Bow stood, eyeing Fraka suspiciously. “You’ve got nothing to do with the feral giants tearing down the city, chasing us for a bit of fresh blood?” The ground was still bashing upwards beneath their feet, as one of the giants made its way towards the rooftop. Vrendel didn’t want to look behind them at the sea of buildings with shedding shingles. He knew the giant green eyes of Fraka were watching the horizon for the bumbling shoulders of their pursuers. The other feral giant might’ve been devoured by the wolves.
“No, no, no, they’re blood-dumb.” Fraka shook his head impatiently. “Don’t they teach you anything in Midgard? You humans, always the advanced species, but here you don’t know the difference between a dumb giant and a smart giant.”
“We knew they were feral, god-killer. Now what in Hel are you doing here?”
“They sent me out here to find what was chained down in the Iron Citadel. Now, nothing. Whatever was there has probably moved halfway around the world by now.”
“You little liar, giant. We saw it coming in. Don’t try and make us leave,” Bow said. She had wrapped her fingers around the narrow teeth of her throwing knives, which were like thin bladed hairs beneath her grey cloak. Holding them made her feel okay. Holding them made her more comfortable staring down the sight of living legend. “Don’t play coy with us, god-killer.” She backed towards Vrendel, who was already almost balancing on the edge of the rooftop. Fraka had dropped them off without much room to spare: he had cornered them casually and strategically.
“Yeah? Fine then. The red-cloaked fellow must be the one from the citadel.” He moved forward slightly, and straightened up his hunched back. He towered over the two hunters like a curved black wall. His mask, white-edged and bone-shaped, looked like the face of death before you hit Valhalla. His breath stunk like dead meat too.
“He lured us in, used some sort of enchantment,” Vrendel said.
“Enchantment? That doesn’t seem to match up with this place. What he’d do?”
“It was some sort of living cloth. It mimicked the buildings and alleyways,” Bow said.
“You try and shoot him? You humans always think before you act.”
“No, no, we didn’t want to hurt him because he saved us from the wolves,” Vrendel said.
“Wolves? What wolves? You get them in the black ends?”
“Yeah, but these weren’t normal pups looking for a meal. These had the Fimbul edge to them.”
Fraka backed away from them slowly and felt the darkness of his heavy coat of black fur.
“Fimbul?” Fraka hissed.
“Yeah, we saw the wolves outside, that’s why they’re in the city. The figure made them go away so we could enter, then it directed us to the Iron Citadel.” Bow relaxed her grip on the throwing knives and walked slowly towards Blood Thunder on the other side of the silver shingles to their right.
“We don’t know for sure if it’s Fimbul yet, but something is going on,” Vrendel said.
“Vren, really? We’re talking to the god-killer.” Bow said.
Fraka laughed and watched the edge of the rooftops for the lumbering foreheads of the feral giants. Night was moving into the sky like a black knife with a slight edge of sundown. The setting orange picked up the blue undergrowth of the overcast sky, throwing a thin sheet of red over the city.
“It’s started then,” Fraka said. “He’ll be coming to challenge me. To see if I’m worthy when Surt sets the sky on fire for us to duel.” He stomped his feet and sniffed the air. “The twilight is coming, and the war will start soon. Why would the elders send me here if they knew Ragnarok was around the corner?”
“Don’t know, we’ve been wondering about that too,” Vrendel said.
A horde of wolves had settled in a pool of fangs and yellow eyes at the street below their boots. The city was still shaking to the stalking giant, though they couldn’t see it among rows of mortar and wood. All three of the hunters were breathing relatively hard, even Fraka whose lungs were three times the size of the humans’. They’d need to hide soon. Even Fraka wouldn’t take on a feral giant while the sun was down.
“You think there is a giant skeleton out there being picked at?” Vrendel said. He didn’t like Fraka. He’d always wanted a shot at him. Many a hunter had tried from Midgard, some of the finest, but the giant and master of the Grizzle was more than a match for any human.
“You know, I’m surprised to see you two still taking commissions for that dog Grayton. Thought you’d be shacked up with a couple of ugly children at your age,” Fraka sneered.
“Too busy keeping the mountains clear of abominations: they keep wandering over from Jotunheim,” Vrendel said.
“You think those tin-cans on your skin can take a swipe from a blade meant to take down a god?”
“Tyr only has one hand thanks to your gambles. He’ll be handicapped, but he’ll win,” Vrendel said.
A boulder broke the evening darkness like a falling planet. It hung in the air, and drifted towards their rooftop like an ugly gasp. Fraka spun sideways, and swung the enormous round-rectangle of giant’s sword known as a Grizzle. It looked like he was holding the side of a metal building — only it was a weapon. The boulder split like an orange, breaking apart perfectly. No dust even crumbled out of its layered edge. One chunk of rock crushed a handful of wolves below. The other drifted into the side of the building, knocking the rooftop sideways like a bad haircut.
“Let’s stow the pissing contest until sunrise and find a place to hide,” Bow yelled. It was hard to hear her over the clatter of broken rumble.
“Best bet is back in there,” Vrendel said. He pointed at the iron citadel with his mace.
“Don’t like that place,” Fraka said. He sounded surprisingly serious. The air was thick with the chalky smell of concrete.
“Not much to like, but the giant won’t be able to find us inside, and we can lock the door on the wolves,” Bow said. She had retrieved Blood Thunder and hid it under her cloak. It was loaded too.
“There is something about the stench of the place. Something there wasn’t natural at all. I hope it comes looking for you guys again. It seems it’s taken a liking to you, after all.”
“Shut up giant. You’re just jealous no one takes an interest in you,” Vrendel said.
A grey light filled the air. The last bits of the sun vanished from the sky.
“Just lead the way Frakka, we’ll keep up. You’ll need to cut a path through the wolves and avoid the giant,” Bow said. She was getting tired of Vrendel prodding the assassin.
“You can’t keep up, human. Plus, it looks like there’ll be some light in the city after all,” Frakka said. He pointed a calloused finger into the gloom of the streets. Tall drips of streetlights were slowly gaining a round amber glow. Something was lighting the globs of candles within the streetlights. There were no figures in the alleys or on the cobblestones and the wolves would have devoured anything that moved, yet the city was illuminating as if nothing had changed. It was like the silence didn’t exist, and the eeriness itself was a ghost.
“Is he doing this? Your red-caped man?” Fraka said. Beneath his cloak he was shivering. The site was unnatural, like fireflies in winter.
“I don’t know, but we’ve got to get off this roof,” Bow said. She crawled over to a vertical strip of gutter that ran down to the ground. Vrendel followed strapping the mace to his back.
“You coming, god-killer?” Vrendel said.
Fraka smiled and shook his long chin like a clay mask.
“I’ll see you down there, human,” he said.
Need Parts 1 – 7?