PYRAMID POWER – snippet 22:



            The wolf and the serpent blinked at her in unison. “Lair is too flattering,” said Fenrir.


            “And while it is true that Fenrir and I would stick out and get noticed…”


            “Maybe not in the early morning,” said the wolf snidely.


            “In Vallhöll,” continued Jörmungand, “I gather a woman in that place needs to be a Valkyrie.”


            Fenrir nodded. “One-eye was always too cheapskate to hire enough, and I gather the job is… uh,” he looked warily at her, “pretty wearing. Odin gets half the slain and the rest go to Freyja, and she’s got the monopoly on trollops. Odin relies on the Einherjar getting drunk and fighting for entertainment, and it doesn’t work that well. I’d go with you, except that then they would work out that I was free again, and that Thor had taken his sword out of my mouth.”


            “Oh.” Not knowing anything about mythology was awkward at times. She must make some time to talk to Lamont about it. He wasn’t Jerry’s ore-grade as a mine of useless information, but he was a long way from being as ignorant as she was. Everyone was. She could swear like a bosun, identify fish by their otoliths, do the math for Von Bertalanthy growth curves, and even cope with public transport in foreign cities. But it was only when she had found herself plunged into the myth-worlds that she’d realized that she’d neglected her education.


            “In the meanwhile we will need some food,” said Marie, practically. “And we got invited to help ourselves. I’m betting that there won’t be any coffee.”


            “And there I thought this place was the Norse idea of heaven,” said Lamont. “Which way is it, Lodin?”


            “I’ll show you, master,” said the stable thrall. “But you’d better get them out of here.” He pointed to Jörmungand and Fenrir. “I saw Thjalfi and gave him Thor’s message. He said he would be back with Lady Sif soon. And she’ll give Lord Thor such a hard time if she sees them, that he’s likely to drown himself in a barrel of mead, just to shut out her voice.”


            Jörmungand looked at him. “And what am I supposed to do with this shaker?”


            “Let me out,” Thor said. “I’m all right now.”


            He didn’t look it, and Liz had her doubts. Usually the DTs lasted for days… but then Thor wasn’t really human either. Maybe it affected Norse gods differently.


            “And I’m not going until I’ve eaten,” announced Fenrir. “I got invited, remember.”


            Thor sighed. “At least go across to the old side of the house, where we always used to meet. I’ll bring you something. Or send Lodin with something, if I can’t get away. She never goes there.”


            “I’m not surprised,” said Jörmungand. “It’s feet thick in dust. Come on brother, we know when we’re not wanted.”


            “It’s knowing when we are wanted that’s a bit more difficult. Like getting enough drink,” said Fenrir with a wolfish grin. “We only tried you because we’ve even been thrown out of Gjálp’s place.”


            “Did you break the place up?” asked Thor, curiously.


            “No, she just keeps insisting that we pay up or get out. So if you’ve got any money…”


            Thor scowled. “I seem to be a bit short. I haven’t got anything left worth selling. Get along with you. I don’t think I could stand another scene with Sif, truly. She has hair of gold and a voice of brass.”


            “Did I hear my name mentioned?” A golden-haired woman stood in the doorway, posing artistically so that the sun could catch her hair and dazzle them.


            “Er. Hello, my love,” said Thor, sounding as if he had a frog in his throat.


            “Visitors, dear?” She gave them all a saccharine smile, that was as genuine as a Dior dress with a made in China label.


            “Just… just some people that were about to be leaving,” said Thor.


            “Oh, nonsense. We must ask them to stay for a drink and bite. Some of them look fascinating.” She cast a steely gaze over the group. “Jörmungand and Fenrir…”


            “No,” said Fenrir. “I’m Freki. Odin’s been overfeeding me. And I don’t know who this is.” He looked at his sister. “What did you say your name was again, dragon?”


            “Orm,” said Jörmungand.


            “Ah,” said Sif. Her tone registered absolute unbelief. “You looked so much smaller when I saw you minutes back at the Allfather’s side, Freki.”


            Fenrir grinned wolfishly. “Everything looks smaller than it is next to Valfödr.”


            “What were you doing there?” Thor asked his wife, suspiciously. “I’ve asked you not go there.”


            Sif tossed her hair. It really was like spun gold. “I know. But I needed provisions for this house. It’s strangely empty,” she said pointedly. “And tributes from Thrúdvangar are also… late. So somebody had to do something.”


            She smiled toothily at him. “And so? Are you going to introduce me to your guests? Svartalfar and a Valkyrie? And these are perhaps Einherjar?” She pointed at the two surviving PSA agents. “Such charming little boys. I have missed the patter of tiny feet since Magni and Modi grew up.”


            “Magni couldn’t patter… ever,” said Thor. “Made more noise than any giant from the day he was born. And where are he and Modi?”


            Sif waved an airy hand. “Out and about.”


            “At Vallhöll. Partying,” said Thor crossly.


            “Well, you can’t blame them for wanting to spend time with their grandfather,” said Sif. “Now, Roskva. Where is that food and drink?”


            The dark haired maiden standing two paces back from Sif bowed. “Waiting, my lady. They’ll need to come in through this door.”


            “And I am blocking it. Tch,” she clicked her tongue. “Now I must go and clean up after my journey. Have them bring it in. Have a feast prepared.”


            “It’s at least a mile, that journey,” muttered Thor.


            Sif chose to ignore that and swept regally past them. Behind her came a stream of thralls rolling barrels and carrying meat.


            “Just three barrels of that and I’m anybody’s,” sighed Jörmungand mournfully, looking at the hogsheads of mead going past. She sniffled. “If anyone would have me.”


            At a mere fifty gallons of mead a barrel, Liz guessed that she wasn’t most dragon’s idea of a cheap date. “Not a lot of talent out there?” she asked, sympathetically.


            Jörmungand snorted. “They’re all old enough to be my grandfather! You read all those sagas… and you know what? I am the only dragon who was ever born in them. The others were all around already. So what am I to do? Except eat… and now I’m bigger than all of them too. Like that really helps.” She sighed gustily. “You don’t know any dragons, do you?”


            Liz looked speculatively at her. She was—to a biologist anyway—a superlatively beautiful animal. “I might just be able to fix you up with someone. You wouldn’t mind if they were maybe a little younger and smaller than you, would you?”


             Jörmungand stared at her wide-eyed. “Younger… listen, as long as they’re under a millennium, I’m interested.” She paused. “Or do you think I need to play a bit hard to get? You know, suave, sophisticated… a dragon-girl who has been around, that sort of thing.”


            “Honey, I don’t think Bitar and Smitar would know ‘sophisticated’ if it bit them on the leg.” Candor might do best, thought Liz. “They’re a little thick, actually. Handsome beasts but… Not your deepest thinkers.”


            “Male dragons are always a bit slow,” said Jörmungand. “Or that’s what papa Loki said. He always said that he was glad I was a girl. Anyway. Beggars can’t be choosers. So… um, can you set something up?”


            Jörmungand looked around uneasily to see if her brother was listening and then whispered sibilantly… “and maybe give me a little girl advice?”


            Liz hoped that it would be on reptile biology and not on dating behavior. She’d never been too good at how you were supposed to behave. Reptile biology had to be simpler. “The only problem is that they’re back where we come from. We just need to take you back with us.”


            America could cope with another dragon, she figured. Maybe this one would eat a few INS officials for her.