Apparently, it was going to take a while for Surtur to realize his men…and he had only sent men, for whatever reason…were not coming back.
Which left me more time to examine the tree. It did indeed seem to be nothing more than a dead ash. At a high altitude if we were on Earth, but the same rules likely did not apply here, in the realm of the giants.
I wanted Kanesha beside me badly. It was like I thought she would know what to do.
No, I honestly did want her intelligence. Ebba was hurt, but she said she would heal quickly. Reminded me dwarves were tough.
Still, it was keeping her and Jorun out of the picture, talking to each other quietly. I, Mike and Thruor had disposed of the bodies by tossing them off the mountain. It felt disrespectful, but we could not exactly bury them and did not fancy them as companions until the next wave got here.
Which I could only hope included Surtur. We could not hold this mountain forever, and they might not be under orders not to kill me.
Or intentionally ignoring those orders. Either way, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill the others.
I had brought them here, I was responsible. And if I…
“I don’t want this,” I murmured to the tree. “But it seems to be where every choice has taken me.”
Which might imply that I had chosen something before I could remember a choice, even before I was who I was.
Chosen something. Chosen what? No, I knew what.
This was my place now. I just had to do one more thing, and I hesitated only because of tactics.
And because of Kanesha, who could not be here without dwarven help. Could we risk that? If she lost the necklace, if it was damaged, the woman I loved would burn.
I was willing to make sacrifices if I had to. I was not willing to ask them of her. Which was why I wanted to end this, go back to Earth.
Not for long.
Just for the rest of her life.
I wondered in that moment. In that moment I was almost certain I would never see the woman I loved again.
Never see Earth again. Never talk to my friends. I had to save the world, but it would not be for me.
And silence settled down around us. Nobody came, for now.
It was a miserable thought, but perhaps he was calling our bluff. Waiting to see what we would do.
Perhaps he thought he could get us to do it, escape dying and…what?
Continue to be the king?
I suspected it was too late to put things back exactly the way they were.
Far too late for that.