PYRAMID POWER – snippet 17:



            “These Einherjar. Where did they take him?”


            Lodin looked at her as if she was a little simple. “To Valhöll, naturally.”


            Liz took a deep breath. “I suppose I’d better get along to this Valhöll place too. Go and sort these guys out.”


            Even Thor looked a little taken aback. “I suppose you could pass for a Valkyrie,” he said. “But this is not the best of times for going looking for anything at Valhöll.”


            “And a bit of caution might just be called for, Liz,” said Lamont. “There’s no point in you getting killed trying to find Jerry.”


            “I’ve got to try. He’d do the same for me. He has before, crazy fool,” she said fiercely, trying not to cry.


            “For sure, we have to try. But if I have it right this Valhöll place is Odin’s hangout. And it’s supposed to be chock-full of his warriors.”


            Thor nodded. “The Einherjar. The lone warriors, who spend each night in feasting, fighting and drinking and sport with the Valkyries. And each morning the slain are as good as new and the Valkyries are virgins again.”


            “Sounds like a great place for those dragons of Medea’s,” said Liz. “So what do you suggest, Lamont? Besides me running off half-cocked into a bunch of these hungover warriors. I suppose it is a big place too, and there are a fair number of them?”


            “Each gate is big enough for eight hundred to march abreast,” said Thor.


            “Hmm. It must fun to clean,” said Liz, who had long since figured that the best reason for a small apartment was that you didn’t have quite so much to vacuum. “So what do you suggest? I dress up as one of these Valkyries? Can do, I suppose.”


            “I could go over there and ask,” said Thor, “He’s not going to pick a fight with me. But, well, Odin always talks rings around me. I can never get a straight answer out of him, and somehow I always end up doing things his way.”


            He scrutinized Liz for a moment. “You’d need a breastplate and a sword and a shield.”


            “Master,” said Lodin tentatively. “I could go over and ask.”


            “You?” said Thor gaping. “Ask Odin?”


            Lodin nearly fell over backwards into the dung-heap. “No, master! Ask the other stable-hands. They always know what’s going on. And they always give me a horn or two of ale. They like you, master.”


            “Odin gets the noblemen who fall in slaughter, but Thor gets the kin of slaves,” said Thor, sighing. “Ah, well. I think that could work. Find out if Thjalfi is there too, Lodin. If you see him give him a clip around the ear from me and send him home.”


            Lodin grinned revealing good, solid pre-orthodontistry skew teeth. “Now that’ll be a pleasure. He’s changed, master. Not the same man at all that used to come down for a drink with me. And he was sick all over the chariot.”


            “Chariot?” said Thor.


            Lodin looked wary. “Uh. Lady Sif said I wasn’t to say anything about the chariot—after last time.”


            Thor scowled. “I’m Öku-Thor. The charioteer. If I crash it, it’s my look-out. Now get along to Valhöll with you! Try to come back sober enough to muck out here. And don’t come and tell me what good beer they’ve got. I’m craving a drink really badly myself.”


            Liz noticed that his hands were shaking quite a lot. She wondered just how you dealt with a god who was seeing snakes and pink elephants. Thor might be flabby, and have let himself go, but there was still a superhuman quality to him, besides the smell.


            “How about if we tried this sauna,” she said determinedly, turning him. “And Lodin.”


            He bowed. “Yes, Lady?”


            “Don’t stay too long over those horns of ale. Please.”


            He nodded, looking as if this were the first please ever to come his way, and turned toward the stable door, briskly.


            “Don’t run. Slouch along like normal,” said Thor. “You never know when those damned ravens of Odin’s will see you.”


            Dead on cue, two black birds fluttered in. “One of them said ‘Odin’, Hugin. I heard it,” said one of the two.


            Thor glowered at the birds. Liz was much more practical. She picked up a piece of broken yoke and hefted it for weight.


            “Caw! You wouldn’t dare,” said one of the ravens. “We are Odin’s ravens.”


            “I did earlier,” said Liz. “Or have you forgotten the dragon’s heart?”


            “Good eating,” said the first raven. “You haven’t got any more, have you?”


            “We’ve got a job to do, Hugin,” protested the other raven. He sounded exasperated, as if his partner’s greediness was a longstanding issue between them.


            “Yeah. Caw. Anything that says we can’t eat on the job?” Hugin perched on a rafter. “You speak good raven for a human.”


            “Ah,” said Liz. “And there I thought you spoke good human for a raven.”


            “If you can speak to them,” rumbled Thor, “tell them if they’re not out of my stable by the time I say Vanaheim, I’ll try a lighting bolt on them.”


            “Caw. He must more hungover than usual. Come on, Munin. I’m not that interested in who Thor is drinking with.”


            The ravens fluttered out with what looked to Liz like a careful show of not being too hasty but really moving rather fast.


            “They all spy on me,” said Thor blackly.


            Liz could see why, even without suspicion about what the Krim was up to in this Ur-mythworld. In a way it was a good thing Thor had a drinking problem. It was probably why he hadn’t been recruited by the Krim. And the ravens turning up to see who Thor’s “drinking buddies” were smacked of the gatekeeper telling tales. They walked back through to the great hall. Thor had a visible tremor in his hands and shoulders, as he opened the door.


            Liz was surprised to see Marie putting a hand on his arm. “You can do it.”


            He was panting a little. “It’s bigger than me.”


            And suddenly Liz realized that he wasn’t exaggerating. And he was seeing snakes.


            So was she. Well. One snake. More like a dragon, but without wings. And quite big enough to make up for there only being one.


            It’d be a pink elephant next.


            It wasn’t. It was a wolf. A wolf pretty close to the size of the elephant, though.