The Misty Mount
A/N: This fanfic is modeled after the original poem's style.
Long have we heard the tale of the Geat Beowulf,
that dauntless hero who slew the demon Grendel
and the demon's mother in the realm of Hrothgar,
rewarded richly in gold and armor.
But unknown to many, on his victorious
return trip to his native Geatland,
Beowulf and his thanes sailed
into a storm like the raging maw of Hell,
rain and wind thundering upon the adventurers
without mercy for one entire moonless night.
When dawn awoke and the warm sun returned,
all of Beowulf's thanes, although drenched by the night's cold rain,
remained alive and well in the boat, shivering in the morn.
However, much to their woe, the storm had claimed their provisions
and washed them away to the ocean's monster-ridden depths.
Knowing the great distance yet to sail to Geatland, Beowulf and his thanes
set their course along the coast of the Danes' land,
stopping only when the roofs of a coast town presented themselves.
Upon bringing his boat upon the sandy wave-lapped beach
Beowulf and his thanes marched onward, heads held high.
From the town rode four horsemen, their helmets gleaming in the sun
and their spears held at the ready against the unknown visitors.
When the spear-cavalry drew near, Beowulf was addressed
by the town guard's captain, demanding his name and purpose.
Beowulf spoke, son of Edgetheow:
"It seems that word of my deeds at Heorot have yet to reach these shores,
the heroic deeds I accomplished in your king Hrothgar's realm.
Therefore, I tell you now that I am Beowulf of the Geats, son of Edgetheow,
and although my thanes and I intended to return to our home,
a terrible storm nearly claimed our vessel, the merciless sea demons
robbing us of all of our provisions. We cannot sail back to Geatland lest we starve."
Hearing this, the guard captain spoke:
"Forgive me, noble hero, for aiming my men's spear points at you and your men.
If you truly intend no harm here, will for three nights accommodate you
and your thanes, and provide unto you provisions for your return sail to Geatland."
Thus, Beowulf nodded his head in thanks and led his thanes forth
at the lead of the town guard, reaching the huts and taverns in swift time.
The people of the town, garbed in rough cloth and with gaunt cheeks and dirty faces
watched the Geats with wonder, their weary eyes vigilant.
Beowulf could see that may of the men had a haunted look in their eyes,
and many of the wives clung to their children tightly, as though
fearing losing them at any moment. To this, Beowulf said nothing.
When the sun sank low on the Danish shore,
and the mead hall rang with the laughter and conversation
of the Danes and Geats, Beowulf and Wiglaf found company with
Vilmar, the ring-giver chief of the town, a man of deep voice and hard eyes.
Vilmar spoke, son of Lennart:
"Geats, I find little doubt that you have by now gathered
that a great evil haunts our town and the outlying fields and hills.
Although Heorot is purged of the demon Grendel, as you tell it,
other horrors plague humanity and run amok.
Our town is besieged by an evil with no name,
a monster that stalks in the misty night and claims our people.
It then drags them back to its den, a foul nest
found somewhere within the misty mount, the highest and most treacherous
landmark within reach of our town. I cannot ask you to confront this evil,
not when I have so little gold let to give, and when
you are intending to return home
as any loyal man would. I ask that you understand when
I offer merely modest hospitality and grace."
Hearing this, Beowulf gave Vilmar his sincerest pledge
to honor and humbly accept all hospitality offered, to which Vilmar
gave in return his expressed relief.
After the mead-dinner, when Beowulf walked alone to retire to his chambers,
he encountered in the moonlit street a lad of no more than
twenty or so years, a youth with short brown hair and a strong glint in his eyes.
The youth approached Beowulf, his eyes darting with uncertainty.
Beowulf spoke, son of Edgetheow:
"For what reason do you approach me, boy? Are you a beggar
who intends to plead for his daily coin or bread?"
The lad spoke thus:
"Fear not, for I am above such misery. I am Ansgar, son of Vilmar.
Indeed, my father leads this town, but as our local custom demands,
my father's reign will soon end and I will assume his throne.
But I have not yet been deemed worthy, for although I am adept
I am unproven in politics of the throne, I am untested on the battlefield.
My father told you of the horror of the misty mount, as overheard him say,
but I come to tell you that there is more to that tale, a legend
that many have dismissed as a false hope.
It is said that embedded in the primordial soil of the misty mount
exists a sword with a blade of unbreakable gold and a hilt with
an amethyst as large as a man's eye.
This arcane blade was forged in the days long forgotten,
but the sword's power is said to grant its holder
the strength of a thousand men.
For this reason, I intend tomorrow evening
to journey to the misty mount at last and obtain this legendary blade,
and with its golden edge, free my town forever of it curse.
I tell this to you now because I confess my truest and deepest fear
of my failure or demise at the hands of the horror,
and upon hearing of your endless exploits, I have come to you this night
to humbly beseech you for your guidance and expertise."
Upon hearing Ansgar's pleading words, Beowulf made his reply:
"Ansgar, too often have I seen men slumped in dismay against impossible odds
and leave great deeds undone. You present yourself as a defender of your folk
and understand the value of such a trait for a future ruler.
Thus I will extend these terms to you: I will not once draw my sword
or make a move to slay the horror of the misty mount,
but along with you I will come, and behold for myself
the bold young spirit that will one day defend your fellow Danes."
To this Ansgar professed his gratitude and departed at once,
returning to Vilmar's mead-hall with a certain strength in his stride.
Beowulf returned to his chambers, his body weary.
The following day passed without event,
with the exception that both Ansgar and Beowulf made their battle-preparations.
While the late afternoon sun shone though the windows,
Beowulf fitted himself with his ring-mail, the very same coat
that had shielded his life from the terrible blows of Grendel's mother.
Upon Beowulf's head he placed a steel helm that covered the nose
and left the lower face open to ease of speech and breathing.
On Beowulf's belt was secured his sword,
stolen from the armory of Grendel's mother in that faraway underwater den.
When Beowulf reached the edge of town, there he met Ansgar,
and the boy wore armor of hard but malleable leather for ease of movement,
and upon the boy's head rested an iron helm that left the face open.
On Ansgar's belt was sheathed a short sword with a wired hilt,
and a hunting-knife was stuck in the boy's right boot.
Ansgar spoke, son of Vilmar:
"Beowulf, I stand before you prepared for the quest I have described,
and not even the meanest demons from the deepest hells may divert me
from my determined course. This evening, we scale the misty mount
and I will confront the horror of that defiled summit with you as witness."
Satisfied with the lad's resolve, Beowulf followed quietly
as Ansgar trekked onwards to the mount's base, a place of rocks and long grass,
a place forgotten by the caring hand of God. Around the base of the mount
and further up the slopes clung a thick obscuring mist,
the very breath of the Devil. From here Ansgar hiked without fear,
scaling the steep rough slopes where the horror awaited.
The very sun grew dim and hazy as the men hiked, removing them
from the rest of the world and all its cares.
At last Beowulf and the lad reached a jagged cave entrance
from which only darkness emerged, and a chill wind that could
rob a man of all warmth. Vilmar spoke:
"Here we have arrived, at the very mouth of the monster's den.
I doubt the merits of confronting it within its own den,
and for that purpose fighting it in open air should be the best course.
Before the demon approaches, I must retrieve the promised blade of gold,
and with its might, slay the evil I swore to destroy."
To this Beowulf agreed, and at once Ansgar's curious hands
ransacked the grass and the rocks, hunting for the glint of gold
that would prove to be his salvation. As he searched,
Vilmar could hear the dreaded sound, scrapes of claws and
a growl of hunger that ensued from the dark.
Out of the cave's depths emerged the horror of the mount.
Beowulf and Ansgar backed quickly from cave's mouth,
and Ansgar drew his sword, holding the blade at the ready
against the emerging monster.
The horror reared its head in the air in a cry of hunger,
its black-scaled lizard head without eyes or hair.
Its body bore crab-pincers on its arms, of size great enough
to cleave a cow in half in one bite.
Eight crab legs, each as long and thick as a man's body, carried
this monster out to the open, talons scratching against the rocks.
With a cry on his lips Ansgar leaped at his foe,
sword slashing through the air with the intent to kill.
The great horror swung its chitin claw, swatting aside
the lad with one blow and sending him to the ground.
With its hunger un-sated, the beast approached Beowulf,
its pincers snapping and its jaws baring many sharp teeth.
The horror lunged, its claw intending to take the Geat's head.
Beowulf seized the monster's arm and clung tightly,
and in its anger, the monster raised its claw again,
its jaws never finding Beowulf's flesh.
From the ground arose Ansgar, his body bruised
but his spirit kindled like a flame. His sword struck a blow
upon the horror's armored legs, and he drew not blood,
but rather the monster's wrath. The monster heaved its bulk,
intending to smash Beowulf upon the rocks. The Geat warrior
wrapped his arm around the horror's other arm, wrenching it
aside with one mighty pull. With a cry the horror fell upon its side,
squirming as a turtle would on its back.
Moving himself far from the horror's writhing form,
Beowulf shouted to Ansgar, warning the lad to retrieve the sword of gold
before the lad met his doom. Before the horror could return to its feet,
Ansgar ran about the battlefield, his hands and eyes
once again searching for the blade that would be his salvation.
The horror now stood upright and ran after the searching lad,
Beowulf lunging after the horror to slow its hunt.
The Geat seized the horror's leg, trapping the creature in place.
Ansgar's hands threw aside a pile of stones, a glint of gold
betraying the pile's secret. At once Ansgar sheathed his blade
and took hold of the gold sword, feeling the might of a thousand men
flooding into his veins.
With a primal cry the horror kicked out its leg,
throwing Beowulf to the earth and advancing once again upon Ansgar.
The Geat warrior once again lunged after the horror, mounting its back
and forcing the great beast to the ground, where it struggled against Beowulf's might.
Beowulf took hold of the horror's carapace plates and pulled them back,
revealing the foul beast's soft inner flesh, throbbing with the beat of life.
Seeing this, Ansgar descended his blade upon the horror's exposed flesh,
intending to slay it with one mighty blow.
The horror threw back its head to rid itself of Beowulf,
but it was unable to throw aside the Geat who clung on tight.
With a great fury, the horror snapped its great pincers at the courageous Ansgar.
The lad avoided certain death as his deft movements spared him the horror's claws,
and he leaped upon the beast's back, his free hand gripping its carapace plate.
With a thrust, the son of Vilmar plunged the golden blade into the creature's flesh,
rewarded with a shower of hot blood and the beast's feral cry.
Again Ansgar struck, his blows finding vengeance for the souls of his town
lost to this horror's claws and teeth.
The beast fell dead upon the rocky earth, and at its passing,
The mists lifted and faded like morning dew in the sun,
the sun shining down from the heavens.
His breathing labored, Ansgar approached Beowulf, his gold sword stained
with the horror's blood. Ansgar spoke:
"Beowulf, the legends ring true, for I feel the promised power within me,
and it allowed me to prove my worth by slaying the horror of the mount.
I have you to thank for this great deed, for it was with your support and care
that I found my victory."
To this Beowulf spoke:
"A man may be judged not only by what he does for himself,
but what he may do for others as well. Ansgar, lend me that blade,
so that I may feel the power you speak of."
Although unsure what to expect, Ansgar lent Beowulf his
newly-gained sword, watching as the Geat mulled over the glittering weapon.
Then Beowulf threw back his head and laughed, and to the startled Ansgar,
he told the lad of the power of belief, that although the blade carried no power,
Ansgar's conviction lent him the might he needed to carry out his noble deed.
With those words spoken Beowulf returned the sword to its owner,
knowing that the lad had learned his crucial lesson.
To the beach town the two men returned,
and in his father's head-hall, Ansgar proudly presented both his golden blade
and a tooth of the dark horror from the misty mount.
A great cheer of elation swept the mead-hall, and the festivities went on
well into the moon-lit night as the waves lapped the shore.
To Beowulf Vilmar spoke:
"Geat hero, I extend to you my deepest thanks
for showing my son his chance to become a worthy successor
to my mead-hall. It seems that the benevolence of the Geats
spreads far and wide."
Raising his mead cup, Beowulf spoke:
"As I taught your son, ring-giver, I know that a man's worth
is oft determined by the strength he gives to others,
as a great commander gives to his men, as a king gives
to his countrymen. This is my gift to your mead-hall."
In the morn the Geats loaded their waiting ship
with provisions eagerly handed out by the grateful townsfolk,
knowing well that Beowulf, son of Edgetheow, lent their future chief
the strength needed to be a hero of his people. Unto the waiting seas
the Geat ship sailed, with only thoughts of home within the men's souls.