Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 5

The stars went out. That might well have been a good thing, a sign that the barrier was thickening again.


Muspelheim was not supposed to have stars. Other realms did. Muspelheim had its own fire, its own light.


Its own beacons to keep away the burgeoning darkness that threatened to flow into us now. But it was not over yet.


Surtur, though, was startled. I got in a good one, and abruptly, he backed off.


Was he done with fighting? I should press the issue now and kill him, but something still held me back.


“Looks like things aren’t going your way.”


“No, those dwarves did something.”


He did not mean Ebba and Jorun. I dreaded to think what the dwarves had done. Made sacrifices of their own?


“Well, the barrier is back up.”


“For now.”


He was right. It was very thin. “Maybe we can talk like civilized people…no, I don’t think so.”


“You were never civilized,” he accused me. “And now you challenge me.”


“Only because you started it.” My lips quirked. But we had stopped fighting again.


Another breather.


“Heck,” I added, “Maybe you should, you know, check on your armies. I’ll be here when you’re ready to resume.”


He laughed. “Neither of us can win.”


“Perhaps that’s the case. So maybe go do your job.”


“While you come up with another way to kill me.”


“You haven’t left me with much choice.”


I still had no idea who had come through the rainbow bridge. Whoever it was had done precisely nothing to interfere or help me.


Maybe somebody had just opened it so we would start looking for who or what came through.


“There’s always a choice.” And then he broke and ran.


I let him go. “End of round two.”


“Round three will be soon enough,” said my father’s voice. “Well done.”


He, at least, approved.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 4

I felt something shift. And the break was starting to get my breath back. But what shifted was something in the land.


The realm waited. I closed my hand around the blade of my sword, then held it above the tree.


“Don’t.” Mike.


“It’s my choice.”
And the blood dripped onto the bark even as I jumped down, landing on the far side of it from Surtur.


My choice.


After all, I could not…no, I could not wait as I had planned, wait until all the fighting was over before accepting the part of my heritage that truly called to me.


I stood there. “I will not be your queen, Surtur. But I will not abandon this realm.”


“Foolish woman.”


“I never claimed otherwise.”


“I will end your life now and send you to your sister’s realm.”


“And I will still win.” I felt the fire flow through me, through my veins, as if replacing all of the blood I had lost to the battle. “I will still break the cycle.”


Had this been what they, what anyone, had expected me to do? I stood with my blade ready. “Hesitating? Not ready to dance again?”


His blade leapt forward as if of its own volition. “Always ready to dance.” There was some sadness in it now, though.


The tree was budding. The tree budded and leaves of fire exploded from it. Brightening the mountaintop, for it was still night, and had always been night and always would be night, and perhaps that meant it was too late.


Or perhaps it merely meant Sunna had the sense to stay out of the way until she knew it was too late for her.


A sensible goddess. I might have done the same thing, but I was as I was. Loki’s daughter.


But also born of the fire. Choosing the fire. Maybe I had a long time ago, but there had always been the opportunity to go back. Until now.


Thruor had struggled to her feet, but Mike was moving her away. She was clearly in no state to fight without healing.


“I wanted a different dance,” he said, sadly.


Whichever one of us died now it did not matter. One of us would. If it was truly not my task to kill him, then this was my task.


To fall here and now and break the cycle. Just like my brothers.


Was it always going to fall down to us?


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 3

He repeated the shout. “Let me show you!”


And he did. I saw in the spread of his hand his men protecting a child from some kind of great flaming cat.


I saw them preparing for war.


I saw them, though, also helping build barns and houses. “I care about my people.”


“Then why do this!” I yelled from the tree. I felt kind of stupid.


“Because I want to keep caring about them.”


“I know.” Did I tell him there might be another way? No, because I knew he would not listen.


Or trust the dwarves to do it. They were hanging back, I knew, because I needed them. Mike, though, was in a ready stance. Thruor too.


Both were looking, I suspected, for a moment when he was not paying enough attention.


Thruor leapt forward, but she timed it poorly. He flung her back. She landed painfully against the mountain and did not immediately rise. Alive, I could tell that, but at best winded, at worst broken.


That gave Mike more pause. To his credit, he did not rush to her as I might have, but stayed ready.


“Your friends are loyal. I will let them live.”


I smiled. “You value loyalty, then.”


“I value honor.”


“You cast yours aside.”


“So I could win the war.”


“You’re losing. Look around you. Everyone is losing. The only one who wins this war is my brother.”


I could almost feel hot breath on my neck at that.


“He would listen to you.”


I laughed, “Why should he listen to anyone? He fulfills his purpose. You’re opening the gates early.”
And there would be something afterwards. Perhaps not something I would understand, perhaps not something I could experience, but something. Even if the worst happened it would not merely be eternal darkness.


Even if…


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 2

Could do this all year. Had we, already? I had no sense of the passage of time, and then the wind swirled around us, formed a barrier for a moment.


I stepped back, caught my breath. But the second I stopped fighting… “I can’t do this,” I said to Thruor. “I can’t keep it up.”


I knew my father was here somewhere. I sensed him, but I did not see him. “I have to, but I can’t.”


I was tiring, I thought, faster than my opponent, and he was lunging towards me again, a blow I barely met with my blade.


I could have loved him. I knew in this moment that we could have loved each other, could have built something special, had he not had it so in his mind to start a war. Now I wondered what I could do.


Tried to think, even as so much of me was taken up in the fight. Then I jumped up, with my off hand I grasped a branch of the tree, and managed to pull myself up into it.


He couldn’t get to me. Would the rift start to grow again.


He laughed. “Am I a dog now and you a squirrel?”


I thought of Ratatosk. “Squirrels serve a definite purpose.”


But I was still smaller than he. I could be up here, he could not.


Time, freezing again.


My father watching. Was he here, was I sensing him because he was scrying from elsewhere? Either way, he wasn’t giving me any advice, neither was Odin. Nobody was.


Thruor wasn’t holding Mike back any more. The two dwarves were circling, but not attacking.


Not my task to kill him.


But did anyone else want it? What happened if I chose to do something I was not tasked with?


Did that break the cycle?


Would loving him have, after all? I thought not. “We both made our choices,” I added.


“I only want to rule in peace,” he lied.


“I am enough my father’s daughter to know that is not true. You were not made for peace.”


“And you were?”


I shook my head. “Not sure I was either. But I do not want to end the world. I do not want to bring destruction on everyone I care about.”


“I protect those I care about!”


I was not sure how long I could perch here, but I felt something, as if the tree was starting to stir.


What choice of ours had made it so? I wished I knew.


Episode Thirty-Six: Ragnarok: Scene 1

Time stopped.


I don’t mean time seemed to stop. Or maybe I do. For me, time very definitely stopped as Bifrost opened.


What I saw in Surtur’s eyes mingled fear and hope in equal measure, and then?


Then he attacked me.


It was as if something else broke. This time I was not the one starting the fight.


He was.


It was the moment, I knew, in which he gave up on claiming me as his bride. We fought for the realm.


We fought because we had to, fought, then broke off, then fought again, and our fight drifted away from the gateway.


I did not know who had come through, but I sensed how vital this was. I had to win, but once more I could not.


Once more, neither of us could truly defeat the other.


Once more, we were evenly matched and evenly tired. Our blood mingled on the earth.


Fire flickered around us.


I knew we were being watched. Not my task to kill him, but I could not disengage. Whichever one of us disengaged first was likely to die.


I would not, could not let him kill me. The wind howled, or was it the wolf, the great wolf who now waited, on the very edge of chains that we might even now be sawing against, breaking, negating Tyr’s sacrifice.


I still did not know who was now on the mountain with me. I dimly saw Thruor holding Mike back.


Keeping him out of a fight in which he could not compete. Besides, the fire around us might have burned him, might even burn us.


I could actually, for the first time, feel the heat. Or what seemed like the first time, anyway.


But we could not… “We could do this all day.”


He laughed. “We could do this all year. You would have made such a worthy queen.”


And while we fought, it did feel that time stopped, as if this deadlock held off everything that was to come.


The stars brightened.


Fenrir howled, howled in frustration. He too was my brother, but they did not trust him. Perhaps if they had things would be different.


“Sorry, brother,” I murmured. I meant it. Surtur’s blade slashed into my arm in the moment of my guard being down.


I focused all of my attention, once more, on the fight.