The Hammer of Thor

Page 65

excitement or fear. “Scandinavia? I’m pretty sure there are flights from Logan.”

Sam shook her head. “We’ll have to go by sea, Magnus. The way the Vikings came here. Just as you can only enter Alfheim through the air, we can only reach the wild borderlands of the Eastern Shores through salt water and ice.”

“Right,” I said. “Because nothing is ever easy.”

“No, it’s not.”

Her tone was distracted, wistful. It made me realize I was being kind of insensitive. Sam had a lot of other problems going on besides her evil father.

“How’s Amir?” I asked.

She actually smiled. In the wind, her hijab seemed to shape-shift from waves to grassy fields to smooth glass.

“He’s very good,” she said. “He accepts me. He doesn’t want to cancel our engagement. You were right, Magnus. He’s a lot stronger than I gave him credit for.”

“That’s great. What about your grandparents, and his dad?”

Samirah laughed drily. “Well, we can’t have everything. They remember nothing about Loki’s visits. They know that Amir and I have made up. For now, all is well. I’m back to making excuses about why I have to rush off in the middle of class or after school. I’m doing a lot of ‘tutoring.’” She put the word in air quotes.

I remembered how weary she’d looked when I met her here six days ago. If anything, she looked more tired now.

“Something’s got to give, Sam,” I told her. “You’re running yourself ragged.”

“I know.” She put her hand over the feather of thought. “I’ve promised Amir—once we recapture Loki, once I am sure that Ragnarok has been averted, at least for the present, then I’m done.”


“I’m retiring from the Valkyries. I’ll devote myself to college, completing my pilot’s training, and…marriage, of course. When I’m eighteen, as we’ve planned.”

She was blushing like…well, like a bride.

I tried to ignore the hollow feeling in my chest. “And that’s what you want?”

“It’s entirely my choice. Amir supports it.”

“Valkyries can resign?”

“Of course. It’s not like being…ah…”

An einherji, she meant. I was one of the reborn. I could travel the worlds. I had amazing strength and stamina. But I would never again be a normal human. I would stay as I was, the same age forever—or until Ragnarok, whichever came first. (Certain restrictions may apply. Read your service agreement for full details.)

“Magnus, I know I brought you into this weird afterlife,” she said. “It’s not fair of me to leave you, but—”

“Hey.” I touched her hand just briefly. I knew that wasn’t Sam’s thing, but she and my cousin Annabeth were the closest thing I would ever have to sisters. “Samirah, I just want you to be happy. And, you know, if we can keep the Nine Worlds from burning before you leave, that would be nice, too.”

She laughed. “All right, then, Magnus. It’s a deal. We’ll need a ship. We’ll need a lot of things, actually.”

“Yeah.” Salt and ice seemed to be making themselves at home in my throat already. I remembered our encounter in January with the sea goddess Ran—how she’d warned me that I would be in trouble if I ever tried to sail the seas again.

“First we need advice,” I said. “About sailing across magical waters, fighting weird sea monsters, and not dying at the hands of a bunch of angry aquatic gods. Strangely enough, I know just the person to talk to.”

“Your cousin,” Sam guessed.

“Yeah,” I said. “Annabeth.”

I Call In Some Favors

TEXTING AND calling didn’t work, so I sent a raven.

When I told T.J. that I was having trouble getting in touch with my cousin, he looked at me like I was dense. “Just send a bird, Magnus.”

Stupid me, I’d spent months in Valhalla not realizing I could rent a raven, tie a message to its leg, and send it to find anybody in the Nine Worlds. The whole thing seemed a little too Game-of-Thrones-y to me, but whatever. It worked.

The raven came back promptly with Annabeth’s reply.

We coordinated train rides and met halfway between Boston and Manhattan, in New London, Connecticut. Annabeth was there before me, standing on the platform in jeans and sandals and a long-sleeved purple shirt with a laurel-wreath design and the letters SPQR: UNR.

She hugged me until my eyeballs bugged out like Thrynga’s. “I was so relieved,” she said. “I never thought I’d be glad to see a raven at my window, but…Are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah.” I had to suppress a nervous laugh, because okay was a stupid word to describe how I felt. Also, it was obvious Annabeth was not okay, either. Her gray eyes seemed heavy and weary, less like storm clouds today, and more like fog banks that couldn’t quite lift.

“A lot to talk about,” I said. “Let’s get some lunch.”

We got a table on the deck of the Muddy Waters café. I supposed the place was named after the blues musician, but it seemed a little ominous considering the waters I was getting ready to sail through. Annabeth and I sat in the sunshine, ordered Cokes and cheeseburgers, and watched the sailboats heading out to Long Island Sound.

“It’s been crazy in New York,” Annabeth said. “I thought communications were only down among demigods…I mean my kind, the Greek and Roman, but then I realized I hadn’t heard from you, either. I’m sorry that didn’t dawn on me sooner.”

“Wait, why are communications down?”

Annabeth poked at the table with her fork tines. Her blond hair was loose around her shoulders today. She seemed to be growing it out. It caught the sunlight in a way that reminded me of Sif…but I tried to shake that idea. I knew Annabeth would destroy anyone who dared call her a “trophy” anything.

“There’s a crisis happening,” Annabeth said. “A god fell to earth as a human. These evil Roman emperors are back, causing trouble.”

“Oh, so just the usual, then.”

She laughed. “Yeah. Somehow these evil Romans found a way to mess up communication among demigods. Not just the usual magical kinds of talking, but also cell phones, Wi-Fi, you name it. I’m surprised your raven made it to me. I would’ve come up to Boston to check on you sooner, but…” She shrugged helplessly. “I’ve had my hands full.”

“I totally get it,” I said. “I probably shouldn’t be distracting you. You’ve got enough to deal with…”

She reached across the table and squeezed my hand. “Are you kidding? I want to help. What’s going on?”

It felt so good to tell her everything. I remembered how weird it had been the first time we’d compared notes—her with the Greek gods, me with the Norse. We’d both left that day feeling like we’d overcharged our batteries and our brains were melting.

Now, at least, we had some kind of framework to build on. Sure, it was all still ridiculously crazy. If I stopped to think about it too long, I would start giggling like a lunatic. But I could tell Annabeth my problems without worrying that she wouldn’t believe me. It made me realize how much Sam must appreciate being able to be totally truthful with Amir.

I told Annabeth about Loki’s escape and Sam’s idea for tracking him down—about an icy harbor at the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim (or Scandinavia, whichever came first).

“A boat trip,” she said. “Oh, boy. That brings back painful memories.”

“Yeah. I remembered what you said about sailing to Greece and…yeah.” I didn’t want to bring up all that horrible stuff again. She had cried when she told me about the things that had happened to her during their voyage, especially how she and her boyfriend, Percy, had fallen into some underworld place called Tartarus.

“Look,” I said, “I don’t want to put any pressure on you. I just thought…I don’t know…maybe you’d have some ideas, some pointers.”

A train rumbled through the station. My view of the bay flickered between the rail cars like an old, out-of-alignment reel-to-

reel movie.

“You say you have problems with sea gods,” Annabeth said.

“Yeah, Ran…this bag lady with a net. And I guess her husband hates me too now. His name is Aegir.”

Annabeth tapped her forehead. “I need more memory storage for all these names. Okay, I don’t know how this works with multiple sea gods. Are the Norse ones just in the north and Poseidon is in the south, or do they do, like, a time-share program…?”

I remembered an old cartoon with sheepdogs punching time clocks as they came in for different shifts to keep the wolves away from the flocks. I wondered if gods had punch cards like that, or maybe they all worked from home. Could sea gods telecommute?

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But I’d like to avoid getting all my friends drowned in a tsunami as soon as we leave Boston.”

“But you’ve got some time?”

“Until this summer,” I said. “We can’t leave while the seas are frozen or something.”

“Good. We’ll be done with school by then, finally graduated.”

“I don’t go to school. Oh…you mean we as in you and your boyfriend?”

“Exactly. Assuming he passes his semester and does okay on his standardized tests, assuming these evil Roman emperors don’t kill us all and destroy the world….”

“Yeah. Loki would be seriously ticked off if Roman emperors destroyed the world before he got to start Ragnarok.”

“We should have enough time to help you, at least compare notes, maybe call in some favors.”

“Um, what favors?”

Annabeth smiled. “I don’t know the ocean very well, but my boyfriend does. I think it’s time you met Percy.”

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