Seven in. Four out. Too long to wait.
Pounding feet. They were practically running up the trail, but I had no doubt that they knew their own endurance.
We, meanwhile, were at the end of ours for waiting, adrenalin threatening to crash before the fight even started.
Or whatever passed for it. It was all, for me, about energy and magic. Fire.
And I could not draw from the fire here. It still felt sickly. It wanted me. It also wanted Surtur.
The land would have liked both of us, united. “Sorry,” I whispered.
And knew that the land understood. Understood that it was wrong to force it. But it was still a dream.
Not my task to kill him.
He had to die.
And with that the first of the fire giants came around the rock…
…to take a bullet. It didn’t kill her – it was a woman – but she was thrown back slightly. Then she charged, letting battle fever take over.
A second shot at Surtur, second in line as I had suspected.
“What?” he said, abruptly.
“Surprise!” I yelled and leaped over the rocks towards him.
“I don’t want to kill you!”
I felt the same way, but my blade was out. “You have given me no choice. You could have asked. You could always have asked.”
“You would never have said yes.”
I didn’t know. I didn’t know what I might have said if he’d been saner. “You lost your chance when you tried to force me.”
Our blades struck against each other, crimson sparks into the air. Tried to force me. I heard the echo of my words from the mountainside.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“Should have asked me that a long time ago. Too late now.” What I wanted was in the past, out of reach. It was no longer possible to get there from here.
“I only ever…”
I struck at him again, causing a bit of blood to leak from his arm. His return blow sent vibrations all the way through my body.
But the bantering part was over. I could not take him, but I could hold my own. Not enough space.
If I fell…I no longer knew what would happen. But there were too few of us for me to get help.
It was not my task to kill him because I couldn’t. But I could hold him.
I could hold him until one of us tired into a mistake. That was all I could do.