PYRAMID POWER – snippet 26:
“Yes, you do have to wear a mailshirt,” said Jörmungand firmly. “All the Valkyries do.”
Liz held the offending garment at arm’s length. “You realize that if it was going to do any good, there is no way I could hold this out like this? It’s too light.”
“I could bite through it like fine vellum,” said Fenrir, licking his lips. “But I think it is for the look of the thing. No one expects Valkyries to actually fight.”
“Even for the look of things,” insisted Liz, “this is designed for someone with smaller shoulders. And a smaller bra-size. It’s metal and it doesn’t stretch.”
“I’ll see what I can do to the side-straps,” said Lamont in a subdued voice. “Not much I can do about the chest part, though. Is there no way you can fit into it?”
Liz looked at his face and nodded. “I was just complaining for the sake of it, Lamont. It’ll be a bit of a squeeze but I’ll manage. But you might need tin-snips and pliers to get me out of it again.”
Lamont managed a slight smile. “Maybe a can-opener.”
“There is one in my bag. I don’t like leaving that behind.”
“Hit them with the sword instead,” said Emmitt.
Liz felt the Norse sword at her side. “It doesn’t weigh as much. Besides I don’t know too much about fencing. I thought it was something you had around the game-paddocks until I was about twenty-five.”
“Hit them with the sharp bit,” advised Fenrir, his tongue lolling as he stretched in front of the fire. “Does anyone else feel that it is much colder tonight?”
“Not compared to Geirrodur’s castle.”
“Maybe so, but it is cold for Asaheim. Maybe Fimbulwinter comes at last.” There was a look of bloody joy in his eyes.
Liz had felt no guilt about helping herself to Sif’s wardrobe. She did feel uncomfortable about taking a horse from Thor’s stable without his permission. There was only one. It was a gentle looking chestnut, about fifteen hands high, with a long mane and tail. It turned an enquiring head towards them as they entered.
“Thrúd’s,” said Lodin. “She’s used to a woman’s touch.” The stable thrall looked warily at Liz. “Not… that Thrúd was too good at being ladylike. You can ride, Lady?”
Liz nodded. “So long is it isn’t side-saddle. Even that I did once or twice.”
So, a few minutes later, Liz was trotting across Asaheim in the dusk over the low ridge to Vallhöll. She had strict instructions from Lodin about Thrúd’s mare. The stable-thralls at Odin’s hall would care for her, especially if she dropped a word or two in the right ear. She wondered how you got to be thrall in the afterlife. It didn’t seem like much to look forward to, really. An eternity of forking dung. If that was your reward in paradise… life on earth must have been pretty grim. Mind you, you had only to look at the special offers from most religions—a cloud, a set of wings and a harp, or seventy white raisins with transparent flesh—to understand why preaching hellfire as an alternative was so attractive.
When she reached Vallhöll, the noise coming from within told her the party had already got to the hitting-each-other-is-fun stage. Wonderful.
She stabled the mare, said appropriate things to a certain bald stable hand, as per her instructions, took a deep breath and headed for the nearest door and the mayhem.
The rock-hewed tunnels under Vallhöll were steep. At least you knew when you were going uphill towards daylight. That was the only direction they could be sure of. The tunnels were dark and, worse, branched. Jerry was beginning to wonder if they’d ever find a way out.
“We need a light,” said Sigyn. “We could wander forever in the dark.”
She said that without much thought, but it provided a spark of inspiration. Or just a spark… on the end of a piece of rock, which became a flame. “We’ve been fading away in that pit for far too long. I should have thought of this ages ago,” said Loki, his teeth gleaming in the darkness.
It made it easier going, but it took a while before it occurred to Jerry to ask Loki if he could smell like a blood-hound if he turned into one?
Loki nodded. And laughed. “Now, would you be implying that the bouquet of even a dog would be better than mine?”
Jerry shrugged, grinning back. “There is a certain in-scent-ive to that aspect too. But I must admit it was getting out of here, that was my first thought.”
“You shouldn’t have even hinted at the idea of getting clean,” said Sigyn, longingly. “The first century was the worst, though.”
“After that our noses went numb,” said Loki. “You get used to pretty nearly anything. It will mean darkness again, but Jerry’s idea is a good one. Stand beside me. And then, when I change, keep a hand on my back, both of you.”
So they did. Loki was a fairly tall dog, fortunately. He led them back and down—the direction they’d been avoiding—and then up again. At last Jerry could hear the distant sounds of a huge, very raucous party. And there was a torch burning in a wall-sconce.
Loki transformed into himself again. “Good thinking, Jerry. Except I kept wanting to lift a leg. Now, I will go and scout ahead. The trouble is that even transformed, the Ás would recognize me.”
“It’s the eyes. Something about them does not change. They remain the true Loki,” said Sigyn. “Go then. But go carefully.”
A large buzzing gadfly went.
He came back a little later. “It’s early yet. If we can wait until they reach the fall-down drunk stage we can pass through the hall with a bit more ease. Follow me. We need to slip through the sculleries, and up a little stair. I have found us a perfect spot to watch and wait.”
He had indeed. It was a little gallery, plainly intended for musicians. They could watch the whole debauch within the vast hall with ease.
“Odin’s not there,” said Loki. “But there is Heimdall-goldteeth. And there is Magni. Thor’s son. They’re likely to recognize me.”
“Heimdall is not likely to ever forget you,” said Sigyn, dryly. “And let’s hope that he doesn’t try that hundred mile vision of his.”
“I thought he was out keeping a watch for giants,” said Jerry.
“Well, yes, but not at night,” said Loki. “So it must be after nightfall. Good. I thought so by the drinking, but it is hard to tell. Now all we need is a little more drinking and a good distraction. A big fight. There is always one. Then we’ll be out of here before they drink the minni-toast. I’d like to be gone before Skadi finds out she was tricked, and before Odin starts looking for us.”
That made every kind of sense to Jerry, although he wasn’t sure what a “minni-toast” was. He was willing to bet it wasn’t a small piece of lightly carbonized bread, or a drink to the health of Mickey’s bride. But he had something of the measure of Loki now. “And then?” he asked.
Loki chuckled. “You think far too far ahead. Next thing you’ll be asking me if I have thought of the consequences.”
Sigyn shook her head. “We’re not that ignorant about you! But what are we going to do? We need to get out of the gates of Asgard. Once we have reached Jotunheim or even Midgard, they will not take us with ease. So how are we going to get out of Asgard?”
“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” said Loki, cheerfully.
“That’s what we’d like you to try,” said Jerry dryly. “If it is not beyond you.”
“Of course I can, but it is so dull…” said Loki. He caught the look they were both giving him. “Oh very well. We need to get to either to Thor’s or Frey’s homes. Thor has those vile goats and a chariot. Frey has his boar Gullinborsti and his chariot. I could fly over the walls to Midgard, but we’ll need fast transport to get you two away. There’ll be hue and cry of course, but I thought I could do my act as a gad-fly and bite Heimdall. Or if we hit the gates early, he might not be there yet. The child of nine mothers is dipping very deep.”
Loki pointed to where Heimdall was half slumped over a table with a Valkyrie on his lap trying to get his head up to pour more mead down his throat. With shock Jerry realized that he recognized that face. His first reaction was of intense relief. Liz was still alive! His next reaction was of fairly violent jealousy. As a rational and serious academic Jerry hadn’t even known he could feel like that.