Francois appeared to Ashia’s right and slashed his dagger at one of the spears. The metal tip flew off. Then he was gone. He reappeared at her left and thrust his dagger through an opening. It bit at her side and she hissed in pain. Gripping the wound, she spun around to face left but she knew he wouldn’t strike there again. Ashia thrust her spears behind her, trying to catch him, but true to her father’s training, Francois was adapting to her already.
Francois appeared crouched down at Ashia’s feet right in front of her and swept her feet. She tumbled down to the ground on her side, the one that was already bleeding and it sent an intense jolt of pain through her body. Ashia again tried to blow Francois back, but he rammed both blades into the ground and held onto them tight. Though his body lurched back, she couldn’t quite shake him loose. Once her blast ended, he leapt back to his feet and landed on top of her with his blades crossed at her neck.
“Surrender or die!” Francois shouted to her playfully.
The crowd groaned in fear for their favorite Ashia. She just smiled. “Never!” Her lifeforce was already sinking into Francois draining his life force. She had a good reserve she was building already from him. Now with him so close, her lines were weaving into him everywhere. She slowly pushed his arms up away from her and towards his own neck. His brows furrowed as he fought back against her. His strength was formidable, but ever so slowly she was winning out.
Francois backed away from Ashia and she leapt up to the balls of her feet. “What are you doing?” he asked in a strained voice.
“Trying to win!” Ashia said with a smile. As he backed away, her control weakened, and within a moment, he pushed his arms out in front of him. She still couldn’t maintain such tight control for long at a distance.
He stood back up, but stumbled as he did. He was starting to feel the lifedrain. Francois shook himself to clear his mind and focus. Ashia backed up and gathered her scattered weaponry to her. They spun around her again in a tight formation as she watched his face for any slight betrayal of his next move.
He was learning quickly. Francois’s face betrayed nothing. His body tensed and he seemed about to flicker away, when Camille spoke.
“Enough!” she said in a quivering tone Ashia had never heard come from her lips. “I’ve seen enough!” Her hands ran through her hair and she looked away, her eyes scoured over everything other than Ashia.
They settled on Etienne. “What did you do to my daughter?” she asked, though she and Ashia were not technically related.
Etienne said dryly, “I stepped out of her way.”
Camille’s heels echoed through the silent courtyard as she approached, visibly shaken.
“I came here to collect a wayward child and I find… this,” Camille said.
Excerpt by Thomas Alexander – Featured with permission
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