Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 30

I figured it was time to head home.

Of course, we were in southeast, so I should have known something else would happen.

Actually, the something else that happened was a body landing at my feet with a thud. From the fact that it was still squirming, I divined that it probably hadn’t been intended to be a fatal fall.

“Is this one one of yours?” came a voice from a fire escape.

Angrboda whirled to face it. I inspected the body. It was our favorite loose cannon hunter. “No, but I’ll gladly take him out of here.”

I wasn’t sure who he’d decided to mess with this time.

“Tie him up until he learns the difference between demons and, well, anything.”

I laughed. “I think I’m going to try and set Zaid on him.”

“You know that guy?”

I could now see the figure on the fire escape…a young man with rather spectacular dreadlocks.

“Yeah, I know Zaid.”

“Good a plan as any.” He then looked at Angrboda. Then at me. “Okay, remind me to stay on your good side.”

I picked the guy up in a princess carry. “Don’t worry, it’s not hard.” And then I decided I was going to just carry him all the way to Thruor’s place.

Not Zaid’s, which was just a bit too far even for me.

He woke up after a bit. “Ugh.”

“You pissed off another hunter. This time I’m not turning you loose.”


“You’re either going to stop doing this or learn to do it right. Those are your choices. Or I’ll give you worse than bruises. Personally.”

“Demon,” he accused.

“No,” Angrboda said cheerfully, “That’s me.”

I laughed. “You aren’t a demon. Don’t confuse him further.”

“I’m a frost giant. Not much difference there.”

“This kid thinks we’re all demons.”

I put him down. “Don’t try to run.”

He didn’t. I took him all the way to Thruor’s place, which was bigger than mine.

She wasn’t even surprised to see me, a frost giant, and a beat up mortal on her doorstep. Probably because it had already happened too many times.

I wouldn’t have been surprised either.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 29

The blade felt so right in my hands, but I was also glad for the spar against the dwarves, because the fomor pulled a hammer from what I suspected was thin air.

Had I not practiced against one, I wouldn’t have been able to avoid the blow he aimed for my skull, but then my blade darted past his guard and got him in the stomach.

Not a fatal blow, but it slowed him down. “Grah,” he managed.

“This is too easy,” I told him.

He pulled away, and I saw he was already healing. Rapidly. “For me!”


I really did need cold iron, and I didn’t have any, but…then I knew. I backed down the stairs, narrowly missing him.

“Running away, godling?”

I didn’t answer him. Because now Angrboda was behind me. I let her pass. “Keep him busy. I have an idea.”

I did, too. Angrboda swung her axe towards him. Knowing it wouldn’t have any more success (and pretty sure my sword was actually complaining about it), I ran out. The mother and child were out of view. The outside of…yes. Not his house, but the one next door had barred windows. Theft prevention. With Asgardian strength I pulled one of the bars free and smiled.

Wrought iron.

It would probably work. And it was sharp from the way I’d twisted it free.

I turned around to see him toss Angrboda into the street. From the way she landed, I knew she’d let him do it. As he came charging out, I charged in from the side.

He brought his hammer down on my sword. It didn’t, of course, damage the blade, but it nearly knocked it out of my hand…

…which didn’t matter as I thrust the iron rod into his side. He coughed, choked, gave a small surprised sound and then dissipated into a foul stench.

“Aha. I should have thought of that.”

“You just forgot window bars on Midgaard are made of cold iron,” I accused.

She laughed. “I did indeed. I thought they were steel, and that we’d have to beat him into submission until he fled.”

I looked at the bar. It didn’t have any blood on it, but it smelled bad now. Oh well. I tossed it back under where it came from. “And the kid?”

“Oh, he was beating both of them. Another good reason to take him out.”

“As long as the kid’s okay.” I hoped she hadn’t developed any kind of twisted love for her stepfather. It seemed everyone around had daddy issues.

Mine were at least somewhat amusing.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 28

What I hadn’t expected was that Angrboda would speak up before I could. “Hello there. Is your stepdad in?”

She knew about the kid.
Then I remembered she was one thing I was not and probably wouldn’t be for a while: A mother. She knew kids.

The girl put a hand over her mouth, then, “I’m not supposed to talk to anyone.”

Angrboda smiled. “Ah, but I’m not anyone. I’m an old friend of his.”

The girl recoiled a bit at the word friend. I caught that. Maybe she did too, because she glanced at me.

That glance said she would keep the girl distracted. Which she did as I slipped by, but I was about to do something horrible to her stepdad.

Who might be doing horrible things to her. Or Angrboda was just intimidating, but there was definitely something in her manner.

Somebody was abusing that kid. And that somebody was probably the person I’d come to take out.

Or the kid’s mother.

Who suddenly emerged from the room ahead of me. Seeing me, she screamed.

I had my hand over her mouth quickly, but not quickly enough. “I’m not here for you.”

I released her a little.

“You’re here for him.”

“Yes. Take your daughter. Go.”


“I don’t care what you’ve done. Just get the kid and go.”

She ran past me. She’d done stuff. She’d done plenty of stuff, I could see it in her eyes, but she was still human. And a mother. I’d asked promises from Angrboda, I had to keep them myself.
Then the fomor was at the top of the stairs. He looked light skinned, almost white, as if that was as black as he was willing to go. He was also as big as any giant.

I drew my sword. “I hear you’ve been throwing your weight around.”
“On orders of my lady.”

“I don’t care. Go home to faerie or I’ll send you back the hard way.”

“You don’t have cold iron.”

“I have this.” The blade glowed a little, and I could feel its eagerness to fight. It had a mind of its own, and a mind that wanted to kill this guy. “I’ll take your cold iron and raise you dwarf-forged steel.”

He hesitated for a moment. Then, surprise surprise, he charged.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 27

I told her, of course, over lunch. Her idea of fun was to go track down a fomor that had been beating on people in southeast.

“You in southeast?”

“We could take your girlfriend.”

“I’ll check, I think she’s busy studying.” But I stood out bad enough in that neighborhood. Angrboda’s white hair and youthful features – she honestly looked like a less delicate Daenerys Targaryen – would just make her a target. “But we’d have to deal with a bunch of people who didn’t like us being there.”

“So we give them enough bruises to convince them.”

“No killing mortals.” I grinned at her. “Ideally no maiming, either.”

“Really. Killing people is easy. Inflicting just enough pain to make them think twice before bothering you again? That’s hard.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Without doing real damage. I’ve been working on that art.”

Yeah. I did like her. Mother of monsters she might be, but we seemed to have rather a lot in common.

“Exactly. And I’m sure you have no aversion to killing annoying fairies.”

“Depends on the level of annoying.” Which launched me into a story about the one who’d created the dragon illusion.

I still hadn’t seen that guy since. Hopefully he was hunting something worthwhile. Or, better yet, had been scared clear out of the business.

She laughed. “Yeah, that level of annoying isn’t…”

“If the hunter hadn’t shown up, I’d have tossed him in the river,” I admitted.

“Appropriate. So, shall we?”

“I need to swing by home and gear up.” I also called Kanesha, but as I suspected, she was too busy with studying to join in a hunting expedition that didn’t really need her.

She hinted, darkly, that I should be the same, but I figured this would help me focus. Besides, I’d studied most of the weekend.

I grabbed my new sword, which I was finally going to get to test out, and we headed into southeast. As predicted, we got stared at, but something about us kept anyone from causing us real trouble. And it wasn’t like we were leaving a vehicle to get keyed or its tires stolen.

One of them, of course, got brave, “You ladies lost?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“You should get back where you belong.” He offered a smile. “Before somebody mugs you.”

“If they do,” Angrboda said. “I’ll put them in the nearest dumpster.”

A laugh. “I like your confidence, white girl.”

She inclined her head to accept the compliment. He didn’t try anything else.

The fomor was apparently holed up in a tenement. I could almost smell him. Fomori are an ugly kind of fae, generally, according to research Kanesha had done, used as muscle by Sidhe and the other more powerful types. Not much magic, good in a fight.

And I really did have no qualms about killing him.

Until the little girl opened the door. Not his daughter, of course. Just a shield. And Angrboda hadn’t lied about him being fae.

The kid was mortal, though. I didn’t want her harmed.

I didn’t want her to see this. I didn’t want her in foster care if he was somehow her guardian.

It was an unwanted complication.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 26

That lasted until the weekend. The pretending to be normal, that was. It lasted, in fact, until I saw Angrboda under a tree on the Mall. Fanning herself.

“Not good weather for you?”

“I don’t…no, wait, I do know how you take it.” She mock-glared at me.

“How about we go somewhere air-conditioned?” I suggested. “Before you melt?”

She very definitely looked as if she was in imminent danger of doing just that. We headed to the Natural History museum, to the cafeteria.

“I was told to seek allies in Jotunheim.”

“And you think I count?” Her tone was amused.

“I think you like me. I know I like you.”

She considered that. “I suppose, maybe.” There was a twinkle in her eyes, though. “But allies in what cause?”

“Keeping Surtur from starting Ragnarok.”

Maybe killing him was her job, but what would happen if a frost giant killed him. Then again, that might be a loophole.

They were enemies by nature, well, opposites. A frost giant couldn’t rule Muspelheim, everyone would know that.

So, maybe that was a solution to the dilemma. Get Angrboda to do it. She might well be capable, from what I’d seen. More than I, certainly.
“You want me to kill him for you?”

“The thought just crossed my mind.”

“Because, of course, they would never accept me as ruler of Muspelheim. You’d start a civil war, though. Succession wars. Nasty stuff.”

“Would keep them out of trouble for a while,” I mused. Then I thought of the fire giant teenager. “But you have a point.”

“A lot of your mother in you. Never did work out what he sees in her.” A toothed grin.

“I don’t mind war and fighting. I enjoy it. I just…” A pause. “I kind of like to have a purpose to it.”

“But you enjoy a spar.”

“Not you.”

She laughed. “What, gotten a lot of challenges lately?”

“A few,” I admitted. “Maybe everyone’s bored and antsy.”

“There’s a lot of tension in the air. In, as far as I can tell, all of the realms. Everyone’s worried somebody…not necessarily Surtur…will start Ragnarok just to have something to do.”

I laughed at that. “Don’t worry. But I have considered going further afield to look for vampires.”

“Ah, fun to beat on, but you’ve cleaned them all out?”

I nodded.

“I think I have an idea.” Again that toothy grin. “We could both use something to do, right?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve any bears.”

She laughed. “Now, that story I have to hear.”

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 25

Fortunately, they didn’t arrest me, just lectured me. I found out which hospital the victim was taken to and headed there. I wanted to know why she got gunned down practically in front of me. Sure, it was probably none of my business, but…

But I kind of took a dim view of things like that.

“Do you know her?” The orderly stopped me.


“Can’t let you past this point, then. Security.”

I nodded. “The shooter’s in custody.”

He peered. “You know what happened?”

“I was there. That’s why I’m worried.”

“Well, she’s in no danger of dying.”

“Guy muffed his shot, then.” Which if he was a professional shouldn’t have happened. Maybe he was just some guy who’d seen enough movies to know how to fake it.

“He must have been a critic.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t actually recognize her.”

“She’s Juliet in the latest production at the Kennedy Center.”

A stage actor, then. “Oh, no wonder. I’m not big into plays.”

“But you’re worried about her.”

“You see somebody shot, you get worried.” I shook my head. “Give her best wishes.” Then I turned away.

A critic. It could be. Or something more personal. It wasn’t any of my business. I left the hospital without pushing further.

It was probably a good thing they’d kept me out. The little bit of adrenalin made me feel better. Plus, it had got me away from the reasonably good looking, but slightly pushy photographer.

Or maybe I’d had a knee jerk reaction and he hadn’t even…no, he’d admitted he was going there. In any case, it was starting to get towards dinner time. I texted Kanesha, and she said she was at home and could put a frozen pizza on.

I decided that would do and headed home, dangerous and stupid vigilanteism done for the day.

I really needed to stick to dealing with supernatural threats and not try to be a superhero. But a mortal shooter meant nothing after mountain bears and worse.

I was pretty sure I was observed on my way home, but elected not to challenge them. I suddenly wasn’t in the mood for anything but curling up with Kanesha and munching pizza.

Pretending, once more, to be normal.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 24

Then he turned to walk away and I heard the shots. I pulled him to the ground automatically.


“Didn’t you hear that?”


“Get into one of the museums,” I suggested. “They have security. Run.”

I didn’t take my own advice, but released him so he could do so. Looking around. Listening for more shots, expecting more shots.

They didn’t come, but I moved towards the commotion. The well-dressed woman I’d seen earlier was on the ground, clutching her side. I didn’t think it was fatal. “Which way did the shooter go?”

Somebody said, “That way,” and pointed.

“Somebody call an ambulance.” And I was off and running. I felt bad about the thought I’d had earlier about bodyguards – clearly I’d been right about her needing them, but still.

Of course, I knew I had no chance…no, wait, I did. Mentally, I summoned the fyrhund and sent him after the scent of gunpowder.

Whoever had fired the shots would still have powder on them, even if they’d worn gloves, even if they’d ditched the weapon. And fyrhunds were more intelligent than normal dogs.

I followed the blazing, wagging stern through the crowd.

Saw somebody start running as he realized the dog was there. Bad guys always seem to be scared of dogs, unless they’re using and in control of the dog. Or he just knew the dog might spot him.

I caught him quickly. Brought him down. I could tell he had tactical armor under his clothes. Professional.

“Who are you?” He was out of breath.

“Somebody you don’t want to mess with. Except it’s too late.”

“Let me go and I’ll match whatever…”

I hit him in the solar plexus before he could finish his offer. “This is a citizen’s arrest.”

The cops were going to be so tired of me, I thought. I had a lot of attention.

“What did he do?”

“Shot somebody. He probably ditched the gun.”

Just to add insult to injury, the fyrhund sniffed at him disdainfully, then just sat down with his tail swishing and a clear “I’m a good boy” expression on his face.

The cops showed up not long after to pick up the trash and yell at me for dangerous vigilanteism.

I really missed Mike.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 23

Of course, when I actually wanted something to fight and kill, things stayed quiet. What? I wanted to try out the new sword.

But there were no enemies around to stab or slash at, so I settled back into my routine. Well, no.

I settled back into getting ready for finals and graduation. Nothing was going to be routine for a while, and I knew I should be just as glad there was nothing causing trouble. Then again, it would be rather nice to blow off some steam.

Instead, I studied until my eyes crossed, then took a break and got some ice cream. It was finally ice cream weather – not that I would ever actually find it too cold, but people thought you were weird buying it in the middle of winter.

No, I didn’t have antifreeze for blood. Or maybe I did, thinking about it. It was black cherry vanilla swirl, and I sat at the edge of the Mall, watching people go by.

I thought of all the places I’d been, of visiting other realms, and decided I rather liked being right here. It couldn’t last, but it was just…nice…

…to pretend to be normal. But the sword reminded me that I wasn’t, even when I wasn’t holding it.

Maybe that was part of the point. Maybe it was time to really face up to the fact that I was not Jane Rudi, that she was a mask.

I was Siglaugr Lokisdottir, and nothing could change that, no force in the multiverse.

But I could still eat ice cream and pretend. Watch the people go past, wonder if any of them were amongst the few who were aware of reality. Admire the very nice sundress on one woman, expensive, well fitted.

She looked almost too wealthy to be out without bodyguards, I thought wryly. That or she was an escort.

I shook my head, and paid attention to others. Nobody in “range” had any kind of an aura, none of them had more than the little spark of mortal souls.

Vulnerable. Worth protecting. I thought of the dwarves in their mountain. Less vulnerable.

Still worth protecting. Finishing my ice cream I stood up and wandered towards the reflecting pool.

Which I still couldn’t look at without thinking about Thor pushing my father in. The only things in it right now were a couple of bored-looking Canada geese. Above them was a crow. Not a raven, just a regular crow.

It greeted me with a caw nonetheless, crows being quite smart enough to do such things. I waved to it.

Somebody laughed. “Waving to the crows?”

“The crow said hi, why not?” I turned. The voice had been vaguely familiar, and so was the face. But I couldn’t quite place him.

“Point. They do that. Where have I met you?”

“I’m trying to remember that myself.” Nothing unusual about him that I could sense. “Are you a model?”

“Oh! I think I photographed you.”

I grinned a bit, and relaxed. “You aren’t creepy, or I’d remember you, so…”

So, the mystery was solved.

“Do you want to…”

I cut him off. “Don’t change that. I’m taken.”

He laughed. “Alright. Can’t blame a guy for poking a little.”

I rather thought I could, but… He wasn’t even bad looking. “Depends on how you do it. You aren’t too bad.”

He hadn’t said anything else, after all, and he seemed willing to take no for an answer.

“We’ll probably meet again anyway.”

I nodded. “Oh, probably.” A work contact. It felt like a relief and a frustration at the same time. I still wanted, well, something.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 22

Back home, and oddly it seemed like we’d spent days in the dwarven kingdoms and only one day had…well, that could happen.

Loki’s doing, I thought. We’d been there more than a day. Kanesha had vowed never to touch dwarven ale again…what? Drinking age there certainly wasn’t 21.

I kept the old sword. It would be a good spare. The new one? I was afraid to train with it, I knew instinctively to draw this blade only when I intended to use it.

Dwarf-forged blades liked blood. I wasn’t going to ask any more about Loki’s fee. About what he was going to steal for them.

I was doing what I needed to do. There was a shoot after school. People were subdued…most of the girls there had known Monica.

“And then there was her vanishing from the hospital.”

I shrugged. “Maybe she was strong enough to sneak out. She told me she didn’t want to die in a hospital.”

“Makes more sense than somebody abducting her or something,” the woman, her name was Connie, said.

“Either way…they haven’t found her yet.” I smiled a bit. “Trust Monica to find a way to upset everyone right at the end.”

I knew why they hadn’t and why they never would, but I couldn’t say that to anyone, obviously.

A better weapon.

Allies in Jotunheim. I had to go back to the Iron Forest and talk to Angrboda. Or maybe she’d swing by.
She seemed to like me, despite everything. Despite the fact that I was her ex’s kid with somebody else.

But then, I got the feeling whatever they’d split over, it hadn’t been all that acrimonious.
Allies in Muspelheim, I knew I had.

So, what more did I need? To find out who’s task it was to kill Surtur.

To help them.

Hopefully it was one of the nice fire giants I’d met, one of the ones I felt would just…keep things quiet, let them simmer along for a while.

If whoever killed him became king…or queen…then maybe that was the point. To replace him with somebody sensible.

As long as it wasn’t me and they really were…

“You’re on.” Connie nudged me.

“Sorry. I’ll stop woolgathering.” I did, and went to get photographed in a quite nice blue dress that set off my eyes. I wanted it for myself.

I could probably get it. I sometimes felt as if I could get whatever I wanted, even as I knew that wasn’t true.

Not whatever I wanted, but more than I’d once dreamed of…

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 21

“I hope this is worth it,” Loki mused.

“Well, what do they want other than me getting mauled by a bear?”

“And to be remembered by you favorably.”

“That’s not a problem.” Even if they had got me mauled by a bear, I liked Ebba and Jorun. And although they would not fight with me, it seemed worth having allies here too.

“And something I’m going to steal for them.”

I lifted a hand. “If I don’t know about it, I won’t get yelled at by anyone about it.”

He grinned. “Exactly.”

They gave Kanesha her blade first, in the forge – which was so abysmally hot we were both sweating.

“It has no great power, but it will stand up against anything the mortal world…or fire giants…can throw at you without breaking, and the edge will not need to be sharpened.”

And then the king turned to me. “I know who you are, Lokisdottir. I know what you might yet achieve. This is Balgefa, the Firegiver.”

I reached and took the blade…and it felt right in my hands. “This was forged for me. How long ago?”

“Does it matter?”

Before I was even born, I thought, was the answer. “So the thing with the bear.”

He laughed. “We actually rather did need help with the bear. But I also wanted you to meet my daughters. Whatever path you lead, you will have their friendship.”

Whatever? “And if…” The blade flickered, casting him in an odd light.

“Now I have known you, I trust that you will not.”

Cause Ragnarok. But I had already been reminded it wasn’t the end. “All things come to an end and are reborn.” It felt right.

“Yes, but not yet.”

I smiled. “Not yet.” It was a promise I felt I could reasonably make. A shiver ran through me.

And then I remembered. I would not kill Surtur.

That was another part of the prophecy. I would fight him. I knew it would come to that.

It was not my task to kill him. And I didn’t know who’s it was.

Not the dwarven sisters. This was their place, under the hill, forging blades others would take into combat.

I wondered, suddenly, how old they were.

I wondered exactly who had created this blade for me.