Home > The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(3)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(3)
Rick Riordan

At age six, I couldn’t appreciate how expensive all this stuff was, but my general impression of the mansion was the same: dark, oppressive, creepy. It was hard to imagine my mom growing up here. It was easy to understand why she’d become a fan of the great outdoors.

Our apartment over the Korean BBQ joint in Allston had been cosy enough, but Mom never liked being inside. She always said her real home was the Blue Hills. We used to go hiking and camping there in all kinds of weather – fresh air, no walls or ceilings, no company but the ducks, geese and squirrels.

This brownstone, by comparison, felt like a prison. As I stood alone in the foyer, my skin crawled with invisible beetles.

I climbed to the next floor. The library smelled of lemon polish and leather, just like I remembered. Along one wall was a lit glass case full of Randolph’s rusty Viking helmets and corroded axe blades. My mom once told me that Randolph taught history at Harvard before some big disgrace got him fired. She wouldn’t go into details, but clearly the guy was still an artefact nut.

You’re smarter than either of your uncles, Magnus, my mom once told me. With your grades, you could easily get into Harvard.

That had been back when she was still alive, I was still in school, and I might have had a future that extended past finding my next meal.

In one corner of Randolph’s office sat a big slab of rock like a tombstone, the front chiselled and painted with elaborate red swirly designs. In the centre was a crude drawing of a snarling beast – maybe a lion or a wolf.

I shuddered. Let’s not think about wolves.

I approached Randolph’s desk. I’d been hoping for a computer, or a notepad with helpful information – anything to explain why they were looking for me. Instead, spread across the desk were pieces of parchment as thin and yellow as onion skin. They looked like maps a school kid in medieval times had made for social studies: faint sketches of a coastline, various points labelled in an alphabet I didn’t know. Sitting on top of them, like a paperweight, was a leather pouch.

My breath caught. I recognized that pouch. I untied the drawstring and grabbed one of the dominoes … except it wasn’t a domino. My six-year-old self had assumed that’s what Annabeth and I had been playing with. Over the years, the memory had reinforced itself. But, instead of dots, these stones were painted with red symbols.

The one in my hand was shaped like a tree branch or a deformed F:

My heart pounded. I wasn’t sure why. I wondered if coming here had been such a good idea. The walls felt like they were closing in. On the big rock in the corner, the drawing of the beast seemed to sneer at me, its red outline glistening like fresh blood.

I moved to the window. I thought it might help to look outside. Along the centre of the avenue stretched the Commonwealth Mall – a ribbon of parkland covered in snow. The bare trees were strung with white Christmas lights. At the end of the block, inside an iron fence, the bronze statue of Leif Erikson stood on his pedestal, his hand cupped over his eyes. Leif gazed towards the Charlesgate overpass as if to say, Look, I discovered a highway!

My mom and I used to joke about Leif. His armour was on the skimpy side: a short skirt and a breastplate that looked like a Viking bra.

I had no clue why that statue was in the middle of Boston, but I figured it couldn’t be a coincidence that Uncle Randolph grew up to study Vikings. He’d lived here his whole life. He’d probably looked at Leif every day out of the window. Maybe as a child Randolph had thought, Someday, I want to study Vikings. Men who wear metal bras are cool!

My eyes drifted to the base of the statue. Somebody was standing there … looking up at me.

You know how when you see somebody out of context and it takes you a second to recognize them? In Leif Erikson’s shadow stood a tall, pale man in a black leather jacket, black motorcycle pants and pointy-toed boots. His short, spiky hair was so blond it was almost white. His only dash of colour was a striped red-and-white scarf wrapped around his neck and spilling off his shoulders like a melted candy cane.

If I didn’t know him, I might’ve guessed he was cosplaying some anime character. But I did know him. It was Hearth, my fellow homeless dude and surrogate ‘mom’.

I was a little creeped out, a little offended. Had he seen me on the street and followed me? I didn’t need some fairy god-stalker looking after me.

I spread my hands: What are you doing here?

Hearth made a gesture like he was plucking something from his cupped hand and throwing it away. After two years of hanging around him, I was getting pretty good at reading sign language.

He was saying GET OUT.

He didn’t look alarmed, but it was hard to tell with Hearth. He never showed much emotion. Whenever we hung out, he mostly just stared at me with those pale grey eyes like he was waiting for me to explode.

I lost valuable seconds trying to figure out what he meant, why he was here when he was supposed to be in Copley Square.

He gestured again: both hands pointing forward with two fingers, dipping up and down twice. Hurry.

‘Why?’ I said aloud.

Behind me, a deep voice said, ‘Hello, Magnus.’

I nearly jumped out of my shoes. Standing in the library doorway was a barrel-chested man with a trim white beard and a skullcap of grey hair. He wore a beige cashmere overcoat over a dark wool suit. His gloved hands gripped the handle of a polished wooden cane with an iron tip. Last time I’d seen him his hair had been black, but I knew that voice.

‘Randolph.’

He inclined his head a millimetre. ‘What a pleasant surprise. I’m glad you’re here.’ He sounded neither surprised nor glad. ‘We don’t have much time.’

The food and milk started to churn in my stomach. ‘M-much time … before what?’

His brow furrowed. His nose wrinkled as if he detected a mildly unpleasant odour. ‘You’re sixteen today, aren’t you? They’ll be coming to kill you.’

THREE

Don’t Accept Rides from Strange Relatives

Well, happy birthday to me!

Was it 13 January? Honestly, I had no idea. Time flies when you’re sleeping under bridges and eating from dumpsters.

So I was officially sixteen. For my present, I got cornered by Uncle Freaky, who announced that I was marked for assassination.

‘Who –’ I started to ask. ‘You know what? Never mind. Nice seeing you, Randolph. I’ll be going now.’

Randolph remained in the doorway, blocking my exit. He pointed the iron tip of his cane at me. I swear I could feel it pushing against my sternum from across the room.

‘Magnus, we need to talk. I don’t want them to get to you. Not after what happened to your mother …’

A punch in the face would’ve been less painful.

Memories from that night spun through my head like a sickening kaleidoscope: our apartment building shuddering, a scream from the floor below, my mother – who’d been tense and paranoid all day – dragging me towards the fire escape, telling me to run. The door splintered and burst. From the hallway, two beasts emerged, their pelts the colour of dirty snow, their eyes glowing blue. My fingers slipped off the fire-escape railing and I fell, landing in a pile of garbage bags in the alley. Moments later, the windows of our apartment exploded, belching fire.

My mom had told me to run. I did. She’d promised to find me. She never did. Later, on the news, I heard that her body had been recovered from the fire. The police were searching for me. They had questions: signs of arson; my record of disciplinary problems at school; neighbours’ reports of shouting and a loud crash from our apartment just before the explosion; the fact that I’d run from the scene. None of the reports mentioned wolves with glowing eyes.

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