Since his scrap with Zarkon, the team had started to treat Keith differently.
He’d always been their frontline brawler, their scrapper, the quickest to escalate a situation into violence when violence was called for. It didn’t mean he enjoyed it. He was just good at it. He was just practical: this was war, and he knew what war sometimes required.
The difference was, after fighting Zarkon, the team started to believe that if Zarkon couldn’t take him down, then nothing could.
The difference was, Keith started to believe it a little, too.
Sharps Borchardt “Old Reliable” Model 1878 military rifle
Produced by Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company c.1878-81 - serial number 7274. .45-70 government single shot, falling block action with automatic safety with each pull of the lever/trigger-guard - located behind the trigger. Sharps’ last rifle, which failed to restore the company’s finances before its disbanding c.1881 ; although very performant it was only recognized as a great weapon for marksmen and hunters after its demise.
Around Emil, the battle is still going on. He can hear the sharp reports of rifles, the howls of trolls, screams, but it all sounds like it’s coming from far away. Has something gone wrong with his ears? He should get up. He should help. It all seemed so important a minute ago. Maybe he’ll just lie here a little longer.
No. He can’t–Emil gets up. His body continues to lie on the ground, limbs flung outward at odd angles, a great gaping hole in his chest.
“This is not happening,” says Emil. “I refuse to believe it.”
He closes his eyes. Or whatever he has. Damn it, his eyes. When he opens them again, he’ll be back in his bed, and this will have been a bad dream. Or he’ll be in a hospital bed, he’ll take that. Or even in the thick of the battle, he’ll take the pain back and the fear and everything–
He opens his eyes. His body is still on the ground. He’s still not in it. He tries kicking it, and his boot goes right through.
“Get up, stupid!” he snarls. The body doesn’t seem to hear. The eyes are wide and glassy.
“Fine,” he says. “Fine! Fine, I’m dead, and my … my spirit is still around, and it’s wearing some stupid fairytale outfit, and there’s probably some ugly barbarian valkyrie somewhere waiting to take me to fucking Valhalla or something–”
A tap on his shoulder.
“–and she’s standing right behind me, isn’t she.”
Emil doesn’t even turn around. He just lowers his face into his hands. He hasn’t even been dead for an hour, and already he’s made an immortal enemy.