portal like they were being sucked out of a moving jet plane. The sarcophagus imploded behind them.
Sam stirred. She sat up abruptly, as though her alarm had gone off. Her hijab slipped over her right eye like a pirate’s patch. “What—what’s going on?”
I felt too numb to explain. I was kneeling next to Blitzen, doing what I could to keep him stable. My hands glowed with enough Frey-power to cause a nuclear meltdown, but it wasn’t helping. My friend was slipping away.
Hearth’s eyes brimmed with tears. He sat next to Blitz, his polka-dot scarf trailing in blood. Every once in a while he smacked a V sign against his own forehead: Stupid. Stupid.
Sam’s shadow fell across us. “No! No, no, no. What happened?”
Hearthstone flew into another sign language tirade: Told you! Too dangerous! Your fault we—
“Buddy…” Blitzen pulled weakly at Hearthstone’s hands. “Not Sam’s…fault. Not yours. Was…my idea.”
Hearthstone shook his head. Stupid Valkyrie. Stupid me, also. Must be a way to heal you.
He looked to me, desperate for a miracle.
I hated being a healer. Frey’s Fripperies, I wished I were a warrior. Or a shape-shifter like Alex Fierro, or a rune caster like Hearthstone, or even a berserker like Halfborn, charging into battle in my underwear. Having my friends’ lives depend on my abilities, watching the light go out of Blitzen’s eyes and knowing there was nothing I could do about it…that was unbearable.
“Loki wouldn’t leave us another choice,” I said. “We have to find the Skofnung Stone.”
Hearthstone grunted in frustration. I would do it. For Blitz. But no time. Would take a day at least. He will die.
Blitzen tried to say something. No words came out. His head lolled sideways.
“No!” Sam sobbed. “No, he can’t die. Where’s this stone? I’ll go get it myself!”
I scanned the tomb, frantic for ideas. My eyes fixed on the only source of light—Samirah’s spear, lying in dust.
There was one last miracle I could try—a lame, bottom-shelf miracle, but it was all I had.
“We need more time,” I said, “so we’ll make more time.” I wasn’t sure Blitzen was still lucid, but I squeezed his shoulder. “We’ll bring you back, buddy. I promise.”
I stood. I raised my face toward the domed ceiling and imagined the sun overhead. I called on my father—the god of warmth and fertility, the god of living things that broke through the earth to reach the light.
The tomb rumbled. Dust rained down. Directly above me, the domed ceiling cracked like an eggshell and a jagged canyon of sunlight spilled through the darkness, illuminating Blitzen’s face.
As I watched, one of my best friends in the Nine Worlds turned to solid rock.
Should I Be Nervous that the Pilot Is Praying?
THE PROVINCETOWN airport was the most depressing place I’d ever been. To be fair, that might have been because I was in the company of a petrified dwarf, a heartbroken elf, a furious Valkyrie, and a sword that would not shut up.
Sam had called an Uber car to get us from the Pilgrim Monument. I wondered if she used Uber as a backup for transporting souls to Valhalla. All the way to the airport, crammed in the backseat of a Ford Focus station wagon, I couldn’t stop humming “Flight of the Valkyries.”
Next to me, Jack hogged the seat belt and pestered me with questions. “Can we unsheathe Skofnung again just for a minute? I want to say hi.”
“Jack, no. She can’t be drawn in sunlight or in the presence of women. And if we did unsheathe her, she’d have to kill somebody.”
“Yeah, but except for that, wouldn’t it be awesome?” He sighed, his runes lighting up his blade. “She’s so fine.”
“Please go into pendant mode.”
“Do you think she liked me? I didn’t say anything stupid, did I? Be honest.”
I bit back a few scathing remarks. It wasn’t Jack’s fault we were in this predicament. Still, I was relieved when I finally convinced him to turn into a pendant. I told him he needed his beauty rest in case we unsheathed Skofnung later.
When we got to the airport, I helped Hearthstone wrestle our granite dwarf out of the station wagon while Sam went into the terminal.
The airport itself wasn’t much to look at—just a one-room shack for arrivals and departures, a couple of benches out front, and beyond the security fence, two runways for small planes.
Sam hadn’t explained why we were here. I guessed she was using her pilot-y connections to get us a charter flight back to Boston. Obviously she couldn’t fly all four of us under her own power, and Hearthstone was in no shape to cast any more runes.
Hearth had spent his last bit of magical energy to summon Bubble Wrap and strapping tape, using a rune that looked like a regular X. Maybe it was the ancient Viking symbol for shipping materials. Maybe it was the rune for Alfheim Express. Hearthstone was so angry and miserable I didn’t dare ask him. I just stood outside the terminal, waiting for Sam to come back, while Hearth carefully wrapped up his best friend.
We’d come to a sort of truce while waiting for the Uber car. Hearth, Sam, and I all felt like stripped high-voltage wires, supercharged with guilt and resentment, ready to kill anyone who touched us. But we knew that wasn’t going to help Blitzen. We hadn’t discussed it, but we’d formed a silent agreement not to yell and scream and hit each other until later. Right now, we had a dwarf to heal.
Finally, Sam emerged from the terminal. She must have stopped by the restroom, because her hands and face were still damp.
“The Cessna is on its way,” she said.
“Your instructor’s plane?”
She nodded. “I had to beg and plead. But Barry’s really nice. He understands it’s an emergency.”
“Does he know about…?” I gestured around, weakly implying the Nine Worlds, petrified dwarves, undead warriors, evil gods, and all the other messed-up things about our lives.
“No,” Sam said. “And I’d like to keep it that way. I can’t fly airplanes if my instructor thinks I’m delusional.”
She glanced over at Hearthstone’s Bubble-Wrapping project. “No change in Blitzen? He hasn’t started…crumbling yet?”
A slug wriggled down my throat. “Crumbling? Please tell me that’s not going to happen.”
“I hope not. But sometimes…” Sam closed her eyes and took a second to compose herself. “Sometimes after a few days…”
As if I needed a reason to feel guiltier. “When we find the Skofnung Stone…there is a way to un-petrify Blitz, right?”
That seemed like I question I should have asked before turning my friend into a chunk of granite, but, hey, I’d been under a lot of pressure.
“I—I hope so,” Sam said.
That made me feel a whole lot better.
Hearthstone looked over at us. He signed to Sam in small angry gestures: Plane? You will drop Magnus, me. You don’t come.
Sam looked stung, but she held her hand up next to her face, index finger pointing skyward. Understand.
Hearthstone went back to packaging our dwarf.
“Give him time,” I told Sam. “It isn’t your fault.”
Sam studied the pavement. “I wish I believed that.”
I wanted to ask about Loki’s control over her, to tell her how bad I felt for her, to promise we would find a way to fight her father. But I guessed it was too soon to bring up all that. Her shame was still too raw.
“What did Hearthstone mean about dropping us?” I asked.
“I’ll explain when we’re in the air.” Sam pulled out her phone and checked the time. “It’s zuhr. We’ve got about twenty minutes before the plane lands. Magnus, can I borrow you?”
I didn’t know what zuhr meant, but I followed her to a little grassy area in the middle of the circular driveway.
Samirah rummaged through her backpack. She pulled out a folded blue piece of cloth like an oversize scarf and spread it on the grass. My first thought: We?
?re having a picnic?
Then I realized she was aligning the cloth so it pointed southeast. “That’s a prayer rug?”
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s time for noon prayers. Would you stand watch for me?”
“I…wait. What?” I felt like she was handing me a newborn baby and asking me to take care of it. In all the weeks I’d known Sam, I’d never seen her pray. I figured she just didn’t do it very often. That’s what I would’ve done in her place—as little religious stuff as possible. “How can you pray at a time like this?”
She laughed without humor. “The real question is, how can I not pray at a time like this? It won’t take long. Just stand guard in case…I don’t know, trolls attack or something.”
“Why haven’t I ever seen you do this before?”
Sam shrugged. “I pray every day. Five times, as required. Usually I just slip away to somewhere quiet, though if I’m traveling or in a dangerous situation, sometimes I postpone prayers until I’m sure it’s safe. That’s permissible.”
“Like when we were in Jotunheim?”
She nodded. “That’s a good for instance. Since we’re not in danger at the moment, and since you’re here, and since it’s time…do you mind?”
“Uh…no. I mean, yeah, sure. Go for it.”
I’d been in some pretty surreal situations. I’d bellied up to a dwarven bar. I’d run from a giant squirrel through the tree of the universe. I’d rappelled down a curtain into a giant’s dining room. But guarding Samirah al-Abbas while she prayed in an airport parking lot…that was a new one.