There’s not much worse of a feeling than lying on the ground with a dagger in your midsection. The only thing worse is when the one who stabbed you stands over you, chanting a bunch of nonsense to make sure your soul goes to the darkest corner of the underworld. I’d tell her to shut up, but I’m too busy trying not to scream at the moment.
“What did you do that for?” Beaux shouts. “We came to help.”
“You came to infect them with his dark magic,” Greetha says. She points a finger, its nail half a foot long, at Merlin, who thus far has done nothing but stand there. “This I will not allow.”
“I mean no harm to the village or yourself,” Merlin says. “The shepherdess said there was a plague. I brewed a potion to cure it.”
Greetha bends down to snatch the pot away. Though half my blood is on the ground, I try to stop her. “Let her have it,” Merlin says.
Greetha opens the lid of the pot and sniffs at it. “What dark magic is this?”
“It’s the magic of the forest,” Merlin says. “Just a simple brew of herbs to treat the plague.”
“This is no ordinary brew. You’ve infected it somehow.”
“I’ve done nothing to it. Go on and try it on one of the infected. See what it does.”
“I will do no such thing. You will leave and take this wretch with you. He does not deserve to die here.”
I mutter a curse. Beaux kneels down beside me. “We can’t let him die anywhere. One of you, please, help him.”
“I will not help one in league with an outsider.”
“Marlin is not in league with me. He is my friend.” Merlin bends down. He puts his hand on my midsection. The pain disappears. I look down to see the cut has healed; even the rent in my animal skin is gone. Only the blood on the ground is a reminder that anything’s happened.
Merlin and Beaux help me to my feet. “Take him to rest. Greetha and I will settle this.”
“There’s nothing to settle. You and your minions will leave and never come back. And take your vile potion with you!”
Greetha hurls the pot at Merlin. He holds up a hand. The pot stops in midair. He pulls it out of the air to set on the ground again. Greetha lets out a cry of rage. “You dare to defy me?”
When she reaches beneath the bear pelt I brace for her to take out another dagger. Instead, she takes out some yellowed bones. From the size and thickness, they probably came from a deer. She levels the bones at Merlin and then begins to chant in her strange language.
Nothing happens. She chants louder and then begins a shuffling dance while she does it. Still Merlin stands there, impassive. She hurls the bones at his feet. From inside the pelt she takes out the heavy artillery: a wolf’s skull.
All the chanting and screaming has drawn a crowd. The red boils on some faces indicate those with the plague. They all stare wide-eyed at Greetha, waiting for her to destroy Merlin. Though I always knew Greetha’s “magic” was bollocks, I can’t help but feel a nervous flutter when she raises that wolf’s skull.
With the skull poised over her head, she shrieks some of her nonsense words. She dances within an inch of Merlin’s face. I’m sure she’s getting spit in his beard from all her screaming. He remains impassive, to the point I think he might have turned to stone.
It takes only a flick of his hand to end it. That flick sends Greetha back at least twenty feet, through the flap of the chief’s hut. Merlin says nothing to celebrate his victory. He simply picks up the pot and then carries it over to the nearest infected villager, my old friend Bleeth.
“Take some of this and apply it to your sores,” Merlin says. “In the morning, you will feel better.”
“No!” Greetha roars. “Do not trust him! He’s an outsider!”
She recovers herself, but the head of the bear’s pelt is crooked. She looks smaller to me, her power diminished. She gathers up the bones and skull to continue her chanting, but no one pays her any mind. They flock around the pot to take some of Merlin’s potion.
In the morning, the village is cured and Greetha is gone.
TO BE CONTINUED...Who is the dark threat that has Merlin so worried? Find out tomorrow!