The Hammer of Thor

Page 11

felt comfortingly warm against my collarbone, as though Jack were trying to reassure me. Or maybe he was just in a good mood after an enjoyable date with a fine spear. Either way, I was glad to have him back.

I got the feeling I wouldn’t be using a practice sword for the next five days. Things were about to get Jack-worthy.

The Most Awkward Viking Luau Ever

AS IF DRAGON Thursday wasn’t bad enough, it was also theme night in the feast hall: Hawaiian luau.


I understood that the management needed to keep things interesting, especially for warriors who had been waiting here for Doomsday since the Middle Ages. Still, the luau seemed a little cultural appropriation-y to me. (Vikings were notorious for appropriating from other cultures. Also for pillaging and burning said cultures.) Besides, seeing thousands of einherjar in Hawaiian shirts and flower leis was like getting a neon-paint grenade between the eyes.

The feast hall was packed right up to the nosebleed section—hundreds of tables arranged like stadium seating, all facing the central court, where a tree as big as the Prudential Center spread its branches across the vast domed roof. Near its roots, turning on a spit above the fire pit, was our usual dinner: the carcass of Saehrimnir the feast beast, who tonight wore a lovely necklace of orchids. Stuffed in his mouth was a pineapple the size of Wisconsin.

Valkyries flew back and forth across the hall, filling pitchers, serving food, and somehow managing to avoid setting their grass skirts on fire in the tiki torches that flickered along the aisles.

“Magnus!” T.J. called, waving me over. His rifle was propped next to him, the broken stock patched up with duct tape.

We didn’t have assigned tables. That would’ve cut down on the fun of fighting each other for the best seats. Tonight, my hallmates had scored a great location on the third tier, a few rows from the thanes’ table.

“There’s our sleepy boy!” Halfborn grinned, his teeth flecked with roasted Saehrimnir. “Alicarl, my friend!”

Mallory elbowed him. “It’s aloha, moron.” She rolled her eyes at me. “Alicarl is Norse for fatso, as Halfborn knows perfectly well.”

“Close enough!” Halfborn pounded his goblet to get the Valkyries’ attention. “Some mead and meat for my friend!”

I took a seat between Mallory and T.J. Soon I had a cold mug of mead and a hot plate of Saehrimnir with biscuits and gravy. Despite all the craziness I’d gone through today, I had a huge appetite—getting resurrected always did that to me. I dug in.

Sitting at the thanes’ table was the usual assortment of famous dead people. I recognized Jim Bowie, Crispus Attucks, and Ernie Pyle, all of whom had died bravely in combat, along with Helgi, the hotel manager, and some other ancient Viking dudes. The central throne for Odin was empty, as usual. Sam supposedly received orders from the All-Father once in a while, but Odin hadn’t appeared in person since the end of our quest back in January. Probably he was working on his next book—Five Days to Your Best Ragnarok Ever!—and the accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

To the left of the thanes was the table of honor. Tonight, it was occupied by only two people: Alex Fierro and her Valkyrie sponsor, Samirah al-Abbas. This meant that, in all the Nine Worlds, in the last twenty-four hours, only Alex had died a death worthy of Valhalla.

That wasn’t necessarily unusual. The nightly numbers ranged from zero to twelve. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that nobody else had died bravely today merely because they didn’t want to share a table with Alex. Two Valkyrie guards stood behind her as if ready to prevent an escape attempt.

Sam’s body language looked pretty stiff. I was too far away to hear, but I imagined her conversation with Alex was something like:

Sam: Awkward.

Alex: Awkward, awkward.

Sam (nodding): Awkward, awkward, awkward.

Next to me, T.J. pushed away his empty plate. “Some combat today. I’ve never seen anyone do that”—he drew a line across his neck—“so quick and cold.”

I resisted the urge to touch my throat. “First time I’ve been decapitated.”

“Not fun, is it?” Mallory said. “What was going on with you, steaming and threatening to explode like that?”

I’d known my hallmates a while now. I trusted them like family—and I mean like Annabeth family, not Uncle Randolph family. I told them everything: Loki in his ghastly green tuxedo inviting me to a wedding; the dreams about my uncle, Hearth and Blitz, and the giant siblings in the bar.

“Thrym?” Halfborn Gunderson picked some biscuit out of his beard. “I know that name from the old legends. He was one of the earth giant kings, but it couldn’t be the same guy. That Thrym was killed good and proper centuries ago.”

I thought about Otis the goat, who could supposedly re-form from the mist of Ginnungagap. “Giants don’t, like, resurrect?”

Halfborn scoffed. “Not that I’ve ever heard of. Probably this is another Thrym. It’s a common name. Still, if he has Thor’s hammer—”

“We should probably not spread the news that it’s missing,” I said.

“Too right,” Mallory grumbled. “You say this giant plans on marrying…” Her finger drifted in the direction of Samirah. “Does Sam know about this scheme?”

“I need to ask her,” I said. “Either way, we’ve got five days. Then, if this giant Thrym doesn’t get his bride—”

“He jumps on the telegraph,” T.J. said, “and he tells all the other giants that he’s got Thor’s hammer. Then they invade Midgard.”

I decided not to remind T.J. that no one used telegraphs anymore.

Halfborn picked up his steak knife and started cleaning his teeth. “Don’t understand why this Thrym fellow waited so long. If he’s had the hammer for months, why aren’t we already under attack?”

I didn’t have an answer, but I imagined it had something to do with Loki. As always, he would be whispering in people’s ears, manipulating events from behind the scenes. Whatever Loki wanted from this weird marriage transaction, I was sure of one thing: he wasn’t trying to get Thor’s hammer back just because he was a swell guy.

I stared across the hall at Alex Fierro. I remembered what she had said on the battlefield when we faced Grimwolf: He sent it for me. He knows I’m here.

Mallory nudged me. “You’re thinking the same thing, eh? Can’t be a coincidence that Alex Fierro arrived in the midst of all this. You think Loki sent her?”

I felt like the bathtub goldfish was wriggling its way back down my throat. “How could Loki arrange for someone to become an einherji?”

“Oh, my friend…” T.J. shook his head. The combination of his floral-patterned Hawaiian shirt with his Union Army jacket made him look like a detective from Hawaii Five-0: 1862. “How could Loki release an elder lindworm into Valhalla? How could he help Johnny Reb win the First Battle of Bull Run?”

“Loki did what?”

“My point is, Loki can do many things,” T.J. said. “Don’t ever underestimate him.”

It was good advice. Still…staring at Alex Fierro, I had trouble believing she was a spy. Terrifying and dangerous, yes. A pain in the loincloth, sure. But working for her father?

“Wouldn’t Loki pick somebody who…blended in a little more?” I asked. “Besides, when Loki was in my head, he told me not to bring Alex to this wedding. He said she would ruin everything.”

“Reverse psychology,” Halfborn suggested, still working the knife between his teeth.

Mallory snorted. “What do you know about psychology, you oaf?”

“Or reverse reverse reverse psychology!” Halfborn wriggled his bushy eyebrows. “That Loki is a tricky one.”

Mallory threw a baked potato at him. “All I’m saying is that Alex Fierro bears watching. After she killed the lindworm—”

“With a little help from me,” T.J. added.

“—she disappeared into the woods. She left T.J. and me to fend for ourselves. Then the rest of the dragons descended on us out of nowhere—”

“And killed us,” T.J. said. “Yes, that was a little odd….”

Halfborn grunted. “Fierro is a child of Loki, and an argr. You can’t trust an argr in combat.”

Mallory swatted his arm. “Your attitude is more offensive than your smell.”

“I find your offense offensive!” Halfborn protested. “Argrs aren’t warriors. That’s all I meant!”

“Okay, what is an argr?” I asked. “When you first said it, I thought it was a monster. Then I thought maybe it was another word for pirate, like one who arghs. Does it mean a transgender person or what?”

“Literally, it means unmanly,” Mallory said. “It’s a deadly insult among big loutish Vikings like this guy.” She poked Halfborn in the chest.

“Bah,” said Halfborn. “It’s only an offense if you call someone argr who isn’t argr. Gender-fluid people are hardly a new thing, Magnus. There were plenty of argr among the Norse. They serve their purposes. Some of the greatest priests and sorcerers were…” He made circles in the air with his steak knife. “You know.”

Mallory frowned at me. “My boyfriend is a Neanderthal.”

“Not at all!” Halfborn said. “I’m an enlightened modern man from the year 865 C.E. Now, if you talk to those einherjar from 700 C.E., well…they’re not as open-minded about such things.”

T.J. sipped his mead, his eyes fixed in the distance. “During the war, we had a scout from the Lenape tribe. Called himself—or herself—Mother William.”

“That’s an awful war name!” Halfborn complained. “Who would tremble in terror before someone called Mother William?”

T.J. shrugged. “I’ll admit most of us didn’t know what to make of him. His identity seemed to change day to day. He said he had two spirits in his body, one male and one female. But I’m telling you—great scout. Saved us from an ambush during the march through Georgia.”

I watched Alex eat her dinner, gingerly picking pieces of carrot and potato from her plate. It was hard to believe that a few hours ago those same delicate fingers had taken down a dragon—and cut off my head—with a wire.

Halfborn leaned toward me. “There’s no shame in being attracted, Magnus.”

I choked on a piece of feast beast. “What? No, I wasn’t—”

“Staring?” Halfborn grinned. “You know, Frey’s priests were very fluid. During the harvest festival, they used to wear dresses and do some amazing dances—”

“You’re messing with me,” I said.

“Nope.” Halfborn chuckled. “One time in Uppsala, I met this lovely—”

His story was cut short by the sound of horns echoing through the hall.

At the thanes’ table, Helgi rose. Since this morning, he’d repaired his suit jacket and clipped his beard, but he was now wearing an oversize war helmet—probably to hide the damage Alex Fierro had done to his dead-buzzard hairdo.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.