Whee! Made it! Rushed the solitary proofread, but it's better than nothing. The prompt said to write about a duel, but I never really liked those "pew pew magic magic" things. I decided to write a duel of wits instead. [NOTE: There's a better explanation of why I consider this to be a duel in the comment following the one below.] To make it more fun, I made it happen between two red mages. To make it awesome, I made it revolve around bacon. Enjoy!
Hartuk entered the inn feeling a combination of triumph and eager anticipation. He’d traveled for months, guided by the tales of fellow journeymen across Budera, seeking the one thing he’d desired most. His quest had brought him to the hamlet of Jumi, where a great festival was taking place. The noise of the inn echoed throughout town, the revelry of drunken men rumbling in the air. He took a deep breath, steadied his nerve, and walked through the door.
The inn was an orgy of drink and food. Wine and beer lay in sun-dappled pools on the floor, with a few half-conscious slobs mumbling inanities not too far off. Those who managed to stay lucid barked orders at the serving wenches and laughed at their dumbstruck cohorts. The dwarves at the corner appeared to be playing a game involving mallets and rodents. An inebriated goblin danced in a dress, goaded into the act by his friends. The inn was a sight to behold, but Hartuk had his eyes solely focused on the bar.
He approached the table, grabbed a stool, and sat hard on it. The crash of his coin purse caught the bartender’s attention. “An’ whot is it you want, stranger?”
Hartuk answered with great relish. “A bacon sandwich.”
“Lucky you. We’ve got th’ last good cut waitin’ in the kitchin. Beer?” Hartuk declined, “No, just the sandwich, thank you.” The bartender shrugged as he walked back into the kitchen.“Suit yourself.”
Somewhere in the inn, glass shattered to great cheer. The dwarves at the corner table had just decided the winner of a mug-stacking contest. The elf seated next to Hartuk was screaming something about his fowl being undercooked, much to the dismay of the 12-year-old serving girl in front of him. A table seating humans, gnomes, and diminutive humans were having a debate on the proper size of riding horses.
The bartender soon returned from the kitchen, bringing with him a large, steaming sandwich. Hartuk gazed at it with wonder, as though it were the greatest thing in known existence. To Hartuk, it was – he was a gourmand, and this was allegedly the best bacon sandwich in all of Budera. The cuts of meat were deliciously thin, yet as wide as a fist and thrice as long. Each strip had to be folded over itself to fit into the bread, thick gravy oozing between the layers. The meat sat atop a bed of caramelized wurm onions and shilfa greens drizzled with honey-spiked vinegar. The sandwich was nearly as large as Hartuk’s head. He was in heaven.
The grizzled old orc took the sandwich into his hands. It was pleasingly heavy, and the bread remained fluffy. He lifted the topmost slice of bread, brought his nose close to the meat, and took a large sniff. It was an exquisite scent, a blend of charman spices and applesuckle, with tinderpepper afternotes. The heady steam coming from the bacon embraced Hartuk’s face, bathing him in its delectable perfume. After basking in the aroma for a few more moments, he put the upper layer of bread back down, said a silent prayer of thanks to the Lords Above, and opened his mouth.
A young man, naked save for a blanket mercifully wrapped around his waist, crashed onto Hartuk’s head.
The interloper bounced off of Hartuk, rolled off the bar, and crashed onto the floor. He woozily gathered to his feet, still clutching the blanket, and offered a weak smile at his fleshy landing pad. He was greeted with a stare that betrayed volcanoes of seething rage.
“You ruined my sandwich,” Hartuk snorted. “IT WAS THE LAST ONE!!!”
The orc rushed at the lad, murderous intent surging in his breast. There was a crackle of energy, and his target vanished into thin air. It was too late to run – Hartuk had his scent. He opened his own doorway, plunged into it, and tackled the boy on the other side. They were in Ikizzit now, a plane Hartuk knew well. The lightning ravaged the blasted landscape. The orc grabbed his foe’s arm and dragged him to the ground. He caught a glimpse of disbelief in his quarry’s eyes, followed by desperation.
A surge of electricity erupted for the young man’s hand, sending Hartuk flying backwards. With some space to run, the boy quickly opened up another doorway. Hartuk was relentless. He bounced back to his feet and leapt back into the chase.
The air was split with energy once again, and Hartuk caught up with the boy. He shoved his target down and took the boy’s ankle in his grasp. They were in the lush forests of Terwen now, in the plane of Goc. Taken aback by the orc’s ability to follow him, the lad tried in vain to escape his clutches. He passed through doorway after doorway, only to be slammed down to the ground each time he’d land. He’d taken the chase through the farthest corners of the Multiverse he knew, each jump taking its toll on him.
The boy decided to take a final stand where it all started. He jumped back to Budera, landing quietly on an unfamiliar mountaintop. Hartuk followed shortly afterward, no less incensed than the moment they crossed paths. He thrust his arm straight into his quarry’s throat, knocking him down. The boy drew upon the power of the mountain.
Suddenly, the air around him burst into flames. He attempted casting a shield spell, but even more flames erupted around him. He was caught in an inferno with no way to defend himself. Through the roar of the fire, he heard a gruff voice say “Stop.” He released his grasp of the mountain’s mana, and the flames disappeared.
“It hurt, didn’t it?” the orc said. “My people used to call it the Curse of Flames. It causes the mana around its victim to flare up.” He stood tall over the fallen boy. “It’s a difficult spell to cast, but worth the trouble.”
The lad attempted to open a doorway, but the air around him ignited once more. “You won’t be able to leave that way, boy.” Gasping through the pain, the lad looked up at his tormentor and asked, “What did I do to you?”
Hartuk leaned closely, and with the force of the Lords Above booming in his voice, he explained, “You ruined my sandwich. You’re not leaving until you help me get another one.” He looked down and added, “You’re going to get some clothes, too.”
Aldon didn’t realize how refreshing it was to be wearing clothes again after a chase across worlds. The leggings and tunic he nicked from a clothesline in the village below were a fine fit. He smoothed his short blond hair and resumed talking to his captor.
“So how exactly did you keep finding me, old man?”
“I think the more important question,” Hartuk responded, “is why you crashed into me wearing only a blanket?” He created two steeds made of stone and beckoned Aldon to hop on.
“Oh that,” Aldon smirked as he mounted one of the creatures. “I was enjoying the company of a farmhand’s daughter back in Kamigawa when her father walked in. I have to admit, it must’ve been quite a sight. I held one of her legs by the back of my neck, and –“
“Spare me the details,” Hartuk interrupted.
“Anyway, the farmer was furious. He must’ve heard the racket we were making a good distance away, ‘cause he had the foresight to burst through the door with a dragon torch. Have you ever seen one of those things up close? It’s horrifying, like it could burn the soul out of your body. Needless to say, I had to get out of there in a hurry. I took the blanket and jumped to wherever I could land.” Aldon paused, then added with a tone of embarrassment, “Your head, unfortunately.”
Hartuk grunted, “Do you always walk blindly?”
“Only in life or death situations involving bedroom conquests,” Aldon replied, “… so yes, always.” He let out a boisterous laugh. Hartuk couldn’t help but betray a chuckle. “So what is it you would have me do, oh great and merciful captor?”
“You’re going to help me make a sandwich.”
“Oh. I thought you were joking.” Hartuk gave a sharp look at the boy. “I never joke about food.”
Budera’s two suns were now setting on opposite sides of the horizon, the faint glimmer of stars beginning to show in the dusk sky. Jumi’s lights sparkled in the distance. “You see that town, boy?” Hartuk pointed. “That’s Jumi, where we ride to. Every year, they celebrate their youths’ coming into manhood by hunting the great argroboars that roam the opposite end of the valley. The entire town is involved, and they won’t stop until one of the beasts is felled, or if all the hunters perish.” He turned his head to ensure Aldon was listening. “The few hunters that survive become the town’s heroes; the older generations remain stalwarts of combat, while the young ones finally prove their worth. In honor of the victory, the people of Jumi hold a grand feast with meat from the argroboar’s remains. It’s enough to feed the entire town for four days.”
“The most prized meat in the beast is found near its belly. The flesh is cut into thin slices, and then cured with salt and spices. They call it ‘bacon’ in this plane; I know it from my world as ‘radchoo’.”
Hartuk set his gaze firmly at Jumi. Aldon took the opportunity to roll his eyes at the old orc.
“I travel the planes searching for the best meats the worlds have to offer. I’ve sampled the succulence of Krosan tuskers, the fiery heat of Lothonish aquaswine, and the deep, almost alcoholic flavors of Etrynnian cloudboars. I arrived in Budera seeking the delights this world had to offer.”
“You can imagine my grief, then, when none of what I had tasted came even close to my expectations. I’d traveled for months searching for a worthy slice of beast, to no avail. During my journeys, however, I came across whispers of the fine bacon sandwiches being served at the Jumi inn, bearing cured meat unlike any other. The sandwiches, however, were only served during a certain festival, one which was to take place soon. I set out to find the town at once.”
“Jumi was harder to locate than I anticipated. Few, if any, needed to travel there, and the town was self-sufficient enough to warrant permanent settlement. With little knowledge of travel to or from the town, I had to piece together the bits of information I got. Eventually, I deduced its location in the Garmoss valley.”
Aldon chuckled, but didn’t answer when asked why. He found it hilarious that the short-worded orc he met shortly ago couldn’t be shut up when talking about his precious meats.
“I hurried to the town, hoping that I wasn’t too late for the festival. To my great relief, I was greeted at the gates by the ruckus of revelry. The town had just awoken from the last night of the festival, and there was a chance there may yet be some bacon left. I entered the inn, and Lords Above, ordered the very last bacon sandwich they had.” He looked sternly at Aldon. “That’s when you came crashing bare-bottomed onto my head.”
Aldon offered an apologetic shrug, but Hartuk had already turned away.
“Tomorrow, you and I are going to hunt down our own argroboar.”
Hartuk looked back at Aldon. The youth was riding off into the distance, away from the valley. The orc sighed, bound his captive to his steed’s legs, and summoned the creature back. They were fast approaching Jumi.
“Stay your eyes, boy,” Hartuk warned.
He and Aldon had come down from their rooms in the Jumi inn for dinner. The argroboar brain stew was a poor substitute for this morning’s lost sandwich. Aldon had none of it, satisfying himself by gazing dreamily at the elf woman two tables across.
Hartuk picked at the slop in front of him. “Must you really sample the women from every plane you encounter?” The youth replied, his eyes firmly fixed on the elf, “Must you really sample the swine from each plane you encounter?”
Hartuk laughed. “You’re wiser than you seem.” He looked to the boy; Aldon was busy making kissy-faces at the elf. “Or perhaps not,” the orc muttered. He took a spoonful of the stew. It was revolting, under-seasoned and overcooked. He had half a mind to rip the bartender’s skull open and pour the rest of his meal inside. He steadied himself and headed for the bar. Before Aldon could even think of escape, Hartuk encased his feet in stone, saying without pause, “Stay.”
Aldon sighed, tugged at his feet, and submitted to defeat. If his attention wasn’t so firmly fixed at the elf smiling coyly back at him, he would’ve noticed the commotion tomorrow’s partner-in-hunt was causing in the kitchen. There was the crashing of pans, a few explosions, and curses in languages he never would have understood. At the moment, he wouldn’t have cared anyway; the elf had just run her tongue across her upper lip.
The seduction was broken by a loud thud on the table. Hartuk returned from the kitchen with a large cask. “They didn’t have anything better,” he said, “so I figure to drink the hunger away.” The orc finally said something Aldon agreed with. He reached out for a mug, which Hartuk happily filled.
The liquor was unlike anything the young planeswalker had ever tasted. It graced the tongue like the thickest of honey, yet slid down the throat like liquid fire. The hit was almost immediate; already Aldon felt his inhibitions fading. This only made him crave for more, and Hartuk obliged most graciously with another mug-full.
“Good, isn’t it?” the orc said with a smile. “Yeah,” Aldon responded, “it feels like I’m drinking the stuff manhood is made of.” He greedily chugged down his second mug and motioned for a refill. “It’s called Chironen,” Hartuk explained, tipping the cask over to fill both mugs, “made from distilling the blood of wyverns, then filtering the liquid through spiced bread before aging it in chikkawood casks. This particular blend is mixed with juice from the gorga fruit to mask the acridity.”
“It’s fantastic,” Aldon said, with a slight slur in his voice. He clumsily raised his mug to the elf, who appeared to be giggling at him.
“It’s also fantastically powerful, and meant to be drunk in sips,” Hartuk added. “You’ll be out soon enough.”
Aldon was able to muster a hazy “Whut?” before crashing his head drunkenly onto the table.
Hartuk released his captive’s feet from their stone bindings, lifted the boy over his shoulder, and carried him to his quarters. “I’ll see you in the morning, then,” the orc laughed. He shut Aldon’s door, then retired to his own room.
The orc awoke at the break of dawn, ready for the hunt. After donning his armor and checking his weapons, he headed over to Aldon’s room. He wasn’t expecting to see the elf from last night sleeping soundly in the boy’s arms. Aldon stirred, and then spotted the orc in his doorway. He put a finger to his lips and mouthed “You’ll wake her.” He crept out of bed, grabbed his clothing, and headed out with Hartuk. The elf pulled the blanket tighter around her, still deep in slumber.
Outside the inn, Aldon grinned as he explained, “Liquor tends to leave my system quickly. I can’t hold my drink, but I sure can hold a lot of it.” Hartuk shook his head and laughed. He was just grateful that the boy’s loins had a greater influence over him than his mind.
“So where do we find these majestic swine?”
Hartuk pointed off into the distance. “At the far end of the valley, where the hills meet the ground.”
“Let’s be on our way, then, so I can finally get out of this hellhole.”
“I take it she wasn’t as good as you’d hoped?”
Aldon fell silent. Hartuk couldn’t stop laughing.
“I don’t see them.”
The noontime suns were about to meet in the sky. Aldon and Hartuk had traveled all morning, finally approaching the grazing grounds of the argroboars. The knolls were empty.
“They’re there,” Hartuk assured the youth, “we just have to go a little further.”
The orc insisted they go on foot since half an hour ago, fearful that the footsteps of their grass-stone steeds would startle the boar. “Can I get something to drink, at least? Those suns are killing me!” Hartuk grunted and nudged to his backpack. Aldon caught up to me and reached inside. “...It’s not like they need both to begin with…” he muttered. His hand clumsily felt around the bag, hitting Hartuk in the back in the process. The orc gave him a sharp glance. The youth smiled sheepishly back, waving the flask of water he found in the pack. After taking a generous gulp, he returned the flask, half-empty, into his partner’s bag. The two trudged along.
Aldon broke the silence seconds later. “So what do these swine look like, anyway?” “You’ll know,” the orc replied. They walked a few more steps, then Hartuk brought his finger to his lips. Aldon held his breath. “Something’s close.” Hartuk sniffed the air. He pointed southeast.
In the distance, a solitary pig was grazing, its scimitar-like tusks slicing through the surrounding grass. It was unremarkable from any other swine Aldon had seen in his journeys, and he had been to many planes. He gauged the size of it, determined it was no taller than his waist, and rushed to it. Hartuk motioned to stop him, but withdrew his hand. He wanted to watch Aldon’s folly.
The lad moved swiftly, removing the bola from his satchel and twirling it above his head. The boar was unaware of his approach. The moment was his.
Suddenly, a great burst of mana erupted around the boar, enveloping it. It didn’t occur quickly enough to Aldon that the beast was growing at an exponential rate. It turned, now bigger than a house, and leered at the young would-be hunter. Energy continued to surge in and around the boar, crackling as it burned through the air. Aldon fell back in shock. The argroboar took in a deep breath, and then roared a torrent of flame towards the youth, its blistering heat bound to hit him within halves of a second. Aldon braced for the worst.
A large stone wall quickly formed in front of him, deflecting the flame. The stone began to collapse over Aldon, forming a protective cocoon that glided across the ground, bringing him to safety. A second cocoon burst from beneath the ground and merged with Aldon’s vessel. Inside, a smug-looking Hartuk was laughing at the youth.
After traveling to a safe distance, Hartuk released his grasp over the rocks around him. The settled gently back into the hillside. “What, what just happened???” Aldon gasped, the horror of certain death still clear upon his face. “Enough to feed the town for four days, I told you,” Hartuk began to scold, “Takes all their hunters to bring down, I told you.” “And you let me attack it on my own???”, the youth exclaimed, rising to his feet.
“I thought it would be funny. It is.” Hartuk burst into laughter.
“Don’t ever do that again!” Aldon yelled. He punched the old orc in the arm. Tears formed in Hartuk’s eyes from the laughing.
Aldon gathered his resolve. “Lift your stupid curse. You’ll need my magic.” Hartuk crossly denied his request, “And have you walk out of here? I don’t think so.” “Then what am I supposed to do with that thing?” The youth’s armed flailed upwards, “Be bait?”
“Oh.” He turned to run, but Hartuk quickly wrapped his feet back in stone. “I hate you, old man,” a dejected Aldon yelled out.
Aldon rubbed his ankles. “You keep putting my feet in stone,” he called out to Hartuk, who was surveying the fields for another boar on its lonesome, “you’re eventually going to do some permanent damage, you know.” He walked up to the orc. “I’m just saying.” He bent down and knocked on Hartuk’s own ankles, “These are pretty fragile things.”
The youth opened his mouth again, only to be waved off. Hartuk sniffed the air. “That’s odd,” he said, “I can’t smell them anywhere.” “Maybe you lost your sense of smell,” Aldon responded, “I hear insanity can do that to you.” Hartuk wasn’t even listening. He put his hand to the ground. A gentle vibration began to emanate from underneath. “Clever creature,” Hartuk smiled. He began running back towards Jumi.
“What’s going on?” Aldon chased after him. “It’s traveling underground!” Hartuk yelled back, “There’s another grazing area nearby!” “How do you know where it is?”
“The rocks told me!”
“The rocks.” Aldon muttered, “Fantastic.” He took off after the orc.
“Nearby”, in the orc’s terms, meant a couple of hours of travel. The twin suns were about to set by now, and Hartuk was just slowing down. He hushed Aldon, who hadn’t said a word since they began chasing the beast. Hartuk pointed off into the distance. A tiny black hump scuttled across the horizon. “There it is.” Aldon squinted at the shape, but couldn’t make anything of it. He had learned to trust the orc on these matters, however, and kept his distance.
“What’s the plan?” Aldon whispered. Before he knew it, his feet were encased in rocks yet again. Hartuk pointed at them. “That’s the plan,” he answered. The youth sighed and waited for the orc’s next move.
Hartuk formed two stone steeds, and then moved them to either flank of the argroboar. He made sure to keep them a safe distance, so as not to startle his prey. Saying a prayer to the Lords Above, he encased himself in a box of stone. He sent the steeds rushing at the boar.
Threatened by these strange creatures, the beast summoned the mana around it and grew to full size. A blast from its gullet made short work of the first steed, while the other was struck down by a mighty swing of the tusk. Wary of its surroundings, the argroboar looked around for any other threats. Off in the distance, a familiar-looking human stood, unmoving and unafraid. It was the foolish hunter from earlier in the day, standing beside a peculiar-looking rock. The enraged beast charged at Aldon at full speed, wild magic trailing behind it like the wake of a comet.
Aldon felt his feet being released. He heard a muffled “Run!” from underneath Hartuk’s self-made tomb. The youth turned around and fled for his life. With every footstep he took, he heard four of the beast’s thunderous stomps. The argroboar was gaining on him, intent on his annihilation.
As soon as the boar passed Hartuk’s rock formation, the orc released himself from his bonds. He fashioned the five stone walls into a ramp and ran up at full steam. He only had one shot at this; the timing had to be perfect. He urged his old legs to give him this moment, as they had so many times in his youth. He drew the axe from his back, reached the apex of the ramp, and leapt with all his might.
The argroboar was nearly upon Aldon when the setting suns were eclipsed by the form of an orc. Hartuk’s axe came crashing down on the beast’s head. Both metal and bone shattered from the sheer force, and the boar fell to the ground with a mighty thud. Aldon, swept in the exhilaration of what just occurred, tackled Hartuk to the ground. “You did it, you magnificent fool! You actually did it!” He laughed maniacally at the triumph, and the orc joined him not long afterwards.
With great effort, the two hunters rolled their conquest onto its back. Hartuk swung his axe and lopped off a large chunk of the creature’s belly. The piece of flesh was nearly the size of his hulking torso. “There ought to be a few good cuts in there. We’ll leave the rest to the other beasts.”
The orc turned to offer a congratulatory handshake to his partner, but was greeted with a sharp strike to the throat. The blow sent him reeling. He fell to the ground.
“Sorry about that, old man,” Aldon said with a shrug, “I wasn’t sure how much pressure was needed to complete the spell.” Hartuk gazed up at him, puzzled.
“I may be young, but I’m not stupid. You were right when you said the curse was a difficult spell – I don’t know many that actually require physical contact.”
Hartuk laughed, “How did you figure it out?”
“Well, when you were throwing me around during our little chase yesterday, you weren’t very subtle when it came to the contact points – the back, the left arm, the right ankle,” Aldon explained, “but you hit those points pretty early. You wanted me to come back here before tagging me with the last seal.” The youth grasped his throat, “That was a wicked shot, by the way. It still kind of hurts.”
“So what now? We’re both trapped here?” Hartuk asked.
“Oh no, I just don’t want you chasing after me.”
Hartuk gave a confused look.
“I know a good curse-breaker when I see one. The elf girl from last night – I can never remember their names – is one of them.” He added, dejectedly “Shame lifting the spell took all the vigor out of her.”
Aldon extended a hand to Hartuk. The orc warily accepted and allowed the young man to help him to his feet. “She’ll be at the inn for a few more days.” He pointed at the slab of meat held firmly in Hartuk’s hand. “Go see her after you have your sandwich.”
Hartuk snorted, and then gave a bemused smile. “Why didn’t you just walk off after she broke my curse?” Aldon chuckled. “I was bored,” he shrugged, “I wanted to see what you had planned.” He opened at door, not quite knowing where it led. “Goodbye, old man. Enjoy the sandwich.”
“You’re insane,” Hartuk called out, but Aldon had already gone. The orc tucked the meat safely under his arm and headed back for Jumi. He couldn’t wait to head back into the kitchen and terrify the chef into making him another sandwich. He made a note to talk to the elf girl, as well.
Hartuk laughed to himself. He was certain he’d run into Aldon once again. He still had his scent.
@Raikou Rider - As I said in my intro, I chose to do a duel of wits. It's actually a quite subtle one, illustrating that red mages, though often impulsive with their passions, can be sly if they need to be.
It starts with the chase across planes - Aldon tries to escape a sticky situation the best way he knows how: by walking to another world. Hartuk's too smart for that, though, and knows how to track his prey. He also knows he can't take an argroboar down on his own, and so he forces Aldon to hunt with him (out of vengeance, too). He does this by casting the Curse of Flames on the boy, but makes sure to finish the spell only when he corrals his frightened prey back to Budera.
After learning of his captor's intentions, Aldon tries to escape. Hartuk proves too quick for him, however, and so the youth realizes he needs to be sneakier about this. He needs to lift the curse. He identifies the elf in the inn as a curse-breaker. If he's spotted talking to the elf, however, Hartuk might think he's up to no good, foiling the plan. He attempts to catch her attention - and throw off Hartuk - by expressly flirting with her.
Hartuk, on the other hand, realizes that Aldon could attempt another escape while he slept. He serves him the chironen without warning him how powerful the liquor is. Hartuk's plan pays off - Aldon drinks too much and loses consciousness. The orc outwitted the boy once again.
Unfortunately, he knew nothing of Aldon's tolerance for alcohol. The boy regains consciousness after the orc retires to his quarters, and asks the elf for assistance. At this point, Aldon can escape. He chooses not to, however, out of curiosity for the orc's plan. On a deeper level he won't admit to himself, he also stays out of respect for Hartuk. They've gotten to know each other, and it's apparent from their conversations (“Must you really sample the women from every plane you encounter?” “Must you really sample the swine from each plane you encounter?”) that they're not too different from each other, after all.
On the day of the hunt, Aldon pretends to still be cursed. Again, he doesn't want to raise any suspicions. He attempts to escape, allows himself to be put in mortal danger, and plays dumb to Hartuk's plan. All the while, though, he's cleverly casting the curse he observed during the chase. Every contact point of the spell - back, chest, arm, ankle - was given a context (searching Hartuk's pack, complaining about ankle pain, etc.). He understood that if he planeswalked, Hartuk could simply hunt him down again. If he wanted to get away, it was absolutely necessary to cast the curse on the orc.
At the end, Aldon finally reveals the details of his escape after striking Hartuk in the last contact point of the spell - the throat. The orc committed the worst error possible in a duel of wits - underestimating his opponent. The youth outsmarted him this time, but he has the final straw: he's still got Aldon's scent.
Hope that clarifies things for you. If you think about it, the duel actually takes place throughout the entire story, with each character attempting to outwit the other. Battles of wits don't necessarily have to take place in a single time or setting. This was an exercise in that.
Also, it's not really necessary to begin a character's speech with a new paragraph. If it works stylistically (i.e. in clever retorts, reactions, etc), it's perfectly fine to have multiple characters speak in the same block of text. You just have to avoid overcrowding the paragraph with voices. Perhaps I didn't pull this off effectively. Oh well.
I read your entry, too. It's pretty good stuff. Good luck!
[SSC XXII] Hunter and Prey
Spelling/Grammar: 9.5/10. A minor error here or there.
Characterization: 10/10. No problems here. Both characters are well done.
Plot: 9.5/10. This is always where battle-centric stories can run into problems, and on that note, once again: well done. The curse points are slightly lost during the chase, but including them might have overcrowded the story. Still loses a bit because when it's first revealed, the reader's naturally confused - even if they read through the story again, they can't see the points hit during the original chase. You get points for hiding the curse points within the story, though.
Style: 9/10. Points are primarily lost here for the slightly overcrowded paragraphs.
Prompt: 10/10. A mental battle's still a battle. Two unique characters, one mental battle. Check.
I read your story before judging and was all set to roast it, but as it turns out I savored it quite a bit. My major beef with this story has to be the characterization of Aldon. You do a good job fleshing out Hartuk's personality (brash go-getter), motivations (fine swine dining) and powers (calling the earth). Aldon seems rather bare-bones in comparison - he spends most of the story whining and being jerked around by Hartuk, and the only spell we see him cast is vaguely described as "a shield" (not very red magey). And as a woman, I found the supposedly comedic comparison of our chauvinistic pig's random ☺☺☺☺buddies to hogs to be, frankly, demeaning.
Regardless, the pacing was brisk and the story was never boaring. The "battle of wits" definitely meats the requirements of the challenge, and it was fun going back through a second time to link up all the seemingly random events. After all, is not randomness part of a red mage's repertoire?
@Jenesis - Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm pretty relieved you found Aldon's character demeaning. I wrote him to be - pardon the pun - a pig, but I was worried I was too subtle. Thank the Lords Above you caught the whole "This guy just compared women to swine" thing!
I'd also like to add that I'm nothing like Aldon, so it really was a bit of a challenge for me to write him.