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Sep 6, 2014

A Star King

Heorot (original photo by Malene Thyssen)
Editor's note. The following story was translated from the original Old English text by Ivory Fersoni
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It fell to Hrothgar, a victim of his excessive pride, to confront the problem of fenland. That troubled island was avoided by all sea voyagers and wise warriors of every tribe. When Hrothgar finally ascended to his command, fenland was ruled by Grendel. Hrothgar foolishly believed that he could vanquish Grendel and populate the fenland with the children of Hrothgar's sons and their wives. This is the story of how Grendel defeated Hrothgar and the miracle of how Hrothgar was saved from his own vainglory.

Hrothgar commanded his men to build an outpost on the east shore of fenland. That new Dane fortification was called Heorot. The men stationed at Heorot were fearful because of the reputation of fenland as a place where death came in strange and unavoidable ways. I was one of the miserable souls who first lived at Heorot and I confess that we never ventured far from our boats. We were ready to flee at the first danger sign, but death came among us without warning and without a chance of understanding.

At first the trouble at Heorot was assumed to be due to cowardice and desertion. When several men of the Heorot camp disappeared, Hrothgar assumed that they were cowards who had run away. Later, one of the missing men was found, dead and half sunk in a dark fenland bogs. These difficulties continued for years and scores of men were lost from Heorot, either to desertion or by meeting a mysterious death on that cursed island. Hrothgar had to keep sending reinforcements and issuing orders to the men of Heorot camp, commanding us to explore fenland and make it safe for settlers.

After too many long years of death and defeat at Heorot, a ship arrived at the shore of fenland carrying a crew of Geats who were led by Beowulf. At first, we prepared to defend Heorot from the Geats, but Beowulf came forward alone and told us that the Geats had come to help us explore fenland.

Fearful that Geats would claim and settle fenland, Hrothgar himself finally came to Heorot after he heard of Beowulf's intentions. Hrothgar spoke to Beowulf of friendship and cooperation, all the while hopeful that the Geats would die fighting for fenland rather than more Danes.

I, Unferth, alone suspected that these self named Geats were false. They spoke not like Geats and their descriptions of their homeland and their account of how they came to visit fenland rang false to my ears. I challenged Beowulf and called him an imposter and a pretend warrior. I insulted his refined way of speaking since it reminded me of a weak and dainty woman.

Beowulf laughed at my angry words and challenged me in return, saying that he would, as I desired, either weakly reach into my chest and pull out my heart or daintily cut out my lying tongue with his dinner knife. Beowulf and I fought hand-to-hand in front of Heorot and he quickly trounced me like a child. During the fight, I suffered his quick and vicious blows and feared that Beowulf could have reached into my chest had he truly tried. I soon found myself on the ground, dazed from a punch to my head. Rather than kill me, Beowulf reached down and took my hand, pulled me to my feet, wiped the blood from my face and called me friend. Holding my newly broken ribs, I praised Beowulf's fighting skill and declared myself his humble servant, no matter what land was really his home.

That night, Heorot was crowded with sleeping men. With my pains and broken bones and still lingering distrust of Beowulf, I did not sleep. Late in the night, Beowulf took off his fine chainmail and I thought that he would finally sleep. But no! He held up the chainmail against the light of the hearth. During our fight, I had scarcely landed a blow, but Beowulf's body had felt hard as rock. Strangely, when he grasped my hand it had felt soft like a woman's touch. Now, as I watched, Beowulf looked like a witch gazing into the sparkling chainmail.

Beowulf noticed my attention and he spoke to me, saying calmly that the enemy was within Heorot. Fearing invisible spirits, I looked all around, but all I saw was sleeping men and the guards who were stationed at the doors. Beowulf stood up, grabbed a burning branch out of the fire and went to stand near one of the sleeping warriors. I followed, but already I could not tell which of my fellow Dane warriors it was that had attracted Beowulf's attention. While we watched, the sleeping man crumbled to dust and then even the dust began to disappear.

I was paralyzed but what I saw, but Beowulf was not idle. He dragged his glittering chainmail through the dusty remnants of that warrior and, like a fisherman, Beowulf caught hold of something. I called out in fear and awakened all. Beowulf stood there, struggling to keep a hold of something, a squirming object that he had trapped in his magic net of light. Hrothgar came to stand beside me and he looked in horror at what Beowulf held. Hrothgar asked me what had happened, but I could not describe what I had seen.

Beowulf's warriors rallied around their prince and all pointed their swords and spears at the thing that struggled inside the flashing glow of the chainmail. Then I could see that what Beowulf held was connected to a stream of dust that snaked out the door of Heorot into the dark night. The dust snake shown by its own light and we Danes ran outside, following the glittering trail of dust that led to the cove where our boats were moored. The water was lit with red light and it moved with a force that was not tide or wind-driven. Then, suddenly, the dust trail was gone and darkness returned to the water.

We all went back inside Heorot and confronted Beowulf who had dressed again in his chainmail. He held what looked like a bloody and rotten seal corpse. He said the putrid mass was a Grendel, now dead, and that fenland would henceforth be safe for Dane settlement. All of we Dane warriors wanted Beowulf to explain the magic that we had just witnessed, but he said little more. What little he said made little sense.

Beowulf said that the Grendel was a creature from the stars, crafted by its Creator to hide among men undetected. The Grendel had gone insane, but now the danger was past.

Hrothgar took the dead thing from Beowulf and we examined it with our knives under the light of burning branches. We learned little from our examination of that horrible dead thing. Hrothgar commanded that the foul smelling remnant be put outside and then we had a celebration, with all Danes praising Beowulf for the miraculous events of that dark night. Already, in their ignorance, my fellow warriors began craft lies and false tales about what had happened.

When the sun returned to the sky, we knew not if Beowulf had spoken the truth. The Geats returned to their boat and pushed off from the beach. Beowulf called to us from across the water, saying that he would return if we were ever again bothered by one of the Grendel's kin. The dead thing that Beowulf had trapped in the night was by then only a crumbling pile of bone shards to the side of Heorot. By nightfall only a glowing pool of slime remained on the ground at that spot.

Now, what sense are we to make of this story? I proclaim that Beowulf was, like Grendel, a creature from the stars, able to pass before our eyes and be seen as a man. Beowulf is a great king of those mysterious star creatures, able to subdue evil-doers like Grendel. When will we again have a Star King here among men? By the Star King's words, such things as Grendel are still here among us, unknown and unknowable to us, mere men.
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Ivory told me that the story A Star King exists as an Old English manuscript in the Vatican Library. Originally, vatican was a swamp on west bank of the Tiber, a place that like fenland, was inhabited by Grendels.

Unferth was the son of a monk and he learned how to write at a young age. The original story was probably written in the ancient runic vernacular of Scandinavia and later translated into Old English. The manuscript was apparently found near Canterbury soon after the arrival of the first Christians in England.

Ivory suggested that Beowulf was an Overseer who came to Earth in order to capture the alien creature known in English literature as "Grendel the Monster". This creature, in the language of the pek, would be described as a member of the Grendel species*. Unferth mistakenly took Beowulf and "Grendel" to be the same type of "star creature", naming Beowulf as a "Star King".

Ivory speculated that "the Grendel" of Fenland in the Beowulf story was an artificial life form from a community of aliens that had long ago been sent to Earth by Interventionists. Able to disguise themselves as humans, the Grendels had for thousands of years carried out their mission on Earth. Occasionally, a Grendel living on Earth would develop defective programming and then the Overseers could detect and capture the creature. The Grendel of Fenland might have been a danger to humans for several centuries before coming to the attention of the Overseers.

The Grendels were apparently made from zeptite components. Those zeptites could invade human bodies and possibly make artificial copies of them. Apparently Beowulf detected a Grendel-produced zeptite copy of a Dane warrior inside Heorot. Using the advanced technology hidden in "his" chainmail, Beowulf was able to capture the Grendel and "kill" it. The original programming of Earth's Grendels may have included a routine for a default pattern that would resemble a dead sea creature.

Ivory told me that Beowulf was probably a female disguised as a man. Apparently all Overseers are females. The other "Geats" were probably robotic assistants of the Overseer.

We are left to wonder if more Grendels still exist on Earth and what role they have played in human history.
Original artwork by Lee Moyer

*Update. I've gone back into the memories of Izhiun that I have access to and more carefully investigated the meaning of "Grendel". I now believe that "the Grendels" do not represent a biological species. They seem to be an artificial life form that was developed by the Nereids in much the same way that the Kac'hin created "selfies". Thus, my use (above) of the phrase "Grendel species" was incorrect. Izhiun's experiences all seem to confirm the idea that the Grendels were composed of zeptite components that could assemble into any required form.

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Their "default program" was apparently intended to make a "dead Grendel" take on the appearance of a dead dolphin. The aquatic preferences of the Grendels can be traced to their origin as the tools of the Nereids. We still do not have any real information about the form of the Nereid species as it evolved in the Andromeda galaxy, so I continue to rely on artists' conceptions of mythological Earth creatures to depict the alien Nereids who are the prime Interventionists in the Exode Trilogy. Parthney named them "Nereids" because of their long biological existence as sea creatures prior to moving back onto land and developing a technological civilization.
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