October 11, 2013 2 Comments
I enjoy including real locations in my fiction when it fits. I this case, you should know that the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub is a real place, and both the beers mentioned in this story are excellent. (I also recommend the No Name Nut Brown Ale, if you’re in the area.)
I’ve read several articles and posts lately about the idea of “writing what you know”. It’s a common fiction writer’s mantra, the idea being that your stories will feel and sound more authentic if you stick to locations and cultures you’re familiar with. There is a good case to be made against this often-quoted piece of advice, especially if you’re inclined to take it hyper-literally, but the essence of it is sound. Bringing bits and pieces of your own world into the fictional world your story inhabits does help to solidify the make-believe.
Plus, it’s fun. Certainly, the next time I find myself in Glenwood Springs at the Brewpub, I’ll smile at the thought that Loki and Arawn have been there.
If you’re new to my website, you should know this story is just one part of a longer series. You’ll want to read the other parts before jumping into this one. Just click here. The posts will display starting with the first, so you can kick back and read them in order.
Loki ordered the Vapor Cave IPA. Arawn decided he was content with iced tea.
“How did you find me?” Arawn asked as soon as their drinks arrived.
Loki took his time sampling the beer. “That’s nice,” he said as Arawn glared. Sighing, he continued, ”I cannot reveal my little secrets. You should know better than to even ask. The source of my information isn’t the subject of our meeting, anyway. I’m here to tell you something far more useful.”
There was a buzz of conversation surrounding the two men. Bars made excellent meeting places for this very reason. The light social atmosphere combined with the white noise of dozens of nearby conversations made it possible for even two gods to candidly discuss old world magic without fear of being found out. If anyone happened to catch a stray sentence here or there, they would likely dismiss it as the drunken ramblings of two friends. After all, people talk about all kinds of odd things when inebriated.
“Forgive my insistence,” Arawn said, his politeness little more than a thin veil, “but it’s important to me. If you can find me, so can others.”
Loki smiled. “Ah, but they soon will. That’s why I’m here: to warn you.”
Arawn motioned for the waitress. “I think I will have a beer,” he said.
“Sure thing. What’s your poison?” she asked.
“Bring me your favorite.”
She nodded and made for the bar.
“Go on,” Arawn said.
“Skadi’s daughter and a Seer are in Denver now. They believe you to be there, as well. The Völur were unable to pinpoint your location. They only know you are nearby. Currently, they are busy chasing down a dead end, but they’ll see their error soon, I think, and I doubt it will take them long to wander this way. You really shouldn’t have killed those hikers.” Loki gave him the look school teachers sometimes give mischievous children.
The waitress returned with Arwan’s beer. “St. James Irish Red,” she said. “One of our best sellers.”
Arawn thanked her and she scurried off to another table. ”Yes,” he conceded when they were alone again. “I know. It was a rash decision. Is that how you found me?”
Loki laughed. “You have a one track mind, my friend. But, no. I have other means. I understand you’ve already had a run-in with Skadi’s offspring.”
Arawn gave Loki a dismissive sneer. “If one can call it that. It was anticlimactic. She confronted me just after I arrived in the mortal realm. She’s nothing but a trifle. All bark and no bite, I would guess.”
“Don’t be so quick to dismiss her,” Loki warned. “Or the Seer, either. They are young, but they present you with a real threat. When they find you, you will have to deal with them.”
Arawn considered this in silence. He looked around the pub, his eyes never settling. There were people everywhere. It was a busy night. How he wanted to kill them all–to paint the walls in blood and start his conquest. But, Max wasn’t ready for that. Neither was Sidney. And the pack–they lacked the coordination to carry out even basic commands flawlessly. He could not rely on them to lead his charge just yet.
It was a pity, this news about Skadi’s daughter. He estimated that he could be ready to bring the fight to Skadi and Odin within four months at the most, but now he was forced to make a difficult choice: go on the run to evade his enemies, starting over somewhere else, or stand his ground and make the initial skirmish count. Perhaps the death of a demigod would cause Skadi to delay further immediate action. They had no idea what his state of preparedness was. He could use their lack of information to his advantage and press them into a premature retreat, never knowing it was an elaborate bluff.
However, it was not a decision he would make in the presence of the trickster.
Loki gestured for another beer, and Arawn considered his informant. He could not trust anything this weasel told him. When he lies, he speaks his native tongue, Arawn thought. And yet, Loki was not one to indulge outright fabrication. He always peppered deception with truth. In all likelihood, the information about Skadi’s daughter was accurate–both that she was close by, and that she would soon discover his whereabouts. While Arawn doubted that she posed a serious threat–the Seer wasn’t even worth considering in this capacity–he knew that confirmation of his location could easily bring Skadi, Odin and possibly even other deities down on him quickly. He wasn’t prepared to call Hel up from the Otherworld yet, and that meant he could not risk starting the war in earnest.
Their waitress dropped off two beers, having taken the liberty to assume that Arawn wanted another when she saw his empty glass. Both men thanked her, Loki’s eyes hovering shamelessly on her cleavage, and she left them again.
“We are not allies,” Arawn said. “We never have been. I know your ways, Loki, Odin’s son. You are crafty.”
Loki grinned by way of confirmation.
Arawn continued: “Why are you here, then? What is your true agenda? What interest do you have in helping me?”
“Self interest, of course,” Loki said.
“Speak plainly. Why are you telling me these things?”
Loki’s casual air dropped and he leaned forward. His eyes darted around the room once, as though he were afraid there might be ravens watching. “Have you any idea the situation Skadi left me in? The torture she subjected me to because she thought it was justice? For decades, I burned while she lounged in her mountain retreat and made herself busy helping humanity. And that little bitch of a daughter? Oh, the arrogance of that one. You’d think she was the first demigod. If I can make them pay, I will.
“I don’t desire the end of humanity, but neither do I desire to be on the losing side. I know Odin’s strengths, and his weaknesses, too. He is the All Father, yes, but he has not had a true fight in a long time. He thinks he is ready for you. I assess that he is not. Someone–you or another of his enemies–will overtake him one day. We may not feel amicably toward one another, but my assistance now should be sufficient to assure a place of favor when you’ve successfully subdued this world. I will not languish in torment again. And I want to see Skadi’s beautiful face twisted and racked with pain in payment for my suffering.”
Spittle flew from Loki’s lips as he spoke, and in that moment, Arawn discovered unexpected common ground. Both he and Loki were motivated by a desire for power, and for revenge. Partnerships had been forged from lesser kinship. This could work.
Having concluded his rant, Loki emptied his mug and called the waitress over for one last beer. His demeanor morphed back into that of a playful rascal, but Arwan had already seen the hungry madman within. When the waitress brought Loki’s beer–Arawn had barely touched his second–the King of the Otherworld asked for the check.
“I appreciate your candor,” Arawn said. “And your information. I vow that you will receive just payment when this business is finished.”
“I would expect nothing less from you, Arawn Hound-Bringer.”
Arawn fished several bills from his pocket and laid them on the table. “This should be enough to cover your refreshment, as well as a couple more, should you desire them.”
“Sadly, I have errands to run for Skadi’s daughter. I must leave soon, myself,” Loki said.
“Very well,” Arawn said. “I wouldn’t recommend direct contact again, though you can send messages through Hel, if needed. She and I remain in contact.”
Loki nodded. “My own daughter and I are not on the best of terms, but our interests align here. I’m sure she’ll be willing to aid me, if needed.”
Arawn rose to leave, but Loki grabbed his wrist before he had a chance to announce his departure. Pulling Arawn down, he spoke in a hushed tone. “Do not underestimate this demigod. She is stronger than one of her years should be. And the Seer–he is untested, but powerful. Mark my words: they are a viable threat.“
Arawn bowed his head toward Loki and clasped a hand on his shoulder. “Understood. Well met, Loki.”
And with that, he left. The waitress passed him on his way out, offering him an inviting smile that was not returned. The cool night air did little to sooth his concern over Loki’s last words. Quick, vicious action was required.
He needed to talk to Max.