Loki had a wine cellar. Now, I have a wine cellar with reds, whites, even purples and greens from all over the multiverse. That emperor sized bed that was once in his gigantic master suite now rests comfortably in my dimensional pocket, alongside all of Loki’s bedroom set. I had to expand the walls to fit everything. The ornate, gilded trestle chests and cabinets were more ostentatious than my preference, but knowing it all belonged to Loki alleviated such trivialities as good tastes.
I took everything.
There was no more security or opposition preventing me from my comeuppance. There were a few more illusions set into place, but mostly they all had to do with ambience, likely to impress guests. Even though I had no need of it, I moved all eleven guest rooms worth of furnishings into the extended storage area I made in my dimensional space, along with his clothes.
I left light fixtures and other things bolted down, except the bar in his front room. It took a good bit of effort and magic, but I TK-ed (used telekinesis) it all into my new home on my back. If I could have figured out a way to take the pool, I would have.
Before I left, I wrote “FUCK YOU, LOKI” in big red letters all over the place, using magic to embed the words into the material on a molecular level. Sure, he could fix it easily enough, but the act would rankle him while he did it.
That made me smile.
I understand on an intellectual level that my anger was not solely directed at the trickster god, but it felt damn good to get one over on him, seeing as how he had been in on the plot to strand me here and had stolen Aiden’s freedom.
We weren’t even. I still needed to find a way to hurt him personally. After all, this was just stuff. I needed to wound him, Artemis, and all the others. Not for myself, but for everyone they fucked over simply because they had power.
I hate bullies. Anyone who would abuse others for their own amusement or for boredom or whatever, does not deserve the power they wield. I would find a way to take that from him.
And I had started with his vault. It hadn’t even been locked. That was the arrogance of Loki. He expected the wards and his name to be enough to protect his belongings.
Interestingly, Theseus’s vault had contained more valuable artifacts than Loki’s. However, I did manage to find a few things I could use to barter my way back to Earth. After all, no one would know the difference between one god’s treasures and another’s, right? It’s not like Theseus had catalogued all of his prized possessions for the general public. They’d all been trophies collecting dust. Loki’s vault had been in a similar state of neglect.
In all, I got a few more weapons, including an orb, called an Incanter’s Blade. It had been crafted on a primitive planet called Arinth, where most of the populace still could only use the simplest of the the magics—elemental. Only a few—those they call magi— are beginning to understand the true nature of magic. Take for example this fist-sized globe.
It would enhance one’s connection between will and ethereal pattern, allowing them to magnify their ability to tame elemental energies. Those who understand spells can use it to increase the amount of ether poured into a spell. Translation: much bigger boom for less effort.
Making one of these little gems required the ethereal pattern of a dragon. Despite existing inside every fantasy story since Tolkien, they are rare in the multiverse and hadn’t existed on Earth for over 20,000 years. Dragons are beautiful, majestic creatures with an extremely high intellect.
They had created Arinth as a safe haven for their kind. Though highly capable and extremely powerful, they are slow to procreate. They created the Arinthians to be servants. That’s right. They made an entire species—a few of them if memory serves. So, you can imagine placing a dragon’s ethereal pattern inside a little ball might prove difficult because you would have to kill the dragon to make that happen. No easy feat, not to mention the moral implications of taking the eternal energy of a being to make a weapon.
So the Incanter’s Blade is priceless.
More importantly, it would give me the power I needed to stand up to a god. Well, maybe it would give me a fighting chance, which is more than I had before this. So I couldn’t use it to buy my passage home. However, there was also a few other trinkets of some value, such as the Titan Bracers, which would give the wearer the physical strength of a titan. As you likely guessed, it required the essential pattern of a titan to make.
Hunting other beings for this purpose was illegal. In fact, Loki’s entire Collection was either illegal to make or outlawed entirely in Atlantis.
Take the stasis box. Originally crafted to preserve items of importance, the space was most infamously used as a prison. Time could not pass within the stasis. Anyone going inside would be frozen until released. A cruel person would place her enemies inside just long enough until they lost loved ones.
There were other items such as these, made for a mundane purpose but used for nefarious means. Any one of them would be a treasure to a crime lord. If none of that worked, there was gold. A fuck-ton of gold, in fact. So much that it made me think Loki loved the gold more than the rest of the stuff I’d taken.
I exited through the front door and paused, breathing in the fresh, morning air. Turning back, I cast a quick spell to erase the double-S snakes and replaced it with a phallus. Juvenile? Maybe, but well-deserved.
I considered filling the pond in with dirt, but an act that big might alert the local authorities, so I contented myself with urinating into the hot tub on his terrace then walked down the walkway to the front gate.
It opened from this side. Turning the handle temporarily cut a hole through the wards. I propped the door open with a large rock and went on my way.
I rode that high all the way back to the pyramids.
Inside, my room had been ransacked. Nothing of value was there, but I complained to the hotel staff about the theft and made a big deal about my valuables being taken. They strongly expressed their deepest regrets, while taking no responsible for the loss of property.
As way of apology—without ever using those words—they gave me an upgraded room, gave me free continental breakfast every morning of my stay, and an extra night in my suite, which I hoped not to need.
The smells of baked bread and fried eggs wafted in the air, making my stomach grumble. While I waited for Arkath’s message, I decided to cash in on that breakfast token.
On the other side of the help desk, a hallway opened to a dining area. I’d expected a buffet just like every other hotel I’d visited. Instead, I saw a full wait staff, lining the wall by the window, which overlooked the ocean. A few people had already found their way to the beach.
“Good morning,” a cat-woman greeted in Atlantian. “Sit anywhere you like.”
“Thank you,” I said, taking a seat by the window, where I could still see the front desk.
The same woman who had bid me a good morning came over. She looked like a Persian kitty with pure white hair, closely cropped. Her ears stood up straight and mouth was in a perma-frown until she spoke.
“Here you are,” she said, handing me a menu.
It was all in Atlantian. The eyes gravitated toward the giant egg platter, served with boar skin. The yolk was as large as my face and the boar skin looked like an enormous piece of bacon.
“That. I want that. And coffee. The largest you have.”
She took the menu and left. I pretended to stare out the window but watched the front desk from my periphery. Arkath would leave a message as he’d promised, especially since he’d come up empty in my room.
My food came before the messenger, but by seconds.
“Fuck,” I said over a mouthful of ginormous egg and bacon. It was better than the real thing. The bacon was crisp. The yolk was creamy. I lamented not being able to finish it.
The coffee was too hot to sip, so I left it along with my amazing food, suddenly hopeful that I could have breakfast here tomorrow. All it would cost to stay another day would be a month on earth. Worth it.
The messenger was a female kobold I’d never seen. Her snout was short with canines protruding from her bottom lip. Big brown eyes and floppy ears. The cat at the desk frowned at her. I could not hear them, but the envelope had ‘The Ethermage’ in big letters on the front. I’d never given Arkath my name for obvious reasons.
As soon as the kobold walked away, I rushed to the front desk.
“That’s for me,” I said, pointing to the letter.
“I will need some sort of veri—”
“Ethermage,” I said. “I’m the ethermage. In a hurry.”
She held the letter as though she would delay, but I was out of time. With a trickle of ether and a quick word, I snatched it with a hand of telekinesis. Her eyes widened, and she stepped back.
“My regrets,” I said with as much apology as she’d given me a few minutes ago. “But I cannot be responsible for your hurt feelings.”
Pivoting, I ran for the main exit on this floor while shoving the letter into my cloak. The kobold had not made it from the parking garage. I followed her at a distance, casting a glamour to make myself look like a cat-person in hotel livery. As the density of the crowd increased, I closed the gap.
The kobold walked through the main street and turned down an alley with far fewer people. I let the gap grow a bit before following. And so our game went. She made her way northeast, toward the Shadow Streets, I realized.
When she stopped at a Starbucks, I knew we must be close. I changed the glamour to that of a kobold with grungy clothes. Not dirty but, not pristine like the pyramid’s uniform.
I entered the Starbucks and got in line behind the kobold. She turned her head to the side, never looking directly at me, but I could tell she was aware of me. The corner of her mouth edged upward before she returned her stare to the menu.
When we reached the front, she ordered four drinks and asked for a carrier. I got my regular, a venti soy latte, and was glad to pay with Loki’s gold.
My drink came first. I sat near the door and sipped it until the messenger kobold got her carrier and exited. Once more, I could feel her awareness on me, but it could not be helped. I gave her a five second lead before following.
I took a new face, changing my fur to a golden hue. Then I hurried after her. She turned down another side alley. I followed. Took a few strides. Then, I realized the alley was empty. And it was a dead end.
“What the fuck?”
Turning, I saw the kobold. She stood with a dagger in each hand, blocking the exit back to the street.
“Twitch and you are dead,” she said, accent thick with a growl. “Drop the spell.”
“I would,” I said, slowly. “But you said not to twitch. Technically speaking, I don’t have to twitch to do so; however, it won’t look like that to you. So …”
“Drop. The. Spell.” The dagger spun in her fingers for emphasis.
“What is this? A John Woo film?”
But I dropped the spell.
“Good. Now turn around and put your face on the street.”
“That’s not going to happen. Where’s Arkath?”
“Occupied. Do as I say, or this dagger goes into your throat.”
“I think my spells are faster. Would you not rather talk about our options? I’d love to know how you knew it was me.”
“Easy. I sensed your magic. You wore the wrong clothes for your breed. And I could smell you.”
“Wrong clothes for … Never mind. It was a hasty glamour. I should have considered the scent, but I haven’t had any coffee yet. See now? Isn’t talking more pleasant?”
“It is not. Carving you to pieces would be far more enjoyable. I would love to know what ethermages taste like. A delicacy for my table, no?”
“Ew. No. I’m sure I’d be gamey. Besides,” I said, pulling the letter from my cloak pocket, “the Baron wishes to speak with me. I’d have a difficult time accomplishing that from your belly.”
“The message is unopened. How could you know her wishes?”
Her eyes flickered slightly up. I could see movement on the rooftop in my periphery. Yep. I’m an idiot. She’d been stalling me. If I wasn’t surrounded, I’m certain I soon would be.
Readying to throw a sphere of protective force around me, I opened the envelope, trying to make it look casual. Then I read the letter.
It has come to my attention you are operating in my domain without permission. This is a capital offense. Make this simple for the both of us and surrender yourself. I promise to give you a swift and painless death. You need but to enter my demesne, anywhere north of 78th street or west of 53rd. My people will find you.
You have until the sun falls to comply. If you force me to spend further resources tracking you down, I promise to keep you alive for some time before putting an end to your misery. And bring my property or do not come at all.
Well, shit. I knew robbing Loki had been too easy, but life had a way of finding balance. And here it was. I hazarded a glance up. The buildings on either side of me were only 4-5 stories. Atop them were dozens of kobolds. They had me surrounded. And I could only guess at how well armed they were. With any luck, they all carried medieval weapons. It would be like rolling dice. Not wise, but I had few options.
Resolving myself to a fight, I looked back to the messenger. And I took a gamble.