Leotra Quatts rambled angrily through the Oppad Forest, away from the village of Kemza. He’d had another argument with his master, Hunrah, which he reflected on as he skipped forthrightly over the branches and through a maze of poplar trees. All his thoughts were dedicated to how he was right, and Hunrah was definitely wrong.
It wasn’t that Leotra was lazy exactly; in fact, he was pretty clever, just the apprentice wizard didn’t know his grimoire quite as well as he should. Most of the time, he just couldn’t see how a lot of the spells applied to him, in his village, in his age. Besides, if there was any need for one of the dusty old spells, he could look them up in his master’s great library. He stood still when he thought he heard a whisper through the trees, but there was only silence, and he carried on at a slower pace than before.
Leotra did not care that his navy-blue robe was getting muddied and frayed at the bottom as it violently brushed against the sweetly scented flora. No doubt, that would be another misdemeanour that would be criticised when he returned. Fortunately, he was very adept with a darning needle and thread.
Leotra thought he heard footsteps behind him, and he turned around, peering through the forest, but didn’t see anything except oak trees, brambles, and a few toadstools.
Leotra walked further and suddenly heard the rustling of leaves, beside him. Startled, he turned and noticed a dwarf standing in a clearing next to a tree stump. Leotra had seen pictures of dwarves in books, but this one was definitely not down a mine or working at a forgery; this diminutive middle-aged man had browner hair than the bright red ones in his leather-bound tomes. In this woodland, he looked like a deserter from a lost battle. The wars, however, were over in the East; the fighting was happening in the Koaire Mountains, many hundreds of miles away from the land of Jueral. Leotra had the cover of trees, so he was not spotted, but the dwarf could be a threat, and so he kept himself hidden, as his mere presence might just have to force him in to battle.
Even young wizards knew basic combat skills. He had a faint memory, vague and distant, that his master had once said something pertinent to this circumstance. A memory of Hunrah the Wizard teaching him and his fellow apprentices, training them so well and for so long, preparing them for battle, demonstrating to them where to strike, how to strike, when to strike and how to dodge, roll and sidestep, all so that he would be even stronger.
That was when he was young, no more than six or so, and could stand back and look up at his mentor and feel like he was learning to be something. It was a strange feeling, not of fear exactly, but a feeling of the unknown, of wonder and awe. That was what the training had done – given him the courage to stand before his master and beg him to take him on as an apprentice, and by all that was holy, he knew that was where he was supposed to be. It was the way of things, the way of wizards.
He was sure his master would see the error in his ways and take him back.
Leotra removed his hood in a single swipe, revealing his black frowzy hair and his sharp-angled face in a pale pallor and the yellowing light dappled on his skin through the leaves of the trees. He took a deep breath and stepped out from his position of cover. As he’d been trained, Leotra considered himself a fighter, just as he’d also been taught that he was a wanderer and to make his own way – and travel on his own. And if that meant taking on a lost dwarf, then so be it. Of course, if the dwarf were to attack first, he would be at a disadvantage. But, if it came to it, he felt that he could turn and outrun him back to Kemza. Besides, he could finally try out the bopar spell that he had been practising.
Leotra removed his wooden wand from inside his cloak, an ornate stick with bulbous notches throughout its stem, and wrapped his long fingers around it. As he did, he felt the anger of Hunrah’s dismissal starting to subside. He still felt the rage, but it was in the background now. He crept slightly forward through the bracken.
“Ni am Leotra. Ni cast a bopar spell -esse i kal -o i taurë.” the apprentice yelled as he pointed his wand towards the dwarf.
A single puff of grey smoke leapt out of the wand in a whimper.
The dwarf looked surprised, then confused, and finally, annoyed; realising that an incompetent young wizard was trying to harm him.
“Ni am Leotra. Ni esta- upon sina taurë. Ni cast a Bopar spell -esse i kal -o i taurë.” he declared, with less confidence – but more volume.
The tip of the wand fizzed and dripped out a runny grey liquid at the end.
It was then the first dwarf he noticed shouted a notorious battle cry as he raised his axe firmly in the air.
Leotra froze as dwarves appeared from the trees and undergrowth around him and revealed their hiding places. They were all adorned in reflective armour, firmly clasping battle-axes. He turned to run but realised he was surrounded. There must have been over a dozen dwarves in all. One of the ones close to him cried something in Dwarvish. Unfortunately, Leorta hadn’t been paying close attention in his Dwarvish language lessons but understood enough to know that it was not friendly sentiments being exchanged.
Without a second warning, the dwarf charged towards Leotra, wielding his axe in a hot-blooded rage. Leotra raised his wand. This time his spell had to work.
“Ni am Leotra. Ni esta- upon sina taurë. Ni cast a Bopar spell -esse i kal -o i taurë.” he repeated with urgency in his voice.
The wand made a popping noise, but the dwarf was still closing in, his axe about to slice through Leotra’s thighs.
He tried one final time, seconds before the dwarf was in range, “Ni am Leotra –” he managed.
With a heavy thud, the dwarf was struck back against the trunk of one of the oak trees and knocked unconscious. Perhaps it was dead.
Leotra smiled. He was immensely relieved and then proud of himself, albeit a little shocked at the results.
The distinct sound of a braying horse rose from behind him. He turned and saw Hunrah the Wizard on horseback in the most brilliant light through the trees, clothed in his finest vermillion hooded cloak. Hunrah was pointing his staff in his direction and was flanked by half a dozen beautiful elves of both sexes, adorned in their forest green livery. Leotra jumped behind a tree, out of the way of the two warring factions.
The battle between the elves and the dwarves begun. The dwarves came out of the trees armed with maces and axes, as the elves charged at them with their swords. They lunged at each other in the clearing. One of the dwarves tried to make its first blow to an elf. The elf defended itself with masterful weaving and used gold bands on their upper and lower arms as shields as the others around them began to brawl.
Leotra turned to watch the elves grapple with the dwarves and observed how well they fought. They were well versed in the use of their weapons and they engaged the elves and Hunrah in a fierce battle.
One of the dwarves jumped from a tree as he swung his axe at an elf. The tree broke apart, and the dwarf fell in front of it. But this didn’t stop their momentum… as another one of the dwarves jumped from the canopy roof and drove his axe into an elf’s head. Between the bloodshed, the battle was finely balanced. A beautiful female elf with shimmering black hair jumped high in the air and stabbed the dwarf in his exposed neck with his elven sword, avenging her comrade.
Leotra scrambled back further, staring in awe at what he had just witnessed. This was truly a magical battle. The elves were obviously in the better position, fighting out on the ground, but the dwarves fought too intensely to be easily defeated. This was a totally new phenomenon for Leotra: he had never seen such violence.
Leotra felt a strange power take hold of him. He had spotted a dwarf with rusted armour, isolated at the edge of the clearing, poised to join the combat. Leotra thought the dwarf looked vulnerable, as it stood from the main battle. Leotra decided to bring the fight to him and reached for his wand, clutched it tight, then stroked one of the notches with his thumb.
“Ni cast a Bopar spell -esse i kal -o i taurë.” Leotra declared, pointing the wand at the dwarf.
A bolt of lightning shot from the tip of the wand, narrowly missing the rusted dwarf and burying itself in the ground beside him. The startled dwarf whipped around to face Leotra and rolled with his axe, braced for battle. As the dwarf ran forward, Leotra hit him with a bright blue electrical bolt and killed him instantly as he tumbled.
Leotra laughed at the death he’d caused and enjoyed the dark feeling of knowing that his Bopar spell had worked so well. Then, treading through the undergrowth, he sought out another victim to enact his newfound power on.
Soon, Leotra saw the honourable high elf, Mertillion valiantly engaged with a dwarf. He conjured up the Bopar spell, and the dwarf fell, electrified. Leotra’s grin spread across his sharp face. The darkness now enveloped his soul, and he turned his wand towards Mertillion, shooting another spell, causing the elf to fall to the ground, clutching his sword.
A burst of flames erupted in front of him.
The fire spell was the last thing Leotra expected. Without warning, Leotra was pulled back; magic propelled him away from the fight, and he grabbed at the air to keep from falling to the ground. He looked down to see his wand suspended in mid-air. Behind him, Leotra saw Hunrah pointing at his staff and that he no longer had control.
As Mertillion lay there, staring up at the sky, Leotra felt himself grow weaker and plummeted towards the ground, as the air around him stilled. Then, as his wand tumbled down with him, he fled behind his tree as the fire continued to spread.
The fight continued as Hunrah dismounted from his steed with pointed grace, his white beard drifting in the wind he created. The elves parted, still engaged in their individual battles, as the senior wizard walked steadily towards the centre of the clearing. Smoke bellowed from the trees near Leotra. Hunrah stood firmly and struck his staff into the ground.
A turquoise light shone from the top of the staff and enveloped the clearing, and a sudden blast from the staff knocked all the elves and dwarves over in unison. The blue light returned to the tip of the staff in silence. All the flames were now extinguished, and the combatants on both sides were left on the ground.
Some of the dwarves that managed to pick themselves up, turned and scattered back into the forest. Then, all the elves steadily returned to their feet and observed the clearing, which was scattered with many dead dwarves and a couple of elves, one of which was mortally wounded.
Hearing the breaking of a twig, Leotra looked again from his hiding place. Hunrah and his elves were heading towards him. The senior wizard was wielding his staff, and his eyes seemed to shine as bright as ever. Leotra stepped out from behind his oak tree, but elves were coming, their swords pointed straight at him.
Leotra felt threatened and hit the ground, then scurried in the dirt in search of his wand, grabbing it just as the lead elf approached. Pointing the wand at a furious high elf, named Morisante, Leotra started the Bopar Spell again.
“Ni cast a –“ was all Leotra was able to say, before the elf stabbed Leotra straight in the chest with his elven sword. Leotra did not have the chance to sidestep, parry or roll out of the way; he sunk to the forest floor. The high elf withdrew his sword and re-joined the elves who looked upon him with sad eyes.
The elves moved away as Hunrah loomed over Leotra’s immobile body.
“Master, I’m sorry.” Leotra wept, looking up from the ground that had been stained with his blood.
“We have to go and make sure they leave the Jueral,” Morisante stated to Hunrah.
Hunrah the Wizard covered his head with his red hood and mounted his horse with a heavy heart. The caravan left the clearing in pursuit of the rogue dwarves as Leotra Quatts gasped his last breath, full of regret and sorrow in the devastation he had allowed his dark magic to cause.
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