Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 20

Ebba carried her prize herself. Jorun tore the fangs out of the bear’s mouth and offered one of them to me.

I took it, having a feeling it would be very rude to refuse, and tucked it into my belt. Maybe it would be useful for something. As a last resort surprise weapon, maybe.

Or just as a trophy. My arm still hurt, and we had a several hour trek back. I wasn’t flagging – Kanesha was a little – but I was distinctly grouchy and not talking to anyone by the time we saw an entrance to the dwarven halls. The warmth helped.

“Siglaugr needs a healer!” Ebba called.

One of the women came over to me. I let her lead me off to the infirmary. “Bear get you?”

“Bear’s dead, but yeah, she got me a good one,” I admitted.

“That’s you warrior types. Go out, get yourself hurt, get us to patch you up so you can do it all again.” She sounded more amused than angry, though.

I still had the fang in my belt. “Point, but some battles have to be fought.”

“Says the Aesir.”

“Like dwarves don’t fight.”

“We fight when we need to. We aren’t quarrelsome like giants, but you know that.”

I did. “But you could take on any enemy in these halls. If nothing else, I wouldn’t want to try and fight while crouching.”

She laughed ringingly as she examined the wound. “That would be a problem, yes.”

There might be advantages to being tall, but the dwarves knew how to leverage being short. Then I flinched. “Ow.”

“The ointment will speed healing, but it does sting.”

“So do a lot of healing ointments.”

“Even on Midgaard?”

I thought of rubbing alcohol and nodded. “Yeah. Yours are better, though.”

She laughed again. “Flattery.”

“I rather need you to be on my side,” I pointed out.

“Between this and the way your people heal, you’ll be fine in a couple of days. It did get you good, though.”

“Nearly swatted me off the cliff.”

“Sword hand, too.”

I nodded. “Dang smart bear. I was worried it would turn out to be a shapechanger.”

“And if it was?”

“It was still eating people.” Yeah, I’d have killed it anyway.

“At least you consider us people.”

I thought about that. “We’re all people. Just different kinds.”

“Like your dark mortal?”

“Some mortals come that color. It’s just protection against the sun.”

The dwarf nodded. “And they seldom come here.”

“They have their own gods.” I remembered Africa. “Ones that are very strange to us, but quite real.”

She finished wrapping my wound. “But that one is yours.”

“Yes.” And I felt quite proud of the fact, of being worthy of her love.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 19

I didn’t need that much in the way of branches. An instinct told me a bundle would be enough. I tied it to my waist and started to climb.

Free climbing a strange cliff, with a bear at the top of it. I was seriously crazy.

And the bear smelled me. I realized then that a rope would have been a bad idea, because a huge claw came swatting out of the cave.

I threw the bundle of branches at it. It swatted them, but they landed in the cave entrance anyway.
The bear roared.

“You’re a smart bear, but you should have been smarter than to eat dwarves!” I called to it.

It roared again. Not smart enough to talk. I let the fire within me flow for a moment. Ignited the branches. Then the smoky fire spread into the lair.

The bear was so surprised it fell out the lair mouth. Not that far, catching itself with a claw, but I hoped it took at least a few bruises in the tumble. Instead of going the rest of the way down the cliff, though, it came right for me.

One of the dwarves shot an arrow into it, which stuck in the bear’s hip, but didn’t even slow it down. I drew my sword, slashing at it as best I could – I’d carefully picked a side that would allow me to use my dominant hand, but the beast was big, the cliff was…and I slid a bit further down.

Getting down struck me as a smart idea. The four dwarves and Kanesha were down there to help deal with the bear.

A claw hit me and slashed into my shoulder. I dropped my sword, feeling pain go down the arm.


I ran. Well, as best as I could down a vertical cliff with only one arm really working. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed, I was sure.

Fortunately, the bear was angry enough to follow me. It sprouted a couple more arrows before I tumbled to the path and got behind Ebba. “Sorry.”

“Let us deal with her.” She grinned and spun her axe. Kanesha had a sword she’d borrowed from Thruor. She was trying to get behind the bear, out of claw range.

It was twenty feet tall. But it was still only a bear. I found my sword, got it into my off hand. Not ideal, but I could at least do some damage. I slashed at its back, other side from Kanesha, and then Jorun actually leapt into the air and brought her hammer down on the beast’s head.

It went down like a tree. “Timber!” Kanesha yelled.

I laughed, then regretted it. “Medic, more like it.”
The second of the silent dwarves came over to look. “Let me bandage that.”

I held still while he did so, hoping there was better medical care back in the dwarven settlement.

No, I already knew there was. And the bear was dead.

“We should,” Kanesha suggested, “Take the body back.”

“I would not eat the meat,” Ebba said. “But the fur will be useful.” She produced a skinning knife.

I thought about it and decided I wouldn’t want to eat a bear that had been eating dwarves either.

“Turn it into a rug,” I suggested, wryly.
“I just might do that.”

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 18

We did see a bear, but it took one look at us and slipped off into the trees. “Not our target,” Ebba said.

“Okay, how can we identify it, or is it going to just attack us?” Kanesha asked.

“The one we’re looking for has black tips to the ears and a lighter “mantle” over the shoulders.”

The bear we’d seen had been pretty big. Maybe not twenty feet tall, but big enough. A grizzly.

But that much at least I’d been expecting. I touched my sword and moved onwards.

“Now we’re in its territory,” Ebba explained. “So, look sharp.”

“Where’s the lair? Up on the cliffs?” I thought I could see some caves up there. A bear smart enough to hunt dwarves and smart enough to know where not to be.

Kanesha, of course, had brought rope. But I might not need it.

Then the bear was suddenly in front of us. I narrowed my eyes. Not a Loki bear, no. Just a bear, no more magical than anything else here, but where had she come from? I drew my sword, but the bear seemed to realize how many of us there were and turned to flee.

“It’ll be going for its lair. Not taking on six of us.”

“Smarter than the average bear,” I agreed. Which got a giggle from Kanesha.

“Is that some Midgardian…”

“It’s a story reference.” I figured the dwarves would understand that.


“A series of stories about a trickster bear,” I added.

“Which we have.”

I shook my head. “The bear in the stories wasn’t evil. He didn’t eat people. Well, he’d steal your lunch.”

The dwarf laughed. “Any bear will do that given the chance.”

So, the bears weren’t that different here. The bear was scaling the cliffs, and I could see the difficulty. “I assume there’s no trail leading above the lair?”

Ebba shook her head. “No, or…”

“We’re not going to get ropes up there, but…” I studied the cliff. The bear had ducked into the cave, aware that arrows might follow it up there.

Smoking it out might be challenging. But there were pine trees a bit further down. “Kanesha…”

“Nice green pine branches.”

I nodded. “Right.”

“You’ll be struggling to light them in this,” said one of the men.

“No,” I said, clearly, glancing at him. The first time he’d spoken. He hadn’t even given his name. “I won’t.”

They were about to get a bit of a demonstration, I thought, but I couldn’t see another good solution.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 17

The sisters were right. It was cold. The tunnels had been, if anything, unpleasantly warm. The surface reminded me of Jotunheim.

“I can see why you people live underground,” Kanesha quipped.

Ebba’s lips quirked. “We were designed for this world, as you were for yours.”


I laughed. “Kanesha, let’s not argue science versus theology. They don’t actually contradict, you know.”

“They never do.” The dwarf sounded thoughtful. “Of course, mortals are different. Be careful, Kanesha.”

A reminder of how fragile she was. “I look after her.”

“You are lovers.” Not a question.

I admit I blushed slightly. “Yes.”

Ebba shrugged. “Then you have every motivation to keep her from being eaten by the bear.”

“I can keep myself from being eaten by a bear!” Kanesha snapped.

“It’s probably twenty feet tall,” I pointed out. Of course, a regular-sized bear would probably look tall to a dwarf, but…I just couldn’t imagine the bears here being normal.


“And we’re going to ambush it.”

Two other dwarves, both male, had come with us. Neither seemed comfortable joining in the conversation. Or maybe they were just used to the sisters dominating it in turns.

“Ambush?” Ebba asked.

I nodded. “I’ll get her out of her lair.”

Kanesha grinned. “You’re going to smoke her out.”


“Oh!” The dwarf grinned. “Our fires are of the earth. We don’t carry them within us, but you’re part fire giant, aren’t you?”

“Yes.” Possibly a larger part than I wanted to think about.

“I don’t think our father thought of that.”

“So much the better,” I said. “Maybe we won’t tell him how I did it.”

Both of them laughed. “Nah, he’d find out.”

“And be annoyed with me, then remember who my dad was and be utterly unsurprised.”

Jorun laughed again. “You have a point. We’re taking the right fork here.”
This had to be a game trail at this point. I was amazed the broader dwarves fit on it. I was having enough difficulty myself.

Maybe it wouldn’t be that large a bear after all.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 16

Kanesha blinked. “I don’t know that I want to meet your bears, but I’m guessing you have a nuisance animal?”
“A what?” Jorun said.

“Uh, that’s what we call it when a wild animal gets a taste for human flesh and we have to go hunt them before they eat anyone else or give the idea to other animals.”

Jorunn nodded and her braids bounced. “Yes.”

But this would be a nasty bear. I was envisioning something twice normal size. “Surely you can get a hunting party together.”

“We have. Every time, we chase it back to its lair.” Jorunn paused, then. “Bears climb very well.”

“Bears climb better than dwarves.” I got the picture now. Obviously the short-limbed dwarves couldn’t get to the bear’s lair and the bear was just sticking a middle claw at them from there.

Sheepishly, “Sometimes.”

“Well, I think I can get the bear out of her lair.” I might even be able to do it without climbing up there, depending on how it was configured. “I’m certainly willing to give it a try if you show us where.”

“It’s about a four hour hike,” the dwarf warned.

“I can handle that.” I glanced at Kanesha, who nodded. She might only have mortal endurance, but she seldom had issues keeping up. She just had to work harder for it.

“And it’s cold.”

I didn’t really feel the cold, but I figured Kanesha would heed the warning. “Let us go get cold weather gear, then?” she asked.

“Of course.”

I’d need Loki’s help with that. When I told him, he laughed.

“A bear?”

“A bear.” A pause. “A smart bear.”

It wasn’t a Loki bear. Or was it?


“Lairing somewhere hard for dwarves to reach. I think I’m going to…” I tailed off.

Just in case it, was, somehow a Loki bear.

“I’m not responsible for this one.” He was laughing, though. “But it’s a good idea.”

“I know you aren’t. You wouldn’t eat dwarf.”

“No!” He grinned. “Far too tough.”

Kanesha pretended to punch him, a very brave maneuver.

“Respect for your betters!”

She did it again. “Tricksters don’t get respect.”

“Come on…let’s go get your coat.”

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 15

The king’s daughters looked like twins. Maybe they were. Both of them had their father’s dark hair, braided back.

“I’m Ebba, and my sister is Jorun.”

I wasn’t sure whether dwarves shook hands. I started to extend my right hand, and Ebba grinned, grabbing both of my forearms for a moment.

Kanesha did the same thing with Jorun.

“Our father went over the rules?”

The sparring arena was a circle in the center of a circular room, with four projections from the edge. Judges and healers watched. And there was a gallery above.

Either Loki really had sold tickets or the dwarves wanted to see their princesses kick outsider butt. Ebba had a hammer and Jorun an axe.

“He did. And also told us not to break each other too badly.”

We had swords. I suspected their weapons of being better. And yes, we were fighting live.

And trusting each other not to break each other too badly. The primary referee was a grey-bearded dwarf…likely a weapons master. He reminded us of the rules, and then we took places on either side of the circle.

I’d half expected the dwarven sisters to be slow, given their chosen weapons. They weren’t…Jorun almost had me bullrushed into the wall, but I brought the hilt of my sword into the shaft of her axe, knocking it and then her aside.

I wasn’t going to underestimate them like that again, but really?

Loki’s prediction was accurate. The dwarfmaids were clearly more experienced than us, savvy with their chosen weapons, and grinning the entire time. Not that I wasn’t having fun, but after Ebba tossed Kanesha into the wall and she dropped her sword to clutch her shoulder. “I yield.”

“Not bad at all,” Ebba said, grinning, as the healers moved to check on us.

“I haven’t had enough practice against axes and hammers. Especially hammers.”

She grinned again. “Should fix that.”

“I don’t have a regular partner who uses one,” I admitted.

“Swords are one thing, but a hammer can break a sword easily.”

“Which is why everyone should fight unarmed,” Jorun backed her up with.

I lifted my hands. The healer was fixing Kanesha’s shoulder, which was dislocated. I was bruised all over. And had dealt a few and a couple of cuts too. “Agreed.”

“But you’re clearly not completely useless, either of you,” Ebba continued. “So…maybe you can help us out with something.”

“And what is that something?”

“A little trip into the mountains.”

“As long as it doesn’t involve dragons.”

They both laughed. “There’s a story there.”

“Not one I’m too keen on telling.”

“But no, it involves a very dangerous bear.”

That didn’t seem much safer than a dragon, but…well…we had to prove ourselves or whatever. “What did the bear do?”

“Eat somebody.”

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 14

“First, I want to ensure you are indeed…competent…warriors.” He grinned a bit.

“Are you suggesting a spar?” First Tyr, now a dwarven king. “Everyone wants to see me fight lately.”

He laughed. “Yes, although not against me. I think my daughters might be a good test for you.”

“One each, or two on two?”

He paused. “Two on two, unless they disagree.”

“I can agree to that. What are the rules?”

“To yield or call. Try not to break each other two much.”

I grinned. “That’s fine by me.” Call, I assume, meant we’d have a referee.

“I’ll have a healer standing by.”

Somebody was going to end up needing one, I figured. “Weapons?”

“Whatever you prefer.”

I wondered if he’d end up selling tickets, as it were. And I suspected this was part a test to see if we could fight and part a way to see our style. “Alright.”

“I will arrange for food.”

A moment later, Loki came into the room, right after the dwarf king left. He had no handprints on him. “So…”

“He wants to see us fight.”

Loki nodded. “Standard dwarven sparring rules, I suppose.”

“Yield or call, he said.”

“That’s standard.”

“And a two on two with his daughters.”

Loki laughed. “You’re going to get your butt kicked.”

“I don’t mind that if we learn something.”

“Might be limited. Dwarves generally fight with axes or hammers. They’ll make swords for others, but don’t like them themselves. Quite a different style.”

I nodded. “Eh, maybe I’ll be in a position where an axe or a hammer is what I have available.”


But he was right…axe and hammer techniques wouldn’t translate well to sword fighting. “More importantly, I do need to be able to do better against hammers.”

You never knew what you might be up against, after all. Kanesha grinned. “I don’t even know where to start there.”

“Better,” Loki noted. “He might decide he won’t sell to you if you don’t show you have some skill.”

“And you will haggle.” I grinned at him.

“When I’m not selling tickets.”

I’d thought of the king selling tickets. I hadn’t thought of my dad doing it, but now he mentioned it…it was much more likely.


Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 13

And the queen. The dwarf woman did not have a beard, but she did have long, flowing red hair that I was a little envious of. And she was no different in build from her mate.

Now I saw that I noticed that quite a few of the dwarves around were women. They didn’t have much in the way of breasts or hips, so I hadn’t noticed them before. Nor did they dress any different from the men.

“Loki in my hall again.” The king sounded amused. “What game is this this time?”

“No game. A purchase.”

“And you bring a mortal with you. Would you put our work into her hands.”

“No, I would,” I said, raising my voice just slightly.

“And who are you?”

I dropped into a curtsey. “Siglaugr Lokisdottir.”

“Ah. The baby of the family.”

The other dwarf might have been surprised by my existence. The king was not. Kanesha was suppressing a laugh.

“I’m not going to deny it.” I was the baby. I wasn’t going to pretend experience I didn’t have.

“Good. But again, you would put dwarven steel in the hands of a mortal?”

“I have a particular value for this one.”

“And you want to ensure her survival?”

I shook my head. “No, I want to help her ensure it.”

A laugh again at that. “I think I like you. Come. Let’s talk.”

“Wouldn’t that,” I quipped, “Leave your wife with Loki?”

“Last time he tried anything with her he bore the imprint of her palm for a month,” the king noted. A sheepish look on my father’s face showed it was likely an accurate statement of the situation.

“Well, then.”

He led us down a side corridor, into a smaller and rather more comfortable room. “So, Loki comes to negotiate for weapons for you.”

I nodded. “I’m told…”

“The man can haggle blood from a stone. He’s also a liar, a trickster, and a thief.”

“I know.” I grinned at the dwarf. “But he’s my liar, trickster, and thief.”

More ringing dwarven laughter. “Of course he is. I’d have less respect for you if you didn’t have that reaction. A child should respect their parents.” He lifted a hand. “But not follow them blindly once they’re an adult.”

“You have kids?”

“Two daughters.” A pause. “So, what did you bring Loki here to haggle for?”

“Swords. For me and her.”

He glanced at Kanesha. “For you, we will have to be careful. A dwarf-forged blade could easily overwhelm your will.”

She swallowed. “Alright.”

“But I think I have an idea. The question is what you can offer in return.”

I kept my voice even. “I’m not sure what you need.” And hoped it wasn’t actually dragon slaying.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 12

The dwarf was not quite what I expected. True, he was indeed short and almost equally broad, and he did have a beard.

I hadn’t expected…somehow I’d always envisioned dwarves as a little bit ill-kempt, more focused on digging out gems and the like than their own appearance. The dwarf who met us was well dressed, hair and beard flowing and well-groomed.

Or maybe they were just more careful when meeting outsiders. “Loki,” he growled. “You’re lucky we’re even letting you set foot in our halls. Who are the women?”

“My daughter, Siglaugr, and her mortal companion Kanesha.”

Kanesha looked like she was making notes. Mental ones if nothing else.

The dwarf sniffed. I didn’t think he was intending to be rude – a race that lived underground in darkness probably had a better sense of smell than us. Getting our scent, then.

“And what do the ladies want? Swords? Armor? Jewelry?”

I was flattered he listed them in that order. “Swords,” I said with a bit of a smile.

“Ah. And who do you fight?”

“Anyone who wants to mess with us,” Kanesha said, stepping forward slightly.

I let her do it. Dwarves, Loki had said, respected both strength and cunning, which is why stealing was sometimes part of the game.

“At least you didn’t just come in and try to rob us this time.”

Loki grinned. “She is also Sigyn’s daughter.”

The dwarf laughed. “And thus entirely too moral at times. Come.”

The tunnel was a little low. I certainly had to duck my head and even Kanesha was having difficulty in a few places.

Then it opened out into the heart of the mountain and I gasped. I couldn’t help it. No memory was triggered by this.

I had never been here before. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies had been closer than what I envisioned, but not quite.

Or maybe it just wasn’t possible to duplicate by mortal means these halls, galleries with pillars that appeared made of precious gems.

Gold inlaid in the walls. Dwarves showing their wealth. No, dwarves showing that even the most precious was simply more building material to them. Or both.

The dwarf grinned. “It takes everyone like that.”

“Even dwarves.”

“Even the children when they first see it.”

It was designed that way, I thought. We walked along the open gallery – a metal railing kept us from falling, but did nothing to interfere with the startling view. I could hear sounds of industry and smithing from somewhere deep below, loud enough to be heard, but not so high decibel that we could not fit.

Then we moved down, through gold doors, solid gold, that stood open for us and were in the throne room of the king of the dwarves.

Episode Twenty-Seven: Dwarves: Scene 11

“You want me to talk to dwarves.”

I grinned. “Yeah. You want me to stay alive, right?”

Loki laughed and snagged a brownie from the plate. “Of course I do. But what can we offer them this time?”

I considered thoughtfully. “You mean you aren’t just going to steal something for me.”

“That’s all part of the game. There’s always something in it for them.”

I felt my lips start to frown. Stopped it by snagging a second brownie myself. Chewing on it while I thought. “I gave the horn back to Tyr.”

“That would have caused too many problems anyway. Besides, it doesn’t have to be a thing.”

“So it could be a favor?”

He nodded. “From me, from you…Kanesha doesn’t have much to offer on that front.”

I rolled my eyes. “Kanesha’s tough.”

“Not tough enough to, say, deal with a stonedrake that’s messing with them.”

I frowned. “My dragon slaying record isn’t exactly great.”

“That was just an example. I’ll poke around. See what I can find out. Or…” He grinned around a mouth of brownie. “Steal.”

I didn’t really want to steal, but I did need a better weapon and I wasn’t sure what I could use to buy one with. Except for what Loki said. Favors. Assistance. One more blade. “I’d rather do it legitimately, but you’ve got a point.”

“Sometimes it’s steal and steal again.”

I remembered the one about Sif’s hair, decided I didn’t want to think about that too much. Thor in a dress was, at least amusing. Sif’s hair being cut off made me want to make a protective grab at my own.

Of course, I wasn’t going to be in danger of anything like that from Loki. He did care about me.

“Whatever we need to do.”

“And she wouldn’t tell you the prophecy.”

I laughed. “You don’t know it either, do you?”

“Not in full. Not the actual wording. Odin’s sitting on it pretty tight.”

“He seems worried that if I knew it I’d screw things up.”

“That’s the most charitable face on it.”

Should I be charitable where Odin was concerned? It depended. On this? I rather thought that he was right. If I knew what it was, I’d mess up. Somehow.