Invoking Ancient Law

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She looked so tired, and desperate. A sigh escaped me. “Then I refuse, Amber.” An old bylaw. A desperate single mother. A kind professor. The outcome was inevitable. [Inspired by a writing prompt by u/notyamommasthrowaway on Reddit.]

Adventure / Fantasy
Age Rating:


What?” The ink pen I was holding slipped out of my hand and clattered to the wooden floor in the lecture room. Finding myself staring, I had to clear my throat and say, “Say again, please?”
“I hereby challenge you to trial by combat. If I win, I pass this semester.” Amber said again, in that same determined tone and with blue eyes turned harsh. You would have never guessed she was a fire mage, what with her appearance. I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Faced with such a ridiculous statement, I thought she was joking. She had to be. Especially Amber; she was such a wonderful student. She was close to failing, but trying so hard, and she was always so kind. I was very fond of her, and sometimes it was difficult to remember she was my student. With this in mind, I was soon doubled over, arms wrapped around my gut as loud laughs wracked my body.

“I’m not joking, Professor Carter.” Amber’s tone was devoid of amusement, and my heart stuttered a little. I looked up, still wheezing, and wiped the tears from my eyes. The short little woman before me shrugged off her canvas backpack and crouched, delicately tucking her summer dress below her as she did. As I straightened up, clearing my throat in an attempt to collect myself, I watched her pull out an ancient looking book - more of a tome, really - and stand up again. She held it out to me. Arching a brow, I only received a nod. So, I took the book from her and flicked through the pages. It was the university’s bylaws, but old ones. My eyebrows knitted as I flicked through to the index, and to my alarm the words ‘trial by combat’ were there. I swallowed, glancing at Amber. She refused to meet my eyes. I turned to the correct page, and read. Then I read again.
“No way.” I breathed, reading the clause over and over. “Why would they- Amber, follow me, we are going to see the Dean.”
She followed me without protest, only a quiet, “Alright, but I already checked-”

As we left the Dean’s office, my shoulders sagged. It was a real bylaw, and the worst part? One they had missed when revoking the old ones. I turned to Amber, and she finally met my eyes.
“Professor, I’m sorry, but I can’t flunk out. This is my one chance to get this degree, and if I fail-” my chest ached as her voice tightened. She tucked her curly brown hair behind her ears, and continued, “You know I have to provide for Ambrose. And- well, I’m trying but between looking after a baby and living in a shelter it’s kind of hard, so- so, yeah. This is it. I need the job opportunities this degree will offer me. You can decide the weapons and the time, just- let me know…” I had gone white by the time she finished speaking.
“Amber, you can’t be serious! I can’t fight you, I mean-”
“Why not!?” She demanded, “We’re both the same age, you have the upper hand being an earth mage and you’re obviously fit enough-” her angry shout turned into a cough as she caught herself, cheeks flushing red. “Anyways. If you refuse, you concede a weakness on your part, and I think they can fire you for that, so- please-”
I ran a hand through my short hair, looking down at her. I knew. I read that page several times when she showed me, and the Dean attempted to discourage her, emphasising to me that as per the old laws I would lose my job. She looked so tired, and desperate. A sigh escaped me.
“Then I refuse, Amber.”

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