To Ryan’s complete and utter lack of surprise, Enki completely ignored the stick. Instead, one of those massive hands came down and grabbed Ryan by the face. He felt something in his neck wrench – probably from the force of having his face clutched by two-hundred and fifty pounds of enraged deity travelling at over a hundred miles per hour.
He heard Athena or Crystal – the combination of hand covering his face and sudden increase in velocity made it hard to tell which – shout his name. He felt Enki change their course and starting scrabbling at his adversary’s massive arm. He had vague thoughts about trying some sort of power to break himself free, but all his divine sight could see were the equations governing Enki’s grip on his face.
Just as he thought about freeing himself from that – somehow, he was still working on that – he felt his head impact the stony ground. Enki wasn’t just planting his head into the surface, though, instead maintaining their flight as he dragged the back of Ryan’s skull through stone and ice and dirt.
Thinking under those circumstances was near impossible, so instinct had to take over. Ryan kicked upwards and felt his foot impact something. Whatever it was, the blow had enough power to get Enki’s grip to loosen. For a wonderful moment, his vision was freed of sweaty palm, and the blissful sight of the gray Canadian sky filled his vision – but then that was obscured by Enki’s leering visage. A pair of massive hands closed around Ryan’s throat.
“I’m going to tear your fucking head off, you little shitstain”
“Aghrk!” Ryan retorted, displaying the same rapier wit that had gotten him into this mess in the first place.
“Not so fucking clever now, are you, huh?” The veins in Enki’s head were bulging, his eyes were bloodshot, and his spit was literally spraying Ryan’s face as he screamed. “What’s the matter, you little bitch?”
“Gaaark,” Ryan explained, which did not satisfy Enki. His vision started swimming as Enki’s hands got tighter. Wait, I don’t need to breathe. Why am I blacking out? Unfortunately, the throbbing in his skull didn’t provide an answer beyond a reminder that figuring out why was less important than figuring out how to stop it.
“And the best part? The absolutely best fucking part?” Enki leaned in ever closer, and for one mad moment Ryan considered kissing him, seeing if the threat to Enki’s masculinity would be enough to get him to toss Ryan away. Unfortunately, Enki didn’t get quite close enough to make that a viable option.
“Caaghwr,” was the best response Ryan could muster. He was kicking at Enki, digging his nails into those massive forearms, but whatever had empowered Enki so much was also protecting him from Ryan’s increasingly feeble blows.
“I saw you pull that stick out of your fucking nanoverse. Once I’m done killing you, it’s going to be a complete joke to take over. Your people have nothing that could stop me.” Enki bared his teeth, the smile a cat might give a cornered mouse. “Got any more clever comebacks? Anymore witty little barbs?”
Ryan didn’t bother making a noise, seeing that the triple-threat of “aghrk, gaaark, caaghwr” had thus far not impressed. Instead his mind was racing as he tried to find the energy to struggle harder. He found a way to take over nanoverses. He’s using Tyr’s power too. Ryan stopped trying to attack Enki directly, reaching around him for something he could grab onto. A weapon. Maybe a rock or a shard of ice or…
…or that damned stick. His fingers closed around it, and Ryan knew immediately what to do it with.
There are some habits that, no matter how long you were not truly mortal, you never could break. You would still get goosebumps in the cold, you would still sneeze if your nose was irritated, and no matter what, you would clutch at the injury if a piece of wood – even if it was only slightly pointed – got rammed into your eye.
Enki’s hands flew off Ryan’s throat and grasped at his eye. Red liquid began to flow through those meaty digits when the pointed stick fell out. While it did have the effect of getting Enki to stop choking him, Ryan’s vision didn’t clear fast enough to take advantage of the injury. Instead, Enki backhanded him, sending him airborne and bouncing across the rocks and ice of Graham Island.
Okay, this buys you time to OH GOD Ryan rolled at the last second as Enki’s feet abruptly occupied the space where his head as been a moment before. “You’re dead, Eschaton!” Enki screamed, stomping again as Ryan rolled frantically. “Do you hear me!? Completely fucking dead!” Each stomp cracked stone and ice, and Ryan tried not to think about what it would do his skull. Instead, a twist of Ryan’s wrist changed a simple equation – the friction of the stone Enki was using to support his non-stomping foot vanished, and Enki joined him on the ground.
Ryan didn’t bother trying to get up fully, instead rolling over to where he was over Enki now, driving the slightly pointed wood down towards Enki’s remaining good eye. Enki’s hands came up, catching Ryan’s wrists, but now gravity was on Ryan’s side, and he bore down as hard as he could.
For an eternity, the two of them were locked in that pose, Ryan using every bit of leverage and weight he could muster to drive the stick towards Enki’s eye, and Enki bringing all his strength to bear on stopping him. Then, slowly, inch by agonizing inch, the stick started moving – upwards, away from Enki.
No. No no no. Ryan tried to find some more strength to push with, and Enki saw the panic in Ryan’s eyes, saw the fear growing…and he grinned. At the end of the day, Enki was just stronger than Ryan, by just enough where this struggle was going to be a loss.
“You see it too, huh?” Enki’s voice was low, intense. “You know you can’t win. As soon as I push this away, you die.”
Ryan’s muscles were already strained to their limit. He wanted desperately to bring more to bear, to find the strength in him somehow – but it didn’t exist. He could barely even manage to twist an equation – certainly not enough to make a difference.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted them. Ants. Maybe they were the same ants he’d saved from the lava earlier, or maybe they were a different colony disturbed by the battle taking place on their home. They were marching towards them, a single file line hunting for food.
As the stick slipped more, Ryan made a twist. A tiny, minor change. But the ants responded to it, and soon were marching up Enki’s face – and towards the pheromones Ryan had made emit from Enki’s eye.
The first ant to crawl onto Enki’s eyeball was distraction enough. Enki’s strength slipped. Not enough for Ryan to blind him, but enough for him to shatter the wooden stick against Enki’s forehead, drawing a shallow cut in the process. Enki’s massive hands, freed from trying to fight against the stick, came up and he clapped Ryan’s skull, hard enough to set Ryan’s entire head ringing, and then he grabbed Ryan by the hair and flung him back towards the castle.
Ryan hit the side of it on his back, hard enough to crack the stone. As he tumbled down it, sliding towards unconsciousness from the injuries, he could only hope Athena and Crystal were faring better.
And that they’d get to him before Enki finished the job.