Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 31

We didn’t run blindly, of course. I was heading towards the church. I had a feeling Father William would know a little bit about how to deal with ghosts.

All I could do was slash at them, and that wasn’t going to work without a spell to make my sword affect spirits. Which I didn’t have and hadn’t thought to get.

I’d been expecting zombie hordes, after all, not ghost hordes. I should have thought of ghosts.

I hadn’t.

We got about halfway there before the ghosts thickened around us, and became – not solid enough to affect, but they were impeding us, it was like moving through a thick substance that, while we could still breathe it, no longer felt like air.


“Now would…”

“Now would be a good time to open bifrost if I knew how.” No matter how much trouble it might get me into.

“Unless he already did.”

I shook my head. Whatever he’d opened, I was pretty sure he’d only loosed damned souls, not saved ones. “I think he managed to get Hell after all.”

“Nah,” came a voice. “I got all of them.” Anansi moved through the ghosts, who parted. “But this didn’t work quite as planned. So…”

He lifted a hand and the ghosts started to dissipate.

“What, you didn’t think about the fact that you couldn’t give them all bodies?”

Kanesha was still clinging to me, but as the ghosts faded out, she stepped away.

“Oh, I could, but I suppose…I thought more people were reincarnated. Oh well. It was a test run. I’ll work it out.”

“So, what? You want to free everyone from Death?”

“Of course I do. Can you imagine what immortal humans could achieve? How much more wisdom they’d gain?”

“Odin has more wisdom in his toenails than you, and he knows better.” I wasn’t sure I really knew that, but it sounded good. And I also knew how Odin had gained it.

“No, he just wants to keep it all for himself.”

“Odin knows enough to know that even the gods have to be subject to death.”

“And don’t you want her to live forever?” He stepped forward and tried to reach out for Kanesha.

She slapped him. “I don’t want to live forever. I know better.”

“Ah, but I could do it right now. One person, that’s easy. Everyone, that’s going to be harder.”

I looked at him. “Give it up, Anansi. You’re out of line and you know it. You’re afraid.”

“My web keeps me safe.”

“For now.” I knew threatening him was a bad idea.

But what I wanted was the artifact.

“And you just want the artifact. For your own purposes…to do what? Get power ahead of time?”

I almost, in that moment, told him the truth. “No. I just want you to stop.”

Which really was what I wanted. The ghosts were still there, in the edges between light and darkness.

But Hel could fix it. If I could only get the artifact.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 30

When I pulled the disk out of my pocket, though, it was cold. “Crap.”


I nodded. “I have no clue what he’s actually about to do, but we’d better arm up.”

Zombies were what was on my mind, or some other kind of undead. Maybe he’d try to bring people back and we’d get…ghosts everywhere?

Kanesha nodded, grimly. “Alright. I’m ready for zombie pounding.”

Which wasn’t going to be enough, but it might be what we needed to do. And Anansi could be anywhere on the planet. “We need to find him.”

I hadn’t thought of that. Coyote could find him, but Coyote might find this all as funny as his African counterpart. Depending on how far it went.

I wasn’t going to assume the trickster would be an ally this time. I did wonder about demons and angels, though. Didn’t they both tend to collect souls? Well, maybe that was a bad way of putting it.

Things felt off balance, though. They didn’t feel right. Whatever he was doing…

I armed up and stepped outside. The wind was colder than it should be, and I felt… “I don’t like this,” I told Kanesha.

“I’m not as sensitive as you are.”

“Feels off. Feels almost like we’re in Hell again.”

“If he’s opened a door to Hell I’m going to…” She didn’t finish her sentence, because the cold wind washed over both of us.

“Ghosts,” I said. “Lots of ghosts.”

“He did open a door to Hell.”

“He opened a door to somewhere.” I couldn’t see them. I could just feel them, crowding in on me with a sense of pressure. “Hopefully this will get Coyote to take our side.”

“Hopefully. What about your sister?”
“I suspect she’s going to have her hands full.”

I couldn’t attack the ghosts, I couldn’t touch them. All I could do was seek out the center of the problem, the epicenter of the supernatural effect. I closed my eyes and then I could see them, the entire horde and weight of them.

And one of them was Mr. Clem. “Kanesha. Your dad’s here.”

“Ugh. Okay. Let’s move. Let’s do something.”

I had no idea, though, what we could do. I reached for her hand. “Let’s try just plain running.”

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 29

“Who was that?” Kanesha asked.

“Ranking demon who apparently appreciates Tyz’vel being out of the way. I told him I’d ended my involvement in infernal politics.”

“Good.” She grinned. “You have enough to worry about with internal politics.”

I shuddered. “I do at that. But no more invading Hell. That’s not happening again.”

I had the disk in a pocket close enough to my skin to feel it if it went cold.

“Definitely not. Although if I ended up there…”

“They can’t touch you,” I reminded her.

“I know. But they did kidnap Loki, so…they can’t touch my soul, but what’s to say they can’t just grab me?”

I didn’t have a good answer for that. “Surtur’s more likely to do that.”

She nodded. “Well, Muspelheim isn’t Hell, at least.”

“No. It’s hotter.” I studied her. “Let’s worry about Anansi for right now.”

Because I couldn’t do anything about Surtur. I wasn’t sure I could do anything about Anansi.

“Maybe we can use the horn on him.”

I shook my head. “He isn’t going to fall for that. I’m going to talk to my dad. Would you research everything about Anansi and Brother Death you can find?”

“Already on it. But it’s pretty much a bunch of stories about Anansi tricking his way out of Death using his webs.”

Didn’t they know it was female spiders who wove webs? I thought irreverently, then recalled how genderless Anansi had looked. Almost as bad as Zaid. “Thanks. Anything that might help me steal the artifact from Anansi.”

“And then do what with it?”

“Have Thruor take it back to Asgard to put back in the vault.” That seemed the most reasonable thing to do. I certainly didn’t want it.

“No. That’s not what you should do with it. Or do you think it wouldn’t work on giants.”

I stared at her. “It…oh crap. It might.”

“Even if it doesn’t, if Surtur thinks it does…”

Sometimes she really was the smart one. No, make that most of the time. You would think I’d have the superior intellect, but clearly it didn’t work that way. Just the strength and agility and the other stuff.

“He might back off if he thinks I’ll shoot him with it. I don’t want it, but…I do want him to back off.”

She grinned. “See. This is why you keep me around, right?”

“I can think of a bunch of reasons why I keep you around. How about we go home and remind ourselves of a few of them?”

I offered her my arm and she took it, and we headed home.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 28

School…I wanted school to be over and done with. I wanted out, but instead I sat at lunch munching on a cayenne brownie I’d brought for dessert.

I had so much more important things to worry about. Why hadn’t I asked Hel about the fire? And even with Tyz’vel gone, I still had Surtur to worry about.

Surtur was more of a gentleman, though.


I looked up to see Clara. “Hey.”

“You look tired.”

“I thought I was over that. I had a tough one.”

“Why didn’t you invite me?” She dropped onto a spare chair.

“Believe me, you didn’t want to come to Hell.”

“Actual Hell?” She pursed her lips. “No. I didn’t. In fact, I don’t want to know.”

I grinned. “No you don’t. But we have a lingering problem.”

I explained to her about Anansi and she frowned. “I’ll keep my eyes open.”

“I got an early warning system, but I appreciate that.”

Open eyes I definitely appreciated. “How are you studies coming on?”

She grinned. “Pretty well. I’ve been working on reading auras lately.”

“Handy. Keep your eyes open for spiders.”

“I will.” She grinned again. “I’ve also been talking to Zaid a fair bit.”

“Good. They know some interesting stuff.”

“They do.” She stretched. “Call me if you need a spell or two.”

“I will,” I promised, then finished the brownie and got up to head to class. I was entirely glad to get out, though.

Well, until I realized somebody was waiting for me outside, somebody with body language a lot like… “Tyz’vel.”

“Not guilty,” the stranger said. “And I just want to talk.”

I narrowed my eyes. It was a demon, alright, and a powerful one. “Look. I’m out. I’m not messing with infernal politics any more.”

“I don’t blame you. Don’t worry about Tyz’vel. He won’t pull himself together for about a millennium.”

I grinned. “He should have known better than to start kidnapping gods.”

“He did know better. And no offense, but you aren’t that hot.”

I shrugged. “No accounting for tastes.”

“But thank you for dealing with him.” Then the demon snapped his fingers and vanished.

I was left with a distinct feeling that more had happened than I’d seen or heard, but for now I couldn’t afford to worry about it.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 27

I slipped the disc into my pocket. Turn cold…I’d better keep it myself. It might give anyone else frostbite.

Odin was scary. Hel was…Hel was intimidating and beautiful in her own way. She was not, though, a monster. I was sure of that. Maybe a monster in appearance, but not in reality.

And I had to trust her anyway. I had to. I wished I hadn’t been too scared to ask what I wanted to know.

Yeah. I wasn’t about to admit I was scared, but I finished the glass of wine before I headed out of there, hiding the bottle.

About Kanesha. About Monica. About mortals. I wasn’t worried about Mike. He had a valkyrie on his side.

On the other hand, didn’t that mean… I shivered. I wasn’t supposed to…but I did. I loved them all, in different ways.

I didn’t care that they were supposed to die at some point. I still didn’t want them to. I wasn’t afraid of dying myself – even knowing it could happen.

No, my fear was all for my friends. But I headed home. Where I found Kanesha studying. “Hey.”


“I talked to Hel. She gave me something that might help.”

“Oh?” She set the book she was reading to one side.

“An early warning talisman. If Anansi starts draining power from Brother Death, we’ll know.”

“He seemed to want us to stay out of it. Which is probably why…”

I put my hand on hers. “Why we have to be involved.”

“What’s she like?” Kanesha asked, softly.

“Beautiful and terrible. Kind of like Galadriel in Lord of the Rings.”

She grinned a bit. “I suppose I can see that. But…”
“No. She’s still beautiful.” I closed my eyes for a moment. “And scary.”

“Scary to you?”

“I can still die, you know. And you certainly can. And…” And I had to trust her.

Kanesha was mine, but every death belonged to the Queen of the Underworld. I knew that, and I understood it.
Hel wouldn’t even release Baldur for Odin.

But maybe…one day she would. Maybe it would be after Ragnarok, but…

She was a monster with more power, in some ways, than Odin himself.

“I suppose. Oddly, I’m not too afraid of the idea. I trust you.”

I decided not to repeat my thoughts to her. Instead, I pulled her towards me and kissed her.

Trusting me. I wasn’t sure if she should, but I had to let her.

I had to.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 26

Besides, I had more important concerns. It didn’t take Bruce long to find the ice wine. I wasn’t even entirely sure what ice wine was, but it looked like white wine and was chilled.

Now to find a safe place to get her attention, one where her showing up wouldn’t be noticed and wouldn’t cause any trouble. I elected to go all the way to Rock Creek Park, and found the clearing where we’d confronted the cultists not that long and a lifetime ago.

At least they’d left me alone lately, I thought as I opened the bottle and poured two glasses. I sniffed the wine and then took a sip.

Anyone would like this! It tasted like…a lot like Idunn’s apples, except in grape form.

I paused to consider how I remembered the taste.

Then? Frost formed on the trees, a shadow crossed the sun, and she was there. Fair and foul, gentle and terrible.

“Hello, sister.”

I offered her the glass. Our hands touched as she took it and there was no warmth to hers, as if she was no living being at all.

“Siglaugr. I have a feeling this is urgent.” She took a sip of the wine and nodded. “Not bad at all. I have better. Next time…”

“It’s urgent.” How did she seem so nice? Oh, the grass froze when she sat down, and I could feel the dark energy rolling off her, but I also felt safer in her presence than in anyone’s except maybe Kanesha’s or my mother’s.

I absolutely felt that I had nothing to fear from her.

Hel nodded, then asked. “What troubles you?”

“Anansi got hold of an artifact our father stole. One that drains power from gods. I think Loki planned on using it in a prank. But Anansi’s enemy is Brother Death.”

Hel nodded. “And you fear he might weaken death. Death is…death transcends pantheons. Those of us who rule it are connected.”

My instinct was right then. “Is that sometimes the case with other things?”

She nodded. “Yes. There is a connection between Freya and Aphrodite, a link between Sekhmet and Smoking Mirror. But…you are right to be concerned. Touching love might weaken connections, it might start fights.”

“Tyz’vel did something to Loki and all the other tricksters…”

“Noticed. That’s exactly it. But weakening death…”

“Zaid’s concerned about zombie hordes.”


“So has he tried anything yet.”

She frowned. “Not yet, but I had…let’s just say I was aware, but needed to hear it from you. Take this.”

She handed me a silver disc. “If he attacks Brother Death, this will turn cold.

I nodded. “Thank you.” A pause. I wanted to ask her about the fire. I wanted to ask her about Kanesha. About Monica.

I didn’t. Looking at her I became very aware that I was in the presence of a queen of the Underworld and all the questions I had to ask fled my mind like bats when the sun starts to rise.

I could say nothing more.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 25

In the end, I decided I needed a witch. And not Clara. An experienced witch. I sought out Bruce.

Not that I’d been ignoring him. I’d been careful to make sure that every time I showed up it wasn’t with some kind of crisis. For an older guy, he was a lot of fun to hang out with. But right now, I did need his help.

He picked up on it as soon as I entered the store. “Back room?”

I nodded, moving past the displays of crystals and incense. “Is it that obvious?”

“You’re worried about something.”

“And I need to contact a goddess. A specific one. I’m not sure the best way to get her attention.”
“Is it somebody safe for mortals to deal with?”
I considered. “I’m not sure. Possibly not.”

He looked at me, seriously. “Okay. What’s going on?”

“Loki stole a dwarven artifact that drains powers from gods. Tyz’vel stole it from him. Anansi stole it from him.”
“And Anansi has it now?”

“Right. And we’re worried he’s going to go after Brother Death and unleash a plague of zombies or something.”

“That would be rather bad. We don’t need the zombie apocalypse.” He let out a breath. “I know who’s attention you want.”

“Right. I think I can talk to her safely.”

“I think you can too. But…”

“But Loki’s not around to ask, and I need to know what she likes.” Which was probably not cayenne brownies. Ice cream, maybe?

Bruce considered that. “Generally, sane people don’t invoke her, but I do know somebody who has a good relationship with her. And she would say…” He furrowed his brow. “Hold on. I’m just going to call her.”

He tugged out his cell phone. I slipped back out into the store and looked at some books, then at the jewelry. There was a really pretty Thor’s hammer with a red garnet in the handle. But I didn’t get on that well with Thor. Still, I made a mental note of it, and looked at some of the other divine symbols.

“Alright!” Bruce called.

I stepped in.

“I didn’t tell her who you are, so her response was a little cautious, but she likes ice wine, which I could probably find for you. And apparently has a weakness for lavender flavored ice cream.”

That was hard to find. “The wine would probably be easier…but I hate to ask you to break the law for me again.”

It was starting to be a pattern. “I keep asking you for booze.”

“I’ll find some. Just remember that you owe me.”

I grinned. “Let me know who or what you need beating up.” Which was, well, pretty much how I paid my debts lately.

I looked back at the jewelry, but no…nothing there was right for what I suddenly wanted.

A gift for Kanesha. But she should, I knew, wear no symbol except my own.

I didn’t yet have one.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 24

We ended up as a council of war at Mike’s place. Mike, Thruor, Zaid, Kanesha and myself.

“So, Zaid thinks Anansi’s going to try and use this artifact on Brother Death.”

“And using it on a death god,” Zaid added. “I can’t think of anything worse.”

“You can’t?” Kanesha inquired.

Zaid sighed. “Death’s important. If you drained enough power from a death god you could weaken the hold of death altogether.”

“Likely result: Zombies,” I supplied.

“Oh. Yeah. We don’t need a zombie horde.”

“That’s definitely one likely result,” Zaid mused. “But it could also…you could end up with localized patches of something like that awful Torchwood spinoff.”

I had no idea what they were talking about, other than a television show. “You’ll have to fill me in.”

“Can’t die. Can still get sick, get hurt, etc.”

I nodded. “Alright. I mean…”

Zaid looked at me. “And don’t get better either. Don’t think it’s like some of the tricks gods can pull off.”

For a moment, I closed my eyes. “Alright. I get it. But we don’t actually know what he has in mind.”

“Anansi tricks Death using his webs,” Zaid said, finally. “Beyond that, you’d need a real expert on the stories to work this out.”

I glanced at Kanesha. “You said you might know somebody.”

“I do. Somebody at the youth club who collects trickster stories, especially Anansi and Brer Rabbit.”

“Maybe you can trade him some Loki stories?”

She grinned. “If I thought he could take it, I’d see if we could introduce them, but I think he’d…I don’t think he’s ready.”

I grinned back. “Maybe we can get him…nah. No sense pulling people into this world.”

“Unless somebody more powerful wants them. Or…” Kanesha studied me.

I looked away. “I’d apologize, but I don’t think you’re too upset.”

“I’m not. I do wonder what…no, if I’d never met you, I’d probably be being pimped by my old man, possibly literally.”

I shuddered, but I knew she was right. Mr. Clem was even the kind of guy to…I pushed it all out of my mind. “Point is, we need to steal this artifact from one of the oldest trickster deities on the planet.”

I paused. “And I need to talk to a death god.”

Kanesha looked at me, mouth open. Then she seemed to realize and closed it. “Al…alright.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.”

“Please. I don’t want to lose you.”

I was pretty sure, though, that I was safe. If I could only work out how to get her attention.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 23

I tried not to worry too much about it. Of course, maybe he did want us looking hard into what he was doing.

Otherwise why show up at all? But on the balance of it, I was pretty sure Kanesha was right.

I tracked down Zaid.

“Have fun raiding Hell?”

I laughed. “I did eventually. Did you know what Kanesha was up to?”

They looked so innocent I was pretty sure they had known, yes. “At least there aren’t random angels and demons chasing each other around any more.”

“I missed that,” I noted ruefully.

“I stayed out of their way. It’s really not good to…”

“…mess with infernal politics. I know.” I elected not to tell Zaid just exactly how Tyz’vel had caught Loki. “But when they mess with me.”

“Still. It’s over, right?”

I shook my head. “Anansi.”

“Oh, what’s the spider up to?”

“I don’t know, but he managed to get his hands on something Tyz’vel stole from Loki who stole it from Odin.”

“Oh dear.”

“I figured you might want to warn your boss. He’s got an artifact that can be used to drain power from gods.”

“Then I know who his target is, most likely. His old enemy. Brother Death.”

“That’s bad. I mean, if he drains power from Death…”

“That could be bad.” Zaid frowned. “I’ll talk to my boss.”

Draining power from Death. That could lead to all kinds of things. “Thanks. And now I’ve thought about it…”

No. Odin would already have thought about it. But I hadn’t.

With power from Death you could kill, but I knew somehow that wasn’t what Anansi had in mind.

And I knew, suddenly, who I needed to talk to. I just wasn’t sure how. Or how much time we had before Anansi managed to catch Brother Death.

It was my business if it…no. It was my business because Loki had stolen it in the first place.

It was all his fault, and he was dang well going to help me fix it.

Episode Nineteen: Infernal: Scene 22

In fact, we got several people offering to buy us illegal drinks, which I turned down. If I wanted alcohol, I could get it from Thruor’s stash later.

“I figured I’d let you deal with him,” I said as we left, arm in arm, Thruor (without the guy she’d been drinking with) behind us.

“You didn’t want to break him.”

I laughed. “No, I didn’t. Or do anything that, you know, gave me away.” Which was important, I’d decided.

Best to keep things on the down low around the mundanes.

Thruor grinned. “He deserved it for grabbing, but I didn’t hear what he said.”

Kanesha made a sour face. “He wanted to watch.”

“Oh. One of those. All female sexuality exists for the pleasure of men.”

She was right that a lot of men thought that way, I mused. “Uh oh,” I said, abruptly.


“Under the lamp post.”

It was the stick, spider-like figure of Anansi. Who had something that could drain energy from gods.

“A spider.”

“Let’s not rush into the idea of stomping him.” I didn’t yet think we had reason. I just didn’t trust a trickster with something like that.

I trusted Loki marginally more. He probably would just dye Odin’s beard rainbow colored.

Anansi saluted me. “Trickster’s Daughter.”

“I try not to just be anyone’s daughter,” I informed him, glancing at Kanesha.

He turned to her. “And you. If you weren’t taken…”

Kanesha grinned. “You’d have to grow a set of breasts to interest me.”

I pointed out, amused, “He probably could. Loki can.”

Anansi laughed a bit. “Maybe the valkyrie, then?”

“No can do,” Thruor said, folding her arms. “I’m a one lover at a time kind of girl.”

“Shame.” He didn’t sound that serious, though. Almost as if he was going through the motions.

“I know what you took from Hell,” I said, quietly.

“Oh. Worried what I might do with it?” His left shoulder, spindly, lifted towards his ear.

“Maybe. I think I’d be happier if it was back in a vault in Asgard.”

“You mean the one Loki stole it from.”

He was probably speaking the truth. That would certainly explain how it had got in Hell in the first place…

“Yeah. Or maybe one with an extra lock on it.”

“He’d just steal it again and use it to play pranks. Why are you worried? I only plan on giving a few gods a hard time, and you aren’t one of them.”

“I guess I don’t want it falling back into the hands of something evil, like Lucifer or Apep.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll look after it, and when I’m tired of it?” He grinned and did a back flip down the street, followed by another, until he was out of sight.

“That’s a god who doesn’t want us looking too hard into what he’s doing,” Kanesha said.

I nodded. As usual, she was right.