A Trial of Judgment: The Final Reckoning  

We have come to the final moments, the last part of what ended up being a long scene, longer than I’d anticipated, or maybe not.  Sometimes I think these are gonna run longer or shorter and I’m always surprised.  But, no, I’m always a little surprised.

I did pass another milestone last night:  one hundred ten thousand words written.  And since I ended up with a little over twelve hundred words last night, I went one more and made it one hundred and eleven thousand.  It’s another nice point, and the next up are one hundred twenty thousand (of course), and one hundred twenty-five thousand, or an eighth of a million, if you’re fractionally inclined.  At the rate I’m zipping along I should reach one hundred and fifty thousand in about forty days, or some time around the end of September.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

The match is over, so what happens next?  Well, things happen . . . and stuff.  Like–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“And stop.” Professor Chai raised her arms over her head as she issued the command. “Annie, please return to your starting position—” As Annie touched down, dissipated her magic, and walked back to where she’d begun the trial, the professor turned to Nurse Bianca, who had come over from the hospital and was now giving Rikkard a quick checkup. “Is he good?” Bianca nodded before patting the boy on the shoulder. “Good—” Ramona headed for the center of the mat and motioned for her two combatants to join her. “Please come.”

Annie walked slowly to the center of the mat and stopped about a meter from Rikkard, who seemed just a bit unsteady on his feet: she expected that was the reason Nurse Bianca a step behind him. The left few spells left her a bit winded, but that was passing quickly, and in another minute no one would know she’d just participated in her first judgment trial.

Ramona held out her hands to both combatants. “Please face each other—” They both adjusted their stances so they were face-to-face. “—and bow.” Both students executed a short bow, and for the first time since they’d met a slight smile appeared on Rikkard’s face. “I want to congratulate you both for the honor you showed each other, and the fact that there no penalties were registered against either of you.” She folded her hands across her torso. “Well done.”

Rikkard extended his right hand towards Annie. “Good match. And congratulations.”

Even though she wasn’t yet declared the winner, Annie was as aware of the outcome as the boy across from her. “Thank you.” She shook his hand. “And a good match from you as well.”

He exhaled slowly. “You should consider going out for your coven’s combat team.”

She shook her head. “I only fight when it’s necessary.”

His smile grew wider. “Probably best for the rest of us.”

“Rikkard, you may leave. You fought a good battle: thank you for your participation.” Ramona gave him a slight nod right before Bianca placed her hands on his shoulders and jaunted away. She then turned to the girl on her right. “Annie, you are the victor of this trial, and the moment has come to pass judgment. Do you which to continue?”

There wasn’t any need to ask Annie twice. “Yes, Professor.”

 

Rikkard is a good sport about getting his ass handed to him, and his remark about it probably being best Annie isn’t in a combat club is telling, because it would seem that most of the people he faces don’t have the same skills Annie has.  Probably because they aren’t little sorceresses who can handle their Morte spells . . .

It’s also sort of telling that he gets jaunted off to the hospital right away for a check-up, because Annie juiced his ass probably harder than Lovecraft zapped Kerry back when their first started.  Helena, however, was using “invisible” charges, which is to say she was using Kerry’s electrical field, the one generated by his body.  Annie’s not quite there, but she’s close to doing that.  She just needs a, um, “partner” for testing.

Now it’s judgment time, and Lisa has to pay the piper–and Annie isn’t playing a cute, dancy pop song right now–

 

Ramona turned her gaze upon the gathered students. “Lisa, please come forward.” The girl stepped away from a small group of students and slowly approached. “Come to the center of the mat and face Annie.” The professor waited until both girls were standing before her, facing each other. While Annie appeared calm and relaxed, Lisa seemed understandably pensive. “Lisa, your champion has lost this trial, and in accordance with trial protocol, you are required to face Annie’s judgment.” She turned to victor. “Annie, you have twenty-four hours to issue your judgment against Lisa—”

“I won’t need that much time, Professor.” Annie stared down the smoldering Lisa. “I’m prepared to pass judgment now.”

“You may proceed.”

“Thank you.” Annie’s eyes narrowed as she spoke the words she’d considered all through the afternoon’s Advanced Formulistic Magic. “Lisa, from now and until you leave this school for good, you will not speak ill of me, you will not make disparaging remarks, you will no longer make up lies about me in any public area where I could overhear you speaking.” She closed the distance between them by half, feeling Lisa’s anger burn into her. “What you said this morning was horrid and disgusting, and I will not stand for your crap any longer. I can’t control what you say about me in private, but should I ever hear you speak of me as you did today—or learn that you are the source of any nasty, perverted rumors—I will call you out again, and you will fight me without benefit of a champion.”

 

Now, it may seem like Annie should be making Lisa swab floors with her tongue, but keep in mind, if she went out of her way to lay something crazy on Lisa, Ramona would likely tell her, “No, do it again,” and Annie would need to regroup.  As it is, she just laid a gag order on Lisa to stop talking shit about her, and if she blows it, Annie’s gonna haul her back up to the manor and zap the shit out of her–which is not what Lisa wants to hear–

 

The mask of anger finally fell from Lisa’s face, and she grew panicky for the first time. She turned to Ramona. “She can’t do that.”

“Yes, she can.” Ramona spoke clear and slow. “It’s a common request from a victor that if the vanquished violates a judgment, they must enter another trial themselves.” Her head tilted slightly to the right. “As knowledgeable as you appear about judgment trials, I would have believed you’d know about that stipulation.” She turned back to Annie. “Do you have anything further to add, Annie?”

“No, Professor.” She tilted her head back just enough that it appeared she was looking down her nose at Lisa. “That is all.”

“Understood.” Ramona walked backwards a few steps and addressed every student in the room. “As Mistress of Judgments for the School of Salem I declare Annie’s judgment to be fair and evenhanded. Lisa—” She ignored the furious glare focused upon her. “—if you feel this judgment is unduly severe, you have forty-eight hours to appeal my decision, at which time I’ll bring the matter up before the Ruling Council. I should remind you that I have never had a decision overturned—” A slight upturn appeared at the left corner of Ramona’s mouth. “—though there’s always a first time.

“And with that . . .” Ramona spread her arms wide. “This Judgment Trial is over, and our business is concluded. It is now seventeen forty-six; leave now and you’ll make dinner by eighteen. Thank you for coming.” She bowed, turn, and walked off the mat and out of the room.

 

What Ramona did was, in her own way, let Lisa know she’s aware she gamed the system and lost, and if she wants to bitch about the outcome, fine, go do so, but you’re gonna lose.  Professor Chai doesn’t talk smack, but she is a firm believer in karma, and she’s knows the Karma Express pulled into the station and pretty much ran Lisa’s ass down.  Lisa’s not a Moriarty-like mastermind of intrigue:  she’s just a mean girl who thinks being a bitchy witch is cool.

She just picked the wrong person to screw with.

And someone close to Annie knows the same:

 

Annie didn’t wait to see if Lisa any something to say: she turned her back on the girl and walked towards Kerry, who had moved away from the crowd and was waiting for her just beyond the mat. “Did I disappoint?”

He shook his head. “Not in the least.” He waited until Annie had slipped on her flats before giving her a hug. “You were incredible. How do you feel?”

“Good. A little tired after that lightning shot, but—” She kissed him on the lips. “—I’m fine now.”

“So I see.” He kissed her back, holding it for several seconds. “I thought you might be tired because you’re so . . . calm. You should be really excited after that win.”

“Hum.” She shot him a impish grin. “That is not my style.”

“Oh, come on: just this once. Here—” Kerry slipped his arms around Annie’s thighs and lifted her into the air. “I’ll help you celebrate.”

Annie laughed, because she’d never had Kerry touch her this way, not with dozens of people standing around. But she liked the feeling of excitement that immediately filled her as she was hoisted into the air, and she realized he was right: she had every reason in the world to get excited, to celebrate a victory that she figured few in the room thought she’d achieve.

With Kerry holding her tight Annie leaned back and threw her arms into the air. She started laughing as she turned her gaze towards the ceiling, because not only did it feel wonderful to have emerged victorious, in that instant she realized on other thing: just like Helena, she’d given herself a reputation.

No one was going to make light of, or underestimate her, ever again.

 

Though you can probably imagine that some fool will, because now they know how Annie fights–at least in this environment–and they’ll try to match her moves and attack, because everyone wants to take out the fastest gun, right?  We’ve already shown that making Annie mad isn’t a good thing, and if you keep doing it–

You do it at your own risk.

A Trial of Judgment: The Throwdown

We have our combatants in place, and the trial is underway.  Annie is up there in the air, floating around–well, not exactly floating–and she’s not gonna make it easy for someone to hit her.  Which is what we’re gonna see today, more or less.

There was, to be honest, a hell of a lot of writing against last night.  My weekly recap of Humans ended up running about fifteen hundred words, and that’s a lot.  Then I sat down for last night’s segment of this novel, and between it and chatting up some people who were asking me questions, I still managed nine hundred words, and brought the novel to just under five hundred words of the one hundred and ten thousand word mark.

I should point out that all of this occurred while my computer was having a bit of a nervous breakdown, and there were moments where I couldn’t do anything for about five minutes at a time but wait for things to unfreeze.

But that’s all in the past.  Let’s get to the buttkicking, shall we?

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

She threw up her defense spells while she shifted quickly a few meters to the right, then zoomed five metered to her left before dropping nearly to the floor. She didn’t want to give Rikkard too many chances to get her in his sights, and her Flight gift allowed her to move much faster in every dimension than any witch could hope for using levitation. I wonder if he’ll figure out what I’m doing?

There wasn’t a need to worry about that now: her opponent had recovered from his fire ordeal and was crafting up another attack. Pouring a bit more magical energy into defense screens, Annie gently ascended back over the mat.

While she wasn’t interested in being a target, she wanted to see if Rikkard was going to craft drain spells in an attempt to weaken her screens, or even attempt to set up a drain field around her. According to Wednesday a drain field was difficult for a D Level, but not impossible. She gave him a chance to cast so she could feel the spell as it struck the screens: a drain spell, as she’d expected. He’s playing things safe and conservative

Two purple balls of electrical energy stuck her screens while she was busy shutting down his drain spell and reinforcing her defenses. Annie was momentarily blinded by the flash, and enough of the charge made it through that she felt a numbing tingle rush through her legs. She speed forward and then to her right, missing two more Ball Lightning attack the boy quick crafted. She needed a moment to shake off the effects of the charge and regroup. Stop playing with this boy. She hovered some seven meters away from Rikkard. He isn’t going to let you win: you have to make that happen

Annie charged Rikkard.

 

So Annie now knows her opponent can magically sucker punch her when possible, and he likes ball lightning.  That’s good:  Annie likes other things:

 

Three meters from him she rolled to her right, shot off a few meters, and then unleashed a vicious Air Hammer. She didn’t expect it to make it through his defense screens, but that wasn’t her intention. As soon as she threw her attack, she jumped three meters up and five to her left before throwing another Air Hammer, then dropped close to the mat and threw a huge Air Hammer low and hard. Annie was trying to keep him off-balance and unfocused so he wouldn’t have time to make an effective attack against her.

On the contrary, she intended to put an end to this contest as fast as possible.

She moved into position, some six meters away from Rikkard and nearly five meters above the mat, and began fast crafting her next attack. She’d not used sorcery yet, because she didn’t want to spend a lot of time with smaller amounts of dark energy: Annie had something better in mind. I’ve weakened his defenses . . . She spun around once, acting as if she were about to throw another Air Hammer, then steadied herself so she was facing him. Now’s the time to remove them completely.

She gathered together all the dark energy her witch powers allowed her to draw at one time, formed the image of her attack in her mind, pulled her arms around and sighted Rikkard over her hands, opened her palms, and put every gram of willpower into her magic.

Annie fired her killshot.

 

A killshot isn’t always something designed to kill a person, though in this case it could.  Because Annie wants to dust this fool, she save all her sorcery for this moment, and when someone tells you there’s no light in darkness, well, they don’t always know what they’re saying . . .

 

The inside of the Manor was bathed in blue-white glare as the Lightening spell emerged from Annie’s hands like a crackling laser. It hit Rikkard’s defenses and bowed it enough that the screen snapped back and struck him. His magic fought against Annie’s, undulating and popping as the energies spilled several meters away from the point of impact, making students recoil with nervousness and fear.

Annie heard someone screaming out something in another language, but they weren’t word of fear but rather those of excitement. She figured it was Kerry cheering her on, but she wasn’t about to look. She concentrated on holding her spell for five seconds, knowing it would wear her down a bit, but if she ended this trial in the next few seconds it wouldn’t matter.

She finished her lightning attack, then pushed herself forward until she was directly over her opponent. Annie checked long enough to see if Rikkard was still on his feet—he was. That was all she needed. She threw another Air Hammer down on to Rikkard, a massive blast that it bored straight through his screens and slammed him hard to the mat.

Annie watched the boy for a sign of movement, and a few seconds after he hit the mat he began to stir. As he found his way to one knee, Annie slowly floated until she was a half meter off the mat, then close on him, stopping a couple of meters away. She hovered there with a ball of electrical energy in one hand and a sphere of cold fire in the other. She waited until he was up on one knee before moving into his field of vision—

He stopped moving and locked eyes with her. Annie said nothing for a few seconds, then spoke in a low, serious tone. “Step out.”

Rikkard nodded as he stood. Not taking his eyes off Annie, he turned his hands palm down and walked backward until he was outside the combat circle. Annie nodded back and killed her spells.

The trial was over; Annie emerged victorious.

 

And this is how it killshot appeared:

More or less.  A lot less, actually.

More or less. A lot less, actually.

As for the last scene of her hovering a few meters away with glowing balls of death in her hands–yeah, I’d love to see that scene drawn out.  Anyone seeing her do that–and seeing that grim, dangerous look on her face–would likely hesitate to ever mess with Little Miss Sorceress again.  The chances are that Rikkard was probably dazed pretty hard from her laser-like electrical attack, because if it was enough to drain his shields, he was probably getting zapped as well as he tried to keep from being lit up.

You’ll probably see tomorrow, when judgement is rendered.

Probably.

A Trial of Judgment: Time to Rumble

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but I spent most of that day either sleeping–which I totally did around noon because I was up at four-thirty–or writing.  Eight hundred four words in the morning for one scene, almost twelve hundred words for notes for my Humans recap, and then I started another scene writing seven hundred ninety-eight words–

Yes, I start working on Annie’s combat.

Come one, come all, let's see this happen!

Come one, come all, let’s see this happen!

Now we get into the low-down and see what’s about to happen.  And it begins with just a bit of a rewind, because we haven’t seen or felt anything from Annie’s point of view–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie walked to her start position, her breathing controlled, her mind clear, her nerves steady. While a fight against Lisa would have ended quickly, someone more skilled in magical combat was going to give her a challenge—maybe even beat her.

She was aware of her abilities as well, and there was one important incident that no one at school—save three people—knew about. I wonder what this Rikkard would say if he knew I’ve killed two people? Not that it mattered: Annie couldn’t kill this student, nor could she use her most effective—and deadly—spell. It didn’t matter: she’d learned a great deal in the last year, and she knew how to put it to great use.

Annie stepped into the white rectangle and faced the boy ten meters across from her. She smoothed her skirt down and discreetly tugged on the waistband of her leggings, then prepared herself for the moment to come. The moment Professor Chai ordered the trial to begin was when crafting would begin, and she wasn’t concerned about her first spell: rather, she thought about what Rikkard would do. She’s not watched many of the combat matches—they weren’t as wildly watched as the races, and they were always held on Sunday afternoon, when Kerry and she did things—but her own experience, and the lessons in the Advanced Self Defense class—taught her that the majority of people in magical combat will throw up their defense spells before launching an attack. And if Rikkard is like the majority of those people, he’ll do the same . . .

Professor Chai raised her hands and the protection enchantments activated: Annie was sealed inside a bubble with two other people designed to protect the spectators from errant spells. In a moment the action would begin, and she knew exactly what she was do—

“And . . . begin.” With that the trial began.

 

So Annie figures she can beat him ’cause, you know, killing a couple of adults weren’t no big thing, and this is just some punk kid–a bigger punk kid than here, but that just makes it easier to hit him.  Now that the command has been given to start your magical engines, Annie’s ready for action:

 

Annie watched Rikkard start his crafting, careful to watch his moments and notice the energy he was drawing upon—the last was something Kerry and she had begun learning a couple of weeks before in Advanced Spells. Normal magical energy being put into a defense screen—as I suspected. She began her own crafting, but experience she picked up in Wednesday’s class didn’t necessitate the need to give away her crafting: she didn’t want the boy across from her to know what she was about to do—

Not in the least.

She continued watching Rikkard. She observed him throwing up his defense screen in just a few seconds before moving on to his offense spell. She didn’t feel dark energy coming into play, so there wasn’t any chance the ball lightning forming in his hand was the result of sorcery; she figured he either didn’t know it well, or was saving it for a kill shot attack.

Rikkard chained three balls of lightning together, quickly pulled his elbows back a bit, and hurled the magic the direction of his opponent.

Annie bent her knees slightly and launched herself into the air.

 

Oh?  Did we forget Annie can fly?  She didn’t.  Can she do that?  Well, it is a kinda magic, so why not?  Anyway, here’s sort of what that moment looks like, because drawing skillz, yo.

Artist's rendition of the moment (rather simplified).

Artist’s rendition of Annie’s moment of lift-off (rather simplified).

I doubt very much if she went “Whee!” on take off, but you can bet there was a little confusion from her opponent.  Which is what she wanted . . .

 

When Professor Chai mentioned they had to stay within the circle Annie remembered the demonstration Coraline and the professor had performed the year before—in particular the moment when Coraline performed a high back flip all the way across the mat. Though nothing was said about the validity of the move, Annie was certain Coraline wouldn’t have performed such an action if it wasn’t legal. But the moment the professor stated, “This is a match of skill, so use whatever you feel is necessary to prevail,” there was no question she’d use her Flight Gift. As far as anyone in the room was concerned she was levitating—and levitating was a magical skill.

However, she’d spent the last two months learning how to maneuver in ways few could using levitation, and she was going to put all that knowledge to the best use . . .

She was already four meters above the mat when Rikkard’s attack reached where she was and flew straight into the barrier beyond. Annie managed to see the boy’s look of surprise as he turned his gaze upwards. Before he could lock onto her, she rolled twice to her right and slipped upward and to the left another before she used the spell she’d begun crafting the moment the professor started the trial.

A huge fireball struck Rikkard’s defense screen as well as the mat around him. While he was protected by his magic, the mat outside the screen caught fire and the heat from the blast—which the screen wouldn’t stop—poured through. Rather than ready another attack, Rikkard was forced to move, as it would take a few seconds before the safety enchantment extinguished the flames and he wasn’t enjoying the sensation of being embroiled in massive amounts of heat.

 

Since Annie knew she wasn’t going to be where Rikkard’s attack would end up, she put what she had into offence and let rip with a huge fireball.  How ‘about a little fire, Scarecrow?  Hope you got on your fire suit.

Just like this--take that, Finnish Boy!

Take that, Finnish Boy!

Now, rather than him maneuver for position so he can ready his next attack, he’s gotta do something to get out of the bonfire which has formed around his feet.  Also, he’s gotta deal with some little Bulgarian girl who’s flying around like an angry swallow, only this bird can throw fireballs–and worse.

‘Cause Annie’s just getting warmed up.

A Trial of Judgment: Here Are the Rules

Here I am, coming late, but that’s because I was busy again–eight hundred words busy.  And it’s another scene down, a short one, maybe one of the shortest I’ve written for these novels, but a lot is said in this scene, and believe it or not I’ve worked on it for hours hoping I got it right.

See?  I haven't even gotten ready this morning.

See? I haven’t even gotten ready this morning.

Given all that, here’s the whole scene with little comment.  Enjoy.

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

With Annie accepting Lisa’s champion, Ramona was ready to continue. “Come to the center of the ring.” She met the two students there. “Before we begin, let me explain the rules. Rikkard, as a member of your Combat Team, you know these: I’m reiterating these for Annie’s sake—” She looked at the students around the mat. “—and for the sake of the others.

“The trial takes place inside the confines of the white circle. Magic is used both offensively and defensively; you are allowed to use anything in which you are skilled, with exceptions that will be mentioned momentarily. Non-magical fighting is also allowed, as are weapons which you can craft magically. This is a match of skill, so use whatever you feel is necessary to prevail.

“You are not allowed to attack an opponent who is prone on the mat, or is down on one knee; doing so could bring about the end of the trial. Having both feet outside the circle brings the match to an end: you are allowed one foot outside, but doing so often and purposely can result in a penalty. The trial continues until an opponent is forced, or willfully steps, outside the circle, indicates they wish to stop, are rendered unconscious, or I bring the trial to a halt because of incurred penalties. Once the trial is halted there is no further combat.

“Penalties can be and are issued during the trial. We use a yellow-red-double red system penalty system. Yellows are for minor infractions; for example, crafting a spell before the trial begins results in a yellow penalty. Red penalties are issued for far more serve infractions; attacking an opponent while they are down results in a red penalty. A double red penalty is the most sever penalty, and automatically brings the trial to an end. Using an unauthorized spell, or killing an opponent during the trial, results in a double red penalty.

“Penalties are progressive as well. Three yellows automatically become one red penalty, and two red penalties automatically become a double red. Given this information, six yellow penalties will be stepped up to two reds, which then become a double red penalty, which then halts the trial.

“Sorcery is allowed, including some Morte spells, but you must be able to control said spells, or you’ll be given a red penalty. Because of the difficulty of using these Morte spells effectively, Exsanguination, Harden, Liquefy, and Blood Hammer are not permitted, and the use of any of these results in an immediate double red penalty.” Ramona waited for Annie to react to her last statement, but she showed no concern or other emotion. “Do either of you have questions?”

Rikkard shook his head. “No, Professor.”

Annie turned an impassioned stare towards her instructor. “None, Professor.”

Ramona raised her hands palms up. “Face each other and bow—” She waited for them to complete the action before pointing to white rectangles at opposite ends of the circle. “Go to your respective start positions.”

At Annie and Rikkard moved into their position, Ramona went to the edge of the circle, keeping both students at a forty-five degree angle to herself. She turned to face them, seeing them standing within the confines of the white rectangles. “Crafting of spells will not take place until after the trial begins on my command. I will remind you that I am the final arbiter of all rules during this trial, and if a clarification of the rules is required, extend both arms over you head and say, ‘Pause’; I will halt the trial at that point and answer questions. Be advised that using a spell against your opponent during a pause will result in a red penalty being issues to the offending party.

“Remember to always respect your fellow combatant during the trial; the greatest honor we show our opponents is when we treat them as people, and not an object in need of defeat. The moment you remove respect for your opponent, you lose respect for yourself. You never want that to happen.”

Ramona didn’t want to draw the moment out any further. They are eager and ready; I sense they want to begin, especially Annie. She raised her voice so everyone in the room could hear. “All spectators will remain behind the red lines—” She raised her arms once more and the protective enchantments shimmered for a few seconds before becoming invisible. “—to keep you protected from whatever happens within this ring. Watch, and learn from this lesson.”

She looked to her right and left. “I wish you well in this trial.” She slowly raised her arms until they were chest high, threw up her defensive spells, and checked the auras of her combatants to make certain they didn’t have spells powered up and ready. “And . . . begin.”

 

The nice thing about a first draft is I can flesh it out when I come back to editing, but I think I got everything covered.  There aren’t a lot of rules, but at least it’s not Thunderdome:  two witches go in, one witch comes out.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get to that this afternoon,

A Trial of Judgment: Meet the Combatants

Time to go all A Song of Ice and Fire like with the post titles, ’cause we’re about to see some stuff go down here.  Yesterday you saw the opening paragraph to the scene, but now–well, wrote six hundred words last night and almost fourteen hundred and fifty words this morning, so that scene I thought would be about a thousand words ended up going double that.

And it's happening in that building, across from where Kerry likes to give Annie presents.

And it’s happening in that building, across from where Kerry likes to give Annie presents.

Let’s see how this sets up, because we already know it’s going down:

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

There were many Mistresses of Judgment since 1684, with three men joining the ranks during the Twentieth Century. Professor Ramona Chai, the martial arts and weapons instructor, was the current Mistress of Judgment, having assumed the roll when she began teaching during the 1999-2000 school year, and had done much in the last ten years to ensures combat was safe while also allowing witches to work out their differences by using all the skills they possessed.

Gwydion Manor was where all combat skills were taught, and it was here the witches of Salem settled their difference in Judgment Trails. This was Ramona’s world, and here her word was, for the most part, law. Such was her impartiality that not one of her judgments had been overturned by the Ruling Council of the school: the four administrative leaders—the Headmistress, Trevor, Isis, and Coraline—and the five Coven Leaders.

 

So this is something that’s been around a long time, with variations on the rules over the centuries.  At least we know Ramona isn’t going unleash zombies on Lisa and Annie, though that might make for some funny stuff, you know?

It goes without saying that any time you have an event with a few hundred years of history behind it, you’re going to have a bit of ritual to go with the proceedings.  It’s no different at Salem, where they still refer to the holidays by their old, traditional names:

 

There were nearly sixty students inside the Manor when Professor Chai stepped onto the fourteen by fourteen meter mat with the white ten meter competition circle set in the center. She waited for a hush to fall over the spectators before speaking. “I welcome all students to this trail, and ask that for the duration of the procedures that you remain behind the red line surrounding the mat, which is there for your own safety.

“We are gathered because there are two students who are unable to resolve their differences amicably, and the aggrieved party has requested a judgment by trial, which is the right of any student at Salem. This trial will proceed obeying the rules set down by the Mistresses of Judgment, from the first days of the school until the present.” Ramona scanned the gathered crowd. “And woe be unto those individuals who believe they are above those rules, for they will quickly discover they are not.” She looked straight ahead. “Now, who is the aggrieved party? Step forward and be recognized.”

 

And that’s it:  the game is afoot.  At his point Annie could just walk away . . .

 

Annie gave Kerry’s hand a long, firm squeeze before separating herself from the other students. She stopped at the edge of the white circle. “That would be me, Professor.”

Ramona waved her forward. “Remove your shoes and come to the center of the ring.” Annie so as instructed and entered the ring. “State your name, coven, and education level.”

Annie softly cleared her throat. “Annie Kirilova, Cernunnos Coven, B Level.”

“Welcome, Annie.” Ramona once more scanned the students beyond the mat. “Is the aggrieving party present? Step forward and be recognized.”

A few seconds later Lisa stepped out of the crowd, removed her shoes, and stepped onto the mat. “That would be me.”

“Come to the center of the ring; state your name, coven, and education level.”

Lisa stopped about three meters from Annie and crossed her arms. “Lisa Glissandi, Åsgårdsreia Coven, B Level.”

 

Everyone is now here with a whole bunch of people watching, getting ready to watch the magic fly.  Knowing that combat should be the last resort, Ramona explains the rules to both girls:

 

Ramona gave both girls a nod of acknowledgment. “Welcome to Gwydion Manor. Before we continue, I will ask: can this disagreement be resolved without combat? Lisa, as you are the aggrieving party, it is up to you to decide this mater.”

Lisa appeared to give the matter a few seconds of thought before shaking her head. She looked directly at Annie. “Bitch there wants a fight, she’ll get one.”

“I understand.” Ramona turned to Annie. “As the aggrieved party you have to right to walk away and ask for administrative punishment. There is no shame in reconsidering your decision and leaving the matter to the instructors.”

Annie had decided on her answer that afternoon during Advanced Formulistic Magic. “The things she said to me in front of the other students—” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Professor: I can’t walk away.”

“I understand.” Ramona approached the two girl and stopped about two meters from them. “Then we will proceed with the Trial. As you may or may not know, a Judgment Trial allows an aggrieved student to seek their own justice from an aggrieving student. This justice is sought through combat, with the outcome varied. Should the aggrieved student win, they are allowed to pronounce a fair judgment upon the aggriever. I am the final arbiter of said judgment, and should I find it excessive I will demand modifications or, in some cases, a new judgment.

“Should the aggriever win, though, they escape judgment, and no further action shall be taken against them for that particular action.” She eyed Lisa hard. “They will be put on notice, however, that their continued bad action will likely result in their standing before me in this location once more.”

 

Ramona’s emphases on particular is to show that once this trial is over, their conflict for this matter is over.  Should Lisa start talking shit to Annie the moment they walk out of the building, Annie has the right to haul her ass right back inside and start again.  The teacher is also letting Lisa know that should she continue being a mouthy bitch, she’s gonna find herself standing on the mat again and again.

With things laid out, and knowing that it’s time to rumble, we can expect things to go smoothly–right?  Right?

 

Ramona paused to allow her words to sink in before continuing. “If there are no questions, we can—”

“I have one.”

Annie felt her chest tighten the moment Lisa spoke. For the last few hours she’d suffered through the nagging feeling that Lisa may try something to alter their confrontation, and if it were going to happen, now was the time . . .

Ramona turned to Lisa. “Yes?”

“Well, it’s not really a question; it’s more something else—” She crossed her arms. “I want a champion.”

 

And . . . wrong.  As the saying goes, once a punk-ass bitch, always a punk-ass bitch, and Lisa apparently wants to hang onto that title.  As you can imagine this isn’t sitting well with certain people–

 

Annie slowly turned towards Lisa. “Really?”

Ramona knew the rules: there wasn’t anyone out of line with Lisa’s request. She was, however, bound to question the request. “Why is that, Lisa?”

“Annie’s a sorceress and a better witch when it comes to magic.” Lisa cast a sideways glance at her opponent. “She’s also in your advanced class, which means she’s a better fighter. So I can’t hope to beat her, can I?”

“All that may be true, Lisa—” Ramona turned a puzzled look upon the student. “Why continue then?”

“Like I said, little bitch wants a fight—” Lisa smirked. “May as well give her one.”

Though Ramona didn’t care at all for Lisa’s reasoning, there was nothing in the rules that prevented her from taking this course of action, and that it was well within her rights to have someone fight in her stead. “As you wish. The rules state that you have twenty-four hours to present a champion—”

“I have one.”

It was Ramona’s turn to smirk. “I see you came prepared.” She turned her gaze to the students beyond the mat. “Who stands as champion for the aggriever?”

 

In technical terms, this is known as a dick move, but there’s nothing in the rules which state Lisa can’t ask for someone to beat on Annie while she stands on the sidelines and laugh.  The reason one asks for a champion is to avoid being bullied by a stronger opponent who has pulled them into a contest for bullshit reasons.  Of course Lisa isn’t getting pulled into this trial for bogus reasons, and she is correct when she says Annie could probably tear her ass up with little difficultly, but still–she’s gaming the system to get the better of someone she went out of her way to piss off, and now she’s going to walk.

On top of which–

 

A tall boy with dark hair stepped out of the crowd. “That would be me, Professor.”

Ramona waved him forward. “Step forward and be recognized.”

Annie watched him slowly remove his shoes, noticing the four stars on the lapel of his jacket, all tinted in the colors of Åsgårdsreia Coven. As he walked onto the mat, Annie finally realized that Lisa’s desire for confrontation wasn’t an accident—

Ramona waited until the boy was directly behind Lisa before saying anything. “State your name, coven, and education level.”

The boy spoke in a low, soft voice. “Rikkard Tuominen, Åsgårdsreia Coven, D Level.”

“And do you swear truthfully that you stand as Lisa’s champion?”

“I do.”

Ramona nodded. “Thank you. Lisa, you may leave the mat.” She waited until Lisa was back safe within the throng of students before she turned to the remaining girl. “Annie, I must inform you that Rikkard is a member of the Åsgårdsreia Combat Team, and that he is currently competing in his second year on their A Team.” She allowed herself a deep breath so Annie could gather her thoughts. “You have the right to reject this champion, but if you do so Lisa has twenty-four hours to choose a second one should she so wish. If you reject that person, and Lisa continues to demand a champion, you will have the choice of either fighting that individual or forfeiting the trial.” Ramona massaged the back of her left hand. “You also have the option of walking away from the trial if you so wish, with the results for doing so remaining the same as already indicated.”

 

So not only an older kid from her coven, but one skilled in combat–though I wonder if he’d have stood for Lisa if he knew about Annie’s performance in combat.  After all, this boy from Finland–which is where he’s from, trust me–probably hasn’t had to go up against Deconstructors, since if he were a member of the school’s Rapid Response Team, Ramona would have mentioned the fact.

Needless to say Annie’s not happy, and now she has to think about the coming battle.

 

Annie looked her new opponent over, feeling a slight rage take hold. Lisa must have had to do quite a bit of convincing to get someone from her coven combat team to fight for her. It was all obvious now: Lisa would goad Annie into a Judgment Trial, bring forth a champion, and force Annie to walk away in embarrassment—or be beaten in combat, which would produce the same result. “Professor?”

“Yes, Annie?”

“May I have a few minutes to consider my options?”

Ramona nodded. “I’ll give you five minutes to decide.”

“Thank you.” She turned and walked off the mat. She headed directly for Kerry, who was already over the red line, standing alone and waiting for her. She stopped just within arm’s reach of her soul mate and looked into his eyes. She shook her head slowly and spoke softly so they wouldn’t be overheard. “She set me up.”

“Yeah, well . . .” Kerry took Annie’s hand. “It is Lisa.”

“Yes, it is.” She glanced over her shoulder. “She’s a coward.”

“Yeah, she’s being a twat for sure.” Kerry exhaled slowly. “Sweetie—”

Annie turned back. “Yes?”

He nodded towards the students a few meters away on his right. “I’m gonna stand over here and watch you kick this guy’s butt—okay?”

She couldn’t hide her smile. “You think so?”

“I know so.”

She wrapped her arms around Kerry and kissed him slowly and with passion. “Thank you, my love.”

“Any time, my little sarmi.” He glanced over her shoulder towards the mat before gazing into her eyes. “Go get ‘em, Tiger.”

She kissed Kerry once more, then released him and strode towards the center of the mat. “Professor, this champion is acceptable.” She stopped the moment she crossed the competition circle and stood with confidence. “May we proceed?”

 

And the moral of the story is when your boyfriend says he’s gonna watch you kick someone’s ass, you don’t want to disappoint.  I like how I played out the scene between them, because Annie doesn’t ask Kerry if he feels she’s doing the right thing, and he give her dire warnings about what might come.  He knows her mind was made up before they ever entered the building, and given that they’ve faced death together, he knows Annie can handle herself.  Also, always being the geek, Kerry laid a classic comic book line on Annie, something Mary Jane Watson would say to Peter Parker before Spiderman headed off into New York City to tear up a few bad guys.

What next now?  Why, the rules, that’s what.

What?  We don't need any stinkin' rules!

What? We don’t need any stinkin’ rules!

Actually, you do . . .

In the Link

I have written a lot these last couple of days, completing just a minute or two ago the longest scene I’ve done in some time.  How much?  This much.

 

1107 12/27 night

842 12/28 morning

1501 12/28 evening

555 12/29 morning

 

That’s a lot of words to get out, but then there were a lot of things going–namely, trying to stay alive as Erywin and the kids make their way to safety.

All they gotta do is enter the stairway on the left and walk.

All they gotta do is enter the stairway on the left and walk.

But is it going to be that simple?  Nope.  Never is.

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Erywin did her best not to look nervous or tight. She only glanced at Kerry a couple of times during the forty meter stroll to the entrance to The Link. There were actually two, and the second one was about ten meters closer, but that way up consisted of a lift, and Erywin wasn’t about to put herself and three children in a small, confined space, not while there were a few magical maniacs running about. While the stairs weren’t exactly the safest way up, either, there was room to move, making their odds of survival far greater.

As if he were reading her mind Kerry pulled out his mobile and slowed to check the display, allowing Erywin to get to the entrance first. She opened the door and held it as Kerry toddled towards her. “Come along, young man.” It was a simply move, but it was enough to allow the girls to hurry by and get inside the stairwell. A movement later Kerry, still looking at his mobile, walked inside. Erywin was close behind.

Erywin took the lead as they headed up the stairs, with Kerry right behind her. The girls slowly faded into sight about half way up, so by the time they were ready to step into The Link proper. Erywin checked the walkway while Annie returned Kerry’s backpack. It was quiet: there were a few people to her right heading in the direction of the train station, and from what she could make out, it looked as if there were a few people already on the other side of Pershing Road. No one seemed headed in their way, and Erywin didn’t know if she should count that as a blessing or curse. It would make it easier for them to cross the road among a group of Normals, but the longer they waited for some to come along, the greater the odds they could be attacked where they stood.

 

They made it that far, and so far so good.  Of course it’s only been about a minute of walking, but hey, no one’s set them on fire–yet.  Time for the Professor’s Pep Talk before going.

 

There wasn’t time to drag this out. Erywin sent a message to Helena, then turned to the children. “I’ve passed along a message; they know we’re crossing over to the Center and I’ll send another message once we’ve jaunted to the safe location.” She turned to her two students. “You know it’s likely to get tricky, yeah?”

Annie nodded; Kerry looked at Annie for about two seconds, then turned back to Erywin. “Yeah.”

“Good.” She gave them both a big smile. “I know I can count on you.”

Kerry nodded. “A good sorceress keeps their wits about them—”

Annie finished the statement. “—When everything is going to hell around them.”

Erywin shook her head. “I should have known you’d pull that one out.”

Annie smiled. “Of course we would.”

“Then let’s get ready to move. Tanith—” She pointed at the girl. “You stay close behind me, but if you feel anyone push you to the ground, you go down and stay there.” She nodded, but said nothing. “Annie, Kerry: you know what to do. You know the code word?” They both nodded. “All right . . .”

Looking into the walkway corridor Erywin opened her Hammerspace and felt the tingle that came when she had access. It felt like they were alone, but Erywin’s senses were on heightened alert: the last time she’d felt like this had been during the Scouring. She offered up a quick prayer: Mórrígan, watch over and protect us from our enemies, and grant us the strength to vanquish our foes should they face us in battle.

“Let’s go.” She waved the children forward as they stepped into The Link.

 

At this point they’re committed.  The kids know what may come, and they’ve got the words of Erywin’s significant other to bolster their courage.

 

They rounded the curved section heading towards the bridge over Pershing Road. Erywin wasn’t moving too quickly: she didn’t want to seem as if they were running for safety. But she was wary, and grew even more so as they stepped out over the highway. The people below on the sidewalk weren’t paying attention to them, and drivers certainly weren’t. Her eyes glanced to the left and right, watching for action below. There was no one there. It didn’t cause Erywin to ease up; in only caused her to be more on guard—

A man appeared about eight meters ahead, almost immediately followed by the pop of a jaunt. She though there’d been a pop behind here, but it wasn’t her job to check. She reach into Hammerspace and pulled her pistol. She flicked off the safety, stepped into a sideways shooter’s stance, and braced her right arm against her body while aiming with her left before yelling the code word that they were under attack: “ON.” She fired six rapid shots—

Annie and Kerry heard the pop behind them and spun around to find a woman about six meters behind throwing a spell at them. Both kids had put up shields before entering The Link, and with the word given, they knew their roles: Annie was offense, Kerry was defense. He pushed more energy into the the screens they’d set up—one for physical attacks, another, less powerful one, for magical attacks—while Annie crafted the most powerful spell she knew—

Erywin’s six shots were nearly invisible to the naked eye, crafted of pure mystical energy. The first two shots hit the Deconstructor’s shield and neutralized the spell; the third shot hit his chest and torched a hole in his shirt; the fourth, fifth, and sixth shots burned through his skin, burned into his body, and blew out the back of his chest. She waited until all six shot did their jobs before preparing for a new threat from the front—

The female Deconstructor casted an Air Hammer that struck the children’s shields less than a second later. Both were barely moved by the attack, though the walkway glass around shuddered and rippled. Kerry kept his eyes open for another threat but didn’t craft an attack spell because he knew what was coming—

 

Right here, right now:  it's on.

Right there, right then: it’s on.

It is on, and in a big way.  But a month of training has paid off, and the division of labor is known and being followed.  And why wasn’t Kerry getting an attack spell ready?  What did he know was coming?  Something a certain girl has been ready to use for a while . . .

 

Annie’s crafting was nearly complete, and as the Deconstructor’s Air Hammer hit their shields the spell became ready. She was fully aware of what she was about to do, but since she’d discovered sorcery she’d wanted to be a sorceress—and she knew what was expected of her, and what she may have to do.

She pushed her hand outward towards the female Deconstructor as if she were pushing her away and cast Exsanguation as another pop sounded in The Link pedestrian bridge.

The spell made it through the woman’s minimal shielding and went to work. She began coughing as blood flowed out of her nose and down her throat. She quickly crafted another spell as blood spurted from her tear ducts and dribbled out her ears. She got off the spell just as the crotch and thighs of her jeans turned a dark color from the blood streaming from her vagina and anus. A second later her eyes filled with blood and ruptured, causing dark rivers of blood to cascade down her face. She doubled over into convulsions as torrents of blood were pumped into her lungs, and a few seconds after that she collapsed to the floor.

 

And that, boys and girls, is what Exsanguation does.  Not a pleasant way to go, but then Deconstuctors aren’t very nice people.  As you can see with this new player in town . . .

 

The drain spell hit the shields and took effect; both Annie and Kerry felt their skin pucker as their shields lost effectiveness. Annie prepared another spell and Kerry began pushing more energy into the shield, for even with the female Deconstructor down, a third one had appeared and, just like his female partner, he had a spell crafted and ready to fly.

The Air Hammer that hit the group was tremendously powerful. Every walkway window flexed and vibrated: three cracked from the extreme pressures placed upon them, though the safety glass didn’t completely shatter and fall out of their frames. Kerry fell back into Tanith, who he pushed into Erywin. All three went down as the the spell hit them, but they were spared serious injury due to the spell shield effect, limited as they were.

Annie was thrown backwards into a floor-to-ceiling support, smacking the side her head hard against the beam. Her right forearm was pushed back into the angle between the support and window, and the crack was loud in the silence of the magical battle happening inside the walkway. She moaned once and collapsed on the floor.

 

Annie’s down, Erywin is probably down, and that means there’s only one person who might be able to do something . . .

 

Kerry heard Annie’s arm break, heard her moan, and even slightly dazed he knew there wasn’t anyone else to protect everyone else. He concentrated hard and threw energy into a light shield while he made it to his feet. He knew he could craft Electrify, but he wasn’t certain he could hit the target. He crafted something he knew would work—Air Hammer—but this time he fueled it with dark energy, intending to make it as deadly as he could muster.

It was crafted in seconds and pushed away. He cast it in the direction of his enemy, but his aim was off. Still, the Deconstructor caught most of the spell, which tossed backwards hard enough that he went down on one knee, moaning in obvious pain. He wasn’t down completely, however: he pointed his right arm towards Kerry—

The Electrify spell hit Kerry hard—as hard, or harder, than the time he was shocked by Helena that first day in Beginning Sorcery. Probably harder, because this time he had up a shield against magical attacks, and he still saw a bright flash in his eyes as the spell hit. He collapsed to the floor hard, feeling something twist in his left knee as he went down. He lay dazed, unable to do anything but look up—

Until the Deconstructor was standing near his feet, then his eyes were focused on his. The man—maybe no older than thirty, but as Kerry had learned, age was impossible to tell with witches—chuckled as he watched Kerry partially raise his right arm as he tried to craft a spell. “Not today—” A small sphere of blue Cold Fire appeared in his upturned right hand. “End for you, you little shit.”

 

Poor Kerry:  about to meet his end getting burnt up with Cold Fire.  Now I can end this novel with Annie weeping tears over his grave–

What’s that you say, Annie?  I’m sorry:  I don’t understand Bulgarian.  But it doesn’t sound nice . . .

 

As the Deconstructor raised his arm two ribbons of shadow snaked down from near a ceiling beam. One wrapped around his wrist, the other his bicep—and both pulled up hard. The upper ribbon cut deep into the man’s arm; the other severed his hand at his wrist, causing the Cold Fire spell to die without access to mystical energy.

Out of the corner of his eye Kerry was aware of Annie up on one knee, her right arm useless, her left arm extended to craft her ribbons, and a murderous look spread across her face bloodied and bruised on the left side. She hissed out a warning as she wrapped the ribbon that had amputated his hand around his neck. “You do not get to hurt him.” She stood and lifted the Deconstuctor off the floor. As she stumbled towards Kerry—who’d managed, somehow, to craft a small ball lighting effect—she swiped her left arm as if she were pushing something away: the Air Hammer stuck him and snapped his body backwards. Kerry managed to throw his Electrify spell at the same time, making the body twitch in shock as the sound of the Deconstuctor’s neck breaking was heard by all.

 

Moral of the story:  do not screw with the boyfriends of pissed-off twelve year old sorceresses.  Oh, sure, Kerry did hit him with a pretty deadly Air Hammer–too bad the Deconstructor had a shield up as well–and managed to shock him a little–and given Kerry’s state it’s a wonder he could actually get that spell working–so he might get credit for a partial kill, but this is pretty much the girls taking out the bad guys.

Leading to one finally moment in The Link . . .

 

He lay there on the floor vaguely aware of Erywin asking if everyone was all right before going silent. He was aware of of Tanith moaning. He was aware of the Deconstructor’s body crashing to the ground as Annie did away with her Shadow Ribbons. Mostly, however, he was aware of Annie kneeling by his head and stroking his frizzed-out hair. She bent over him and smiled. “I said I would protect you.”

He smiled back as best he could. “I said I would protect you.”

Annie leaned closer to his face. “We kept our words to each other.” She kissed him as she gently lowered herself on her left side, resting her head against his chest.

Kerry wanted to say they had to get up, they had to go, they needed to jaunt out, but he couldn’t. The words simply wouldn’t come to him. He reached over and stoked Annie’s hair as the sound of popping air was followed by excited and troubled voices. He thought he saw someone levitate Annie on a stretcher, and felt as if the same thing were happening to him.

Then it felt as if he were jaunting—

 

I wonder where they’re jaunting out to?

And just in case you were wondering how all this went down, on Christmas Day I time lined out this whole scene.  Magical combat goes quickly in this world, and as you see having your shielding in place is important, because if you’re hit, you’re usually hurt in a big way.  And what does this battle look like on a time line?

Something like this.

Something like this.

On the bottom grid, if there’s a solid dot it means they were actually an active participant in the event; an empty dot means they were just there and may have seen something happen.  No dot before the first event means they weren’t there; no dot after a certain event means that person is dead.  And as you can see, if you don’t keep your wits about you in something like this, you end up with no dots in no time.

And now that that’s over, it’s time to move onto the next chapter.

Kansas City is just about over.