Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 21

Of course, we arranged the date for a gaming store. I almost felt sorry for him when he got stood up by “Mary.” He’d even said he’d bring his deck.

We watched him leave from across the street. Zaid, who might be recognized, wasn’t with us. I was wearing the glasses, which did work as something of a disguise, if not as well as in DC comics.

Once he was clear of the building, it was time for me and Kanesha to make our move. We sauntered across the street, clearly together – not to the point of an actual PDA, but enough that nobody would think either of us was straight.

Getting into his apartment was going to be the challenge, I knew. I couldn’t pick locks easily.

We’d have to swipe a key from maintenance, I figured. We found our victim on his own. Kanesha distracted him while I grabbed the master key from his belt. Hopefully he wouldn’t particularly remember us. I felt like a con artist or a master criminal.

The apartment was a one bedroom. There was a futon in the living room and for a moment I wondered if we’d drastically misjudged things and he had a roommate.

“There’s nothing in his fridge but beer and leftover pizza,” Kanesha pronounced.

“No soda?” Stealing his soda to add insult to injury…

“Just beer. Oh, wait, no, there’s a couple of cans of diet off brand cola.”

“Ugh. That’s not worth taking.”

He had a decent flat screen TV and a shelf full of D&D books. Then I went into the bedroom.

Paydirt. He was living in the main room and had turned the entire bedroom into his shrine to Apep. I wondered what maintenance thought.

That he was harmless and crazy, no doubt. There were crocodiles everywhere. And snakes. Pictures of them, statues of them. In the middle there was a rug. I pulled the rug aside and, yup, the summoning circle was under it, drawn into the apartment issue carpet. “He’s not getting his security deposit back.”

Kanesha poked her head in. “Oh. No, he’s not.”

The question was the best way to sabotage it, ideally without him noticing it. Eventually, we scratched up some tiny patches of carpet, leaving minuscule gaps in the outer circle.

“That should do it, from what Clara said. It only takes one small break with these things. That’s why demons get loose so often. You have to be, you know, this utter perfectionist of doom.”

I laughed. We left the apartment. Kanesha had stuck one of his books in her backpack. I didn’t ask until we were well clear.
“Signed by Gary Gygax. He’ll be missing this…but not right away.”

I laughed. “You just didn’t want the demon eating it.”

“What? I don’t even play.”

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 20

The guy’s name was Derek Barton. He wasn’t even Egyptian, I thought wryly. Of course, there were a ton of people on the internet who thought black people shouldn’t have anything to do with Norse gods.

So, I supposed a white guy could mess with Egyptian ones. Just not this particular god. He was also a fat, ugly nerd.

The picture on his dating profile had to actually be him, because nobody would use a picture like that as a false picture. I was surprised he didn’t. He was, after all, a fat, ugly nerd.

Maybe he was just saving time by not meeting chicks who cared about appearances. Some people didn’t, after all. Some people went for personality.

According to his profile he was into bad movies, Egyptology, cryptic history and roleplaying games. I felt sorry for his gaming group.

I felt sorry for anyone who wanted to date him. He was looking for a gamer chick, in his own words, who was intellectual, wore glasses…it didn’t go much into physical type. Glasses would be easy enough. He preferred brunettes. Over the counter reading glasses and wash out dye would be enough to give him a picture I was pretty sure he’d like.

He did. He probably never had hot girls contact him. Just ones who were after a boyfriend who played the same system. He really didn’t look like a priest of evil who’d blow up an apartment building.

I suppose terrorists, real ones, never actually look like terrorists. Maybe. McVeigh, in pictures on the internet, kinda looked like a thug. This guy looked like a pathetic loser.

I felt sorry for him, but I also knew deep within me that he was beyond saving at this point. He was beyond anything but putting down.

So, I sent the message. And we typed back and forth for a while. His favorite system was old school D&D. I didn’t know much about D&D, so I claimed I liked some newfangled game I’d found on the internet, but was willing to try anything.

He challenged me to an online game of Cards Against Humanity. I agreed to play a hand and regretted it pretty quickly. He played the most racist card in every single hand, and I was pretty sure he wasn’t just being cathartic.

I called Kanesha, “Don’t let this guy see you. He’s racist scum. And every D&D group he’s been in has been awful.”

“So he turned to real life demon summoning?”

“Apparently. He’s now making me play Cards Against Humanity with him.”

“That game’s fun.”

“Not when the person you’re playing against is playing every racist card and playing them like he means them. Trust me.”

“You know who we should get to play…”

“Oh no. I am not playing Cards Against Humanity with my father.”

She sounded innocent. “Why not?”

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 19

Of course, this meant getting his attention. When Zaid returned, he looked at me. “Loki’s daughter.”

I sighed. “Your boss ruined your fun, didn’t he.”

He nodded. “‘Fraid so. Explains everything. You’re an unknown quantity…but I think I rather like you.”

I grinned. “I think I rather like you.” I wasn’t sure which pronouns to use. Was he right? Was…well, it didn’t matter.

“We had an idea while you were gone. We’re going to need to stake this guy out.”

Kanesha rolled her eyes. “No we aren’t. I have a much better idea than that, but we’ll need to raid your funds, Jane.”

I blinked, not used to thinking of myself as the rich one, but I supposed I was. “What for?”

“Hidden cameras. Because I for one am not sitting out on stakeout for hours.”

I laughed. “Okay. Tell me what you need and I’ll get it. In any case, he has to come out some time, right?”
“Maybe,” Zaid mused. “He could be ordering in his food. Of course, maybe we could replace the pizza delivery person.”

“He’s not going to leave anyone on his own in his place. See, Kanesha figures he has to have a summoning circle in there.”

Zaid blinked, “Oh. You have nasty, nasty minds. I like it.”

I shrugged. “If he wasn’t summoning demons, it wouldn’t be a risk.” I wasn’t maybe quite that blase, but the guy had sold his soul anyway. Of course, so had Zaid. It wasn’t that selling your soul was the bad idea. You just had to be careful who you accepted the check from.

“Point. And sooner or later he’s going to end up in the crocodile’s gullet anyway.”

“Wait. Okay. I wonder if this guy likes girls?

Zaid hesitated. “We don’t know, but we can find out.”

“Easily enough.” I glanced at Kanesha. “Maybe there’s another way to distract him out of there. What’s his name?”
“You’re thinking of…”

“I will lay bets he has an online dating profile. I would lay bets he’d come out if he thought a pretty girl who was exactly his type was waiting.” I glanced at Thruor.

“Just be careful.”

“There won’t actually be a girl. I’m not stupid.”

I really was thinking like my father right now. Snag was, so was Kanesha.

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 18

“You’re suggesting,” Thruor said, “That we prank a priest of Apep.”

“You know who’s suggestion it is. But I’m serious. Apparently, Apep loses a lot of his power if he comes here himself, and he can only see what’s going on through his priest or the serpent demons. So, it’s not impossible to do something without him knowing who did it.”

Zaid considered that. “What kind of something?”

I fixed my eyes on the priest. “He’s your enemy. Also, what does your god think about this?”

“I haven’t talked to him directly.” His eyes rested on me. “You were talking to one of the Tricksters. And I’d hazard a guess it was an in-pantheon conversation. When did Odin let him out?”

“Not sure,” I admitted. “But he apparently worked out that it was only making Ragnarok come faster.”

Zaid shuddered. “We don’t need that. No offense, but we don’t need your massive godwars spilling into everyone else’s realities.”

“I’m working on it. But yes, I was talking to Loki.” I stretched a little bit. “And he pointed out that if Apep doesn’t know it was me he can’t go whining to Ra or something.”

“And if Ra knows it was you?”

I considered that. “Would Ra care? I mean, this is Apep we’re talking about not, I don’t know, Horus.”

“I’ll be back in a few hours.” Zaid stood up, gracefully.

I was pretty sure Zaid was, or had at least once been, a woman. It didn’t matter. Zaid was Zaid…and it wasn’t like Loki himself didn’t have some androgynous properties.


I didn’t want to think about that. I really did not want to think about the fact that one of my half siblings was a horse.

Zaid slipped out.

“Zaid’s a priest of Ra,” Thruor said, simply.

“I figured. But Ra’s under the same rules as Apep.” I glanced at Kanesha. “While we get an answer, how about we come up with a really good prank?”

“If he’s using witchcraft, then he must have some kind of supplies. He’s also…oh…” Kanesha grinned. “He’s summoning demons, right?”

“Of a sort, but yes.”

“Get him out of there, break in, sabotage his summoning circle.”

“I thought I was the one who was Loki’s daughter here.

She just grinned at me.

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 17

That didn’t mean I couldn’t help. It certainly didn’t mean I wouldn’t help. After all, this guy had started it. Possibly, even probably accidentally. He’d still started it, and that, you know, wasn’t acceptable.

Not to me. At the same time, I wasn’t sure I could finish it. Or escalate it, anyway. Threatening him wasn’t escalating.

Really hurting him was.

“You’re worrying too much.”

“Do I have permission to beat this guy up?” I asked Loki, slowing my pace slightly as he came up from behind.

“No, but if he keeps messing with you, you have permission to do whatever you need to.” Loki flickered a grin at me. “Apep’s been a problem for centuries, but he’s running under Egyptian rules.”


“Meaning if he comes here he has to shed a lot of his power. He has more to start with, but if he decides to directly intervene?”

“We can’t kill him.” I let out a breath. “It’s a bit uneven.”

“No, but we can show enough strength to remind him that a god’s really supposed to stick to messing with followers of his own pantheon.”

“And pretty Sidhe.”

Loki gave a predatory grin. “Oh, come on. That’s just a game. We both know it. That’s why she didn’t really hurt you.”

I grinned. “I figured that.”

“If you weren’t so determined to keep Kanesha around…don’t worry, I don’t blame you…I could introduce you to some interesting fairies with no strings attached. They’re good for no strings attached.”

“Loki!” He was my father and he was implying my girlfriend was hot and offering to get me laid.


“Hasn’t anyone ever taught you that you aren’t supposed to try and set your own kids up?”

“I’m a chaos god. If it’s a rule, I’ll break it.” He gave me that grin of his.

I rolled my eyes. “Maybe we can…you know. What if this guy doesn’t know it was me?”

Loki grinned. “Now you’re thinking like my daughter.”

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 16

“Okay. First things first, was he bluffing?” I glanced at Clara.

“You could do what he said with magic. Or with, you know, fertilizer bombs. It would take a lot, either way. I’d suspect he’s bluffing, but can we risk it?”

What would Loki do? This struck me as a good time to ask myself that particular question. What, indeed, would he do?

“We don’t go for a direct assault.” I glanced at Zaid.

“No. We don’t. But we also don’t leave him in his fortress until he finds the energy to do something worse to us.”

“Can he get Apep himself here?”
Zaid considered. “Possibly, but he’d be limited by a physical manifestation and we might…might…be able to beat him. As long as nobody touches him.”

“Let me guess, instant death touch?”
Zaid nodded. “Might even work on you. He can’t touch your soul, but he might be able to kill you.”

“Okay. If he shows up, we’ll bear that in mind.” I glanced at Kanesha and Clara. The latter was pale, the former just looked determined.

In fact, she spoke after a moment, “And if we just riddle him with bullets? Would that slow him down?”

“It would. But he’s…not vulnerable to the cycle of life the way we are.”

I closed my eyes. Wondered at that, but at the same time, I reached within myself. I didn’t have to…this wasn’t my fight.

Except it was. The people on the train had been under my protection in that moment. Not for eternity, no, but I was the one who had been there, the one who had stepped between them and death.
And I’d sort of enjoyed it. No, more than sort of. If I hadn’t been so terrified I would have been having fun. It was like a really extreme roller coaster. With the danger being real.

“I don’t care. If we deal with the priest, what will he do?”

“If you do…”

I sighed. “Zaid. He was right. I can’t be the one to deal with the priest. I can protect people from him, but if I actually deal with him, it’s going to start a war. We can help, but you’re the one who needs to stop him.”

Thruor paused. “She’s right. I hadn’t…”

“…We were all rushing in and going off half cocked. Zaid and Clara, you have to do this.” Kanesha couldn’t because she was connected to me. Mike couldn’t for much the same reason.

Zaid had to take this guy out. He probably had to kill him.

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 15

We realized the problem when we got to the location.

He was in an apartment building. A big apartment building. “Bastard,” Thruor pronounced. “He didn’t send a demon because…”

“…because he’s using the other residents as a human shield.” I let out a breath. “If he’s after you, Zaid, think you can lure him out with some spectacular show of magic?”

Zaid frowned. “It’s worth a try, but he’s as likely to…”

“I don’t think he can, or he would have. Maybe he can only summon them every so often.” He hadn’t harassed us while we were scrying.

“Or he wanted us to come here and see his setup,” Zaid noted. “He may have wanted to be found.”

I wished I’d thought of that. I studied the building. “There is one easy way to deal with this. Pull the fire alarm.”

“You’ve never lived in a building like this,” Thruor said simply. “Large apartment buildings get so many false alarms that people stop evacuating. Sometimes with unpleasant consequences. It would get some people out. It wouldn’t clear the building.”

“Damn. Okay.”

Maybe we’d have to start a real fire. Something small and smoky, enough to get the people in there to take it seriously. In the trash chute, maybe?

That, of course, was when the serpent demon showed up. It didn’t attack, though. It hovered in front of us, a dark shape of shadow. I noticed, this time, that it didn’t have a hood. Just a snake.

An insult to snakes, I thought.

“So. Zaid bint Suriya.” Clearly that was meant as an insult. Or maybe Zaid was female underneath? “You bring friends. You bring friends that shouldn’t even be involved in this.”

Zaid smiled. “You attacked a train full of innocent people. You picked the wrong train.”

The serpent hissed. “We picked the right train. You were on it.”

“So was I.” I drew my sword and stepped forward. “You attacked people under my protection. If you don’t want to cause trouble with other pantheons, consider not being the one who starts it.” Which was about as eloquent as…it wasn’t, but I hoped it got the point across.

The snake hissed again. “A baby Asgardian thinks…”

Zaid started chanting and the snake recoiled.

“I think Zaid can handle you. But I won’t let anyone else get hurt.”

“Then you won’t attack. If you do, I’ll raze that place.”

I wasn’t sure he could, but before anything else was said, the serpent vanished. Probably of its own accord as Zaid hadn’t got that far into his spell.


Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 14

I was inclined to agree with her. We converged on the safehouse, having taken different routes and means of transport to get there. Kanesha and I took the bus. I had my full ‘nothing to see here’ field up, and nobody noticed that we were both wearing swords. Or maybe they thought they were props.

Once we were all inside, Thruor locked the door and pushed a table up against it.

“I don’t think that will stop a serpent thing,” I noted. “It showed up on a Metro train in a tunnel.”

“I wonder if it was after you.”

“I don’t know. Maybe a train car full of people looked like a buffet.” Maybe it had been the concentration of humans. Maybe. I didn’t know. I didn’t want to know how things that ate souls operated.

I’d rather deal with vampires.

“It was after me,” Zaid said, quietly. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

The three of us who didn’t cast spells positioned ourselves as lookouts as the witches started to work. They had a big map of DC spread out on the second of the tables. I kept one eye on the scrying – map and crystals – but most of my attention on what might show up if this priest noticed what we were doing.

We fully expected another serpent demon. It was almost disappointing when one didn’t show up.

“Found him. He’s in Silver Spring.”

Thruor nodded grimly. “Let’s go. Surprise is better than a plan.”

She tended to think that way. Kanesha shook her head. “What defenses does he have other than serpent demons?”

Zaid considered. “He probably knows at least some witchcraft. He may or may not know how to use a gun. He’s almost certainly got at least a couple of apprentices or sycophants with him. Or her. We can’t assume either way. Tradition says it should be a woman.”

Kanesha nodded. “Egyptian priests served deities of the opposite sex.” A pause. “And most Norse priests were women.”

I stored that up as information I didn’t know. Assuming it was accurate.

Zaid nodded. “But not everyone follows that tradition, and this person is worshipping a god you appease, you don’t worship.” Zaid cracked a weak grin. “Besides, by that tradition I’m not sure who I should serve.”

“Either or both,” I said, quite firmly. The admission didn’t surprise me. I couldn’t tell if Zaid was a man or a woman because they were, for whatever reason, neither.

That was fine by me. It was weird, but it wasn’t my place to judge on the matter. “I do think we should move quickly. Any physical defenses the three of us can handle. You guys can handle witchcraft. And there’s no serpent demon showing up yet.”

“I think the two of us can handle a serpent demon again.” He smiled at me. “I still don’t have you worked out.”

I started to tell him I couldn’t guarantee the fire thing would happen again, then decided that doubt wouldn’t help any of us.

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 13

“You called fire.”

I nodded to Thruor. Zaid was talking to the witches in the other room of the house, presumably about spells. “I thought it was my dad.”

She shook her head. “Loki’s sometimes associated with fire, but he’s not technically a fire god.”

“He’s half fire giant, though. Heck, maybe I have a bit of fire magic. That would explain why fyrhunds like me.”

“You really need to learn to control that dog. It might show up more reliably.” Thruor pursed her lips. “There’s one other nasty possibility.”

It hit me as she said it. “Surtur.”

“He could have…”

“Could he have lent me power without my cooperation?” I asked. “I mean, I understand that he would want me in his debt.”

“He could have made you think you were the one controlling it. There’s ways to test, of course.”

“I’ve tried. I haven’t been able to light a match or anything. Maybe it was…or maybe I just need to be in mortal danger. I think that’s…”

“You believed you were about to die and you did what you needed to do. Or…” Thruor sighed. “We do need to test this, but…”

“I need to talk to my dad.” Thruor might be right, but I had a feeling he’d know what was going on. “The necklace thief.”

“Not like he’s never done that before. But he might have an insight. He knows more about various manifestations of magic than I do.”

I’d never seen Thruor do anything but kick butt with a blade. I could talk to the witches, but they were busy – and what they were busy with was important. It wouldn’t be at all wise for me to get in the way of it with a personal question.

Even one that was as important as this. “I guess I’ll be baking more brownies. That’s usually the best way to get him to drop in.”

At that point, though, Clara’s face appeared around the door. “You ladies mind coming out?”

I headed out into the main room. “Do we have a plan?”

“The first step is to locate him. For that, we can do a scrying, but there’s a risk that might get attention…”

“…and summon another serpent-beast,” I finished. “This time I’ll have my sword.”

Zaid didn’t question what good the sword might do. “Right. So, we need a protected location…not here. Don’t want him knowing where you live.”

I glanced at Thruor. “The old safehouse?”

She nodded. “It’s halfway compromised anyway, but should be secure enough for one more use.”

“Then, once we find him?”

“Once we find him and have some idea of his strength, we move from that location and then plan our attack.” Zaid frowned. “We may have to kill him.”

“I hope,” Kanesha said softly, in a small voice, “That we can avoid that.”

Episode Fourteen: Shadows: Scene 12

I called Thruor and we gathered at the Starbucks, basically taking it over. It wasn’t exactly the biggest coffee house on the planet.

“So, that thing…”

“That thing was a servant of Apep. Thankfully – you’d have been a snack for the deity himself. Which means we have a priest of Apep around.” Zaid shuddered.

“I take it Apep’s all sorts of bad news?” I asked.

Kanesha rolled her eyes. “Apep is the Egyptian god of darkness and chaos.”

“I thought that was Set.”

She shook her head. “Set’s like Loki. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes indifferent. Apep is pure evil, and anyone who chooses to worship him.” She shudders. “Don’t they have spells to keep him away?”

Zaid nodded. “That’s what I was reciting…the spells to banish Apep from the Book of the Dead.”

“Well, it seemed to work.”

“You helped.” He turned to me. “You’re…” He tilted his head. “I thought you might be some servant of Ra, but you’re not.”

“Wrong pantheon altogether,” Kanesha said, cheerfully.

He continued to study me. “No, don’t tell me. I want the practice.”

I laughed a bit. “So, how do we find this evil Apep worshipper?”

“Traditionally, it would be a woman, or at least not a man.”

I was still wondering if Zaid was a man or something else.
Then he aha’d. “Norse,” he said, looking at me. “I’d almost say fire giant, but not quite.”

“I have some fire giant in me,” I admitted. Which was true. Maybe the fire had come from that. I’d wanted light so badly.

“Interesting. I’d rather have you on my side than against me.”

Then Mike and Thruor showed up and Zaid’s attention was distracted from me. “She’s easier. That…is a valkyrie. Right here.”

Thruor grinned and sat down. “Thruor Thorsdottir.”

“Right here…” He tailed off. “What’s going to show up next?”

“Hopefully not Apep. Let’s get focused and get him found?”

Zaid nodded. “And I’ll work out who you are yet.” He grinned at me.

I found that quite an interesting grin and had to reach for Kanesha’s hand under the table.