BTW, if you want to catch up on all the episodes of this series, there's a link in the Index on the right side of the screen that says "Volume 0" and will display every episode that has posted to date. You can also find it under the "Special Features" tab below the main header graphic. So's you know.
After he saved the village from the plague, Merlin could have taken over as chief. Of course he refused that honor. He might have at least consulted me first to see if I wanted to be chief. That would surely have reconciled Beaux and I.
He refuses to even accept a hut in the village. Instead, he goes back to our makeshift hut in the forest with its floor of moss. He does allow the villagers to give us some good pelts to sleep on.
“I don’t see why you won’t live in the village. I thought that’s what you wanted,” I say.
“I only wished the villagers to accept me.” He pulls his bear pelt tighter around him. “I prefer to stay out here, close to the world.”
“That’s all well and good, but I prefer to be someplace where I don’t have to worry about being eaten by wolves.”
“No harm will come to us here.”
“I suppose.” As I curl up beneath my bear pelt, I put a hand on my midsection, where Greetha cut me. Merlin healed the wound with a wave of his hand, but I can still feel some pain every now and then. We didn’t have psychology back then to understand the concept of “phantom pain.”
“I don’t suppose with all that power of yours, you could make Beaux decide she doesn’t want to stay with those sheep anymore?”
“I could, but then she wouldn’t be the woman you love, would she?”
“Curse your damnable logic,” I grumble.
I’ve just fallen asleep when a flash of white light wakes me up. I open my eyes to see the glowing form of a young woman. “What are you?” I blurt out.
My master is far calmer. He looks up at the woman and nods. “Hello, Anybl. I expected to see you soon.”
“You knew she was coming and you didn’t tell me?”
“I saw no reason to worry you.” Merlin waves his hand to restart the fire. The girl’s unearthly glow fades. She sits down across from us by the fire. To my surprise, she starts to sob.
“What’s the matter, woman? I didn’t mean anything—”
“We’ve failed you, my lord!” Anybl wails.
Merlin goes over to the girl to wrap her in a hug. She looks so much younger now, practically a child. He strokes her brown hair and says, “It’s all right. You did what you could.”
“It wasn’t enough. I’m sorry.”
“The fault is mine. I underestimated his power.”
“What are you two talking about?”
“The Black Demon is on the march. She’s sent him to take me back.”
“That doesn’t make it any clearer.”
Merlin sighs. “My former master is a woman named Isis. She believes herself to be a goddess and indeed her powers are as strong as any god, so long as she maintains her strength. She does this by feeding on the souls of the living. The Black Demon is her servant. She created him to retrieve sacrifices for her.”
“And she was your master?”
“Yes. I studied under her for a time, until I realized the darkness in her heart. Then I fled to this place. Now she wants me back.”
“You must stop this demon,” Anybl says. “Only you have the power—”
“Not even I can destroy her creation.” Merlin shakes his head. In that instant he looks like just a normal man, not the greatest conjurer in the land. “To defeat the Demon, we need a warrior, one who is brave, strong, and most importantly pure of heart.”
“How do we do that?”
Merlin claps me on the shoulder. “Go to the village and search among the warriors there.”
“What about you?”
“I have other business to attend to.”
“What of me, my lord?” Anybl asks.
“Go back to your coven. They will continue to grow and flourish. When the time comes, I may call on you again.”
“Yes, my lord,” Anybl says. She gets unsteadily to her feet. “We will be ready next time. I swear it.”
Merlin nods to her. The girl disappears in another flash of light. I turn to Merlin. “What is this business you’re attending to?”
“You will find out, in time. For now, we must rest. Tomorrow we have much work to do.”
I want to argue, but Merlin puts his hand to my forehead. I’m asleep before I even hit the ground. That’s the trouble with having a conjurer as your roommate.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Tomorrow the search for a great warrior begins...