Zeke stood ready to make the first move. He was full of confidence that the sword provided. It was almost taking the pain of his injuries away. If there had been any time to analyze it, Zeke would have been frightened by how different the sword made him feel. He needed to stay focused and think about that later.
Zeke shouted as he ran towards Duncan. He raised his sword high which caused Duncan to raise his to defend. Zeke grinned menacingly as he swiftly brought the sword down and cut Duncan’s belly, just like Duncan had done to him. Duncan winced, but didn’t go down.
“Tough guy, eh?” Zeke said. He went in for another attack, but Duncan blocked it. He wasn’t going to be fooled again. Zeke would have to come up with something else.
Duncan went on the offensive and drove Zeke back several paces with his barrage of attacks. Zeke was able to defend himself, but he was losing ground. He wanted to stop retreating, but Duncan wasn’t going to let up.
Zeke summoned some energy from the sword and prepared to blast Duncan. Duncan felt the energy pooling and prepared to defend. When the red burst of energy was released, Duncan returned fire with his sword’s energy.
“We’ve done this already, boy!” Duncan called out. “You’re running out of tricks aren’t you?”
Zeke wanted to give the illusion that he still had something up his sleeve when all reality, but it was true; his bag of tricks were all out. He pushed the energy out as far as he could, but Duncan pushed harder and eventually won out. The green energy hit Zeke and tossed him backward into a tree. Duncan didn’t waste any time and rushed him. Zeke used the sword’s energy to create a barrier between the two of them. Zeke needed some time to regroup.
Duncan ran into the shield and fell to the ground. “You coward! Come out here and face me!” He banged on the shield with his sword; green energy versus red energy. Duncan’s was stronger. He pressed hard on the shield and caused it to shrink. When he saw that he was making a dent, he took out his amulet and chanted some dark language. The amulet glowed bright red.
Zeke looked out and saw what Duncan was doing. The amulet was synced with the sword and Duncan was using it to absorb the shield’s energy. Zeke had forgotten Duncan had that. It was the reason why Rafe wasn’t with him. He needed to get that amulet away from him. Maybe he could come up with a spell to get it from him. That would require more time, something he was losing.
The shield grew weaker by the second. There wasn’t much time left. Zeke had succeeded in catching his breath, but he was no closer to having a plan. He felt the sword’s energy reassure him that it was going to be alright; something else that would have caused some confusion under other circumstances.
Zeke was ready to face Duncan again. He brought down the shield. Duncan was in mid swing. Zeke rolled out of the way just as Duncan’s sword stabbed the space he had just occupied. He got up and stood ready to attack. He saw that Duncan was having a little trouble getting his sword out of the tree. He used this opportunity to rush his enemy, shouting as he ran. Duncan simply raised and arm and blasted Zeke with his amulet. Zeke was flung back several feet and he rolled as he hit the ground.
“You are beginning to bore me,” Duncan said. He succeeded in pulling his sword out of the tree and regained his quest to end Zeke’s life. He confidently strode over to where Zeke was lying and kicked him in the gut. Zeke cried out because the pain from his wounds became unbearable. “You thought that you could best me; a mistake that you wouldn’t be making again.”
Duncan raised his sword and prepared to impale Zeke. “This will be over soon.”
Zeke had only seconds to act before he would become skewered. He decided to attempt to get the amulet away from Duncan. “Dark magic beyond my reach, amulet to me, I beseech!”
Duncan felt the amulet start to leave him. He pulled back in an attempt to keep it from Zeke. This caused a distraction and allowed Zeke to raise his sword and stabbed Duncan in the gut. Blood spilled onto him as it traveled down the sword. Duncan gasped in surprise and dropped the amulet. Zeke immediately grabbed it and used it to blast Duncan away from him.
Zeke stood up and was in awe of what he had just done. He felt this surge of adrenaline pump through him, which made him feel a little giddy. Had he just beaten a dark wizard? He, a simple wizard’s apprentice bested a great wizard from the North Continent? People might sing songs of his bravery.
His daydream ended abruptly as he heard Duncan sputter and cough a few yards away. His muscles aching, his stomach burning, Zeke slowly walked over to Duncan, who was lying bloodied on the ground. Zeke knew that he could end his life right now. His sword demanded more blood and Zeke wanted to see it.
Duncan looked up at Zeke and gave a gurgled laugh. “You had better kill me, boy…” He coughed up some blood. “Do what Gresar could not.”
Zeke wanted to kill Duncan. The power that was running through him was more than capable of killing Duncan. He gripped his sword tightly and started to raise it. Just as he was about to bring it down, he took stock of what Duncan had just said. He said that he must do what Gresar could not. When Gresar won his battle against Duncan, he didn’t kill him. Zeke started to think about whether he really could take a life. He wasn’t sure. Duncan wanted Zeke to kill him, why should he deny him that?
Zeke looked into Duncan’s eyes and saw hatred, anger, and defiance. They were daring Zeke to commit the deed. They were testing him. Zeke felt that if he did kill Duncan, he would be no better than him. He wasn’t ready to have that on his conscience for the rest of his life. Zeke lowered the sword and sheathed it.
“It’s over,” he said. He stepped away from Duncan and turned his back to him. Duncan looked close to death. If he didn’t kill him, he would surely die on his own. He wasn’t going to stick around to watch him die. That was not on his list of things to do today. He was going to go look for Rafe.
Duncan laughed hoarsely as he watched Zeke walk away. “You are weak! You will regret this!” He summoned the dark energy within him and started chanting. A purple haze appeared around his body and seeped into his wound and slowly began healing it. It would take him a while, but he would be up and walking again.
“Rafe?” Zeke walked in the direction where he thought she had flown. He stepped through the woods cautiously, careful not to miss anything. He looked behind every tree and every stone. The woods seemed to go on for miles. She could be anywhere, he thought to himself. She could be injured or worse, dead. He didn’t want to think about her death. If it did turn out that Duncan had killed her, Zeke decided that he would go back and finish Duncan off himself.
Zeke thought about how the amulet had blasted him away several times. He never went more than a few yards. Maybe she wasn’t too far away. He continued to keep his eyes open for any sign of her. He walked for ten more minutes in the presume trajectory and before he stopped. He should have found her by now. He looked behind him and scanned the area. Maybe she was lost. Maybe he was lost.
“RAFE!” he shouted. He turned around and called out her name again. He did this in all directions. He listened carefully for any response. He didn’t hear anything, not even a bird. He sighed and he pondered what he should do next.
He supposed that he should double back and go in another direction. He looked around and wasn’t sure which direction he had come from. “Oh, brilliant.” He regretted not having a compass. He tried to look at where the sun was, but the canopy of leaves was too thick. He took a deep breath and decided to go forward. He hoped that it was the way he came.
He called out for Rafe as he walked. The woods were so silent it was eerie. It was like the trees had secrets that they weren’t ready to divulge. Were they keeping Rafe from him?
He continued walking until he heard a moan. He stopped walking instantly and listened. He heard someone cough. It had to be her!
“Rafe, is that you?”
Another moan and a cough.
Zeke walked in the direction where he thought he heard the noise. “RAFE!”
“Zeke?” It was Rafe’s voice. It was coming from in front of him to the right.
He raced through the woods until he finally found Rafe sitting up. She had some blood on her forehead. He knelt down next to her and held her, like she had held him this morning. “Rafe! I’m glad you’re okay!” He tore a piece of his shirt off and used it to blot away some of the blood.
She looked at Zeke and saw that he was bloodied as well. “What happened?”
“That guy on the horse took out his rage on me, but I’m okay,” Zeke said. “Can you stand?” Rafe nodded her head. He helped her onto her feet and whistled. “Man, you flew pretty far. This thing packs quite a wallop.” He held up the amulet and grinned.
“Yes, it does,” Rafe agreed. She took stock of where they were and smiled. “I know where we are. Let’s get back to the hospital.”
The two of them walked back to the area where they had been sparring. Zeke looked around for Duncan and saw that he was not where he had left him. He gasped and looked around frantically. Where is he? He was dying; he couldn’t have gotten up and walked away, could he?
“What’s the matter?” Rafe asked.
“Duncan should be here, but he’s not.” Zeke looked up into the tree branches to see if maybe Duncan had managed to get up there to ambush them. He couldn’t see anything up there. He assumed that Duncan was nowhere near them now. Duncan was right, Zeke did regret not killing him. Now he had to worry about the next time they met. Would he have the strength to fight him again? Only time would tell. For now, he was just happy to get back to the hospital and heal up.