Gameboard of the Gods

Page 90

“I need an image of the runes.” Justin already knew what he’d see.

The screen displayed a set of symbols, each labeled with a name. Most were nonsensical, save for one he knew very well since he saw it on his own skin every day. He asked the screen to identify it: Ansuz—a rune with disputed meanings that is generally associated with the Æsir gods, particularly Odin. Near it, Justin saw algiz, the protective rune the ravens had taught him.

On and on it went, and Justin saw pieces of his life play out before him. He read everything he could find, and after a while, he started reading the same information over and over. His eyesight grew bleary, and he was about to finally call it a day when one line caught his eye:

Odin is also accompanied by two wolves, Geri and Freki.

“Clear the search,” he told the screen. “And call Demetrius Devereaux.”

Geraki answered after only a couple of seconds, and Justin wondered if he’d been waiting for the call like some eager teenage girl.

“Did you get a guy with a glass eye to come mess with me and start dropping flowers and hints about the ravens?”

“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. I must not be smart enough to keep up with your razor-sharp brain.”

Throwing something at the screen wasn’t going to improve this situation, so Justin took a deep breath and tried to backtrack. “A man talked to me at a bar today. He had one eye and went off about the pursuit of knowledge. He gave me the same crap you do about Mae being so awesome, and then he went and talked to her about ‘thought and memory’ and gave her something only I knew about. Did you set it up?” Justin demanded. “Did you get someone to do this?”

Geraki looked completely dumbfounded, which would have been enjoyable under different circumstances. Understanding suddenly hit. His eyes widened in awe, and his cheeks flushed.

“He appeared to you! How? Why? You’ve done nothing but show disrespect, while I serve faithfully, but you’re the one he comes to in the flesh?” A moment later, Geraki closed his eyes and looked pained. “I shouldn’t have said that. I have no right to question my god’s actions. I’m only here to listen to his voice.”

“You can say his name now,” said Justin bitterly. “Odin.”

Geraki opened his eyes. “You know his name?”

“Yeah, it took like five seconds with a stream search. Why would a Norse god come after me? Why not someone like Mae? You said they gravitate to people with the same heritage.”

“You have the blood of a dozen cultures in you, and one of them is probably from that region.” Religious rambling was Geraki’s specialty, and he seemed to be at ease back in familiar territory. “That, and I told you, a wise and clever god needs a priest with those same qualities.”

“I’m not his priest. I’m not even a follower.”

Geraki smiled in a way that reminded Justin of those frustrating yearly investigations. “No, but you’re about to become his student. I asked what it’d take to make you learn. A name and a face, you said. You got those things. You shouldn’t have gotten them, but you did.”

Justin faltered. He had kind of said that.

“Learning isn’t the same as serving or swearing devotion,” he told Geraki.

“No, but it’s an important step along the way—and don’t try to dodge this time.”

Justin had, of course, been trying to think of how to dodge it. How could he be so stupid? He’d been so, so careful with Mae, only to stumble into some sort of divine apprenticeship.

“You remember everything,” Geraki added. “Think back to exactly what you said. I asked if those things would get you to begin to train in our god’s wisdom and magic. You said yes.”

“No,” said Justin, still hoping he could get out of this. “My exact words were ‘you bet.’” But it’s not going to be good enough this time, he realized.

“Those words are binding. You made your bargain, and now you’ll learn what it means to embrace your calling.” Geraki’s eyes were alight with the kind of zealous fire that should have made Justin call the authorities. “Welcome to the service of Odin, brother. I look forward to working with you.”

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