Hakon heard Laure’s raised voice and he held his breath so as not to miss the words.
“What are you doing here?” he heard her shout, “How can you be here?”
Who was she talking to? Hakon’s mind raced furiously as he tried to make out the large, shadowy form that was just on the other side of Laure. Hakon had no trouble seeing Laure’s shimmery, pale blonde hair but everything else was swallowed up by the shadows.
“Mom,” he hissed, “go turn on the lights to the patio. Hurry!”
Gerda moved silently into the kitchen and a moment later, the lights that surrounded the entire back yard came on in a flood of brightness.
Hakon gasped as he saw Loki standing in front of Laure, pointing a gun right at her.
The sudden light had blinded Loki for a moment and he turned to the side and covered his face with his free arm as he tried to get back his vision. Laure, who was facing away from the patio, wasn’t bothered by the lights so she took the opportunity to run while Loki couldn’t focus the gun on her.
Laure jumped to the side and rolled to the wall of the garage. She took advantage of Loki’s momentary blindness to get around the corner and out of sight. She still had a sword in her hand, but she knew the saying humans had about showing up to a gun fight with a knife and she didn’t want to end up with a bullet in her brain.
She pressed herself back against the wall and focused on vibrating every molecule of the bricks until there was enough space in between them for her to pass through and into the relative safety of the garage. She ran to the door that led to the loggia and passed through it quickly. Her plan was to get back into the house and get back to Hakon so she could find out what to do, but that plan was thrown away when a bullet passed directly in front of her head.
Laure was frozen in shock. She hadn’t heard a sound as Loki fired at her and as she slowly turned to face the direction the bullet had come from, she found out why.
Loki’s large handgun was fitted with a long silencer. He didn’t want to call attention to his presence here before he finished what he came to do.
Laure knew she could block a couple of bullets but it would take a large amount of energy and then she would be even more vulnerable than she already was.
She frantically tried to think of anything she could recall from Glin’s endless chatter about fighting that might be able to help her when she remembered that the gun was just metal.
Laure concentrated a small stream of power on the barrel of Loki’s weapon. The metal began to glow as she quickly raised the temperature.
Loki turned it to see what was happening and the barrel twisted down as the molten metal deformed.
Suddenly, the whole thing exploded, sending burning shards of metal flying through the air and hitting the walls, furniture, ceiling and floor. Laure had thrown up a shield quickly enough to protect herself but Loki hadn’t thought to.
The shrapnel from the explosion had imbedded itself deeply into his flesh and his right hand was dripping blood.
Laure wasted no time to see how Loki would react; she ran forward with her sword raised and tried to swing it down in a move she thought would catch his neck.
Loki, however, was a skilled fighter and Laure wasn’t. Most of his wounds were superficial, except for his mangled hand; he was still more than capable of dealing with a teacher handling a sword she didn’t know how to use.
He stepped aside at the last moment and grabbed a handful of her hair with his bloody right hand as she stumbled forward, off-balanced by the heavy weapon. Loki pulled her up sharply and she screamed from the pain.
With his other hand, he reached forward to wrest the sword away from her but as his skin made contact with her hand, she shocked him.
As he jerked back in surprise, she dropped the sword and reached out to try and hurt him bad enough to put him out of action.
Loki wasn’t about to give her the chance; he used his grip on her hair to drive her head into the wall. There was a sharp crack and Laure slumped to the ground unconscious.
Loki turned around and bent down to pick up Laure’s discarded weapon. He intended to do away with her before going to find Astyr but as he stood up straight he found Hakon standing in front of Laure with a sword of his own.
“Oh, Hakon,” Loki said with a sneer in his voice, “You just can’t resist playing the hero, can you?”
Hakon didn’t bother to reply. He knew he was going to be fighting for his life; as well as Laure’s, Astyr’s and his mother’s, and he didn’t want to waste energy in swapping insults.
Hakon raised his sword and lunged towards Loki.
Loki laughed and danced backwards, drawing Hakon out to the patio where there was more room to maneuver.
The swords were both old-fashioned, two-handed longswords with long double-edged blades and wide cross-guards on the hilts that ended with a large, round pommel.
Hakon gripped the hilt of his sword tightly with both hands and swung it up over his head and down in an attack on Loki’s shoulder. Loki clumsily brought his blade up and swept aside Hakon’s move. Loki’s right hand was still bleeding, causing his grip on his sword to be slippery; but this was a fight to the death, not a Hollywood stunt scene, so Loki had to hold on to his sword despite the pain and block Hakon’s moves or he wouldn’t live to get his revenge.
Hakon, despite his clear disadvantage in height and weight, pushed the attack ferociously. He swung his sword in lightning fast arcs and slammed it into Loki’s blade time and time again. He stepped in close and hooked his cross-guard on the cross-guard of Loki’s sword and then raised his foot and stomped on Loki’s knee. While Loki screamed in pain, Hakon unhooked his sword and sliced it down Loki’s arm.
Hakon didn’t even think of giving Loki a chance to regroup and get up again; getting Loki down for good was the only way Hakon could end this alive and he knew it. He grabbed the blade of his sword with his left hand and thrust the tip into Loki’s unprotected side. Blood spurted out as he drew back the blade.
Loki went down on one knee but got his blade up to break Hakon’s strikes. There was no way Loki was planning to let a boy like Hakon keep him from finishing a job he had spent thousands of years planning. Loki swept his blade around in a low swipe. He knew Hakon would just jump over it, but he was trying to get Hakon off-balance. As Hakon landed, Loki jumped up and pushed his large body into Hakon, knocking him down.
Hakon quickly rolled away. He didn’t want to wait around for Loki to skewer him.
Loki wasn’t planning on wasting more time with the sword, however. He had knelt down once again and had drawn another, smaller handgun from his boot. He didn’t even bother standing up as he pointed the weapon at Hakon and fired. They were standing only a few feet away from each other and Hakon didn’t have nearly enough time to shield himself.
The bullet tore through his shoulder. Hakon felt it go out through the back and he gritted his teeth against the burning pain. He threw up a shield and focused on keeping it up as he swung his sword around and tried to hit Loki’s gun-wielding hand. Loki stood up and lumbered back, out of the sword’s long reach and started firing at Hakon; each bullet draining Hakon’s shield of energy. The gun’s clip held fifteen bullets and after only four shots, Hakon’s energy was dangerously depleted.
Inside the house, Astyr was struggling to break free of Gerda’s arms which were wrapped around her in an attempt to keep her from running outside. Tears were pouring down the faces of both women as they watched Hakon dive out of the way of another bullet that managed to hit his thigh, ripping open the femoral artery. Hakon’s blood sprayed out as he fell to the ground; he didn’t get up.
Gerda’s arms loosened for just a second as she watched her oldest son being shot down and Astyr wasted no time in breaking free and running straight through the closed French doors that led out to the patio.
She put up a powerful shield right away and ran straight to Hakon as Loki started laughing.
“This day just keeps getting better and better,” Loki said loudly, throwing his head back and barking out loud guffaws.
Astyr ignored him. She had to. Hakon was losing blood too fast for his body to stop it. He had used up too much energy and he couldn’t heal fast enough. Hot tears were still falling down her cheeks but she ignored them, too, as she spread her shield to cover Hakon and put her hands on his leg over the wound.
Astyr knew that there were ways to heal using energy; Grima had told her a little bit about it, but she wasn’t sure how it was supposed to be done. Her heart felt like it was being squeezed in a vise and she was almost overwhelmed by panic. She couldn’t lose Hakon. She couldn’t let him die like this.
Astyr felt a tingle in her hands and blinked away her tears enough to see that she was actually managing to seal up the blasted edges of the hole in Hakon’s leg. She put her hands back over the wound and set her mind to the task of healing. She felt the tingle again but her concentration was shattered by the shock of a bullet hitting her shield.
The bullet didn’t make it through; it seemed to dissolve on contact with her energy field, but the draw on her energy was like a physical blow. She tried to block it out as she set her mind back to the task of healing Hakon enough to keep him alive. The blows started to hit one right after the other in a steady barrage that sapped her strength.
She focused on Hakon; healing his wound was more important than the shield right now.
The sixth bullet didn’t dissolve. It didn’t go through, either, but the shield was definitely getting weaker.
Astyr lifted her hands and was glad to see that a thin layer of new skin had grown over the jagged edges of the bullet hole in Hakon’s leg.
The seventh bullet slowed to a speed that made it thump harmlessly against her back. Her energy was almost entirely used up. She didn’t know how many bullets had been fired or how many the gun could hold, but Loki was still pointing it at her with a wicked grin on his face.
She could see the tendons in his hand flex as he moved his finger to squeeze the trigger one more time. She had a perfect view straight down the barrel as it was pointed directly at her head. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the dark circle that would soon release its deadly contents to crash into her skull and take away her life. The tears started to fall again as she realized that she wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to her father and her heart contracted painfully as she thought of the pain that he would feel when he found her dead at Loki’s hands.
Astyr bent down and put her arms around Hakon. If she was going to die now, she was going to spend her last moment with someone she loved.
There was a loud popping sound as the firing pin struck the back of the bullet cartridge, exploding the powder and sending the bullet racing down the bore of the gun and straight out in a line that led directly to Astyr’s head.
Astyr could almost hear it as it came for her. Time seemed to have slowed for her to give her a chance to fully enjoy this last moment on Earth. She braced herself for the impact but looked up as she heard the bullet strike with a ripping, wet thud.
The bullet had hit but it wasn’t Astyr.
A large, ragged looking wolf had jumped in between Loki and Astyr just in time to save her from getting shot.
Loki looked at the wolf in outrage and an expression of hatred and fury crossed his face. He pointed his handgun at the wolf and fired another round into its chest. After the shot, the slide locked back. The magazine was empty. Loki had used his last bullet.