Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 28

“What the heck did they do?” Mike asked. He had reason. To my eyes at least, the flames had a bluish cast to their very center.

“It’s not a fire giant. It’s a something else.” I was wrong. Well, it wouldn’t be the first or the last time. I strode over to the coven. “Ahem.”

Clara turned, she looked terrified. “We didn’t do it,” they all declared, in different voices, with some variation on the phrase.

“Maybe you have more enemies than just an angry ghost.”

I stepped towards the flames. “Who are you?” I asked them.

They abruptly drew inwards. The houses on either side were untouched, assuming no structural damage had been done. Only the one that presumably belonged to one of the coven.

From behind me, “That’s an efreet,” Mike informed me.

Amongst the group I noticed the high priestess. She was un-possessed. So, they’d got rid of one problem, which was deserved, only to attract another which might not be.

“What the heck is an efreet?” I asked.

“The fire equivalent of a djinn.”

“Do they get put in bottles?”

“No,” Mike said, shortly. “But something must have attracted him.”

I turned to face the efreet. “Okay. What do you want?”

“An apology.” The fire being folded his arms…definitely his. A distinctly male build and musculature.

“I suggest you give him one,” I told the coven.

“That’s my place he burned…”

I folded my own arms. “Give him one.” Being on good terms with them, given what I knew, made me feel vaguely disgusted, but if they didn’t, this thing might go burn more stuff.

“Alright. We didn’t mean to wake you up. We’re sorry.” That was the high priestess. She didn’t sound quite as humble as I would have liked.

The efreet snorted. “I’ll take it. This time.” Then he spiraled inwards and disappeared.

Clara was still shaking. I was regretting ever having involved her in this. Except…she had involved herself. The coven moved to pick through the wreckage.

I turned to walk away, but I heard the efreet’s voice in my ear. “You, on the other hand, are quite interesting.”

Not another one, I thought. Not another one…

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 27

It was snowing again. School was canceled. I didn’t particularly want to go out in it, and neither did Kanesha. We were in my bedroom playing cards when I felt a disturbance that rushed across the city. I looked up.

I was a little alarmed to see that she looked up at the same time. “Did you feel that?”

Tensely, she nodded.

“Get your stuff. We’re going to have to go out in the snow after all.” I reached under the bed for my sword.

Sword. Gun. Heavy jacket. Boots. I hoped I wouldn’t need the first two, but a sense of urgency was flowing through me.

It felt as if somebody had opened a door to hell, the afterlife, or some place even worse than either. The sword was over my back and we were running downstairs.

Past Mike. “What’s going on?”

“Not sure, but I think somebody just opened a portal to hell.”

He grabbed his badge off the table…it might, I supposed…be useful, and ran after us.

“Can you tell where?”

“Fairly close. North.” Thankfully, it wasn’t under the Capitol or anything like that. They probably were hiding from the snow too. I set off up the street. Mike was talking on his cell phone.

I hoped he was calling Thruor and her sisters. I had a feeling they might come in handy, but I also couldn’t count on them showing up before the fight was over.

Then I could see something of what was going on with my mundane eyes. A townhouse was burning, the fire threatening to spread to the rest of the row. In front of it were a bunch of people gathered.

“I think they called a fire giant.”

“Or an elemental,” Mike said, slowing to a walk. “Fire giants don’t necessarily…”

I shook my head. “I think it’s a fire giant. I felt it pretty clearly…” Which meant it was linked to me. But how had Kanesha sensed it? She didn’t have any powers.

Unless some of my magic was rubbing off on her. It might work that way. That one is yours, I thought. Maybe I’d accidentally given her some sensory ability.

If so, I was kind of glad. It might help her stay alive.

And then I realized who the people around the burning townhouse were.

The Silver Thorn. And Clara was with them.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 26

Not knowing what was going on with it drove me nuts. I focused on keeping an eye open for Seb’s tainted cross instead. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I found it – call Father Will, I supposed.

It wasn’t really my business. A tainted cross was for angels and priests to deal with, not Asgardians. But still, I could keep an eye open. It was all part of the same thing. Protecting people. Working with them. Tolerance?

Maybe. Maybe that was part of it. But I remembered the angel and shivered. He had been the scariest entity I’d encountered, counting demon lords. That cold strength bothered me. Disturbed me deeply. But Father Will wasn’t like that.

It probably just had something to do with all the rules they had to follow, or something like that. The Christian religion had a lot of them, and maybe angels had even more. That was why so many of them had ended up demons, after all.

Of course, I was having this conversation with myself in English class.

“Ms. Doe?”

I should make them change my name on the roster. Maybe they wouldn’t, even if I couldn’t fix it legally until I was eighteen. “Uh,” I said helpfully.

“Have you read today’s chapters?”

I actually had, and nodded. “Yes.”

“Then you can tell me why Tess was in so much disgrace.”

“Because women back then weren’t supposed to have sex before marriage, and the circumstances didn’t matter.”

“Close enough, but you can write me three paragraphs on that by tomorrow.”

Which wasn’t a full essay, but it was bad enough. I really needed to remember to pay attention in class. Instead of hoping that nothing bad would happen to disturb class. Something almost always did, though.

I shook my head, but she’d moved on to another victim. I started making notes for those three paragraphs. Which were on top of an essay about tragedy and how it differed in different periods of society.

“At least they aren’t making us read Hardy’s poetry,” Kanesha whispered as we left.


“I read some of it. It’s basically distilled suicide.”

I shuddered. “I’ll stay away from it, then.” I had enough angst in my life without adding to it with poetry or anything else. The book was bad enough.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 25

So, I had Clara trying to infiltrate witches, Seb going after artifacts, and my dad missing in action. Oh, and fire giants who thought I could talk Surtur down.

Why did everyone have so much faith in my ability to be diplomatic? Odin thought I could keep a leash on Loki and now people thought I could control Surtur.

I preferred Seb’s attitude, that I was best for beating things up and killing vampires. That I could handle. And I wasn’t going to marry somebody I…

Or was I? I shook my head. I’d been right the first time – I shouldn’t have got involved with Kanesha. But I couldn’t bring myself to break up with her now. Or maybe I was just selfish. Wanting to enjoy it while it lasted, knowing it couldn’t. Knowing it couldn’t at all kinds of levels.

It was warmer today, although no true promise of spring was in the air just yet. I hoped for spring, not so much for myself, but for the people around me, the ones complaining about the cold, about the cold that was far too much for this city. People weren’t used to it.

Then I saw them. One of them was the woman who had been with the coven to start with. Another man, darker skinned but not really black. And Clara. They were talking animatedly.

I tugged my hat down slightly and tried to be inconspicuous. The circumstances weren’t right for getting any closer to them, so I couldn’t hear what was being said. But I could watch their body language.

Clara was grinning. I hoped she wouldn’t go over to them. Wasn’t that always the risk? If she did…

It was her problem. Her own responsibility, her own issue to deal with. I couldn’t stop her and I couldn’t, at this point, help her. I couldn’t be seen with her until this was all over.

I sensed the presence of the ghost, and my head snapped around, looking to seeĀ  where it was, what it was doing. He, not it. Grandfather.

I couldn’t see him. Maybe he’d abandoned his stolen body and that was why they were all in such a good mood. Maybe they’d even managed an exorcism.

But I moved towards my sense of him nonetheless, trying to ignore the chattering witches. I focused my will on not being noticed, not being seen as anyone important. I was getting good at that. It wasn’t invisibility, but really that would be a bad idea in a city anyway. If you actually had an invisibility cloak or power, people would keep walking into you.

They did anyway. A rather large man bumped into me and then accused me of not looking where I was going. I couldn’t even argue with him that much.

There. He was in the coffee shop…and there he was. Doing his best not to be seen in a corner booth. I slipped into the booth next to him.

“We have a plan.”


“The girl who’s with them is going to get evidence and then call the cops.”

“…might work.”

“But they kind of…can you give them their priestess back? For now, at least?”

“I’ll think about it.”

I knew that was going to be the best I got out of him. For now, anyway.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 24

Finding the ghost again proved somewhat difficult. In fact, it took me about a week. In the mean time, I tried to concentrate on school. Needless to say, this was not a particularly easy task. School seemed to want to be particularly boring, the teachers sounding like the Hogwarts history teacher who didn’t even notice his own death.

School was school, though. And the city seemed quiet. Loki wasn’t around; he didn’t even show up when I made cayenne brownies, much to my disappointment. I wondered if he’d be proud of what we were doing.

I still felt guilty. Clara was mortal; why was I asking her to take these risks? But she had been so insistent. So eager, in fact.

She had an even lower opinion of what they were doing than I did. And if it wasn’t true? We’d find that out too.

But for now, I had to get the ghost to back down and let go of their high priestess so they’d think they’d won.

Maybe I’d even have to fight him. I did have one other thing I wanted to do. Find Seb. This, too, was no easy task. He was being even more elusive. I was starting to feel avoided.

Then I tracked him down outside Father Will’s church. “Hey, Seb.”

“What’s up?”
I told him about Silver Thorn, what was going on, and what we had in mind. “Keep it quiet, obviously.”

“Obviously. Eww. I hate when I hear about high priests or high priestesses doing it for sex and power.”

“I think there’s a lot in wicca that leads that way. But there’s nothing wrong with sex itself.” I didn’t think so, anyway. Thruor certainly didn’t. She’d spent the night with Mike more than once since we’d moved in with him.

He blushed scarlet and muttered a response.

I changed the subject. “What have you been up to?”

“Oh, chasing a cursed artifact. I’d ask for help, but I don’t really need…”

“…people beating up.”

He grinned at me. “Right.”

“I know why people keep me around.” I kept my face wry, although I was slightly offended. I didn’t want to be seen entirely as muscle, after all.

“Well, keep your eyes open for what looks like a silver two-armed cross. It’ll probably stink.”

I grinned at him. “Will do. I take it it’s a Satan thing?”

“More or less. Started off as a cross, got desecrated into hideousness. It happens. Father Will’s working on it.”

“Okay.” I decided to leave them to it. I couldn’t solve every problem, after all.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 23

It ended up with the four of us sitting around the dinner table. Clara had already called her parents and asked if she could go to a friend’s.

The yes had been surprising. We had Chinese takeout containers all over the table.

“Well, it’s not entrapment.”

“It’s not?”

“It’s only entrapment if the cop actually entices the person to break the law. For example, by pushing marijuana.”

I nodded. “And as they’ve done this before… But it’s very, very dangerous. And it could also put Clara in a position of swearing oaths and then breaking them.”

Kanesha cut in with, “If she didn’t mean to keep them, then would Ullr…it is Ullr who governs oaths right…be mad?”

“I think it’s Ullr. Or Tyr…either of those might lean in on it. Or even Odin.” I sighed. “I think intent matters, though.”

“I intend to stop them.” Clara looked quite serious. “And I know that it’s dangerous. And I know that it’s stupid.”

“It’s something a cop should do. We do have the perfect opportunity, but I’d be in huge trouble if I encouraged this. On the other hand, if I officially don’t know until she comes with a complaint…”

I nodded. “And I’ll talk to some people about the oath thing.”

“If we get them arrested, that will stop what you said was happening, right? I don’t quite get it.”

“The ancestor of one of the people they did this to has one of them possessed and wanted to kill them. I think that’s slightly excessive.”

Mike actually laughed. “Oh dear. Yes, it is, but a few years in the clink would be quite appropriate.”

“I wonder if I can talk him into letting her go. Then they’ll forget this happened and…this might be a long game.”

Clara nodded. “I know it will be. They aren’t going to do it when they let me in, so we’re talking a year and a day. I suppose I might learn something.”

“As long as it’s not demon summoning.”

“Actually,” Kanesha pointed out, “It might be useful to have somebody around who knows that. Might give us other methods for getting rid of Martin if he shows up again.”

I hesitated, then realized she had a point. “Then we have a plan. But be very careful, Clara. Don’t let them tie you to anything that can’t readily be broken.”

With that warning, I turned back to my Chinese food. I had this strong feeling Clara would never belong to the Aesir. Very strong. Maybe they didn’t want her.

Maybe she was already claimed by others.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 22

“They seemed such nice people,” Clara was saying. It was right after school, and she’d cornered me by the gate.

“The Silver Thorn people?”

“Oh, you know?” She stretched a bit. “Bruce told me they would try to make me have sex with somebody.”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“And that I had to be careful because some covens were like that.” Clara frowned. “I suppose you need to keep your eyes open and be ready to run.”

“Except they chased her when she tried to run and now she’s having to hide. I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy.”

Let alone on somebody I kind of liked when she wasn’t making eyes at me.

“Maybe somebody should infiltrate them with a camera or something.”

“It’s tempting, but it’s dangerous and it could be entrapment.”

“I’d do it. They want me anyway. They’d fall right for it.”

“Entrapment,” I repeated. “Actually, do you have time to come home with me?”

She nodded. “The place I work at sells ice cream. They’ve cut my hours down to almost nothing.”
Summer would probably make up for it. “I want to talk this over with somebody who knows how to do it.”

I didn’t want to ask her, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to turn her down if she really wanted to do it. I thought she should have the right to make her own decisions, just like Kanesha.

And her own mistakes. But the entrapment thing…I was glad that had occurred to me. It was time to talk to the cop in the household.

Clara followed me quietly, then, “But you aren’t a witch.”

“I’m something else.”

“Which you aren’t going to tell me.”

I grinned at her. “Nah. I’m going to make you work it out on your own. It’ll teach you to sense magic better.”
She scowled.

“I may actually introduce you to a friend of mine. He’s a hunter…somebody who deals with supernatural threats. He might also know somebody who could train you.”

“If I wanted to do that.”

“If you wanted to do that,” I echoed. “It’s up to you…hunting’s dangerous, but rewarding.”

“But you don’t call yourself one.”

I found myself falling silent. I’d let quite a few people believe I was a hunter, but mostly because I didn’t want to explain things further. What did I call myself? I wasn’t sure. Maybe hunter was, in the end, close enough.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 21

Trouble found me – and this time it wasn’t vampires. Fortunately, I’d picked up my sword on the way out.

The fire giant was fairly obvious from the fact that he was melting the snow around him.

“I hope you aren’t here for a fight.”

“I’m here to remind you of the offer made. And warn you that messing around with mortals…”

If they touched her, I’d kill them. “Surtur would be waiting for me forever. I said no and I meant no. It’s going to stay no.”

“But a mortal? Really? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised Loki’s daughter would choose a female, but…imagine when she’s all wrinkly.”

I put my hand meaningfully to my sword hilt. I honestly didn’t expect to get to stay with Kanesha that long anyway.

“You know I’m right or you wouldn’t be reaching for your weapon. Want to fight?”

He had a sword of his own. I shook my head. “Not here. You’re melting the snow.”

He glanced down. “So I am.”

“I’m in the mood for a fight. I’m not in the mood for fighting you right now, right here. Too much risk of the mundanes seeing something they shouldn’t.”

“Good point.”

“Then I take it you weren’t involved in teleporting people out of jail cells. Odin had to get Munin to cover for that one.”

The giant rolled his eyes. “No. I’m more subtle than that.”

I noticed he wasn’t melting the snow as much now I’d pointed that out. I actually almost liked him – of course, they couldn’t all be unmitigated evil. “Unusual, for a fire giant.”

He shrugged. “Look.” A pause. “Some of us would very much like you as our queen. He might listen to you.”

“No. He’s as much as said having me would embolden him to attack Asgard sooner. Of course, he’s just looking for an excuse. Isn’t he?”

“And then the mortals burn or freeze. Including your girl.”

“It’s not my job to talk him out of it.” It was my job to keep a bit of a leash on Loki. But Loki did listen to me, at least to a point. We had ties of blood, and that meant something.

“But wouldn’t you feel better to try?”

“Not if failing made things worse. I’m not going to fight you unless you attack me, but I’m not going with you either.” A pause. I opened my mouth to tell him what I’d do if he touched Kanesha.

Then I changed my mind. It might put her in more danger, with the way they thought and acted. No. Best to leave it as it was.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 20

Turned out there were already rumors, but nothing solid. The Silver Thorn had a reputation for being even more secretive than was average for wiccan covens, and there were rumors not just of sexual assault but of demon worship.

Of course, not all witches cared about devil worship. Some of them seemed perfect fine with it. And having met demons, I even thought some of them might be okay.

I wasn’t one to judge, I supposed, although I hadn’t exactly wanted to go rule a corner of Hell myself. But those were the rumors. That and a confirmation of what Bruce had said about their high priestess. She was young and didn’t seem to have actually been ordained anywhere.

Not all wiccans seemed to care about that, either. Maybe it was pretty standard for them. Maybe there just weren’t enough seminaries to fill the need.

Either way, it was the sexual assault rumors I was interested in. I wanted to find an ex member who could back up the ghost’s story.

One who might be willing, if not to press charges against them, at least to do some exposure. If they couldn’t get new members…

“If they can’t get new members…”

Kanesha shook her head. “They’ll change all the names and start over. I mean, none of these people are using their real names.”

“True. But I’m not about to go with the ghost’s solution either. I don’t think what they did…” I tailed off. Maybe I should think it did.

“I want to embarrass and humiliate them. I want the world to know what they did. I don’t want them dead,” I said, finally.

Kanesha nodded. “But there might not be another way to stop them.”

I shuddered, hearing those words from her. I wasn’t sure I had a soul to worry about; I knew she did. “I’ll find one.”

And if not, I’d let the ghost have them, I supposed. It wasn’t like they were good people. And it wasn’t like they weren’t heading for some kind of trouble.

There would be more trouble. I could kind of smell that, or at least feel it. Sense it.

I really hoped Bruce had warned Clara properly. “I need to take a walk.”

“I’m tempted to ask to come, but…”

“Eh. I’m not going looking for trouble.”
Which was probably the most stupid thing I could possibly have said right before leaving the house at night.

Episode Eleven: Interludes: Scene 19

When I left, Clara was still leafing through the book. I trusted Bruce’s judgment not to have set her up with anything dangerous. Or anyone, when the time came.

And she seemed willing to listen to him. So, of course, I thought she was safe. I knew I should have said something about Silver Thorn.

I didn’t. Yeah, we know this is going towards stupid Jane. I even sort of knew at the time, but I didn’t want to step all over Bruce’s toes.

Or maybe a nasty part of me did want to use her as some kind of infiltration bait. Yeah, that was a nasty part of me indeed.

But I had to acknowledge it was there. Being a trickster’s daughter, perhaps. The manipulation. The using of people. Of course, I would never try to get Thor in a dress.

Of course, Thor in a dress had worked. And if somebody offered, I suppose, I’d take them up on it. We needed evidence to make them look bad.

Or even get somebody arrested for rape, but I doubted that would happen. It was hard enough at the best of times, let alone when faced with a group of people who, by their very nature, would close ranks.
They were probably all guilty to some degree. But I’d be a hypocrite if I risked her like that.

Even if I could coordinate with the ghost; which I wasn’t sure of. I let out a breath as I stepped back out into the snow.

I’d let Bruce take care of Clara and hope she listened to him. And hope she hadn’t already met them, already had some contact that might lead to her being pulled in. Prue, at least, I thought knew better.

She was the next person on my list to talk to, but she was sick the next day. Probably legitimately so – there was a pretty nasty little stomach bug going around. Seemed to be a bug, not the canteen food, at least not this time.

So, I settled down at lunch. “I found out what happened.”


“Some pretty serious sexual harassment. Initiation ceremonies. I’ve kind of heard of that happening.”

Kanesha rolled her eyes. “And one of their victims had an overprotective ancestor.”

“I talked him out of killing them if, and only if, we can find another way to deal with it. I’d like to get them all up on sexual assault charges, but…”

“…but they’ll have each other alibi’d pretty well.”

“And I don’t want to risk malicious rumors that might track back to us.”

She nodded. “There’s ways of doing things anonymously on the internet. Did you…”

I shook my head. “I haven’t done a google search on them yet.”

“Let me handle it.” She flickered a grin. “I’ve seen what you do to computers.”

“Hey, it’s not like I’m Dresden or something.” She was right, though – she was much better at the internet stuff than me.

Probably always would be.