The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2)

by Rick Riordan

Could You Please Stop Killing My Goat?

LESSON LEARNED: If you take a Valkyrie out for coffee, you’ll get stuck with the check and a dead body.

I hadn’t seen Samirah al-Abbas in almost six weeks, so when she called out of the blue and said we needed to talk about a matter of life and death, I agreed right away.

(Technically I’m already dead, which means the whole life-and-death thing didn’t apply, but still…Sam sounded anxious.)

She hadn’t yet arrived when I got to the Thinking Cup on Newbury Street. The place was packed as usual, so I queued up for coffee. A few seconds later, Sam flew in—literally—right over the heads of the café patrons.

Nobody batted an eye. Regular mortals aren’t good at processing magical stuff, which is fortunate, because otherwise Bostonians would spend most of their time running around in a panic from giants, trolls, ogres, and einherjar with battle-axes and lattes.

Sam landed next to me in her school uniform—white sneakers, khaki slacks, and a long-sleeve navy shirt with the King Academy logo. A green hijab covered her hair. An ax hung from her belt. I was pretty sure the ax wasn’t standard dress code.

As glad as I was to see her, I noted that the skin under her eyes was darker than usual. She was swaying on her feet.

“Hey,” I said. “You look terrible.”

“Nice to see you, too, Magnus.”

“No, I mean…not terrible like different than normal terrible. Just terrible like exhausted.”

“Should I get you a shovel so you can dig that hole a little deeper?”

I raised my hands in surrender. “Where have you been the last month and a half?”

Her shoulders tightened. “My workload this semester has been killing me. I’m tutoring kids after school. Then, as you might remember, there’s my part-time job reaping souls of the dead and running top secret missions for Odin.”

“You kids today and your busy schedules.”

“On top of all that…there’s flight school.”

“Flight school?” We shuffled forward with the line. “Like airplanes?”

I knew Sam’s goal was to become a professional pilot someday, but I hadn’t realized she was already taking lessons. “You can do that at sixteen?”

Her eyes sparkled with excitement. “My grandparents could never have afforded it, but the Fadlans have this friend who runs a flight school. They finally convinced Jid and Bibi—”

“Ah.” I grinned. “So the lessons were a gift from Amir.”

Sam blushed. She’s the only teenager I know who has a betrothed, and it’s cute how flustered she gets when she talks about Amir Fadlan.

“Those lessons were the most thoughtful, the most considerate…” She sighed wistfully. “But enough of that. I didn’t bring you here to talk about my schedule. We have an informant to meet.”

“An informant?”

“This could be the break I’ve been waiting for. If his information is good—”

Sam’s phone buzzed. She fished it out of her pocket, checked the screen, and cursed. “I have to go.”

“You just got here.”

“Valkyrie business. Possible code three-eight-one: heroic death in progress.”

“You’re making that up.”

“I’m not.”

“So…what, somebody thinks they’re about to die and they text you ‘Going down! Need Valkyrie ASAP!’ followed by a bunch of sad-face emojis?”

“I seem to recall taking your soul to Valhalla. You didn’t text me.”

“No, but I’m special.”

“Just get a table outside,” she said. “Meet my informant. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“I don’t even know what your informant looks like.”

“You’ll recognize him when you see him,” Sam promised. “Be brave. Also, get me a scone.”

She flew out of the shop like Super Muslima, leaving me to pay for our order.

I got two large coffees and two scones and found a table outside.

Spring had arrived early in Boston. Patches of dirty snow still clung to the curbs like dental plaque, but the cherry trees popped with white and red buds. Flowery pastel clothing displays bloomed in the windows of high-end boutiques. Tourists strolled by enjoying the sunshine.

Sitting outside, comfortable in my freshly laundered jeans, T-shirt, and denim jacket, I realized this would be the first spring in three years that I hadn’t been homeless.

Last March, I had been scrounging from Dumpsters. I’d been sleeping under a bridge in the Public Garden, hanging out with my buddies Hearth and Blitz, avoiding the cops and just trying to stay alive.

Then, two months ago, I died fighting a fire giant. I’d woken up in the Hotel Valhalla as one of Odin’s einherji warriors.

Now I had clean clothes. I took a shower every day. I slept in a comfortable bed every night. I could sit at this café table, eating food I’d actually paid for, and not worry about when the staff would force me to move along.

Since my rebirth, I’d gotten used to a lot of weird stuff. I’d traveled the Nine Worlds meeting Norse gods, elves, dwarves, and a bunch of monsters with names I couldn’t pronounce. I’d scored a magical sword that presently hung around my neck in the form of a runestone pendant. I’d even had a mind-melting conversation with my cousin Annabeth about the Greek gods who hung out in New York and made her life difficult. Apparently North America was lousy with ancient gods. We had a full-blown infestation.

All of that I’d learned to accept.

But being back in Boston on a nice spring day, hanging out like a regular mortal kid?

That felt strange.

I scanned the crowd of pedestrians, looking for Sam’s informant. You’ll recognize him when you see him, she’d promised. I wondered what kind of information this guy had, and why Sam considered it life-and-death.

My gaze fixed on a storefront at the end of the block. Over the doorway, the brass-and-silver sign still gleamed proudly: BLITZEN’S BEST, but the shop was shuttered. The front door window was papered over on the inside, with a message hastily scrawled in red marker: Closed for remodeling. Back soon!

I’d been hoping to ask Samirah about that. I had no idea why my old friend Blitz had abruptly disappeared. One day a few weeks ago, I’d just walked by the shop and found it closed. Since then, there’d been no word from Blitzen or Hearthstone, which wasn’t like them.