Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 10

Starting with getting a car. I was lucky – it only took me a day to find what I was looking for.


A camper was, of course, out. I needed something I could park in a city, although I had no intention of driving into Manhattan, but rather finding a park and ride or something. But I also wanted something we could sleep in in a pinch.


I ended up with, of all things, a beaten up Mercedes. It was so cheap I checked the trunk for bodies before driving off. I heard one story about a TV presenter who, as part of a stunt, bought a cheap ancient Merc in Miami. It didn’t have a body in the trunk. Just a bloody hoodie.


Presumably they disposed of the body before dumping the car. The only thing I found in the trunk of this one was an empty beer cooler, which I decided we’d just keep. Probably not for beer, mind. For soda, though, it would be perfect. It smelled of cheap cleaning fluid, but it started, it had been serviced, and the seats were leather.


If we broke down it would be entirely my fault, and I’d take full responsibility for it. I managed to get basic insurance quickly – fortunately, car insurance agencies seem to be used to wheeled impulse buys. Kanesha laughed when she saw it.


“Okay, why was it cheap?”


“I don’t know. I checked it for bodies. It probably drinks gas like nothing else, but we can sleep in it if we need to.”


She walked around the car, then nodded. “Okay.”


“I also got the windscreen washer fluid filled, and I got like a car first aid kit.” I grinned. “So…”


“I packed. You still need to.”


I also had to tell the landlord I’d be gone for two weeks, otherwise they’d put notices on my door and it would become obvious to a thief that I wasn’t there. And pack.


But then we could get out of here, and I found myself quite antsy to. And to some place that wasn’t Los Angeles.


That was somebody else’s problem, though. I knew that at some deep level. Not my issue to fix. And as frustrating as that was, I was also relieved. I had, after all, quite enough on my plate without yet more stuff to worry about. This trip would probably cause me to run into something, too.


Or just hunters, like dreadlock guy, although he’d apparently satisfied himself that I wasn’t a threat or whatever he’d been worried about and, well, left. Unless he’d gone the same way we were.


By the time I got back to the car, Kanesha had filled the cooler with soda, stocked up on snacks and was eyeing the entertainment system. “Won’t hook up phones.”


“We can get some CDs.” For now, I tuned the radio. It crackled, then hooked on to a station. No, it wouldn’t hook up a phone or get Sirius, but there was still radio.


And there was us, and heading out of town with the road beneath our wheels, at least as fast as DC’s traffic allowed.


No sense of foreboding, either. But that meant only that the threat was not immediate.


For now, though, I decided to enjoy the open road.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 9

“So, Los Angeles was a wash?”


I sighed. “Los Angeles is possessed. I mean, the entire place.”


Kanesha blinked. “I thought that was an urban fantasy trope.”


“So did I. But it’s not…it’s not something I can deal with right now. Maybe I know somebody who knows somebody, though.”


She nodded. “So…”


“So, you don’t have to start classes again for two weeks. How about we just…not be here for those two weeks.”


She laughed. “Road trip?”


“Road trip.”


“Where to, though?”


I considered that. “We’ve already done the Outer Banks this year.”


“And I’m not letting you anywhere close to that selkie!” she teased.


I laughed, but realized I was blushing. “So…we go north instead.” I grabbed her laptop and pulled out a map. “North to New York, along the coast to Boston, up into New Hampshire and then to Albany, then Niagara Falls.”


“I like that. I hear the Canadian side’s better, but…”


“Then we go back through Pittsburgh, Morgantown, and back through the mountains. Should be doable comfortably.” I grinned.


“So, we…”


“I’m buying a car. It won’t be anything great, but in the long term, I think we need one.”


And I already had a thought, but I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it.


“Okay. I think I like that. We’ll just…”


“Stay in motels when we feel like stopping, go off itinerary if we want to, and hope no fire giants show up.” It would be much more relaxing if I thought that last was anything more than hope.


But maybe we’d confuse him. Or maybe he’d think I was making a target of myself.


Or of Kanesha. I was surprised he hadn’t tried to kill her yet. If he wanted me to hate him? He was missing a great opportunity.


But this would take me out of town long enough to calm down and if he followed us? I’d deal with that then.


“I like it.” She grinned. “As for the fire giants?” She made a stabbing motion.


I grinned back. “Wish it was that easy, but yeah.” Anything less than Surtur or his elites we could deal with.


I knew that. But I also knew bad things could still happen. Many of them.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 6

I put in my notice at the apartment, and started to reach out to modeling agencies elsewhere. Kanesha’s suggestion was a good one.


I felt as if I was tearing her away from everything she was and everything she wanted to be. I knew how much teaching mattered to her. I’d taken her and turned her into something else for what?


Because I loved her? Was it real? Could it be…and I knew that for self pity and headed it off before I descended any further down that path. I could waste hours on that.


Of course, Baltimore was close enough that I could still work for this agency. But…I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t far enough away.


Leave it.


My mother knew, though, what it was to be loyal to a lover. She knew about that obstacle. Maybe I should have asked her for advice.


Then I found the opportunity. On the west coast. And maybe if we went there the slow way…a road trip.


We both had our license. We could buy an old junker, get minimal insurance, I didn’t have much I was attached to and neither did she, not since the fire.


We were both kind of sort of adults. I pulled out my cell phone, shook my head. Then sent off the application.


I’d talk to her, of course, but I didn’t want her to plan for something which might not happen. Then I kept looking through things, but my mind went back to that agency.


Not Hollywood, per se, but close. Would it be too obvious for me? Was anything I did not too obvious, short of asking if I could flee back to Asgard.


Where I couldn’t take Kanesha.


Where I clearly wasn’t meant to be right now. No. Besides, I wasn’t running. I was tactically retreating so that…


…so that he didn’t think I had attachment to any particular place. Of course, I did. I had attachment to Seb and Clara and Will.


None of whom were going to come with me. They could manage, though. Derek would stop being my problem.


Other things would take his place. I didn’t want to do this, and I knew that was the weapon Surtur had.


I had to let go of the place. Not so much the people. People could move, people could run and survive. Places were more vulnerable.


I got an email back almost right away. They wanted to fly me out for an interview. In Los Angeles.


I did not want to go to Los Angeles in particular, from what I’d heard of the place.


But I knew I had to do what my mother said. For once.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 5

“You’re right,” Kanesha said, a bit sadly. “But my credits will transfer. The question is, where do we go?”


“Surtur will find me wherever. So…I’m not sure. But it might slow him down long enough to find the person destined to kill him.”


She sighed. “There’s…”


“I don’t think there’s any choice at this point. He’s convinced I’m key to winning Ragnarok and saving his people. Even if he’s right…”


“…he doesn’t get to destroy everything.”


I thought of what Sigyn had said about even me agreeing when the time was right. I thought about prophecies. I hoped… “Sigyn’s worried humanity will take care of that for him.”


Kanesha shuddered. “So am I. But…well…maybe humanity should screw up or not on our own merits, right?”


“Exactly. I honestly would like to help him if there was another way this could happen. But he’s so certain it’s the only solution. So…where shall we go?”


Kanesha thought. “Where would he not expect us to go…”


“Not the deep south. I’m not risking you.” It really was that bad.


“It’s not that much better in the north, but…we could go to the Midwest?”


“Maybe…lots of Scandinavians. I’d blend in, you wouldn’t, and it would still appear as if…” I tailed off.


If I was on my own, it would be easy. Go. Keep moving. Kanesha, though? She deserved what of a life she could have. Her choice to love me, but…


“It would be a place he’d think of to go himself.” She considered that. “So? We don’t go that far.”


I paused.




“Ugh, no.”


“Hear me out. You have enough money coming in that we could live in a good part of Baltimore. It would make sense, it would still be within reach of our friends, and he’ll expect us to go halfway across the country.”


“You have a point.”


“And I can make college arrangements there easily enough. And it’s only until…”


“I can’t promise. Heck, what they said might mean there isn’t a person or they aren’t even born yet.”


“Then we do what we have to do to stay safe.”


I put my hand on hers. “I don’t want to take everything normal and ordinary from you.”


“You already have. I don’t mind.”


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 4

“So, the plan is to find out who it is.” She kept blue eyes on me evenly. “What if you don’t like the answer?”


I shook my head. “The only alternative is to try and take him out myself. He’s crossing lines even amongst his own people.”


“He’s desperate. Or insane.”


“He claims his land is dying.” I let that hang there. “I think he genuinely believes…”


“That he has to cause Ragnarok to save them.” She kept her tone grim. “There are other ways.”


“I hope so. I’m not destroying everything to…”


“To bring rebirth. But I don’t think it’s time for that yet.” She brushed back her hair, regarded me. “When it is, even you will agree.”


“I…” A pause. “Okay, maybe if the world goes all Mad Max.”


She grinned. “Maybe it will at the end. I don’t know yet.”


“I don’t want to know.”


“If it does, it may well be the mortals’ fault. They have gotten very short sighted of late.”


I nodded. “Maybe it’s because fewer people can afford to have kids.” I shook my head. “Point is…I don’t know. He showed me some things, but how could I tell? I don’t know what Muspelheim is supposed to look like.”


“Your father does.”


A pause. “Hrm. I could compare notes with him. Except I don’t want to encourage him towards thinking it’s time for the world to end as well.”


“And it wouldn’t take much.” She sighed, reached for her dessert – cherry cheesecake. “I don’t know who it is.”


“I wasn’t thinking it likely you did, but I thought it was worth a try.” Worth a small try, anyway. Besides…I hadn’t talked to her in a while.


“The Norns would.”


“The Norns aren’t talking. As usual.”


She laughed. “Definitely as usual. Of course, would you want to know everything in the web?”


I shuddered. “No. But I know it’s…”


“You understand more about fate now. You know you have choices. It’s a matter of which ones you can live with.”


“Part of me would like to know where they all lead. But…” I tailed off. “How do I protect this city?”


“Leave it.”


And I knew she was, absolutely, right.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 3

Which would not be easy. If the Norns were talking, they would have talked. They weren’t. But it was clearly the next step.


Find out who it was. Give them help and support. Take him out. Hope his replacement had more honor.


My people need you echoed in my mind.


One way or another. Angering me into either joining him or killing him. Maybe he didn’t care which any more.


Who’s task was it? I assumed somebody on the inside. Maybe the woman who I knew wished to be his queen.


Would she be better? I almost, almost thought I understood Surtur, but he had thrown away his honor.


He claimed Muspelheim was dying.


Was he claiming that Ragnarok and renewal were needed? Or did it only need change?


I shook my head, feeling I should talk to my father about it, but he wasn’t showing up even for cayenne brownies. Busy? Distracted? Trying to come up with a way to stop Surtur?


Would he be the one who ended up…no, that would certainly only make things worse. I loved my father, but I was entirely aware of what he was. What he is. Trickster.


Not meant to be king of anything. And he knew it, I was sure of that. Odin’s left hand. The one who did what the king could not.


And who had been released from imprisonment.


Or allowed to escape. I thought I had an insight then, although I also thought it unlikely to be true.


Maybe Odin felt he had served his term. Maybe Odin thought he was too much of a rallying point while imprisoned.


I wasn’t about to ask a raven. I wouldn’t get a straight answer anyway. Little chance of those under the best of circumstances. Not with ravens, Norns, Odin or my father.


Thor or Tyr might give straight answers if they had them. I doubted they did.


And Monica…well. No. Monica wouldn’t give one either, and I had a feeling I could still ask her if I really wanted to.


Which left?


It left my mother. I was fairly sure she didn’t know who it was either, but I knew if she did she would tell me. Which put her ahead of most others. And she seemed more likely to have a clue than Thor or Tyr.


Calling her wasn’t that easy, but I’d worked out how to get her attention. And where to be – Sigyn liked food, good food and lots of it. I headed to an Italian place I knew which sold fantastic pasta in large quantities.
She also liked cherries, I knew, and I checked the dessert specials. Perfect.


She showed up five minutes later.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 2

I could send out a mental call for help stronger than any I’d sent before, reaching into whatever connection held us together.


Surtur heard it. He laughed. “Think about it.” And then he and his bodyguards were gone in flames.


I ran for the burning building. Maybe I could get some people out.


I really was going to kill him, consequences be damned. I wanted to in that moment. But I’d also felt that connection.


It wasn’t my task.


It wasn’t my task. But I wasn’t going to acquiesce to him either. If what I’d felt was fate, then I was going to make my own.


I had choices. And I could feel those, too, for a moment, perhaps a sense of the edge of the web the Norns wove.


Which wasn’t about taking away choice. It was about consequences.


I ran into the building. I took precautions against the smoke, of course. It wouldn’t hurt me, but it would slow me down. I was determined to get people out.


I managed to save three before the professionals showed up. It was an office building, which meant, at least, no kids. Then I stood back and let the firefighters do their job.


Thruor showed up. “Surtur?”


“He’s now changed tactics to threatening the entire city if I don’t go with him. Of course, if I do…”


Her eyes darkened. That’s not usually literal. In her case it was. “I’m going to…”


“Kill him for me?” It almost sounded like a request.


“It’s tempting.” She let out a breath. “Very tempting. Odin can’t intervene in this directly without starting the war.”


“I know.” I looked at the flames. “I tried to stop him, but…”


“Your fire magic is not going to be as strong as his. No chance. Don’t feel bad about it.”


“I’d rather not have fire magic at all. It…the more I use it…”


“Can you stop?” she asked, almost thoughtfully.


“I don’t think so.” No, I knew I couldn’t. And I knew it was drawing me, pulling me, closer to other sources of flame. “I haven’t…until now I don’t think I really wanted him dead except as the only way to make him go away.”


“Be careful. Hating him…”


And I understood. “…can forge a bond as easily as loving him.” I shook my head. “I don’t think I can help it, though.”


“Then we need a council of war.”


Odin couldn’t interfere directly. Heaven wouldn’t. Neither would Zaid’s alien, desert gods.


We had to find out who’s task it was to kill Surtur.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 8

I took as instant a dislike to Los Angeles as I’d expected. And I rapidly realized that Sigyn’s gambit would not truly work.


Maybe it was that part of me that came from her, but I knew leaving would not stop me from caring. And if Surtur knew I still cared, he would not change his plans.


Goddesses can be wrong. But then, so could I.


The city sprawled below as the plane descended. True, DC sprawled too, and ran into other cities, and threatened to run all the way to New York and create an east coast megalopolis. But there was something about this city that said it didn’t care.


Didn’t care how far you had to travel to find anything green. Didn’t care how much water it greedily sucked up.


Maybe we were both right and both wrong. Maybe I had to leave, just not here. The airport was as busy and obnoxious as any airport I had been to. The heat was as stifling as DC, except somehow worse.
And the entire place felt as if a pall of evil fell over it. Or maybe I’d seen too much urban fantasy that cast Los Angeles as an evil place.


I couldn’t be sure, even as I flagged down a cab to take me to my hotel. Which wasn’t particularly expensive. I wasn’t spending a lot on this trip – they were refusing to pay travel expenses, which I decided was a bad sign.


They clearly wanted me, but they also wanted me to, what? Prove I was serious, maybe. Prove that I really wanted to work for them, to travel this far.


The agency wasn’t far from my hotel, but for right now, I needed dinner. I texted Kanesha to tell her I was there safely, then headed for the nearest place that looked reasonably cheap. I rapidly discovered that cheap in Los Angeles was even harder to find than cheap in DC. I finally found a “deli style” restaurant that would sell me dinner for less than $25, ordered the beef stew, and settled down.


Maybe nobody would notice me here. Maybe nobody would know me. That might almost be worth it. Then again, if that pall of evil was real then whatever or whoever was causing it certainly would become rapidly aware of my presence.


Not much I could do about that. I was here, and it would notice me, and we’d probably…dance around each other a little.


Unless it thought it could crush me. I shook my head and ate my stew, although that thought made it taste less wholesome than it might have. It was still pretty good stew, although I wasn’t sure it was worth the price.


But anywhere I went was likely to be expensive. My meeting was in the morning and I decided to go to my room and rest.


I wasn’t able to sleep.


Oh, I dozed off a couple of times, but when I did, I felt as if I was under attack. It did occur to me whatever it was would hide me from Surtur.


But…whatever it was was doing things to people in this city. There was no way it wasn’t. And I was, once more, off my turf and completely alone.


I couldn’t fight this, so the best thing for me to do was get my business done, give a polite no, and retreat until I could.


Strategic retreat again.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 1

Hopefully the kid had run.


Surtur, flanked by two giantesses, both of them armed. Both of them smiling at me in a way that did not put me at ease.




I wanted to ignore him. But being civil was also a weapon, of sorts, so I nodded.


“This has gone on long enough,” he continued.


“You didn’t bring enough to take me.” Bravado, perhaps, but…


“I have learned my lesson.” A bit of a smile. “I need you. My people need you. And so…” The smile became something else. “If you do not come with me I will burn this city.”


He could do it, too. “No.”


“You would…”


I smiled. “Call your bluff, yes. You and I both know you intend to burn this world.” My heartrate was elevating, though.


He could do it.


He would do it. But if I went with him, he would destroy the world.


“Ah, but…”


I cut him off. “And it would still be, in part, my responsibility. You know it as well as I do. Let’s not pretend.”


He lifted a hand. Flame came from it. I wasn’t afraid of his fire – I was far more afraid of my own.


Which wanted to rise in answer, and for a moment I felt it. A kinship. A bond to him. I forced the thought away.


“So, this is what your protection of them is worth?”


“This is what your honor is worth,” I retorted. “You had it, once. You’re throwing it away – and for what?”


“My people’s survival. You’ve seen our world. You have not seen that it is dying.”


I let out a breath. “These people are under my protection, but it has its limits. I can’t stop you and if I go with you it will be worse.”


“What if I showed you?”


Maybe he wasn’t going to do it. Maybe he was afraid to.


“You aren’t going to convince me. You might have convinced me to help you.”


“There’s only one way you can.” He looked at me. “You can give me an heir who has Aesir blood.”


So, that was, as I’d suspected, what this was about. “You could try…”


“I’m sorry. It’s too late for anything else.”


One of the women said something it took me a moment to translate.


“A demonstration, then.” He pointed at a random building.


I reached for my own fire, trying to counter his, but mine was a bonfire compared to a firestorm.


I could not stop him.


Episode Thirty: Departures: Scene 7

I decided that while I didn’t mind planes, I hated airports.


I also hated the feeling of dread, the feeling whatever I did would be wrong. Clara was trying to get together as much magical power as she could to try and ward the entire city. She rather thought it had been done once, that there were even patterns in the streets that could help.


I thought that might be an alternative. To me keeping moving, never attached to one place, dragging Kanesha with me into a nomadic lifestyle I knew didn’t really suit her.


And what did I have…oh no. I was not going there.


I was not running away. So, what was I running towards? Was I letting chance guide me to the west coast?


Leave it.


I knew where she was going. Kanesha I could protect simply by keeping her close to me. I’d already proved I couldn’t, yet, protect an entire city, not from a fire giant king. Not from somebody who’s power was so close to mine and yet so much more powerful.




Allies in Jotunheim. Angrboda. But I knew if…if she was capable of taking on Surtur directly, would she?


Probably not. She had no real reason to care.


And then there were the dwarfmaid twins. Maybe they could help, somehow.


If it came to war, they would.


If it came to war, I rather thought I would already have failed. Even if part of me wouldn’t mind it.


Part of me rather thought it would be fun. My father’s influence? No, he was a trickster, not a fighter.


But there was a part of me that seemed to stir at the thought of leading an army. I rolled my eyes. I did not want to be a queen. I did not want to be a general.


Did I?


And then there was that feeling of a connection between me and Surtur. Thruor was right. It was hate. An enemy could be as connected as a lover.


He wanted to make us both.


And there was power in that, I realized. Power in a bond formed in such a way…but I would not allow myself to be used.


For the power would go only to the one who intended the bond to form. Not my task to kill him.


I wondered if fate would mind…


…no, that was hate too. And I understood why mother had said to leave.


To avoid the confrontation until I had calmed down enough that it would not be based off of hate.