Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 31

The frozen tableau lasted longer than I liked. I didn’t know the boy’s name, but he was smart enough not to squirm, smart enough to stay absolutely still. I wished Mike was here; this was exactly the kind of situation he would know how to fix.

“Okay. That’s good. Just send the old man away. Then we can talk properly.”
“Then you can try and drag me home by my hair, you mean.” Killing him would banish him, but not for long enough. Besides, I had no weapon. Somebody had almost certainly called the cops. “Alternative…drop the boy and get out of here before the police show up and screw everything up.”

I didn’t want cops. I definitely didn’t want cops. They were as likely to shoot the kid…or me…as the demon.

Unless it was Mike. My own resources. But maybe I couldn’t handle it, maybe I did have to think outside the box more than I was up to.

What, I wondered suddenly, would Loki do?

Trick him. I gave William a look and a nod. He scurried away, out of sight. I had to trust him to follow the play without me calling it, just as he had intended to trust me. One of the teachers had come out of the school and I hoped he didn’t intend to try and negotiate.

“Now drop the boy. Please. We’ll sort this out.”

“No. You’re both coming with me.” He started to drag the kid away, but he kept glancing to make sure I was following. Which I did.

He was going to give me no choice. I knew that. Except I couldn’t do it in front of some strange kid, even if I managed to have an opportunity to grab the knife. I watched him, I kept my eyes narrowed. “You’d think you wouldn’t have to resort to this.”

And I took the biggest gamble of my life. I called him by his real name.

He dropped the kid, who scrambled away, whirling around to face me. “Fool.”

“No. I mean to be rid of you for good. I might change my mind if you promise you’ll stop coming after me, and actually keep that promise.” Meaning I would leave him alone as long as he left him alone. There were still people watching, but nobody within earshot.

Then there was a crack. Somebody had had a gun and had taken the opportunity to shoot Martin. They hadn’t had great aim. They’d hit him in the arm rather than center of mass, and you always go for center of mass. I knew that.

At which point, he grabbed me. I didn’t even try to dodge, and then we were elsewhere. “Don’t worry, they saw you run off with me chasing you,” he informed me as reality settled.
We were on a rooftop. “First smart thing you’ve done.”

“And you. Setting a Christian priest, of all things, on me.”

My lips quirked. “I’m not interested in your suit. Maybe I’d be interested in a roll in the hay, but I will not be your consort.”
“Then who’s will you be?”

“Do I have to be anyone’s?” I felt his name on my lips, and I felt power flowing through me. “I will not be yours. That much I promise you. You might as well leave.”

“I will have…”

“If you could force me, you would. If you could drag me down as Hades claimed Persephone, you would. But you can’t, can you? I, however, know your name.”

He stepped back. “You are not in your full power. Yet.”

“I don’t need it.” I was bluffing. I was bluffing more than I had ever thought. “Go back to Hell, Tyv’zel.” The name, harsh and near to unpronounceable. A direct order, my eyes fixed on his.

He flinched at the name, enough to let us know we were absolutely on target. “You are…quite the woman…” he said and then vanished in a puff of brimstone and fire that left scorch marks on the roof.

I looked around.

There was no way off the roof.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 30

By consensus, I and Will had agreed that he wasn’t going to tell me when he’d make his move in advance. After all, it wouldn’t hurt me…I wasn’t the target. And that way I could act like nothing different was happening.

Of course, it didn’t work out quite like that. Of course it didn’t. No plan survives contact with the enemy, or however they put it.

This plan certainly didn’t. I hadn’t forgotten, and I’m pretty sure William hadn’t forgotten, that we were dealing with a demon lord, if not a prince, not some petty imp. He still caught us off guard.

He made his move towards William right in public, right outside the school gate, but to an outsider it would have looked like a bratty teenager getting in an older guy’s face. I could sense and almost see the reality, though. I could smell brimstone.

Which meant I had to either move in public, or let him harass the priest and trust that Jesus would protect the guy. I might have murmured a prayer myself, but something told me it was a time to rely on my own resources. I shifted position, then strode over towards the two of them.

“Leave him alone.”

“You shouldn’t hide behind him.”

My lips quirked. “I’m not interested, I’m never going to be interested, and maybe we can all discuss this somewhere with fewer listening ears?”

Fewer people to get hurt, I meant. William was probably ready to act, I trusted him to be ready to act, but he had backed away from Martin and for the first time I saw doubt in his eyes.

Doubt would mess things up. I didn’t have my sword for obvious reasons. But I could step between the two of them, bodycheck Martin away a little.

He definitely smelled of brimstone. “And I don’t like your cologne,” I informed him.

“You should. It’s better than…”

I slapped him. It was more an impulse than anything else. I wasn’t even sure I was going to do it until I had done it. My palm stung from the contact. “Go home. Leave me alone. Find some other way to get your political goals.”

It was the wrong move, and I knew it almost right away. “And leave a woman with such spirit.”

Of course a demon would like that sort of thing, but it had freed up Will. He was starting to do his thing. I could feel it. A tension in the air.

And so could Martin, because he abruptly spun away, and a moment later, before even I could react, he had a ninth grader up against him, a knife to the boy’s throat. “Stop it.”

And all of this was in public. He was blowing his disguise, but he could probably come up with a new one. And if I moved, the kid was dead.

If I moved. I had to deal with this somehow…I had to. It was, after all, all my fault.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 29

I rather thought it was a bad thing. Thruor and Loki would know the truth, of course, but I didn’t want anyone else thinking I’d converted. On the other hand, I had a story close enough to the truth ready to share – boy wouldn’t leave me alone and Will was just a friend who’d agreed to discourage him.

It really was close enough, even if part of me still wanted to ask the demon about bored succubi. That part was dangerously close to the part that was willing to admit Martin was…fascinating. It was a part of me I badly wanted to redirect to some other, safer target, but I really didn’t have any right now. Any mortal I dated was going to be in danger. Any supernatural couldn’t be trusted to actually like me, given…

I wished I could remember exactly what my bloodlines were, but that alternated with being oddly glad that I couldn’t. So, William escorted me a safe distance from the school each day. Martin didn’t stop waiting for me at the gates, but he scowled at Will, keeping his distance. And, for the most part, people believed my story.
Which made Martin very unpopular indeed. I hoped we wouldn’t push this too far and drive him into using a different tactic to stay close to me.

We needed to get him to realize this was the way things were staying, get him complacent. Maybe even get him to approach.

In the interim, I had research to do. And something even more important.

Bruce was out of hospital. This was the first time I’d ever been to his home. He wasn’t on a bus route – I had to dig into some of my carefully-saved modeling money to get a cab. But I felt I needed to be sure he was okay.

His house was a townhouse, and I actually sensed a barrier of sorts around it. It didn’t stop me, but I knew it was there.
Wards. Probably set against demons or something. Maybe I’d ask him. When I knocked on the door, he answered it with a calico cat twining around his feet. She looked up at me and mewed.

“Hey. I…are you alright?”

“I think so. Lacey, enough.”
The cat mewed again…definitely a talker…and detached herself from his legs to rub against mine in a manner that people who didn’t know cats would think was friendliness. I knew she was claiming ownership, but still reached down to rub behind the ears. “She’s cute.”

“She’s a little attention slut,” Bruce warned. “Come in.”

I did so, and felt a bit of pressure leave at the invitation. The wards again, I thought. Inside, it wasn’t what I had expected. A very neat place, very clean except for the cat hair on the couch. To one side of the living room was a shrine containing a hammer, and statues of Thor, Odin and a goddess – I couldn’t quite see which one from here, but thought it might be Freya.

“Do you really think you got hexed?”

“Maybe. I’ve strengthened my wards. Want some coke?”

I nodded. “Any time. I’ve been…busy. Demon problems.”

“Dealing with them?”

“I called in a professional.” I settled down on the cat-hair-stained sofa and Lacey promptly jumped up to investigate my lap.

He was right. She was totally anyone’s for whatever attention she could get.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 28

The verdict on Bruce was that he’d fainted from exhaustion and dehydration. I left him at the hospital, with him promising to deal with it.

He thought somebody had put a hex on him. I wasn’t sure. Maybe it was just exhaustion. They were keeping him in until he was fully hydrated, probably overnight, and I headed home, not in the mood for any more weirdly coincidental encounters. Or had it been? I thought I might have heard a raven.

Well, if Odin was nudging me to where my friends needed me, I wasn’t going to complain about that.

The next day, after school, I really did go to the church. Father William was in the sanctuary, talking to an elderly lady, though, so I didn’t approach him.

This left me standing awkwardly in the back. I felt as if – perhaps quite accurately – I was in somebody else’s house and not sure I had an invite. It was a disturbing and distracting thought, but I needed to check on the status. So I waited, fidgeting like a bored child, while he finished his conversation.
The woman made her way down the aisle, glanced at me and headed out. She was wearing the ugliest brooch I had ever seen, huge and ornate. I thought that it might have been some kind of family heirloom she felt obligated to wear, charitably assuming she hadn’t bought it herself.

Only once she had left and the small door within a door closed behind her did I head over to the priest.

“Jane,” he greeted, warmly.

No question of my welcome from him. It was his boss I was less sure of. Whatever entity the Christian god was, he knew what I was. That I knew. “How are…preparations?” I asked.

“All but ready.”

I nodded. “How can I help? He’s stalking around after me, so maybe I can lead him somewhere.”

“He’s probably not going to fall for it. Not after what happened to his friends.” Will frowned. “They haven’t made it back, right?”

“Not that I know of. They probably went somewhere else.” I hoped they were still hanging out in Hell, doing whatever succubi did when they weren’t harassing mortals. I was half tempted to ask Martin before we got rid of him, then decided I didn’t actually want to know. It was probably something only fun to succubi.

Or maybe they practiced on each other. “Worst case, that is.”

Will nodded. “Best case we scared them off for a while.” He stretched. “No, I think we’re going to have to go after Martin.”
“Not at school. It would…we’d be spotted for sure. And ambushing him at the gates?” A pause. “He knows what you look like, and he can probably see through disguises.”

“But if I start meeting you every day, he’ll get used to it. He’ll know you called me to keep him off, but he might…might just assume that’s all.”

I laughed. “Then everyone will think I turned into a Catholic.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 27

For right now, getting rid of Martin was my number one priority. At least getting rid of him for a while.

I wasn’t convinced we could banish him for good. It didn’t seem that worked very well. Sooner or later some idiot would invite him back. Father Will said that was how it worked. Somebody had to open the door for them. Usually some idiot messing around with magic when they didn’t know what they were doing.

Usually. I wondered what opened the door for gods. Maybe the same thing. That, I thought, was a question to ask Loki.

Or maybe gods were less restricted because we were more trusted. Was there some overall power? I was pretty sure that if there was, it wasn’t the Christian god or anything similar.

I was pretty sure that if there was, He wouldn’t go around choosing people. That was for us.

Great. I was not going to think like that. To shake the thought, I went out into the street, headed for the mall, sat on a bench. It wasn’t tourist season, so it was fairly quiet, but there were still people. The distant strains of the carousel’s organ came to me.

Ordinary people leading ordinary lives and I longed to be one of them, but I knew it didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t work that way. Not for me, not for any of my friends. Not even for Kanesha now.

No. Kanesha could still walk away. She’d probably have to leave town, go to college somewhere else, but she could leave if she wanted to. I was flattered and worried that she didn’t seem to want to.

Maybe I should be the one who left. Head up to New York where the big agencies were. I brushed back my hair, and eventually headed towards Father Will’s church. He said he was close to ready to deal with Martin. Maybe I could check on him.

He’d probably need my help with it, after all. He’d probably need Thruor’s. He’d probably need every bit of fire…

…and I heard a scream. My instinct was to run towards it rather than away. I followed that instinct, crossing the slightly damp grass, making slight divots in my haste.

What I found was an older guy on the ground, face down. I checked for a pulse, found one, albeit weak. Shifted him into recovery position.

That was when I noticed it was Bruce. Crap. Bad enough to see this when it wasn’t somebody I knew. Heart attack seemed unlikely. Stroke? Maybe.

Magical attack seemed oddly more likely, but I hadn’t felt anything in the area. Unless it was…


He stirred a bit. “Ugh. What?”

“Stay still. I’m calling an ambulance.”

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 26

Of course, turning him down flat didn’t make him go away. I cornered Kanesha for that talk.

“Okay. So he’s a ranking demon, a prince. He wants me as his consort. And he promised to protect me from Odin.” I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, like he could do that. Odin’s a lot scarier than any demon.”

“Even the big boss of them all,” I noted, almost cheerfully. “I wouldn’t want to get in the middle if they went at it, though. So, I have to say no. Or I will be. We need to get together the firepower we need to send him home.”

And maybe to a demon hell was quite comfortable. It was his home, after all. Heck, he’d probably look after me, but… “Protect me from Odin and from Ragnarok. He claimed he could do that.”

Kanesha nodded. “What does he get out of it? Other than rolls in the sack.”

“My bloodlines are apparently important. To evil people.” I let my shoulders slump. “If I’m going to have suitors from multiple sides, why can’t one of them be, I don’t know, one of Thruor’s brothers?”

“I don’t think Magni and Modi would be your type, actually.”

“They’d be better than demons and fire giants!” And what was my type? I was still nailing that down.


“What might I have that they want?” A woman with Aesir blood who might be willing to choose their side, but why?

I didn’t get it. “This doesn’t really make any sense.”

“It would if…” Kanesha bit her lip.


“Thruor said with Aesir blood. That kind of implies that you might not be…”

“Oh great.” I knew where she was going. “You’re suggesting I’m part giant.” It did sort of make sense.

“Right. Exactly. It’s certainly, you know, not impossible. Loki’s a giant, after all. So’s Hel.”

I nodded. “I suppose I can’t do anything about it if it’s true.” It did make it make more sense. They thought that a halfbreed would go with them. They thought I was a way to get divine blood into their lines.

A halfbreed and a princess. It suddenly occurred to me that no matter what happened I might not be choosing that one person.

I might have no choice at all.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 25

What I hadn’t expected from Martin was the line he’d use the next time he managed to corner me.

Which was Saturday, out on the mall. It was a cool day, cool enough for sweaters but not, yet, jackets.


I glared at him. “Leave me alone.”

“I just want to talk.” There was something almost puppy dog about him.

“I know who you are.” Hopefully that would disarm him. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to be more specific, in case William’s educated guess turned out to be wrong.

“Good. Then you know I mean business.” He reached for my wrist and pulled me down onto a bench next to him.

He was strong enough that I couldn’t resist, caught off balance. “I already worked that out.”

“I don’t want a roll in the hay. Well, I do. But since I worked out who you are, I’ve wanted you as my consort.”

“I figured that part out too. What makes you think I’d be even remotely interested in you?”

The word disarmed me. I glanced out across the grass. “Safety?”

“Odin doesn’t trust you except as a means to try and bring Loki to heel. When Surtur comes for you, he won’t be courting you nicely. He’ll just take you.”

“He’ll try.” I said it grimly. “Besides, he already tried the courting nicely. Offered to make sure I survived Ragnarok.”

“He can’t make that promise. I can.” He let out a breath. “Look. I’m not unadulterated evil any more than Loki is.”

“You’re a demon.”

“The only difference between me and you is politics.”

I’d thought something close to that line before. “And deeds? Come on, Mr Succubus-On-Each-Arm.”

“That was play.”

My lips quirked. “Play that probably involved a few guys losing their souls.”

“What’s that to you? Besides, what makes you think the propaganda about people in hell burning forever is true?”

“I don’t think it is.” I did turn to look at him at that point. “Martin. I’m not interested. Do you really think somebody would leave me alone if I went to hell with you?”

“Sure they would. They don’t want to piss off my boss.”
“I don’t particularly want to either. But I want to piss off mine even less.” I thought of Odin.

“He’s using you.”

“Of course he is. But he’s using me to try to achieve something I’m rather interested in seeing myself. The answer’s no.” I looked at him. “Seek your consort elsewhere.”

“I’m not giving up. Not yet.” But he did stand up and walk away.

I watched him go, thinking once more that he was rather too worthy of the watching.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 24

There were, I also thought, other means of coercion. I was almost afraid to sit with Kanesha at lunch. I was also afraid not to – she wasn’t much of a deterrent for him, but she was a bit of one. Sometimes a girl does need a wingman.

But it was Kanesha who solved that problem. When I headed over during lunch, the table was already full except for one seat.

“I told a few people you were having persistent boy trouble.”

I laughed in relief. “Thanks.” If he tried to push in now, one of the monitors would spot him. They might not do anything, but he’d think twice about hassling an entire table full of girls.

Prue was one of them. The others I barely knew, but in that moment I could have hugged every one of them. And I doubted they were in any real danger, either.

“We need to talk later,” I told Kanesha, then glanced at Prue.

“He’s hot, but…if he won’t take no for an answer.”

“It’s more that he’s the type to expect me to put out on the first date,” I explained. “I’m not going to be that kind of girl.”

I’d put out, I knew that, but not with him…and probably not on the first date. It just struck me as smart to make sure the person wasn’t any kind of monster first.

“Ah. Okay. I was starting to question your taste,” she quipped.

Prue knew about fairies, but she apparently couldn’t see through Martin’s disguise. I thought that a good thing. “I have taste. Nice abs aren’t the only thing that matters, right?”


“I thought of telling him I’m a lesbian, but that would get around the school and then if I did want to date a boy I’d be screwed,” I quipped.

“I sort of thought you were. I saw you hanging around the GSA,” one of the other girls said.

I shook my head. “Uh…no.” No, I wasn’t.

“And I thought…” She glanced at Kanesha.

“Nope.” Not because I didn’t want to, but I wasn’t about to say that. “I’m definitely not gay.”

The problem was I definitely wasn’t straight either, but I didn’t want to talk about it, the confusion, the complexity.

The having to choose and not having to choose and maybe one day I’d have to choose a person, and was that the same thing?

I really needed to find somebody else who seemed to swing all ways to the middle to talk to about this. Somebody not Loki.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 23

“Okay,” Father William was saying. “I narrowed it down. But if I’m right about the lead candidate, you’re in real trouble.”

I shook my head. “I already know I’m dealing with somebody powerful. I can handle it.”

“Okay. Lead candidate is the demon prince Tyv’zel.”
The name had an odd resonance, spoken out loud. “Be careful.”

“Just saying it once won’t summon him.”

I couldn’t help but quip, “Three times in the same conversation, right?”

He laughed. “Possibly. In any case, he’s high in the counsels of Lucifer, but he’s also got a reputation for…” He paused. “By demon standards, he’s not as burn them all as most. He’s more, if this is accurate, into the idea of subtly taking over humanity.”

“He probably runs a law firm.” I was making light of it because I didn’t want to think about it.

“The other three are lower ranking, but this guy…known to party, known to eye up pretty girls.”

I thought of him with a succubus on each arm and nodded. “Is he also the type to maybe seek allies?”

“Maybe.” Will gave me an odd look. “But definitely the type to think a demon hunter would be the right kind of hard to get. Get you in his bed, then take your soul.”

I knew that wasn’t quite what he wanted. “Well, if it fits…then we need to design some way to take him down.”

The name was key, but I had this feeling it wasn’t, quite, enough.

Will nodded. “But we’re going to need backup. I’m sorry, Jane. I’m not taking this on on my own.”

“I’m not asking you to.” Maybe…hrm. I almost wished I could pit my suitors against each other. And rather wished I had one that was nice. Why were fire giants and demons after me?

Bloodlines. But what bloodlines could…I knew there were unmarried gods out there. Angels probably weren’t allowed.

So, why was I attracting the dark side of things? “Let me think on it.”

He nodded. “Be careful.”

“I won’t give into him. If he wants me, he’ll have to force me.” Would he be above rape? He was a demon, but… “And I think…”

“Demons can’t take souls not given to them willingly. They can trick them out of people, but if he forces you, he loses his chance to get yours.”

“That’s actually a relief.” Not that I thought he could physically force me, but there might be other ways. Even ways that worked on me.

Episode Seven: Stalker: Scene 22

At least Martin was predictable. I got Father Will to position himself opposite the school gates.

I wasn’t sure I even needed to give a description, but I did anyway. Of course, I couldn’t change my behavior. I studiously ignored him, which seemed to have more of an effect than engaging in banter.

Even if the banter was more fun. I wondered about the crossover between pantheons. Were Ragnarok and Armageddon ultimately the same thing?

I suspected so. Did that make Surtur Satan? No. It was all true and it overlapped and flowed across each other, but all that could matter to me was my own “side,” as it were.

Still, I headed out into the city. I didn’t go home, not right now. That thought had made me uneasy.

It had made me question my sanity, for a moment. It had made me question my own reality or level of reality. Next time I saw him, I was going to ask Loki. Oddly, I thought I’d get a more comprehensible answer from him than from Thruor.

It couldn’t be the old D&D explanation, that we existed because people believed in us. That seemed too trite and it didn’t explain the power still held by gods that only a tiny percentage still honored.

Or maybe that was all it took. I shook my head, feeling very isolated. I was real in all the ways that mattered. There was no arguing that I was not a person with thoughts and feelings and struggles and difficulties.

At that level, it didn’t matter where I came from or what I was made of, I supposed. At least I wasn’t a vampire.

I almost felt pity for them, mingled with the disgust. Thruor had said that the transformation eventually led to insanity, that most of them were tricked by the newly-turned who seemed “cool,” but they all ended up like the nest we had wiped out in the end.

And that I gave them indigestion. I still felt pity. But also disgust, and I remembered what Loki had said.

Frigga broke the rules.

Even the Gods couldn’t break the rules of death. Well, we couldn’t. I thought of the story of a goddess…I didn’t remember which one…springing from Zeus’ head after his skull was split. The Olympians, apparently, didn’t follow the rules.

But we did, and we had our own way of enforcing them. Some day, I would die. But I could put that day off for a while.

Haunting thoughts and eventually I ducked into a coffee shop to try and chase them away with hot chocolate. This particular shop sold hot chocolate with orange syrup in it – which I hadn’t tried before, but which I swear was invented by some god or other.

Which made me wonder how Loki liked chocolate so much. It was, after all, a New World plant.