Home > The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(6)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(6)
Rick Riordan

Randolph placed his hand over mine, which made me squirm. His palm was too rough and calloused for a history professor’s. ‘On my life, Magnus, I swear this is the truth: your father is a Norse god. Now, hurry. We’re in a twenty-minute parking spot.’

FIVE

I’ve Always Wanted to Destroy a Bridge

‘You can’t drop a bombshell like that and walk away!’ I yelled as Randolph walked away.

Despite his cane and his stiff leg, the guy could really move. He was like an Olympic gold medallist in hobbling. He forged ahead, climbing the sidewalk of the Longfellow Bridge as I jogged after him, the wind screaming in my ears.

The morning commuters were coming in from Cambridge. A single line of cars was backed up the length of the span, barely moving. You’d think my uncle and I would be the only ones dumb enough to walk across the bridge in sub-zero weather, but, this being Boston, half a dozen runners were chugging along, looking like emaciated seals in their Lycra bodysuits. A mom with two kids bundled in a stroller was walking on the opposite sidewalk. Her kids looked about as happy as I felt.

My uncle was still fifteen feet ahead of me.

‘Randolph!’ I called. ‘I’m talking to you!’

‘The drift of the river,’ he muttered. ‘The landfill on the banks … allowing for a thousand years of shifting tidal patterns –’

‘Yo!’ I caught the sleeve of his cashmere coat. ‘Rewind to the part about a Norse god being my pappy.’

Randolph scanned our surroundings. We’d stopped at one of the bridge’s main towers – a cone of granite rising fifty feet above us. People said the towers looked like giant salt and pepper shakers, but I’d always thought they looked like Daleks from Doctor Who. (So I’m a nerd. Sue me. And, yes, even homeless kids watch TV sometimes – in shelter rec rooms, on public-library computers … We have our ways.)

A hundred feet below us, the Charles River glistened steel grey, its surface mottled with patches of snow and ice like the skin of a massive python.

Randolph leaned so far over the railing it made me jittery.

‘The irony,’ he muttered. ‘Here, of all places …’

‘So, anyway,’ I said, ‘about my father …’

Randolph gripped my shoulder. ‘Look down there, Magnus. What do you see?’

Cautiously I glanced over the side. ‘Water.’

‘No, the carved ornamentation, just below us.’

I looked again. About halfway down the side of the pier, a shelf of granite jutted over the water like a theatre seating box with a pointy tip. ‘It looks like a nose.’

‘No, it’s … Well, from this angle, it does sort of look like a nose. But it’s the prow of a Viking longship. See? The other pier has one, too. The poet Longfellow – for whom the bridge was named – he was fascinated by the Norse. Wrote poems about their gods. Like Eben Horsford, Longfellow believed the Vikings had explored Boston. Hence the designs on the bridge.’

‘You should give tours,’ I said. ‘All the rabid Longfellow fans would pay big bucks.’

‘Don’t you see?’ Randolph still had his hand on my shoulder, which wasn’t making me any less anxious. ‘So many people over the centuries have known. They’ve felt it instinctively, even if they had no proof. This area wasn’t just visited by the Vikings. It was sacred to them! Right below us – somewhere near these decorative longships – is the wreck of an actual longship, holding a cargo of incalculable value.’

‘I still see water. And I still want to hear about Dad.’

‘Magnus, the Norse explorers came here searching for the axis of the worlds, the very trunk of the tree. They found it –’

A low boom echoed across the river. The bridge shook. About a mile away, amid the thicket of chimneys and steeples of Back Bay, a column of oily black smoke mushroomed skyward.

I steadied myself against the railing. ‘Um, wasn’t that close to your house?’

Randolph’s expression hardened. His stubbly beard glistened silver in the sunlight.

‘We’re out of time. Magnus, extend your hand over the water. The sword is down there. Call it. Focus on it as if it’s the most important thing in the world – the thing you want the most.’

‘A sword? I – look, Randolph, I can tell you’re having a hard day, but –’

‘DO IT.’

The sternness in his voice made me flinch. Randolph had to be insane, talking about gods and swords and ancient shipwrecks. Yet the column of smoke over Back Bay was very real. Sirens wailed in the distance. On the bridge, drivers stuck their heads out of their windows to gawk, holding up smartphones and taking pictures.

And, as much as I wanted to deny it, Randolph’s words resonated with me. For the first time, I felt like my body was humming at the right frequency, like I’d finally been tuned to match the crappy soundtrack of my life.

I stretched my hand out over the river.

Nothing happened.

Of course nothing happened, I chided myself. What were you expecting?

The bridge shook more violently. Further down the sidewalk, a jogger stumbled. From behind me came the crunch of one car rear-ending another. Horns blared.

Above the rooftops of Back Bay, a second column of smoke billowed. Ash and orange cinders sprayed upward as if the explosion were volcanic, spewing from the ground.

‘That – that was a lot closer,’ I noted. ‘It’s like something is zeroing in on us.’

I really hoped Randolph would say, Nah, of course not. Don’t be silly!

He seemed to get older before my eyes. His wrinkles darkened. His shoulders slumped. He leaned heavily on his cane. ‘Please, not again,’ he muttered to himself. ‘Not like last time.’

‘Last time?’ Then I remembered what he’d said about losing his wife and daughters – a storm out of nowhere, fires.

Randolph locked eyes with me. ‘Try again, Magnus. Please.’

I thrust my hand towards the river. I imagined I was reaching for my mom, trying to pull her from the past – trying to save her from the wolves and the burning apartment. I reached for answers that might explain why I’d lost her, why my whole life since then had been nothing but a downhill spiral of suck.

Directly below me, the surface of the water began to steam. Ice melted. Snow evaporated, leaving a hole the shape of a hand – my hand, twenty times larger.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d had the same feeling when my mom first taught me to ride a bike. Don’t think about what you’re doing, Magnus. Don’t hesitate, or you’ll fall. Just keep going.

I swept my hand back and forth. A hundred feet below, the steaming hand mirrored my movements, clearing the surface of the Charles. Suddenly I stopped. A pinpoint of warmth hit the centre of my palm as if I’d intercepted a beam of sunlight.

Something was down there … a heat source buried deep in the frigid mud of the river bottom. I closed my fingers and pulled.

A dome of water swelled and ruptured like a dry-ice bubble. An object resembling a lead pipe shot upward and landed in my hand.

It looked nothing like a sword. I held it by one end, but there was no hilt. If it had ever had a point or a sharp edge, it didn’t now. The thing was about the right size for a blade, but it was so pitted and corroded, so encrusted with barnacles and glistening with mud and slime, I couldn’t even be sure it was metal. In short, it was the saddest, flimsiest, most disgusting piece of scrap I’d ever magically pulled from a river.

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