Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer
Good Morning! You’re Going to Die
Yeah, I know. You guys are going to read about how I died in agony, and you’re going be like, ‘Wow! That sounds cool, Magnus! Can I die in agony, too?’
No. Just no.
Don’t go jumping off any rooftops. Don’t run into the highway or set yourself on fire. It doesn’t work that way. You will not end up where I ended up.
Besides, you wouldn’t want to deal with my situation. Unless you’ve got some crazy desire to see undead warriors hacking one another to pieces, swords flying up giants’ noses and dark elves in snappy outfits, you shouldn’t even think about finding the wolf-headed doors.
My name is Magnus Chase. I’m sixteen years old. This is the story of how my life went downhill after I got myself killed.
My day started out normal enough. I was sleeping on the sidewalk under a bridge in the Public Garden when a guy kicked me awake and said, ‘They’re after you.’
By the way, I’ve been homeless for the past two years.
Some of you may think, Aw, how sad. Others may think, Ha, ha, loser! But, if you saw me on the street, ninety-nine per cent of you would walk right past like I’m invisible. You’d pray, Don’t let him ask me for money. You’d wonder if I’m older than I look, because surely a teenager wouldn’t be wrapped in a stinky old sleeping bag, stuck outside in the middle of a Boston winter. Somebody should help that poor boy!
Then you’d keep walking.
Whatever. I don’t need your sympathy. I’m used to being laughed at. I’m definitely used to being ignored. Let’s move on.
The bum who woke me was a guy called Blitz. As usual, he looked like he’d been running through a dirty hurricane. His wiry black hair was full of paper scraps and twigs. His face was the colour of saddle leather and was flecked with ice. His beard curled in all directions. Snow caked the bottom of his trench coat where it dragged around his feet – Blitz being about five feet five – and his eyes were so dilated the irises were all pupil. His permanently alarmed expression made him look like he might start screaming any second.
I blinked the gunk out of my eyes. My mouth tasted like day-old hamburger. My sleeping bag was warm, and I really didn’t want to get out of it.
‘Who’s after me?’
‘Not sure.’ Blitz rubbed his nose, which had been broken so many times it zigzagged like a lightning bolt. ‘They’re handing out flyers with your name and picture.’
I cursed. Random police and park rangers I could deal with. Truant officers, community-service volunteers, drunken college kids, addicts looking to roll somebody small and weak – all those would’ve been as easy to wake up to as pancakes and orange juice.
But when somebody knew my name and my face – that was bad. That meant they were targeting me specifically. Maybe the folks at the shelter were mad at me for breaking their stereo. (Those Christmas carols had been driving me crazy.) Maybe a security camera had caught that last bit of pickpocketing I did in the Theater District. (Hey, I needed money for pizza.) Or maybe, unlikely as it seemed, the police were still looking for me, wanting to ask questions about my mom’s murder …
I packed my stuff, which took about three seconds. The sleeping bag rolled up tight and fitted in my backpack with my toothbrush and a change of socks and underwear. Except for the clothes on my back, that’s all I owned. With the backpack over my shoulder and the hood of my jacket pulled low, I could blend in with pedestrian traffic pretty well. Boston was full of college kids. Some of them were even more scraggly and younger-looking than me.
I turned to Blitz. ‘Where’d you see these people with the flyers?’
‘Beacon Street. They’re coming this way. Middle-aged white guy and a teenage girl, probably his daughter.’
I frowned. ‘That makes no sense. Who –’
‘I don’t know, kid, but I gotta go.’ Blitz squinted at the sunrise, which was turning the skyscraper windows orange. For reasons I’d never quite understood, Blitz hated the daylight. Maybe he was the world’s shortest, stoutest homeless vampire. ‘You should go see Hearth. He’s hanging out in Copley Square.’
I tried not to feel irritated. The local street people jokingly called Hearth and Blitz my mom and dad because one or the other always seemed to be hovering around me.
‘I appreciate it,’ I said. ‘I’ll be fine.’
Blitz chewed his thumbnail. ‘I dunno, kid. Not today. You gotta be extra careful.’
He glanced over my shoulder. ‘They’re coming.’
I didn’t see anybody. When I turned back, Blitz was gone.
I hated it when he did that. Just – Poof. The guy was like a ninja. A homeless vampire ninja.
Now I had a choice: go to Copley Square and hang out with Hearth, or head towards Beacon Street and try to spot the people who were looking for me.
Blitz’s description of them made me curious. A middle-aged white guy and a teenage girl searching for me at sunrise on a bitter-cold morning. Why? Who were they?
I crept along the edge of the pond. Almost nobody took the lower trail under the bridge. I could hug the side of the hill and spot anyone approaching on the higher path without them seeing me.
Snow coated the ground. The sky was eye-achingly blue. The bare tree branches looked like they’d been dipped in glass. The wind cut through my layers of clothes, but I didn’t mind the cold. My mom used to joke that I was half polar bear.
Dammit, Magnus, I chided myself………………………..
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