Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 29

It was an even colder day for the funeral. I even thought I glimpsed Skadi. Thruor showed up, clad in black and hiding her face.

She didn’t approach me. What did we have to say to each other? I couldn’t apologize, because that would imply I could have done something.

I couldn’t.

I had tried. I had tried, and had they been after me, it would have been well. But no, they had set out to kill him. Our weak link.

Kanesha would be next.

Monica, also clad in black, her head covered in a black wig. No. She would be next. I could see it, could feel and sense how the cancer was eating away at her. There was a raven on her shoulder.

She was already half in the spirit world. Mike…

He hadn’t been a father to me, no. He’d been an older brother. He…and he wasn’t really gone. I knew that.

That was the world I lived in. But this also wasn’t something that could be undone. We couldn’t put Mike back the way he was.

He was cremated. Not quite a viking funeral. As close as we could get. And once it was over then, only then, did Thruor lift a black gloved hand to signal us over.

I stumbled on my heels, wishing I hadn’t worn them. Wishing I hadn’t had this occasion to wear them.

Kanesha was three steps behind me. “Come. There’s something else I have in mind,” Thruor said.

“Is his soul safe?”

A slight smile. “Of course. You think I would let it not be?”
She was a Valkyrie. She could have that power. She took him to Valhalla. Or maybe she had given him some choice.

We would meet again. That sudden knowledge flowed into me. We would meet again, perhaps not soon, but we would. It was going to be alright. I took Kanesha’s hand. “Alright.”

I had no idea what she had in mind, but part of me hoped it would involve underage drinking. We could all use it.

We could all use a celebration of life and death. Monica. The two of us. Loki…yes, he was there. Looking almost apologetic.

Perhaps he was wishing he hadn’t left.

But we turned away from the chapel and walked out into the bright winter day to properly mourn…and love…our friend.

Episode Twenty-Four: Flowers: Scene 28

“This morning’s paper. They snatched the younger kid.”

I swore. In a mixture of English and old Norse. “Did you get Marrick’s address?”

“I did.”

“I’m going there. You see what you can find out about the kidnapping.”

I didn’t send the taxi to that address. I checked a map and got myself dropped off one street over then wandered.

There were cops outside the house. And media. Vultures, I thought, while I contemplated how to get close.

Then I saw Belinda and her other son, Aaron, come out of the house. Both looked pale, and Aaron was yelling at the media to go away, go home. His mother either couldn’t silence him or, more likely, didn’t want to.

He was probably saying what she thought. No. I wasn’t going to get close to her. Finding the kid was better, but seeing his brother helped. Siblings. Similar scents.

Anyone who looked over would see a random blond girl. I called the fyrhund and it came running in beagle form.
Anyone who looked over would see a random blond girl who’d just found her dog. Nothing more harmless than that. I was probably the only person Aaron wasn’t trying to skewer with his eyes right now.

“Find his brother,” I murmured to the hound, then we set off at a bit of a jog, him trotting ahead. I slowed to a walk and tugged out the phone.

“Marrick’s surrounded by cops and paparazzi. I can’t get close to her, but the hound’s got the kid’s scent.”

“Okay. Wait. I’ll catch up.”

It was smart, although I didn’t know…no.

This wasn’t one of those kidnappings. The boy was leverage. They wouldn’t hurt him. I could afford to wait for backup. I got out of sight of the house and stopped, petting the fyrhund. “Hold up.”

He licked my hand, a rich warm sense of gentle fire over my skin. “I really should name you.”

It was an acknowledgment of something, ownership perhaps, but at this point. “Ben?” I quipped. A doggy kind of name that, and it would work until I could find something more classy and mythological.

The fyrhund didn’t seem to care. He sat there panting until Kanesha ran up.

“Found you.”

“I don’t know how far we’re going to have to go,” I warned.

“I’ll keep up.”

I hoped she was right.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 28

Then Thruor came roaring up, and Kara poured out of the car with her. The two Valkyries charged in, Kara wielding a heavy looking axe.

Now it was four against eight. I liked these odds better, but I couldn’t spare any time to greet them. I was bleeding, I was hurting, and I knew I’d be hurting a lot more once the adrenalin wore off. Holding my own, but hurting.

Another went down to Kara’s axe, but I couldn’t see Mike any more. If he was down…

That thought made me see red, and for once I let it happen, let my blade find target after target until there were no giants standing.

None standing. We’d done it. Kara stepped over to me. “Are you…”

“I will be.” I wasn’t sure I would be if I was human, but I didn’t feel as if I was about to collapse. Tired, but not…

“Let me…” She started to lead me over to the car. Hopefully they’d brought bandages.

Mike was on the ground. In a spreading pool of blood. His own, I knew. Fire giant blood didn’t stick around.

Neither, I’d half noticed, did mine. Which meant I wasn’t sure how much I’d lost.

Thruor was crouching over Mike’s body.


I was going to…I was going to kill them all several more times. He wasn’t moving and I knew, knew in the depths of myself that he was gone.

Well, going. I saw Thruor, her hair disheveled, lean over to kiss him on the lips one last time. Then there was a rainbow swirl and she vanished.

I wasn’t sure when I would see her again. Tears started in my eyes. Could it be as simple as that? He was just gone?


I let Kara find some bandages. I knew I’d be fine, I wouldn’t even scar, that being the way of things.

I’d be fine. He wasn’t. Nothing would be fine again. And the worst part was the stab of guilt that accompanied the thought that it wasn’t my lover on the ground.

She hadn’t stayed with the body.

“She took him to Valhalla,” Kara said, softly.

That didn’t stop the tears. That knowledge wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to know that at some level he would be fine, to know where he was.

It wasn’t enough to stop the grief.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 27

Then we were surrounded. They came out of literal nowhere, the cold replaced by a sudden rush of heat. I drew my sword. “Mike. Run.”

I hoped Thruor would get there soon. Ten of them. I couldn’t fight ten of them.

“What do you want?” I asked, the firelight flickering off my blade.

“We’re done messing around. You will come to our King or the mortal will die.”

Mike gave me a shake of his head. A clear signal.

Let him die to save me? And if he did die, they’d still be able to take me. Or I could…

I lowered my blade very slightly. “I’m done messing around as well. I’ll send you back to your king with my message.”

“You’re outnumbered, Lokisdottir.”

“I know. You really think that bothers me?”

Raven wings overhead. I smiled. I wasn’t as outnumbered as they thought. I glanced at Mike.

He nodded. Unspoken communication. At the first opportunity, he would run.

I hoped it would be enough. If I failed to protect him, though, it would be sheer force of numbers.
They started to rush him. I spun, swinging my blade into the closest of them, trying to force them back away from him.

But they were targeting him, not me. And Loki had left. The only backup I had was the raven, and I could hope he and his brother would call my friends to my side.

Ten to two, and one of the two not properly armed for this fight, already tired. I had to fight for as long as I could. That was all I could even think to do. A blade caught me in the arm, I felt my own blood flow, hotter than it should be.

Fire against fire, though. I suddenly had a thought and murmured, “Angrboda.” The raven should hear. The giants should not.

The frost giantess liked me. Maybe, just maybe, she would come with some help. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw people fleeing. I wondered what they saw.

I wondered a moment too long, taking a second wound. I spun again and thrust the pommel of my sword into their face. Their jaw broke with a satisfying crunch.

None of the damage I did was permanent. That didn’t make it any less fulfilling to inflict. I wanted to hurt them. I wanted to have them come back so I could kill them again. My next blow took off the near incapacitated giant’s head. His body dissolved into flame.

Would mine? They were trying not to kill me.
They wanted to hurt me in other ways.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 26

“I’ll meet you at your place and get the brownies started,” Loki quipped, then snapped his fingers and vanished.

“I am really tired of people who can teleport,” Mike quipped.

“I just want to get him to teach me how to do it.”

He gave me a long look.

“What? Maybe I could teleport you too.” For right now, though? I called Kanesha again and told her what Loki was up to.

Then we headed out. The thugs had apparently taken my advice and gone somewhere else. If not home, then at least somewhere not here. That was all I really cared about. The street seemed cold.

Colder than normal, and I wondered if Skadi was around. Or if something else was going on. I felt the back of my neck prickle and moved closer to Mike.

“Thruor’s coming,” he said, putting his phone away.

I’d tuned out their entire conversation. “To my place?”

“No, she’s meeting us here and bringing my car.”

That made sense. I leaned against the wall. “Tired of demons. Can’t they go bug angels instead of us once in a while?”

“Angels probably aren’t as interesting to play with.”

Thinking of the ones I’d met, I decided Mike was probably right. Angels were kind of rules bound and boring. But they were the ones demons were supposed to annoy.

I was supposed to be annoyed by fire giants. And frost giants.

The cold felt like an absence of fire. It… “Mike, we can’t stay here.”


“Something’s wrong.”

It was as if somebody or something was pulling the heat away. I felt it tug at me, and I was glad the fyrhund had vanished once he’d done his job.

“I think I feel it. Frost giants?”

I shook my head. “Frost giants add cold. This feels like taking away heat.”

Fire giants. Pulling heat out of the area, drawing it away. Using it as fuel. I realized I could do the same thing.

I grabbed at the heat and wrapped some of it around Mike. Cold wouldn’t bother me.

It would, most definitely, bother him.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 25

Maybe somebody else needed it more. I was halfway to her throne when I heard the sound of a commotion on the other side of the wall.

“Or, perhaps, I didn’t come here alone.”
She stood and turned, then hissed through her teeth. “Loki. This isn’t over.”

She snapped her fingers and vanished, leaving her thugs looking at the space she was and then at me, confused.

“Go home,” I told them, striding towards the wall. Well, there was a door. I opened it to find Loki untying Mike.

“Thanks. Did she…”

“She kissed me.” Mike made a face.

“At least she didn’t do more than that.” That was as close as I was willing to come to voicing my real concerns about what she might do or have done to poor Mike. “But she was using you as a bargaining chip.”

“What did she want?”

“Me and Thruor to leave the city and get out of her way.”

Mike grinned. “She’s scared of you.”

“Yeah.” Which meant, perhaps, she wasn’t as powerful as she pretended. It meant I was a threat to her. “I also think she grabbed you because she’s not happy with Thruor.”

“Oh, she isn’t. That’s what she told me it was about. She said she was going to…” He blushed.

“But I showed up before she could get past kisses.” I was relieved. Then I realized my phone was still on. “We’re all square here, Kanesha.”

“I heard. You going to kill her a few times or what?”

“Oh, I think I’ll come up with something.” I hung up at that point. Loki had finished untying Mike.

“It could be worse. She could have decided to turn into a guy first.”

Mike shuddered. “No offense to those who do swing that way…”

I shook my head. “Let’s get out of here. I’m not sure what the thugs she hired are going to do.”

“Nothing stupid. I think they’re just street mercs,” Mike said. “Nobody high end. I wonder if she’s on the outs with the boss and can’t get proper support.”

“I hope so,” I said fervently.

I also hoped that her killing Mike after she was done with him was what Monica had foreseen. Then it would be over. Done with. With no loss to worry about.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 24

The succubus was holding court. She wasn’t surrounded by war demons, though. She was surrounded by thugs.

Of course.

She knew we’d hesitate to kill mortals, especially as they might well be enthralled. She sat on a throne in a currently empty office. The imps were herding me.

I let them.

“Where’s Mike?”

“I’ll give him back when you agree to get out of my way. You and the valkyrie both.”

“He wouldn’t go for that.”

She smiled. “Ah, but they don’t get a say, do they?”

What she didn’t know was that my phone was turned on with a line open to Kanesha. I faintly heard a snort.

“They get every say. Wasn’t your rebellion all about free will?”

“Not their free will. Ours. Or are you going to try and tell me you have all the freedom you want?”

“I do.”

“Trickster’s daughter, bound to her own nature. I see the fire in you. Did you choose that?”

“I don’t know.” I smiled at her, suspecting it was at least as genuine as the one she was showing to me. That is to say, not genuine at all. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You’re nothing more than one of Odin’s ravens, a pawn in his games.”

That was supposed to insult me? I wondered where Loki was.

Right outside, my thoughts told me. Watching with amusement. I relaxed. If I really needed his help, he’d come rescue me. If I didn’t, he’d give me the dignity of handling her myself. “Where is Mike?”

“I need your word first.”

“The word of a trickster’s daughter? Given under duress?” I moved closer to her. “Do you really think that would be enough?”

“Against the life of your best friend’s boy toy?”

Boy toy? Well, I supposed they all were. “You said it yourself. They aren’t that important.”

Another snort from the phone.

Come on, backup. Then again, maybe I didn’t need it.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 23

Yeah, embarrassment set in after he left. What was I thinking asking anyone, let alone my dad, to do anything like that.

Even if it would have been exactly what he would do. It was still bad of me…that was probably my mother’s side speaking.

But there was no stopping him now. All I’d had to do was tell him what was going on. Maybe I was just scared by how much I understood him. Maybe I was just treating him the same way he treated me.

Which wasn’t supposed to be how it worked. I wasn’t supposed to…

…and of course I wasn’t. He was manipulating me. He had me right where he wanted me. I grumbled to myself about how he’d clearly been the one who really initiated contact and felt much better.

After all, he was a trickster. I was…not sure what I was yet.

Fire whispered through my veins for a moment and I feared and wanted it all at the same time. My phone rang.

I answered it, glad of the distraction from my thoughts.

“Ja…” And then it cut off.

Mike’s voice.

What kind of trouble was he in? I reached for the fire and tried to call the fyrhund to me. After a moment, he flickered into existence, looking more wolfhound than beagle today.

“Find Mike,” I whispered. He set off at a nose-down trot and I followed, jogging easily. That was one being I wasn’t afraid to give orders to. He was, after all, only a dog.

As I jogged I dialed Kanesha. “Mike’s in trouble.”


“Supernatural trouble, or he’d have called cops, not me.” I had a feeling the phone had been knocked out of his hand, smashed on the ground. Could almost see it.

Who was attacking Mike? It didn’t seem to be the succubus’ style. Almost more likely to be our sort of allies.

Almost. Or the cultists. Or… “Call Thruor. I’ll call again when I have a location.”

The fyrhund kept moving, tail wagging slightly. Dog. It was all a game to him.

I sensed demonic presences, sensed them closing in on me. Imps again. I ignored them, determined not to let them slow me down. I’d kill any that got in my way, but at least this meant…

It was her after all, and we were close. Maybe she was trying to get into Mike’s pants as vengeance against Thruor. That would be a succubus thing to do.

Maybe she was…and I shuddered and ran faster.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 22

Will had changed, and for the better. He’d clearly got over the bad things that had happened, and he seemed…more secure, somehow. More faithful.

I liked this new Will, he was more willing to joke with me. He almost seemed like he’d…

…been hanging out with my dad.

Why hadn’t I thought to call dad? If anyone knew how to handle succubi it was him. He could…I don’t know, take her to a resort and distract her until she’d forgotten her plans completely. It would at least slow her down. “Hey. Loki.”

He was apparently not doing anything, because he stepped out of a bakery and offered me a cookie. I took it warily and bit into it.

Bacon chocolate. “I’d rather have cayenne.”

“Bacon’s good too. What’s up?”

“Succubus problem.”

“Ooh. Is she…”

“She was when I saw her. Hot, that is. But I’m sure she’s changed.”

“Oh, probably. What’s she doing?”

“Collecting Senators. Killed a woman in a mage duel.”

“Ugh. Did you have to do cleanup on that?”

“Thruor took care of it.” I wasn’t surprised that he’d reacted about the cleanup not the death. This was Loki, after all. “So…any bright ideas?”

“I assume Will’s working up an exorcism.”

I nodded. “If possible. She’s pretty powerful, too.”

“And hot.” He tapped the side of his nose. “Are you implying?”

I thought about the fact that this should be rather awkward and somehow wasn’t, which probably just meant I’d hung out with him too much. “Maybe.”

“Kanesha would be jealous if you did it.”

I shuddered. “After Tyz’vel, no thanks. I’m off demons for…”

“For a century or so?” he teased.

“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I’m more like my mother in that regard.”

“Ah yes, a one lover at a time kind of girl.” He grinned again. “Don’t worry. I’ll see if I can slow her down. Collecting Senators sounds like fun, though.”

Oh great. “I didn’t mean to give you ideas.”

He shrugged. “Difference is that I wouldn’t do anything with them once I had them. I’m strictly catch and release.”

I covered my mouth with my hands. “If you weren’t my dad…”


“As you are, I can’t really say I want you to go seduce her right back.”

“You want me to go seduce her right back.”

I grinned. “Besides, I can’t tell you what to do.”

He tapped the side of his nose again. “Damn straight.”

“Straight is one thing neither of us is.”

He actually let me have that as the last word, twirling away and somehow producing a cane from somewhere as I munched on the bacon cookie.

Which was quite good.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 21

Father Will’s church had the same feeling as it always did. Peaceful but never, to me, quite welcoming.

Rivalry. No sign of any angels, at least. Only Father Will, crouched behind the altar.


He jumped so much he nearly got tangled in the cloth. “Mouse problem.”

“Maybe you need a church cat.”

“Maybe,” he mused. “But knowing my luck, if I got one, she’d be more interested in doing the rounds of everyone’s laps during services than actually killing mice.”

“She only has to get the mice to go somewhere else. Thruor filled you in, right?”

“Powerful succubus.”

“She got outed at a party. Killed a fairly powerful witch, summoned a small hoard of imps. I’m reading her as at Tyz’vel’s level.”

“In power or in rank?”

“There’s a difference.”

“Tyz’vel was…is…a prince.”

“He’s not a prince any more. I believe he got demoted.”

“Right. If this one is a prince, then we have a problem. If she isn’t, then she won’t be able to command as much of the power of Hell.”

“You up for attempting an exorcism? I suppose we can try and get her name the same way we got Tyz’vel’s.”

Will nods. “I’m already looking. Do you have a demon magnet?”

“Nah. This one has nothing to do with me. She’s collecting Senators.”

“Thruor mentioned.” Will sighed. “So, nothing to do with you other than you being in the middle of things as always.”

For a moment I thought that was unfair, then I pushed it to one side. “I put myself there. Better I get roughed up than most people.”

He paused, then he grinned. “Good point. But you do attract trouble.”

“And you don’t?” I challenged.

“Point. I’ll see what I can do about finding her name. Failing that, if she’s not a prince, there are other ways of dealing with her.”

“And if I see her again I’ll send her back the hard way and hope it at least slows her down.” With that grim promise, I glanced at the altar again. “Cat.”

He grinned. “I’ll get one.” Beat. “And it’ll probably like you.”

“Freya’s the one who does cats.”

Another grin and he went back to inspecting the altar. I left in better spirits.