Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 14

Monica, a scarf over her head, met me after school. “I’m not sure…”

“I’m not sure I’m stopping it. Right now, there are certain fire giants…”

“I’m more worried about a frost giant,” she said, quietly.

“Look, if I try to negotiate with Surtur, he’ll hit on me.” A pause. “How much do you know?”

“Angrboda and Loki.” She shrugged. “And fire giants. Looks like the fire giants start it, but Angrboda’s likely to…”

“…finish it, by some means or other. I know the fire giants start it. Probably the same ones that killed a bunch of people including a mortal Angrboda had an interest in.”

“Oh…crap. Then she might start it.”

“Six of one, half a dozen of the other, and it doesn’t really matter. How are you holding up?”

“I’m…coping.” She smiled slightly at me. “Don’t worry about me.”

“Can’t help it.” I offered a smile back.

“This is my test, not yours.”

“Eh. I’m overprotective.” And what would happen at the end of it? I didn’t fancy attending her funeral.

Then again…knowing what I did? Funerals weren’t nearly as sad as they might have been. Not here, anyway.

She grinned. “Of course you are. One day you’ll have more to protect. That’s a promise.”

That grin seemed a little wan, though. Forced. Enough that I didn’t ask her what she knew or had foreseen. I wanted to know. I didn’t want to ask her. “As long as I don’t fail.”

“I don’t think you will. But for right now, we need a plan to keep that fight from…”

“How do the Vanir get involved? And are we talking Freya’s warriors or full blown minor deities?”

“Both. And…I think they’re trying to keep things more focused.”

I nodded. “Sounds like Freya. So. Maybe the trick is to move it. The middle of the Mall is not a good place.”

“The fire giants don’t care at all. Angrboda doesn’t care much less than that.”

“Freya might, though. Maybe she’ll have some ideas, but when I tried to talk to her, she was busy.”

Monica nodded. She looked so fragile physically, but I could see something else. See or feel. I could feel her strength growing, almost too much for her body.

I didn’t want to know more than that. “But her representative said he’d try and see if she could find the time.”

“Can’t ask…” Then she frowned, swaying on her feet.


I caught her before she hit the ground.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 13

I left Angrboda to try and negotiate with Surtur, hoping she wouldn’t mention my involvement.

I didn’t want him fighting me. I even more didn’t want him protecting me. I wanted to forget he existed.

Of course, I knew I would never have that luxury. He was going to be a thorn in my side until I convinced him to leave me alone; and if he did, then this rival would continue to try and remove me.

The only way she wouldn’t was if we both ended up with him, and I couldn’t let it happen. I knew now from my dealings with Angrboda that if I did… Sooner or later I’d develop feelings for him, and those might betray me into…

The prophecy. What if. “What,” I asked Kanesha, coming out of thought so quickly I almost startled her. “If the confusion over the prophecy is because I really do have an equal chance of starting Ragnarok or delaying it.”

“Duh. That’s obviously true. Your choices are going to matter.”

I curled up on the couch. “I don’t want them to. Right now, I wish I still had no memories, I wish I didn’t know who I was. I wish I could just be, you know…”

“Ordinary? Really? You’re not capable.”

I waved a pillow in her direction. “You know what I mean. Not so much ordinary as, well, out of the war.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted peace per se. I just didn’t want this weight on my shoulders.

“And if you were? You’re allied with frost giants. All you need is some fire giants.”

“I have some who might be interested,” I quipped.
“And maybe some Vanir.” She grinned at me. “People like you, Jane. You aren’t perfect, but people like you.”

“That’s mostly guys wanting to get in my pants.”

“Angrboda is not a guy wanting to get in your pants.”

I didn’t think I was that likable, to be honest. I thought I was, well… Mediocre on that front. Attractive, sure, or I wouldn’t get the modeling gigs I did. Likable? “You’re the likable one.”

“Nah.” She grinned. “I’m the geeky black girl.”

“Not that geeky.”

“That geeky. You know it’s half of why you keep me around.”

“Remind me of the other half?” I invited, wanting to think about nothing in particular for a while.

Maybe a good long while.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 11

Yeah, I was pretty set on a bit of revenge. Nice, quiet vengeance, taken at the next opportunity. About ten minutes later, Mike showed up.

“What the hell happened?”

“We got jumped. I set off the sprinkler system to try and get the area clear.” I glanced around. Too many people. “I mean, I have no idea what they were up to, but they ran off in different directions. Except one of them did that on the way out.”

I tried to act how I imagined somebody who wasn’t used to this stuff would act. I was well aware that I was completely and utterly incorrect. I mean, I’d never been one to freeze up, throw up, or anything else.

He slipped an arm around my shoulders comfortingly and steered me away. Once we were more out of earshot. “Who was it?”

“Fire giants working for a rival for Surtur’s affections. They wanted me dead.”

Mike nodded. “And they…”

“That one decided to kill a few civilians out of sheer spite. I’m going to kill him, then go to Muspelheim and kill him again. For good.”


“Don’t argue with me. That kind of thing can’t be tolerated.” I stepped back, fixed him with my gaze. “He crossed a line when he killed people who weren’t involved.”

“Why?” came a female voice. “Do you think they weren’t involved?”

Angrboda. I turned to face her. Softly. “Who’s were they?”

“One of them was mine. So you can get in line.”

“I wouldn’t melt in Muspelheim the way you would,” I pointed out.

Mike shook his head. “You know that thing you were hoping to prevent? Please don’t cause it.”

He had a point. “We’ll take it outside,” I said, simply. “Do you know about the others?”

“They were together, although I only had an interest in one of them. He probably thought they were with you.”

Wrong place, wrong time, no defenses. “I still think…if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t want to deal with him I might even talk to Surtur about this.”

Angrboda considered. “No, I’ll do it. He’s not trying to get me between the sheets. He knows better.”

I nodded. “Thanks. I…actually really appreciate that.”

We could be friends. We could be allies. That second thought scared me far more.

“Great,” Mike said. “First Loki, now his ex.”

“Why don’t you go tell Thruor what happened?” I suggested with a bit of a grin. “We girls have a plan to put together.”

Rolling his eyes, but grinning finally, he turned away.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 10

And then it went off. It felt like a wind that dragged at me, and I heard a distant screaming. I almost dropped the sword.

The fire giant did drop his mace. Then all three of them ran, hands over their ears. Clara didn’t seem to be affected.

“Nice one,” I said once they were gone. “But I’m not sure where number four went.”

Abdul lowered his hand. “Sorry about the friendly fire there. I was trying to exclude you as much as possible.”

“So, you have a spell that repels supernatural creatures?”

He nodded. “It’s a handy little thing. I learned it from a djinn a few hundred years ago.”

I grinned. “Thanks. My ears are still ringing, but…”

I was drenched. And I still had the fire giant’s sword. Keeping it, I started to look to see if I could work out where number four had got to. I didn’t like that he’d suddenly run off like that.

I found where he had got to alright. Out a fire exit, but on the way he’d left a trail of bodies. Four of them. Innocent people. I felt red rage rise within me. I didn’t stop to check on them, I could sense Clara behind me.

I kept running out the fire exit, which took me onto the street. There was no large outside lot here.

Wherever he’d gone, I wasn’t about to find him. He’d done that out of sheer spite.

Or maybe he’d done it to hurt me. Which amounted to the same thing. I forced my anger down, knowing it was what they wanted, knowing it was their weapon against me.

I had to get myself calm. Four people. I turned back inside. “Lost him.”
Clara was examining them. “This one’s still alive, I’m doing what I can. Call 911?”

I nodded and did so, wondering how we were going to explain all of this. Well, I could plead innocence of the fire alarm.

Or, no. I could claim I’d thought one of them had a gun, saw them getting ready to do something, pulled the alarm to evacuate. The truth, pretty much, or so close to it I wouldn’t have problems keeping my story straight. Loki’s daughter I might be, I still did better leavening my lies with plenty of truth.

Getting that straight in my mind, I called for an ambulance and police. Ballston Common Mall.
At least it was the mall the people challenged by the fashion police went to, at least judging by the goods in the windows. The ambulance showed up first.

Clara had stabilized the one that was still alive. The paramedics pushed her gently out of the way, and I hoped they wouldn’t notice anything.

I stayed out of their way, plotting exactly how I was going to find those giants again and make them pay for this.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 9

Running back out into the food court, I was drenched quite rapidly. Of course, I hadn’t brought a sword myself.

Which meant I was picking out the one of the four that had one. If you didn’t bring your weapon, the next best thing was to take one from an enemy. Abdul had finished his incantation and formed a web of fire around two of them, although they were trying to break out as if it was string.

There was a disadvantage to fire wielder against fire wielder. Neither side had to particularly worry about burning up. I almost wished for a few frost giants, then I shook my head. People were fleeing, and nobody was staying in the food court to rubberneck. The artificial rain had taken care of that.

I barreled my shoulder into the one with a sword as he tried to turn to face me, brought my hand up into his wrist, and the blade went flying. I couldn’t catch it right away, though, because he managed to get his other arm around me, pulling me into something half hug, half wrestling grip.

“You die tonight.”

They didn’t work for Surtur then, and my rival for his affections had apparently decided to eliminate me. “Idiot, this is Midgard.”

“Point. But maybe her death will make ours.”

He tried to point at Clara while still holding me. He was unable to do both and I wormed my way free of his grip, diving for the sword the moment we were disentangled. “Be careful. She’s a witch.”
And she was…changing incantation mid stream, somehow focusing the falling water onto the giants.

It hissed, but it was doing more damage to Abdul’s web than them. I hoped she’d realize quickly enough to stop. With his sword in my hand, I whirled to face the giant. It was too heavy, though, slowing me with its weight and awkward length.

I should have brought mine. But if I could take him with it, unarmed, I…

…couldn’t kill him. There were cameras in here. I wasn’t sure what they saw, but I was pretty sure disappearances would show up. “No lethal force. Cameras.”

Abdul grinned. “Let me finish!”

“I’ll keep them occupied.” Them, because the other one he didn’t have in a web was approaching with a mace. The other two had broken out, but Abdul was back to chanting in Arabic.

Clara offered him her hand, and I watched no further. One of them was unarmed, true, but both of them were good opponents. Worthy of me, and perhaps even honorable, for all that they’d chosen this location. But number four, breaking out of the web, was running.

I couldn’t pay him any more attention than that. I was fighting for my life, trying to parry the mace with a sword that felt completely alien, aiming for the unarmed one’s groin with my knee at the same time.

My enhanced speed didn’t help; they were as fast as I was.

I really hoped Abdul got that spell finished soon.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 8

Four fire giants, striding into the mall as if they owned it. People were scattering from their path, perhaps because of their attitude, perhaps because one of them was carrying a baseball bat.

“If they start a fight here, I won’t be happy,” I said to Abdul.
“We could disappear easily enough. I can just leave and I’ve not seen your illusion abilities.”

I laughed a bit at his phrasing. “If we do, they might just smash the place up in pique, though.”

“True. There’s only four of them.”

“But a lot of civilians in the way. Clara!”

She turned.
“Trouble.” I indicated them as they approached us.

“Okay. Let me think here. I could try and make them go beddy bye?” she suggested.

A sleep spell very much appealed as a way of dealing with the situation. I nodded.

She murmured an incantation, then shook her head. “They’re warded.”

Probably objects, I thought. If I could relieve them of their protections. They were clearly here to fight.

Now I was paying attention, too, that wasn’t a baseball bat. It was a nasty looking mace, and I was sure the others were equally well armed.
Four against three was good odds if we could only, somehow, deal with the civilians. Abdul was making some odd gestures with his hands that I had to assume were his kind of magic.

“I have a better idea than magic,” I said suddenly. “You guys try to keep them occupied.”

Because I didn’t want to interrupt what Abdul was doing and Clara was clearly wracking her brain for another spell. I activated the strongest ‘I’m not here, you can’t see me’ I could and ducked into the crowd, which were heading away from the area in a wave.

Fortunately for me I was going in more or less the same direction. Okay. Emergency exit. It had to be there…and it was.

One fire alarm handle. And if they were following me? Well, I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t care if they saw me do it.

I pulled the alarm.

A moment later a sprinkler system activated over the food court.

I hadn’t anticipated that part. I’d have to apologize to Abdul and Clara.


Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 7

“I have one question first,” he asked while Clara stepped away to call Seb.

“Go on.”

His eyes narrowed. “How did she get the burn scar?”

“Some fire giants tried to use her as a magical battery. I had to burn over the runes they branded into her to break the connection.”

“Are they dead?”

“Not permanently.” My lips quirked. “I’m not really up to singlehandedly invading Muspelheim to deal with them.”

“Good. That means I can kill them a couple more times.”

I couldn’t help but laugh slightly. That was an interesting way of looking at it. “So you really do like her.”

“Yes, but don’t worry. I’ll respect her.” His lips quirked. “And you. You are very attractive…”
“And very taken.”

“I’d say I could always wait, but you’ve probably worked something out.”

I felt my lips twitch. “Possibly. Unfortunately, the friend I have most interested in…entertaining…you is very sick.”

“I’m not a healer.”

“She’s past needing one.” I let out a breath. “Mortals.” I glanced at Clara.

“Loving them is painful. But often worth it.” He paused. “Mortals have a brightness, an appreciation of life that immortals tend to lose after the first couple of centuries. And the best of them also have that knowledge of their own eternity. It’s bittersweet.”

I glanced at Clara again, then back towards him. “Because they can’t help but change.”

“And those we keep…those those of us with the power to keep…they stop changing and they stop being the person we fell in love with. I’ve seen it happen.”

My eyes closed for a moment. Opened. “It’s her choice, not mine.”

“Typical Aesir. You respect mortal free will more than most.”

I grinned. “We like to be friends with them.” And I understood that. I could see it in Loki’s antics, even when I’d glimpsed Tyr talking to some young soldiers.

“But then you keep the best ones…”

“I don’t know. Freya’s seem to be…” I tailed off.

We both looked at the door at the same moment.


Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 6

I could feel his presence as soon as I thought about it, a flickering flame, lighter than fire giants, somehow. “He’s in the food court.”

Clara worried her lower lip as she followed me.

“Look. This guy isn’t human, he’s thousands of years old, whatever he wants isn’t a lasting thing.” I thought about Kanesha and felt guilty.

“My life isn’t lasting for him,” she pointed out.

“I…I know that.” I brushed back my hair, glanced around the mall. I saw him, then. He looked entirely human, of course, wearing jeans and a hideously ugly diamond pattern sweater. “Ugh. Where are the fashion police?”

“Busy arresting frost giants?”

She had a point. Angrboda hadn’t exactly been dressed snappily. “Some of them. Skadi has a sense of style.”

He glanced up. “Clara…”

She sighed. “Say it.” I nudged her with my elbow.

“I’m sorry, Abdul, I’m not interested in…in a second round.”

He looked down. “I was hoping for a few.”

I shook my head. “And when you got bored with her?”

A slightly stricken look, then he pushed out chairs for us. “I was just hoping for…I wanted to take her to some cool places, show her a bit of the world.”

Clara managed a smile. “That does sound like it would appeal, but…look. That night was the lust imps and you know it.”

“Hey, a guy can hope.”

He did seem to be taking it well. “Maybe we can all try being friends?”

Clara frowned. “I said…”

I rolled my eyes again. “The friendzone is something guys make up when they don’t want to accept a no. It doesn’t exist. We can be friends.”

“Maybe,” Abdul said, quietly. “You and I certainly have something in common.”

“Sorry, I’m not interested in playtime either.”

“Fair enough.”

I really wished I could introduce him to Monica. “And Thruor’s dating somebody right now too, but…”

Finally, he grinned. “But if I can’t find somebody in a city this size…”

“Then you’re losing your touch. But a dozen red roses is overkill, okay?”

It was his turn to blush.

“So…while you’re here…I might be able to use your help.”

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 5

I hadn’t, of course, anticipated another forgotten problem showing up. It showed up in the form of an upset Clara.

Her arm had healed, but she would always carry the scar. I wished I could do something about it, but by miracle or magic or dumb luck she hadn’t lost any use of it. “Jane. Thank the gods.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Abdul’s back.”

It took me a moment to remember. The efreet. “Oh dear, and the last time he saw you…”

She blushed scarlet. “Lust imps. And…uh…”

I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know if she’d slept with him or not. Especially as that went past cradle robbing… But then, Thror and Mike did too. It was none of my business.

“You need a wingman?”

She nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

I thought about it and then headed towards the nearest mall. “He’s still a guy. Let’s go the one place guys won’t go.”

She laughed. “Victoria’s Secret?”
I grinned. “Guys love women’s underwear when it’s on a woman. When it isn’t…”

She laughed again as we ducked into the store. “I do feel safer now.”

I made a show of looking at lacy bras. “I won’t ask what happened between you.”

“It’s not important. It’s over…” She paused and blushed again. “And there’s Seb. We have to wait, but…we can wait.”

I nodded. “I thought I saw it. You’re good for each other.”

“And we make a good hunting team, too.”

I could see that. “So, just tell Abdul that.”

“I tried. He brought red roses.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Let me guess. You don’t really have the heart to turn him down cold, but if you don’t he probably won’t leave you alone.”

“I don’t want to friendzone him.”

My eyes rolled. “Clara, there’s no such thing. Tell him, outright, that you aren’t interested in him. He’s an efreet, they apparently get bored with people easily. Maybe I can even find somebody else who’d distract him.”

I wasn’t sure who. I couldn’t ask Monica this time and I wasn’t doing it myself, but maybe Kara or one of the other valkyries could keep him occupied until he lost interest in them.

“Come on. You need to talk to him.”

Finally, she nodded, and followed me out.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 4

I was pretty sure my thought summoned her. She wore a down jacket and looked like she’d come from the shoot.

“Hey there.”

“Hey. Is Angrboda driving you nuts?”

I shook my head. “Only a little.”

“Put it this way, get to know her and you will have no questions as to what Loki saw in her.”

I laughed. “Then I’ll probably like her.” I fell in next to her down the street. “Something’s going on in Vanaheim, and that something might lead to a three-way battle between Vanir, frost giants and fire giants. On Midgard.”

Skadi laughed. “Oh dear. I don’t know whether I want to break it up or join in.”

Maybe she was the exact wrong person to ask. “I want to break it up or get them to take it outside. If they take it outside, I might not be able to resist joining in myself.”

“But you’ve developed a fondness for this city, haven’t you.”

I considered that. “I suppose I have. Live in a place for a while, and you do.” I glanced up at the sky.

“A little warm in the summer. A little warm period. But I suppose that wouldn’t bother you.” A pause. “You can’t stay here forever.”

“I don’t plan on it. I’ll probably be in New York for a while, if I’m not needed elsewhere.” I frowned.

“Which you don’t want right now.”

“I’m not ready. Whatever it is they’re going to ask of me, I’m not ready, and I have somebody I love.”

“Always a good thing, that.” She smiled a little sadly. “Just because it didn’t work out for me.”

“I’d have been surprised if it did. Feet, after all.”

The sad smile became a laugh. “Yes. I was rather set up. And it wasn’t his fault. We’re friends.”

I wondered…but no. I would not break up with Kanesha. If it ended, it would be because I had to leave, to protect her, to protect them. To do my job.

“But I think you have time yet. Unless Angrboda manages to accidentally start Ragnarok.”

“Or deliberately.”

Skadi shook her head. “Her sons die. She won’t start it deliberately.”

I nodded. “I came to the same conclusion. But…” I wasn’t going to let it happen.

And if that meant there had to be a fight here? Well…I’d work something out. I’d make sure nobody not involved got hurt.

If all else failed, I was sure I could at least do that.