art by Junior McLean
Q is for Quit
by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
When I arrive at Heorot, it's worse than I'd imagined. I knew they'd been beset by a monster named Grendel, but I'd underestimated the amount of damage the creature had done--not just to the hall, but to once-proud warriors within. King Hrothgar sits meekly on his wooden throne, his battle-weary men arrayed behind him, his harried women tending the wounded in the long, high-roofed hall.
Even in its saddened state, I can see the glory that once lived in Heorot. The smooth, carved wood, the sturdy tables, the hammered metal decorated in bright enamel. What feasts this mighty hall must have seen! What honors its king must have bestowed on those courageous enough to earn his favor.
The creature that could wound Heorot so, despite the power of its king and his red-stained warriors, must be mighty. Perhaps here, after so much searching, I will finally find my equal, my better.
I meet Hrothgar and his thanes, and we say our pieces, trading war-songs in the dank blood-scented air. My list of past glories stretches to distant lands, and I have long since lost pleasure in its recitation. One of Hrothgar's men, clearly unhappy with my presence, refutes my victories. It is a small thing to put him in his place. I have done so much--too much--in my short life. Killing monsters is all I know, and I am the best.
Eventually, Hrothgar grants me leave to confront the beast, as I knew he would. No man, not even a king, has ever denied me. Such is the power of my growing legend.