Disclaimer: Sandman and all characters therefrom belong to Neil Gaiman. Norse Myth doesn't really belong to anybody, and the real Eyjafjallajökull is technically Iceland's problem.
A/N: In Norse Myth, Surtr was a jotun from Muspelheim, the realm of fire. Hræsvelgr, the Corpse Swallower, was a jotun in the shape of a giant eagle, which caused the winds to blow by beating its wings.
A/N 2: Written for odditycollector as part of the yuletide project.
13th of April
When the call comes – in the middle of Shauna trying to reach one of the fresh cartons of milk in the back of the supermarket fridge – she's excited. So she swings by her home to slip into something a little less shopping-at-Tesco-ish and a little more personal-assistant-ish on her way to the downtown office of Farrell Travel, promising the stylish woman in the mirror, that this time she's going to make an impression, a very good impression, and next time they've got a spot open at Farrell Travel, they'll remember that excellent temp they had in that day.
Because honestly? She is so sick and tired of temp work that it isn't even remotely funny anymore.
Alas, the day doesn't exactly seem ripe with opportunities for an ambitious young woman to shine – she files and answers the phone and makes coffee, sneak-follows Twitter and tries not to stare too much when Mr. Farrell's three o'clock turns out to be a bloke with a jetpack who doesn't even wait until the office door has closed behind him before starting to talk about something that sounds like zeta beams – and she is fairly certain she's done it all quite well, thank you very much, but at the end of the day, when Mr. Farrell leaves the office, well, let's just say that she doubts that he'll even remember her tomorrow.
She's just about to turn off the computer when she notices that a piece of paper has gotten stuck under the wheel of her chair. Curiously she picks it up, then feels her heart plummet at the sight of "urgent" and "Mr. Farrell" and "important".
Oh fuck. Not only is she not going to leave a good impression, she's going to…
Except – except, then she realizes that this is it. This is her big chance. If she handles this just right, then – well, then, who knows?
She quickly rereads the message, an urgent request for instructions from the Reykjavik office. Apparently, a regular customer wants to make arrangements to, well, that part's a little vague, but the gist of it is that the Reykjavik office wants to know whether to authorize it, since apparently this Mr. Surtr has yet to pay for services previously rendered.
Almost absently, she pulls up Mr. Surtr's account – then blinks.
Oh. Well, that is a lot of money. Now, if she could just make sure that the company actually got that money…
Quickly, she types a reply, instructing the Reykjavik office to not go ahead with the arrangements, until the customer has paid the money he owes.
There, that should do it.
She starts to whistle on her way home, feeling immensely satisfied with herself – that is, until it suddenly hits her that if her little scheme works out, nobody is actually going to be able to tell that it's due to her – oh, if it backfires, she's sure they'll figure it out, but if it works, she's completely forgotten to think of a way to claim credit – or to even know if it works.
Dammit. She knew she had forgotten something.
17th of April
Pharamond has a headache. What he really wants to do, is to go home, take a pill and climb into bed to sleep, hoping it will all have gone away when he wakes up. Except he knows that's a ridiculous wish, because volcanic eruptions don't just go away overnight.
Oh, but he hates when unscheduled things happen.
For the last few days, it's been one long scramble as he's been doing his level best to compensate for an acute lack of airplane travel in most of Europe. It has involved spending hours on end shouting at people over the phone, signing papers as fast as his personal assistant's been able to put them in front of him.
Two planes were due to collide in the airspace somewhere over the Pyrenees. Everything was ready for it – and now he's trying to force the authorities of five different countries to issue temporary visas to hundreds of unexpected visitors, while at the same time organizing extra drivers to extra busses between here and there and everywhere.
And it hasn't even been a week!
One comfort, though, is the internet. It's amazing how, with only a couple of tiny, well-aimed pokes, websites have sprung up, full of people offering to share hotel rooms and taxis and explaining the most direct overland route between Trnava, Slovakia and Namur, Belgium. Which leaves Pharamond free to focus on other things, important things, like the mildly threatening messages from various, fairly important people, who had been expecting to be burying a guy in Poland or celebrating a queen in Denmark or a dozen other things.
He'd very much like to know why that bloody volcano with the unpronounceable name is erupting right now. All his enquiries have been met with stony silence – including the one he's just getting off the phone after having made.
At least this will make a good test run for the planned eruption of Mount Etna in seven years, he thinks, as Marie brings him a fresh cup of coffee. Once things calm down a little, he'll have time to go over everything, to...
"You need a break."
Marie is still standing there, frowning down at him.
"I don't have time, I..."
"You have time for lunch."
Half an hour later he's sitting in a nearby pub, thinking about how far Marie has come since her reception days. These days it takes a lot more than frogs to faze her – but did she really have to confiscate his cell as she kicked him out of the office? He could easily have made a couple of calls while waiting for his food.
The pub has a television – he supposes it's usually tuned to whatever channel is showing the most important sporting event of the day, but today it's showing the news. His attention is caught by a segment about some very important business people who had some very important business in another country and how – when they couldn't even find a taxi willing to take them there – they had taken the unusual step of hiring a limo.
Pharamond is smiling when his food arrives – it's always nice to see his hard work pay off. It makes him feel – accomplished.
Someone changes the channel, landing in the middle of what turns out to a spirited debate about "Why aren't the superheroes doing anything?" A fresh-faced vulcanologist is earnestly explaining, that unfortunately they simply don't know enough about volcanoes yet, and blindly sending in someone like, say, Superman, would be more likely to awaken Katla, than to...
He's interrupted by a strident-sounding woman, who mocks him for being so naive. If it had been the US and not Europe grinding to a halt underneath a cloud of volcanic ash, he could be sure the so-called heroes would have already taken care of it, but since most superheroes are so very American-centric as to be downright oblivious to the rest of the world, no-matter what their publicists might try to convince said world of, then they couldn't be bothered to get off their arses unless a change in the wind sent the ash cloud off to the US.
Actually, a jovial-looking fellow in a very un-seasonable jumper interrupts her in turn, a change in the wind would most likely blow the ash harmlessly out over the Atlantic, where it would...
Pharamond doesn't hear the rest – he barely remembers to pay, a half-eaten lunch sitting abandoned in his wake, as he rushes out the door and back to his office, already considering the possibilities.
18th of April
The eagle is vast.
In the warm lands to the south they tell tales of the Bird Roc, huge and fierce, and how it will fly off with a pair of elephants grasped in its wicked talons and a third dangling from its cruel beak.
The eagle is vaster.
Its head is tilted now, as it looks down at the man at its feet. He's tiny, barely a morsel, really. Not even worth the bother of bending down to snap him up, so instead the eagle listens and considers.
The man is making promises, waving his pitiful, featherless limbs around as if trying to fly. At long, long last, he falls silent.
Part of the eagle wants to snap up the man, swallow him down, and then forget this day, but there's another part, a part that's been looking at the man's silly flapping and been reminded of days past and how good it feels to just spread you wings and soar, high above the world.
"Do we have a deal?" the tiny man asks, and Hræsvelgr spreads its wings.
21st of May
Unnur Freysdottir looks up as a man enters, mostly because he's slamming the door open, then looks away again, quickly, the way you do when you don't want to get caught staring at something you know it's rude to stare at, even if you just can't help yourself.
The man is big and red and he's carrying a great, big sack, and for just a moment she wonders if he's supposed to be some sort of Santa Claus, despite the season. Maybe some sort of an art project?
She calls the next number and the red man walks up to her, placing a piece of paper on the desk. His fingers are tipped with huge, black claws, and she briefly wonders at young people these days and the peculiar things they do to themselves. Really, what's wrong with good, old-fashioned tattoos?
"I'd like to pay a bill," he says – his voice is odd, at once gravelly and hissing. It reminds her a little of a bonfire.
"Certainly, sir. Will you be paying in cash or…"
He opens his sack before she can finish, fishing a misshapen lump of something yellow out and putting it on top of the piece of paper. His hand leaves a deep, almost glowing impression when he lets go.
She phones for her manager to come down, and as they wait for him, she allows her curiosity to get the better of her and picks up the lump of gold.
It's surprisingly hot.