Despite his young age, Rune drifts effortlessly across the battlefield. His sword, the legendary Solslakter, cuts through the slange warriors in one swipe. The slithering monsters all crumble down at the boy’s feet, dissolving into a writhing mess of darkness that stains the earth below.
When Rune stands in front of the Serpent King, he raises Solslakter and points the tip of the sword at the King’s neck.
“Your tyranny ends here, fiend,” Rune says.
The boy is barely at the age to grow his first chin hairs, his voice cracking near the end of his sentences. Still, Rune stands his ground, chest puffed out and filling the golden chest piece that is supposedly blessed by Odin.
Rune swallows thickly. The Serpent King has not moved, nor does he seem to even care that the boy is threatening him.
Rune continues. “You will call back the Witch’s March,” he says, voice wavering ever so slightly, “and the valravne will haunt villages no longer.”
The Serpent King’s head turns a fraction to the right—to the direction of the boy—and there is a whisper of a word.
Rune steps back and braces himself. Solslakter gleams in his hold as the Serpent King steps closer to him.
“Barn,” the Serpent King rumbles. “Child, you mustn’t fight the Gods’ bardagi… the Gods’ fight for them.”
“I am chosen to defeat you,” says Rune. “Now face your end, Hoggormur!”
But the Serpent King does not move. Rune digs his heels into the soft, ruined soil and launches himself at the King. He aims his sword at the King’s heart, just as he was told to do.
The tip of Solslakter shatters when it touches the King’s breastplate, and the rest of the golden, gleaming sword fades.
Rune lets go of the handle and stares at his hands. Even though he is wearing the Gods’ gifts, he feels as though he is powerless for the first time.
“How could this be?” Rune murmurs. “That was the weapon Freyja had blessed.”
The Serpent King touches the boy’s cheek and he kneels downs. Rune looks at him, shocked to see that the King is crying.
“Elsku barnið mitt,” the King says, “my sweet child. Solslakter is not real. They made it so that you may believe you have a chance, so that you may willingly risk your life to fight a battle you are doomed to die in.”
The Serpent King pulls Rune into a hug. Rune feels the cold metal of the King’s armor seeping into his skin, like little persistent snakes that numbs him from the inside. Rune slumps into the cold embrace.
“This is not your fight,” murmurs the King. “Fyrirgefðu, barnið mitt. I am sorry. It is over now.”
And the King crushes the boy in his arms, and the earth weeps at the loss.