Home > The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(8)

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)(8)
Rick Riordan

‘Hey!’ I complained.

Being deaf, Hearth couldn’t hear me. He ran past me and into battle, thwacking Surt in the chest with his plastic bow.

Uncle Randolph grabbed my arm. He was wheezing badly. ‘Magnus, we have to go. NOW!’

Maybe I should have run, but I stood there frozen, watching my only two friends attack the dark lord of fire with cheap plastic toys.

Finally Surt tired of the game. He backhanded Hearth and sent him flying across the ground. He kicked Blitz in the chest so hard the little guy stumbled backwards and landed on his butt right in front of me.

‘Enough.’ Surt extended his arm. From his open palm, fire spiralled and elongated until he was holding a curved sword made entirely of white flame. ‘I am annoyed now. You will all die.’

‘Gods’ galoshes!’ Blitz stammered. ‘That’s not just any fire giant. That’s the Black One!’

As opposed to the Yellow One? I wanted to ask, but the sight of the flaming sword kind of stifled my will to joke.

Around Surt, flames began to swirl. The firestorm spiralled outward, melting cars to slag heaps, liquefying the asphalt, popping rivets from the bridge like champagne corks.

I’d only thought it was warm before. Now Surt was really turning up the temperature.

Hearth slumped against the railing about thirty feet away. The unconscious pedestrians and trapped motorists wouldn’t last long either. Even if the flames didn’t touch them, they’d die from asphyxiation or heat stroke. But, for some reason, the heat still didn’t bother me.

Randolph stumbled, hanging off my arm with his full weight. ‘I – I … hum, umm …’

‘Blitz,’ I said, ‘get my uncle out of here. Drag him if you have to.’

Blitz’s sunglasses were steaming. The brim of his hat was beginning to smoulder. ‘Kid, you can’t fight that guy. That’s Surt, the Black One himself!’

‘You said that already.’

‘But Hearth and me – we’re supposed to protect you!’

I wanted to snap, And you’re doing a great job with the MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS sign! But what could I expect from a couple of homeless dudes? They weren’t exactly commandos. They were just my friends. There was no way I’d let them die defending me. As for Uncle Randolph … I hardly knew the guy. I didn’t much like him. But he was family. He’d said he couldn’t stand to lose another family member. Yeah, well, neither could I. This time I wasn’t going to run away.

‘Go,’ I told Blitz. ‘I’ll get Hearth.’

Somehow Blitz managed to hold up my uncle. Together they stumbled off.

Surt laughed. ‘The sword will be mine, boy. You cannot change fate. I will reduce your world to cinders!’

I turned to face him. ‘You’re starting to aggravate me. I have to kill you now.’

I walked into the wall of flames.

SEVEN

You Look Great Without a Nose, Really

Wow, Magnus, you’re probably thinking. That was … stupid!

Thanks. I have my moments.

Normally I don’t go stepping into walls of flame. But I had a feeling it wouldn’t hurt me. I know that sounds weird, but so far I hadn’t passed out. The heat didn’t feel so bad, even though the asphalt was turning to sludge at my feet.

Extreme temperatures have never bothered me. I don’t know why. Some people are double-jointed. Some people can wiggle their ears. I can sleep outside in the winter without freezing to death, and hold matches under my hand without getting burned. I’d won some bets that way in the homeless shelters, but I’d never thought of my tolerance as something special … magical. I’d definitely never tested its limits.

I walked through the curtain of fire and smacked Surt in the head with my rusty sword. Because, you know¸ I always try to keep my promises.

The blade didn’t seem to hurt him, but the swirling flames died. Surt stared at me for a millisecond, completely shocked. Then he punched me in the gut.

I’d been punched before, just not by a fiery heavyweight whose ring name was the Black One.

I folded like a deckchair. My vision blurred and tripled. When I regained my focus, I was on my knees, staring at a puddle of regurgitated milk, turkey and crackers steaming on the asphalt.

Surt could have taken my head off with his fiery sword, but I guess he didn’t feel I was worth it. He paced in front of me, making tsk-tsk sounds.

‘Feeble,’ he said. ‘A soft little boy. Give me the blade of your own free will, Vanir-spawn. I promise you a quick death.’

Vanir-spawn?

I knew a lot of good insults, but I’d never heard that one.

The corroded sword was still in my hand. I felt my pulse against the metal as if the sword itself had developed a heartbeat. Resonating up the blade, all the way to my ears, was a faint hum like a car engine turning over.

You can renew it, Randolph had told me.

I could almost believe the old weapon was stirring, waking up. Not fast enough, though. Surt kicked me in the ribs and sent me sprawling.

I lay flat on my back, staring at the smoke in the winter sky. Surt must have kicked me hard enough to trigger a near-death hallucination. A hundred feet up, I saw a girl in armour on a horse made of mist, circling like a vulture over the battle. She held a spear made of pure light. Her chain mail shone like silvered glass. She wore a conical steel helmet over a green head wrap, sort of like a medieval knight. Her face was beautiful but stern. Our eyes met for a fraction of a second.

If you’re real, I thought, help.

She dissolved into smoke.

‘The sword,’ Surt demanded, his obsidian face looming over me. ‘It’s worth more to me freely surrendered, but, if I must, I will prise it from your dead fingers.’

In the distance, sirens wailed. I wondered why emergency crews hadn’t shown up already. Then I remembered the other two giant explosions in Boston. Had Surt caused them, too? Or brought along some fiery friends?

At the edge of the bridge, Hearth staggered to his feet. A few unconscious pedestrians had started to stir. I couldn’t see Randolph or Blitz anywhere. Hopefully they were out of danger by now.

If I could keep Burning Man occupied, maybe the rest of the bystanders would have time to clear out, too.

Somehow I managed to stand.

I looked at the sword and … yeah, I was definitely hallucinating.

Instead of a corroded piece of junk, I held an actual weapon. The leather-wrapped grip felt warm and comfortable in my hand. The pommel, a simple polished-steel oval, helped counterweight the thirty-inch blade, which was double-edged and rounded at the tip, more for hacking than for stabbing. Down the centre of the blade, a wide groove was emblazoned with Viking runes – the same kind I’d seen in Randolph’s office. They shimmered a lighter shade of silver, as if they’d been inlaid while the blade was forged.

The sword was definitely humming now, almost like a human voice trying to find the right pitch.

Surt stepped back. His lava-red eyes flickered nervously. ‘You don’t know what you have there, boy. You won’t live long enough to find out.’

He swung his scimitar.

I’d had no experience with swords, unless you count watching The Princess Bride twenty-six times as a kid. Surt would’ve cut me in half – but my weapon had other ideas.

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