Ground was solid, something Hymir didn’t think he would be thankful for. But he was. And he couldn’t exactly remember why. All he had was a gut feeling, and Dima and Pallas were quick to join him off the boat.
His arms ached for some reason. He used it as a chance to throw his spear, to remind himself that his body was still capable of such a familiar action. Nothing more. It felt primitive. Dima knocked an arrow into a piece of fruit, and Pallas smashed his halberd into the sand a few times. Their bodies still worked. A strange relief. Hymir forced himself to shake it off as he picked up his spear. Bigger things were going to happen, and he needed to focus on them. Not the past. Not the things he couldn’t see.
They trekked through thick forest, tree limbs quick to create gashes on taunt skin. The aching sensation had subsided. Something was wrong. Still wrong. Had it been wrong when they got on the boat? The ride was too short for something major to have happened, and yet Hymir felt tired as if he’d been traveling for days.
“How do we know where we’re going?” Hymir asked, trying to shake that feeling out. He was stuck in a jungle, the opposite environment that he was used to fighting in. Light had to fight its way through the canopy. At least they could see. He could, but that might have been his pupils dilating, an advantage against human anatomy.
Pallas laughed. It was low, like every sound that came out of him, with or without cameras. “They’re Gods. We’ll know.”
It felt like getting stabbed. Worse. There was no blood to coat the wound. “Gods?” Hymir had never gone up against a God. He could handle some pretty tough warriors without blinking, but a God? Could Levin handle a God? Had Levin known? Was this honestly the easiest way to get rid of Hymir? Waste years training him to die at the hands of some unconquerable foe? Hymir throat tightened. Typical Levin, although ruining and disposing of children was more of Kapitola’s thing.
Still, Hymir found his feet tangled in nothing. Dying in a raid was fine. Preferable even. But here, in the heat, away from everything he knew, surrounded by tales he was never meant to be a part of, death was not something he could swallow. Not like this. Not without understanding why his petty sacrifice was so important in the greater scheme of everything people wanted.
Because he refused to die without being part of something worthy.
He swallowed. Harshly. Bitterly. “I need to be briefed.” He knew bodyslaming branches that were in his way made a foolish visual, but he needed to move more of his body. “Which ones? Ares? Athena?” His brain felt ransacked by names he couldn’t remember.
More laughter. Because this was something to laugh at. Of course. How foolish of him. “Why would we fight those guys?” Dima said, as if the answer was so clear, as if Hymir simply hadn’t read this mission’s case file. Well, jokes on them! There was no file! “No offense, but we’re hitting new people.”
The words paled in Hymir’s mind. “New. Gods?” Stagnant. Each a new, weak breath.
The other two shrugged. It made sense; they probably grew up with this news. Everything was spinning, and Hymir was all too good at walking in a straight line. Words came out the way they were trained to. Calm. Simple. Effortlessly. Because rambling in a panic wouldn’t give him the answers he needed. “Who are the new Gods and how are we supposed to handle this?”
Pirhum was labeled as the easiest in Hymir’s mind. Surprisingly. As the new God of creation, he was responsible for life. New life. Because that was going to be a thing. It was rare that he himself would fight, opting to raise beings out of nothing according to the stories King Aloysius had passed down before his body betrayed him. Nothing else to note. He made Hymir’s stomach turn, which Hymir gladly dismissed as being hungry and tired.
It was Tadgan that was going to be tricky. As the God of time, he made the hairs on Hymir’s neck stand up. Manipulation of such a delicate thing… “That’s what happened on the boat,” Hymir said, “Only explanation.” Things speeding up on the boat, like the waves and the body seeming to fail despite doing nothing, it was all connected to time. While overall creation was terrifying, being able to hold a type of power that should not be contained was the center of Hymir’s worries.
How was he supposed to defeat someone who could control time? Who clearly had no quails against inflicting pain? Oh, death was inevitable. He could throw his spear, but even if it was true to its target, Tadgan would probably freeze it in the air. Same with charging. Same with simultaneous attacks. An impossible opponent.
How were they expected to get a treaty with this type of behavior?
A clearing. The perfect spot for a trap. “This has to be it,” Dima said, stating what was certain in his small voice. Large enough for a giant to lay down, the clearing was bare of anything besides grass. Across from where they stood, three large chairs were carved into trees. Thrones. Catbird seats, positions of influence. Towering as if men were ants. And they were this size because to be alive was to succumb to want and accumulation.
Two of them were occupied.
In blinks and short breaths, the battle had begun.