“Well,” Samantha started, but then she was cut off by the sound of armored feet approaching the door.
Samantha didn’t even want to breathe. She glanced at the towering redheaded woman, who looked a little worried. The sound of the feet, many of them, stopped by the door. A fist pounded, the sound was thunderous in the tiled bathroom.
“Princess Gerda, are you in there?” A gruff voice called.
Samantha glanced over at the towering woman, who was looking uncertain about answering. She glanced down at Samantha and caught her uncertain gaze.
“Yes, I’m here,” she said. “What do you want?”
“We have just received word that Lord Tyr will be arriving for dinner tonight. He has important matters to discuss.”
Samantha gasped. Gerda looked at her quizzically. After a minute when Gerda didn’t respond, the soldier called in.
“Princess, is there something wrong?”
“No, everything is fine. I will be there, now leave me be.”
There was a moment’s hesitation, and then the feet moved away. Samantha was worried. Tyr would know by now that she had escaped. Those imps would not have been delayed long by the broken key. Would Tyr know that she was here? The only being that knew where that tunnel led was Lapis…
“Gerda,” the giant shot her a warning look, “sorry, Princess Gerda…your highness, what was that you said about Lapis?”
Gerda studied her for a moment. “I said Lapis has been double dealing, he is not to be trusted.”
A chill ran through Samantha. Had she been betrayed? Was Tyr coming to get her back?
“Why did you look so worried when Captain Garret mentioned Lord Tyr?”
Samantha considered her options. She could either lie to the giantess, or tell her how she had ended up in this bathroom. The power was still singing within her. If it came down to it, she would fight Tyr to the end. She considered a moment longer.
“I came here from Tyr’s prison. My charge is his prey. I escaped with the help of Lapis’ caves, and now, after what you say, I fear I have been betrayed.” Gerda looked at her skeptically. “You cannot give me to Tyr if that is his wish. Whatever his offer, my mission is too great.”
“How do I know what you say is not a fabrication?”
“You know I am a guardian. If you doubt my word, probe my mind again and you will see.”
Gerda stared at Samantha as if she were made of lace; like every secret could be revealed as she moved through her layers. But then it stopped, and Gerda raised her arm. Out from her arm came a white sparkling light, it intensified for a moment then settled. After shielding her eyes, Samantha looked on and saw a key sitting in the palm of her hand. It was old, made of pure silver, and it took up the entire hand of the giantess. Beauty had never been more finely crafted; ruins were spelled out across the surface.
“I will do as you ask, guardian.” Gerda stood and towered over Samantha. It was as if she grew larger as she moved forward and poked one finger up at her. “But…you must do me a favor as well.”
“I have to get back…”
The hand closed on the key, eyes reddened, and shoulders blossomed large. “You have no idea what it is I offer. It would be the only time it has ever been offered into the hands of one who is not of my clan. If you refuse this, then I will wish you luck finding a way out.” Her eyebrows perked and she relaxed a bit. “It is a small thing really, and if you do it right, it could be most beneficial.”
What choice do I have? Clyde and Billy will have to wait, if I started making my own portals, I would have no idea where I would wind up.
“What do I have to do?”
* * *
Just west of Lake Michigan near North and Clarke, across from Lincoln Park Zoo, was the historical museum. Very crème de la crème dressed couples wandered in at six o’clock in the evening. They were dressed in the finest, full tuxedos and gowns, to go to a benefit for some local organization. The museum was not typical, for it was more a gallery of sorts, with large rooms saved for having private parties. The only real staff that stayed on was security guards and the administration employees. They had a grand total of eight employees. Tonight they needed two to watch the front door and let people in to use the grand room in the center. The regular gallery sections had been closed down to the public for the day. A woman with blonde hair stood at the front door with the guards making their guests feel welcomed.
As a man approached the door with his wife wearing a beautiful golden evening gown, a green Honda civic squealed to a stop, while jumping the curb and coming to rest in front of the building; not ten feet from the surprised couple.
What’s with all the penguins? Clyde jumped from the car and came around the passenger side. Tanya and Luke were already lifting Bill from the car. Clyde spotted the blonde administration worker and headed towards her.
“Annie, great! We need to get in, we have trouble.”
As he approached her with his black, sloganed t-shirt and jeans, the penguin suited man turned and looked at her.
“Ms. Dearborn, do you know these people?”
Annie turned her cheek towards them and replied, “I don’t believe I do, well, I have a sister named Annie. People often remark how much alike we look, but really, this is too much!” She waved her arms in the air in the direction of this rag tag group. He, on the other hand, came up short.
“Good, get rid of them then. I’ll see you inside.”
The man escorted his wife in. Annie’s head turned to follow them in, and out of the corner of Clyde’s eye he saw a few strands of hair turn pinkish, then it reverted. From inside came another guard. Annie swung back around, this time with concern like a herder for his sheep.
“Where have you been? We have been looking for you. This city has turned hazardous for our…” She stopped when she what Luke and Tanya were carrying. “Oh my god!”
“Annie we barely made it here. They…”
“Not now, I have to get rid of you.”
“But…” She shot up her hand, palm up.
“Abe, take these associates to the side entrance and get them down the side tunnel under the building. Safely. Understood?” He nodded and started off to help the pair with their burden. “Now, Clyde you need to go with them. Jonas will move your car to the underground parking at Lincoln Park. You need to get out of sight.” She turned to enter the building and the function, when she stopped and twirled. Her eyes scrunched and she searched. “Where’s Samantha?”
Clyde’s heart dropped like it had just become cement. “I had hoped you would know.”
Taking a breath and pushing her lips together slowly, she motioned for everybody to move. “I’ll be down as soon as I can, I promise. There is a call out. We are much more alone then you know right now. Everything bad that could happen…well, I will be down later.” With that she twirled and was lost in the glass reflection of the rotating doors.
Annie would not hide us downstairs if this place was not safe. Still, though, I should be careful, there are too many people around and not enough of us should something occur. Am I afraid to stay here too long? What’s too long, ten minutes? Stop this! Annie will know what to do, she’ll fix it.
9/30/04 8:48pm – 9:20 pm
Abe, dressed in an immaculate tuxedo helped Clyde carry Billy around to the side of the museum. Once there, he waved a hand at the sidewalk. A section of sidewalk became pale and then vanished. It opened onto a narrow set of stairs leading down into darkness. Abe snapped his fingers and torches along the wall flared to life.
Billy was coming to, blinking rapidly. “W-where,” he moaned. Clyde shushed him, and then with Lucas’ help lifted him to his feet. Abe started down the stairs. Clyde waved Tanya ahead, and then awkwardly tried to support Billy while going down the stairs. Lucas followed, scanning the street as he did so. Clyde saw Lucas doing this and smiled. He was learning.
At the bottom of the stairs, Abe produced a ring of golden keys. Each key shone brightly in the torchlight. Abe selected one, small and looking brand new. The key slid into the lock with a soft click. The room at the bottom of the stairs was warm and soothing. The walls were lined with plush couches. In the center of the room was an open hearth with a small fire that crackled and popped. Clyde set Billy down and surveyed the room. There were two doors, besides the one they entered, and a pantry on the far wall. Abe turned to Clyde.
“One door leads to a powder room, the other to the rest of the museum,” he said. “There are only two keys into this room. Annie has the other. No one else will be able to enter without one of us.”
“How long will this shindig upstairs last?” Clyde asked.
“I’d give it an hour and a half, two at the most.” He looked down at his watch. “I really must attend the guests upstairs. In the mean time rest, the pantry will provide whatever you need.”
Abe went to the second door and left. Clyde turned back to the rest of the group. Tanya and Lucas sat together. Tanya looked pale, but otherwise okay. Billy was sitting up, staring at the bloody rags at the end of his right arm. Well, at least he’s awake now, Clyde thought.
“How you doin’?” Clyde asked.
“My-my hand. I can’t believe that thing took my hand! Why didn’t you stop it? Why didn’t you do something?”
“Calm down Billy.” Lucas and Tanya looked nervous. “I did everything that I could, but Fenris can only be quelled by the leash. It was you that called the leash, and you that quelled the beast. The man who banishes Fenris must pay a hefty price. That is how it has always been.”
“But you’re a guardian! It’s your duty to protect me!”
“I know what my duty is, but I deal in luck. There are only a few who can pull Gleipnir out of thin air.”
“Yeah,” Tanya cut in, “we all did everything we could.”
Clyde cut her off with a wave of his hand. Billy was flush, and his eyes had a fiery cast. Clyde sat down across from Billy. He took off his glasses, the light would not effect him here, and tried to project calmness at Billy. Clyde had never been as good at projection as Samantha. That was always the way though, where one sibling was exceptional, the other was lacking.
“I wasn’t expecting so strong an attack. I admit it took me by surprise. It will not happen again. That I promise. I need you to stay calm. Getting excited isn’t going to help anything.”
Billy’s face was still flush, but his eyes had lost their fierceness. He sat back cradling his wrist in his lap. Tanya came over and sat next to him. Billy didn’t seem to notice. He had a distant look on his face, and he was staring at his hand. Tanya reached out and touched his arm lightly. Bill turned his head toward her.
“Let me take a look at your arm,” she said. “I have some skills as a healer. I can as least stop the bleeding.”
10/02/04 6:43pm-7:11pm 10/03/04 8:27pm-9:05pm
“Okay.” But, even as Bill said this, he was slipping under again. Tanya settled Bill down on the couch then looked up at Clyde, questioning. Her face had gone a dramatic change. Where just an hour ago it looked like pit bulls and concrete blocks had partied on her face, it now reflected that of a pretty 20 something young lady. Her clothes, however, still looked like hell.
“Let him sleep, I already looked into the type of healing it would take to fix his hand. It was made by too powerful a being to be replaced, and we can’t risk Fenris being released because his hand is back.” Tanya nodded and moved away to fetch a blanket for Bill. Clyde stooped over Bill and scrutinized his complexion. He had a fever and his whitening skin reminded Clyde of stretched and molded ice of a glacier.
He moved away when Tanya came back with the blanket. Lucas was playing with the fire pit, attempting to warm the room or play pyro-technician.
“I’ll just make sure he has no further bleeding; plus the wound may need cleaning considering…” She arched her eyebrows as she settled next to Bill. Clyde knew that she did not trust the hygiene of Rufus. That’s true, but Rufus has been around quite awhile, and he’s still out in the field. He moved on into the room.
“Lucas?” Clyde joined the younger by the fire, and stretching his hand he felt the currents the fire had chosen already. A large log smoldered on the bottom and very little air was being allowed to seep. Swinging the small currents of air that were cycling around the fire due to the changing of temperatures, Clyde increased the chances of certain pieces of wood into rolling or breaking to allow the air to enter and the fire to spread.
“I’ve been trying to do that for the last five minutes.”
“You’ll get it, it takes time.” Clyde warmed his back to the fire. “But, what concerns me, Luke, if I may call you that, is what in the ten circles of hell are you guys doing out here?”
“It’s a question I keep asking myself. No doubt they had some kind of reason for it.”
“No, that’s not it. I know the roster; I know who is where and why, within my area of influence. Not knowing can be…well, dangerous.” Clyde scrambled his hair and stomped around the hearth. Lucas followed.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, that Annie had no idea that you guys were even around. And, the people who were supposed to be around were not. It doesn’t make sense. Does it?” Abruptly, Clyde stalked to the couch on the opposite side of the room from Bill and Tanya. He waved Lucas over. “Okay, so here is how I see it. I could be wrong; it would not be the first time today.” Arm slung around Lucas’s shoulder, Clyde leaned in. “You were put here on purpose, to be here for today. Tell me, what was your assignment today?”
“We came in from the north. Training had been going on up there for quite sometime.”
“I can’t go into that right now. To do so would be…” Lucas looked up at Tanya walking across.
“Go ahead Lucas, it could mean something. Besides, like it or not we’re here now; stuck and Clyde deserves to know the story.”
Clyde smiled and added, “Yes, and besides, what else are we going to do for the next hour and ten?”
* * *
“Gerda?” She heard some huffing. “Princess?” The dark room was darker than the blackest night. With no moon, no reflecting surfaces, and no beady eyes looking out at you, it was scarier than actually seeing a whole room of demonic creatures.
“I am here, but…”
There was sorrow in her voice. Samantha knew something was wrong. Instinctively she created a shield around her. She squeezed the key in her hand; she could feel intricate scrollwork along its side.
“Lord Tyr,” Gerda began, “well…he can be very persuasive.” Samantha’s breath stopped short. “He said he knew you were here. That cave rat, Lapis, led him right to you. And, well, he struck a bargain with me.”
“Oh no. Please Gerda, whatever his offer you can’t take it. Do you know what would happen if Tyr got his hands on the Gateway? The effects would be devastating, not only for my world, but this world as well.”
“But Samantha, he promised to return my father to me…I am truly sorry.”
Now Samantha created a light. At the entrance of the room was Gerda. She was flanked by a dozen guards. Yet Samantha’s eyes were drawn to the man to Gerda’s right. Tyr stood with a grin full of malicious intent on his face, and yellow eyes nearly glowing. There was no way to go for the entrance without going through them.
“No,” Samantha whispered.
“Hello Samantha,” Tyr said coolly. “It’s so nice to see you again. I am looking forward to finding out how you found the energy to contact Lapis.”
Suppressing a shiver, Samantha pushed on the strands of luck, tweaking them around the guards in any way she could. She turned, looking for a way out. Someone behind her, probably Gerda or Tyr, snapped their fingers and the guards were rushing after her. There was a thud and a groan as one of them fell, and a clang as another dropped a sword. But the rest came on.
She pumped more power into her light, creating a blinding flare. There were more groans, and for a moment, the thundering footsteps stopped.
“Do not let her escape you imbeciles, or your fates will be far worse then the kings!” Tyr yelled.
The flare had illuminated the entire room and at the far end, very far she could see a door marked with the same kind of scrollwork as the key. Go to the last room in the Northwest corridor, Gerda had said, there you will find a door. She raced for it, feeling Tyr twist the luck around her. Her feet wanted to trip over each other, and her legs fall out from under her.
The footsteps of the giant guard were getting closer. Samantha reached the door, but fumbled with the key. The memories of Tyr’s torture swam through her mind. Finally she rammed the key into the lock. The door shimmered. The lead guard was almost on top of her. She turned the knob then wrenched the door open.