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Chapter 19

He opened the door of the warehouse and stepped inside. There was no light, there were no candles in the wall sconces, and no lamps either. He stepped in warily now.

"Kevesk? Are you here?" He paused, waiting for any sign that he might be here. He called out, slightly louder, hoping that the old mage was just sound asleep on his chair. "Kevesk! Wake up!" His guess had been correct, or at least judging by the startled yelp and the following crash of a body and a chair.

"Hell! Boy, don't sneak up on me like that! I'm not as young as I used to be." The old mage's voice was slightly slurred by a suddenly interrupted nap. "Where did you get the sword?" He was idly curious. Suddenly his brain kicked in with a jolt. "Where have you been!?" he roared. Derrl was nonplussed.

"Give me some light and maybe I'll tell you!" he said irritably. He had a headache from being whacked over the head with a cold iron sword and wasn't appreciating being yelled at. Kevesk had stood up and brushed himself off a bit. He bent over for his staff and it began to glow with a subdued light that, while not particularly bright, lit up the warehouse enough for Derrl to see. The elder mage propped his staff against his chair and continued to brush himself off. Derrl found himself noticing new details. Until now he hadn't paid much attention to Kevesk's chair. It was old and a bit spindly, and while it had been varnished at some previous time, it was dearly in need of a new treatment. The seat of the chair had an impression that had been worn into it, presumably from years of use by the equally spindly old mage. The chair gave the impression that it should have snapped a long time ago. He wondered why the old mage didn't use runes to strengthen it. Of course, he thought, if he did that, he'd have to cover the entire thing with runes, their ability only extends to the rune's borders. He was shook out of his reverie by a sharp remark from Kevesk that made his head throb.

"Do you plan on answering me, Derrl?" The old mage's voice rang out sharply. Derrl jolted momentarily before regaining his senses. He shook his head to clear it before he answered.

"As for the sword, I got it from a drunk mercenary who hit me over the head with it. He was persistent. He insisted on trying to cut me up with it. Things didn't work out too well for him." While he was trying his best to act nonchalant about the whole thing, he still felt bad about it. "And to answer your other question, I've been down to the beach, then out to help out Yerril, then I went to "The Pint" and got a job working for Mensk, and met Leylau. Does that answer your question?" His words felt raw as he forced them out at the mage. Kevesk shook his head.

"You answered both my questions, but now I just have more. What happened to the mercenary? You couldn't defend yourself against me, and all I had was a staff, and unless you were hit on the left side of the head, you wouldn't have even stood a chance."

"Actually, he didn't hit me on the side of the head at all. He tried to split my head in two from top to bottom. And then the next time he attacked he ended up as a pile of ash in a puddle."

"How did you do that? Last I checked, you didn't have any tattoos, or any knowledge of any runes other than the one I used for strengthening my staff." Derrl sighed and walked over to where the staff lay propped against the chair. He picked it up and tossed it to the mage. He drew in a deep breath and then released it. He spread his feet to shoulder width as if expecting a blow. He began to trace the strengthening rune in his mind.

"Take your staff and hit me with it as hard as you can. Hit me anywhere. Don't worry; this will probably hurt you a bit more than it will hurt me."

"What?! Have you gone mad? Have the demons released you of your senses? I'm not going to hit you." His words sounded final. Derrl shook his head again.

"You want to know how I defended myself against that mercenary, don't you?" Kevesk nodded. "Then hit me! Or be demon damned!" This blew Kevesk's fuse. He shifted his grip on his staff, so that he was holding it more like a two handed longsword. He swung as hard as he could to bring down the butt of his staff on Derrl's shoulder, slightly at an angle, but not quite so it would cripple him or break his neck. The sickening whistle that they both heard was now getting on Derrl's nerves. He had heard it too often today. There was no sickening crunch of bone as the older mage expected to hear. Instead it was replaced by a solid thud, a yelp from Kevesk, and the sound of the staff bouncing of the shoulder and hitting a nearby wall as he left go of it because of the vibrations along the length of the shaft. He stood there flapping his hands about, trying to relieve some of the pain. Derrl cleared the rune from his mind, and strode over to the corner where the staff had fallen. He picked it up and propped it up against the chair. He stepped over to the older mage and took his hands. He closed his eyes and drew another rune. Kevesk's eyes widened. He took his hands back from the youth and flexed them experimentally. His face showed shock. He had heard that it was possible, but hadn't met anyone who had ever been able to.

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