PYRAMID POWER – snippet 39:



            Jötunheim lies to the north and east of Asgard. Liz thought it was probably a good place for hunting snarks. It was a place—if she remembered her Lewis Carroll correctly—entirely composed of chasms and crags. And even finding that the snark was a boojum, was easier than taking another voyage on Naglfar. The nails formed a flexible armor, very like fish-scales. But unlike fish-scales they did not have anything inside them (like a fish, for example) to stop them flexing with each and every wave. Liz was an old sailor. She didn’t mind the ship pitching or rolling. But the deck moving in parallel with the waves under her feet was too much! She understood now why Thor and Thrúd had been so unenthusiastic about the corpse-ship. It wasn’t squeamishness. It was just a liking for being able to remain standing up.


            At least the children had enjoyed it as much as Loki.


            “So where now?” asked Liz, as they sailed into a deep bay that would have made the average Nordic postcard photographer orgasmic and the average sailor very wary. Snowy pines clung to the cliff edges above the midnight blue water. Naglfar touched and scraped her way slowly in toward the shore. Liz had yet to work out what moved the great ship. She was a little afraid to ask.


            “I must consult my kin,” said Loki. “And then we will need to find a messenger to send to the Æsir.”


            “And we need to set about getting to Marie,” said Lamont. “As I explained to you last night, Loki, she’s… sick.”


            Loki nodded. “I have thought about what you told me, and I have thought about where you are and her health. I must explain fully what the thorn of sleep does. It may be that Odin has unwittingly blessed you. He may have given you hope.”


            “Don’t play the fool about this, Loki,” said Lamont harshly. “We had the best doctors in the US examine her. It’s too late. It’s gone too far. There is no cure known to man.”


            “I do not jest.” There was none of the usual mockery in Loki’s voice. “Odin has not given you healing. He has given one thing that you did not have before, though. And that is time to seek that healing.”


            “What?” Lamont’s head bobbed forward. He stared intently at Loki.


            “The thorn of sleep. It is a magical thing. The victim will lie without breath, but without change or death either, until that thorn is pulled out. I do not know this illness that you speak of. But there is much wisdom to be found in the nine worlds. This will give you time to seek it. Were you from the nine worlds your Marie might go to rest with my daughter Hel, if she died. But from what I can understand, if she dies she will go beyond the reach of men and possibly gods. This way, that won’t happen while you search.”


            Lamont sat down on Naglfar’s deck with a thump. Looking at him, Liz wanted to start crying herself. Tears were streaming down his face.


            Liz bit her lip. It had always seemed that the mythworlds were places to escape from. Where time rushed past, and death and danger were the best reward. Suddenly she could think of several million people who would settle for as much of a chance as Lamont Jackson had just been handed.




            “So who is our hostess?”




            “It’s an odd name,” said Liz.


            “I wouldn’t let her hear that,” said Thrúd, with a wry smile. “She’s quicker tempered than Papa-Thor, even if Loki does have her wrapped around his thumb. The mother of the waves is she who normally deals with drownings.”


              They were inside the cliff dwelling of the giantess Ran, which was where Loki had been heading with Naglfar. Liz was engaged in her least favorite pastime. Waiting.


            Fair enough, Loki and Sigyn had a lot of organizing to do. And Lamont, having been handed something of a possible lifeline was trying to work out where he could track down any wisdom that might just help Marie.


            Thor was training Emmitt. Jörmungand had gone off on some errand for Loki, and Fenrir had been sent off on a similar mission into the hinterland. The two younger boys were happily engaged in boy-mischief, and Ella was asleep. That left Liz and Thrúd to entertain themselves, as their hostess was off about her watery business.


            Thrúd embroidered. It was what a noble Scandinavian lady did. Liz’s mother would have approved too, so Liz had carefully avoided learning any of that type of art. Which left talking and being irritated. Liz and Thrúd were swapping stories of very different worlds—with strong similarities in places. Hunting, for one, wasn’t that different.


            The window—no glass, just a sturdy shutter—was open to provide Thrúd with light and Liz with the fresh air she craved. But she’d been advised not go out, alone. This was Jötunheim. Mortals walked here with trepidation.


            A raven came to perch on the sill. “So this is where you are.” It hopped from one leg to the other looking at them with intelligent dark eyes.


            “Close the shutters,” said Thrúd urgently.


            “Too late,” said the bird with a clack of its big beak. “Hugin saw you already. Clever Hugin, even if Munin doesn’t think so.”


            Liz smiled at it innocently. “Want some more meat, bird? I gave you that delicious heart before.”


            The bird nodded greedily. “More dragon heart?”


            “On the table.” Liz pointed to the far corner, sitting calmly on her chair.


            The raven looked suspiciously from one of them to the other, cocking its black head from side to side. Then it launched into the room—and quick as a flash, Liz swung the shutter closed.


            “How do you feel about grilled raven, Thrúd?”


            “I prefer them boiled.”


            “I’ll peck your eyes out,” said the raven crossly.


            “And what good will that do you?” asked Liz. “You’ll still be stuck in here. Now where is your other half? What’s his name? Moron?”


            “Munin,” said the raven. “He’s around somewhere. Odin gives him all the best tasks to do.”


            Ah, thought Liz. This was the greedy one who didn’t remember too well. “I really do have some food. Not dragon heart, unfortunately. If you were hungry I might give you some.”


            “I’m always hungry,” said the plump raven in a self-pitying tone. “But I don’t trust you.”


            “Oh, come now,” said Liz. “What have we actually ever done to you?”


            “Threatened to throw sticks and stones at me. Shut me in a dark room. Promised me food you didn’t give me.”


            “Well, you’ve threatened to peck our eyes out. And we’ll let you out now. We just didn’t want you to have to share with moron, uh, Munin.”


            The raven clicked his beak. “Would you believe that he found a stag that got killed by a runaway log-wagon, nice and mature, and he didn’t tell me about it. So what food have you got?”


            Liz turned to Thrúd. “You packed half a larder. All I have is multi-flavored jelly beans. And that could make enemies.” She thought of the rakfisk jelly bean experience and felt decidedly unwell.


            “What about some smoked salmon?” said Thrúd.


            “How do you feel about that, bird?” asked Liz.


            “Too salty and not ripe enough,” said the raven.


            Well, if it wanted ripe…


            The jelly bean had been pink. She dug out the box from her shoulder-bag, and found a pink sweet in the new wooden box. She cautiously sniffed it, and then held it out to the raven. “Try that.”


            Hugin’s greed exceeded his common sense by several orders of magnitude. He snapped it in half with his beak—and by the bouquet Liz knew she’d got it right. The other half of the jelly bean fell to the table.


            The raven stood stock still, ruffling all its feathers up and closing its eyes. For a moment Liz thought she’d killed him. Then the bird opened his eyes wide and stabbed the remaining half of the jelly bean with such ferocity that he left a quarter inch dent in the table.


            Hugin stood there with his raggedy black feathers all fluffed out, with a raven expression of absolute beatification on his ugly beak. He stayed like that for at least three minutes. Then he shook himself back to normal, and eyed Liz and the box with his black eyes full of unalloyed greed. “Would there be any more, oh kind and generous and lovely and wonderful lady?”


            Liz looked. There were six more pink essence of rakfisk raven’s delights. “Some,” she said. “Not too many.”


            “Could I perhaps have another one?”


            “Perhaps,” said Liz. “Definitely, if you can tell me where someone is and what is being done to him.”


            “I’m your raven. I can find out anything.”


            So Liz described Dr. Jerry Lukacs as best as possible.


            Hugin nodded. “Odin’s got him. He’s got plans for him.”


            “I need to know what they are. Then I definitely have another one of those… delicacies for you.”


            “Open the shutter,” said Hugin, impatiently. “And look after those things until I return. Guard them very carefully.”


            He flew off making as much haste as a plump raven could.