Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 20

Other people’s competence, though, I decided to officially make Not My Problem. If they got killed through their own stupidity, it wasn’t my fault.

Which was probably a healthier attitude than wanting to babysit everyone. I’d still protect my friends, but I knew I needed to trust them more to protect themselves. Even if that meant somebody died.

Because it would mean they were protecting the people who really didn’t know what they were doing. Which was worth it, regardless of what Kanesha had said. It was worth it if only you died.

I took that morbid thought over to Mike’s in the afternoon. Thruor was there.


“She wasn’t mine, but I made sure she got to her destination. We need to deal with that demon.”

“Well, at least we forced her to do something more open,” I said, quietly. “And…”

“At least the only person she got was somebody who was actively fighting and knew the risks.”

It reflected what I’d been thinking so perfectly I wondered if Thruor had a trace of mind reading ability. Or if she just knew me that well. “Kanesha isn’t sure it’s worth it.”

“She’s probably still a bit shaken.”

“Probably,” I mused. “I just…”

“You wanted to know if she’ll be okay. She will.”

“I realized that I need to not be so keen on protecting absolutely everyone and let some people worry about protecting themselves and others.”

Thruor laughed. “You get that from your mother.”

I thought about it and decided that was likely. “My dad doesn’t worry about anyone.”

“Oh, he does. He has friends. But he’s much more inclined to let his friends do stupid stuff and laugh at them afterwards.”

That definitely seemed likely. “Well…so…what are we going to do about the succubus?”

“You swing by and talk to Father Will.”

I nodded. “I should have done that before.”

“I mentioned it to him, but I didn’t have a good bead on her before. Now we’ve both seen her…”
She was right. Now we knew for sure it was a demon, rather than having to trust the judgment of third parties. And I did have, I thought, a good idea of how much power I’d sensed from her.
She was at least as dangerous as Tyz’vel. If not more so. That scared me more than a little.
Tyz’vel had taken everything we had to deal with…

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 19

Thruor was administering first aid, for what it was worth. The Senator was standing there. “Did you…did you…she had a gun!”

He was already explaining it away. Security approached me.

“I heard gunshots,” I said, fitting in with the explanation, fitting with their expectations.

“And ran towards them?”

I shrugged a bit. “Yeah. I never said I was smart.”

The guy sighed. “Well…”

“I’ll disappear.” Which I did, back to the cafe. But I had seen the look on Thruor’s face.

I’d just watched somebody lose a magical duel to a demon, but at least even if she died her soul would be safe. That, as much as anything else, had been what Thruor was doing. Protecting her soul.

And she had died. I almost felt it, and then Kanesha was slipping back in opposite me. “You have glass in your hair.”

I reached up and winced. She was right. “I’ll comb it out later.”


“I know. But anyone with any sensitivity knows about the demoness now. That’s…that’s something.” Not worth, I thought, a woman’s life, but she’d been protecting the man she loved. I could definitely understand that. I could understand why that might be worth dying for.

Even if dying was permanent. But that also meant leaving them. I shook my head.

“Not worth it.”

“I agree.” I reached for her hand. “Let’s go home. There’s nothing more we can do here.”

“Yeah. Let’s.”

At home, I combed the glass out of my hair and took a shower. I wanted to talk to Thruor, no, I needed to talk to Thruor.

One of them is going to die. It didn’t mean this woman, this witch I didn’t know. It meant somebody I cared about, but right now it felt like I did care about her.

Because I’d failed to protect her. Which was stupid. She was one of the ones doing the protecting. Just because I didn’t know her.

I felt my view of the matter shift a little. I didn’t need to protect people who knew what they were doing and what they were getting into. Only those who didn’t. That went for the spy types too.

Except I wasn’t sure that they had any kind of solid idea of either of those two things.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 18

A moment later, imps poured out of the building windows. If this many were coming out, I dreaded to think how many were inside.

“I don’t think she meant to do that,” Kanesha quipped.

I shrugged, tugged out my sword and charged. “Doesn’t matter, let’s send them back to hell.”

I didn’t even look to see what my tail was doing. I was focused on fighting imps and making sure nobody saw that I was fighting imps. Fortunately, at this point, the latter required almost nothing in the way of actual concentration.

The imps swarmed me, but they weren’t potent enough to do any actual damage. And, thank Odin, they weren’t lust imps this time. Just annoying little scratchy things.

I smashed through the front window as they vanished around me, one touch of my sword enough to dispel them. Unfortunately, there were a lot of them. And in the ballroom, two figures facing off.

The demon, no longer disguised, was tossing a fire bolt at a woman I didn’t know. Thruor was trying to get the mundanes out of there.

Oh dear.

She’d picked a Senator to target who was married to a witch. A fairly potent one, but she was struggling. The firebolt had taken down her shield. Thruor saw me and went charging in to defend her.

The signal was obvious. Take over the evacuation. I started to encourage people out into the street. How would their minds accept it? I decided not to worry about that too much for right now.

Get them out of there, kill imps. I glimpsed Kanesha, and she was doing the same thing.

One of the imps jumped on my back. I shook it off and it landed on the hors d’oeuvres. Hopefully nobody was planning on eating those. It got up covered in spinach dip which dripped off of it.

Despite the situation, I couldn’t help but laugh. The imp glared and launched itself at me again.

I spitted it on my sword, giving a momentary impression of Imp Kebab in Spinach Dip.

Again, I laughed, even as it poofed into flame and ash.

Then I went back to getting people out of there. I wasn’t even looking to see how Thruor was doing.

Then everything went deathly, deadly quiet.

Now I stole a look. The witch was on the ground, Thruor on one knee and breathing hard. The succubus turned on her high heel and fled.

I started to go after her, but as soon as she was out of the building she teleported away in a flash of heat.

This had not gone well. This had not gone well at all.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 17

One minor problem from Monica’s illness…very minor compared with the rest…was that she couldn’t get into society parties any more. I couldn’t either. I was getting a name, but I was also not 21, and nobody wanted to invite under 21s who weren’t somebody’s kid. That meant that if we were going to tail the demon, we’d need somebody else.

Ideally somebody she wouldn’t notice. That, I supposed, was something we could leave to the spies. If I trusted them any more than they trusted me.

So? It was Thruor’s job to go to the party. She was perfectly capable of insinuating herself and had plenty of feminine wiles. Me and Kanesha camped out in a late-opening coffee shop opposite.

I saw the demon go in. She was in the form of a statuesque black woman with a net of jewels over her hair and a red dress.

“She looks ridiculous,” Kanesha whispered.

“I like the dress.”

“I mean the hair stuff. Have they made you wear anything like that?”

I shook my head. Of course, white gems wouldn’t work for me. They wouldn’t stand out enough. Maybe sapphires? You still wouldn’t be able to see the net, whether it was silver or gold. “Not yet.”

“Good. It would look even worse on you.”

I tugged on a blonde lock. “Or be unnoticed. Anyway…Thruor’s inside, and I bet they have somebody in there too.”

“I don’t like the spies.”

I glanced around. “Neither do I, but hush, I think that’s one of them there.” My eyes met the woman’s. She nodded to me.

Yeah. She was one of them alright.

“Who do you think is her target?” Kanesha asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m betting they aren’t white.” Which kind of sucked as a conclusion, but also made a sad amount of sense. If you wanted to seduce somebody you’d show up as the same race. Unless you knew they went for… I shuddered.

I’d had somebody accuse me of fetishizing Kanesha. It was horribly offensive to everyone concerned. But some people really were like that.

“What’s wrong?”

“My mind went into a bad part of the gutter. Sorry.”


Then I felt something. The faintest of disturbances. “Uh oh. Get ready.”

I tried to meet the spy’s eyes too. She needed to be ready. Just in case.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 16

She made a good play before I managed to disentangle myself. Immortality for Kanesha. Large amounts of money. All kinds of stuff I had less than no interest in. Or rather had less than no interest in getting as bribes from her.

Demons, I’d come to realize, had a pretty limited playbook. Sex, immortality, money, power. She’d had the sense not to offer me one or four.

Power I wasn’t sure I wanted. Power I was pretty sure I would have more of than I wanted.

But she didn’t attack me. That was, perhaps, demon honor. They didn’t attack during a negotiation, even if it went against them. I respected that enough not to fight her.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t watching her and focusing on her and trying to work out exactly how I could fight her when and if the opportunity came up.

I decided that in a straight physical fight I could take her easily. Which meant she wouldn’t go for a straight physical fight. She’d try something else.

Most of my friends were forearmed. Or, I thought, she’d hire some thugs to help her. Maybe bring in some war demons if she could.

All three were good possibilities. I was almost more worried about the spy types. Sure, they knew, but did they really know in their bones? How many of them had actual experience with demons as opposed to just reading it in some kind of spy manual of the supernatural.

Which made me want to get my hands on a copy of my own file. I probably had one. They were the kind of people who kept files on people.

And they were watching me. I spotted their tail easily, and in a moment of mischief wandered over to him. “Got a light?”


I grinned. “Practice. And no, I don’t smoke.”

“Thanks. Now they’ll have to switch me out.”

“Go home,” I told him. “I don’t need protection and the world doesn’t need protecting from me. You’re just going to get in the middle of a fight.”

“I can handle it.”

He looked to be maybe twenty. Older than me in some ways, not in others. “I hope you can.” That was a more politic answer than saying he couldn’t.

He shrugged. “I’m armed. Now move away before people realize we’re together.”

It was probably too late, but I shrugged in return. Of course they’d switch him out. I was pretty sure the replacement would be no better at hiding from me… Or from anyone who meant me harm.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 15

False alarm, or at least so it appeared. We found Clara and Tasha in a corner of the restaurant, and left again without disturbing them. I wasn’t sensing anything from Tasha other than mundane kid. So, we decided to just stay out and hunt demons.

Not that we really knew where to start, so hunting demons turned into walking through the city together in companionable silence. I hoped we hadn’t been distracted from a real problem by Clara’s apparent disappearance. Or date, for all I knew.

Seb and Clara. I thought about it, and now I thought about it I was pretty sure most of it was on Seb’s side.

Great. I didn’t want to be caught up in any kind of drama between the two, which seemed entirely likely under the circumstances. I shook my head. “You know, is life…is life less complicated if you’re only attracted to women?” I asked Kanesha.

She grinned. “Probably.”

Which was probably all the answer I was going to get out of her. A few minutes later it was all the answer she had time to give.

Maybe the demon had found out we were going after her. Maybe it was unrelated. Heck, maybe it was a friend of Tyz’vel’s.
We got jumped by two war demons. Right in the street. How they had got here I didn’t know or care. I drew my sword to defend myself, focusing what attention I could spare on us not being seen. Our blades clashed, and fire flowed over mine unbidden.

Ugh. I probably didn’t want to do that, especially as demons tended to like fire. But apparently not this fire.

It yelped when it touched it. “Damn you.”

“Coming from you, that’s rich.” I couldn’t spare an eye for Kanesha, except that she didn’t seem to be having difficulties. In fact, the other demon no longer had a sword.

I decided I could trust her to handle herself, and managed to repeat that a moment later, his blade going flying as mine hit his throat.

I didn’t hesitate – it was a demon after all. Straight through.

A moment later, I heard sardonic clapping and sighed. “Not funny, whoever that is.”

At least it wasn’t Tyz’vel. I hadn’t seen him since Kanesha had opened a door to Hell for the angels.

But it was a demon, for sure. A demon in the form of a woman in a long red dress, slit almost to the thigh. “As good as I heard.”

I sighed. Great. We’d given away fighting prowess. “What do you want?”

She smiled. “You out of this city. What would it be worth for you to simply…leave?”
“More,” I said. “Than you could possibly afford.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 14

If Clara had got herself kidnapped again, I swore, I was going to change her name to Damsel.

Hopefully she’d just forgotten to charge her phone. But I couldn’t be sure, and I wasn’t about to take any kind of risk with the situation. Kanesha was armed up and behind me as I headed out into the cold evening.
The temperature had dropped after some unusually warm days. I was glad of it – winter was supposed to be cold, and the warm snap had made me feel just a little bit uncomfortable and out of place.

And worried about the stability of the climate and things Loki had said. Now it felt more like winter. More like Skadi was around.

Maybe that was it. Maybe she’d gotten distracted. Like I was getting right now.

Clara’s place. On the bus, I called Seb. He picked up, but he was in Baltimore for some reason. Some kind of demon-related reason.

There was no way he’d be back in time to help, so we were on our own. Trying not to think about Monica’s prophecy, I made it to Clara’s place.

Her dad answered the door. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Is Clara home?”

He shook his head. “She went out with some friend of hers.”

Alarm bells sounded. “Some friend?”

“Girl called Tasha or something from school.”

I remembered Tasha. In Clara’s year, quiet, spectacles. Not the kind of girl I’d want next to me in a fight. “Okay. Do you know where they went?”

“Can’t you call her?” he grumbled.

“I think she forgot to charge her phone.”

He frowned, tugged out his own phone, dialed. “So she did.”

I really hoped that was it.

“But I don’t know exactly where they went. She promised to be back by 10pm.”

I nodded. “Okay. I think we can make a good guess.”

After he ducked back inside, I turned to Kanesha. “What’s that restaurant Clara likes?”

“She usually goes there with…oh, right.”

I hoped Seb wouldn’t be jealous of Clara hanging out with somebody else in that restaurant. If he was the type to be which, of course, I wasn’t sure of. “Let’s go.”

I let Kanesha lead the way, but I felt a growing sense of unease.

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 13

Demon hunting. At least this one wasn’t after me, although I wouldn’t put it past her to try.

Maybe I could confuse her into not being able to decide whether to be a succubus or incubus. That might be an advantage. What did I do with it?

First of all, though, Kanesha had collected all the names we knew that she’d used and was doing probably redundant research.

The spy types had to have done it all already, surely. But it was worth it. We might see something they didn’t.

Some pattern. Something that came from our side not theirs.

Something that wouldn’t be seen by people who didn’t trust anyone. Part of me wanted to not go after her, as maybe…

But no. We couldn’t really let her go around, as the spy had put it, collecting Senators. Not so much because I cared about the U.S. political system as because whatever she was up to would undoubtedly destroy lives.

Demons always destroyed lives. It was what they did. So, even without knowing exactly what she was up to, I had to do something about her.

Well, Tyz’vel hadn’t destroyed my life, but now I understood more I knew he had destroyed lives. And collected souls.
That might be what she was up to too, although I didn’t think Senators would be that much of a challenge. Yeah, I was in a pretty cynical mood on the matter.

“Okay. I’m not finding anything we don’t already have.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I told her. “I mean, they have analysts who’ve been doing this for longer than you’ve been alive.”

She threw a piece of wadded paper at me. I managed to let it hit me.

“Just because you’re secretly older than this country.”


“How do you know?”

I threw the piece of paper back. “Looks like we’re hitting the street.”

“I’ll call Clara and see if she has anything,” she offered, setting aside her laptop and uncoiling from my sofa in a way that made me want to do other things than hit the street. I pushed it out of my mind for later and went to check my gear.

I wondered if I could do something with magic or blessed bullets. Father Will could do that, of course, but I was pretty sure that was crossing pantheons to a little bit too much of a degree.

“Clara’s not picking up.”

“Crap. Do you know where…”

“She said she’d be home.”

I put the gun into my jacket. “Let’s go.”

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 12

I’m not saying I wanted to lose any of them, but Kanesha was the woman I loved, was specifically under my personal protection.

I didn’t need to tell anyone else. Monica, after some hesitation, had taken care of it. Which meant everyone was warned to be careful.

And if it was so uncertain, it probably wasn’t fixed in stone. Yet. We could not exactly cheat it, because you couldn’t, but we could dodge it. Maybe I could take whatever blow it was myself and either survive or, well, come back.

That was probably, I thought, the best plan. Have somebody who could take it die instead.

The best laid plans of mice, men, and goddesses, of course. I didn’t really think it would work, but it was on the table. I didn’t want to repeat the experience of falling off the dragon, but…

It occurred to me that Thruor would have a different view of matters. Maybe this was why I wasn’t cut out to be a Valkyrie. I was caring too much for their lives and not enough for the true spark within.

I had a sudden image of the world as being nothing more than an illusion, set over a framework of the true reality.
Which I was part of. But so were they, it just wasn’t as obvious. No. Not an illusion.

A nursery. A proving ground. Somewhere for those precious sparks to develop. Which…what did that make us?

I thought I understood. The rest of what I needed was locked up somewhere in my memories, frustratingly almost within reach. I could remember knowing it.

Dang it. I needed to get it out of my system. Maybe destroy a punching bag or something. Hunt some vampires.

Instead, I took my sword and went to find a quiet corner where nobody would notice me practicing. At least, nobody without supernatural senses anyway. Working through the exercises helped. It cleared my mind. It made me more ready to deal with what might happen.

Monica was going to die, that much I knew. So was somebody else, and I didn’t know who and I was glad I didn’t know and worried at the same time.

But I got my head clear. Really, the only thing I could do with the prophecy was ignore it. Make sure everyone was careful.

Ignore it and hope it would go away, or hope that the resolution would be there when the time came. That it would form itself.

Of course, I couldn’t.

The best laid plans, as I said. They never quite work, and knowing something means you can’t put it out of your mind.

What did I know that Odin had put out of my mind?

Episode Twenty-Three: Politics: Scene 11

I told her the next day at lunch.

She frowned. “But…”

“I won’t let anything happen to you.”

She looked across the table. “It’s not me I’m worried about.”

Clara. Seb. Mike. Kanesha. It was one of the four, I was sure of that, but I didn’t know which one. And of course that didn’t mean the other three were safe.

The web of fate also had an element of chance. “We could talk to a norn.”

“Would they see more than Monica?”

I opened my mouth to say obviously, then shut it again. They might not. “And besides, finding them…”

“Unless they want to be found. Ask the ravens?”

“I will next time I see Hunin. Munin won’t be able to help.” He could only see the past, Hunin was the one who glimpsed the future. Brothers. Complementary. In many ways two halves of the same being. I liked them.

“Alright.” Kanesha frowned. “I will be extra careful,” she said, finally. “I trust you, but…”

“I need you to be self-rescuing,” I quipped. “I need you to be extra careful so I don’t have to watch your back as much.”

She grinned. “Don’t worry. You know I can look after myself.”

And that was that. Trust had to go both ways. I would catch her if she fell, and I would gladly take a bullet for her, but I’d much rather not have to. All four of them could look after themselves.

What if it was somebody else? What if it was, say, Bruce? No. I didn’t feel that and I was pretty sure…

…that Monica would have known. She didn’t know who it was. Which meant it was likely to be some chaotic situation, some circumstance in which everyone was in danger. “Be extra careful in big fights,” I added.

“I always am.” She studied me. “You…”

“I’m not in real danger. You are.” That, I thought, would settle it. But I wouldn’t stop worrying.

And the worst part of it was that I could relax only when and if the prophecy came true.

When somebody else died.