Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 11

Worried or not, I knew for her sake that I had to stay calm. I wished my dad would show up – but maybe he was doing something he didn’t want me to know about.


He had rescued people from all kinds of places, though. He was good at jailbreaks. So, maybe he could do something.


Without having heard from him, though, I was not about to assume he was up to anything that might be useful, or anything at all for that matter. It was my job to look after my own girlfriend.


And hers to look after me. Honestly, a big part of me was pretty angry that she’d been snatched.


They must have sent some force, too. But ultimately, she didn’t have our strength, our power. She could have taken on one of them.


Surtur had probably sent three or four, just to be sure.


I brooded on my balcony until a knock sounded at the door.


I opened it on the chain. “You are not welcome here.”


“I come under sign of truce.”


“You are still not welcome in my home.” I grabbed my sword and stepped out into the corridor. “Where is she?”


“Safe, and protected.”


“So, this is the ransom offer.” Only one of them. Maybe Surtur was assuming I would be honorable.


Which I would be. I wasn’t going to beat up the messenger.


“Simple. She stays where she is until you join us. Then she gets to go free and back to her life.”


“That’s not a deal.” I smiled. “You won’t dare hurt her, because you know if you do you have no leverage. And her life is with me.”


“Your life is with him.”


I studied the fire giant. “You really believe that any sane woman would accept this offer?”


“There are things we can do to her.”


“And if you touch her…anyone who harms her dies.” I sounded even. One hand on the fire sword. “You know that. He knows that. We’re at a stalemate.”


“If she was…”


“Really? Think about it. And tell Surtur he might as well let her go. Tell him that if he’d been honest from the start I might have helped him. Also, remind him nobody gets to go back to their lives if he starts a war.”


A shadow of doubt. “Go.”


I should have offered hospitality.


I was not quite that honorable.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 10

That was obviously not a plan I was going with unless there was no other choice.




I would find a way to get her back. And then I would kill him, and I didn’t care which prophecies it ruined.


Except she did.


She would.


I let out a breath. When had she become something of a moral compass for me? Almost from the start, I thought. Almost from the start.


Maybe mortals did have a better sense of right and wrong. Maybe they needed one. If my nature was fire then it was my nature to warm and to burn. And I already knew it was part of my nature to kill, as much as I kept the urge under control.
“Any progress?” I asked Thruor.


“What did Hel say?”


“She acknowledged my claim, which was apparently the point of the exercise. And a few other things…that were for me.” We’d actually had quite a long conversation afterwards, mostly getting to know each other a little better.


I wasn’t anywhere near as intimidated by her, although I still knew death gods should be treated with the utmost respect. Even if she was my sister.






“Not a way we want to handle it, no, although it would remove her from his grasp. Unless he gets you to marry him.”


“I won’t. I’m not going to do it that way either. I’m going to take him down in a fair fight.”


“No. You are not.” Thruor set her eyes on me. “I am not letting you do that.”


“He’s crossed every line there is.”


“And he’d kick your butt and piss people off. I’m not letting you do that because you can’t beat him.”


I looked away.


“One day you’ll be better than him. You aren’t. Yet.”


I still didn’t look back at her. “Then…what do we do?”


If I couldn’t beat him in a fair fight, and I wasn’t willing to beat him in an unfair one, then I was left with…it not being my task. “Who can beat him?”


“You don’t fight him in a fair fight, Siglaugr. I know you want to, but it’s going to take more than one of us.”


I finally looked back. “I…”


“Don’t want to be dishonorable. But at this point we’re taking him down because he’s insane.”


“Not my task…”


“Could just mean you aren’t the one destined to actually do it.”


And that felt right there. “I’d still rather just yank her out from under his nose, even if that puts us to square one.”


“Well. We should be expecting the ransom demand any time about now.”


“I’m surprised it hasn’t come already.”


“He’s probably decided to try and worry you into a tizzy first.”


Which, I thought, he had more or less succeeded at.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 9

Thruor’s gift for Hel turned out to be a bottle of white wine from, of all places, Canada. Icewein, it was called.


And two glasses. I really hoped I wouldn’t be spotted with this. I also wasn’t letting Kanesha’s sword out of my sight.


It was sort of a hope thing. A feeling that as long as I had it with me I had a good chance of her showing up, of being able to give it back to her.


Only one other dwarven blade ever given to a mortal.


And there was something about the way I’d been told that. I set both blades down next to me, poured two glasses, and murmured her name…in a wooded part of Arlington Cemetery, off the common jogging paths, and with every bit of glamor up to keep myself from being seen.


“What are you hiding from?” came the soft voice.


“Midgard rules.”


Her laughter was bell-like, and then she sat down on the grass. Pale hair like her mother’s. The fair side of her resembled our father.


I was trying not to look at the foul. “Lady.”


“You are my sister. No need to stand on ceremony, Siglaugr.”


She took the glass, sipped from it. I took a taste of my own. It was incredibly sweet.


Dessert wine.


“You are also a queen. I was…aiming for a compromise.” She was…smaller than I am, a little, which surprised me.


Or was a deliberate move to keep from being quite so intimidating.


“What did you want to talk about? Few ever want to converse with me.”


“Most would rather forget you exist, I suppose, given what you represent.”


“Change. That is what they truly fear.”


“Surtur has my girlfriend.”


“Ah. And she is mortal.”


“Right, which means without whatever enchantments he’s using to keep her from being burned to a crisp.”


“And you want to make sure she is safe if…” She tailed off. “I acknowledge your claim.”


“Is that all that’s needed?”


“It would be better if you were there if the worst happens. But I know that may not be possible.”


“Better in that nobody else could interfere.”


“Yes.” She looked at me. “She is mortal. Are you sure you are doing the right thing?”


“We’ve talked it over.”


Her lips quirked. “You treat her as an equal, then.”


“She’s my lover, not my servant.”


“Do you think that will last?”


I considered it. “I can only do my best to do what is right for her. And now I need to work out how to rescue her.”


“What does he want?”


“Me. Which means if I give in he will either kill her or hold her forever as surety.”


“And if he gets you…he wants you as his consort.”


I nodded.


“Then she would not be able to escape him either. Unless…”


“Unless I stab him in the marital bed. But I’m not…”


“…that dishonorable.”


“Besides, he wants to use me to start Ragnarok. I know…” I closed my eyes. “I have to rescue her.”


“I cannot help you with that. But…”


“What I need is anti-fire spells. Really good ones. Thruor’s talking to some people.”


“Remember she is yours if all else fails.”




I didn’t want to go there. But the pale blue eye of her fair side said it all.


Said I should not be afraid of her. For myself or for anyone else.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 8

“I know where the trail is leading.”




“A secret passage to Muspelheim a fire giant named Bjorn showed me.”


“Then she’s in Muspelheim, and they didn’t want to risk Heimdall knowing.”


“I thought…she’s alive.”
Thruor sighed and stopped the bike. “If anyone would know how to keep a mortal alive in Muspelheim, it’s Surtur. The snag is…”


“We don’t. We can’t rescue her without her being burned to a crisp. And if I give in he’ll kill her anyway.”


I knew that with absolute certainty. He’d kill her and he’d somehow make sure I couldn’t…


“He will.” Thruor furrowed her brow. “But as long as he thinks he can use her as bait he’ll keep her alive.”
Which meant I couldn’t go charging to the rescue. I hopped off the bike and blinked back the tears. “I knew this would happen.”


“So did she.”


I nodded. “She thought I was worth the risk. I couldn’t…I couldn’t chase her away, but what do I do now?”


Thruor considered. “A few things. The first is to make sure of her safety if he does kill her.”


I winced. “Meaning?”


“You need to have a talk with your sister.”


I shivered. The idea was…well…rather intimidating.


“Don’t worry. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. But you have to do that. Meanwhile, I will talk to every witch we know about spells that might be useful.”


And we did know quite a few witches. “Talk to Angrboda, too, she might have some ideas.”


“Good idea.”


“So, how do I find her?”


“Well, you start by going to a place of the dead.”


“A cemetery.” I thought some more. “A big cemetery.” It wasn’t like we didn’t have one, although most of the people buried in the really big cemetery had fallen in battle.


“Exactly. I’ll give you something she likes.”


Which meant it was alcohol and I couldn’t buy it myself. “Don’t be caught corrupting a minor.”


She grinned weakly. “I haven’t yet, have I.”


That grin got an even weaker response from me. But it did cheer me up just a little bit.


I might not be able to go charging in all guns blazing, but…there were things I could do.


And for this?


For this I would forget it wasn’t my task to kill him.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 7

The shoot went well. Three outfits, and done. I grabbed lunch and headed home. Kanesha was due in about thirty minutes.


She did not show up. I called her.


Her cellphone gave an out of range error. I did not panic. Yet.


I checked. She did not have her sword with her. I grabbed it as well as mine and tried her phone again.


Out of range error.


So I called Thruor. “I think they have Kanesha.”


“I’m on my way. Sit tight.”


She was right, I should not go outside without backup in case they were still around. Or do something foolish.




“She’s late. Her phone is giving an out of range error. She’s not armed.”


“Kanesha manages better unarmed than many armed.”


“I know, and I wouldn’t be worried if it wasn’t for the error.”


Thruor closed her eyes for a moment. “How about your dog friend?”


I had been close to panic, I realized, not to think of that. I called the fyrhund.


He padded in off the balcony somehow.


“Track Kanesha,” I told him, keeping my own sword in hand and Kanesha’s on my back.


I wasn’t leaving it here. When we found her she was going to need it. Something about it made me uncomfortable, though. As if it was all wrong in terms of weight.


It was not made for me, I knew that. For now I put it down to that.


Not made for me. Not made for her either, as far as I knew, but it answered to her hand.


I knew I should not try to use it. Besides, there would have been something rude about that.
The fyrhund set off. Thruor’s steed, in bike form, was waiting outside. I tugged on a helmet, we couldn’t afford to be stopped, and hopped up behind her.


Chasing the dog down the street. We probably looked like we were trying to catch it.


It could run fast enough not to hold us back, though, and I sensed that it had her scent.


I sensed that it knew exactly where to go. But what if she was already dead?




If she was dead I would know, I would know in every deep part of my heart. And then they would not be able to use her as bait.


Kanesha was alive.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 6

Loki setting the demoness on the fire giants might give me a respite.


Or it might make things worse.


Hoping for the former, I headed to work the next day – keenly missing Monica. Nobody else quite…it was not to say they didn’t understand me.


No, really, it was the reverse. I didn’t understand them. I enjoyed talking their language, but they seemed to come from some other world.


They were all talking about the gang violence – so that was how the news had rationalized away the minor demon invasion. I was glad that my black eye had already healed. If I had been mortal I would have had some explaining to do in makeup. Although, I could probably have told a slightly modified version of the truth and got away with it this time.


“The world’s going to hell in a handbasket,” a brunette near me said. “They really should send all the Mexicans home.”


I bristled, but didn’t say anything. I’d learned to ignore casual racism – it really was a minority, and I had to be professional.


And make sure I didn’t sit next to them for makeup.


“About time we took America back for decent people,” another girl said.


I bristled even more, and vacated as soon as I was finished back to the changing room. “Ugh.”


“You didn’t end up sitting between Alicia and Josephine, did you?”


“More or less.”


“Build a wall, send the Mexicans home, only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.” The other girl, who’s name escaped me, wrinkled her nose. “I know you’re safe. I saw your girlfriend.”


I laughed. “Doesn’t make somebody immune to being racist. I know plenty of racists who date black people.”


“You don’t seem the fetishist type.”


I considered that. “Hard to tell. Josephine doesn’t exactly wrap herself in a confederate flag, does she.”


The girl laughed. “I’m Maureen.”


“Jane,” I said, extending my hand. “Surprised we haven’t properly met before.”


“I wanted to be sure you weren’t, you know, like them before saying hi.” She wrinkled her nose again.


“I actually appreciate that you know I’m not.” Which I did. Although the last thing I really needed was another friend to get hurt.


“So what do you think about the gang violence?”


I shook my head. “I think it was drunk idiots that started it. Nothing to do with skin color. Just people being stupid.”


She nodded. “Yeah. People always are. Sometimes I wish benevolent aliens would invade and tell us how to live better.”


“Yeah, but then we’d be slaves.” Which was why I wasn’t supposed to…we weren’t supposed to actually interfere with people’s choices.


“I suppose, but I’m worried we’re going to blow up the planet.”


“We won’t,” I reassured her. Wishing I felt more confident than I did that the planet was not going to be blown up. “I’m more worried about climate change.”


“I suppose we can adapt to that.”


“If we aren’t too unwieldy.” I liked her, I decided.


But I couldn’t risk anyone else.


Episode Thirty-Three: Taken: Scene 5

Ten minutes later, my dad showed up. “Okay, so you have an exhausted angel on your couch. That’s new.”


Sarael made an annoyed noise that was probably something rude in angel.


“He said he couldn’t make it to a church.”


Loki laughed ringingly. “Well, your couch is more comfortable than a pew anyway.”


“So, what happened with you and the demon?”


“We had a very interesting conversation.” He looked entirely innocent.


In a way that implied it really was an interesting conversation. “Spill it.”


“I’m your father. I don’t have to tell you anything.”


“You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t intend to tell me something.”


“Thank you, Kanesha.”
She was handing him a can of coke. He cracked it open and took a swig.


Kanesha rolled her eyes at me past the god of chaos.


“So. Spill it.”


He grinned. “She’s hunting fire giants.”


“That’s evil.”


“The worst thing she can do is banish them. Giant souls aren’t useful to Hell. And maybe they’ll banish her.”


I shook my head. “I won’t even ask how you managed that.”


Probably a combination of charm and interesting ideas.


“What? It’ll keep them distracted for a bit. Maybe long enough for you to do something.”


“I still don’t have a long term solution. And don’t suggest marrying somebody else. He’d kill them.”


Loki gave Kanesha a speculative glance. “The thought had crossed my mind, and at one point he wouldn’t have. Now? He’s insane.”


“I know.”


Kanesha pulled out two more cans, offering one to me. I took it.


Sarael was just kind of glaring from the couch, rather as if he was suffering from some form of angelic hangover and we were making entirely too much noise for his head to deal with.


“So, in the absence of a good plan to make him less insane…”


“If we could fix Muspelheim’s issues.”


“Might work. Might be too late. Might need his help to fix them.”


“The king being linked to the land and all.”


Loki nodded. “Exactly. But it’s probably the only way to save him. Otherwise, well, Muspelheim needs a sane king.”


At least he didn’t say queen. At least he wasn’t on that bandwagon, at least not yet. “Well, you aren’t a good candidate.”


He laughed. “Oh, me? King of anything? That’s the comic book character who wants that.”


I grinned. “That and the ridiculous helmet.”


He snapped his fingers and was suddenly wearing the entire Marvel Loki outfit.


“Definitely ridiculous.”


He snapped them again and changed back. “Yeah, I don’t know why they had that view of me. Wrong hair color too.”


“Did they get anyone’s hair color right?”


He considered that. “Odin’s.”


All of us laughed at that. Even Sarael.


Episode Thirty-Three, Taken, Scene 4

“You had lunch with Charles without me?” Kanesha pouted.


“You were in class.”


“Point.” She wasn’t too upset. “I’ll just have to do the exact same thing back, although I can’t make you jealous.”


“He’s ace,” I pointed out.


“Right, and I’m gay, so you know there’s absolutely no chance of anything.” She grinned teasingly at me.


“Hey, remember, it just means you beat out more competition.”


Kanesha grinned again and then pulled me in for a kiss – something she could never have done without my full cooperation. Of course, she had it. When we both came up for air, though, I pulled away. “I also fought demons without you.”


“Nah, I dealt with the one that found its way onto the NoVa community college campus.”


I winced. “Sorry. I was kind of occupied.”


“Hey, if I can’t deal with a demon on my own I’ve been wasting all the time I’ve spent training.”


I decided she had a point. “There were quite a lot of them.”


“I kind of worked that out. But none left.”


“Except the big one, which my dad said he would deal with.”


“Deal with.” Kanesha air quoted.


“Hey, I’m not his keeper.”
We would probably have continued in this vein for some time, with an obvious end point, but somebody knocked on the door at that precise moment.


I opened it, and it was a highly disheveled Sarael.


“More demon problems?”


He nodded. “Can I just…rest up here…for a moment? I don’t think I can drag myself to the nearest church.”


He looked like he’d been dragged through several hedges, some backwards and some forwards.


I headed into the kitchen. “I don’t suppose I can get you anything.”


“I don’t need to eat, but…” A pause. “No, I don’t think you can. Just let me flop on your couch.”


He did so. “What did the demon do?” Kanesha asked.


“Oh, we missed a bigger one. I did manage to send it home, but it was…” A pause. “Trying to use a kid as a shield.”


I winced, stepping back out. “Kid okay?”


“Kid will be having nightmares for weeks, but…”


That could have been a lot worse.


Episode Thirty-Three, Taken, Scene 3

“So,” Charles said, sticking his fork in a piece of his lunch. “It’s been…”


“I was on vacation. And…well…”


“Busy. So was I.” He managed a grin. “It’s fine. Friendships between people like us…sometimes have to take a bit of a second fiddle to politics.”


I opened my mouth to say it wasn’t exactly politics. Realized it absolutely was and closed it again.


Definitely politics. “I know,” was all I actually managed to say.


“And I’m figuring it’s god politics I’m not allowed to know about.”


I considered that. “More that I don’t want you dragged in when somebody is burning things down. I don’t want the next thing to be burned down to be your house or something.”


“Hrm.” A pause. “Suppose the cops can’t do anything.”


“The arsonist is very good at making it look like an accident.”


“Which is another way of saying they’re using magic.”


I nodded. “Yes. And it’s blackmail, and I won’t give in.”


“Good. You give in and whoever it is owns you.”


I thought about that. “I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.” Especially given what he wanted from me. “Still working out how else to stop it.”


“You may be right. I may not want to be involved.”


“I don’t plan on…” I tailed off. “You probably don’t. Oh, be careful, there’s a ranking demon in town.”


He nodded. “Another succubus?”


I shook my head. “No. At least I don’t think so. I should have more information soon.” I let out a breath.


“If there’s anything I can help with, let me know.” A sincere offer.


“There really isn’t at this point. I just wanted to, well, talk to you. Remind myself we’re still friends.”


He grinned. “That’s help in and of itself, I know it is.”


I thought about that and then nodded. “It definitely is. Having friends. Having people to fight for.”


“Just don’t get yourself killed.”


“I won’t.” I didn’t remind him how tough I was. I took the concern for what it was. A friend, sort of an uncle figure.


“Or ruin your outfit.”


I laughed. “I try not to do that either. It’s sometimes unavoidable, though.”


He was actually making me feel better, even if our conversation was not exactly normal.


But then, what else were friends for?


Episode Thirty-Three, Taken, Scene 2

Whatever Loki was up to, the demon prince (princess?) was not doing anything right now. I headed out of the war zone to find something to eat, but with my senses alert. Sarael stayed on watch.


I was pretty sure he was not physical or corporeal enough to actually need to eat. Certainly I had never seen him do so.


But still, we were not that different. What were my choices turning me into? Something more fire-based? No, that had started before I decided I wanted to help the fire giants not fight them. But then, maybe that was based on a choice I could not remember.


Heck, maybe I’d made the decision before and that was the real reason Odin had exiled me. It did not feel right, but it was a possibility I could not afford to entirely dismiss. Just in case he…


Well, no.


He hadn’t done anything to me yet. I flopped, exhausted, into a seat outside the closest place with food, which turned out to be tacos.


Tacos I could do. I wouldn’t have minded alcohol, too, but I was going to be a good girl.


“Who hit you?” an older male voice asked.


“Somebody I hit back harder.”


I turned to look. Just some guy – no sense of magic or anything else unusual about him.


“I’d hope so. Unless you started it.”


I thought on the matter. “I didn’t.”


“Then good. More girls need to defend themselves. Only way you’ll get some guys to back down.”


I decided not to correct the assumption – especially as I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d got the shiner I hadn’t really noticed until he pointed it out. It would be gone soon enough. “Yeah.”


He grinned and stood up. “You keep it up.” I saw him talk to the waiter on the way out, and realized he reminded me of the Senator.


I also realized I hadn’t talked to Charles in so long he might well have forgotten the sound of my voice and that I should fix that. Well, no, we’d talked briefly. I’d told him I was going on vacation and told him I was back.


That wasn’t enough. But I wasn’t about to call him right now. I had other things to think and worry about, after all.


Like exactly what my dad was getting up to with that demon, who had summoned it and how we were going to get rid of it.


I finished my tacos.


The waiter told me the check had been taken care of. Which made me feel guilty – free food because I had let a man believe his own mind’s lies?


But it made me even more determined to call Charles.