Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 30

I grabbed her hand and ran for the door. Everyone else was milling around. “Run! You don’t know it’s not a real fire!”

I wasn’t the only one trying to get people out of the dining hall. Food was being abandoned on plates; not that it was any good anyway. And I didn’t head for the halls. There was a direct fire exit. Not everyone was taking it, but I got myself and Kanesha through it.

“It’s a real fire,” I murmured as I let go of her. “Sorry about that.”

“You’re stronger,” she complained, massaging her hand. “Is it…”

“Yes. It’s him. He’s going to start going after the things that make me comfortable, the things that make me happy. And you’re going to be top on the list because…”

I still couldn’t say it. Couldn’t voice what had been building up within me.

“You need to leave. You need to disappear.”

“No. I’m not leaving you.”

I spun her to face me. “You’ll die if you don’t.”

“And? I trust the gods. I trust you. I trust Thruor.”
She reminded me in that moment what Thruor was. But she also reminded me that she was mortal and fragile.

“He’ll find some way to…”

Could Surtur touch her soul? Could I? No. I didn’t have the power yet. The experience. “Don’t trust me like that,” I continued. “I don’t know what I’m doing. Trust Thruor, maybe. Trust Odin. Trust Loki. But not me. I’d screw it up somehow.”

And that was when the explosion happened. I’d pulled her far enough away, but not everyone had. A fireball that ripped through the structure of the school. I didn’t scream. I couldn’t.

I had brought this down on them.

No. He had. Not responsible for my enemies. I repeated that to myself as a mantra. I wasn’t responsible for the actions of Surtur or anyone else.

But now it was time to leave. “If you won’t leave, then you’ll have to come with me so I can keep an eye on you. We need to get our stuff and go.”

She nodded, pale under the dark of her skin. I noticed she was shaking a little. I couldn’t blame her. Shaking was about par for the course.

In the chaos, nobody noticed us walk away, nobody noticed us slip through a hole somebody had cut in the fence, a short cut back towards the house.

We needed weapons. Food. A vehicle or vehicles. Motorbikes would be better. Heck, maybe Thruor could lend us a couple of steeds. Or at least one. Giving Kanesha that privilege might not be within the rules.

We needed all of that, which meant home. The news crews would be out soon. But if nobody saw us, we could have died in the fire.


We rounded the corner.

Home was a burned out shell.

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 29

“What made you late?” Kanesha asked over lunch.

“Surtur. He’s trying blackmail now. One of his people got a bit rebellious and now he’s threatening to hurt her if I don’t go to him. He was also…showing me photos of home.” I managed to laugh a bit.

“Oh. Home as in blazing inferno of Hell.”

“I…” A pause. “I don’t think I have the words to do it justice. It’s not like you think. There are flowers. Flowers of pure fire. Rivers of lava and ash that flow across beautiful waterfalls. It’s not Hell. It’s…it’s an elemental realm, and it’s beautiful and deadly and destructive.”

“You want it.”

I paused. “I…no. I don’t. I would like to visit. I would like to walk past those rivers, and feel their heat. But I won’t be his queen. I won’t help him destroy the world and conquer Asgard.”


“He implied…” I let out a breath. “Conquer. He fancies himself as being All-Father for the next cycle with me as queen consort. I can’t…I don’t want that to happen.”

Kanesha nodded. “And you don’t want to marry him.”

“No. I don’t. I know I’ll be pushed into some kind of marriage, but I hope to have at least some choice. Enough not to piss off my dad. I…”

There was one person I wanted to marry, but I couldn’t admit that to Kanesha. Maybe to anyone else on the planet, but not to her. Never to her.

“I…wish I was just a regular girl.”

“So do I.” She reached out her hand towards me. Our fingertips touched and then she pulled it away.

But there was a spark between us in that moment that couldn’t be denied. A spark of shared feeling. Did she want me as much as I wanted her?

She wanted me. I hadn’t really seen that clearly before, but she wanted me and the most I could give her, now or ever, was a few nights. Snatched moments.

Or, perhaps, I could stay with her for the rest of her life. I knew it would be painfully short for me, but there might be time. I shoved that hope to one side. It was a day dream, one built on the thinnest tapestry of all.

I did not love her. I wanted to, but I couldn’t let it happen. I would have a husband some day, likely children, and I would be happy with that. At least I was attracted to men. Some men. Tyz’vel had known how to attract me.

Surtur didn’t. He knew I did not want him that way, so he tried to seduce me with waterfalls of fire and packs of fyrhunds.

He knew I would never love him. And as I had that thought, the fire alarm went off.

“Not again,” Kanesha complained.

“It’s not the…go. We need to be out of here now.”

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 28

I was aware that I had backup. Freya’s warrior was back, but she was holding back. I knew why. They had an incentive not to hurt me. They could probably get away with killing her.

“Even if I were to kill her?”

“There are more important things than one life,” I reminded him. I knew it was a reminder. This was a king, a leader of a realm. This was somebody who was, politics aside, a god.

“You learn.”

“My father’s a good teacher.” That was the most indirect way of telling him that yes, I knew. I knew who I was.

“And after losing your brothers. Don’t forget who killed them.”

“I haven’t.” Could I forgive that? I had to. It wasn’t easy, but I had to. The alternative was to continue the feud to its illogical conclusion. “Maybe I’m young and naive, but I like to think blood feuds can actually be ended.”

“Definitely young and naive, but with the strength of a queen. What could Odin offer you? Your life, grudgingly given because he too hopes to end the feud and thus live? Some minor position in his court?”

I shook my head. “I don’t want to be queen. Or a princess of Hell.”

He laughed. “I noticed you sent that one packing.”

My lips quirked. “I would send you packing if I could, but I know it’s not that easy.”

“Then let me show you something that might change your mind. Let me show you Muspelheim.”

“You hope that I’ll appreciate its beauty?”

“Your father carries both frost and fire in his veins. You are kin to us, whether you admit it or not.”

I felt a peculiar sense that this was an important moment. “I admit it.” Because that was the right thing to do. “But it is not the only blood I carry. And it’s not the blood you seek…whether you admit that or not.”

He laughed again. “You definitely learn, Lokisdottir.”

I tried not to shiver at the name he gave me. “If you actually won and wiped out the All-Father’s court…”

“I will win. With you or without you I will win. There are others…”

“But none who are kin to you.”

He swept his arm downwards, and an image formed in the air. And it was as beautiful as he had claimed. If one had the eye to see it.

“None who would see the beauty of your realm. But I still will not marry you.”

“Then I will make you change your mind.” And he was gone.

I fled to class, barely making it by first bell.

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 27

I hoped the giantess wouldn’t get into any trouble for talking to me, for defying her boss. Surtur didn’t strike me as the forgiving type.

But now I understood why both he and Tyz’vel had wanted me to go to them willingly. They didn’t want to end up on the opposite side to my…father.

Neither did I. But being Chaos, he wouldn’t gainsay anything I actually wanted to do. Express disapproval, but I knew he wouldn’t stop me. If anyone tried to force me, though?

That might start Ragnarok with a different configuration of players. It would certainly, I thought wryly, be one way to get Loki and Odin on the same side. Not that I thought Odin cared about me as anything but the possible way to break the prophecy, but…

I trusted he cared that much. But did this mean I’d get to avoid being pushed into an Aesir marriage?

No. It would all depend on what needed to happen. My mother, at least, would definitely understand making that kind of sacrifice.

As if the thought of her was a summons, I felt the briefest sense of her presence, but I didn’t see her. One day, would I know tricks like that?

One day. Maybe in a few centuries. Or maybe now we’d been reunited, it was simply some bond between mother and daughter.

I had a dim memory, a memory of her laughter and a meadow beneath high mountains. A definite image, that.

And I knew what that image was of. But it faded in the reality, which was city buildings around me and school right ahead. Plain, simple, mundane reality. The place where I was and had to stay for now. Until we all worked out how to fix things.

Or until I’d learned everything I needed to know. Then I sensed fire and heat and a raging presence.

Surtur. Now was not the time. Instead of walking through the gates, I turned sideways along the fence, hoping to lead him away from the vulnerable students. I’d wreck my attendance record, but there was nothing to be done for it.

On the street corner, I waited. He was disguised, but he’d put on a disguise designed to intimidate…a huge, tattooed man. And he was flanked by two more of his kind.


I realized I wasn’t nearly as afraid of them as I should be. It was the knowledge that they would not hurt me, out of hope I might still join them, and could not abduct me without starting something they weren’t ready for.

“So. Are you trying to seduce my warriors?”

“Not as much as you’re trying to seduce me.” I knew now that the giantess was in trouble. Serious trouble.

“I suppose you’re rather fond of her.” A pause. “Come with me now and she won’t be hurt.”

“I won’t do that.” He was going to kill her if I didn’t, perhaps, but I understood a couple of things. And one of them was that you respected a warrior’s choice. Even if that choice led to their death.

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 26

I didn’t even finish the sub, but rather wrapped the end of it carefully and stuck it in a jacket pocket before stepping outside.

No. Not him. It was a giantess, and the only way I could identify her was the sense of her aura. But I also spotted Freya’s warrior on the far side of the street.

This was not the time or the place for this. The giant was leaning against the outside of the building.

“If you’re here for a fight, can we please take it elsewhere?”

“Not at all.” She straightened, turning to regard me. “I’m definitely not here for a fight. I’m here for a talk.”

I glanced at the warrior, nodded to her, then started to walk, tugging my sub out of the pocket to munch on. Between mouthfuls, “Then talk.”

“Not all of us want the war.”

I nodded. “I doubt there’s any population ever in the history of the world and all realities that was unilaterally for any war.”

She laughed. “I can tell you’ve been hanging out with Midgardians. Long winded.”

“But you get my point. I’m not surprised you aren’t for it.”

“We’ll lose,” she said simply. “It’s all set up to make sure we lose. Surtur has the fantasy that he can break the prophecy.”

“He’s not the only one. Wouldn’t stopping the war break it too?”

She frowned, as if she hadn’t quite thought that through. “Then that would mean we’re doomed, all of us. Just going through the motions, without even the illusion…”

“The illusion of free will these people have.” I flickered my fingers to the crowd. “I thought I was one of them for a while. I think it taught me a lot.” Maybe. I might not know how much until my memories were fully restored. I caught flashes now, though.


“You’re the long winded one now.” I actually grinned at her. We had things in common, and that made me feel oddly better about, well, everything.

“It’s catching.”

“Hey, it’s good to meet a giant…other than Loki…who doesn’t act like a thug.”

“We’re supposed to.”

By which I guessed she meant it was their culture. And I understood in that moment exactly why Loki had taken Odin’s offer in the first place. He was a long way from being a dumb warrior type.

He hadn’t fit in. “Supposed to go around bashing people’s heads in? I know you’re not stupid. Surtur certainly isn’t. Ambitious, but not stupid.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Please don’t go to him.”

I laughed. “I don’t intend to.”

“He would make you a queen.”

I glanced at the sky. “Maybe I don’t want to be a queen. Maybe all I really want is to be left alone. I’ve been offered high positions twice now, and all I have to do is sleep with somebody. No. He’ll have to take me by force if he wants me.”

“Which would start a different war.”

I nodded. “I know.”

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 25

That meant cayenne brownies had to happen. And then school had to happen. The new restrictions were likely to stay in place for a while, but at least nobody was going to get hurt. I left my phone at home and I’d already cleared everything remotely strange out of my locker.

Squeaky Clean Jane for a while, I’d decided. Especially given they had, in the first locker sweep, found four students with assorted drugs and suspended all of them. Mind you, one of them had over the counter allergy drugs, which shouldn’t have counted.

But. Yeah. The rest of us were being careful and the atmosphere was subdued. Quiet. I didn’t like it, really. It felt very stilted. This was what terrorism did, I decided, even the kind that wasn’t aimed at hurting anyone.

Now I knew how British people must have felt during the Troubles, except that I was sure they never actually noticed it. Fish in water. Not realizing you were wet. That meant it wasn’t over, not really.

Maybe I should have handed the guy over. It had felt like the right thing to do, but if they’d caught him, they’d…

…who was I kidding? They’d never relax the new rules, because they were rules they’d been looking to implement for ages. They wanted excuses to search us and run us through metal detectors.

I did wonder how the guy had got past those. Middle of the night again, I supposed. He must have had a key somehow. He was probably on the PTA or something. I hadn’t seen him before, but what did that mean?

I had never looked forward to graduating so much. People would get used to it all as the new normal. Were we any safer?

Not at all. And besides, nothing could stop some of the other stuff out there, and I was sensing a couple more presences. Things that had, perhaps, sneaked in during the entire mess. Or been called in or sent in. One of them was definitely hanging around Prue.
Good. She had backup. Not that I worried overmuch about Prue, but everyone needed backup sometimes. Even me. Maybe especially me. But then, I almost always seemed to end up being the backup. It was after I left, though, that it hit me.

A sense of presence that was definitely dark. Not demonic, no, but it was something along those lines. Jotun?

Jotun. Surtur’s friends were around again. “Dammit,” I muttered. “I’m not in the mood for this.”

I didn’t want the giant following me home, if that was what was on his or her mind. Instead, I headed for the sub shop I’d worked at. I’d finally got to the point where I could enjoy a sub again instead of being heartily tired of them, and why not get one?

There was certainly no reason not to. I munched on it, sitting at the table.

“Hadn’t expected to see you back in here,” called the guy behind the counter.

“I finally got past the stage of never wanting one of these subs again and realized they’re good.”

There was nobody else, so he stepped around the counter. I remembered that his name was Alex. “Yeah. I don’t know I’ll ever get to that point. I hear you’re rich now.”

I shook my head. “I could be rich, if I wanted to neglect my schoolwork. But I can’t stick around.”

I couldn’t. The giant was right outside. I could feel him.

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 24

I thought that meant it would be over. In fact, when I left, I winked at the warrior on the corner. She winked back. I fancied there was approval in it. I’d handled the situation, nobody had gotten hurt.

I wondered if he’d lost a child, or some other relative, to some kind of violence incident, or to suicide following bullying. I wondered, but the important thing was him not trying anything else.

It had never occurred to me it could be a parent. That was, of course, when the fyrhund showed up. “You’re late,” I whispered, reaching out to pet it. Heat wrapped around my hand, but it was a pleasant heat, like a heat lamp. I could actually feel its disappointment at having missed a fun game.

It followed me down the street, making me feel just a little bit nervous. I was sure it would be noticed by anything supernatural in the area.

On the other hand, I felt comfortable with the being itself. Maybe I needed to find a way to toss it a fire frisbee.

And on the other side, “Catch him?”

“If he does one more thing I’m calling the cops.”

“Smart girl.” Loki fell in next to me, then glanced past me. “Nice pet.”

“Not entirely deliberate. He’s useful to have around, though.” I glanced sidelong at him, wondering what was going through his mind. “So…”

“So, you handled it. Hopefully that means you can handle worse.”

“I’ve handled much worse. Like, say, people trying to kill me because they think it will avert Ragnarok.”

“I managed to divert some of those…don’t worry, not to a different target.”

“I appreciate that.” I couldn’t quite manage to call him father. The word stuck in my throat a little. “But I know they’ll be back.”

“Unless it’s too late.”

I turned around, faced him, walking backwards and letting the fyrhund warn me if I was about to back into something. “I don’t think it is.”

“And the damage humans have done to the environment? It might be time to hit the reset button on that.”

“You’re talking the way you think you have to. You’re supposed to be a bad guy. And I know you aren’t, not really.”

He laughed. “It’s my job. You don’t understand that yet, but you will. Sooner or later the All-Father and fate will make a nice little hole for you to fit into.”

“I know.” I didn’t mention my other suspicion, that that hole would come with a pre-chosen husband. He surely knew that. “But in the mean time, I…” A pause. “I’m not just doing this because he asked me to. I’m doing this because I actually like people. Some of them, anyway.”

“So do I.”

“Especially people who make cayenne brownies?”

He didn’t deny it.

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 23

Classes were canceled in favor of grilling everyone about who wasn’t in the gym. I figured whoever it was had slipped out, but at least I was off the hook. Fanny and I could be each other’s alibis.

What if it wasn’t a student? That thought hit me for the first time as I gratefully escaped the building, retrieving my phone then heading home.

Who else could it be? A janitor? I knew it wasn’t true that janitors tended not to be very smart. People took what jobs they could get.

A teacher? That would be a twist. Think like a trickster. If the motivation was disruption, whoever it was had achieved that in spades. Which meant student.

What if it wasn’t. What if it was genuinely somebody who thought this kind of thing was funny. Or if it was some kind of weird statement about teacher pay? I shook my head.

Think like a trickster, and that was when I removed myself from the stream of people leaving the building. Fanny, playing with her phone. Could a cell phone activate a sprinkler system?

Or would the person have had to be outside the gym? I knew I’d get tossed out by security if I was seen. I focused my concentration on not being noticed, not being seen as significant, and slipped through the halls like a ghost. If I was really lucky, maybe I’d see the trickster.

And pulled out my, amazingly not water-damaged, phone. The only thing that could set off a typical sprinkler was heat. Pulling the alarm might also do it, but the alarm itself hadn’t gone off. So I was looking for an altered or damaged part of the fire suppression system.

And I found it. “Gotcha,” I murmured. They’d probably found it too, but it was tucked away in a corner. I wished I had the fyrhund. In fact, I actually tried to call the thing, but it was probably off chasing a fire frisbee somewhere. Or something. Okay. So. Anonymous tip off it was. I ducked back outside and headed to a pay phone so I could make that kind of call without it being traced. The cops could handle this. They might not even need this nudge in the right direction, but I did it anyway. It was the right thing to do.

Then, and only then, did I head home. I had a sense, though, that I was being followed. Whoever the tail was, I couldn’t see them in the people moving through the streets, but they were definitely present. No. That was them. Or wait. That was one of Freya’s people, on the street corner, watching me. They were not, however, following me. They’d been mostly good, had stuck by our truce. This was somebody else.

This was possibly the bomber. As careful as I’d been, I might not have been careful enough to ensure they didn’t see me checking out their work. Confrontation. I ducked into an alley, turned around, and waited.

It wasn’t a student. It wasn’t a teacher. It was an older man, grey haired.

“Gotcha,” I said out loud.

He pulled a gun.

“Oh, come on. You don’t want to hurt anyone. I know you don’t.”

He hesitated, the barrel shaking and then lowering. “Not hurt. Just make a point.”

“What kind of a point.”

“That our schools aren’t safe. That…that more kids are going to get hurt or killed.”

I let out a breath. “It’s too late. I already called in your handiwork. Unless you were wearing gloves.”

“Doesn’t matter. If they arrest me, it will just give me my day in court. You have to admit. They’re not safe.”

I rolled my eyes. “Nothing is perfectly safe.” Then I saw the light in his. “I know something happened. Something happened to somebody you care about. But stupid pranks aren’t the answer.”

“They’ll make them think.”

“No. They’ll make them make our lives miserable without actually doing anything. Leave it.”

“Or you’ll call the cops.”

I nodded. “Exactly.”

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 22

Those better spirits carried me through the weekend. I looked up Thruor and we spent some pleasant…to us…time sparring.

They lasted about five minutes after making it to school. They canceled first period and made us all gather in the gymnasium to hear a lecture about how they had no clue who had planted the bomb, but we should all expect bag searches, locker checks and other such moves designed to piss off and inconvenience everyone without actually catching the culprit.

Oh yes, and we had to hand in our cell phones, to be returned at the end of the day. I contemplated hiding mine and I noticed some horrified faces. Mostly boys.

I wondered what kind of porn they had on theirs. I’d already anticipated this and wiped everything not important. In future, I supposed, I’d just leave it at home. One girl near me started to cry.

“What’s wrong?”

“If my dad finds out I handed my phone to anyone he’ll…he’ll…”

I didn’t know her, but wanted to say her name was Fanny or Frances. “It’s not your fault. Let me know if he tries something…I’ll vouch for it being the school for you.”
That brightened her a little. “I’m not allowed to give out his phone number. It’s locked, but he’s still paranoid.”

“Let me guess, telemarketers send him into a flying rage?” At least I wasn’t getting the vibe that he’d do more than yell at her about it. “I’ll make sure I’m there when he shows up at the end of the day. You could not tell him?”

“I don’t intend to tell him, but he’ll hear other people bitching about it.”

“You could, like, remove the number from contacts first.” I grinned a bit. “I’m sure you know it.”

She blinked. “I hadn’t thought of that.” Then she started to mess with her phone.
At least I could solve one problem. One stupid little problem that didn’t really affect anyone. I’d bet none of this would…the bomber would just come up with something else to do.

Like, say, set off the gym sprinkler system while we were all in there. I was not the only person to flee the room.

Think like me, he’d said. Because he knew this was a trickster type. Who was out to cause as much trouble as possible. I still sensed nothing supernatural, which almost disappointed me. If it was, I could find them.

Or I could find a completely innocent person who happened to have magical talent or something. I reminded myself of that. The only people who scanned at all were Prue and, a tiny bit, Kanesha. Which I supposed was my fault.

It was only the gym that was affected. We milled in the corridors. Some people actually were finding this funny. Not so the girl who had been fiddling with her phone, which apparently wasn’t quite waterproof enough.

“It’s salvageable. Turn it off, dry it, and then…you need silica gel. Take it apart and then put it in a storage bag with the gel.”

She beamed. “Okay. That really works?”

“Worked for a friend of mine after he took a tumble into the reflecting pool.” That was code, if anyone or anything was listening. It might even be a threat.

Episode Eight: Bloodlines: Scene 21

I got away with it. And I had the entire weekend to think and plan.

Which means I had the entire weekend to get horribly frustrated and hate my life. Well, hate my life was probably too strong a reaction. I didn’t hate my entire life. Just the fact that I needed something to do or I’d go round and round on the stupid bombing.

Which the cops could handle.

Which the cops could definitely handle. Unless the kids behind it did something worse, and I could be ready for that. I almost missed the job at the sub place. It would have been something to do.

Maybe I needed a hobby. Or a motorbike. Or something. Instead, I decided I had to find something to do for the weekend. And it was Thanksgiving weekend.

Nobody was around except Kanesha, and she had disappeared, claiming she had something important to do that had to be done now. Which was probably schoolwork. Or a surprise for somebody. Given how evasive she was, maybe it was a surprise for me.

Maybe. I elected not to bother her about it, and just headed out. I wandered over to the mall and into the Native American museum. Now there was a place I tended to feel unwelcome. Things were set up in an odd way that grated on me. Culture clash. Maybe it was intentional.

Remind the white people we’re different, and you didn’t get much whiter than me. But it did have one thing.

Delicious food. I wandered into the cafe and ordered an Indian taco, then sat by the waterfall that flowed outside the windows. It was pretty busy, but not packed. Thanksgiving.

White stupidity. But I shook my head. The past was the past and the only thing I could change was the future. And I had an odd insight that that wasn’t exactly my job.

Maybe it was Kanesha’s, and I imagined her in a white coat, but a sense of foreboding drifted across me at the thought.

I had put her in so much danger. If that future never happened, it would be in part my fault. But only in part.

I knew I wasn’t responsible for the actions of my enemies. None of us are. None of us can be. Mike would understand that.

I really wanted to talk to him about the bombing. Then I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye. Well, well. One trickster fairy. I had thought he’d lost interest.

Or maybe he was bugging somebody else who happened to be in the room and my presence was pure coincidence. I lifted a hand in a salute to it and it scurried away. I heard a bell-like giggle.

I tried not to laugh in response, but it was hard. I had to hide it behind my hand. But I was in rather better spirits when I left.