As they wait, the Danes have given up all hope for Beowulf because he has been underwater for such a long time. They are shocked when Beowulf returns with Grendel's head and the hilt of the sword (which melted with the heat of Grendel's blood). They bear the hero and his booty back to Heorot, where another celebration takes place. Beowulf recounts his battle; Hrothgar praises him and gives him advice on being a king. A grand feast follows, and Beowulf is given more priceless treasures. The next morning, the Geats look forward to leaving Denmark. Before they leave, Beowulf promises aid for Hrothgar from the Danes. Hrothgar praises Beowulf and promises that their lands will have an alliance forever. As the Geats leave, Hrothgar finds himself wishing Beowulf would never leave.
In the fiftieth year of Beowulf's reign, a monster arises to terrorize the Geats. A treasure trove was left by an ancient civilization, which guarded it jealously until only one member of the race was left. After the last person's death, a fire-breathing dragon found the treasure and guarded it for three hundred years. One day, a slave stumbled upon the treasure and stole a cup as an offering to his lord. The dragon awakened to find something missing from his treasure, and began his rampage upon the Geats.
One day, Beowulf learns that this dragon has destroyed his own great hall. This attack sends him into deep thought. Soon he orders a shield to use for battle, but not without a heavy heart at what may happen to him. He recalls Hygelac's death in battle and his own narrow escape from this battle. He recalls a number of battles he has seen as he travels to the dragon's lair with eleven of his thanes. The servant who stole the cup leads them to the lair.
Just then the dragon rushes up to them. Beowulf and the dragon swing at each other three times, finally landing mortal...