Lurching drunkenly on the rain-slick tiles of the roof, acting more on instinct than skill, Elsabeth dodged the narrow stream of blue fire at the last second and only just managed to keep her footing. With her mind, she reached out to Aqshy – the Red Wind was rather slippery in this kind of weather – to shape it into a hurried counter-attack; she just needed to buy a few heartbeats to regain her bearings. Her retaliation took the form of a blinding yellow light meant to mimic a fireball. It succeeded in making Theo throw himself flat on the roof, his cloak and staff raised defensively in front of his face. Elsa used that precious time to plant her feet more solidly, slam the butt of her staff on the tiles and channel Aqshy into something more powerful.
An alarming smell of burning leather reached her nostrils and a searing pain dawned around her left ear. Her concentration broken, she released the Red Wind from her grasp and took off her wide-brimmed hat. It was, as she half-expected, on fire – her dodge had not quite been fast enough. Swearing like a sailor, she slapped it repeatedly against her leather coat until the fire was put off, leaving a blackened area where the brim and the crown met. So it was not made of real dragon hide after all. She would need to have a little chat with that seller tomorrow.
She felt the tug on the wind of Aqshy before the spell hit, but had no time to prepare for it. Her staff suddenly became hotter, so hot that she could feel it even through her leather gloves. She dropped it with a startled yelp, looked up, and found herself facing Theo without her channelling implement. The young man’s wet, unruly blond hair was plastered to his forehead; only one bright blue eye was visible. His staff pointed straight at her face and crackled with aethyric energy. The combatants paused a dozen yards away from each other, panting from the longest duel between apprentices in recent Bright College history. Both of them were pushed to their physical and mental limits, their clothes torn and singed, sporting a variety of burns that would have brought down anyone not attuned to Aqshy’s fiery touch. The lights of Altdorf spread out in every direction under and around them, but the college grounds were dark and silent, as it was well past curfew.
Both of them knew who had the advantage now. Theo might as well have been aiming a loaded crossbow at an unarmed person. Not that a staff was necessary to cast spells, but after all the wine Elsa had had tonight, fine manipulation of the Aethyr would be difficult and reckless without one.
“Yield already, Elsa,” sighed Theo, exasperated. “You wanted this stupid duel, I gave it to you, and I won. You’re taking this whole argument to a ridiculous–”
Thankfully, Elsa did not need finesse, only brute strength – in magical terms, she was something of a thug. All she did was send a sudden wave of the Red Wind towards Theo, whose staff was still gathering the ambient Aethyr. Theo’s sentence died in his throat when he realized that he was now channelling more magic than his staff could handle.
“Boom,” said Elsa solemnly.
Theo’s staff exploded in a blinding yellow light, sending splinters of wood in every direction. The young man was blown off his feet with a shout of alarm. When the burst of hot air reached Elsa a split second later, it felt more like a physical blow than a wind. She only barely remained standing, for which she was glad because she thought she must look pretty damn impressive, right now on the roof, with her leather coat billowing in the rain and her red hair flying free. Her only regret was that there was no one to see her. She put her still-smoking hat back on, retrieved her staff from the nearest edge of the roof from which it had nearly fallen and immediately began to channel Aqshy into a fireball. She had never once lost a magical duel against a fellow junior apprentice, and she was sure not starting now.
“Alright, either get up or give up, you wimp,” she snarled at Theo. Casting a spell at a downed target was against the rules, as was casting while you were down. Elsa was usually no stickler for rules, but duelling was serious business.
Theo made a gurgling sound and, still lying down, drew the Red Wind to himself. Cheater, was Elsa’s immediate, furious thought. She released the fireball. It raced towards its target and, though it must have taken only a heartbeat to cover the distance, it was long enough for Elsa to realize what a mistake she had made.
As the fireball illuminated Theo, Elsa had a glimpse of his bloodied face and ravaged hands. The explosion of his staff had taken several of his fingers, at least one of his eyes and much of his nose and jaw. His last spell, Elsa just had time to figure out when she saw burns forming on his hands, was a standard cauterization spell to stop blood loss. His mouth broken and full of blood, Theo was unable to conjure up a shield against the fireball. He was too wounded to even roll out of the way. His remaining eye widened in horror.
The fireball hit him full-on and lifted him off the surface of the roof. He flew, on fire from head to toe, and ended his course against a chimney in a sickening crack of bones. He came to rest in a sitting position, presumably – hopefully – dead before he hit the ground.
Elsa just stood there in the rain, stunned, as she stared at her handiwork. Then, without checking on her fallen classmate, she turned and ran.
A large, black-and-grey viper, sold to Elsa by a peasant woman as a potential familiar to replace Morrslieb the raven. Despite some initial challenges (and many bites), Elsa managed to tame the reptile and eventually establish a mind-link with her. Khalida is a simple, unobtrusive, inquisitive creature and enjoys mice, basking in the sun, making people jump in fright, and Elsa's bodily warmth.
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Special rule: Venom.
Any target who loses at least one Wound to an attack by Khalida must make a Challenging (-10%) Toughness test or suffer 1 additional Wound every ten minutes until 1d5 Wounds are taken.
Link of Psyche, Lucky Charm.
12.5 / 112.5
+5 WP, Sixth Sense.