PYRAMID POWER – snippet 24
“All right,” growled Fenrir. “She got to drink all the drink. Can I eat all the food?”
“No,” said Liz, firmly. “You need a properly managed diet, or you’ll end up with all sorts of growth problems. And we don’t want that.”
Fenrir stared at her, his bucket-sized toothy mouth wide open. “Diet…” he said, as if he might be pronouncing a foreign word. “Did you say ‘diet’?”
“Not starvation. I just need to adjust your protein and calcium input. You’re growing too fast. You’ll end up with weak bones. Wolfing down everything is just not on. I want you a strong and beautiful wolf, not one crippled with joint pains.”
“Just one roast ox?” said Fenrir pleadingly.
Jörmungand began to hiccup.
“So what we do now?” said Special Agent Bott, to his companion.
“They’re treating us like amateurs and pariahs,” said Stephens.
“Yeah, I know.” Bott examined what his laser sighting device had become. He tossed the piece of pitch-pine and flint aside. “Trouble is, they do know more than we do. And they don’t seem very interested in co-operation.”
That was at the root of their problems here. Cooperation. These guys seemed to have no loyalty and worse, no respect. The scary thing was that the others were in control. Well, more in control than Stephens or he were.
“That Thjalfi…” Bott mused. “The local factotum fellow. He seemed more friendly.”
“At least he brought me a loaf of bread, and took away the meat,” said the vegetarian. “I don’t see why they all find it so funny.”
“I suppose it is very odd in this culture. Anyway. I think we should cultivate this Thjalfi.”
His companion shrugged. “Why not? We can’t complete our primary objective. If I understand it right we don’t have much of a chance of getting back to the U.S .either. Except these guys did manage it before.”
Bott nodded. “That’s why I think its worth sticking with them. Even if means putting up with their nonsense.”
“Until we get home.”
“Yeah,” said Bott, rubbing his hands together. “It’ll be quite different then.”
“Shouldn’t have drunk that stuff so fast,” admitted Jörmungand, a bit later. Liz was no expert on the proper color of dragons, but that particular greenish tinge didn’t look right at all.
“A mistake,” she agreed, nodding. Liz felt genuinely disoriented. Women going off in pairs to the bathroom was something she hadn’t actually thought of across the species-divide. And Jörmungand being sick was something she could have passed on entirely.
“Just… drink helps me to forget my sorrows. Helps me to forget that I’m a freak.”
“You’re not a freak! You’re a very fine dragon!” Who has just puked up four hogsheads of mead, the barrel staves, a roasted ox, and some large sharks, but she didn’t say it aloud.
“I’m too fat,” sniffed Jörmungand. “These dragon friends of yours will never like me. I need to diet!”
At this rate, thought Liz, I’ll have an anorexic dragon in my life. “Nonsense,” She said robustly. “Who told you that rubbish?”
Jörmungand sniffed again. “It says so in all the skaldic sagas I’ve read. They say I am so big I have to live in the ocean. And I’ve read all of them. They… help me get away from myself.”
“I wouldn’t believe everything you read. I mean, who wrote them?” asked Liz.
“Some of the greatest skalds in history, and some of the worst,” said Jörmungand. “You must know more about them than I do, being a skald yourself.”
“Um,” said Liz. “I just think that what I really am is lost in translation. And I promise you that I’ve written a lot of things I didn’t believe myself, and they’re supposed to be true. I was writing about fish—and I’m not a fish. Naturally, I get some things wrong. If these skalds were writing about dragons, unless they were dragons, they probably got things wrong too. Trust me. My skills are not skaldic poetry… well, not any kind of poetry, but I know a lot about zoology.”
Liz saw the puzzled look. “Take it as the study of animals.”
“No. More like understanding how they work… look, just trust me, I’m an expert. You are not fat. Just… very big. The skalds have it wrong. I’m sure, if you think about it, you’ll find they get other things wrong.”
“Oh, all the time. And most of them can’t write for old rakfisk. I mean take that stupid death scene in the Volsung Saga. Could it be any more contrived? Here is Atli dying, having been murdered by Gúdrun, and they stop to have a long pointless bicker about her temperament not always having been what it should have been. Artistry,” said Jörmungand sarcastically. “I could do it better myself.”
“Spoken like a true critic,” said Liz.
“I think it goes with a serpentine body,” said Jörmungand, flicking out her forked tongue.
Marie turned, too late, to try and pull the sharp thing out of her. It must have killed her, she realized. Consciousness was fading like the light seemed to be. All she was aware of was that golden-haired woman smiling toothily in triumph as she fell.
Regret. She hadn’t even been able to say a proper goodbye to Lamont and the children….
She’d come into the room looking for Thor. At this stage, the guy was going to need near constant support, but he was doing well. She’d found him—and Sif and Thjalfi. Thor had been in a chair, lolling, drool running down his chin and the air smelling like ‘shine.