Who: Taliesyn Robards, Idris Robards
Where: Out in the woods
When: 11 February 2002, morning
It had only been a matter of minutes and Tali was already panting with the exertion. Heidi’s tutorial had succeeded only insomuch as buying time. He had been able to dodge or deflect quite a few spells that Idris threw his way but not come close to landing any blows of his own. Idris’s latest effort hit his legs. Tali felt them crumble.
So no more running behind trees then. Tali tried to get to his feet. It was pointless exercise. He could hear Idris advancing and he twisted around to face his opponent. He shuffled himself backwards till he touched upon a tree. It was a hopeless situation but somehow having something to lean against gave him some resolve.
“Had enough? Just say the word and this’ll all be over.”
Tali kept resolutely silent. He raised his wand hand and there was a brief flurry of activity, sparks appearing and bits of bark and branch flying around like shrapnel, before he felt his wand shoot out of his hand and land, almost in slow-motion, a few feet out of reach.
He tried to dive upon it, only for Idris to send it skidding a further few feet out of reach again. Well, Tali could see where this was going and he wasn’t going to play that game. He lay on his belly, on the snow, contemplating his fate. He could see Idris’s boots in the corner of one eye.
“Go on, then. Say it.”
“Say what? I feel fine.”
Idris let out a laugh. “What? You can’t walk and you’ve lost your wand. You can’t possibly win. The outcome’s inevitable so why don’t you save yourself some pain? Tell me.”
Tali lay his head upon the ground. He closed his eyes. “I feel fine.”
“How about now?”
Idris kicked him so hard in the ribs Tali was now on lying his back. Breathing hurt. He opened his eyes to Idris’s face looming over him, and beyond that, the overcast yet too bright sky, and what seemed to be a large branch on the verge of cracking.
Oh. “I really think…”
Idris rolled his eyes. “Who cares what you think?” He aimed his wand at one of Tali’s arms. Tali a sharp sting and that limb go dead. Down to one. He guessed Idris was milking the moment. If he wanted an official surrender he could have easily elicited one the moment right after he’d disarmed Tali.
Talking was difficult but Tali wheezed on. “I really think you ought to move.”
“Why,” sneered Idris.
“Or a tree’s gonna fall on your head.”
Idris burst out laughing. “You and your fucking excuses. Do you seriously believe anyone could fall for any of those?”
“But it looks unstable—”
“What next, if I don’t move an avalanche is going to bury me? There’s a wolf behind me? I’m standing on the edge of a hidden pit you’ve dug? I’m—”
Tali, who had his eyes fixed on that wonky branch from the moment he first saw it, had time to react and roll out of the way. Idris was not so lucky. Or, possibly, he was lucky, with the bulk of the weight hitting him on the shoulder, dropping him to the floor, and pinning him down by crushing his arm.
It beat having a head injury, moderate or otherwise.
Idris’s wand lay on the ground between the two men. Tali spied it first and heaved himself over, fingers from his working hand curling around it.
Idris looked panicked for the first time in, well, ever. “That’s not your wand. It won’t obey you.”
“Oh really?” voiced Tali, who looked more philosophical than triumphant. He could scarcely believe the turnaround. The idea of being victorious was a million miles away at the start of the duel. But of course, he supposed, it would be very particularly him to be on the edge of victory while lying on the ground practically incapacitated.
“Whatever you plan, it’s gonna backfire.” Idris’s voice was shaky.
“Maybe,” mused Tali, getting a little bit of satisfaction from seeing Idris flinch with every wand movement, “but considering how poor you think my regular wandwork is, who knows, maybe backfiring could be an improvement.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “Maybe I needed a wand with a more… vindictive nature for any of these hexes to work.”
Tali grinned. “Let’s give it a go, shall we?” He pulled his arm back, ready to strike —