Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 12

“Thruor’s got interesting taste in men.”

“He still sees me as a kid, and we do have that vision. We don’t want to be the ones causing it…and he’d be one of the ones having to clean it up.”

“Point. I hope he won’t be too mad with you.”

“He tends to…I’m not entirely sure he’s grasped who I am. Plus, I was living with him for a while and he had to deal with random drunken Loki.”

“Is there any other kind?”

“Hrm. Sometimes he’s sober. But he’s always random.” I grinned at her.

“Part of why we aren’t still together,” she admitted. “Part of me regrets leaving, but…”

“But things don’t always last together. The gods are fine with divorce, from what I’ve seen.”

“As long as there’s a good reason for it, as long as you give it a try.” She studied me. “And what about your mortal?”

“I’m enjoying it. We’re happy. If it doesn’t last, well, I’ll make sure she isn’t hurt in the long run.”

“And if she leaves you?”

I frowned. “That would be her choice.” I couldn’t imagine Kanesha leaving me, but I knew she might.

“And if she wants children?”

I shrugged. “There’s such a thing as a sperm bank.” If Kanesha wanted kids, I’d support that. I couldn’t do it myself, but…

“Ah yes, mortal science. Not sure it’s for the best.”

“I think it’s better than sleeping with somebody you don’t actually want to, possibly for months.”

She considered that. “And have you thought about their technology meaning they don’t need us as much?”

“I don’t think I care about that. We’re supposed to be planning, though.”

“I am going to demand that Surtur turn them over,” Angrboda said, quietly. “If that doesn’t work, then…are you willing to be bait?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“If they show up again, fight to capture, not kill. I have…” She smiled. “Something more unpleasant in mind.”

“Like sticking them somewhere in Jotunheim and letting them freeze.”

She grinned. “Sometimes killing people isn’t the right way to teach them a lesson. Of course, sometimes it can give closure. But I was thinking of a bit of time in the winter mountains to cool their…tendency…to kill without thinking.”

I liked her even more. “Okay. But I’m going to defend myself as I need to.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t want to deal with Loki if you got hurt. Or you if one of your friends did.”

I grinned again. “Unless it’s directly your fault you don’t have to worry.”
She extended her hand and I reached to shake it, but instead she clasped my forearm. Her skin was very cold.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 21

“So…?” Freya raised an eyebrow.

“I think I’m learning that it’s better to go with prophecies than try to fight them.”

She laughed ringingly. “What do those four want?”

“To either kill me or prove me worthy of being queen. The fact that I don’t want to be queen…”

“We don’t always get what we want,” she mused. “Not that I would recommend taking Surtur’s offer.”

“I don’t intend to. If I could convince them of that.”

“Fire giants, stubborn. Frost giants, worse.”

“Asgardians no better?” I quipped.

She grinned again at that. “Come on. Walk with me.”
She was wearing armor, but as we walked I saw it fade to jeans and jacket. I didn’t bother trying to see through the illusion. “If we can’t stop them from fighting then we have to contain it.”

“Which may well be what Monica saw.”

I closed my eyes. “I want to do something for her.”

“You can’t.”

“I know. But I don’t like watching a friend in that much pain.”

“Don’t fear for her.”

I shook my head. “I probably spend too much time with mortals. Maybe the idea of learning to appreciate them can go too far.” I opened my eyes again. Freya was heading towards my apartment. I mentally considered; did I have food for a guest?

Yes. And her escort had faded away. Apparently she thought I was escort enough. I felt complimented by that.

“You will appreciate more what she will become.”

I frowned again. “Can I know, or are you too worried I’ll spoil a surprise?”

“Odin asked me not to tell you yet.”

“In other words, too worried I’ll spoil a surprise.” Perhaps something like one of Freya’s warriors. Perhaps…but she would not be the same Monica. Could not be.

Kanesha would not be the same if… “She won’t be the same, whatever.”

“They never are.”


“Will be welcome with me if you ever fall out.”

I laughed. “I don’t plan on falling out, but I’ll remember that.”
And I wondered…no. Surely, what was happening to Monica could not be in part to teach me?
Surely Odin would not be that cruel.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 20

Fortunately, Thruor showed up, and managed to convince Angrboda and her thugs to go get some good beer.

Hopefully she wouldn’t let them get too drunk. I didn’t go with them, given my legal age, but rather stayed out on the Mall as the sky darkened. Somehow, I didn’t want to go inside.

Well, until my stomach reminded me I hadn’t had dinner yet. I made it about halfway home when the fire giants showed up.

I really wasn’t in the mood. “This time, I’m armed. Also, you don’t need to fight me.”

Oh, I wanted them dead, but all four of them on my own was more than I could handle.


“What do you think I’ll do?” Negotiating with them hurt. Well, really? I was stalling. I felt as if I needed a shower, though, just from talking with them, just from these few words. They had made themselves my enemies. “Other than send you back to Muspelheim.” One hand drifted to my sword.

“You can’t take all four of us.” He drew his own weapon.

Mine slide out of the sheath easily. “I don’t have to.” I was bluffing – I really didn’t have known backup nearby.

“As for what you’ll do. We won’t have an outsider as queen. Unless, of course, she proves herself.”

“By, say, kicking your butt?” I shook my head. “I have no intention of being your queen. I have no interest in it. I’ve told Surtur that more than once.”

“By staying alive.”

He moved towards me. “So, I get it. You’ll hound me until I’m either dead or demonstrate that I’m tough enough for fire giant standards? What about the mortals you killed?”

He struck at me. I parried the blow, feeling his strength when the blades met, hearing the scrape of steel on steel.

“What about them?”

“One of them was Angrboda’s. She’s here, furious, and she brought backup.”

“You’re going to count on her to save your butt?”

“No,” came a voice. “She’s going to count on me.”

I turned slightly. It was Freya, flanked by her warriors. “Good timing. Four on one isn’t honorable odds.”

“No, it isn’t.” She smiled. “Unless this is fire giant courtship, I suggest you leave.”

All four of them ran. I was almost disappointed.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 19

It was particularly cold the next day. I wasn’t sure whether to blame Skadi or Angrboda – I was pretty sure they were both around.

Probably Skadi, as she was the more powerful of the two. Snow fell out of the sky, starting to form a blanket on the mall. That might be a good thing if the fight did start – the snow would help keep the fire giants from setting fire to everything in the immediate area.

Or not. I was heartened by the fact that Kara had some ideas for covering it up, based off of last time.

I was also biased. Honestly? I was rooting for Angrboda. This time, anyway. It wasn’t personal per se.

It was more rooting against her opposition, and not just because they’d tried to kill me. I wouldn’t forget the dead people any time soon.

And…there she was, accompanied by muscle. Four large, powerful jotun. I wandered over. “Any luck?”

“He claims he’ll deal with them himself, but he wasn’t being very convincing even for him.”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, we give him a chance to and…”

“If they show up again, I’m kicking their butts.”

“I’m not going to argue, but let’s try and have it be somewhere less obvious than here.” I indicated the snow-covered Mall.

“I’ll try. But I doubt they care.”

After last time? They’d demonstrated just how little they cared about keeping things out of the immediate gaze of uninvolved mortals. “They don’t, but…”

“I’m going to deal with them regardless of where I find them. However, I will make sure nobody who isn’t involved gets hurt.”

“You might have help with that.”

“Your help would be appreciated.”

That hadn’t been quite what I meant, but I nodded. I could definitely run interference. “I can do that, although remember that you aren’t the only one with a grudge.”

“You can kill them next time,” she quipped.

Or maybe I’d wait until I could deal with them for good. Until? I had no intention of…but then, maybe I did.

One day I’d have to find a way to shut Surtur up for good. Which might well mean going to Muspelheim.

I shivered, and it wasn’t from the cold Angrboda brought with her.

Episode Thirty-Four: Barriers: Scene 18

Ebba, I thought, was talking about leadership.


No, Ebba was talking about ruling. She was, after all, a princess. A princess who wanted to ensure peace for her people.


Ebba thought…well.


Ebba could be right or wrong, but I was sure of one thing: I really would do whatever it took short of sacrificing somebody else to stop the war.


Which might mean starting a war, ironically. Would invading Muspelheim with force do it?


No. No people could have a king enforced on them from outside. Or democracy, or anything else. I knew my history. It was never stable, never lasting. Besides, it was not my style.


My style was to sneak back in and deal with Surtur. I could not challenge him to single combat.


What about convincing the land to reject him and accept somebody else? I had no clue where I would start on that, except that the image of falling stars came back into my mind.


I decided that the best way out of this was a spar, and I found the sparring grounds of the dwarves.
And no shortage of potential partners. I might not be a fire giant to practice again, but I was not a dwarf. I crossed practice blades with a particularly short, even by dwarf standards, man with a red beard.


“You’re good,” he told me after a few blows.


“So are you.”


He grinned. “Lots of practice. And I suspect your answer is the same. But you leave your lower left a bit open.”


I corrected my form. I hoped never to fight a dwarf for real, but I knew it might happen. Even if the dwarf was, say, a criminal. But it was good practice. The different angles.


No doubt he felt the same way.


“So,” he said finally as we lifted our blades. “You failed to stop the war.”


“It’s not too late.”


He raised his hand. “You did not fail to stop Ragnarok. You failed to stop the war.”


I understood the difference. A controlled war, one that did not sweep across all Nine Realms might be the answer. “I don’t think war against Muspelheim is the answer.”


He snorted. “Muspelheim does.”


“Surtur does. There’s a difference.”
The king is the land is the king – but the king is not the people.
“As long as they’re loyal to him and he’s alive, no practical difference. Is how kingship works.”


My lips quirked. “Not all of them are loyal to him.”




It wasn’t heartening, though. If there was war, then people would die, and it was my responsibility. I had done everything I could.


It had not been enough.


Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 18

It turned out we had an unexpected source. When I mentioned it to Thruor, she furrowed her brow, then nodded. “I remember that.”

“You were there?”

“No. Kara was. I’ll get her to talk to you.”

Kara, I’d noticed, did a lot of what Thruor said, and seemed a little star struck. Or maybe she had a crush. Anything, on that front, was possible. “Thanks.”

I still wasn’t sure where this would lead us, and Angrboda was still gone. Which was better than stomping around looking for fire giants to beat up, I supposed.

No sign of Loki either. Maybe he was staying out of this one. Maybe he’d found something more fun to do somewhere else. I would be just as glad if he did stay out of it. He’d probably find the entire thing hilarious.

Part of me did find the idea funny. Also, the fact that it had happened before and been properly covered up helped. It made me more relaxed about the matter.

That might have been the only thing Munin wanted. When Kara showed up, a few minutes later, I suggested we talked over food. We took her bike to a quiet corner restaurant that mostly served sandwiches and soup. There were dozens of them.

We found a corner booth in the basement. “So…1976, gang riots.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fire giants and frost giants, of course. It doesn’t take much to set them off.”

“I got that impression, but be careful what they say.”

She grinned. “Well, you’d have to fight yourself,” she pointed out, cheerfully.

“No thanks. If I ever run into my own doppleganger I’m going to make Thruor deal with it.”

The grin turned into a laugh. “Hope that never happens.”

“…could it?”

“No, but there are shapeshifters other than Loki who might find that funny.”

Coyote might, I thought. “So…we might have the same thing happen again.”

“It’s relatively easy to cover up as long as they don’t do too much damage to the grass.”

I nodded. “Maybe that’s all Munin was going for – to let me know it was relatively easy to cover up. That I was possibly worrying about things a little too much.”


“What started it?”

“Oh, it was stupid. And there was alcohol. I think somebody’s sister got insulted.”

“This time it’s fire giants killing a mortal Angrboda liked. While trying to get to me.”

“Oh dear. But maybe she would agree to…maybe they’ll just let her fight the one who did it.”

“She’d eat him for breakfast.”

Kara looked grim. “Does he deserve it?”

I didn’t even have to consider the matter. “Yes.”

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 17

We met in the large open atrium of the MLK library. It struck me as a slight waste of space, but there were still plenty of stacks. Quietly, we headed up to local history.

“Munin showed up and told me he can only talk about what went before. So…”


“We’re looking for anything that might indicate this happened before.” Which might not help us stop it, but Munin’s implication had been clear.

“Oh! I know where to look.” She sprung up the stairs, enthusiastic at the idea of doing some actual research for a change. I grinned and followed her.

“They still have some of the older stuff on microfiche, but not all of it. Old issues of the Washington Post. But…”

She moved to a terminal. “They also have a proper search system these days.”

“Good, because I’m not sure I have time to go through everything,” I quipped.

“We don’t, but we’re looking for riots or other incidents on the Mall. Unfortunately, there are a lot of them. Protests, you know.”

There was a reason the DC cops’ best competency was crowd control. They had a lot of practice. An average summer day pretty much needed it, let alone an actual protest.

Marching on the White House – a grand American tradition.

She started messing with the terminal. I looked at the cases of microfiche newspapers. They stopped a few years ago.

I had a feeling we were looking further back than that. I went over to one of the readers, realizing I didn’t really know how to use them. Well, hopefully Kanesha did and could show me. It couldn’t be that hard, not compared to a computer.

“Okay…find me these.” She started to rattle off dates and I moved to grab the stuff. Her enthusiasm was almost catching.

Almost. I’d still rather be doing stuff other than research, but realistically she did need my help with this. If there wasn’t anything, well…

If there wasn’t anything then we hadn’t wasted more than a bit of time.

“Could this be it?” I said eventually. “1932, a bunch of veterans marched on the capital to demand their bonus for World War I service then, rather than in 1945. The army cleared them out. Lots of fire.”

“Could be… Could also be the race riots in 1968.”

I went to read over her shoulder. “Attitudes have changed, haven’t they.”

“Not as much as all that. They blamed us for Baltimore in just the same way.” She frowned. “But these are big things. I don’t think it would be a big thing.”

“Neither of them feels like Loki was involved, either.” A pause. “How about this one? 1919, somebody spreading…”

“I don’t think we’re looking for a racial incident.” She frowned. “Okay…here. Found something in 1976.”

I looked over her shoulder again. “Gang brawl?”

“Yeah, but…they weren’t able to identify the combatants. I think we found it.”

The question was whether we could learn from it.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 16

I got tossed out of the hospital pretty quickly, after being assured that Monica needed fluids and rest, and wouldn’t get the latter with friends around.

They were probably right. So, I went to the Mall. I tried to imagine it with the sounds of battle. Well. Of sites in the city where something like this could happen it was actually one of the better ones. Except for being so dang obvious. Rock Creek Park was better.

You could hide stuff there. I hesitated on one of the cross roads, looking first towards the Washington Monument, then the Capitol. The monument felt slightly magical, something I’d noticed before.

Probably just because it was a memorial to an important man, but maybe one of these days I should ask Seb. It was the kind of thing he’d know. It also wasn’t hugely important right now.

Not compared to other things.

Okay. If I was going to fight somebody here, I’d…probably try to do it here, right out in the open space. But that would be too visible. It came back to the same thing.

People would see this, and things were already frayed. True, it seemed people were slowly forgetting about what Anansi had done to death, slowly.

But I wasn’t sure whatever kept normal people from really knowing what was going on could stand another crack in it.

“It’s the fact that they don’t want to know,” came a raven voice from nearby.

“Hello, Munin. And I figured that was part of it.” Or maybe all of it. People who chose to know, knew. Kids knew, of course they did. Kids believed in Santa and the tooth fairy and magic.

He landed on my shoulder.

“You would have been handy earlier.”

“Not really,” the raven quipped. “I can’t use cell phones.”

I laughed. Both of the ravens had a sense of humor; but then I was pretty sure they were brothers, spiritually if not literally. “I suppose talons don’t work well for that.” I sighed. “Do you have any bright ideas?”

“I’m memory, not foresight. I only have ideas about what happened before.”

Which was clearly supposed to be a clue. I glanced at the monument.

“It’s a lynchpin for an old spell. Doesn’t work as well as it did.”

“Thanks. I was curious.” I didn’t ask why. Probably it was simply so old that it had outlived its casters by enough to make the magic fade. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t, perhaps never had been, dangerous. “What happened before.”

That was a clue, but if people tended to forget…but then. I tugged out my phone, trying not to dislodge the raven. “Kanesha. Hey, busy?”
“Never for you.”

“Meet me at the library? I have a thought.”

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 15

I set her down carefully, hesitated and then called an ambulance. I supposed…I hoped…it was just fatigue.

I really wanted to have some words with Odin about what he was doing to her and whether it was truly necessary. There was not even so much as a feather of a raven visible, though.

Probably, he thought the ravens weren’t necessary when he had another servant present. Unfortunately, that other servant was unconscious. I checked her pulse. Present. Weak.

“Don’t die on me now,” I grumbled to her, then stood up, watching for the medics to show up. Her scarf had fallen off, revealing only skin where her lustrous black locks had been.

This was…no. I stopped myself before even thinking about the unfairness of it. I knew it wasn’t fair.

I also had to respect what she had said. This was her trial, not mine, as hard as it was to watch. There was almost no flesh on her wrist.

I heard the ambulance before it rounded the corner. “What happened?”

“She fainted. I wouldn’t be so concerned, but she’s a cancer patient.”

“Chemo fatigue, probably.” He checked her pulse. “I’m going to take her in. Are you her friend?”

I nodded.

“You can ride with if you want, then.”

They maneuvered her into the ambulance. I followed them in.

“She just fainted with no warning.”

“Mid sentence. I know chemo does take a lot out of people, though.”

“You’re too calm about this.”

I closed my eyes. “I…suppose I wasn’t too surprised. At least she’s alive.”

For now. And how long before that would cease to be a good thing? How long before she would be just lingering?

Or had she already made her decision? About how far to let this go before she just ended it.

Maybe that was the trial.

As long as she was here she could see things. And her vision was useful, if I could just corner Freya.

If I could just work out when it would be and what it would…no. I knew what it was over.

It was a matter of when.

Episode Thirty-Four: Barriers: Scene 15

On the other hand, the next day I decided the twins had been right. They’d found something mild for Kanesha – likely something made for children – and she was drunk, but undamaged.


I woke up with a very slight hangover and her in my arms. For a moment I could pretend nothing was wrong.


For a moment I could pretend that the worst was not coming towards me, that the world was not going to cause me such pain.


For a moment. Unfortunately, it did not last. We appeared to be in a guest room in the dwarf king’s palace.


And dimly I could hear the preparations for war. I wondered what was going on on Earth.


I wondered if I would ever set foot there again. Somehow I thought I would not. Somehow…well.


Instead of letting my thoughts go back into the cycle, I got up, smoothed out my slept-in clothes, and stepped from the room.
A young dwarf outside saw me. “Breakfast, milady?”


“Yes.” I did not ask what dwarves had for breakfast. I did not honestly care. Kanesha still was not stirring, but she could be quite the log when tired. “Also, a hangover remedy.”


The maid laughed, but quietly. “For you or for…”


“For her.”


“I know something which is proven safe.” And she ducked from the room. Guest room was not quite accurate.


Guest suite. They even, I noticed, had indoor plumbing. Of course, so had Surtur. The image of the other realms as somehow medieval and primitive was not remotely accurate.


If I focused, I could remember even more luxuries in Asgard. Would I go there again?


Would any of it still exist in this form, or were we doomed to death and renewal? I did not want to know.


Kanesha was awake by the time the maid returned with breakfast and tea. My prediction was right – she needed it.


“Murf. Maybe I should be teetotal.”


The maid stifled a giggle. “You’re just not used to it. And don’t worry, nobody on Earth will ever find out.”
At that Kanesha laughed, then flinched. The tea had clearly not yet taken effect. But then the maid left us.




She put her hand on mine. “You need to do what you need to do. Whatever it is. Don’t let me interfere with saving the world.”


I thought about that. “I never have.”


But I knew what she meant.