PYRAMID POWER – snippet 40:
“I think we have our spy,” said Liz.
Thrúd nodded. “That’s powerful magic that. What are those things?”
“Believe it or not, it is a sort of sweetmeat for children. I don’t think we know what we’re giving them sometimes. I wish I had a few more.”
Thrúd looked thoughtful. “Well, let us see if the raven returns. And then we can talk to Ran.”
“I’d just like to know what the other raven is up to,” said Liz. “I think we’d better go and tell the others about this, eh? Especially Loki and your father.”
Loki proved elusive, but they found Thor coming back from the sauna, looking glum.
“I need to get back from giantish parts,” he said. “The Jötun are laughing at me for not drinking. And water will kill me soon anyway. I want to die in Bilskríner.”
Liz absorbed the fact that he was perfectly serious. Well, Jerry had said as much about water in myth-Greece. “It’s time to introduce you to tisanes. And maybe you need to lift a few boulders in public or do something Thor-like to put off laughter.”
“It’s in his head,” said Thrúd. “The giants are all terrified of him. None of them would dare laugh. If anyone can give up drinking and not be laughed at, it’s him. So. Show us these ‘Tisanes.’ If Papa-Thor has to drink them, so will I. Will they protect you from the bloody flux?”
She turned to her father. “You may not realize this, but this woman is a powerful witch. She bespelled one of Odin’s ravens.”
“Oh? Thought or memory? Hugin or Munin?”
Thor nodded. “A pity it is isn’t Munin. Hugin’s prone to forget what he’s been sent to do if he spots something tasty and dead.”
“I can believe that. He has carrion-crow tastes,” said Liz. “Now, to make tisanes I need some herbs. Any chance of such things in your stash, Thrúd?”
They found some mint, and after an expedition, some boiling water, a small pot and some honey. The end result was fragrant, anyway.
Thor sniffed it doubtfully. then tasted it. “It’s not exactly Kvasir’s mead is it?” He took another cautious sip. “But you can drink it.”
“It’s a very sophisticated drink,” insisted Liz, hoping her amusement didn’t show.
“Sophisticated?” Thor looked as if it wasn’t a word that had been used in his presence too often.
Liz raised her nostrils at him in the way her pretentious mother cultivated so carefully. “Yes, you know, something that someone of refined culture and intellect would drink. Like you. Chugging ale and mead is all very well for the uncultured ones without any finer feelings. But this takes a true connoisseur.”
Thor looked warily at the clay bowl. “Oh.”
It was a little later in the day, just before sundown, that Loki accosted her. He had a very angry trussed raven under his arm.
“Liz, I just want to know why Thor is wandering around drinking that vile smelling stuff with a sort of constipated expression and his pinky-finger stuck out straight. He looked at me as if I’d crawled out of a piece of cheese when I asked him about it. He said I had no appreciation of the finer things in life. He said I should ask you about it.”
“I would have thought you of all people would have a grasp of the intrinsic philosophical Zeitgeist and angst that are symbolized by the delicate nuances in bouquet.”
Loki grinned crookedly. “Don’t let Sigi hear that rubbish or she’ll have me drinking it too.”
Liz grinned back. It was hard not to like Loki. “It was just a joke. But Thor took it seriously, and to be honest I think that it gives him an excuse to refuse drinks. I told him that alcohol dulls the palate. And it makes him feel good to think he’s got such refined tastes. Play along, will you?”
Loki’s shoulders shook. “Oh, certainly. But you do realize that Thor is still the greatest warrior of the Æsir? And that many fighters still look to him as a role model?”
Liz smiled. “Culture and an appreciation of the finer things didn’t exactly blunt the edge of the samurai. We’ll have to introduce him to a tea-ceremony next. Now what are you doing with that raven?”
“It’s one of Helblindi accursed spies,” said Loki, cheerfully. “I was thinking of baking it in a pie and sending it back to him.”
“Um. Which of the two is it? Hugin or Munin?” said Liz.
“Hugin, I think. All ravens look alike to me. It thought it was faster than Loki the wild cat.”
“Can we find out which one it is? I reached an agreement with Hugin. He was going to find out where Jerry was and what Odin was doing with him.”
“Ah,” said Loki. “Let’s untie the beak, then.”
“This is going to cost you at least two of those magic beans!” said Hugin, crossly.
“I’m sorry. It was a mistake,” apologized Liz.
Loki eyed her. “You speak raven. A woman of many hidden talents.”
“And some of them even useful,” said Liz dryly. Loki brought out the sarcasm in her. “You better untie him, Loki. If he has news, that is?”
Hugin looked affronted. “Of course!”
“Oh?” said Liz.
“Odin’s decided that he’ll use him in his quest for wisdom. He said he was damned if he would hang on the tree again or part with his remaining eye. Now where is my reward!”
“He’s going to hang Jerry?”
“We need to get moving then,” said Liz. “Or at least I do. A dead boyfriend is no earthly use to me. I’m not into necrophilia.”
Loki held up a calming hand. “You’re not the only one with spies, you know. Although,” he said, looking at the ecstatically shivering Hugin. “Mine does it for a love of gossip not for some kind perverse gastronomic reason. In one way we are too late.”
“Jerry already hangs from the world tree like rotting fruit.” Before Liz could fall over, Loki put an arm around her. “But he will survive. Odin did, and Ratatosk has seen to it that your Jerry will.”
“Ratatosk?” said Liz weakly.
“Drill-tooth. The squirrel who lives on the world tree carrying happy little spite-messages between the eagle that lives at the top of the tree and the Nídhögg serpent that gnaws at the bottom of the tree. A friend of mine.”
“This is a crazy screwed up universe,” said Liz, shaking her head. “Humans die if they get hanged, Loki. We’re not built the same as you.”