Practical Exercise #5

“That rule,” Dairen stammered, “We’re not students yet, we haven’t registered.” I could hear the fear in his voice.

“That nonsense,” I said firmly, “was eliminated by the University Council a millennium ago.  You three can just take a hike.” This was a truly lousy way to start off my academic career. Dad had warned me that these things still happened, but they should very certainly not happen to an heir of House Triskittenion.  Dairen looked around, hoping for rescuers that were nowhere to be seen.

“I guess you’re first,” Fourbridge announced.   He reached for me. I still had my travel wards ready to power up.  A flare of light filled the space between us.  His next several words were quite impolite. “Okay,” he announced, “you get to do this the hard way.” He started to pull his sword. I could see some not extremely impressive enchantments floating across it.

He began his draw first, but I finished my draw before he finished his.  OK, he was sloshed, and I am always stone cold sober.   My gnothdiar was in my right hand, my right leg forward. My left leg was back, braced, with my left hand above it in a casting pose.   I could feel the tingle of the readied void nodes in my wrists. 

“Be a good boy,” I said, very slowly and quietly, “put away your butter knife, and be on your way.”  Dairen had slipped to his left, so he was now completely behind me.  I’d have preferred he stayed to my side, so if something completely stupid happened, the odds would appear to be three to two rather than three to one. OK, I suspected that he would be of no value in a combat situation.  I’ve been trained on one-on-several combat, but these three were all a head taller than I am, and considerably heavier.   On the other hand, they were drunk.  I could smell the beer on their breaths. 

“Listen, you…” He started. He knew a remarkable number of impolite words.

“You drew on me. Continue, or put your toy away.” I was now thoroughly annoyed.  His face was ruddy.  I loaded my left hand with a stack of combat spells, one extremely powerful.  His two friends stepped behind him and grabbed his arms. One of them looked at me, winked, shook his head, and rolled his eyes. They assisted him from the scene.

Dairen was in tears. “This was supposed to be a nice place, a wonderful place to study,” he said, barely able to remain coherent.

“It is a nice place, especially once classes start,” I said. “There are supposed to be proctors and lictors to keep the peace.” I sheathed my gnothdiar and lowered my combat wards.  Now my hands were shaking.   I’d ramped up to combat mode without even thinking about it. And I’d done it right.  Muscles and spells were at the ready, but I had been completely calm.  “When we get to the Entrance Hall I’ll have to chat one up.” I tapped the hilt of my gnothdiar.  One of its spells had indeed stored images of the event.  That sorted out who would have started the fight, not that I had any interest in fighting.

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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