Once Merlin deems Artr ready, he gives the boy the golden spear again. “This is the Spear of Justice. With it you can smite your enemies. Nothing from this world can stand in its way.”
“Including the Demon?”
“Especially the Demon.” Then Merlin brings out the rest of the outfit: a tunic, loincloth, and leather helmet all dyed the color of dried blood. “This is your armor. I’m afraid not even my power can make it invulnerable to the Demon’s claws. It will protect you from any mortal weapons.”
“That’s something, I suppose,” Artr mumbles.
“The helmet will also allow you to see the darkness as clear as day.”
Merlin takes out a pair of golden boots, something unheard-of in that day and age. The boots had belonged to Heph, who wore them while he worked at the forge to avoid burning his feet. He had an extra pair that along with the tunic and loincloth he could donate to Merlin, who did the enchantments on them.
“These will protect your feet and allow you to walk great distances without discomfort or fatigue. They will help you move faster and jump farther than any mortal man.”
We take the whole outfit into the forest so Artr can practice with it. He has trouble with the boots; he keeps tripping over them, unused to such footwear. We stay out one night so he can use the helmet. “This is amazing! It really is clear as day. You have to try this—”
“No!” Merlin says. “No one else may wear the armor of the Scarlet Warrior.”
“That is what you will be called,” Merlin says.
“It was the only color available,” Merlin says and for once he sounds testy. “Anyone unworthy who tries to wear the armor will forfeit his life.”
“That includes me?” I ask.
“I’m afraid so. Only Artr may use any part of the armor.”
Artr is practicing with his spear when Merlin closes his eyes. “Is something wrong, my master?” I ask.
“I fear the Demon has arrived.”
Merlin vanishes us to the village, where we find his fears realized. Except it’s not just the Black Demon; he’s got a whole army of ruffians with him. They run about, screaming and butchering the men of the village, who were caught unawares.
I barely duck in time to avoid an axe taking off my head. Artr brings the Spear of Justice around to run it through the man’s midsection. He collapses to the ground; he won’t be getting up again.
I don’t have a weapon or magic powers, so I crawl into the nearest hut to hide. I watch as Artr and Merlin dispatch the invaders. With the Spear of Justice and the augmented strength and quickness from the armor, Artr is more than a match for the ruffians. Merlin focuses on getting the villagers to safety.
Nowhere do I see the Black Demon. What is he up to? Why have his minions attack the village if he’s not here to kill Merlin? Unless they aren’t his minions.
I hear a scream and then see the chief’s wife fly out of his hut. A moment later, Elgar stomps out of the hut, dragging his father behind him. The chief has already been beaten senseless, his face and chest stained with blood.
Artr kicks aside another of the ruffians and then turns to his brother. “What are you doing, Brother?” he shouts.
“I have come for my revenge. You will not stop me.”
“I must. It is my duty to protect these people. I am the Scarlet Warrior.”
“You are a fool. The conjurer saved you the first time, but this time I will destroy you. Though I will make sure you live long enough to watch me cut out our father’s heart.”
Artr lunges forward. Elgar manages to bat aside the Spear of Justice and then hit Artr with a haymaker. It hurts Elgar more than Artr. The Scarlet Warrior brings the spear back around to whack Elgar in the side. He tumbles to the ground. As in the tournament, he levels the spear at his brother’s neck. The point of it begins to glow.
“The glow means his heart is evil,” Merlin explains.
“Is there no hope for my brother?”
“That is for you to decide, Artr. The responsibility is yours.”
Artr looks down at his brother and then over at his parents. His mother has crawled over to his father to cradle his broken body. “I’m sorry, Mother. I must deprive you of a son.”
He jams the spear through Elgar’s neck.
From the top of a hill, we hear the sound of laughter. Even without a magic helmet, I can see the glow of the Demon’s eyes. “This is only the beginning, Merlin. If you want the rest of the villagers alive, you will have to return to your master.”
We do an inventory of the villagers and find seventeen missing—all women and children. Merlin pats my arm and then adds, “I’m afraid Beaux is among them."
TO BE CONTINUED...
For Thanksgiving (and my birthday) be thankful the countdown to the epic clash between the Scarlet Warrior & Black Demon begins!