Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 20

We got about halfway through our French toast before they showed up.


The guy’s friends were hulking, almost as wide across as they were tall and practically moved like Neanderthals. I rolled my eyes. “Check out those knuckle walkers.”


“Don’t insult gorillas,” Kanesha said, absently.


“But seriously.”


We had Zaid between us and, indeed, my guess was right.


“Hiding behind women are you? More proof you aren’t a real man,” came a voice from behind them.


Zaid had managed to inflict a shiner and a couple of bruises on the owner of said voice, from what I could see.


“Doesn’t have to be a man,” I said. “How about we take this outside. Some of us would like to be able to come back here.”


The guy glanced around from behind his muscle wall. One of them commented, “She’s got a point.”


They could talk. That would make this more fun, I mused. Maybe I could taunt them into leaving instead of having to hurt anyone.


“Outside, then.”


“It’s three on three,” I added. “That seems fair.”


The one who hadn’t spoken was eyeing Kanesha. “I think we have you outnumbered,” he said finally.


I just grinned. But at least I’d convinced them the street was a better place for a stand off. As we stepped outside, it started to rain.


Even better.


“So, I hear that you insulted my friend here.”


“I don’t know why he was so insulted by the truth.” He hadn’t come out from behind the muscle wall.


“And you accuse him,” I added, “Of hiding behind women when you’re literally hiding behind those two walking walls.”


The one who had spoken first cracked his knuckles. “I’m not averse to beating up a girl.”


I grinned. “Kanesha?”


She grinned back, and stepped forward. Of course, he charged into her.


Of course he charged past her, into the ground. Even I didn’t see exactly what move she used.


The other was staring. “Crap, he brought black belts.”


Kanesha grinned. “Your turn, or are you going to acknowledge defeat.”


I hadn’t even done anything. Hitting people was, I’d realized, far less intimidating than just putting them on the ground.


The one Kanesha had dropped was picking himself up. Their friend was staring.


“See, here’s the thing. You talk big when you’re in a one on one. But then you lose, bring muscle, and it never occurs to you…” I grinned at him. “That two can play at that game.”


I waited to see if they would run away. Hopefully they would.


Hopefully they wouldn’t bother Zaid again.


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 10

Of course, I didn’t want to tell Kanesha any of this. I was, perhaps, afraid of what she might do.


I was afraid that she would leave me if she thought it would save the world, that she would go all stupid noble the way I’d been resisting.


It would make things so much easier. Instead, I was determined to find another source. And I had an idea for who I might ask.


If I wasn’t still locked out from the knowledge of how to open the bridge myself I would have just gone there. As it was, I was stuck until Thruor came back.


I was going to go talk to some dwarves. Specifically, a set of twins. I had a feeling they would help me.


I had a feeling they were important allies. So was Angrboda, but I somehow didn’t think she had the knowledge I needed.


Nobody was better at enchanting things than dwarves. So, who better to know how to fix this kind of problem.


Except for the fact that I had a feeling most dwarves would like to see something bad happen to Muspelheim. So?


The twins, specifically. Of course, their father had set things up so we’d become friends. I had to wonder what the King under the Mountain was really up to.


See. This was why I didn’t want to be a queen. Politics.


But I also knew the real reason deep within me was still the knowledge that as a queen I would have to abandon her.


And I knew I’d known that all along, at some subconscious level. I wanted, honestly, to be able to live out a human lifespan with her and then worry about my duties.




I acknowledged that now. But none of this got Thruor back any faster.


Then Angrboda showed up. She looked like she was already drunk and ready for more.


“Oh no, I’m not going with you to celebrate this time.”


“Why not?”


“Because you need to be cut off.”


She scowled at me. “I…”


“You’re not even quite walking straight. Come in and sober up.”


She did, surprisingly, flopping on my couch…I’d deliberately acquired the sturdiest I could find…and giant-snoring for a couple of hours. Thankfully, Kanesha was busy.


I hoped none of our neighbors were home.


When she came around, she was glaring at me.


I handed her a glass of water and four aspirin. Double the dose, for giants.


“How much did I drink?”


“Enough, apparently. What did you drink?”


“Dwarven ale.”


I laughed.


“I’d forgotten just how strong dwarven ale is.”


I laughed more. But I was glad to see her, and I suspected that drunk on dwarven ale equated to good news.


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 18

The cops did not show up, so I had to let the guy go. By that time, though, the girl…whore or not…was long gone. Which I called a win, going back to my hunt.


“I saw that,” somebody called.


I changed course. “Well, he had a knife.”


“Didn’t see that part. Kid should be in school, but that doesn’t mean somebody should pull a knife on her.”


I thought about that. “Probably some reason she isn’t.”


“Messed up home life.” The guy studied me. “You’ve had some training.”


I nodded. “I try not to be a random vigilante, but…”


“But you know enough to go in and do something without making the situation worse.” He shrugged. “I’d have made it worse.”


“You know enough to know that.” Which was more than, say, Derek had. The guy was in his forties, greying, a little bit of a paunch.


“Well, yeah. Just saying, keep it up, but don’t get yourself stabbed or shot.”


Too late, I mused, but I didn’t say it. “Thanks.”


“I’d offer to buy you a drink, but…”


“Thanks, but I’m actually looking for a friend.” Just in case he had any ideas.


He gave me a thumbs up and I headed back up the street. At least I’d achieved something tonight, even if it was only a small something and even if it might not last in the long term.


He was right, that girl should be in school, not selling certain services on street corners. If she had been. If she hadn’t been mistaken for one because of the way she was dressed.


I decided not to judge. I also decided I was thirsty, and looked around for a place where I could get a soda.


I ducked into one of the bars which didn’t seem strict on carding people who weren’t ordering alcohol. Ordered a coke and glanced around.


Normal people. Enjoying normal entertainment on a weekend night. I was jealous of them. At least I could pretend for a bit as I sipped my soda.


Then the girl came in. The same girl. She looked shaken. I lifted a hand. “Hey.”


“…you.” She looked about to run away again, then pulled herself together. “Where is he?”


“I had to let him go. I’m not a cop. But if he causes trouble in here…”


“The cops might listen to you about him. He…he…”


“Did he hurt somebody?” I asked, gently.


She nodded. “He hurt Trisha.”


“Well. I can keep my eyes open.” I no longer had a fast line to the police, but I rather thought I might have some of their respect.


And a guy cutting up street girls deserved a stay in jail.


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 19

Her name was Madison. She’d run away to get away from the father’s abuse. I rather thought I could find somebody to help her.


I would certainly look into it. I went home that night with a lot to think about, but still no closer to solving the actual problem.


And I went to bed fairly late, which meant that when the phone rang at 6am the next morning…on a Sunday…I almost smashed it.


Kanesha looked about to do the same thing. “It’s Zaid,” I told her.


“Do they have an emergency?”


“Apparently.” I turned my attention to the phone. “Zaid, what’s up?”


“Could…use your help.”


“It’s 6am, it had better be important.”


“It is.”


“Where are you?”


“Diner in Crystal City.”


I knew the one they meant – a couple of doors down from the gay bar. “We’re on our way. Order us breakfast. Kanesha?”


“French toast,” she said sleepily, already getting dressed. “Two orders of French toast.”


I then hung up and got dressed. I knew Zaid. They weren’t an asshole. They wouldn’t be calling at 6am without a good reason.


Especially on a Sunday. And maybe it would be another problem I could do something about. On the way I filled Kanesha in about the problem in Georgetown.


“Hrm. Cops won’t help that much. I mean, Mike…”


“I know. But maybe we can give the guy such a scare he at least goes and harasses women somewhere else.”




We made it across the bridge from DC to Arlington. Even at 6am there was traffic, although I was sure a lot of them were going to early morning church services.


I parked at a meter and we jogged up the street to the diner.


Zaid was sitting at a corner table, and somebody had beaten them up.


“Ow. So, you need us to get the other guy?”


“No, I took care of him. But he apparently has friends.”


And they were targeting Zaid. “Are they targeting you because you’re a priest or because you’re, you know?”


“The latter,” they admitted ruefully. “I’m doubling up on wards, but…”


“We’re a heck of a lot more intimidating than you are.” Putting the fear of gods into bigots for Zaid? Another thing I could handle.


Another distraction, but I wasn’t complaining. I felt as if I was actually doing something worthwhile.


For once.


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 17

I knew asking Bjorn to get me a weapon was past the kid’s abilities. So, I needed to get the attention of somebody with more access to Surtur’s palace.


Somebody who might even care enough about their king to try and save him. I personally thought it was too late, but…


It was about the realm.


It was about me being completely crazy and not wanting anyone else hurt. Well, anyone who didn’t ask for it. There were quite a few people around I’d enjoy beating up. I was even a bit irritated with Thruor for doing it for me, even though her motives and decisions made sense.


I was also starting to get…worried…about how she was deferring to me. After all, it wasn’t like I outranked her – far from it.


Was she giving me enough rope to hang myself?


More likely she thought somebody younger and less set in her ways might have useful ideas. She might be right. I certainly wasn’t listening to anyone else at this point.


Well, listening yes. Following the orders of, no. Because I could see everything heading down the road to disaster and bluntly, we had to try something different, something crazy, if any of this was going to come out in the wash.


Maybe even something that set aside all tradition.


Trickster’s daughter, I thought wryly. Of course I wasn’t going to do the expected. Unless, of course, that was what was unexpected.


So, how did I find fire giants? It was fall now, starting to drop towards temperatures as cold as this city ever saw. I wondered if they would even be here.


If they were, then they were probably looking for booze, and I couldn’t exactly check all the bars. Should have asked Thruor to do that.


I could ask Bruce, but he wasn’t the type to go wandering around bars and clubs. Which was why I was wandering through Georgetown as late as I thought I could get away with. The noise from various doors was inviting, but I didn’t want to get carded, so I stayed in the street, watching.


A short, sharp scream drew my attention. Most everyone else was ignoring it, but I turned, and moved into an alleyway.


There was a guy trying to get a struggling woman into a car. Either he was an out of uniform cop making an arrest or…


…well, I wasn’t about to let him get away. If he was a cop, he could produce a badge. “What’s going on here?”


He turned, which allowed the girl to squirm free and start running, teetering on high heels. She wasn’t much, if any, older than Kanesha.


“I was going to give the little whore what she deserves. I suppose I’ll settle for you.”


And the idiot charged me. Definitely not a cop. He had a knife…it was out of his hands in moments and I had him in a half nelson a moment later. “Nice try.”




Now I rather did wish a cop would show up. Without one, I would have to let him go, although at least his would be victim was now fairly clear of the area.


“Don’t insult dogs,” I told him, wryly, not letting him go until she had had a good head start.


He just stared at me. “Why protect the likes of her?”


“You were going to cut her up.”


He did not deny it.


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 16

Thruor showed back up the next day. “I kicked his butt.”


“The fire setter?”


She nodded. “Didn’t kill him. Just tried to make him think twice about the orders he’s following.”


“Better you than me.”


She grinned. “You do it and it’s personal. I do it and it’s a reminder of the fact that he could start a war this way.”


“I talked to Sarael. I don’t think there’s much Heaven can do, but…”


“They can be aware and protect their own people.” Thruor let out a breath.


“You’re bleeding.”


She glanced at her upper arm. “It’s nothing.”


“Let me wrap it?” Even with our healing it was a good idea to bandage wounds. She came inside and I wrapped the injury.


“I didn’t even notice it,” she admitted.


“Occupational hazard.” She hadn’t killed him. I was glad of that, even if it wouldn’t have been permanent.


“So…we need to think about a next move. I might have slowed him down.”


“Or Surtur will just send somebody else.” A pause. “I need to get a weapon from Muspelheim.”


“So you can examine it.”


I nodded. “I think I need local help, though.”


“I wish I’d thought of that. I’d have taken his.”


I shook my head. “Something from the armory nobody will miss would be better.” And I suspected I could get enough help to get it.


And then I could see what happened if it was destroyed. Which might cause all kinds of explosions. But…I had a feeling I had to try it sooner or later.


It would tell me something. Of course, if it was a sentient weapon, Balgefa might have objections.


The firegiver.


It was right there. Forged for me. “Would you ask Clara and Seb to see if they can work out the next target?”


“Plan on trying to get ahead of them?”


“I wield fire too. Maybe I can…”


“Get into a mental duel with a fire giant.” A pause. “Well, you have a decent chance of winning.”


I grinned at her. “I intend to try.”


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 15

I was still a bit worried about Thruor doing something crazy. I was the kid; I was supposed to be the one with no patience or restraint.


No, she was doing it before I could. And I had a feeling I’d be patching her up or sending her back to Asgard to visit Eir before this was over.


Because…I was oddly sure and certain this was not her task either. But then, maybe she could deal with the guy doing the actual fire setting.


For my part? I was missing Mike painfully. But for want of a better idea, I wandered over to Will’s church.


Stood outside and looked at it. It was stone, so not likely to be a target. Besides, Surtur had already worked out he hardly needed to target specific people. Just, well, people in general.


You could only care about a few.


But you could protect without needing to care. If you didn’t care at all, I supposed that made you an anti-hero.


Or somebody who was selfishly trying to get karmic brownie points or whatever. To get into heaven.


That was what some gods promised, after all. A good place in the afterlife for making lives better here on Earth. Not a bad idea, I supposed.


Motivated people. But I knew it was often more complicated than that. Mike, I thought, mourning him for a moment and starting to turn away.


To almost walk into Sarael. “Hey, angel face,” I teased.


He laughed a bit. “You’ve got an arson problem.”


“Yes, I have. And I’m open to suggestions. Thruor’s gone to harass him.”


“Thruor kicked his butt, but not hard enough. Now he’ll probably pick something important to her.”


I thought about that. “A night club, likely.” I sighed. “I’m sorry. I can’t give in or worse happens.”


He studied me for a long moment. “I know.”


“If there’s anything you can do…”


“It certainly doesn’t suit Heaven to have the nine realms at each other’s throats again.”


Again? I decided not to pry into that too much. It had been before I was born, or at least before I was old enough to be any use. “Don’t worry. I don’t plan…”


“You plan on doing everything one woman can. I know.”


That felt oddly comforting. He didn’t expect me to be some kind of prophesized keystone to fix everything.


Just to do everything one woman could. “Everything I can without making things worse.”


“That’s always the tricky part.”


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 14

Of course, that wasn’t a promise I could personally keep – but at least Surtur still seemed to think he needed me to fight it.


Which was, of course, why he or one of his minions set fire to an old people’s home. I was getting more and more angry about this stuff and more and more tired of it.


I couldn’t stop him and I knew I had to keep with the plan, but this time I hadn’t even been close enough to help get people out.


All I could do was watch the news footage, loop it until I went numb. Try not to let the hate poison me.


Try not to let the desire for vengeance consume me.


Look at my sword, and think about what I could and could not do.


I probably needed to be hauled out to do something fun, but everyone was busy. I turned the television off and sat there in silence.


Stop Surtur, stop Ragnarok, but I couldn’t even stop him from burning out retired people. Couldn’t even protect a few mortals. What was I doing even thinking I could fix any of this?


Then finally, Thruor knocked on the door. Came in as soon as I said she could.


“You need this,” she commented and handed me an extremely large double chocolate cookie.


She was right. I rather did. “I’m done with this. I’m about to say screw prophecies, screw rules, screw everything.”


“Could beat up his arsonist,” she said like it was a serious suggestion.


“Tempting. He’d just send somebody else, but it would make me feel better.” Or the same guy back once he’d recovered, angrier with me. “Nah. It would…”


“Not be conducive to undermining Surtur’s authority.”


I blushed. “I wasn’t exactly trying to do that.”


“Just talk the guy into letting you go.”


“He did have my sword.” I glanced at the blade. “And enough knowledge to know that would hold me. Weirdly, I kind of liked him.”




A pause, then. “He reminded me of Mike. Cop type, I guess.” Good cops came from one mold, I supposed. Bad cops from a different, much more unpleasant one. I was quite glad I’d been arrested by a good cop.


She let out a breath. “Hard to think of them as people.”


“Hard to think of any enemy that way. But you don’t need to. Just not start the fights.”


“Only finish them,” she said, grimly. “I’m about ready to finish this one.”


“Don’t let anything permanent happen.”


“I won’t.”


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 13

Okay, so I did get pretty drunk. Not bad enough that I got rolled out the door in a wheelbarrow, but I do distinctly remember that there was singing involved.
What? The drinking age in Niflheim is “As soon as you can lift a tankard.” And for dwarves, it works.


I am fairly sure the average dwarf woman has higher alcohol tolerance than Odin. So, maybe Angrboda could be excused after all.


At the same time, I had got them to at least tentatively understand my point of view before the singing started. To grasp the concept that maybe, just maybe, fire giants could be traded with.


Maybe not fully trusted, but I didn’t fully trust them either, so… It was progress, anyway. Plus, they put me back on Midgaard, behind the apartment.


I sneaked back in. Kanesha was curled on a sofa. “Are you drunk?”




“What happened?”




I apparently didn’t need to explain any more. She handed me a glass of water. “Drink this and please don’t be seen in public until you sober up.”


She was right, I thought through the fog. I drank it and then went to pass out.
We talked over a breakfast I was slightly too hungover to really enjoy. “We’re making progress.”


“Except on getting Muspelheim fixed.”


I considered. “They called my sword Firegiver. That means something.”




I sighed. I slipped an arm around her. “I don’t want to leave you. I won’t if I can avoid it.”


“But I can’t be in Muspelheim. I can’t even be there, and…” She tailed off. “I know. The world’s more important than I am.”


“That’s not true.” I kissed her. “The world is as important as you are in a different way.”


“Are you sure you’re sober? Because that didn’t make much sense.”


I kissed her again. “To me. Besides, me and Angrboda had a long talk about…well, part of what she made me realize is that we can’t value the world. We can only value the people who live in it.”


“Why do you want to save the galaxy?” she shot back.


“I am not a raccoon,” I deadpanned.


“I loved that character.”


I grinned. “The raccoon and the tree. But neither of us is either, so…”


“We’re still the fools that live in it.”


If that example made her understand me, understand how I was feeling right now, I would very definitely take it.


And what would come of us? I would find another way.


It was not my task to kill Surtur.


I still had to find out who’s it was. Or if it was anyone’s.


Maybe letting him kill himself would be a solution to the problem. If it wasn’t for his other plans.




There would be no war.


Episode Thirty-Two: Discoveries: Scene 12

Angrboda, of course, opened the gate to the dwarven kingdom. Then walked away, leaving me with no way back.


Probably, she didn’t want any more of the overly strong ale. Or she thought it was funny to leave me at dwarven mercy. We might be friends of a sort, but…


Then I practically got tackled.


By a dwarfmaid. “Oof, don’t forget you have a lower center of gravity than I do!”


She laughed. “And hopefully more tolerance of our ale…”


“She claims you spiked it,” I said as I disentangled myself from the twin. I had, of course, forgotten which was which.


“Great excuse. Come on. We need to talk.” She practically dragged me into the inn. I wasn’t sure if she was Ebba or Jorun.


The other one had already staked out a table and claimed a pitcher of dangerous ale. And poured glasses.


I was not going to escape getting drunk.


“How did you like Muspelheim?” the one at the table asked.


“Can you clue me in on which of you is which?” I pleaded.


Table twin laughed. “I’m Ebba…maybe.”


I rolled my eyes. Well, maybe it didn’t matter. “I…well, got arrested and nearly lost Balgefa.”


“Oh, she’d have found her way back to you,” Jorun said as she sat down. “She was forged for you, remember.”


“She wasn’t too happy.” A fire sword. A weapon for a fire wielder, not against one. I mused on that for a moment.


“Well, she was probably mad,” Ebba said, between sips of ale, “With you for stupidly getting yourself arrested by, who?”


I laughed. “The local sheriff. It was my fault. I assumed I’d be able to talk my way out of there. Actually, I was halfway to doing so when I got rescued.”


“Good.” Ebba turned serious. “You want us to do business with the giants.”


“I want peace.”


“It can’t last forever.”


I nodded. “Well, no. But it can last longer than it’s threatening to. You guys wouldn’t exactly benefit from Ragnarok either.”


She looked thoughtful. “No. We would not. But if they fight with weapons we gave…”


“If they fight with weapons they forge then Ragnarok happens faster.” I sighed. “And you know as well as I that fire giants will never stop being quarrelsome.”


“And that if anything happens to Surtur he’ll be replaced by worse.”


I thought on that. “Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know the politics well enough.”


Jorun regarded me. “And you are a fire goddess.”


“And thus in a better position than most to learn, I suppose. They’re more likely to trust me.”


“Exactly.” That was both sisters.


I took a sip from the ale. It was as potent as threatened. I was also fairly sure it was not spiked.


Angrboda must be slipping.