PYRAMID POWER – snippet 56:
It was a relatively silent trip back. No one felt much like talking, not after the last revelations about Marie. “I feel,” Liz said quietly to Jerry, “like we won a battle but are losing a war.”
Jerry sighed. “It feels a bit like that. We’re no closer to a way out of here. I still haven’t solved the problem of how to attack Odin and prevent Ragnarok. Lamont says my balloon probably won’t work—because of a lack of fine-weave materials that I can make airtight. I thought sail cloth…” He made a face. “Do you know what the sails are made of here? Wool.”
Liz shook her head. “That’s not possible.”
“Apparently, they’re made from the fleeces of special sheep. The creatures look rather different from the sheep I’ve seen pictures of.”
“I’ll look into it,” promised Liz. “If necessary I’ll get Thrúd to weave it. It’s more useful than making me feel inferior with that purposeless embroidery of hers. That thread she uses is quite fine.”
“And I’ll go and talk to those two agents, Bott and Stephens. This should be their field of expertise.”
“Should be. I’ll come along.”
They arrived back rather quietly. Without any fanfare, Liz, Jerry and Thrúd set off straight away to the room that Ran had made available to the two agents.
Liz knocked and pushed the door open. And there were the two of them, in the act of affixing something to a raven’s leg.
Startled, the first reaction of the agents was to try and hide the raven. But they must have been a bit rough about it because there was an angry squawk. Then, with Bott’s hand leaking blood, a raven suddenly appeared and flew for the window. Thrúd brought it down with a well thrown tambour frame.
“What in the hell is going on here?” demanded Liz.
Things turned nasty, very quickly. Jerry and Liz were no match for two men trained in unarmed combat.
Thrúd was a different matter. She had her father’s Ás strength, and she’d played roughhouse with her combat-trained brothers—and beaten them—for years. She also had very powerful lungs. Shrieking blue murder, she flung Stephens back against the wall, making him lose his grip on Liz. Liz knew absolutely nothing about the science of unarmed combat but she managed to grab the strap of her shoulder-bag and swing it metal corner first into her attacker’s cheek. Meanwhile Thrúd had advanced on Bott, who was holding Jerry. “Keep off or I’ll kill him,” threatened the agent.
“Do that and I’ll disembowel you, attach you entrails to a horse and whip it into a gallop,” said Thrúd in a matter-of-fact voice, catching the bleeding-faced Stephens as he tried to attack her from behind, and hurling him backward, crashing into the table. Liz had taken over yelling bloody blue murder. Then the raven—perhaps because Thrúd was between it and the window—flapped off out the door and into Ran’s castle. It disobeyed the first rule of flying safety and looked back as it fled—which was why it flapped into Emmitt as he ran around the corner. He fell. Thor, panting up behind him, tripped trying to avoid him and crashed into the wall just short of the agents’ doorway.
Bott, hearing the commotion, threw Jerry at Thrúd, and ran for the door, hauling Stephens to his feet. He saw Thor trying to stand up, and ran the other way.
Thor bellowed, “Alarums! Seal the windows and portals. To arms! To arms!” He staggered to his feet, and then was knocked over again by Thrúd running out after them.
Thereafter followed a very confusing half hour. Thor had alerted the castle to danger, but he hadn’t told the defenders what it was they were presumably being attacked by. So Lamont actually saw Bott and Stephens, and told them to get up to the ramparts. They didn’t listen to him, but that didn’t stop him taking his own advice. The two agents had a close brush with Fenrir who was being petted by a frightened Ella. And that was the last anyone saw of them.
The hero of the hour proved to be Emmitt. He’d landed on the raven, and had the common sense to stay lying on it, until Thor got back to him. The raven was stunned and had a broken leg.
So they had a raven… and two missing agents, who were going to be dead if either Liz or Thrúd caught up with them. Jerry had a bump on his head and a bloody nose.
Having seen to his nose and done her best to examine his head, Liz was now reading the English note from the raven’s leg. “We had traitors,” she said, grimly, looking at the bird wrapped in a shirt, with only its legs protruding.
“They’re bleeding,” said Fenrir. “Open the portals and I’ll go a-hunting.” He looked at Liz. “I promise I won’t just eat their livers.”
Thor nodded. “Hunt them down. Hamstring them, Fenrir. I want them able to talk.”
The great wolf nodded. Liz almost felt sorry for the two agents.
She turned her attention back to the raven. “I’m going to splint this leg. And then I want some cord—thong, perhaps—to attach the other leg to this chair. We need to know what this little bird has been carrying to-and-fro. And it is going to tell us. And it better not prove to be Hugin or he’ll never see a jelly bean again.”
It proved instead to be Munin. “Odin will be very angry!” said the raven.
“Good,” said Loki. “I must see if Ran has a cage somewhere. I always wanted something to make Odin angry with.”
Fenrir returned with two small boys. “I had a choice,” he growled. “I promised to let them go in exchange for these smelly objects. And hugging,” he said, “is beneath my dignity.”
“We’ll catch up with them,” said Liz, as Lamont looked in grave danger of exploding.
“They’re dead men walking,” said Lamont. “What the hell happened? How did they get you two?” He hugged the boys fiercely, and then, despite what Fenrir had said, hugged the wolf. “I owe you,” he said thickly. “If I can do it, I will. You only have to ask.”
“We were just outside the beach gate. You said we were allowed to go there,” said a subdued Ty. “Doing some stuff on the sand, and they came out.”
“They grabbed us. They told us you’d said that they must take us to safety.”
“They were waiting for a boat. They made a signal-fire.”
“And then Fenrir came.”
Ty started to cry. “Bott held a knife against my neck.”
“Fenrir agreed to let them go, if they let us go,” said Tolly. “If my new dad catches those guys…”
Cruz was a long way off. But as a choice of someone’s kids to take hostage, Liz would have thought that it would have been wiser for the agents to have picked on a troll. There were lots of trolls here in Jötunheim. They were less dangerous than Cruz would be.
“It’s not as bad as it seems at first glance,” Jerry said squeezing Liz’s hand. “Look, first off, the airborne assault just wasn’t practical. Secondly, we’re better off discovering the leak now than later. And we have Munin.”
“Already addicted to rakfisk jelly beans.” Liz gently pushed the hair away from the large lump on his forehead.
“Good. We’ll have to let him go soon, or Odin will be suspicious when he returns.”
Liz snorted. “That won’t delight Loki.”
“Tell him to use Munin to feed disinformation to Odin. He’ll like that idea.”