Home > The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(5)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(5)
Rick Riordan

But he was too busy causing traffic havoc.

Finally, just to make small talk, I asked, ‘So who’s trying to kill me?’

He turned right on Arlington. We skirted the Public Garden, past the equestrian statue of George Washington, the rows of gaslight lamp posts and snow-covered hedges. I was tempted to bail out of the car, run back to the swan pond and hide in my sleeping bag.

‘Magnus,’ said Randolph, ‘I’ve made my life’s work studying the Norse exploration of North America.’

‘Wow, thanks,’ I said. ‘That really answered my question.’

Suddenly Randolph did remind me of my mom. He gave me the same exasperated scowl, the same look over the top of his glasses, like, Please, kid, cut the sarcasm. The similarity made my chest ache.

‘Fine,’ I said. ‘I’ll humour you. Norse exploration. You mean the Vikings.’

Randolph winced. ‘Well … Viking means raider. It’s more of a job description. Not all Norse people were Vikings. But, yes, those guys.’

‘The statue of Leif Erikson … Does that mean the Vikings – er, the Norse – discovered Boston? I thought the Pilgrims did that.’

‘I could give you a three-hour lecture on that topic alone.’

‘Please don’t.’

‘Suffice it to say, the Norse explored North America and even built settlements around the year 1000, almost five hundred years before Christopher Columbus. Scholars agree on that.’

‘That’s a relief. I hate it when scholars disagree.’

‘But no one is sure how far south the Norse sailed. Did they make it to what is now the United States? That statue of Leif Erikson … that was the pet project of a wishful thinker in the 1800s, a man named Eben Horsford. He was convinced that Boston was the lost Norse settlement of Norumbega, their furthest point of exploration. He had an instinct, a gut feeling, but no real proof. Most historians wrote him off as a crackpot.’

He looked at me meaningfully.

‘Let me guess … you don’t think he’s a crackpot.’ I resisted the urge to say, Takes one to believe one.

‘Those maps on my desk,’ Randolph said. ‘They are the proof. My colleagues call them forgeries, but they’re not. I staked my reputation on it!’

And that’s why you got fired from Harvard, I thought.

‘The Norse explorers did make it this far,’ he continued. ‘They were searching for something … and they found it here. One of their ships sank nearby. For years I thought the shipwreck was in Massachusetts Bay. I sacrificed everything to find it. I bought my own boat, took my wife, my children on expeditions. The last time …’ His voice broke. ‘The storm came out of nowhere, the fires …’

He didn’t seem anxious to share more, but I got the general idea: he’d lost his family at sea. He really had staked everything on his crazy theory about Vikings in Boston.

I felt bad for the guy, sure. I also didn’t want to be his next casualty.

We stopped at the corner of Boylston and Charles.

‘Maybe I’ll just get out here.’ I tried the handle. The door was locked from the driver’s side.

‘Magnus, listen. It’s no accident you were born in Boston. Your father wanted you to find what he lost two thousand years ago.’

My feet got jumpy. ‘Did you just say … two thousand years?’

‘Give or take.’

I considered screaming and pounding on the window. Would anybody help me? If I could get out of the car, maybe I could find Uncle Frederick and Annabeth, assuming they were any less insane than Randolph.

We turned onto Charles Street, heading north between the Public Garden and the Common. Randolph could’ve been taking me anywhere – Cambridge, the North End, or some out-of-the-way body dump.

I tried to keep calm. ‘Two thousand years … that’s a longer lifespan than your average dad.’

Randolph’s face reminded me of the Man in the Moon from old black-and-white cartoons: pale and rotund, pitted and scarred, with a secretive smile that wasn’t very friendly. ‘Magnus, what do you know about Norse mythology?’

This just gets better and better, I thought.

‘Uh, not much. My mom had a picture book she used to read me when I was little. And weren’t there a couple of movies about Thor?’

Randolph shook his head in disgust. ‘Those movies … ridiculously inaccurate. The real gods of Asgard – Thor, Loki, Odin and the rest – are much more powerful, much more terrifying than anything Hollywood could concoct.’

‘But … they’re myths. They’re not real.’

Randolph gave me a sort of pitying look. ‘Myths are simply stories about truths we’ve forgotten.’

‘So, look, I just remembered I have an appointment down the street –’

‘A millennium ago, Norse explorers came to this land.’ Randolph drove us past the Cheers bar on Beacon Street, where bundled-up tourists were taking photos of themselves in front of the sign. I spotted a crumpled flyer skittering across the sidewalk: it had the word MISSING and an old picture of me. One of the tourists stepped on it.

‘The captain of these explorers,’ Randolph continued, ‘was a son of the god Skirnir.’

‘A son of a god. Really, anywhere around here is good. I can walk.’

‘This man carried a very special item,’ Randolph said, ‘something that once belonged to your father. When the Norse ship went down in a storm, that item was lost. But you – you have the ability to find it.’

I tried the door again. Still locked.

The really bad part? The more Randolph talked, the less I could convince myself that he was nuts. His story seeped into my mind – storms, wolves, gods, Asgard. The words clicked into place like pieces of a puzzle I’d never had the courage to finish. I was starting to believe him, and that scared the baked beans out of me.

Randolph whipped around the access road for Storrow Drive. He parked at a meter on Cambridge Street. To the north, past the elevated tracks of the Mass General T station, rose the stone towers of the Longfellow Bridge.

‘That’s where we’re going?’ I asked.

Randolph fished for quarters in his cupholder. ‘All these years, it was so much closer than I realized. I just needed you!’

‘I’m definitely feeling the love.’

‘You are sixteen today.’ Randolph’s eyes danced with excitement. ‘It’s the perfect day for you to reclaim your birthright. But it’s also what your enemies have been waiting for. We have to find it first.’

‘But –’

‘Trust me a little while longer, Magnus. Once we have the weapon –’

‘Weapon? Now my birthright is a weapon?’

‘Once you have it in your possession, you’ll be much safer. I can explain everything to you. I can help you train for what’s to come.’

He opened his car door. Before he could get out, I grabbed his wrist.

I usually avoid touching people. Physical contact creeps me out. But I needed his full attention.

‘Give me one answer,’ I said. ‘One clear answer, without the rambling and the history lectures. You said you knew my dad. Who is he?’

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