“Theodora!” Beowulf cried out, then called to his men. “Put up your spears!” He strode out to greet her then stopped abruptly as a gigantic figure loomed into view at the archway.
As Beowulf quickly drew his sword back for a blow, Theodora cried out hastily, “Hold! Hold! This is Grendel!”
There was a loud murmuring in the hall as eleven thanes stared in wide-eyed astonishment at the towering figure. Zorikh saw that Grendel had donned a scarlet tunic and dark trousers and covered himself with a bearskin cloak. He brandished a staff that looked more like a young tree and his face was calm but when he turned to survey the hall behind him, all could see that several arrows protruded from his back.
Zorikh laid his shield aside and rushed to Grendel. “You’re hurt!” he said. Grendel allowed himself to be pushed into the hall. “What the heck happened? The Frisians?”
“No,” Grendel said hoarsely as he lowered himself heavily onto a bench, “Hrothgar’s warriors, just a small band armed with bows. I couldn’t get to them and keep the lady safe at the same time.”
Theodora was behind Grendel at once, examining his wounds. “Grendel picked me up and fled,” she said, frowning at on particularly deep barb in Grendel’s shoulder. “Were you not able to speak to Hrothgar?” she asked Zorikh.
“Sure I did, of course I did.” Zorikh said a bit defensively. “Twice. Once in the early afternoon and again tonight. He didn’t seem very thrilled at the news, but he definitely understood what I said.”
“Aye, he did Theodora,” said Beowulf as he joined Theodora in looking over Grendel, “Hrothgar heard his words, then left the hall. He wished us well against the coming conflict, then bade his people to retire from here. This was in the evening. When were you attacked and where?”
“Before dusk, upon the road.” Theodora said with cold anger in her voice. “We had nowhere to hide. After Grendel took about half a dozen arrows, I had no choice but to Rift us to safety.”
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