Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 31

But I didn’t let it dampen my mood for long, especially as my insurance payment came through. I was able to get some decent furniture in my new place.

Kanesha was able to move in full time. Nobody in the building paid much attention to us except for one old lady, who insisted on disapproving looks that may have been based off of gender, race, or most likely of all both.
We ignored her. She wasn’t worth it. And Surtur was busy, none of his rivals showed up to bug me.

It was summer.

Everything was far too perfect to last, and I knew it. But I enjoyed it while I had it. I’d learned to claim normality when I could.

Not that everyone thought I was normal. But I pretended…for about a week. A very pleasant week.

Then, of course, I heard from Derek again. Not a frantic call, this time, not an emergency – but very definitely a request for my or for our help.

He asked to meet at a coffee shop. Me and Kanesha went there. Of course, I still had my doubts about him, but he was there as planned.

I know what happened next wasn’t his fault. I know he didn’t do it.

I sensed the explosion in enough time to get Kanesha and myself under the table. I couldn’t pull Derek down, but I hoped he had the sense to hit the deck. He wasn’t completely untrained, after all.

“I don’t think that was aimed at us,” Kanesha murmured.

“I don’t care.” I got up…feeling bruised and cut up, but I didn’t seem to be seriously injured. Whatever had exploded had been behind the counter. The barrista was on the floor, unconscious or dead. There were more injuries. “Kanesha, mind calling an ambulance?”

I didn’t have to go over to the barrista to check on her. She was alive and likely to stay that way. So, I went past her, behind the bar, to see if I could work out what blew up.

Whether it was an accident or a bomb.

If it was a bomb, who was it aimed at? I didn’t know. I didn’t think it was me. Kanesha was right.

None of my enemies would do something like this.

But what about Derek’s? Blowing him up was kind of pathetic, but he had a lot of enemies. And I sensed something vaguely demonic. Then I knew I wasn’t going to find a device.
The police would be mystified. I hopped back over the counter. “No bomb. Looks like some kind of malfunction of the coffee machine.”

“Ambulance and police are on the way. Is she…?”

“She’s alive,” I assured Kanesha. “Derek?”

“That’s…that’s what I called you about. Everywhere I go…something bad is happening. I think I’ve been cursed.”

I shook my head. “I’ll have Clara check, but no, I think you’re being stalked.”

He sighed. “Help?”
“I will,” I promised. It was a small problem in the scheme of things. A small problem, but it would, I thought, rather keep me busy. Once we were out of there, I made a note to call Father Will.
We might need that book again.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 30

My locker was empty. I was done with high school. I had decided to apply to do some fashion design courses – the plan of moving to New York was contingent on Kanesha getting the financial aid to allow her to transfer to a university up there.

For the first time, I was imagining that we’d actually be able to do that. To pretend to be normal people for a while. Well, not normal, but at least not living in fear of Surtur showing up any moment.

He still might, but even the small amount by which it was less likely was helping me feel better about things. About life. Taking the last of my stuff, I walked out the gates for the last time.

It felt like leaving prison. It felt like adulthood, although I suspected I was rather further from that than my so-called peers.

Or not. Maybe we grew up exactly as fast as we needed or wanted to. It wasn’t like it affected anything.

I wasn’t expecting to see Tyr outside. He was the last person I was expecting to bump into. “Hi.”

“Hello.” A pause. “How are you doing?”

Small talk? “What do you want?” I quipped. “To check on me.”

“To warn you,” he admitted. “Don’t think he’s gone.”

“I don’t. I’m hoping he’ll be busy for a while.”

Tyr laughed. “Oh, he will be. But he’ll be back, and if he can prove his people still respect him…”

“…then any reason to treat me honorably as opposed to just trying to drag me back to his cave by my hair is gone.”

Gravely, Tyr nodded. “He is afraid.”

“Of? His political opposition?”

“Of you.”

A pause. “Of me? Maybe I should tell him I’m not the one who will kill him. Would make him paranoid, too.”

“Of you. That is why he wants to keep you so close. Unfortunately, what he knows I don’t.”

“There’s a prophecy.”

“Which Odin keeps very close. I believe only he, the Norns, and Loki know the full wording.”

So, my father knew. And knew better than to tell me. “I think they’re afraid if I knew it, I’d mess up.”

“Likely. But…he will be back, and he may not care how he reaches his goals.”

“I’ll be careful.” I almost asked him why he cared. No, he didn’t care for me as a person.

He cared in the abstract form about a woman not being forced. That was Tyr, I understood that now. He cared a lot, but it was never personal, never intimate.

Or maybe he needed that distance to do his job. I hoped I would never have to live like that.

I hoped that whatever job I had would be something designed for me, for my strengths, my weaknesses, and my joys.

Parts of the universe choosing their own path…

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 29

Despite the “terrorist attack” I passed all of my finals and had to worry about graduation.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to actually walk. Surtur might be well occupied, but there were other people who wanted a piece of me. And people were suspicious. There was only so much that could go on before whatever mechanism made people not want to see the truth started to fail.

I was a trouble magnet and I was glad I wouldn’t have to go to school any more. It was too regular, too obvious a target.

But Kanesha convinced me I had to do it anyway. I wondered if I could hide my sword under the gown. I decided against it – there would be metal detectors and fooling those gave me a headache. I’d have to rely on…well.

On the fact that the biggest threat was busy and anyone else I could deal with hand to hand. Or with whatever weapon I could get. Thruor had been drilling me on improvised weapons lately. You couldn’t always count on being armed.

And as it approached, I realized I was more nervous about being on stage. Which was stupid. Nobody was even going to notice me in the crowd. Not the way they’d noticed Kanesha. She was smart. I wasn’t in the same way.

Our graduation robes were blue and red. I didn’t look good in the particular shades chosen, but again, nobody would notice me. I wasn’t even sure I’d get an audience at all.

If I did they’d have to be careful. I officially didn’t have family. But I had friends. And unlike prom, nobody was hassling me about inviting Kanesha.

And my father. Who had better, I thought, behave. With him there, though, I was even less worried about somebody causing trouble. We got the mayor as speaker.

But when I stood with the others, I realized I had a good audience after all. Not just Kanesha and my parents – both of them for once – or Clara, who was sitting with her classmates. Charles Sarlac had shown up. Thruor. Angrboda. And…I was sure, absolutely sure, Mike was sitting next to Thruor.

I was fairly sure nobody else could see him. But it made my heart do weird things in my chest. He had been something very special to me.

No, he still was, and I had to stop thinking like that. Even as I had the thought, he seemed to solidify in my vision.

Yes. He was definitely there. And…was that Father Will?

I had family. I had plenty of family. Not all of them family of blood, but that didn’t matter.

Loki and Odin showed family of choice were just as important – and just as likely to screw each other up. All of my nerves went away. I was able to accept my diploma without shaking, and while I was sure nobody else noticed me, most of the people I cared about were here. I was even pretty sure I saw at least one raven.

And nobody attacked. I was going to get to celebrate again. And then shake the dust of this place off of my feet – an attitude I knew I shared with most of the other young people on stage.

Nobody wanted to stay in school. Except teachers, I thought wryly. Kanesha, of course, intended to spend much of her life in places like this.

I hoped loving me wouldn’t get in the way of that.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 28

Loki waited until the next day to show up. “Well played.”

“I…” I tailed off. “I couldn’t let them die. I couldn’t go with him either.”

“So you stalled until help showed up.”

“Odin sent her.”

Loki nodded. “Well, sent is probably the wrong word. She likes you. He probably just sent a raven to tell her you were in trouble.”

“She was grumbling about nagging ravens.” Beat. “They do talk rather a lot, don’t they.”

“Not that much more than ordinary ravens. If you listen properly.”

I made a note to do so next time I heard a raven. Or even a crow. They were smart birds, after all, not that much less smart than humans. “Point.”

“I’m glad you managed…”

“I’m glad nobody died. They’re calling it terrorism, too, but they can’t find the suspects and nobody’s quite sure why they suddenly gave up and disappeared.”

“Surtur is in real trouble,” Loki mused. “But if he can dodge the assassins for a month or two, they’ll decide he’s strong enough to continue to put up with.”

“I’m not a horrible person for hoping he doesn’t?”

“Not at all.”

I decided not to mention Kanesha’s desire to deal with him herself. “Then again, that would be a trickster thing, wouldn’t it? Put your enemy into a position where his other enemies do the job for you.”
That got me a sardonic, one-sided grin. “Of course. Especially if you can’t fight him yourself. But he’s canny and he’s been in charge a long time.”

“In a culture where assassination is a reasonable way to get a promotion,” I mused. “Yet another reason not to want the job.”

“Well, you could also make people like you enough that they don’t want to assassinate you. That’s never occurred to him.”

I laughed. “Or maybe he’s just not that likable.” A pause. “He must have some redeeming qualities, though.”

“Everyone does.”

I thought about it. “Yeah. Even the evil entities I’ve met have been nice in some way or other.”

“We’re all a bit good, a bit evil. It’s a question of which we let dominate us.”

“At any given time.” I glanced at him.

“I have reasons for everything I do,” he said, quietly. “Trust me on that.”

I realized that I did.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 27

We went to an all ages club. The downside to celebrating here was not being able to drink. The upside of going to an all ages club was that Clara and Seb could join us.

“I don’t think it’s over, but…”

“We can hope, right?” Kanesha turned dark eyes towards me. “I can hope.”

This had to be harder, in some ways, on her than on me. Or…no. As much as I loved her, I couldn’t read her mind. Wouldn’t if I could, for that matter, because I loved her.

Angrboda shrugged. “I don’t think he’ll bother you for a bit.”

“I was told killing him wasn’t my job.”
Angrboda glanced sidelong at me. “You’d probably enjoy it, though.”

I considered that. “I don’t know. Beating him up, I’d enjoy. I think I have too much of my mother in me to enjoy killing.”

She laughed. “I’ve seen Sigyn…well, never mind. She’s every bit as capable of killing as I am. As you are.”

“There’s a difference between being capable of it and enjoying it,” I noted. “I enjoy fighting. I don’t mind killing when I have to.”

I glanced at Kanesha.

There was a bit of a grim set to her face. “Doesn’t it depend on who it is and what they did?”

I got the feeling she would enjoy killing Surtur. No, not enjoy. “Kanesha…”

“I would be quite satisfied to take Surtur out. Enjoy’s probably the wrong word. And I know I can’t, I know he’d kill me in five seconds. But…”

And I knew that was the real reason why she hoped he wouldn’t come back, hoped he would be taken out by internal politics or whatever it was he was dealing with. Because she didn’t appreciate that feeling in herself.

“There’s nothing wrong with that feeling,” Angrboda said.

Clara nodded in agreement, then went back to cuddling Seb.

“But acting on it?”

“There’s nothing wrong with that feeling,” the giantess repeated. “What’s wrong is letting that feeling rule you so you do something stupid.”

Kanesha let out a breath. “Okay.”

I rather thought Angrboda was right. “Plus, it’s hard to control our feelings. We should worry about our words and actions instead.”

“Exactly. Or not, if your name is Loki.”

I laughed out loud. “Careful. If we speak his name too many times he might show up, and that might be awkward.”

“Not any more. We’re pretty much over each other and into friends now.”

I glanced at Clara and Seb. Who were still cuddling. “How about we stop talking about dark stuff and just enjoy the music?”

“I thought you were never going to shut up,” Seb quipped.

So, we enjoyed the rest of the evening and I stopped worrying about Surtur altogether.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 26

I knew Odin couldn’t intervene. If he did, then that too would start the war.

I knew he was watching. I straightened my shoulders. “No.” It wasn’t even a not negotiate with terrorists thing.

And the temperature in the room dropped about twenty degrees.

“No?” came an acid voice from behind me.


I stepped to one side, knowing exactly who was behind me.

Allies in Jotunheim.

“Me.” Angrboda said. “Now, stop this foolishness, because I am not going to let you start the war.”

“Let me? I have my guard with me.”

She laughed. “Yes. Outside. And you are in here with me and Loki’s daughter. Fool.”

As she moved past me, she handed me my sword. She must have broken into my place to get it.

Or maybe the sword had broken out. It wasn’t like it wasn’t alive, after all.

Surtur narrowed his eyes. “I had wards, and she was unarmed. I am not that much of a fool.”

Wards that might have stopped Angrboda if she hadn’t had a bit of help.
And giants fought all of the time. The blade in my hand, I approached Surtur. “Release the girl and leave or we’ll give you…”

“…a good spanking,” Angrboda finished, unslinging her axe with a grin.

He couldn’t die here, neither could we. Not permanently. But apparently he didn’t want to take on both of us. In the illusion or far seer or whatever, the giant released the girl.

I wondered if that thing went both ways. I moved forward, but Surtur vanished in a puff of flame.

Of course, that left the giants outside free to act. They didn’t. Maybe without him to give orders, they realized killing hostages was dishonorable.

“He just crossed a line. You might not have to worry about him any more,” Angrboda said softly.

“Would be nice. But I don’t think it’s going to be that simple. Thanks for showing up.”

“Hard to ignore those pesky ravens when they start nagging.”

I laughed. “Odin couldn’t do anything himself or even send Thor or something without risking starting Ragnarok, but nobody cares if you get into it with Surtur.”

“Exactly. Now, tell me you’re done with exams.”

“Done, yes. In a hurry to get drunk on your beer again…”

She clapped me on the shoulder hard enough to make me stagger. “Then let’s celebrate here. Find that lover of yours.”

I grinned. “Works for me.”

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 25

The small army of fire giants outside, I suspected. “You have more honor than this. Why so desperate?”

“You will find out. Now, come.” He extended his hand to me.

I couldn’t go with him. I couldn’t not go with him. True, I wasn’t responsible for the actions of my enemies, but…

Right now would be a very good time for backup to show up. I didn’t care what kind of backup.

But if I went with him…

He lifted his hand to show what was happening outside. That they’d grabbed a bunch of people.

Then I realized Clara was one of them. And she was up to something. On her own, though, I doubted she could cast a spell powerful enough to do anything but get herself killed.

Then she flickered. Well, at least she could do that. It didn’t matter. I’d placed an obligation on myself to protect these people.

Help, I thought, hoping it was loud enough for somebody to hear. I was dangerously close to panicking.

I could see the cops showing up. They weren’t sure what was going on. They were more people to get killed.

“I’m not going to give you much longer.”

“If I go with you, then the war will start and all of these people are dead anyway.”

Come on. Somebody had to be aware of what was going on.

“But you will…”

“No. I am not responsible for your foolish choices. A king does not start a war.”

“A king does what he has to to stay…”

“…alive?” So, he was under threat. He thought that in addition to ensuring his victory I could stabilize his position.

It was not my task to kill him. “You think I care about whether you live or die? Because I don’t.”

“And if whoever…”

“I’ll cross the bridge of your replacement being worse than this when I come to it.” Maybe he would back down.

In truth, I knew I was stalling.

One of the fire giants grabbed a girl. She screamed.

How was he…no, he was probably instructing them the same way I was calling for help, desperate.

I felt, then, the sense of raven’s wings.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 24


They waited until the end of finals. At least, I’m pretty sure the pulled fire alarm was just somebody trying to get out of an exam. It happened almost every year.

Last ten minutes of my last test. My last test of high school. Unless I took college classes…

…and the fire alarm went off again. So did all of my instincts. There was a fire exit at the back of the classroom close to my seat. I had it open in what had to have been record time, propping it back as people streamed out.
Except me. I waited for last, sniffing the air. There was an actual fire this time. I could feel it, sense it.

It called to me. It wanted me.

It wasn’t just any fire. I didn’t have my sword, I didn’t risk that when actually on campus and at school.

I had a feeling this time I wouldn’t need it. This wasn’t a battle for that kind of weapon.

He was here.

He was here in person and I wanted to run. Instead, I let everyone else rush out into the parking lot and then walked to the other door. Opened it.

I could sense him. I could follow his aura. He was in the gymnasium.

That was where another exam was taking place. He’d set off the alarms with smoke, now he stood there.

“Ah, you’re here. The rest of you can go now.”

They fled, almost knocking me over as they rushed through the door.

He walked towards me.

“You think this will get me on your side?”

“I can’t play games any more.” He fixed his eyes on me.

“If you take me by force, you will not just deal with me.” That was a promise. I hoped Kanesha was safe.

“Only if you tell them. If you come with me, then nobody dies today. If you don’t…”

I swallowed. I couldn’t fight him. I could sense now…he wasn’t doing anything to conceal his aura.

He couldn’t hurt me physically.

“You intend to start the war now. Over me.”

Could that be what the prophecy really meant? It could, I knew. You could start something without being responsible for it.

“I can’t let you do that.”

But if I didn’t, he would start killing people. On the other hand, he’d let his hostages go.

What supported his threats?

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 23

Needless to say? I got drunk.

Not stupid drunk, but drunk enough that I had a not entirely clear memory the next day of singing twisted, heathen-ized Christmas carols with Angrboda in the street. Oh, and a hangover.

“You have a hangover?” Kanesha asked, far too loudly.

“Angrboda…took me…girls night out.”

“In Jotunheim?” I could see her shaking with silent laughter. “I’ll get you some water.”

“Just wait until it’s you,” I grumbled.

“I know better than to drink frost giant beer.”

“I am supposed to be able to take frost giant beer!” I winced as I accidentally raised my own voice too high.

I recovered pretty quickly, of course, but I wasn’t about to do that again. Well, okay. Until next time. I knew there would be a next time.

And Kanesha was going to tease me for the next month.

“Did you do anything stupid?” she asked once I felt well enough to join her for breakfast.


“Well, you aren’t that bad…when sober.”

“…I think it got kind of bawdy.”

“Of course it did. What was with her anyway?”

“She got dumped and picked me to drown her sorrows with.”

Kanesha laughed. “Why would she pick you?”

“For extra awkward? I didn’t have the heart to say no.” My head was still kind of fuzzy. “At least it’s not a school day.”

“At least.”

“But I do have to study. Grrr. I should have thought of that.”

Her parting comment as she left me to do just that was, “Yes, you should.”

I did manage to focus enough to study, which as finals were about to happen was a good thing.

Literally about to happen. My first one was tomorrow. And I’d let somebody talk me into underage drinking. What had I been thinking?

I’d been thinking that I needed to relax. I’d been right. But I shouldn’t have had quite so much frost giant beer.

And wine. Now I recalled there was also wine involved. Which I hadn’t expected.


Maybe one day I’d go back there, but for now I had to study. And hope nobody attacked anything in the middle of finals.

Downtime – Sorry Everyone!

This site will go down on Sunday, July 24, and stay down for at least two days for a server overhaul and updates. The maximum expected downtime is one week.

Everything, including new scenes, should be back for you to read when it comes back up. However, I will be unavailable from July 27 through July 30, so if there’s a problem it might not be fixed until the 31st.