Arthur: A Weapon's Tale: Part Four
By the ninth day, Arthur was weak and incredibly sore. His dreary eyes glanced quickly at the bruises and blisters that covered his feet. As Art staggered, he fell fast onto the cold ground. The fog in the forest surrounded his rigid body, and he fought to strain his head up. Art could see the flicker of some gold up ahead, and he slowly heaved his body forward, lacking the strength to stand back up. As the fog parted, he saw the light dancing on something buried into the ground. Only a fraction of the item was visible to the sunlight, but it was brightly shining as it touched the sun’s rays.
Art struggled to his knees, pulling out the shield instinctively. Looking up ahead to the light, he managed to get to his feet and tried to walk. The force of the sword pulled the shield towards the ground and Art felt his feet being dragged along the foliage. He heaved, trying to keep his balance and regain some strength.
Art was drained, but he was desperate to finally obtain the legendary sword. He knelt beside the glimmering item and began slowly churning away the dirt to reveal the mysterious relic. Dirt accumulated underneath his claws as he dug deep into the forest ground. When he finished unearthing the item, Art felt the shield’s magnet pull towards it and both glistened in the soft afternoon sun.
He lifted the sword carefully and examined its cross, which matched the enormous sapphire in the handle the sketch Kayla had shown him so many days ago. With his last bit of strength, he lifted the sword high to the sky and swung the shield back to its normal place on his back, tucked neatly between his broad wings.
Art examined the sword, flipping it from side to side. It glowed brighter as he held it closer to the shield, the two connecting on a magical level he had never seen. Like old friends reunited once more, the weapons embraced upon their contact.
Art felt accomplished. He couldn't help but smile as he thought of the obstacles he had overcome in the span of a few weeks. Now he just needed to head back to Meridell and help solve the problems that it had been plagued with.
Arthur continued forward south through the forest, knowing there was no time to rest in Altador. He had been gone for several weeks now, and the state of Meridell could have deteriorated rapidly in his absence.
It took a few days to clear the forest, but Arthur knew that much worse was coming. He didn’t have time to travel through Shenkuu and around the mountains – he would have to go right through. There was talk of some nooks and secret passageways to make the travel easier. Arthur could not afford to wait any longer and decided to make an abrupt right to chance the snowy mountains.
When he finally made this way to the foot of the mountains, he put his gloves back on and began to climb. The wind was fierce, and its bite made the climb unbearable. Art noted, however, that with the power of the weapons, he seemed faster and stronger. Arthur had noticed that he felt better overall and he did not tire as easily.
Reaching the top, Arthur took a moment to enjoy the view. He could see Haunted Woods below and even Meridell in the far distance. Another quick breath and the dragon began his descent. When he reached the forest, he hurried through, racing past the ghosts and critters from the Haunted Woods. He didn’t have time to thank the Brain Tree but made himself a personal reminder to do so after this whole sordid affair was over and done with.
A few days later, he reached the oddly quiet town of Meridell. Illusen was not to be found in her glade, and the castle was barred shut. The ground was sopping wet from what must have been torrential rain; even Meri Acres Farm looked better. Arthur pushed towards the castle, but paused several yards from the entrance, noting that the usual guards who watched the gates had been replaced by two sinister counterparts. Arthur tensed, knowing that direct entry would result in him losing both weapons and potentially falling into worse trouble. He moved through the brush that surrounded the castle around back and in through a secondary entrance that Skarl had showed him at the beginning of his quests.
The passage led through the cells, housing the famed prisoner Valrigard and other scoundrels from Meridell. He heard voices down the hall and paused, waiting for the silence to indicate his safety. As he moved around the wall, the added prisoners caught Arthur off guard: Kayla, Illusen, the castle guards, and Skarl. Before they alarmed the new guards with his presence, he put a finger to his lips and urged them to be quiet, which was met with slow nods from the captives.
He could not see a second pair of keys around the cell, meaning the guards had the only way to unlock his friends. Arthur motioned for them to stay hidden in their cells as he crept towards the stairs to the upstairs hall. The dragon inched up the stone stairs, pausing at the sound of a voice. Art silently counted each new voice to amass at ten guards and who could be the master culprit.
“Where is my supper? I asked for it over an hour ago!”
Arthur froze, recognizing the voice instantly. The deep rumble in the voice pulled at memories from years before, where that same anger was once used on him.
“I, I- I’m sorry sir. I’ll look into the matter.” Footsteps dithered in the distance and out the main hall to the kitchen.
“Sir, anything you would like us to do?” a guard asked.
“I’d like to do something.” Arthur revealed himself, bearing the sword and shield in hand. The guards raised their swords and Alan eyed the dragon. The Scorchio had not changed much physically since their last encounter. He was taller perhaps, and much more rotund, but such things happen to the figures of almost all Scorchios. His scales had lost their youthful look and were battered, failing to shine even under nearby candlelight. Alan had draped his body in earth green velvet robes, fastened with a bright gold rope by his next. Atop his head was a new crown (King Skarl had been left with his own, despite being prisoner), adorned with hundreds of gleaming and brightly colored jewels.
“Well, well, well. Why am I not surprised? You were the one I was looking for. Meridell’s hero, eh?” Alan cooed, standing from King Skarl’s throne. Alan’s scales were charcoal black, with an almost slimy coating. His dark brown eyes were intense, staring Arthur down as he walked forward.
“I’m here to set things right, Alan. You and I both know that you are not fit to run this city. King Skarl is and you need to be reprimanded.”
“So noble, Arthur. But, let us decide like we used to?” He removed his own sword from his sheath and advanced towards Arthur. Arthur nodded and pulled the Sword of Triumph into open sight, the jewels glistening on the castle walls.
The battle was fierce, what with swords clashing and men shouting. Arthur felt invincible, as the sword was able to block each slash of Alan’s weapon, taking nothing, not even scratches, as damage. Each blow dealt Alan weaker, as he was unable to compete with the legendary weapons.
Arthur slashed the sword at Alan and watched as his foe’s sword shattered into thousands of pieces upon impact with the famed shield. The black Draik scowled in pain and retreated back, armed with only his shield.
“What is that sword?!” Alan questioned, bewildered at its strength.
Arthur grinned. “More than you can handle, Alan?” Alan fumed, his face hard and angry. The charcoal dragon held his position, unable to advance with no sword. Arthur, with the advantage, moved closer to his foe, sword in hand.
“Guards, unlock the prisoners, or would you care for a duel like your friend here?” Arthur asked, turning to the ten individuals standing by the entrance. They looked down at their feet before leaving to free Arthur’s imprisoned friends. Panting, Arthur looked down at Alan, whose face was glaring at him. Art stifled a laugh and waiting for the true Meridell guards to arrest him.
Gripping Alan by both arms, Skarl’s guards forced him down the stairs and into a cellar of his own. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, Arthur heard the voice of Skarl laugh at his prisoner.
“Well, Alan, I’ll see to it that your punishment is adequate for the crimes you have committed, past and present. Guards, take him away!”
Skarl moved into the hall and settled into his throne, watching as the last of the prisoners were ushered out of the room. Sighing in relief, he smiled at Arthur, who bowed at his feet.
“How can I ever thank you?” King Skarl began. Arthur shook his head.
“It was my duty to serve Meridell, no need to thank me.”
“Well, in that case, I think a celebration is in order,” King Skarl paused, a smile breaking his chubby face. “That is, until I have another quest for you,” he finished, roaring with laughter.
“I’ll be back later tonight. I need to take care of some things first,” Arthur said with a laugh, before bowing to the king. He turned on his heels and headed back to his home.
“Arthur!” Art turned, watching the bubbly Zafara chase him down the castle halls. “You found them!” Kayla exclaimed.
“Here, you hold them. You need to study their properties.” Arthur passed the sword and shield to Kayla, who flipped them over with her hands.
“Interesting. Mind if I borrow these for a while?” Kayla pursed her lips, watching Art’s face for approval. Arthur nodded, a smile breaking his face.
“Take your time. I’m just heading home, but I’d love to help with your testing.” Kayla agreed and headed back to her store.
Arthur made his way up the familiar path to his home. Inside, everything was unchanged since he left, with the exception of the dust accumulating on his wooden furniture. He marched up to his writing desk and pulled a new quill. There was one person he needed to share these artifacts with.
I am a deeply humbled by your help in obtaining the Sword of Triumph. I was hoping, should you be interested, that if you come to Meridell and work with both Kayla and I to determine its properties, then perhaps archive the weapons to protect their magic.
Thank you again,
He folded the letter neatly into a small, worn envelope and sealed it shut with his personal wax stamp. Heading back to the castle, he stuffed the letter in his mailbox for delivery.
The town needed to recover, but with Skarl back in power, Arthur was content that he would turn things around. The sun shone and the sky was bright for the first time in a long while. As Arthur headed back to the castle for his dinner, he couldn’t help but feel a bit proud over his accomplishments. What had initially seemed like an impossible task concluded with Meridell being saved from the enemy. It may have been a long few weeks, but another mission had been completed. Only time would tell when Arthur’s next quest would begin.