Home > The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(7)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(7)
Rick Riordan

‘At last!’ Randolph lifted his eyes to the heavens. I got the feeling that, if not for his bum knee, he might’ve knelt on the ground and offered a prayer to the non-existent Norse gods.

‘Yeah.’ I hefted my new prize. ‘I feel safer already.’

‘You can renew it!’ Randolph said. ‘Just try!’

I turned the blade. I was surprised that it hadn’t already disintegrated in my hand.

‘I dunno, Randolph. This thing looks way past renewing. I’m not even sure it can be recycled.’

If I sound unimpressed or ungrateful, don’t get me wrong. The way I’d pulled the sword out of the river was so cool it freaked me out. I’d always wanted a superpower. I just hadn’t expected mine to entail retrieving garbage from river bottoms. The community-service volunteers were going to love me.

‘Concentrate, Magnus!’ Randolph said. ‘Quickly, before –’

Fifty feet away, the centre of the bridge erupted in flames. The shock wave pushed me against the rail. The right side of my face felt sunburned. Pedestrians screamed. Cars swerved and crashed into one another.

For some stupid reason, I ran towards the explosion. It was like I couldn’t help myself. Randolph shuffled after me, calling my name, but his voice seemed far away, unimportant.

Fire danced across the roofs of cars. Windows shattered from the heat, spraying the street with glass gravel. Drivers scrambled out of their vehicles and fled.

It looked like a meteor had hit the bridge. A ten-foot-diameter circle of asphalt was charred and steaming. In the centre of the impact zone stood a human-size figure: a dark man in a dark suit.

When I say dark, I mean his skin was the purest, most beautiful shade of black I’d ever seen. Squid ink at midnight would not have been so black. His clothes were the same: a well-tailored jacket and slacks, a crisp shirt and tie – all cut from the fabric of a neutron star. His face was inhumanly handsome, chiselled obsidian. His long hair was combed back in an immaculate oil slick. His pupils glowed like tiny rings of lava.

I thought, If Satan were real, he would look like this guy.

Then I thought, No, Satan would be a schlub next to this guy. This guy is like Satan’s fashion consultant.

Those red eyes locked on to me.

‘Magnus Chase.’ His voice was deep and resonant, his accent vaguely German or Scandinavian. ‘You have brought me a gift.’

An abandoned Toyota Corolla stood between us. Satan’s fashion consultant walked straight through it, melting a path down the middle of the chassis like a blowtorch through wax.

The sizzling halves of the Corolla collapsed behind him, the wheels melted to puddles.

‘I will make you a gift as well.’ The dark man extended his hand. Smoke curled off his sleeve and ebony fingers. ‘Give me the sword and I will spare your life.’


Make Way for Ducklings, or They Will Smack You Upside the Head

I’d seen some weird stuff in my life.

I once watched a crowd of people wearing nothing but Speedos and Santa hats jog down Boylston in the middle of winter. I met a guy who could play the harmonica with his nose, a drum set with his feet, a guitar with his hands and a xylophone with his butt all at the same time. I knew a woman who’d adopted a grocery cart and named it Clarence. Then there was the dude who claimed to be from Alpha Centauri and had philosophical conversations with Canada geese.

So a well-dressed Satanic male model who could melt cars … why not? My brain just kind of expanded to accommodate the weirdness.

The dark man waited, his hand outstretched. The air around him rippled with heat.

About a hundred feet down the span of the bridge, a Red Line commuter train ground to a halt. The conductor gawked at the chaos in front of her. Two joggers tried to pull a guy from a half-crushed Prius. The lady with the double stroller was unfastening her screaming kids, the stroller’s wheels having melted into ovals. Standing next to her, instead of helping, one idiot held up his smartphone and tried to film the destruction. His hand was shaking so badly I doubted he was getting a very good picture.

Now at my shoulder, Randolph said, ‘The sword, Magnus. Use it!’

I got the uncomfortable impression my big burly uncle was hiding behind me.

The dark man chuckled. ‘Professor Chase … I admire your persistence. I thought our last encounter would’ve broken your spirit. But here you are, ready to sacrifice another family member!’

‘Be quiet, Surt!’ Randolph’s voice was shrill. ‘Magnus has the sword! Go back to the fires from whence you came.’

Surt didn’t seem intimidated, though personally I found the word whence very intimidating.

Fire Dude studied me like I was as barnacle-encrusted as the sword. ‘Give it here, boy, or I will show you the power of Muspell. I will incinerate this bridge and everyone on it.’

Surt raised his arms. Flames slithered between his fingers. At his feet, the paved ground bubbled. More windshields shattered. The train tracks groaned. The Red Line conductor yelled frantically into her walkie-talkie. The pedestrian with the smartphone fainted. The mom collapsed over the stroller, her kids still crying inside. Randolph grunted and staggered backwards.

Surt’s heat didn’t make me pass out. It just made me angry. I didn’t know who this fiery jack-hole was, but I knew a bully when I met one. First rule of the streets: never let a bully take your stuff.

I pointed my once-might-have-been-a-sword at Surt. ‘Cool down, man. I have a corroded piece of metal and I’m not afraid to use it.’

Surt sneered. ‘Just like your father, you are no fighter.’

I clenched my teeth. Okay, I thought, time to ruin this guy’s outfit.

But, before I could take action, something whizzed past my ear and smacked Surt in the forehead.

Had it been a real arrow, Surt would’ve been in trouble. Fortunately for him, it was a plastic toy projectile with a pink heart for a point – a Valentine’s Day novelty, I guessed. It hit Surt between the eyes with a cheerful squeak, fell to his feet and promptly melted.

Surt blinked. He looked as confused as I was.

Behind me a familiar voice shouted, ‘Run, kid!’

Charging up the bridge came my buddies Blitz and Hearth. Well … I say charging. That implies it was impressive. It really wasn’t. For some reason, Blitz had donned a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses along with his black trench coat, so he looked like a grungy, very short Italian priest. In his gloved hands he wielded a fearsome wooden dowel with a bright yellow traffic sign that read: MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS.

Hearth’s red-striped scarf trailed behind him like limp wings. He nocked another arrow in his pink plastic Cupid’s bow and fired at Surt.

Bless their demented little hearts. I understood where they’d got the ridiculous weapons: the toy store on Charles Street. I panhandled in front of that place sometimes, and they had that stuff in their window display. Somehow, Blitz and Hearth must’ve followed me here. In their rush, they’d done a smash-and-grab of the nearest deadly objects. Being crazed homeless guys, they hadn’t chosen very well.

Dumb and pointless? You bet. But it warmed my heart that they wanted to look out for me.

‘We’ll cover you!’ Blitz charged by me. ‘Run!’

Surt hadn’t been expecting an attack by lightly armed bums. He stood there while Blitz smacked him across the head with the MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS sign. Hearth’s next squeaky arrow misfired and hit me in the butt.

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