PYRAMID POWER – snippet 21:
To sleep, perchance to dream…
“Got anything to drink in this place, Thor?” said the huge wolf.
The presence of the creature and the serpent-dragon seemed to trouble Thor a lot less than they bothered Liz.
“If Sif sees you here she’ll have a fit,” said Thor, grumpily. “And no. You should know by now that we finished every drop in this place in that last drinking session.”
“She hasn’t been here for days. I keep hoping someone might restock,” said the serpent-dragon, in the sort of tone that said she thought it ought to be him doing the restocking. There was something female about that sibilant voice, somehow.
“Anyway. I’ve given it up,” announced Thor.
The wolf sat down hard on its haunches and let its cavernous mouth drop open. Liz could see that it was terribly scarred. It shook its vast head. “That’s going to go down really well in those fatuous sagas.”
Liz might be alarmed by the wolf and serpent-dragon—but at least one person wasn’t. Neoptolemeus danced forward. “You’re beautiful. Do you know Bitar and Smitar?” he demanded.
The serpent-dragon looked at him, and shook her gargantuan head. “No. Don’t know you either. Got anything for a girl to drink?”
The disappointment written in the boy’s face was enough to make Liz want to hug him.
“So,” said the wolf, eyeing them curiously, and possibly a little hungrily, “who are you? Do you have something to do with Thor suddenly deciding he doesn’t drink?”
“They’re friends of mine, Fenrir,” said Thor. He sat down on a bench next to the wall. “I feel awful. There might be some food in the kitchen, Wolf. Thrúd usually restocks that.”
The wolf grinned toothily. “There won’t be, when I’m finished.”
Marie put her hands on her hips. “Well, then, let the children get some first. You’re ugly enough and big enough to catch your own anyway.”
The wolf blinked. Then cocked his head sideways. “I thought they were starters.”
“Trust me,” said Marie. “Those little boys would disagree with you.” The way she stood made it clear that the disagreement might just be Marie Jackson.
“And we really aren’t little boys,” said Ty. “We’re from the planet Krypton. We just look small.” He flexed a minuscule bicep. “But try and eat us and POW! WHAM!” He windmilled the air.
“And you wear your underpants outside your trousers,” said Emmitt derisively.
“They’re cute,” pronounced the serpent-dragon. “You’re not to eat them, brother.”
“Hmph,” said the wolf. “Jörmungand, one of them just has to say you look pretty, and you put me on diet. I’m always hungry.”
“Except when you’re asleep or thirsty,” said the serpent-dragon. “What’s wrong with Thor?”
The thunder-god’s arms and legs were starting to thrash around and he was muttering something about spiders on the walls.
“Delirium tremens,” said Liz.
“Oh. He looks like a berserker after they’ve been eating mushrooms,” said Jörmungand. She looped a coil around Thor, basically enclosing his whole body. “That’ll keep him from hurting himself.”
It wasn’t exactly a padded cell, but it was a kind of restraint, Liz supposed. The wolf had walked closer and was sniffing them. “You smell unlike any other prey I have hunted across the nine worlds.”
Liz had spent her life with big dogs. She knew as well as anyone that what she shouldn’t do was show fear, or even think fear. She grabbed the sniffing muzzle with both hands. They were barely big enough to go around it. She stared into the yellow eyes. “That is because we’re not prey. Got me?”
Fenrir wrenched himself backwards and free, growling at her. Then, probably because—by the smells of his breath—he’d had the better part of someone’s ale-barrel already, tripped over his own feet and fell over. Liz was above him in a flash, grabbing his jaws again, this time in an armlock. Having an older brother who had been keen on wrestling was useful from time to time.
“You wouldn’t be growling at me, would you?”
He looked at her with wary eyes, and she stared straight back at him. After a brief pause, she released his jaws and he growled, “You’re quite some boss-bitch.”
There was a little grudging admiration in that tone. He wagged his tail. His tongue lolled out and he turned his head turned at a slight angle. “Sexy, too.”
That wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind as a response. But this was a big dangerous animal, and she could use an ally like that. “Yeah. Well, you need a good brushing before I can call you anything but scruffy. Lie down and I’ll do that.”
She delved into her bag, and dug out her hair-brush. She could possibly get another hairbrush, but this beast could bite your leg off.
The startled wolf lay down, and Liz started to brush his manky fur. He stretched and rumbled, but there was no malice in it. Belatedly, Liz remembered there was a social aspect to grooming among wolves too. Oh, well. She’d worry about that when the time came. In the meanwhile, wolfie needed half a ton of winter fur brushed out. And there was something very therapeutic to grooming a big dog, even if his snake-dragon sister was looking rather puzzled at the entire performance.
Fenrir was skinny, she discovered. Still young and growing, by the looks of his teeth. He had a gap just behind his vast canines where the carnaceals were beginning to cut through. Liz had specialized in fish, but she would bet that this enormous wolf was still less than full-grown.
Someone coughed. Liz turned her head and saw that it was Thor’s stable thrall. He had a silly grin on his face which suggested that he’d had a few horns of ale in a hurry.
“Justliz, I have found out what happened to the prisoner. He was taken before Odin, and then was flung down into the pit with Loki.” He seemed to think being eaten alive might be preferable.
“He’ll be all right, then,” said Fenrir. “The old man isn’t a bad sort even though he has prehistoric tastes in Skaldic verse.”
Jörmungand nodded. “Positively ninth century. He’s a real old fuddy-duddy. Thinks Starkadian meter is all the rage.”
Whatever or whoever this Loki was, besides someone with a moribund taste in poetry, being flung into a pit didn’t sound too good. “Well, we need to get him out,” said Liz determinedly.
“Can’t be done,” said Jörmungand. “Not that we haven’t tried.”
“Yeah,” growled Fenrir. “Sigyn isn’t your typical literary-fiction step-mom. She was kinder to us than Angbroda.”
“And mostly better at keeping Papa Loki from doing anything too crazy.” There was some resignation in Jörmungand’s voice.
Liz blinked. This was the world of myth, where science, and, indeed, genetics did get a little twisted. But this Loki would have to be a really weird creature to father such a diverse pair. “Tell me about this pit.”
“It lies in the caves deep under Asgard. Odin has magically imprisoned Loki there.”
“There is another entrance through Skadi’s place,” said Fenrir. “But it goes through a gap too narrow for me to fit through.”
“And if Loki can’t escape,” added Jörmungand, “it must be the greatest prison ever built. He has always got away before, sometimes just by talking his way out. He has a silver tongue, even if he has a dated taste in music.”
Fenrir nodded. “Still likes the lughorn!”
“Awful noise. Sounds like me with a belly-ache,” agreed Jörmungand.
“Would I fit through this gap that you can’t, Wolf?” asked Liz.
Fenrir studied her briefly. “Maybe. Be a bit tight around the top, I reckon. But it wouldn’t help you much. There are a maze of caves down there and you humans don’t have anything that passes for a nose.”
“So that leaves going in through Odin’s lair.”