Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 31

The ramen place was small, noisy and had wooden benches. We took over one long table, ordering our broth. I slipped an arm around Kanesha. “So, we actually have everything dealt with.”


Until a bedraggled, wet, Monica stepped in. We slid along to make room for her. “I won’t ask how you knew we were here.”

She looked awful. Thinner. Starting to lose her hair. “At least you got rid of…you did get rid of whatever was messing with life and death?”

“I did. With a bit of help.”

She looked around the group. “Good, because if my dream last night is anything to go by, we have a new problem.”

“Ten minutes. Is that a new record?” Mike asked.

I grinned at him. “As long as it’s only one problem at once.” I turned back to her. “Spill it, and I’ll pay for your ramen.”

“I was going to spill it anyway. First of all, a bunch of fire giants is raiding Vanaheim. Which isn’t a huge problem. They’ll get sent home with their tails between their legs. But…”

I waited for the but, hoping the waitress didn’t come over until Monica had finished.

“But there’s some spillover.”

“That might be what we already dealt with today. We sent three of them back to Muspelheim the hard way.”

“I hope so, but the vision I had had frost giants, fire giants and a bunch of minor Vanir going at it in the middle of the Mall.”

I sighed. “I hope not. Let’s try and head that off. After the death stuff, people are starting to get suspicious that something really weird is going on.”

“I’ll give you what I can,” she promised.

The waitress showed up at that point and started to take orders. Not that it was hard, this being the kind of place where the menu was pretty short and consisted of variations on a theme.

I was actually amused by the idea of a knock down fight in the middle of the Mall, but I was determined to stop it from actually happening.

Just as she took the last order, the door opened again, letting in a blast of rain and with it an arctic cold that did not belong in DC, even in DC winter.

My head snapped towards the door.

Dressed like a biker, Angrboda was striding into the room.

“I think that’s who causes frost giants, fire giants and Vanir fighting in the middle of the Mall,” I asided to Monica.

“Oh,” was all she said.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 30

And Thruor had taken care of the driver before I had chance to breathe.

“You killed them?” Raina whispered.

“They were fire giants. They can’t die here. They’re just banished,” I told her, quietly.

“Like demons, then?”
“It’s the same principle.” I knew they weren’t all evil, though. But then, were all demons? I could never be sure on that front either. No, they were. Because they had chosen to be. Or had we all chosen our own nature?

Tyz’vel was just plain annoying.

“Okay.” She relaxed. “Sorry, I thought you were just going to beat them up and chase them off.”

My lips quirked. “Had to go all the way with that type.” I turned to Thruor. “They weren’t working for Surtur.”

“Working against him?”

I nodded. “And apparently resorting to drawing power from mortal witches.”

Raina shook her head. “Which is why I helped. That’s just plain rude.”

“I agree. But I wish I’d got more out of them.”

They’d been too good to take alive, though; and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t have let me anyway. When you know death’s just a trip home, there’s really no reason to let yourself be captured. Unless, of course, you want to be.

Mike was searching the truck. “I found the brand they were using. I’ll tell them we found the truck, but the suspects bunked.”

Best way to explain it, especially as there weren’t any bodies. Which was a good thing. Bodies would have been much harder to explain than a bit of ash in an alleyway. It was starting to rain.

“I vote we find…”

“I,” Kanesha interrupted. “Vote we take over this ramen place that’s about three blocks away.”

That sounded like a very appealing plan. “We can stash the weapons in Mike’s car.”

He wasn’t objecting to that, and the group of us headed down the street, looking, I thought, rather badass. He’d managed to cut my arm, but it was already healing quickly and I was sure the sore ribs would.
And hot broth would be just what poor Raina needed after watching that…and helping, too.

She’d probably never been in a real fight before.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 29

I didn’t actually go all the way through the wall, but it was dang close. I picked myself up, but by now he had my sword in one hand and his in the other.

I wished I had one of those intelligent swords that didn’t like being wielded by anyone not me. In the absence of that, I’d have to rely on…

…Kanesha stabbing him from behind. He hissed and whirled, which gave me the perfect opening to leap on him, choosing my angle carefully so that her rather fragile form wouldn’t end up crushed under both of us.

We hit the pavement with such force I heard a couple of things crack, and I was pretty sure at least one was one of his ribs. He was also bleeding, but the blood that came from him was so hot it was almost aflame. Kanesha had rolled clear. I managed to get my hand around one of the blades and rip it from him.

It was his sword and it was very hot. I was pretty sure a normal person couldn’t have wielded it.

“Ready to yield yet?”

“To somebody who has mortals fight her battles?” he snarled.

“At least I’m not kidnapping them to steal their magic. Not getting enough crumbs from Surtur’s table?”

I was on my feet again, and we faced each other…with the wrong swords. I really was glad now that he didn’t have some legendary blade.

He snarled. “Surtur is a fool.”

“I agree, but you aren’t any better.” Our blades met in the space between us, sparks of flame flying off. They ignited some of the rubbish in the alleyway. The third fire giant was getting out of the truck. The second was now tied up with glowing ropes that I could only assume were Riana’s.

Or maybe Seb’s. He broke them a moment later, but it held him long enough for Thruor’s blade to slide through the air…and through his neck.

She hadn’t hesitated and I wasn’t going to either. “You guys take the getaway driver. I got this!”

“Confident now?”

I grinned. “One on one. You don’t want anyone else fighting my battles?”

I could feel a throbbing pain in my side. I’d worry about fixing that later.

“I can see why Surtur wants you. You’re only marginally more honorable than he is.”

I laughed. “You know who’s daughter I am. You think I care about honor?”

I actually did, but not so much as to want to get killed for it. Our blades met again, and I slid mine away in a particular way, striking him in the stomach. Now he was bleeding more, but his caught in my arm.

Nobody else was interfering now. “What I care about is that you ensorceled a mortal woman under my protection. Yet, you complain that I let them fight my battles?”

He snarled and lunged. I ducked under it, and now I felt his sword go under his ribs and into his heart.

He crumpled into ashes. That was two of them sent home…

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 28

They did. Almost.

One of them stayed in the pickup and had it right where we’d been hoping to block them in, according to what Mike relayed.

“Shoot their tires?” I suggested.

“Might do that once things heat up.”

I was way back in the maze of alleyways, already astride the bike. Thruor was up in one of the buildings, all ready to come down the fire escape.
We’d decided I was likely to be more obvious than she was. A lot more obvious. The other two came sauntering into the alleyway, to where the young woman – her name was Raina – was smoking an e-cig she shouldn’t have had.

I don’t think it had actual tobacco in it.

“Hey, lady, how about a good time?”

She blew smoke in his face. “No thanks.”

“Don’t waste your time, just grab her.”

And that was their cue. Seb and Kanesha came out of doorways they’d been flattened into, drawing their weapons.

Unfortunately, one of them managed to grab Raina, slipping a knife across her throat.

She cursed and tried to cast a spell, it fizzled, but distracted him enough to swear, “Take the other two while I deal with her.”
Of course, they couldn’t and didn’t want her dead.

I didn’t care at this point if we killed them. Advantage us, I thought as I powered the bike, swinging around into the alleyway.

The one not holding Raina swore again and started to charge me, but found Kanesha and Seb smoothly in his way. That freed me to head towards her.

She cast again, and this time it worked, turning the knife blade into rubber. Or apparently doing so. Real or illusion, he threw the knife away, and she twisted out of his grip right as I slammed into him.

I assumed the gunshot was Mike shooting out their tires. I didn’t have time to worry about it beyond that.

He was as strong as I was and more experienced, and he managed to get my wrist and twist my sword out of my hand, although he didn’t catch it. I stepped into him, shoving my hip into his solar plexus and trying to send him to the ground that way.

“You. Why is it always you?”

“I’m a bad penny,” I said as I managed to get my elbow into his ribs. He retaliated by grabbing me and throwing me into the wall.

Bricks cracked.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 27

Ambushing the fire giants was going to take timing. One of Clara’s fellow trainees did agree to act as bait – a slender young woman with dark enough skin to make one question whether she should be classed as white, and very black hair.

I would stay way back, with Thruor’s steed, ready to come sweeping in. We did not have any other witches, but Seb and Kanesha were in position, both armed. Mike had his personal car ready to swing across the entrance to the alleyway we planned to lead them into.

Seb was briefing the young woman. I stood with Thruor, frowning. “I had a talk with Angrboda.”

“And realized that not everything is black and white.” Her lips quirked. “We aren’t so different from them. We are more than them. Our passions are greater, including our capacity for love and hate. And when you love somebody and hate them.”

“…you can hurt them in unimaginable ways.” I nodded. “But the thing is…”

“The thing is that Odin can see the future.”

I nodded. “And he locked up Fenris because he was trying to avoid it, not realizing he was actually causing it. But she implied that the way he’s treating me is the same.”

“There’s more than one possibility. I know what he’s up to. I think you do.”

“Helping me make a less biased choice. And besides, I wouldn’t have met Kanesha.”

“Or if you had you would have been too afraid to love her.”

“You aren’t afraid to love Mike.”

She looked at me. “Sometimes I can see the future too.” And then, abruptly, she left to find her own position.

What future had she seen for Mike? I was worried, all of a sudden. This was going to be a tough fight, but not that tough. I pushed the thought out of my mind.

We would make sure the mortals got enough protection to be safe without being useless. They needed to take their risks.

And any of them might die. They all knew that. And maybe Thruor was worried about Mike too.

Sometimes, I can see the future too.

Sometimes, I thought, seeing somebody’s future was as simple as knowing them well enough to know what they would do, what stupid things, what they might achieve.

Mike was the type to get killed one day doing this. And Thruor knew it. And that was all it was, and I felt myself relax.

He’d provided us with security style communication. My earbud crackled with his voice. “I see a blue pickup.”


Hopefully they’d fall for it.


Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 26

I discovered Loki had also taken care of me being sick at school. I got expressions of sympathy from several quarters about the rotten cold I’d apparently had while really chasing around Africa.

Afterwards, I hooked up with Seb. “So, any luck?”

“Would help if that dang dog of yours would talk.”

I laughed. “He’s still just a dog.” As if the thought of him had conjured his presence, which it likely had, the dog showed up and shoved his nose under my hand for a scratch.

“But no, we haven’t found them yet. Hopefully we will before…”

“Before they strike again. Clara?”

“Out of the hospital. Recovering physically and magically. Not mad with you.”

“We need bait,” I said finally, grimly. “I hate the idea, but the only way we’re going to find them is bait.”

Seb nodded. “Maybe one of Clara’s coven sisters could do it.”

“If I was more confident about hiding magical signatures, I’d disguise myself. But that seems to be a little ropy.”

He frowned, then nodded again. “Then we’ll have to ask them and set up a nice ambush for the fire giant bastards.”

“Who will sense me immediately.” I frowned. “So, I need to not be there, or to be a bit further away with a quick way of moving in.”

“Maybe you can borrow Thruor’s bike.”

“She’s not a bike,” I said with a grin. “I’ll ask them.” Knowing it wasn’t just Thruor I needed to ask.

“Okay. Or…”

I shook my head. “I can’t do dimensional portals. I think that’s locked out until Odin decides to let me go back.”

And I had made up my mind not to care. Angrboda had a point, but he was still…he was still the boss. The one in charge. The one responsible for the good and the bad.

I respected him.

“He really needs to…”
“Stop that. Besides, I’m not going anywhere for right now.” I didn’t tell him I didn’t feel comfortable in Asgard, because it scared me more now I’d thought about the implications.

You will never be one of my sisters. The knowing way Angrboda had looked at me. The implication I felt and feared was that I was meant to be on the side generally considered evil.

She had wanted me to doubt which side truly was.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 25

Back on Earth, I sipped at hot chocolate to get rid of the lingering chill.

“I almost wish I’d gone with you.”

I made a face, “Kanesha, you’d have turned into an icicle. I don’t think you have thermal clothing anywhere near up to it.”

She grinned. “You’d have thawed me out.”

The implication in her voice was obvious. “I was cold too. So, you, icicle.”

She made a face at me. “In other words, you wouldn’t be willing to get cold for me?”

I could tell she knew I was goofing off. “You’re just annoyed you didn’t get to meet giants.”

“Why would I want to? They’re pains in the neck. Especially your dad.”

I laughed. “Remember what that makes me.”

“Seriously hot?”

“Okay, okay.” Bedroom time was clearly where we were heading. “But let me get warm first.”

I didn’t want to hug her while I still felt this chilled.

“Then there had better be more of that hot chocolate.”

“There’s plenty.” I curled my hands around the mug. “It’s gone. But we still have Clara’s problem to deal with.”

And the big, fiery problem I was nowhere close to a solution for.

“So, what was Angrboda like?”

“Nice. Believe it or not, nice. She wanted to use the artifact to free Fenris, but seemed to decide it was a bad idea.”

“Maybe she doesn’t want the world to end either.” Kanesha frowned. “I mean, she might…”

“Might well die in the fighting. She struck me as the type who would fight.”

After what Odin did to her kids. I added, “Ultimately, I think she wanted me to think carefully about who’s side I’m on.”

“And who’s are you on?”

“Stopping Ragnarok. I don’t fully trust Odin, but I like him.” Which was an odd position to be in, given what he’d done to my siblings. “Which I shouldn’t, but I do.”

Kanesha grinned. “That’s because you like everyone. Except Tyz’vel.”

“Don’t even say that name.” I finished my hot chocolate, jumped out of my seat and pretty much made her shut up with kisses.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 24

“No, go ahead, you do it.”

I lifted my hand and sent a fireball down into the chasm after the disk. “We did it.” I didn’t like using fire, but it was there.

And maybe I was actually better with it than he was. “You set me up,” I accused.

“I wanted you to meet her.”

“So, what, you trusted me to get it back from her? Or didn’t you care?”

“Oh, come on, her trying to use it against the Aesir would have been quite entertaining.”

“You hate her that much?”

He considered that. “Nah.”

I realized the story didn’t really go into who dumped who. I decided I didn’t want to actually know. Maybe it was mutual.

But there had to have been something strong between them to last out three children. Which could easily turn into hate.

He turned and started to walk back. Not knowing how to get out, I had no choice but to follow.

“She left me,” he said, finally.

“Because you were probably sleeping with Coyote on the side.”

Sigyn could tolerate that, by her very nature.
“It wasn’t Coyote!”

I grinned. “Oh, why are you protesting, given the two of you have been hanging out in gay bars.”

“Well, it wasn’t.” He snorted at me. “Not that you can talk about same sex.”

“I can talk about being a slut.”

It wasn’t really an argument. It was a comfortable thing, in some ways, but I was totally going to get him back for almost causing Ragnarok by walking right past his ex’s doorstep with an artifact nobody could resist playing with.

Well, I’d resisted, but that was only because I was afraid to do what I’d have ended up doing with it.

Maybe it said something about my nature. Maybe it just said something about my awareness of what it could do.

I shuddered at the thought of the babies and hurried after Loki.

Okay, maybe a little bit of the shudder was the cold.

He was quite right. Even we felt the cold in Jotunheim.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 23

Last time I trusted him, I thought. I kept my gaze on her. “You could start Ragnarok,” I said, quietly. “Everyone would blame Loki, because they always do.”
And because it sort of was his fault. He hadn’t wanted to get it close to Surtur, and I understood that, but Angrboda might be…

No, she was not just as bad. There was something in her eyes.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t?”

My reason was so personal. “Because they haven’t completely messed things up yet and deserve a chance to put them right.”

“Eh. You aren’t telling all of the truth, Lokisdottir.” An emphasis on his name.

“I went and fell in love with one of them.”

“Ha. Always foolish, that. Sure, you think right now you can cherish his soul forever, but he changes, you don’t. You’ll tire of him before the end of his mortal life.”

I considered that. “Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, and I’m well aware it’s stupid.” And I felt I had to add. “And it isn’t a he.”

“Ha. As bad as your sire, you are.”

I grinned. “That implies there’s something wrong with it. And I don’t bed hop.” I grinned again, right at Loki this time.

“Sure, sure.”


Did he blush? Nah. Had to be an effect of the light.

“Like I said.” Angrboda studied me. “So, you think they haven’t messed things up beyond repair? What if they have?”

“They haven’t.”
“And if they do?”

I looked away. If they did…and if it was the only way to fix it. Or if, what if Ragnarok actually was that, what if it was a way of saying there would be disasters if people pushed too hard at the boundaries of the cycle? If they didn’t remember how to live with the world and as part of it?

“You understand, then. I was worried you didn’t.” Pause. “Why do you not use the artifact against your enemies?”

“Because I don’t trust myself with it any more than I trust anyone else.”

“Your mother had much hand with you, I see.” Angrboda smiled slightly. “I hear her echoes in your words.”

“Don’t we all echo our mothers?” And I thought of my meeting with Hel. “Your daughter certainly echoes you.”

She tossed the artifact from one hand to the other. “Maybe I’ll take over Jotunheim.”

Then she tossed it at me. “Nah. I think you’re the only person who can be trusted with this. Use it or destroy it.”

The temptation grew within me. “Destroy it,” I said, perhaps too quickly.

I really didn’t trust myself with it.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 22

Loki had set us all up. Of course he had. I loved him, but right now I wanted to hit him.

And I wasn’t all that keen on Angrboda’s idea of a good meal, either. Spit roasted pig I could get behind, but I wasn’t sure what those greens were.

Probably the only thing they could get to grow here. And the tea she offered us appeared to have been made out of moss and bark. It tasted surprisingly good for that, but…I’d rather have a hamburger.

Probably makes me a bad Asgardian, and I certainly wasn’t about to say it in front of her.

She did not, however, live in…okay, she did live in a cave, but it was a comfortable, well furnished cave. More like a hobbit hole than something one would imagine Neanderthals living in. Yes, there were cured furs as rugs, but that wasn’t so bad, and we sat around a table cut of stone.

Not many trees, it seemed, in Jotunheim.

“So, you really intend to destroy this?” she said, finally, after the meal.

“Yes,” I said firmly. “You can’t tell me…”

She laughed. “Oh, I was watching Anansi with some amusement. Having somebody else’s power, that’s easy. Having a clue how to actually use it, that’s a little more difficult.”

I relaxed inwardly. “I suppose, we all get the power we need.”
“And choose. And which fits us.” She studied me. “Oh ho. Now this could be really interesting.”

I didn’t ask her what, because I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to even remotely consider telling me for half a second.

Loki leaned forward. “So, what are you going to do with it, dear?”

I almost elbowed him.

“Hrm. I could take over Jotunheim. I could…hrm. No, it doesn’t work on artifacts.”

The chains that bound Fenris. Except that I wasn’t sure Fenris had needed to be bound before. Now? Now he was likely to start eating people because they’d done that.

Every evil that faced Asgard was created by Asgard. It was an insight, and a sharp one. People didn’t hate you for no reason.

“We can’t let him go. But they shouldn’t have tied him up in the first place.”

“From the mouths of babes. Maybe you won’t be Odin’s blind, following servant after all.”

I shook my head. “I never have been.”

“Oh, no. You were. Then he did it to you too, exiled you for something you might do. Always his mistake.”

If she was right…but no. I would not bring down Asgard. “None of us are perfect. If we were…”

“If we were there would be no mortal world.” That was Loki, soft. “So, Angrboda. What will you do?”