Home > The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(11)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(11)
Rick Riordan

Oh, joy, I thought with a shudder. More wolves.

Columns made from rough-hewn tree trunks held up the ceiling, which was lined with spears for rafters. Polished shields gleamed on the walls. Light seemed to radiate from everywhere – a warm golden glow that hurt my eyes like a summer afternoon after a dark theatre.

In the middle of the foyer, a freestanding display board announced:

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES

SINGLE COMBAT TO THE DEATH! – OSLO ROOM, 10 A.M.

GROUP COMBAT TO THE DEATH! – STOCKHOLM ROOM, 11 A.M.

BUFFET LUNCH TO THE DEATH! – DINING HALL, 12 P.M.

FULL ARMY COMBAT TO THE DEATH! – MAIN COURTYARD, 1 P.M.

BIKRAM YOGA TO THE DEATH! – COPENHAGEN ROOM,

BRING YOUR OWN MAT, 4 P.M.

The doorman Hunding said something, but my head was ringing so badly I missed it.

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘what?’

‘Luggage,’ he repeated. ‘Do you have any?’

‘Um …’ I reached for my shoulder strap. My backpack had apparently not been resurrected with me. ‘No.’

Hunding grunted. ‘No one brings luggage any more. Don’t they put anything on your funeral pyre?’

‘My what?’

‘Never mind.’ He scowled towards the far corner of the room, where an overturned boat’s keel served as the reception desk. ‘Guess there’s no putting it off. Come on.’

The man behind the keel apparently used the same barber as Hunding. His beard was so big it had its own zip code. His hair looked like a buzzard that had exploded on a windshield. He was dressed in a forest-green pinstriped suit. His name tag read: HELGI, MANAGER, EAST GOTHLAND, VALUED TEAM MEMBER SINCE 749 C.E.

‘Welcome!’ Helgi glanced up from his computer screen. ‘Checking in?’

‘Uh –’

‘You realize check-in time is three p.m.,’ he said. ‘If you die earlier in the day, I can’t guarantee your room will be ready.’

‘I can just go back to being alive,’ I offered.

‘No, no.’ He tapped on his keyboard. ‘Ah, here we are.’ He grinned, revealing exactly three teeth. ‘We’ve upgraded you to a suite.’

Next to me, Hunding muttered under his breath, ‘Everyone is upgraded to a suite. All we have are suites.’

‘Hunding …’ warned the manager.

‘Sorry, sir.’

‘You don’t want me to use the stick.’

Hunding winced. ‘No, sir.’

I looked back and forth between them, checking their name tags.

‘You guys started working here the same year,’ I noted. ‘749 … what is C.E.?’

‘Common Era,’ said the manager. ‘What you might call A.D.’

‘Then why don’t you just say A.D.?’

‘Because Anno Domini, in the Year of Our Lord, is fine for Christians, but Thor gets a little upset. He still holds a grudge that Jesus never showed up for that duel he challenged him to.’

‘Say what now?’

‘It’s not important,’ Helgi said. ‘How many keys would you like? Is one sufficient?’

‘I still don’t get where I am. If you guys have been here since 749, that’s over a thousand years.’

‘Don’t remind me,’ Hunding grumbled.

‘But that’s impossible. And … and you said I’m dead? I don’t feel dead. I feel fine.’

‘Sir,’ Helgi said, ‘all this will be explained tonight at dinner. That’s when new guests are formally welcomed.’

‘Valhalla.’ The word surfaced from the depths of my brain – a half-remembered story my mom had read me when I was little. ‘The HV on your lapel. The V stands for Valhalla?’

Helgi’s eyes made it clear I was straining his patience. ‘Yes, sir. The Hotel Valhalla. Congratulations. You’ve been chosen to join the hosts of Odin. I look forward to hearing about your brave exploits at dinner.’

My legs buckled. I leaned on the desk for support. I’d been trying to convince myself this was all a mistake – some elaborate theme hotel where I’d been mistaken for a guest. Now I wasn’t so sure.

‘Dead,’ I mumbled. ‘You mean I’m actually … I’m actually –’

‘Here is your room key.’ Helgi handed me a stone engraved with a single Viking rune, like the stones in Uncle Randolph’s library. ‘Would you like the minibar key?’

‘Uh –’

‘He wants the minibar key,’ Hunding answered for me. ‘Kid, you want the minibar key. It’s going to be a long stay.’

My mouth tasted like copper. ‘How long?’

‘Forever,’ Helgi said, ‘or at least until Ragnarok. Hunding will now show you to your room. Enjoy your afterlife. Next!’

TEN

My Room Does Not Suck

I wasn’t paying the closest attention as Hunding guided me through the hotel. I felt as if I’d been spun around fifty times then released into the middle of a circus and told to have fun.

Each hall we walked through seemed bigger than the one before. Most of the hotel guests looked like they were in high school, though some looked slightly older. Guys and girls sat together in small groups, lounging in front of fireplaces, chatting in many different languages, eating snacks or playing board games like chess and Scrabble and something that involved real daggers and a blowtorch. Peeking into side lounges, I spotted pool tables, pinball machines, an old-fashioned video arcade and something that looked like an iron maiden from a torture chamber.

Staff members in dark green shirts moved among the guests, bringing platters of food and pitchers of drink. As far as I could tell, all the servers were buff female warriors with shields on their backs and swords or axes on their belts, which is not something you see a lot in the service industry.

One heavily armed waitress passed me with a steaming plate of spring rolls. My stomach rumbled.

‘How can I be hungry if I’m dead?’ I asked Hunding. ‘None of these people look dead.’

Hunding shrugged. ‘Well, there’s dead and then there’s dead. Think of Valhalla more like … an upgrade. You’re one of the einherjar now.’

He pronounced the word like in-HAIR-yar.

‘Einherjar,’ I repeated. ‘Just rolls right off the tongue.’

‘Yeah. Singular: einherji.’ He said it like in-HAIR-yee. ‘We’re the chosen of Odin, soldiers in his eternal army. The word einherjar is usually translated as lone warriors, but that doesn’t really capture the meaning. It’s more like … the once warriors – the warriors who fought bravely in the last life and will fight bravely again on the Day of Doom. Duck.’

‘The Day of Doom Duck?’

‘No, duck!’

Hunding pushed me down as a spear flew past. It impaled a guy sitting on the nearest sofa, killing him instantly. Drinks, dice and Monopoly money flew everywhere. The people he’d been playing with rose to their feet, looking mildly annoyed, and glared in the direction the spear had come from.

‘I saw that, John Red Hand!’ Hunding yelled. ‘The lounge is a No Impaling area!’

From the billiard room, somebody laughed and called back in … Swedish? He didn’t sound very remorseful.

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