Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 22

That didn’t mean I trusted him. Now the seeds of doubt had been sown, they were very hard to shake.

Which I had a feeling was part of the point. If he was a bad guy, then I had to be careful. If he was not, then the demons had gone a long way out of their way to make me suspect him.

Which meant that things could only get worse if his father showed up. So, I was absolutely certain that would be the next thing that happened.

It wasn’t. Because life could never actually be that predictable for somebody like me. No, the next person to show up was Angrboda.

Who was melting again. I let her in my new place.

“What happened?”

“Somebody burned my old place down.”

“That was rude of them.” She sniffed. “You have better wards.”

“Should have done it before. I know enough witches.”

“Witches,” she pronounced as I found a cold soda for her, “Are very handy to know.”

“You know a bit yourself, as I recall.”

An evil grin. “Just a bit.” When I handed her the soda, ice appeared in the can.

I laughed. “That’s…”

“Easier than pouring it into a glass.” She let it cool a little further, then drank.

I opened a can for myself, but didn’t bother with the ice, deciding it was cool enough without. “So…”

“So. I promise, this is a social call.”

I laughed. “What happened?”

Her lips quirked. “There was this young man…”

“…you got dumped. You really should go to Thruor. She’s allowed to drink.”
Angrboda laughed. “That’s only a law on Midgaard, kid.”

“Point.” Did I want to go chasing off through the Nine Realms with her? Probably…yes. I knew there was something horribly awkward about developing a friendship with your father’s ex.

But I couldn’t help but like her.

“So…” She finished her soda. “Want to come paint a town red? That’s the saying, right?”

I laughed. “It is.” She took my hand and there was a faint rainbow swirl. We emerged in…a frost giant town.

“I’m going to stand out.”

“Oh, everyone knows who you are. Don’t worry. Nobody ever starts a fight in this bar.”

As soon as we stepped inside, I could see why. The bar keep was approximately the size of the bear I’d hunted with the dwarven sisters. Angrboda tugged me to the bar.

“So, what happened…” the bar keep started. Then fell silent as Angrboda glared at him. “Got it. Your usual.”

I decided, bravely, “And one for me too.”

He looked me up and down. “Well, huh. You’re slumming it.”

I snorted. “Not really. You can’t tell me you never see my dad here.”

He laughed. “Not never, no. But not your mother.”

I considered that. “My mother isn’t big on bars.”

He slid a tankard of something across to me. It was beer. Or beer-ish anyway. Very cold, but I expected that.

Very strong, which I also expected.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 21

Apparently it was a good idea to Thruor too, as she ordered a large bowl of chocolate and chocolate mint.

“Having a bad day?”

“Having a frustrating one,” Thruor admitted. “Concluding in that. We haven’t seen the last of that guy. He was too stupid.” She glanced at Derek.

Derek nodded. “But why would he deliberately give me his name?”

“Maybe he’s hoping you’ll accidentally summon him. Or maybe he was trying to make us more suspicious of you.” I let out a breath. “I mean, he could ward against me seeing stuff. Maybe you are on his side.”

To his credit, he only bristled a little.

“I think I can verify that he isn’t,” Thruor said. “No offense, Jane, but I’m quite a bit more experienced at dealing with souls than you are.”

“None taken.” She was a valkyrie, after all. Dealing with souls was her job.

She turned to look at Derek. I couldn’t see what she was doing, so I drifted closer to Kanesha and munched on my ice cream.

“What is she doing?” Kanesha whispered.

“Scanning him.” How else could I put it.

“That’s kind of…”

“Weird? She’s not reading his mind or anything like that.”

I sensed that light presence again. Glanced to the doorway. Sarael was standing just inside, watching, carefully positioned where Derek couldn’t see him.

The angel was up to something. Probably something good. Probably something amusing. The trickster angel, I thought.

But in no danger of falling. Maybe he’d make some changes, something that would…

Or maybe the humorless stuff was all an act anyway.

“You’re clean,” Thruor said, eventually. Then she glanced at the door.

So did Derek, but Sarael was already gone.

“You have a guardian angel for real, I think. He has a sense of humor.”

“You know him?” Derek seemed surprised.

“We’re rivals. We’re not enemies. Anyway. Be careful. That was a full blown demon lord that came after you.”

“And intentionally gave me his name. I’m being set up, aren’t I?”

“Probably. You need to get one step ahead,” Thruor said. “And be very careful. I don’t want to see you in Hell, after all.”

I was very much inclined to agree with her. Now he wasn’t trying to kill me, I rather liked Derek.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 20

The door didn’t break in.

It shattered. The place was apparently every bit as rundown as it appeared. And I was promptly face to face with a war demon.

I swung, and my blade went straight through it. Make that the illusion of a war demon. “Nice one.”

Why not a real war demon? Probably to get me off balance. “I’m here for Derek.”

“Of course you are.” The demon formed out of smoke. “It’s too late.”

“No it isn’t. You’ve been trying for him for months. He’s stronger than you.” I hoped I was right.

I hoped that horrible feeling that he was compromised was just me being paranoid and cynical.

“Want to see for yourself?”

“You just don’t want to fight me.” Keep him talking, I thought. Keep him talking while the others found a back door or whatever Thruor had in mind.

He laughed. “You aren’t worth the effort of fighting.”

Well, that was a better reaction than launching himself at me. I wasn’t confident I could beat him. “Okay. Show me.”

He turned and descended into a basement which, surprise surprise, was done up as a movie summoning zone. Best way to put it.

Derek was sitting there, a sardonic grin on his face. I narrowed my eyes, but still saw no taint on his soul. Then again, this demon had blocked me before.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me you’ve seen the light now?”

“I’ve seen where the real power is, yes.”

But I’d see it. I’d sense it. Instead, I sensed a vague presence of light. I laughed inwardly.


The angel with a sense of humor. The one who liked my dad.

“Well, then, nothing I can do here.” Come on, Thruor, I thought. Come on.

There was a back door into the basement. It was one of those cases where the place was a bit of a slope.

Thruor and Kanesha came through it a moment later. The demon whirled, startled.


Derek abruptly said something mostly in Latin. The demon yelped and vanished.


Derek laughed. “What a bloody idiot.”

“What did he do?”

“He was so wrapped up in himself he didn’t realize I was lying to him and he…”

“…handed you his true name on a platter. World’s stupidest demon.” I was laughing too.

“You knew.”

“I was paying attention. You had help, though.”

“I did?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Somebody was helping hide your aura from him. Not from me. It was quite amusing, though.”

“Well, then.” Thruor was not quite laughing. “Let’s go get some ice cream.”

That sounded like a very good idea to me, and probably an even better one to the person who had just been kidnapped.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 19

I called Thruor as we moved. Got her voice mail. Left a message, hoping she’d find it before we found them.

I absolutely trusted she could track me with no problems. Of course, I couldn’t quite do the reverse.


I was more focused on finding Derek. I also told Thruor to bring Kanesha’s sword. We needed to put some wards on it so she could hide it.

I’d already asked enough of Clara for one week, though.

The trail led us deeper into the bad part of Northeast. I wasn’t comfortable with being here at all. Mundane people had guns, and guns hurt.
Guns could, if you were mortal, kill. But this was where the trail led us. The dog finally stopped outside a really run down house. Looking down.

“Basement, eh, buddy?”

“Smells like a trap to me,” Kanesha commented.

I nodded. “Yeah. Maybe.” And a horrible feeling came into my mind that it could be a trap, and Derek might be in on it.

We thought we trusted him, but…

I tried to reach out, but the run-down house was warded. Either we waited for Thruor, or we went in blind.

Or…I tried to crash through the wards. I was a goddess, after all. I should be able to deal with wards.

Then again, I was relying on them with the fire giant problem. I closed my eyes and reached out again, this time with force.

It bounced back. Either a powerful coven had set this or…it had a signature. “Demon lord,” I murmured to Kanesha.

She nodded. “Okay.”

“Who knows we’re here at this point.”

But at that point, Thruor came roaring up. She slowed down next to Kanesha and handed her her sword.

“Demon lord,” I told Thruor. “Has the place warded against us.”

“With two of us we should be able to do something about that.”

“Derek’s definitely in there.”

She nodded grimly. “I hope that gets some other attention.”

If she meant Sarael, I entirely agreed. We could really use him right now. “They know I’m here by now. Possibly not you.”

“Then you go charging in.” She glanced at Kanesha. “Come with me.”

Kanesha nodded.

I trusted Thruor’s tactics, drew my blade, and kicked in the front door.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 18

The panicked phone call from Derek came two seconds later.

“I thought you were with Thea.” I used that name, because I might be overheard. Or tapped.

“I was. She sent me home at lunch time. I decided to go for a walk instead. Now I’m hiding in an alleyway.”

I glanced at Kanesha. “Where?”

“Northeast. Uh…” He gave an address I wasn’t convinced was accurate.

Apparently he’d decided to visit some interesting alternative shops on his walk – I couldn’t think of any other reason he’d be in Northeast. I ran for the zoo entrance with Kanesha behind me. There was a bus. It was right there, so I swung onto it. She was a moment later.

“What’s the rush?” the driver asked.

“Friend needs a rescue,” I said, truthfully. I just didn’t specify what from. Let him think it was some teenaged relationship issue or the like.

Something like that would make sense to him. I dropped onto one of the priority seats.

“Close enough to a direct route,” Kanesha murmured. “We got lucky.”

“Or had some subtle assistance.”
Derek might be of interest in several quarters. And Sarael might well have been capable of enough probability manipulation for this. I still wasn’t entirely clear on everything an angel could do. I should ask, except it seemed a very personal question.

Off the bus, we were only a block away. I ran. Found the place where Derek said he was.

There was no sign of him. Only his phone on the ground – whoever had taken him had known enough to drop it.

I cursed profusely in Old Norse.

Kanesha started to reach for the phone. “We’ll find him.”

“Don’t. I don’t want your scent on it.”

She looked at me, then nodded in understanding. I focused on calling a certain fyrhund.

It appeared, running up the street in the shape of a bloodhound, no doubt sensing what job I had for it today. I scratched it behind the floppy ears, then indicated the phone.

“Find the owner for me.”

Only after he’d got a good sniff of the scent did Kanesha pick the phone up and put it in her pocket. “They can’t have gone too far.”

“Unless they took him to Hell.”

They couldn’t take his soul without agreement, but they might be able to drag him with them while still alive.

She shuddered. “In which case…”

“We’ll still find him. One way or another.”

The dog set off at a trot. I jogged after him, hoping I was wrong. It would be much easier to find Derek if he was still on Midgaard.

And much less traumatic for the kid.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 17

Fortunately, my funk only lasted until I got some sleep. The next day was Saturday and Clara, as good as her word, showed up with some friends and quietly put anti-arson wards on the building.

I could kind of feel them myself – they didn’t affect me, though, and I got used to them quickly. As in, by the end of the day quickly. Maybe it was only psychological, because I knew they were there.

But fire was an important part of my being. I’d worked out by now that I couldn’t change that and might as well enjoy it. It might not have been my choice, but it certainly intimidated the bad guys.

Well, except for the fire giants. They, of course, would be more intimidated by cold things.

Thruor was still working with Derek. I elected to leave them to it and head out looking for trouble, as it were.

Or rather, knowing trouble would find me. Armed and dangerous. It was a beautiful summer day, likely too hot for some people, but it didn’t bother me at all.

Fire within me, I thought wryly. The sun beating down, the humidity climbing, and people were starting to flee to the air conditioning.

Kanesha called. We met up at the National Zoo, but the animals were also feeling the heat. The fishing cat was asleep in a sunbeam, just like any house cat. So were the lions.

“Too hot for man or beast,” she said.

I teased, “Says the girl from the tropics.”

“That’s how many generations back. Fire giant,” she teased.

“Can’t exactly help it.”

“You sure about that?” She gave me kind of a sidelong look. “Wasn’t there that thing about parts of the universe choosing how to manifest?”

“I dunno about that. I mean, would that imply that some poor kid born in the worst slum in India as an Untouchable chose to be there?”

“Point.” She shuddered. “I was reading up on that. They still haven’t got into the twentieth century on it in some places, let alone the twenty-first.”

“Give them chance. It takes every society a while to shake feudalism.” About which I probably couldn’t talk. “But if it’s true, I think it only applies to us.”

“Then how am I exactly where I want to be?”

I grinned. “Maybe you did something to earn it.” Maybe past lives were real, at least for some people. Thruor would probably know. She knew more about death and mortality than I did, that was for sure.

“Or maybe you did.” She grinned back at me. “I love you.”

Those words made the humidity lift and the sun become much less unbearable. They also made me worry much less about the future.

“I love you.”

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 16

I made a mental note to ask Loki if he could teach me to teleport. I’d seen him do it, after all.

It wasn’t the kind of thing I’d try to work out on my own.

No things to get attached to. Other than the sword, which had survived. But I hadn’t been entirely honest. I had to pretend I wasn’t at all upset about what happened.

Or they might do it again, and they’d catch even more people in the collateral damage this time. Bigger building.

A part of me wondered if I should try disappearing. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t do that to my friends. I certainly wasn’t going to pull the false-noble ‘You’d be safer without me’ crap on Kanesha.

Which meant…then I had an idea. I called Clara.



“Need some witchy advice.”

I could hear her brighten. She always liked it when she was taken seriously. “Okay.”

“Let’s meet at the Dupont cafe. You know the one.”

A little bit later we were ensconced in a pleasant underground room with sandwiches.

“So…what do you need?”

“Wards. Is there a way to protect the building I’m in from a fire giant setting it on fire again?”

“You think they might go for a repeat.”

“I’m not risking it. Other people were hit last time, and one of them wasn’t insured.”

Clara nodded. “I’ll get a group together. It’s probably more than I can do on my own. Although, people might detect the wards.”

“That’s fine. I don’t think I could actually have any more enemies than I do.”

She laughed. “Don’t say that.”

“I already did. Fortunately, I have plenty of allies too.”

“How’s Derek?”

“Learning,” I admitted. “I think Thruor took him off to kick his butt a few times.”

“He might enjoy that.”

I laughed. “He might. To start with. You know how much of a drill sergeant she can be.”

“Oh, for sure. But…he is a straight guy.”

“He is that.” I grinned at her. “Then again, so’s Seb.”

She blushed.

I decided that was a low blow and changed the subject back to magic. Odd how it had become the harmless thing to talk about.

Well, almost anything was more harmless than relationships. It didn’t really matter what the combination of genders and sexualities were, they were always complicated.

No matter how much you loved each other. But most of us seemed to be managing to find somebody to love.

Who wanted one.

Then I thought of Thruor.

I thought of Mike, and grief drifted back over me again. The conversation was not quite enough to take my mind off of it.

Off of Mike and Monica alike.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 15

I filed an insurance claim. Of course, there was no proof of anything. No sign of an accelerant – but a fire giant wouldn’t need one.

The investigators were going to be at it for a while, which meant I wouldn’t get money to replace my stuff for a while either. I did manage to find a new apartment, which was even slightly bigger, but the only furniture I could find was a second hand futon and a third or fourth hand table with chairs that wobbled.

It would have to do for now, and Kanesha was right. We were more important, and we were fine. Nothing that couldn’t be replaced had been lost. I bought her a new laptop, but then I was pretty much out of money.

Oh well.

I could eat ramen noodles for a while if I had to. And I got a surprising amount of sympathy at school. Especially for this happening right before graduation.

Even Peter came over, “Do you need anything?”

“Nah. Kanesha made me back everything up.” Finals would be a pain, but…

“Are you sure?”

“I’m insured, I’m making money, I’ll get back together.”

“Did they find out what caused it yet?”

I shook my head. “No. Probably an electrical issue somewhere or other. Probably wasn’t anything to do with me.”

“Probably something with the mechanics. Was there an elevator?”

I nodded. “A very grumpy one.”
“Yeah. Building electrics have a lot more voltage than anything in your apartment and elevators…use a lot of power.”

“Especially old and grumpy ones, I’d imagine.” And where I was would be better once I replaced everything.

Besides? I wasn’t going to let threats or messages get to me. Pretending I saw it just as some stupid accident would drive whoever was behind this crazy.

And drive them into making a mistake, I hoped. The police would never find anything, but I might. Find something or just…wait for them to poke their nose out.

Which they did, as I left my new place.

“Like the new digs?” A sardonic female voice.

“Gambling I won’t beat you up right now?”

“Gambling you want information more than revenge.”

She was probably right. “I wouldn’t mind knowing why you did something so petty.”

I saw her shoulder shrug. She had strawberry blonde hair, worn in a single braid. “People get attached to things.”

“Yes, but you didn’t manage to take anything away from me that I can’t replace.”


“I don’t have a past here to have things to get attached to.” Which was true. And I’d given the horn back, which might have been damaged by supernatural fire.

“Keep telling yourself that. But it was a warning. Anything you have, I can take any time I want it.” Then she vanished in a puff of flame.

I wanted to learn that trick. Quite badly.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 14

Of course, now I was looking at shadows for a fire giant assassin that had people geased not to talk about him.

Or her.

Or whatever. With Zaid around, it was hard to forget the existence of “or whatever” when it came to these things. Oddly, I thought her was more likely, though.

Maybe I was just biased.

Or maybe we’d been told that to make us look over our shoulders for a fire giant assassin. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it wasn’t some kind of trick, as nice as the kid had seemed.

Either way, it was definitely making me nervous, no matter how much I told myself not to be. I could handle it, whatever it was.

Or so I thought. I won’t say I’d got cocky, but I really had got cocky. I had a shoot on Saturday and afterwards, flush with cash, I took Kanesha out for dinner at a cheap, but excellent steak house. We planned on going back to my place afterwards. For dessert, as it were.

The meal was excellent, nobody tailed us home, but when we got there…

…the firefighters were blocking the street. The building had caught fire not long after we left and was now gutted. They didn’t let us through to look for our belongings.

I knew our weapons would be okay when we could find them. But everything else was gone. Our clothes. Our laptops. And I knew what it was.

A message.

Somebody had done this just to piss us off, and the fact that it was fire told me the source.

“Tell me you had your notes…”

“I had everything on Google Drive. It’s…it’s fine.” It clearly wasn’t, but…

I slipped an arm around her. “We’ll get them for this.” Which might be the reaction they wanted, but I was hoping they would underestimate just how dangerous I could be.

But I should have come up with some way to stop this from happening. “I should have…”

“The only important things are us, right?”

She was right. I closed my eyes for a moment. “Charles won’t be pleased about the dress.”

She laughed weakly. “I guess…”

“No, I have money. We’re getting a hotel room.”

And later, when they weren’t looking, I went through the rubble and retrieved the swords, undamaged. Mine, though, seemed to be rather annoyed.

Swords don’t like threats they can’t stab.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 13

It was a couple of days before we could try and turn things back on Kanesha’s tail. She ignored them in the interim, pretending as best she could that she didn’t know they were there or realize what they were up to. Grumping about it when we were together.

But finally, I was able to cut around the block, cut them off and corner them as she turned around.

It was a young fire giant. “Explain yourself.”

“I…we…don’t want anything to happen to her.”

I let out a breath. “She can look after herself. I can look after her. Why does she need you?”

“I know who Surtur’s likely to send.”

A slow nod. “Then you can tell me.”

“I…” He shook his head. “I can’t. It’s a geas. If any of us talk about them, they’ll know.”

I nodded slowly, taking him at his word at least for now. There were certainly people capable of doing what he suggested. “But you can warn me if this person or persons show up?”

A slow nod. “Please don’t hurt me.”

“I only hurt people who are trying to hurt others.” Just another fire giant kid. The kids seemed to be on my side.

“Maybe you’d be a good queen.”

My lips quirked. “Nah, I’d be terrible.”

I wouldn’t start Ragnarok, though. At least, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t. Sometimes I doubted myself, wondered what was hiding in the memories Odin had blocked from me.

Sometimes I wondered if Loki was right.

“I don’t think so.”

“For one thing, I don’t have any experience ruling anything.”

He laughed a bit. “I don’t…”

“If I was a true princess I’d be trained for it, you know.” Kanesha was trying not to laugh. I glared at her.

“You are a goddess, though.”

“And I’m about the same age you are, at a guess. Gods need to learn too.” How to god…was it a verb? I supposed it could be.


“And anyway, I don’t want to be queen. Not alone and certainly not sitting next to Surtur.”

“And…we…we respect that. But I still think you’d be good at it.”

“I think,” Kanesha cut in. “That whoever he’s trying to warn us about is going to get suspicious if they’re watching somehow.”

“Yeah. I should pretend to rough you up some.”

He laughed again. That was the second one I’d actually liked. Or were they brothers or something?
Thinking about it, I was pretty sure they were.