PYRAMID POWER – snippet 28:



            Jerry slipped on the horrendous mixture of grease and mead, lost his grip on the two-by-two, and fell onto plaited walrus moustache’s head. The heavy oak table went over.


            Liz rolled across the floor, seeing Jerry wrestle with walrus-moustache, who must have been three times his size. And then Heimdall sat up.


            He was a god. But didn’t he have the decency to fall over and stay down? thought Liz furiously, struggling to get up with her wet skirts tangled in someone’s feet. They fell, just as she saw Heimdall grab Jerry…. and the torches winked out.


            There was nothing but darkness and pandemonium. Liz tried her best to add to that by hitting anything in reach with what she had in hand—the horn. 


             Then something hit her. If it hadn’t been for that stupid mailshirt it would have been a lot worse. As it was the breath was knocked out of her, and she was sent sprawling, gasping, into a space that was fairly free of legs.


            There was light again. The torches were being hastily rekindled. Liz, peering out from under the table, could see the profile of the man with one eye talking to gold-teeth. They were holding Jerry. Holding him in such a way as to make escape highly unlikely, even if his head were not lolling. He was moving, though, so he probably was still alive.


            Liz tried to get up, follow her first instinct to see if he was all right. But her legs were trapped under a bench which appeared to have a few elephants sitting on it. She bashed her head hard on the oak of the table above her, and as she tried to sit up again. Seeing stars, she heard Odin say: “I gave orders for this one to put into Loki’s pit. What in Hel’s name is he doing here?”


            Heimdall blinked owlishly. “Maybe he ‘shcaped.”


            “Or maybe he never got there. I’ll question him, either way.”


            “Can’t I finish killing him?”


            “No. This is not one of the Einherjar, Heimdall. I need him alive to get some answers out of him. Where is your horn?”


            Heimdall scratched his head. “I had it with me. I was having a drinking competition with some new Valkyrie…”


            “There are no new Valkyries,” said Odin, his eye narrow with anger. “Fool. Don’t say you’ve lost it. You’ll need it at the Time. No other horn will be heard across all of the nine worlds to call our allies!”


            “It mus’ be here somewhere,” said Heimdall.


            Liz looked at the item in her right hand.


            Odin turned, pushing Jerry in one of his escort’s arms. “Look for it. In the meanwhile I’d better send someone to check on Loki. Actually, I’d better go and check myself. And I’ll see this one bestowed. With guards. Sober ones.”


            Liz crawled deeper into the shadows under the table. There was a platter under here. A huge one, that had obviously got lost in the melee. Well, so gold-teeth and Odin wanted the horn back. It was not her heartfelt desire to oblige the bastard. And it was still smoky, half-dark and chaotic out there. She wanted to follow Jerry, to find out where they were going to put him. There was something to be said for a weedy academic who would take on a whole hall full of these warrior types with a two-by-two for her. That something was probably “crazy idiot,” but still.


            She bit her lip. Explaining what she was doing kissing gold-teeth might just be interesting.


            She crawled out from under the table, held the horn under the platter and set off towards the doors where Odin was heading, hoping Heimdall didn’t spot her. Risking a quick glance back she saw most of the people in that area of the hall were on hands and knees. Horn hunting, no doubt.


            The trouble was that there were a lot of doors in the wall at the hall end, just below Jerry’s gallery. At least three of them were possible, but if she hesitated she was probably lost anyway. So she walked through the nearest one. And nearly collided with a load more boiled pork. This plainly led to the kitchens. One of the thralls looked at her and the empty platter and pointed with an elbow to a stair leading down off to her left. “Scullery.”


            She had very little choice but to go into it, or crash into half a boiled pig. The passage wasn’t wide enough for both of them. And there were more food-carriers coming.


            The scullery stair was obviously not the main access to that area, as there was no traffic. She might find somewhere to stash this horn. She couldn’t come out of the kitchen doors with an empty platter. She walked down and round. And collided with a ragged thrall. The platter and Heimdall’s horn were knocked flying.


            “What are you doing with that?” demanded the thrall, in a very un-thrall female voice. “That’s that jerk Heimdall’s Gjallarhorn. How did you get that?”


            Liz was grabbed by a pair of strong hands. Very strong hands. She tried to pull free and failed. “Let go, damn you!”


            The thrall snorted. “Not until I work out where you’re running off to with Gjallarhorn. Asgard needs it, even if I don’t need gold-teeth.”


            “I don’t need him either,” said Liz, shuddering. “I have to agree with what Thor said about the creep this morning. And you can have the horn. I just took it to spite him.”


            The ferociously strong grip on Liz’s wrists eased slightly. “You saw Papa-Thor this morning?”


            “Yeah. We brought him back from… watchamacallit… Geirrodur’s castle.” The part about “Papa” registered. “Thor is your father?” asked Liz, incredulously.


            “I think,” said the woman holding her who was disguised like a thrall, “that we need to talk. There is a store-room back there. Do you have anything to do with the black-elf that Sif had kidnapped? That made Papa-Thor stop drinking?”


            Liz nodded. “Yes. That’s why I’m here. To try and find her. Now let’s get into this store-room before they find us.”


            The “thrall” let go of her and scooped up the horn. “This way.”


            It was only few yards to the unobtrusive door. “In here.”


            The door closed. It was pitch dark in there. “Who are you? I did not know my father had any friends among Odin’s Valkyries.” The voice was thick with suspicion.


            “I’m not a Valkyrie. I just disguised myself as one to come and look for Marie. And my boyfriend.”


            There was a long silence. Then Thor’s daughter said: “Are you quite crazy?”


            “I think I am,” said Liz, ruefully. “I didn’t realize that it was a bulls party, and that I was dressing up as hooker. But what are you doing here? And what do you know about Marie? And who are you actually?”


            There was another long silence. Finally the other person replied. “I’m Thrúd. I thought that was obvious. And what I’m doing here is my business.” Her voice was stiff with a “don’t ask” tone. “But I can tell you what has happened to the black-elf woman. One-eye has sent her to lie inside the wall of flame, like the Valkyrie Brynhild.”


            “He’s killed her?”


            “No. She lies as if dead, but she is not. She is somewhere between death and life. She will lie like that forever, unbreathing, but undying, untouched by the passing of days, forever, until the Time itself.”


            “Where… Lamont will go spare. Is there anyway of getting to her? Of waking her?”


            “Oh yes,” said Thrúd. “If you can get to her. She lies in a great hall on a mountaintop in Midgard, guarded by a wall of flame. If the thorn of sleep is drawn out of her neck she will wake to be the bride of the hero that has dared this mighty deed.”


            “Her husband is going to be mighty unimpressed, if it’s anyone but him,” said Liz dryly. “But at least she’s not dead. I’m less sure about Jerry.”




            “My boyfriend,” said Liz. “Your one-eyed friend took him off to question. He was just going to check on someone called Loki first.”