Stoneweaver - Prologue

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Fire really shouldn't take so long to get going, should it? His opponent had been tending the valuable pile for around five minutes now, and his anxiousness to be on with the duel had begun to get to Danath. Or his anxiousness to see if his opponent could do as the rumours said.

Focussing on calming his nerves, Danath glanced around the small, roughly circular, plateau. Barely fifty paces wide, most sides were nearly sheer, and the side they'd ascended had been an awkward climb from sea level, around forty feet below.

A cool breeze wafted through his loose hair, and he turned to squint at the sun, making a rare appearance in this showery season, letting it wash over his dark skin. Just short of six foot, his lean, muscled form hid behind the loose-fitting green shirt and black trousers. Rain may have given him more of an advantage here, but potentially less of a challenge, so he was happy it had dried out.

Never losing track of his opponent's movements, he scanned the horizon, which presented a small number of similar peaks jutting from the sea, of varying shapes. And, of course, Melmyrn, his home city, floating nearby, its path diverted for this duel, so that Thortus could watch it from afar. Considering his opponent's weapon, they hadn't wanted it taking place in one of the city's duelling arenas.

With the fire finally reaching a decent size, his opponent stood, looking his way defiantly. The man had arrived only a day ago, from the distant flaming islands of Tloth, and immediately challenged Danath. Apparently he'd killed a friend of the man in an earlier duel. Not that he'd recognized the name, or even remembered it now. Come to think of it, he couldn't recall his opponent's name. Tezal? Terzar? He felt sure it had a 't' and a 'z' in there somewhere. Never mind, it was what the man could allegedly fight with that had drawn his interest. Not that he'd have turned down a duel, anyway.

The inhabitants of the Tloth region had supposedly learned which stone, and which word, would allow them to control fire. They were understandably secretive with this knowledge, but now an opportunity to learn it had fallen into his lap, and he didn't intend to lose it.

The man, Danath decided to think of him as Tezal, pulled a stone from inside his shirt. It shone a translucent reddish orange, and looked a bit like a tade, a stone he'd only seem pictures of. He couldn't quite recall its history, but it was possibly only found in the Tloth region. Tossing the stone into the fire, Tezal said something which didn't reach Danath's ears, and the fire shifted, slowly at first, erratically, as though controlling it took effort, which was understandable. It was far more erratic than the stone and metal Danath usually used.

It stood, now in a vaguely human shape, flickering and flinching with a disconcerting irregularity as it slowly grew, rapidly consuming all the fuel used to start it. Tezal stood behind it, waiting with a glare.

So he wouldn't be wearing it. Unsurprising, really, but Danath had held out the hope it could be controlled enough to direct its heat away from the controller.

Turning away he drew the dark red stone, a dett, and lay it on a nearby outcropping of stone. "Luxthor", he commanded, and felt an awareness of that portion of ground flood his mind. It contained a few flecks of metal, but not enough to matter, and responded easily to his thoughts.

Normally he'd have used his favoured block of iron for duels, but against fire stone seemed a wiser choice. Also, it was considered poor manners to animate your weapon before the duel, so he'd have had to lug it up this height, which sounded too much like real work.

The stone animated into a human shape, and he turned as it approached, stepping into the hollow he formed within it, which sealed up behind him with a thought. Only a couple of slits remained for him to see out, and to let air in. He flexed, aligning the thoughts he sent to his muscles with those going to his armour.

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