Päron? Einarr knit his brows in confusion. Why was she calling it a pear? Päron… Päron… Runa’s story had seemed oddly specific. Päron… “Päronskaft? As in, the imp who spun gold?”
Against all reason, the creature froze and the howl of an angry wind rose above the wailing.
Runa’s voice rose above the wind as well, singing more normally now, and slowly the revenant was absorbed into the whirlwind. Einarr stood watching, wary, even as Jorir and Erik fell back to regroup at his side.
The whirlwind did not advance. Something new seemed to be taking shape within it, blown up from the dust of the street. Slowly it resolved itself, indistinct at first, into the shape of a man.
The reformed revenant stepped forward, through the last vestiges of the whirlwind, looking less tattered and somehow more real than he had before. A leather jerkin hung from his bony shoulders, and the longsword in his hand, held point down, looked better tended. The wailing ceased.
Einarr and his companions were not able to recover their footing quickly enough to take advantage of the creature’s lowered guard, however. In the next heartbeat, the gaunt grey revenant had brought its blade up in a two-handed grip that shielded its body.
Einarr brought Sinmora back up to ready even as Erik and Jorir hefted their axes once more. Einarr had many questions for Runa, but they would have to wait.
Einarr charged forward, a battle cry bursting from his throat. He had duelled the Allthane: now that the revenant was apparently solid the four of them should be more than capable of handling it.
Jorir was only a half-pace behind, though he did not yell. Erik, who did, soon pulled ahead of all of them. His axe came down in a mighty chop.
The revenant hopped backwards with surprising nimbleness as Erik’s axe plowed into the ground.
Thus began an intricate dance, the three living men circling the revenant. Each striking when they saw an opportunity, but rarely connecting. The revenant had, Einarr thought, been a better swordsman in life than the Allthane had, or at least his skills had atrophied less before death.
Before long it became plain to Einarr that they were being toyed with. This “Päron” never once struck back, even when Einarr deliberately left an opening in his guard. It was trying to tire them out – and why not? With the unflagging strength of the dead, it would long outlast its oh-so-mortal attackers.
Worse, it seemed to be working already. Einarr knew he had begun to tire even before Runa named the creature. Erik’s face had gone red, and while Jorir did not yet look tired, Einarr could tell he was beginning to slow down.
Runa had attached three epithets to the creature’s supposed name. One of them, Lecher, Einarr could think of no acceptable way to exploit. Perhaps, however, there was an answer in one of the others. Päron the Avaricious, and the Vain. There had been those traces of gilding on the sword before…
Einarr hopped backward out of the clinch, where his most recent blow had brought him. The revenant smelled like the grave. Erik and Jorir moved in to strike.
“What a waste of gold, putting it on a sword hilt,” Einarr sneered. Jorir’s axe cut at its leg even as Erik chopped higher up. As expected, it jumped over Jorir’s cut and ducked Erik’s in the same movement.
“What sort of man pours his money into a bejewelled sword? It’s a weapon, not a bauble for some woman.” Einarr dashed in to take another swing at the revenant’s chest. It dodged again, but it felt somehow sloppier.
Erik smirked. “Must’ve been compensating, don’t you think?”
Jorir dashed back in for another attack, grinning. “I don’t know any warriors who waste money on fancy swords like that. Only kings and the impotent.”
That got it. The gaunt face of the revenant still managed to contort in rage despite the decayed muscles and another howl rang out.
For one brief moment, Einarr regretted goading the creature to attack. The sword may have once been gilt and bejewelled, but its owner was still a fine swordsman. Then he and Erik and Jorir were wrapped up in the battle to bring the creature down. Its attacks were vicious, and every bit as quick as its defense had suggested. Einarr contorted in ways he hadn’t thought possible to avoid its blade.
Its rage seemed focused on Jorir, though, and it was Jorir that drew it out. In the moment it overextended, all three Vidofnings struck together. Jorir embedded his axe in its foot, pinning it in place. The back of Erik’s axe knocked its head back, so that it stood nearly straight. And then Sinmora clove the revenant in twain, from head to toe.
There was no blood. Instead, the revenant’s body began to crumble like ancient parchment until there was nothing left but a pile of fine dust at their feet. A breeze came up and swept even that away.
Einarr stood still for a long moment after. The spirit had seemed to have an affinity for wind, so none of them were willing to credit their victory so quickly. After a long moment had passed in silence, save for the whistling of the wind, they all sheathed their blades.
“Runa,” Einarr said, straightening and taking a deep breath. “How did you know?”
“How did I know what?” That innocent tone didn’t fool Einarr.
“How did you know what story to tell? And how did you get from there to Päronskaft, of all things?”
Runa gave a small, mysterious smile. “My Singer training comes in handy sometimes.”
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