Capes, Cups, and Glittery Things @potionmistress95
Flirting With Darkness

12

Flirting With Darkness

There are ghosts and then there are ghosts. Be afraid. Be very afraid!~ Loki

"Jorunne! Our niece is behind this theft?" Thor looked ready to burst into the stone house and start breaking heads.

"Well, she was the cause of Mjolnir being stolen," Loki corrected. "And she needs, like Volskar, to be made to answer for her crimes."

"Balder and Karnilla won't be too pleased with that," Thor pointed out.

Loki snorted. "If Balder and Karnilla hadn't spoiled the girl past redemption this might not have happened. They are partially to blame. But most of the choice to do evil is an individual's. I remember that as my apprentice I caught her more than once doing horrible things to helpless animals—both magical and non-magical. And when I expressed my displeasure she responded with who cares they're only pathetic creatures put on this earth to be our prey. It chilled the blood in my veins, Thor. So it's not surprising to me that she has graduated from pathetic creatures to killing people. Others' lives are insignificant to her."

"They have a name for ones like her on Midgard."

"Yes. They are sociopaths. Or serial killers." Loki said gravely. "Not the kind of person you want running about unchecked."

"We must bring both before a tribunal," Thor said. "Or Father. Since Jorunne is his granddaughter he has the right to give judgment."

"Yes, but will he be fair and impartial? You and I both know Balder is one of his favorites, and even marrying Karnilla hasn't changed that. And Jorunne is fiendishly smart—she knows how to play the poor wronged baby girl to the hilt. It's how she's manipulated both parents. Who's to say she won't try it with Father?"

"Father never fell for that with you," Thor reminded.

"Brother, I was never a girl who was the daughter of his favorite son. It makes a difference. Father can be blind sometimes to the faults of those he cares about."

"We will warn him then," Thor declared. "I believe that Jorunne did this deed specifically so she could get her little fingers on Mjolnir. Like her mother, she has always wished to rule Asgard."

Loki nodded. "By putting her father on the throne instead of you. Karnilla taught her well." His mouth twisted into a grim line. "We will need a confession though. As the mortals say, the more evidence the better."

"But you said you already have evidence with their aura."

"I do. However, it would take another magician to confirm it and my word hasn't always been reliable," he admitted. "But if we can get a spoken confession that would be wonderful."

"How? I could beat it out of that scummy Black Dwarf, but our niece . . .?"

"Confession under torture isn't reliable," Loki shook his head. "No, brother. This calls for brains not brawn."

"Meaning you have a trick up your sleeve."

Loki grinned. "Don't I always? I think it's time little Jorunne got haunted by her past misdeeds."

"You're going to summon Saskia?" Thor guessed.

"No, Thor. I'm going to be Saskia," corrected the frost giant.

"And play upon her guilty conscience."

"Thor, Jorunne doesn't have a conscience, guilty or otherwise. I guarantee she feels no remorse for killing Saskia. Saskia's murder was to her like stepping on an ant. No, what I'm going to do is sort of like reverse psychology. I'm going to haunt her so much that in the end she will be forced to confess to get rid of me." The emerald eyes glinted with mischievous glee.

"I should have brought popcorn," Thor lamented. "This is going to be fun!"

He gave Loki a high five.

"You have no idea!" The Master of Mischief chuckled wickedly. It had been a long time since he had let his imp come out to play and he was going to enjoy every moment. Then he reached into his satchel and produced a large bucket of popcorn and a cup of Coke. "For your viewing pleasure."

Thor gaped at him. "What is that bag? Some kind of wishing fabric?"

"A good mage never gives away his secrets," was all Loki replied. He rubbed his hands together. "Now let's make some mischief!"

Loki set Thor up with one of his special Seeing globes so he could watch the show. However, this globe would not only let you see what went on, but also record what was spoken—it was like a magical video recorder—something Loki had worked on all night to perfect so he could get Jorunne's confession. He activated it with a single word of magic then told his brother, "Now sit back and watch. Don't touch it, just watch."

They were in a rundown room in the little mining town. Said town was called Darkholme, and they had rented the room for a few nights because Loki needed a base of operations with which to work from when he wasn't busy haunting Jorunne. Besides watching the show, Thor had also agreed to try and find out as much as he could about Volskar, but Loki cautioned him to be circumspect. They didn't want word getting back to the burly assassin and risk him becoming suspicious and either running or coming after them. Thor promised to be careful.

"You'd better be. If I find out you tipped that pondslime off, I'm kicking your butt," Loki growled.

Thor chuckled, incredulous. "You and what army?"

"The one you don't know I have," his brother returned laconically. "Thor, please don't screw this up. This whole plan is like a house of cards, one tap and it'll crumble. Just ask a few questions of some locals to get a better idea of what Volskar is like, what the mine is like, and then come back here and watch the globe. It'll be better than Poltergeist."

"What is that?"

"By the Nine, you really need to brush up on pop culture," Loki cast his eyes heavenward. "Poltergeist is a scary movie made sometime in the 1980's. It's about a house that was haunted by ghosts. Very nasty ones. Hunter thought he could sneak it past me without my approving it and downloaded it on his phone one night. Then he watched it and so did Max, because Max was in his room and saw it so Hunter allowed him to watch because he didn't want Max blabbing about it to me. Well, to make a long story short, they watched it and got scared to death. Next thing I know I was woken up by the two of them jumping into my bed with me. Well, Max jumped, Hunter kind of crawled under the covers on the other side. I took his phone away for a week for that little stunt, and while I had it, I watched it. It's what inspired me to do this."

"Perhaps I should watch this movie," Thor mused.

"Be my guest. I'm sure Tony or Clint has it. Just don't get terrified and jump into bed with Tasha. You might end up dead when she stabs you out of a sound sleep," Loki joked.

"A silly mortal movie won't scare me," Thor blustered.

"Famous last words," Loki snickered. "It's showtime!" he announced. "Watch the globe for further developments."

Just before he teleported to the stone house to begin his haunting spree, Thor called, "Loki, be careful. Don't get caught."

"No worries, big brother. Jorunne doesn't have the magic or the intelligence to beat me at this game. See you later."

Inter~*~*~*~Mission

Jorunne had just entered her house, preparing to tell her maid to start supper, when an icy wind reminiscent of winter's heart whipped through the entryway. The sorceress whirled about, to see if she had left the door open or the servants a window. But everything was shut tight. Shivering, she wrapped her arms about herself and prepared to berate her maid for not lighting a fire in the sitting room when the icy chill suddenly crept up the walls, causing the stone to form a slick coating of frost and tendrils of fog to appear out of thin air.

"What in Hel?" she cried, and then she heard it, a high-pitched wailing coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.

"I'm he-e-e-re!"

Jorunne lit her palm with eldritch fire. "Who said that?"

"Don't you know? You should! I'm ba-a-a-ck!"

The dark-haired sorceress spun about in a circle, trying to see where the voice was coming from. "Show yourself!"

More cold followed and some insane laughter that chilled the blood in her veins.

Furious, she threw the fire at the wall, and it made a scorch mark upon the stone wall.

"Your Highness, what is wrong?" asked Illyria, her housekeeper.

"Something was here. But I drove it away." Jorunne snapped. "Now clean up this mess!" she indicated the scorch mark.

"Aye, milady," Illyria curtsied. Privately, the housekeeper thought her mistress might have been drinking, for no one was in the room save them and the door was locked. She clapped her hands and a maid appeared with a bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush.

Jorunne went upstairs to take a hot bath, hoping her maid Asha had drawn the water in the huge sunken tub already. She kicked off her shoes once she was in her room, and Asha silently picked them up and put them alongside the armoire. The bedroom was actually a combination of a sitting room, sleeping chamber, and bathroom. It had thick tapestries and furs hung on the walls from Jorunne's kills to keep out the chill of the Niflheim evening.

"Is my bath ready?"

"Yes, Highness," Asha curtsied, and helped her mistress take off her robes, pants and undergarments. She went to pick out some soft night clothes and lay them out upon the bed.

Jorunne swept past her and into the bathroom, looking forward to soaking in the jasmine scented water. She slipped into the tub, sinking up to her neck in the hot water filled with sweet oils and frothy bubbles. As she leaned back in the water, she caught a glimpse of the mirror that ran the full length of the wall and noticed it had some peculiar red streaks across it.

Frowning she sat up and saw the streaks were words.

I know you killed her. Her blood shall never be washed away.

Then the letters began to weep tears of blood, dripping in a red swath upon the tile.

Jorunne's mouth gaped open. Then she noticed that her bath water was becoming uncomfortably cold—like a frost-rimed stream and the jasmine scent was replaced by the foul coppery smell of old blood. As she stared down at the water it changed color—becoming deep red like blood spurting from a death wound.

Smothering a scream, the sorceress bolted from the bath, and began scrubbing frantically at herself with a towel.

What is happening here? Am I under attack by a rival?

Frightened, she scanned the room with her magic for anything threatening and found nothing.

In the corner, Loki smirked, rendered undectable by his magic, for he had shifted into a wraith cat and gone into phantom form. Scared yet, my wayward niece? I truly hope so! But if not . . . there's more to come!

Jorunne waved a hand and the water in the tub surged up and splashed all over the mirror, erasing the incriminating words. She shivered as all the warmth seemed to have deserted the room. No one must know about Saskia's murder. She had spread the rumor that her partner in the mine had died in a freak hiking accident, and her body being found at the bottom of the precipice bore that out. No one questioned it. After all, the woman was Midgardian, and fragile as all mortals were.

It wasn't that Jorunne felt guilty for killing her. Both she and Volskar had agreed the irritating witch had to go after she had refused to put the miners on notice that they were going to increase production and make them work fifteen hour shifts and not eight the way Saskia had insisted in the beginning. Saskia had also insisted she be equal partners with Jorunne, and that meant getting the same pay as the Asgardian royal. Which was something Jorunne could not abide. A mere mortal should have been grateful Jorunne allowed her to be a partner at all, never mind splitting the profit equally. Then too, while Saskia hadn't been adverse to running scams at cards or dice in the mine tavern, she had refused to participate in Jorunne's little hunts—where her quarry, whether magical, animal, dwarven, elven, or Aesir—died at the end. Saskia had called them barbaric and seemed revolted by the sport. So between her partner's scruples and sense of overinflated importance, Jorunne had decided to get rid of her permanently. Because otherwise she ran the risk that Saskia might speak to authorities and have the operation shut down or investigated. And she wanted no one in her family to know of her hunts, for she knew they would meet with disapproval.

None of them understood her need to shed blood, that it satisfied some deep desire within her. Even her doting parents would not be happy if they found out. But Jorunne intended that they never would. Or her grandfather. Odin was as bad as her Uncle Loki when it came to feeling pity for dumb animals. Or stupid people who ought not to have been born in the first place.

"Asha!" she yelled. "Get in here and clean this mess up! And make sure you do a good job or else you'll feel the lash across your back."

"Yes, Highness! At once, Highness!" the simpering maid scurried into the bathroom with towels and a mop. "Milady, did you fall?"

"No, idiot!" Jorunne snapped. "No more questions. Help me dry off, oil me and then I shall put my night clothes on."

Asha simply nodded, her face impassive. Then she drew a towel from the rack and set about drying her mistress' lithe body. Once that was done, she used some fancy oil that smelled like Asgardian lilies and massaged it all over her. Then she dried her dark tresses and combed more oil through them.

Jorunne rose after those ablutions and strode into the bedroom, where she drew on her night clothes.

Then she rang for Illyria to bring her a light supper of fruit, bread with honey, and smoked salmon.

Suddenly she heard footsteps behind her. Jorunne whirled around, ready to blast her impudent servant, but found no one was there. Angrily, she shook her head. Now she was hearing things. She walked back to where Asha was scrubbing the mirror and glared at the maid's back, but saw nothing over which she could vent her anger on the servant for.

As she walked back to her chair, she heard the footsteps again.

Again she glanced behind her and no one was there.

Swearing, she sat down, and felt the back of her neck prickle as if she were being watched. It felt as though she were being stared at right through her clothes.

But she refused to look behind her.

It's your imagination, Jorunne! she scolded herself.

Asha finished cleaning and Illyria came in with her supper on a covered tray.

"Your supper, milady," Illyria bowed and withdrew.

Jorunne inhaled the aroma of fresh bread, fruit, and salmon, licking her lips.

As she reached for a piece of fruit she heard a soft voice in her ear, 'I know what you did . . . and you will pay . . ."

The voice sounded just like Saskia's.

"Shut up!" she snarled, but there was no one there.

Shaken, Jorunne went to bite into a pear and as her lips met the fruit she saw it was rotten and crawling with maggots.

"Ahhh! Disgusting!" she shrieked and threw the fruit down.

She went to eat another, vowing to strip the hide off the cook for serving her rotten produce, when she saw that all the food on the tray was rotten and worms were crawling in and out of the stinking black salmon and maggots on the bread.

Jorunne threw the entire tray against the wall and howled, "Illyria!"

In the shadows, Loki covered his mouth with his hand to stifle his giggling.

By the time the housekeeper had cleaned up the spilled food, giving her mistress odd looks when Jorunne's back was turned, the princess of Asgard was in a foul temper. She dismissed her servants, brewed a cup of tea, and prepared to go to sleep.

Her bed was a thick mattress stuffed with thousands of goose feathers with an eiderdown quilt and fluffy pillows all done in shades of crimson and ebony. Jorunne sank into her bed with a sigh and closed her eyes. Perhaps sleep would erase these silly jitters.

But no sooner had she closed her eyes then she heard Saskia's voice again in her ear.

"I'm Henry VIII I am, Henry VIII I am, I am

I was married to the widow next door,

She was married seven times before

I'm Henry VIII I am, Henry VIII I am, I am . .. "

Jorunne shot up in bed, her hair standing on end. There, by the foot of her bed, stood a glowing putrescent form. It was Saskia, her gown in tatters, her face chewed half off, her eyes glowing hellish red.

And she was singing that annoying song over and over.

"Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!"

She threw a fireball at the mocking draugr, but the fire did no damage whatsoever and the spirit continued singing that stupid tune.

She put her hands over her ears to block out the singing, but soon discovered that only made Saskia sing louder—and the singing penetrated right through her.

Spitting curses, Jorunne began throwing everything she could lay her hands on at the ghost.

To no avail.

The calamity brought all her servants to see what was wrong, but to her dismay, none of them could see or hear the draugr tormenting her.

Needless to say Jorunne got precious little sleep that night.

Inter~*~*~*~Mission

Thor ate some more buttered popcorn and nearly spit soda all over the seeing globe as he watched Jorunne go crazy trying to stop what she thought was a spirit but was actually one of Loki's well-crafted illusions. He had never enjoyed seeing a prank executed more.

"Oh brother, you got her good!" he chortled, and nearly wet himself laughing at the scene in the tub. "I know you killed her! Ahhahhaa!"

The best part though was the servants, who though clearly afraid of their volatile vicious mistress, were also sure she was imagining things and overreacting. None of them could see what Loki cast, for the illusions were for Jorunne only, and so her screaming and throwing her perfectly good food on the floor was totally disturbing.

"I hope one of you reports her to some healer . . . for insanity!" Thor whooped, and almost spilled his popcorn all over.

When the nightmare bed scene happened, he did totally lose it and popcorn went everywhere as he doubled over with laughter.

"Oh, Hel!" he muttered when he had regained control long enough to see the mess he had made. "Loki's gonna have a fit."

"Glad to see you're enjoying yourself," came his brother's voice as he appeared out of the air.

"You were right," Thor admitted, wiping his eyes. "This was hysterical."

"It'll only get better tomorrow," Loki vowed. He covered a yawn with a hand. "But right now I need some sleep." He glanced at the popcorn on the floor. "Clean that up before tomorrow. I don't want bugs invading here."

"I knew you'd say that," Thor coughed, too amused to be annoyed by his brother's neat freak ways.

Loki yawned again and tugged off his boots, undressing, and slipping beneath his Got Mischief blanket in a matter of moments. He was asleep seconds later, his breathing soft and rhythmic.

Thor gave him a quick concerned glance before using his powers to form a wind to gather the scattered popcorn and put it back in its bowl. Then he finished off his soda and went to bed as well.

By the second day, Jorunne was starting to crack. At breakfast her bowl of oatmeal kept moving away from her everytime she reached for it. Then it fell off the table and ended up on the floor, and she had to wait for a replacement. All her sandals were tied in crazy knots and she had to wear her old brogues to her meeting with her shareholders.

She was sure that leaving the house would rid her of the pesky draugr, but found out the hard way that wasn't so.

Right in the middle of one of her shareholder's speeches she felt icy fingers grab her backside and pinch it—hard.

"Yeeoow!' she yelped and jumped out of her chair.

The other dwarves stared at her. Finally one ventured, "Your Highness, is something the matter?"

"Something bit me!" she cried.

"Like a bug?" guessed one.

"More like a rat," she grumbled. Then she sat down gingerly.

Saskia, you bloody witch! I wish you weren't dead so I could kill you all over again.

Two more times during the meeting she felt icy cold hands grabbing her, once they groped her breast, making her gasp and almost choke upon her tea during the break. The other time they yanked her hair, making her eyes water.

As the meeting drew to a close, Jorunne was hasty to get away, but uneasy and a bit frightened to go home. Suppose the draugr was waiting for her?

Irritated, Jorunne slapped herself. Dwarves and Dokkalfar stared at her but she haughtily ignored them all. Now that she had slapped herself back to sense she would go home. She refused to be driven out of her home by some carping Midgardian spirit!

As she hurried down the street, once again she felt a cold draft and heard footsteps echoing behind her.

"Go away!" she hissed, then shook her fist at the draugr, wherever it was.

An icy hand trailed down her spine causing her to break out in goosebumps and shiver.

"Oooh! Go find someone else to cry to!" She snarled bolting the door.

But as before the ghost still managed to find a way inside.

The temperature plummeted until frost crystals formed on her teacup, her pastries became frozen, and the fire in the grate turned icy blue and gave off no warmth.

"Mistress," chattered Illyria. "I fear we need a priest. This house is being haunted by an evil draugr!"

"D-don't be ridiculous!" Jorunne shuddered. "Why would a draugr haunt me?"

"Mayhap it's some who died in the mine collapse last month," the housekeeper whimpered. "The unquiet dead bring cold like the Fimbul Winter."

Or a severely pissed off frost giant, Loki thought. He was immune to his frost conjuring, as well as his illusion casting.

"Superstitious peasant nonsense!' Jorunne laughed weakly.

"Mistress, please!" Illyria made the sign to avert bad luck. "The draugr doesn't like to be mocked."

"I don't give a damn!" Jorunne cried petulantly. "I'm the princess around here, not some two-bit ghost!"

You wicked brat, you're the princess all right—the princess of spoiled brats who need a good kick in backside! Loki sneered silently. Consider this all the spankings you never had but always deserved from me. I'm going to make you beg on your knees for this torment to end. But it will only end when you admit what you did.

Illyria curtsied mechanically, but Loki could tell the woman was frightened by her mistress' intransigence. "Do you wish anything else, milady?"

"No, leave," Jorunne waved her away. "I'm going to read."

As soon as the housekeeper had left, Loki transformed into Saskia again, and hissed in his niece's ear, "What are you reading? A manual about how to get away with murder? I know what you did, you naughty girl! And one day you'll pay!"

"Get out! Out!" Jorunne bellowed, as if the volume of her command would make the ghost depart.

Several objects fell off the shelf and broke on the floor.

The book was ripped from her hands and thrown through the air.

Jorunne went to retrieve it and something tripped her. When she tried to get to her feet, a ghostly foot kicked her in the backside.

"When I catch you I'm going to kill you!" she spat, her eyes shimmering with rage.

"But I'm already dead!" taunted Saskia-Loki. "Don't you mean I'm going to kill you again, Jorunne?"

Jorunne stamped her foot. "Just shut the Hel up! You're giving me a headache!"

Mocking laughter echoed about the study, and Jorunne fled, barricading herself in the bedroom.

Head throbbing, she went to lie down and screamed in horror.

Her bed was now a casket with grave dirt inside.

"Oh my dear! You're not dressed! Where is your shroud?"

"Begone, ghost!' she ordered with a shaking voice. "You have no reason to be here."

"Liar! You killed me and I cannot rest! That's why I'm he-e-e-re!"

"Leave me alone, Saskia!" Jorunne sobbed and ran into the bathroom.

She peered into the mirror and gasped.

"That's—that's not me! No-o-o-o!"

Her face in the mirror was that of an old hag, wrinkled and spotted, with rotting teeth and rheumy eyes and hair that was whiter than snow.

"My you look so haggard, dear! See what happens when you do bad things? They come back to haunt you!"

With a low cry, Jorunne smashed her hand through the mirror.

Maniacal laughter exploded all over the room and the servants ran into the bathroom to find their mistress with her hands over her ears and a shattered mirror all over the tile floor.

Several servants clasped protective amulets and prayed, others ran away that very night, not willing to risk their soul staying with a mistress who had incurred the wrath of a draugr.

Inter~*~*~*~Mission

"One more night should finish it," Loki said wearily when he returned to the room. "How did your day go?"

Thor cleared his throat. "From what I was able to learn, that snake Volskar came here recently, about a month ago, and none of the dwarves like him. They call him Evil One behind his back. No one really cares for Jorunne either, but she's tolerated because of her royalty. Which is why Volskar teamed up with her."

"That's good. Anything else?"

"One of the miners mentioned something about wages being cut. And their hours increased. He said they're being worked to an early grave. Some have quit, but all are angry over the mistreatment. But they do nothing because Volskar has threatened to kill them."

"Not surprised. Neither of them know how to run a birthday party much less a mining franchise." Loki snorted. He took the power bar and soft drink Thor handed him and scarfed them down. Then he opened his satchel and took out a sandwich of peanut butter and lingonberry jam and ate it also.

"I need to watch what went on today," Thor said gleefully. "This is better than WWF."

Loki gave a weary smile. "I aim to please. One more night ought to finish it. She's already stretched thin and scared."

"You look tired, little brother. You should go to bed."

The frost giant laughed hollowly. "This haunting business is a lot more work than I realized." And something I never would have been able to do before my rebirth.

He waved a hand and his clothes were transmuted into simple boxers. "Well, I'm off to bed. Try not to laugh so much and wake me up, okay?"

"Aye, you need your beauty sleep," Thor teased.

Loki threw a pillow at Thor's head. "Shut up, lamebrain." He shook his head. "Hel, I'm too tired to even insult you properly."

"Just go to bed!"

Loki burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"What you said. It's the name of a Little Critter by Maurice Sendak. I read it every other night to Aleta and Max. And you quoted it and didn't even know it."

"You and your books," Thor rolled his eyes.

"Reading broadens the mind. You ought to try it sometime," Loki said loftily.

"I'll leave that to you, Master Wizard, and just stick with breaking heads."

"You're right. Maybe that's safer. A little knowledge is too dangerous for you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," Loki replied innocently.

"Methinks I've been insulted."

"Would I do that?"

"Is that a trick question?"

Loki smirked. "Okay, I really do need some sleep for my final performance tomorrow."

"Night, Master Mischief."

"Night, Thunderer."

The next day:

Loki spent the early morning after breakfast making a small doll out of simple scraps of fabric and a few feathers and some yarn with a few strands of real hair wound about it. He made a mouth, nose, and eyes with a magic marker he produced from his satchel, which seemed to hold an unlimited amount of useful articles.

Thor watched, his brow creased. "Loki, why are you making a doll for Aleta to play with?"

"It's not for Aleta. This is a voodoo doll. Otherwise known on Midgard as sympathetic magic. Whatever I do to this doll, will reflect back on Jorunne. This doll represents her, you see, and so long as I have her hair, I can make her feel awfully uncomfortable, so much so that it could make her fear for her life and confess to the murder."

"All that from some scraps and yarn?" Thor asked incredulously.

"It's amazing what you can do with a few household items," the master magician smiled. Then he tucked the voodoo doll in his belt. "Stay tuned for the finale."

Then he teleported one last time to the stone house.

Jorunne assumed the ghost was gone when nothing happened that morning with her breakfast or her toilette. She breathed a sigh of relief. Finally the pesky draugr had given up the ghost! I knew I could best that stupid slut! No draugr can win against Jorunne Baldersdottir the princess of Nornheim and Asgard! She continued patting herself on the back as she got dressed to hunt. Her bloodlust was coming to the fore and she was eager to begin the hunt today.

She bent to lace up her boot when a sharp pain stabbed her in the back of the thigh.

"Oww!" she rubbed at it, puzzled. "How can I have a cramp when I haven't even ridden out yet?"

She straightened and went to grab her bow and quiver off the wall. As she stretched to reach it, she felt another sharp burning pain in her shoulder and neck.

"Ahhh! Ohh!" she moaned. She wasn't used to being in severe pain, since like most immortals she healed from injuries swiftly.

She managed to get the quiver down from the wall before another pain ripped through her abdomen.

"Owwww!"she wailed, clutching her belly. "What is this? I feel like I'm in labor! And I'm not even with child."

More stabbing pains followed, so much so that she nearly couldn't catch her breath. Tears trickled down her cheeks. "Make it stop!" she sobbed.

When she went to climb to her feet to ring the bell to summon her servants, her leg collapsed beneath her like a crumpled paper.

She landed hard on her bottom, fear etching her face like a carnival mask.

She tried again to get to her feet, only to discover she couldn't.

"I can't walk! What's wrong with me? Help me!"

But no one seemed to hear her.

"No one hears you screaming . . . no one ever will . . . because your voice is silenced forever . . ." hissed Saskia's voice eerily in her head. "How does it feel-murderer? Are you scared now, Jorunne? Are you?"

She stared down at her useless legs. "Go away! Go to Hell!"

"I can't. Thanks to you I can never rest."

"Nooo! Just leave! Move on—whatever you draugr do."

"I can't. I'm stuck here forever. Unless. . . ."

"Unless what?"

"Unless you admit that you killed me."

"And you'll go away and leave me alone?"

"Yes. You'll never see me again."

"All right. I killed Saskia Norvald. There! 'Tis done!" Jorunne cried triumphantly. "Now get thee hence, foul ghost!"

The room erupted with mocking laughter.

Seconds later the laughter ceased and there was a knock on the door and then it opened to reveal three police officers.

"What's the meaning of this invasion, peasants!" demanded Jorunne haughtily.

"You are under arrest for the murder Saskia Norlund,'" One officer intoned.

"What? Why officer, surely you can't be serious!" The sorceress protested. "I'd never hurt anyone!"

"Don't lie, madame," scolded another, this one looked like a lieutenant. "We all heard that confession."

"What confession? I was just doing a bit of play practice."

"You killed Saskia Norlund," one officer, a tall thin one with green eyes accused.

He came forward with a pair of cuffs and after ordering her to put her hands behind her back.

"You can't arrest me! I'm a princess of Asgard!"

"Hands behind your back and don't make me repeat myself," the officer ordered firmly.

"This is a mistake! When my father hears about this-!"

"I'm sure he'll be very disappointed," mocked the officer, and then slapped the cuffs on her. They glowed blue and neutralized her magic.

"Come along, niece," commanded the taller officer. "You have some explaining to do."

Jorunne gaped. "Uncle Thor?"

"It's two for one day, princess," drawled another familiar voice, and the officer who had placed the cuffs on her suddenly shifted into her former mage master.

"Uncle Loki? You're supposed to be dead!"

"Surprise! I got better." Loki growled. Then he prodded her with a hand. "Start walking, princess. You can do your explaining to the Allfather."

One down and one to go.

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