PYRAMID POWER – snippet 57:



            Agents Bott and Stephens sat in conference with the man they’d been sent to rescue or kill, enjoying some of his home-made whiskey. It wasn’t very good whiskey, but after their close calls and the trip in a leaky Viking boat, any whiskey was welcome. As welcome as cozy as the respect they felt they’d finally found. This was a man who knew what they did, and valued them.


            The initial moments of their meeting with Harkness had been disconcerting, since he didn’t look in the least like the photograph of Harkness they’d been shown by Agent Supervisor Megane. But Bott and Stephens relaxed after he explained he’d had his appearance altered by Odin’s magic. By now, after all they’d seen, the two PSA agents were willing to believe that readily enough. There wasn’t any question this fellow was actually Harkness, since he knew details concerning his life and position in the NSA that no scruffy Norseman could possibly have known.


            “Well, sir, it’s like this,” Stephens explained, “we were sent on this mission to rescue you from the Krim pyramid. Unfortunately we lost most of our team members, we were betrayed by the other people with us—and we’ve been having severe equipment problems. But we’re still here.”


            Harkness tugged his little beard. “Equally unfortunately, we can’t get back.”


            “They’ll send a back-up squad through,” said Stephens confidently.


            “Well, maybe,” said Harkness. “As you must have figured out by now, that’s harder than it sounds. But, in the meanwhile, well, I’ve established myself in a position of influence and power here. I could use some good, reliable American help. Are you boys with me?”


            “Yes, sir!” they said together, glad to be back in harness.


            “Good. It’s a pity your cover got blown, but make some other kind of plan. Our ally here figures he can win this Ragnarok. He’s gone hunting some allies of his own, after the last bit of news you sent about Surt.”




            The Krim hierarchies were expressed in terms which even the Krim-device found confusing. Nonetheless, they knew who among them had ascendancy. Once there had been billions of Krim. Now… things were different. The Krim did not die, of course. Not in the conventional sense, as they had long since abandoned bodies. They… simply seemed to fade away.


            They’d been unprepared for what they had lost with those bodies. This was what had driven them to explore millions of systems across the galaxy. The feelings and emotions were like fine wine to them, rich and rejuvenating wine. The flood of pain and rage energies in an event like Ragnarok would sustain the Krim for a long while. Long enough—if they could gather the life energies to sacrifice—to do it again. And again. There were few of the Krim left now. This planet and its Ur-worlds could sustain them until another probe found more life.


            And now there was a threat against that great feast! The Krim hierarchy shifted.


            Leadership came to rest instead on one who possessed a body of flames. A creature not unlike the Krim themselves, in that energy and flames have something in common.


            It would happen. Ragnarok would come, no matter how myth was twisted. After all, to the inhabitants of Midgard it would make little difference as to why Surt marched on Asgard.



Chapter 33



            “There is someone on the beach to see you, Loki.” Ran had amusement written on her normally austere face. “He is very uncomfortable coming here, to my castle.”


            That was just about the most words Liz had ever heard her use. Loki got up and walked down, and Liz followed out of curiosity.


            The man on the beach had fishing tackle with him. For Liz that was always a good sign. “Who is he?” she whispered to Ran.


            “Njörd. A Vanir sea and wind god. The husband of Skadi.”


            That didn’t sound promising.


            “Njörd,” said Loki. His tone was not overly friendly. “Giantesses use your mouth for a piss-pot.”


            The Vanir shook his head. “You always did have a foul mouth, Loki. I was angry about that. It took me a long while to work out the kenning.”


            Loki shrugged. “If I had left you out, the Æsir would have thought you were a friend of mine.”


            “If you’d left it well enough alone, it wouldn’t have happened at all,” said Njörd.


            “Yes. Maybe. It’s a bit late for wisdom now. So why are you here, sea-god?”


            “The Vanir want no part in this war that Odin drags us toward, not now that Öku-Thor is gone. And Frey and Freyja sent me to talk to you.”


            Loki raised his eyebrows. “Madam Cat-house, and your son who has swapped his good sword for a giant girlfriend.”


            “You’re one of the giants yourself, Loki.”


            “I know. Most of the Ás are either giants or half-bloods. What I wanted to know was whether Frey still thought he was going to war with a stag’s antler or not.”


            Njörd shook his head. “No. Skírnir still has it.”


            “And Skírnir is still trotting on errands for Odin, is he? Dangerous paths, those to the dwarves and dark elves.” Loki pursed his lips. “And how is Skadi?”


            “Still in the pit. Odin has been unable, or unwilling, to remove the spell of binding from her.” Njörd did not seem too upset about his wife’s situation, though.


            Loki snorted with laughter. He clapped Njörd on the shoulder. “I’ll explain that sometime. In the meanwhile… I need know that I can trust you, Vanir. You’ve a reputation for executing hostages, if you don’t mind my reminding you.”


            “Of course I mind,” Njörd said. “But it wasn’t my stupid idea to chop off Mirmir’s head. I’d have chopped off Hœnir’s.”


            “Hœnir was always too long-legged to be caught,” said Loki, with a nasty grin. “Mirmir would stop to think about running or try reason.”


            “Sometimes running is a better option,” admitted Njörd.


            “Yes, it is. Let’s work out how we can make you a nasty surprise for Odin.”


            “Oh no,” said Njörd. “No, no, no. Forget your crazy schemes, Loki. Frey, Freyja and my Vanir cousins made it clear to me. They won’t take up arms against Odin and the other Æsir.”


            “Not much good as allies, are you?” said Loki dryly.


            “Maybe not. But we will fight against our hereditary enemies. Surt and the sons of Muspel are our meat.”


            “They’re not involved, Njörd. I’ve been talked out of asking for that alliance. For now. Anyway, why would I want your help fighting my own side?”


            “My cousins in Vanaheim say the long lines of fire-wielders are assembling in the East, Loki. They come, and not at your bidding or nay-saying. Odin has made common cause with Surt—against you.”


            There was a long silence. “Ragnarok comes, then, whether we want it or not.” fearfully.


            “And the Vanir cannot stand against Surt’s hosts and the sons of Muspel on their own, Loki,” said Njörd. “We’re not coming to you to help. We’re coming for help. Vanaheim has no walls, unlike Asgard.”