Silence. “Salin…” She whispers, “Be careful…” ...When you awaken you immediately survey your surroundings. You are in the same room as before. The sun shines through a gaping hole in the wall, evidence that several hours have passed. You mentally add fixing that wall to your already long to-do list, but sense that you’ll likely have other priorities. Specifically, the hooded figure in the middle of the room. The cloak covers all of his or her body, hanging loosely enough that you cannot make out a single detail of their appearance. All you can see is a small, pale hand, wrapped around the hilt of a saber. The saber itself is interesting, long and thin, and marked down the blade with several runes of power. You think you can see Accuracy and Fire upon the deadly sword, but cannot be certain. A voice issues from the figure.
A strange thing, here.
You float in the void of meditation. Usually, you can feel the undercurrents of the world, lines of power pulsing across the planet, throbbing in your blood, but now you cannot. You wonder idly about this, toying with the odd phenomenon as if it were nothing but a pebble in your hands. There is not much time to do this, however. A surge of power assaults you from all sides, a pale blue light overwhelming your senses, your only thought being “Escape…” You flee from the void; back into the dimension you call reality.
Your vision is hazy. The old brick walls of the fortress surround you, each one glowing, a rune etched in a blinding white upon it. So, you think, This is why I could not feel anything.
The bricks carried a powerful enchantment, meant to fortify the old defense in a time of need, when it is threatened. They must have drawn enough power to temporarily drain the ley lines, the lines of magic. The ley lines are what fuel wizardry. They wrap through space-time, an almost unlimited source of power. Certain objects wrap the ley around them enough that they can be used to focus this power, a raw power molded only by the words and intentions of the one who wields it. Objects like the silver ring upon your finger. It is an artifact you have used much, the helix form of it almost cloaking it with the ley lines. The light of the bricks is fading now, and you can see the form of your somewhat-more-than-friend,
She kisses your cheek and falls backwards, as an explosion rocks the fortress, and the walls crumble inwards. You are struck by a piece of rock, and follow Layla into unconsciousness…
“Do you remember me?” The girl hissed, “I’ve searched for you for long enough!”
“Not particularly. Should I?” you retort, venom on every word.
“Of course not. Why should you? You never were one to think of others.”
“Where is Layla?!” The question is an accusation. You know that she has taken your gentle friend.
“She’s gone! There’s nobody here but us.” The girl seems to be insane. You are halfway certain that you have never heard her voice before, nor seen her blade, yet she appears to have a bone to pick with you.
“You’ll bring her here this instant, or you’ll die.” You spit the threat in a single breath, your eye never leaving her blade.
“Finally, we get to this. Want to see your beloved Layla again? You’ll have to best me.” You watch as she swings her saber in an arc, setting it alight with energy. The runes upon it spring to life, and white flame spirals along the blade in a double helix.
“Terms accepted. Let us begin.” A pulse of energy, and you stand upon a smooth marble floor. An unbroken dome of pure wizardry surrounds you and your adversary. You tap into the well of energy, your ring guiding you. This is the wizards duel.
The girl is already lunging as you fashion a sword from the air. You swiftly parry her blow, and prepare one of your own, but she expected this. She flips away from you, dodging the thrust of your blade, hers dissolving into the air.
“You’re still so predictable, Salin.” She says. “You won’t beat me THAT easily.”
She pushes outward, her palm towards you, and a fireball erupts from the center of her hand. You cartwheel to the side, allowing your own blade to dissolve as well.
“Who are you? What do you have against me?!” You shout, desperate for an answer.
“Not now, Salin. That’s for you to remember, or be told before your death.” A steady stream of fire bursts from her hand, forcing you to run to the side to avoid it. The flames disappear against the edge of the arena, sending ripples through the dome. Seizing your opportunity, you call an orb of the raw power to you. Working quickly, you fashion a saber from it, and set every rune you know into the metal. The blade reacts to this, the hilt widening to create a diamond shaped gap. It’ll have to do. You focus upon the blade, and it begins to shine a light, sea blue. The blade as ready as possible, you abruptly stop running. The flames engulf you. You continue to power the enchantment upon your sword, the element of Water protecting you from harm. The girl laughs, cold and high-pitched.
“You’ll never escape! My flames hold no release, as you should know well!” she shouts. You can barely hear her over the roar of the fire around you. The elemental blade before you, you run through the fiery column, towards the origin. As you near the girl, the flames get hotter and hotter. When you can bear it no longer, you jump through the burning wall of the spell, to find yourself two feet from the girl. She ends her enchantment as you cross the distance with a step, and calls a shield as you strike at her with your sabre. Not soon enough to block you, but enough to keep you from harming her. All your strike did was sever the girls hood.
“Natalia. I thought you were dead.”
“That’s just like you. You fight someone once, and think they’ll never be back.”
“Well, I suppose we’ll have to remedy this. But first, the spirit that was in your sword…”
“How did you know about that?”
“I saw the Binding Rune on your saber. Anyways, I invoke the Rite of Equal Duelists.”
The Wizard’s Duel was used in ancient times to settle disputes. Hardwired into the duel enchantment are several of these rites, to ensure a fair fight. This one allows you to call for allies, to match the number of your foes. A vortex formed within the walls of our arena, and a shadowy figure appeared there. Natalia stared. She can’t believe your choice of an ally. He stood tall, but was always cloaked in shadow. He was a man Natalia knew well. He came from the Shadowlands, just as she did. He looks exactly like you. His name is Kron, and he is your dark side.
“Amusing, Salin. Very amusing. What makes you think I’ll help you?” he says, glancing at Natalia.
“Lets see here… She’s one of your enemies in the Shadowlands, and she want’s to kill me.”
“If she kills me, you don’t get to.”
“…Fine. Let’s do this.” Kron clenches his fist. A fireball springs to life around his hand.
“Dude. She’s fire element.” I say, wishing he would stop screwing around.
“Who said anything about fire?” Tossing the fireball, Kron spreads his fingers, and the fireball follows suit. Natalia had no chance to dodge. When the flames and smoke finally cleared, Natalia was frozen solid. I pull out a bow to end her quickly, and find myself paralyzed. I can only watch as Kron walks to the center of the room.
“Greater Binding!” He shouts. The arena flashes white as the spirit that inhabited Natalia’s sword was bound to him. He etched the rune onto his arm to complete the spell, using pure ley. My enemy had gotten much stronger than he was before. The dome shook. The opposition was once more unequal. Kron walks over to me, ignoring the spells attempts to expel him. He pushed a tooth into my pocket. “You’ll need this. Good luck, she’ll thaw out any second now.” His body turns to mist the moment he says this, and he’s expelled from the arena. His spells are ended, and both Natalia and I are freed.
“That was an uncertain chain of events.” She said. “I bet you wish that you had chosen your allies more wisely.”
I glanced in her direction. Something was wrong with the duel enchantment.
“You’ve disarmed me. Was that the whole point, or did you expect to have an ally to the end?”
“Shut up. Something’s wrong.”
“Yes, and it’s going to work well.” At that instant, I saw it. Flashing in the walls of the dome was a warning. The injunction against outside teleportation was nonfunctional.
“IMPOSSIBLE!” I shout. “A spell always works!”
“So you’ve seen it, have you Salin? What you say is true, but it is entirely possible. You’ve messed with our balance. Now the duel is breaking down. You disarmed me, though. I suppose I’ll have to tell you. Layla is in the Shadowlands.”
I felt her gathering power. This was not enough information. Her necklace begins to shine.
“Good luck saving her. You’ll definitely need it. She’s in my domain, and I’ll be chasing you, every step of the way!” I jump at her as she casts her final spell, causing the immediate destruction of the wizards duel, allowing her to escape. She shouts it loud and clearly, escaping back to her home. “Word of Recall!”
“Salin…” She whispers, “Be careful…”
...When you awaken you immediately survey your surroundings. You are in the same room as before. The sun shines through a gaping hole in the wall, evidence that several hours have passed. You mentally add fixing that wall to your already long to-do list, but sense that you’ll likely have other priorities. Specifically, the hooded figure in the middle of the room. The cloak covers all of his or her body, hanging loosely enough that you cannot make out a single detail of their appearance. All you can see is a small, pale hand, wrapped around the hilt of a saber. The saber itself is interesting, long and thin, and marked down the blade with several runes of power. You think you can see Accuracy and Fire upon the deadly sword, but cannot be certain. A voice issues from the figure.“Salin…” The voice is most definitely female. You wonder if this is not Layla playing a trick on you, but the voice is nothing like hers. However, your lifelong friend seems to be absent from the scene.