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A Norse is a Norse, Of Course, Of Course

by on January 28, 2013

And now, the beginning of the Catrina Chronicles, Phase 2: The Quest for Mlrning (the Shovel of Thor!). 

It was not the best questing weather. A cold rain pelted down on the city streets, pouring relentlessly from a sky all grey. Cars splashed through puddles and irate pedestrians used dreadful language at them, glum meteorologists advised people to remember their umbrellas, and the season beginner game of the Edison City baseball team was called off, sorely disappointing all five of its loyal fans (Edison City was more of a football town, as it happened). Catrina had ducked inside a coffee shop so she could get some shelter from the weather before setting off. Now, as she sat there staring out the window, a cup of steaming hot chocolate in her hand, she decided to take the opportunity to reflect. Her readers might enjoy the flashback, she thought. Catrina was vaguely aware that she had readers, but she knew less about them then she did her author, and she didn’t much like him at all.

She had, as one might have guessed, a very interesting life. Sometimes Catrina missed the old days, when she’d been an ordinary 12th-century princess in the castle Shmirmingard, happily practicing her sword-fighting skills and doing standard princess things. But then had come the memorable day when she had fallen in battle to Vladimir the Marauder and wound up in Character Heaven, learning for the first time that she wasn’t a real person. Instead, she was a character in a story. The revelation was a bit of a shock, to put it mildly, but it was only the beginning. Since then Catrina had participated in two Zombie Penguin Apocalypses, met and married her love interest Perry the librarian’s assistant, acquired a crimson Sporksaber, and saved fictional reality multiple times from her nemesis, Susan, the former mistress of Character Hell. She had also been stabbed with a pointed stick, blown up, made a magenta-tinged ghost, turned violet in a teleporter accident, made microscopically small, and gotten killed off on at least five occasions. Catrina had hoped that, when Perry became Santa Clause, she’d finally have the chance to take a breather. But noooooo.

Very shortly after Perry had become Santa, he had been taken captive by the mysterious yet powerful Utgarda-Loki, who had taken great pains to assure everyone that he wasn’t that other Loki, the one who’s got all famous now. Utgarda-Loki had demanded that Catrina bring him the mighty Mlrning, the Shovel of Thor, before he would release Perry. So naturally she had set off on a glorious quest to find Mlrning. Or at least she’d meant to. But now, on this rainy 21st-century afternoon in the coffee ship, Catrina had to face the uncomfortable fact that she had no idea whatsoever how to begin. Where was one supposed to look for the Shovel of Thor?

Catrina stared into the depths of her hot chocolate as if the marshmallows could tell her the answer. Beside her in the chair lay her red Sporksaber, being singularly unhelpful as well. It was turned off, so its red lolzmic energy wasn’t sparking around the blade; to all appearances it looked merely like an oversized spork. It was perhaps inevitable that the Sporksaber would attract the attention of the barista, a brown-haired college sophomore named Roberta. “Excuse me,” she asked, “is that a giant spork?”

It wasn’t quite as obvious a question as it seemed; Roberta had seen artists with unusual props in her coffee shop before, and she thought Catrina might be an artist as well. Artists generally liked being asked about their work, and Roberta felt it was important to maintain a good relationship with her customers.

Catrina, unfortunately, was not an artist; her friend Ermingard was, but Catrina preferred exploring landscapes to painting them. She was also not in the best of moods, what with the rain and the quest and her love interest getting kidnapped. That explained why she wasn’t quite as polite to Roberta as she might have been. “Yes, it’s a giant spork. Brownie points for observation skills. Now unless you happen to know where a giant Norse shovel might be, do leave me alone, would you?”

Roberta was not offended; she’d acquired a good deal of experience with touchy patrons. “Oh,” she said, “Well, it’s a very nice giant spork, I’m sure. I’ll just be over by the counter if you need anything, and good luck with finding your, um, Norse shovel.”

She started to walk away, and Catrina felt a twinge of guilt. She stood up, intending to go over and apologize for snapping at Roberta. As she did, she pushed her chair back, inadvertently bumping it into a bookshelf that contained a limited selection of books. Several of the books tumbled to the floor, and Roberta stared accusingly at her, as if she had just violated some sort of Sacred Law of the Coffee Shop. Catrina sighed; this really wasn’t her day. “Sorry,” she apologized, “I’ll just pick these up then.”
Catrina knelt to retrieve the books, and noticed that one of them had fallen open. By pure chance, it happened to be the novelization for the 2011 Muppet movie. The page contained a short exchange of dialogue.

“But Kermit, you have to try! The Muppets are AMAZING! You give people the greatest gift that can ever be given!” “Children?” “No, the other gift…”

Catrina was woefully unfamiliar with Kermit the Frog, or any of the Muppet clan. But the sentence snagged something in her mind. “Children…” she mused. Then her trademark half-smile lit her face. “Of course. Children. I’m looking for the shovel of Thor, right, the one that he uses to scrap the ice off his driveway when it gets cold, but he’s not going to do that himself, is he? No, not when he’s got children around to do it for him! He’ll tell them it builds character, shoveling snow off the walk and all. So…who were Thor’s children?”

“Thrud,” Roberta piped up. She had caught the tail end of Catrina’s realization, and felt happy that here was something she could help with. “I read it for my Norse mythology class last year. He’s got boys too, but the main one I remember is his daughter Thrud. I remembered it because, it’s the funniest thing, I actually know a Thrud. She lives down the street from here, comes by every morning. Says she’s from Iceland or something, isn’t that a crazy random-”

But Catrina had already leapt to her feet, excited that she had finally found a clue. “Thrud! Of course! That must be her! Oh, thank you, Roberta!” With that she tore out of the coffee shop, leaving behind a badly confused Roberta.

“You’re…welcome?” Roberta said. Then she sighed. “I’ll probably never know what that was all about.”

This has been Episode 58 of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. To buy the first (but by no means the last) Catrina novel in print or e-book form, click here. Thanks for reading!

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