PYRAMID POWER – snippet 14:
Jerry eyed the snake warily, but the huge serpent resting on the ledge above seemed semi-torpid. The creature seemed content with just dripping its venom onto the face of the bound god below. So he put the bag over Loki’s face and backed off hastily.
Sigyn took her sheltering bowl away, and poured it out. And Loki lay… still. And then spoke from under the bag. “Sigi. Rest your arms for a while. I don’t like the view under here, but there is no pain. There is no pain,” he said again, almost incredulously.
“We will make something of a tent of it first,” said Sigyn, holding her now empty bowl back in place, and flicking the moisture off the bag. “It would have run down onto your face soon.”
She smiled at Jerry, and he could suddenly see that under the exhaustion, under the sorrow and the bitterness, she was a very beautiful woman. “Thank you. You have been the first good thing to happen since Loki was trapped.”
“The second,” said Loki. “You coming here to sit with me was the first, and the greatest.”
“He always did have a silver tongue,” she said, smiling again. “Now. With those quills, can you make some kind of prop to make the bag into a sort of tent?
Jerry had taken out his bill-fold. The credit and bank-cards were ivory by the feels of them. “If I made a V of this above his eyes. And I have some coins… we could weigh the edges down with that.”
“A personal face tent,” said Loki.
“You will have to lie still, husband.”
“I’ll do my best, if it will give you a rest. Keeping still when I know I have outsmarted Helblindi and his tart Skadi will be a pleasure.
“Who is Helblindi?” asked Jerry, ever curious.
“Our One-eye. My accursed half-brother. Just one of his myriad aliases. It means Hell-blind, which is appropriate.”
That explanation left Jerry puzzling at the genealogy of the Norse gods, as he organized Loki’s personal face-tent. He wasn’t that familiar with the relationships of the Norse pantheon, but he hadn’t known that Odin and Loki were related. Loki was one of the giants—and Odin was one of the Æsir… wasn’t he?
A little later Sigyn triumphantly lowered the bowl. “My arms. It has been centuries. Thank you, Jerry.”
“Hey,” said Loki. “She’s mine.” You could hear him laughing under that tent.
“Keep still,” said Sigyn, sternly. “Why I put up with you, I do not know.” And when he started to speak again, she said, “Hush.” And he did.
Jerry was be impressed. One had to be careful around women who could shut someone like Loki up. “I want to explain something,” he said calmly, knowing that it was her that he had to convince, not Loki.
“For the favor of a rest from holding the bowl, I will happily listen. Loki will too, but he is not going to say anything.”
“Right. Well, it would seem that your myth-world—your Asgard, your gods—have somehow been taken over by this device called the Krim. It takes humans from our world—the world you once called Midgard—and re-enacts the old stories with them to see and believe. This revitalizes the old beliefs. We know from our last encounter that it can do the same scene many times. It does this, not for the old gods, but for some reason of its own. It takes over for purposes we do not fully understand.”
“I suspect the myths, the stories and sagas have to be re-enacted over and over again,” said Jerry. “You want vengeance. I can understand that.”
“But you cannot understand the depth of that desire,” said Sigyn grimly. “I do not mind if we destroy Odin many, many times.”
Jerry nodded. “I accept that. But do you want your son Narfi to die many times? Do you want Loki to suffer many times?”
She was silent for a long, long time. The only sound was the splash of venom on the oilskin bag. Then she said: “No. But I want my vengeance, Jerry.”
“And I want mine,” said Loki, quietly, forgetting his injunction against talking. “Thph. The bowl, Sigi. Quick.”
She had it ready, and Jerry carefully re-arranged the face-tent. It gave him a chance to think.
“I’m not saying that you can’t have your vengeance,” he said eventually. “It seems that the right way to stop the pattern… is to stop the myth being re-enacted according to the pattern.”
“So?” said Sigyn.
“So I need to break Loki out of here… and let you succeed, without Ragnarok. You would accept vengeance without destroying the world, would you not? It would stop this repeating, again.”
She was silent for a long time. “Yes. But a number of the Æsir were involved. I want them all.”
“We can agree on principle, though. And sort out the terms between us.” Jerry said that last with a confidence he didn’t really feel.
“Spoken like true trickster,” said Loki. “Now please hold the bowl for a bit, because I need to talk.”
Sigyn held the bowl over his face. “Poor love. To have to hold your tongue for so long!”
“And I almost succeeded too,” said Loki, with mocking self admiration. “Oh, I am great! So what do you plan, Jerry?”
“My first project has to be to deal with that snake.”
Sigyn shook her head. “Skadi would know if you interfered with her pet. It’s not intelligent enough to tell her what goes on, but she’d know if it were killed. And the huntress is probably stronger than I am,” she admitted reluctantly.
Jerry tugged his ear thoughtfully. “We’ll need her to get out of here then, won’t we?”
“It’d be one possible way,” said Loki. “Odin has given her the galdr that allow her in and out. But if need be I can burn my way out. It might take a while though.”
“Longer than a mortal can do without food or drink,” said Sigyn. “Besides, as I have explained to you, lava has to go somewhere.”
“And if I burn upwards it will be here that it comes to, if I recall right,” he said with a grin.
“What about steps or pockets in the rock?” asked Jerry.
“That could work. Less lava. Still, it takes rock a while to cool.”
“You can melt any kind of rock?”
Loki nodded. “Burn rather than melt. Some things are harder than others, but everything burns… after a fashion.”
Loki snorted. “Yes. But if I don’t pay attention to it, it just rusts.”
Jerry strained to remember shreds of the chemistry that he’d never paid that much attention to anyway. Rust. It had to be that Loki could somehow cause oxidization reactions. He only remembered redox reactions because his first take had been to wonder if school lessons had finally wandered into the fascinating realm of mythology, and whether he could explain it had actually been a red bull…
He recalled, vaguely, being told that rusting was exothermic. So what caused rust? Salty water, obviously. Heat? He’d attended an archaeological seminar on some Greenland dig once, by accidentally wandering into the wrong room and then being too embarrassed to leave. They’d said something about the rates of corrosion. But that could also have been because of the cold causing dryness.
It didn’t matter too much, though. Loki’s “binding” could rust because it would be the sort of iron that the Norse had had—not precisely stainless. But it would take time. And time was not on his side, unless he could somehow think of a way of making it pass a lot faster for the iron than it did for him. That’d be some magic trick!
And that had to be the answer, he suddenly realized. He’d learned to command Pan’s sprites. He learned to deal with the magic of the Egyptians—where belief had bound magic to words and names. Even their gods could be compelled. The Norse, like the Greeks, had had a troll or a dwarf or a giant anthropomorphism for everything from the sea to thunderstorms. Their magic was definitely at least partly symbolic—hence the guts of Narfi binding Loki. And there were chants, and appealing to the gods, if he remembered right.
So all he had to do was learn some Norse magic. Free Loki. Find Liz. Stop Ragnarok. Help Sigyn get her revenge on the lords of Æsir. Defeat the Krim, and get home.