Chapter 20 – What's Wrong?
We were back on the ribbon. Odin was urging us to finish weaving shut Frijjo's alternate future, while he and his Elves carried the comatose Aesir prisoners a little into the future. I was about to tell Odin "okay, when I felt an overwhelming sense of dread. It wasn't that Odin had killed 'Frijjo'. I wasn't happy about that but recognised it as necessary.
"Hermione! I have to get back to Hermione," I told Odin. "Follow me, I think the rest need to weave as fast as they can. Aagog, you are with me.
I still was atop my broom and started racing back along the ribbon as fast as I could navigate the turns. Odin followed.
Aagog! She climbed me and sat upon my shoulders. I flew all the way to the Yggdrasil chamber and asked it to suck me into its parlour. I found an excited Frijjo holding the rest of my team captive. Hermione was urging Frijjo not to kill the spiders. As I flew nearer to Frijjo, I urged Aagog to anchor herself to the ceiling behind Frijjo. I felt her weight vanish from my shoulders, just as Frijjo noticed my arrival. I swerved to the right to get more distance from her, keeping my wand pointed at her head.
"I was just telling your pal Hermione that it is necessary for these spiders to die. They. Are. Very. Dangerous. You and Odin are very foolish not to recognise that simple fact. Either that or you have both become too squeamish. I have the courage and resolve to do what must be done to save our worlds. Do you understand how fast these creatures multiply? Do you think they will be content to be exiled to just one world? And you dared to bring spiders to Asgard. The same Asgard which may have to be my future home, if you don't become a lot more helpful on Vanaheimer than you have been thus far.
"Yggdrasil was kind enough to give Hermione this locked magical box, containing a 'secret weapon'. I'd kill you now, but Hermione couldn't open the box, when she thought I remained 'Off!'ed. I haven't opened it either. I think the Odin Stone, which he gave to you rather than me, will open the box. You will open the box for me, or you will watch Hermione die a very painful death. Now, drop your wand."
"I think not. I drop the wand; you kill everyone. Odin follows. You have little time to escape. Do you want the box opened, or not?"
She nodded, 'yes' and demanded "be very quick."
Still on my broom, and with my wand still fixed upon her head, I summoned the stone to my left hand. I drifted over to the box and held the stone next to it. The box opened to reveal... the familiar four purple diamonds - three large, one smaller. I felt Frijjo trying to summon my wand, along with Odin's stone and the four diamonds. I fired a "Kill!" curse at her and urged Aagog to attack. Hermione dove to the side and fired curses.
Frijjo recoiled as Aagog bit her. She dropped two of the diamonds and vanished.
I turned to see that Odin had arrived. I gave him a very quick explanation, as I picked up the diamonds - one large, one small.
"We must move fast. She will go to Ve's fortress and free him. I have been very stupid to tolerate her betrayals as I have. If she frees Ve, they can do great damage very quickly, especially with my stone and the two diamonds. We must catch her before she nears the fortress, or my own defenses will attack me."
"Maybe not," I assured Odin, as I held up the authentic Odin stone. "She has the bad copy. You were right. It did open the lock box. That convinced Frijjo that it was genuine."
Hermione started to explain how Frijjo had managed to gain the upper hand, while we were killing her horcrux. "Tell your tale while we travel. We must catch her before she enters Ve's world. She must be questioned and then imprisoned. I don't want my defenses to kill her."
We moved back to the ribbon, at least Odin, Hermione, and Boldgog did. The rest stayed behind to finish weaving the barrier and to protect ancient Yggdrasil. I told them that we would return as soon as possible. As we walked and flew, Hermione talked. She also rode her broom.
"She was unconscious. We 'Off!'ed her every six hours. That was as often as I thought possible, without risking outright killing her. We woke her every day for a half hour to give her water and food and allow her to relieve herself. All was well until today. Today became strange when Yggdrasil said it had a secret weapon which it thought we needed to have. It said the weapon was from an earlier age of the Aesir/Vanir and a Vanir God had entrusted the box to its care long ago to be used only in a time of great need. Yggdrasil was worried that great need had arrived and gave me the box. It likes the spiders and feared for their survival. It does not like Frijjo.
"I tried to open the box with my Muse ring, but it didn't work. Frijjo must have been listening to all of this, while feigning an inert mind. I don't know how she voided the 'Off!' curse I used, but she obviously did. I had just told Barb that I couldn't open the box when Frijjo just sprung up and attacked us. Several of us cursed her, but it didn't faze her. She did something which made all my limbs go numb. Mamagog was ready to bite her. Frijjo got this strange look on her face. I did a wandless curse, and she almost collapsed. I don't think Mamagog even bit her. She killed Mamagog. Perhaps the fright got her."
"When did this happen?"
I told Hermione that the timing seemed to match when Odin had killed 'horcrux Frijjo', or at least killed 'displaced-in-time Frijjo'.
"Have we underestimated her that seriously?"
"My fault," Odin confessed. "You were suspicious. I kept trying to convince you that she was less capable, less dangerous, and less malevolent than she really was. She's always had great influence on me. She's been my blind spot."
Hermione insisted upon a quick retelling of what we had learned and done in our days away from her. I gave a very detailed account, asking her for specifics about Frijjo's behavior."
"I think she was feigning her condition and spying on all we did. Either 'Off!" never worked on her or she discovered a way to neutralise it. Today Yggdrasil said that it thought your mission was about to take a turn toward the unfortunate side and that it had custody of an artifact, which might be of value. You know the rest."
We were soon at the bright purple ribbon. With just the four of us and knowing how tightly we had to scrunch together, it was easier for Yggdrasil to suck us back to the proper time. We arrived in the library prepared for a fight. Frijjo was not present and Yggdrasil had not seen her.
"We must hurry, but first I must get Ve-world-suits for each of us. Without them, we'd freeze, or explode, or suffocate within a minute.
Yggdrasil produced four appropriately sized suits. The suits were light, transparent, and covered our entire bodies like a shroud. Like a magically sealed shroud. The suits were flexible enough that we moved easily in them.
"Enough playing with the suits. Yggdrasil, transport us!"
There was a gut-churning series of tremors passing through my body, then I was falling three inches to the surface of Ve's world. I could tell that we were very close to the entrance from the pyramid between worlds. Odin led us in what seemed to me to be almost the correct direction. We walked for nearly three hours, before the tower of Ve's fortress came into view. As we halved the distance to the fortress, I saw a dark mound ahead of us, which hadn't been present during our last visit here. We had almost reached the mound, when a voice appeared in my head.
Welcome, holder of the Stone of Odin. The one you approached tried to invade me with the false stone as her permit. She is dead. As per protocol, the three prisoners have been killed."
Odin had apparently also heard the message, as he shouted: "No! What have you and I done."?
"When did this happen?" I asked the fortress.
Two weeks ago. Is that Odin with you. Explain! Now!
I am sorry, my master. I faithfully followed your instructions. Does the one with the Odin Stone carry it with your permission. Is she allowed entry into me?
"Not your fault. I should have guessed that Frijjo would not approach you in our time. She has tricked me yet again. This time it cost her everything. I am sad but recognise that you have done what I should have done but was unable. Treacherous as she was, she was my best love. And yes, Ginny carries the stone with my permission. She is a more reliable owner than I was. Please follow her instructions."
We walked up to what was left of Frijjo. She was little more than a frozen cinder, burnt beyond recognition by Odin's weapons. We stood and looked away, as Odin wept. He finally lifted the corpse in his arms. "I want to take her to the fortress. I must see my brothers for a last time and properly say goodbye. Don't be embarrassed, I don't mind your watching me. It's a comfort. Please... come with me to the fortress."
The fortress wasn't quite as close as it seemed. It was a two-hour walk. I worried toward the end, suddenly realising that I had no idea how much longer we would be able to breathe inside our suits.
We approached what looked like a major entrance to the fortress. There was a long bridge over a wide mote of some slowly boiling liquid.
"Probably nitrogen," Hermione explained.
"Oxygen," Odin corrected her.
The bridge did not drop us as we walked across. The door was the 'normal' sort of Odin-metal door, which I was used to encountering in pyramid chambers. There was a copper-colored little panel to the right of the door, with a small oval depression. I held the Odin Stone against the depression. The door whisked smoothly open. We were in a large entry hallway. It seemed the perfect site for the fortress's defenders to slaughter invaders, as there was no place to go, except for another metal door twenty feet ahead of us. I heard the rush of air and felt the ballooning of my suit collapse.
"You can safely remove your suits."
We all did as Odin suggested. Hermione placed the suits into her carry bag. I led us to the second door. It opened to the touch of my finger, recognising that I had displayed the stone once. The room beyond was very modernistic and what I recognised as very high technology, but the furnishings were very old-style. The room was almost circular and probably close to two-hundred feet across. There was a large wooden table, with about fifty wooden chairs around it. Tapestries hung from the far wall. All the other walls were transparent. The floor was wood. There were chairs, with soft cushions arrayed along the walls, each with a small table. There were two doors out of the room. A row of a dozen short bookshelves was placed between the doors. They were empty. No, they held perhaps six books. Odin placed what was left of Frijjo on the floor in front of the bookshelves.
"I know you want to examine the books. Humour me. I have a need to rush ahead and grieve. We take the door on the right."
The door opened as we approached within a foot of it. We walked along a transparent corridor to what was obviously a very tall tower. The door to the tower opened to our approach. Our path led right onto a wide circular staircase. The walls were metal, rather than transparent. We had a choice of up or down. Odin led us down. Down two levels, to the bottom, below-ground floor. I counted stairs - a hundred between each of the floors. Looking at the spacing between the stairs, I guessed about sixty feet between floors. There was a metal door four feet ahead. This door required an application of the stone. The door opened to reveal a large cavern with stone walls and floor.
It had the smell of dungeon. The cavern was an oval, a hundred feet long and only about a dozen across and the same dozen tall. There were five metal doors on each side of the cavern and one straight ahead of us. Odin led us to the farthest door on the right, motioning for me to use the stone to open the door. I did so.
Beyond the door was a wood-lined corridor with tapestries spaced along the wall to the left and four doors open to the right and a closed door straight ahead. Lights in the corridor had come on as soon as we had entered. The tapestries were all the same - crimson, with a silver Unicorn in the center. "That is Ve's personal banner," Odin told us as he marched to the first door.
The room was a decent-sized library with table and chairs, bookshelves, and a comfortable, plush reading chair. These shelves were filled with books. Hermione restrained herself from grabbing one, as Odin was clearly searching for a body. We stepped aside and let Odin lead us to the next room. This was a dining facility. The next room held a device on the wall which showed a slowly changing display of pictures, five feet across. I saw Vili, Ve, Odin, Frijjo and a dozen persons I didn't recognise. The device was beginning to show scenery. It was clearly Asgard. The current pictures from before the great fire. The room also contained soft surfaces one could sit or lie upon. Still no body.
The next room was a luxurious bathroom. The floor was covered with fur. Ve's body lay on the floor. He was obviously dead. He looked as though he had been dead for many months, although I knew that wasn't true. He was shriveled like a mummy, but recognisable. He had not been burnt as Frijjo was. I was surprised that the room carried no smell of death. That, in itself, was evidence of very great magic. I was not surprised when Odin lay down on the fur, beside Ve, and wept. The rest of us sat in silence.
"Ve was basically good, but weak. Seid-space was too much for him. He tried being a greater God than the Light Guardian. His mind was lost. I had no choice. He could never be free. I missed him every day of my life."
Odin led us on a perfunctory tour of the rest of Ve's quarters. The last room on the right was a combination kitchen and storage room. The room at the end of the corridor was a very large bedroom. The ceiling was a crystal dome, which showed a false heaven, or possibly the real heavens as they would appear from outside the fortress.
Odin walked us out of Ve's quarters and to the door immediately across from Ve's. I assumed that Vili's quarters were behind this door. At Odin's hand signal I opened the door. We performed the same room-by-room exploration as we had on Ve's side of the corridor. The rooms were identical, with one difference. We did not find a body. We searched room-by-room a second time, being more careful to look inside any space large enough to possibly hold a body. Vili simply wasn't here.
"Now what?" I must have inadvertently spoken aloud, because Odin immediately answered me.
"Now we search this whole damned fortress and ask it some very pointed questions. I considered, and dismissed, the possibility that Ve and his fortress held some secrets, which might permit his escape. I investigated that possibility very thoroughly and installed many of my own protections to thwart any possibility of a nasty surprise. Vili never set foot in this place, before I carried his inert body to his cell. I'm convinced he never knew his brother had built this fortress. How could he possibly escape? This is very bad!"