It created chaos. The air was chill, not just chill by Muspelheim standards, but the temperature dropping as the rift opened.
I had thought it was the end before, but now I could feel the realm dying, and this was it.
This was a last gambit, I knew. We could still break the cycle.
I found myself having difficulty breathing. Perhaps it was the chill, perhaps it was the energy drain, perhaps it was the strain of the last few days.
It was all of those things and I stumbled back, Surtur’s blade cutting into me deep enough that I knew I would need healing, pain radiating from it through me, through the rest of me.
If this was the last chance I had to break the cycle, then…
I heard somebody scream “No!” as he raised his blade again, as I raised mine. I blocked him, but barely, feeling my blood fall to the ground.
I could not identify the voice or perhaps I did not want to, but no.
I saw her. Behind him. Rushing towards him, armored as a valkyrie, braids flying, the most beautiful sight in the history of the world.
Bringing the blade towards Surtur’s back. The amulet that protected her glinting in the fading fires.
Planned? I thought not. I thought even that I saw battle fever in her eyes, battle fever mingled with terror.
And her sword cut through wards and armor and flesh like butter, plunging into the king’s back, the tip emerging from his chest.
His eyes widened in surprise.
Not my task after all. Not my task…but he still had some strength in him, still that last moment, whirling towards her.
And hesitating. I could not see what passed between them, nothing spoken, nothing out loud.
With the last of his strength he reached for her throat, and then he fell to the ground, his body already beginning to dissipate into smoke.
Time froze again. I looked at her across him.
No glint at her throat. I started to stand, to move towards her, but I was slow.
I could only watch as the flesh of the woman I loved lit up like candle tallow.
The scream I heard was not hers.
It was my own.