PYRAMID POWER – snippet 18
“Magic has bound him. Magic has to be the way to free him,” said Jerry. “And as you two can’t do it, it does depend on me. Magic isn’t exactly my field of expertise. I was looking for some advice.”
“And there I thought you were a gifted practitioner of Seid,” said Loki, mockingly.
“Shut up, Loki,” said Sigyn, with the amiability of a wife who has said this very often. “The mortal comes from another place and time. He is ignorant of many things. He probably doesn’t even know what Seid is.”
“Um. No. Actually, I don’t.”
“Don’t you dare say ‘I told you so’, Sigi,” said Loki, ruefully. “Seid, Jerry, is a magical art practiced by Odin, and by women, because it would be a dishonorable thing for men.”
Jerry raised an eyebrow. “But okay for Odin?”
“Well,” said Loki. “He is the oathbreaker. Maybe he feels no need of such honor.”
If Jerry had it right that was an insult of rare order for one of the Norse.
“Maybe he’s just a bearded lady,” said Jerry lightly.
He sat down rapidly. He had to. Loki was making the floor shake with his laughter. Sigyn was laughing too, so much so that she was actually crying.
Jerry tried to work this one out. Someone had once said to him that the Norse had been a homophobic culture, and argued that was what accounted for the disdain in which Loki was held for his various cross-sexual shape changes. He’d been the mare that had lured the giant builder’s stallion away, causing the giant to lose his deal on the building of Asgard’s giant-proof walls. The result was Odin’s eight legged horse.
That was a less than clinching argument, Jerry thought, given that Odin still seemed pretty keen on the horse. But one thing was certain: Women were second-class citizens in the honor stakes—hence allowed to use this “Seid”—and honor was everything in this social milieu. The image of the master of Asgard as a bearded lady obviously had appeal.
“If only I had thought of that when I gave the Æsir their flyting,” said Loki. “I mocked them well, but that’s a rich insult. For that and that alone I would give you what help I can. But not with Seid. There are other arts.”
Jerry looked at the tear on the cheek of Sigyn—and began to put it all together.
“No! Thor did that once and his head caught fire,” said Loki mischievously.
“I thought you were going to help me?” said Jerry, head askance. You got the feeling that once Loki got into this frame of mind he would only stop… too late. Best stop him before he started.
“Ah. A point,” admitted Loki, readily… too easily, contrite. “What help can I be?”
Jerry turned to Sigyn. “Lady Sigyn. Would you give me some of your tears?”
She blinked, and touched her cheek. “You are less ignorant of magical things than you would have us think, Jerry.”
The secondary symbolism of tears, especially tears of laughter, liberating things, had not occurred to Jerry until that moment. He’d actually been thinking of salty water. And rust. But Norse mythology and poetry was full of multiple symbolism, so their magic was bound to be also
Jerry collected some of Sigyn’s tears onto a quarter he found in his pocket. It wasn’t a lot of liquid, but it would have to do—since the only other possible container was being used to catch snake-venom.
He wanted all the elements of rapid oxidation: salty water, heat, and rust itself. He felt around for the thongs that had tied him. Symbolic again, if he could get them to burn again by sticking them in the fire.
Rust… well, rust would just have to be rust. Ideally it should have come from a broken shackle, but rust would affect everything. He’d just paint it in that shape. And the Futhark…
The runes had each had meanings, evolving much as hieroglyphics had into hieratic script. “I need the runes for water and time—or days. And chants. You can tell me who to appeal to.”
“A good sorcerer in the making,” said Loki. “Vidólf was the mother of all witches, Svarthöfdi the father of sorcerers. And Sigyn will show you Dagaz and Laguz, the runes for water and days.”
She scratched them out.
“This one is ‘day.’ And this one is ‘water’.”
“Years?” asked Jerry.
She showed him another, and then added a fourth. “And this one is ‘Ansuz,’ which could be useful too.”
She said the last with an absolutely straight face. Even Jerry, normally oblivious to hints, could catch an elephant like that. He began to draw the runes, scratched into the rust on the iron bonds. A great many years. And fair amount of water, drawn with tear-wetness, and, using the burned ends of the thong, the symbol Ansuz. He hoped that it would give him some, and that he wasn’t just being stupid. But Loki’s silence was telling. The mischief-god was the original motormouth. He was so quiet it was hard to tell if he was even breathing. And both he and Sigyn were staring with a fierce intensity at Jerry.
Jerry just hoped his that hair wouldn’t catch fire before it was all done. To judge by the sagas, the spells would be in verse. Probably sung…
Well, he’d better pass on that part. His singing was good—if compared to Liz’s. She sang in the bath. Fortunately, he’d never really liked the tiles in that room anyway.
“Svarhöfdi, spell master,
Dagaz passing ever faster,
Make us Vidolf wise,
reduce and oxidize
Laguz, tears sweet and salt
mix with iron, mend the fault
Blood tie broken be by water
liberation from the child’s slaughter.
Rust consume, heat, eat and devour
Iron bonds as if the second was an hour
turn pure metal to our side
Make of it an iron oxide
It was lousy poetry, but not too bad for the spur of the moment.
He took the little pocket diary, which was now thicker than it used to be since vellum was thicker than paper, and was inscribed with runes. He used his thumb to flick the pages over—a symbolic passage of days. The smoldering thong burst into flames, and somehow water dripped from the runes he’d painted.
The iron that bound Loki flaked red. And flaked again. And burst with erupting splinters of rust.
Loki sat up suddenly with a small crow of delight, his bonds falling into red dust. “Free! Free at last. Let Asgard quake!”
Now his eyes blazed with a truly inhuman glee, which, as he definitely wasn’t human, was as it should be. It was also rather alarming, when you were stuck in a hole with him that wasn’t more than twenty by twenty feet wide.
Sure enough, his first act showed that even by accident Loki’s thoughtlessness was a danger to himself and everyone else. He hugged Sigyn—and nearly upset the bowl of venom over the two of them.
“Careful!” Sigyn shrieked, trying to hold the slopping bowl away from the two of them and nearly dousing Jerry instead.
Loki backed off, and then ducked because the snake spat at his face. The serpent, heretofore almost dormant except for the dripping venom, was coming to life. Loki tripped over the slabs he’d been bound to, and fell flat on his back.
“He hasn’t changed much,” said Sigyn, smiling broadly.