in a bit of a growl.

“He does that, doesn’t he.”

The redhead let out his breath. “He…yes, yes he does. And he’s going to give me that bracelet back or he’s going to get a better one.”


“My wife’s.”

I nodded. Then, quiet, “Is Thea your daughter?”

“Yes,” he answered without hesitation, and with a certain amount of pride. “You…”

“I don’t remember. It was a lucky guess.”

“You will,” he promised. “I’m going to go find Mr. Otter and push him in the reflecting pool if he doesn’t hand it over.” That threat delivered, he stomped off.

He left me standing in the street trying my best not to laugh. Not that Mr. Otter didn’t deserve being pushed in the water but, well.

Otters swim.

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 6

Whether because of the water pistol or Mr. Otter, I didn’t find the fairy that day or the next, and I couldn’t take it to school. So I tried the other tactic.

I baked up a batch of from-mix brownies and added cayenne to them. They were actually quite good – I was an indifferent cook, but any idiot can handle brownie mix, tweaked or otherwise. I hoped Mr. Otter had been telling the truth about them being good to trick fairies with.

Ironic. Brownies to trick fairies. I put the tin in my room then stuck a couple in my bag for the next day. Well, after eating one while they were still hot and gooey.

They really were quite good. School, though, felt worse than usual. The teachers were droning, sounding even more bored with their subjects than the students. Nobody wanted to be there. Barry wanted to teach. I thought he was crazy. But then, it was steady work and steady money, and who didn’t want that?

I wasn’t sure I did, but I was pretty sure at this point that I constituted a very special case indeed. I had other work to do and making money would have to be a sideline to that. Just enough to survive.

I could probably do what Thea did, if I was honest with myself. Or some sort of modeling, anyway. Maybe not fetish gear, which made me uncomfortable.


The fairy showed up at lunchtime. I was even more certain it had waited until I was unarmed. I casually left one of the brownies on my plate as I munched through my tasteless lunch.

“I see you brought dessert,” Prue noted as she sat down next to me.

“Mine,” I quipped.

She tugged out a two-pack of chocolate chip cookies and winked at me.

And while we both ate, the fairy showed up and stole one of the cookies. Dang it! It was supposed to steal my lunch.

“Did you…”

“Must have been one of that group of kids that walked past,” I lied, and then made a show of protecting my brownie.

Then I heard an eepeepeep! There was a bit of brownie missing. The cookie abruptly reappeared, fortunately when Prue wasn’t looking.

Eepeepeep! The fairy wasn’t laughing this time. I was, silently. It had deserved it, after all, and I didn’t get the feeling it was hurt. Just surprised, annoyed, and a little bit appreciative.

Next time, I resolved, I’d think of the prank myself, even if Mr. Otter had decades of experience on me.

Prue was giving me an odd look, then the cookie, then the missing bit of brownie. Then, to my surprise, her eyes narrowed. “What did you put in the brownies?”

“Cayenne,” I admitted. “Try a bit. They’re actually good.”

Prue knew? Or at least she’d seen enough to work it out? I stored that up for later. Maybe she could be somebody I could trust.

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 5

I didn’t want to just wander around in public with the item I was borrowing from Pauline, so I had it stashed in my bag. I’d practiced pulling it out. I didn’t plan on using it.

I planned on convincing the fairy to go bother somebody else with it. Honestly, I wasn’t about to hurt it for pranking me.

But scare it? That was definitely on the list. It was Saturday, and I hoped to snag it over the weekend. I couldn’t take this to school. I’d get suspended, for sure. Zero tolerance and all that.

It was a gorgeous fall day, unless you happened to be allergic to ragweed. Fortunately, I wasn’t. I wandered the streets setting myself up as bait for prankster fairies. Which might also cause me to attract something else, but nobody had tried to kill me in almost a month. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t try to kill me again – in fact, that was almost a guarantee. But it was a good slice of time without attempts to kill me, and I’d take it.

Then I became aware of footsteps behind me.

“The muzzle’s showing,” came the voice of Mr. Otter, rich and smarmy.


“The water pistol. You do realize holy water…”

I laughed slightly, shoving it further into the bag. “It’s not holy water. It’s a fairy deterrent.”

“Ooh. Having fairy problems?” He actually turned around to face me, walking backwards.

“Just a prankster. I’m going to discourage it from bothering me again.”

“What, not going to retaliate?”

The idea was tempting. “Not sure how I’d prank a fairy back, or I would.”

“Psst. They don’t like spicy food.”

I contemplated. “You mean, let it steal my lunch and get some kind of nasty surprise? That would probably escalate things, though.”

“Oh, for sure, but it’s more fun than threatening to shoot the poor guy full of iron filings.” He winked at me.

“You’re in a good mood.” He seemed more lighthearted than he had before. Which probably meant something good had happened in whatever life he had when he wasn’t harassing me.

Or playing pranks on people, I now rather suspected. Still, hiding cayenne in food was fairly harmless…well, maybe I’d check on that.

“Of course I am. For starters, it’s a beautiful day.”

I had to agree on that. “You’re less smarmy when in a good mood.”

“Smarmy? Me?”

“Oh, come on. You can’t pretend you don’t know how you come over sometimes.” Or that he did it on purpose, of which I was honestly quite sure. Intentional smarminess. But maybe it was a kind of wall around the real him, which was poking out right now.

He considered that, then, much more quietly, “But not to you.”

“I’m not your type?”

His lips twitched. “You’re off limits. Even for me.”

Which pointed at my first theory. I was related to this guy. Right now, though, that didn’t seem as bad a fate as it did when he was being an ass.

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 4

“I think I’m attracting stuff.”

Thea nodded, leaning against her bike. “You are.”

“And it’s because I know more of what’s going on, isn’t it.” It wasn’t a question. “And if this goes on I’m going to become a danger to this entire city.”

“Nah. That’s an exaggeration. But you’ll need to learn how to convince things to go away. You did a great job with the fyrhund.”

“This is smarter, I think. And annoying.”

“Fairy again. Pretty typical of the smaller and less powerful ones. They can’t resist being annoying.”

I let out a breath. “Sometimes…eh. So, what? Maybe I should get some cold iron and wave it at it?” If I wasn’t human, I wasn’t a fairy either. I didn’t have any problem with ferrous metals.

“Hrm. Might work, might make it try something more subtle next time.”

“I think I know where I can find a crowbar, but I’ll try and look for something smaller.”

Subtle was good. I thought I was better at it than Thea, but I also didn’t have some of her advantages. “Thanks.” As I left, I sneaked close enough to pat the bike on the handlebars. Thea gave me a wry grin.

I glanced back over my shoulder as I walked away and was pretty sure I saw a dark gray horse overlaid on the bike, like an aura. With a suggestion of wings.

I didn’t spare too much thought on it, though, because I’d had an idea on how to scare off the mischievous fae if it came back. Which would mean begging a little bit of one of my other housemates. Hopefully they’d cooperate.

The house was, though, completely quiet. Everyone was off somewhere, I supposed, but it felt ominous somehow. Ominous and as if I had been abandoned. Which was stupid. Except for Kanesha, I didn’t really care for them as individuals or they for me. I wouldn’t want them to be hurt, of course, but that didn’t mean I had to like them or want to hang out with them.

Still, I was suddenly uncomfortable, as if a weight had come down on me. Mischievous fae were one thing, but I felt almost as if I was being watched.


And ordinary people would squirm away from such a feeling. I made a perfunctory search of the living room, kitchen, bathrooms, and found nothing. My room, still nothing. If there was anything visible, it was in somebody else’s room, and we all kept our rooms locked.

None of us quite trusted each other, I supposed. Or, more like, we didn’t trust the social workers who dropped by to check on us. They all seemed to come from the same mold – thin-lipped spinsters in wire-framed glasses who cared more about our morals than our wellbeing. ‘You haven’t had any boys in here, right?’ I remembered the explosion when Alisha had been caught with condoms.

Like it wasn’t better to use them if you were going to than to go without and get pregnant or worse.

Nope. Nothing. But if it was something magical, I might not be able to see it. My senses on the matter were horribly unreliable, possibly because of…

…of the memory loss, which I was now sure was somebody’s deliberate act. Some kind of spell, no doubt. But then Alisha came wandering in. From the way she was dressed, she’d been using those condoms again. I didn’t quite get why so many girls around were like that. But then, they probably weren’t as confused as I was about what they wanted.


She turned, a little surprised to actually be greeted by me. She was made up, her hair neat, and her garb something those social workers would have tut tutted at. Was that a skirt or a belt?

“Oh, hi, Jane.”

“Have you seen Pauline around?”

She shook her head. “Ain’t seen nobody.” Then, without any word, including goodbye, she headed up the stairs.

Probably to stash ill-gotten gains. I couldn’t prove she’d gone professional, but I was pretty sure of it.

Her funeral, I suppose. For right now, I settled down to stake out the place for Pauline.

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 3

Talking of trust, or at least I hoped so, Kanesha fell in next to me as I left school. I didn’t have to work Thursdays – and she was spending more time studying than working.

Next year she’d graduate and if all went well get her scholarship and be gone. That alone was a good reason not to pursue anything – be it the idea of her as some kind of partner or be it something…

No. I wouldn’t even entertain that idea, but when I tried to push her face out of my mind, Barry’s replaced it. I was so, so confused on that point.

Thea, too, although she was old enough that I could convince pretty much every level of my mind that she was unattainable crush material.

All I actually said was a rather lame-sounding “Hi, Kanesha.”

“Hi. Any more trouble with our British friend?”
She sounded like a bad spy movie. “No. None at all.” I smiled at her, although it was a weak smile. “But I still…”

“I’m not staying away from you,” Kanesha informed me, firmly. “I’m not as easy to scare as Barry.”

“I didn’t set out to scare him that much. But I’d rather he was scared of me than acting like a lab puppy.” At all sorts of levels.

“You are intimidating. He thinks you’re hot, too.”

“I know.” Was I hot? I didn’t really want to think too hard on the matter. “So…”

I wasn’t sure what to say next. But while I hoped for an interruption, I didn’t hope for the one that showed up.

Somebody or something pulled my hair. Kanesha wasn’t quite close enough and besides, it wasn’t her style. I spun around, probably faster than I should have.

Nothing there, but I thought I heard laughter. High, ringing, feminine laughter.

“Very funny.” Kanesha was looking at me askance.

“We’ve got an invisible prankster.” In public, even. Why did people in movies never worry about this?

Right, because fantasy made more sense than reality. Or less. Or both more and less in different ways.


“You may want to…”

Too late. I saw a flicker as whatever it was grabbed the compact out of the top of Kanesha’s purse. Which had been closed.

Hehehehehe. More of that laughter and the compact rolled into the gutter. I got my foot in its way before it went down a grating.
Then, whatever it was was gone. “Gonna have to ask Thea what that was,” I said as I picked up the compact and handed it back to its owner.

At least this was only a prankster. I could deal with that. Right?

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 2

As over-dramatic as that thought was, it made too much sense. I’d moderated how much better I was doing in school, I thought successfully. I also thought I was successfully avoiding Barry.

Well, mostly. I was heading to launch when I caught him looking at me, then away. I wasn’t sure whether this was some hero worship induced crush or whether he’d have started to develop feelings for me anyway.

Ones I might have returned, otherwise, although he could definitely have done better. Now? I was also trying to avoid Kanesha. That was more half-hearted, though. She could manage as long as it wasn’t another kelpie or something. I could hope she’d be oblivious and thus overlooked by anything more serious.

Like another of those fireshadow hellhound things. I was pretty sure I could deal with them as easily as I had with the first, but… To others, they were really dangerous.

Who was I? Something that was a danger…and it occurred to me for the first time that the prophecy might somehow have been planted by somebody who wanted me dead.

Or on their side. I was determined to be on no side but what I thought was right. So anyone who wanted to recruit me would have some convincing to do. Convincing. Persuasion.

Not shooting at me would be a good start. Trusting Her Ladyship, for example, was not going to happen any time soon. The truce we’d agreed to wasn’t going to be broken by me, but I wasn’t trusting her.

So, yeah. Mr. Otter was ahead on that front, but I’d be surprised if he trusted himself. I thought of the horn again.

Then I thought that trust was something I needed to be willing to demonstrate and not try to force.

Episode Four: Prank War: Scene 1

In everything that had happened, I’d forgotten about one thing.

That dang horn. Not that I’d abandoned it or anything. It was carefully wrapped and hidden in the bottom of the deepest drawer of my dresser.

But I hadn’t exactly spared it any thought. Which was a shame. I could have used it on Her Ladyship. Nah.

I thought she was telling the truth. Certainly, the truce seemed to be holding for now. Enough that I was starting to relax a bit.

Which meant I did have time to think about the horn again. Mr. Otter hadn’t shown up asking for it again, and I rather suspected he was just waiting for the right moment. Or something. The man was quite the schemer.

Or he thought it would be useful to me. He wouldn’t hurt me intentionally. Thea’s words on the matter echoed once more in my brain. He had hurt me. He would hurt me again, I knew, because of the kind of man he was.

Now I pulled the horn out from its hiding place and examined it carefully. It looked much as it had, but it felt a little…heavier, somehow. A little more real. Tyr’s rune, for truth and justice.

Useful if I had to interrogate somebody. Not so much use for other stuff. The other kind of horn would have been more so, maybe, to call backup to my position.

I smiled a bit, my lips twitching at the thought. Yeah. Right. Backup. I couldn’t count on that, not always. Thea might not be able to stay – she’d hinted at other duties. Responsibilities that weren’t me, and I couldn’t expect her to babysit me forever.

Or to tell me the truth, which she clearly had no intention of doing. Not all of it. Even she walked around me with kid gloves. I entertained, for one brief moment, the thought of using the horn on her, then set it to one side. I wasn’t sure if it would even work on her.

I honestly was starting to wonder what Thea was. The other thought was trying to use it on myself. To see if I could interrogate my own subconscious. That too went to one side. And yes, I was beginning to wonder what I was.

I was beginning to wonder if I was human.