The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard 1) - Page 34

‘Caught in the act of aiding the enemy,’ Gunilla said. ‘You’ve signed your own death warrants!’


I Hate Signing My Own Death Warrant

‘Well, well,’ said the Wolf. ‘I haven’t had this much company since my binding party.’

Gunilla gripped her spear. She didn’t look at the Wolf, as if ignoring him might make him go away.

‘Thomas Jefferson Jr,’ she said, ‘you and your hallmates take the prisoners. Go around the edges, obviously. Slow and careful.’

T.J. didn’t look happy about it, but he nodded. His army jacket was buttoned up tight. His bayonet gleamed in the moonlight. Mallory Keen gave me the stink eye, but that could have been her version of a happy greeting. The two of them went left, picking their way across the rim of the crater while the three Valkyries kept their spears pointed at Fenris.

X lumbered to the right, followed by Halfborn, who was twirling his battleaxes and whistling under his breath, as if this was a pleasant stroll through a field of fallen enemies.

‘Sam,’ I muttered, ‘if we’re taken –’

‘I know.’

‘No one will be here to stop Surt.’

‘I know.’

‘We can take them,’ Blitz said. ‘They’re not wearing armour, much less fashionable armour.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘These are my shield bro – my shield siblings. Let me try talking to them.’

Hearth signed, Crazy. You?

The beauty of sign language. He could’ve meant Are you crazy? Or I’m crazy. Just like you! I decided to interpret it as a show of support.

Fenris Wolf sat on his haunches and tried to scratch his ear, which wasn’t possible with the cord binding his legs.

He sniffed the air and grinned at me. ‘Interesting company you keep, Magnus Chase. Someone is hiding, but I can smell him. Which one is he, eh? Perhaps I will get a feast today after all!’

I glanced at Sam. She looked just as mystified as I felt.

‘Sorry, fuzzball,’ I said. ‘No idea what you’re talking about.’

Fenris laughed. ‘We shall see. I wonder if he will dare to show his true face.’

‘Chase!’ Gunilla plucked a hammer from her bandolier. ‘Do not speak with the Wolf again or I will cave in your skull.’

‘Gunilla,’ I said, ‘great to see you again, too. Surt is on his way right now. We don’t have time for this.’

‘Oh? Have you made common cause with the fire lord who killed you? Or perhaps that was part of the plan from the beginning – to get you into Valhalla.’

Sam sighed. ‘For a child of Thor, you think too much.’

‘And you, daughter of Loki, listen too little. Jefferson, hurry it up!’

My hallmates got to either side of us.

Mallory made a tsk-tsk sound. ‘You led us on quite a chase, Chase.’

‘Clever,’ I said. ‘How long have you been waiting to use that line?’

Mallory smirked.

Next to her, X wiped beads of green sweat from his forehead. ‘Wolf’s rope is loose. This is not good.’

From across the valley, Gunilla yelled, ‘No fraternizing! I want them in chains!’

T.J. dangled four sets of handcuffs from his finger. ‘Here’s the thing, Magnus: Gunilla made it clear that if we don’t prove our loyalty to Valhalla by apprehending you we will spend the next hundred years in the boiler room shovelling coal. So consider yourself under arrest, blah, blah, blah.’

Halfborn grinned. ‘But the other thing is: we’re Vikings. We’re pretty bad at following orders. So consider yourself free again.’

T.J. let the handcuffs slip from his finger. ‘Oops.’

My spirits lifted. ‘You mean –’

‘He means, you idiot,’ Mallory said, ‘that we’re here to help.’

‘I love you guys.’

‘What do you need us to do?’ T.J. asked.

Sam nodded to Blitzen. ‘Our dwarf has a rope to rebind the Wolf. If we can –’

‘Enough!’ Gunilla shouted. On either side, her Valkyrie lieutenants readied their spears. ‘I will take you all back in chains if I must!’

Fenris howled with pleasure. ‘That would be delightful to watch. Unfortunately, Valkyrie, you are too slow. My other friends have arrived, and they won’t be taking any prisoners.’

X gazed towards the south, his neck muscles rippling like freshly poured cement. ‘There.’

At the same moment, Hearthstone pointed with his staff, the whole length of white oak suddenly burning with gold fire.

On the ridge to the right, between the Valkyries and us, a dozen fire giants marched into view. Each stood about ten feet tall. They wore leather-scale armour, carried swords the size of plough blades, and had various axes and knives hanging from their belts. Their complexions were an assortment of volcanic colours – ash, lava, pumice, obsidian. The fields of heather may have been noxious to the Wolf, but the stuff didn’t seem to bother the fire giants. Wherever they stepped, the plants burned and smoked.

In the middle of their line stood Satan’s fashion consultant himself, the fire lord Surt, wearing a trim-cut three-piece suit of chain mail, a tie and a shirt that appeared to be woven from flame – elegantly accessorized with a burning scimitar in his hand. He looked pretty good, despite the fact that his nose was still cut off. That fact, at least, made me happy.

Blitzen clenched his teeth. ‘That’s my design. He stole my design.’

‘Magnus Chase!’ Surt’s voice boomed. ‘I see you have brought my new sword. Excellent!’

Jack almost leaped out of my hands. I must have looked ridiculous trying to keep him under control, like a fireman wrestling a high-pressure hose.

‘My master …’ Jack said. ‘He shall be my master.’

Surt laughed. ‘Surrender the sword and I will kill you quickly.’ He sneered at Gunilla and her two lieutenants. ‘As for Odin’s wenches, I make no promises.’

Fenris Wolf rose and stretched. ‘Lord Surt, as much as I love posturing and threats, can we move things along? Moonlight is a-wasting.’

‘T.J.,’ I said.


‘You asked how you could help. My friends and I need to rebind Fenris Wolf. Can you keep those fire giants busy?’

T.J. smiled. ‘I charged uphill against seventeen hundred Confederates. I think I can handle a dozen fire giants.’

He called across the valley, ‘Captain Gunilla, are you with us? Because I’d rather not fight another Civil War.’

Gunilla scanned the army of fire giants. Her expression soured, as if she found them even more repugnant than she found me. She raised her spear. ‘Death to Surt! Death to the enemies of Asgard!’

She and her lieutenants charged at the giants.

‘I guess we’re in business,’ T.J. said. ‘Fix bayonets!’


Whose Idea Was It to Make This Wolf Unkillable?

Valhalla’s daily combat training finally made sense to me. After the terror and chaos of war in the hotel courtyard, I was more prepared to face Fenris Wolf and the fire giants, even if they didn’t have AK-47s or chests painted with COME AT ME, BRO!

I was still having trouble controlling the sword, though. The only thing that helped: Jack now seemed divided between wanting to fly to Surt’s hand or flying towards the Wolf. Lucky for me, I needed to approach the Wolf.

Sam knocked a giant’s thrown axe out of the air. ‘Rebinding Fenris – any idea how we’re doing that?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Maybe. Not really.’

A fire giant charged in our direction. Blitzen was so angry – between the Wolf gloating about his dad’s death and Surt stealing his fashion ideas – that he howled like Crazy Alice in Chinatown and rammed his harpoon right through the giant’s gut. The fire giant stumbled off, belching flames and taking the harpoon with him.

Hearthstone pointed to the Wolf. Idea, he signed. Follow me.

‘I thought we needed to stay in the heathe

r,’ I recalled.

Hearthstone raised his staff. Across the ground at his feet, a rune spread like a shadow:

Heather bloomed around it, sprouting new tendrils.

‘Algiz,’ Sam marvelled. ‘The rune of shielding. I’ve never seen it used.’

I felt as if I were seeing Hearthstone for the first time. He didn’t stumble. He didn’t faint. He strode confidently forward, the flowers expanding before him like an unrolling carpet. Not only was Hearth immune to the wolf’s voice, his rune magic was literally redrawing the boundaries of Fenris’s prison.

We inched into the valley, following Hearthstone. On the right side of the island, my einherjar friends clashed with Surt’s forces. Halfborn Gunderson buried his axe in the breastplate of a giant. X picked up another fire-breather and tossed him off the side of the ridge. Mallory and T.J. fought back-to-back, jabbing and slashing and dodging blasts of flame.

Gunilla and her two Valkyrie lieutenants were fighting Surt himself. Between the shining white spears and the flaming sword, their combat was almost too bright to watch.

My friends fought valiantly, but they were outnumbered two-to-one. The fire giants didn’t want to die. Even the one Blitzen had harpooned was still staggering around, trying to blowtorch the einherjar with his bad breath.

‘We have to hurry,’ I said.

‘Open to suggestions, kid,’ Blitzen said.

Fenris paced expectantly. He didn’t seem concerned to see us shuffling towards him on a carpet of heather, collectively armed with an axe, a glowing white staff, an uncooperative sword and a ball of string.

‘By all means, come down,’ he said. ‘Bring that blade closer.’

Blitzen huffed. ‘I’ll tie him up. Hearth can guard me. Magnus and Sam – you two keep him from biting off my head for a few minutes.’

‘Terrible idea,’ Sam said.

‘Got a better one?’ Blitz asked.

‘I do!’ Fenris lunged. He could’ve torn my throat out, but that wasn’t his plan. His front paws passed on either side of my sword. Jack cheerfully cooperated, slicing the rope in half.

Sam brought down her axe between the Wolf’s ears, but Fenris leaped out of the way. His back legs were still hobbled, but his front paws were free. The Wolf’s coat steamed from contact with the heather. Blisters swelled all over his legs, but he sounded too delighted to care.

‘Oh, that’s wonderful,’ he crowed. ‘Just the back legs now, please. Then we can get Ragnarok under way!’

All the rage that had built inside me for two years boiled to the surface.

‘Blitz,’ I said, ‘do what you need to do. I’m going to knock this mutt’s teeth out.’

I ran at the Wolf – possibly my worst idea ever. Sam charged in next to me.

Fenris might have been the size of a normal wolf, but, even with his back legs hobbled, his speed and strength were impossible to match.

As soon as I stepped from the edge of the heather, he became a blur of claws and teeth. I stumbled and fell, a line of deep cuts across my chest. Fenris would’ve torn me open if Sam’s axe hadn’t slammed him aside.

The Wolf snarled. ‘You can’t hurt me. The gods couldn’t hurt me. Don’t you think they would’ve slit my throat if they could have? My destiny is fixed. Until Ragnarok, I am unkillable!’

‘Must be nice.’ I stumbled to my feet. ‘But it won’t keep me from trying.’

Unfortunately, Jack wasn’t helping. Every time I tried to attack, the sword turned and swerved, doing its best to cut the rope around the Wolf’s back legs. My fight with the Wolf was more like a game of piggy-in-the-middle.

Blitzen lunged forward, the end of Andskoti tied in a noose. He tried to snare the Wolf’s hindquarters, but he might as well have been moving in slow motion. Fenris stepped aside, dodging another strike from Sam’s axe. The Wolf slashed Blitzen across the throat and the dwarf fell face down. The string rolled away.

‘NO!’ I yelled.

I moved towards Blitzen, but Hearthstone was faster.

He slammed his staff across Fenris’s skull. Golden fire blazed. The Wolf clambered away, whining in pain. A rune mark now steamed on his forehead – a simple arrow seared into the grey fur:

‘Tiwaz?’ The Wolf snarled. ‘You dare attack me with the rune of Tyr?’ The wolf lunged at Hearthstone but seemed to hit an invisible barrier. He stumbled and howled.

Sam appeared next to me. Her axe was gone. Her left eye was swollen shut and her hijab had been cut to shreds. ‘Hearth used the rune of sacrifice,’ she said, her voice quavering. ‘To save Blitz.’

‘What does that mean?’ I asked.

Hearth collapsed to his knees, leaning against his staff. Still he managed to put himself between the dwarf and the Wolf.

‘You sacrifice your strength to shield your friend?’ The Wolf laughed. ‘Fine. Enjoy your spellwork. The dwarf is already dead. Your own rune magic has doomed you. You can watch while I deal with my other tasty prey.’

He bared his fangs at us.

Across the field, the battle was not going well.

One of Gunilla’s Valkyries sprawled lifeless on the rocks. The other one fell, her armour burning from Surt’s sword. Gunilla faced the fire lord alone, swinging her spear like a whip of light, but she couldn’t last. Her clothes smouldered. Her shield was charred and cracked.

The einherjar were surrounded. Halfborn had lost one of his axes. He was covered with so many burns and gashes I didn’t understand how he could still be alive, but he just kept fighting, laughing as he charged the giants. Mallory was on one knee, cursing as she parried attacks from three giants at once. T.J. swung his rifle wildly. Even X looked tiny compared to the enemies now looming over him.

My head throbbed. I could feel my einherji powers at work, trying to close the cuts on my chest, but I knew Fenris could kill me faster than I could possibly heal.

The Wolf sniffed, no doubt smelling my weakness.

‘Ah, well,’ he chuckled. ‘A good try, Magnus, but the sons of Frey never were fighters. All that’s left for me to do now is devour my enemies. I love this part!’


I Hate This Part

The strangest things can save your life. Like lions. Or bulletproof ascots.

Fenris lunged at my face. I cleverly escaped by falling on my butt. A blurred shape launched itself at the Wolf and knocked him aside.

Two animals tumbled across the bone yard in a whirl of fangs and claws. When they separated, I realized Fenris was facing a she-lion with a swollen eye.

‘Sam?’ I yelped.

‘Get the rope.’ She kept her gaze on her enemy. ‘I need to have a talk with my brother.’

The fact that she could speak in lion form freaked me out even more than the fact that she had a lion form. Her lips moved in a very human way. Her eyes were the same colour. Her voice was still Sam’s voice.

Fenris’s fur stood up on the back of his neck. ‘So you accept your birthright as you are about to die, little sister?’

‘I accept who I am,’ Sam said. ‘But not the way you mean. I am Samirah al-Abbas. Samirah of the Lion.’ She leaped at the Wolf. They clawed, bit, kicked and howled. I’d heard the term fur flying, but I’d never realized what a horrific thing it could be. The two beasts literally tried to tear each other apart. And one of those beasts was a friend of mine.

My first instinct was to charge into battle. But that wouldn’t work.

Freya had told me that killing was the least of the sword’s powers.

The sons of Frey have never been fighters, the Wolf had said.

So what was I?

Blitzen rolled over, groaning. Hearthstone frantically checked the dwarf’s neck.

The ascot glittered. Somehow, it had turned from yellow silk to woven metal, saving Blitzen’s throat in the process. It was honest-to-Frigg bulletproof neckwear.

I couldn’t help grinning. Blitz was alive. He had played to his strength.

He wasn’t a fighter. Neither was I. But there

were other ways to win a battle.

I snatched up the ball of string. It felt like woven snow – impossibly soft and cold. In my other hand, the sword became still.

‘What are we doing?’ Jack asked.

‘Figuring stuff out.’

‘Oh, cool.’ The blade quivered as if stretching after a nap. ‘How’s that going?’

‘Better.’ I stabbed the end of the blade into the ground. Jack did not try to fly away. ‘Surt may get you someday,’ I said, ‘but he doesn’t understand your power. I do now. We’re a team.’

I looped the string’s noose around Jack’s hilt and pulled it tight. The battle seemed to fade around me. I stopped thinking about how to fight the Wolf. He couldn’t be killed – at least not now, not by me.

Instead, I focused on the warmth I felt whenever I healed someone: the power of growth and life – the power of Frey. The Norns had told me nine days ago: The sun must go east.

This place was all about night, winter and silver moonlight. I needed to be the summer sun.

Fenris Wolf noticed the change in the air. He swiped at Sam and sent her tumbling across the lawn of bones. His snout was shredded with claw marks. The rune of Tyr glistened ugly and black on his forehead.

‘What are you up to, Magnus? None of that!’ He lunged, but before he could reach me he fell out of the air, twisting and howling in pain.

Light surrounded me – the same golden aura as when I’d healed Sam and Hearthstone in Jotunheim. It wasn’t hot like the fires of Muspellheim. It wasn’t particularly bright, but it obviously pained the Wolf. He snarled and paced, squinting at me like I’d become a spotlight.

‘Stop that!’ he howled. ‘Are you trying to annoy me to death?’

Sam the lion struggled to her feet. She had a nasty cut on her flank. Her face looked like she’d rear-ended a tractor-trailer. ‘Magnus, what are you doing?’

‘Bringing the summer.’

The cuts on my chest mended. My strength returned. My father was the god of light and warmth. Wolves were creatures of darkness. The power of Frey could constrain Fenris just as it constrained the extremes of fire and ice.

Tags: Rick Riordan Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Fantasy
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