The Midgard Debut
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There's something incredible about performing in front of people. Once the jitters fade away, the most amazing rush of energy fills you. This feeling of… limitlessness. Like you could reach up and pluck the stars from the sky. Some people like screaming crowds in sold-out stadiums, but there's an intimacy to playing smaller venues; almost like you're sharing something special with the audience.

I want to say I can feel it now, but it's just not… there. It's the last night of our tour of Three Portlands' dive bars and rundown concert halls, and I've never felt so detached from an audience. I'd pretend it's just because it's our debut, but I know the truth. Spades knows, Elix knows, Amber knows. Despite all the weirdness and magic that permeates this micro-dimension, we're in a class of our own. They look up here and see some people in costumes, but the leaves that swirl around Elix's feet are always there. Spade's ashen complexion, jagged teeth, and horns aren't makeup and props. Neither are Amber's midnight skin or pointed ears, and they probably think her arms are by Anderson Robotics. But this is really us.

The show's over. Usually, I would get wrapped in the energy of the crowd, but here, I am alone with my thoughts. I don't think they noticed. I flick my pick into the crowd and raise my guitar above my head.

"We are The Chained Wanderers, and you've been fucking fantastic, Portlands!"

Spades beats out a rimshot and shouts above the clamor of the crowd.

"If you liked our sound, buy our shit in the back," he points to Amber, who's standing behind a heavily modified keyboard, "Amber here made all of it." He pauses.

"And get fucking drunk! There are thirsty people in Hell who'd love a beer! Do your part!"

The crowd breaks out laughing. Spades has always been a people pleaser. He just wants to be loved by everyone he meets. At the last show, we had to lock him in the rental van to stop him from spending all his cash buying rounds for the whole bar. I shoot a glance at Amber, who winks and shows me Spades' wallet, tucked into the pocket of her vest.

I look out across the crowd as the stagehands start to break down the equipment. Sitting by the bar, in a jacket too clean and white for the scene she's found herself in, is the reporter The Tribune sent to watch our show. Ms. Eleanor Bells. We talked a little before the show, but I should probably follow up and make the best impression possible. I mean, it's our very first tour of Midgard after all.


Eleanor twirls her olive around in her martini a few times before looking up at me. "So, Mr. Bersi Hákon. How do you think it went tonight?"

"Well. I think it went well. I could really feel the crowd's energy." I lied. She has an audio recorder sitting on the bar and I can't stop glancing at it. "Do you mind if I smoke?"

She pulls a packet of America Spirits out of her pocket. "Not if you share a light."

I smiled. Maybe she wasn't a stranger to this world after all. I pull a silver tin and a black lighter carved with runes from my breast pocket and pick a maroon cigarette out of the tin. Eleanor lifts her cigarette to her lips and leans in close. I can smell her perfume, almost strong enough to taste. I light hers and then mine.

"So where are you guys from? I tried to find your hometown, you know, get a little background, but it was all dead ends. Care to shed a little light on that?" She bats her eyelashes at me and I feel the enchanted perfume try to take hold. I give a little laugh. An allure like that would have worked when I was still human.

"We're from Neon City."

She cracks a grin. Probably because she thinks it's working. "And where is that? Is it a place like here?"

"Nah." She blinks. I wink. Leaning in close, I whisper in her ear. "Your succubus magic was a nice try, and I didn't even see it coming, but you'll have to try a little harder."

The look on her face goes from confused to sly and she powers off her recorder. My challenge has been accepted.

"Well then, there has to be a better way to loosen your lips. Are you inclined to the same vices as your friends?" She gestures behind me and I turn. Spades is by the dartboard, pouring shots and lighting them on fire for his new "friends." Elix is in a booth, surrounded by stoners nursing beers under a thick cloud of smoke. I don't see Amber immediately, but then I see her in a corner booth, sharing a drink with a redhead with what looks like tentacles emerging from her back. Amber's arm is around her shoulders and they're both laughing.

"Some, but not all." I wrap my knuckles on the bar. "Hey, bartend, can you refill me?"

Eleanor finishes her martini and puts out her cigarette.

"Huh. Figured you'd be the type to put that out on me."

"Would you like that?"

"No comment, Ms. Journalist."

She purses her lips.

"What? Too mouthy?"

"Are you gonna give me a decent interview, or will you fight me every step of the way?"

I lean back. "Depends on whether or not you play to fight me in the bar."

"We don't have to fight here, if that's what you're looking for."

"What do you have in mind? The park across the street is-"

"I was thinking warmer. My apartment's three subway stops away."


"Still okay with this?"

"Of course."

We barely make it through the door before her lips find mine and her hand grabs at my belt buckle. I figure she's going straight for the kill, so I try to shrug off my jacket. I feel her nails dig into my stomach, then I'm lifted off the ground. Eleanor pulls back and winks at me.

"Surprised?"

"Not-" I'm tossed onto the bed, "Really."

She slides off her coat and tosses her glasses on to a chair. I can feel my eyelids grow heavy.

"Did you… lipstick or nails?" I manage to slur.

Eleanor wraps her hair into a bun, before looking back at me. "Both. Just to be sure. And don't worry. You'll be…"

I don't hear what comes next. Unconsciousness hits me like a wave and when the black surf breaks, I open my eyes to see her standing in front of me, holding a riding crop.

"I think… I made a mistake."

Eleanor laughs. "You're just thinking that now? Don't bother with the manacles. They'll only unlock when I say the magic word, just so you know."

I look around to find I'm bound by my wrists to the wall.

"I mean, I probably should have walked away after I smelled the perfume. Was pretty clear you were a succubus… Wait, is this… a BDSM… Murphy bed?" I lean forward slightly and feel the wall move with me.

Eleanor draws a sharp inhale. "First, I'm not a succubus, I'm an incubus. Second, rent is insane."

"Wait, aren't incubi men?"

"Gender is irrelevant. Succubus means 'to lie under' in Latin. Incubus means 'to lie upon.' It's an important distinction for my race."

"So you replaced gender with 'top' and 'bottom?' What about- OUCH!" The crop cracked against my stomach.

Eleanor grinned. "Got any more witty and racist things to say?"

I squint at her. "Not really, but um… are you gonna try to sexually torture answers out of me? Is this your plan for every interview?"

She shrugs. "Not really, but I already kinda figured we were gonna hook up."

"Really?"

"You kept looking at me during the show. A frontman who's playing in sold-out venues probably's gonna screw the hottest person in the room if they can. I guessed that was me."

"I was actually thinking about my dad most of the time. To be honest."

"Wait, really?"

"Yeah," I rattle the manacles. "More so now, cuz the… you know."

She takes a step back. "Should… should I be concerned?"

"Nah. It's not like that. But you have questions, and I have a confused and frightened erection. Let's see what we can do."

Eleanor grabs a chair from the small table, as well as a clipboard and a pencil. Sitting cross-legged, she puts a cigarette to her lips and lets it dangle there.

"First question. Why did you come home with me, despite all the red flags."

"Easy, I had nothing else to do tonight."

"So you're cocky, stupid, or a fool?"

"Functionally immortal."

She laughs. "I'll put down cocky. Next, where does the name 'Bersi Hákon' come from?"

"Early Norse history. Like really early."

"So your father or mother was a professor?"

I chuckle. "Nope. I was born before the birth of Christ. And I died as a sacrifice to prevent the Aesir and Vanir from entering our reality. Really crazy stuff. I think your readers are gonna love hearing about it."

Eleanor sighs. "So are you gonna keep lying? Because I have a car battery in the hall closet."

"Car? But we took the subway to… Wait. Don't do that. Let me tell you a story."

"Okay. I'll humor you. How can you be immortal and dead?"

"Bah. That's easy. When you get to Helheim, just meet your drummer, and come back as a Draugr. Pretty simple."

Eleanor pulls something out of the TV stand and tosses it at me. "Oh! Like from this? Do you really expect me to believe that?"

I look down at the open case for The Elder Scrolls V and groan. "Come on, that's… Look, no. Why do people keep asking me that?"

"Because it's a stupid thing to present as fact?"

"Well, I'm a Skald, too. Are you gonna go boil some water to make a point?"

She bites her thumb. "Would you like that?"

"Decidedly not."

Eleanor shifts positions and pushes her hair out of her face. "I know we covered the basics of this on the way over here. Are you still okay with this? Just a little consent check."

"Of course. I still remember our safeword."

"Good. Then I'm going to make some tea." Eleanor shoots me a sly glance. "But first."

She walks over and places a ball gag in my mouth. "So you don't spill any secrets while I'm making tea."

As she rounds the corner into her kitchen, humming an unfamiliar tune, I hear a soft click and the door swings open. Out of the shadowy hallway, two men in black combat fatigues walk into the apartment. A radio blares to life in the kitchen and the men recoil at the sudden noise. I've gotta do something. The first man touches his headset and whispers into it.

"Mission Command. This is Scout Team Upsilon. Target found… And already restrained."

His partner stifles a laugh. I motion for them to come closer and the second man towards me. I can smell his cheap aftershave and tobacco on his breath. I point to the ball gag with my finger and try moving my jaw to get him to remove it. I'm doing my best to point fear in my eyes, so that he buys my "Unwilling Captive" bit. He gives me a gruff look and whispers.

"Make a sound and we're taking her in, too. Got it?"

I nod in agreement and he pops it out.

"Oh thank God you're here. She was gonna. Gonna. Kill me. Can you get my hands free?"

As he moves towards me, I drop like a rock and bring the heavy Murphy bedframe crashing down on his unprotected head. He goes down and I find myself with my cheek pressed against his. I feel a bump, and then the first man lifts the bedframe back to its original position. Based on his facial expression, and the tiny pool of blood by his partner's head, he's not very happy.

"You're gonna pay for that," he whispered, which was frankly more threatening. He lunges for me but stops in midswing.

"Bersi? Did you make the bed fall? I thought I heard a-"

I wrap my legs around the man's torso, using him to stop the bed from tilting and falling again.

"Nope! I leaned forward a little and… You know when you lean back in a chair and you think you're gonna die? Yeah, that happened."

"Okay. This water is taking awhile to boil. Are you still in the mood? I was thinking of getting a little more physically aggressive."

The man lands a punch on my jaw.

"Oof Yeah, sounds" I squeeze his ribs with my thighs and hear a slight crack. "great."

He redoubles the blows after a pang of pain passes over his face. I'm not gonna win this fight with my legs.

"Mistress Eleanor? Could I get a cup of tea with cinnamon?"

"But cinnamon doesn't dissolve in wa-" The manacles unlatch and I slide down the Murphy bed. "Clever. Tricking me into saying the safe word. I'll deal with you in a moment."

I roll the man off to the side and run to the archway into the kitchen. Eleanor stands picturesque over the stove, staring out the window into the cityscape.

"Sorry, gotta borrow this." I reach out my hand and pull the kettle towards me. Eleanor whirls around and stares open-mouthed as it reachs me.

"How did you-"

I throw the contents of the kettle into the face of the man before she can complete her sentence. Turning back, I drop the kettle on the floor and let out a deep exhale.

"I'd love to cuddle, and you know, not 'come and go.' But they came, so we gotta go."

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