PYRAMID POWER – snippet 38:



Chapter 24



            Liz was not the only one who could see that the trail would be easy to follow. Loki was up on the prow talking to Jörmungand. They immediately began to throw a series of s-bends that Liz just knew would have made poor Jerry lose his breakfast.


            “That won’t stop them following us,” she said to Loki, as she clung to the gunwale.


            “It might just put them off doing so on horseback,” said Loki, with a wicked grin. “Look.”


            Liz could see what he meant. The trail was no less clear, but now there were huge ridges of snow—real powder drifts—seven or eight feet high to wade through. As a South African from an area of that country where it never snowed she had no idea how much it would affect the horses. But it didn’t look like it was going to be pleasant. And galloping down their back-trail, which would have been easy a little earlier, was going to be impossible now.


            “We’ll reach the sea before they reach us,” said Loki. “I have arranged a vessel.”


            Liz was impressed. Either Lamont or Thrúd or Sigyn must have leaned on him, hard. Loki wasn’t much of a hand at preparation.




            The sea, when they got there, was cloaked in a clinging sea-mist—the ocean plainly warmer than the frigid air. Liz wondered what sort of little unseaworthy tub she was going to encounter. The poor thing she and Lamont had vandalized in Thor’s work-room had been well-built, she had to grant. And weren’t these Norsemen Vikings? It had to be better than that Greek boat, or that blasted Egyptian floating banana, stuck together with linen strips. And at least she was used to going to sea in small boats.


            The vessel loomed blackly out of the mist, at least the size of a supertanker.


            “Naglfar,” said Loki. “She cannot come too close to shore.”


            Thor and Thrúd both shuddered.


            “At the moment she carries no cargo,” said Loki, urbanely. “And what other ship did you two think I could get?”


            “I suppose a cruise liner was too much to hope for,” said Liz. “Or even a battleship.”


            Loki chuckled. “On Naglfar we need fear no warship. She is the biggest ship in all of the nine worlds. I have to have the biggest and best of something.”


            “So they let you have the corpse-ship,” said Thor, a little tersely. “Well, let’s go to her then, if we must.”


            It looked like a long cold wade and then a longer cold swim to a ship that even Thor seemed reluctant to board. But the Midgard serpent had shaken herself free of the mythworld skidoo. “I’ll take you out to her,” she said. “Get up on my back.”


            It wasn’t quite as wet as swimming might have been, although stowing all of Thrúd’s bundles was less than easy. In some ways Thrúd was a woman after Liz’s own heart. She also didn’t believe in that silly “traveling light” idea.


            When they got closer to the great vessel, Liz realized that it might just be bigger than she’d thought… and a lot weirder than the Egyptian banana-shaped boat held together with strips of linen had been. In the sea-mist it almost seemed to be constructed from tiny scales.


            “Okay, what is it made of?” asked Liz, as Jörmungand got closer to the vessel that loomed like some vast cliff over them.


            “Nails,” said Loki, ghoulishly, plainly relishing telling her. “The nails of the dead.”


            He was rewarded by suitable shudders from some of Jörmungand’s passengers. Liz wasn’t going to oblige him. “Lousy building material. What do you do for struts?”


            Loki looked darkly at her. “You and Sigyn are two of a kind.”


            Jörmungand reared up out of the water and deposited them on the deck.


            The ship really was at least the size of supertanker. “A lot of nails,” said Liz.


            “The godar are encouraged to make their people be sure that no man dies with untrimmed nails, as Æsir would have Loki’s ship take a long time to finish,” said Thrúd.


            Liz sniffed. “Smells like old toenails. Maybe washing their feet before they died would have been nice too.”


            Sigyn gave a snort of laughter at the hastily turned back of Loki. “Now he’s gone off to sulk. He’s very proud of Naglfar.”


            “She’s certainly big enough,” admitted Liz.


            Sigyn shrugged. “She will ferry the enemies of the Æsir to Ragnarok. So Thor will tell you that she is too big, and I would have her twice the size.”


            “Well, let’s see if we can skip Ragnarok. It does sound as if I could pass on it.”


            “All that lives will pass, or so it is foretold, either in flood or by fire,” said Sigyn, with a hint of sadness.


            “A lovely grim prediction,” said Liz. “Packs them into the churches, does it?”


            Sigyn looked a bit nonplussed.


            Liz took pity on her. “Look, back where I come from there are dozens of religions, and preaching that the end of the world is at hand is good business. So far their gods have been a bit of a let-down, because the end keeps being delayed. It’s probably because the dead are now working to rule or something.”


            Sigyn looked at her and shook her head. “Here the end comes. Fimbulwinter has begun. There will be no spring for three years.”


            “And no hay-fever. Look. Things have to change. And if you believe in them, they won’t.” Just don’t stop believing in this ship of nails until we get to disembark, she thought to herself.


            Sigyn shrugged. “Nothing really changes in the nine worlds. We live in the great cycle of time. And here the dead do not work to rule, they fight to rule.”