It was an army worthy of saga, and it had yet to even experience a battle. Regiments of spear-wielding elves, armored, trained with pike and bow to equal lethality. Dragons flew overhead, ranging from large firedrakes, to smaller reds bred for aerial combat, and those meant to draw the Skycutter airships. Knights wheeled on black horses bred for generations for war. As if that was not potent enough, it was led by a great bronze Sun Dragon, Vorastrix, and its rider, the fire mage Eldran’tyr.
No. It is led by a trio of my father’s spies.
The fire mage in question stood in the middle of a large chamber, with the three men in question. Eldran’tyr had not bothered to learn any of their names; he did not care about any of them except as a means to an end. He hoped that with enough bowing, scraping, and humbling, these fools would allow him to have his own glory, and run back to the Lord Caledor to explain that he did not need babysitting.
For now, however, the mage and prince found himself struggling to survive their most recent lesson.
All three stood in front of him, throwing powerful bolts of raw magic at his direction. They explained it as a lesson in defensive magics. Like Eldran’tyr, the Loremasters were able to cast in full armor, though their chain and scale was less impressive and encompassing than the ensorcelled dragonscale armor he wore. Unlike the Loremasters, however, Eldran’tyr also wore numerous amulets and charms to offer further protection from crude, mundane dangers. Fire mages existed to destroy
, not throw up pitiful shields and block spells. Who would hurl fireballs at him as he sat astride Vorastrix?
Needless to say, the prince was not faring as well as he had hoped. As befitted his mastery, his defensive wards shimmered before him like a heat haze in the desert, wavering as they were battered by a combined volley of lightning, molten iron and some dark miasma that threatened to crawl around the edges of his protective spell. He staggered back as the force of all three attacks struck him, barely able to keep his footing. Sweat glistened on his brow, and frustration was obvious on his face.
“I still… don’t understand… the point of this.” The elven prince grunted out, stepping forward again, pushing back against his own wards. The haze of shadow faded away, and Eldran’tyr let his wards fade between attacks.
One of the Loremasters, the leader of the trio, with long flowing silver hair held back by a silver crown, stepped forward. Unlike Eldran’tyr, he did not look like he had been struggling in the least. “You are strong, highness. But that is not enough. Your steed is strong, but that is not enough. We are just as strong as you, and there are three of us. You cannot hope to defeat all three of us, and any enemy that has the same resources will know that. They will not hold back. If you do not have the fortitude to endure what we can throw at us, how do you possibly expect to survive an enemy who would do anything to end you?”
Eldran’tyr seethed at the verbal lashing, refusing to admit that the Loremaster was correct. Instead, he decided to try and humble him. He was tired from the constant defense, using powers he was unused to depending upon. So he turned to what he was
good at. The incantation tumbled from his lips easily, almost silently. A sword of flame appeared in his hand, and he leapt forward into his favorite aggressive dueling form.
The lesson failed to humble, at least the way Eldran’tyr planned. Without losing stride the Loremaster stepped back into a defensive guard stance, the elegant two handed sword on his back drawn and countering to arcane weapon. In response, the elder mage parried and riposted, quickly pushing back and sending Eldran’tyr on the defensive. “Did you think that because you were able to wield a blade that you could surprise me? Are your eyes failing? Do we need larger
weapons for you to notice?”
Eldran’tyr staggered back against the heavier blows of the ithilmar greatsword. He parried with the magical weapon, the living flame forged into his anger and rage, but he was not trained the way the swordmasters of Hoeth were. It was a foregone conclusion that he would lose a battle against such a warrior.
“Pathetic. You want to lead, but simply assume that your magic and your dragon will carry the day.” The Loremaster lashed out with his blade, pulling blows so that each one was parriable, but with enough force behind it that the prince was hard-pressed with each strike and counter.
“You think you are some great mage, but you are brash. Reckless. You have a sun dragon as your steed, and you think that it is some great feat that you can throw fire? Vorastrix can do that as easy as breathing!” The Loremaster seemed to be growing angry. His temper growing short as he lashed out with each blow.
“Insolent whelp! You are no worthy mage! You think because you have a few tricks, that you can wield a sword, you will be better than another magus? Well now what do you do against your better?” The sword flashed out again, connecting with the fiery sword, and the magical blade fizzled and disappeared. Eldran’tyr staggered back, falling to the ground. He was breathing hard, exhausted, his endurance spent in magical and physical duels.
The tip of the blade was suddenly at Eldran’tyr’s throat, as the Loremaster stood over him. “Pathetic. Your father was right to entrust us to protect
your army.” And with that dismissal, the man turned, walking away. He sheathed his sword, and the other two magi turned and followed.
Eldran’tyr was seeing red. How dare he!?
He pushed himself to his feet, panting, breathing heavily. “I don’t need fortitude. I don’t need tricks.
” The air grew heavy around him. He raised one hand, and the very shadows seemed to waver, as if cast from a flame. A moment later a powerful inferno surged from his fingers. A living torrent of fire rushed away from him, and washed over all three. “I have anger.” He spat out at the spot where all three mages had been enveloped in flame.
The flames guttered out, leaving the three Loremasters, unharmed behind their own wards. The lead Loremaster looked over his shoulder. “A pity that’s not good enough.”