Years pass. Hygelac is killed in battle. His son, Heardred, inherits the throne, with Beowulf's support, but is also slain. Beowulf becomes king of the Geats and rules well for 50 years. To everyone's alarm, however, a terrifying dragon begins to stalk the countryside at night, destroying homes — including Beowulf's great hall — with his fiery breath. For 300 years, the dragon has peacefully guarded a treasure-trove, originally the riches of a now-defunct tribe but long hidden in a "high barrow-hall, / towering stone-mound" (2212–13). A lone Geat fugitive, apparently a servant or slave escaping a cruel master, has stolen a single flagon from the hoard, outraging the dragon and inciting him to vengeance.When Beowulf hears of the dragon's night raids, the king initially wonders if he could have angered God in some way, bringing this trouble to his people. Before long, however, the aging warrior focuses
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