"It is indeed, Doubar," Captain Sinbad agreed. "With the wind the way it is, we should be in Baghdad in only a few hours."
"I can't wait." Doubar took his hands off the tiller for a moment to rub them briskly together. "It's been so long since we've been home. I can't wait to head to the tavern, catch up on news-"
"Have a few ales," Sinbad finished, his eyes twinkling. "You can never wait to get to the tavern."
"True," Doubar agreed. He noticed something over his brother's shoulder. "Hey! Firouz! Rongar!"
The scientist and the mute moor were heading out of Firouz's laboratory in the stern of the ship. Firouz was tucking something in his satchel and talking with his friend when Doubar yelled; they both looked up.
Sinbad waved, jauntily. "What have you two been up to?"
Firouz and Rongar wondered over. "I've been working on a new, better formula for my blasting sticks," Firouz explained. "I can't wait until we land so that I have a chance to test them out."
"At least you're waiting until we land," Doubar grouched. "That's considerate."
Firouz started to say something in response, but Rongar shook his head.
"You're right, Rongar," he agreed. "It's too nice a day to spoil it by fighting."
"I agree," Sinbad chimed in. "Doubar, you have to do your part, as well."
"Fine." Doubar rolled his eyes. "Sorry, Firouz."
"No problem," the scientist agreed, easily enough. "I realise that occasionally my experiments can cause trepidation-"
"Treppy-what?" Doubar blurted.
Sinbad laid an hand on his brother's arm. "Never mind, Doubar. And Firouz, watch your language."
Firouz grinned. "Sorry about that. Oh-when we land, I need to get a new sword-mine hasn't been sharpening properly; I believe the alloy is defective."
Doubar muttered something, but everyone decided to ignore him. It was far too nice a day to waste arguing.
Maeve, the Irish sorceress, lounged against the railings, enjoying the sun and sea air. She remained apart from her crewmates, just for some space; snatches of their conversation drifted over. Doubar was trying to pick on Firouz again. Firouz was talking over Doubar's head, as usual. She grinned. Normally she was on the side of the scientist; Doubar had far too many opinions that he voiced too easily.
Dermott, her hawk, fluttered overhead, soaring on the breeze that blew off the ocean, and then swooping down to land on her wrist. She cocked her head at him, listening to something that only she could hear.
She paled, immediately. "Sinbad?" she called, hurrying over towards the cluster of crewmen. "Sinbad, I've got bad news."
"Oh?" he looked at her and Dermott curiously. "What sort?"
"Dermott says there's a storm coming-and quickly, too," Maeve explained, scratching Dermott under the chin. "We should get ready."
"That can't be right," Doubar replied, looking doubtful. "There isn't a cloud in the whole sky."
"I'm afraid I have to agree with Doubar," Firouz added. "My Air Pressure Guide hasn't shown any drops."
"Dammit," Maeve snapped, "I think Dermott knows better than your stupid instruments-which have never actually been tested."
"I resent that remark," Firouz replied, angrily. "I have tested them, and the Pressure Guide hasn't been wrong once."
"Now is a good time for it to start." Maeve turned to address the captain. "Sinbad. There is a storm coming."
Sinbad looked to his brother, and then to the scientist, then back at Maeve. "I think I agree with them," he said, uneasily. "There's no clouds at all. If Dermott did see a storm, it must be so far off that we might be able to out run it. We should be in Baghdad in the next couple of hours."
Maeve started to retort, then stopped, furious. She turned and stomped away.
"Women," Doubar remarked, with contempt. Sinbad scratched at the back of his head, a nervous habit.
"I don't know," he replied, sounding doubtful. "Maeve's not usually wrong-but then, neither is Firouz. I think we ought to make preparations, just in case."
Doubar sighed. "You're the captain, Sinbad, but I think we're over-reacting."
"I think it's a sensible idea," Firouz offered. "It never hurts to take precautionary measures." Suddenly Rongar pulled on his sleeve. "What's up, Rongar?"
The mute pointed. There, far out on the horizon, there was an angry black dot. They stared at it, their mouths all dropping at roughly the same time; it was a storm. A dark, vicious looking squall. And growing larger, which meant it was heading straight for them.
Suddenly the wind felt colder, sharper.
"Uh oh," Sinbad remarked, finding his voice first. "I have a bad feeling about this-we had better get the storm rigging up, and pronto."
"I agree with you completely," both Firouz and Doubar replied, still shocked.
The rain lashed down, driven so hard it felt like nails being hammered into Maeve's skin. She was vainly trying to keep the sails lashed; the ropes were swelling with the heavy wetness from the rain; combined with the ferocious wind they were fraying, and breaking.
Doubar, Sinbad and Rongar were at the tiller, trying to hold the course.
The ship lurched to the side, and Maeve shrieked, her voice lost over the wind as she slid down the rain-slicked deck; she lost her hand hold, nearly flying over the side of the ship, when someone grasped her hand. It was Firouz. He'd tied himself to the mast, to avoid her exact situation; and managed to grab her in time. She clutched at the rope, pulling herself back, as the Nomad righted itself, only to lurch in the opposite direction.
"We're getting tossed around like a toy," Firouz yelled. "I don't think the ship can handle this much stress-she'll break up!"
"We can manage!" Maeve yelled back, holding on to the mast. "We've made it before-" She stopped, horrified, and pointed to the sky. The scientist looked up, straining to see past the rain.
It was a dragon, made of cloud, that curled around the crows nest and screamed. The screamed echoed in their ears even as the dragon disappeared, melting back into the storm.
"It's magical," Maeve realised. "This isn't a real storm-but a spell!"
"Can you counteract it?" Firouz cried.
"I might be able to-I have to get below-to my spell books-" She struggled to make her way to the door, even as the ship bowed, swayed and dipped beneath her feet. She reached the door, managing to heave it open. It flew open, once freed from the latch, and she had to struggle to close it again.
Below the deck, she could hear the screams and howls of the wind, but they seemed muted. Taking a deep breath, feeling glad to be at least somewhat sheltered, she made her way to her quarters. Dermott was inside, flapping around, squawking in agitation; he knew he was safer below than in the storm, but that didn't mean that he liked it. As she came in, he shrieked at her, fluttering his wings.
"I know," she replied to his unspoken words. "It's a spell-I'm going to try and break it."
Another huge wave buffeted the ship, shaking it furiously-Maeve nearly collided headfirst with her bookshelf. A book flew off, landing on its spine, flipping open.
"Thank the elements," she said, with a gasp, reading the title: Calming storms, typhoons, and other unpleasant weather phenomena. "It's a long shot-but I can try it," she remarked dryly to Dermott, who cawed, in response.
"I know this isn't a normal spell," Maeve retorted. "What do you suggest?"
"A general reversal-I suppose so-I'll try this, it doesn't need ingredients, just words." She memorised the spell list quickly, and then closed her eyes, beginning to chant.
The ship stopped shaking.
She opened her eyes, surprised that the spell would take effect so quickly; she strained her ears, but couldn't hear the wind. Rushing from her room, she headed above deck.
The sun was out, streaming down on the sodden Nomad and her crew. There was no sign of the clouds-no sign of the storm-no sign of anything.
Except for land.
There, on the horizon, was an island, lush and green.
Sinbad came to stand next to her. "Firouz told me what you were attempting to do," he explained, as the scientist was busy untangling himself from the mast. "But-I don't understand something. Were you trying to teleport us somewhere?"
"No," Maeve answered, staring at the island, in incomprehension. "I was just trying to calm the storm-Sinbad, that island is tropical."
"I know," he remarked. "I know. Maeve, I don't think the storm could have blown us that far off course."
She shook her head. "It was a magical storm, Sinbad-it could have taken us here."
"Magic?" His eyes narrowed. "Rumina?"
"It's possible, but not her style." Maeve shook her head. "I've got a bad feeling about this."
"There's nothing about it that we can do," Sinbad told her. "The ship is slightly damaged-not heavily, but if we run into another storm, we're toast. We need to do repairs, and we need to fill up our supplies, since we were counting on being in Baghdad today. We have to go ashore."
He stepped out of the rowboat, splashing into the shallow water that lapped at the shore of the island. "It looks fantastic out here," Sinbad remarked, wading to shore. "Maeve, you take Dermott and see if you can find the cause of the storm. Doubar, you and Rongar are with me, we'll try and find fresh water."
"Aye, aye," Doubar replied, as he and Rongar pushed the boat solidly into the beach, to make sure it didn't drift away. "I still don't think that leaving Firouz in charge of the repairs is such a good idea."
"Duly noted," Sinbad answered. "However, Firouz wants to test out a new experimental tool that might aid repairs-I can hardly turn him down."
Doubar grumbled. "If the ship blows up, don't say I didn't warn you."
Sinbad laughed, as he stood on the beach, admiring the view. "This is a gorgeous island."
"Thank you," someone replied. As one, the four sailors turned, drawing their weapons. Standing on the far end of the beach, walking towards them, was a man, dressed in black, with a green tree embroidered on his shirt, over his chest; a cape fluttered around him. "I am Tellus, the owner of this island."
"And a fine island it is," Sinbad replied, gallantly, sheathing his sword. "We were washed up by a storm-that's our ship in the harbour. May we be permitted to gather supplies-in particular, fresh water? We are in dire need of it."
Tellus, who had a thin, sharp face and deep brown eyes, smiled, wanly. "I think not."
"But we are miles from anywhere-" Doubar began, but Sinbad silenced him with a wave of his hand. There was no way, however, to silence Dermott; the hawk took to the sky, screaming at the new arrival, the self-proclaimed owner of the island.
"May I ask why you deny us water?" Sinbad asked, still trying to remain diplomatic.
Tellus stood back, looking at them appraisingly. "Strong fighters, I think."
"We are," Maeve replied, before Sinbad could reply. He shot her a look, but she ignored it.
"I am ruler of this island; all that is here must obey me, and me alone." Tellus looked at them. "I bring travellers here so that they may amuse me. You are no longer allowed to leave."
"What?" Doubar roared, charging forward. "You can't hold us here against our will!"
"I can," Tellus said, simply. Suddenly, the ground began to heave below their feet, nearly knocking them off their feet. Tellus remained standing as easily as if the ground was not rippling around him. "When I say that everything on this island obeys only me, I mean that, mortals. You will stay and amuse me."
Gradually the shaking stopped.
"What are you going to do?" Sinbad demanded, knowing, that for the time being, they had to acquiesce. Tellus was not what he seemed to be; he could have other tricks up his (black) sleeves.
"I am a fighter, myself; I enjoy watching the sport of combat. In particular, I enjoy watching mortal combatants. Mortals are so... ingenious at times." Tellus smiled again. "Everyone who steps foot on my island are drafted into my tournaments and pitted against my four warriors. Since there are four of you, the tournament is equal, and I will spare the rest of your crew."
"Spare them how?" Sinbad asked, suspicious. "They haven't set foot on the island."
"No, but if any of them should I will not have them fight... until the next tournament is ready. I do believe in fair fights." Tellus clapped his hands in anticipation. "Come. I have a castle here, you will rest there."
"Are we allowed to communicate with our crewmates?" Maeve asked.
"Now, how would you manage that, if you can't leave the island?" Tellus smirked, already turning to leave. They saw that embroidered on his cape was the stylised tree that adorned his shirt; Maeve found it familiar. "Come. You will be fed and rested, before the tournament begins. A fair fight."
"I don't trust him, little brother. In my experience, all demons can't be trusted, no matter how fair they try to be." Doubar and Sinbad were in their room; Maeve and Rongar were next doors. The bedrooms were luxurious, clean and finely decorated; Tellus at least had taste and money, as well as power.
"We don't know that he's a demon," Sinbad replied, checking out the balcony, for a way of escape; no such luck. The rooms face out over the sea-side cliff; the face was sheer, the bottom lined with sharp rocks as well as the ocean. "He could just be a sorcerer."
"That makes it all right then," Doubar grumbled.
"Doubar, I don't like it any more than you do, but until we find a way out of here, we're stuck. We might as well fight in his tournament; with any luck, if we win, he may set us free." Sinbad checked the door; it had no lock, either on the inside or outside. "He trusts us, at least."
"Or at least knows there's no where to go," Doubar replied, sourly. "How do you know, that if we win, he won't just decide to keep us here forever, while he captures the Nomad?"
"No one is going to capture the Nomad," Sinbad said, firmly. "We've been in worst scrapes than this, Doubar. We'll pull through."
"It looks familiar, but I can't place it," Maeve said, sitting on the bed while Rongar checked the balcony. She knew it would be a dead-end. "Who ever he is, he's powerful enough to make us stay where he wants us. Earthquakes take powerful, powerful magic, Rongar. And he didn't even use a spell! He just thought it, and it happened. I don't like it."
Rongar clapped, and she turned to face him; he made several rapid hand signals.
"I don't know where he went, he flew off, remember?" she replied.
Rongar signed again.
"That's true. I hadn't thought of that." Maeve looked thoughtful. "It might work, though."
"It's the best chance we've got," Maeve agreed. "I'll go tell Sinbad."
"Send Dermott?" Sinbad repeated. "I don't know, Maeve-what if Dermott can't leave the island either?"
Maeve rolled her eyes, as did Rongar. "I don't think the tournament is open to birds, Sinbad."
"Still-what if Firouz doesn't understand the message? What if he assumes we're in trouble and comes to rescue us?" Sinbad continued. Maeve and Rongar exchanged glances.
"That's why we're going to write a note," she said, at last. Rongar looked confused, then shrugged.
"Dermott's going to take a note?" Doubar repeated, brows furrowed. "What if he eats it?"
"Doubar," Maeve snapped. "Dermott's not going to eat it."
"People-" Sinbad stood up. "Fighting won't solve anything. Maeve, you're right, it's the only chance we've got; send the note. We can only hope that Firouz hasn't already sent a search party out after us already. We're quite late as it is."
"I'm going to find Dermott-he'll probably be looking for me anyway," Maeve agreed, heading back to her room.
"There." She finished up the note and rolled it up. She was glad that there had been paper and ink left in the room; Tellus had thought of everything. Apparently he believed that they were going to be there for a while. Not if I can help it! Maeve thought indignantly. Dermott was perched on the balcony railing, he had come to find her like she thought he would, and better yet, she found out that he could fly as far as the ship at least. Tellus didn't think of holding him back-or maybe, a better possibility: there was no magic holding the crew captive.
But that was a slim possibility, and not to be counted on. Better to assume that only Dermott could leave, for the time being. Maeve tied the note to Dermott's leg tethers; they would hold the paper for the short flight to the ship.
She scratched under his chin. "Be careful, brother," she murmured. "Fly fast. And keep an eye on Firouz-make sure he doesn't try anything stupid."
Dermott squawked a question.
"Don't let him try to rescue us, for one thing," Maeve elaborated. "But don't let him set sail, either. Make him hold on as long as possible. I don't plan to stay here longer than I have to, and neither does Sinbad." She stroked his head. "Go on, and remember."
Dermott took to the sky.
She watched him go, then turned to head back to Sinbad's room; to her horror, Tellus was standing in the doorway. She jumped a foot, startled.
He was staring at her with the frank intensity that humans generally didn't regard one another with; it was the stare of someone outside the species, who was fascinated. She saw the look often in demons who liked to torment people.
"I don't torment people," Tellus reproved, to her unspoken comment. "I just pit them against each other-something that they do if left to themselves, anyway. Besides, I'm so bored here, by myself."
"Oh, well that makes it all right then," Maeve answered, sarcastically.
Tellus smiled. "You have a lot of magical ability."
She didn't answer.
"I can sense it; you'll be a surprise on the battleground, I'm sure. Fire or water based?" he asked, curiously.
"What?" she demanded.
"Most humans, I've found, tend to be either water- or fire-based in their spells. Very few are air- or earth-. I've always wondered why that was. Which one are you?" Tellus was waiting, patiently, hands behind his back, as though he was inquiring on what she felt like eating for supper.
"Why should I tell you?" she demanded.
"Because I want to know so that I can pick a fair opponent. If I pick a water-based, and you're fire-based, then he'll have an unfair advantage." Tellus, without realising it, told Maeve two critical pieces of information: that his warriors also used magic, and that he had a variety of them to choose from. Something Sinbad would find interesting. Maeve decided to play along, for the moment.
"Fire," she said, reluctantly.
"Fire. Splendid. I will be sure to send an earth-based against you, then." Tellus smiled at her, almost pleasantly; "You see, I always like to give the advantage to the underdogs. Makes it-"
"More fair, I know," Maeve replied, feeling more anxious by the moment. Apparently Tellus believed that Maeve would be outmatched by his warriors enough that he had to send the weakest against her. This meant either that he was as over-confident as hell, or that he was more powerful than they all believed.
Tellus nodded. "Well. I shall see you in the morning; supper is at sundown, in the great Hall. You know where that is already. I shall not be there-" He stopped, thinking. "Perhaps I will be. Yes. That would be better, I think. I will see you at dinner, mortal. Good evening." He turned and left, the cape swirling around him as he moved, the tree fluttering. She had seen it before, but she couldn't remember where. At any rate, she needed to have a talk with Sinbad...
"Firouz!" called Mahmoud, waving. "Look-it's Dermott!"
"Why would Dermott be here, but not the others?" Firouz mused out loud. "Unless..."
"Unless?" Mahmoud inquired.
"Never mind," the scientist answered quickly. "Just a thought. How are the repairs coming?"
"Almost done," the sailor replied. "Right on schedule."
Firouz nodded, and waited until Dermott settled into the rigging, cawing at him. "What's up?" he asked the bird. "They're in trouble, aren't they." Dermott cawed again, fluttering his wings. It was then that Firouz noticed the slip of paper tied to Dermott's leg tethers. "A note! They must be in trouble." He held out his arm, and Dermott flew onto it; the scientist staggered with the sudden weight and the claws that dug through his sleeve. "Ouch! Better do this quickly..." He snatched the slip of paper, and Dermott, sensing the pain he was causing, took to the air again.
Firouz started to unroll the paper. "This looks like Maeve's handwriting," he mused. ''Dear Firouz'-oh no!" A sudden gust of wind blew the paper from his fingers, sending it fluttering across the deck. Firouz made a dive for it, but he was too late; the paper slipped overboard. He watched it land in the waves. "Uh oh."
"Problems, sir?" asked Mahmoud, peering over the railings beside Firouz.
"No, no problems at all," Firouz replied, quickly, watching the paper dissolve in the water. "Um. I need to go ashore; Captain Sinbad... uh... wants my magnascope."
"I see, sir." Mahmoud nodded. "I'll ready the long boat."
"Thanks," Firouz answered, drily, feeling very silly. Whatever Sinbad or Maeve wanted from him, he'd have to go ashore to find out.
As Firouz starting rowing towards the island, Dermott became very agitated, and started flying in tight circles around the ship, cawing and crying. Firouz didn't understand, until he felt the sudden brush of the cold wind. The cold wind coming from the island. That wasn't right-unless it was another storm-!
Firouz tried to turn the rowboat around when the waves started to grow. Before he was even facing the right direction, he was swamped, and then flipped overboard.
Sinbad was the first into the dining hall, followed by Maeve, Rongar and then Doubar. "I have a bad feeling about all of this," Doubar said, quietly. Maeve had filled them in on her little conversation with Tellus. It had frightened them rather badly, Doubar especially. He wasn't up to fighting against any one with magical powers.
"Doubar, I told you. Tellus is insistent on a fair fight, which probably means-" Maeve began, before he cut her off.
"Which means he won't send a magical opponent against me or Sinbad, or Rongar, I know that already, Maeve," Doubar grouched. "That doesn't mean I can't still worry."
Maeve rolled her eyes.
They sat down, no one speaking, at the supper table, which was already set with food of all varieties. But no one touched a thing.
The doors to the Hall suddenly opened and Tellus walked in. Behind him were two men, wearing masks and dressed in black with the tree emblem embroidered on their shirts. Tellus bowed. "I was thinking of some dinner entertainment. Would any of you like that?"
"No, thank you," Sinbad replied for them all, sensing what was coming next.
The men bowed to them, and stepped down the stairs.
"These are two of my best fighters," Tellus announced, smiling slightly. "The one on the right has the power to control the waves. The other has the power to control fire."
The water warrior bowed and raised his hands over his head. A ball of water appeared over his head, frothing and churning within the sphere of his magic.
Then the other bowed, and raised his hands. A ball of fire appeared over his head, sparking and hissing.
Doubar got to his feet. "I thought you believe in a fair fight!"
"I do," Tellus replied, with a slight nod of his head. "I have analysed your abilities since you came to the island, and matched you with fighters of similar ability."
"Only Maeve has magic," Sinbad pointed out, also getting to his feet.
"I know," Tellus answered. He gestured to his two minions. "These two, despite their abilities, are an even magic for you and Rongar, Sinbad. I rank all four of you on the same level."
"And me?" Doubar demanded.
"Doubar and Maeve will be fighting my warriors that hold the power of Earth--" Tellus stopped, suddenly. "Interesting. It appears that one of your crew is trying to come to the island."
"Firouz!" Sinbad explained, looking at Maeve, who was just as bewildered. Didn't Dermott deliver the note?
For once, Tellus scowled. "I have already set up the boundaries of this Tournament. A new fighter will wreck all of that."
"Then let him go," Sinbad argued, seeing the opportunity for a loop-hole. "Firouz is not a strong fighter anyway."
"True enough," Doubar answered, seeing Sinbad's plan. "He's a terrible fighter."
Rongar looked shocked, but then caught on, and nodded in agreement with the other two.
"Really?" Tellus looked very unhappy. "Is he a useless fighter, truthfully?"
"As useless as they come," Maeve agreed, solemnly. "We only keep him around because of his scientific knowledge. In a battle he only becomes a liability."
"Well, I wouldn't go that far-" Sinbad found himself saying.
"It's true, Tellus. Any fight with Firouz would be over in seconds, and would hardly be worth watching," Maeve continued, adding something she knew would change Tellus' mind.
"Really?" For once, Tellus seemed to be confused about something. Then he shrugged. "Oh well, then. He won't fight."
"You'll let him go?" Sinbad said triumphantly.
"What? Of course not. If he's not good at fighting, he's not good at anything. I'll simply drown him." Tellus shrugged again. "Incendere, Umidus, come with me." The two warriors extinguished their powers and bowed, leaving to follow Tellus back out of the Hall, the doors closing behind them.
"Oh no," Sinbad said, in horror. "What have we done?"
"I hope Firouz survives," Maeve answered, equally pale. Rongar signed. "That's true, he is a strong swimmer. Maybe he will survive."
Sinbad sat back down, shaking his head. "Looks like we're going to have to play by Tellus' rules. We can't count on a rescue. We're going to have to fight in his little tournament."
"But Sinbad!" Doubar exclaimed. "You saw those creatures! We can't fight them!"
"We'll have to. They may have magic, but I bet they'll still fear steel. You heard Tellus, he wants us to be even. I think we ought to trust that." Sinbad sighed. "We're going to have to."
Firouz washed up on the beach, feeling the waves lapping over his feet. He struggled to get upright; his arms were too weak and he collapsed back down on the sand. He felt like he'd been beaten with hammers. And yet, the sky all around him was perfectly clear; either he'd been out for a while, or it was another magical storm. He tried to get up again, failed, and decided just to lie for a bit on the warm sand.
He looked up, startled; but there was no one around. "Hello?" he called, weakly, in case there was someone in the tropical thickets on the edge of the beach. "Is someone there?"
You must help me, Firouz.
"Help who?" Firouz coughed. He didn't feel like doing anything more strenuous than breathing, never mind helping someone who may or may not have been a hallucination.
If I give you the strength to go on, will you help me? In return, I will give you the power to save your friends from Tellus.
"Who?" Firouz croaked. "What's going on? Who are you?"
Will you help me?
He sighed, realising he didn't have much of a choice. If Sinbad was in danger from this person named Tellus, then Firouz had to help. "I will."
A golden glow suddenly appeared around Firouz, coating him in warm, healing light. Almost immediately he felt stronger, and the pain was ebbing away. He sat up, and then got to his feet.
This way. The golden glow around him faded as another aura appeared, leading him towards a jungle path.
Tellus had set up a sparring arena on the wide, sunny beach of the island, near to where their long boats were docked. Sinbad looked to the rowboats with longing; if they could just distract Tellus enough to run to them-
"The first match will be Doubar versus Pomarium." Tellus stood, and beckoned his fighter in. Pomarium was tall and thin, dressed in green, with a tree embroidered on his chest like everyone else. He bowed to Doubar. Doubar managed a stiff bow back, then unsheathed his sword.
"Is this a fight to the death?" Maeve said, suddenly. Doubar paled.
"No, no," Tellus reassured them. "It is merely a test of skill. I would hate to waste good warriors on such an early fight. You may begin."
Pomarium grinned, and clasped his hands together. The ground started to shake-and then trees began to sprout from the sand-growing larger, and larger, until they towered even over the willowy warrior's head.
"What the hell...?" Doubar began, as Pomarium lunged at him, barehanded. Doubar's fighting instinct overruled his confusion; he struck out in defence. But he wouldn't cut an unarmed man, sorcerer or not; Doubar punched him instead.
Pomarium staggered backwards, clutching his nose. He scowled, and then held out his hand; his fingers were growing longer, fusing together, and becoming wooden; they formed themselves into two wooden blades. Doubar had no desire to test how sharp the blades were; he could see the edge plainly. They were as sharp, if not sharper, than his own Damascus steel.
Pomarium roared, an inarticulate, inhuman cry, and charged forward again. This time Doubar blocked the claws/blades with his sword; he then stepped back and swiped. The sword caught the surprised creature in the shoulder; the wound bled and it howled.
The trees started shivering, their leaves whispering.
Doubar backed up, unnerved. There was no wind, how could the leaves move? He raised his sword, just as Pomarium attacked again. The wooden blades were faster this time, it was like fighting two swordsmen at once, and Doubar was hard pressed to keep up.
"You can do it, Doubar!" cried Sinbad, from the sidelines.
"Oh no-" Maeve cried, suddenly, with understanding. "Doubar, don't let him lead you into the trees! Come back out here, towards the clearing!"
"What?" Doubar shouted, as he tried his hardest to keep the demon at bay. The creature was speeding up its attacks, swiping faster and faster, driving the sailor backwards, deeper into the new wood, into the center where the concentration of trees was thickest.
"No, Doubar-" Sinbad cried, realising what Maeve meant. "Come away from the trees, Doubar-"
It was too late. Doubar's right arm brushed a branch; the tree lashed out, binding him fast with its branches, twigs and leaves. Another tree on his left side joined in; then one from the back. Doubar struggled, but was held immobile.
Pomarium raised its blades for the final blow, but Tellus stood. "Stop!" he ordered, raising a hand. "The match has been one. I am the victor; I claim Doubar as my prize."
"No!" Sinbad cried, lunging forward to protect his older brother, but Maeve held him back. "Let go of me! What do you think you're doing?"
"We can't save Doubar like that," Maeve answered. "We'll have to wait, to rescue him."
Tellus waved a hand, and Doubar disappeared, as did Pomarium; the trees remained behind. "Next match," Tellus began, with a hint of a smile, anticipation of what was to come, "is Rongar versus Incendere."
Rongar nodded to Sinbad and Maeve, and then crossed over the line into the arena. Incendere, now dressed in orange with the tree emblem, as always, fixed on his shirt, sauntered into the playing field. He bowed to Tellus.
"Clear the area, would you, Incendere," Tellus asked, pleasantly. The creature bowed and then raised his hands. Rongar's eyes widened, and he threw himself back out of the arena, just as a huge fireball rose up, torching the trees. The blaze was huge, but it obeyed the boundaries; not a flicker escaped past the line drawn in the sand.
"That's enough," Tellus announced. The blaze died down, leaving nothing but ash coating the sand. "Nicely done, Incendere. You may proceed."
Rongar stared with open eyes at the creature, who was waiting for him at the center of the sparring field. He walked over, cautiously. The demon bowed; Rongar bowed back, carefully, keeping his eyes open and his wits about him.
"Let the match begin!" Tellus decreed, taking his seat once again.
"You can do it, Rongar!" Sinbad and Maeve cheered.
Incendere straightened up, and raised his hands. Rongar knew what was coming-as quick as he could, his hands virtually a blur, his drew out his dirks and threw them, one after another.
And one after another they slammed into Incendere's chest. He stopped, staring in amazement at the tiny knives embedded in his torso; then he keeled over, eyes rolling back.
Tellus stood, scowling; then he took a deep breath and the pleasant-but-bored mask came back down. "I declare that Rongar has won the match."
"Yes!" Sinbad cheered. They still had Rongar to fight for them-
"And I claim Rongar as my new fighter, to take Incendere's place," Tellus finished. He waved his hand and the mute moor disappeared.
"What-you can't do that!" Maeve cried.
Tellus regarded her with a raised eyebrow. "Can't, Maeve? You ought to know by now that I can."
Firouz followed the golden glow through the trees. It hovered, always a few feet from him, like a fairy or will-o-the-wisp. He had no idea where he was now, in relation either to the beach or to the Nomad; he couldn't have left even if he wanted to.
Finally, the light led him into a small clearing. He stumbled out, glad to be free from the thick underbrush and overhanging vines of the trees.
The light disappeared.
Thank you for trusting me, Firouz
"You're welcome," he said, picking vine pieces and leaves off his clothing. "Now what?"
You must free me.
Firouz stopped, looking up. There, at the far end of the clearing, was a stone structure. It was a simple box shape, an enclave, to enclose two life-sized statues. One was completely overgrown with vines and plants; the other was clear and depicted a man, wearing a long cape. On the base of his pedestal there was an engraving; Firouz couldn't see it from where he was standing.
"How do I free you?" Firouz asked, taking a hesitant step forward. "Are you trapped behind the statues?"
I am in the statue, Firouz. He bound me here with his magic.
"Who bound you?"
My partner. He used magic asked me, to bind me inside the shrine. The balance has been upset, Firouz. He steals my dominions. Free me, so that I can stop him, and save your friends.
"Save them from who?" Firouz demanded, bewildered.
From him. The golden glow lit up around the cleared statue. From Tellus.
"This is not good," Maeve said, as she stepped into the arena. "This is not good."
Her opponent, Terraemotus, bowed to her; she did not bow back, but hastily began to murmur her fire spells. She had to stay on her toes for this battle.
Terraemotus smiled at her, and held out his hands. Like Pomarium before him, his fingers began to grow, and fuse together. But Terraemotus went one step further; his hands became metal, sharp, glinting in the sunlight. Maeve gulped, and drew her sword.
They circled for a few moments, until Terraemotus leapt forward, his fingers slashing down wards. Maeve's blade caught them, forced them back. He scowled and withdrew, then charged again. Once more she blocked him.
He withdrew and they started circling again. She could see Sinbad waiting on the sidelines, worried, but she forced herself not to think of him. She had to concentrate. Terraemotus made yet another leap, but this time used his hands separately; one slashing down and the other slashing inwards. Maeve managed to block his upper and whirl away in time from his lower; she decided enough was enough and blasted him with a fireball.
Terraemotus screamed as the fire hit him; he screamed and fled trying to wave the fire off him. A smell like burning compost wafted across the beach.
Furious, Tellus leapt to his feet. "Fight, you coward!"
Terraemotus, having shaken the fire off him, turned back towards Maeve, scowling. He ran towards her, blades in the air, ready to come crashing down. Maeve crouched, sword at the ready, and chanting another, stronger fire spell. Then Terraemotus stopped, suddenly, looking towards the center of the island. Maeve, puzzled, looked to Tellus; he too was staring towards the forest.
"It can't be," he muttered. "Terraemotus, continue the fight!"
Terraemotus nodded, and turned back to face Maeve. She was ready for him. She was about to use her powers when suddenly the earth began to shake under her feet. Startled, she realised that Terraemotus was causing it; he was standing with his arms raised, like the others had while using their powers.
The shaking was growing stronger, Maeve had to struggle to stay on her feet. All around her, the scenery looked like jagged lines, she was growing sick at the sight of it. But she couldn't close her eyes, she couldn't dare.
She dropped her sword as another quake suddenly lifted her off her feet, knocking her down. She landed in a tumble in the sand. The shaking began to stop, as Terraemotus dropped his arms and charged after her. Shrieking, she reacted by throwing the largest fireball that she could create at him; and under the circumstances, it was a fairly formidable fireball. It blasted into Terraemotus' face, and he screamed, piteously; a horrible charcoal smell was coming off him in waves. For a moment, she almost felt sorry for him.
She got to her feet, looking to Tellus for the ruling. It was now or never-but Tellus wasn't looking at her. He was looking at the forest again.
Thunder rumbled overhead, clouds were gathering. Maeve, startled, caught Sinbad's eye; the captain nodded. Tellus looked just as surprised as the humans did about the storm; it wasn't his doing.
Maeve jogged over to Sinbad, even as Terraemotus fled to the sea in an effort to quench the fire in the waves. "It's now or never, Sinbad. We've got to make a run for it."
"We can't save them if we're captured too. Let's get back to the Nomad, let me look at my spell books. I know I've seen that symbol in them; there may be a way to combat Tellus with a spell." She pulled on his arm, and reluctantly, he started to follow her, running towards the rowboats.
"No!" Tellus cried, furious. "This cannot be! You cannot have escaped me!"
Sinbad and Maeve both turned to see whom Tellus was addressing; they hoped it was Rongar or Doubar. But it wasn't; it was Firouz.
Firouz stepped closer to the shrine. It seemed to be made of stone, but there was no mortar used; there were no seams of any kind. It seemed as though the enclave was one huge piece of rock-but then again, there were no marks of a chisel, either. "Remarkable."
He started to pull at the vines covering the second statue; they were a lot tougher than he thought. A lot tougher. He had to start hacking at them with his sword. Even then, the vines seemed to compensate; new vines were growing in their place, fast enough to confound the scientist.
But not for long.
"I have an idea," he said, out loud. Nothing seem to answer. "Um... who ever was talking to me before?"
"What do I call you, exactly, just for reference's sake?" Firouz asked.
You may call me Caelestis.
"Thank you. Caelestis, I'm going to try and burn away at the vines."
How are you going to do that? You have magical powers that I could not sense?
He smiled. "Nothing like that. Just the power of Science."
Science... I see.
He opened his satchel that, luckily, had not washed away from him in the storm. Inside was a piece of hollowed, dried bamboo, not unlike his blasting sticks; it was stopped up with harden clay and wrapped in cloth. He had devised such a case in the unhappy likelihood of getting washed overboard; as he opened it, he smiled. The sulphur sticks inside were bone dry.
He kneeled in front of the statue, and looked for something to strike the sulphur heads on. He looked over...the cleared statue was within arms reach. He leaned over, and saw the engraving on the pedestal; it was of a tree.
He struck the match, and used it to light the others, while quickly touching them to the vines. They were not burning well; he'd need a bigger fire.
His power is crumbling.
"Who's power?" Firouz asked, still trying to light the green vines on fire.
Tellus. His power is crumbling, and mine is being restored to me! I will help you build a fire.
"That's really not necessary, Caelestis-" Firouz began, as a bolt of lightning from the otherwise clear sky struck a nearby tree. The tree's top exploded with the force of the energy, scattering branches around. The rest of the tree was burning nicely. Firouz dropped the sulphur sticks. "On the other hand, such a blaze would make my job easier. Thank you."
He thought, for a moment, as he gathered up the branches, that Caelestis voice was starting to sound louder, and more human, than the whisper that had spoke to him on the beach; perhaps that was a result of having more power. He'd have to ask.
He grabbed a nice-sized branch, and poked it into the blaze that used to be a nice-sized tree. He pulled it out after a moment, the end on fire, and headed back towards the shrine. The vines had no chance, now; within moments they were shrivelling and falling to the ground. The statue underneath began to emerge-
The ground started shaking. Firouz, startled, nearly dropping the branch. "Wha-what's going on-on-Caelestis?"
It is one of Tellus' warriors. It is causing an earthquake. You are almost done, please hurry.
Firouz nodded, trying to keep his balance as he burned away more and more of the vegetation. The statue underneath was of a woman, dressed in robes similar to Tellus' with a long cape to match. The engraving underneath her statue was of a cloud, and thunderbolt.
The earthquake began to lose its intensity, just as Firouz brushed away the last of the vines from Caelestis' statue. "There. Is that it? Are you free?"
Almost. The bindings are gone... but I must... I must warm up first. I have been tied down for so long, so long, Firouz. But I will still help you.
There was a rumble of thunder, and two men suddenly appeared in the shrine. One was wearing white, and the other gray; both had Caelestis' symbol on their clothing.
This is Tonitrus, with the power of weather. The one in gray bowed deeply. And this is Spirare, with the power of air. Spirare bowed. My third, Umidus, with the power of water, defected; he turned to Tellus' side. The balance was lost, and they were able to imprison me. But now I am free, thanks to you, Firouz. And I will keep my word: I will save your friends. But you must help me once again to accomplish that.
"Of course I will," Firouz answered.
He thought he could see the statue smile. Of course, that was ridiculous.
I hoped you say that.
Firouz could feel a funny prickling sensation that ran up and down his back, like needles, or little tiny fingers. "What-what is going on?"
I need to fight Tellus. But I am not yet strong enough to fight him in corporeal form.
Firouz gulped. "Does that mean what I think it means?"
Again, he thought he saw the statue smile. Indeed. Spirare, Tonitrus, you will accompany him back to the beach, and try and defeat the other warriors. Firouz and I will take care of Tellus.
"Now, just a second," Firouz stuttered, but then he saw a bright burst of light, and everything went black.
"You cannot have escaped me! How is this even possible?" Tellus roared, from his post. Sinbad and Maeve stared in amazement.
Firouz stood on the edge of the beach, lightning crackling around him, even as it boomed in the darkening sky. Beside him stood two warriors, one dressed in blues and the other in grays. "Tellus!" Firouz yelled, as the storm churned over their heads, the wind whipping the trees. "This charade is over! Release the humans!"
"You cannot have escaped!" Tellus screamed, frantically. "Terraemotus, Pomarium, Umidus! Get them!"
The two warriors appeared on the beach, and Terraemotus, soaked and charred, joined them. The two who were with Firouz struck fighting poses.
"What in the name of Allah?" Sinbad murmured. "I thought Firouz was drowned!"
"He must have survived and washed up on shore," Maeve answered, in a hush. She pointed at the emblem that the new arrivals had embroidered on their clothing; a lightning bolt and cloud. "I've seen that as well! I need to get to my books."
"We can't leave now, we've got to find out what happened to Firouz." Sinbad started forward, sword drawn. "And we have to help him, if we can."
The two groups of warriors, at some unspoken signal, leapt together, their powers flaring into existence as they tried to annihilate their opponents. Trees sprouted, clutching; lightning burned them down. Earthquakes shook the ground; the air warrior floated serenely overtop, unaffected. Water-the water had no opponent. Fire had been destroyed, killed by Rongar; the balance was upset.
Tellus and Firouz faced off against each other, as their warriors swarmed around them. Tellus attacked, creating a spear of glowing green energy; Firouz blocked it with his sword. Tellus drew back and attacked again; Firouz parried and then created a bolt of lightning that struck Tellus in the chest. He staggered backwards. "Umidus! Help me!" he cried. The water warrior rushed over, attacking Firouz with sprays of water, which the scientist could barely fend off.
"Umidus! You're my warrior, you're supposed to be helping me!" Firouz cried, staggering backwards under the onslaught.
"What's going on, Firouz?" Sinbad cried, rushing into the fray, and attacking Umidus, who called off his spray in order to go after Sinbad.
"That's not Firouz, you idiot!" Tellus cried, still breathing heavily after the blow to the chest. "That's Caelestis! My nemesis!"
"Nemesis!" Firouz roared, indignant. "I was your partner! Until you used treachery against me!"
"Treachery!" Tellus snorted. "I can't help it if even your own warriors don't trust you!"
Firouz turned to Sinbad. "Captain Sinbad," he began, "Firouz trusts you, very much; and so I will, too. Help me stop this battle. Help me defeat Tellus."
"He's only a mortal!" Tellus barked. "He has no place on this island!"
Sinbad and Maeve exchanged glances, and the demon suddenly realised what he had said wrong. He opened his mouth, to come up with an explanation; he shut it again when he realised he didn't have one.
"If we're only mere mortals and don't belong on the island, then why did you capture us?" Sinbad demanded.
"I-I was bored!" Tellus snapped. "I needed amusement!"
"You were bored because you locked me up!" Firouz responded indignantly. "Let's see how you like it!" He clapped his hands together, and lightning crashed down, hitting Tellus once again. He screamed, and created a shield with his green energy.
"Maeve, let's go," Sinbad whispered. "Take out Terraemotus-I'll work on Pomarium!"
Maeve nodded. She found the earth demon battling with the air demon, Spirare. "Let me help!" she called to the creature floating over the beach. It nodded. Terraemotus got one look at Maeve and shrieked, creating another vicious earthquake, directed at her; but before she could react, she felt arms lifting her above the ground. It was Spirare. "Thanks. My turn!" She created the biggest fireball she could, directing at Terraemotus, who screamed, and ran off towards the ocean, ablaze.
Sinbad charged at Pomarium, sword drawn. The warrior didn't see him coming-it was trying to trap Tonitrus between two trees. The sailor's sword slashed down, catching Pomarium in its already wounded shoulder; it cried out, staggering, holding its arm, as sap trickled down from the wound. Tonitrus nodded its thanks and lightning crashed down again, charring the trees that held it prisoner. It flexed its arms, free, and one look sent Pomarium scurrying off into the forest, and relative safety.
"Now, let's see if we can end this whole thing," Sinbad said, catching Maeve's eye. She nodded, and pointed to Spirare. Tonitrus nodded his agreement, and together they advanced on Firouz, Tellus and Umidus.
Umidus saw them coming; the two were too busy fighting to notice. He raised his hands above his head, ready to create a blast of water, but then Spirare used his own powers, creating a whirlwind around the warrior. Any water that Umidus created was siphoned off, almost immediately, and dumped into the sea. He was trapped.
Spirare, his hands held up high, nodded to Maeve.
"Let's get Tellus," she said, to Sinbad. "Let them handle this."
"It's over, Tellus!" Sinbad yelled, as he, Tonitrus and Maeve stood before the two battling deities. Tellus had his hands around Firouz's throat; the scientist's sword was on the ground nearby. Sinbad picked it up. "Let Firouz go."
"Mind your own business, mortal!" Tellus snapped.
Sinbad tossed Firouz the sword. Firouz managed to catch it, a feat which caused his shipmates to believe Tellus' story of possession, as Firouz alone wouldn't have been able to do it. The sword stabbed upwards; Tellus staggered back. He was bleeding, but not in the ordinary, mortal sense; green light oozed out of the wound, like blood.
Firouz was gasping, and rubbing his neck. "They're right. It's over."
"It's not over," Tellus wheezed, holding his hands over the wound, but the light spilled out between his fingers.
"It's over. Give me back Umidus."
"He came to me by choice!"
Firouz started forward with the sword again, but Sinbad stopped him. "I want to hear the whole story," the captain ordered. "From start to finish."
Firouz nodded, and then suddenly gave a little gasp. The lightning which had surrounded him since the beginning began to grow, and then separate from him; it turned into a woman, wearing robes similar to Tellus', but in blues and grays and whites. A thunderbolt and cloud were on her cape. Firouz staggered, and Sinbad caught him; he was awake but disoriented.
"For millennia Tellus and I have battled on this island," the woman, Caelestis, began. "We each had three warriors, and pitted them against each other. I had Air, Weather and Water; Tellus had Fire, Tree and Metal. We were evenly matched, in every respect."
"Too evenly matched!" Tellus spat out.
"That was the way it was supposed to be!" Caelestis snapped in return. "The elements in balance, no one side able to overcome the other!"
"A fair fight," Maeve said, with a hint of a smile.
"Exactly. A fair fight. And it was fair, until the day that Umidus decided he'd rather switch sides. When he turned, Tellus used his unfair advantage, defeating my warriors and binding me within the shrine!" The deity turned to face her partner. "And then, surprise surprise! You got bored!"
"I thought that I would be better off without you," Tellus agreed. "But mortals cannot fight properly, they either win or lose in moments!"
"We can't be put into categories like your warriors can," Sinbad explained. "You can't ever make it truly fair."
Tellus scowled, looking up at Caelestis. "So now what are you going to do with me? Bind me inside the statue? Fair is fair."
"No, because then I'll get bored. Just give me Umidus back, and we'll start everything from the beginning." Caelestis glared back at him; she was clearly relishing a little revenge, but was also trying to be the better person. Deity.
"Hold on, just a second," Firouz interrupted. He still looked woozy, but had caught up enough to figure out what was going on. "Caelestis, won't Umidus just turn against you again?"
"That's a good point," Sinbad agreed.
"And I have a solution," Maeve added. They all turned to look at her. "Incendere."
"What about him?" Tellus snapped. "He's dead."
"Dead!" Caelestis exclaimed.
"As a doornail. One of the humans killed him."
"Dead!" she repeated, still in shock
"That's what I said, you stupid-"
"Stop, both of you!" Maeve snapped. "Caelestis, can you create another warrior?"
"Of course, that's how we were supposed to replace them," she replied. "But we haven't needed to, before."
"Then create another fire warrior, another Incendere. Only have him be on your side this time around. Let Tellus keep Umidus." Maeve leaned back, her arms folded over her chest.
The two deities thought about it.
"I've never worked with fire," Caelestis mused.
"And I've never battled Umidus against the other warriors," Tellus added.
"It would make the fights more interesting," Caelestis continued.
"It would," Tellus agreed.
They looked at each other for a moment, and then reached out and shook hands.
"It's a deal," Tellus said.
"Now that we've helped you," Sinbad began, "Maybe you can help us."
"Anything," Caelestis said instantly.
"Let my crew go."
"Done!" she exclaimed, snapping her fingers. Rongar and Doubar suddenly appeared on the beach, in the same positions that they'd disappeared in; Doubar, no longer bound by the trees, staggered a few steps. Then he noticed what had happened.
"Sinbad!" he cried. "You won!"
"That we did," Sinbad replied with a grin. He turned back to face Tellus. "I presume our ship can leave now?"
Caelestis frowned and looked to Firouz.
"Tellus used a storm to bring us here," the scientist told her. "We were actually on our way to Bagdad."
"And our ship was damaged," Doubar added.
"And we're low on supplies," Maeve continued.
Caelestis looked shocked. "You mean he didn't just find you? He brought you here?" Tellus, at least, had the decency to look ashamed. "This is terrible! I will return you at once!" Caelestis continued. "I always have to clean up after you, Tellus." He bristled, but realised he was better off keeping his mouth shut.
"Thank you for your help," Firouz said for them.
"No, thank you." Caelestis smiled, and blew Firouz a kiss. Then she snapped her fingers.
"Captain!" Mahmoud exclaimed, running towards them. "You're back!"
"That we are," Sinbad replied, looking around the Nomad. Everything looked like it was in perfect condition. "That we are. I guess we're going to have to set sail for Bagdad-"
"But what about supplies?" Doubar interrupted. "Fresh water, at least?"
"And we don't even know where Bagdad is," Maeve argued. She looked pleased as Dermott flew down out of the rigging to settle on her arm. "I'm glad you didn't keep Firouz on the ship, Dermott, but you're still going to have to explain a few things, later." Dermott chirped.
"Dermott isn't the only one to do some explaining," Sinbad said, good-naturedly. "Firouz? What was that all about with Caelestis?"
"Nothing," Firouz answered, hurriedly. Rongar gave him a good natured punch on the shoulder. "Really. Nothing. I helped her, is all."
"Uh huh," Doubar replied.
Sinbad started to laugh, and then he stopped. "Hey, what's that?"
"What's what?" Maeve asked.
"That thing in the harbour-it looks like a giant wave, heading straight for us!" Sinbad yelped.
"But that can't be-tidal waves don't head out to sea-" Firouz began.
"Well it doesn't know that! Everyone! Brace for impact!" Sinbad yelled as he grabbed onto the railing. The wave hit them, but somehow didn't break over the ship; it lifted the ship right into the air. Clouds suddenly swirled around them.
"Look!" Maeve cried, pointing with a free hand. Around the top of the mist was a dragon, much like the one they had all seen during the storm. But now, flying around the dragon was a giant cloud bird. It cawed at them, and then the clouds started to drift away. The boat lowered itself down, gently, and they found themselves in a calm sea.
The island, off the port side, was gone.
"Now where are we?" Doubar grouched.
"Captain!" Mahmoud pointed to the starboard side. And there, on the horizon, lay Bagdad's port.
"Praise be to Allah," Sinbad sighed, letting his grip on the railing go. "We're home."
Maeve came up to him, while he was directing the unloading of the cargo. "Sinbad?" she said, holding out one of her magic books. "I found where I had seen the symbol before. Look."
He took the book from her. On the page was a picture of a tropical island, with the two symbols superimposed overtop: lightning, for the sky; a tree, for the earth. "'This island is the abode of two elemental deities, who fight each other in a never-ending battle. It is only the balance of the powers that keep them from annihilating each other.' Only the battle wasn't never-ending," Sinbad commented. "Tellus won it."
"Only through treachery," Maeve replied, taking the book back. "Only by cheating."
"No wonder he was so obsessed with a fair fight," Sinbad mused, shaking his head. "He realised that he didn't truly win, like he thought he had."
"All's fair in love and war," Maeve said, in a sing-song. "Most of the time, anyway."
They both laughed, as Sinbad turned back to direct his crew, and Maeve went to put her book away.
Tellus put his arm around Caelestis' waist as they watched the battle on the beach. She rested her head on his shoulder. "Did you miss me?" she asked, quietly.
"I did," he replied. Tonitrus threw Umidus to the ground, and the deity winced.
"Was it very boring, using mortals for the Tournament?" she continued, watching as the two elementals began the fight anew.
"It was. They didn't fight very well and didn't last long, either. Mortal combat is such a disappointment." He paused, gathering up the courage to say something that he wasn't sure whether he wanted to know the answer to. "Are you still mad?"
"Not really," she replied, after a moment. Then she paused again. "A little bit. But I realised I probably would have done the same thing, if one of your warriors had defected."
"We're both scoundrels, you and I," Tellus remarked pleasantly. She laughed.
"That we are. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, are you ready to accept defeat for this battle?"
"Defeat? My dear, Umidus has just begun to fight."
"No, he's just begun to lose."
"We'll see about that." Tellus smiled, slightly. "We'll see."
The Real End