"Well then," Laufey said, looking between them by the fire, "looks to me that I am the victor." Slowly he reached forward to grab the sausage cooking in the pan.
"Wait now," Kaun objected. "Why do you get it? Who says you won the wager?"
Laufey held back his hand a moment. It was a reasonable problem. He was just hungry. The story was good enough. Anke's was simply filler. Geira above all was the best so far, but she said nothing. Her eyes met his as he thought, they were low and presumptive. For a moment Laufey felt guilty, just a moment.
"I thought we weren't finished with the stories yet?" Amma said confused. "Kaun still has to tell his story. I haven't yet either..."
Laufey suddenly felt himself blushing and nervously looked the other way, which happened to be at Geira. For a moment Geira looked perplexed, but slowly her expression changed to dismay then frustration. Laufey shook his head. "Oh. There you go. Now you've done it," he thought.
"I just thought we could go to sleep," Laufey admitted. He did feel tired actually. "We have another 10 kilometers tomorrow before we reach Gaun."
"I still think I have enough in me for a story," Kaun said beside his brothers. Keli and Kaupi nodded quickly after in agreement.
Amma sighed feeling her head with the back of her hand.
"It's awfully late," she said, "and I feel a bit warm I think." She looked up at the rest of them, smiling weakly. "I think I will turn in."
Beside her Ragna rubbed her back with a gentle expression on her face.
"Why don't you get some rest," she said in a pleasant voice. Amma got up then and walked over to the collection of tents behind the fire. After she had laid down Ragna turned to her brother with a malicious grin folded her arms.
"So I can't tell my story then? You think you'll be bored to death?"
"No," Laufey said, his reply a long, tired admission, "that's not what I meant."
"Then maybe I'll tell a real story then."
"Ugh! Fine, say your stupid little story," said Laufey quickly. Ragna's eyes glinted in the fire victoriously. Straightening up she presided over the flames and began her story.
"There are not many who remember the first game at the arena in Vøma. It was a long time ago, but one can still watch the construct reels in the archives at Sog. Among all the strongest of the warriors that first played, one if them was the fiercest. His name was Tyrnaogh.
"From the far reaches of the North Sea, all the way to the coasts of the simple lands, he was known for his triumphs, so when the first coaches gathered together to make their teams, each of them fought over him, but only The Black won him.
"He succeeded well at his craft. The games were much more brutal then. There were no construct rifle dampeners, nor were there period rests. It was a race to the bitter end. After 10 seasons despite his age he was still winning and none knew why.
"It was at this point that the teams gathered a council and asked themselves what Tyrnaogh did to win his battles. Some said that he prayed to the god of Thunder, others said he had sold his soul for strength, but among them was one voice, a solitary one. He was a pruned old fellow that shook when he spoke.
"'Trynaogh is not who you think him to be. He is not a man of flesh and blood but something else entirely, a relic of the old world that has long departed. I tell you the truth when I say this: he is a machine-man.'
"Each of them looked at one another.
"'Surely this man is insane, said one of the younger players.'
"'How can you say that,' retorted another. 'The man does not bleed.'
"'Then I will expose him,' an up and coming star player called out. She bravely looked at them all, her eyes strong and wise.
"So that night the players of The Black invited Tyrnaogh to the tavern to drink. Tyrnaogh surely came, but he did not drink a single cup of beer, for he said his stomach was unruly that night. But as they talked among one another, the young player watched him.
"'I don't think we've met?' She said coyly sitting close to him at a table. 'Can I ask you a question?'
Tyrnaogh did love women though and kindly let the young player in to be close to him.
"'And what kind of question is it?' He said stroking her thigh. She looked at him and smiled.
"'If Odin-All-Father did indeed make the heavens and everything in them, what he can do is beyond all possibility.'
"Tyrnaogh nodded, smiling, and leaned in close to her,
"'That is what they say,' Tyrnaogh admitted.
"'Then could the All Father create a pig so strong that he himself could not kill it?'
"Tyrnaogh laughed and began to think aloud.
"'That's a mind teaser, that one. Well that... Is... What do... I. I. I..."
"And he kept on speaking. His words trailing out of his mouth nonsensically, and they all watched him closely until purple blood began to seep from his eyes, mouth, and nose. Then, nothing. Tyrnaogh was dead.
"Speechless they watched the young player in awe, their mouths agape.
"'How did you do that,' one of them said prodding poor Tyrnaogh's body.
"'I destroyed his mind,' she said simply.
"'I know that,' one of them replied. 'But how did you know?'
"Slowly she beckoned them toward her and opened up her arm, and inside it, she glowed brightly in the dim light of the tavern.
"'I know what I know,' she said. 'And he was the last of us.'