Practical Exercise

His response was even less polite than what he’d said already.

“Death-pride honor!” I screamed.  His words were a death-pride honor insult, and I’d invoked the rule.  He added several cruder variations on the insult. There could be no complaint if I killed him.  No, I did not want to kill him and start a house feud, but sometimes accidents happen.  I’d made this an Honor Duel.  Now no one could complain if something happened to him.  However tired I was, I called up my defensive wards, and summoned again the void nodes on my wrists.  My presets should have protected me if he’d attacked without warning, but it’s better not to depend on presets.  

I needed to play for time. Fighting strictly on the defensive should do that.   Down at the far end of the Campus Martius, someone should have noticed my clash with the metal monster, realized that something was wrong, and come to investigate.  If nothing else, the grass fire all around me, lawn and bushes within a hundred feet being reduced to charcoal, trees farther out transformed to pillars of flame, should have been a mite suspicious. I didn’t remember when I’d torched them, but clearly I had.

“You’re dead!” he answered. “You got me expelled!  Now you die!” he shouted.  OK, now I knew who he was under his glamours.

“Try again!  I’m alive.”  I rattled down a  memorized list of feuds of my House.  Fourbridge was not on that very short list.  Harold Fourbridge was a total idiot.  Unfortunately, he was also training to be a combat sorcerer, and was supposed to be good.  So the folks at Violent House had said. Perhaps staying on the defensive would not work.

He continued calling me names after he launched his first attacks.  Bad habit.  Impolite words distract you from clear thinking.   Lightning.  Fire.  Death commands.   I countered with spell breakers.  Those are slower to cast than attacks are, not to mention that I was worn out.  Once and again, he burned through one or two of my wards.

He switched to interleaved attack and ward breaking spells.  For all his ego, he was really good.  But I’d drilled against Grandpa Worrow, who’d written books on combat magic, books I’d studied.  Carefully.  I saw the flow of his attacks, waited half an instant, and him him as hard as I could with ward-eating spells.  He was as good as the simulacrum I’d just smashed, maybe better.  His wards burned, but they did not go down.  He invoked more and more outlandish attacks, some I’d only read about.  Fortunately he didn’t try grappling with me; he for sure outweighed me by a lot.

About George Phillies

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