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      The air was alive and angry in the graveyard where two men stood not twenty feet apart, facing one another. It hissed and crackled, popping and whining under the pressures the magic the two men had radiating off their bodies. Magic was thick around them, coalescing as mist of vibrant hues before shifting into nothing as another wave of energy poured off one of the two. If they had been swordsmen, you would see their steel bobbing and probing, searching for the weak points in the others armor. But these men were wizards, they battled not with sword and shield, but with the elements, and reality itself. The dead in their graves shuddered as the air grew hard. The battle was about to begin.

      It began with the wizard in black, his robes whipping as he drew his hand in front of him, drawing a symbol that glowed red before him, fire spilling from it as though he had torn open a hole to hell. The blue wizard who stood opposite him swept his hands up, his jaw set as the air congealed around him, a torrent of water rising from nothing to meet the flames. Steam screamed from where the two spells met, piercing over the sound of the Blue as he began to mutter.

      The Black held the fire for only a moment longer, waiting to see if the water would waver. When it didn't, he slashed his hand down, cutting the rune he had drawn and severing the flames while his other hand drew a wand from his belt. Surprise took him as the steam passed and he saw not the But standing before him, but a great hand of stone, reaching from the very earth between them, gabbing at him. With a bark and a staggered step, the Black cast a sickly green ray from his wand as the earthen fingers wrapped around his torso.

      The Blue twirled his fingers only seconds before the green met his chest, and watched as it fizzled away harmlessly. With another gesture, a wand dropped from within his own robes, dropping into his hand as he pointed it at the Black.

      With a snarl, the Black twisted his free hand harshly as the Blue clenched his fist, the extremity of dirt and stone matching and intensifying its hold on the Black. For a moment, it seemed as though the Back was set to burst, and then he did, his flesh and robes bursting apart in a sudden flash of purple light. The earthen hand began to shrink down as the Blue tensed and spun slowly in place, eyes scanning the darkness around him for signs of the Black.

      A sizzling cut through the silence, and the Blue only had a moment to whisper a word before lightning arced from his left, spiraling at him from the night. It coiled around him harmlessly, stray bits of electricity cascading off the translucent dome that sprung up around the Blue. The Blue paid no heed to the lightning, redoubling his efforts in seeking the black within the ebony that surrounded him. All at once, a fist sized dart of bright red energy slammed into one side of the dome. The Blue whirled around to see three more drive themselves into his shield, and see cracks begin to form in it. Chanting, the Blue began to weave his fingers through the air, his eyes clouding over as three more darts of magic pierced the side of his dome. Mid chant, a final dart flew out from the night, breaking through the barrier and stabbing deep into the shoulder of the Blue, who grimaced and grit his teeth, continuing his chant.

      The Black stepped out of the darkness, wand outstretched, a wicked looking staff in his other hand. The top, a claw grasping at a blood red gem began to hum with power as he flicked his wand towards the blue, and a shower of violet sprayed from it. The Blue, threw a robed arm over his face, chanting still as his robes began to sizzle and burn away under the acidic magic.

      Banging his staff on the ground, the Black uttered words in a dark tongue, causing five head sized balls of dirt to crack and burn as though they were filled with magma. They sprung up out of the ground and began to circle the Black, who in turn began to circle the Blue. One of the small meteors shot free from its orbit, slamming into the leg of the Blue, who cried out in pain before returning to his chant. Two more flaming balls of earth flew towards him, and twice more he cried out in pain, falling to his knees as words fell from his mouth, wavering through the agony.

      The Black stepped forward, the last two balls rising high over his head as he smiled wickedly down at the Blue. The Blue smiled back, blood on his lips as he finished chanting, spreading his arms wide. The Black cursed him, reaching out as though to strike him, but instead sending the last two balls down onto him. But at the last moment before they struck the Blue, they shattered. Bits of rock and debris scatters across the Blue and the ground as the Black cried out in pain, dropping his staff and clutching at his head. Blood trickled from his nose as he looked up, panicked towards the Blue.

      The Blue stood slowly, a deep laugh bubbling from his mouth. The Black roared in anger and leveled his wand at him. There was a flash of green, but the spell never left the wand as the Black cried out in agony again, grabbing at his head. More blood poured from his nose as he staggered backward from the Blue, whose laugh was becoming more manic by the second.

      Desperate, the Black reached into his robes and pulled a dagger from within. He rushed towards the Blue, who made no moves to stop him, only laughed, his own blood tinging his beard a sickly red. For the Black, it were as though an invisible wall had been built around the Blue. He could not bring himself to push the dagger past it, though if he did, the pain upon him was tenfold, as though he could feel his mind being crushed as he almost had. He stared horrified at the Blue who stared back defiantly, waiting for him to try and attack again.

      The dagger clattered to the ground as the Black stepped backwards, fear plain on his face. The Blue said nothing, his face losing all the dark glee it had moments before, and settling into something colder, much more sinister. The Black shook his head, wiping the blood from his nose before gesturing towards his wand and staff. They both leapt to his hands, and within a second, there was another burst of purple light and he was gone.

      The Blue stood alone in the graveyard, tired and alive. He gazed silently around at the stones that marked the graves of the other wizards he had killed and wondered what had kept him from filling another plot that night. It mattered not. Sooner than later, another would rise up to challenge him, another would think themselves strong. And he would stand tall, as he had for centuries, ready to add another gravestone to his cemetery.

Birthday 27