No. He had alienated me.
He climbed, and I stood there, next to the tree. Knowing that I would not kill him.
Knowing somebody else might. Knowing the end game had to happen.
It might not be my task, but I would do it if I had to. I wish I knew what would break the cycle for sure.
What would put things back to normal. Or whether there really was a normal.
And then I saw him. He saw me.
“You would not.”
I smiled. “Would not what? The cycle’s turning, if we don’t break it somehow…”
“With you I will win.”
“Without me you will lose. You know what happens then.”
“Are you in so much of a hurry to die?”
I smiled. “No.” But I would if I had to. “But I am not twisting around every way I can to avoid it.”
“Join me. I know I…”
I cut him off. “You lost any chance of that when you resorted to threats.”
“To save my people.”
“To save your people and yourself. With yourself as the most important element of this.”
He flinched as if I had struck him.
“The king is the land. It is you who ails. It is you who has forgotten honor.”
“Then what? Do we fight?”
“No.” I took a deep breath. “Not my wish. Unless you intend to attack me.”
He looked as if he was about to. “I…”
“Whatever you feel for me, you threw it away, you cast it off. You have nothing left.”
“Except.” He pointed up at the rift.
“To let your world and people die with you. Is that it?”
“If I have to. It will restart the cycle, and there will be a new world.”
A new world. I smelled the acrid stench of fire and blood washing over me.
It was stalemate. I drew my sword.
Knowing I would have to defend myself.
Knowing we would fight again, and again, with no resolution, stalling things, slowing them down.
…for me to see rainbow reflected in Surtur’s eyes.
I did not turn to see who had opened the bridge. Any option was, I thought, good for me.
Bad for him.
Rainbow reflected in his eyes and the rift starting to grow again.
This was it. This was the breaking point.
This was the end.