The next day, I left Miranda with Éif. I used my Telmarian cloak, and teleported to the human world. I let my senses broaden, using a form of magical radar to detect the telltale tug of magic. Finding a strong magical pulse, I began to walk.
At one point, I noticed a shadowy figure duck behind an old house. My eyes narrowed. Another one flitted into the corner of my vision. I saw a small flash of fire. Hâfléngs. I knew what they were after. With my cloak, I was a beacon of magic. But the Hâfléngs were getting bolder. This was new. They had never tried to go after a fully trained Sivva before. Suddenly there was a high whistle blast, and I was completely surrounded.
“Surrender, Sivva. No tricks,” snapped one who stood directly in front of me.
“I do not surrender to lower beings,” I snapped back.
“We know all your powers. All you can and can’t do.” replied another.
“And I know that I can easily destroy you,” I replied, keeping my tone calm.
“But how many of us can you take, Sivva, before you are overwhelmed?” snorted the one in front of me.
“You would be surprised,” I replied.
One of the Hâfléngs decided it was done waiting. It lunged for me. I whipped around, my ring already out, and he froze solid.
“Patience,” I told his statue, “is a virtue.”
“You think you’re so smart, Sivva. You and your little relics. We’ll show you,” the first Hâfléng muttered.
I smiled darkly at him. “I challenge you.”
“To a duel, you idiot. I challenge you to a one-on-one duel.”
I knew I couldn’t take them all. In a duel, I might have a chance. I wasn’t much of a duelist- and I was making a gamble by guessing he wasn’t either.
A smile started on the Hâfléng’s face.
“I accept, Sivva. Men, make room for us.”
I laughed. “I’m almost excited to see how this turns out.” I considered something, and held up a hand. “Of course, you will have to swear that if I win, then you will let me go free.”
The Hâfléng fidgeted nervously. “And if I win, Sivva? What then?”
I shrugged. “You won’t win.”
He laughed. “Oh, you would be surprised, Sivva. You would be surprised. But yes, I swear upon the source, the vortex, the heart of magic, that if you win, you may go without trouble.”
I didn’t show it, but I was relieved. An oath upon the heart of magic was unbreakable. Transgressors would be punished greatly- the magic that held the oath together would instantly explode, killing the oathbreaker instantly.
“Men, lay out the arena,” the Hâfléng facing me ordered.
The Hâfléngs around us each laid one small white stone on the ground. As he set fire to the nearest, all of the stones suddenly flared, the circle of light clearly marking out the arena.
I studied their handiwork, and nodded. “Not bad, not bad. Could be better, it’s not the arenas of Zila, but then again, you’ve never seen them, have you?”
The Hâfléng before me looked furious. I smiled in dark amusement. I was not in a very compassionate mood. I knew the Hâfléngs could never see Zila. They would never be allowed to enter it. They had to satisfy themselves with the Humanlands.
“You’re dead, Sivva,” the Hâfléng hissed, through gritted teeth.
I shrugged, showing indifference. “I’ve heard that many times. You would be surprised.”
The Hâfléng didn’t answer. Instead he lifted an amulet that was around his neck up t0 the sky. It caught fire as he swung it over his head, ready to fight.
I simply stood there, waiting for his actual attack.
He let the amulet loose and it whipped towards me. I saw runes, dark runes, that had been carved onto the object. Not Hâfléng runes, though; they did not have the skill to give power to runes. It had to be something else. I dodged, and the amulet hit the edge of the arena, fizzling out with a puff of black smoke. I didn’t allow myself time to wonder what its purpose was- I remained focused on the current duel.
I fingered my ring, then shot a bright beam at him. It bounced off him, hit one of the walls of the ring, and fizzled out.
“Nice amulet of deflection you’ve got there,” I observed.
“Seems to work on your Sivva magic,” he responded.
“Not quite,” I smiled. I pulled out a silver disc with razor sharp sides. I whirled it once, twice, then threw it. There was a shattering sound and the Hâfléng was blasted backwards. Good. I had destroyed his protection.
He had been prepared for this eventuality and activated another amulet, then another, beginning to shore up his defenses again. I didn’t bother to wait for him to do so.
I stood and spread my hands out. A bright bolt shot from them and it hit the Hâfléng, almost knocking him into the fire. The other Hâfléngs reached out through the fire and helped him back up.
I cursed softly. I couldn’t go on like this forever. Magic drained your energy and strength very quickly. Relics and artifacts did too, but less quickly. And I was pretty sure that if he fell, another would take his place. I couldn’t win, but I fought anyway. The thought of Miranda sent a pang of fury through me. Nobody would hurt her. I had promised that to her parents and to her.
The ground around me glowed, each crack outlined in fiery red. The Hâfléng narrowed his eyes. This was the final stand. The final duel. The Hâfléng shuddered, as if being pushed back, but he lifted an amulet and smashed it against the ground, starting his own wall. Whoever’s wall broke would lose. This was high stakes and though I had more practice than him, he was also strong, and knew how to use his magic.
I pressed a little harder. But the Hâfléng didn’t break, and I felt more force apply itself to my wall. I couldn’t break now. I had to win this. I pushed harder, knowing that one slip up would mean a break of concentration, and a break of concentration would mean losing. And losing would mean… disaster. No Sivva had ever been defeated by Háflêngs, and I was not going to be the first.
I shook those thoughts from my head. I couldn’t think about that. Losing was not an option anymore.
“Want to surrender, Sivva?” the Hâfléng gasped.
I didn’t reply. I wasn’t a novice, and I knew that speaking would just make it all the harder to concentrate, and in this, concentration was everything.
Then something changed.
The Hâfléng seemed to grow stronger. He suddenly pushed harder against my mental wall.
He had been faking me out.
And I had fallen for it.
With a loud shattering sound, my mental wall broke. The backlash sent me flying, and I hit the ground with a thud.
The ring around us sputtered and died.
It was silent.
Then the Hâfléngs began to laugh. They surged forward, to congratulate their champion.
“Let this be a great day for all Hâfléngs!” he shouted. “Today, we have captured a Sivva!”
The Hâfléngs around us cheered louder. They rushed forwards, congratulating each other on their victory. The world was spotty before my eyes. One of them raised a club.
Just before it came smashing down on my head, I thought one word.
The club came down, not a killing strike, but enough to make me crumple like a rag doll. My final thought spiraled away into darkness, taking me with it.
No… no… no… no… no…