After a long day doing rounds, and with the dark of night around her, it's time for Ana to give up the world of medicine for one day, and return back home. Covering for her colleagues has shifted her schedule mercilessly this week, and instead of the usual early in-early out, Ana is learning to deal with leaving relatively late at night.
One of the joys of Ana’s life, even so, is her metallic blue Dodge viper. Even though the black racing stripe down the side has sometimes attracted attention from the police even when she is not really speeding (much), the car is her pride and joy.
What then, is Ana’s reaction, this April night, as she walks through the parking ramp next to the hospital, to find a figure standing next to her car, back to Ana? Certainly, the lack of cars in the ramp would eliminate the theory that the figure has mistaken their car for Ana’s.
Also, the aforementioned figure has a long slender object, a baseball bat, perhaps, grasped in a double-hand grip, and seems ready to swing it at the driver’s side window of the Viper.
Ana sprints forward, "HEY YOU, DON'T YOU DARE!!" Her voice echoes in the empty parking deck. The pretty doctor is in a full-out run towards her beloved car. She isn't going to let anyone get away with hurting it. Not a chance. She is furious.
She lowers her head and throws herself into a running tackle of the would-be vandal.
The man in question isn't extremely fast, and so while he does turn at the sound of Ana's shout, he is nowhere near fast enough to avoid the flying tackle. Ana crunches into him, and he crunches against the side of the car.
Both he and Ana wind up on the ground, Ana on top, he below, and face down. He is struggling, but Ana has the upper hand.
It doesn't take the most observant person to notice, even in the midst of this, that the object he has in his hand, with which he is trying to maneuver to attack Ana, is not a baseball bat, or a crowbar, or any typical tool one might use on a car door or a window.
Instead, improbably, it's a sword.
Just the fact that the man has a sword is enough to make Ana pause, puzzled, but only for a fraction of a second before she grabs the arm with the sword and tries to force the hilt from his hand. "WHO ARE YOU?" she demands angrily.
With Ana's pause, the man does try to break free of her grip, but since the situation has not significantly changed, he can't quite manage to break free. There is a tug of war for the sword that results in neither Ana nor the man gaining full possession of it at the moment. He can't wield it, but she can't quite get him to entirely relinquish it.
"I am bound by the laws of Goðheimr to give my name when asked by one of Blood," the man growls. "I am Svenson, of the Vanir Court of Ullr, o daughter of the Goddess. If you swear that you will ransom me, I will surrender peaceably."
Ana is taken off guard, what the h-e-double hockey sticks was this strange man talking about. She doesn't let go though. It seems like time stops as she considers this. "Um... I'm just a doctor ... but hey ... whatever, I'll ransom you and you let go of the big sticky thing." She cautiously releases him, ready to grab his arm again if she has to.
The fight goes out of him at Ana's words. "I accept surrender and ransom," Svenson says. His hand lets go of the sword entirely. "If I may be so bold to say, daughter of the Goddess, your time here in Midgard has made your speech patterns difficult to follow."
With the hand off of the sword, he does not immediately move, waiting for Ana's next move.
Ana takes the sword and stands back, letting him stand up. "Um ... daughter of who?" she asks, feeling some of the blood rush out of her face. "Did you escape from the Psych ward or something?"
He slowly and carefully stands.
This guy is totally loony-toons. "Svenson ... right? That's Swedish. Um ... look, I'm not sure what you are up to but Midgard is the legendary name for the lands not part of the realm of the Norse gods and goddesses, buddy, I think you need a reality check, this is Earth, I'm Dr. Ana Caris and this is the parking deck for the hospital. I treat patients with various female problems, not psych patients ... and you are really out there, not to mention, why were you going to attack my poor car?"
She isn't even sure why she was talking to this guy and not calling security, but something inside makes her not want to do that yet.
"Midgard. Earth. They are the same thing," Svenson says this with the same patient tone as Ana is giving him, as if it was he giving her the reality check. He shakes his head sadly as he regards her. "This deception as to yourself and your nature can end now, Daughter of the Goddess. I know who and what you are."
"As far as breaking into your motor vehicle, I was attempting to lie in wait and abduct you."
Now Ana gives him a totally incredulous look. "You know ... we'd better take you back to the hospital. I think there are some people you need to talk to. So, why would you abduct me?" She is just going to humor him for now and see if she can't get him where they can put him back into the psych ward.
"Tell me ... what Goddess am I supposed to be the daughter of?" she asks pleasantly, trying to keep a non-confrontational tone going; maybe he just needs meds.
"Hospital?" the man shook his head. "I am not injured to require the services of a healer. I thank you for the kindness of offering such to me."
Svenson then furrows his brow at Ana. "Do you ask me these questions to test my knowledge, to seek what I know? You are the daughter of Frigg, of course, stepdaughter to Lord Odin."
Ana sighs. Great, another wacko. She'll have to humor him. "Look Sven, I think you are an honorable man but I need to go back into the hospital for some things I forgot. So let's go quietly."
He nods amicably.
She opens her trunk and puts the sword in it before turning back to him. "Let's go now." She holds out her hand to him. She needs to keep this big man calm till she can get some security to take him up to the Psychiatric Ward.
She can tell already, it's going to be a long night.
He takes the offered hand. "It is no shame," he says, mainly to himself. "to lose a conflict to Frigg's daughter." He looks at the car. "We will go to the hospital for the things you lack, and then travel to your estate? Or are you going to cross Bifrost and bring me back to Asgard?" Sven asks.
He is certainly holding to the fantasy; she stops a moment and considers things.
"Ok ... so assume I even remotely believe you, that you are being honest and are not insane ..." She pauses.
"Exactly how does one travel across the Bifrost, I mean my mother read me the Norse tales as a child, but honestly Sven, I can't be what you think I am, I'm a surgeon, I take care of people who are very ill. And in my mind, you are starting to fit that bill, you need psychiatric help. Unless you care to prove what you are saying?" She decides she'll let him have one shot before she has him locked up.
"Wait ..." the man looks at Ana oddly. "You are Frigg's daughter, I was told true. But you do not know or believe what you are?" He looks at Ana, with a puzzled expression and lets go of her hand. "You don't believe a word I have said."
"I do not have the ability to take you to Asgard," Sven says. "However, I can show you a way to Bohuslän, the world I came to Midgard from. Would that be proof enough for you of what I say?"
She considers what he is saying. "Will you give me your word of honor that I will be safe, that I will return here without being hurt or kidnapped." She feels she has to ask, since he swore he was honorable. She'll have to trust in that.
"It's not that I don't want to believe what you are saying but it really sounds very out there. This is 2011, people don't believe in the old gods anymore." She isn't sure what else to say; if it was true, then she is some sort of ... demi-god? That's just ludicrous.
She walks with him and lets him lead on, before they get there though, she is going to have his word.
"Why are all the cute ones loonies." She speaks aloud without even realizing she has.
"My word of honor. You defeated me in combat," Sven says.
He does walk with Ana a few feet before he stops and looks back at the car and then to Ana. "It would be faster, however, if you employed your car. I can open the way to Bohuslän even if I am not operating the car, and it would be faster if we did not have to walk all the way to a spot where I can open the Way."
She nods and walks back to her car and opens the doors with a push of the button on her key chain. "Please, hop in," she smiles; this was going to be fun. She finds men are intimidated when she employs all the gears.
Sven gets into the car with the caution of someone entering a strange and unfamiliar vehicle for the first time. His eyes look around after his seatbelt clicks into place.
She lets him get in and with a practiced ease she puts the car in gear and heads for a road out of town. She loves driving out in the country where there are open roads and she can speed. She has an ease with her driving that few people ever achieve. It is all in the coordination of hands and feet.
"Ok, we're leaving the city and it should be pretty open out here," she offers as they head down some country roads.
Sven says nothing for twenty minutes as Ana's driving takes them north, away from the twin cities and into the north woods.
"I am only passingly familiar with the cars of Midgard," Sven finally says. "However, is it not true that it is men and not women who drive with such facility?" There is an admiring tone in his voice.
Ana laughs. "So they often tell me. But I think it's just a skill, like any other, it can be learned."
And then he points ahead, at a gravel road intersecting the quiet state highway they are driving on. "Turn onto that road, and I will open the Way and we will cross." He pauses a beat. "It would not do to open a way on this road and have the unprepared cross as well."
She turns as he directs and the car roars down that other road. "Often other surgeons also told me the same thing, little girl, you don't belong here. Surgery is a man's job. So much for their ideas, I'm damn good at what I do." She looks a bit wild, her hair flying as she drives with abandon, waiting for him to open this gateway. She doesn't even know why she believes him but somehow, she is starting to.
"So ... gateway time?" she asks after they are a mile or two down a deserted road.
"Time to open the Way," Sven agrees. He reaches his hand forward and, with fingers spread, Sven waggles his fingers, as if caressing an imaginary baseball in his palm. The transition is smooth and easy. One moment, Ana is driving down a gravel road in out state Minnesota. In the next, there is a mountain range that looks like it belongs in Colorado on the horizon ahead.
The car is still driving on a road, but this one is no longer gravel; instead it is some sort of cobblestone road. Her car bounces a bit on a road clearly that was not designed with cars in mind.
"Welcome to my world, Ana," Sven says. "We are now on the Via Royal."
Ana stops the car suddenly, jarring both of them. She stares out. "Um ... honestly, I thought you were crazy, and well I thought that this would just be a way to show you that it didn't exist ... now ... I think I'm crazy. So, tell me something Sven, why were you trying to kidnap me?"
Now that she realizes there really is another world, it sort of seems more important to know why he had been sent to take her.
She is a little worried now. "And um, we are here, so, what happens now."
"You asked me to show you proof that I was not crazy," Sven says. The sudden stop of the car stunned him into a brief silence.
"And you extracted a promise from me that I would return you unharmed. We can turn around and do that now. To answer your question, I was attempting to kidnap because my liege lord commanded me to do so. He wished you brought to his court here in Bohuslän. It is not my place to know why he desired your presence here, Ana, only that he commanded it so.
"Perhaps it is because he is your cousin," Sven adds thoughtfully.
Ana grimaces. "You realize that this is all very strange to me. But one question Sven, what will happen if you don't bring me to his court? And personally I will take it badly if he plans to harm you because you didn't succeed. If he's so damn hot to meet me, he could have just come himself and talked to me. The idea of being kidnapped is so annoying."
"Would you have come, without understanding where you are going?" Sven asks.
She looks around. "Fine, let's go see this cousin, but I expect you to continue to keep your word and protect me. I think I've just decided to keep you."
"You decided to keep me?" Sven looks uncertainly at Ana for a long moment. He then shakes his head. "It is a day's walk from here to your cousin's court along this road, though I expect that with a car, you will be able to take us there with speed ... unless you would rather hide your car and walk," Sven says.
She laughs. "Why hide, let's just make a full spectacle and yes ... I've decided to keep you. I defeated you so now, you will serve me and I will make certain my 'Cousin' doesn't take out what you consider your failure on you."
She drives the strange road, not caring who sees her. "Just keep giving me directions." She moves fast.
Sven seems resigned to Ana's decision. There are not many directions, as it so happens, to give. Unlike the maze of highways and roads back in Minnesota, there are only a few tracks, little more than ruts, that cut away from this main road. And even those seem to be relatively uncommon.
After a half hour of driving, the road curves around a relatively tall hill, and the terrain changes. The road ahead is set to climb another hill. The slopes are smooth, with nothing more than grass to obstruct the view. A small building stands astride the road at the top of the hill, and what looks like the medieval equivalent of a toll booth, complete with a long pole blocking the road. About a half dozen men are standing around the pole, watching the approach of Ana's car calmly.
"Your cousin's men," Sven says.
"Exactly how is he related to me?" she asks, curious.
"He is the son of the God Vidarr," Sven says.
Her eyes are dancing with mischief, though. She lets the car have its head towards the pole, timing the braking just so she squeals to a stop only inches from whoever is standing in front of her car.
Bows and arrows from the men are pointed at the car, mainly at the tires.
With an arrogance born of being a doctor and the respect it entitles her to, she roll the window down and calls out.
"Don't you know better than to get in the way of a European sports car?" Ana is being brash, but then again, this cousin had sent someone to kidnap her. "Now, if my 'cousin' wants to see me ... you can just open that little gate and tell me where he is. I'll be interested in having a familial discussion with him." Her tone is icy when she finishes. She isn't in the mood for games. "Otherwise I can just go right back where I came from and he can come there to talk to me." She revs the engine even as she rolls up the window and cocks her head, waiting for their response. She knows she could whip the car into reverse if she has to and get them the hell out of Dodge, so to speak.
"Cars from Midgard are not permitted in Lord Lachlan's Kingdom," one of the men, one of the two without a bow (but instead sporting a double headed axe) replies. "You will be escorted to the city to meet with him." He looks at Sven. "Why do you sit so passively?"
"She defeated me in honorable combat, Trey," Sven says.
"You were the wrong choice to be sent to bring her to the Lord," Trey replies, shaking his head in obvious disgust.
Trey looks back at Ana. "Do not think that we cannot stop your vehicle and damage it if we so choose. Exit the car."
Ana glares. "And I do not like being threatened. Your Master sent someone to kidnap me and I didn't appreciate it, but I did come, and I expect to be treated with courtesy. If he cannot do so, then I will take measures to insure that I am not bothered again."
She reaches under her seat and feels the handle of the 9mm handgun she keeps under her seat. It makes no sense to be unprotected.
"I do not think you will find that we fear the things of Midgard," Trey replies. "And we do not fear you, even if you defeated this one in combat." The withering look he gives Sven could melt a butter sculpture at the Minnesota State Fair.
"Now, Ana, you and Sven will exit the car, slowly and carefully," Lachlan says. Ana can see Sven tense, he is clearly preparing for a physical confrontation.
Ana looks to Sven. "Any thoughts? 'Cause I believe this annoying jerk just called me by my given name without permission. And I'm not inclined to do what he says. How fast can you call up the bridge?" She keeps her voice low but her hand is on the gear shift, and her feet set on the pedals.
If she has to, she'll go, but she isn't letting these guys hurt an honorable man like Sven.
"Challenge him to single combat," Sven says quietly, in a low voice. "He can't honorably refuse it if you make your freedom the price. You defeated me, you can defeat him.
"That," he says "Or surrender and meet your cousin on those terms. He cannot kill you outright or at all without paying a high weregild to your mother."
Ana considers her options; she does kickbox - that's excersize, but maybe it will translate to this situation.
"TREY, I CHALLENGE YOU TO COMBAT," her voice rings out clear. She wonders what he might make of that. She is out of her element here, but she won't deviate and just in case, she slips the gun into the waist of her pants.
Trey looks absolutely stunned by Ana's voice, as if she had punched him between the eyes.
"You challenge me?" he finally says, as if he can't believe what she said. He glances at Sven, shakes his head in disgust again, and looks back at Ana,
"Very well. The challenged has the right of weapons. I will not permit you to use your firearms," Trey says. "I accept your challenge. We will fight with our bare bands, to the yield.
"I've wrestled both the dwarves under the mountain and the Hill Giants of Greyhawk." He glares at Ana. "Still want to fight me, Freyja's daughter?"
She glares back at him. "If you are trying to scare me ... you won't. I've hand my hands in someone's guts, and put them back together. So, blood isn't an issue. And if you think I'll back down because you boast, you have another think coming buster. I'm not some fragile flower. I am a surgeon." Her eyes flash with fury but she keeps cool. She isn't about to let this bag of wind scare her.
"What is a surgeon?" one of Trey's men says, confused. "Is that some warrior class on Midgard?"
"I never know what the peoples of Midgard are saying," another man says.
Trey says nothing, glowering and watching Ana as she continues to speak.
"So, if you are done with your windbag moment, we can just get down to business." She slips the gun out and puts it behind the car seat, keeping it out of sight. She's going to have to count on his underestimating her, then again, if she can anger him, he might lose his head.
She steps out of the car, still in scrubs and tennis shoes. She hasn't had time to change. Her long hair is in a thick knot at the base of her neck. She bounces a little, getting her muscles warmed up.
Sven has gotten out of the car as well, and walks to the far end of the space behind the car.
"You truly have no honor, Sven," Trey says with a shake of the head. He walks a few paces, turns around and regards Ana. He smacks his right fist against his left palm and gets in a wrestler's crouch.
"Come, woman. Show me the skills of a 'Surgeon.'"
Ana isn't stupid, she moves around him, waiting, tempting him to come at her. Defending is easier than attacking and he is solid. She stalks him. She will find her way to him but carefully. She takes a stance to use her skills as best she can.
She waits for his first attack and then uses her kick boxing to wait until he is making a pass, and then she swings to connect to the back of his head.
His attack failed as she ducks out of the way, and then she connects with the back of his head, dazing him. He staggers back and regards Ana. He looks punch-drunk from the hit but is still up.
"So the surgeons of Earth fight like dancers," he taunts.
Ana merely smiles. "Perhaps ... but I hit you didn't." She moves around again, watching his moves, waiting for the next opening. It is something her teacher had taught her. Always wait for the other person to make the move, until you have them on the run. Then you attack. Till then, she will keep up her bouncing moves around him and wait to attack again.
"You know ... this is really going to affect your reputation, that you got beaten by a 'dancer,'" she adds, keeping her tone musical and sweet.
His anger keeps allowing to make easy mistakes, mistakes that Ana is able to juke and jive. He doesn't even come close, again, to landing a successful blow. When it comes time for her counterattack, Ana is again in prime position. This is an even harder hit than last time, a literally stunning blow. Trey backs up, warily, and regards Ana.
"Perhaps I have," he shakes his head to clear the cobwebs "misjudged your talents." He hasn't quite left the ring, but the bruises and his stance suggests to Ana that he's going to wind up with a concussion if he keeps trying to go after her in the 'squared circle.'
Trey stares at her, waiting. There clearly is a social cue here that Ana is missing. It's possible he is offering her a chance to give terms for surrender, or it's possible he is waiting to see if she is going to press her attack forward even more.
Ana is putting her kick boxing workout routine to use; she'll have to tell her teacher how well it worked later. She looks at the man once more, never moving her gaze. "Will you surrender, or do I have to hit you a few more times to drive that home?" She is really looking forward to making him sweat since he'd insulted Sven, who Ana now considered her own.
She is determined to make him regret his insulting behavior as well.
She prepares to hit him again, should he not surrender.
"I refuse to yield." Trey says.
And so the combat continues. Trey moves to the attack and actually scores a minor hit on Ana, connecting with a punch to the shoulder.
Ana's counterattack is all she could hope for. It's enough of a wound that it could knock him out, but instead, battered, he holds a hand up. "Now you have bested me, Scion," he says. "I yield and will impede you no further."
Ana looks at him. "Well, since my cousin wants to meet me, you can tell him to come to Midgard, I'll meet him at The Rising Sun restaurant tonight. In the meantime, you can tell him that I have decided that Sven is staying with me. He's my personal bodyguard now. And I will not return him. As for you, you owe me fealty now, honorable combat has been won. So, I will require of you, three times for me to call upon your assistance that you will deliver to the utmost of your ability or I will require your life in return."
She is in a truly bad mood about all this. She moves to the car. "Please don't get in my way again."
Trey says absolutely nothing, but he holds up a hand as one of his vassals readies an arrow shot at Ana's car. The arrow is never loosed.
"I feel less shamed by having been defeated by you," Sven says, once Ana is in the car. "Much less shamed. We probably should return to Midgard in haste, lest one of Trey's underlings decides to take his revenge for the shaming of his liege lord. Someone who wants to ingratiate himself with your cousin, for instance."
Ana moves into her car, without taking her eyes off the man and his minions. As she does, she turns the key and peels out, reversing and then spinning to head back. She grins at Sven. "Honestly, if I hadn't surprised you, I have a feeling you might have beaten me."
"I do not know," Sven says. "If I did not know your divine parent, I would think you were a child of Lord Loki, for guile and cleverness are strong among your weapons, Ana."
As they head back to Midgard, as he calls it (Earth, the US to her mind), Ana looks over at him. "I'm taking you shopping, Sven, you need clothes that fit in with my world if you are staying." She fully intends that he is. Heck, fate has dropped a gorgeous warrior on her doorstep and she is going to keep him.
"Please drive to where we entered," Sven says. "That will be the easiest place to create a gateway."
Indeed, once Ana's car has returned to, from what she can determine, the place where they entered, a few ministrations from Sven are all that is needed to require a gateway very similar to the one he created to bring Ana to this medieval world.
The road on the other side is not the one they had originally gone through, but after a couple of minutes, Ana determines that they are somewhere to the south of the cities, and soon finds a route to Interstate 35.
She immediately heads back to town to a mens' store that one of her doctor friends favors - he's always talking about it. It is quiet and exclusive and carries everything for the man in style.
She parks and grins over at Sven. "So, any special style you want to be in?"
"I do not know of your customs well enough to judge what clothes would truly suit me here for an extended stay. It may be needful that, like among the Vestenmannavnjar, I will rely on a woman to appraise and buy cloth and other such goods."
Ana grabs his hand and drags him into the store. It was a Macy's, and in the men's department, everything that a man could need can be found. She hails a sales person and in moments they have a personal shopper doing the selections. Sven is going to be the best dressed bodyguard ever seen. She has them outfit him with casual and dress clothes, undergarments, a really cool butter soft leather jacket, boots, and shoes. She leaves no stone unturned in her arrangements, including having the goods sent to her home.
"So, have I worn you out with shopping yet?" She pauses at the watch counter and selects a gorgeous Rolex. "You should also be able to tell the time here."
Sven looks amused at her comments and then laughs, a booming sound. By now he is dressed in a nicely fitted pair of Levis and a button-down shirt with the jacket over it.
"Oh ... I think I can manage this shopping trip. Your dinner with your cousin might be the problem."
She smiles at him. "Well, then I'll just have to change his mind. Not to mention, if I am who you say I am, I haven't heard from my mother at all, and I have no idea what I can or can't do."
The sales lady comes up and smiles; her commission is about to go through the roof as Ana hands over the Black American Express.
"I supposed we should go, we have a few things to take and the rest they'll deliver. Let's go home, I have to change, and I suppose we should arm you like someone in Midgard."
Sven nods and follows her to her car and home.
Ana's home is a lovely creation, a Georgian Manor house, all stone clad. A maid opens the door to let them in and Ana pauses. "Mary, please situate Sven in the guest suite next to my room. He'll have a number of things arriving tomorrow."
The maid nods and moves to do as she said, letting Sven follow her as Ana goes to her own room and heads for a long soak in her tub. She is really in need of relaxation.
Relaxing in the tub in her parents' house is an exercise in decadence and relaxation. It's also an excuse for Ana to drift off after about fifteen minutes of heated water relaxation. The long day from work to her trip to Medieval World and then shopping with her new bodyguard was a long day for the Doctor.
This reverie is interrupted by a whisper in her ear, a woman's voice. "Ana."
Eyes open, there is no one in the bathroom. The house is quiet.
And then she hears the voice again.
Ana looks around, rises slowly, takes the large, fluffy robe at hand and wraps it around her wet body. She looks around again, and finding no apparent location for the voice, she finally speaks.
"Yes? I'm Ana ... who are you?" She has a feeling she might know the answer. If her mother is a goddess as they told her, this might be her, Frigg. If that's the case, then she wants to know why she is only now finding out that she isn't daughter to the people she's thought were her parents.
"Your birth mother," the voice comes.
There is slight amusement in her voice as she continues. "I did not expect you to travel to Bohuslän, and then promptly turn on your heels and return to Earth. Having taken a carl and bound him as your thrall in the process, as well. However, it has allowed me this contact with you.
"I would have words with you, face to face, of who and what you truly are."
Ana considers things. "Then, you are a goddess, if what Sven has told me is true. Where would you like to meet? I would like to know more about you?" This was growing curiouser and curiouser, to quote a famous childs book that she enjoyed.
"I just want to understand this, this morning I was just Dr. Caris, now I'm some sort of ... demigod?"
"You're not a demigod yet, Ana," the voice chides. "The term for what you are now, daughter, is Scion. If you prove yourself, and grow into your legend, then one day you will become a demigod. And perhaps even more.
"Your cousin's invitation, as it were, would have brought you to me, even if he was rather ham-fisted about the whole affair," the goddess continues. "We do need to meet, for time is short, and your help is needed, doctor.
"There is a place nearby, once sacred to the people that roamed this land, Pilot Knob. Oheyawahi. Meet me there at dawn tomorrow."
And then the voice is gone.
Ana dries herself off. It is a curious thing to hear a voice that while it sounds familiar, it is also strange and otherworldly. She dresses in a nightgown of shimmering gold silk. She wants to talk to Sven, to find out what he knows. She wants to tell him, but she isn't sure that is the best idea. Maybe after she meets this woman, this goddess, she will know more and things will be clearer. She is definitely going to have to have words with her mother - her adopted mother - about this.
She lies down on her bed and curls up on the pillow to go to sleep. Morning will come early. So she sleeps.
She wakes early and dresses, wearing a pair of jeans and a button-down shirt; her boots are soft and they fit nicely over the jeans.
Sven is still dozing asleep in the early morning, blissfully unaware of what Ana is up to.
She pulls out a jacket and goes to her car. Soon, she is rolling towards Pilot Knob. She will be there just before dawn.
When she gets up there, she is calm. She gets out of the car and walks to the point where it just feels ... right.
Pilot Knob, as it turns out, sits near a cemetery, and in the early morning light, Ana can see the old Fort Snelling, the Minnesota river, as well as the shimmering cityscape of Minneapolis on the horizon. It's extremely quiet, with no one around. Ana seemingly is alone.
Until, as Ana stands there, she hears the crunching of footsteps. Behind her is a woman. Red haired, matronly, and dressed in a University of Minnesota sweatshirt and slacks.
"Its a lovely view, as yet unspoiled," the woman says. "Wouldn't you agree?"
Her voice is of the same tone as the voice in her head last night.
Ana nods, looking the woman over. "Yes, and rare in these days, people don't even think of the consequences of the things they do today for the children that will come after them." She studies the woman, who seems so timeless, ageless.
"So, you are my real mother?" she asks, curious about all of this. She doesn't understand it at all. Her parents never mentioned this, but she her mother still worships the old gods and goddesses. So, there was that chance. She remembers her mother telling her that she was a gift from Frigg. Now she begins to understand that the comment was more than just saying that her mother had been blessed with a child; she really had been a gift.
"I guess you've known about me all along."
"Yes," she says. "I've been watching over you since you were born. It is not my way to intervene or interfere, until you have come of age, or circumstances force matters. It is better for your development, and so I used a hands off approach, Ana. Most of my counterparts act the same way with their scions. There are also dangers to us spending excessive amounts of time in Midgard. And so I let your foster parents raise you without knowledge of who you are and what you are to me.
"Does that upset you?"
"Not really, my parents were wonderful, they raised me well and I love them. More I feel curious. Why did my ... cousin try and have me kidnapped rather than simply extending an invitation? And what has made you seek me out now?
"I assume there must be some reason, or you wouldn't be here." She finds this woman both intriguing and magnetic.
"We eventually reveal ourselves to our children if their blood appears to run true," Frigg says. "You appear to have inherited enough of our abilities to be called Scion. It is but one step on a long road that few master.
"There are other reasons," she says, the sigh in her voice audible. "As you grow into your power, troubles will follow you. And a great darkness is covering the world, Ana, a darkness that could lead to Ragnarok itself.
"I, the Aesir, and the world need your help."
Ana has a truly compassionate heart; all her life she's tried to help others. It was one of the reasons she'd become a doctor, one of the reasons she'd chosen her field, so that women would get the best possible treatments for their illnesses.
"How can I not help, if people will die and the world will go dark. It would be wrong to sit back and wait. What do you need me to do ... Mother?"
"You are trained in medicine," Frigg says. "And you can fight, at need, but, like Hecate's daughter, your skills at healing are what are needed." She looks at the skyline of Minneapolis and then back at Ana. She sighs.
"There is more than one history of the world, more than one truth to the nature of the universe. Scientists tell you the universe began in a big bang, this world formed 5 billion years ago.
"Also true, Ana, is that beings arose out of the Primal Chaos and formed the multiverse, this realm and all of the others. Those beings, the Primordials, the Giants, the Titans, sired and birthed children. Children, like me. We overthrew our parents, and imprisoned them. We, now, rule the world. But the Titans seek to free themselves, and rule the multiverse again. They have agents, spawn, and dupes weakening their chains. They have nearly succeeded. Ragnarok draws closer.
"A world ruled by such as my parents would be no paradise for Man. They must be stopped, or delayed."
Ana listens and nods. "As you say. I trust that you know your parents far better than I. My healing skills are at your command, mother. Tell me what you need of me and I will do my best to achieve what you will.
"I hope you do not mind that I have taken Sven under my protection. But from what my cousin's men seemed to indicate, his lot with them would have been untenable and I would not have that on my conscience. And he is a warrior; had I not surprised him, I have no doubt he might have managed to take me as he was commanded to do. I don't understand all this but I do accept it."
"Taking Sven as your vassal is your own business, daughter," Frigg says. "Or if he is your thrall or huskarl now, it matters not. You may need use of his arm in the fight ahead.
"Some of my counterparts have decided to pool our efforts and bring our Scions into contact with each other, to work together to deal with the threats posed by the Jotun, the Titans, and their brood. Even now, they are revealing themselves to their children as I am doing so to you, telling them of their destiny, giving them boons, and the ability to face their foes.
"Just by being here with you, I have unlocked your potential, as the sun's light opens the petals to a flower. And I've a gift for you." She draws out an amulet, with a rhomboid sapphire held in a elliptical space in the middle. Frigg spins the sapphire gently with a finger and then offers the amulet to Ana. "This is yours. It will aid you when dealing with poisons and diseases beyond those of mortal man, and may aid you in other ways. I myself am uncertain what boons it will unlock in you."
Ana reaches out and takes the amulet. "Wow. This a gift beyond measure, mother, I shall treasure it always." She bows and then steps closer and hugs her mother. "I shall do my best to help you and the Aesir to defeat the Titans. I remember my mother teaching me all the stories; now I begin to understand why."
She considers for a moment. "Should I have Sven teach me to fight properly?" she asks the Goddess.
Frigg nods solemnly. "Yes, you should," she says. "Even those who bear poultices and potions sometimes find that they need to pick up the iron sword to defend themselves. The spawn of the Titans will not care, Ana, that you are a healer.
"Your first task is to contact your fellow Scions. I wish you to meet the son of Brigid, the Goddess of Fire. He is from Ireland, but fortunately, his mother has arranged things so that he is in America.
"He resides in a place called Arizona, in the desert. Seek him at the tavern called the Green Eyed Girl, and the path to the others and what is needed shall be made clear."
Ana nods. "I will get Sven and we will leave as soon as possible. He can train me along the way." Her eyes focus on her mother again. "I hope I will see you again soon. I love you, mother." She knows it is fine to love her goddess mother; love only grows, it doesn't diminish. There is more than enough love to give to both her adoptive parents and her real mother.
"Our next meeting will likely be in a place beyond Earth," Frigg says. "As it is, there will be strangeness in Minneapolis the next few days because of my presence here." She shrugs and hugs Ana impulsively. "Be strong, my daughter."
Ana heads back to her car and doesn't realize that her fingers are holding and caressing the amulet her mother gifted her with. She knows Sven is likely awake and worrying about where she is. Entering her small car, she gives one more wave before she drives away.
The drive home gives her time to consider all that she has heard. She wonders what Sven will think of what she has heard this day. Will he be strong enough to stand with her in the coming threat?
Ana's return to her home is thankfully without incident.
Sven is not only up and about but is in the kitchen when Ana comes in.
"I explored the neighborhood while you were gone," Sven says. "I discovered a strange bread with holes in it, from a place called Brug-ers."
A bag of bagels sits on the counter, with what looks like a half dozen kinds of cream cheeses and spreads. "I'm probably saying that wrong," Sven says. He pauses a beat. "Where did you go?"
Ana chuckles as she pulls out a bagel and spreads the strawberry-flavored cream cheese on it. "Close enough, Brugers, and the bread is bagels." She smiles and sits at the counter beside him.
"I went to meet my mother. Frigg." She looks into his eyes. "I need you to teach me to fight ... and we have to head to Arizona to meet another Scion. Apparently, the Titans are raising their ugly heads and we are all being called to work together with the Scions of other Gods and Goddesses." She takes a bite and watches his eyes. Like her mother, she is beautiful and yet, there is something nurturing about her. Something that makes one think of warm nights by a fire and someone to care if you were sick or well.
"You do not need to persuade me, Analiesa, daughter of Frigg," he says after a moment. "My pledge to you still stands." He picks up and starts doctoring a bagel of his own. "I do not know where this Arizona is, but I know of the Titans. We do not call them Titans, that is a Greek word. We call them the children of the Giants. They have powers akin to those of those of Asgard, but turn it to evil ends.
"It is said," he says, taking a crisp bite, "they will one day bring about Ragnarok, the end of the world. If we were to make that day later rather than sooner, we must act against them. And so journey to this Arizona, and meet this other Scion."
Ana nods. "That is true." Her eyes are gentle as she meets his. "I need to call my office and reschedule some things, and then we should pack and head out. It will take some time to get there, we could fly but I think having a car is better ... we can carry weapons in the car, that we couldn't get onto a plane," she offers as she finishes her breakfast.
Soon after, she goes into her home office and starts making her calls. Her first is to Samantha Spires, her secretary. "Hello Sam, good morning," she says, the smile in her voice as always.
"Morning Dr. Caris." The young woman has been her secretary for the last two years. Samantha has an infectiously nice personality that always leaves a person feeling better for having spoken to her, it matches her young bubbly look. Sam is a sweet girl with dark brown hair cut in a cute short bob. Her eyes are a deep bright green and she is always smiling.
"Sam, I have a family emergency, who is on call that can step in for my current schedule," Ana asks gently.
"Dr. Rae and Dr. Griffon could split your schedule, they both keep light schedules and I can figure out which of our patients will be better served by which doctor."
"Thank you so much Sam, I knew I could count on you. Remind me to schedule a raise for you when I get back." Ana knows that she couldn't function as well as she does without the ever-efficient Samantha.
"Thank you, Dr. Caris." The girl sounds excited about that prospect, only because she knows Ana wouldn't have said it without meaning it.
"You have my cell, call me if there is an emergency that I need to handle, otherwise, send any new patients to the other doctors for the next three weeks. I'll let you know if I'll need more time than that."
"Of course Dr. Caris. I'll take care of everything," Samantha assures her.
Ana nods, knowing that her trust is well placed. "Thanks again, talk to you later."
She hangs up and writes a few e-mails to various colleagues to back up Samantha when she calls, and then goes upstairs and packs. She packs light but efficiently, taking a few pairs of jeans, shirts, underthings of course, a night shirt, a pair of boots, tennis shoes and one pair of dress shoes and two skirts and blouses that can be turned into a few outfits. She packs her pistol and extra ammunition.
It takes a few hours before she finishes and loads her car. As soon as Sven's things are packed, she gets into the car and they are off to Arizona.
A road trip with Sven, in America, is a very different experience than Ana's trip to her cousin's world. The miles rack up as Ana's car works at covering the miles of the long journey across the country. Sven is at turns fascinated with the scenery, bored with some of the monotony, confused by some of the talk radio, and garrulous about what he is seeing.
"I have heard America is a large country," he says. "But it must be very large to have northern forests, plains of grain and eventually ... deserts and mountains?" he says as the car passes through the farms of central Iowa. "If I understand your maps, we can head west at Des Moines and head that way to Arizona, or go down to," he squints, "to Texas?"
Ahead, in the dying sunlight, a parked car is on the side of the Interstate, ignored by all of the drivers ahead of Ana. It has a road flare brightly marking its position.
Ana says, "We should stop ... they might need help." She wouldn't leave someone stranded on the side of the road. She had decided, after Sven told her the options, that west at Des Moines would be the best choice at this time. But for now, it looks like someone needs help.
She slows down and pulls in behind the vehicle, and hits 911 on her cell phone. In a moment she has reported a car with emergency flares on the side of the road, and then opens her door to go check if someone needs help in the car.
As Ana and Sven walk toward the car, a figure steps out of the driver's side, a burly man with a bald head and a black beard. He speaks in a thick Russian accent.
"You've got to help me!" he says. "My girl, my girl, she's in labor and she needs a doctor. She's bleeding or something, I don't know! Please!"
Ana can see a figure in the passenger seat, but with the lighting, it's hard to see her. But something about this set up gets Ana's hackles up. The way Sven has tensed up is also a clue.
Ana looks carefully at the man. "I've called emergency services, they should be here soon. The best thing for you and your girl is to remain calm, talk to her, keep her talking while we wait." She looks to Sven and hopes he is packing a gun. She isn't sure what is making her feel off about this.
"I don't really have anything I could do but that," she offers. Strange how this medical emergency seems just up her alley - too strange.
The man looks at Ana. "But, but you must do something. Help me!" he pleads. "I don't know anything about this, da? Come, come, just take a look at her." He gestures toward the car. "You know more about childbirth than I!"
Ana goes closer to the car. "How would you know that I know more about childbirth than you?" she asks him as she gets closer and tries to see the supposed woman in the car. She knows Sven will back her up, but she hopes he is ready for whatever is coming. She just needs to help this woman if it is a real emergency. She can't let someone suffer. But this just doesn't seem ... right.
(Continued in Drive My Car II)