Home > The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(10)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(10)
Rick Riordan

‘What was my dad like?’ I asked. It felt strange to say my dad. How can somebody be yours if you’ve never met him? ‘What happened to him?’

My mom spread her arms to the sunlight. ‘That’s why I bring you here, Magnus. Can’t you feel it? He’s all around us.’

I didn’t know what she meant. Usually she didn’t talk in metaphors. My mom was about as literal and down-to-earth as you could get.

She ruffled my hair. ‘Come on, I’ll race you to the beach.’

My dream shifted. I found myself standing in Uncle Randolph’s library. In front of me, lounging sideways across the desk, was a man I’d never seen before. He was walking his fingers across the collection of old maps.

‘Death was an interesting choice, Magnus.’

The man grinned. His clothes looked fresh from the store: blinding white sneakers, crisp new jeans and a Red Sox home jersey. His feathery hair was a mix of red, brown and yellow, tousled in a fashionable I-just-got-out-of-bed-and-I-look-this-good sort of way. His face was shockingly handsome. He could’ve done ads for aftershave in men’s magazines, but his scars ruined the perfection. Burn tissue splashed across the bridge of his nose and his cheekbones, like impact lines on the moon’s surface. His lips were marred by a row of welts all the way around his mouth – maybe piercing holes that had closed over. But why would anyone have that many mouth piercings?

I wasn’t sure what to say to the scarred hallucination, but since my mom’s words were still lingering in my head, I asked, ‘Are you my father?’

The hallucination raised his eyebrows. He threw back his head and laughed.

‘Oh, I like you! We’ll have fun. No, Magnus Chase, I’m not your father, but I’m definitely on your side.’ He traced his finger under the Red Sox logo on his jersey. ‘You’ll meet my son soon enough. Until then, a little advice: don’t trust appearances. Don’t trust your comrades’ motives. Oh, and –’ he lunged forward and grabbed my wrist – ‘tell the All-Father I said hello.’

I tried to break free. His grip was like steel. The dream changed. Suddenly I was flying through cold grey fog.

‘Stop struggling!’ said a female voice.

Holding my wrist was the girl I’d seen circling the bridge. She charged through the air on her nebulous horse, pulling me along at her side like I was a sack of laundry. Her blazing spear was strapped across her back. Her chain-mail armour glinted in the grey light.

She tightened her grip. ‘Do you want to fall into the Gap?’

I got a feeling she wasn’t talking about the clothing store. Looking below me, I saw nothing – just endless grey. I decided I did not want to fall into it.

I tried to speak. I couldn’t. I shook my head weakly.

‘Then stop struggling,’ she ordered.

Beneath her helmet, a few wisps of dark hair had escaped her green headscarf. Her eyes were the colour of redwood bark.

‘Don’t make me regret this,’ she said.

My consciousness faded.

I awoke gasping, every muscle in my body tingling with alarm.

I sat up and grabbed my gut, expecting to find a burning hole where my intestines used to be. No smouldering asphalt was embedded there. I felt no pain. The strange sword was gone. My clothes looked perfectly fine – not wet or burned or torn.

In fact, my clothes looked too fine. The same stuff I’d been wearing for weeks – my only pair of jeans, my layers of shirts, my jacket – didn’t smell. They’d seemingly been washed, dried and put back on me while I was unconscious, which was an unsettling idea. They even had a warm lemony scent that reminded me of the good old days when my mom did my laundry. My shoes were like new, as shiny as when I dug them out of the dumpster behind Marathon Sports.

Even weirder: I was clean. My hands weren’t caked with grime. My skin felt freshly scrubbed. I ran my fingers through my hair and found no tangles, no twigs, no pieces of litter.

Slowly I got to my feet. There wasn’t a scratch on me. I bounced on my heels. I felt like I could run a mile. I breathed in the smell of chimney fires and an approaching snowstorm. I almost laughed with relief. Somehow I’d survived!

Except … that wasn’t possible.

Where was I?

Gradually my senses expanded. I was standing in the entry courtyard of an opulent town house, the kind you might see on Beacon Hill – eight storeys of imposing white limestone and grey marble jutting into the winter sky. The double front doors were dark heavy wood bound with iron. In the centre of each was a life-size wolf’s-head door knocker.

Wolves … that alone was enough to make me hate the place.

I turned to look for a street exit. There wasn’t one, just a fifteen-foot-tall white limestone wall surrounding the courtyard. How could you not have a front gate?

I couldn’t see much over the wall, but I was obviously still in Boston. I recognized some of the surrounding buildings. In the distance rose the towers of Downtown Crossing. I was probably on Beacon Street, just across from the Common. But how had I got here?

In one corner of the courtyard stood a tall birch tree with pure white bark. I thought about climbing it to get over the wall, but the lowest branches were out of reach. Then I realized the tree was in full leaf, which shouldn’t have been possible in the winter. Not only that: its leaves glittered gold as if someone had painted them with twenty-four-carat gilt.

Next to the tree, a bronze plaque was affixed to the wall. I hadn’t really noticed it earlier, since half the buildings in Boston had historic markers, but now I looked closer. The inscriptions were in two languages. One was the Norse alphabet I’d seen earlier. The other was English:

WELCOME TO THE GROVE OF GLASIR.

NO SOLICITING. NO LOITERING.

HOTEL DELIVERIES: PLEASE USE THE NIFLHEIM ENTRANCE.

Okay … I’d exceeded my daily quota of bizarre. I had to get out of here. I had to get over that wall, find out what had happened to Blitz and Hearth – and maybe Uncle Randolph if I was feeling generous – then possibly hitchhike to Guatemala. I was done with this town.

Then the double doors swung inward with a groan. Blinding golden light spilled out.

A burly man appeared on the stoop. He wore a doorman’s uniform: top hat, white gloves and a dark green jacket with tails and the interlocking letters HV embroidered on the lapel, but there was no way this guy was an actual doorman. His warty face was smeared with ashes. His beard hadn’t been trimmed in decades. His eyes were bloodshot and murderous, and a double-bladed axe hung at his side. His name tag read: HUNDING, SAXONY, VALUED TEAM MEMBER SINCE 749 C.E.

‘S-s-sorry,’ I stammered. ‘I must … um, wrong house.’

The man scowled. He shuffled closer and sniffed me. He smelled like turpentine and burning meat. ‘Wrong house? I don’t think so. You’re checking in.’

‘Uh … what?’

‘You’re dead, aren’t you?’ the man said. ‘Follow me. I’ll show you to registration.’

NINE

You Totally Want the Minibar Key

Would it surprise you to learn that the place was bigger on the inside?

The foyer alone could’ve been the world’s largest hunting lodge – a space twice as big as the mansion appeared on the outside. An acre of hardwood floor was covered with exotic animal skins: zebra, lion and a forty-foot-long reptile that I wouldn’t want to have met when it was alive. Against the right wall, a fire crackled in a bedroom-size hearth. In front of it, a few high-school-age guys in fluffy green bathrobes lounged on overstuffed leather couches, laughing and drinking from silver goblets. Over the mantel hung the stuffed head of a wolf.

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