Our village didn’t have many outsiders visit. Those outsiders who did show up did not receive a warm welcome. That’s why when we arrive, the chief’s sons have their spears leveled at Merlin’s throat. “Now see here,” I say. “He’s not dangerous. He’s my friend.”
“Your friend? Then we should kill him now,” says Elgar, the uglier of the two.
“You kill him and you’ll be making a big mistake.”
Elgar turns away from Merlin to glare at me. “Why would that be?” He taps me on the chest with a finger the size of a kipper.
“Because he could turn you into something uglier than you already are,” I say. “He’s a conjurer, even better than Greetha.”
“Is that a fact, old man?” Elgar says to Merlin. “You can summon the dark powers?”
“Not dark powers,” Merlin says. “I summon the light.”
“Light, dark, it won’t save you from my spear.”
Merlin flicks one wrist and Elgar’s spear turns into a fish that wriggles out of his hand to plop onto the ground. Elgar cocks his fist back to pulverize Merlin’s face. His fist stops about two inches from Merlin’s nose. I stare at him for a moment, as does his brother, but Elgar doesn’t move. He doesn’t even breathe.
The chief’s other son, the gangly, pimple-faced Artr, lowers his spear. “You are a conjurer,” he says.
“I have come to see your father.”
“That is for us to discuss. Take us to him.”
Artr thinks about it for a moment, but then decides discretion is the better part of valor. He leads us to the chief’s hut. It’s not much better than the other huts, just a bit bigger than the rest. It contains all the treasures of the village, which at that time are mostly jars of food. The chief dips into those jars quite often, which is obvious from the gut hanging over his waist.
“Father, there is someone to see you.”
The chief pushes away his wife to glare up at us. “I thought I banished you.”
“You did, but I’ve come back. I’ve brought someone to meet you.”
“Get out of here. Both of you! Where is Elgar?”
“He’s taking a rest,” I say.
“Go and fetch him,” the chief tells Artr. “Then dispose of these two.”
We’re left alone with the chief and his unconscious wife. “I should have you know, Merlin here is a mighty conjurer. And he’s passed his skills on to me.” Just like that, my right arm begins to burn, but I don’t feel warm at all. I wish I could say I had conjured the flame, but it was all Merlin.
The chief is not impressed. “Before you two die, tell me why you’ve come.”
“A darkness will soon wreak havoc on this land,” Merlin says. “To combat this evil, I will need help.”
“You want my warriors to fight for you?”
“Not all of them. Only one.”
“And what do I receive for this?”
“Only my favor.”
“What good is that to me?”
“You’ve seen the power Marlin and I wield. Imagine what good that can mean to your people.”
The chief smiles. “Yes, I imagine there is much good you could do.” The chief’s eyes gleam. I’m sure he’s thinking about how much food Merlin could conjure up for him. Maybe even another wife or two, wives who are younger and more attractive.
Merlin puts a hand on my shoulder. “We should go.”
“What? But he was going to agree—”
“The chief’s heart is seized by darkness. He would use my power to satisfy his greed.”
We start to back away. The chief gets to his feet, a knife in his hand. “Wait! You two shall not leave here!”
“We will return, when your heart is clearer.”
The chief tries to stop Merlin, but with a wave of Merlin’s hand the dagger turns into a lizard. While the chief swats at the lizard, Merlin and I show ourselves out.
Then it’s back to our little cave in the forest to wait.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Tomorrow the village is stricken with plague and only Merlin can save them. But will he?