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The ripple effect passed as swiftly as it had come. The red warding runes flared again. The dog snored.

Drawing a deep breath, letting it out, Haplo stared up at nothing. The last time the world had rippled, Alfred had been the cause. Alfred had entered Death’s Gate.

The Patryn woke suddenly, body tingling with alarm. It was night, the room was dark or would have been, but for the glowing runes. He sat up, trying to remember, isolate the sound that had brought him wide awake from a deep sleep. He was so intent on listening that he didn’t notice, at first, the sigla on his skin gleaming a bright blue.

“I must have slept a long time,” he said to the dog, who had itself been roused from slumber. “I wonder why they didn’t come for me? What do you suppose is going on, boy?”

The dog seemed to think it had some idea, for it jumped off the bed and padded over to the window. Haplo, having the same idea, followed. He drew as close to the runes as he could, ignoring the magical heat that burned his skin, his own magic unable to protect long against it. Shielding his eyes with his hand, he squinted against the sigla’s flaring brilliance, tried to look outside. He couldn’t see much in the night; shadows running through the shadows, darker shapes of darkness. But he could hear their shouts; it was the shouting that had wakened him.

“The wall is breached! The water is flooding our city!” Haplo thought he heard footsteps at the door. He tensed, turned, prepared to fight. It was foolish of them to have allowed him to regain his magic. He’d teach them how foolish.

The footsteps hesitated a moment, then began to retreat. Haplo walked to the door, listened until the sound faded away. If there had been a Sartan guard, he wasn’t there now.

The runes of warding were still strong, however, still powerful. Haplo was forced to draw back from the door; fighting the heat was draining his strength.

Besides, no need to waste his energy.

“Might as well relax, boy,” he advised the dog. “We’ll be out of here, soon enough.”

And then where would he go? What would he do?

Back to the Labyrinth. To look for Alfred. To look for others . . . Smiling quietly, Haplo returned to his bed, stretched out comfortably, and waited for the seawater to rise.

Appendix

Magical Battle Between Patryn and Sartan;

A Further Explanation

Both Sartan and Patryn magic is based on the theory of possibilities.[51] A contest between the two can best be described as a lethal version of a children’s game known as Knife, Paper, Stone.[52] In this game, each child provides himself with three objects: a small knife, a piece of paper, and a rock. These objects are hidden behind the back. Opponents face each other and, at a given signal, both grab an object and bring it forth in mock battle. The goal is to try to guess which weapon out of three possible weapons the opponent will use this round and be prepared to counter his attack. The various outcomes are determined thus:

Knife cuts paper. (Whoever produces the knife wins this round.) Stone crushes knife. Paper covers stone.

Knife, Paper, Stone is, of course, an extremely simplified version of a magical battle between Patryn and Sartan, each of whom would have at his or her disposal innumerable possibilities for attack and defense. Ancient duels between the two were rarely fought “in hot Wood” as was the fight between Samah and Haplo. Both races had their images to consider and a battle would take place only after a challenge had been issued and accepted. A Patryn was always ready to fight in public view. A Sartan might agree, but only if he or she felt that such a public display of prowess and courage would prove instructive to the mensch.

Public duels were held in arenas and provided absolutely marvelous shows, although the presence of a crowd rather hampered some of the more spectacular magical effects. It would never do, for example, to call down a lightning bolt on one’s enemy and mistakenly electrocute half the audience. Thus these public battles rarely ended in death, but were similar to a chess tournament where one opponent attempts to place the other in checkmate.

Private contests were much more serious, fought on a more lethal scale, and almost always ended in death for either one or both opponents. They were held in secret places, known only to the two races, where destructive forces could be unleashed without endangering innocent bystanders. Sometimes the two fought alone, but more often family members and members of the Council attended to serve as witnesses. They were never permitted to intervene. It should be noted here that the Sartan Council was always publicly opposed to these duels and would endeavor, until the last moment, to stop the fight. Despite the limitless number of possibilities available, most wizards generally followed a set pattern, based on the dictates of logic. The first spells to be cast were usually either defensive or distractive in nature. They were easy, requiring little effort on the part of the spellcaster, and enabled him to study and feel out his opponent. Thus, a Sartan wizard might attempt to distract his enemy by sending a million snakes into combat; the Patryn might counter by surrounding himself with a wall of fire.

Such distractions and defenses would give way to powerful offensive spells and equally powerful defenses. Opponents were required to see an attack coming and react to it within seconds, all the while guarding against attacks (such as lightning bolts) against which one could not defend oneself. The slightest miscalculation, the blinking of an eye, a momentary weakening, almost always proved fatal.[53]

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51

See “Magic in the Sundered Realms, Excerpts from a Sartan’s Musing,” in Dragon Wing, vol. 1 of The Death Gate Cycle.

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52

One theory holds that this game was played by mensch children desirous of emulating Sartan (or Patryn) heroes.

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53

Excerpt from a treatise, untitled, discovered in the library of the Sartan on Chelestra.