them if they’ve seen—”
“No!” we all screamed at once. Alex came in a little late, as he was still lying down making light angels. He may have added a few colorful modifiers to his no.
“Hmph.” Heimdall scowled. “Well, this is highly unorthodox. But I don’t want to see a big ugly giant come between a cute couple like you two.” Heimdall wagged his finger between me and Sam.
“Uh, actually it’s those two,” I corrected, pointing to Amir.
Over in the rainbow, Alex snorted.
“Right, of course,” Heimdall said. “Sorry. You guys look very different when you’re not in the camera app. Perhaps you have a point about a fresh perspective! Let’s see what we can find in the Nine Worlds!”
Godzilla Sends Me an Important Message
HEIMDALL GAZED into the distance and immediately stumbled backward. “Nine Mothers of Me!”
Alex Fierro sat up, suddenly interested. “What is it?”
“Uh…” Heimdall’s cheeks were turning the same sheep-like color as his hair. “Giants. A lot of them. They—they appear to be massing on the borders of Midgard.”
I wondered what other threats Heimdall had missed while he was photo-bombing the president. Between this guy and hammerless Thor, it was no wonder the safety of Asgard depended on unprepared, undertrained people like…well, us.
Sam managed to keep her voice level. “We know about the giants, Lord Heimdall. They suspect Thor’s hammer is missing. Unless we get it back soon—”
“Yes.” Heimdall licked his lips. “I—I suppose you did say something like that.” He cupped his ear and listened. “They’re talking about…a wedding. Thrym’s wedding. One of the giant generals…he’s grumbling because they have to wait until it is over before they can invade. Apparently Thrym has promised them some good news after the ceremony, something that will make their invasion much easier.”
“An alliance with Loki?” I guessed, though something about that didn’t seem quite right. There had to be more.
“Also,” Heimdall continued, “Thrym has said…yes, his own forces won’t join the invasion until after the wedding. He’s warned the other armies it would be rude to start the war without him. I—I don’t think the giants are scared of Thrym, but from what I’m overhearing, they’re terrified of his sister.”
I remembered my dream: the harsh voice of the giantess who had swatted my pickle jar off the bar. “Heimdall,” I asked, “can you see Thrym? What’s he up to?”
The god squinted and looked deeper into the void. “Yes, there he is, just at the edge of my vision, under a mile or so of rock. Sitting in that horrid fortress of his. Why he wants to live in a cave decorated like a bar, I have no idea. Oh, he is so ugly! I pity the person who marries him.”
“Great,” Sam muttered. “What’s he doing?”
“Drinking,” Heimdall said. “Now he’s belching. Now he’s drinking again. His sister, Thrynga—oh, her voice is like oars scraping on ice! She’s berating him for being a fool. Something about his wedding being a stupid idea and they should just kill the bride as soon as she arrives!”
Heimdall paused, maybe remembering that Samirah was the poor girl in question. “Uh…sorry. As I thought, though, there’s no hammer anywhere. That’s not surprising. These earth giants, they can bury things—”
“Let me guess,” I said. “In the earth?”
“Exactly!” Heimdall looked impressed with my knowledge of earth giants. “They can retrieve those items simply by calling them back to hand. I imagine Thrym will wait until the wedding is finished. Once he has his bride and his bride-price, he’ll summon the hammer…if he feels like keeping his part of the bargain, that is.”
Amir looked more nauseated than I’d felt aboard the Cessna Citation. “Sam, you can’t do this! It’s too dangerous.”
“I won’t.” She balled her fists. “Lord Heimdall, you’re the guardian of the sacred marriage bed, aren’t you? The old stories say you traveled among humankind advising couples, blessing their offspring, and creating the various classes of Viking society?”
“I did?” Heimdall glanced at his phone as if tempted to look up this information. “Um, I mean, yes. Of course!”
“Then hear my sacred vow,” Sam said. “I swear upon the Bifrost and all the Nine Worlds that I will never marry anyone except this man, Amir Fadlan.” (Thankfully, she pointed in the correct direction and did not implicate me. Otherwise things might have been awkward.) “I will not even pretend to marry this giant, Thrym. It will not happen.”
Alex Fierro rose, his mouth set in a frown. “Uh…Sam?”
I figured Alex was thinking the same thing I was: that if Loki could control Sam’s actions, she might not be able to keep this vow.
Sam gave Alex a warning look. Surprisingly, Alex shut up.
“I have made my vow,” Sam announced. “Inshallah, I will keep it and marry Amir Fadlan in accordance with the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.”
I wondered if the Bifrost Bridge would collapse under the heavy-duty Muslim sacred vow Sam was laying down, but nothing seemed different except for Amir, who looked like he’d been hit between the eyes with a phablet.
“P-peace be upon him,” he stammered.
Heimdall sniffled. “That was so sweet.” A tear as white as plant sap slid down his cheek. “I hope you crazy kids make a go of it. I really do. I wish…” He tilted head, listening to the distant murmurings of the universe. “Nope, I’m not on the guest list for your wedding with Thrym, darn it.”
Sam looked at me like, Did I just imagine the last few minutes? “Lord Heimdall, you mean…the wedding I just swore not to go through with?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “I’m sure it will be lovely, but that soon-to-be sister-in-law of yours, Thrynga, is going on and on—‘No Aesir, no Vanir.’ They apparently have some first-rate security in place for screening the guests.”
“They don’t want Thor getting in,” Alex guessed, “and stealing back his hammer.”
“That would make sense.” Heimdall kept his eyes on the horizon. “The thing is, this underground fortress-bar of theirs…I’ve seen how it works. There’s only one way in, and the entrance tunnel keeps shifting around, opening in a different place every day. Sometimes it turns up behind a waterfall, or in a Midgard cave, or under the roots of a tree. Even if Thor wanted to plan an assault, he’d have no idea where to start on any given day. I don’t see how you could arrange an ambush to steal the hammer.” He frowned. “Thrym and Thrynga are still talking about the guest list. Only family and giants are invited, and…Who is Randolph?”
I felt as if somebody had turned up the thermostat on the Bifrost. My face itched like a hand-shaped burn mark was forming across my cheek.
“Randolph is my uncle,” I said. “Can you see him?”
Heimdall shook his head. “Not in Jotunheim, but Thrym and Thrynga are very annoyed about him being on the list. Thrym is saying, ‘Loki insists.’ Thrynga is throwing bottles.” Heimdall winced. “Sorry, I had to look away. Without the camera, everything seems so three-D!”
Amir watched me with concern. “Magnus, you have an uncle who’s involved in all this?”
I didn’t want to get into it. The scene from the zombies’ barrow kept replaying in my mind: Randolph crying as he drove the Skofnung Sword into Blitzen’s gut.
Thankfully, Alex Fierro changed the subject.
“Hey, Lord Selfie,” he said, “what about the goat-killer? That’s who we need to find right now.”
“Ah, yes.” Heimdall raised his sword blade over his eyes like a visor, nearly decapitating me in the process. “You said a figure in black clothes, with a metal helmet, and a faceplate like a snarling wolf?”
“That’s him,” I said.
“I don’t see him. But there is something strange. I know I said no camera, but…ah, I’m not sure how to describe this.” He raised his phablet and snapped a picture. “What do you make of this?”
sp; The four of us gathered around the screen.
It was hard to judge the scale, since the shot had been taken from inter-dimensional space, but at the top of a cliff sat a massive warehouse-looking building. Across the roof stretched glittery neon letters almost as eye-catching as the Citgo sign: UTGARD LANES.
Behind that, even larger and more awe-inspiring, was an inflatable Godzilla, like you might see advertising a sale at a car dealership. In Godzilla’s hands was a cardboard sign that read:
GOT INFO 4 U. BRING UR FRIENDS!
ONLY WAY 2 BEAT THRYM + GOOD BOWLING.
XOX BIG BOY
I let out a few Norse cuss words. I was tempted to throw the Phablet of Doomsday off the Bifrost Bridge.
“Big Boy,” I said. “I should have known.”
“This is bad,” Sam muttered. “He told you that someday you would need his help. But if he’s our only hope, we’re doomed.”
“Why?” Amir asked.
“Yeah,” Alex demanded. “Who is this Big Boy who communicates through inflatable Godzillas?”
“I know this one!” Heimdall said cheerfully. “He’s the most dangerous, powerful giant sorcerer of all time! His real name is Utgard-Loki.”
Falafel Break? Yes, Thank You
ANOTHER VIKING pro tip: If Heimdall offers to drop you somewhere, say NO!
Heimdall’s idea of sending us back to Midgard was making the Bifrost dissolve around our feet and literally dropping us through infinity. Once we stopped screaming (or it may have been just me again; don’t judge), we found ourselves at the corner of Charles and Boylston, standing in front of the Edgar Allan Poe statue. By that point, I definitely had a tell-tale heart. My pulse was going so fast you could’ve heard that sucker through a brick wall.
We were all exhausted, but we were also hungry and buzzing with post-rainbow adrenaline. Most importantly, we were a block from the Transportation Building food court, where the Fadlans had a restaurant.
“You know…” Amir flexed his fingers as if making sure they were still there. “I could make us some dinner.”
“You don’t have to, man,” I said, which I thought was pretty noble considering how much I loved his family’s falafel recipe. (I know he asked me to remind him not to give me any more falafel, but I had decided to interpret that request as temporary insanity.)