Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 20

I’d not actually been to Zaid’s place before, although I had the address. It was a dingy little basement apartment, if anything even smaller than my place.

Typical DC if you weren’t rich. I wasn’t even sure what Zaid did for a living other than write books about Egyptian gods, which probably didn’t make them that much money.


“Just come on in.” The door wasn’t locked, although I could tell it was warded.

Zaid and Clara had, of all things, a world map out on the table.

“Any progress?”

“We’re pretty sure she’s at least on Earth somewhere. Which isn’t helpful, but it does mean this isn’t a complete loss,” Clara said with too much cheerfulness.

Zaid looked at me. Then at the young man. “This is the one who thinks they can take on gods?”

At the pronoun choice, the man blinked, kind of ducked his head. “I thought. Somebody told me gods were as powerful as you believe them to be.”

Zaid’s ringing laughter seemed almost feminine for a moment. “Oh dear. That’s circling again. It’s a misunderstanding.”

“Given she could have kicked my butt easily, yeah.”

Could have and didn’t. That probably counted for something. “They need to be convinced I’m not going to start Ragnarok tomorrow so I can be queen consort of Muspelheim.”

Zaid laughed again. “Oh dear. It’s those people again?”
“They’re unauthorized, although they may have been told to say that if caught.

His eyes kept flicking between us. “That…not that pronoun.”

Zaid looked at him. “Then which one do you want?”

He looked down again.

“Hey. Zaid and Clara don’t even know you. I don’t know your name. It won’t get back to your family.”


“Progress,” Zaid said. “You might have to leave her with me, though.”

Bobbi blushed scarlet.

“I figured. That’s why I brought…her…here.” Given how little Bobbi looked like a she, that was even harder than they. “But I wouldn’t mind a progress report.”

“What are you doing?” Bobbi asked.

“Looking for a missing supernatural.”

Clara nodded. “The problem is…”

“If we could find her by scrying, we’d already have found her,” I pointed out, gently.

“You’re going about it wrong, then,” Bobbi said nervously. “Make her find you.”

I had no idea how to do that, but I knew she was right.

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 19

I took him to a late night deli, sat him down and bought him soda.

“Okay. There’s…”

“I know. I thought we had a truce. Apparently, the truce is over. Except that they’re smarter than this. Did they tell you to go after me yourself?”
His head hung. “I thought…”

“Okay. So you’re stupid and in violation of a truce.”

“I thought you were…”

“But you…oh, you don’t believe me.” I grinned. “You just don’t want your butt kicked.” I cracked open my own can of soda, took a swig from it.


“Be honest. You thought you had some kind of cosmology thing that would let you beat a minor deity, and now you know you don’t…”

“Yeah. So, maybe I can beat you another way.”

“If there was any danger of me starting Ragnarok, then sure, you could try talking me out of it.”

“I dunno. If somebody was offering me a chance to be…you know…a princess and all.” He blushed.

“Wouldn’t you rather be a prince?”

He looked awkward. “Doesn’t the prince do all of the work?”

I tugged out my phone. I’d promised to let Clara talk to them, but…

“Who are you calling?”

“Somebody to set you straight about a few things. Somebody you aren’t afraid is going to set the entire planet on fire.”

I hit the speed dial. “Zaid, tell me you’re there.”

“I’m with Clara. What’s up?”

“Got a kid here who thinks mortals can fight gods. More courage than sense. And I think you’re the one they need to talk to.”

“Why don’t you come over and join us?” came the voice from the other end. “If they’re that brave…”

“I don’t want to pull them in. This is about something else.”

“We’re at my place. You know the address, right?”

I nodded and hung up. “Drink your coke. We’re going to show you some reality.”

He wasn’t about to argue with me.

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 18

The last thing I needed was another problem. I still went out for a walk that night. Maybe I was looking for a problem I could beat with a sword.

Those were so much nicer. Easier. Cleaner.

It was a shame that wasn’t what I found lately. I was thinking of other ways to steal the artifact when I got jumped.

Whoever it was was good. I ended up on the deck, but brought both feet up into their solar plexus, tossing them off with a grunt. “Not bad,” I called as I rolled back into a stance, trying to see who it was.

No aura. It was a rather foolish mortal. Did he work for the cultists?

“I have to stop you.”
“Stop me from doing what?”

“You’re going to cause Ragnarok.”

I circled, keeping out of his reach. “We’ve had this conversation. Well, maybe not you specifically, but your buddies.”

“We know now. It’s definitely you. You’re going to marry Surtur.”

“Nothing, trust me, is further from my mind.”

He aimed a kick at me. I dodged it easily. “Who the heck told you you could take me, anyway?”

“I can take you if I believe I can.”

“Uh huh. It doesn’t work that way.” I grabbed his wrist, mid punch, held him. “Now. Stop. Who set you on me?”

“A frien…” He stopped, realizing he couldn’t break my grip. “It…”

“Belief has power, kid, but not in the way they told you.” I let him go. “Just tell me who it was. I won’t kill them, just remind them that all they’re going to do by sending people after me is get said people hurt.”

“And you’re…”

“Not in the starting Ragnarok business. Also quite busy right now with an unrelated problem and not in the mood for this.” He was a big kid…he couldn’t have been more than nineteen, but now I had a good look at him, he was well over six feet tall.

“They said you’d think it was to fix the world. I’m not sure it wouldn’t, but we need to fix the world ourselves, not have it all wiped out…”

“I agree. Come on.”

“Come on?”

“We’re going to talk, that’s all.” He was already involved. “You deserve my side of the story if people are recruiting you.”

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 17

Logic took over quickly. If she was Aso, then I wouldn’t be able to claim her soul.

Kanesha had promised to go think of tactics. I went through the motions at school, so visibly distracted Clara cornered me at lunch.

“You’re not okay.”

“The ghosts that were around.”

“Well, they seem…”

“The root cause hasn’t been. And we need to find a spirit that could be anywhere.”

Clara frowned, “Any clues at all?”

“Just that she’s African. Probably Akan. But she could also be an animal.”

The frown deepened. “Does she want to be found?”

“We’re not sure on that. We just don’t have a better idea.”

“I’ll talk to Zaid.”

“Thanks.” I smiled. “Tell them we’re looking for the spider’s wife.” For some reason, I almost wanted to call Zaid female.

Probably because I was thinking of wives. It was an impossible task, though, without some kind of luck.

Or some kind of extra wisdom. Maybe the Norns would have an idea. They saw fates, after all.

But possibly not African fates. “I’m getting really tired of ending up entangled in the affairs of people who aren’t even my relatives.”

Clara laughed. “Try being a witch. Either people think you’re nuts or they…”

“…want love potions?”

She shook her head. “No such thing, really, but try telling them that. What the Medieval wise women sold as love potions were, well…” She blushed.


“Right, and they weren’t to use on somebody you wanted to be with, they were for using on your husband when…” She blushed even more.

“I get the picture.”

“Wise women were mostly healers, after all. And some of the stuff I’ve found out really did work, but while you could make somebody fall in love with you, it wouldn’t last once the spell wore off and they’d probably hate you.”

I grinned. “I don’t need a love potion.” I knew I didn’t. And if it didn’t last forever, well, so be it.

I hoped it would. “Thanks for talking to Zaid.”

I rather thought they would have a better idea than Clara herself of what to do.

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 16

Needles in haystacks had nothing on this. Finding Aso, asking her if she’d help, then trading her for the artifact seemed like a reasonable plan.

If we had the slightest bit of an idea as to where to look. Brother Death wasn’t helping except in one front: He put us back in DC without having to go back along the cliff.

“What was with the cliff anyway?” Kanesha asked.

Loki shrugs. “She throws people off it.” A pause. “Don’t worry. Only people who never did anything worth mentioning with their lives.”

I got it then. “That cliff is where people are forgotten. Nameless.”

“Exactly. So none of us were in any danger.”

“Do people deserve oblivion just because they didn’t do anything much?”

Loki shrugged. “Oh, I doubt they end up in oblivion. More likely recycled.”

Given another chance to do something worth remembering.

“I’m going to see if I can find Coyote,” he added, and vanished.

I glanced at Kanesha.

“I think I was in danger.”

I shook my head. “No. She can’t throw you off cliffs without asking me. And you heard what Brother Death said.”

“I still have a job to do.”

“Right. That means you’re important, and not just because I love you.”

I did worry a little bit about what it was, but it might be…

“I wonder what it is?”

“It might be as simple as saving somebody from a monster who then goes on to invent something cool,” I pointed out. “Or it might just be that I need you that much.”

“You just said that wasn’t it,” she quipped. “So. How do we find the spider’s missing wife?”

“Hiding wife. I’m fairly sure she’s hiding. I’m fairly sure she’s testing him.”

“You’d think this would get her to come out.”

“Spiders hide.” I let out a breath. “I doubt Mrs Spider is…actually, isn’t it usually Mrs Spider who spins webs?”

Kanesha nodded. “It is. Well. First of all, we have to assume she’s somewhere she can be found. She’s probably not a star or an alien on another planet.”

“I’m betting she’s a person. But that doesn’t help.”

“Well, she’s going to be African.”
“That narrows it down a lot.” I mock punched her.

“No. I can narrow it down further. If she’s a person, she’s Akan.”

I nodded. “That’s Anansi’s people.”

“Right. Exactly. Of course, there are probably people around of Akan descent who don’t know they are.”

“As long as it’s not you. Because if it is, I’m keeping you and he’ll just have to find somebody else.”

I didn’t even want to think about that possibility, but…

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 15

The African illusion disappeared, and we were at the edge of a town. It looked like…well. A town.

I knew it was part of the spirit world, though. It was a habitation of the dead. “Doesn’t look too bad.”

Brother Death shrugged. “For those who want to stay here. Most don’t. Aso didn’t.”

“Oh dear,” Kanesha said. “Then that’s not even an angle.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s been reborn. In some form. Possibly as a mortal woman…or a mortal man. Or an animal. Or a star.”

Brother Death nodded. “Yes.”

“So, Anansi tearing down the walls of death to find her’s a waste of time.” I frowned. “I mean, as well as being stupid.”


“But it means…it means we could deflect him.”

The death god shook his head. “I tried. He wouldn’t believe me. He wouldn’t believe she would do anything but wait for him.”

“Because if he did,” Kanesha said softly, “He might have to think she doesn’t love him any more.”

Maybe she didn’t, I thought. Maybe divine relationships sometimes didn’t last. “If she was a goddess…”

“She was. But you know that gods can die.”

“And she could have gone back to him.”

He shook his head. “That’s not how it works. She couldn’t. He has to find her. But he won’t look.”

It put a very different complexion on the problem. “How the heck do you find somebody who could be anything?”

“By love, of course.”

She could even have been multiple anythings. I shook my head slightly. “By knowing the person so well you know where they would have gone.”

“Exactly,” Anansi said. He glanced at Loki. “If Sigyn vanished, you would find her.”

“Unless she didn’t want to be found for a while.” He was inspecting his nails again. “Sometimes she likes to be alone.”

“Well, yes, but…”

“If she was taken from me, I would find her. I would…” He’d already said what he’d do and apparently decided it wasn’t time to repeat it.

“But Anansi…”

“Maybe,” I said sadly, “He didn’t love her as much as he thought he did.”

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 14

Finally. “No. You still have a job to do. I can’t tell what it is.” Slowly, he stood up.

“Loki. What exactly is the Norse trickster doing here?”

“Rescuing you,” Loki said, mildly. “Come on.”

“Why would you care?”

“Oh, because he’s trying to make it so everyone and everything lasts forever and just sits around with no change. You know what that would be.” Loki, apparently back to normal, inspected his nails. “Boring.”

I tried not to laugh, but Brother Death’s eyes were on me now. “And this would be your youngest?”

Loki nodded. “Not quite sure what we’re going to make of her yet.”

I thought about the fire, but didn’t bring that up. Instead I folded my arms. “Hello? Right here?”

He studied me again. “Well. I’m not going to take what your girlfriend offered.”

He did seem to be snapping out of it. “How do we…?”

Loki turned to me. “You did bring your sword, right?”

A stupid question given he could easily see the hilt. “What do you need cutting?”

“Look carefully. Look very carefully and you’ll see it.”

I peered, stepping around Brother Death until I saw it…a red cord that seemed to be connected to the god but at no specific point. “I see it.”

I drew the weapon and brought it down on the cord. It severed, sending red sparks everywhere, sparks that burned cold when they hit. One of them landed on my arm and left a nasty burn mark.

Brother Death yelped. “What did you do that for?”

“Wait a moment.”

He blinked. “Oh…”

Loki explained, “He was using a stolen artifact to drain your power. I just had her cut through the link. Give it time and you’ll be back to normal.”

Brother Death nodded, slowly. “Still have to stop him.”

“He was planning on collecting the other death gods.”

“Well, Owl Woman is here. Collecting your sister would probably get him frozen into a statue…”

“He tried to use me as bait.”

Loki laughed. “Like Hel would fall for that. She’d send somebody else.”

I grinned. “I figured the worst case scenario was he’d get you.”

“We still have to find the artifact,” Kanesha pointed out.

I looked at her. She was shaking and I slipped my left arm around her even though the right was still holding the sword.

“Loki. What does the dang thing look like?”

“It’s just a disk. He could be wearing it as a necklace or a belt buckle.”

I thought back to the Lincoln Memorial. “Necklace. He had a heavy gold chain around his neck.”

“That’s going to be hard to steal.”

I looked at Loki. “Could always find one of…” And then I remembered. “Aso.”

Brother Death frowned. “Aso…”

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 13

As we walked, I realized what he meant by a hole. Also, I still couldn’t see the trail, although as I concentrated, I could see that the glamor was…thinner. I could see through it too, given time.

Just not as easily as my dad. Which was only to be expected. Kanesha followed Loki, but the owl had taken to the air again.

The hole was a gap in the local reality. Or rather, a gap in the glamor. It wasn’t what I’d expected, though.
The cliff, the black desert, those had been dark places, not ones you wanted to linger. Brother Death’s hole was a pleasant pool surrounded by flowering trees.

But it had a different quality to it. “Might not be so easy.”

The death god was reclining on an old fashioned English deck chair. “Oh. Visitors.”

He sounded a little bit…out of it.

Loki stepped back around Kanesha and whispered, “Side effect. It makes you kind of…happy to be wherever you are.”

I whispered back. “Slap him?”


Kanesha, though, was stepping forward. “Brother Death.”

“A living mortal?” He peered at her. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here.”

“Anansi’s stealing your power and trying to use it to make everyone immortal.”

“He is?” He still sounded out of it. “Well, uh…”

“And we need to stop him.”

“But it’s so pleasant here.”

I let Kanesha do the talking and just studied the god. He seemed quite relaxed, a little overweight, and this was a beautiful spot.

He was also fading away. I could see it. If Anansi continued, there would be nothing left of Brother Death. Slapping him became more tempting.

Loki added, though, a little more loudly, “But we can’t touch him.”

I thought that was aimed at Kanesha.

“I know, but you’ve got a job to do. Vacation’s over.”

“For you?”
She shook her head. “Not yet. One day, but not yet.”

“Are you sure of that?”

I wanted to ask him to leave her alone. And I knew she would…gods, I knew she would do it if it would get him back to reality.

My mouth opened to speak her name, but I stayed silent.

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 12

“I found the trail. Come.”

She turned off onto some kind of side path. It was so narrow we had to stay single file, but I certainly wasn’t going to risk putting so much as a toe off of it.

Instead, I made sure I was at the back. Keeping Kanesha between me and Loki seemed smart.

But even Loki was subdued. He hadn’t said a word since admitting he liked vultures, which I wasn’t sure he hadn’t said just to get them on his side. The vulture was still following us.

Get them on his side or get them not to eat us? I still felt like it was planning on doing just that if we stepped off the path.

Then ahead I saw a black cliff. Or rather, it appeared that the world literally ended. Just a black, vertical… “Okay, it looks like we’re about to leave the movie.”

The owl woman laughed. “In a way, we are. Trust me and follow close.”

Did I trust her? I didn’t really have a choice, and so far none of us had been harmed.

Then I realized the wall of black was moving, slowly, towards us.

I knew what it was. “Are you absolutely sure?”

“Positive.” A pause. “Mostly.”

That actually made me feel better. I kept walking.
The black wall was cloud, mist, it washed over us, sent cold into the depths of me once more, then we were on the other side of it.

And, apparently, in Africa. Wilderness Africa. A vast plain, and in the distance I saw animals of some kind moving. No sign of human habitation or technology.

And it was still cold, even though the sun shone brightly. “This is even worse…”

The owl woman nodded. “This is not real.”

“And the rest was?” Kanesha quipped.

“Yes. What you saw reflected underlying reality there. What you see here is an Anansi story.”

Which meant we were in the right place. “Loki?” I asked.

“Hold on.”

He dropped onto one knee and put a hand on the ground. “Definitely a glamor, but a good one. He’s as good as me.”

“Break it?” I suggested.

He shook his head. “Nah. I’ll spare you what’s under it. But now I know where Brother Death is.”


He pointed ahead. “In the hole, of course.”

I couldn’t see a hole, but I trusted him.

“So? Let’s go get him.”

“It might not be that easy.”

Episode Twenty: Ghosts: Scene 11

Of course, when it leveled out, it got worse. A black desert full of dead trees opened out before us. Vultures circled overhead. I was pretty sure they were circling us.

“Well, at least it isn’t a cliff any more.”

The owl woman grinned. “You’ll never make a flyer out of that one,” she asided to me.

“I’m rather happy with her just the way she is.”

Loki strode slightly ahead, regarding the vultures. “I like vultures,” he noted.

One of them landed on the tree in front and squawked at him.

The owl woman grinned. “They don’t hear that very often.”

I wasn’t surprised. Really, they were vultures. Kind of ugly and ate dead things. Although they did have rather splendid wings.

And I supposed something had to eat dead things.

“Be aware, though. The cliff was my realm. Now we approach Brother Death’s.”

“That doesn’t seem like the place to find him if he’s been kidnapped.”

“Oh, he’s not there. But I can track him from there.”
With that, she spread her feathered cloak and took off. Presumably, she trusted that we would stay on the trail without her. The vulture joined her.

“I do not want wings,” Kanesha informed me.

“You wouldn’t make a valkyrie then,” Loki quipped.

From the way he said it it sounded like he thought that was possible. I made a note to ask Thruor if mortal women ever became valkyries.

“No, I guess I wouldn’t.” She stayed close to me as we walked across the desert. Waiting for the owl woman to return, but staying on the path.

I’d always thought of deserts as hot. This one was cold, so cold that I felt it in my bones.

This was a place for the dead and those that fed on them, and the living could never be comfortable here. Could the dead?

I hadn’t seen any dead people, but they were probably all hanging out with Anansi while he tried to work out how to give them bodies.

Which, of course, he couldn’t. There was only so much mass on the planet, and it was all being used. “I worked out why he got ghosts.”


“Because their bodies have all been, you know, recycled.”

Kanesha considered. “Oh, good point. Physical resurrection…that would…”

“You’d have to bring in a ton of mass from somewhere, and I suppose that’s more power than he has yet.”

“Or change the rules so spirits are solid in our world.”

Freya’s warriors were, I mused. “Some of them are.”

“But I think that takes…” Kanesha frowned.

I resolved to work out what it took, right as the owl woman returned.