Nicholas’ confidence tripled the moment he walked into the Magus’ tower. Only the high council and a few of his close friends were present as witnesses, despite Nicholas’ public challenge. The Magus herself stood in the center of the dueling arena; she wore a long purple robe with sparkling gold embellishments. She was rumored to be hundreds of years old, but barely looked older than Nicholas’ mother. Long salt and pepper hair with a few laugh lines under her eyes being the only wrinkles on her skin.
The fact that the Magus was an old woman is what made Nicholas think he stood a chance at all. He knew he’d probably earn some backlash for sucker-punching a senior citizen; but, once he had her title it would be worth it. Nicholas loved watching wizards duel. He often wondered why no one ran up and attacked their opponents at close range. He had trouble making friends in his younger years because according to them he ‘wasn’t playing right’. What they saw as rule-breaking, Nicholas saw as a weakness. He practiced with a dagger as often as he practiced his magic.
“I expected a bigger crowd,” Nicholas said. He descended the few stone steps into the stone arena. “Didn’t want to get embarrassed in front of too many people?” he asked.
“I didn’t want to bother people with a non-event,” the Magus said. She gave him her own confident smile. “The council and your witnesses are all we need to ensure fairness. I want to point out that this is an actual duel. This is not a lesson, I will treat you as an opponent, not a student. This is not a duel to the death; however, I strongly encourage you to fight with the intent to kill. You won’t stand a chance otherwise,” she said.
“Yeah, I’ve got the intent,” Nicholas grinned to himself.
“Standard duel rules. I’m assuming everyone here is familiar with them?” The Magus looked around the room. Nicholas followed her gaze and saw everyone nodding. It was Nicholas’ first non-school assigned duel. He knew all he needed to; stabbing your opponent was not against the rules.
“Ready?” The Magus turned her back to Nicholas and faced the far side of the arena. Nicholas lined up behind her with his back to hers. Nicholas and the Magus each took ten steps forward. Nicholas readied his first spell as soon as he finished the tenth step; then, one of the councilmen jingled a small bell.
“Shadowstep,” Nicholas cast his first spell at the sound of the bell. His shadow jumped up from the ground and enveloped him, then he was gone. He rose up from the Magus’ shadow behind her and did not waste any time. He stabbed his dagger forward at her spine.
The tip of the dagger touched her robe; a pulse of purple energy radiated from the point it made contact and pushed back against him. The dagger flew out of Nicholas’ hand. Before he could process the situation, stone pillars shot up from the ground to surround him. They were close enough to him and each other to prevent him from moving.
“What the hell was that?” The Magus whirled around and asked. Her violet eyes seemed clouded with confusion. “Did you just try to stab me?”
“There’s no rule against it!” Nicholas shouted. He tried wiggling himself out, but the pillars kept him locked in place. The magus sighed. She reached up slowly, then patted his head. The gesture was deliberately slow as if to hint at how many spells she could have used in the short movement.
“You lose,” she said. The pillars crumbled away and the Magus nodded.
“There’s no rule against setting yourself on fire either; some rules are redundant. As the winner, I’m requesting an essay from you. Three pages on the importance of mana armor.”