PYRAMID POWER – snippet 25:
“Marie’s missing,” said Lamont worriedly, as soon as Liz and Jörmungand returned. “So are Sif and that bum Thjalfi. I think they kidnapped her. And Thor’s useless. He got into the booze again. Got drunk faster than you can believe.”
Liz took a deep breath. “If they did kidnap her, there’s only one place she can have been taken, Lamont. Vallhöll.”
Lamont’s eyes narrowed. “That’s what I figure, too. I’m going to have to ask you to look after the kids, Liz.”
“Don’t be stupid, Lamont.”
“She’s my wife, Liz. She’s my… she’s…”
“I know. It is kind of obvious. And she’s great. But she wouldn’t thank you—or me—if I let you get killed. She’s living on borrowed time, Lamont.”
“That’s why I’ve got to get to her.”
Liz shook her head. “I know that makes it even more precious. But it also means you’ve got to stay alive. For your children.” She made a face. “It’s not that I’m unwilling, but, well, I’ve all the parenting skills of a shopping mall.”
Lamont clenched his fists. “I can’t just leave her. I can’t just do nothing. I can’t. Marie…”
“I know,” said Liz. “So I’ll go, instead.”
Lamont blinked. “You?”
She shrugged. “For a recce anyway. Look, you stick out in this place… like a bar of Ivory soap in a coal-scuttle.”
Lamont managed a crooked smile. “More like the other way around, but I take your point.”
Liz patted her chest. “For once being built like milkmaid and having… uh, blond hair does make me look like a local. My ancestors were mostly Dutch, which is just a bit closer to Norse than yours. And I gather there are these Valkyries wandering around. So I’ll just go and wander. By the sounds of it they’re all half-smashed on this local brew anyway. Let me go and see what I can find out. I was planning to go anyway, and I might find that they’ve put her in with Jerry. We’ll send Lodin to the stables again. A two-pronged attack. In the meanwhile you can get Thor sobered up and get ready for whatever action we have to take.”
“If we can take action.” Something about the way he said it suggested that he was preparing himself for it to be too late, and was already thinking of pay-back. And that you didn’t want to be the guy on the receiving end.
Liz put a hand on Lamont’s arm. “If they just wanted to kill her, they could have done it here. And you looked for signs of a struggle, didn’t you?”
Lamont nodded. “Nothing obvious, anyway. I’m not exactly a forensics team, Liz. But, well, this Valhöll doesn’t sound like a healthy place for a woman to go ‘wandering,’ as you put it.”
“I can take care of myself. I used to work on fishing-trawlers, Lamont, not in a seminary for refined young ladies from genteel homes. There are several guys walking around at home who have three Adam’s apples and lovely soprano voices.”
“What?” He looked puzzled.
“Guys who used to have baritone voices, one Adam’s apple and two balls,” said Liz, cheerfully. “Now, I think I need a suitable outfit. And helping myself to that woman’s best clothing has appeal, especially if I can wreck it before I get back. You go and locate Lodin while I dress. And keep an eye out for the children. If they want hostages, those are the best.”
“I suppose I’d better take the kids with me everywhere I go,” said Lamont in sudden fear. “I can’t ask those waste-of-breath agent types to do it.”
“Bring them to me,” said Jörmungand, “And I’ll get Fenrir. There aren’t any Ás around except Thor who would take me and my brother on. I’ll keep an eye on them.” As an afterthought she said: “And I won’t let Fenrir eat any of them either.”
Marie felt as weak as cat. Had the cancer suddenly taken some kind of giant leap forward? The last she remembered was the potent smell of distilled liquor, and yelling at Thor. Too late. He was already far gone, damn the bitch. And then that thing being stuck into her…
Opening her eyes, Marie saw the bitch in person looking down on her. Her arm was linked with the old guy with a missing eye.
“I knew she was no good,” muttered Marie, a muzzy determination in her mind to take at least one swing at Thor’s wife, somehow. She’d backed down from pretty damn little before she knew she had the cancer. There were times when it wasn’t worth your job or the other sort of trouble. She had a good man and family to look after. Since the diagnosis, she’d decided that she would back down for nothing. Not ever again.
The one eyed man viewed her wild swing dispassionately. She’d come nowhere near the golden-haired blond, but it hadn’t stopped Sif from backing away.
“A warrior-woman,” said the one-eyed one.
“Thor says that she is more powerful than he is, Odin,” said Sif, warily.
“Perhaps in determination,” mused Odin, as Marie tried to get up from where she’d fallen.
“She stopped Thor from drinking, Odin. That’s why I had to get her out of there. I have managed to get him full of the drink again with Thjalfi’s help. But she’d gotten him to stop earlier, and she’d do it again. That has to be some kind of magic.”
“Nonetheless, she’s a human, even if she’s colored wrong. Not one of the ones that thwarted… the other before. I can detect no signs of godlike power. She is no danger. Her death and pain can merely strengthen this Ur-world. I will use her in one of the myth recreations.”
“I thought we might want her as a hostage,” said Sif doubtfully.
Odin tugged his beard. “We can do both.” He picked up a long thorn, that Marie now remembered Sif stabbing her with. “The thorn of sleep. Let her lie, without breath, but without death, inside the ring of flames. I seem to have lost Brynhild.”
He pushed the thorn into her, and the place whirled into oblivion again. The last thing Marie heard was him saying as if from some incredible distance:
“Valkyries. Bear her to within the hall I have prepared on the mountaintop, inside the wall of flames. And see she gets a mailshirt.”
Thrúd walked out to go and fetch a mailshirt. It seemed impossible that her own mother had not recognized her, even in these thrall-rags and a hood. But then she’d hardly recognized herself in them, in the sword-blade mirror.
She was incredibly pleased to have an excuse to get out the room. How disgusting could Sif get? Odin! He was sort of her grandfather! It was sick enough when the old lecher had tried to feel her up. But Sif was all over him, just as Modi had said! And by the sounds of it, the black-elf woman had managed to stop Papa-Thor drinking. So Sif went and kidnapped her!
Thrúd ground her teeth. She’d find out exactly which flame-mount the Valkyries were going to transport this black-elf to and then get back to Bilskríner to see how Papa-Thor was doing. She swallowed. He was such a big idiot. He’d never believe Sif was doing anything wrong.
Who could she turn to for help? This black-elf? Getting her free would be quite some task. She was paler skinned than the black elves that Thrúd had met in her travels through Nifelheim. And they had had straight, greasy black hair, rather like that know-it-all, Alvis, nothing at all like hers.
Thank all the gods for Loki! Uncle Fox would have been her first choice, if Odin hadn’t chained him away somewhere. Sif hadn’t liked Loki, which, after he’d shaved her hair off was hardly surprising.
Thrúd ground her teeth again. It might just have made him the ideal ally.