My hand out of my pocket before I knew it, wand rising, gathering power. “Don’t you bring my father into this, you two-bit bastard!”
But Chris’s rod was already out, and he’d already gathered power. He flicked his wrist before I could even get my wand level. Black lightning sparked hideously. I couldn’t help blinking from the flash, but the glyphs on my desk and chair held—easily—forcing Chris’s spell back on him. By the time I could see again, Chris was helpless. Eldritch bonds of black fire—magefire from his own spell—held him suspended by the wrists and ankles about four feet off the ground. The bonds crackled and spit as he struggled, and I watched while he grimaced in pain. Below him, his golden rod lay forgotten on the ground.
I took a deep breath and forced myself to calm down. “Hurts, doesn’t it?” I said. I shook my head. “Every tenderfoot fool I’ve ever met thinks he’s the Second Coming of the Dark Prince. You all want to prove you’re the Master of Disaster. What is it with you guys? Didn’t they teach you anything in America?”
The Colonel looked annoyed. “Okay professor. You’ve made your point. Put him down.”
“Why should I?” I pointed my wand at Chris. “He meant for that to be me up there.” I walked around and picked up his rod. It was made of a material that I didn’t immediately recognize. I’d initially thought that it was gold, but it was harder and, if anything, even heavier than a rod made out of gold would have been. I held it up. “Do you have any idea how dangerous something like this is? Hell, I don’t even know this thing is made of!”
Chris grunted. “Depleted uranium.”
“Of course,” I said. “Depleted uranium.” My frustration bubbled up again, suddenly, frustration at the intrusion into my life and at a host of other things that nothing to do with novice wizards, American or no.
I gestured with Chris’s rod, and his bonds disappeared. He fell like a stone and stumbled, and I tossed his rod back to the Colonel.
“It’s time for you to leave, Colonel. Today’s lesson is over.”
A new voice spoke from the back of the room. “They really do need your help, Nick.”
We turned, and there was Rupert Montgomery—my father's old partner from the Special Section. Despite everything, I smiled. I'd not seen Rupe since my father's funeral.
“Rupe! Well, this is a welcome surprise.” I pulled my wand from my jacket pocket and waved it to indicate my visitors. My everyday, working wand is an old plastic chopstick with a line of silver painted down its spine and an aluminum foil cap rubber-banded onto the tip. On seeing it, Chris's eyes got as wide as saucers. “I take it that the Special Section can't spare a man, so you sent these guys to me?”
Rupert didn't smile. “They're after the Sword of Kings, Nick. I thought you'd want to know.”
“Commander please--” the Colonel said. He looked around a little frantically.
“I told them that I couldn't help them,” Rupert continued, “but yes, I think you might ought to hear what they have to say.”
“What the Hell is that?” the larger man, Chris, finally asked. He was still looking at my wand.
“Great God!” I shook my head. “Rupert, the Sword of Kings is a myth. You know that. Why you insist that I--”
“Save it for the Marks, Nick,” Rupe replied. “You and I both know--”
“Gentlemen! Security!” the Colonel said. His eyes blazed with something like holy passion. “Now I will be happy to tell you everything, but this is a public classroom in a public university. I will not discuss it here, and that is final.”“Fine,” I said, feeling resignation set in. I turned to grab my coat. “I still think you're being a little melodramatic, Colonel, but now that Rupert is here, and I am no longer out numbered, I will at least allow you to take me to lunch. There is a very nice Chinese restaurant a few blocks from here, and I'm sure that if we ask, the owners will be more than happy to oblige us with a dimly lit back corner booth. Will that suffice for your clandestine needs?