25. Murder Most Fowl

“Boyo,” Merlin said to Sir Balin. “You have any idea who you just killed?”

The knight cleared his throat.

“Well, you see,” Sir Balin began. “Sir Lanceor kind of accidentally killed himself, and then Lady Colombe sort of not so accidentally killed herself…”

“And who was the last person to have hurt her?”

“Who?” Sir Balin asked. “Lady Colombe?”

“Yes,” Merlin said. “You inflicted damage upon her prior to her death, did you not?”

Sir Balin looked at the two dead lovers, and his eyes landed upon her limp and bloodied hand.

“I may have hurt her hand while trying to wrangle the short sword from her grip,” Sir Balin admitted.

“Then you now should have the buff,” Merlin said, then squinted his eyes quizzically.
 “But, it seems, you don’t…”

Merlin’s eyes narrowed to slits.

Why…?” the enchater asked himself, absolutely stumped as he circled the knight, studying him up and down.

Sir Balin shifted about uncomfortably.

“Maybe it’s that sword,” Merlin said. “Show me that sword. The one the Damsel gives you.”

Merlin pointed at Tyrfing on the Sir Balin’s back.

“Let me see that blade, boy.”

Sir Balin drew Tyrfing and begrudgingly handed it to Merlin.

“Just so you know, in case you don’t already know, this sword is cursed,” Merlin continued as he received the sword in his hands and studied it in the light. “Great misfortune shall befall you—and your loved ones—for as long as you carry it.”

Merlin looked about, then approached the pile of bodies nearby.

“Just to confirm, these are—in fact—the bodies of Sir Lanceor and Lady Colombe?” Merlin asked, pointing at the corpses.

“‘Tis,” Truonq replied before continuing to sputter and sob.

“And does anyone here know if Sir Lanceor and Sir Deloras… uh… jousted?”

Everyone gave a confused look.

“Never mind,” Merlin said.  “Strange. Why then? Why doesn’t this blade bear the gilded touch?”

“Do you wish to check the other one?” Sir Balin asked.

“The other one?” Merlin repeated with wide eyes.

“Yes, I have two swords,” Sir Balin said.

“Right!” Merlin exclaimed, slapping his forehead. “Yes, show it to me!”

Sir Balin revealed Excalibur.

“Of course,” Merlin said, then began talking to the sack at his hip. “You took it out of the rock!”

This action confused everyone present.

“And then you took it from the king!” Merlin said, pointing Excalibur at Sir Balin. “Of course! And that’s probably why the gilded buff didn’t proc! Because by holding both Excalibur and Tyrfing at the same time, and the effect is cancelled out!”

Everyone could not have been more confused at this point.

“Damn it,” Merlin cursed. “Which means that we can’t really know when you’ll…”

Merlin caught himself.

“Listen close, boy,” Merlin said. “For I have much to tell you. Since you, an awful knight, have technically just slayed a very good and important knight, three kingdoms are at risk of falling to ruins, and suffering in abject poverty, for twelve years. And, because you have struck down this Lady, you shall strike a most powerful stroke that no man had ever struck before aside from the stroke that struck the side of Christ himself. Do not, I repeat, do not lose either sword. For if you do, then the next person whom you will strike with ill intention shall be struck with the second most sinful blow since the one dealt to Christ himself as he died on the cross. Followed by many smaller sinful strokes as you deleteriously cut down many of King Pelles’ men.”

He handed back Excalibur to Sir Balin carefully. Sir Balin took the sword and sheathed it.

“Did you get all that?” Merlin asked seriously.

“I think?” Sir Balin replied.

“Good,” the enchanter said with a sigh of disappointment. “I’m afraid that’s all I can do at the moment. With that, I take my leave.”

He walked over to his horse and sped away.

Sir Balin turned to leave as well.

“Wait!” King Mark of Cornwall said angrily. “Tell me your name, you foul murderer!”

Sir Balin opened his mouth, and the king leaned forward. But there was no sound.

‘I really shouldn’t give him my real name,’ he thought.

“My name is…” the knight began, then looked about for inspiration, but found little.

Then, he started running away, catching the guards off-guard.

“Stop him at once!” King Mark shouted, prompting his royal guards to fire arrows towards the fleeing knight.

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