The wizard tensed his muscles as the warrior stepped through the doorway. He was no simple warrior. No common conscript, this. He didn't stoop through with a simple spear, or some cruddy axe. No, he was a noble. His weapon was a sword. Not forged by some simple village smith who specialized in nails and the shoeing of horses. This sword was wrought by a castle smith. A man who tended to the gear of well trained, dangerous men. The blade was no doubt sharp, whetted just this morning, before the battle had begun. His armor, similarly, was forged to the highest of standards. One might think there was no ornamentation upon its smooth surface, but both the smith, and the wizard, knew better. Detail was this mage's specialty, and even at this distance, the steel of the plates, strapped together by dark leather, each had a personality of their own.

It was not the thing the mage would have worn, if he had worn armor. His would have been gaudy; filled with swirling patterns and impressive looking bits of metal sticking off. It would probably have gotten him killed. Fabric was so much nicer.

"So you've arrived!" The wizard yelled, as if he knew this warrior was coming all along. Truthfully, he'd have rather the man had been killed in the carnage outside.

The man instantly widened his feet in a defensive stance. He looked through narrowed eyes at the wizard. All that separated wizard and warrior was a long hallway specked with columns, and a great chasm. The wizard stood on a pedestal in the middle of the cavern, behind an ornate bridge which connected it to the main structure.

The noble pointed his sword at the wizard and launched into a self righteous tirade. Probably angry about someone the wizard had killed, or stolen from. Or, come to think of it, probably both. He let the man go on for a minute while he stared at his nails. It appeared he had accumulated a bit of dirt under them. Strange, he didn't remember doing any work to warrant that. Oh well.

He extended his hand while the warrior was in mid sentence. Suddenly, the statues lining the hallways jerked to life. Jerky, heavy movements were accompanied by grating sounds as each human like effigy in stone stepped off its pedestal and lumbered towards the nobleman. The wizard had met a lot of people accustomed to action in his life. He wasn’t the least bit surprised when the warrior sprang without hesitation into the middle of the stone guardians. He parried some blows, and let others glance off of him. Clearly, he had had a good teacher. He paid close attention to what he was doing, and even started dodging the slow swings of the heavy stone swords.

Of course, he wouldn’t look down and realize none of those heavy blows had dent or even In the least bit scrapped his armor. He wouldn’t realize that his arms only felt tired, instead of actually being tired. He wouldn’t stop to wonder why he could damage veritable walls of stone with a metal blade. He only felt satisfaction that he was beating back his foes. No matter that the statues were only illusion. Quite good ones if the wizard said so himself. Which he did, quite frequently. He was being careless with a few of the details here and there, much like the pristine armor. But the warrior wouldn’t notice. What reason was there to be so exact with a simple mind like that who wouldn’t appreciate his handiwork. Craftsmanship. Yes, that was a good reason. He did take pride in his art. Why should he invalidate all the effort he put into learning his craft if he wasn’t going to apply it fully?

The wizard looked at his nails again. He had just been sitting here. Where had that dirt come from? Was the warrior done yet? Some people took forever instead of just getting on with things.

“Ha!” The nobleman cried, breathing heavily next to a pile of stones, “I have cut my way through your evil throng outside! I have defeated your defenders inside! There are no more tricks you can play on me foul one!”

The warrior was moving closer to him. The wizard stopped looking at his fingernails, “oh damn. Do you have any idea how long those took to make?”

About four seconds. Well, years of learning. But really…, four seconds.

The warrior was far too caught up in his tirade to even care about or notice the bored tone the wizard had used. Again, not very good craftsmanship, but he just wasn’t feeling it today.

“You have shammed my family one too many times wizard. My sister is deflowered and unmarriable. My brother lies dead at the foot of your tower. But I have come to claim revenge! I…,”

There was more. There was always more. Even if the warrior had killed him, he still would have talked over his corpse. Then he would have told the tale again and again. Someone would write a song about it, then they would travel. Before long, people who had never even heard of any of them would know the tale. Of course, none of that was going to happen. Mainly because the warrior had stepped onto the bridge connecting the tower’s entrance to the stone island in the middle of the chasm. The bridge, not being real, had completely failed to support him. There was a bit of a scream as the man fell, but it trailed off eventually. The wizard leaned forward and put his hand around his ear to hear the crashing sound as the Noble hit the hard stone at the bottom.

It was depressing how often it worked, really. Maybe that was why he was getting lazy. He put all this craftsmanship into everything he did, but he could make that bridge look like any old pile of rocks and it would still work. The wizard sighed. Oh well, at least it was an illusion they could appreciate, even if only for a brief few seconds.

 

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