Siege (The Warrior Chronicles, #5) - K.F. Breene
Shanti squared off against Kallon, the two most promising fighters the Shumas had. One had already been declared leader by the death of her father. It was universally thought that the other should step into the leadership role, traditions notwithstanding. Times were changing. Their people were under threat. As a people, they must look to who would lead them to victory and fulfill the duty of the Chosen.
But he hadn’t been chosen.
Shanti’s fist tightened on her practice sword as her grandfather looked on, his face stern but expression devoid of his desired outcome of this fight.
Kallon stood patiently with a passive face. Clearly, he wanted her to make the first move.
Shanti took a hesitant step to the right, wondering if she should circle him and feint a few times to try to draw him out, or just rush him. She’d failed at both often enough that her body was decorated in bruises.
It wasn’t fair. Kallon was a couple years older. That was the only reason he was stronger, faster, and more agile. He’d already grown into his body, and he’d been doing this longer. His perfect technique and quick learning enhanced his natural ability, like anyone’s would. Like hers would, eventually. For now she was nothing but a lanky eleven-year-old, gangly and jerky, but by the time she hit her mid-teens, people would say the stars were her limit, as well.
She feinted forward, ready for him to block her pretend thrust so she could stab him in the side. Her sword hit its zenith and slowed as her eyebrows rose, needing him to commit.
Just be fooled, blast it, Kallon! she thought in desperation.
He didn’t so much as twitch. He watched her with those cool gray eyes.
She pivoted and put more force behind her sword, bluntly thrusting it the rest of the way. With a flash of movement, Kallon swung his wooden blade in an arc, knocking away her sword as he stepped to the side. He resumed his patient pose instead of going for a kill strike.
He wasn’t the fool, she was. He was making that perfectly clear.
Shanti jogged backward before noticing her grandfather’s expression darkening.
Oh yeah, she wasn’t supposed to retreat.
She jerked to a stop and placed a hesitant foot to the left. Time to circle. She needed to think this through.
Truth be told, she hated this slow approach. How would this help them? The enemy, when they came, wouldn’t just stand around and wait for her to come up with a perfect sword thrust. They’d charge her, and then feel the wrath of her Gift.
This was a no-Gift fight, though. They’d gang up on her if she used it…
“Blast it.” She sent a hard thrust with her mind, ramming his shield with her might. He staggered backward.
Her grin was short-lived.
A moment later, her brain was scored with hot needles. Fire blistered her eyes and knives racked her body. Blood oozed down her skin like acid, burning away everywhere it touched. Her scream sent birds to flight. She hit the ground in a ball before a shock wave of her Gift speared the others, lashing out at the minds attacking her. The pain diminished enough for her to uncurl and stare at her limbs.
Another wave of attack punched her, but she was ready. She grappled with the power before stabbing out, hard bursts of power beating away her attackers.
She snatched her sword off the ground, and with a wild cry, barreled into Kallon with everything she had. She hacked at him before her body crashed into his. She ignored the pain that set her scalp on fire and sent two hard punches into his sides. Their bodies hit the ground. He rolled her under him and brought his fist away to deliver a blow.
Her power blasted him, making him hesitate. She head-butted him. The cartilage in his nose cracked. The mental assault lessened slightly.
Shanti heaved with all her strength, knocking him to the side. She squirmed and twisted, using all the muscle in her smaller body to turn him the rest of the way. Blood gushed down his face as she straddled him in a haze of violence. Her hands worked quickly, peppering him with blows as the mental assault from everyone else in the clearing tore at her thoughts.
Pain blossomed in her side. Kallon’s fist struck a second time, smacking against her ribs.
“Just let me beat you!” she yelled.
She pumped more power into her mental attack as something niggled at her awareness. A presence of some sort. It