Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 8

“So, that’s Jorun’s idea?”


I nodded to Thruor. “Got better?”


“No. But we need a mountain.”


A mountain. “We need a mountain with a dead tree close to the peak.”




“Because…I don’t know. In my vision the dead tree was on the plains, but I know now…I have this image. That everything will be settled there.”


“Dangerous,” Thruor said. “But…”


“I’m not arguing with myself on it. You said we need a mountain.”


“One of those local kids can find us one.” She drifted off to find one. We had moved away from the army. Which was now in a state of siege. Both sides had full supply lines. Neither side seemed to want to be the first to attack. It was as if they both feared one sword stroke would be the true start of the end.


I tried not to think about what was happening on Earth. What was happening to Zaid and Sebastian and Clara and Father Will.


To my coworkers.


To the innocent people.
Heck, I was even worried about Sarael, and if anyone could look after himself it was him. The angel had plenty of fighting ability and plenty of courage and plenty of experience.


No, I did not need to worry about Sarael, but I did anyway.


One mortal soul. Enough to open the gates to Hell. I assumed it meant a living mortal. Mike, after all, did not seem to count.


Maybe she would only truly become mine in that sense when…


I remembered my conversation with Hel. Realized I would like to talk to my sister again about things. But there was no time for side trips. No time for anything but to do this and get it done. Although I felt there were things I still had to do before the end.


I wished my instincts would tell me what they were.


Mike, sitting down next to me. “I have to admit I have no clue how we got here.”


I laughed. “Your fault for getting yourself killed, or…”


“…I’d be on Earth. Probably fighting demons. Probably getting myself killed.”
As if it had been inevitable. “I blamed myself to start with.”


“I’m the one who chose to be involved in this. And I still choose to be involved.”




“Because of you. And more than that because of Kanesha.”


“It’s my fault she’s involved.”


“That one you can take responsibility for. To a point.”


“I don’t think any of us choose who we fall in love with,” I mused. “Even and perhaps especially the gods.”


“Cupid with arrows, eh?”


“I don’t know about that. Cupid doesn’t have authority over me. No, it’s Freya’s fault entirely.”


He grinned. “Freya is scary.”


“She is definitely that.” Because she was love and death and the power of visions.


But then, no god is anything but scary, in the heart of things.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 7

“One star,” Jorun said. “Could save this realm or destroy it.”


“Destroying their weapons would do it too.” I looked up at the sky. “Thoughts?”


“The king could call a star, but it would probably kill him.”


“Could somebody else bound to Muspelheim?”


“No. All we could do is ask them.”
Ask them. “What are they?”


“Gods that have not been formed yet,” she said, simply. “Unborn deities.”


So, I was one once? I did not remember. “That would be like asking an unborn child to sacrifice themselves. I don’t think I can do that.”


Jorun smiled. “Good.”


“So, we destroy the weapons.”


“We destroy the forge. Why do you think I and Ebba came, really?”
“To beat on Surtur.”


She grinned. “That too, but the plan was to take him out and then destroy his forges, which would release the energy.”


“I hadn’t thought of that.”


“You,” she said firmly, “Are not a dwarf.”
We sat on the ground. “So…now Surtur knows we are here.”


“We pretend to ask a star.”


I laughed. “I had a vision that implied…”
“That we need one. And maybe we do, but I’d rather avoid it as much as you would. And I,” she added, “Am only a dwarf.”


“Kanesha is only a woman. Nobody is only anything.”


“Kanesha is a hero,” Jorun said. “And I mean that in the ancient sense.”


I thought about it. “Let’s not tell her that. Her ego might swell.”


Jorun grinned. “Why do you think I waited until she was very, very far out of earshot?”


“So…we fake him out. Because…”


“Because if we actually did that it would end his reign. He wants that on his own terms. If he’s going to sacrifice himself…”
“What if it causes him to do it?”


“Then Muspelheim is restored for a while and they have to choose another king.”


I decided that was a quite reasonable outcome.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 6

The demons ran for the collapsing portal. Tyz’vel had simply vanished, perhaps using some magic to get out faster.


Surtur let out a bellow as his prey disappeared. He was injured, but still on his feet. Thruor’s bet had been pretty accurate.


But it had given the dwarves time to regroup and get things more together. The fire giant army, on the other hand, was in disarray.


I decided this was a good time to disappear. “Where’s Kanesha?” Thruor asked.


“She went off with Loki. Apparently one mortal soul is enough to give access for demons.”


Thruor frowned. “She is yours.”


“Well, taking her away seems to have worked. He promised he took her somewhere safe.”


“I’d believe him. I think he likes her,” the valkyrie said wryly, “Fortunately.”


I didn’t mention he also said he wanted to talk to her, which was more than a little bit ominous. I mean, you never want your parents talking to your partner.


But I did trust him not to actually hurt her. Play with her head, sure. Hurt her physically, no.


No, he would not do that. And it might well be that…


…oh, I knew they were plotting against me. It was heartening to think so, to think that somebody thought there might be life after this.


The departure of the demons had achieved nothing in overall terms. They had bought the dwarves time.


But now I understood. Ragnarok. Armageddon. All of the ends of the world would happen if one was triggered. Heck, maybe Surtur’s problems reflected…


…a cycle. A cycle that always reached a testing point at certain intervals. This was the testing point, and this was worse than normal. People had died already, more people would die, souls harvested for Heaven and Hell and Valhalla and Elysium and all of the other realms of the dead.


I had to stop it and I had to stop it now. Unfortunately, Surtur now knew we were here.


“Ambushing him is going to be tricky now,” I murmured to Thruor.


“I blame Tyz’vel.”


I blamed him too. Forcing us to take sides, forcing us to reveal ourselves, and Loki had left. He wasn’t here to help and probably had never intended to help.


“It bought the armies time.”


“Yes, but now we need something to deal with Surtur.”


I looked up at the stars. “I tried to talk to him.”


“It’s too late,” she said, grimly. “Sometimes the cycle means something or somebody is lost. Sometimes somebody precious. Last time it was your brothers.”


I understood something then. Something important. This time it… “And this time it might be me.”


“Why do you think Loki hesitated?”


“Because last time it was his children and this time…” I smiled. “This time it’s going to be that giant bastard.”


“That’s the spirit.” Thruor’s grim face became a slight grin.
“But I have to out trick my father to do it.” And I had no clue how I was going to, and the smartest people in my life weren’t here.


Instead they were off plotting against me. Typical.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 5

This time the demons stayed back. They were quite, quite focused on the fight.


I dropped back, glancing at Kanesha.


“Maybe you should send me back to Earth.”


“Earth’s in as much trouble.” Then I walked over to my father.
“Using me as a bluff.”


I grinned. “Was it a bluff?”


“I thought Lucifer had a leash on him,” Loki grumbled.


“Apparently not a tight enough one. He’s doing this to get his rank back. With no understanding…”


“Oh, demons have no clue how anything works outside their own realm.”


“But we need to get rid of him.”


“I could take Kanesha somewhere he can’t get to. Want to talk to her anyway.”


I looked at Kanesha. “I know…”


“I’d rather stay and fight, but if removing me gets rid of the demons.”


“Tyz’vel could have been lying.”


Loki shrugs. “Demons tell the truth occasionally. I tell the truth…occasionally.”


Kanesha laughed. “I’ll go with him. If it doesn’t work he can bring me back.”


“I will bring her back. At the right time.” It had the tone of a promise.


A promise from a trickster. But then, the times Loki had said he would do something he always did.


He just never made promises. He had never actually promised fidelity to my mother. He had never promised he would not hurt Baldur.


This time he was making a promise and I trusted him.


Kanesha reached for his hand. “I’ll be back soon.”
And then they were both gone in a swirl of rainbow.


And a moment later, the gates of Hell began to close. He had told the truth.


He had told the truth thinking I would not send her into danger or expose the dwarves to attack. But Loki had taken her somewhere.


Somewhere he claimed was safe.


I would know if she was not safe. I would know if anything happened to her. And I knew if anything did it was not his fault.


Even gods could make mistakes.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 3

“I challenge you!” Surtur bellowed it to the sky. The dwarves, I could see, were fortifying the border.
Did Ebba and Jorun want to be there? I did not ask.


And Tyz’vel appeared. “Single combat? Really, how…”
Surtur rushed him. Dishonorable it might be, but he perhaps knew he was fighting one with absolutely no regard for the rules.


He knew what a demon was. And Tyz’vel generated a blade of pure darkness.


Thruor was right. Not much for the demon’s chances, but smaller demons, war demons, imps, were closing in.


“Let’s go help enforce the rules,” I said grimly, reaching for the reins of the borrowed steed.


Thruor grinned. “Let’s.”


I couldn’t believe I was helping Surtur.


I wanted both of them gone, to be honest. Tyz’vel was supposed to have been demoted and…


…but of course, he was trying to get his rank back with this maneuver. He would not get Muspelheim.


I did not like the idea of him holding it even for a moment.


He would not…and I charged into the demon hordes. My blade sang as a bunch of imps went down under the steed’s hooves.


Kanesha was following on foot, her own sword lashing through them, although I did not see the dwarves.


No, there they were, and Thruor, also mounted. It was just small demons. It was fun, it was perhaps not an honorable fight, but I hadn’t gotten to just shamelessly kill stuff in a while. Without feeling bad about it because they were just demons.


Just demons, and I dismounted to get better angles…they weren’t tall enough to fight from horseback.


Hooves flew next to me, but it was controlled, I trusted him.


I had to ask Thruor his name, even if I knew I had to give him back.


If we all survived. I took a hit, a nasty one, from demonic claws, my side feeling on fire, but I knew it wasn’t critical.


I kept fighting. I let the red film my vision – there was no reason to fight the battle fever in this situation. I still knew where and who my allies were.


I fought, but I was too busy to see what was going on between Surtur and Tyz’vel. And this horde would not stop just because their leader went down.


No, if they stopped, it would be because Tyz’vel had won. I did not want that to happen.


I wanted them both gone, but I did not want…


…I wanted the fire to flow clean again.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 2

An idea she did not voice right away. I turned to the dwarves.


“If Muspelheim falls to this…”


“I know. But it won’t.” And I closed my eyes and reached for my fire, seeking its warmth and reassurance.


Maybe I was starting to accept who I was. What I was.




The fire that burned and warmed. There was something, a final acceptance that I held back from.


I held back from it because I was afraid. I was afraid I was going to die, plain and simple, if I let this happen.


And that made me no kind of a warrior, if I was truly that afraid. I thought of the dragon.


Tactical decision.


Not my task to kill Surtur.


But I would…and I frowned. “Of course,” I murmured to Kanesha. “If Tyz’vel kills Surtur and becomes king, does he become bound to Muspelheim.”


“Maybe we should let him do it.” Her eyes lightened and I thought I saw some strange relief in there.


“And then take him out. It’s tempting. It would still put us where we were, but…” Where we were with Muspelheim being leaderless.


Where I was.


Thruor smiled. “It’s a possibility, but I honestly don’t put much to his chances.”
“Then Surtur kills and banishes Tyz’vel. Have we lost anything there?”


“Nothing. So, let them take care of each other for now.”


“It sits ill with me for some reason.”


She frowned. “Your instincts might be better…” She studied me. “Or not.”


The fire wanted to rage.
The fire wanted to protect itself and something was in the way. Something was tying it down. I felt that the end game was approaching.


But I did not want. “I don’t want…”


“You might not have the choice. Remember who you are…Sigynsdottir.”
She invoked my mother’s name for a reason. She called upon the goddess of loyalty.


Of fidelity.


Of learning to love somebody you might not initially have cared for. She had accepted the result of a trick.


And she did love him, disloyal as he was, troublesome as he was. And Odin had, in the end, let him out.


Let him out because he knew Loki was not going to start Ragnarok until he had to.


Let him out because I existed.


But Odin had no clue what to do with me. Or did he?


I still did not remember or know the words of the prophecy. But I had a feeling that they were ambiguous.


That all of this was because even the Old Man, even the king did not know what I would do.


My fate was still in the air. Or, perhaps, the fire.


Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 1

Surtur snarled, cursed, and turned away from me back to his army.


It was not an attempt to kill me or grab me, and I rather thought he had more serious problems. Of course I had not anticipated this.


Maybe I could let…no.


Hell no.


If Tyz’vel killed Surtur. If he came here. If…


I could not let that happen, but the demon would be unstoppable.


Which meant we had to do something now to close the gates of Hell.


Or get a message to somebody who could. I ran.


I ran back to the others.


“No luck?” Kanesha asked.


“The gates of Hell are open. I can feel them.”


“Here and Midgard,” Mike said, softly.


Perhaps he felt it more, being as he was now. “We have to get them closed. Before any demon gets any idea about taking over Muspelheim.”


“I wouldn’t have thought of that.” Thruor frowned. “We can’t.”


“There’s got to be a way.”


“We can’t close them here without inviting the Host into Muspelheim.”


And she was right. I liked Sarael, but did I trust angels as a whole? Not particularly, not to not try something of their own.
They were still harvesters of souls as Thruor was, but with a rather broader brief. Quantity not quality I thought with amusement.


“Who can?”


“Close them? Muspelheim itself, but with the barriers this thin…”


“So, we have to fix the overall problem.” I looked at her. She had smudge on her face. She looked tired.


When the gods get tired you know the situation is bad. I was tired myself, for that matter.


Mike frowned. “The angels might have to take care of Earth.”


They might indeed, but not knowing what was happening there. To Clara. To Zaid. To my friends.


But if I ran to help them I left Muspelheim exposed to the threat.


I knew then that this was the moment of choice. If I left, I decided one thing about my future.


If I stayed, then it might well mean I would stay.


“The angels can help Earth. They can’t help Muspelheim.”


Maybe it would be taken by the universe as only a tactical decision.
Thruor nodded. “Except we can’t either.”


And I turned towards two pale dwarven faces. “We can. And one way or another, we will. And then we will take care of Surtur.”


“Unless Hell does first,” Mike murmured.


“If that happens then…” Then the world would end in some way, shape or form. The world would, at least, change, and not for the better. “These people deserve better, Mike.”




“So, Tyz’vel is with them.”


Thruor smiled slightly. “Coming here?”


“I think so.” I wondered at that smile.


“Then I have an idea.”