A day like any other, one faithful step before the other. Crookback had largely run empty, at least, from the usual high-and-about loud mouths. Erwin cared not for the reason, Haqet causing trouble somewhere, or Harlow having some kind of altercation at the gate, or who knows what else trying to get attention. It made Erwin’s work all the easier, less sanctimonious aberrants in his way, save for the few addicted and destitute crawling on the side of the road or clinging to the shadows cast wide by moonlight. Every so many streets, a red pair of eyes stared back, unmoving. Erwin had learned the hard way a long time ago that these were largely harmless, so long as you didn’t enter their alleyway. Self loathing or deprived Vampires. Not every life was made out to be a killer or parasite, many just failed at the simple task of overtaking anyone in the street to feed on, and so they languished in the side streets with no one to care. A scoff in disgust was all he could muster, for their blood would besmirch Sangria’s holy metal, and why hurry along something that time would settle on its own. Once more, Erwin found himself in Crookback as an extension of Elen, either to force the Occult to comply to the law, or punish those who did not see fit to serve the cause with their Magical curse. Passing by several streets, Erwin entered the Red Square, glancing sideways at that strange Calemberg-ish building that had appeared out of nowhere, conjoined to Crookback, yet never having been under construction, simply appearing within a matter of hours. Perhaps an investigation for another time, it seemed unwise to enter such a large building as well as such a defensive building alone. When he was about to turn to continue on his way, his peripheral vision caught the glimpse of a person looking down from a rooftop at him, at the other end of the Red Square. This in itself was an oddity, most Mages would either scurry away or get in Erwin’s face and act self righteous about themselves, but there was something different about this one, because it was just standing there. It was very hard to make out what they looked like, the moon behind causing a distinct obscuration. For what felt like nearly a minute, the two just stared at each other, until Erwin surmised that a fight was about to occur, and brandished Sangria which like ever responded to his call. The person on top of the roof raised their arms, causing white lines to flicker in and out of visibility around them, their fingers seemed to spread over them like a harpsichord or a piano, steps appearing one after the other as they put their feet forward and stepped down. There was a bravado in this Mage that Erwin wasn’t all that familiar with, no immediate offensive attack, no snark, no defensive setup, just a few slow approach, almost like he was testing the water of Erwin’s response. Halberd raised forward in a defensive position, Erwin chose to caution and wait, just to make sure there weren’t any hidden allies around him as the Blessed Armament raised up behind him like bladed wings. As the figure reached the bottom, the pace quickly increased, and the fight truly began, silently, and without a word. The figure plucked more strings and clouds of golden light materialized sets of armor of silver and gold, each with halberds of their own, five Erwin could count. Like a puppet master, the mage pulled the strings to cause their movement, and it was here that Erwin thought he had figured this Mage out: a Strings Mage, quite common, and one that could easily be defeated when spreading one’s attention. Erwin charged forward, casting the Blessed Armaments to detach from his back and engage the suits of armor, two blades for each, and one for himself and Sangria. The fight commenced in a way that Erwin had hoped, the Mage seemed unable to properly coordinate the individual suits of armor into a five on five fight, Sangria’s Blessed Armaments had a holy mind of their own, and the Mage lacked the extra pair of hands to compensate. The suits of armor moved incoherently, choppy and sluggish, pieces were cut off, each falling on the floor, bereft of their animating force. It was just as Erwin cut down the armor set in front of him with a fell overhead slash that he could catch a glimpse of the mage, bare chested and covered in tattoos he could not yet see clearly, his eyes flaring up in gold and his hands raising up high. For a moment Erwin thought he was surrendering, but then the most unusual thing happened, the suits of armor changed, nearly in an instant, into massive marble columns, trapping several of the Blessed Armaments inside the solid rock as they changed shape, before all rapidly speeding towards Erwin from all sides to meet in the middle. Erwin only barely leapt out of the way by using Sangria as a leaping pole, apologizing to the weapon for debasing it so while he jumped, the marble pillars behind him crashing into each other, though instead of the rumble of crushing rock, they all exploded into a cloud of gold leaf that disintegrated. Before he landed, the Mage once more raised his hands, and the glowing golden matter appeared all around him, giving him no time to react, and forming what appeared like a solid blacksteel ball around him, depriving him of the natural light of the moon. Luckily, several Blessed Armaments were trapped with him, radiating enough light for him to find his pocket Creed, raising it up and flipping it open to quickly start reciting the blessed words of the prophet, empowered by Sangria. He guessed correctly that the metal ball would reverberate the will of the prophet through Sangria and his voice, booming the holy words of the gospel out, which would normally suffice to cause even the staunchest of warrior to become confused and bleed from their ears. Erwin felt his spirit steeled in the face of this unusual foe, finding comfort in the words, but they were quickly dashed by the lack of pained noises from outside the solid ball of metal. Instead of the usual response, he could hear this person, now clearly with the voice of a man, reciting the holy verses straight back at him, at the same pace, in unison. Not only was he completely unaffected by the words of the Prophet, he knew them by heart, and was reciting them in perfect inflection like someone who had heard a thousand Celates preach the words. Desperation started setting in here, was this some kind of cruel mockery? Was this a test from the prophet himself? The only thing he could think of was to violently thrust Sangria into the metal, hoping that the heat of the tip would pierce through, and sure enough it did, causing the metal around it to collapse in a golden glowing ichor. As soon as he could see an opening, Erwin used the Blessed Armaments to pry it open from all sides like a tin can, and leap forward from it, only moments before the ball turned into … a pile of pillows? This Mage seemed to have control over matter itself, was he capable of wishing anything into existence? Erwin already established that the Mage had trouble moving things from afar, but also established that the Mage could materialize things superimposed on other things, causing them to be trapped. He reasoned, while dashing across Red Square and raising adrenaline along the way, that he had to stay on the move, for if the Mage materialized a marble pillar inside him, it would be all over. There had to be a weakness, Erwin thought to himself, every Made has a weakness, every Mage has something that telegraphs what they are about to do. He launched the Blessed Armaments into an independent flurry, shooting off at the Mage from different angles and each time the Mage materialized a marble pillar to intercept them, one, four, seven, twelve, eighteen, they just kept coming and he wasn’t moving. It was infuriating, and worse yet, Erwin was feeling the fatigue of testing Sangria to its limits. And it was there that he figured it out: Each time he moved, the Mage had to compensate by forming those golden light clouds ahead of materializing things. He could create things from nothing, but he could not do it instantly, it required at least a split second before he could form it fully into reality. More so, the Mage seemed competent at covering multiple angles all at once, but Erwin gambled that if he released all Blessed Armaments all at once, and himself, it would be too much for the Mage to handle. He would have to lower all of his defenses, but this seemed like a do or die moment, because the Mage was getting closer, and so he committed. Erwin exploded in a radiant golden light as forty Blessed Armaments erupted all at once, racing for the sky and turning to the Mage, assailing him from all sides. The Mage cast defense after defense, a pillar here, a suit of armor there, a sword there to deflect, and yet, it had to be now, so Erwin once more leapt forward in a running jump, Halberd ready to thrust. He flew past the Armaments and random objects alike falling down, having re-arranged the Armaments in such a way they would keep the Mage occupied one hand on each side, but leave the middle completely open, and indeed, Erwin dodged the incoming puffs of golden light that would materialize spikes shortly after he raced past them. The final step, and the final leap, it had to be now or never, for Erwin was too exhausted to call upon more blessings from Sangria which itself felt heavier. Time almost seemed to slow down as he inched closer and closer, a glimpse of the Mage’s face and his golden glowing eyes piercing Erwin’s, and then the most unlikely thing happened. The Mage turned around, showing his back to Erwin, and all Erwin could see was the eye of Unionism from between the man’s shoulder blades staring back at him. With all the pious and Wirtem honorable will that he could muster, his thrust and momentum was halted, for to strike a foe in the back, and worse of all, the eye of the Everwatcher, was a grave sin to dignity and civility, even in a fight. The Mage had simply spread his arms wide, as if to accept his fate, though as Erwin halted a mere inch away from his back, Erwin knew quite well that despite figuring out the Mage’s weakness, he had still been played, because while Erwin knew the Mage’s skill, the Mage knew Erwin’s core self that he would not betray. For what felt like eternity, the two stood there, both panting, the Mage clearly having worked himself into a sweat to cast this much Magic, the whole of Red Square was littered with marble pillars, broken Armaments, pillows, and several Armaments stuck in a single statue of Ness, seemingly desperately trying to pull themselves free, but just causing the statue to comically hobble up and down as they gave it momentary flight. Erwin could feel his arms buckle, Sangria slowly lowering to the dirt, and thudding into the gravel, only gently still held by his hands. The Mage turned his head slightly so he could look back, and all he said in a thick Calemberg dialect: “Sangria lebt wieder, lass es sein wie es war”. Content that the struggle had ended, the Mage brushed his hands past a series of white threads, a gentle tune resounding, and all the things the Mage had made in the course of the fight dissipating into thin air. The golden glowing lights receded, both from the Mage and Sangria, and as Erwin kneeled on one leg, unsure if it was exhaustion or perplexion, the Mage walked away, never not keeping his back towards Erwin, until he had left from sight.