“Our grandfather,” Thrynga corrected, examining the ridges on her lucky chestnut.
“—Thor came disguised in a wedding dress to get it back.” Thrym’s wet lips curled inward like he was trying to locate his back teeth. “I remember that day, though I was only a child. The false bride ate an entire ox and drank two cases of mead!”
“Three cases,” Thrynga said.
“Thor could hide his body in a wedding dress,” Thrym said, “but he could not hide his appetite.” The giant smiled at Alex. “But don’t worry, Samirah, my love! I know you are not a god. I am smarter than my grandfather was!”
Thrynga rolled her huge eyes. “It’s my security that keeps out the Aesir, brother. No god could pass through our doors without triggering the alarms!”
“Yes, yes,” Thrym said. “At any rate, Samirah, you were all magically scanned the moment you came in. You are, as you should be, a child of Loki.” He knit his eyebrows. “Although so is your maid of honor.”
“We’re related!” said the real Sam. “That’s to be expected, isn’t it? A close relative often serves as maid of honor.”
Thrym nodded. “That’s true. At any rate, when this wedding is concluded, the House of Thrym shall regain its former stature! My grandfather’s failure will be put to rest. We will have a marriage alliance with the House of Loki.” He pounded his chest, causing his large belly to ripple and no doubt drowning entire nations of bacteria in his gut. “I will finally have my revenge!”
Thrynga turned her head, muttering, “I will have my revenge.”
“What’s that, sister?” Thrym demanded.
“Nothing.” She bared her black teeth. “Let’s have the second course, shall we?”
The second course was burgers. That really wasn’t fair. They smelled so good, my stomach rolled back and forth, throwing a temper tantrum.
I tried to distract myself by thinking of the fight to come. Thrym seemed dumb enough. Maybe we could actually beat him. Unfortunately, he was backed up by several dozen earth giants, and his sister worried me. I could tell Thrynga had her own agenda. Though she tried to conceal it, every once in a while she would glance at Alex with murderous hatred. I remembered something Heimdall had overheard her say…that they should just kill the bride as soon as she arrived. I wondered how long it would take the Aesir to get here once the hammer was revealed, and whether I could keep Alex alive for that long. I wondered where Loki was, and Uncle Randolph….
Finally the giants finished their meals. Thrym belched loudly and turned to his bride-to-be.
“At last, it is time for the ceremony!” he said. “Shall we be on our way?”
My gut clenched. “On our way? What do you mean?”
Thrym chuckled. “Well, we’re not doing the ceremony here. That would be rude! The entire wedding party is not present!”
The king rose and faced the wall opposite the bar. Giants scrambled out of the way, moving their tables and chairs.
Thrym thrust out his hand. The wall cracked opened and a new tunnel wormed its way through the earth. The sour, damp air from within reminded me of something I couldn’t quite place…something bad.
“No.” Sam sounded as if her throat were closing up. “No, we can’t go there.”
“But we can’t have a wedding without the father of the bride!” Thrym announced cheerfully. “Come, my friends! My bride and I will say our vows in the cavern of Loki!”
A Little Refreshing Poison in Your Face, Sir?
I REALLY HATE jigsaw puzzles. Did I ever mention that?
I especially hate it when I stare at a piece for hours, wondering where it goes, then somebody else comes along, slaps it into place, and says, There, stupid!
That’s what I felt like when I finally figured out Loki’s plan.
I remembered the maps strewn across Uncle Randolph’s desk when Alex and I had visited. Maybe, in the back of my mind, I’d realized how strange that was at the time. Randolph’s quest to find the Sword of Summer was over. Why would he still be poring over maps? But I hadn’t asked Alex—or myself—about it. I’d been too distracted.
Now I was willing to bet Randolph had been studying topographical maps of New England, comparing them with ancient Norse charts and legends. He’d been ordered to undertake a different search—to find the coordinates of Loki’s cavern in relation to the fortress of Thrym. If anyone could do it, my uncle could. That’s why Loki had kept him alive.
No wonder Loki and Randolph weren’t at the bar. They were waiting for us at the other end of the tunnel.
“We need our goats!” I yelled.
I waded through the crowd until I reached our chariot. I grabbed Otis’s face and pressed my forehead against his.
“Testing,” I whispered. “Is this goat on? Thor, can you hear me?”
“You have beautiful eyes,” Otis told me.
“Thor,” I said, “red alert! We’re on the move. They’re taking us to Loki’s cave. I—I don’t know where that is. Tunnel is on the right-hand wall, angling down. Just—find us! Otis, did he get the message?”
“What message?” Otis asked dreamily.
“Magnus Chase!” the giant king yelled. “Are you ready?”
“Uh, yeah!” I called back. “We just have to ride in the chariot because…traditional wedding reasons.”
The other giants shrugged and nodded as if this made perfect sense to them. Only Thrynga looked suspicious. I feared she was starting to doubt whether the chariot was a rental.
Suddenly the bar felt much too small, with all the giants putting on their coats, straightening their ties, swigging the last of their mead, and trying to figure out their places in the wedding procession.
Samirah and Alex made their way to the chariot.
“What do we do?” Alex hissed.
“I don’t know!” Sam said. “Where’s our backup?”
“We’re going to be in the wrong place,” I said. “How will they find us?”
That was all we had time to say to one another before Thrym came over and took the reins of our goats. He pulled our chariot into the tunnel, his sister by his side, the rest of the giants filing in two by two behind us.
As soon as the last giants were inside the tunnel, the entrance behind us sealed shut.
“Hey, Thrym?” My voice bore an unfortunate resemblance to Mickey Mouse’s, making me wonder what sort of strange gasses were in this tunnel. “You sure it’s a good idea to trust Loki? I mean…wasn’t it his idea to sneak Thor into your grandfather’s wedding? Didn’t he help Thor kill your family?”
The giant king stopped so abruptly Marvin ran into him. I knew I was asking an impolite question, especially on the guy’s wedding day, but I was grasping for anything that might slow down the parade.
Thrym turned, his eyes like wet pink diamonds in the gloom. “Don’t you think I know that, human? Loki is a trickster. It is his nature. But Thor is the one who killed my grandfather, my father, my mother, my entire family!”
“Except for me,” Thrynga muttered. In the darkness, she glowed faintly—a seven-foot-tall apparition of ugliness. I hadn’t noticed that earlier. Maybe it was an ability that earth giants could turn off and on.
Thrym ignored her. “This marriage alliance is Loki’s way of apologizing; don’t you see? He realizes now that the gods were always his enemies. He regrets betraying my grandfather. We will combine our forces, take over Midgard, and then storm the city of the gods itself!”
Behind us, the giants let loose a deafening cheer. “Kill the humans!”
“Shut it!” Thrynga yelled. “We have humans with us!”
The giants murmured. Someone in the back said, “Present company excepted.”
“But, Great King Thrym,” Sam said, “do you really trust Loki?”
Thrym laughed. For such a big guy, he had tiny teeth. “In his cave, Loki is a prisoner. Helpless! He is inviting me there. He gave me the location. Why would he make such a gesture of trust?”
His sister snorted. ?
?Gee, I don’t know, brother. Maybe because he needs an earth giant to tunnel into his place of imprisonment? Because he wants to be free?”
I was kind of wishing Thrynga was on our side, except for the fact that she was a power-hungry giantess bent on revenge and murdering all humans.
“We hold the power,” Thrym insisted. “Loki would not dare betray us. Besides, I am the one who will open his cave! He will be grateful! As long as he honors his part of the bargain, I will gladly let him go free. And the beautiful Samirah…” Thrym leered at Alex. “She is worth the risk.”
Under her veil, Alex squawked like a parrot. The noise was so loud Thrynga almost hit the ceiling.
“What was that?” the giantess demanded. “Is the bride choking?”
“No, no!” Sam patted Alex’s back. “That was just a nervous laugh. Samirah gets uncomfortable when people compliment her.”
Thrym chuckled. “Then she will be uncomfortable often when she is my wife.”
“Oh, Your Majesty!” Sam said. “Truer words have never been spoken!”
“Onward!” Thrym proceeded down the icy path.
I wondered if our delay had bought our backup troops any time. Assuming we even had backup troops. Could Thor still follow our progress through his goats’ eyes and ears? Did he have some way to get a message to Blitz and Hearth and my einherji hallmates from floor nineteen?
The tunnel closed behind us as we descended. I had a horrible vision of Thor in the giants’ barroom, trying to break through the wall with his corkscrew and hand drill.
After a few more minutes, the tunnel began to narrow. Thrym’s progress slowed. I got the feeling that the earth itself was fighting him now, trying to push him back. Maybe the Aesir had placed some sort of magic barrier around Loki’s tomb.