AntipodeanSF Issue 307

Duel in Darkness - by Joseph Sullivan

“Well, well, well…”

At either end of the empty great hall, as starlight twinkled through the windows, stood two wizards, eyeing each other off with loathing and contempt.

“Face it, Kaleb,” Reltanna Lirane, one of the wizards, dressed in messy and unkempt robes, scoffed at her opponent. “There’s no way you’re walking out of this one.”

“On the contrary,” Kaleb Grant, standing tall in garish and gaudy finery, smirked. “I have always been better than you.”

“So you’ve said every day since I’ve known you, yeah. Are we going to get on with this, or would you like to brag some more?”

“Oh, I’d love to brag some more, but I’ll do that after I’ve beaten you, I think.”

That last one was what set the duel off. With a shouted incantation, Reltanna conjured a small ball of fire in her hands and sent it flying straight at Kaleb, who slid out of the way as the fire flew behind him and scorched the wall.

“Nice try,” Kaleb laughed as the wall sizzled.

With a spell of his own, Kaleb conjured a great gust of wind, rippling through the hall towards his opponent. Reltanna stumbled back, almost tripping over her own robes, but managed to steady her feet just in time.

“Is that the best you got?”

“No. This might be a little better.”

Kaleb snapped his fingers while muttering something under his breath, and just as Reltanna began to steady her feet, she felt her whole world grow dizzy. The hall around her distorted and twisted around her, as Kaleb laughed.

“What’s the matter, Reltanna? Are you feeling sick?”

“Sick of you!”

Reltanna was determined now. She steeled her will, planted her feet firmly on the floor, and shouted an even angrier incantation than her first, as a spark of lightning crackled through the hall, hitting the cackling Caleb where he stood.

“Oh, my,” Kaleb’s hair stood on all ends now. “You’ll, ah, pay for that one.”

Waving both his hands towards Reltanna and chanting, Reltanna’s arrogance turned to horror as, from the corners of her eyes, all sorts of bugs and vermin began flying around her.

“Ah!” she cried out. “What?! Get them off! Get them off!” Reltanna yelled as she tried to bat them away.

“Not so pleasant when it happens to you, is it?” Kaleb sneered. “Perhaps you’ll consider this one payback for the other day. At least when it’s done to me, people notice, because I’m the last person people associated with vermin. You, on the other hand…”

“I’ll end you!” Reltanna charged at Kaleb, shouting an incantation she had converted from a mundane smithy’s work, and a spectral blade of glowing red energy appeared in her hands.

“Not very nice,” Kaleb raised his hands and a faint forcefield appeared around him. “Is that really your plan here?”

It was. Once she reached him, Reltanna angrily began smacking away at the field. With each blow, it was damaged, but more of Kaleb’s magic reached out to repair it. Fortunately for her, though, Reltanna was more energetic than the forces Kaleb was playing with, and the cracks grew larger and larger with each hit.

“Quite enough, I think!” Kaleb declared as he lurched out of his own forcefield and grabbed Reltanna’s hands before she could strike again. “Didn’t your mother teach you not to play with knives?”

“She did. I didn’t listen!” Reltanna pried her own grasp apart, dispelling the blade.

She raised her hands again, as did Kaleb, and they both prepared to shout more spells that, at such close range, could get very ugly, very quickly—

“Hey!”

A third voice rang through the great hall. An older wizard appeared from behind Kaleb, with a grey beard and an irritated face with clear bags under his eyes, as he looked sternly at the two fighting.

“Do you two mind?! Some of us here are trying to sleep!”

“Uh…”

“Yes, sorry for the confusion,” Kaleb shrugged. “Reltanna here was attempting to steal from the library, and—”

“What?! No way!” Reltanna protested. “I wasn’t stealing, and by the way, he’s more likely to steal than I am!”

“I’d probably be better than you at it if I was.”

“Oh, you wish—”

“Enough!” The archwizard shouted. “It’s bad enough that you two keep fighting amongst yourselves in class. Now you wake me from my sleep with more of this nonsense. You are two of the most troublesome apprentices we have ever had…”

“Well, it’s not my fault that Kaleb —”

“I don’t care,” the archwizard shook his head. “Just go back to your rooms and sleep. I don’t have it in me to deal with this anymore. I swear…” his muttering trailed off angrily as he retreated back out of the hall.”

“Well,” Kaleb straightened himself up as the archwizard left. “What a downer.”

“I still say I would’ve beaten you,” Reltanna smirked.

“You want to try this again?”

“Same time, different place.”

“Deal.”

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About the Author

film maker

Joseph Sullivan is a writer and filmmaker from Melbourne, Australia, and an avid reader and writer of speculative fiction.

His fiction has appeared before in AntipodeanSF and he writes reviews for Aurealis.

You can find his work at <https://josephsullivanwriter.blogspot.com/>.

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