May 2018 Newsletter
With his thumb marking the spot in the book he was reading, Ski walked down the hall to the front door. He pulled it open and smiled at the woman standing there. “Well, hello.”
Erin didn’t reply. She was too busy staring up at the sky.
Curious, Ski stepped past the doorway and stood beside her, looking up. He growled in annoyance before yelling, “Bear Ingolfsson, you put that Raven down right—no! No! Not like—”
Stieg Engstrom landed facedown, and both Ski and Erin cringed at the sound of it. The crunching.
“Oh, God,” Erin muttered, “I think he killed him.”
But Ravens were made of tougher stuff. It was never easy to kill a Raven and Ski knew it. The Protectors had been trying for centuries to lay waste to the Raven Clan with very little success. They were not immortal, but Odin had given them incredibly hard heads and strong bones.
Even now, Engstrom was moving, using his arms to push his body up.
Bear landed behind him, pulling his white wings into his body as he did.
“What were you thinking?” Ski demanded. “Unleashing your wings during the day? Attacking a Raven unprovoked?”
“I was provoked!”
“The way he looked at me was filled with provocation.”
Ski didn’t even have time to roll his eyes at that bit of ridiculousness because Stieg had pushed himself off the ground and, face bloody, was charging Bear.
Bear tried to grab the Raven around the waist but just as his arms reached out, Engstrom’s entire body flipped up and over the much bigger man until he was behind Bear; Engstrom’s arms wrapped around Bear’s throat in a move that would kill most Protectors pretty quickly, but Bear had a neck so thick it was hard to find shirts that fit him properly.
Ski desperately tried to separate the pair, but they were snarling and growling at each other; Engstrom trying to kill Bear; Bear trying to toss Engstrom off so he could kill him.
“Stop it!” Ski ordered. “Both of you! Now!”
Then they all froze, none of them willing to move.
The Crow had climbed up Bear like she was climbing an old redwood and pressed the rune-covered blades hand-forged by Vig Rundstöm against the jugulars of Stieg and Bear. And while her hands were busy with her weapons, it was Erin’s exceptionally strong thighs that kept her attached to an unwilling Bear. There would be no shaking her off.
Even worse, one slight move of that blade would bleed both men out in seconds. And they all knew it.
Also, this was Erin Amsel. Not Kera. Not Jace. Not even Chloe, who was more of a puncher. But Erin Amsel.
The woman had gutted Thor once, a move he still hadn’t forgiven her for, even if it was at a Valkyrie party where he got drunk on mead and then got a little “handsy.”
“Gentlemen,” Erin practically purred, no anger in her voice at all. She was enjoying this. “Don’t tempt me to put a stop to this the only way I know how. Let’s all just calm down.”
Neither man budged. Even Bear, who was beginning to turn an interesting shade of blue.
Erin looked first at Engstrom. “You know what I’ll do to you,” she said, immediately dismissing him and focusing instead on Bear. “And when you’re dead,” she warned, “I’ll make sure to burn your books. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.”
Always worried about the books the Protectors safeguarded with their very lives if necessary, Bear quickly lifted his hands off Engstrom’s big arms. But the Raven still didn’t back off . . . until Erin pushed her blade against his throat. Not enough to kill him, but enough to get her point across.
A thin line of blood trailed down his neck. Shocked, he unwrapped his arms from Bear and stepped away. He touched the spot where she’d cut him, his hurt and angry gaze locked on Erin’s face as she climbed down from a coughing Bear.
“You . . . you . . .”
“What? You thought I was kidding?” Erin asked Stieg. “You two were acting like assholes.” She turned away from the sputtering man and faced Ski. “I need a favor.”
“I need to talk to Tyr. Can you summon him?”
“Oh, a summoning ceremony isn’t necessary. He’s in the backyard playing with Jace’s dog.”
“Your god just . . . hangs out here?”
“Yeah.” Ski shrugged. “When he can.”
Erin began to say something else, but seemed to change her mind, walking off with a shake of her head into the house.
Bear and the Raven began to follow, but Ski quickly stopped them. “I’ll just say this once . . . Jace is in the library. If you two get into it when she’s this concerned about her friend, you risk the books,” he pointed out to Bear. “And you risk having her tear the skin from your hide and the wings from your back, Raven. Understand?”
With mutual Viking grunts of agreement, the three men entered the house and went to see what Erin Amsel could possibly want from the mighty god Tyr.
Erin walked through the Protectors’ house, amused at the way they all seemed to sense her presence. They came out of rooms, down the big, marble stairs, heads peeking around doors. She felt like a fox walking into a hen house and making all the herding dogs panic.
Erin stopped at the big library. It was the biggest library she’d ever seen in a private home and the largest room in the entire mansion. She was sure the Protectors had gutted a large portion of the wing so they had a lot of space for their precious books.
Erin appreciated the work they did. She’d always liked old books. She liked how they felt in her hands, the binding, the paper, the artistic quality of each one. But she didn’t let the Protectors know that. It was much more fun to torture them, which was why she faced the big glass doors of the library and cracked her knuckles. That was all she did.
But apparently that was all she needed to do. Because she was suddenly surrounded. Several of the Protectors stood right in front of the library, ready to sacrifice their bodies to her flames if it meant saving their books.
Now that was devotion.
Laughing a little, she moved on, walking down the hallway until she found sliding glass doors that led her outside to the backyard.
That’s where she found the Protectors’ “mighty” god Tyr. On his back in the grass, Jace’s funny-looking puppy standing by Tyr’s big head, licking the god’s laughing face.
It was not what Erin expected, but she had to admit, it made her feel much better about her choice of which god to talk to.
She’d started walking toward him when a hand clamped on her arm and pulled her back.
“And where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
Young lady? Really? “To start some shit!” she replied eagerly. “Wanna come with me?”
Clucking his tongue against his teeth, Haldor wrapped his arm around Erin’s waist and carried her back into the house. “You will not bother our god with your . . .” He struggled to find the right word, so Erin decided to help him. “My beauty?” she asked, grinning. “My charm? My effervescence? My . . . je ne sais quoi?”
“No,” he replied, voice flat. “None of those things.”
“What’s happening?” Stieg asked as he came around the corner, his hand still pressed against the tiny wound she’d given him on his throat.
Good Lord. What a big Viking baby!
“I’m trying to prevent this demoness from irritating our mighty god Tyr,” Haldor informed Stieg. “And what are you doing here, non-thinker?”
Erin bit the inside of her cheek to stop the laughter, but wow, did she love the way Haldor had spit that out . . . like it was the absolute worst insult he could think of.
“Is Tyr back there?” Stieg asked her.
“Yes,” Erin replied. “And he is literally playing with Jace’s dog. Literally.”
Using his free hand, Stieg pushed Haldor aside and used his body to force Erin back into the yard. She stumbled past the threshold.
Tyr looked up from the puppy nowon his lap. “A Crow?” he asked, his voice making everything sort of . . . vibrate.
Erin briefly wondered if the scientists who monitored California for earthquakes were staring at their fancy controls and wondering if the “big one” was coming right at that moment.
“What’s a Crow doing in the sacred space of our books?”
“Big reader of books, are ya, Tyr?”
“Be nice,” Stieg warned, holding the sliding door shut with his hand while the Protectors on the other side tried to pry it open.
“I was nice.”
“No. You were sarcastic and mocking. Try something different. And no juggling or fist fights.”
Stieg was right. They needed Tyr. So she took a deep breath, let it out, and moved closer to the very moral and upstanding war god—a combination one simply did not hear about very often.
“I need information. And I think you’re the only one who can help me.”
Rubbing the puppy’s ears, the god looked directly at Erin, and his eyes narrowed in recognition. “Oh, it’s you.”
She shrugged. “It’s me.”
“Skuld’s vicious little fire starter.”
“I prefer flame master.”
“Of course you do.”
Tyr placed Jace’s puppy on his shoulder and stood. A nd the god kept standing. He wasn’t even in his “true” god form. He was in his mostly human one. And yet he was about eight feet tall and so wide.
Like the Great Wall of China.
And that wall was now standing in front of and over her, staring coldly down into her face.
Except for his size, Tyr looked more like an ex-roadie for Led Zeppelin or Alice Cooper. He had on a very worn T-shirt with the logo from the Heavy Metal movie, torn black jeans, and black steel-toed boots. He’d braided his gray and brown hair into one long plait that rested casually over his right shoulder and his face had one big scar from his cheek down across his mouth and under his chin. So deep his thick beard couldn’t even cover it. The hair had refused to grow. He had runes tattooed on his neck and arms, and the right hand that had been torn off by the wolf Fenrir was replaced by a metal glove, also covered in runes.
The god couldn’t be more Viking, even in his modern—for the seventies—clothes.
“So what do you want, little Crow? What do you want to ask the mighty Tyr?”
And humble! Just like most gods.
Erin sighed. She’d hoped for better from the lesser-known god. “I need your vast knowledge.”
“There’s a library full of vast knowledge right in there. Why bother me?”
“I’m not a big reader,” she replied.
Tyr stared down at her. “Who admits that? In public, I mean?”
“Plus, I’m not allowed in your precious library. Your men are very bitchy about it, too.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t threaten them so.”
“I’m a Crow.” She grinned. “That’s what we do.”