She grabbed the hilt of a sword that was propped up against the wall behind her and tossed it to Arthur, no warning this time, but since he was watching her, he managed to neatly catch it. Despite getting instantly into position, however, the anticipated attack didn’t come. Instead, she sheathed her sword, leaned against the wall, and patted her mouth with a fake yawn.
“Aren’t you…” he asked, lowering his sword slightly.
“I’m waiting for you,” she explained. “I thought maybe you’d feel more confident if you lead the attack – since that’s what you’ll supposedly do against your Uncle Mortimer.”
Her nose wrinkled. “It’s still an awful name. Anyways, as I’ve said before, we don’t have much time. Every moment of hesitation is a moment wasted.”
Arthur took a deep breath and, deciding she was serious, gave the sword a halfhearted swing towards her. She didn’t move a muscle, even when he stopped less than an inch away from her arm.
Slowly her eyebrows arched as she met his eye. “You didn’t even try,” she said, simply.
He lowered the sword. “But I…”
“Had you been trying, you would not have been able to stop yourself, the sword would have had too much momentum,” she explained. “The moment you started that swing, I knew I was perfectly safe.”
Her sword sung as she pulled it from its sheath. Before Arthur had time to move, he found its tip at his throat.
“But that’s just it,” she continued, narrowing her eyes. She took a step forward, forcing him to take a step back. “That’s why you’re going to fail with taking back the throne from your uncle. You’re scared. Let’s get one thing clear, Arthur. If you’re scared of him, he can’t be scared of you. Pretend I’m Uncle Mandrake. Make me scared of you.”
“It’s Mordreth,” Arthur squeaked.
“Does it matter?” her sword was suddenly back in its sheath, and she was leaning against the wall again, arms folded as though she had never moved. “Now let’s start over. Attack me.”
Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, he swung again, this time with every bit of strength he had, hoping he wasn’t making a big mistake. He doubted Eric would be very happy if his wife was seriously injured.
Her sword met his with such force, it sent tingles down his arm, and his eyes flew open to find her glaring at him.
“Never close your eyes when facing an armed opponent!” She took a step back and they both let their sword arms fall to their sides. “Other than that, not bad. I’d also like to establish right now that there is nothing you can do that will catch me off-guard – not with a sword at least. I’m always on guard. Not consciously, of course, but if I’m wearing a sword, I’m more ready than not. And if I’m not wearing a sword, or at least have one nearby … well, let’s just say that I don’t like it when that happens. But the question is, are you ready?”
- My Kingdom for a Quest
“I’ve been practicing [archery],” Andrew informed her.
“I can tell,” Clara agreed, taking the bow away from him. “Now for the sword. As nice as the bow is, I’ve a suspicion that our battles will be hand to hand. Us getting swords, unlike the Leaf Princess and Wind Prince who both received bows, is not such a subtle hint. So, I’m going to focus on that with you. You’re fair enough with the bow so that you can use it in a pinch, like I am, so we need to focus on that sword of yours. I don’t want to lose you the first time we head into battle.”
“I’m glad to hear that you care so much about me,” Andrew noted, drawing his sword.
She rolled her eyes. “It’s not you; it’s the fact that Klarand needs you. You might be worried about facing the dragon herself, but I’m not looking forward to the ruling that comes after that. So, I have vested interest in keeping you alive.”
Andrew took a step back as he processed what she said. She expected him to do the ruling? “Aren’t you going to draw your sword?” he asked, deciding that he would rather not ask questions and get confirmation that she meant what he thought she did.
“No,” she said, a dangerous light in her eyes. “I don’t need it against you. I might as well handicap myself and give you an advantage.”
“Come on, just attack me. I assure you that you aren’t going to hurt me.”
She looked pretty serious, so Andrew went ahead and swung his sword towards her. Not too fast, of course, since he didn’t want to hurt her.
At the last second, she ducked down, and at the same moment, reached up and grabbed his wrist. Then, while he was still processing what was happening, and off-balance from the swing, she knocked his legs out from under him. Next thing he knew, he was on his back, his own sword pressed against his throat, her knee digging into his stomach, and her free hand pressed against his shoulder to hold him down.
“Move faster next time,” she warned him, letting go of his wrist, and pulling herself off of him. He removed his sword from his throat, sat up, and stared at her. She sat with her legs tucked under her and hands on her knees, gazing back at him expressionless.
“How did you…”
“Didn’t I mention that I did martial arts, that I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do?” she asked, standing up. “My dad teaches it, and my mom teaches the sword. Naturally, I know how to fight one against the other. I also know how to use martial arts on a bow, though not from a distance.”
“Oh,” said Andrew. He regained his feet and readjusted his grip on his sword. “So, I’m guessing that you’d like me to try again?”
“If you would,” said she, actually drawing her own sword. “That was just a warning by the way, so you know what I’m capable of. I’m going to do my best to improve your skills, but you have to know what you’re working with, too.”
“Eh, no problem,” said Andrew. “Abraham used to knock me down a lot, too.”
“Good for him,” said she, smirking. “You’re shorter when you’re on the ground, and I think I like that better.”
- Water Princess, Fire Prince
Also, for the record, I'll be emailing the winners of the Tales of Ever After giveaway shortly. My last couple of weeks have been insane, and life only just decided to slow down, but I had to get The Worth of a King's ARCs out first.