For a long moment all was still. Then to everyone’s surprise the great god began to laugh. It started as little more than a chuckle, but it quickly grew into a full-bodied guffaw that rumbled through him and caused him to shudder with mirth.
After several minutes, Vulcan managed to regain his composure and sobering, he said:
“You are brave, small one. You are an utter fool to issue such a challenge, but you have courage none the less. I have enjoyed watching you massacre all those worshippers of my much-hated step-brother, Mars. I will face you, mortal, not as the god of war, but rather as the god of weapons. Stand against me if you can.”
With this, Vulcan waved his arm and all those who had been fighting, but had stopped at the appearance of Nex Necis, followed by the appearance of the Roman god of fire and crafts were thrown backwards. Quickly rising, the militants stepped back and formed a sort of rough circle around the two combatants. No one wanted to get too close, but neither did anyone wish to miss what promised to be an incredible battle.
Stretching out his arms and straightening to his full height, Vulcan tipped back his head and spoke a single word:
Instantly Vulcan was encased in an ornate armor that covered him from head to toe. Thick leather straps encircled his massive arms, holding in place bronze gauntlets that protected his forearms. Greaves that gleamed wrapped around his shins and a gigantic chest-plate emblazoned with a triumphant Eagle covered his torso. On his head rested a helmet that contoured perfectly to his skull, complete with steel flaps to protect his ears and the back of his neck.
With his left arm he gripped a large, rectangular shield that curved slightly inward. In his right hand he held a sword that looked capable of cleaving a full-grown man in two pieces with a single stroke. He was noting less than a colossus.
For the first time since gaining the armor of Nex Necis, Paul felt real fear. He may have Herculean strength and endurance, he may be equipped with a magical sword and armor, but the fact was, he was facing a god.
“I am ready, mortal. Come and face the one who has created you.”
With these words, Vulcan advanced with his shield up and his sword raised. Held high above his head, the blade burst into a fiery red inferno and with a terrified gasp the crowd fell back yet further.
Taking a deep breath, fearing that it would be his last, Paul released his grip on Nex and allowed the creature to step forth. The odds of him surviving this were slim he knew, but he couldn’t think of any other way to stop the killing of Vulcan’s monster.
This time, Paul swore his sword would be put to good use.
To be Finished in Part 10!
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