It took a great deal of convincing to get Mousden to go up to his night watch on the roof of the hall. Good thing he went, because he popped in about two hours before sunrise with great news.
“A sail,” he said. “Struggling hard against the wind, but the ship is coming on fast in spite of the struggle. It should be here by noon.”
Festuscato woke enough to recognize that Mousden was speaking. He got up to get dressed, and Hilde woke enough to imagine a bat. She shrieked and pulled the covers over her head.
Mirowen did not sleep at all. She could not imagine sleeping after their encounter with the Grendel. “You amaze me.” She shook her head. “Shall we wake the king?”
Festuscato had intended that, but now he thought to let the old man sleep. “We can catch him at breakfast,” he said, and they got out the chess set, a game which Mirowen usually won.
Breakfast came and went without the king. Mirowen and Seamus were inclined to worry, lest something happened to the old man in the night. Festuscato told them to keep their places, and soon enough he became able to distract their attention as the others showed up.
“And where have you been?” Festuscato asked, generally, as Bran and Gregor came from opposite directions.
“Snoring wonderfully.” Gregor admitted with a satisfied smile. Bran shot him a look.
“I’ve been searching for the one with the missing finger.” Bran admitted. He shook his head. Apparently, he had no luck.
“I looked myself,” Festuscato admitted. “All digits present and accounted for.”
Luckless spoke up. “The only bandage I saw was around Ragnard’s finger. The cook’s assistant. But the poor fool burned it in the grease. I saw the finger, all red and swollen.”
“So where does that leave us?” Mirowen asked.
“Are you sure of your suspicions?” Seamus asked at almost the same time.
“How else would the creature know of the new arrivals to the hall and which rooms were theirs?” Gregor said, and lifted his one, uncovered eyebrow for emphasis.
“Ours. Which rooms were ours,” Seamus corrected.
“So?” Mirowen retook the conversation. “Where does that leave us?”
“With a lizard’s tale,” Festuscato said.
Mirowen nodded and answered the unspoken question of the others. “Cut off a lizard’s tail and it will grow back,” she said.
The king came in then, but after an hour it was still not convenient to get his attention. Finally, Mousden, the boy came running in. It turned about ten in the morning.
“They have landed,” Mousden whispered. “Svergen is with them now.”
“Mirowen,” Festuscato said as he stood, and she stood and went immediately to her post. Bran of the bandaged hand and Gregor of the bandaged head followed Festuscato to the little room on the side where they once found Unferth. Seamus, Luckless and Mousden held the table, though Mousden took a moment to lay his head down.
After making sure the little room remained empty and secure, Festuscato went to wait with Mirowen by the gate to the hall. He found Svergen there and the Geats had already come up from the shore. Vingevourt came with them, and it explained how their ship could come on so fast against the wind. Mirowen had already separated out the young Beowulf, and they were talking quietly, a few steps apart from the others. Festuscato thought he had better move fast if he was going to catch Beowulf before they went into the hall. He paused only to acknowledge the water sprite.
“Vingevourt,” he said. “I am glad you have come back to join us in this adventure.”
“I may be small,” Vingevourt confessed. “But my Lord can count on me to contribute everything I have.” Vingevourt bowed low, and that got Beowulf’s attention, along with the eyes of several of the Geats.
“Svergen,” Festuscato spoke up, which stopped the man at the door. Mirowen dutifully translated his words. “Before you fetch Wulfgar, for the king’s sake, allow me a few moments alone with young Beowulf.”
Svergen paused. The Roman had no standing, being himself just a guest. Clearly, Svergen had a distrust of outsiders, but then these Geats were outsiders as well. He spent a moment considering the request and staring at the water sprite. “For the king’s sake,” he said at last and went into the hall.
“Beowulf.” Mirowen spoke. “My Lord, Festuscato of whom I spoke.” Mirowen made the introduction, but before she could translate, Festuscato interrupted.
“This way,” he said, and they followed him to the room while Mirowen furiously tried to explain something along the way.
The room was across a walkway, so not in the hall, proper. It served as a storage room of some kind, but big enough for their purposes. Gregor and Bran stood outside and gave the all clear to show the room remained empty. When they went in, Beowulf became vocal.
“What is this about?” Mirowen translated, hardly giving the full translation of all Beowulf said.
“How is the young man’s wrestling skills?” Festuscato asked.
“What need have I for wrestling?” Beowulf asked. He paused to look at Festuscato who dressed in a comfortable tunic and hardly appeared a threat. “I have heard you Romans enjoy that sport, but my steel speaks for me.”
Festuscato and Mirowen both shook their heads. “The creature cannot be hurt by any weapon forged by man,” Mirowen explained.
Beowulf paused while Festuscato looked him over. This was not the giant he had expected. Beowulf stood shorter than Bran, and not much taller than Festuscato himself, but he looked very broad in the shoulders and clearly strong. He looked like a lead cannonball, and probably as strong, though of course, cannons had not yet been invented.
“Turn around,” Festuscato instructed. “And lift your arms a little.” Beowulf did this as Mirowen explained, though the look on his face seemed wary. “This is called a Full Nelson,” Festuscato said, and he slipped the hold on the man and barely got his fingers locked before the violent reaction.
Beowulf almost broke free at the start when he tried to lower his arms, but Festuscato wrapped his legs around his opponent and leaned in for more leverage.
“Don’t hurt him,” Mirowen cried, even as Beowulf tried to ram Festuscato against the wall.
“Not likely.” Festuscato said as he gave a little more lean into the hold. He felt afraid to put too much into it, for fear of hurting the man’s neck or dislocating one or both of the man’s shoulders.
“Wait. Wait,” Mirowen said, and got in front of Beowulf so he could hardly move without hurting her. He paused, and with that, Festuscato let go and ducked, just in case.
“My gift,” he said quickly and showed how his hands had been locked behind Beowulf’s neck.
“A gift,” Mirowen said to Beowulf who rubbed his neck and shoulders back to life. He paused to smile for her before he left without another word.
“Nice battle,” Bran said, as they exited the door.
“Better you than me,” Gregor said with a grin.
“My arms feel broken,” Festuscato confessed.
“You could have hurt him,” Mirowen scolded, and Festuscato took her scolding to heart. He heard something in her words which she did not recognize in herself. All he thought was it was bound to happen, someday.
Back in their seats, one extra seat provided for perpetual to drip on, as Gregor put it, and they watched the Geats parade in. Beowulf and his fourteen warriors did make an impressive band even in that great and glistening hall.