Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 21

I did not really want to go through them. I did not, in all honesty, want to hurt these people.


It was not that they were following orders. It was that I saw them as victims too.


On the other hand?


They were in my way. I let fire flow around my blade. Not that I expected it to intimidate fire giants.


It did not. Two of them tried to take me on. I found, to my surprise, that I matched them, and the dwarves were hitting heads.


“Try not to kill them!” I called. “If you can avoid it.”


I wasn’t able to…I had to take one of them out, my sword sliding into their heart. The sword was satisfied.


I less so. This was not how I had wanted this to end or to be. The death and the fury of those with me caused the rest to make a retreat in search of backup.


I glanced at Thruor, who was cleaning blood off her own sword. We kept moving, not wanting to be there when they came back in greater numbers.


But I felt bad. Then, I knew this would not have been managed without bloodshed. “Maybe I should have killed them all so they did not know I was here,” I said, miserably.


“Maybe,” Thruor said. “But you clearly did not wish to and have to live with it afterwards.”


“I’m a warrior, but…”


“But you had no quarrel with them, only the one giving them orders.”


“I think it would have been different…” I wiped blood from my blade before moving out. “…had I not known he was conscripting people.”




She was in agreement with me. Something about that made me feel better. And we kept moving.


“Is that a small mountain or a large spire?” I asked.


“A large spire,” Thruor said. “I haven’t been here before, but I’ve seen pictures and descriptions. Surtur’s palace is in the top of it.”




Getting up there would be hard. Getting up there without being seen would be even harder. I was not sure I could do it without being caught. Or turning myself in and then running.


That was definitely on the list of possibilities.


“He may not…”


I shook my head. “She’s there.” I knew, suddenly, as if I could feel her. As if the connection between us, now I was closer, drew me back to her.


My love was in that tower and I intended to bring her out from it.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 20

Of course, we did not make it to the capital unchallenged.


There was no way that was going to happen. A patrol, smart enough to not just check the road. It heartened me a little to see that there was still some competence here.


I drew my sword. Mike had his gun…and a sword, I could have sworn he had not had that before.


Maybe Thruor had been carrying a spare. But he was using the gun first, firing off a couple of shots.


Neither of them hit, I suspected by intent. They did have a result, making the guards step back from a weapon utterly unfamiliar with them.


“Who are you?”


Aha, we got a voice, not an attack. “I am Siglaugr, and you will let us pass.” I kept my voice even.


“Says who?”


“Says us,” said a dwarf from behind me, I thought Ebba, although their voices were so similar that I could not always tell them apart when I could not see them.


I did not look to see what threatening gestures they might be making.


“I see no army,” the guard said, wryly. “I see that we have you outnumbered, strange magic or no.”


“I need no army. I stand with dwarves and frost giants. I stand with Aesir and Vanir. You will let me pass.”


It sounded good, and I wasn’t even quite sure where it came from. Of course, I did not have a frost giant with me, but they would know why.


“To do what?”


“Surtur has something that belongs to me.”


They studied me warily. “The King…”


“Has something, again, that belongs to me. And no honor.”


Of course, one of them rushed at me for that, but there was no thought behind his attack. I batted him away with the flat of my blade, not wanting to kill anyone I didn’t have to.


He went down. “Ack, you’re fast!”


“Indeed. Now, let me pass.”


They were forming a solid wall, though, blocking my route. I had a feeling that somebody would find a route around them. The one I had felled picked himself up. Looked at me with uncertainty.


He did not join the wall.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 19

Moving through the countryside, we saw that things were not right. The next town was not as quiet, but definitely subdued. We made a circuit around it, eating food we had, bluntly, stolen from a farmer.


From one who had plenty, and we had taken as little as we could. The fyrhund was scavenging for himself.


I hated to steal, but I knew that we would be found. Unless, of course, Surtur was letting me come to him.


There was always that, always that risk. That this was all a trap.


She was bait as well as a bargaining chip – I knew that in my heart. I just hoped that he would not get to use her as such.


Except here I was, refusing to stay back, refusing to trust Thruor to save Kanesha. Walking right into the lion’s den.


Knowing it was a trap. And I was not exactly a badger. I shook my head. “This is foolish, but…”


“But honor gives you no choice.”


“He has none remaining,” I pointed out.


Jorun shook her braids. “Agreed. He should not need to force anyone to fight for him. He should be turning people away.”
She had a point there. I let out a breath. “So, we keep going.”


“And we assume he knows exactly where we are and hasn’t attacked us yet because we’re walking right into the trap.” Thruor said, grimly. “But then, that was always the plan.”


“We do need local help.” But he’d conscripted all of it.


“Which we will find better at the Capital.”


I took her point and kept moving. I glanced at Mike – but then I remembered he didn’t tire any faster than I did now.


There were things I wanted to ask. But did not.


Things I wanted to ask, specifically, for Kanesha’s sake. I knew, somehow, I would get no answer. Or if I did, I would not be able to tell her.


It could do nothing but set my own mind at ease. The protective pendant was in my pocket.


I had her sword.


I would use, though, only my own. And putting my own mind at ease? Him being there did that.


The familiar presence, if a little more quiet – and that only because we were, after all, sneaking around.


I still cared so much for him.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 18

Because of that, I did not draw my sword, but swung to the side and grabbed her arm. Mike was shielding the kid.


“We’re not your enemy.”


“You came to take her away!” she screamed.


“No. We did not.”


It had been a mistake to follow the dog, I thought. Or not. We knew now that something was going on here, some new tyranny. Something dishonorable. “He took your husband.”


“He demanded so many warriors. Or he would…raze us.”


I released her. “We mean no harm to you or your child, and if we can get your husband back, we will. He has mine too.”


Which was loosely true.


“You are…not even one of us. Or are you?” She did not seem entirely sure on the matter.


“He has kidnapped the one I love. Nothing else matters.”


And she lowered her hand. “I…”


“Don’t help us. Don’t tell anyone we were here.” I smiled. “Well, you have already helped.”


It was a dark thing that was happening, but it was something they would not brook. Like a horse with too harsh a bit they would rebel. Rebel and run or fight?


The kid couldn’t fight. The mother probably should not. He had probably taken those who were in the best position to fight.


She closed her eyes. “Thank you. Whoever you are.”


“Not a friend. But perhaps an ally.” Which I could offer. We slipped outside.


“Just a scared kid,” I told Thruor. “Surtur’s resorted to conscription.”


“That’s good. It means their heart is not in the war. Or their heart is not in following him. Either way…”


“Either way we might be able to use that.” I kept my tone quiet, but grim. “Let’s keep moving. Before these people get into trouble for sheltering us.”


She winced, but nodded. There was a road to the capital.


We did not plan on taking the road, of course. It would be watched. But its course would help us navigate, on foot, through unfamiliar terrain.


I hoped…even prayed…that we would not take too long.


Would he start the war without me?


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 17

The village seemed too quiet. Too quiet, except that somehow the fyrhund padded out of a side street and fell in next to me.


I petted him. “Where is everyone?”
Thruor pursed her lips. “Hiding. They might have seen us coming.”


“And not wanted to stick around to find out whether we were dangerous or not.” I could see that.


The dog panted at me. Then he pointed his nose towards a house.
“What’s in there?” I asked. Maybe I should have asked who.


He barked.


“Hrm.” I glanced at Thruor.


“Take Mike and check it out.”


I was deferring to her, as the one vastly more experienced. I glanced at Mike again. It was hard to be entirely comfortable with his presence here. It was hard to get my mind out of…well, having spent too much time on Midgaard, I supposed.


It was still Mike. We headed for the house. He moved to kick the door in. I shook my head and tried it.


It opened.


There was a child inside. She was crying. It could be a trap, I knew.


“What’s wrong?”


“Who are you?” she managed.


“Not an enemy.” I was being honest. I could not tell the girl I was a friend.


“My dad left. There’s going to be a war.”


I smiled at her. “I’m trying to stop it. I’ll try and get him back for you. What’s your name?”




I smiled again. “I’m Siglaugr, and this is Michael.”


“That’s a weird name.” She turned her attention towards him. “But you…you’re…”


“We’re not enemies.”
Which was, of course, the point at which the girl’s mother attacked us unprovoked. Not a trap, no.


Just a woman protecting her child.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 16

Two dwarves. Me. Thruor.


I had honestly half expected Thruor’s extra backup to be one of the other valkyries.


When she came alone, of course, I assumed whoever it was had turned her down.


“Your friend is not coming.”


“He’ll be joining us.” There was a grim note to her tone. “When we open the gate.”


That was odd, but I had a feeling there was a reason for it. And at least this time she had revealed a gender.


Not a valkyrie, then.


Thruor started to open the gate. I felt it more than I had, and I watched her.


And I remembered how to do it.


Or perhaps it had been…unlocked. Something about that bothered me. It told me this was, all of it, heading towards some kind of end game.


And then we were five, and then we were in Muspelheim before I could register who the fifth was.




He looked as he always had – he even had a gun. He did not look like what he was now. Einherior. It was still Mike.


I could not, for a moment, speak. He broke the silence for me.


“Do you really think I could let Surtur kidnap Kanesha and not come?” He grinned at me. “But the rules say I can’t set foot on Midgard for a hundred years.”


In other words, until everyone who had known him as a mortal man was dead. “Mike…”


“It’s alright.”


I couldn’t help it, though. I hugged him. Armor or no armor.


Thruor ahemed. “We need to get moving before we’re spotted.”
The dwarves, though, were both grinning. They, of course, knew the value of family.


We were not in the lava tube, we were closer to the capital. Thruor had taken a risk there, but I knew the back door would be watched.


With luck, nobody who could sense our arrival would be close enough to attack us before we’d moved away from the portal. Which we did. It was warm, it was…hot. The dwarves were already sweating a little.


As long as they weren’t hurt.


None of us could be harmed permanently here. Except Kanesha.


I hoped. Suddenly, I was not so sure of that as I had been, not so sure of my own safety. But still, we walked, not towards the village, but on a route that would take us around it.


I kept glancing at Mike.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 15

Obviously, I couldn’t invite Seb, Clara or Derek. Protecting one mortal was going to be hard enough.


Four of us would go – me, Thruor and the dwarves.


“I’m surprised they agreed to come.”


“Agreed? They insisted. Irritated with fire giants and they like Kanesha.”


“She has that effect on people.”


I thought about it. “The only person I’ve ever met who didn’t like Kanesha was her own father.” Then I laughed weakly. “Maybe we’ll get there to find she has Surtur wrapped around her little finger.”


“Would be nice, but I doubt it. Okay. So, a team of four.”


“We can’t use the secret entrance. They used it, which was them making a point about knowing about it. They’re watching.”


“Because you came in that way last time. We’ll have to open a gate.”


“Which they’ll notice. What about going in through the dwarven kingdom? They’ve been raiding there.”


“Good idea. If we use a place they used recently, there won’t be as much of a signature.”


“The twins know where the raiders showed up last time.”


Thruor nodded. “You realize this is going to be dangerous. None of us are going to end up permanently dead, but…”


“I know. And they might use her to get us to surrender.”


“Quick in, quick out. I’d suggest you stay behind but I know what will happen if I suggest that.”


I gave her a look.


“Exactly.” A pause. “Team of five.”


I gave her another look.


“I came up with somebody else to take along. If they’re willing.”


She wasn’t about to tell me who. I knew by they she didn’t mean Zaid, and that she had to mean somebody less than mortal.


Maybe she didn’t want me disappointed if whoever it was didn’t want to come.


I wished Odin could help even indirectly, but I hadn’t seen so much as a feather of a raven since this started.


“So, we make a gate there, and then we…would be good to get some local assistance. I’ll keep my eyes open.”


“We’ll be heading for the capital. Again.”


“I didn’t make it there last time.”


Thruor nodded. “Hopefully this time we will. And remember. He may snatch you.”


“If he does, you get Kanesha out and then come back for me.” I kept my tone even.


She nodded. “I promise.”


And a Valkyrie’s promise counted for more than most.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 14

Ebba’s forge was warm, although not…it was a different kind of warm.


“So…the thing is, this sword already has enchantments on it. I have to be careful.”


“It does? Oh, wait, it has the one to keep it from needing to be sharpened.”


Ebba frowned. “No, there’s something else, but it’s warded so I can’t identify it.”


Which made me frown myself. “Who would…”


“It has not harmed her?”


“No, not at all. But I’d rather know what it is.”


“There’s no way I can find out. Whoever put it there was better than me. And also not a dwarf.”


I thought about that for a moment, then just nodded. “If it hurts her, I will…but right now, it needs to be back in her hands.”


“Right. But I don’t think…thinking about it, this isn’t a good idea.” Ebba turned to me. “If she gets disarmed…”


“Alright. How about a piece of jewelry, then?” I glanced around. “No offense, but you seem to have plenty, and I can pay.”


Ebba grinned. “It’s my specialty.” She took down a necklace. “I think this would look really good on her too.”


I felt as if I’d dodged a bullet. Except that there was an enchantment on Kanesha’s sword that was not put there by a dwarf, and that I had no way of identifying. I gave the blade a look as Ebba examined the pendant.


“Given the strength, I’m going to need time and help. Two days.” She looked at me. “Sorry, I can’t rush it further.”


“I’ll need the time to plan, then.”


“Also, we’re coming with you.”


There was no argument in her tone. “Are you sure? You need protection there too.”


“We are not leaving the first mortal to be granted dwarven steel for centuries in Surtur’s dungeon.” She sounded fierce. “My father gave that sword to her for a reason.”


“And we need to get it back to her.” Somehow I thought it was vital.


Somehow I thought it would help. “I’m not turning you down, just…”


“You don’t need to remind us of the risks.” She flipped her braid back and looked up at me. “We are dwarves and warriors, not children.”


I laughed. “You’re right. I don’t. But…”


“But it’s the responsibility of the one in charge to keep others safe. Just…”


I looked at her. “Just…” A sigh. “I guess I should leave you to it.”


As I turned away, she was taking another piece of jewelry down from the wall, but shielding it so I couldn’t see it.


I decided not to press.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 13

Thruor opened the gate for me.


There was something different about this time. It felt like I could feel the gate opening, almost reach out and touch it.


I did not attempt to do so, not wanting to mess with her, but I wondered…something had definitely changed.


It opened near the inn I’d met them before, but they were not there. Steeling myself – and carrying both swords – I headed towards the Hall.


Of course, I stood out, not being a dwarf, but the gazes I got were more curious and perhaps a little concerned than hostile or rude.


I doubted they knew what was going on. They probably realized I was a customer.


But there was a lot of tension once I reached the gate. “Lokisdottir,” the guard greeted.


“I need to talk to the princesses.”


“You don’t know what’s going on, do you.”


“No.” I didn’t tell him I had my own problems.


“Fire giant raid.”


“Are they okay?”


“They are, but not everyone who was with them is.”


“Then tell them that I need their help annoying fire giants.”


The guard actually grinned. “I think they might go for that.”


Both twins were grim-faced and a little beaten up when I finally found them. “You’re having fire giant problems again?” Jorun asked.


“They have my lover. I plan on getting her back.”


“The dark girl?” Jorun continued. “Damn.”


“Yeah. I’m sure she did her best to escape, but…”


“But he has her. And of course is using her as leverage.”


“He’s threatened to torture her.” I looked between them. “And I can’t attempt a rescue because if I take her away from whatever protective wards he has on her…she won’t be able to survive in Muspelheim.”


“So, you come to dwarves for enchantment.” Ebba grinned weakly.


“The mortal witches I know can’t do anything powerful enough even working as a coven. I thought you might.”


“It’s a tough one. We need wards to survive there ourselves. For her, they would have to be even more potent,” Ebba mused.


“But you know where to start.”
“We do.” They looked at each other. “They killed one of our friends. Anything to hurt them right now.”


“Surtur’s the one I want to hurt. Him and his cronies.”


Slowly, they nodded in stereo. “If we give you a description of the two that got away could you add them to the list?”


“If I see them, sure.”


It seemed like a fair deal to me. But my priority was getting Kanesha out.


And Surtur.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 12

“So, his offer is he keeps her in jail or he frees her and you never see her again?” Thruor laughed. “He’s terrified of her.”


“He wants me to love him.” I sighed. “So I’ll be super sad when he does something stupid and kills himself.”


“Lost it,” the valkyrie said. “Okay. I haven’t found a way to protect her yet. Still working on it.”


“I suppose it’s hard to make wards powerful enough.”


“It is. If we do, we’ll have to put them in an object.”


“An object particularly good at taking enchantments. Like, say, a dwarven sword.”


“…I hadn’t thought of that.” She grinned at me. “You’re learning.”


“And I know a couple of dwarves who quite like Kanesha and might be willing to help.”


“You’re building a strong alliance there.”


I rolled my eyes. “No, I like them. The twins. They’re fun to hang out with. Just watch their choice of alcohol.”


Thruor laughed. “Potent, eh? That’s dwarves for you. They’ll drink anyone under the table. Even Odin doesn’t try to keep up with them.”


Which did make me feel better about the drunken singing. “But Surtur’s not afraid of Kanesha. He’s afraid of love.”


“Of course he is. He forgot how to feel it a long time ago, I think. Fortunately, that’s just him, not all fire giants.”




“Unfortunately, the politics are such that…”


“That he’ll be replaced by something worse. But still. I wonder if his people know what he’s doing?”


“Likely not beyond those he got to do it.” Thruor frowned. “Bride stealing is a fire giant thing, but it’s…ceremonial. A fire giant woman won’t marry a man who can’t best her.”


“Shame he can best me. I can’t use that to get out of it.”


The frown became a little bit more level. “No, you probably can’t. But this isn’t bride stealing, this is blackmail.”


“And the kind of thing to piss off everyone.”


“Right. She belongs to you. He has no right to do this.”


“Except might. And Odin can’t help without triggering Ragnarok, can he.” I kept my tone even.




“Then I have some dwarves to talk to.”