PYRAMID POWER – snippet 13:



Chapter 14



            Loki was, in many ways, the architect of Ragnarok. Jerry faced an interesting conundrum here. Did he try to help the god who had brought about the end of everything? Or was that playing into the Krim’s hands? The answer seemed to lie in gaining an ally… and changing the course of the myth. “So, why does Uncle Fox not find another way?”


            “Uncle Fox. I had almost forgotten that,” said Loki appreciatively.


            “It is a good name for the cleverest of tricksters,” said Jerry. Flattery was supposed to be something you laid onto royalty with a trowel, and he suspected that for gods a steam-shovel would be good. Anyway, in this case, it was accurate. Loki was supposed to be the arch-trickster. But, besides his mischief, he was supposed to be the source of most evil and the eventual destroyer of the entire world. Despite the charm of the man, Jerry knew that he had to treat him with caution. A good trickster would have to have abundant charisma, after all.


            “The cleverest of tricksters lies bound until the end of this cycle of time,” said Loki with a wry smile. “Anyway, I did not know I had competition.”


            Jerry shrugged. “I am an expert of sorts on the competition. The trickster is a common motif in mythology. Nearly every culture has one, from Hanuman to Glooskap. They are usually neither good nor evil, but do help men when the fancy takes them. Loki is held as the greatest of them all. They are all thought to be at least in part created as good bad examples.”


            “Maybe,” said Loki dreamily, “Maybe once they were chieftains of small tribes on leafy islands, who helped their people to survive by guile and cunning, when strength would not prevail. Yes, I was the friend of humans once. But did they come to my aid when the Ás killed my son and used his entrails to bind me?”


            “Did they know?” asked Jerry. “And could they? Your enemies made sure that they would not wish to.”


            “That is true enough,” admitted Loki. “One-eye found me a useful thing to blame for most things.”


            “Almost half of which you had nothing to do with,” said Sigyn.


            “Well yes. But the other half I did, often as not,” said Loki, with disarming honesty. “It usually seemed worth it, at the time.”


            “And now?” asked Jerry


            “Well, some of the tricks were worth it,” said Loki. “I probably shouldn’t have done Sif’s hair. It served her right for being a tease, though. But Freyja deserved what she got. Even she admitted it later. And Skadi deserved it too, I don’t care what she says.”


            Jerry nodded. “And, if I recall right, a fair number of those pranks of yours involved changing your size and shape?”


             “That and my powers over fire are my aspects, mortal. Uh, Jerry. That is how we have a fire in this damp pit, though we have little else. Fire is my name and fire is my nature, they say. Friend and destroyer both.”


            There was indeed something very flamelike about the mercurial Loki. “Well, how about we try the friend part on these thongs tying my hands together?”


            “An easy gift to give,” said Loki, fixing his sparkling eyes on the thongs. They began to smolder, and then, as Jerry strained against them, they broke and burned fiercely.


            Jerry flung them away hastily, and the fire promptly died. It was good to have his hands free. “Thank you,” he gave Loki a bow. “Now all you have to do is transform yourself and we can be out of here.”


            “If it were that easy, oh man from a far-off place,” said Loki, “I would have been gone for many ages and Ragnarok would have been. Odin has bound me here with a tie that cannot be broken. A blood tie. A tie that goes deeper than the iron that Odin changed Narfi’s entrails to, once they had bound me. I am bound by my son. I cannot break or escape that bond.”


            Jerry pondered the matter. “I think I understand. It is symbolic magic, isn’t it? The chain that bound Fenrir is much the same thing. Tangible things can be broken. Intangibles… are much harder.”


            “Indeed,” said Loki. “I should have guessed from what they did to my Fenrir. It was that that turned me against them, finally. As you say, any fool can break a leg or a sword. To break the spirit or destroy hope is indeed much harder. The bond between father and son is not easily broken. Odin used that to shackle me, as nothing else could. Sigyn cannot free me of the entrails of our son, either.”


            Jerry chewed his lip and put more effort into thought. If only he knew Norse myth better! “Then how did you get free before… you would be free at the end of this cycle of time, if I have it right.”


            “By slow determination,” said Loki. “I cannot break the iron which was Narfi. But I can wear through the rock. And if that is what must be done to avenge my fine sons, I will.”


            By his face you could tell that was no exaggeration. The rock would eventually crumble. “There is one other possibility,” Jerry said cautiously.


            “And what would that be?” asked Loki with gentle irony. “That I burn myself free as I burned your bonds? That too I cannot do against my own child’s body.”


            Jerry shook his head. “No. That I could free you. To you… those are your son Narfi’s guts. To me it is just iron… or am I misunderstanding this?”


            “No. You have it right. There is just one detail. It is iron, and you are not biggest or strongest of mortals, unless your looks deceive me—in which case I do apologize.”


            The iron bonds were only about an inch thick. Nothing to Thor, perhaps. “I’m feeling a little poorly at the moment,” Jerry admitted. “Normally, it’d be like a few strands of wool.”


            Loki smiled. “You are quick, for a mortal, Jerry. I suppose if you weren’t, you’d be dead.”


            Jerry realized he’d just met up with the god of Norse punsters, which, all things considered, was both alarming and hardly surprising. The various sagas, as he remembered a colleague complain, were just about impenetrable to outsiders because of the various word-plays or “kennings.” He supposed that long Scandinavian and Icelandic winters lent themselves to that. “It’s one of those things about being mortal, Loki, although it cuts me to the quick to admit it. And the pain of that makes me lithp. Then I’ll be Thor, and Thor being thtrong, I could break your bondth.”


            Loki laughed helplessly. Eventually he got control of himself. “Don’t tell the Thunderer. He’s a bit slow and always suspects people are making fun of him. It is a good thing I understand the tongues of all mortals or some of it would have been wasted on me.”


            “Yeah. Well, its a good thing my friend Lamont didn’t get nabbed and put in here too. Or we might just end up making bad puns while your Ragnarok comes and goes. I wish like hell he was here. Him or Liz, although she’d have killed me for that pun. They’re both better at practical solutions than I am. And there has to be one. Here I am—free, able to avoid Odin’s spell and help you, and I haven’t got the strength or the tools to do anything about it.”


            Jerry felt through his pockets, hoping against any kind of logic to find a file or a crowbar, or a pair of bolt-cutters… instead of…


            A couple of pens that felt like goose-quills, a used handkerchief, a small pocket diary that Liz had given him in the vain hope that it would help him remember appointments, a plastic carrier bag that Liz’s candy supply (officially for Lamont’s kids) had come in, his wallet, and a remarkable shortage of bolt-cutters or even something as useful as a pen-knife. Of course, transition would have changed the items. The plastic carrier bag felt leathery.


            Loki sighed. “If wishes were enough to bring them here, or any others that might befriend me, I would have this place so full of my kin among the mountain and frost giants, and my living children, that we’d have to stand on each other’s shoulders. This place is proofed against the magics and summonsing of both the giant-kind and of the Ás. Even if we were free, only that vindictive bitch Skadi can get in and out of the pit.”


            “And she does not come down here when the bowl is nearly full, or I would dash it in her eyes,” said Sigyn. “She knows I have to protect my husband from her snake’s venom, and can come and exercise her spite.”


            “Speaking of bowls, how much time do we have left?” asked Loki.


            “It nears full, beloved,” she said, despondently.


            He sighed. “Friend Jerry. You had better find somewhere well clear. Sigi. Try to note where he is. He’s a mortal, and that poison would burn him far worse than it does me. It might kill him and we need him. Even if it takes a little longer, have a care throwing the stuff out. I can endure a little longer. Jerry. It will take me a while to recover, before I can be rational again. And my writhing shakes the place. I am sorry.”


            Jerry felt the contents of his pocket again. “I think… I think I have something we can try.” He pulled out the once-plastic carrier bag, the couple of quills, and the handkerchief. Liz might prefer Kleenex but there were things you could do with handkerchiefs that defied Kleenex. He could tear strips off them and use them to hastily lash two goose quills into a cross, and then use that to hold open the oiled leather bag. He felt around and found some of the burned thong… Now all he needed was something to tie it onto, and he’d have a sort of bag-on-stick to hold over Loki’s face. There was nothing remotely stick-like in the prison. Then it occurred to him that he was being needlessly inventive. He pulled the bag of out his pocket, and flattened out . “If I can just put this over your face, Loki.”


            The bound god grinned. “It’ll improve it. Try it.”


            “And quickly,” said Sigyn. “The bowl grows heavy.”