Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 11

I touched down into heat. It wasn’t as bad as DC in summer, but compared to DC in winter, it was pretty warm. Maybe 80. Warm and dry.

Actually, not unpleasant. Except for being almost as crowded as the red line during rush hour. Loki had somehow arranged for a visa that looked as legitimate as my passport, and was every bit as fake. It got me through customs, at any rate, and a very tanned looking Thruor was waiting.

“Mr. Otter sent me,” I said like a catchphrase. “He thought you could use an extra brain on the matter.”

“I think I can.”

“Any progress on finding her?” That sounded innocent enough as I slung my duffel over my shoulder.

“No. We can talk while waiting for our boat.”

Boat? I wanted to squeak. I didn’t. “Alright.”

She led me to a ticket office where I handed my duffle over to a porter who didn’t seem in a particular hurry.

“How long?”

Thruor shrugged. “Depends on how many people they have. But this place has one advantage for you.”


She was heading into a shaded bar. “Sierra Leone has no drinking age restriction.”

I laughed a bit. “And what do they drink here?”

“Mostly, pretty vile herbal infusions. But this place has better. Trust me.”

I did, and she ordered us glasses of palm wine and fish balls with rice. I was hungry after the flight, so wasn’t about to argue with food.

“So…” I sipped the wine. “Any leads?”

“She’s not in Freetown. She’s in Kenema. I was about to head there when I was told you were coming.”

“Kenema.” It meant nothing to me.

“It’s the other side of the country.”

“Of course it is. Can’t we get him to come get his own girlfriend?”

Things here at least seemed to be more normal and relaxed. Or maybe I had no clue what normal and relaxed was.

“It’s supposed to be a four hour drive, but locals told me to allow six. The roads are good, though.”

“No dirt tracks?”

“Not the major roads. Get off them and I’d imagine it gets pretty bad, though.”

Then, finally, we were escorted to a ferry and sped across the water to the city proper.

I glanced around and decided Africa wasn’t that bad…but I hoped to be gone from it soon. Because that meant we had finished what we came to do.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 10

If I’d ever been on a plane before, I couldn’t remember it. And this wasn’t going to be a particularly fun flight, even as they went. I had to take a redeye to France and then a second plane, five hours later, to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Thruor would meet me at the airport.

I recalled that she’d flown there too, when she could just as easily have slipped through the realms. Maybe it had been by choice.

Maybe she had predicted something like this and not wanted to be caught on the wrong side if Odin closed Bifrost. Most likely that was it.

At least we’d found me a flight with only one stop. But it was still going to take me a nerve-wracking nineteen and a half hours to get there.

And it wasn’t like Loki was springing for first class tickets. Then again, I’d be noticed in first class. Possibly even somehow recognized as a model. So, I ended up tucked into a tiny sardine-sized seat on a transatlantic flight with “above average legroom.” Which still wasn’t really enough. I’m not a small woman, after all. Kanesha would have had a much better chance of fitting.

Oh, and next to me was a kid who thankfully fell asleep after asking me what kept the plane up, what the pilot did and a ton of other questions that her father seemed determined to force me to answer.

Maybe he thought she’d take answers from a stranger as final rather than arguing with them. If I’d been a regular mortal, I would absolutely have been suffering by the time we got to Paris. Going a night without sleep isn’t a problem for me. I watched two in flight movies, neither of them good, and munched on bad airline food. Yeah, every bit as bad as everyone says. And I listened to the buzz of conversation until everyone fell asleep.

In Paris, I discovered two things: First, the death problem was universal. Second, I didn’t have any problems speaking or understanding French. I figured that was just because it was useful. I’d have to ask Loki. Later.

It definitely made it easier to get around the terminal. Thankfully, they let me recheck my bag right away.

I spent five and a half hours wandering around Charles de Gaulle airport and people watching. The speculation was that it was an alien invasion. Or a media joke. But either way, it was like some TV show, people wouldn’t recover, they’d just be trapped in this horrible twilight world of pain with no release.

I was pretty sure that hadn’t been what Anansi was going for either. And what would happen to the babies?

And here I was trapped in an airport with no way to help, waiting for my flight. When it finally arrived, it was half empty and I was the only white person on it. I started to wish I’d brought Kanesha with me.

She’d make me feel less out of place. Then I told myself I was here to do a job. That was all.

Find the spider’s wife. Get her to stop him doing this. Then destroy the artifact.

It all sounded so easy.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 9

I found out what Anansi had managed to do the next day. I don’t know who’s power he’d used…I had a feeling I would have known if it was Hel’s.

People weren’t dying.

Unfortunately, they weren’t getting any better either. And this wasn’t the kind of thing that could easily be hidden. This might break the protection between the real world and the supernatural altogether.

And there was worse.

Every baby born since last night had been born in a vegetative state.

Souls were no longer leaving the world. Or entering it. Seb was right. Fire giants draining power from witches could wait. And it wasn’t Freya I needed to talk to.

I ran into Loki as I headed out of the apartment. Literally. He was in his Mr. Otter disguise. “Who does he have?”

“Ereshkigal. After he failed to snag Persephone.”

I nodded. “Alright. We got a plan to free her?”

“Coyote’s working on one. Is Thruor still looking for the spider wife?”

“As far as I know. I haven’t heard from her.”

“Then you’re going to Africa.”

I nodded. I wasn’t going to argue with him. The ripple had stayed in reality, it was like, it was like some horrible low pressure I could sense. “Okay. Got a quick way for me to get there or are we talking plane tickets?”

“Plane tickets. It wouldn’t be good to try and cut through the spirit world or any of the other realms right now, and Odin’s keeping Bifrost sealed just in case.”

I nodded. I wasn’t looking forward to it. “Crap. I don’t have a passport.”

“I’ll take care of that.”

With a very good forgery, I suspected, combined with my own ability to pass under the radar. He was right. I could travel under false papers…and I felt absolutely no qualms about doing so.

Africa, though. I hadn’t imagined I’d ever end up setting foot there, and I… “Loki, do you know anyone who can help Seb take out three fire giants who got really uppity?”

“Hrm. The valkyries and Einherior can’t help. But I think I know somebody I can call. If he doesn’t mind hanging out with a frost giant.”

“Right now, he only cares about hurting the people who burned his girlfriend.” I sounded grim. “Would be my priority too, but the longer this goes on the harder it’s going to be to hide it.”

He nodded. “Exactly. So, you’re going to help Thruor.”

Which I’d wanted to do in the first place. I wondered, though, about the consequences.

I was, after all, running out on school.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 8


A couple of hours later we decided to give up. There were no real results on the APB yet, and we were all hungry. Clara was resting and we reconvened at Mike’s place with Chinese takeout.

“Okay. Seb, I can’t take on three fire giants on my own and neither can you,” I said over the debris.


Kanesha shrugged. “Maybe we could get an angel or two to help. We can’t ask Freya while the Anansi thing’s still outstanding.”

As if that was a cue I felt a sudden shudder in reality. “Oh crap. Not now.”

“Anansi?” she asked.

“Yeah. I don’t know what he did this time, but…”

“Okay. I will find an angel or two,” Seb said, grimly. “And I will track them down. You deal with Anansi. It’s more important.”

I didn’t want to let him try to handle this without somebody to keep a leash on him. He was right, though. Anansi was more important.

That shudder in reality wasn’t ghosts getting out, though. I wasn’t sure what it was. It didn’t seem to have any immediate effect.

“I don’t know that I can deal with Anansi. It might be better to focus on beating up fire giants.”

Kanesha was sneaking prawn crackers under the table to the fyrhund. “She might be right.”


I shook my head. “Seb. I know I’m right. Whatever Anansi just did, I can’t do anything about it until I know what it is. My sister’s on the case. My father’s on the case. Coyote’s on the case. Thruor’s on the case. They don’t need me.”

Persephone certainly hadn’t shown any sign of needing me. They could handle it. But the feeling of dread in my stomach grew.
Whatever Anansi had done, it was bad. It was very bad indeed. And I had no idea what it was or how to stop it.

It wasn’t just that I thought the fire giant thing would be easier.

It was that without something else to focus on I might go crazy thinking about a problem I couldn’t solve.

Or could I? Maybe once I knew what he’d done I’d have some ideas. In the mean time, there was vengeance.


There was stopping them doing it to any other witches.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 7

We sent Seb to go to the hospital and keep an eye on Clara. I thought it was the safest thing to do, and he didn’t argue. Much, anyway. He took one of the sketches with him.

“Maybe we should post these around?” Kanesha suggested.
“We’re dropping one off at the nearest precinct. Other than that, I’m even worried about involving the police,” Mike said firmly.

I nodded. “Agreed. Three fire giants is probably more than I want to take on, and with Thruor away I’m not sure we can count on valkyrie cover.”

“Your dad?” was her next suggestion.

“I think he’s plotting horrible things to do to Anansi.” Of course. “I could try and get Freya’s attention again. She could lend us a warrior or two.”

Kanesha grinned. “That would be handy. Or maybe at least we could borrow a steed.”

I didn’t tell her how much I wanted my own. How much it had hurt when Thruor had said I would never be one of her sisters. “Maybe. Failing that, I think we can find a bike.”

“You’re riding well enough that I’d let you use mine,” Mike noted. “But let’s get a plan together first. As you said, you don’t want to take on three fire giants at once.”

I didn’t. Loki and Coyote were more worried about Anansi. Freya was definitely my best bet for help under the circumstances.

She wasn’t happy with the Anansi situation, but now he at least wasn’t currently messing with the barrier between life and death and her warriors should be back to form. Currently.

“The problem with asking Freya is that if Anansi turns the ghost wall on again…”

“…they’ll have problems again.” Kanesha furrowed her brow. “Then maybe what we need…”

“…is to remind certain quarters they owe you for something you did.”

Was she blushing? “You think?”

“I don’t know. But they might. And Seb could certainly ask them.” He was Christian, in his own way.

“He could. I’ll call him and make the suggestion.”

“And I’ll get ready to deal with fire giants.” Whatever happened and whatever alliances were formed, I’d still have to fight them. I knew that.

I just was hoping to at least split them up so I could deal with one of them at a time. As angry as I was, I wasn’t stupid. Much.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 6

We ended up in an unmarked car with Mike, parked in the lot while he put an APB out on the guys. He told close to the truth – a horrible assault, severe burns, the young woman was traumatized and, yes, in the hospital. No, he didn’t know if sexual assault had happened yet.

I didn’t care, but Seb tensed at those words. I knew I had to find these people before he did. For his sake more than for theirs.

I’d happily watch them burn. Well, except that they were probably disguised fire giants and utterly immune to fire.

I’d think of something, though. Maybe I was worried about Seb because I knew, right now, exactly how he felt. Because I knew what anger like this could do to somebody.

Even to me. I might not have to worry about ending up in Hell, but I could still poison myself.

“Thanks,” I said once Mike hung up. “But I hope you warned the cops they’re very dangerous. I’m pretty sure they’re disguised fire giants.”

The fyrhund, incidentally, had climbed into the back seat, still looking exactly like beagle, except that his tan bits were rather orange.

“I got that, but we’ll never spot them ourselves. I can’t promise we’ll spot them at all.”
“Clara might be able to do some kind of tracking spell when she’s feeling better.” Seb sounded a little doubtful. “But…”

“It might be a while before she’s up to magic. I think if anyone’s going to be casting spells it should be Bruce.”

“Bruce didn’t see them, though.”

He had a point, but I was certain if we waited for Clara to recover… “Let’s talk to Clara’s teacher, then. She might know how a witch can recover faster from a power drain.”

“Where does she live?” Mike asked.

“Old Town, right now.”

At that point, Kanesha showed up with the extra copies of the sketch, sliding into the back seat next to Seb.

Mike put the car into gear and we drove off. I had shotgun, staring out into the streets. We still had to worry about what was going on in Africa, we still had…and now this. I didn’t feel overwhelmed, though.

I was more waiting for the third thing to happen. Like celebrity deaths. Everything happens in threes.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 5

Mike and Kanesha showed up in his car a few minutes later. I didn’t ask how they knew where we were.

I wasn’t sure I actually wanted the answer.

“What do we have?”

I indicated Seb. “He’s still…”

But at that point he broke away from the kids and came over. “Blue pickup truck, license plate accidentally covered by a loose tarp. Three men. Kids also thought they heard a scream.”

“Blue pickup truck. Have to be thousands of them.” Mike turned to Seb. “Give me what you have on the men.”

“I have better.” He handed over a sheet of paper. “Kid sketched them for us.”

Mike snatched the sketch and grinned. “What did you tell them they were up to?”

Seb shrugged. “I told them they were into rape. Apparently, those kids don’t like that.”

They were still trying to get the swing to go all the way over. “Good kids, then.” And for all we knew, they were.

Mike nodded. “I’d call what they did just as bad, if not worse. Thruor filled me in.”

“Let’s go hunt these guys.”

Kanesha nodded. “Why don’t you talk to the cops, Mike? I’ll take this sketch and get a couple of copies made.”

That was a good idea. We needed multiple copies.

Seb watched Kanesha head off with the sketch. I turned back to him. “Thanks.”

“You’re thanking me?”

“I care about her too.”

“I hope she won’t think I won’t love her any more with…” He blushed. “Bad enough that we have to wait.”

Which was kind of stupid. 19 and 15 wasn’t nearly like, I don’t know, 30 and 15, but…it was the way things were. “The fact that she’s willing to should tell you everything you need to know, right?”

He smiled weakly. “It does. But I’m going to…”

“No. I’ll take care of them. No offense, Seb, but first off I’m better at it, second off I don’t have to worry about it messing up my soul.”

“Given I doubt it’s just her I think it’s a legitimate kill if I find them.”

He was probably right, but I didn’t like the cold, grim edge his tone had developed.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 4

I frowned, focused, reached for the fire. Didn’t let it out, just kind of held it. Maybe it knew, maybe I could somehow track the fire that had been here. And something responded, something that felt familiar.

Something that spilled out to land on the grass. “You?”

The fyrhund sat down, charring the grass further, and panted at me.

“I thought you were dead.”
Seb was kind of staring. “Okay, where did the beagle come from?”

I laughed. “He’s not a beagle.”

And he’d…maybe I’d done it, instinctively, pulled him into myself before he could actually be destroyed, or maybe he’d dissipated into pieces and only now come back together.


“He’s exactly what we need.” I reached to scritch the fyrhund behind his ears, feeling gentle warmth but no burn. “You can track who was here, right?”

He licked my hand then got to his feet and just started to pad along the river. I glanced at Seb, then followed.

The feeling that I hadn’t got the little dog killed after all was almost enough to make me feel better about what I’d had to do to Clara.
Almost. I wasn’t going to actually feel better for a while. Better was relative, anyway. But, it was one load off of my mind, one piece of sorrow lifted. He was even wagging his tail.

I also knew he was mine now and nobody could take him away from me. I hoped that if he planned on sticking around disguised as a beagle I could sneak him past the landlord. I wasn’t technically allowed a pet.

Along the river and back to a parking lot, one I hadn’t noticed. It was next to a desultory playground with a concrete floor and old-fashioned equipment. “Drat it.” They must have got in a vehicle.

Seb wandered over to a couple of teenaged boys who were trying to make the swing set go all the way over the top with minimal success. I let him talk to them as I glanced around.

There were tire prints, but they were in multiples in different directions. I wasn’t going to learn anything from that.

The wind picked up, and I wondered if I shouldn’t just call Mike. He, after all, had detective training.

I did, though, have a very faithful dog.

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 3

“I found her here.” We’d gone quite a few blocks, and I was honestly amazed he’d managed to run that far carrying her…and still been able to jog back with me.

“You’re amazingly fit,” I noted as I walked over to the stream.

“I do hunt vampires for a hobby. Well, until you scared them all off.”

I rolled my eyes. “They’ll come back sooner or later, or a new batch will. So…”

“Right by the stream, under the tree. She…sent a distress signal.”

I didn’t ask how. Clara was a highly competent witch. “But she was unconscious and like that when you found her.”

It wasn’t a question. I dropped to one knee, looking for clues, and wishing for the fyrhund. I missed him. I missed him so much.

Maybe I could find another one. The fire was very active. Having been let out once it wanted to play again. It danced within me, wanting to destroy but also…there was something else in there.

I’d have to talk to Freya again, once all the crises were over. She seemed to know what she was talking about. Or my mother.

But I saw no clues. There were various tracks, but they all seemed to be people…kids and adults…in sneakers, and several dogs. One of the dogs was remarkably large, but there was nothing suspicious about that. “Bunch of people, couple of normal dogs, one St. Bernard,” I pronounced.

“Heh. But…look.”

I did.

“The grass is burned here, and here.”

I nodded. “Maybe they put whatever brand they used…yes, they did, look at the burn patterns.”

“Okay, so we know they did it right here. How did nobody see them?”

“How is nobody noticing us? That’s like…pretty basic magic for us, Seb.”

He nodded. “For fire giants too?”

“Yup. Nobody would have noticed them who wasn’t supernaturally sensitive or really alert. Like Mike, say.” He’d seen through things before, and I was pretty sure he was just that good a cop.

“Okay.” He frowned. “So…what do we do?”

Episode Twenty-One: Searches: Scene 2

I kept her on the futon, covering everything except the burn with a blanket. We’d have to take her to the ER now, but the burn was no longer recognizable.

I was so thankful she had passed out again right away. The spell was broken, but I could feel how weak she was.

Seb stepped into the room with Kanesha behind him. “What…”

“I dealt with the spell, but now we take her to the ER. Does anyone have a car?”

“No. Maybe we should just call an ambulance,” Kanesha suggested. She didn’t look at Clara, kept her eyes fixed on me.

Sebastian did. “I suppose…”

“It was the only way. She should be okay.” If it didn’t get infected, she’d live. But that scar was going to be a surgeon’s nightmare to deal with. What else could I have done, though?


“We couldn’t wait for it to heal and then find somebody to take a laser to it. She would have been dead. Kanesha, wait for the ambulance. Sebastian, take me where you found her.”

He looked at her. He wanted to stay with her. Heck, I wanted him to stay with her. If it was Kanesha… But.

“I need to try and find the trail of whoever did this before it gets cold.”

“Do you know what kind of whoever we’re looking for?”

“Most likely a fire giant.” Why would a fire giant try this with Clara, though? And we still hadn’t got the artifact from Anansi.

I didn’t need another major threat like this. I didn’t need a fire giant who got her jollies from branding people…and her power.

“Unless it was somebody who liked runes and doesn’t like witches,” Kanesha suggested as I grabbed my sword from behind the door.

“Good point. Thing is, if you’re using runes like this I’ve got some news for you.”

She laughed. “Yeah. You go find her. I’ll call the ambulance.”

A pale Sebastian followed me. “She will live, right?”

“Unless the burn gets really badly infected, yes. And believe me, if necessary, I’ll go corner Eir for a healing potion.”

Sebastian laughed weakly. “Would she?”
“If a fire giant did this yes, I think she would, because then it’s not interfering with the natural things that happen to mortals.”

“Okay. Let’s go, I guess. I don’t…”

“I wouldn’t either, but we need to move.”

Which we did.