Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 20

It wasn’t the first time I’d faced a problem I couldn’t help. I supposed I needed to get used to it.
The fire in me wanted to get out and burn something, but I kept myself under control.

Instead? I was trying to work out how to contact Eir. We had a shoot Saturday morning. Monica looked a little pale until she got her face finished, but otherwise you would never have known anything was wrong.

I hoped I could do something for her. If not, then I was going to do everything I could to take her mind off of it. An odd feeling flowed through me at the thought.

That there… We were done by lunchtime, and as I left, I was met by a stranger – or not a stranger. I recognized her even though I didn’t know her. Skuld. “You want empanadas, right?”

She grinned. “Forewarned, I see.”

“I made sure to find just the place. But yes, Thea warned me.” There were too many people listening for real names.

I set off, and she fell in next to me. I wanted immediately to ask her about Monica. “I…”

“Empanadas first,” she insisted. I led her to the hole in a wall I’d picked out. We found a table in the corner.

I focused on being well, not noticeable. And tried to extend it to her.

She smiled. “You’ve been practicing that.”

“It’s rather useful.” We ordered empanadas…she remained insistent.
And only when she’d eaten half of them did she ask. “So…”


She nodded. “And the first thing you ask is for somebody else. A mortal. Who doesn’t even follow you.”

“She’s my friend.” My tone became defensive. I felt judged.

“Her fate is not quite written, but if you interfere, you’re more likely to make it worse. You need to let her make her own decisions.”

“Don’t worry. She’s an adult. I was hoping Eir would help her, at least a little.”

“Perhaps. But it’s not her I came here to talk about.”

“The prophecy.” I let the words fall flat, as if they were a physical object lying on the table between us. “I either cause it or stop it.”

Skuld smiled. “In a way. If I told you more, it might…” One shoulder lifted. “It would make it harder for you to get it right, not easier.”

“Fair enough. But you came here to tell me something.”

She nodded. “Or maybe I just came for the empanadas. I came to tell you you’re on the right track so far.”

Which from a Norn meant something. She knew more than Odin did about the future. “Thanks. That means a lot.”

“And to give you a tip.” She leaned over. “That demon problem of yours?”

“Oh man. I’ll take any ideas on how to get rid of him.”

“Ask a rabbi.” And she grinned.

Of course, she didn’t provide any more useful information.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 19

“We can’t always help them.”

I didn’t even jump at the voice. “Maybe Eir can.”

“It depends. You had a good insight…” Loki shrugs. “Sometimes if we fix one thing it breaks something else.”

“It’s not fair, though. She deserves a good long life.”

“Does she?” Loki shrugs. “Who deserves to stick around on Earth that long?”

“It’s not that messed up.” I let out a breath, not wanting that discussion again. “And I don’t want to make that decision for her. But I suppose it’s not mine.”

“It’s not.” His lips quirk. “Odin has something in mind for her.”

“I’m still trying to work out why. I like her…”

“She’s tougher than you know.”

It hit me that I didn’t know anything about Monica’s background, about her family. Maybe she’d modeled her way out of poverty? Maybe her parents were split up, or her dad in jail, or…any number of things. “I don’t know much about her, really. Other than she’s fun to hang out with and trustworthy.”

“Doesn’t need much more than that, does it.”

I grinned. “To make a friendship, no.” And I reminded myself that I knew, knew for all surety, that death wasn’t the end even for mortals. A slight shiver went through me. I realized it wasn’t just that I didn’t want her to die. I didn’t want her to go through what I’d seen in the cancer fundraiser ads.

“Sometimes it doesn’t even need much more than that to make something stronger than a friendship. But…”

“I’m not asking her. If she doesn’t want to tell me stuff, she…look out!”

Loki lifted his hand and caught the ball that had been about to hit him in the back of the head. “Oh, somebody’s about to get pranked.”

I grinned. “Don’t be too hard on the kid.”

He snorted and stalked off. I had a feeling he probably now looked just like that kid’s most feared teacher. Or their dad. Or somebody else scary.

I kept walking, letting him handle it. Couldn’t save her. Couldn’t help her. Had to try, had to do something.

Not omnipotent. And I didn’t want to be. The world would be…she was right. If the gods were truly omnipotent that had to mean we were evil. Eir could do something, though.

The question was whether she would.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 18

“I…I need to talk.” Monica sounded shaken.

“Alright.” She was in trouble, clearly. “Where to, and should I bring my tools?”

“My place and…you won’t need them.”

That actually made it sound even worse, it made me suddenly and abruptly convinced something was horribly wrong.

Something she didn’t think I could do anything about. The thought scared me. “I’ll be right there.” I shot Mike an apologetic luck.
“Coincidence?” he said, wryly.

I didn’t think so. But I headed out. I knew where Monica lived, but I’d need to catch a bus to get there from Mike’s place. It was even further away from mine. I really needed that bike I kept talking about getting.

She lived on the top floor of a townhouse. It was a nice place – Monica made a fair amount of money. I knocked on the door.

“Come…come in.”

I stepped in. She’d been crying. She’d scrubbed the makeup from her face – she was still reasonably attractive without it, but that was not counting the tear stains.

I bit back a very Loki-esque quip about “who was he” and crossed the space between us. “Monica…”

“I…” She looked me in the eyes. “I’m sick.”

The weight in my stomach pulled me down next to her. “Sick?”

“What can they do?” I knew the answer before she spoke it, although part of me was already raging.

“Nothing. Can you…”

“I don’t know.” That was the honest answer. “Even Odin isn’t omnipotent. That’s not how it really works. But I might be able to ask a favor of Eir.”

She closed her eyes. “It’s alright if you can’t. I know…the only alternative to the gods being evil is that they can’t fix everything.”

Some gods were evil, I thought but didn’t say. But I didn’t sense anything that might resemble a curse.

I knew she wasn’t going to be healed. But I had to ask. “Or sometimes fixing one thing…”

Her eyes opened. “If fixing me would break something else I’m happy to be broken.”

“I’ll try.” I would, too. But that feeling in the depths of me told me it was a waste of time, an endeavor to make myself feel better. Nothing more.

“Just don’t blame yourself. It isn’t your fault.” Her lips quirked. “If you can’t do something to heal me, then you can dang well help me take my mind off it.”

I managed a weak smile. “That I can do.”

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 17

I hadn’t forgotten, of course, about Monica’s problem. Or potential problem. Thruor didn’t even seem to think it was a problem.

Mortal perspectives. But understanding them mattered. I thought it did anyway.

The real issue was: Did I tell her? Which had somehow gotten tangled in my mind with dropping out to pursue modeling.

I was, after all, living with my girlfriend and trying to be an adult. That somehow felt incompatible with being in school.

At the same time, I knew what Mike would say. So, I took my dilemma to him. “I’ve got a modeling friend.”

Mike nodded. “What’s she like?”

I considered. “Loyal, to a fault. Hedonistic. She’s…a bit like Thruor, actually.”


“And I have a premonition…no, more than that…that she’s going to die. As in soon. And possibly because she’s involved in stuff.”

“And knows, right?”

I nodded. “She knows everything. She’s got a little bit of magic sensitivity, it turns out.”

“So…she knows the risk?”

“It’s not a risk, though. It’s a certainty. I know she’s going to die. And I can’t, I’m sorry, I can’t see it like Thruor can.”

“What would happen if you told her?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “She might stop helping me. She might get depressed. She might decide to take a road trip around the planet.”

Actually, that last seemed more in Monica’s style. A road trip around the planet. And appealing.

Mike laughed. “A road trip around the planet?”

“It would be in her style. But I don’t think I’m supposed to tell her. I don’t think we’re really supposed to…”

“…tell mortals these things.”

“Right. I mean, it’s not you, so it feels okay to talk to you about it. How would you feel?”

Mike considered. “Depends. I don’t…” A pause. “I don’t expect to die of old age. Not chasing around with Thruor.”

Who was a valkyrie and probably didn’t want her mortal friends dying of old age, come to think of it. “I think I understand Thruor’s perspective.”

And if Monica…oh… “Oh…” I added, suddenly.

My phone rang at that moment, interrupting the conversation with the tones of “Pretty Woman.”

I immediately blamed Odin.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 16

“So, what I found out was that even if Surtur marries this other chick…”

“Oh great. Fire giants practice polygamy, don’t they.”

I nodded. “Yup. The one I talked to thought it was really odd that we don’t. I mean, we’re not talking full blown harems here, but having two or three wives…apparently isn’t considered abnormal at all, especially if you’re rich.”

Kanesha considered that. “I wouldn’t mind sharing,” she said, mischievously.

“Hey, don’t you dare make any bisexual threesome jokes.”

“Look. We both know…” She tailed off.

“I don’t want you to be some kind of concubine.”

She rolled her eyes. “Have you ever asked me about that? I don’t mind sharing. I would rather share than not have you at all.”


“Seriously, Jane.” A pause, and then she tried my real, nigh unpronounceable name. Got it close. “Seriously. You have an obligation. I know you do. And I know I’m not…” A pause. “I don’t know.”

“I won’t let you end up in Hel’s Realm on your own. I know that.”

She grinned. “Thanks. I trust you on that front.”

I didn’t like being trusted. I didn’t even really like the fact that I really could make that promise to her. It made her too much like a pet. “I know you do, but it still makes me feel uncomfortable.”

“I know.” She took my hand. “However, I will not share you with Surtur and his other wives.”

I grinned. “Don’t worry. Besides, I found out that if I kill him they might just make me queen instead.”

Kanesha shuddered. “Oh dear. That…I can’t…”

“I’d rather ride with Thruor and her sisters, but that isn’t on the cards. Valkyries aren’t allowed to get married.”

Kanesha nodded. “I suppose…”

“She did say it was possible to quit and get married, but kind of frowned upon. I suppose that’s why some of the legends say they’re virgins. Which Thruor is…”

“…a long way from. I don’t want to think how many lovers she’s had.”

“Glad I’m more…monogamously inclined?” The idea of having more than one…well…I decided to forget about it for now.

Kanesha might be willing to share me. I’d yet to work out how I felt about being shared.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 15

“I want to know what the politics really are,” I said, finally. “And order what you want – I’m buying.”

Her lips quirked. “Alright. You want to know who your rival is.”

I lifted a hand. “As far as I’m concerned, she can have him. I have absolutely less than no interest in being your queen.”

“Her name is Geirfridur. She has been courting power for centuries.”

I nodded. “So, she just wants power.”

I wondered if she intended to stab Surtur in the back on his wedding night.

“You don’t want her in charge. She’s worse than Surtur.”

“Worse how?”

“Surtur is honorable.” The woman let out a breath. “Not many of us like him, but he keeps his word.”

I nodded. “And Geirfridur is…let me guess, unpredictable?”

“Put it this way, I don’t want to be her personal guard. My survival would likely be…questionable.”

It did put a twist on things. “But you don’t really like Surtur.”

“Very few of us want his war. And if he marries you, he’ll step it up to the next level. But if he marries her…she’ll probably kill him, take over and then destroy us. Of course, he could also…”

“Then maybe we need to find somebody else. Somebody who he might listen to. A good influence.”

She sighed. “There isn’t anyone. The only thing we respect is strength. If he marries Geirfridur and she kills him…” A pause.

“Somebody will have to assassinate her.” I paused. “He could also what?”

“Marry both of you, of course. Geirfridur doesn’t like that idea, but it wouldn’t have to stop him.” She didn’t give me time to digest that before continuing. “In our tradition, if you kill the king, you become the king. Believe it or not, it actually lessens assassination attempts.”

I laughed. “You’re implying nobody wants the job?”

“I believe humans have a saying in this language. Herding cats?”

I laughed again. “Well…I don’t particularly want it either.”

The conversation very much put the idea of saying yes to Surtur then murdering him off the stove. “If he dies without anyone directly causing it?”

“The throne would pass to his younger brother. Who would last maybe a month.”

I nodded. “Thanks.” I thought I understood the situation. They didn’t like Surtur, but nobody wanted his job. And if they made it look like an accident – they’d probably have civil war.

I did not want his job either. But the only way I could see to deal with this part of stopping Ragnarok was to replace Surtur with somebody more friendly. Somehow. And it would have to be somebody they would accept, or that person would be assassinated.

Somebody they would accept…

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 14

Or when lunch would happen, which wasn’t right away. Everywhere I went I seemed to have a fire giant following me.

I wasn’t sure which of the various sides any of them were on. I was pretty sure there was a marry me to Surtur faction, a marry this other person to Surtur faction and a get rid of Surtur faction.

Honestly, if I had any sympathies at all, it was with faction three. If they managed to depose him or kill him, then I wouldn’t have a problem any more.

And I still wondered if I was supposed to kill him. It was certainly one way of fulfiling the prophecy.

I wanted to corner one of them and find out more about fire giant politics, but they were all following or watching then fading into the crowd if I tried to approach. It was very frustrating. I even tried to find a vampire nest, just to have something to beat up, but I only found one loner, and that one was pretty pathetic. Probably had been pathetic in life and was even more pathetic in unlife.

I didn’t even need to break a sweat. I figured they were doing a great job of avoiding the scary goddess with a sword.

Scary…wait. Coyote owed me. He owed me big time. Maybe he could find out something for me…but what I really wanted was to corner a fire giant for a polite, quiet, private conversation.

Under some form of flag of truce, of course. I didn’t want a fight. I really didn’t.

School had started back up, though. Kanesha was at college and I wished I was with her, but I needed the extra year and I knew it. The alternative was to drop out and model full time.

I thought about it, I really did. Maybe it was even the best thing to do. But I’d do better with a diploma.

Like it was going to matter. I shook my head, then I picked my latest watcher out of the crowd. If I approached, they’d rabbit. Instead, I tilted my head, shifted my walk, and indicated a nearby cafe. It was after school, it was rush hour, but the cafe was still fairly quiet.

I moved to sit down and waited. After a long pause, she joined me.

“You’re too good at spotting us.”

“You’re giving me too much practice. Which faction are you with?” My lips quirk.

“I’m part of Surtur’s guard. If you say yes I will be part of yours.” There was, though, something flat about her tone.

I didn’t get the sense she liked her job very much. “Alright. I have some questions. That’s all.”

She looked…resigned. Not hopeful. Almost as if she was afraid I was about to say yes. “Go on.”

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 13

Thruor put her hand on mine. “Odin wants her. This doesn’t happen very often.”

“Monica? No offense. There’s nothing special about her.”

“Except loyalty, dedication, a willingness to sleep with a demon to help a friend…” Thruor tailed off.

“She’s going to die because of me.”

“You’re still thinking like a mortal.”
“Maybe somebody needs to.” I studied her. “Maybe that’s part of why Odin sent me here. To learn to understand mortals better.”

“Oh, certainly, but if you keep…seriously…you fell off a dragon.”

“I did not fall off the dragon!” I exclaimed. “The dragon fell. I was just attached to it.”
“And you’re here. Stop thinking in those terms. You’ll only bring yourself more pain.”

I digested it. “But he might not have…”

“Stop it. She’s made her choice. Whatever he asks of her – it wouldn’t be more than he’d give himself and it isn’t more than she can bear. Odin’s a harsh master, but he never asks of somebody what they can’t give.”

I nodded, slowly. “I suppose.” A pause. “Do you think…?”

She closed her hand on mine. “You are not my sister. And will not be.”

She’d said something like that before. “Because I’m going to have to marry somebody.” Except, that high on that list were her brothers. Unless she wouldn’t think of that as the same thing.

Thruor nodded. “Exactly. We aren’t allowed to marry or bear children. That’s the real reason Brunhilde isn’t with us any more.”

“Was she actually exiled to Earth?”

Thruor nodded. “For a while. Odin was hoping that she’d change her mind. She didn’t. She chose her lover over our sisterhood.”

“And I could never do the reverse. Even if I wasn’t likely to have to have an arranged marriage…I couldn’t choose you over Kanesha.”

“Exactly. So, we won’t ask you to.” Thruor paused. “There’s somebody who wants to talk to you. Not urgently, but soon.”

I nodded. “Tell them…hrm. Maybe we can do lunch, whoever it is?”

Thruor grinned. “If it’s lunch, then make it empanadas. One of the wonderful things about global communication. And technology. Nobody eats lutefisk any more.”

I’d never had lutefisk, but I knew it involved lye or something and shuddered. “Empanadas it is.”

But she didn’t seem about to tell me who it was.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 12

“This gets weirder and weirder.”

I nodded. “You’re protected.”

“I…know.” Monica turned and looked at me, dark eyes thoughtful. “I want to help.”

I felt a sigh flow out of me. “I…” I wanted to say I had enough people to worry about, but Monica was an adult. She could make her own decisions. “You’re not a fighter.”

“No. But I make a good wingman.”

I shook my head. “He’s going to come for me one way or another and anyone who gets in his way is likely to burn.” I looked at her. “Protection only goes so far…physically.”

“And this time I can’t distract him for you.”

I shook my head. “Distracting Tyz’vel, easy. This guy? He’s not one for a roll in the hay, from what I know.”

“And Tyz’vel’s still out there.” She shuddered. “That name makes me want to shower aftwards.”

“It’s supposed to. Demons choose ugly names, or are given them, or whatever. Reminds everyone how evil they are.”

“And these people?”

“Fire giants. They’re not so different from demons, but they have…they aren’t entirely evil and have their own code of honor. Kind of like Klingons, I suppose.”

That analogy she clearly understood. “Got it.”

“And they have me in mind for queen.” I shook my head. “It’s…I…”

“I know who you are,” Monica said. “Just…I don’t know…”

I reached for her hand. “Don’t worry about it. Apparently you’re involved in this.”

And she would die in it. I suddenly knew that with utter clarity. And that wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all.

I heard the raven’s voice as clear as if it was on my shoulder, “Trust us.”

I did, but…I didn’t want anyone to die. Anyone on my side, that was. Kanesha…Kanesha I hoped to keep alive for a while.

But the sense I had was that Monica’s fate was imminent. That she had already been chosen. “But…”

“Don’t tell me. Whatever it is, I don’t want to know. I don’t want a prophecy.”

I looked at her. “Remember you aren’t a fighter. Or, you know, start learning.”

She grinned. “Alright.”

But a shadow like raven’s wings had passed across the sun.

Episode Eighteen: Tricksters: Scene 11

There were two of them – a man and a woman. I turned to Monica. “Does this place have a back door?”

“I think so.”

“Use it. Now.”

I glanced at the fire giants. They probably weren’t here to attack me. Surtur was, pun intended, turning up the heat.

“What’s going on?”
“What’s going on is there are two people in the room who…”

I suddenly felt the sense of wings. “Never mind. You might be okay.”


But they were already halfway to the table. One of them lifted a hand in a ‘no weapons’ gesture.

I pushed out a chair for him. “Join us, then.”

They glanced at Monica.

“I wouldn’t if I were you.”

The woman narrowed her eyes, then produced a soft ‘huh.’ It was the man, though, who spoke. “This is private.”

“I’d rather have a witness. Especially as somebody’s tried to kill me once this week already.”

They glanced at each other uncomfortably.

“Would you maybe work for that somebody? Because if so, tell her that as far as I’m concerned she can have him.”

Monica’s eyebrows elevated. “You have another stalker?”

I shrugged. “What can I say? I’m popular with men who don’t like to take no for an answer.”

“We know that. Now.”

“You might have found it out before trying to kill me. I might have been a lot more inclined to work with you.”

Except, that marrying Surtur to some giantess helped me. It didn’t help the overall situation. It might discourage him from starting the war for a little bit. But…it might be progress.

“We’ll work on getting Surtur off your back if you’ll…” He considered for a moment. “Consider carefully who’s side you’re really on.”

I shook my head. “I know who’s side I’m on. Mine. No deal. I’m not going to let you catch me any place you can do me real harm.”

They glanced at each other.

“Forgot that little detail, didn’t you?” And I realized something else. By exiling me, Odin was also protecting me. As long as I was here, they couldn’t permanently harm me.

And even if they occasionally forgot…I shuddered at the thought…if I reminded them, maybe they’d…

…go after Kanesha instead. I frowned a little bit. But I figured…

“Alright. We won’t go after you…or your mortal friends…for now. I don’t make any promises about the valkyrie.”

I grinned. “Neither do I.” Thruor could look after herself.