Just guy talk.

They were led to a hut, its exterior showed signs of recent repair. Bundles of straw, no doubt to recondition the roof were set out. There didn’t seem to be any danger of rain, so those repairs were surely to be done later.

A raven sat on the roof cleaning its beak. It hopped up to the peak, as though to be out of reach, at their approach.

Inside, the hut was furnished with chairs and cots. A pitcher and mugs were set out prominently. Hans filled the mugs and sat down.

“You guys may change your mind about staying here once I tell you what’s going on.”

Jinsoku sat up straight. “No, Madison. I assure you nothing can make me change my mind about staying in this realm.”

“Hey, if you two are staying, I’m staying,” Dave piped up.

“Hear me out. We’re going up against Loki and his children, Jormungand and Hel.”

“Loki?” Jinsoku exclaimed. “He was an evil Norse god, right?”

“Mischief and fire, actually. His mischief supposedly represented tha capriciousness of Fire. Something of great utility and benefit, but also capable of great harm. He was constantly playing tricks. And then going to all kinds of lengths to make up for it.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, like Sif’s hair. Loki cut it off in her sleep, but then turned around and got the dwarves to manufacture a gold coif. And had Odin’s spear, Gungnir, and Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, made at the same time.”

“Cutting a woman’s hair off in her sleep is a pretty spiteful thing. He would have had to come up with some pretty good gifts in order to get back in everyone’s good graces.”

“I heard another story where he and Thor rescued some chick out of a giant’s castle. He wasn’t even in trouble.”

“Maybe, but he got Thor to dress up as a woman for that.”

“Definitely, mischief there. Quite a few of his pranks were really overboard though.”

“Setting Asgard up for a fall and invading Aelfheim goes a bit beyond overboard, Madison.”

“I have to agree with that, but I wonder if there might be something else.”

Jinsoku reached into his bag and tossed an object to Hans.

“A toothbrush! Thanks, Hasaki.”

Jinsoku shrugged, “I always travel with two or three. My teeth grow back, but I try to avoid losing them in the first place.”

Hans realized his leather skirt, even with the belted plaid underneath, wasn’t hiding anything. He closed his legs together.

Jinsoku chuckled, “I see you understand why Scots and Brits cross their legs at the ankles now.”

“Very funny.”

Dave smacked his lips. “I’ll say one thing, this juice is fantastic. You think they’re not serving us wine because we’re minors?”

Jinsoku shook his head grinning. “I’ve never had the stomach for alcohol, or any meat other than seafood. You probably won’t find beer or wine on the table here anymore than you would a porterhouse steak.”

Dave shrugged. “It’s just as well. I make a point of avoiding anything that might stunt my growth.”

Jinsoku struck a philosophical note. “You’re a big man where it counts, Gordon.”

Dave made a show of inching away from Jinsoku. “Geez, Hasaki, I didn’t know you were the type to watch another guy in the showers.”

Possibly for the first time in his life, Jinsoku said, “Huh?”

Hans chuckled. “You never heard them call Gordon, ‘Donka?’ Kind of a take on donkey and Tonka, as in trucks.”

Jinsoku, mouth hanging open looked back and forth between his two friends. “That has nothing to do with that huge backpack of his?”

Dave shrugged, a huge grin on his face. He turned to Hans.

“That’s a new look for you, isn’t it Hans?”

Jinsoku scolded, “No first names, Gordon, not even in private.”

“I can probably get you guys your own hut you know. My clothes were pretty much ruined in the fight with Fenrir. Seidr, the woman that saved my life after that, set me up with this stuff. The robe I was still wearing when I was brought here. I think I’ll keep it to remind me of her.”

Jinsoku commented, “All in all a good choice I’d say. A man your size, that can move as fast as you can, has no advantage in heavy armor. Trust me, I know.”

“I guess you would. So all this time I’ve been getting beat on by a three hundred-year old samurai? No wonder I could never land a blow on you.”

“Ninja actually, at least at first. I’ve been a samurai a couple of times, too. I’ve done a little of everything ever since. I’ve even sold used cars.”

“I must say you’re the craziest three hundred-year old ninja I’ve ever met.”

“Fer sure, dude. Guess I overdid the play acting, huh?”

Gordon rumbled, “This place must agree with you, H . . . Madison. You sure got buffed up in the month you’ve been here.”

Hans clenched a fist to see the muscles in his forearm bulge. He still had trouble believing the change. “Actually, that was Thor’s- Wait. Month? I’ve only been here a couple of days.”

Jinsoku and Dave look to each other.

Dave explained, “You disappeared about a month ago, when your house burned down. Your body wasn’t found but a lot of people think you died in it, including your dad.”

“A fire?”

Jinsoku clarified, “More like an explosion. They think there was a gas leak. But, I remembered the portal you accidentally opened and hoped there might be a connection. We had to wait for another full moon to try, but I really didn’t hope we’d find you.”

Jinsoku went on, “I knew there was no way I could get over without Gordon’s help, and that he wouldn’t stay behind. So you ended up with both of us. I cautioned Gordon to only use surnames here, of course. But he almost gave it up anyway.”

Jinsoku glowered at Dave.

Dave looked back and forth at his friends, wide eyed. “What’s the big deal anyway?”

Hans explained, “Names have power here. If you know someone’s true name you can make them obey you.”

Dave relaxed a little. “Wow. I’ll be more careful. You know, if only a couple of days have passed for you, then that means a day or two could already have passed back home. We better be careful we don’t pull a Rumplestiltskin.”

Jinsoku sat up. “A what?”

Dave rolled his eyes. “You know, the guy that had a fight with his wife and went up into the hills. Partied with a bunch of short dudes and when he went back to town it was thirty years later.”

Hans laughed. “You mean ‘Rip Van Winkle,’ Gordon.”

Jinsoku mused. “I remember that. Um, not personally mind you. Anyway, he slept those thirty years so that he was an old man when he finally returned home. Gnomes have a nasty sense of humor that way.”

“Gnomes?” Dave asked.

“What would you expect from an all male race with ‘Bro’ attitudes?” Jinsoku shrugged.

“All male. How do they reproduce?” It was Hans’ turn to ask.

Jinsoku nodded knowingly. “I don’t know. And I’ve been told that I don’t want to.”

Hans’ laugh was cut short by a yawn. “Ok, guys. I’m getting too tired to talk. We’ll ask Gná about the time thing in the morning.”

Hans thought he heard the flapping wings of a large bird launching itself into the air outside the hut. Probably a raven. He wondered if he should say anything about it.

* * *

An add-on structure to the timber hall served as private chamber to Gná. A large but simple bed occupied one corner. Za sat on the edge of a smaller bed by the door. She was already in her sleeping shirt, armor arranged close at hand should she need it. She watched as her sister dressed similarly. Tiek and Kiet had already taken away their dinner garments. They would sleep at Gná’s feet.

Za asked, “What shall we do with our unexpected guests?”

Gná sighed contentedly. “Unexpected, but not unwelcome. They will prove useful. And should anything happen to one or both, Madison would become that much more dedicated to Loki’s defeat.”

“But what of the changeling? There have already been questions. The assumption is that you or I will mate him first.”

Gná snapped. “There are to be no more aelfkinder!”

“My Lady?”

Gná sat on her bed. Her tone became more gentle. “Not while Loki’s threat still looms over Aelfheim. You heard Hasaki’s tale. Our children do not fare well on Midgard, yet that was the only place we thought them safe. It would be irresponsible to put children at such risk again.”

“I see, My Lady.” Za knew that Gná understood these things. That was why she was queen.

“You see, but you do not agree.” Gná sighed again, without content. “Make it my command if my reasoning is insufficient. A child by Madison would be different. It would mean our salvation. But there are to be no more aelfkinder until Loki’s spirit is sundered.”

“So as long as there are no conceptions?”

“He and the small one, Gordon, may be used for pleasure, but woe to the woman that thinks to bear one an heir. I must hold out for Madison.”

“That may be a problem. Will you not need Seidr to help you mend Mother’s mirror? With her about, your wait for his attentions may be extended.”

Gná flicked a dismissive wave.

“The mirror is of no real concern. Restoring it was but my excuse for wanting the pieces back. I prefer to plan my future rather than see it bearing down on me. Also I deemed it important that Seidr not have any shards. We shall need to take actions she might wish to oppose, but without even a single shard, we need no longer fear her spying upon us.”

《Ra, is she in for a surprise…》

Next:
CHAPTER 12–DREAM

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This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.