The god-killer ran across fresh-fallen snow, dragging his prisoner behind.
They came to a frozen stream and crossed, boots hammering the surface. The noise was loud and erratic, an intrusion into the silent watch of the trees that stood sentinel, armoured in snow. Once they'd reached the opposite bank the captor turned to his captive. A brief pause as they stared at one another, gasping for air.
"You have to know this isn't going to work out." The ragged merchant tugged at the chain looped around his neck, an act of minor rebellion long since rendered meaningless. "Doesn't matter what happens now. They won't let you reach the dungeon." His lips formed what might have once been a wry smile; instead it was a savage grin revealing shattered teeth and bloodied gums.
The god-killer said, "Let them come. I'll cut them down."
"You can't kill all of us."
Silence, and then: "I seem to be doing all right." He jerked the chain hard, causing the merchant to stumble.
Another savage pull: he watched the head snap back, the mouth widen in a silent scream.
When it was finished he looked up at the night sky and saw the stars gazing back. On earth as in the heavens, reflections of the other: distant and implacable, patient and cruel. He wondered if the old man knew he was coming. Query: what use is power if you can't even save yourself?
In the far distance a horn sounded. The trackers knew what had happened and were closing in.
He spared a glance at the cooling corpse before walking off into the woods.
It was some time before the trees began to thin and finally disappear but he had arrived at the dungeon ahead of his pursuers. It sprawled across the nighttime fields, a hulking titan with blue-black skin hiding horrors. At its wooden mouth sat a huddled shape. As if by some silent cue the mass of tattered cloth rose to its feet and slowly dusted itself. Eyes like hellfire burned in that wasted face. The old man approached, calling out a greeting.
The god-killer drew his sword in response. The blade ran the length of his arm from shoulder to fingertips, a natural extension of the body.
"Must we do this?" asked the old man.
"You know what will happen."
"You'll die." He slid his right foot back and leaned forward, sword point raised.
The old man continued walking, stopping only when the blade pricked his throat. He was smiling. "My body might die. My master will not."
"Then fuck your master."
The old man opened his mouth to laugh
and out crawled the skeletal arm of a god.