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Excerpt from Z Lequidre and the Amazing Grendel Conspiracy, page 33, by Allain Atienza

Z Lequidre and the Amazing Grendel Conspiracy

By Allain Atienza

Page 33

Grendel is no Hobbit

Grendel led them deeper into the woods, loping ahead and waiting at each bend of the trail. "You will be my guests for lunch, if you wish, and supper too." he said. "And I will make a sheath for your splendid prize, Zorikh."

"I'd really appreciate that!" said Zorikh. He had been wishing for a better way to carry the sword. He definitely didn't want to part with it. As Grendel had said, it was a prize taken from a foe and Zorikh meant to keep it. And who else back at home can say he has a sword taken from a Frisian? The hilt was nothing special, being a leather wrapped handle with a curved iron cross-guard and lobed pommel. The blade however, was a beautiful pattern-welded affair with a wide fuller and a rune near the hilt, probably the mark of the sword-smith.

They soon reached a steep hillside crowned by an ancient oak. A curtain of ivy ran from its roots and spread out until it reached the base. Grendel moved the ivy aside to reveal a large oval door, though he still had to stoop to go through it.

Once through the door, Zorikh found that he stood in a large underground apartment. There was a surprising amount of light, for windows had been dug into the side of the hill and although the ivy curtain hid them from view on the outside, they let a fair amount of sunlight through. The place reminded Zorikh of the Hobbit hole described in Tolkien's work, but not nearly so sissy-like. Several openings led to other rooms, but there were no pantries or linen closets here. The place was warm and comfortable, but Grendel was no Hobbit. Zorikh saw a workshop in the next room, and another room held a store of carefully stacked parcels. A big straw pallet could be seen from the entrance to another chamber. Grendel provided them with a plate of firm white cheese and dried smoked venison, then sat on a big bench in his workshop and laid out stout pieces of leather. "Let me have your sword for a moment Zorikh," he said, "I need to measure for a sheath."

As Grendel cut and stitched, Theodora eyed him expectantly. The giant remained silent, his hands working deftly and at a speed that made Zorikh raise his brows in admiration. Theodora finally broke the silence, "So what do you think Grendel? Will you come with me to Heorot?"

Without pausing in his work, Grendel said, "I don't see why I should Theodora. I'm quite safe here."

"Grendel, Hrothgar will keep looking for you. The murderer will strike at the next full moon, and if Beowulf destroys it, then all is well. But if he doesn't then you'll still be branded the Scylding's enemy, and the hunt will continue."

"That's two nights away," said Grendel. "Who's Beowulf?"

"A friend that I've asked for help. I originally brought him to help protect you, but things got a bit twisted up. He might be able to defeat whatever's coming, but if not..."

Grendel sighed. "And if I'm at Heorot when the night walker returns, I'll still be cleared, whether Beowulf succeeds or not. Hmmn. Yet will Hrothgar let me into his house and allow me to live?"

Zorikh jumped in here. "Ah, excuse me, but I just saw a spear and sword bounce off of your body back at the swamp. How can you be concerned about what Hrothgar can do?"

A rumbling laugh came from Grendel. I've a tough hide, yes, yet I was wounded at the fen." He pushed the furs aside to reveal small cuts in his breast and side. "And Hrothgar knows where to strike me."

Theodora, visibly alarmed, strode over to Grendel and forced him to sit still while she looked to his wounds. "If Hrothgar is less than friendly, then Beowulf will stand with you. You and he together would be more than a match for Hrothgar's thugs." She stood and disappeared into one of the rooms, returning with two strips of cloth and a bag of herbs. "Can you light a fire Grendel? I'll need hot water for these poultices."

"I'm fine" Grendel protested. "I don't need a-" but Theodora raised a hand to silence him.

"Please Grendel, you'll get it infected. And you need a trim as well."

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