Zeke gasped as he watched Rafe fly out of sight. He was counting on her to back him up. Now that she was gone, he was on his own. He hoped that he had retained enough of what she taught him to survive this duel, but he was pretty sure that he was going to die. He gripped the sword and hoped that he could master it before his inevitable demise.
“Are you ready, boy?” the man in white asked.
“My name isn’t ‘boy’,” Zeke said, resentful of being dismissed as a mere boy. He was a wizard’s apprentice and he wanted the respect that came with it. “My name is Ezekiel Martens, apprentice to Gresar Mallory.”
The man nodded his head and grinned. “Ah, I know of Gresar. He is a great wizard!”
Zeke smiled at the man and hoped that he had some common ground with him. Since he knew Gresar, maybe he would give up this whole duel business. Maybe they could go get a beer in town and talk about how great Gresar is.
“Isn’t he great?” Zeke asked.
“That he is.” The man’s eyes glinted for a moment as he thought about Gresar. “He bested me in a wizard’s battle. I still owe him a good trouncing.” He looked over at Zeke and licked his lips. “I suppose his apprentice will have to do for now.”
Zeke gulped. There went his hope of skipping the whole mess. The man intended to finish this duel. He wanted to buy some more time until he came up with a plan of action. “So, I told you my name; who the hell are you?”
The man raised his sword and replied, “I am Duncan Tyrell, a wizard from the North Continent. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”
Zeke didn’t remember hearing Gresar ever mention him. He debated whether he should say yes if it meant that he got to keep his head. In the end he decided that it was better to die an honest man than a liar. He shook his head solemnly.
“It’s too bad,” Duncan said. “I’m pretty great myself.” He popped the bones in his neck and cleared his throat. “Now, if you are done stalling, I’d like to get on with it.” He poised himself in the battle ready stance.
“Oh, brother,” Zeke said to himself. He tried to strike a similar stance that Rafe had taught him. He didn’t know if he should make the first move or if he should let Duncan make the first move. Zeke was sure that if Duncan went first, he would most certainly finish him off in an instant. If he went first, then Duncan would know that he was inexperienced. He needed to be smart about this. He didn’t have a prayer of beating this guy, but maybe if he could get a few hits in enough to dissuade Duncan from wanting to finish the fight, he might have a chance to walk away from this in one piece.
Bored by Zeke’s indecision, he stepped forward and swung his sword, aiming for Zeke’s throat. Zeke was able to deflect the sword away from his neck in time. Duncan swung again, aiming for Zeke’s chest. Zeke blocked that attack as well. Duncan gave one attack after another, but the apprentice was able to defend himself each time. Duncan let out a short chuckle, amused that this boy was putting up such a fight. He admitted that he was a little impressed that Zeke could block him so easily. He just had to keep this up and eventually the boy would tire, then he would have his victory.
Zeke kept up with the defense, but desperately wanted to attack. Duncan didn’t leave him with an opening to attack. He knew that Duncan was only trying to run him down before he went in for the kill. He tried to remember what Rafe had taught him. It hadn’t been that long ago, but there were so many tips that she had given him that it was hard to differentiate them all into what was useful now. He would have to improvise to stay alive.
“You give up yet?” Duncan asked.
“Of course not!” Zeke decided that he was done playing defense and with Duncan’s next swing, he ducked down and spun around, using his right leg to trip Duncan. Duncan fell and Zeke rose. Zeke aimed the red sword at Duncan’s neck. “Do you yield?”
Duncan looked genuinely upset by this turn of events. “Never to the likes of you!” With his green sword, he hit Zeke’s sword away from his neck and stood up. “So we’re fighting dirty are we? Well, let me show you how I fight dirty!” He wiped the dirt from his previously clean white outfit and licked his lips. He swung his sword around for sport before he went in for Zeke’s blood.
Duncan rushed Zeke head on. This took Zeke by surprise and he stumbled backward to avoid having his head skewered. Zeke was about to fall, but he caught his balance and repelled the dark wizard’s attack. Duncan was fast and swiped at Zeke’s belly and cut him.
Zeke gasped as he felt the blade slice his flesh. He backed away from his enemy and looked down at his wound and saw that it wasn’t too deep, just enough to draw some blood. Now he was angry, but furthermore, scared. He couldn’t afford more hits like that. It was not pleasant nor was it fun. He was sure that he could use a spell to mend himself if he was lucky enough to only sustain this one wound.
Duncan raised his eyebrows and smiled at Zeke. “Are you having fun yet?” He raised his green blade and showcased the blood that was dripping from it. “I got first blood and it was easy. It was almost like you’ve never held a sword a day in your life!”
Zeke didn’t want to tell him how right he was. This made him madder. He used this anger to fuel his resolve. He needed motivation. He needed to hurt Duncan bad. He wanted to. He stood up straight and felt his belly burn. He let out a whimper which betrayed his tough facade. He nodded his head at Duncan, indicating that he was ready to begin again.
Zeke was the first one to make his move. He raised his sword over his head and brought it down in an attempt to cleave Duncan’s head in two. Duncan brought his sword up and blocked the attack. He quickly brought it down and gave Zeke another slice in the stomach, deeper this time. Zeke cried out and spun around, his back to Duncan. The dark wizard used this opportunity to kick Zeke in the back. This caused Zeke to stumble forward onto the ground.
Zeke wanted to lie down, but not with his face covered by the dirt and fallen leaves and his butt sticking up in the air. He brought his right hand to his stomach and felt the blood ooze out of him. Duncan was right behind him, preparing to deal the final blow. He had to get up. The ground was so comfortable, though.
Working against the pain, he got to his knees and spun around. Duncan was coming for him. Zeke grabbed a handful of dirt and threw it up into Duncan’s face. This disoriented the dark wizard enough to stop him in his tracks, allowing Zeke to get up and out of the way. Zeke used this moment to swing his sword and cut Duncan’s back. Duncan cried out as he was taken by surprise. His white top was slowly turning red.
Zeke was pleased with himself, but he knew that he didn’t have long to revel in this small victory.
Duncan spun around with a sweaty face full of dirt. There was anger in his eyes. He did not like being bested by a mere boy twice in a row. He had been toying around with Zeke, but now it was time to take off the kid gloves.
Duncan gripped his sword tightly and started to mumble some words under his breath. His sword started to vibrate as a green light emanated from it. Wind stirred the fallen leaves into a frenzy around him. As the mumbling became progressively louder, the wind grew more intense. Soon, he was shouting in words that Zeke did not understand.
So, this is dark magic, Zeke thought. It was the only thing that made sense.
Duncan had his head lowered in the beginning, but now it was raised. His eyes were closed, but in an instant, they opened and they were bright green. Duncan stopped the incantation; the spell was complete. He shouted and aimed his sword at Zeke. A green blast of energy shot out of the blade and flew toward Zeke.
Zeke quickly dove to his right, but it was not in time to stop him from getting hit by it. The green energy singed Zeke’s right shoulder. He fell to the ground, holding his pained shoulder. Smoke was rising out of the wound. He looked up at Duncan and was frightened by the crazy green lit eyes. He scrambled to get away from him before he unleashed another blast of energy. Duncan followed him with his eyes.
Zeke looked at his sword and thought that maybe his could do the same thing as Duncan’s. The question that came to mind was: “Is this a dark magic sword or a light magic sword?” Could he use his magic to manipulate the sword’s power? He had to try, but he didn’t know where to begin.
Duncan laughed as he watched Zeke stand up. He sent another blast of hot energy towards Zeke. The apprentice raised his sword and swung so that the blast hit the blade and was rerouted to a nearby tree. Sparks ignited the tree on fire.
“So, we’re using magic now?” Zeke asked. He got no response from Duncan, only laughing. “Fine by me!”
He wracked his brain for a spell that he could use that would enable him to use his sword’s power. He wished that he had brought Gresar’s spell book, even though he knew that it couldn’t provide him with the support he needed. It was too heavy and Duncan wasn’t going to allow him time to find the right spell. This, too, he would have to improvise.
Duncan approached Zeke with the intent of shooting him again. Zeke continued to back away slowly while he thought of a rhyme. Why did these spells have to rhyme? He wanted to close his eyes so that he could concentrate on the right words, but Duncan continued to shoot at him. When he was close enough, Duncan attacked with the green sword again.
Once again, Zeke was on the defensive. With each deflection, he took another step back. He was sure that he had finally found the right words, he just needed to collect his energy. Not all of it had returned from last night’s banishment of the witch, but he had enough for this spell. “Crimson sword full or power, unlock your secrets in this hour!”
Zeke’s sword vibrated in his hands. He almost dropped it, but with his blood soaked hands, he was able to get a firm grip. The sword’s blade began to glow bright red. Magical energy flowed from the sword into Zeke’s body. He felt himself grow stronger. This would more than make up for the deficit of energy he had lost last night. The sword’s true purpose was suddenly revealed to him. This sword was the devourer of souls. This pleased him. He knew a soul that needed devouring.
“So you’ve unlocked the power of the sword,” Duncan said. “It will not be enough to save you.”
“We’ll see about that,” Zeke replied. He felt invincible now. Any doubt he had in the beginning was now replaced with newfound confidence. The sword ached for blood, it didn’t matter whose it was. Zeke aimed the sword at its former master and urged the energy to build up until he willed it to shoot out of the blade. Red energy flew towards Duncan at an alarming speed. The dark wizard blocked it and redirected it to a tree behind him. Zeke shot another blast. Duncan took a few steps closer and deflected the blast to another tree.
Zeke prepared one more blast; it was going to be a big one. When all of the energy was gathered, he released it. Duncan was quick. He raised his sword and released the energy from his sword. The two streams clashed in the center. This lasted for a moment before there was a big explosion of white light. This sent both wizards flying in opposite directions.
As the light dimmed, Zeke and Duncan saw that the battlefield was now bare. The trees had been uprooted and thrown aside in all directions. They stood up and walked toward each other, ready to battle again. They met in the middle of the battlefield, each sporting their wounds, Zeke a little worse for wear. It was obvious that they were both tired. Neither one of them wanted to quit. They just looked at each other and grinned.
“You ready to finish this, boy?” Duncan asked.
“I am, old man,” Zeke replied. He could see that Duncan liked his response. For a moment there, he could see that he respected him.
Both fighters struck a battle ready stance and prepared for the final round.