The Ship of the Dead

Page 15

stocking! That scarf does not go with your dress!”

Kolga and Blod lunged at me from either side. I valiantly slipped under the table and tried to crawl away, but Blod grabbed me by the leg and pulled me out.

“Oh, no,” she snarled, her teeth dripping red. “I’m going to rip your soul from your body, Magnus Chase!”

Then a silverback mountain gorilla crashed into her, knocked her to the floor, and ripped her face off. (That sounds gross. Actually, when the gorilla swiped Blod’s face, the giantess’s whole head simply dissolved into salt water, soaking the kelp carpet.)

The gorilla turned toward me, his eyes mismatched brown and gold. He grunted at me impatiently, like Get up, you idiot. Fight!

The gorilla turned to face Kolga.

I staggered backward. Magic explosions, beams of light, axes, swords, and bad-fashion insults flew everywhere, answered by blasts of salt water, shards of ice, and globs of blood-tinted gelatin.

My gut told me that the giantesses would be much more powerful if they combined forces, like they had when they sank our ship. We were only alive so far because each of the sisters was intent on killing her own target. We had succeeded at being just that individually annoying. If the nine giantesses started singing their weird music again, working together as a team, we would be done for.

Even fighting them separately, we were in trouble. Every time a giantess got vaporized or reduced to a puddle, she quickly re-formed. We were outnumbered nine to eight. No matter how well my friends fought, the giantesses had the home-court advantage—and also immortality, which was a pretty big fruity edge.

We had to find a way to get on our boat and get out of here, back to the surface and far away. For that, we would need a distraction, so I called on the most distracting being I knew.

I pulled the runestone from my neck chain.

Jack sprang into sword form. “Hey, señor! You know, I was thinking about that Riptide girl. Who needs her, right? There are plenty of other swords in the armory and—WHOA! Aegir’s palace? Awesome! What mead is he serving today?”

“Help!” I yelled as Blod rose in front of me, her face reattached, her talons dripping blood.

“Sure!” Jack said amiably. “But, man, Aegir’s Oktoberfest Pumpkin Spice Mead is to die for!”

He zipped over to Blood-Red Hair, placing himself between my assailant and me.

“Hey, lady!” Jack said. “Wanna dance?”

“No!” Blod snarled.

She tried to get around him, but Jack was nimble. (Yes, and quick, though I’d never seen him jump over candlesticks.) He swerved from side to side, presenting his edge to the giantess and singing “Funkytown.”

Blod seemed unwilling or unable to get past Jack’s magical blade, which bought me a few seconds of safety as Jack disco-danced.

“Magnus!” Samirah zoomed by, ten feet above me. “Prepare the ship!”

My heart sank. I realized my friends were playing interference for me, hoping that I could somehow make our ship ready to sail again. Sad, deluded friends.

I ran back to the Big Banana.

The ship lay on its side, its mast piercing the wall of water. The current outside must have been strong, because it pushed the ship along the carpet ever so slightly, the keel leaving gouge marks in the kelp.

I touched the hull. Thankfully, the boat responded, collapsing into a handkerchief, which I clutched in my hand. If I could get all my friends together, maybe we could jump through the wall of water simultaneously and summon the ship as the current carried us away from here. Maybe the ship, being magic, would bring us back to the surface. Maybe we wouldn’t drown or get crushed by the water pressure.

That was a lot of maybes. Even if we managed it, the nine daughters of Aegir had sucked us under the ocean once before. I didn’t see why they couldn’t do it again. Somehow, I needed to stop them from following us.

I scanned the battle. Hearthstone raced past me, throwing runes at the giantesses trying to chase him. The rune seemed to do the best job. Every time it blasted a giantess, she turned into a puddle for several seconds. Not much, but it was something.

I glanced at the walls of the feast hall, and had an idea.

“Hearth!” I yelled.

I cursed my own stupidity. One of these days, I would get over my habit of yelling for my deaf friend’s attention. I ran after him, ducking past Grasping Wave, who Mallory Keen was driving around the room with her dagger handles like a combat robot.

I grabbed Hearth’s sleeve for his attention. That rune, I signed. What?

L-A-G-A-Z, he finger-spelled. Water. Or…He made a gesture I’d never seen: one hand horizontal, the fingers of the other hand trickling from it. I got the idea: drip, leak. Or maybe liquefy.

Can you do that to the wall? I asked. Or the ceiling?

Hearth’s mouth quirked, which for him was a diabolical grin. He nodded.

Wait for my signal, I signed.

Pitching Wave surged between us, yelling, “RAAARR!” and Hearthstone plunged back into the melee.

I had to figure out how to separate my friends from the giantesses. Then we might be able to collapse part of the feast hall on top of the nine sisters while we made our getaway. I doubted that would hurt our enemies, but it might at least surprise them and slow them down. The problem was, I didn’t know how to break up the fight. I doubted I could blow a whistle and call for a jump ball.

Jack flew back and forth, harassing giantesses with his deadly blade and his even deadlier rendition of a 70s disco classic. Kolga blasted sheets of ice across the carpet, causing Halfborn Gunderson to wipe out. Bylgya fought with T.J., red coral sword against bayonet. Grasping Wave finally managed to pull Mallory off her back. The giantess would have ripped her apart, but Blitzen tossed a dinner plate that smashed the giantess in the face.

(One of Blitz’s unsung skills: he was killer at dwarven Ultimate Frisbee.)

Himminglaeva lunged for Samirah. She caught Sam’s legs, but Alex lashed out with his garrote. The giantess suddenly lost several inches around her waistline—actually her entire waistline. She crumpled to the floor, neatly bisected, and dissolved into sea foam.

Hearthstone caught my eye. When the rune?

I wished I had an answer. My friends couldn’t keep up the fight forever. I considered summoning the Peace of Frey—my super time out power that blasts everybody’s weapons out of their hands—but the giantesses weren’t really using weapons, and I didn’t think my friends would appreciate being disarmed.

I needed help. Desperately. So, I did something that didn’t come easy for me. I looked toward the watery ceiling and prayed earnestly, not snarkily: “Okay, Frey, Dad, please. I know I sounded ungrateful earlier about the bright yellow ship. But we’re about to die down here, so if you’ve got any help you could send me, I’d really appreciate it. Amen. Love, Magnus. Magnus Chase, in case you were wondering.”

I winced. I really sucked at praying. I also wasn’t sure what help a god of summer could send me at the bottom of Massachusetts Bay.

“Hello,” said a voice right next to me.

I leaped about a foot into the air, which I thought was pretty restrained under the circumstances.

Standing at my side was a man in his late fifties, stout, and sun-weathered as if he’d spent decades as a lifeguard. He wore a pale blue polo shirt and cargo shorts, and his feet were bare. His feathery hair and close-cropped beard were the color of honey, flecked with gray. He smiled like we were old friends, though I was sure I’d never seen him before.

“Uh, hi?” I said.

Living in Valhalla, you get used to strange entities popping up out of nowhere. Still, this seemed like an odd time for a casual encounter.

“I’m your grandfather,” he offered.

“Right,” I said. Because what was I supposed to say? The guy looked nothing like Grandpa (or Grandma) Chase, but I figured he was talking about the other side of my family tree. The Vanir side. Now if I could just remember the name

of Frey’s dad, I would’ve been all set. “Hi…Grandpa.”

“Your father can’t do much in the ocean,” said Grandpa Frey-Dad. “But I can. Want some help?”

“Yes,” I said, which perhaps was foolish. I couldn’t be sure this guy was who he said he was, and accepting help from a powerful being always puts you in their debt.

“Great!” He patted me on the arm. “I’ll meet you on the surface when this is all done, okay?”

I nodded. “Mm-hmm.”

My newfound grandfather strode into the midst of the battle. “Hello, girls! How’s it going?”

The fighting fizzled to a stop. The giantesses retreated warily toward the dinner table. My friends staggered and stumbled in my direction.

Blod bared her red-stained teeth. “Njord, you are not welcome here!”

Njord! That’s his name! I made a mental note to send him a card on Grandparents’ Day. Was Grandparents’ Day a thing with Vikings?

“Oh, come now, Blodughadda,” the god said cheerfully. “Can’t an old friend get a cup of mead? Let’s talk like civilized sea deities.”

“These mortals are ours!” growled Grasping Wave. “You have no right!”

“Ah, but you see, they are under my protection now. Which means we’re back to our old conflict of interests, eh?”

The giantesses hissed and snarled. Clearly, they wanted to tear Njord to pieces but were afraid to try.

“Besides,” Njord said, “one of my friends here has a trick to show you. Don’t you, Hearthstone?”

Hearthstone locked eyes with me. I nodded.

Hearth tossed the lagaz rune straight up, past the lost-soul chandelier. I didn’t see how it could reach the ceiling a hundred feet above, but the stone seemed to get lighter and faster as it ascended. It hit the peak of the rafters, exploding into a blazing golden , and the watery roof crashed inward, burying the giantesses and Njord in a million-gallon shower.

“Now!” I yelled to my friends.

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