Stay calm, think of a plan, they must have a weakness somewhere!
But as in most of real life, I didn't have time to plan out a counter strategy. Before I realized they'd moved, four more shadow tendrils exploded towards me. The things were faster, slimmer, and blacker than any I'd been able to conjure. To my terror stricken eyes they turned into great black serpents that would like nothing better than to shred me to pieces. Perhaps if I'd stuck with the shadowmancy department, my tendrils would eventually look like theirs. As it was, in that moment I was eternally grateful for my short magical linguistics education.
"B-Braid Bend!" I cried, shoving my hands forward as if that would do anything useful. Amazingly, the spell worked! Bright purple bands sprung into existence in front of my fingers swirling out of my desperation and inherent magic found in every human being. I've managed to do it twice, maybe three times before.
I should get myself into life or death situations more often, clearly I can perform much better under pressure than I thought. With a bone thrumming whump my opponent's shadow tendrils slammed into my shield. The world slid sideways as my magic addled brain tried to absorb the impact. Dusty sand rose up around me which was great because who needs to breathe when trying to protect life and limb?!
I peeked through the wildly spinning magic and sand at my opponent. Even if I blocked their attack, I should have known their face would give nothing away. If anything it looked like they were faintly smili-
Sudden freezing cold limbs wrapped around my body like suffocating bandages. A startled scream ripped through my throat. How- whu-where!?! My shield! It was there just a second ago, I'd felt it from my core. But the shield hadn't broken, it was as if the shadows had slid through it. They'd slid through my shield.
Panic squeezed me in a icy fist, turning my thoughts into a chaotic, completely useless mess. I'm going to die, I'm going to die, I'm going to die. My heart seemed to steal all power from my limbs- pounding like the ancient wild war drums of my ancestors, while my arms and legs did their best to imitate two ton weights. I don't know if it even really hurt, but the terror of my curse took complete control.
Don't panic, don't panic, REACT!
All my fear and doubt crystallized into the simplest spell taught to Otherworlde Students.
"BOLLR!" Light streamed from my fingers, enveloping my body and then exploding outwards. Though temporarily blinded myself, I could feel the horrible black darkness that had held me captive melt away. Cleansing white bathed the arena and in my incredible relief, I hardly noticed the queasy, dizzy feeling it seemed to bring on. At the time I didn't realize the reciprocity hex was making me feel my opponent's pain.
In fact, I felt downright heady with relief. I'd never cast something that big before, even as simple a thing as a light spell. I felt more alive than I had in a long time, as the constant fear took a back seat to...what was it...confidence? Had I ever been confident before Otherworlde? But somehow, I couldn't quite keep the triumphant smile off my face.
I landed on my feet, finally released from the horrible shadowy prison. The smile grew. Oh no, I couldn't keep it in. I stood and laughed. Out loud. In the arena.
"I'm not going to die that easily!" I declared, drunk on the small success. I had a weapon! A real weapon to fight the literal darkness of my enemy. I wouldn't have to try and get close or match my puny shadowmancy against theirs. Oh no, I had something much better.
"Bollr! Bollr! Bollr!" I cried, drawing on rarely used magical reserves. Tiny, flickering lights started to pop up around me, bathing my body in a faint iridescent sheen. Apparently my magic was tied to my emotions, and now that the soul crushing panic had faded, confidence wasn't quite enough to achieve the same effects. Still, I was pleased to see my opponent flinch away. Hah! Take that, you scary, ridiculously powerful, emotionless robot!
Unfortunately my new found confidence did little to improve my general awareness, and I didn't see death speeding towards me until the three more shadow tendrils appeared mere yards away. Luckily I've had some experience blocking shadow tendrils with light spells, and heedlessly continued to chant them into existence. The shadows hit the light. Veered. Whooshed past me.
And the right side of my head felt strangely light. Strangely...horrifyingly...light...