The assembly is scheduled for the morning. There are only six third year apprentices remaining, and there hasn’t been a duel in the past three days.
Victor, flanked by Galvin, Lewis and their familiars heading toward the assembly hall.
Victor slows and motions the magi in close before taking out a vial filled with a pulsing pale yellow glow.
Galvan, his familiar on alert, glances down at it. “You sure you want to try that again? It didn’t.”
Victor glares at Galvin, bringing him up short. Turning back to Lewis. “You know the plan.”
“The brewing instructions weren’t clear last time. This one.” Passing the vial to Lewis. “Came from another source. Aim it away from yourself when you open it as it’ll spray out.”
Lewis pockets the potion. “You’re going for the Familiar?”
“Yes. But keep watch. There is only one dose in there. If something happens and I’m to duel one of the others, dose them instead.”
Breaking his silence, Galvin speaks up. “How will we know?”
Cupping one hand, “Turn Aline into.”
Interrupting, “No! I mean. The announcement board said only third year apprentices in the hall. They’ll have some soft of ward setup to keep magi out.”
Snorting, and glancing over his shoulder at the building. “You may be right. I’ll message if it isn’t the Familiar. If this goes like I think it will, they’ll keep us in there until everyone is challenged then we’ll head to the main circle. That’s where all the other third years are going.”
When Victor enters, three other apprentices are already present.
After my conversation with Calvin the other day, I bought an Ever-Writing Pen. If I win I’ll get everything the other apprentice owns. If I lose, mentally shrugging, I won’t be the one worrying about it.
I tried to learn some new wards then realize then realized I don’t have time to master any. So instead, I’ve been spending all my time practicing, either in the lab or the practice field.
I’m the first to arrive in the assembly hall. The headmaster, sitting center stage stands and greets me.
“Good morning Ms. Digby.” Motioning to the front, “Have a seat here. The others won’t be long.”
Slowing heading down the steps, I hear the door open. Turning, a tall chestnut-haired young woman and Ramona enter. I stop as the headmaster welcomes them.
As they near, “Ramona and you must be Emma? I keep seeing you listed but don’t recall meeting you. We all know why we’re here so.” Pointing at Ramona, “Ramona I challenge.”
Emma interrupts, “Don’t bother.” Sliding her sleeve up revealing the challenge brand. “She’s already picked. Yours should be arriving.” Emma steps to the side, blocking the sight of Ramona from the entrance. “Now.”
The doors open again, revealing Victor.
Ramona leans over and whispers, “Don’t forget what Calvin said.”
Before Victor even begins descending, I call out in a clear voice, “Victor Hawks, I challenge you, in the sight of Blessed Sinslar and the sanctity of the Circle, to the Duel of the Binding of Souls.”
Laying a hand over the brand, Victor looks us over, considers and dismisses us in a heartbeat. Looking round like he’s expecting someone to jump out, Victor ask, “The Familiar not here yet?”
Speaking up, “Their name is Calvin or Callie.”
Victor waves the outburst off, “Their name will be whatever I decide after the duel.”
Ramona takes a step up. “You weren’t able to beat Calvin last year and the cowardly way you’ve been acting, you can’t beat him now.”
Victor, in a snit, “If the Familiar doesn’t show up, I’ll take you instead.” And issues a challenge to Ramona.
Moments later the main door cracks open and Callie slides into the room. Wearing an intense look, she begins scouring the area. And sniffing?
A *CLAP* rings out from onstage and we all turn to the headmaster. “Excellent, excellent. You’re all here.”
“But there’s only five of us.”
The Headmaster flicks his wrist and a staff appears in hand. Striking it sharply onstage a resounding boom echoes through the hall.
A bundle wrapped figure is ejected from the shadow of the back row.
Callie rushes over, crouches down, takes the figure’s hand and sniffs. “Davina.” Smiling at her, Callie stands drawing Dav up. Holding her hand to prevent her from running, Callie issues the challenge.
Another *thump*draws everyone’s attention back to the Headmaster on stage.
The Headmaster starts. “Normally we’d let this little drama play out a few more weeks. But there was a mockery of the soulbond perpetuated two nights ago.” Looking straight at Victor. “The guilty party will be punished.”
Victor at first looks started, then a scowl takes up residence.
The Headmaster continues, sweeping his gaze between the six apprentices. “However, due to unique circumstances the board and I have decided that a familiar doesn’t deserve a punishment meant for a magus as they are no longer responsible for their actions and may, in all fairness, not even remember them.”
Focusing back on Victor. “If the guilty party wins, they’ll be a trial. If they lose.” Rocking back on his heels. “We’ve a special request, a condition really, of their new magus. Nothing onerous for the magus. But the new familiar will be taught humility. The magus will be required to enforce some additional behavioral guidelines for their new familiar while at the academy.”
Another thump, a twist of the wrist and the staff vanishes. “All challenges have been issued. The two-day preparation period is being suspended for this. Now, everyone to the main dueling circle.”
Victor, steam almost visibly rising from his head, turns and marches out.
As the door closes, Emma walks over to Callie and hands her a vial. “It’s a cure-toxin. We can’t enter the circle with it since we didn’t make it.”
Callie holds the vial up and examines it. “Okay, why?”
Emma, taking Ramona’s hand, explains. “Victor. Ramona saw him in the alchemy shop buying a vial of poison, so she bought the cure.” Nodding to the vial before continuing. “I’d rather not have it destroyed between here and the circle. And you’re the safest place to keep it. He only bought one toxin so if we don’t need it, it’s yours.” Emma turns toward the door, but leaves one final comment. “Its against the rules to carry one you didn’t make into a duel.” leading Ramona out.
Moving around to get as comfortable in the clothes as possible, Calvin looks down at Dav. “Guess that means they want to go first.” Pocketing the vial.
Alberta rushes over as the others head out, catching up with Emma and Ramona. “Ramona.” Walking together, Alberta begins asking questions of both Ramona and Emma. Ramona answers a few then quickly switches sides putting Emma in the middle, still holding Emma’s arm and following her lead.
Calvin and Davina walk out of the building together with Calvin easily keeping pace with the much shorter Davina. One shrouded in layers upon layers of cloth with only her eyes visible. The other standing tall in a blouse and skirt. The blouse hanging at an odd angle, too tight across the shoulders, lose at the bust and revealing Calvin’s midrift. The skirt, while modest on Callie, doesn’t make it to Calvin’s knees.
Dav, almost pleadingly, “Callie is cuter, especially in that outfit.”
Glancing down first at himself then at Dav. “Thanks, but.” Cal stops and faces Dav. “Does that really matter?” Nodding vaguely toward the main circle. “I usually fight as Calvin.”
Shrouded eyes turning upward. “You’re the one in a dress.” Pointing at the expanse of exposed leg, “Sized for Callie. Won’t that make it harder to fight?”
Turning, Dav hurries away.
Sniff, ‘excitement’, ’fear’ and ‘lust’? Sniff, ‘lust’. A smile growing on Calvin’s face.
He doesn’t notice the ground beginning to soften. As Calvin starts after Dav, his foot sinks sending him stumbling forward. Only reflexes honed from hours of practice keeping him upright. Turning to face his attackers, Calvin is struck by a wave of flames.
Instinctively blocking with a mana shield, Calvin rolls toward a tree as a force blast hits where he had been standing. On his feet once more, Calvin puts the tree behind him and faces his two attackers, Galvin and Lewis.
“Victor. Hoping to wear me out enough that I’d be an easy fight?”
Hearing a branch creak above, Calvin glances up just as a Aline, Galvin’s catgirl familiar, drops onto his shoulders. Scrambling around Aline opens a vial filling the entire area in dense green smoke.
Galvin, surprised at the volume of the smoke pouring froth, “Aline, get out of there.” As Galvin and Lewis back up. “Victor said it’d only spray out a couple of feet.”
Lewis looks over and grunts then says, “Told ya it was a good idea to have a familiar open it.”
“Was that what he was planning on using in the last assembly?”
Lewis shrugs and begins backing off, “Probably, he kept complaining it arrived late.”
Aline comes stumbling out of the roiling green smoke and the three of them head off across the quad to pick up Lewis’ familiar and join the crowd at the dueling circle from another direction.
Smoke everywhere, coughing, eyes tearing, dropping to my knees and trying to crawl out. Then a cold darkness and finally, a clear breath. Blinking as tears stream down my face.
Looking up as Davina goes through my clothes until she finds the vial. Uncorking it she holds it to me and I swallow. I fell it cure take effect, fighting against the toxin.
Whipping my face, the green cloud in the distance behind us. “How?”
Davina, sounding stern, “You need someone to watch out for you.” Poking me in the shoulder.
Coughing up the smoke, “How was I supposed to know?” Sitting up, legs crossed.
Dramatically throwing her hands in the air, “Exactly, someone to watch your back, like a guard dog, or, or something.”
Nodding in agreement. “A good, companion.”
“Yes exactly, a companion.” Poking again. “Not one of those controlling familiars. Someone you’ll listen to. Especially when you’re begin stupid and walk into a trap.”
Letting a breath out. “You’re right.” Blowing out a breath still tinged green. “Give me a minute.” I begin circulate my mana, directing it to heal. I wasn’t in the cloud long but even so, it takes minutes before I’m feeling fit. Dav crouches down and waits beside me, glaring at the cloud as Master Grendadr neutralizes it.