I sent a fireball off and it crashed into the rock and scattered into fireworks, quickly followed by another. Sweat pooled down my back and beaded my face, and my muscles were humming with magic energy. Next I fired off long tendrils of electricity that whipped the rock. One – zap – two – zap – three – zap…
“A spell like that requires a lot of power.” Nadir said, walking up to me.
I wiped the sweat from my brow. “It does, but less than you’d think.”
He nodded and stayed and watched as I continued practising. I only stopped when I noticed that his arms were crossed over his chest and he was glaring at something. It turned out to be Amin who was on the porch talking to Isadora. He looked like he was dressed for practise himself.
“Don’t worry, you get to throw fireballs at him later today,” I said.
Nadir started, but his features relaxed. “I look forward to that.”
I got into my duelling stance again, and he stayed to observe.
“How come you use that stance?” he asked.
I straightened up.
“Newer literature recommend it. It’s more flexible and therefore easier to both dodge and move. There’s a pretty good book I can recommend,” I said, getting back into my stance and firing off a returning fireball. “We got the first copies at the archives a few weeks back.”
“You work at the archives?”
I nodded, dodged my own fireball, and sent it back to crash into the rock.
“I’m a head archivist at the Grand Council Library of Mysticism.”
“Ah, so you cheat, too.” A smile played in his eyes. “You spend all your time at the library.”
“I spend most of my time there working,” I corrected him, and came over to elbow him softly. “Though we do have a lot of downtime, and since we have so many books… But it’s not cheating. Not like you, Mr. Advance Reading Copy.”
He shrugged and followed as I walked back to the house.
“Weren’t you out here to practise?” I asked.
“No, just spying on your techniques.” He said, the playful tone foreign in his voice.
We walked back to the house, into the dining room to have breakfast. Or rather, I grabbed breakfast, and he stuck with just grabbing a cup as usual. While I ate, he just sipped on it and looked away, as Tall, dark and brooding as ever. I wonder what had happened to turn him so sullen once again. He was so different from yesterday. From just five minutes ago when he had been smiling and joking.
“You don’t eat in the mornings?” I asked, taking a drink of my tea.
I raised an eyebrow. “About the duels? Why?”
He blushed so furiously, I couldn’t bring myself to ask more.
It was so hard to figure him out. Obviously, he was talented, and at the same time he had those moments of self-deprecation and now this nervousness that didn’t suit him. I felt tempted to start cross examining him about his life story to try and figure him out, but Celeste joined us at our table. Nadir almost immediately excused himself, leaving his half-filled cup behind.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she said, watching him leave. “Is he okay?”
Celeste raised an eyebrow. “Well, you’re certainly talkative. Did the two of you argue? You seemed to get along pretty well outside. I saw you.”
For whatever reason, I couldn’t find anything to say, so I looked away from Celeste. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“Oh, you get along really well, don’t you?” She smirked. “I guess it was bound to happen. The two of you are both massive nerds, so it had to either end in a bloody feud or the romance of the century.”
“Romance? Oh, please.”
She carried on.
“I mean, it surprises me, too. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“I think I need to practise some more.”
I downed the rest of my tea, burning my tongue in the process, and then I darted out of there. Celeste’s laughter followed me up to my room.
Celeste was wrong, of course, I thought as we made our way to the arena. It wasn’t any kind of romance – only two magicians of equal skills sharing advice to get better. That was why I had sought Nadir on the walk over there, and not her. I couldn’t stand her little tuts and the big, bright eyes she made at me. It was immature, plain and simple.
When we walked into the arena and took our seats at the top, I felt the excitement coursing through my veins and it was amplified when I looked over at Nadir. I had no doubt that duelling with him would be interesting. Though I hadn’t seen him work yet, he couldn’t be all bad when his transformations were as good as they were. It wasn’t the same kind of spell, but it did require precision.
Everyone had found their seats, and this time we had a few more people seated in the stands. They were council witches, who liked to join for the last couple of disciplines, and for the first gala evening tomorrow. Because of the extra eyes, the atmosphere for this part was intense. There were more voices talking amongst themselves, and the silence was stronger when Isadora called out that we were about to start.
“Welcome back to the 124th Annual Moonlight Tournament. This is the fourth day, and a round that I’m sure we’ve all been waiting excitedly for. It’s time for the duels.”
All contestants got up in a row for presentations, and Orion went through the rules:
“The rules are as usual: You need to knock your opponent down within three minutes. If both contestants are standing by the end, it’s a draw. We award two points for winning, one for a draw, and none for losing. At the end, the contestant with most points wins, and if there’s a draw, we go for sudden death.”
Celeste and Nadir took the arena for the first duel, and I ignored the commentaries and the talking around me to focus only on the action. The two bowed politely and got into their stances.
I knew that Celeste was a good duellist, but I also knew that she disliked the restricted format, so she was no match for Nadir. Her stance was too rigid, and when Nadir sent a good fireball her way, it very nearly hit her in the chest, because she dodged too slowly.
He excelled at this like the other rounds. I noticed he took the stance I had shown him this morning, and it saved him from Celeste’s electricity attack more than once. He carefully predicted each of Celeste’s movements before he dodged. The spells he threw her way were as good, and as I had predicted, he knocked Celeste down after little over two minutes. The two met on the ground to shake hands and walked back up to the stands together.
The next duel was me against Amin.
I was surprised to find him more competent at this than any other discipline, though not as good as Nadir. Or myself, for that matter.
I lead with a barrage of fireballs, hoping that his too loose stance would be his undoing, and we exchanged spells for a while, looking for each other’s weak spots. Amin hit me with an icy wind that would have been bad for my style, hadn’t I already prepared for it. I blocked the wind with a ward and fired back with electric tendrils before he had a chance to defend himself. They whipped him off his feet, and the duel was done.
Walking back up to the stands, I shared a smile with Nadir, whose eyes hadn’t left me since I took to the stage.
Celeste went up against Cloris next, and Celeste got her first win. Cloris was much too hesitant to cause harm. I could tell from the relative weakness of her spells, the rigidity in her movements.
Amin, on the other hand, was almost too happy to cause harm to Nadir when the two of them went up in the next duel. Whatever their argument was about, it drove him to bombard Nadir with fireball after fireball. Nadir dodged them all and returned them to Amin. When Nadir won, it was because he stayed relatively cool, while his opponent didn’t. At the end of the duel, Amin only shook his hand for one second, and there was no smile on his face.
“What the hell is that all about?” Celeste asked me.
I told her briefly of the argument the night before, and her eyes grew worried. “Don’t marry Mr. Hazan right away, will you?” she asked.
I was about to tell her that no such thing would happen at all, but the next duel was about to start, and I went up to take the stand across from Cloris.
It ended with me winning my third and fourth point, and then we took a break before the last duels.
I went to have a drink and splash water on my face, and Celeste joined me on the way.
“What did I do wrong, oh great oracle?” she asked.
“Your stance is too rigid. You don’t have time to dodge.”
She scratched her chin. “But I thought my stance was too loose? That’s what you said last year.”
“You took it too far in the other direction.”
“This sport is stupid,” she said, stomping away from me with all the grace of a three-year-old throwing a tantrum.
After a half hour break, we were right back at it. Celeste and Amin opened the second half of the day. His anger had seemingly fizzled out, and he fought much better. Celeste had relaxed her stance, and she almost managed to beat him; in the end, though, she was knocked down, and came back to her seat, muttering about stupid sports.
And then Nadir and I were called to the podiums.
“Our seventh duel is Mr. Nadir Hazan versus our reigning champion, Genevieve Thorne,” Orion’s voice rang out over the arena.
I stood on my own raised podium, in front of Nadir. Every duel so far had made me sweat and my heart beat, but it was nothing against this. I wanted to win. That’s how I always felt, but I felt it so strongly, I almost cried. For the first time since I met him, I noticed that he was relaxing into a smile in front of someone other than me and the enthusiasm spilled from every pore. If it was even possible, the look on his face got my heart to beat faster.
“Contestants, at the ready,” Gabriel shouted over the crowd.
We bowed at each other and relaxed into contrasting stances. Instead of the one I preferred, he had chosen one that would be strong against me. Clever man. I ignored the commentary telling everyone at home the same thing, and only listened for the fireworks that would signal the beginning of the duel.
As soon as stars exploded over our heads I immediately fired off the first spell. A blast of ice much like Amin’s. But Nadir was ready with a ward, and shot a blast of fire straight back, which I dodged.
We traded spell after spell, dodged, rolled, and spun to avoid. At one point I caught one of his fireballs and shot it right back at him, and he only barely dodged, leaving an opening to throw tendrils of electricity at his feet. They licked at his feet, and it looked like he was about to fall, but he jumped and threw a fire blast to distract me.
I warded it off and sent a spell back.
He dodged. I sent it back. He dodged. Attacked.
It turned into a rhythm, as steady as my racing heart. Back and forth it went, again and again, until suddenly, Isadora said stop.
My arms fell, my chest heaved, and I couldn’t tear my eyes from Nadir.
Three minutes. It had been three minutes, but it had felt like an eternity. Orion said something about it being a tie and our points and our standing in the duels by now, but I couldn’t focus. I walked down from the podium in a trance and went to shake hands with Nadir. Either I was imagining things, or he had the very same thoughts running through his head. Our fingers brushed by each other as we let go and walked away.
I fell into my chair next to Celeste, shaking my head, regaining my footing on reality.
Her smirk was smirkier than ever, for lack of a better word.
“Do you need a cold shower?”
My traitorous face went hot, and I muttered: “Shut it.”
However, I didn’t pay attention to the next duel between Amin and Cloris. My thoughts were circling around the inevitable rematch. So far, both Nadir and I had won all our duels, and I had no doubt that we would win the ones to come.
I had to win. That wasn’t anything new. More than any other round, I loved the duels, but more than ever, I needed to win against Nadir.
My last duel was against Celeste, and I fought even harder than I needed to. I flattened her. When Celeste and I went back up to sit, she groaned and complained that she would be feeling it for weeks. She had gone down in just over a minute.
When Nadir and Cloris began the final duel of the round, I moved to the edge of my seat.
Poor Cloris didn’t stand a chance. My eyes were on Nadir the whole time. I drank in every move he made, his stances, his hand movements, looking for a weakness, anything I could exploit to win.
And right as Cloris went down, there it was. A distraction. No more than a millisecond of Nadir flinching at the damage he had caused.
I smiled, and Celeste sighed next to me.
“You’re going to flatten him, aren’t you?” When I didn’t reply, she sighed even deeper. “You evil, evil woman.”
As I had expected, Nadir and I each had seven points after our four duels, and that meant sudden death. My body still ached after the last four duels, but I walked up and took my stand. Nadir was there again, and all was right. I could already feel the magical energy in the air.
“Contestants, at the ready.”
We went through the procedure: Bow. Opposing stances. Hands at the ready.
Fireworks went off, and two fireballs flew straight at each other, exploding on impact. I warded off a blast of ice through the smoke from the explosion and sent an ice blast back. He sent fire, I sent back fire. He dodged, I dodged. It was as even as it had been earlier today, but I could also feel my movements get more sluggish. We had to end this soon, even if I never wanted this to end, this rhythm.
I saw my chance when he aimed a fireball straight at me. Instead of dodging, I moved the wrong way, right into its path. It hit me straight in abdomen, throwing me back. I heard surprised gasps as I fell, and I could see Nadir’s eyes widening. His weak moment was now.
I threw a blast of wind behind me. It was strong enough to get me straightened up just in time to throw the fireball back. By the time he realised what I had done, it had hit him instead, and he fell back with no time to straighten himself up. Meanwhile, I had gotten back on my feet. Barely. I had to get down on one knee, but both his feet left the ground.
My midsection was aching like there was no tomorrow, and I had singed my eyebrows, but I had one foot on the ground. Victorious.
There were too few people in the audience to have a true roar of applause, but I got the equivalent. All the people present stood up to applaud the victory, and I walked down from the podium, legs feeling like jelly. Nadir waited in front of the podium. When I stuck out my hand to shake his, he clasped my hand in both of his. I lingered there, my hand burning in his. He didn’t look away, not even when we let go of each other and took our seats.
Somewhere, far away, Isadora and Orion declared me the winner, and I got up to wave at the viewers. They said something. Comments about the next round or our score being even or something. I didn’t listen.
I floated back to the manor.
Author’s notes: Hi everyone, and welcome to the final chapter of the year. Damn was it hard taking photos for this one. If you’re out there thinking you might like to do a witchy Sims story, maybe just use the default magic stuff instead of using fog emitters for everything. It makes some cool effects, but man is it ever time consuming and finicky. I also had to make that last pose that I used and it caused me an undue amount of trouble – hence with the top hand is sort of floating, because if it didn’t, things would just clip all over the gosh darn place. So that’s nice.
Anyway, if you do think you want to use the fog emitter, I’ve made a resource page here where I’ve added a document that I use myself – it lists some of the effects I’ve used here and the codes for the fog emitter. There are plenty of lists around with fog emitter codes, don’t get me wrong, but the ones I’ve found don’t list what the effects actually are. So, I thought I’d add mine in case someone finds it useful 🙂 The resource page also lists some mods, defaults, and software I use. I was inspired by Neverdoitagain’s amazing and vast list of mods, but this is not nearly as extensive.
I don’t think there’s much more to say to this one, other than thank you for reading. And thank you all, in general, for reading and talking with me this past year. Thanks for the stories you share, and for being part of a wonderful community. Happy new year, and here’s to another great year of stories 🙂
EDIT: I completely forgot to pay homage to the amazing build I used here, the stadium! It’s not made by me (goodness I couldn’t build like this if my life depended on it) but by the extremely talented Valois Fulcanelli (link to the downloads tag). You can find the build here.