Multifold Manus Chapter 14

	“All in favor for voting in a new president?” The council room remained silent, each of the members of Fritz’Eleo eyeing one another stiffly from their seats. Not one of them dared to step out of line for fear of being branded some kind of ‘traitor’ and being cast out of the council themselves. All eyes gradually shifted to the front of the longtable where Harold Garnalga Babarry sat, lost in his own thoughts. In his mind he played his defeat at the hands of that first-year over and over again, trying to understand how he was able to not only learn such an advanced technique, but from whom? Harold’s attempts at puzzling it out with no clear answers had left him in a foul mood. Eventually he stood up from his chair, clearing his throat.
 “This meeting is adjourned.” He announced, turning to leave.
	“President Babarry?” One of the council members asked. 
	Harold spun back around, furrowing his brow, “What is it?”
	“What are we to do about the unrest among our peers?”
	The prince thought on this for a moment, his frustration clear in his expression, “Tell them this: I, Prince Harold of Babarry will make things right. I only need more time to make an effective plan before I challenge House Karak-Albrac again to win back our time.”
	There was a shift in the council members, some of their worries had been eased, but others were only more disheartened. “What of the time Karak-Albrac had bargained to House Calmashorne?”
	“Once I defeat the transmutation house’s duelist, the enchantment house will have no option but to give us back our time. If they do not I will personally contest any bid they make with a duel.” The prince growled, his patience wearing thin. “Now, as I said, the meeting is adjourned.”
	At once, everyone stood and filed out of the council room, each going his or her own way. All but one, who sat at the far end of the longtable. Harold was about to leave himself before they stood up and shut the door with the wave of their hand. The prince looked back, his irritation rising again.
	“Who dares?” He hissed through his teeth, watching as the council member strutted around the table towards him with a scowl on her face.
It was the dwarven woman, “Dottathum Azum-Barowitz,” She replied, “You’d do well to remember the names of your own council.”
	“And what do you want, dwarf?” The prince inquired, “It had better be worth you wasting my time.”
	“What I want is for you to take this job seriously. I want a president for Fritz’Eleo who ‘as our best interests at the very forefront of 'is tasks, not some petty princeling grudge-bearer with a first-year student what whooped ‘im but good.” She barked.
	“I will pretend I didn’t hear that last remark from the hill-dwarf that lost her first annual duel to a conjurer,” Harold remarked with contempt. Dottathum bit her tongue, that very conjurer had won the entire competition, “As for the rest of your complaints, what would you have me do? Roll over and give up on dueling, politely ask the transmutationists for our time back?”
“No, but we are actively alienating ourselves from the rest of the Fairgarland ‘ouses. If we keep trying to strong-arm every ‘ouse into capitulating to us, we’ll be short of friends and rich with enemies. Concede the time to Karak-Albrac and move to strengthen our bonds with the other ‘ouses! I’m sure ya can work a deal with a house we are still in good relations with. If there even is one.” 
“I did not catapult Fritz’Eleo into being the number one house by bowing down to the whims of every other house. Reasonableness ended a long time ago when they first spurned me and I will not turn back to it now. I will find a way to defeat Loxley and I will take back our time. If you think you can do a better job at running Fritz’Eleo, then give it a try-- after you have bested me in a duel yourself,” He snarled, drawing out his staff. The dwarf stood stiff, red in the face. Her eyes glared up at Harold, but she dared not make a move against him.
	“No? My, such restraint, for a dwarf,” Hissed Harold as he withdrew his staff. “Do not think less of yourself, you know better than to try and fight a master of dueling over something so foolish. Now go about your day before I decide to–”
All at once, the prince was interrupted by the quaking of the room. He looked into Dottathum’s eyes and saw terror in them. This was not her doing. The floor beneath the two shook, the chandelier rattled above them and the chairs vibrated, dancing from their positions under the longtable. Dottathum clambered under the table, hiding away from the crystalline chandelier that swayed back and forth from the rafters, threatening to shatter across the floor. Harold pitied the dwarf for a moment before cautiously moving toward the window. Several students outside were experiencing the quake as well, each of them scrambling to steady themselves. Harold heard Dottathum scream, the skies darkening outside until finally it all culminated in a thunderous crash and an explosion of magical, blinding light. The room settled, and the light dimmed, and Harold found himself looking out of the window to see a very tall, very old tower standing now beside House Fritz’Eleo.

	. . . . .

A cluster of students crowded around the north side of campus. Blud and Reccoa stopped to see what was going on. The two had just gotten lunch and were on their way to the arena, but a sudden quaking had halted their hopes of reaching it. Now that things had calmed down they had more than enough time to stop and discover what had happened, “Ugh, I can’t see,” Blud grumbled as he was way too close to the ground.
	“Uppies,” Reccoa declared as she put her hands under the goblin’s armpits and lifted him into the air. The beetle woman was taller than most, and with his newfound height Blud was taller than all. A tower had appeared on the north end of campus near the Fritz’eleo house. It was taller and thicker than the house’s dorms, but this one was also decorated with the banner of Fritz’Eleo, “See something?”
	“A tower. Ya can see it too, can’t ya?” Blud asked, “But who made this?”
	“Ah, I see that Headmaster Daldomel has appeared right on time,” As if to answer the goblin’s question, Dean Zuccarius had appeared along with a few of the headmasters. The crowd of students turned to look at the dean.
	“Daldomel!?” A student gasped, “Truly!?”
	“Yes, we were informed last week but did not see it wise to scare the populace with that promise,” The dean explained, “Give the good headmaster some space, students,” He instructed before approaching the tower. With his long, wooden staff he knocked on the door, “Daldomel! Are you home?”
	“Yes, yes, I am here,” The headmaster appeared, slowly opening his door. His head was shining and bald, his beard was long, white and well kempt, and his robes were crimson red with yellow shoulders and long yellow vest embroidered with symbols of evocation magicks. His hat– which he was slapping dust out of before placing it on his head– was matching red with a yellow band. It sat crooked on his head, though the old wizard paid it no mind. 
	“Professor ‘Ketchup and Mustard’ is back…” A student near Blud chuckled at the little nickname.
	“What is the, as the kids say, ‘down low’ at Fairgarland these days?” Daldomel asked the dean in a raspy, gravelly voice. The human wizard was definitely on in years, but his natural affinity for magic kept him limber and healthy.
	“I have not heard anyone say that in some time,” Zuccarius chuckled, “Come, friend. There is much to show, including your new office.”
	“Oooh. I hope you got me a couch this time. Maybe a color TV, even,” He jested as the two headed off with two headmasters following.
	“I guess his tower is just there, now,” A student grumbled, "Like Fritz’Eleo needed another building…"
	Another scoffed, “At least he didn’t teleport it somewhere illegal or kill someone with it.”
	“Downsies?” Reccoa asked the goblin.
	“Yeah. We gotta get over to the arena, c’mon,” The goblin waved for her to follow before stalking off.

	. . . . .

	“So the whole thing started over some girl?” Rald asked in disbelief, “A human girl!?”
	“That is the supposed reason for the Trojan war, yes,” Miss Manus smiled, “You will find that this is a common theme in many mythos. Some would call it romantic.”
	“Heaven above, at least make her an elven maiden or something! That’s slightly less boring!” 
“But remember, this was before the cracking,” The fey-witch pointed out.
“That didn’t stop them from adding in gorgons to Perseus’ story,” The goblin grumbled. Sitting on the bleachers on the side of the arena on the ground floor were Miss Manus and Rald, both of them were reading for the Myths and Legends club, quietly discussing the story as they went so the fey-witch had an idea for what to go over next week. 
	Galahad trudged across the field, currently set up as a tennis court. There was a green glowing crystal inlaid into the wall near the entrance, “Is this how we do it?” The duelist wondered as he gripped it. It hummed and warmed up at his touch, “Dueling arena,” He ordered. 
	Runes across the walls glowed a deep orange. The clay tennis court dissolved into sand, roughly a half inch deep, as was regulation. A set of lines signifying a single regulation sized arena appeared, “Remove lines?” He quizzically ordered again.
	The markings vanished as the wizard commanded. Galahad nodded with satisfaction, drew his staff, and started to draw lines in the sand with conjured black paint, “Galahad! I hate this Hera bitch!” The goblin hollered.
	“Oh yeah? What do you want me to do about it?” He shouted back.
	“Uggh, I don’t know! Tell me I’m right!”
	Galahad laughed. As he opened his mouth to speak again, the boom of thunder outside interrupted him. Next, the earth shook violently. Galahad stumbled and caught himself with his staff, Rald shouted in terror, and Manus covered herself and the goblin with her enchanted cloak to protect them from potential debris. Galahad struggled to prepare an abjuration spell with the shaking of the earth. 
As suddenly as it began, the thundering and shaking stopped. As it did, Rald, Miss Manus and Galahad all looked around. Slowly, Manus pulled back her enchanted cloak from atop the goblin where they sat on the bleachers, “Galahad, what was that?” The witch asked.
	Galahad shrugged and went back to painting thick black lines in the transmuted floor. The duelist cordoned off four small fields for practice duels, “Dunno. The arena didn’t come down, so I think we’re good.”
	“D-do you think it was an earthquake? What if one of the house towers came down!?” Rald whimpered, holding her hard backed copy of The Iliad over her head like a shield.
	Miss Manus shook her head, “It felt different and the thunder stopped as soon as the quake did. Might it have been magical phenomena?” 
	The goblin nodded slowly, “Y-you’re probably right… Where were we, Manus?” She returned to her book.
	“Put it away until your heart has calmed, Rald. Besides, the club meeting time is very soon,” Miss Manus spoke gently so as to calm her.
	“Rald. Would you mind helping me?” Galahad grunted as he removed his sling after finishing his drawing.
	“Lox!” Rald hollered as he winced in pain. 
	“I’m fine– I’m fine,” He grunted as he straightened his arm out, “I need you to heal me. My bones are set, just mend it a little more to ease the pain.”
	Rald frowned but nodded at her friend. She drew her wand and muttered the magical words to herself as she rubbed a sprig of a magical plant on the once broken arm. The plant glowed, slowly vaporizing and merging with Galahad’s arm as its healing properties were transferred to the duelist, “There,” Rald subconsciously ran her hand down his forearm, “Feeling better?”
	“A lot better, thank you,” He pat her head, ruffling it a little bit and displacing her hat. Rald blushed and quickly sat back down with Manus.
	“The champion of Karak-Albrac moves freely once more!” Fredrik cried as he stepped across the sandy floor. His mask of the day looked like a golden, growling, one-eyed wolf.
	“Fredrik! Glad you could make it,” Galahad grinned at his friend. Right behind him was a grumpy looking dwarven woman, “You brought a friend?”
	“Mister Loxley, this is Dottathum. You should recognize her from the first of the duels,” Fredrik introduced.
	The duelist nodded, “I think I remember now. You went against that gnome. You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve been really frazzled since my duel.”
	“Call me Dotti. You don’ know ‘ow many times I’ve rewatched that fight. Only thing that’s given me any joy recently,” The dwarf grumbled, “Could ya beat ‘im up again? Maybe beat some damn reason or sense into ‘im this time?”
	Galahad chuckled as more people filed in. He was surprised he had a group of around thirty that filed into the stands, “I’ll let you know if I get the chance,” Although Galahad had been told that the news of his duelists club had spread like wildfire, he had not expected this large of a turn out. He expected maybe a dozen at best from the few notices he and Manus had posted on bulletin boards around campus.
	Fredrick, Manus, Rald, and Blud all sat next to one another in the front row, each one looking to Galahad to begin. He rubbed his arm and swallowed nervously, “Hey,” He greeted. A few in the crowd replied with similar greetings, “I’m Galahad, duelist for House Karak-Albrac. I, uh, guess that I'm the club leader. I’m not sure what you all expect from me for this, but I was hoping for this to be a place for you all to practice and learn from one another. Miss Manus, could you pass around the sign up sheet? We might need more than one.”
“Understood,” Manus called back as she procured the pages in question from her bag. 
“I’m, well, not really a teacher,” The duelist continued with a sheepish admission, “But I feel as if Fairgarland has wholly undersuited you to combat, so I feel like I will need to do at least a little teaching. Where to begin…?”
“If I may, Mister Loxley?” Miss Manus stood. Each of her hands were visible as they poked out from beneath her cloak. The top hands were human, the middle two were crystalline, and the bottom two were large, scaled, dragon hands. Each set pressed their fingertips with their opposite counterparts, “Mayhaps you should show a technique and have them practice it in turn?”
The duelist nodded, “I suppose that’s for the best. How about we start with throwing spells back and forth, focusing on dodging or blocking your opponent's attack? Let’s stay to low classified spells for your attack. Use enchantments, illusions, abjuration, and even transmutation or conjuration to defend yourself. Let’s get four groups of two out here… Fredrik, you and Dotti. Blud, get out here with that friend of yours next to you. Uh, you in the back, the minotaur, bring that guy next to you up here. Aaaand… You two in the front. Chop chop, I wanna see some spells fly!”
	Miss Manus was surprised as she saw Galahad begin to instruct others, “Blud, spread your legs more, have a wider stance so you can dodge easier. Dotti, try not to kill Fredrik, that’s not the plan right now, alright? You, a little stronger, okay? He needs at least a little bit of a challenge, alright?”
	“Not a teacher my rear,” Rald scoffed.
	Miss Manus nodded, “Teaching? I am not sure. Perhaps drilling is more apt. Seems to be something instinctual for him. I think he is telling the truth about having been taught from a young age. His father who taught him as an apprentice must be someone who is very knowledgeable.”
	“SAN! Cut that out!” Blud shouted as he dived down into the sand. The woman’s powerful blast of fire struck the far wall whose protective runes absorbed it.
	The woman shook her head, her hood obscuring much of her face, “I am not sorries, Blaad. You must learn. Is not a reason we is here?,” Her voice seeped with anger as her casting implement - numerous red crystal shards hovered around her chitinous hand.
	“Hey, lay off the guy,” Galahad instructed as he stomped over, “While we are learning, this is practice. Keep the power level down.”
	“You are Lox?” The woman asked as she slowly removed her hood. Galahad didn’t flinch as he stared at her inhuman face, each eye training on him, “I was expecting… taller, stronger, maybe… handsomer?”
	“San–” Blud grunted, brushing the sand off himself, “Lox, this is San– or ah, Reccoa. She’s the one who was itchin’ to meet ya in the arena.”
	“Is that so? Blud, take five. Tell me, Reccoa. You’re a sectare, yes?”
	“Yessums, you know of us?” She replied as she chittered excitedly. Galahad was taking a position across from her, “I am sorcerer, come from Japan.”
	The duelist drew his staff, firmly planting the butt of it in the sand. He pulled his scarf up on his face and adjusted his cap, “Know of you? Not really, only read a few things on your culture, but Blud never mentioned you were one. Enough talk, come on!”
	Reccoa nodded, slowlying hyping herself up, throwing her emotions wildly into a rage. Flames came from her red crystals and now burning hands. Her hands rose above her head, the flames turning into a disc of burning energy. With all her might, she lobbed it at the duelist. Galahad sneered. With the wave of his hand, a simple barrier appeared, the disk collided and drilled against the barrier, threatening to break through until Loxley snapped his fingers, dissipating it into nothing more than ash. The beetle woman froze, blinking all four of her eyes at her opponent. 
	“Powerful,” Galahad admitted, “But you have no focus. Like an old, pre-cracking blunderbus. Mana being flung everywhere with every spell. Your reserves probably run deep if you’re casting like this. Are you from a long line of sorcerers?”
	With a glance to her shoulder and whispering to some non-existent thing for a few moments. Galahad swore he saw the glimmer of something perched on the shoulder of the sectare woman, but said nothing, “No. Am not. First in line– in many long time.”
	The butt of Galahad’s staff slammed on the floor, “Ready?”
	“Yessums. Pre-pear-red,” Again, with only a moment’s meditation, tears began to roll down her cheeks as thick, swirling plate armor made of flames and conjured stones fashioned like chiton on a bug. The wizard looked around the arena, all other practices had stopped as all eyes were glued to the demonstration. Galahad pulled his spell book from his bottomless bag and poured over the pages. Toward the end he stopped and pointed to a spell. The words came off the page in a ghoulish, ghostly form and went into his staff, making the tip glow red. Red lightning crackled on his staff, which he quickly pointed at his sparring partner, carefully aiming along its charred, black shaft. The swirling, crackling lighting in the crystal ball glowed brightly as Galahad thrust it forward. The sadness turned into sobbing from Reccoa as she tried to maintain her armor against the powerful, long bolt of crimson lightning. She stumbled backwards slightly as she struggled to maintain her magical armor. She felt her heart skip a beat as her armor cracked, all of her sadness had been washed away by a strangling, deafening fear. Reccoa’s sorcerer magic teleported her in a flash of fire and smoke backwards to the other side of the room and right out of her crumbling armor. She slid to the floor, clutching her chest. Galahad’s attack hung in the air, it had only been cast to go through her armor and stop before actually striking her. The sectare woman panted as the other club-goers gaped at the display.
“Let’s swap out,” Galahad decided, bringing everyone back to focus on the club, “Another eight, come out here,” He quickly broke them up into duos on assumed power levels, “Take care to use lower spells, alright?” They quickly agreed as Galahad took a seat on the bench with his friends. He sighed and took a sip from a flask.
	“Since when are you an expert on evocation?” Fredrik chided his friend.
	“I’m not. I picked that one up last week for demonstrations. Uses way more mana than I wish it would,” He grumbled.
	Reccoa panted as she approached, still winded from the massive expenditure of mana. She dropped to her knees, putting her hands on them, and placing her face close to the floor, “I am sorries. I was assuming that princling of Babarry was not real challenge. Coddled princeling do not make great challenge. Lox’s strength is apparent. Am forgiven?”
	“You are as long as you understand that overpowering your sparring partner doesn’t lead to either of you learning anything, alright?” Galahad scolded gently. 
	“Am understand. I am sorries, Blaad.”
	“Yeah, yeah. Just get off the floor. It's embarassin,’” The goblin sighed as the sectare woman stood and took a seat at his side.
	Dotti folded her arms, “So yer from Japan? What’re ya doin’ out ‘ere?”
	Fredrik moved his head toward her, his face inscrutable behind the mask, “Are you unaware of how Japan views mages? Since the Cracking, the Empire of Japan has had a very rocky relationship with magic. The Emperor quickly moved to illegalise all magic outside of sanctioned casters. They are very strict on this. The Russian Tsars did the same. The French Monarchy’s wizard king has put a similar decree into effect, though they are quite eager to bring more casters into their fold. Italy has completely outlawed wizards, excluding holy warriors such as paladins and clerics,” Fredrik paused his tangent, “Pardon me. Back on topic. Sorcerers are beings of magic. It is impossible to simply not practice it. I would understand why your parents would want to move you to America where you will not be persecuted for your magic.”
	Reccoa nodded quickly, “Yessums. You have the correct of it.”
	“Your parents came with you, right?” Rald whimpered.
	The sectare woman shook her head, “No’s. I… smaaggled out of home land. Only guide is Hiirogami, ancestor spirit,” She explained, revealing a beetle larger than her fist that sat on her shoulder. Dotti, Rald, and Blud made ‘oooh,’ noises and Miss Manus was sure she saw it bow, “Not speak in english, sorrowfully.”
	Galahad nodded and stood, “At least you speak it well enough to learn. Speaking of which, I had better go give this group my two cents.”
	. . . . . 

"So tell me, old friend, what have you been up to in the last few decades?" Zucarius asked. The older dean sat behind his desk, reclining back in his chair as Xavos Daldomel sat opposite of him, leaning against his staff with one hand while sipping tea from the other.
"Avoiding your school, for one," Xavos replied with a grin, "Never could stand the half-baked house politicking. Teaches the students bad habits."
"I feel it prepares them for the world they'll be a part of," Zucarius replied calmly, the old dean idly stroking his beard.
 Xavos snorted, "Ha, they're better off living off the land and helpin' one another than bickering over arbitrary nonsense like who gets to browse the library at night or who gets to use the bathroom in which building. Utter nonsense."
Zucarius leaned forward on his desk, locking his fingers, "You may be right. But I feel this helps them work together even when they butt heads. Better to fight with words than with wands, as old Ludolf would say."
Xavos shrugged and took another sip of his tea, "And yet we allow such dangers as dueling. Besides, our old professor couldn't win a fight with words or wands. He would always get tongue-tied the moment he was flustered or challenged and usually by me. Ahh, but you're probably right, which is why you're the dean and I am simply a humble headmaster," He japed, the two wizards smiling at one another.
"To be fair, the dueling also helps prepare them for the world, whether it is ours or yours," Said the dean.
Xavos nodded, "I'll concede that point, both worlds are dangerous."
"Speaking of, would you tell me what you were doing in Yellowstone?" The dean asked, raising his bushy white brow.
Xavos took a deep breath and sighed, looking his friend in the eye, "I'm sure you already know the answer to that."
"Humor me, would you?" The smile on Zucarius’ mouth had disappeared and was replaced by an intense stare. Xavos grumbled to himself for a moment, looking down at his hands before nodding.
"Alright, fine. I was looking for highly condensed mana for my experiments," He explained, waving his hand as if it was nothing to be concerned over. 
The ever watchful gaze of Zucarius’ eyes stared him down, "Still trying to 'fill in the cracks,' I take it?" He inquired, resting his knuckles over his mouth.
"My theory is correct, I know it can be done, I've seen it with my own two eyes but the IMA is full of fools and incompetents," Xavos erupted, throwing his hands up and consequently his tea. He groaned and cast a spell with the snap of his fingers, cleaning the mess and placing the teacup gently on the desk.
Zucarius shook his head, "I have spoken with the International Mages Assembly. They say it is pointless to even try, 'a fool's errand' I'm told. The amount of mana required–"
"Is astronomical, yes, yes I've heard it all. Nothing worth doing is without sacrifice,” Xavos cut in, clearly irritated by the repetitiveness of the response, “They also say that the people living in the Great Crack have chosen that life. How can you take anything they say seriously when they won't even consider the good it would do for those people to have real, living ground beneath them? Mana to breathe life into their lives?"
"Or perhaps an illustrious new title to your name?" Zucarius mused from behind his clasped fingers.
Xavos frowned at the accusation, his mustache drooping low. He quickly decided it best to change topics, "Alright then, what have you gotten up to? Anything groundbreaking happen in Fairgarland?"
"As a matter of fact, there was. Why, not so long ago we held our annual dueling tournament,” explained the dean.
"Yeah, so?"
Zucarius smiled a wily smile, "You'll never guess what happened."
"Prince Babarry won again, I'm sure," Xavos said with a bored tone. Zucarius shook his head and chuckled, "Not the prince?" Now Xavos was interested, "Then who?"
"A young lad by the name of Loxley, Galahad Loxeley. Only joined Fairgarland six weeks ago as a first-year," Explained Zucarius, leaning back in his chair and watching as the wheels turned in his friend’s head.
"A first-year participated in the duels? A first-year beat Harold?" Xavos couldn't believe his ears. He had to know more, "What kind of person is he, what school of magic does he practice? Is he still in the Seeker House?"
The wizened dean shook his head, "He is no longer in Seeker, he was inducted into Karak-Albrac the day he beat Harold– and before you ask, no, he did not win the tournament."
Xavos could only blink as he processed the information, "Transmutation? He's studying transmutation? Whatever for?"
"That is not for me to say," Zucarius answered, "As for what kind of person he is, well… from what I have seen and heard, he is quite kind, if not a little stubborn and reckless. He studies hard and helps where he can. Why, last week he even started a dueling club to 'help teach the other students how to duel,' as he said."
"A dueling club? Is he holding it in the arena?" Asked Xavos, now leaning forward in his chair.
"As we speak. One of my selves can see it now." 
The dean winked at Xavos, who stood up immediately, "Then I should go see for myself!"
"Xavos, try to keep your travels to the outdoors, please. Startling the students is  bad for their health," Zucarius urged him.
"Ha. The best I can do is keep it to my tower and my classroom," Xavos grinned down at his friend.
"If that is the best I can hope for…" Sighed Zucarius, motioning for the headmaster to go ahead. After a short pause, Xavos held up his staff and with a low thunder and a gust of wind he disappeared, leaving the dean watching as the papers on his desk swirled in the air where his friend once stood. With a sigh he flicked his wrist and collected each page back to where it belonged.

Xavos stood before the arena doors, adjusting his red robes and hat to make himself at least a little presentable. When he was satisfied he opened the door and waltzed inside, his ears perking up upon hearing the clatter of spells being flung and deflected.
As he entered the arena proper, he witnessed the golden masked Fredrik casting a spell of golden darts, only for a dark-haired student to bat them away at once, each dart sticking into the sand below.
"Just like that, it can be deflected. It's not just about the amount of mana you put into your ward, but your physical strength, the angle that you block and the speed that you hit it. This is especially true for physical spells like what my friend Fredrik here just used," The first-year explained to the crowd in the bleachers. Xavos stood silently and listened, eyeing the young man from the doorway. 
"For pure mana spells, the strength of your arm becomes less important, but it still counts for something. And another thing - Dotti, hit me with a fireball, please."
"Ya sure, Galahad?" The dwarf asked, wary of what might happen.
"Trust me," Galahad's confidence convinced the dwarf. She stepped into the arena and prepared a fireball as instructed. Galahad gave her a nod before holding up his staff, Dotti slinging it towards him. The young wizard forced his hands forward, the fireball striking his ward at the same time. The force caused a blowback and the fireball dissipated as if it had been snuffed out like a candle in the wind.
"Depending on the spell, and particularly fire spells, you can completely nullify them with a stronger burst of mana. It's very similar to how real fire works: should a bigger flame rage next to a smaller flame, it will steal its oxygen - or in this case, mana. This will only work if you have enough mana to burn, so it can be risky if you're not careful. Anyway, enough of me talking, let's get back to practicing. I'll come around again to check your form. Don't be afraid to ask questions!"
"I've one," Xavos spoke up with a smile, walking towards the young man. 
Galahad turned and looked at the old wizard, smiling, "Well let's hear it."
"Where did you learn all that?" Xavos asked, stopping before the sands. 
Galahad raised his brow, "I… learned it from my father." He replied, unsure of the question, "I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself, I'm–"
"I know who you are, Mr. Loxley. Your name has made the rounds all over campus, I'm told," The wizard in crimson and yellow smiled, "I am called Professor Xavos Miligary Daldomel the Inquirer, many simply call me Daldomel, or Xavos the Red if you like. I am also the headmaster of evocation."
Galahad looked back and saw that many of the students practicing had stepped aside, watching the conversation unfold, "Professor Daldomel–" 
"And you haven't answered my question, Mister Loxley," Xavos interrupted, "I asked 'where' you learned that."
At once, Xavos let loose a firebolt aimed for the man, Galahad instinctively warding if off. The firebolt hit the sand and burst into embers that sprayed the rest of the court. The young wizard winced, but he stood his ground, glaring over his staff at the headmaster, "I'm sorry to say I don't answer questions at the point of a staff."
"Ha! A good answer," Xavos chuckled, "Well, you're doing a fine job, so I'll not take up any of your time," In an instant the headmaster raised his staff, shaking the ground for but a moment before he disappeared, finding himself sitting before Zucarius in his office again.
"Well?" The dean asked expectantly.
Xavos took off his hat and wiped the sweat from his bald scalp, "Well, he is knowledgeable in abjuration that much is plain. He deflected a firebolt I cast copying Harold's mana signature with little to no effort. How many times did those two fight?"
"Just the once." Answered Zucarius.
"WHAT?!" The red wizard leapt from his chair, "He memorized the prince's mana resonation after just one duel?!"
	“After a single round, by my estimate,” The dean added.
	Xavos tapped his fingers on the table, “He is no ordinary student. He is no ordinary wizard either. Surely you must know more, you approved his entry into the tournament, did you not?”
	“I did approve his entry,” Zucarius waved his hand, opening his window before grabbing a long, wooden pipe with swirling carvings on it. He loaded it with mana infused pipe-weed, “How could I not after the letters of recommendation he showed me.”
	“Who? Who were they from?” With the snap of his fingers, Xavos ignited the dean’s pipes, “Tell me, I must know.”
	The master of illusion puffed on his pipe, blowing a ring above his head. A mischievous smile slowly spread across his lips, “Where is the fun of that? But I will tell you, a few were very prominent figures in the magical community.”
	“Magical community. More than just wizards then,” Xavos quickly assumed, “Fine, you mischievous–” He bit his tongue and held back his insults, “I will continue my search.”

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