"AND THE WINNER OF THE SEMI-FINALS MATCH IS HAUSSER! LETS GIVE IT UP FOR OUR FINAL CONTENDER, GIVE HIM A HAND FOLKS!" Right on cue the audience erupted into applause, hoots and whistles also raining down on them. Hausser smiled and gave gracious nods to his supporters and the announcer. This was only a meager village competition, but wow was it one the smallfolk put their all into. The announcer alone was probably one of the best he'd heard. It almost made up for the small amount of competitors and somewhat meager talent they possessed.
Across from him was a burned and cowering man, missing an arm now too with the end still smoldering. Poor fool hadn't stood a chance, not that any of them really did. Hausser was a Blooded Noble, and thus far above these pathetic commoners and charlatans. His recent opponent had seen fit to doubt and insult him, so he had not benefited from some of the restraint Hausser had shown in previous matches, There was no killing allowed of course, a mere village could not abide the consequences of a Magi potentially dying in their care. But heavy injury was to be expected in such duels, even encouraged for the crowds strength.
The rules beyond that were simple. Only magic and magic catalysts were allowed to be used. Victory was attained by surrender, ringing out the competitor, or causing the other party to fall unconscious. Hausser had so far achieved his victories by the first and second conditions, mostly the first once they seen his true abilities. He cast a glance towards the other ring where the other semi final match would also be concluding. The announcer was already over there proclaiming the other victor. Perhaps this next match would finally offer a challenge. Finished waving towards the crowed, Hausser stepped towards the edge of the ring as the announcer continued on. "TOMMOROW MORNING FOLKS, IT WILL BE THE MATCH OF A LIFETIME. ONE FOR THE AGES!"
Ah, so the final match would be in the morning then. That was fine, Hausser could feel the burns that had been acting up over the day, aching as they grew ever so slightly. A night of recuperation would be helpful he supposed. Not that he needed it. Dusting some imaginary ash from his fine clothes, he stepped forward to face down his next foe.
Magical dueling was a new concept for Taliha, but she hadn’t been too fortunate of late in the coinage department. So when she had learned of the minor tourney in the village she figured she could give it a go. Thankfully the entry fee was little to nothing, and although not a betting woman, she decided that it was worth the risk. The rules had been explained and that came as a relief for she would not have entered had it been to the death. Why in the world anyone would compete in a death match was beyond her but by all accounts people took such foolish risks. Not Taliha. Despite being an exile from her people she felt she still had too much to live for. Perhaps in a few years she might feel differently but it was beyond her imaginings.
She stabled Wench, her blue dun mare, and went to her room in the little tavern the village boasted to store her gear. By the time she came out to go to the grounds where the competition would be held a sizable crowd had gathered. No way all these people lived in this tiny village and she imagined they had literally crawled out of the woods for the chance to be entertained by the spectacle of it all. That and the chance to hock some wares or panhandle the crowd for there were all manner of carts set up and people dealing goods from the back of wagons as well as those wandering through the seating area selling food and drinks. For sure it would be a good place for thieves to make some quick coinage and she had secured her small pouch close to her chest beneath her doublet.
Quite nervous at first she was surprised to win her first match and as the successive rounds unfolded she grew in confidence. There was an unexpected elation growing within her from all this competition and she could imagine that there must be some people who made a living out of traveling rough to all the competitions in the land. Taliha didn’t figure that she would get the fighting bug, however, as she was not looking to make a name for herself among that circuit. She was a woman who preferred to use her magics for humanitarian reasons but here in the wetlands there was not much call for someone who could bring the rains or quell a sand storm. No, most of her work had been as a mercenary but it didn’t give her a sense of pride and was just a means of survival.
Before she knew it she had won her final match and listening to the announcer she too would draw near the edge of her sparing field to take a gander at the man she would face on the morrow. He looked quite the Magi, especially compared to herself. In brown trousers, which were tucked into her supple knee high boots, and a matching doublet she looked more like the wandering mercenary she was rather than a true mage. He must be one of the blooded nobility and casting a glance at his defeated foe she began to doubt the wisdom in trying to earn some money this way.
Giving the man a nod, she turned from the ring intending on making her way back to the inn. It was surprising how hungry she felt, let alone fatigued, but then she had been manipulating the shroud quite a bit and it invariably would take its toll. Hopefully the food would be of good quality. At least that was worth the entry fee, that and a roof over her head for the night.
Moving along with the crowd heading on back into town she could hear people making wagers and understood immediately why a small place like this would even bother hosting a tourney. Life was hard and to be able to swell the income passing through the village so easily was more than worth a bit of room and board for a few traveling mages.
Hausser smirked as he looked upon his foe, taking in her plain brown clothes with a casual glance. Obviously she was merely a wanderer of no real power, someone who'd learned magic by luck or passion and had been lucky enough to be moderately talented with it. Certainly she was better than the rest of these nobodies, but that was hardly a worthy feat. Hausser could more than attest to that after his own steamrolling of the competition. He didn't even match her nod with his own, simply turning his nose up and walking away towards the town.
Taliva? Talida? He'd already forgotten her name by this point, to which he simply shrugged and continued on his way There was more important things at hand anyway, like the free room and board he'd been promised. It was likely going to be some sort of peasant slop, but even that would be filling enough after a day of exercising the Shroud. Really it was the BED he was worried about, and the potential for unwanted tiny bunkmates during the night. Food was something Hausser could improve upon and make filling with just a few minutes. Bedbugs and fleas were atrocious monsters that would hassle someone forever. And searing the bed surface beforehand would likely be considered rude by his hosts.
Hausser stepped up onto the ring with only the slightest sense of anticipation, this was going to be easy. It was a very wide flat stone surface, slightly raised up compared to the grass around it. Across from him, his foe was also ascending up onto the battlefield as the announcer roared out her name. Ah yes, Taliha, that was her name. Hmph, she was still quite unimpressive in his eyes. Rolling up his sleeves in readiness, Hausser called out to her before they started. "If you wish to surrender, now is the time. I am a Blooded Noble, and sometimes I just don't know my own strength. It can be hard to hold myself back enough to avoid causing serious damage." He smiled again, a bit darkly this time as he remembered the rest of the tournament. "Just ask my last opponent."
The crowd was loving this, already wooping and hollering as the announcer prepared to start the countdown. Hausser gave them a slightly contemptuous wave of acknowledgment. Ah the smallfolk, he didn't actually mind their cheering or support, even if it was a bit loud. His last few years of journey had greatly elevated them and their struggles in his eyes, having lived among and around them on occasion. Still, they were just so easy to woo and impress sometimes.