PYRAMID POWER – snippet 20:



            “Who is that?” Skadi’s said through gritted teeth. “Curse you…”


            Loki held a coal close to her cheek. Not quite touching but close enough for her to feel the heat. “Now, now,” he said in a mockingly cheerful voice. “You wouldn’t want to make a sorcerer powerful enough to undo Odin’s works angry, would you? He already conjured up hot coals to help you dance. It is a shame that you are so clumsy that you fell over. I would lie very still and silent in case he decided to do worse.” He took her knife from her girdle—a precaution they should have thought of earlier—and toyed with it.


            “Sorcerer?” said Skadi, digesting that. She didn’t seem the quickest thinker around, but then she’d been through some harsh treatment in the last few minutes.


            “Of course, Skadi. A very powerful one. How else do you think I am free? Yes, Loki is free, and Fimbulwinter begins,” he said savagely. “Now, while my sorcerer spins his magics, I will ask you to give me the galdr. I need the chant to see me free of this place.”


            “You will not get it from me,” she said with savage satisfaction. “Odin is more powerful now. He won’t need Thor and Heimdall to catch you any more, father of lies.”


            “That is an interesting description coming from you. Njörd would be impressed to hear of your honesty, adulteress.”


            Skadi snarled. “Hel take you, Loki.”


            “I hope so. She is my daughter, after all,” he said, quite urbanely. “Now, tell me the galdr.”


            “I’d rather die.”


            “That can be arranged, Skadi,” said Loki grimly. “Not quickly of course, but it can be arranged.”


            Skadi sniffed. “Then you will never get out.”


            “I still have my sorcerer. He has defeated Odin’s Seid runes. He may get us out. Why not reach a bargain? When Ragnarok comes, you are one of the giants. One of my kin. If I win… I will let you free. Or Odin may come looking for you. Otherwise, you are dead.”


             She was silent for a while. “I suppose so,” she said at last. “Vegtamr Gungnir Fjallar. Nine times.”


            Loki shook his head, his eyes narrowed. “You won’t mind my holding the knife to your throat while I say it then, will you?” he said his voice full of a gentle irony.


            Skadi ground her teeth.


            “I know the names of One-eye better than you do,” said Loki. “Try again. Or I’ll have such a spell put on you that Lumpy himself would not fancy you. Your face and eyes may heal, but there’ll be no going back from this curse.”


            She ground her teeth again, and clutched at the pouch from whence she’d pulled the replacement snake. Loki raised an eyebrow and cut the strap with her knife. She moved as he plucked it away. “Uh-uh! Hold still now.” The shard of pottery pressed harder… and a spot of blood appeared.


            Loki drew out a small bottle made of hammered metal. “A potion. And what do we do with this? Drink it? Of course if something goes wrong it would be very sad for Skadi.”


            “A drop on the eyelid,” she said sullenly. Loki nodded, unstoppered it, and wet the tip of his finger and put it to his eye. “Ah,” he said. “So the galdr was a feint. Still, we shall have to put a stop to that summoning spell. Sorcerer, can you weave that into your net-spell.”


            “I have done so already,” said Jerry, taking his handkerchief and putting it over her face.


            “Now can I kill her?” asked Sigyn.


            “I’m afraid not,” said Loki. “I am not an oathbreaker like Helblindi. Let her enjoy my prison. There is a hidden ladder here we can climb. Let me put a drop of this on your eyelids.”


            When he’d done so, Jerry found himself looking at a rope ladder. Sigyn examined it carefully. “You first, husband. If you get away you can always come back for us. And this one had no part in the killing of my sons, so I will forgo my vengeance… on her. For now. But not so with the others.”


            Loki grabbed the ladder. “Not so with the others,” he said, as he began to climb.


            “After you, Lady Sigyn,” said Jerry, although the last thing he wanted was to be stuck alone with a giantess trapped under a handkerchief.


            She shook her head. “It would not be seemly. And I think you should take her boots.” Jerry looked at his one stockinged foot and did—taking very good care to shake out the boots first.


            They were at least three sizes too large for him. And rope ladders turned out to be a lot harder to climb than he’d been led to believe by Indiana Jones.


            Sigyn followed, and they hauled the ladder up, and began making their way cautiously along the rock-hewed corridor.


            “It’s to be hoped that that is a powerful spell-net you’ve cast on Skadi,” said Loki, quietly.


            “Um,” said Jerry. “It’s… uh, well, it’s just a piece of cloth. Not a spell-net. Not a spell at all. She just thinks it is.”


            Loki stopped dead in his tracks, and grinned wickedly. “It might make getting away more dangerous—but, oh, what a tale! The skalds will love that one. It’s a trick worthy of the greatest of tricksters! If only I’d thought of it first.”


            “Don’t worry,” said Jerry, “they’ll probably blame it on you anyway.”




            The Krim device’s computational circuitry was proof that even Moore’s law must have an end somewhere, whether it is by postscription or in the ability of computing power to double. Right now it was going through several iterations of probability planning… and meeting the unexpected. The gods of the Ur -mythworlds that the Krim had parasitized before were less recalcitrant than these ones. It offered a renewal of power—an irresistible bait, or one that if resisted, simply meant the mythworld was heading into a slow spiral of fading down to extinction. But the labor in this world was hard to control.


            And very frighteningly self-willed.