Dran felt a combination of fear and exhilaration. One which he imagined every Emperor before him had felt on the eve of their first challenge.
He had intimidated his people. Forced them into grudging acceptance that this stranger was- for the moment- their Emperor. But this was his real test. The moment that would determine is Dranarius Caesorium was born to be an Emperor or a corpse. Because Terix had taken notice of the upstart king.
Dran returned himself to the ground. Levitating was a challenge, even as he wore his icy armor. The mage had no need of distraction during this fight.
Some part of him was wishing for Dragoneyes to swoop in. For the man he still considered a friend to save him with his unknowable power. But most of Dran wished to do this on his own.
Dran had stood helplessly by, watching Koteph destroy his father and mother. Dran didn't expect to ever inflict that sort of pain in return. But if Koteph lived to see his greatest lieutenant dead, his largest army retreating- well then Dran could sleep a little easier at night.
Dran wielded an icy sword so flawless it was hard to see. His armor was even more perfect. The True Name of his preferred substance was strong in him, and he knew he could stick his sword into a furnace without fear of it melting. But he would much sooner plunge it into Terix's heart.
"Surrender," Terix ordered. "Surrender to me now."
In other circumstance, Dran might have accepted. He might have lied, feigned surrender, waiting for Terix to come close and trying to catch the monster off guard, with the element of surprise. But such trickery wouldn't work in front of Dran's subjects. He needed to be honorable and strong. He also really needed to win.
Dran fingered his sword. "I don't think I will, fiend. Please, do your worst. Maybe attack me from a distance, with one of your spells. Wouldn't want to get in range of my sword." Would the taunt work? Did monsters feel pride the same as men did?
It appears they did, because Terix rushed toward Dran, moving at his inhuman speed. He sent out a spark of energy nearly strong enough to knock the young mage off his feet. Then he reached out, wanting to end the man's life with a touch. He was disappointed when his fingers instead touched lifeless ice.
Dran smiled. He swung his sword with far more speed than any normal warrior could. To him, the heftiest sword of ice was nothing but a feather. But Terix was faster still. Dran swung again, putting more magic behind this swing. But again, the monster dodged.
Terix must have sensed he could not continue that fight forever. So he retreated, taking a spear from an unfortunate soldier as the Etoran fell lifeless to the ground. The monster barely managed to get out of the way of an icicle moving at speeds any trebuchet would struggle to match. The icy cone buried into the chest of some unknown Etoran soldier. Dran didn't care. He had already thrown two more.
Terix grew tired of dodging his enemy's projectiles. He cast a spell, immobilizing his enemy. He moved in at great speed, carrying his spear. But it wasn't the mage who found himself impaled.
Dran's heart pounded as he shrugged off the dead monster's enchantments, and regained freedom of motion. He looked at Terix. Run through of a shaft of ice he hadn't been able to see. It is dripping with blood, too dark to be that of a human. The crowd began to murmur. They began to cheer. The shouted Dran's name. And the sorcerer realized something. This was the first time anyone had ever cheered for him.