By Robert Lynch
The sun had pierced the morning veil, showering the day with an array of colours. The chill of the wind made the morning feel crisp and new. Paul stood straight and tall. Today he would face the trials.
He entered the arena and the announcer’s voice thundered overhead. His opponent entered. Paul hadn’t met Wizard Jack Peregrine before and knew nothing about him. The arena shielding activated, the ambient magic in the air shivered from the activation.
The horn sounded.
Neither Paul nor Jack moved, but he could feel the pull of the magic shift as he drew in as much is as possible. As his hair began to stand on end and random sparks of magic burped out from his fingertips, he waited. He didn’t know what to expect. Would he face elemental magic, mental attack, a legion of golems? Summoning and necromancy were not likely because the arena was sealed from outside forces, therefore illusion magic would not be able to fool with fake spectres or demons either.
Paul made a decision. He sat down. Crossed his legs and waited. He would not spend energy on defences he didn’t need. Better to hold on to every drop of magic than to spend it on something that’s not useful.
Jack created a complex shielding circle, burning the sand to glass and powering it to defend against a wide range of attacks. Paul watched keenly. When no attack came, he got up and walked over. The circle was very good, there was almost no way in. Only the spirit runes had a mistake. Even then, only a trained necromancer could know how to breech the deformed rune; even then the shade would have to have considerable power.
“This is quite good work.” Paul said. “I’m not sure that a defensive strategy is best for the arena, though. Your spending energy on the shield and if never attack you all I have to do is wait.”
“Thank you.” Jack replied. “I can hold this shield for a solid week. Even if you don’t attack, you have to sleep.”
“You did make a mistake with the spirit rune.” Paul said. “Your Madr symbol is written in the Norwegian, when it should be in the Swedish.”
“It’s fine.” Jack said.
“Well,” Paul said, “It’s not fine. A skilled necromancer could push through the gap.”
“You’re welcome to try.” Jack said.
“Well, this is a trial.” Paul said. “I suppose I had better give it a try.” He knelt and placed his hand on the barrier. It found a firm stopping point where gentle blue light lit a semi-transparent barrier. Reaching out with just his spirit, Paul separated his spirit from his body and lent down to the runes. His spirit form could touch the spirit runes, but not touch any other.
As it was only Paul’s hand that had separated as spirit, he kept his eyes trained on his opponent. It would be exceeding stupid to get ambushed on the physical plane. With two quick movements Paul withdrew the power from the glass rune on the ground and wrote his own to replace it. The replacement was not grounded by glass representation, but just drawn on the sand; it would fade quickly. Paul got out of there and stepped back.
“Sorry.” Paul said.
“Told you, you couldn’t get---.” His opponent dropped to his knees. Spirit magic poured out of him into the new rune configuration, no longer maintaining a barrier to keep out the spirits of men, but instead keeping out the spirits of faeries. He was exhausted in 5 seconds, passed out in 10. The rune popped as the weak replacement burnt out.