PYRAMID POWER — snippet 36

 

PYRAMID POWER – snippet 36:

 

 

Chapter 23

 

 

            Liz might have guessed that Lamont’s plans would involve a serious shortage of rest. He had her and Thrúd making caltrops. At least in myth-Greece they’d kept him away from a workshop.

 

            After a while Liz curiosity got the better of her. She asked Thrúd what all this stuff about Baldr was about.

 

            “I was… involved with Baldr.” She sighed. “I was still quite young. We Æsir do not age as you mortals do. And Baldr was even more handsome than Loki was before Skadi’s snakes. But Baldr was married to Nanna. And Papa-Thor and Uncle Fox were like two old mother-hens about me. From what I can work out Loki went to Odin to get Baldr to back off, before Papa-Thor found out. I was still quite young. The mistletoe… well, it grows on the oaks. Odin’s grove-trees. Baldr was protected against harm from anything else. Papa-Thor would have fought Baldr. Thor could not win, so Loki dealt with him. I don’t know if he meant to kill him. He doesn’t always think of consequences.”

 

            Liz thought that was the understatement of the generation. “But what did all of this have to do with Odin?”

 

            “He is Baldr’s father. And Baldr is foretold to rule of the Æsir after him. What Loki is saying is… horrible. He is saying Odin plotted for Baldr’s death so that there would be no challenge to his rule.”

 

            Liz gaped. “His son?”

 

            “One of them,” said Thrúd. “And no, I’m not still in love with him, whatever Loki thinks. Baldr broke it off just before he was killed. I… I was glad he got killed. He used me. I was just another bit of fun, and a way of getting at Papa-Thor. He taunted me with that,” she said, colors flying in her cheeks.

 

            Mocking Thor’s daughter was probably a seriously bad idea.

 

            They worked on while Loki and Lamont competed in ingenuity and puns. Liz had to be glad of it. It might keep him from thinking too much about Marie.

 

****

 

            “The big problem,” said Loki, “is Jörmungand. She’s not very fast on land, and her wings are too small for her to fly with. I can transform myself, and her. It’s not easy, but I can do it. I transformed Idun into a nut once.” He grinned. “Mind you. I am not sure that she got better. Of course if we get Jörmungand into the water there is no catching her. Fenrir can outrun even the arrows of Ull.”

 

            “We need to attach some armor on this cart,” said Lamont, “that’s not going to weigh it down too much.”

 

            “Don’t let Thor hear you call it a cart, for Hel’s sake. He’s terribly proud of his title Öku-Thor—charioteer-Thor.”

 

            Lamont shrugged. “Call it whatever you like, it could use some improvement. Leaf springs for starters, and a better way of attaching the goats.”

 

            Loki laughed. “He’s a traditionalist, is our Thor. And spring is the time of leaves, yes, and they would hide us, but this is Fimbulwinter. It will be snowing before morning. Asgard is unused to snow.”

 

            “Snow…” mused Lamont. “Chariots don’t do too well in deep soft snow, do they?”

 

            “Depends on how deep,” said Loki. “It was clear out when we rode over, but the snow is coming. There are long watches to the night.”

 

            “That’s going to make tracking horses tricky. And Marie… will she be all right?”

 

            “She lies behind an eternal wall of flames. She will be warmer than we are.”

 

            “She’s not well,” said Lamont, biting his lip. “I need to get back to her.”

 

            “All the more reason to get out into Midgard, snow or no snow,” said Loki.

 

            Lamont’s eyes narrowed. “I’m going to have a look.”

 

            It might have been clear when Liz had come back from Vallhöll, but now it was as black as the inside of a cat out there, and snow was falling as if it had a deadline to meet. It was a regular blizzard now. If it kept up like this it was going to be axle deep on the cart in no time. Lamont refused to call that thing a chariot. It was more like a two-wheeled farm-wagon. And the snow was soft and powdery. The goats would almost have to swim through it. What they needed was a skidoo… He might as well wish for a ski-plane.

 

            And into his fertile mind an idea was thrust. The Midgard serpent’s tail was definitely a lot higher than it was wide. “Just how well will Jörmungand cope with that soft snow?” he asked Loki. “It won’t be quite swimming, but no one is going to walk on top of it for a while.”

 

            Loki shrugged. “Let’s ask her.”

 

            Jörmungand went out and showed them. A patch of the floors of Bilskríner were never going to be quite the same again, but Lamont had the design for a giant mythological skidoo. All they needed was a broad sled, with one wide skid with a high but gently sloping prow. Jörmungand could put her head and a little of her upper torso on that, along with them. A hundred and fifty feet of tail could push the skid along.

 

            Now all he needed was to construct it before morning. Fortunately, there was a half-built boat in Thor’s work-room. It had plainly been abandoned long ago, when the bow had been completed and the rest still needed to be clinker clad.

 

            Thor was easy about the idea of them using it. “A snow dragon-ship! I like that idea. I’m never going to finish the ship anyway. And the timbers are old already.”

 

            Jörmungand liked it too. “I tend to dig in to drifts,” she said. “This should stop that.”

 

            At length they were ready, and Lamont went to have another look outside. It was still snowing, but less heavily. The snow was lying nearly four feet deep. There was also a hint of sullen daylight. They’d been at the preparations for longer than they’d realized. He sighed. Well, he’d better wake the children. Emmitt had passed out quietly in a corner a few hours back. Thor had carried him to sleep with the others. Red-beard liked that boy.

 

            When he went through to the room where the straw pallets and goose-down covers had been laid, Lamont realized two things. Firstly he was very tired. Secondly he had real problems because Tolly and Ty were not in their beds. Just as he was setting out full of panic, the two came in.

 

            “There is snow! I had never seen snow until I came to this place. And there is so much of it!” said Tolly excitedly.

 

            “We found this belt thing, Pa,” said Ty, hefting a broad gold and leather belt. “It’s pretty cool, hey.” He held it against his waist and grabbed his father’s arm… and pulled Lamont off his feet.

 

            “I think Thor is looking for that,” said Lamont in a controlled voice. “And now do you think you could put me down? That’s his belt of strength.”

 

            Thor was delighted. “Where did you find it?”

 

            “I’ll show you,” said Ty.

 

            They followed the boy to a room on the back of the huge hall.

 

            “Thjalfi’s lair,” said Thor. Already, with the great belt—it looked like a championship prizefighter’s belt—he looked less like a has been and more like Thor, god of thunder.

 

            The room yielded quite a trove. There were the iron gauntlets, and an iron rod. “He told me I’d lost them!” said Thor, incensed.

 

            There was also something that meant nothing to Thor and a great deal to Lamont.

 

            A still. A home-made copper still.

 

            Which went a long way to explain Thor’s “medicine,” and where it had come from. There were still several skins of the stuff, which Lamont looted. It might come in useful, even if he had to keep it a long way from Thor.

 

            They went back to the room where Ella was still fast asleep. And smiling in her sleep. Lamont hated to wake her, poor child. She wasn’t used to coping with a world that didn’t have her twin in it. He didn’t want that smile to go. Maybe cuddling that wolf had done it. It had been damn funny how the wolf had taken to her. He’d be embarrassed if he thought they’d noticed it, but as long as no one was looking…

 

            Well, Liz said wolves were a highly social species. And there were those Mowgli stories. Giving Ty to the wolf to raise was not an unattractive thought! Although the wolf probably wouldn’t think so. But it definitely allowed Ella more liberties than anyone else.

 

            She opened her eyes. “Daddy, Tina’s been flying in a big jet-plane. Huge. Big enough for the dragons to lie stretched out!”

 

            She started giggling. “And the dragons ate too much while they were flying and then they wouldn’t fit out. They got stuck in the door because they both tried to get out together. And Cruz said some rude things…”

 

            “What?”

 

            “They’ve gone to Washington, D.C. Will you take me sometime, Daddy? It’s not fair that Tina gets to go on her own.”

 

            “Uh.” Lamont really didn’t know how to deal with this. But at least she was smiling. Part of the way back to the talkative girl-child she’d been. He picked her up and hugged her. “Liz and Thrúd are organizing some food. And as I know Liz’s cooking skills, I think we’d better go and see that we get something edible.” he said. She was her mother’s daughter. And at least he had her.

 

            “Is there any news about mom?” Ella’s worries and fear came back with a sudden rush and she clung to him.

 

            “The news is not too bad,” he said. “She’s a prisoner, but she’s okay. We’ll free her soon. Come. Got some new people for you to meet, that are going to help us.”

 

            Thrúd plainly did not have the culinary deficiencies that Liz did, because the oatmeal was edible. So was the smoked salmon and the rye bread, and the gammon. Looking at the size of that side of salmon, Lamont felt like going fishing for the first time since they’d found out about Marie’s illness. But since his luck had deserted him on other things, it probably wouldn’t allow him to catch fish any more either. That was too bad. He’d really enjoyed catching fish. He’d never caught a thing before Tyche, the Greek goddess of luck, had blessed him, despite a fair amount of trying. The novelty had been nearly as nice as catching the fish. Besides, it stopped you thinking about other problems. If they ever got out of this mess… well, even trying might provide him with some solace.

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
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