Breakfast in a cave.

Hans awoke alone. He’d slept alone in his own room nearly every day of his life since he was a child, but this was, alone.

He sat up and inspected himself. “I’m OK?”

≪Good morning!≫

Well, there was the cat. What was her name, Bast? She started buzzing before he even reached to stroke her fur. That she didn’t get continuously zapped as he petted her was probably due to the humid air in the cave.

He chuckled. It was a good thing he hadn’t had a chance to build up a charge before last night’s activities. Girls always changed their minds about heavy petting, much less sex, when they get shocked down there. Last night was the first time that hadn’t happened.

He thought it was one hell of a first time at that. If he’d awakened anywhere but in the same cave he’d have dismissed it as an incredible wet dream, and probably gone right back to sleep.

Then he noticed the smell and a sizzling noise. Bacon? In spite of how comfortable it was, the bed was actually part of a platform. He still felt a bit weak, so he had to struggle to his feet.

There was a sleeveless robe of green silk set out next to the bed. It fit, but snugly. It had been set on top of some sort of oversize towel, but he didn’t see any kind of basin for washing, so he left it there. Stiffly, he walked out of the chamber, right behind his nose.

≪Hungry male headed your way!≫

A heavy wooden door, set in the mouth of the cave, opened to a lean-to of mortared stone. It contained a primitive, yet functional kitchen, with Seidr cooking bacon over coals on a wire grill.

She looked up at him. “Ha! Trust the smell of food to bring a man running.”

Seidr was similarly robed, only in a deep purple. With a plaid skirt. When she turned to him, Hans noticed the scar on the right side of her face. Nearly two inches long, it seemed to compliment her, as if it were the flaw that made the picture seem real.

Seidr glanced down at Hans’ bare legs. “What’s this?” she thought as she stepped up to him and hugged him close. She discovered that she could only just touch the tips of her fingers together at his back. The top of her head fit neatly beneath his chin. That seemed rather convenient to Seidr as she pressed her cheek to the hairy chest of this delightfully big, fortunately not too big, man.

“I left a tartan out for you to wrap waist. Or were you hoping for more fun already?” She reached up and poked him on the chin. “Bend down, Silly Man, so you can kiss me.”

Hans decided to say good morning, “Your face . . .”

“Oh no. My face is all scarred up now, so you no longer love me?”

Enjoying the taste of foot in his mouth, Hans finally managed to say what he meant. “Mmm, no. If anything you’re even more beautiful.”

“Good. I’d already decided to keep them.”

She reached up to pull his head down to her, and kissed him. She let go so she could look in his eyes. He looked so confused. He had every right to be.

“It takes a big heart to love so strongly that it ignites the same fire in those about it.”

Seidr abruptly leapt away from the rather stupefied Hans.

“Oops. The bacon,” she said rushing back to the grill.

“Sit.” She waved at the table and chairs. “This is almost done. I hope you like your bacon extra crispy. We can’t waste any. Something, well, someone, I think, has been interfering with my ability to open worldgates, so I haven’t been able to do any grocery shopping. If it doesn’t clear up in the next couple of days, then you’re stuck here until the next full moon.”

Hans considered the table and chair he sat in. There was nothing primitive about them. They would look at home in any Ikea showroom.

“I’ve taken most of my finals. It’ll screw up my GPA if I miss the last two, but it won’t keep me from graduating and starting college. And I’ve had worse summer breaks,” Hans quipped. “So, what’s a worldgate, anyway?”

Moments later, Seidr set a bowl and plate before him. He decided it looked interesting. Boiled grain, mostly wild rice and oats, and on the side five tiny boiled eggs, peeled, with several strips of bacon on the side..

“A worldgate is your typical fantasy world doorway between worlds. There’s only one other in around that can do it, and we aren’t on good terms.”

He watched her set another bowl on the floor. Bast scurried up and began devouring the contents.

Then Seidr sat as well, poured honey and cream into her bowl, and began eating; alternating between spoonfuls of cereal and delicately nibbling slices of bacon with her fingers.

Hans watched her eat in fascination. She’d said there would be time to ask questions later. This was later.

“Seidr, how did I get here?”

With her mouth full, Seidr answered matter-of-factly, “To this world? I don’t know. But I opened a portal under you before that awful serpent could finish you off. If he hadn’t changed back into a great wurm just to gloat, I might have missed the chance. Portals aren’t something you go casually tossing around, you know.”

“That was actually my next question. What I mean is, well, I’m not sure how to put it.” He still felt a bit foggy.

She pointed at his bowl with her spoon and up to his face.

“Eat. You have to be at least as hungry as I am. What you want to know is how you came to find yourself here, which incidentally is the realm of Aelfheim, the land of elves. Think of it as another plane of existence, or a parallel dimension.”

As Hans nodded, he decided she was probably right about eating. Maybe that was why he was so slow.

The bacon was a little overdone, probably due to his timing, but otherwise OK.

Once he started eating, Seidr began explaining again. “Gná, the Aelfqueen, cast a spell, a big one, last night. I assume that’s what brought you here. It would have cost her plenty, so she didn’t do it lightly. My guess is that she thinks you could help defeat her enemy, Loki.”

Managing to make shoveling food into her mouth seem delicate, she continued. “She didn’t explain anything at all to you before she sent you to face Jormungand?”

“No. The first guy, thing, I met was some sort of wolfman. He flipped out and attacked me.”

Seidr stopped eating and straightened. She asked, incredulously, “Fenrir? You escaped from Fenrir’s lair? I’m impressed.”

Hans shook his head sadly. “Actually, I killed him. I didn’t want to, but he didn’t give me any choice.”

≪He WHAT?!≫

Seidr’s jaw dropped, “ARE YOU SHITTING ME? Who . . . No. What are you?”

≪Set’s bouncing balls! What have you gotten us into this time?≫

“I keep getting asked that. I’m just plain, old Hans Madison. And I need to get home. My father is probably worried sick about me.”

Hans heard a new music, Seidr’s laughter.

“Silly Man, you defeated Loki’s most powerful son in battle. Not even Thor was able to do that. There’s nothing plain about you.”

Hans asked, only a little crossly, “And why do you keep calling me, ‘Silly Man?’ My name is Hans.”

Seidr took on a rare, serious tone, but Hans could still hear the tease. “Don’t you know? ‘Hans’ is an ancient word for ‘man.’ It’s your true name and a strong one at that. Names have power here, and you shouldn’t give yours away so easily.”

“OK, so why am I ‘Silly?'”

“At first I thought you were some sort of fool for trying to take on that wurm unarmed, but now, well, you make me feel, giddy.”

≪Giddy? Hello! He’s a god slayer! And you’re treating him like some sort of schoolboy.≫

The cat growled at him for some reason.

“Be nice, Bast,” she said to the cat. “I’m sure he won’t be that much trouble.”

Seidr snapped her fingers.

“Of course, your name! ‘Madison’ could mean you’re a descendant of Modi, one of the two sons of Thor that survived Ragnarok. He lived out a mortal life on Midgard, your world.”

Hans nodded, “That creature, Fenrir, said pretty much the same thing, just before he jumped me.”

Seidr rubbed her hands together, “Oh, Gná’s going to throw a fit when she finds out you’ve fallen into my wicked hands.” She muttered softly, “I wonder if I should tell her myself.”

≪You can’t mean to keep him! He isn’t some tomcat to keep around for company.≫

Seidr got up from her chair, pushed the table aside and sat in Hans’ lap, peeling the robe off of his shoulders.

“Now, how about showing some appreciation to the simple dark elf that saved your life?”

≪Again? What is it with you hominids, anyway? Oops! Guess who wants to drop in?≫

Hans felt his interest rising, but before he could answer, Seidr looked up, at nothing.

In a faraway tone she said, “She’s found you.” Then with false cheer, looking back at Hans, commented, “Well no sense in putting her off. She might try something foolish and embarrass herself trying to overcome my wards.”

“Who?”

“The Aelfqueen herself, Gná. Actually, she’s probably planning to ask my help in finding you, rather than having guessed you’re here. If she had gotten a fix on my portal last night she would have been here sooner. That could have been amusing.” Seidr smiled wickedly.

She looked up and said, to no one in particular, “Enter of your own free will.”

At Seidr’s consent a portal formed; an electric ring like before, only without as much arcing. Hans wondered briefly how he now knew it was a portal, and why the sight of it didn’t send him running, screaming. Of course, it is hard to run away in panic with a lap full of beguiling dark elf.

≪I’m out of here. I don’t enjoy the company of bitches.≫

Bast hissed and scampered back into the cave. For all that it was only the third time he’d seen her, Gná seemed awfully familiar as she stepped out of the portal. Two others following her were brought up short, as if by a wall. They stood there, obviously distressed.

“Sorry, Gná, just you,” said Seidr in a singsong voice.

Looking at Gná, Hans took in her fair skin, long black hair, and regal bearing. She wore something like a red silk kimono, but the embroidery was vine-like with elongated animal shapes. Celtic, Hans guessed.

Hans’ next thought was about his bare shoulders. Unfortunately, any attempt at releasing Seidr to cover himself was met with her shifting weight so that he had to hang on, lest he dump her on the floor. The wiggling was causing an uncomfortable reaction, so he quickly gave up.

Gná inhaled to speak and seemed immediately overcome, placing a delicate hand over her nose.

“What is that smell?” she whimpered.

In a sweet voice Seidr replied, “Bacon.” She picked a slice out of Hans’ bowl and bit into it. “Want some?”

Gná turned her head away from the sight. “You know aelfkind don’t eat meat. Oh, I might have known your hovel would reek of scorched flesh.”

“Hovel?” Seidr sounded almost, but not quite, offended. “This cave was good enough for the Narn, the Goddesses of Fate themselves, and considerably neater since they abandoned it.”

Hans guessed he was witness to a game long played.

Seidr wiggled as she turned her face to Hans. “You have no idea what kind of packrat Urd was. I still haven’t finished sorting through it all to make sure nothing dangerous, like that damned ring, ends up in the wrong hands.”

She wiggled more facing back to Gná. “And to think I was simply going to give you that last, missing shard of your mother’s mirror.”

“The last shard?” Gná seemed, sort of delighted, but clearly had other things on her mind. “Seidr Dear, we’ll have to worry about piecing her mirror back together later. I’ve come to warn you that this man is . . .”

Gná looked down at Hans, clearly noticing his bare chest and shoulders for the first time.

“. . . very dangerous. What are you doing?”

Hans felt it time for another intelligent comment, “I, er, well . . .”

Adding a husky touch to her voice, Seidr moved in for the kill. “We were about to have sex, again. Would you like to watch, or join in?”

Clearly only barely managing to hang onto her reserve, or perhaps sanity, Gná half snarled, “This man is the first hero I have managed to find in nearly five hundred years. Did you have to snatch him away and seduce him before he could so much as lift a finger in my defense?”

“Snatch him away?” Seidr became angry. “You think he’s done nothing because he’s uninjured, perhaps? Let me show you his injuries.”

Gná back stepped as Seidr stood and dropped her robe to the ground. Hans marveled. Seidr, her pale scars standing out against black as night skin, with hair like white silk, standing naked before Gná in her elaborate gown, her smooth, fair skin like alabaster and hair, raven black.

Hans rose from his reverie at Seidr’s haughty words. “These are the scars of Madison, won in battle slaying the Fenris Wolf. I took his injuries to myself that I might save his life.”

≪You tell her, girlfriend.≫

Not bothering to collect her robe from the floor, Seidr sat back down in Hans’ lap. She took little notice that he had taken the opportunity to cover himself. She snuggled in.

“And I didn’t seduce him.” She’d returned to her sweet voice, practically dripping honey. “I didn’t have to. We love each other, almost from the moment each of us laid eyes on the other. Isn’t that true, Dear One?”

“Well, yes.”

Somehow Seidr managed curl more of herself against Hans, all the while still glaring at Gná.

She continued with a touch of venom in her voice. “He’s single handedly removed your greatest barrier to defeating Loki. Isn’t that enough? Or do all men in your service have to die? You come to me wanting to take my true love away to war and never once asked him what he wants.”

She turned her face toward Hans’ again. No wiggle this time, darn it.

She asked, sweetly, “What do you want, Dear One? To take part again in Gná’s schemes? Or to stay here with me? Or maybe we can return to your world as lovers?”

Hans had a sudden insight into how a chess pawn might feel.

Gná curtly added, “You forgot to ask if he wanted to be free of your clutches. It matters little what you ask him if you have him ensorcelled, though, does it?”

Seidr flicked a wrist dismissively. Gná frowned at the gesture.

“I never ask a question I already know the answer to. Dear One? I hope you can forgive what I’m about to do.”

She sat up in his lap, cupped her hands to his face, gazed into his eyes, and began a brief chant:

Filius Modi ‘ filii,
Thor ‘heres, et Fenrir’ homicida,
per tuum verum nomen, dicere.

Gná gasped.

≪That’s cheating! Do it again.≫

Unable to stop himself, Hans answered, “I want to do what’s right.” He faced Gná. “As soon as I decide what that is.”

Looking back to Seidr, placing a hand on her cheek and looking her in the eye, he continued. “Seidr, I love you and I want you with me always, so I forgive you. You can call upon my name a thousand times a day and I would still love you.”

Seidr curled back into Hans’ arms.

“Oh, that wonderful word again. I’ll never tire of hearing it. I swear, My Love, I’ll never do that to you again.”

Seidr kissed Hans fiercely.

After a few seconds Gná delicately cleared her throat.

Seidr looked back up at Gná. “I’m sorry. We forgot you were still here. You never did answer my question. What will it be?”

Gná crossed her arms and frowned in mystification. “What will what be?”

Seidr batted her eyes. “Did you want to watch, or join in?”

Gná with a choked off screech of anger, or fear, fled through her portal closing it behind her.

≪Match: Seidr≫

Match: Seidr, thought Hans.

Hans laughed. He tried to scold, but not very hard. “That was wicked.”

“I said I wasn’t evil. I never said I wasn’t wicked.”

Seidr half stood long enough to straddle Hans in the chair. “And I’m of a mood to be even more wicked. We’ve got a couple of hours before she starts testing my wards. She’s going to want to spirit you out from under my nose.”

Hans looked about. “She can take me away from here?”

Seidr placed a hand on Hans’ cheek, guiding his gaze back to hers. “Mmm, not likely. But once she figures out that won’t work, she’s going to come back and demand that you help her. Then have her sister, Zha, lead a troop of warriors over to rattle my door. In a neighborly way, of course.”

Seidr placed a finger on her chin thoughtfully. “Then she’ll try offering you great wealth, maybe even herself and shared rule of her realm. When that doesn’t work, she’ll resort to the one thing a man like you won’t be able to resist.”

“Threats?”

“No. Tears. Now, no more questions. You have a naked woman in your arms and at least part of you has noticed that.”

She kissed him passionately, yet again.

He had noticed. Sadly, the chair didn’t last very long.

Next: CHAPTER 6–EFFORT

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Copyright AndyOH! (Andrew F. Odendhal)
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This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.