They hurried on their journey back to Osa’s farm, for the sun was low on the horizon and neither Theodora nor Zorikh wanted to travel after nightfall. Theodora pointed out that it was still two nights before the next full moon, yet she didn’t want to risk having her head ripped from her body. Zorikh concurred.
“It was nice of him to send us off with this wine,” he said, turning over a dark bottle in his hands. Hrothgar didn’t seem to be the type that parted with gifts easily.
“I promised Osa some of Hrothgar’s wine to enjoy with his dinner,” Theodora said, “and I meant to get at least one thing from the old boar.”
The sky had begun to turn purple in the west as the sun neared the horizon. Zorikh peered into a distant wood, hoping to not see anything in its deepening shadows. “Why exactly are we looking for Grendel?” he asked.
“It’s a hunch,” Theodora said. “Digo was looking for a weapon back in Manhattan. I’m sure of that, why else would he be at the armory?”
“Do they keep weapons at that place still?” Zorikh wondered aloud.
“There are some,” Theodora said, “and we stopped him from obtaining any of them. He knew that other agents would be soon alerted in the more obvious areas, so he chose a less viable time and place. He didn’t count on you taking something personal from him.”
“Which reminds me,” Zorikh said, “I still have your Thor’s Hammer!” He began fishing in his pockets for the pendant.
“Hold on to it, when we’re safely back in New York, I’ll claim it,” she said. “You’d better give me something of yours, just in case we get separated.” Zorikh handed her an old subway token (the kind from the 70’s with the Y cut out) that he kept for good luck. “Anyway,” Theodora continued, “The only weapon of greatness around here is a person.”
“Grendel,” Zorikh muttered, “I guess you can count him as a weapon if he can rip a man apart. Will he do it?”
“Of course not,” Theodora said, “he’s as likely to let himself be recruited by Digo as he is to sneak into Heorot and murder Hrothgar’s hearth companions. And he hasn’t been ripping anyone apart!”
“I believe you,” Zorikh said, “but Hrothgar seemed pretty convinced that it was all Grendel’s doing.”
“Really, sometimes Hrothgar can be as smart as a bag of stones,” Theodora exclaimed, “Hrothgar had poor Grendel exiled in the first place because Grendel refused to murder for him! Why now would that change, for no good reason? There is something stalking Heorot, and it isn’t Grendel but something much more terrible.” After a few moments, Osa’s farm could be seen in the distance, its warmly lit windows a welcome sight in the deepening twilight.
“There’s only one more thing I need to know,” Zorikh said, “how do you know Beowulf is coming? I mean how do you know that in all the days lost in myth and history, we landed at Heorot at the same week that Beowulf does? I see that this is probably around the time, what with the killings and all, but how can you know you’re within a week of Beowulf’s coming?”
Theodora’s laugh calmed him somewhat. “It’s not a forecast, Zorikh,” she said, still grinning broadly, “I requested his help from Balliol. He’s the Bear that I mentioned. It’s a pet name really. You’ll understand when you see him.”
Zorikh stopped in the dusty road, making Theodora stop a few steps further and turn back to him. “Let me get this straight,” he said, shaking his hands out in front of him, “Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow slayer of Grendel-“
“No one is slaying Grendel!” Theodora said firmly.
“Ok, ok, ah… liberator of the Scyldings,” Zorikh amended, “Big badass Beowulf is a Rifter?”
Theodora waited until the last signs of Zorikh’s shock had melted away. “Not exactly a Rifter,” she said, “he’s one of the Trusted.” She grabbed him by the arm and pulled until he began to walk again.
“Ok, what’s the Trusted?” he asked inevitably.
“They know of us, or have an idea of what we do, that we’re the good guys. The Trusted are people who don’t necessarily Rift, but they aid us when they can.”
“Ah.” He let it sink in before asking, “So let me get this straight- we get to Heorot, mostly-blond people are getting whacked, we get Beowulf to come, he greases the bad guy. Isn’t this a bit spooky? We’re like, making a legend happen man!”
“No, we’re merely not getting in the way. I told you that history is harder to change than it seems,” she said. “Even if we were in Rome and asked Beowulf to come and help us save the true heir of Romulus Augustulus from drowning in a vomitorium, I imagine the killings would still continue and Beowulf would eventually return to his home and receive the summons from Hrothgar himself. Do you see?”
“I guess so.” Zorikh was still skeptical, but their time to discuss time travel metaphysics was at an end, for they had reached Osa’s farm.
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