Ten

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You have to understand that, up until about two seconds ago, I'd been having a really fantastic night.

It took five hours of pretending to fight dragons, but Sigmund's finally started to relax. He's sweet and shy and those two friends of his have almost stopped looking at me like ravens circling a carcass. Which fits, given they used to be valkyries, back before Ragnarøkkr. Sigyn's friends. It's nice they decided to stick around.

Right now I'm looking forward to that night of Mario Kart and nervous fumbling. Sigmund thinks we're going back to my place—the one I bought on Wednesday and haven't seen since the army of decorators got to it—to fuck, but honestly, where's the fun? Travis could've done that. I didn't invent an entire new identity for a one-night stand.

I'm thinking of my next move as we make our way back to the car. I know Sigmund isn't totally buying Lain's kayfabe, but then he never really did and I can work with that. Particularly the part where he's going along with the ruse in spite of his suspicions. I've been struggling with the Big Reveal for a while, and letting Sigmund work it out on his own might be cheating, but cheating is what I do. Besides, Hey, so did I ever tell you about the time I used to be a god? is such an awkward conversation starter.

So I'm busy thinking. Distracted, you could say, which is why I don't notice Munin until we're practically standing on top of it.

Well, strictly speaking, it's standing on top of my car. If it shits on the paint I swear I'm starting a war. If we don't already have one, that is.

Fuck.

"Uh, why is there a huge crow sitting on your car?"

"Raven." Munin hates being called a crow; all ravens do.

It's hard to tell, but I'm pretty sure the fucking thing is grinning. "Found you," it says.

Sigmund twitches at the words. Mortals can't hear Munin talk, but Sigmund isn't quite mortal. He knows he's missing something, even if he has no idea what.

"Long time no see, you carrion-stinking bag of feathers," I say, because I'm pretty sure that by this point I'm fucked no matter what I do. "How's Hugin these days?"

"Lain are you talking to the—"

"Dead," says Munin. "Like you should be."

"How 'bout that," I say. "Guess that vǫlva wasn't all she was cracked up to be." Prophecy. Fuck me, but do I hate prophecy.

And then a voice behind me says, "Isn't it strange how these things turn out." And any hope I'd been harboring re not being totally fucked goes flying off with Munin in a flurry of black feathers and cawed laughter.

I don't turn, not at first. It's funny, in the way that isn't. I've been waiting for this for nearly seventy years. Of course it would be this night, of all nights.

Sigmund is less hesitant, spinning to look at the source of the new voice. His hand is clammy where it's still clasped in mine, the sweet cloud of self-conscious lust he's been extruding all night replaced now by sharply spiking anxiety. He knows this is wrong, even if he doesn't yet know why or how.

"Uh, Lain? Why is there an angry Viking guy with a spear talking in, um, Norwegian?"

That's . . . unexpected. It's not Norwegian, it's Godstongue. Theoretically, everyone hears Godstongue as their native language. Everyone, it seems, except for Sigmund. That bears further investigation. Later. When we're not about to die.

"Hello, Baldr." I switch to Godstongue, too. It's sort of rude, what with Sigmund standing right there, but I get the impression this conversation isn't going to be something he really wants to hear. That I really want him to hear.

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