"Alas, we have come to this," one said to another.
"Aye, my friend. There cannot be any other way," the other responded.
Masters of magic looked at each other. The morning was chilled, the sun having just started its lazy path across the sky. A drowsy mist hung above their heads and high trees stood all around them as silent sentinels or dark witnesses of what was to come. The first one to speak was dressed in fair robes of red and gold, steel sheathed in black hung at his side; while the other one was dressed in perfect black and dark green robes, silver lining adorning them, and he held an ebony walking staff in his hand. Both had matching black hair and similar features, though the first one was better built. What truly set these two apart was their eyes, for the eyes of the first one were of a reddish brown colour, similar to a living flame, while the other one had grey eyes as cool and strong as the finest steel.
These two masters were Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin, co-founders of Hogwarts and two of the strongest wizards history has ever known.
"Do Rowena and Helga know anything about this?" Salazar spoke, his voice betraying him by showing concern.
"I made sure they could not, so you need not worry about that." Godric answered, and then both fell silent for a good while, after which Godric spoke:
"There's no need to do this, Salazar, there must be another way."
"Nay Godric… for you and I know that only through a duel will our differences truly be settled, and one of us will be able to part from Hogwarts in peace…" Salazar answered back, his voice showing the slightest hint of emotion as he pronounced those words.
Godric lowered his head. So Salazar was ready to risk it all… well, so was he. Godric then raised his head, and all the uneasiness that had been gathering in his eyes and frown was replaced by a grim determination.
They would duel until one stood victorious.
Godric unsheathed his sword. A fine piece of magical art it was; rubies adorned the hilt and the silver blade gleamed in the pale light of the sun. The single legend of ‘GODRIC GRYFFINDOR' marked the otherwise flawless blade, and all around the sword and Godric the air became charged with the gathering of power. He bowed.
Salazar closed his eyes for a second, and when he opened them there was no longer any kind of feeling, only the determination to win. He then produced in one swift motion a blade from the depths of his staff and entered a defensive stance. The sword Salazar wielded was in truth a rapier whose steel blade was perfectly smooth and whose silver pommel was in the shape of a snake with emeralds for eyes. He returned the bow.
Reality trembled, the weave of life wavered and time went still in anticipation. The duel had begun.
Godric wielded his sword with strength and precision, slashing at his opponent as he came with speed and deadliness. He seemed to be a lion, strong and confident, always coming from the front. Salazar reacted with both speed and ability, and when steel met steel nature itself winced at the conflagration of power. But it lasted naught but a mere second before Salazar moved his rapier down, following the sword's movement, and then up in a circular move, seeking to strike in the centre of Godric's chest and finish him in one strike, just like a snake's bite. Godric was faster, though, and up his sword went, deflecting the incoming strike and preparing for a new attack. So it was their dance, one attacked and the other defended, their roles exchanging with each passing move, and whenever their weapons met, expelled power was the result.
Both masters continued their dance. Blows were exchanged with skill the world would never see again, for this was an art the four had chosen to at last leave behind. Too dangerous, Helga had cried; too ineffective, Rowena had claimed; too ambitious, Salazar had whispered; too powerful, Godric had said. What the four agreed upon was that it was an extraordinary art, but one that a peaceful world should not know.
At last, both opponents stopped for a brief moment and stepped away from each other, their eyes always locked in never ending struggle. Reality could breathe for a second before the two resumed their duel.
"As always, Salazar, I marvel at your strength," Godric commented back to Salazar, his voice a mingle of sadness with a hint of excitement.
"And it is with surprise that I see a softer life has not weakened you," Salazar replied, his voice sad as well but with a slight hint of humour.
"Let us continue, Salazar." And both wizards returned to their duel.
This time the dance was different.
As Godric raised his sword in front of his face words of an ancient tongue were muttered, their echoes threatening to interfere with the tendrils of reality, and the sword was engulfed in scorching flames the colour of gold and blood. Godric then moved his sword up and then down, and the flames of the blade were propelled against Salazar. Upon seeing this, Slytherin raised his rapier up to the sky and muttered words similar to those Gryffindor used, their echoes silenced by the rushing winds that came to serve Salazar as he had commanded. He then slashed down and the wind shot against the rushing flames.
Fire and wind clashed, and in their clash they danced a magnificent waltz, ever twisting, ever spiralling, neither subsiding and only increasing. The trees inched away their branches and leaves in order to not be caught in the dance, and all plants sought the underground to escape from this battle. At last, tension became too great, and in one last, swift move, both elements destroyed each other.
The duellists gave nature no time to recover as both rushed against the other in the same path left by their previous attack. Godric's sword glowed scarlet, while Salazar's rapier emanated light as green as dew. With renewed strength, they began a furious exchange of blows.
From all possible directions the attacks came, slash after slash, blow after blow; their movements were a blur of red and green, power intertwining as metal encountered metal. At last, their weapons screeched as they slid against each other and both opponents came to a halt in a tense lockdown.
Godric was panting, as well as Salazar, and both still had their eyes locked on each other. Words were not needed in a moment like this. Both rivals had tested each other enough and were ready to deliver real attacks.
And the fight continued.
Godric, using his superior physical strength, pushed Salazar back and slashed away. The blade never touched Salazar but the red glow cut Slytherin's left shoulder as if it had cut through air itself. Yet, Salazar had slashed as well, cutting Godric in his right thigh with the same easiness as his rival. Both had drawn blood.
Both opponents looked perplexed at their wounds, as if they couldn't believe they had been hurt. Their pride and confidence made that realization harder than necessary. But then, the two smiled at each other, adrenaline compelling them to do thus, and returned to the duel.
Godric and Salazar raised their spare hands, palms open and facing the other, and even light itself seemed to quiver at the sudden gathering of power that took place in the centre of their palms. Flashes of red light, like sparks of living flame, started to gather in their hands. The flashes of light melded into a sphere barely the size of their palms, yet the power and magic gathered there made all things shrink away in awe and fear, for rarely could pure magic be seen manifested in such a way.
At last, both wizards fired identical jets of red light. Majestically they flew, just like the bolts of Zeus himself as they arched through the ethereal skies, but contrary to what both wizards expected, their attacks never met. Their aim had been different and thus the red lights found their targets. The two wizards fully received the impact and were thrown more than ten yards away.
All came to an abrupt stop.
"That… was… fun," Godric panted as he struggled to get up. His whole body was stunned and very slowly was the numbness going away.
"Only you… Gryffindor… would be insane enough… to say… that," Salazar replied with as much dignity as he could through his panting and numbness.
The two then looked at each other for a good length of time, and at last laughed in a way they hadn't laughed in a very long while. Traces of a forgotten friendship lingered in that sound, but the laughter died and both slowly returned to their feet, the grim determination returning to their faces. Their friendship had once been sacred, but the rift their differences had created was too great for their friendship to match. They had vowed to be enemies, and today they intended to leave all that behind through one last battle.
Godric and Salazar started to close the distance between them once again, at first slowly and then faster. As they ran, flames surrounded both masters – Gryffindor by gold and red ones and Slytherin by green and silver ones – and when they met it was more a conflagration of wills represented in the flames rather than of steel and strength. Each flame tongue sought to devour the other. Snakes of green flames and birds of red flames locked in an ethereal battle, one destined to breach the tapestry of reality itself, for both wielded the strength of the universe, and only through sheer will would a victor be proclaimed.
They didn't know how much time they had spent fighting in that way, nor did they care, for no one was willing to give up, but at last Salazar's will, cunningly fuelled by both ambition and strength, prevailed over Godric's, his flames at last devouring the red ones. Gryffindor was thrown away. The green flames slowly subdued, and Salazar advanced upon Godric.
"Can this be true, Godric, that now you find yourself defeated?" Salazar questioned Godric, who was on the ground struggling to stand up, but apparently being too weak to do so. Salazar's voice had pride and contentment in it.
"Do you think that, Salazar?" Godric answered from the floor, his tone challenging but bitter.
"Evidence proves me right, and besides, you and I are too exhausted to keep going on anymore."
"That has always been your mistake, Salazar… your ambition has driven your will to be stronger than mine, but it has also blinded you by making you believe that you have won… for there are fires that will never be extinguished!"
As Godric pronounced those last words, flames brighter than those of the sun suddenly engulfed his whole self. The flames grew and Godric's power seemed to have been renewed, because he rose from the ground and with a move of his sword the flames shot at Salazar and enveloped him. Slytherin seemed to burn alive inside the flames, but no scream or sign of pain came from his mouth. Instead, a burst of green flames came from the depths of the golden fires and made them disperse, leaving a barely touched Salazar in the middle of the scorched ground, kneeling and gasping for breath.
His rapier was no longer in his hand, but in the ground at his side.
Godric was in no better state, though. After that sudden release of power, he had nearly fainted. Yet, he had managed to stand upright and hold his sword all the time. He walked over to where Salazar was.
"It is with a strategy I devised that you defeat me… how fitting," Salazar commented as he raised his eyes to meet Godric's. Gryffindor simply nodded.
"My weapon is no longer in my hand, so that makes you the winner… but do not think I will leave Hogwarts without something to remember me… something that will protect it from outsiders…" Salazar continued, and gave Godric a smirk he well knew.
"I expected no less from you… friend," Godric answered, offering him a hand to stand up. Salazar took it, and both stared at each other for a long time. All around them reality and nature returned to normality.
"Alas, we in the end remain friends… tell Helga and Rowena that this was for the best… goodbye, Godric."