“Oh, okay.” Festuscato said. One wave of his hand and the glamour fell from all present. Mirowen’s points turned a little red from the way Beowulf looked at her and smiled. Luckless looked around, worried about who might be watching. Mousden fluttered up to Beowulf’s face and reached out to touch the man’s eyes. He was not about to go down into that water or anywhere near the werewolf if he could help it. Hrugen watched his father’s response. To his surprise, Unferth did not blink.
“I’ve seen it all,” Unferth said. “And more. You would be surprised what drink can show you.”
Festuscato took that moment to speak what had been pressing on his mind. “Remember, a hag can still think, intelligently. This one may be able to do so even in wolf form.” He meant it as a warning not to count on blind rage from the beast should the wolf attack. Beowulf nodded that he understood, and then he had to think about it.
Beowulf blinked from Mousden’s work when Festuscato moved on. “Luckless.” He turned to the dwarf, having already discussed things with him.
“Yes,” Luckless said, and pulled something out of a bag which he did not seem to have in his hands moments ago. “My Uncle made this. It is sort of a family heirloom, so I hope you will take good care of it.” Beowulf nodded. It appeared to be a coat of the finest chain mail.
“Will it fit?” Hrugen asked.
Luckless nodded. “Like my Lord’s armor. It always fits.”
Beowulf put it on without questioning. It had been wonderfully made, and clearly the product of a master dwarf, the craftsman’s skill at its best. “This is marvelous,” Beowulf said. “Thank your Uncle.”
“Alas, Uncle Weland is dead.” Luckless sighed.
“The chain of Weland.” Unferth recognized the name. He reached out and touched it, even as Mirowen translated into Geat and Beowulf shouted.
“The chain of Weland!”
Any number of Geats came over at that, though most kept their distance on seeing the dwarf and the elves. Bran and Gregor nodded and waved from the lakeside, but Wulfgar was attracted to the shout, as was the king, and Seamus followed after.
“The chain of Weland,” Unferth said for the Danes. They looked impressed, but Mirowen looked at Festuscato. She considered the sword at his back, but he shook his head and she knew better than to ask. Instead, Mirowen took her scarf and tied it around Beowulf’s arm. He took her hand and spoke softly.
“I’ll be back,” he said, but Festuscato did not think he said it with the right Austrian accent.
“Here,” Unferth interrupted. “Take my sword. Its name is Hrunting. It served me well in many battles and broke many swords. May it serve you with equal strength.” Hrugen looked surprised at the gesture. Beowulf looked grateful.
“My thanks Unferth, son of Ecglaf,” he said. He checked the time by the sun. “I better go before the time passes by.” He surprised Mirowen with a kiss before he turned his back on everyone and walked straight into the water. He walked, until his head went under and he became lost from sight.
“Kismet.” Festuscato nodded. When Unferth wrinkled his brow, he tried, “Morae?”
“Wyrd.” Bran, Gregor and Hrugen spoke in unison. They gave the Norwegian name by which the sword was known in those parts.
“The sword of fate?” Unferth said, hardly believing it.
“The sword of the gods?” King Hrothgar said, half believing it.
Wulfgar stepped up to examine Festuscato’s armor more closely, but by then Festuscato had his arm around Mirowen and started leading her apart to a stone where they could sit, and wait.
“One of them,” Gregor said, as Bran stepped between Wulfgar and Lord Agitus to give him and Mirowen some privacy. Wulfgar did not press.
“Now we wait.” King Hrothgar voiced the sentiment. And they did. Some men took the horses back from the smell of the dead lake to where they could be safely tied. Others paced. Some occasionally fingered their swords as they kept an eye on the water for snakes or whatever else might emerge, and hoped against hope to see Beowulf again.
“Brave man.” That was all Bran said in all of those hours.
“Aye.” That was all the usually verbal Gregor added.
Mousden fretted by flying between two trees, like a bird that could not find a comfortable perch while Vingevourt sat and made a puddle, waiting, and shook his head at the bad water. Mirowen was beside herself, but Festuscato held her and gave her what courage he had. Luckless produced a leg of beef as big as his arm, but even he only nibbled at the shank.
“What is happening?” Wulfgar asked out loud several times.
“Cannot be good,” King Hrothgar said at last. About an hour before dark, he decided that Beowulf must have failed. They saw no sign of life or movement across all the slick surface of the lake. “We go home,” the king announced. He eyed the sun. The habit of being in and safe by dark remained too strong in the old man’s mind. Of course, the Geats stayed, and Festuscato and his crew, but the Danes got ready to leave.
“We’ll catch up,” Festuscato told the king, and the king nodded. Festuscato appreciated the fact that the king did not say it was hopeless, however strongly the king may have felt that way. Mirowen was a wreck, and that might have pushed her too far.
“You are a strange one, Roman.” The king said, Wulfgar beside him. “For what it is worth, my wife guessed, you know.” He waved at the little ones and turned and left, the Danes following.
At sundown, the Geats lost hope. They were ready to turn toward home, the first riders ready to set out, when the surface of the lake came alive.
“What is it?” Mousden shrieked and headed toward a higher branch.
“The serpents return at dark?” Gregor asked.
Mirowen had her sharp eyes trained on the spot. “It’s Beowulf!” she shouted. “It’s him,” she said to Festuscato and the Geats. The last two Geats came back, and a third went to fetch the others. “It’s him!” Mirowen shouted once more.
Bran stayed ready, wading as far into the deep as he could. He grabbed Beowulf by the arm and pulled, but something seemed very heavy. Beowulf clearly appeared too worn to speak. Gregor jumped in after Bran, and then the two Geats joined them. When they finally got Beowulf ashore so Mirowen could jump him, they found the head of the Grendel clutched firmly in his grasp.
“I found a sword of old, such as the frost giants used,” Beowulf said at last, when Mirowen let him breathe.
“Tell me.” Seamus stood right there.
“Later.” Festuscato suggested, but nobody listened as Beowulf went into a long story about his struggle, the breaking of Hrunting, and finally piercing the heart of the Wolf-hag, as he called it. He told about the long struggle to get there and the struggle to return, but Festuscato wondered if the wolf had really died.
“It is dark,” Festuscato said at last. “Seamus, go with Beowulf. You will hear the story better when you have your paper in hand.”
“True, true.” Seamus agreed, while Festuscato grabbed Mirowen’s hand.
“You two.” He spoke to two of the Geats. “Get that head up to carry. A present for Hrothgar.”
“My thinking.” Beowulf said and smiled at Mirowen.
“We will follow,” Festuscato said, and stepped between the lovers. “We have much to discuss.”
Beowulf looked taken back for a moment, but he nodded. “I will await your pleasure in the hall of Heorot.” He snapped orders to his men and got his mounts, Seamus with him.
The final chapter…Mother. Don’t miss it. Until then, Happy Reading