PYRAMID POWER – snippet 58:
The ravens still flew across the heavens bringing word to Odin about the troop-build up in Jötunheim, which was stretching even Loki’s power’s to exaggerate. They also, in exchange for their favorite jelly beans, brought word of what was happening in halls of Asgard. Odin was doing his best to ready the Æsir for war. He had sent messengers to the Vanir and South and East to Surt and Muspellheim.
It was the news from there that was worrying. Surt really did have millions of minions. He also, according to Hugin—and separately confirmed by Munin—had a black, five-sided pyramid for a neck ornament.
Lamont came to Jerry and Liz’s shared room. “What’s happening?”
Jerry bit his lip. “It looks like the end is Surt-ain. We’re still, even with all of Hel’s corpse warriors, very short of troops. And this is exactly what I was trying to avoid: that apocalyptic war.”
Lamont snorted. “Surt-ain! I guess we’ll just have to make sure it’s a dead-Surt.” He sat down on the bed. “I’ve been thinking. I’m not finding any answers to my problem with Marie, except leave her like that forever. And I don’t think that’s what she would have wished. You’re supposed to have acquired knowledge too, Jerry. Have you got any ideas for me?”
Jerry sighed. “Don’t get your hopes up, but in one way, yes. The thing is, it would take magic or a miracle to cure Marie. Science and medicine can’t do it. At least here, well, magic can work. I can think of two possibilities. One we get this world’s foremost magic-user to help. The trouble is, that’s Odin—and he’s a tricky, Krim-controlled bastard. Two, if we could somehow get Marie to the world of Egyptian myth, we’ve got contacts there. And my magical skills there are a long way ahead of what they are here.”
“I didn’t even know that you could do magic here at all.”
“Magic isn’t as big a part of this mythology as it was in Egyptian. Magic here tended to focus quite heavily on foretelling the future. Runes were used to invoke certain powers, and symbolism is vital. It goes a bit beyond the principals of similarity and contagion, although of course those do apply.”
“Don’t you love it when he talks in foreign languages?” said Liz.
Jerry grinned. “It gets worse. Poetry—verse and heiti and kennings—are all part of it. So are items of power.” He paused, chewed his lip and then said, “I have to point out that there are plenty of examples of Odin raising dead warriors and restoring virginity, and there are also things like one-handed Tyr, and blind Hod, and dead Baldr. But there definitely are magical aspects that ordinary humans can manage.”
“And how are you getting on with learning this lot?” asked Lamont.
“Slowly. Our biggest need is time, and that seems to be what Surt and Odin have worked out too. They’re rushing things on. Surt has no major barriers to his west, just Myrkvid. We have to either cross Midgard, or the sea or the great river Élivágar. And Loki’s Naglfar-ship is big, but it is a lousy ferry.”
“Lamont knows this, Jerry,” said Liz, tiredly. “We’ve been consulting with him about the pontoon bridge.”
“Xerxes,” said Jerry.
“History, dear,” said Jerry. “That stuff you disprove of. Where most problems had to get solved before, and we don’t learn anything from. Xerxes was supposed to have crossed the Hellespont—that’s the Dardanelles—on a bridge of boats with an army of two and half plus million men. Back in 490 BC, if I recall correctly.”
“So it can be done?”
“Good. Because we’re ready to start planking. How wide are the Dardanelles?”
“I remember less geography than history.”
“A pity. The Élivágar is about a mile wide and strong enough to shift most anchors. Lamont showed them how to make kedges, and I finally got through to the dumb trolls that straight down is not the right place for an anchor.”
“Where do you put the anchor? Straight up?”
She shook her head. “Doesn’t your ancient history explain cable lengths for laying off in strong currents? About six to seven times the depth.”
Lamont laughed. “You know, we make a good team. What one member of group doesn’t know, the other will, and we get to insult each other too.”
In Asgard, the man the PSA agents knew as “Harkness”—gullible fools, they were, just as Thjalfi’s new master had foreseen—held a conference with his new two acolytes. Thjalfi had to admit he liked having them here. He was in a position of power, but the Einherjar treated him as if he was a jumped-up servant, and the other Ás viewed him as no more than a jumped up servant. Some of them—Njörd for one—didn’t bother to hide their contempt. And having Odin for a master instead of Thor was a lot scarier. One-eye behaved very strangely half the time, and he was alert and mean.
But he needed to concentrate on the matter at hand, so he summoned up the trapped spirit of Harkness to guide him. “Look guys, the other side appear to be managing a hell of a rate of troop-build up. And it’s pretty apparent that they are too useless to do it by themselves. So it has to be that bunch of renegades over there. We need to put them out of action. They’re aiding and abetting the enemy.”
“There’s the kids…” Bott fiddled with the crossbow that Thjalfi had provided him with. “But they’ll probably be under tight guard now.”
“Hugin and Munin say that they are,” said Harkness.
“There is one other weak spot,” said Stephens. “That’s Lamont Jackson. His wife is missing. From what I could work out she was in a coma. Something about the thorn of sleep.”
“I was there,” said Thjalfi-Harkness. “She’s in what you might call suspended animation. We’ve got her tucked away behind a fire-wall.”
“Well, he’s pretty worried about her,” continued Bott. “She’s got some kind of fast growing cancer. They reckon that she would be dead if it wasn’t for this coma.”
“Good thinking, guys. That’s the sort of leverage we need. Let me go and have a talk with Odin about her.”
“It’s a good point, Thjalfi. I can see that she’d be a valuable hostage. But I have other plans for her, now that you bring it up.”
“We could turn this Lamont,” suggested Thjalfi, slyly.
“Turn him? Is he coming towards us?”
Thjalfi shook his head. “No, I mean make him our spy.”
Odin shook his head. “No. She will die too soon from what you have said, and he knows that. I have a better idea. The device,” he touched the pyramid pendant, “says we need more re-enactments, with belief. I will make her into the vector for turning their cause into a doomed Voslung-saga. Get me Sleipnir saddled. I will send Sigurd, both to his doom and to hers. Let the Andvari curse deal with them. It is strong enough. I just hope she is strong enough to survive for long enough to hand it on.”
The smile was cruel. “It has blighted even my most powerful foe before this.”
Sigurd the dragonslayer traversed a land abandoned to war and kinslaying. He thought nothing much of it. Thus it was due to be, when Fimbulwinter came. And he had a good hoard of treasure and was better at killing than almost anyone else, thanks to the sword Gram. He even indulged in a sacrifice or two himself. Keeping the Æsir sweet was a reasonably wise idea, seeing as Odin had helped his cause so much so far.
He wasn’t that surprised to see the old man with one eye, a broad hat and his blue cloak, waiting for him. He bowed respectfully. “Hail, All-father.”
“Hail, Sigurd Dragon-slayer. You must follow the green paths up onto Hindafjall, to a great hall fenced in flame. There find a Valkyrie maid stabbed with Ygg’s thorn. She slew men that He had not wished dead. Find her, if you can gain her. She is like no other there, her skin the color of copper, and her hair dark. Give her your ring, the ring you took from Fafnir’s hoard, and take her into the lands of Midgard to the north-west. There is great battle and much honor to be gained there.”
Eric, the book’s available now. How many more snippets will you be doing?