Pirhum rose and shrunk with each step he took to the center of the arena. The trio had no choice but to greet him. They’d been spotted. The least they could do was be polite before they died semi-honorably.
“About time!” Pirhum said, trees quivering in unfeelable wind. “Felt you guys dock and got worried that you ran into something!” His voice was all too loud, and Hymir found himself struggling to hear him. It was neither fully two oppositions compared to each other, traveling through the air as if it was meant to be there and the setting was simply in the way.
Pallas stepped forward since he was the one on ‘trial’ to become King. “My name is Pallas Lykadion,” he shouted, for Pirhum was still a ways away, “I’ve been challenged to combat in the name of my late father, King Alyosius of Greece. I have brought Dimitri Jones of Thessaloniki and Hymir Levinsson of Larbaek to aid me in the battle ahead. What shall be the terms of our fight?” The courtly phrasing didn’t fit his tongue. He was too young for it to be natural, no matter the current circumstance.
Tadgan was at Pirhum’s side. Had he started like that? “You talk so formally,” he said, smile too large for his face. Both of the Gods’ features were too big for their bodies when they stood this close. Alone, it might have been fine. Scrambled together, they looked as if someone had conjured their bodies from memory. Too big smiles. Too vivid eyes. Too large teeth, and that was coming from the guy with literal fangs for canines. It was difficult to take note of separate features. Tadgan was slightly shorter, slightly older, slightly more animalistic in the eyes. Hymir shuddered at his reflection in Tadgan’s pupils.
To Hymir’s surprise, Pallas laughed. “I practiced my script in the bathroom.”
An abrupt transition. The conversation became casual effortlessly. Pallas and Dima fell into the same familiar beats they’d demonstrated on the boat and in the bedroom, that repetition of ignoring what was in front of them bringing a sense of normality. It baffled Hymir. Rules were established: Tadgan would not interfere since there was no comeback the trio could make. That was the only thing Hymir had said (more of a blurting action), and it had earned a satisfied nod from the Gods. No one was going to die, which was a huge shock. That changed Hymir’s battle plan immensely. If he couldn’t sacrifice himself as a distraction, what were they going to do? Magic was strongly encouraged. That too-big smile was back, and Hymir did his best to copy it. How fake.
Everything was getting scrambled.
The final rule was no cheating, which didn’t make any sense. But Pirhum was earnest enough about it. “You can have people hiding,” he said, hands in the air to emphasize his point. “That’s not fair.”
“You can make enemies out of nothing, and you want to talk about fairness?” Hymir bit his tongue. Felix’s reckless mouth was rubbing off on him in the worst way possible. “I’m sorry.”
Tadgan clapped Hymir’s back. Bones shifted. An illusion. “If I didn’t have kids, I’d call you.” Hymir blinked, because there was no way he understood what that meant. Thankfully, his friends were just as clueless. It showed in their faces. Of course it would get explained for them. “Champions. If my kids do what they’re supposed to do, then they’ll be my champions. This guy-” gesturing to Pirhum, “-doesn’t have kids. He has to pick them in combat.”
The logic was there. Loosely. It was the whole reason Hymir was conceived, and Peter and Felix were stolen as babies from a family out West. He didn’t know the reason that champions couldn’t be children if children were already there, but it was a thing. A thing that he very much had to deal with because of Levin. The whole reason he was here, when the truth came down to it.
Might as well get the fight over with. Hymir’s bones were starting to get itchy. Something was in the air, and he was prepared to get it in his lungs. Excited. Finally ready to do his job.
Tadgan went back to his throne, the trio got their weapons ready, and Pirhum smiled as the canopy grew and shut the clearing in darkness.