Part 10: The Card Dealer
When I opened my eyes and dropped my arms to my side, the Card Dealer’s reflection was no longer in the mirror before me. But there were more words on it.
How about a duel?
I felt my face flush pale as I whirled around in an attempt to spot where he had gone.
“Hey!” I yelled, clenching my fists. “If you want to fight, then show yourself!” I might not have had the magic to defeat the Card Dealer, but I wasn’t going to go down without a fight, that was for sure.
In reply to my yelling, more smoke filled the room. I backed away, and I thought I would run into a mirror, but I found that the room was changing before my very eyes. The maze of mirrors faded into the smoke, and when the fog began to clear, the room had turned spacious.
And the Card Dealer stood in the middle of the room. I stood a few feet in front of him, and I steeled myself for any move he would make.
“So you want a duel?” I said, raising my hands and calling my most powerful spells to mind. The Card Dealer’s maniacal grin painted on his mask seemed to grow bigger as he raised his hands as well.
I knew close to nothing about duels. I had read about famous duels between powerful wizards in books before, but I never dreamed that I would take part in one. There were rules, but I knew none of them. Adrian had never taught me how to duel since it just didn’t seem necessary for a witch who would be running a shop. Yet, I stood my ground, and I made the first move. I sent a ball of fire in the Card Dealer’s direction, though he easily dodged like it was nothing. The fire burned the wall behind him, leaving scorch marks all over it.
He turned to observe it, then looked at me like, is that the best you can do? Gritting my teeth, I sent more towards him, one speeding after the other. I ran around him in a circle tossing the fire balls, trying to make them bigger and bigger, but he dodged every single one. On the last two, he caught them up in his own magic and sent them back towards me in an inferno I could never dodge. At the last second, I blurted out the spell for a shield. As it enveloped me, I shielded my face with my arms, bracing for the impact. Once the fire was gone, I got rid of the shield, but before the smoke could even clear something tripped me and I landed on my back.
With the air knocked out of me, I couldn’t find the breath to jump up and defend myself. The Card Dealer stood over me as the smoke from his giant fireball cleared. My eyes widened as a long, twisted blade formed in his hands, made completely of a dark spell. I rolled out of the way just as he swung it down towards me. I jumped up and whirled around to face him, fire blazing in my eyes. He still held the sword in his hand, making him all the more terrifying.
“Cheating already?” I said. “No weapons in a duel!” But then I stopped. I had no knowledge of the rules. For all I knew, any sort of weapons – magic or otherwise – could be used. The Card Dealer’s mask grinned at me. Somehow I knew he was really smirking under that mask. He was fighting the world’s most pitiful dueler, after all. Never in all my life had I wished Adrian had taught me more on dueling.
And hey, if he got a weapon, so did I. I only knew one weapon spell, and it would be risky. I doubted I had the magic power to wield it for longer than a few minutes, but it was worth a shot. I had a feeling I was going to lose the duel anyway. I held my hand out, and after just a moment passed, a ornate spear formed in my hand. I could feel the magic leaving my veins. My body grew cold as I swung the spear around and pointed towards the Card Dealer. I ignored it the best I could, but I knew I was getting weaker.
“Let’s hurry this up, okay?” I mumbled. Then I charged forward with my new weapon. The spear was the only weapon I ever learned to summon. I had given myself a couple training sessions in actually using it, but, silly me, I never thought I’d use it. I jerked the spear forward, thinking he wouldn’t be able to avoid it. He caught it with his sword. The steel clashing upon steel made vibrations go through my arm. My hesitation gave the Card Dealer enough time to kick me back. I kept my balance, fortunately, but the Card Dealer wasn’t finished. He swung his sword in a wide arc, just barely giving me time to raise my spear and guard myself. With all of his strength, he pushed down on my spear. But I pushed back, determined not to let him win. My feet started to slide back on the smooth floor, inching me closer and closer to the wall.
My back hit the wall, and there was nowhere to go now. The Card Dealer still pushed his sword down on me, but not as hard now. I forced myself to look at his masked face. And I saw his eyes. I remembered back to when I saw his eyes just a few months ago when I walked home from meeting with Clark. I always thought there was something about them. When I looked into them now, they were crazed and fiery, like some terrible rage had taken over him. Even with him bearing down on me, and my magic wearing thin, I could sense a spell on him. Not only one that took his voice, but one that took him. Feeling the power of such a spell made my knees weak, giving the Card Dealer the advantage he needed. He hammered his sword down on me, and my magic spear shattered into thousands of glittering pieces. Before they could ever hit the ground, they vanished. I would be able to summon the spear again, but not anytime soon. But even a new spear wouldn’t help me now. The Card Dealer stood over me as I sunk to the ground. I looked up at him with narrowed eyes.
“Well?” I said, my voice wavering from the loss of energy. “What are you waiting for?”
The Card Dealer looked like he tried to laugh, but couldn’t. That seemed to have annoyed him to no end. He took the sword and held it above his head, hesitating just the slightest bit to bring the sharpened tip down on me. In that moment, I was afraid. I’d risked too much in coming here. I’d dragged Lex and Leon along and they almost died getting here. And now who knew where they were. Whatever their fate would be, it would be my fault. I wasn’t ready to die with a weight like that on my shoulders. In the short hesitation that the Card Dealer had in killing me, I raised both of my hands towards him and screamed out the most powerful spell I could think of. The room darkened just the slightest bit as a bolt of lighting came out of nowhere and struck the Card Dealer, sending him flying backwards. He landed on his back a few feet away from me. Like my spear, his sword shattered and the pieces evaporated.
I used the wall behind me as leverage to stand, then I shuffled forward, fearing he would get up before I could get to him.
“We might as well…call for a draw,” I said as I walked to him. “No use in killing ourselves trying to be more powerful than the other. Besides, I already know you’re way more powerful than me. I’m still in training.”
I stood over him now. His hat had pulled up enough so that I could see his closed eyes. But even with them closed, I felt how familiar they were. I furrowed my brow as I knelt down next to him.
“Just…just who are you?” I whispered. I took hold of the painted cloth serving as his mask and pulled it off. I almost screamed, but whatever noise I could think to make stuck in my throat, and that seemed to block of any air trying to get to my lungs. I could only stare in horrified shock.
I now looked at the face of my master.
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I am soooooo sorry for this being a week late, but I was struck with THE WORST Writer’s Block. I have been planning this scene for months, and then when I finally got around to writing it, I couldn’t get a single word out. I haven’t been able to write pretty much anything for the last week, but I kind of feel that wearing off now, thank goodness! I’m sure all you other writers understand how that feels. Anyway, I’m glad to get this out there now, and I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of this reveal! I know that a lot of you might have seen this coming. I left all the groundwork and clues to build up to this, and I loved leaving all of them laying around throughout the story. Please let me know in comments what you think about this part, and if you were able to figure the twist out before the reveal! Thank you for taking your time to read this! God bless ya’ll!