She died in mercifully brief agony. I had…I had chosen…and there was nothing but ashes and an odd flicker.
I had not chosen to be a goddess. I trembled there, dropped to one knee, saw that flicker that I knew was her soul, her essence.
“I love you.”
And it was as if she rushed towards me. I felt her settle against me, a trembling light that I was not sure, in that moment, was even conscious.
Her soul was mine. I had no idea what to do with it. And I had caused this, it was my fault, I did not know if she would forgive me.
In desperation, I looked towards Thruor.
And the rift snapped shut like the closing of jaws, I heard the teeth come together. The sky began to return to normal, but there was one piece of light that fell from it.
Fell towards me. I smiled. “Thank you.”
Just energy. Nothing more than that, but I felt my wounds heal. I stood up. I was still cradling the light that was Kanesha’s essence against my breast.
The guards were still staring. Then, one by one, they placed their weapons on the ground and knelt.
“I am sorry if my choice…”
“No. I quite approve. But I need your permission, now, to open the path.”
The barriers were coming back into place. The cycle was broken.
The cycle was broken, but Surtur had not been the only one who died, and it did not matter for a moment that she was in some sense still with me. Hot tears came to my eyes. “My permission? I…”
“Both of your permission.”
I nodded, squeezing my lids together. I could grieve later. I could maybe edit what I had seen out of my memory, except I thought I might need that memory.
That reminder to be even more careful of the fragile ones in my life.
“You have it…and whoever chooses to come…as long as it’s not an army.”
She laughed. “Not an army, no.”
I sensed something else. Ebba and Jorun. Their mission was complete, and that energy too was starting to be released. Surtur’s mistake.
My responsibility. Or was it?
They were kneeling to me. Or to her. Kanesha deserved it more.
Again, I squeezed my eyes closed.