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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hello everybody and thank you for yo' reads!

Today I'd like to shout out a book on rising stars  The Devil's Dark Remnant [An Urban Progression Fantasy Saga] by authorwriterbard. This one's an urban fantasy—cause I felt like shouting out something a little different—and reminds me a little bit of Jujutsu Kaisen, which is a show I've been meaning to get into. 

It looks good so far, so I hope y'all will enjoy that.

HOKAY, with that! Stop! Fool time!

The Ursa-Lupine Brotherhood was immediately recognizable by their green shirts adorned with the silver symbol of a two-headed beast. The young men walked with the swagger of one trying to actively appear as big and impressive as possible.

Alex raised an eyebrow.

He’d seen that walk from time to time back in Alric—though not so much here—displayed by the young sons of trades folk in town. After a night of drinking or some other event that got folk riled up, sometimes a few of the strong, young men would go swaggering about town, trying to show everyone how tough they were.

When different groups trying to look impressive and intimidating came across each other, things regularly wound with a scuffle or fists flying.

He was a little surprised to see that swagger here: the university students were older than the swaggering fifteen year olds in Alric, and usually more disciplined.

Finding that cocksure attitude coming from two groups of students at a wizard university kind of took him off guard. Though, if anyone was going to act like that, the young battlemages of the Ursa-Lupine Brotherhood would be likely candidates.

He recognized three individuals from that group: the trio who’d been loudly trying to recruit new students into their brotherhood a year ago. Gregori—the battlemage he’d beaten in a spell joust—stood tall and arrogant with his arms crossed in front of him, glaring at the other students.

The other wizards were a group of young men and women who wore sapphire- blue shirts, and had a hard-bitten look. Beastmen were among them: far more than in the Ursa-Lupine Brotherhood.

Alex noticed bronze thread stitched into a symbol on their chests: a hydra with five heads extending from a snake-like body. The groups stood across from each other—glaring coldly—with no one saying a word at first.

The rest of the stadium fell quiet and watched. Then a dwarfish woman stepped out of the crowd of sapphire-blue shirts.

“Insult’s been given to the Hydra’s Companionhood,” she said, glaring up at three Ursa-Lupine members. “And we demand satisfaction.”

“The Ursa-Lupine Brotherhood answers,” a tall young man stepped forward and glared down at her. “What insult do you say was committed by our brothers?”

The dwarfish woman glanced back at a young beastman who resembled an elk. He cleared his throat. “One fortnight ago, four of your brothers broke into the House of the Companions and stole the companion house mascot.”

A few snickers went through the brotherhood, but the leader kept a straight face.

“He was missing for two days,” the elk beastman continued. “And when we found him, someone had painted his scales bright green!”

“Then it’s an improvement!” One of the green shirts laughed. Several others started giggling until their leader threw a look over his shoulder that made them slowly fall silent.

Alex heard a sudden gasp from nearby and glanced over to see Isolde rapidly turning away from the conflict, even though her friends were still closely watching.

He looked back, trying to figure out what she’d reacted to.

His eyes widened when he caught sight of a shock of red hair.

“Oh shi-” He caught himself, remembering that Selina was close. “I mean, when did that happen?”

“What?” Theresa looked at him as he stood up.

“Look over there. See that redhead?”

“Yeah?”

“That’s Derek.”

“Oh, that’s him?” she looked back with interest.

Sure enough, Isolde’s ex-partner was standing with the Ursa-Lupine Brotherhood, complete with an emerald green shirt that looked brand new. His normal overconfidence was a bit subdued—as people tended to be in a new group—but he still looked quite comfortable there.

Something must have changed.

The last Alex knew of Derek and anything having to do with battle was when he’d failed Baelin’s first test, and had hindered his entire group in the process. He also had to repeat both semesters of first year alchemy because he’d been caught cheating.

Alex glanced at Isolde.

The bastard had nearly destroyed her academic career since his cheating involved copying her assignments without her knowledge and submitting them as his own. He’d done it while she and he had been dating, which made things even worse.

But, there he was, an obvious member of Ursa-Lupine looking like some confident, swaggering, first-string battle-mage.

When Alex was in the same alchemy class as him, he’d seen Derek—still attached to Carey London—in the class the entire time. There hadn’t been any big announcement bringing the class to a halt, revealing that he’d been caught cheating again. So either he’d stopped cheating, or he’d gotten a lot better at covering his tracks. Either way, maybe Alex simply hadn’t heard that something had happened—or, the young man had gotten his act together.

And from what Alex knew of that brotherhood, they didn’t recruit students into their ranks who were useless in combat, or weak academically. Blowhards, yes, but noncombatants, no.

Either way, it wasn’t his business, unless Derek made it his business.

“I’m going to go talk to Isolde,” Theresa said, quickly heading toward their friend.

“Yeah, hope she’s okay,” he said, thinking about the bad blood between the two of them. Derek nearly ruining her future at Generasi and then her exposing him for cheating, wasn’t exactly a good recipe for an amicable break up.

He watched as the two groups organized some sort of contest: a way to satisfy the ‘insult’ that had occurred between them.

“Alex!” Khalik waved as he joined him. “Well, would you look at that? Our old friends seem ready for a brawl.”

“Looks like it,” Alex said.

Three students from each group had broken off from the rest and stood in two opposing lines across the width of the stadium, while their group members watched from a reasonably close—but safe—distance.

“Another spell-joust, you think?” Khalik asked.

“Maybe something different, oh yeah, and I wanted to talk to you now that we got a moment,” Alex said.

The students in the two lines spoke to each other briefly, then shook hands and stepped back to their lines. Then, the spell casting began.

A student from each group who stood furthest away began firing beams of magic at one another.

Boom! Boom!

The beams cracked like thunder as they slammed into each other.

“About what?” the prince asked, still watching.

“It’s about classes."

Two more students watched each other, their lips quietly saying incantations, and Alex could see a rippling in the air between them. Some sort of telekinesis spell?

“What about them? You mean summer classes?”

The last pair of opponents threw their hands up and shouted their incantations.

“Yeah, there’s a course I’m starti-Waaait a minute.”

Alex could feel a shift of mana in the air. As he’d gained more experience with Call Through Ice, he was starting to recognize the difference between teleportation magic, and something close to it, like summoning.

This was definitely summoning magic.

The air shimmered between the two students then the ground began to bubble.

Hssss.

Two circles formed in the earth, shaking like the water on a storm-wracked sea. A green mist rose, and in that mist, Alex saw two silhouettes materialize. A pair of creatures emerged from the green fog. Two ugly little humanoid beasts—with purplish skin like a body entirely covered in bruising—with extremely short legs and incredibly long arms. The arms also seemed…flexible; they looked more like tentacles with hands attached to them than arms.

“Slay my enemy!” the Ursa-Lupine brother shouted, pointing at his rival's summoned monster.

“Wring that little bastard’s neck!’ the Hydra Companion cried, gesturing to the monster conjured by her opponent.

The two creatures faced each other, then shuddered as each released a horrifying screech that cut through the air. They leapt at each other.

Their arms…split.

Each arm quivered then split into four tentacles that lashed out like whips. The tentacles waved through the air, wrapping around each other and grappling their adversary as the monsters hopped about, trying to outmaneuver each other.

Khalik scoffed. “I have seen great apes fight in a similar way…though with less tentacles. I must admit, I might have found such a display grotesque at one time, but this seems tame compared to the mana vampire.”

“Ugh, you should try being in the same room as a shoggoth,” Alex said, then he looked around to make sure the coast was clear. “Or near Hobb.”

The prince burst out laughing. “I tell you, he is fine. Here you are dissecting mana vampires and blasting worms and xyrthaks, while friendly old Hobb gives you a shiver.”

“Yeah, because I’m smart, you see. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, are you taking any courses in the summer?”

Khalik shrugged. “I had considered one or two. Why? How many are you taking?”

“Four.”

Four? By the sapphire sea, man, you do not enjoy the idea of breaks do y-no wait, you are the one that feeds himself pineapple using his spells.”

“Well, let’s just say that I want to be prepared for everything I can. I mean, I can enjoy a break by taking one less course.”

“That’s not a break.”

“Compared to what I had to do to get into this university? It’s basically an endless Sigmus. But anyway, I’m taking Magical Botany, and I wanted to know if you want my notes or something. Could be a conversation topic for you and Sinope, eh?”

The prince paused, his hand running through his sculpted beard. “Interesting…”

“It might help your earth magic too? Offer a new perspective?”

Khalik’s eyes narrowed in thought. “When is the course being held?”

“It’s a morning one. Not quite ‘crack of dawn’ but close enough.”

“Ugh, I should have known: farmers and their early rising, and all. Hmmm, I think I shall skip the notes and take the course myself.”

Alex blinked. “That actually sounds awesome! It’d be nice to be in a class with you where things aren’t trying to kill us all the time.”

“Well,” Khalik chuckled. “Let us not speak too soon. It is wizardry after all, I’m sure someone’s made a plant that can spit acid, or fire, or mind-controlling liquids-Oh, looks like they’re done.”

Alex looked back over to the group of spell-jousters.

It looked like the Ursa-Lupine brother had beaten the Hydra Companion in the beam clash, but the pair that had been struggling with telekinetic forces had seen it go the other way. The Hydra Companion shattered their opponent’s shimmer at the same time that their summoned monster defeated its opponent.

“Done!” the Hydra Companionhood leader shouted. “You’re defeated, and satisfaction is our prize!”

The leader of the Ursa-Lupine Brotherhood grimaced. “What’s the penalty?”

“The three who stole our mascot will stand before your brotherhood house for three days. Five hours each day.” She gave a nasty grin. “Wearing nothing but loincloths with our hydra painted on their chests.”

The students from the Hydra Companionhood burst out laughing.

“Well that’s charming,” Alex muttered. “Could you imagine if we’d joined that?”

“No, because we’re part of a group that happily charges monsters instead,” Khalik said with a wry look. “Hmmm, at some point…speaking of fun, we should speak of the Games of Roal.”

“Khalik, I don’t have any idea what that is.”

“Oh, it’s-” Khalik glanced up. “Ah, looks like the others have finished. We’ll chat about it later.”

Alex gave him a look. “You know, whenever someone says ‘let’s chat about it later’ they’re usually the first to die in all those horror stories the bards tell.”

“You know who else tends to die first?”

“Who?”

“The silly comic relief character.”

“…Khalik?”

“Yes?”

“I hate you.”

The prince burst out laughing.


Alex and Khalik stumbled—bleary-eyed—into the botanical gardens shortly after the sun had risen. The summer heat—combined with the moisture of the massive greenhouse—struck them in a wave.

This was the first morning of their first class in Magical Botany.

“I hope the first thing we learn is about magical coffee,” Khalik grunted. “Najyah went crazy because I was up so early. Alex, this is the worst idea you’ve ever had.”

“I dunno, I’ve had some pretty bad ideas,” Alex grumbled. “But yeah…this is up there.”

Two young men dragged themselves toward their first class of the summer.

“Right, while I remember,” Alex said. “What are these Games of Roal?”

“Ah, yes, the games. They are an event held by The Watchers for the Summer Equinox, celebrating Roal’s contributions to the city, and her defeat of The Demigod Oreca.”

“Right, son of some kind of minor fish deity.”

It had been an exam question on the midterm in Magic Lore. He remembered her stabbing her sword into the demigod’s belly then channeling a spell of dehydration that withered the demi-deity, slaying it.

“Indeed. So every year they hold minor games that take place over sea, forest and field.” He paused in thought. “Have you ever been to a tournament for knights? A joust and the like?”

“No, but I take it this is the same thing, but for wizards?” Alex asked, growing more alert.

“Yes, and for the nobility of Generasi or any others who care to participate. Many come just to attend or try their luck: the prize money is fairly attractive to most.”

Alex paused. “Did you say prize money?”

All earlier sleepiness was now long gone.

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

The quoth the Gigguk: "Tournament Aaaaaarc!"
Opening bars to Easy Lover by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins begin to play

Alrighty, I'll see y'all tomorrow!


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