"We meet again, Bill."
"I can't say I'm thrilled; what do you want?"
"Let's settle this battle without any more bloodshed," Bolastra stated.
"I thought you believed that the lives of individuals were of no significance."
"You misquote me. I said little significance, but their lives, however meaningless and insignificant, are of value to them. I'm not a monster; I don't lead men to their death for no purpose. Therefore I propose a challenge: you select a champion for your side, and I will represent my side. We will agree on a mutually acceptable form of contest. Whoever loses will withdraw their forces from Virginia, fair enough?"
"Okay, how about chess? I think I remember how the horse head moves," I said. Actually, I had perfected the Ruy Lopez opening playing in the chess club at college. My pieces would advance in a crushing steamroller which would soon have Bolastra in checkmate.
"Too easy, I helped develop the computer program that nearly bested Kasparov. How about a magical challenge?"
"How about a game of chance?" I suggested. "That way both will have an equal chance."
"You misunderstand the situation, Bill; your champion would have even less chance of defeating me in a game of chance. I have amassed a fortune in faery luck tokens. I could win the Publishers' Clearing House Sweepstakes with one postage stamp."
"I thought you didn't believe in magic."
"Ah, how quick you are to see my inconsistency. In truth every human being is a veritable web of conflicting ideas and values. This conflict will demonstrate the evils of magic, unfortunately to your detriment. In magic a few powerful individuals determine everything; the weak masses are helpless. Magic is hopelessly unfair and undemocratic; that is why it must be banished forever. But as a concession I will even let you pick the magical contest of your choice."
"I'll have to consult with John about this," I said as I turned and walked back quickly to our side.
John was waiting with a look of anticipation. "What does he want?"
"He wants a champion from our side to take him on in a magical challenge, but I don't know what to propose," I replied.
"Bolastra is a master enchanter; he's going to be tough to beat," John said. "But I am the one most qualified to take him on. I have had fifteen years of training first as a novice and then an acolyte. I am the only adept we have in the field here. Still, this is almost a David and Goliath mismatch."
"That's it. He can be Goliath and you can be David," I said. With my powerful magic talent it shouldn't be hard to image David vanquishing Goliath, particularly since David won in the original version."
"Let's do it."
Bolastra was agreeable to magically reenacting David and Goliath. While we were waiting, the south wind began blowing dry leaves across the field and whipping the dry grass stems. Ominous black clouds began building to the north.
Trumpets sounded and Bolastra appeared as a Goliath as tall as the Washington Monument. He had a bronze helmet and wore a heavy coat of bronzed scale armor made from hundreds of faery luck tokens. A bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was as thick as a telephone pole, and its iron point must have weighed a hundred pounds.
Bolastra-Goliath stood and shouted with a voice like a megaphone to the ranks of the Faery Army. "This day I challenge the Host of Faerie! Give me a man and let us fight each other. If he is able to fight and kill me; we will abandon the field, but if I kill him, you and all your faery minions will leave Virginia forever."
"Let me tell you. We were dismayed and terrified."
We tried putting John in a full suit of borrowed black armor and gave him a stout sword. He could hardly walk, much less fight. "I can't go in these. Get me five round stones from the stream and a slingshot from one of the fairies."
John approached Bolastra with his staff and slingshot.
"Am I a dog that you come after me with sticks and stones," he sneered.
"There is something you will never understand until it is too late, Bolastra: the forces of light are destined to vanquish darkness," John shouted up at the towering figure.
"I agree absolutely. That is the whole purpose of my campaign," he replied.
As Bolastra approached the faery positions, John ran to meet him. Reaching into his pocket he took out a stone and slung it at Goliath-Bolastra. It bounced uselessly off his lucky-scale armor. It wasn't supposed to happen this way: it was supposed to sink into his forehead and cause him to fall down. With all my might I imaged and believed this outcome to be true. John swung again. This time the stone hit Goliath-Bolastra right between the eyes. He staggered and fell over backwards with a rumble.
I was elated: this is what was supposed to happen. But then the huge figure moved, and Bolastra pushed himself from the ground.
"Was that your best effort, Bill?" he shouted back toward our lines. "I had hoped you would be a more worthy opponent. If you had only joined me, I could have led you to greatness."
Sarah appeared at my side. Looking around I asked, "Where are Ebon and Reznik?"
"They can't come. They are in the process of implementing a great spell. They said that it was too dangerous for them to stop now," she replied.
"Oh, oh, I am afraid we are in trouble now," I said. It was then we noticed that the air was completely still, not a single leaf was rustling. Smoke from the campfires was rising straight into the air.
John tried another stone, but I just couldn't get my mind focused. It hit between Bolastra's eyes, but it bothered him no more than a gnat. I felt the earth shake under our feet as he tramped forward. John tried to flee, but a burning ring of fire sprang up between John and the faery lines. Bolastra threw his spear almost faster than the eye could see. John ducked just in time. We had been so preoccupied that we hadn't seen the low rim of black clouds that was almost on us. Bolastra had John cornered against the wall of fire and was poised to crush him with a huge bronze sword. Suddenly a blast of windblown leaves and rain obscured them both and extinguished the fire.
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