Antero strode through the mists of battle, bearing in his arms the Bloodblade. He kept it limber, his fingers tight at the top but loose at the bottom, to enable swift and brutal strikes with the dull red metal, suffused with runes that glowed a bright ochre.

“360 men died to make this blade,” Antero said.

Marjatta did not stir beneath her cloak, even as the furious winds of combat raged about her and Antero approached armed and menacing.

“We drained them of every last drop of their blood, boiled it down, and forged it into steel.”

“Then it’s true what your masters say,” said Marjatta. “A man can be forged into anything with the right tools.”

“Quite so,” said Antero. “But the Blood God is not merciless. He demands sacrifice, but not slaughter. You may submit to him and yet live. Or if you prefer, you may flee.”

“Very kind of you. But I choose the third option.”

“To die?” Antero was a handful of paces away now. “Well, I can oblige you if that’s your wish, but I had rather hoped you might live.”

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