When you bow your head to pray at night, do you really know who you're talking to? Have you seen his face? Heard God's voice? I have. I've seen lots of them in fact, heard their voices. I know them, know who they really are. They're not who you think. They're not benevolent beings who want to protect us and help us. They're Atlanteans. Yep, that Atlantis. Long ago, when they sank their own continent with all their magic and technology, they spread out over our world and we believed they were gods. We gave them sacrifices and they took our offerings and used them to prolong their own lives, to become even more powerful. Then we stopped believing. The sacrifices waned. They had to find a way to get it all back again. So they started manipulating us, instigating war between us, and then they scooped up our fallen soldiers as sacrifice. That's worked out pretty well for them. Until I came along.
I'm going to stop them, even if I have to do it by killing one god at a time. Nothing's going to get in my way, not even a gorgeous Viking god who says he's on my side.
"There were of old certain men versed in sorcery, Thor, namely, and Odin, and many others, who were cunning in contriving marvelous sleights; and they, winning the minds of the simple, began to claim the rank of gods."
Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, 13th century
When someone asks if you're a god, you say yes!
Those were the words going through my mind the first time I met Thor. In my line of work they should have been words to live by... literally. At least they would have been had I remembered them in time. Unfortunately, Bill Murray's voice taunted me inside my head mere seconds too late. Thanks a lot, Bill.
My forgetfulness left me facing the distinct possibility of an early and creatively painful demise. If only I'd remembered the movie wisdom sooner. Yes, movie wisdom. Scoff all you want but it may surprise you how much useful information is hidden in movies. At least that's what I tell myself so I can feel better about thinking in movie quotes half the time.
"So, Thor," I smirked up at the muscle-bound madman while he glowered down at me through a fall of his shimmering copper hair. "What's it gonna be? Hammer, lightning, fists of fury? Lightning might singe the rug a bit. Odin might not appreciate that, looks kinda old."
Maybe it wasn't a good idea to taunt gods but hey, what did I have to lose? He'd caught me red handed, bent over the new "Make War not Love" campaign plans I found in the Human Relations room of Valhalla. I hadn't even heard the loud-mouthed God of Thunder coming in, if you can believe that one. Loud-mouthed didn't automatically mean loud-footed, evidently. Then to make matters worse, he asked me if I was a god. Like maybe I was a newbie or something, and what did I, the ever quick-witted one say? I said no. Could someone please tell me if they've seen an unclaimed brain lying about? I've no idea where I've left mine.
Then again, maybe I should cut myself some slack. It's a little shocking to be face to face, well face to chest, with what had to be close to seven feet of gorgeous, vibrant, leather-clad Viking godliness. Did I mention gorgeous...and the leather? I don't mean that yuppie silky lambskin either. I mean hard core, I'm gonna bust your ass if you look at me wrong, well worn but still strong enough to wipe the floor with your face, leather. Just seeing the way it teased me by gripping all that muscle, made me want to rip it to shreds just to teach it a lesson. Bad leather, Viking gods should be naked.
"You want to see my hammer?" Thor's eyes gleamed as he looked slowly up and down my body, which took longer than it should have for all five-foot-three... and a half... of me.
"Whoa there, Viking," I leaned back further on the table he'd previously planted me on. "Raping and pillaging days are in the past. You gotta catch up on the times." I snapped my fingers in his face. "Nowadays there are laws on the treatment of prisoners."
"Not for gods," his lips twitched just slightly but I caught the movement and I started to hope I might actually make it out of this mess alive. Get 'em laughing, then run while they're distracted. It's not the best plan but it's worked for me before.
"Hey, like I always say, gods are people too," I smiled my best P.R. smile. Gods are great, they're not at all out to cause mayhem and suck power out of the human race, really, and I'm definitely not here to foil your evil plans. I smiled bigger.
"No we're not," the frown was back and he leaned a meaty fist on the table next to my hip for good measure. The leather around his forearm creaked at me gleefully.
Okay, that was more like it. I could handle a mad god better than a horny one. I congratulated myself on the sharpness of my tongue until I felt his thumb scrape lightly over my jeans. Shit. More creaky leather commentary came as he leaned in closer and I found myself wondering how much strain the stuff could take. Maybe he'd bust his seams before he had a chance to bust my face. I can't say the prospect didn't have its own appeal even without saving me an ass whoppin'.
"Now, now," I clucked my tongue at him, trying for my best schoolmarm imitation and hoping he didn't have a thing for teachers. "You mustn't forget your own history. Shall I refresh your memory?"
"Try me, human," he made a sound halfway between a sniff and a snort, "let's hear what you think you know of gods."
"Well for one thing," I poked my finger into his massive chest, "I know you aren't gods at all, so you can just stop with the holier than thou attitude, buster."
A thick eyebrow arched up and Thor's lips went into mini spasms.
"For another thing," yes, I was still poking him, "I know where you're from, Atlantean. I know your god abilities are nothing more than technological and magical advances your kind kept from the rest of humanity in an attempt to rule the world. Advances that ended up destroying Atlantis but still you all didn't think that was any reason to stop practicing them."
"Practice does make perfect," his eyes started to spark with the very magic I'd referenced and I knew I had only one shot to get out alive and un-hammered as it were.
"I know something else too," I whispered and looked side to side conspiratorially.
He couldn't help it; his smile finally broke free before he leaned in closer, "What's that?"
"I know if I do this," I kicked my leg out as hard as I could and caught him where no man likes to be kicked, "god or not, you're going down."
I jumped off the table the minute Thor landed, groaning and cupping himself on the thick carpet. I ran through the door, already chanting the spell that would get me through the wards of Valhalla and out into the Aether. I felt the magic rush over me like a hot sentient wind, as I ran down a long hallway to the Tracing room. It sparked eagerly, urging me back to where I came from. Everything in its place and all that.
The trace point sealed behind me with a low murmur of magic and a pressurized pop in my ears. Then the Aether pulled me in, my body becoming a mere memory with a tingling, freeing ecstasy. I flowed through streams of pure magic, my spell pushing me along to my destination so I didn't have to navigate the waters myself. With another pressure-pop that announced the return of my ears, and a healthy jolt of gravity, I exited the Aether and felt my body reluctantly become physical again.
My momentum carried me into the opposite wall of the alley I'd arrived in, and I automatically crouched into a fighting stance just in case Thor had managed to follow me through. Tracing was a rush, add the adrenaline of the chase to it and it left me panting for breath and shaking. My pulse beat heavily in my ears, the thudding drowning out the traffic I could see in my peripheral vision. I was holding my kodachi before me and I hadn't even realized I'd drawn the Japanese shortsword. Remnants of magic sparked blue and drifted to the ground in a roughly circular outline but the wall before me remained the same, no ripples, no blurring, no sign of Thor at all. I stood slowly, leaned back, and felt my heart rate start to decelerate as I slid the sword into its scabbard.
"God damn Buffy! Freakin' vampire slayer gets all the props," I muttered. "Vampires, hmph, please! Bunch of melodramatic pussies. And werewolves? I'd fight one of those puppies any day rather than a god. At least they can't pull magic out of their furry asses. Now Fairies, I might not be thrilled to meet one of them in a dark alley... a dark alley kinda like this one." I shoved myself quickly away from the wall and power-walked towards the street, still bitching about a fictional vampire hunter under my breath.
"Vampire Slayer," I grumbled, "Try killing a god sometime and then get back to me. Blondie wouldn't last a day. She'd be whining to her mommy about the unfairness of it all within minutes. Oh, and falling for your prey... total amateur. You don't crap where you eat and you don't kill where you sleep. Or sleep with who you kill. No wait, that's necrophilia. Oh whatever, it's just dumb to let your prey seduce you." I had a flash of Thor's striking face, blue eyes sparkling, and decided to just shut the hell up. That guy Spike was kind of sweet to her, in a psycho kind of way. Ugh, I threw my hands up and shook my head.
You might be wondering how someone gets into the god hunting business and all I can tell you is: hell if I know. I pretty much stumbled face first into it. Like hitting a rock when you're riding a bike, I went flying and landed in a thorn bush. A burning one. A talking, burning one that said it was god.
I never really was the religious type. I'm more of a hands-on kinda girl. I've practiced witchcraft my entire life, which I kinda looked on as a religion of the self. I do mean witchcraft by the way, not Wicca. I know that's a religion but I don't practice it, I just do the spells. Wicca's a little too peaceful for me.
Well, maybe I haven't practiced witchcraft my entire life but pretty damn close since Mom was teaching me spells in the cradle. Most babies got The cow jumped over the moon; I got sung to about drawing it down. Not that I'm complaining since it's really helping me out these days but I've just never seen the gods as a big part of my life.
Boy has that changed.
I walked out of the alley, into the bright Hawaiian sunshine, and held a hand up to shield my eyes. Well where did you expect the gods to live? Okay, so they don't all technically live in Hawaii. They have tracing points here but I have located some of their Hawaiian residences as well. The land is still filled with old magic, practically spilling with it since there isn't much land to begin with. So it's a convenient place to ferry in and out of god terrain. Whatever, it's my home and I have to say I'm getting a little tired of sharing it with them. They have their own realm to live in, they need to go there. Or they can go to Hell for all I care...which also happens to be in the God Realm. In fact, from what I understand, there's a few of them. They can take their pick.
About five years ago, I truly started developing a relationship with the gods and I'm not talking in the Do you have a relationship with God? Jimmy Swaggart sense. I'm talking about a deep understanding of how truly evil they are. Read your history books kiddies, most gods were revered mainly because they were so damn scary.
For me it all started with sex. At least it would have if my chosen partner for the evening hadn't been planning on killing me as a sacrifice to the Hawaiian God, Ku. You think you've got some bad date stories.
My young, Hawaiian escort for the evening was everything every female tourist (and some males too, I'm sure) fantasized about on the plane ride over. He was tall, dark, handsome, and built like a brick... well you get the picture. He also had green eyes, owed to some white ancestor who got lucky. Those eyes were my downfall.
He took me out on a romantic date ending with us drinking an entire bottle of champagne at a Heiau, a Hawaiian temple. This particular Heiau was dedicated to, you guessed it, Ku. Now I know that doesn't sound too romantic but take into account that the Heiau was situated on a mountaintop overlooking Waimea Bay and the sun was setting. Orange sky drowning in a cerulean sea that crept into a verdant valley spotted with the flight of tropical birds. Can you see the sexy factor now?
I may have been tipsy when we started. I'd just turned twenty-one so give me a break on the alcohol consumption, but when I looked up and saw a large local man watching us from the tree line, I sobered up quick. I shot him a nasty look but he was focused on my date so he didn't see it. Something in his gaze set off warning sirens (definitely sirens, not bells) and I turned back sharply to find a large Crocodile Dundee knife plunging towards me.
I had seconds to roll to the side before the blade ended up embedded in the ground, merely nicking my upper arm instead of going through my chest. I rolled back towards the knife, effectively removing it from my date's possession and my bleeding arm, as I kicked upwards. I don't know if I hit him there or not but he howled in serious pain.
"Ku," he managed to choke out, "Na waimaka o ka lani." He launched himself at me and in those few moments I saw more than you'd think was possible.
I saw the local voyeur come striding to us, hand extended, face rapturous. I saw my hand gripping the blade and turning it. I saw the look of shock on my date's face as the knife slipped into his neck. Internally I shouted "That's not a knife, this is a knife," Australian accent and all, and I almost started to giggle hysterically. It's amazing what the mind will do to protect itself and, like I warned you, I think in movie quotes a lot.
My mind had definitely needed some protection. I used to think those horror movies with blood spraying from neck wounds were ridiculous and inaccurate. I don't think that anymore. You hit a guy in the neck with a big blade and he bleeds. A lot. All over you if you just so happen to be beneath him at the time. It was extremely messy, to say the least.
I think the only reason I didn't start screaming was, someone else beat me to it. The scream I heard was a terrifying mix of rage, frustration, and pain. It yanked my attention to the left, where I found the local man on his knees. He was right next to me. Way too close for my comfort. He reached for me and I didn't think. I just reacted. I didn't aim either. I just shot the knife out straight and followed through with my body. I was suddenly grateful for all the self-defense classes Mom had insisted I take. The biggest advantage training can give you is faster action... automatic reaction. Your body moves before your mind has a chance to process things and it saves you precious, life granting seconds.