ES: Origins

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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 2nd, 2010, 9:12 am

Chapter 10: Magic, allowed and otherwise

Lorrin slept well that night.

The next day started much as the first one had, and as others for the next six months would start. The group at breakfast might have warmed just slightly to him. Drasko Commis and another boy whose name Lorrin hadn’t got were not at the table, but two anonymous newcomers took their places. Lars Kankaniel continued to eye him with a combination of awe and a lewd little smile that Lorrin thought out of place. Lars apparently thought that the little … training session … with the elf Varani was something fantastic, in the original sense of the word: living an adolescent fantasy. Lorrin wasn’t so sure. Probably every teen-aged human male who’d ever lived wished at some time in his life, and in most cases, for a large proportion of his waking hours, that he was getting more action than he actually got. Lorrin had had times like that himself, and the fantasies to go with them. But what had happened with Varani wasn’t exactly the stuff of adolescent-male fantasy fulfillment. She really did see sex as just another form of physical exercise, if one that obviously felt better than endless repetitions of interval sprints or weight work. Lorrin could easily see how servicing the elves could become a chore.

Speaking of which, here came Luca, looking considerably more refreshed and rested than he had yesterday. “I was serious last night, man,” the bearded youth said with a broad smile. “Thanks for the help. First time in weeks I’ve been able to get a decent night’s sleep all by myself. I owe you one. Seriously.” He walked away with a spring in his step before Lorrin could respond.

Lorrin was still scratching his head over the attitudes of his peers when an elf whom he hadn’t met before came to his table. “Please come with me, Lorrin Elle,” the elf said. “I am Kalis. It is my duty to teach you the rudiments of magic.”

Lorrin followed Kalis with oddly mixed feelings. On the one hand, the prospect of learning the elves’ wondrous magic had enchanted him (so to speak) since long before that life-shaping encounter with the light globe, and here was the fulfillment of that fantasy. On the other hand, he was here to learn to be a warrior, not a mage … and besides, the fantasy fulfillment that Varani had given him yesterday wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind. Would the study of magic be as much of a, well, let-down? Lorrin hoped not.

Well, at least he should show some enthusiasm for the idea; Lorrin’s social skills were more than ample for him to understand that. He'd also prepared another little canned speech for this moment, which he'd known was coming. “Thank you, sir,” he said as they walked. “As you probably know, it was elven magic that first got me interested in serving you.” (That was true.) "I’ve hoped for years to learn just a little of your mastery of the magical manipulation of matter and space and time. If I can --"

The elf interrupted him, a most unexpected look of horror on his face. “Don’t lump time magic in with all those other things,” he said. “I will teach you how to manipulate matter and space, and energy, and even living things. But not time magic, never time magic. If I were to screw around with time magic, Exitialis would come down and scoop me up in a net, and he’d take you with me.”

Who’s Exitialis? Lorrin wondered. Whoever he was, he was fearsome enough that the elf obviously wanted no part of that little segment of the innocent, rehearsed speech that Lorrin had given. He said nothing more as Kalis conducted him to a small, permanent-looking building at the edge of the camp that seemed alive with magic.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 2nd, 2010, 3:07 pm

Managed this in a single sitting (woot woot). It's good to see you off the chain and putting out an unrestricted story all of your own making Graybeard. Your style is reader friendly, easy to follow, i'm getting the scenery clearly and the personality of the charecters is growing clearer with every chapter. I got to admit, the elf-shag surprised me, but you handled it well with the explanation about the clinical nature of it. I'm looking forward to seeing where this is going bud. I'm reckoning that training Lorrin is getting will be put to use in the not-too distant future?

Please hit me back if you get the time. Keep on writing mate.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 3rd, 2010, 8:59 pm

Jack Rothwell wrote:I'm reckoning that training Lorrin is getting will be put to use in the not-too distant future?

It's ... possible. :mrgreen:

This chapter is a little slow, but it's necessary to set up some of what will follow shortly. Patience. ;)

Chapter 11: Magic 101

Only a few days later, Lorrin would come to understand the significance of the “Exitialis would come down and scoop me up in a net” comment. It was quite simple, really: to be “scooped up in a net” by Exitialis was to die. The elves, being an immortal race, had certain … hang-ups … when it came to talking about death, and Lorrin couldn’t blame them. Use of the euphemism made a certain sense, not to mention the vivid (if incomprehensible) imagery it conjured up. For now, however, it simply left him shaking his head as the lesson started.

“Magic is everywhere,” Kalis said, “or at least the potential for it is everywhere. It is the fabric of the unseen universe, just as earth, wind and fire are the fabric of the seen. Most of all, magic is the fabric of the universe of the mind. For you to use it, your mind must be attuned to its presence, as the engineer is attuned to the presence of earth, the musician is attuned to the wind, the cook and the alchemist to the fire.”

Lorrin nodded at this exposition. It had a certain formulaic, almost ritual tone to it; when he’d discovered that he could manipulate a light globe, the elf who’d shown him how (and formed a positive impression of his aptitude for magic in the process) had said almost exactly the same thing. He decided to ask exactly the same question now that he’d had then. “So is flesh the fabric of a thing too? Is it the fabric of the living?”

The elf fixed him with a penetrating stare, then smiled. “A very astute question, Lorrin Elle. No, flesh is what one might term a ‘derivative’ fabric, not a fundamental one. Flesh, you see, is composed of all of the other fabrics – earth, wind, fire, the water that I didn’t mention earlier, and also magical energy. It is that energy, after all, that imbues the flesh with life, and makes flesh a different commodity than clay. That’s actually a very important concept, and it speaks well for you that you latched onto it so quickly. Never forget that.”

This threw Lorrin for a mild loop. Everyone knew that the real difference between clay and flesh was the breath of the Mother Spirit, who breathed Her own life into the flesh that it might have life as well. So was the elf saying that the Mother Spirit was, at Her core, nothing but the embodiment of magic? That seemed hard to accept. Well, there was learning to be done here.

“An Ensi—elite warrior will not need the full magical capability of a spellcaster,” the elf continued. (What did he start to say? Lorrin wondered, but didn’t press the point.) “However, you will of course need to function in our society as well as your own, and that requires at least a little comfort with magic. You may also find yourself using enchanted weapons, if you are skilled enough.” Lorrin’s ears definitely perked up at that. “There are a few spells that it may be necessary to use in a combat situation, such as a Slow Fall; you might have seen some of your fellow humans practicing that in the arena yesterday. And healing magic is always good for a warrior to know.”

Lorrin nodded, listening intently, and with no small sense of anticipation. There’d been a few, very few, magically adept humans in his village. The other villagers tended to view them with a mixture of admiration, awe, and suspicion. They also tended to be quite old. It didn’t occur to him at first that one reason for that was that the younger adepts were siphoned off by the elves to join their society, as he himself was doing.

“This sounds – wondrous,” he finally got out. “How am I supposed to learn such a marvelous thing?”

Kalis smiled. “By doing, of course.” He gestured with one hand, a globe of light appeared between them, and Lorrin Elle’s magical training began.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 4th, 2010, 11:55 pm

Chapter 12: Potter’s Clay

“What’s that?” Lorrin said, looking at the glowing orb with curiosity, tinged by just the slightest hint of suspicion.

Kalis smiled again. (Remarkable, Lorrin thought; he’d rarely seen elves smile at all, let alone twice, and at him. This seemed like someone who actually enjoyed teaching. He thought he could learn from such a teacher.) “It’s whatever you will it to be,” he said. “Really, it’s just a slight concentration of magic, given a physical form, or at least the appearance of a form, to help you understand how to use it. Many beginners find it easier to work with magic if they can see it first.”

Lorrin thought about it, nodded. “So it’s kind of like a lump of clay, before a potter turns it into a pot?” he said.

The elf’s smile broadened. “Exactly! Magic is very much like potter’s clay: it’s out there, waiting for the potter to decide what to make of it. What the potter can make, if he has an infinite amount of clay – and magic is everywhere, so it is infinite – is limited only by his own skill, will, and imagination. And that’s what we are here to develop. Watch.”

A gesture, and the sphere of magic split into two smaller spheres. With one hand, Kalis reached toward one of the spheres. When he held it, with his other hand, he lifted a potted plant that had been sitting by the building’s window. He focused his eyes on the magic sphere, and magic flashed …

… And where there had been a sphere, now there was a small pitcher. Puzzled, Lorrin looked on as water poured out of it onto the plant – water glowing with its own magical residue.

In mere moments, the plant started to grow explosively. When it reached human size, buds formed on its branches, opened into fragrant blossoms. Moments later, the blossoms were replaced by even more aromatic fruit.

“Here, have an orange,” the elf said, picking one and tossing another to his student.

“How did you do that?” Lorris said incredulously; he was stunned by this display of magic, although not too stunned to eagerly consume the sumptuous fruit in his hand.

Once again, Kalis smiled. “Potter’s clay,” he said. “I imagined a potion with the power to make this little tree grow, and formed the magic into a thing that could do it, could pour out that potion. I have to confess that I’ve done that one lots of times before, and I’ll do it again for the next student. There are a whole pile of little plants in back. The fruit is good for you, too. When you’re a fighter, you’ll have to have a good diet, and –“

The monologue was broken by a loud scream from somewhere beyond the magic laboratory, and the mood changed instantly. “Damn,” the elf swore. “That didn’t sound good. I’d better go check on it – and you can tag along, if you want to see some healing magic at work.” He didn’t wait for an answer, but charged through the door in the direction of the arena.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 6th, 2010, 10:36 am

Chapter 13: Noboo Hazegawa

The remaining sphere of magic dissipated with a soft pop as Kalis left the room. Not having anything else to do, and still being uncomfortable surrounded by elven magic without an elf to control it, Lorrin decided to follow him.

The arena was not far from the laboratory by the shortest route. As the elf and the student arrived, there was a crowd milling around the base of what Lorrin guessed was the Slow Fall tower – quite a bit taller than he’d thought, and with some decorations he hadn’t noticed previously. An older human, perhaps in his mid-twenties, drew away from the crowd to meet the newcomers, distress all over his features. “Noboo’s hurt bad,” he said. “Not sure what happened, but it looks like he just fell all the way from the top, no Slow Fall.”

Kalis swore again. “This shouldn’t have happened, dammit. Noboo was one of the most magically adept students I’ve ever worked with. He should never have failed on a Slow Fall. What in Exitialis’ name happened? Let me look at him.”

At the center of the milling crowd, Noboo Hazegawa, the short youth Lorrin had seen at breakfast, lay on the ground in a crumpled posture that Lorrin knew boded ill for him. Three elves were kneeling over him, magic flowing from their hands. Lorrin recognized one as the (comparatively) small woman he’d seen the previous day – Sarine, was it? – but didn’t know the other two. Standing above them was a fourth elf, wearing the most ornate armor Lorrin had seen yet in the camp; some manner of commanding officer, obviously. Kalis forced his way through the crowd, Lorrin following in his wake. Soon he was standing just outside the circle of elves (and getting some dirty looks from the other humans – had he breached some unspoken protocol?), looking down on the broken man.

Lorrin had seen death before; in fact, he’d even seen death under very similar conditions to these, unnervingly similar conditions. He’d been fourteen years of age, on a cave-bear hunt with his father and other men of the tribe. The hunters had tracked the beast to the mouth of a cave set into the base of a cliff beneath the mountains, and were trying to decide what to do about it. (Lorrin had thought they were just mustering up the courage to go in after the thing; after all, what was the point of going on a cave-bear hunt if you didn’t proceed to fight the bear?) One of the men of the village, a dark-haired man named Amnon, had climbed up above the cave entrance, looking for another way in that might allow them to get the drop on a well-armed and dangerous adversary … and had lost his balance and fallen screaming to the bottom of the cliff, where he landed with the proverbial sodden thump.

Lorrin had happened to be standing nearby with his father when the man struck. Amnon hadn’t been quite dead when he hit the ground (and, Lorrin noticed with a queasy feeling in his stomach, bounced once), although his body was too badly broken for him to have any chance of survival. As the two Elle men watched, Amnon’s unfocused eyes glazed over, the look of shock on his face relaxed into something else, and his breathing stopped with a final gasp. And now, much the same thing was happening here.

“Brain damage,” Kalis said sadly, pointing out the fallen man’s fixed and unequal pupils, which Lorrin knew was a sign that death could not be far away. “We can do all the magical healing we want, and it won’t do any good, will only fix the broken bones and the loss of blood. We can do nothing for him.” He shook his head.

Two of the elves nodded and abandoned their efforts, but the short woman kept on casting Heals – but Kalis was right. It was only seconds later that the man gagged and lay still. Noboo Hazegawa was dead.

The elf in the ornate armor looked at Hazegawa’s body as though he was contemplating a piece of dog excrement that had been left lying around the camp. “No more magic practice today,” he proclaimed. "Sarine, Kalis, Harpi, you will inspect the tower for evidence of problems. You there –" he pointed at Lorrin and two other mortified humans – “remove this body. The other students and instructors will continue with physical training.” He turned to go.

Now it was Sarine’s turn to swear. “Dammit, Novi!” she said, blood rising in her face. “You can’t just throw a man away like that! This wasn’t a dog turd, it was a man! At least allow him the dignity of last rites according to the ways of his people! We’d do no less for one of our own!”

The commanding elf’s expression didn’t change. “If you are quite finished, Viradior Sarine, carry out your duty,” he said levelly. He left the group without another word, leaving the parts of the crowd to whom he’d assigned missions to carry them out, and the others to get on with their lives.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Jack Rothwell » August 6th, 2010, 3:20 pm

This thing is still going strong. I liked the explanation about magic you wrote. It's virtually demanded in a story involving elves and you explained it clearly. The flashback to the falling memory was also a good device to shed some more light on Lorrin's history. I'm getting the feeling this is building up to something big. The presense of Sarine is also an interesting factor, I'm getting the impression she's going to stay a background figure (i could be way off, not psychic unfortunately).

Keep writing, I'll keep reading.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 8th, 2010, 11:53 am

Jack Rothwell wrote:The presense of Sarine is also an interesting factor, I'm getting the impression she's going to stay a background figure (i could be way off, not psychic unfortunately).


Same answer as last question: It's ... possible. Thanks again for the kind words. Next installment:

Chapter 14: Attitudes

The two other men that the elven commander had assigned to “remove this body,” Lorrin noted, were older than he was, maybe early twenties. Good; presumably they had more experience with the elves than the people he’d been dealing with, and they might be able to shed some light on the way things worked in this camp – if they, and of course he, could get their minds around what had just happened here.

Actually, Lorrin was finding that he was having surprisingly little trouble dealing with Noboo Hazegawa’s death. It wasn’t like the man who had died in the fall at the cave bear’s lair. Amnon had been a member of the tribe, a husband and father who had cousins among the hunting party. His death had jarred the hunters badly, and they had abandoned the hunt immediately, to begin the rites to ensure that the dead man’s soul would be gathered in by the Mother Spirit. Lorrin hadn’t known Amnon well enough to be as horrified at what had happened as most of the others, but he was still shocked, and he needed the rituals and their comfort too.

The situation here was quite different. Part of it, of course, was that Lorrin had scarcely known Noboo Hazegawa at all, sitting with him once for breakfast, once for dinner, and that was about it. He couldn’t be expected to react strongly to the death of what was basically a stranger. However, none of the other humans at the Slow Fall tower seemed to be reacting strongly to the death either. And the elves … the small woman Sarine seemed to be the only one of the bunch of them, other than Kalis, that even noticed. He expected some remorse from somebody, somewhere, over the dead man. There didn’t seem to be any.

Time to trade on my newcomer status, Lorrin thought. With the shattered remains gathered into a makeshift litter that one of the elves had found (or had he just created it magically?), he addressed the older-looking of the other two as they started off. “Does this kind of thing happen often?”

The man shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. Somebody dies on the Slow Fall practice maybe two or three times a year. The elves throw a shit-fit about safety, stop things for a day or two, but nothing really changes.” He smirked. “Don’t lose any sleep over it, kid. There are plenty of other ways to get dead here.”

Lorrin wasn’t sure he wanted to know about those “other ways to get dead here,” but in any event, that wasn’t the thing that was bothering him. “And when someone dies, the elves just get rid of the body, and go on?” he said.

It was the other man’s turn to smirk. “Well, what did you expect them to do? Eat it?” The first man laughed uproariously at this witticism but scarcely broke stride as they headed for the graveyard beyond the edge of the camp.

This wasn’t going the way Lorrin had hoped, not at all. “But don’t they care, if one of the people they’ve gone to the effort to train gets killed? I mean, sure, we’re not of the same race that they are, so they’re not going to care much for us personally, but –“

“Not really,” the first man interrupted. “I guess they figure it’s better for a screwup to get killed here in camp than out on duty, or on a duel.” (Duel? Lorrin wondered, but let it pass.) “Can’t say I blame them, either. I wouldn’t have wanted this guy to have my back in a fight.” The two men laughed again.

Lorrin gave it one last try. “But that one elf, the short one, did seem to care…”

Both men laughed at once. “Sarine?” the second said. “Oh, she’s got a thing about humans, maybe ‘cause she’s about human-size herself. Rumor is she’s been to bed with about half the human men in the camp.” He paused to scratch his chin with his free hand, the litter tipping momentarily but retaining its burden. “Never done it with me, though.”

“Me, neither, but I damn sure wouldn’t mind if she did,” the other man said – and Lorrin remembered something from his village. If there was a hot girl whose pants you wanted to get into, but she wouldn’t let you, you’d just assume that she was already sleeping around, and that you were the only one who wasn’t getting into the action – when most of the time, the reality was that nobody was, and the girl might even be a virgin.

He thought about this human-loving “Sarine” as the three men grew silent.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 11th, 2010, 9:17 am

Chapter 15: Dueling

Lorrin didn’t see either Kalis or Sarine again for several days. The elves may have been callous toward human burial rites and sensibilities, but they were acting as though they were seriously interested in figuring out what had gone wrong at the tower. They had erected a magical curtain of light around it – presumably some kind of barrier – and suspended the Slow Fall practice and whatever other activities were done there. No humans were allowed into the area, and with Kalis out of the picture, Lorrin’s magic training stagnated.

Of course, there was always physical training (with … extras from Varani every couple of days) to occupy a trainee’s time, and even with Sarine also tied up with the investigation, Lorrin got to start on the rudiments of non-magical combat – really, not much he hadn’t seen growing up in the tribe, but still a useful refresher. There was also an unexpected set of anatomy lessons, delivered by a stiff-necked, pompous member of what he now knew as the Cimmerii. At first Lorrin wondered why he was being subjected to such a thing, but when the relevance of the lessons to healing magic was explained, it all became clear … and on the sixth day (his seventeenth birthday, coincidentally), something happened to let him know that healing magic would be very relevant to his future, very relevant indeed.

Lorrin was relaxing in his tent (Varani had been particularly – insistent that afternoon) before dinner when Vlado Ordiel burst in, more excitement on his face than Lorrin had ever seen. “Come on!” Vlado said. “There’s a duel getting set up in the arena!” Intrigued, Lorrin got to his feet and followed his tentmate.

A large crowd had already gathered by the time the two humans arrived. I didn’t know there were that many people in this camp, Lorrin thought. In fact, there weren’t, as he shortly figured out; many of the elves and half elves in attendance wore outfits that looked like they’d just come from a formal ball in one of the elven cities, as in fact they had. Whatever was about to happen here seemed to have as much of a mass-entertainment aspect to it as one-on-one settling of a blood feud. Well, that wasn’t so hard to understand, was it? Humans loved their boxing matches, and the same principle would be at work here … except that boxing didn’t involve magic.

A susurrus swept through the crowd as the two combatants, both elves, entered from opposite sides of the huge, oval-shaped arena. Neither wore armor; both carried weapons with a curious purple magical glow that Lorrin had not noticed before. And there was something about one of them that made Lorrin’s blood run cold.

“Is that a woman?” he asked Vlado incredulously, pointing to the nearer duelist. There couldn’t be much doubt about it; elven women (with that one interesting exception that he’d noticed) might not have the curves that human women did, but the elf woman was wearing an ornate sash that revealed one breast almost in its entirety. She must be a Rinkai Erufu, Lorrin decided; there’d been other encounters beyond just the ones with Varani that suggested to him that that elven race was … uninhibited. But still –

Vlado shrugged, replied. “Yeah, it is. So what? The elves aren’t like us. The women and men do all the same things in their world, like there’s no difference between them – all the same things.” The bald young man leered at Lorrin in a way he didn’t like…

As he thought about it, in fact, he liked what Vlado had said even less. “But – but – does that mean that she doesn’t even have a man to defend her honor?” he sputtered. “What a terrible way to treat a woman! That –“

Vlado interrupted with a chortle. “Oh, if she wanted anyone to defend her honor, she’d hire a human,” he said. “That’s what we’re for, after all. Now shut up and watch.” It had taken several minutes because of the size of the arena, but the combatants were now close enough to each other that they were starting to circle, looking for an opening. The crowd quieted and settled back to watch … but Lorrin’s attention wasn’t focused solely on the action occurring below him.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 13th, 2010, 9:10 pm

Chapter 16: The Elven Way

“This is taking an awfully long time to develop,” Lorrin whispered to his tentmate. The circling was continuing, with no more than an occasional feint from one party or the other, generally not even drawing a response.

Vlado snorted. “What were you expecting, a stage show? This is the elven way. They don’t do anything fast if they can help it. Living forever like they do, there’s no reason why they should. Hell, it probably took ‘em most of a year just to set up the paperwork to do this damn thing.”

Six monotonous months later, most of them filled with repetitive physical training and martial-arts drills and the same magic lessons over and over and over, Lorrin Elle would look back on this moment and realize that his tentmate knew what he was talking about. For now, he was simply anxious for the combatants below him to get on with it. He realized, though, that the other spectators that he could see were showing no signs of the boredom that was encroaching on him, even the human ones. Had they absorbed the elven patience (or was it apathy?) from their years of training and living with the elves? It looked like it.

“There’s another thing,” said Pontus Cardiel, who’d joined them unnoticed. (The man could move remarkably quietly, Lorrin realized.) “They’re using Durus Flamma weapons, the way they’re supposed to on duels. They say that Durus Flammas do all sorts of weird shit to the elves’ heads. Probably have to sort all that out too.” He settled back to watch, leaving Lorrin to wonder what a Durus Flamma was – of course, he’d learn that soon enough.

When the actual swordplay started, it was sudden, spectacular, and yet disappointing.

The Rinkai woman thought she’d detected an opening. She made a startling leap as she brought the purple-glowing short sword around. (Lorrin was unimpressed. When you left the ground in a fight, it had better be to strike a decisive blow, because otherwise your freedom of action, your ability to react to the opponent’s counter and change directions was badly compromised. Fights were won with the pedestrian, not the flashy – but then again, the elves had been doing it this way for thousands of years, so what did he know?) A rapid shift of the sword from right hand to left brought the weapon to bear against an unprotected flank … but the blow fell on thin air as the other elf skittered away and counterattacked.

The counter didn’t last long, either, and it didn’t seem to achieve much. Lorrin could see that the leap had left the woman’s own left flank exposed to an attack with the longer, almost spear-like weapon the man held. A very simple, no-frills thrust would do the trick, and the resulting wound would almost certainly be fatal. (Wouldn’t it?) But that wasn’t what the man did. He gave the sword a great, theatrical flourish, then brought it around in a mighty slash – which came nowhere near his opponent. Soon the combatants were circling again.

Lorrin frowned. “What are they doing?” he whispered, then repeated the question a little louder; the ineffectual sparring had at least got the spectators to make some noise. “Are they serious about this? It almost looks like they’re doing a ritual rather than a fight.”

It was Pontus Cardiel’s turn to chuckle. “Got your blood lust up, do you? Don’t worry, somebody’s gonna die here soon enough.” The almost stylized duel continued as Lorrin shook his head.
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Re: ES: Origins

Postby Graybeard » August 15th, 2010, 8:15 pm

Chapter 17: Bloodshed

Pontus Cardiel was right.

The two combatants had been going at it for a good hour, Lorrin judged, when suddenly there was a change in the situation. Up to that point, there had been all manner of showy moves, posturing, and bloodless thrust and parry – nearly bloodless, anyway, although at one point the woman had “succeeded” in nicking her adversary’s arm as she rolled out of the way of a thrust with the spear-like sword. Lorrin would almost have sworn he saw the woman blush, and the man simply placed his other hand on the small cut, summoned magic to heal it, and went on. But that was all.

The woman had just dodged a rather clumsy-looking lunge with the almost-spear when the first real combat injury occurred, and it didn’t result from one of the weapons. The lunge had carried the man too far past his opponent for her to counter directly. However, freed from the prospect of an immediate attack, she gestured with her free hand. A snarl crossed her face, her eyes flashed … and a bolt of magic formed, and sped instantly for the man’s body. The arena echoed with the booommm of the impact, and the man reeled backward before falling in a heap.

Lorrin winced. Back at home, he’d heard about a magic technique – he wasn’t sure whether it qualified as a “spell” or not – called a “Force Bolt” that the elves were reputedly able to project at an enemy. He’d never seen it used, nor had anyone he knew, but it was rumored to be able to blast human flesh as though a blowtorch had been applied to it. If that was what had happened here (and it seemed to fit the descriptions he’d heard), the man might not be long for this world … yet he was on his feet almost instantly, grimacing in pain but still very much alive and kicking.

The arena had gone quiet for a moment, but Lorrin noticed, to his surprise, that a displeased rumble was starting to pass through the crowd by the time the thunderclap’s echoes died out. Evidently something about this magical addition to the fight hadn’t gone over well with the watchers. He turned an inquisitive glance at Pontus.

“Poor tactics,” the other man said, shaking his head. “The terms of the duel restrict what magic they can use, and how often. If she shoots her bolt now, she won’t have it available later, when the guy’s tired out and she might actually be able to do something with – oh, damn.”

Lorrin swung his attention back to the battle, where something lethal was finally happening.

There’d been method to the woman’s madness. The injured man had released one hand from his two-handed hold on the almost-spear. He was now casting what looked like another Healing spell on his torso where the bolt had struck … and that was a mistake, of the most final and fatal kind.

With her opponent’s grip on his weapon loosened, the Rinkai woman suddenly struck like a snake. A deft flip of the sword point cut across the man’s occupied hand, and he flipped the spear-sword up in the air with a yelp of pain. His torso was now exposed and defenseless against a sword thrust … and that was exactly what happened.

Lorrin gasped as the glowing tip of the woman’s sword emerged from the man’s back, precisely between his shoulder blades.
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Because old is wise, does good, and above all, kicks ass.
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