Cregan glared. How dare Arton taunt him? His rival would soon learn who would be the next council member. With care he reached for more thorns. Even with the gloves made from dragon hide picking thorns presented a danger. One slip with a thorn stabbing his face or next and he would suffer or even die. He lifted an empty sack and stomped toward the other man.
“Fill this.” He thrust the sack at Arton. The foreign adoptee should become used to taking orders. There was ho way he could win. Mecador, chief wizard, was Cregan’s mentor and father.
Arton opened his shirt and spilled as many of the thorns he could into the bag. Just as many fell on the ground. “Gathering thorns was your task. Be quick to pick up the fallen ones before they lose their potency.” He shook out his shirt and strode away.
“How dare you disobey me?” Cregan’s hands formed fists. “You don’t understand. You will be my toady. I will win the challenge. I’m already ahead. Mecader knows I’m the better wizard.” He grabbed Arton’s shoulders and whirled him around.
Arton pulled away. “Stop. We are forbidden physical fights against anyone who is a wizard.”
Fury bubbled like a steaming cauldron. Cregan abandoned the sack he held and ran after Arton.
Arton stumbled and floundered to regain his balance. Cregan hit his rival’s shoulders and Arton fell into the fyrethorn tangle. His screams filled the air. He pulled free and ran toward the citadel.
Cregan abandoned the sacks and raced after the other man. What could he do? If Arton died the council would act to banish Cregan. In the past he’d heard of one challenger being sent from the citadel for a year. The man had never returned. If he had he would have been named a second level wizard.
As Cregan ran after his rival he planned his story. He had to cast the blame on Arton. If Mecador believed Arton had stumbled and fell into the bushes there would be no punishment. If the worst happened Cregan vowed to survive and fight for his rightful place even if he needed to wand duel every council member. He was Mecador’s son. He deserved a council seat.
* * *