Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 21

I managed to suppress a shiver as she released me and stepped back. “Give me one good reason why I should let you past?”

“The fact that I have this and haven’t used it on you yet.” He let her glimpse the disk.

That might be foolish, but then, he knew her better than I did.

She gave a soft harrumph. “And what do you plan on doing with that little trinket?”

“Getting rid of it.”

“Without using it?”

Loki shrugged. “It’s already caused enough entertainment. I decided I wasn’t up for the end of the world just yet.”

I felt a small sense of satisfaction. I had convinced him after all.
She laughed. “But that would mean our sons were free.”

I knew what was going to happen next, and my sword came out in a moment as I tried to move between the two.

But I was far too slow. In a moment, she had the disk. A moment later, Loki was frozen as in amber.

She could only hold one of us. I reminded myself of that. I also knew I couldn’t kill her.

“What of it?” she said, turning to me. “Don’t you want to meet your brothers?”

I kept my gaze even. “Unfortunately, I’ve developed a certain fondness for humans.”

“Oh, bah. Now, let’s see.”

It only worked on one of us. If she wanted to trap me, she’d have to release Loki.

But I knew I couldn’t fight her. How had a giantess moved so fast? And it was as if it was all the fire in me could do to keep me warm here.

Apparently, I’d missed out altogether on any frost giant heritage. And I was in Jotunheim, on her turf.

Had Loki intended this? Perhaps subconsciously. If she used him to start Ragnarok I couldn’t be angry with him for it.

“No clue what to do, have you.” She smiled. “You could join me for a meal.”

“Not unless you let him go. Freezing a guest is against the laws of hospitality.”

Softly, “It is, isn’t it.”

And she released him.
“Good move. Angrboda values her honor.” Loki shook himself like a dog.

But she still had the artifact and I still had no idea how to get it back from her.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 20

No, I didn’t trust Loki to actually destroy the artifact. On his own.

“I’ll do it.”

“I’m coming with you.”

He smirked. “Oh, ye of little faith.”

“Oh, come on, if I don’t, you’ll make a side trip to put Thor into an enchanted sleep and dye his beard green.”

“I was thinking purple, actually. Purple is definitely his color.”

I grinned. “Let’s go. So, how are we going to destroy it, anyway? Cracks of doom in Muspelheim or something?”

He shook his head. “That might work, but I’m not taking it…or you….that close to Surtur. I have a better idea, but dress warmly.”

I grabbed my down jacket off the hook and followed him outside. “Jotunheim, then?”

He nodded. “Jotunheim. And trust me, anyone but a pure frost giant feels the cold there.”

I shrugged. “I got it. Let’s go.”

He sketched a portal in the air and we stepped through with a rainbow swirl. I supposed I’d have to learn to do that one day.

Not yet. Definitely not yet. I was supposed to stay on Earth for a reason. But we walked along a path, now, that gradually become colder and more ice covered. The latter was to the point where I was wishing for crampons. “I need better boots for this.”

Loki nodded. “Hold on.” He stepped off the path and came back with two sets of crampons. I didn’t ask where he found them.

Maybe he’d just slipped back to Iceland and borrowed them. I strapped them on and then went back to walking.

Much better. “So, what are we going to do with it?”

“Toss it into a bottomless void then throw a grenade of sorts after it. It’ll shatter it and leave the pieces somewhere nobody will find them until Ragnarok.”

That, I decided, was good enough for me. Then there was a woman in our path. “Loki, what the heck do you think you’re doing coming here and bringing her?”

“Job for Odin,” he said.

“Oh, and, what, he sent a baby to make sure you did it instead of goofing off?”

She stepped around him and before I could react, had her large hand under my chin, studying me. “So, this is the new one.” Our eyes met.

She was old, this one. And close to being a goddess herself. “Hello, Angrboda.” Who else could it be? Hel’s mother. Loki’s lover, or possibly his first wife. The mother of Fenris.

The mother of monsters.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 19

Getting out of there turned out to be easier than we’d expected. With the artifact in our hands and Ereshkigal released, Odin reopened Bifrost.

We took a short cut. I kept the fake passport, mind. It would do until I could get a real one, and I was waiting on that until I was eighteen and could legally change my name.

Jane S. Rudi. Hopefully, not too many people would ask what the S stood for. The contrast between Africa and Asgard was, well, even more than I thought it should have been.

Cold. High mountains. Beautiful. And I knew I should feel it was home, but I wasn’t sure. I was not absolutely certain, and that thought bothered me. Was it my giant heritage making me feel a little uncomfortable?
Was it just the fact that I’d been sent to Earth for a reason?

Was it just the fact that Kanesha wasn’t there and I couldn’t even imagine her being there? Either way, I was glad to step out of an alleyway into a somewhat cool, wintry DC. Not that Washington was really home either, but it was where she was, where my friends were.

And it was some place I didn’t stand out like an alien. Of course, by the original sense of the term I had been, and by some senses of the term I definitely was one.

Still, here, I did not stand out, at least any more than any other attractive woman. We headed straight for Mike’s.

I wondered if Seb had made any progress on Clara. Kanesha’s response to my email hadn’t contained a status report, just an I love you, too.

She was there, though, and she pounced me when I appeared almost as much as Anansi had pounced Aso.

“We got it.”


“My backpack.” Which I’d kept with me the entire time.

“What do we do with it now?”

“Well, supposedly, Loki knows how to destroy it, so we ask him. For right now, I’m certainly not tempted to use it.”

“Even on Surtur?” Thruor said, wryly.

“Okay. I’m tempted to use it on him.” Vacations. Responsibility. I shuddered inwardly. “But I won’t. I’ll find another way to deal with him.”

“Maybe we could not destroy it and keep it in reserve?” Kanesha suggested.

“I don’t think it’s safe anywhere or in any hands,” I said, grimly. “It almost broke the world. If it’s used again, it might do something that makes Ragnarok necessary. No. We destroy it.”

The look I got from Thruor was one of deep approval.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 18

The hotel windows exploded. Thankfully, away from us.

Then he was there. “What…”

“Next time,” Thruor said grimly. “Next time your wife needs a vacation, let her have one. In peace.”

I had moved so I was a good bit away from Enitan, expecting what happened next…him literally sweeping her off of her feet.

They both now had a certain amount of gender ambiguity about them. “Aso, Aso…”

“Maybe we should leave them to it?” I murmured. “I mean, we can’t tell them to get a room.”

“Ask him,” Thruor said, then grabbed our bags and headed for the door. “No, so we’ll get one.”

I felt it like a shudder as they embraced, although I didn’t hear her ask him. Or maybe I did. She’d said something, anyway. It wasn’t in English, it wasn’t in any language I knew.

I knew…I knew it was over. He had his wife back and I wanted my girlfriend back, just thinking about that. But at least I knew where she was. And at least I knew she wasn’t about to ask for time away, time apart.

Gods taking vacations. Probably why Freya liked to ride with the valkyries.

“The artifact. Give us the artifact,” I demanded.

Anansi frowned.

“You have her back. Now stop breaking the cycle.”

After a moment, he tossed it to me. It felt very cold. Then we were out the door.

“First thing in the morning,” I told Thruor. “We’re going home.”

I wasn’t about to ask her to drive in the dark after what she’d said, but I was more than ready to start at dawn. This place was beautiful and it had a future, and it wasn’t the empty, poverty-stricken wasteland I’d expected.

But it wasn’t for me. I didn’t belong here, and for a moment I wondered if that meant I didn’t belong with Kanesha.

No, a voice said in my mind that might have been Odin’s, or merely my own conscience. Mortals could choose. Mortals had that freedom.
We defined our natures and then walked within them. She had chosen me, and I had the right and responsibility to let her do just that. Something those who believed people should all follow the gods of their ancestors didn’t understand.

We aren’t allowed to interfere with human free will.

I didn’t sleep that night. I had too much to think about, but by the time we got up a morning paper told us the crisis was over, over and soon to be forgotten. I hoped. It felt like a crack in the veil between our world and theirs, something that could be papered over, but not fixed.

Something that could not be repaired, and I worried about that. Were we about to return to the time when heroes openly walked alongside the gods?

Kanesha walked at my side.

Did that make her a hero?

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 17

Thruor caught up with us at the hotel room. I’d dropped the glamors and raided the mini bar – what? Thruor was paying the tab.

“So…you think…you think I’m the reincarnation of Anansi’s wife?”

“You’re our lead candidate. We both sense…something…about you. And the way you reacted to his name.”

She dropped her head into her hands. “Do you know what Enitan means?”


“Person of story.” She smiled weakly. “And my mother said she was told to call me that.”

It was, perhaps, the last piece. “Then how the heck couldn’t he find you?”

“Because I don’t want him to.” She looked up. “Okay. I didn’t want him to. I just wanted. I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

Clearly, she was on the verge of tears. “You wanted a break. You wanted not to be a goddess for a while. But you can’t do that for too long.”

Her head dropped into her hands again.

“He thinks you’re in the realm of the dead. He’s doing all of this crazy stuff to get you back. He loves you.”

And I knew that all that was really needed for him to get her back was for her to want to. She’d wanted a vacation.

A vacation. That was what all of this was about. I wanted to be sympathetic, but I couldn’t.

Then I thought of my own fear of actually dealing with Surtur and ending up with his job, and found more of that in my heart.

“Your vacation’s over,” Thruor said, gently. “Call him.”

She frowned. “I don’t…”

“You don’t need to remember how.” I let a small piece of fire curl over my hand then dissipate. “It’s inside you.”

“And do you think…”

“He’ll stop if you ask him. I’d…do pretty much anything my lover asked of me.” And I trusted that Kanesha would never ask me for anything that was beyond the pale. Never expect more of me than I could or would give.

“Ask him to stop,” Thruor said. “And ask him to let her go.”

She nodded, slowly. “Alright.”

Was a dusty hotel room in Sierra Leone really the right place to do this? Somehow, it lacked ceremony.

But I had thought of that entirely too late.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 16

The vampires, though, didn’t seem to want to start something in the restaurant. Instead, they positioned themselves at the doors.

“They’re working for somebody.”
Thruor nodded. “Okay. We’ll have to get out through the kitchen.”
“And my who me field doesn’t work so well here. Probably the great disguise we brought.”

“Go to the ladies room,” she told me. “Can you do a full glamor?”

I nodded.

“Okay. Go with her, Enitan.”
I knew what Thruor had in mind, immediately. “You can handle them?”

“Four obayifo? I can handle them. But not…”

Not with Enitan in the way. I offered her my hand. “Come on.”

We slipped out into the ladies room, and then I worked the glamor. She blinked as I changed completely.

“You are a witch.”

“No,” I said. “I’m not.” And neither are you, I was almost tempted to add. But I couldn’t afford having her freak out. “Now…”

I hadn’t practiced glamoring other people as much, but I was pretty sure I had something solid. “Now we walk right out the front door and hope they’re slow to react.”
Anansi had seen through my glamor, after all, but these were much more minor supernaturals. I was pretty sure I could handle it.

I strode out into the street, and turned casually towards the hotel. They didn’t follow.

“So, what makes you think you’re a witch?” I asked.

“I see things. Know things. It’s past intuition. And I don’t know why I feel comfortable trusting you with it, except that I know you don’t belong here.”

I grinned. “An outsider isn’t going to get you lynched, right?”

“Right.” She relaxed. Her English was good, with the occasional word of that other dialect slipping in.

Hotel concierge. I wondered why Thruor hadn’t picked the hotel she worked at, then realized that she would be recognized there, and we might be stopped. “We need your help.”


“We need you to help us talk to Anansi.”

“What makes you think he’d listen to me?”

I frowned. I was still far too afraid to tell her the truth.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 15

“I should have sent Kanesha.”

Thruor shook her head. “Wait.”

I pushed some more of the food around my plate. It was good, but I wasn’t that hungry.

Then I felt her come in. I sensed her. She was wearing a red and white dress, that fell below her knees and was strapless. Her skin was, like most of the people here, even darker than Kanesha’s.

“It’s her,” I murmured.

“Kanesha wouldn’t have been able to confirm that.”

I was pretty sure Thruor sensed it too. Maybe she’d just wanted a second person so she could be absolutely sure.

“You’re the spider collectors?” she asked as she approached. “You’re brave, coming here.”

“The outbreak’s over,” I noted.

“Mostly. You’re still brave.”

I grinned. “Don’t worry about us.” Now, what did we say to her? Lay it all out, the truth? “Besides, with what’s going on…”

She tensed. “Witchcraft is what’s going on. Or something.”

Thruor shook her head. “It’s not witchcraft. It’s not somebody trying to stop the remaining people from dying. Too powerful for that.”

She narrowed her eyes. “White people don’t…”

But she sat down anyway. I turned my face towards her a little. “It’s a god doing it.”
And to that, she nodded. “Which one?”


And a shudder went through her. “I…”

I reached to put my hand on her wrist. She let me. The contrast made her look even darker and me even paler. “You remember.”

“I don’t remember. I just…I’m a witch. Or something. I just know, and he’s looking for me, and…”

This might be easier than I thought. “He is. And I know all about knowing without remembering.” I felt a smile curl the left corner of my mouth. “I have experience with it.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m not going to say here.”

“I thought…”

I removed my hand. “Thruor, I think the vampire’s back, and I think she brought friends.”



She frowned and then shook her head a little bit. “Obayifo.”

“Let’s just ignore her until she starts something,” Thruor suggested.

I didn’t want to be seen starting a fight in a strange place, but I knew she was right with that until.

And I knew we would have to finish it.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 14

The streets were dry and dusty, lined with clapboard buildings, some of which looked like the pictures I’d seen of Tombstone, Arizona. A mosque with teal minarets made things less wild west, and more…well. It was actually a pretty city, in its own way.

And we stuck out like sore thumbs. Two white, blonde women rolling into town. People on the street wore jeans or slacks and t-shirts. Some of the women had colorful dresses or tunics over slacks. I didn’t see anything that I would have considered traditional African dress.

Probably the jeans were cheaper. The vehicles I saw were mostly SUVs and pickups, and I assumed that the minor roads in town were pretty bad.

“Do we have an address?”

Thruor nodded. “Yes. But I’m going to check us into the hotel first. I’m not driving in this country at night. Too much of that road wasn’t fenced.”

I saw her point. Wildlife and possibly bandits? More the wildlife. And the vampires. I couldn’t forget the vampires.

The hotel reminded us we were in a place that wasn’t always safe – it had a high wall and a gate around it. But it also had clean rooms, fridges, and even internet access so I could email Kanesha and make sure she knew we were safe. Or as safe as we could be.

I felt exposed. I knew part of it was how much we stood out amongst the dark faces. Part of it was that sense of not belonging here.

We needed to find the woman, confirm her identity, and get out of here before anything really unpleasant found us.

I should have known it was already too late. We dumped our stuff in the room, and then headed out onto the streets. It was warm, but not hot, but I still felt pale.

We even got looks. I didn’t get the impression western tourists came here. I suspected any white people here were on some kind of business trip.

Well, so were we, but we were definitely being stared at. I focused on not being important and the effect diminished, but it didn’t entirely go away.

“They think we’re rich.”

I shrugged. “Aren’t we?”


But they still didn’t seem to be dirt poor here. The hotel concierge had spoken some kind of English that wasn’t regular English, but it was understandable. The city was big enough that we probably couldn’t walk too far, but it seemed Thruor’s goal was in downtown.

It turned out to be a restaurant. “Let’s see if she comes as I asked or if she gets scared. In the mean time.”

In the mean time we ordered Lebanese food, which is apparently very popular in Sierra Leone.

And we waited.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 13

We did, though, make it almost all the way to Kenema. It was the hot afternoon, so we were safe from vampires, if they even existed here.

We were not, apparently safe from some of the other locals. The figure that stepped out in front of the Land Rover, causing Thruor to hit the brakes hard, was definitely not human.

“Let me do the talking,” she murmured.
“You’re a long way from home, ladies,” he…no, she…said, stepping up to the driver’s side window. I’d been confused about the sex for a moment because of the figure’s small breasts, but the voice was obvious and now she was closer.

“Yes, we are.”

“Why are you here?”
Thruor studied her. “None of your business, obayifo.”

The woman snarled. “Get out. Go back to your lands of the frozen north and take the plague with you.”

“Which one? The one that kills or the one that saves?”

She snarled again.

“Don’t try and reason with her. The only thing she knows is hunger.”

I should have known.

African vampires don’t mind sunlight. Of course they don’t. Although she seemed to have more reason than the American variety.

Instead of running, though, she hopped over the hood and tried to open the door on my side. Obviously, I wasn’t armed. No way I was getting swords and guns through airport security, even with my talent for not standing out.

Or rather, I hadn’t wanted to risk it. Instead, I kicked the door into her face.

The obayifo went flying, landing in a heap by the side of the road. I pulled the door closed while Thruor gunned it.

“Should have killed her.”

“Like I said, minimal intervention. She’s right, we don’t belong here.”

At least I was sure if any more showed up, I could take them. Probably without doing any damage, which is always considerably harder than just killing your opponent. People don’t get that.

They think it’s hard to kill. Killing’s easy. Capturing alive, that’s what’s hard. Always gives you a disadvantage if the other person wants you dead.

But Thruor wasn’t slowing down now. She drove full speed into Kenema. With the likely consequence that we had to stop at the first gas station we came to.

I wasn’t even bothered by the vampire. Just kind of irritated that local trouble had found us so easily. I thought it meant there might be more.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 12

We hit the road in the morning after a night in a surprisingly comfortable hotel. Again, Africa wasn’t so bad. This wasn’t a rich part of Africa, either. It felt open and airy, and I wasn’t too hot despite not really having air conditioning.

Maybe they just knew how to build for the climate better. We did have to sleep under mosquito nets, but after all the flying even my endurance was fading a little. Point is, I didn’t really care.

In the morning, after a breakfast of bread and fruit, we hit the road in a rather banged up Land Rover. I didn’t ask where Thruor had rented or borrowed it.

It didn’t exactly have much in the way of suspension, but I figured it would at least not really care if we ran out of pavement.

On the way, she filled me in, although it was hard not to be distracted by country so different from anything I’d ever seen. Nothing here caused any flicker of lost memory. I could tell I had never been to Africa before. Palm trees, other tall trees. Rice fields. And yes, we did go past some villages that were basically mud huts, but others were modern houses with porches and balconies, more like something from the American south.

And there were few lingering signs of the plague that had recently ravaged the place, although I saw some houses that looked suspiciously empty. We stopped for lunch in a place called Bo.

I now knew that her candidate, who did indeed have spiders, lived in Kenema, which had been hard hit by the outbreak. She worked at a hotel, and she wasn’t really anyone special. Although she at least wasn’t a housekeeper. Concierge, Thruor told me.

About all I could do was contemplate that and, once she stopped talking, enjoy the view and the ride.

I sensed supernatural presences, but they were different – but of course they were. I was different from Anansi, and this was a different land, different wildlife. Different dangers and challenges. A different feel altogether. It was exciting, but…

“I feel very out of place.”

“We are very out of place. This isn’t our land.”

“I know, but it’s also pretty.”

She grinned, without taking her eyes off the road. “In its own way, it is, isn’t it. But we should stay out of things here as much as we can.”

By the side of the road, a woman was holding an injured child, who was whimpering. Hit by a car maybe.

With a shudder I knew the kid should be dead, a reminder of our mission. A reminder of the craziness that was going to envelope the world if we didn’t stop it now. At the same time…no.

Stay out of things here as much as we can. I hoped we made it to Kenema without something neither of us could resist intervening in.

I knew how likely that was.