Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 30

When baking brownies didn’t cause Loki to show up, though, I started to get worried. Sure, he was probably in a strip club or on a bender or something.

But usually cayenne brownies would winkle him out of wherever he was hiding. Not this time. I knew I shouldn’t worry about a god of chaos.

Maybe he’d gone off somewhere with Coyote. So, why was I worried? It was an odd sinking feeling that he was in some kind of trouble.

No doubt somebody else’s wife or somebody else’s husband trouble, but…

“I think Loki’s in trouble,” I said into my phone.

Thruor’s voice sounded on the other end. “If he’s in trouble…”

“I know. He got himself there. He’s probably trying to put somebody in a dress right now.”


“I just have this feeling…and just in case it is something other than him being chased by an irritated wife…”

“I’ll keep my eyes open.”

I hung up, then decided I couldn’t stand spending the rest of the evening at home with feelings. I munched on a brownie, then grabbed my gear. Patrol time, I decided.

I was working on getting a bike. I hadn’t found the right one yet. Or maybe I was still hoping I’d get a magic one.

Thruor had said I wasn’t going to be her sister. I even thought of going to a bike store, then shook my head. Ignoring curfew laws, I headed out through the streets. I wasn’t going in any direction in particular.

I was following my gut.

A stray dog, a particularly scraggly fellow, fell in next to me. I rolled my eyes. “Coyote.”


“How about a form I can talk to you in?”


“I ain’t going to be your bitch.”

The dog stepped into the shadows and the Native American man stepped out. “Hey.”

“So. I have this feeling Loki’s in trouble. Do you have him tied up somewhere?”

“Not guilty and, besides, last time he enjoyed it.”

I decided that was more than I needed or wanted to know. “You know something, though.”

“I just might. Come on.”

He offered me his hand. After a moment, I took it, and the world became oddly dim around me.

I knew where we were going…and I was starting to think Loki was in very deep trouble indeed.

And no, I didn’t think to call anyone. Of course not.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 29

“Are you serious?” Kanesha asked, finally.

“I’ve considered it. I’m not that serious, but if I can make him think I am.”

“You’re trying to bluff a thousands of years old giant.”

I nodded. “Remember who’s daughter I am.” Maybe it was time to have a word with my father. He could only help me so much, but…

“Then maybe we should talk to him.”

I grinned. “Stop reading my mind. I intend to, if I have to bake triple strength brownies to get his attention.”

I was half expecting the words to attract him. They didn’t, though. Which meant he was probably distracted. By somebody hot, no doubt, of some gender or species. Or maybe he’d found an alternative source of chocolate with cayenne or chocolate with bacon or…

“He doesn’t seem to be biting this time.”

“He can’t be listening to me all the time.” Maybe Odin could, or maybe there was a raven around I hadn’t noticed. “He’s probably in a strip club.”

Kanesha laughed. “Remember when that embarrassed you?”

“It still does. I’ve just accepted nothing’s going to change.”

She nodded. “And grown up some.”

I shrugged. “Who knows how old I really am? I don’t.”

“That I don’t want to think about. You’re robbing the cradle.” She grinned.

“Nah. It doesn’t…I don’t think it matters. I don’t think it can. How’s college?”

“Pretty good. We need to get you out of that stupid school.”

“I talked to my advisor. I might be able to graduate at the end of the fall semester.” I’d caught up so much it was now possible.

“Awesome. And then we can start planning to blow this joint, right?”

I thought about that. “I wish I thought it would help.” And we’d be leaving Mike behind, and Thruor would probably stay with him.

I was no longer sure at all that I wanted to leave.

“Then maybe we should…”

I frowned. “I know I should go to New York. I don’t want to leave Mike.”

“Neither do I. But Mike can look after himself.”

“Can he?”
“How much of his trouble has been because of you?”

That…it didn’t sting, because I already knew she was right. All of the trouble around here was centered on me. “I can’t run away from anything. That’s why I seriously have to consider, you know…”

“Even if…”

I nodded. “Even if.”

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 28

We thawed the fire giant out at one of Thruor’s safe houses…with all of us pointing weapons at him.


“Okay. Which faction do you work for?” I asked, stepping towards him.

“I’m loyal to my king.”

I nodded. I’d suspected that. “He’s not being very smart,” I said, mildly.

“I’m pretty sure that you’d trade your freedom for hers.”

Kanesha shook her head. “She wouldn’t, because I know what the consequences of her going with you are.”

I glanced at her. There was a particular grimness to her that told me everything I needed to know. I gave her the slightest nod.

Kanesha continued, softly, “And I won’t let that happen, and I trust the gods.”
Something akin to respect lit up the fire giant’s eyes. “I see how you have gained the love of a goddess. But I had my orders.”

And it was now, I thought, his duty to escape. Which he could probably do just by killing himself. “And I respect that. We just wanted to make sure who you were working for.”

I stepped towards him. “Here’s my message to Surtur. I’m not just going to say no, because apparently that isn’t enough for him. I’m not just going to remind him that messing with people under my protection is just going to get his people sent home in a world of pain.”

I glanced at Clara. “I’m going to say that I’m done with this little war. Every time I see anyone who works for him, I’m sending them home the hard way. Every time.”

Clara caught my glance. I felt her starting to ready a spell.

“And if that isn’t enough to get him to leave me alone, then I may just come after him.” My lips quirked. “I’d rather not, honestly, but if it’s the only way to keep this crap from happening…”

“You’d never take him.”

“I might surprise you.”

He glared at me. “You’re a cub. You don’t have the age or the experience.”

“No, but is he willing to take the chance?” I smiled. The fire within me really wanted to come out. “Eh. I’m done with this.”

Clara released her spell – and this time the giant froze into pieces which shattered. I looked at her. “Impressive.”

She shrugs. “I’ve been practicing. On inanimate objects, I hasten to add.”

“I’d hope so.” But I was still grinning at her. “Let’s go get something to eat.”

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 27

Thruor had clearly just got there. She’d charged into the fire giants, her steed not even trying to pretend to be a bike.

Two of them had managed to grab Kanesha, although from the way she was struggling I was still fairly sure she was doing her best to be self-rescuing. Four others…one of them was in a fight with Seb, who was holding his own surprisingly well with a pair of knives.

Or maybe not that surprising. I sometimes forgot he was a trained hunter and thought of him as more of a witch type. And off to one side, Clara was sending a sphere of energy towards the others.

I popped off a couple of shots at the nearest one, not really expecting the bullets to do much against them, but letting them know I was there.

Kara’s voice came from another angle. “Jane!”

I turned, and held my hand out as she tossed me a sword, catching the hilt as if we’d practiced it a thousand times.
That was better. So much better. It wasn’t my sword, but it was balanced and the fire giant, seeing it and the look in my eyes, backpedaled rapidly.

Not rapidly enough to keep me from slashing across his chest. “Go back to Muspelheim.”


I swung the sword to a thrust. “Then I’ll just send you there.”

His form exploded into flames even as Thruor forced one of them to unhand Kanesha by the simple expedient of severing the offending hand. Kanesha elbowed the other one in the stomach, unconcerned by the heat boiling off him, and won free.

Of course, some faction or other would try to kidnap her. “I said, go back to Muspelheim.”
The next nearest to me decided to do as she was told and vanished in a distinctly different poof of flame.

Clara unleashed her spell, freezing another into ice. “I think we got them on the ropes!” she yelled.

“We do!” I swung my sword again, but they were running. Well, except for the one Clara had in an ice block. “Is that one still alive?”

“Let’s keep him for interrogation.” I moved over to Kanesha. “Are you alright?”

“Singed,” she admitted. “They didn’t seem to be intending to hurt me.”

“Nah, they were probably into using you as bait again. We really need to convince the bad guys that’s not good for their life expectancy.”

She scowled. “If I’d had a sword.”

I was reminded I wasn’t carrying my own blade and glanced at it. “Eh. Even without one you held out.”

“With one I could have rescued myself.”

I grinned. “That’s my princess,” and hugged her carefully with one arm…the hand still had the gun in it, but who really cared?

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 26

“We…Jane…need you.”

“Where?” I asked, already springing up and finishing the last bit of my ice cream.

“Rosslyn. By the stone spheres.”

That was… “Did you call Thruor?”


Alright. I glanced at Monica. “You have a vehicle?”

“Where are we going?” she asked, abandoning her ice cream.

“Rosslyn. The stone spheres.”

I was pretty sure we were too far away to stop whatever was going on. Thankfully, Kanesha was pretty self-rescuing and had had the sense to call the valkyries first. They could get there faster – cheating if necessary.

“Got it.”

Yeah. They’d definitely get there faster. We ran to Monica’s car – a Volkswagen Beetle – and hit the road. “Do you know what the problem is?”

“No. I’d imagine a fight, though.”


“You just need to get me there.”

She wasn’t a fighter. She wouldn’t be…I shook my head. I couldn’t worry about it. Kanesha was in trouble.

Kanesha could look after herself to a point, but only to a point. Past that point she needed me, and she wouldn’t have called if she didn’t.

I’d know if she died. So, she was still alive, and Monica was driving as if she’d been taught by a New York cabbie.

And then I sensed more energy. “Uh oh.”

“Uh oh what?”

“Fire giants.”

Monica gripped the wheel, her knuckles white. “Drop me off here. Unless you…”

“I don’t think I’d be useful.”

I jumped from the vehicle before it stopped, rolled and came up in a stance. I had my gun, but not my sword.

My sword would probably be more useful, but I charged toward the fight anyway. It wasn’t the first time I’d wished for a valkyrie’s steed.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 25

“You did well turning him down.”

She shrugs. “You think he was telling the truth?”

“No.” I shrugged back. “Let’s get some ice cream.”

He had been busy hassling her rather than me. I hoped that meant he was losing his ardor for the idea of making me Queen of Hell.

I added, “And I’ll work on finding somebody to do that uber banishment ritual and see if we can’t get rid of him for a few centuries.”

“Sounds good to me.”

I glanced at her. If he’d been telling the truth, there might even be worse fates for her. But Odin wanted her. For something.

Odin was probably responsible for the cancer. I knew that, darkly. He might not, as Thruor said, throw something at his people that they couldn’t bear. The truth was? He could be an asshole.

No, he could be utterly ruthless for the benefit of both the world and the person he was being utterly ruthless towards. Which boiled down to the same thing. I didn’t want to admit I understood him.

I understood him entirely too well. Which was why I’d forgiven him. “Not that he’s as much of a problem as Surtur.”

“You should just…”

She didn’t say it, perhaps not wanting some random person to overhear her.

I knew what the word she bit back was. It was in my brain. “You know I can’t do that. I think I explained why.”

She nodded. “You’ll get stuck with his job.”


And I was pretty sure I didn’t want it. The fire within me, though, sometimes seemed to have other ideas.

Utterly ruthless for the benefit of the world. Could I be like that myself? I glanced at Monica, and noted that she looked pale. “Let’s go get ice cream. And somewhere with a/c.” It was technically fall, but that didn’t mean it had cooled off yet.


I hoped it was only the heat. We ducked into the nearest ice cream place without even looking at the signs. I ordered chocolate chip cookie dough and we settled down to eat.

A moment later, Kanesha called me.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 24

And no, I didn’t ask to borrow armor from Thruor for the shoot. It was tempting, though. “A mermaid,” I teased Monica, heading away from the school with her.

“It’ll be fun. We’re going to actually go out to the Eastern Shore.”

I grinned. “It’s definitely different.” And maybe it would take her mind off of things.

No. Maybe it would take my mind off of things. I was definitely starting to think I needed the distraction more than she did. But this was helping. A good fight would help too – maybe a good fight would help more.

I wasn’t sure. I also didn’t want Monica in a good fight. Or did I? She still seemed fine, and I wasn’t about to treat her as fragile. Well, more fragile than she already was.

“And shoot in the edge of the water and stuff. I haven’t done anything like this in forever.”

The idea of going to the beach appealed. I wished we’d thought of it before school started back up.

I suddenly envisioned a beach below pristine mountains and knew it was a stray memory. It seemed to become clearer the more I focused on it…then faded away like dust. I shook my head. “This is all going to be fun. Maybe I’ll see if I can come out there with you.”
“Sure! We can get crab cake on the shore or something.”

I felt normal. I felt ordinary. We both needed this. This moment of being just like other girls with no concerns, no worries. Nobody was going to die, nobody was being stalked by a fire giant or a demon.

And then I sensed him. “Tyz’vel,” I whispered.

“Joy. Can I punch him in the balls?”

“Go ahead if you get an opening.” I looked around for him. “Or not. He doesn’t have any right now.”

I picked him out of the crowd but, right now, he was a she. Red hair, very fair skin. Looked rather Irish.

“Ovaries, then. I’m not fussy.”

“You’re the one who slept with him.”

“And I’m still regretting it.”

We both fixed our eyes on Tyz’vel and she tilted her head then came over towards us. I hoped the number of mortals around would keep her from doing anything stupid or obvious.

“Ooh. Monica has a problem,” she said, in an Irish accent and with an infinity of sarcasm in her voice.

Monica held her ground and her gaze.

“Want me to take care of that for you? I can, you know.”

“For the low, low price of my soul?” she asked.

I decided she didn’t need my help dealing with this.

“Well, yes, but I think you’d enjoy being a succubus.”

Monica laughed. “Nah. Not if all of the customers are as good as you are.”

“We could try again,” he noted. “Maybe you’ll have learned something since last time.”

I seriously considered slipping away. She was handling him…her…so beautifully. But I really didn’t want to just abandon her to him.

So, instead, I watched and, I have to admit, took notes.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 23

“I’m going to need twelve,” the woman said. She reminded me of Her Ladyship. The place was elegant.

She’d hired Seb as a personal assistant who understood magic – I got the impression she was a solitary witch, no coven.

I nodded. “Twelve girls.”
“And I want variety, mind. I’ll talk to your agency, but I want variety. And I don’t just mean I want both blondes and brunettes.”

I had to laugh. “My agency’s a good one. I know Monica will be up for it, too.”

She nodded. “So, let me explain. The calendar is going to support Children’s Hospital, and each month is going to have an attractive woman dressed up as some kind of fantasy being.” She studied me. Then her eyes widened.

I was surprised it had taken her this long to notice. I couldn’t help but quip, “You don’t have to put me in armor.”

She grinned. “Ah, but you’d be the perfect Valkyrie, and it would be our little secret.”

“I know an actual Valkyrie who might be offended.”

The grin became a laugh. “Maybe you can introduce us? I’d love to talk about certain aspects of magic with her.”

“I can try.”

“And your friend…a mermaid, I think.”

Monica would, I thought, like that. “It does sound like fun. And a little bit different from what we normally do.”

Enough to make it worth accepting no pay or only token pay, I couldn’t help but think. Different enough to be fun.

“Alright. So…I’ll talk to your agency, but I assume you’re on board.” She grinned. “Just…no, your dad isn’t invited.”

She’d identified me absolutely. “You know he doesn’t need an invite.”

“I know, but…”

“You’ve met him before.”

“Once. Years ago. It was an interesting experience. I didn’t know he liked chocolate.”

“He does.” I let out a breath. This was going to be fun, but I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of this old witch knowing exactly who I was at a glance.

“Relax. I’m not that powerful. I’m just very good at identifying supernaturals.”

I wasn’t sure I believed her. Entirely.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 22

My phone rang right as I left a shoot. Monica was there, looking surprisingly well.

It was Sebastian. “Hey.”

“Need anything?” Not that it was impossible that it was a social call, but Seb did rather tend to, well, make not social calls.

“Yeah. You free?”
“Just got out. We could do dinner?”

“Where’s your girlfriend?”

I grinned. “Studying. At my place. I’ll catch her for dessert.”

Seb’s response was shocked silence, then he seemed to recover. “Alright.”

“Also, I’m buying.”

“Not this time.” There was a grin in his voice. “Southern place?”

So, maybe it was good news for once. If Seb had money, then something was good news – he was as broke as I had been before I’d taken up modeling. Maybe he’d got a job. “Alright.”

We met there…the one in the mall basement, and I ordered the country fried steak. It was a good spot, and I settled into my seat more once the waitress had left. “So, you get a job?”

“Yeah. It’s only part time, but it works.”

Around here you pretty much needed two full time jobs to not be broke, so I figured he’d got something decent. Or he was still cribbing off the Father. “How’s Father William?”

“Recovering. I think he’s finally got it into his head that being a victim doesn’t make you a sinner.” Seb made a face.

“Good. I didn’t like seeing him like that. I don’t want to see anyone like that.” I meant it.

“He’ll be fine. Alright. So…I do need your help with something. For once, it’s not beating anything up.”

I laughed. “What do you need?”

“You and your model friends up to some charity work?”

I blinked. “I bet Monica would be.” And I could certainly find the time. “What’s the charity?”

“Children’s. My new boss.” Seb flickered a grin. “She’s rich, but not that rich, she wants to do a calendar.”

And now was the time to start putting one together. “Well, why don’t you introduce us and we’ll take it from there? Tell me she’s not a witch.”

“She’s a witch.”

I should have known.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 21

“The Seal of Solomon,” Sebastian said. We sat around Mike’s table – me, Sebastian, Thruor, Kanesha and Monica. No Clara – she was at a coven meeting.

I nodded. “That would…”

“If we could find somebody who knew the spell, they could bind Tyz’vel for a very long time. And a rabbi would be the most likely.”

I nodded again. “Does anyone know any?”

Was I going to have to search the city?

Monica raised a hand. “I have a good friend who’s Jewish. I could start by talking to her. She’s mentioned kabalism in my presence.”
Which as that was what we were looking for. I let Monica see my smile. She wanted to be useful. If it helped her to feel useful, then good. If she actually was? That was much better. I didn’t…no.

I wasn’t going to coddle her, fake anything, or show disrespect of her decision to forgo chemotherapy. She’d put it pretty straight – she could have two or three months before she got really bad symptoms, then maybe another one or two in the hospital. Or she could have six or even twelve of misery.

I rather thought I’d have made the same choice. So, no coddling. I glanced speculatively at Thruor.

I could almost see a cloud starting to settle around Monica. “Okay.”

She smiled, weakly. “I’ll call her tomorrow.”

The prospect of getting rid of Tyz’vel was…well…it cheered me up no end. “Okay. So, we actually have a plan. Now I just have to dodge fire giants.”

Thruor made a face. “Need me to beat some up for you?”

“Nah. I think I’ll just ignore them for now. Surtur’s going to be the hard nut to crack.”

I was already on the right track. She’d almost implied I’d made the choice I needed to – but I was completely mystified as to what it was.

Oh well. Norns weren’t supposed to make sense, especially the top three. The tip she’d given me had been more plain English than I expected.

Maybe she just wanted Tyz’vel dealt with for some reason of her own. Something he might do if he wasn’t.

Thruor nodded. “Surtur may never give up.”

Which brought me back to killing him. And, given what I’d learned, making it look like an accident. “Well, I’ll deal with him. Somehow.”

“Just be careful.”

“If dragging me back to his cave by my hair would get him what he wanted, he’d have tried it…”

Thruor grinned. “You know that would get him…well…that might start Ragnarok in an entirely different way.”

“True.” If he tried to kidnap me, Loki and Odin might just make up their differences for long enough to rescue me.

“So he knows better. He wants to be able to say you chose him.”

Which would never happen. It was a standoff. I had no clue how to break it.