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A ton of lead by Maxwell Salen
SUMMARY: This is for the September 2008 flash fiction contest, themed "A Feather".
It was almost the appointed time. Marus the Merciless paced around the chamber, starting at every sound. While he hoped nothing would happen, that the other mage had given up it wasn't likely. Marus himself had seen to that. Stilling his nervous pacing Marus sat on his bone throne. In front of him was his working table, a massive block of solid onyx strewn with the remnants of his last sorcery. The chalk circle inscribed on it was now smudged and powerless, the ingot of lead wrapped in 3 stands of blond hair at its center sat dumbly. On the far corner of the table lay the leftovers of his last meal.
It had all started so innocently, but as always Marus had let his temper get the best of him.
"What weighs more a ton of lead or a ton of feathers?"
Marus had scoffed at the question.
"The lead of course", he called over the din in the guildhall. Several mages and apprentices tittered behind Marus's back, and he realized they weighed exactly the same – a ton. No-one dared laugh at his face, but he could feel their derision and scorn dogging his footsteps. Which was unacceptable.
"Wordplay is the shelter of the weak. How about a real challenge? What is more DANGEROUS, a ton of lead or a ton of feathers?" Marus's voice was loud and angry rising over the general hubbub. The hall went silent, as the crowd realized the potential cost of mocking the most deadly and murderous mage of the Itkarian Peninsula.
"Feathers of course", said Archmage Kendris, the author of the original question.
"You willing to make action of your words, or are you just going to hide behind them?", Marus snarled.
"Oh I'll stand behind my words any day Marus, but I won't be hiding behind them. The challenge is accepted, and as the accepting party I specify the course of challenge as the next thirty days."
"Done. I'll be relaxing on my bed of feathers as you're screaming in molten torment you prissy boy lover."
"Prissy? I prefer precise, and as for only loving boys I love everyone, well almost everyone. See you in thirty days Marus. Or not..." Kendris dismissively turned his back on Marus and engaged the nervous mages around him in conversation. Behind him Marus stormed out of the hall knocking over several wizards who weren't fast enough to get out of his way.
It had been a stroke of genius to teleport the ton of molten lead to the homes of Magister Kendris's family. After wasting most of the thirty days trying to breach Kendris's defences, Marus had realized the challenge had not explicitly stated that the harm had to be to the other mage directly. Kendris hadn't bothered to shield his precious family at all, it had actually been child's play in the end. They hadn't even had time to scream.
Marus had shut himself away in his tower after that, confident that he had thought of everything. He had no family to worry or care about, he himself had killed them on his naming day – consequently inheriting his fathers tower, and he had no need of friends. Those were weaknesses of lesser men.