PYRAMID POWER – snippet 7:



            “Het jy dit geëet?” asked Liz.


            He looked at her blankly.


            “You’ve got to really put it in your mouth,” she snarled. “Ass. The spell doesn’t work otherwise. Your buddy understood me, didn’t you?” she said to the other PSA man.


            He nodded, startled. “Yeah. Look, Stephens, you’ve got to do it.”


            “I can’t…”


            Liz took a fingerful of the hot bubbling juice and pushed it into his mouth, which was still open. He spat and retched. But when she said “Moeshle nyama!” at least he understood her, even if he did not agree.


            “Right,” said Marie. “Birdies. Are you going to talk us out of here? We’ll get this Sigurd guy to taste this stuff when he comes back in.”


            The two ravens had almost gotten over the vegetarian business. “It’s a deal, black elf. So long as we get a piece of heart too,” said Hugin, plainly the greedier of the two. “What do you say, Munin?”


            “I suppose. I want a rare piece,” said Munin. Lamont obliged.


            “Will it work?” said Liz. “Look, we could just sneak out now.”


            “He’d chase you, and cut off your head with Gram,” said Hugin. “It’s what you do to runaway thralls. And that is Sigurd. He’s a one-man army.”


            Munin tore a fragment of meat off the piece between his claws. “No problem. Look, we need you out of here to do our job. And he’s a pushover for us corvids. Trust me, it’ll be easy. A guy who will take advice from nut-hatches hasn’t got much in his brain-box.”


            “Good meat,” said Hugin. “Sure you won’t have some more, grass-eater?” He cawed at his own humor, as Sigurd walked back in.


            Liz pointed at the meat, which was charring on the one side. “Try, master.”


            He shook his head. “Regin’s supposed to eat it, thrall wench. Otherwise I end up with the blood-guilt for killing Fafnir his brother.”


            “See if it is done then, Master,” persisted Liz, wondering how long she could keep up the “Master” bit.


            “I suppose so,” he said, prodding it with a big forefinger. Hot juice obligingly burned him, and he licked his finger.


            “Here stands Sigurd,” said the raven Hugin. “Cooking a dragon’s heart for someone else. If he ate it he would understand the speech of all, even the birds and the beasts.”


            “He really should chase these thralls out of here,” said the other. “They’re here to help the evil Regin who murdered his father with Fafnir and got the great Sigurd to kill the dragon Fafnir, the brother of Otr, for whom the gods paid weregild of Andvari’s hoard.”


            “Yes.” said Hugin. “Send these thralls away. Half of them are black elves anyway.”


            “Regin probably needs them to do his dwarfish magic,” said Munin. “Send them away.”


            Sigurd looked at them. “Shall I kill them all? I fancied keeping the one wench for a tumble.”


            Liz lifted the rock still in her hand just enough for the ravens to get the message. “Caw. Wouldn’t do that. No, never. The black elves would be angry. Send them away now. And give us a piece of meat.”


            Sigurd blinked. “Did you speak my language before?”


            “No, you now understand ours,” said Munin.


            “I meant this thrall-wench.”


            “Only after, Master,” said Liz with a false smile. “Can we go?”


            Sigurd cut himself a slice of hot heart. “I suppose so. I thought I’d get you lot to carry the dragon’s treasure, but you and those men without any pants on can get gone. I worry about men without pants.”


            They left, hastily, with one of the Hugin saying in a wheedling voice: “You could spare us a bit. Come on!”


            Outside the cave it was apparent that both evening and the weather were drawing in. “So where do we go now?” said Lamont. “You’re the outdoor expert, Liz.”


            “And can I take these off now?” asked Emmitt, tugging at the wrap-around dark glasses. “I can’t see much out here in them. I couldn’t see anything at all in the cave except that fire.”


            “Sure. It was just to stop those ravens pecking out your eyes.” She grinned at him, giving a thumbs up. “You did pretty well in there. And Lamont, I think we have to find shelter and warmth, before Agent Bott’s knees fall off and we all freeze to death tonight. This is about as different from my part of Africa as is possible, but that’s just common sense.”


            As usual it was Marie and the department of common sense that took over. “Practically that leaves us with the dragon’s cave—and that bozo Sigurd is going to arrive there, or back to that place the birds said was a troll castle.” She pointed back the way they’d come from. “I’m for the castle. It was fairly warm with those fires, and I think all of the trolls ran away.”


            “Besides, your average troll is an improvement on Sigurd,” said Liz.


            Marie nodded. “And it looks like it’s about to start snowing.”


            As they walked back over the hill it began to do that, in unpleasant wet sticky flakes. By the time they got to the troll castle, Liz was fairly sure they were safe from any sort of pursuit. They were lucky to find the place themselves.


            The room where red beard was still sleeping had delicious warmth seeping out of the stone window, although the two PSA Agents in their sandals were almost too cold to get in there. They had to be hauled over the sill.


            “First things first we ought to block that hole,” said one of them.


            “With what? Fatso’s cloak?” said Liz, sarcastically. She leaned over and gave the ratty garment in question a tug.


            The snoring stopped abruptly. The huge red-bearded man sat up and looked at them, with bleary road-map veined eyes.


            “Who are you?” he asked. “Where is Thjalfi? And has anyone got something for me to drink?”