“I hate Thrym!” the god roared. “I hate earth giants!”
“So do we!” Jack agreed. “And here’s Magnus to tell you about our brilliant plan to get the hammer back!”
Jack flew behind me and hovered there with great strategic wisdom. Otis and Marvin backed away from their master and hid behind the Dance Dance Revolution machine.
At least Alex, Sam, Blitz, and Hearth didn’t hide, but Alex gave me a look like, Hey, he’s your thunder god.
So I told Thor the whole story: how we’d been tricked into going to the wight’s tomb for the Skofnung Sword, then we’d rushed to Alfheim for the Skofnung Stone, we’d climbed the Bifrost for a selfie with Heimdall, and we’d gone bowling for information with Utgard-Loki. I explained about Thrym’s demands for a marriage alliance with Loki.
Every so often I had to pause so Thor could process the news by storming around, throwing power tools, and punching the walls.
He needed a lot of processing time.
When I was done, Thor announced his well-reasoned conclusion. “We must kill them all!”
Blitz raised his hand. “Ah, Mr. Thor, even if we could get you close enough to Thrym, killing him wouldn’t help. He’s the only one who knows exactly where the hammer is.”
“So we torture him for the information and then kill him! Then I will retrieve the hammer myself!”
Alex muttered, “Nice guy.”
“Sir,” Sam said, “even if we did that—and torture isn’t very effective, or, you know, ethical—even if Thrym told you exactly where the hammer was, how would you get it back from eight miles under the earth?”
“I would break through the earth! With my hammer!”
We waited for Thor’s mental gears to turn.
“Oh,” said the god. “I see the problem. Curses! Follow me!”
He marched into the garage, tossed aside his hockey paddles, and started rummaging through his tools. “There must be something in here that can drill through eight miles of solid rock.”
He considered a hand drill, a tape measure, a corkscrew, and the iron staff we’d almost died retrieving from Geirrod’s fortress. He threw them all to the floor.
“Nothing!” he said in disgust. “Useless junk!”
Perhaps you could use your head, Hearthstone signed. That is very hard.
“Oh, don’t try to console me, Mr. Elf,” said Thor. “It’s hopeless, isn’t it? You have to have hammers to get hammers. And this…” He picked up a rubber mallet and sighed. “This won’t do. I’m ruined! All the giants will soon know I’m defenseless. They’ll invade Midgard, destroy the television industry, and I will never be able to watch my shows again!”
“There might be a way to get the hammer.” The words came out of my mouth before I considered what I was saying.
Thor’s eyes lit up. “You have a large bomb?”
“Uh, no. But Thrym is expecting to marry someone tomorrow, right? We can pretend to go along with it and—”
“Forget it,” Thor growled. “I know what you’re going to suggest. There’s no way! Thrym’s grandfather humiliated me enough when he stole my hammer. I will not do that again!”
“Do what?” I asked.
“Wear a wedding dress!” Thor said. “Pretend to be the giant’s bride, Freya, who refused to marry Thrym. Selfish woman! I was disgraced, humiliated, and—What are you smirking about?”
This last comment was directed at Alex, who quickly put on her serious face.
“Nothing,” she said. “Just…you in a wedding dress.”
Hovering behind my shoulder, Jack whispered, “He looked a-MAZ-ing.”
Thor grunted. “It was all Loki’s idea, of course. It worked. I infiltrated the wedding, got my hammer back, and killed the giants—well, except for those little kids, Thrym the Third and Thrynga. But when I got back to Asgard, Loki told the story so many times he made me a laughingstock. No one took me seriously for ages!” Thor frowned as if he’d just had a thought, which must have been a painful experience. “You know, I bet that was Loki’s plan all along. I bet he arranged the theft and the solution to make me look bad!”
“That’s terrible,” Alex said. “What was your bridal dress like?”
“Oh, it was white with a high lace appliqué neckline and these lovely scalloped—” Thor’s beard sparked with electricity. “THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT!”
“Anyway…” I stepped in. “This Thrym—Thrym the Third or whatever—he’s expecting you to try that trick again. He’s got some kind of security precautions in place. No gods are getting through the front door unnoticed. We’ll need a different bride.”
“Well, that’s a relief!” He grinned at Samirah. “And I do thank you for stepping up, girl! I’m glad you’re not as selfish as Freya. I owe you a gift. I’ll have Sif make you a trophy. Or perhaps you’d like a Hot Pocket? I have some in the freezer—”
“No, Lord Thor,” Sam said. “I’m not marrying a giant for you.”
Thor winked slyly. “Right….You’re only pretending to marry him. Then once he brings out the hammer—”
“I’m not even pretending,” Sam said.
“I am,” Alex said.
Here Comes the Bride and/or the Assassin
ALEX KNEW how to get our attention. Hearth and Blitz gawped at her. Jack gasped and glowed bright yellow. Thor’s eyebrows furrowed, sparking like jumper cables. Even the goats trotted over to get a closer look at the crazy girl.
“What?” Alex demanded. “Sam and I discussed it. She vowed to Amir th
at she wouldn’t even fake-marry this giant, right? The charade doesn’t bother me at all. I’ll dress up, say the vows, kill my new husband, whatever. Sam and I are close to the same size. We’re both children of Loki. She can pose as my maid of honor. It’s our best option.”
I stared at Sam. “That’s what you and Alex have been talking about?”
Samirah fingered the keys on her belt ring. “Alex thinks she can resist Loki…unlike what happened to me in Provincetown.”
It was the first time she’d talked about the incident so openly. I remembered Loki snapping his fingers, Sam collapsing in a heap, all the air expelled from her lungs. Sam was a Valkyrie. She had the strongest willpower and discipline of anyone I knew. If she couldn’t resist Loki’s control…
“Alex, are you sure?” I tried not to let doubt creep into my voice. “I mean, have you ever tried to resist Loki before?”
Alex’s expression hardened. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“No,” I said hastily. “I just—”
“The larger point,” Thor butted in, “is that you’re not even a proper girl! You’re an argr!”
The air became still, like the moment before a thunderclap. I wasn’t sure which possibility scared me more, Thor attacking Alex, or Alex attacking Thor. The look in her eyes made me wonder if we shouldn’t just put her on the borders of Jotunheim to scare away the giants rather than bothering with Thor and his hammer.
“I’m a child of Loki,” she said in an even tone. “That’s what Thrym is expecting. Like my parent, I’m gender fluid. And when I’m female, I am female. I can definitely pull off a lace appliqué wedding gown better than you!”
Thor fumed. “Well, there’s no need to be mean about it.”
“Besides,” Alex said, “I will not let Loki control me. I never have. I never will. I also don’t see anyone else volunteering for this suicidal bridal mission.”
“Suicidal bridal,” Jack said. “Hey, that rhymes!”
Otis clopped forward and sighed. “Well, if you need a volunteer to die, I suppose I can do it. I’ve always loved weddings—”
“Shut up, dummy!” Marvin said. “You’re a goat!”
Thor picked up his iron staff. He leaned against it thoughtfully, tapping his fingers and making different images flicker across the surface—a soccer match, the Home Shopping Network, Gilligan’s Island.
“Well,” he said at last, “I still don’t trust an argr to do this job—”
“A gender-fluid person,” Alex corrected.
“A gender…whatever you said,” Thor amended. “But I suppose, respect-wise, you have the least to lose.”
Alex bared her teeth. “I get now why Loki loves you so much.”
“Guys,” I said. “We have other problems to discuss, and not much time. Thrym is expecting his bride to arrive tomorrow.”
Alex folded her arms. “It’s decided, then. I get to marry the big ugly guy.”
Yes, you marry him, Hearthstone signed. Many happy years and fine children.
Alex narrowed her eyes. “I can see I’m going to have to learn sign language. In the meantime, I will assume you said, Yes, Alex. Thank you, Alex, for being so brave and heroic.”
Close enough, Hearth signed.
I still wasn’t loving the idea of Alex as a decoy bride, but I figured I’d better move things along. Keeping this group focused was like driving a chariot with no goats and a broken transaxle.