Date Released: T.L Shreffler
Published: October 31st 2012
Publisher: The Runaway Pen
Pages: 301 pages
Abruptly she straightened, having heard a sound on the breeze. Her eyes combed the fields around her, listening intently. There was no sign of movement, but a sudden shiver ran down her spine.
Purely out of instinct, she threw herself to one side. A long, thin blade whipped past her, almost invisible against the tall grass.
She brought her staff down on it, but found that the sword was no longer there. Then she spun, her heart in her throat—and gasped. A man stood to her back, as though he had risen from the very earth. For a moment, just a bare second, she thought it was Crash. Her eyes flickered over him in shock. His hair was the same perfect black, though longer and shaggier. One eye was closed by a permanent scar, a gruesome deformity that twisted down the left side of his face, while the other glinted with a malicious green light.
"Playing hero?" he hissed, and the sword moved like lightning. She brought up her staff, deflecting the blow, a clumsy block, completely unprepared.
He laughed at her, and in sudden anger, Sora kicked out her leg, attempting to trip him. Her foot passed through empty air as the man leapt up and over her, spinning expertly, landing perfectly on her other side.
Her mouth dropped open. Gods, he's like a cat! She had never seen a move like that before.
"And just what is a pretty morsel like you doing out here?” he asked, serpent-like. “Are you frightened? Yes, I think so."
“Don't flatter yourself,” Sora growled. Then she touched the necklace under her shirt and gave herself over to the Cat’s Eye, summoning its power with a tendril of thought.
The necklace roared to life. She felt its energy run through her limbs, making her loose and confident. The spirits of past warriors still existed within the necklace, snatches of skill and technique. Her muscles tightened with several lifetimes' worth of experience. She attacked, twirling her staff with ease.
The man dodged her first thrust and brought his sword down to cleave off her hand—but she pulled back, lashing out, missing his throat by a quarter of an inch. She kept at him, attacking with a volley of blows and jabs; she struck his chest, his knee, his arms. Finally, with a firm whack to his hand, she forced him to drop his sword to the ground.
"Not what I was expecting, I'll admit,” he said, rubbing the injured limb. His eyes slid over her in an oily way that made her gut churn. His gaze was unnerving, sickly, like poison. “You wouldn't make a bad outlaw, you know. Would you consider joining us?"
Sora glared at him, disgusted. “Let Laina go,” she said.
The man raised an eyebrow. “Sorry, my dear,” he murmured. “But she has a price to pay.”
Sora lunged at him, infuriated. “Bastard!” she yelled. “She's just a child!”
The Raven was ready for her. He ducked under her staff, smooth as water, and grabbed her arms. Then, before she could react, he spun her around and bodily shoved her into the grass, falling with her, pinning her to the ground face first. Sora let out a shriek of outrage, but it was useless—he was strong, far more powerful than her, and heavy against her back. His hand smashed her face into the dirt. She could imagine the grin on his twisted, scarred face.
“Beautiful girls are hard to come by,” the man mused. “Maybe I'll take you with me.”
Panic bloomed, tightening around her lungs, her heart skittering. It was hard to breathe with a mouth full of dirt, and her nose was smashed by the pressure on her head. Sora bucked and writhed, trying to break free, but his grip was rock hard. “Mmm,” he murmured hoarsely. “Keep moving.”
Wham! Suddenly, some unseen force struck the bandit, knocking him sideways. He leapt off of her, a curse on his lips.
Instantly freed, Sora rolled over and leapt to her feet, reaching for her staff, prepared for another attack.
Her eyes searched the grass.
She spun around, dragging in breath after desperate breath, expecting an attack from any side... but nothing happened. She kept turning, looking, waiting for the blow of a fist or the swing of a sword....
But the man was gone.