February 2023 Newsletter
“Okay,” Erin sighed out. “What’s going on?”
Kera glanced at Jace, but her friend could barely look at either of them. Jace blamed herself for this, but, really, if anyone was to blame, it was Gullveig.
But Kera didn’t have time to sit around, complaining about that bitch. “We were going to wait to tell everyone this, including you, but now that we hear the Vatican is involved—
Erin chuckled. “Yeah.”
“—and you didn’t tell us.”
The chuckling stopped and green eyes widened a bit. “Oh. Uh . . . well, the Vatican—”
“Now that we know about the Vatican despite you—”
“Wow,” Erin muttered, “not lettin’ that go.”
“—we’ve decided to get everyone up to speed since it seems things are moving forward quicker than we thought.”
“Okay . . . and?”
“We think we have a way to kill Gullveig.”
“To actually kill her? Put her down for good? Not just send her somewhere else?”
“Great. What will I need to do?” When Kera only stared at her, “I’m assuming you’re having this conversation with me—and only me—because I’m the one who can do it. Whatever it is.”
“It’s a risk.”
“Life is risk.”
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Kera!” she exclaimed, hands thrown up. “Just tell me!”
“We need you to get the Fire Sword.”
“What Fire Sword?”
“The—” Kera glanced at Jace again but her friend’s head hung even lower. It was like she was trying to turn herself into a ball and roll away. “The flaming sword of the fire giant Surtr.”
Erin thought a moment before asking, “Do you mean the sword protected by the dragon? The dragon who hates all humans? That dragon?”
Kera cleared her throat, now wishing that Chloe was there so she could do the explaining.
Why had Kera insisted on doing it? She didn’t know how to handle Erin Amsel. She liked her. She was a close friend. But they didn’t actually get along except in battle. Erin thought Kera was too uptight and Kera could barely tolerate Erin’s ability to be a goddamn human ping-pong.
“Yeah,” Kera finally said. “That’s the one.”
Erin glanced off, lips pursed before she stated, “Of course it is.”
Then Jace burst into hysterical tears . . . which seemed about right.
Stieg stared at his Raven brothers until Rolf leaned forward and asked, “Are you all right? You haven’t said a word in ten minutes.”
“I’m trying to decide,” Stieg said carefully, “the level of my rage.”
Rolf nodded. “That’s a fair answer.”
“Are they trying to kill her?” Stieg asked, still feeling surprisingly calm. “Because there are lots of people who want her dead.”
“No. We actually need her to survive. Her death would ensure Ragnarok so we’re trying to avoid that.”
“By sending her to the lowest pits of the World Tree to face the dragon Nidhogg and take the sword from him, which will undoubtedly piss that dragon off? Is that the plan?”
“When you put it like that . . .”
“What other way would you put it?”
His brothers glanced off, trying to find an acceptable answer, but Stieg knew there was no acceptable answer.
“She could say no,” Siggy suggested, still holding Stieg’s goat in his arms like a newborn.
“How do you know?”
“How do I know?” Stieg leaned across the counter so his friends would understand his words clearly. “Because she’s insane!”
“Okay,” Erin said, getting to her feet. “I’m gonna go.”
Kera grabbed her arm and yanked her back down. “You’re gonna go?” she asked, brown eyes boring into her.
Erin glanced at a sobbing Jace. “Yeah. She’s . . . uh . . . crying. So I’m just gonna go.” She tried to get up again, but Kera yanked her back.
“Because your friend is crying? Because she’s allowing herself to show emotion?”
“You’re a bitch.”
Then Erin was rolling around the yard with Kera, the two of them trying to punch each other and calling each other names a priest would be horrified by.
“Stop it!” Jace screeched, grabbing at them. “Stop it now!”
Jace yanked them apart, the three of them on their knees, panting. Erin glaring at Kera. Kera glaring at her. And Jace glaring at all of them.
Her tears were gone, but her eyes were tinged red. At one time, not even a few weeks ago, eyes that color would have signaled it was too late to pull her back from the brink of Berserker-ness, but lately, she’d found a way to manage it.
“I can’t believe you two,” she chastised, working to get control. “I can’t believe you’re acting like this.”
Brodie Hawaii, Kera’s pit bull, apparently agreed. She circled them, barking. And Lev crawled into Jace’s lap, licking her face. He was definitely trying to calm her.
Erin opened her mouth to speak but Jace cut her off. “If you say that Kera started it, I’m going to beat you to death and let the world burn.”
Since that was exactly what Erin was going to say, she pressed her lips together and remained silent.
Jace, breathing heavy, jerked her hand at Kera. “Your nose is bleeding.”
Kera wiped her face with the back of her hand, eyes growing wide at the sight of blood on her knuckles. “You punched me in the nose?” she growled at Erin.
“It’s such a wide target, I could barely miss.”
They were reaching for each other again when Lev, still on Jace’s lap, gave a low warning growl that startled them both.
They stared at the dog, then each other, before quickly turning completely away, afraid they’d start laughing and really send Jace over the edge.
When Erin felt confident she wouldn’t laugh, she said, “Sorry, Kera.”
“Yeah.” Kera swallowed, her voice a tad higher as she struggled not to laugh at the overwhelming cuteness of Jace’s funny-looking dog. “Me, too.”
Jace kissed her dog on the head and sent him off to continue playing with Brodie. She laid her folded hands in her lap, let out a very long breath, and said softly, “I know you both have a very distinct way of dealing with intense emotions, and that it often involves hitting each other or calling each other fat ass.”
“I’ve never called Erin a fat ass.”
“No, but you have called her a tiny leprechaun you could step on.”
Kera shrugged. “Yeah. I have said that.”
“I’m suggesting we try a different way of dealing with this.”
Erin opened her mouth to reply.
“No!” Jace barked, cutting Erin off before she could say a word. “Part of this different way is for you not to say the first thing that comes into your head because although it will make you laugh, it will do nothing but send me into a crazed Berserker rage.”
Erin shrugged. “Then that’s probably a good plan.”
Rolf watched Stieg pull on a sweatshirt and sneakers and head toward his front door.
“Where are you going?” Vig asked from the kitchen, where all of them were eating Stieg’s cereal and milk, probably leaving nothing for him when they were done.
“Where do you think?” Stieg asked, stopping briefly to grab his keys and open the door. “To kidnap Erin.”
Then he was gone, the door slamming shut behind him.
Rolf shoveled another mouthful of Raisin Bran into his mouth before mumbling, “Should we be concerned about that?”
“Probably,” Vig replied, reaching for another box of Frosted Flakes.