Sunday, January 8, 2012

Excerpt: KNIGHT OF RUNES by Ruth A. Casie - PG 13

Rebeka eyed Logan. He couldn’t be more different from his brother, she thought, noting his open, friendly face. Still he had the hard look of a warrior. She watched him stand and turn in the direction of the trees—almost as if he were looking for something.
“Get up,” he called out suddenly. “Get up now.” She was on her feet in a moment, but even as she wondered what was happening, a band of men attacked from the forest. It wasn’t an act, she realized in shock as she caught sight of their sharp knives. Fantasy blended with reality, and she instinctively threw off her cloak and reached for her staff.
She’d allowed herself to get too self-absorbed. She should have heard their approach. At once, she saw her mistake, but quickly got back into the moment. She was not in optimum condition but she could hold her own. The others wouldn’t need to concern themselves about her.
She hiked up what was left of her skirt and stood next to Doward, not for protection, but as a partner. Logan stood several yards away wielding his sword, fighting off attackers as he tried to reach her and the tinker. Logan’s face was in a snarl, his lips drawn back, his teeth clenched. His body was tight yet flexible as he gripped his sword firmly, executing each swing with precision.
Rebeka took a deep breath and the music played inside her head. The strong rapid beat of the rock music unlocked that secret place inside her. She heard and saw nothing. She perceived and felt everything. She was focused, ready and totally committed.
Three men attacked her and Doward. They must have expected them to be easy prey. Rebeka took full advantage to rid herself of her pent-up frustrations where it would do the most damage. She showed no mercy.
An attacker came at her with a staff. She stepped to the side and his strike hit empty air. She brought the end of her staff up, jabbing him under his rib cage. He tried to regain his breath, and she turned her back toward him, stepped back and wound up like a spring while she tucked her staff under her arm. As she uncoiled, she leveled her staff and swung in a full arc, smashing her attacker in the face. He went down. She swiftly spun around, raised her staff and caught another intruder in the temple, rendering him helpless.
Logan dispatched his last attacker and turned to Doward and Rebeka just as she smashed another man in the temple. He smiled, let out a war cry and joined her in the battle. He didn’t want to miss any of the fun.
“For Honor!” She heard Arik’s answer to Logan’s war cry ring through the forest and sensed more than saw him arrive. She didn’t have time to look.
She and Logan, with Doward between them, stood back to back staving off the attackers. Five surrounded them now. Holding her staff in two hands across her body, she moved in a quick succession of strikes. She spun into position and caught the attacker in the throat. Windmilling her staff to put it in position, she turned to the other side and, with a low level swing brought him down at his knees. She flipped over the next man who tried to skewer her with a knife and smashed him in the groin. Another attacker took his place. She parried and quickly found her opening, cleanly leveling her weapon across his neck. He fell gasping for breath. She spun to meet the next threat and came face to face with Arik.
Briefly, the music in her head skipped a beat. An eerie silence blanketed the battle. She heard her own breathing and the echo of her heartbeat in her ears. Everything stopped as she registered the desire in his eyes. Not now, she told herself. His penetrating desire burned her to a cinder. Not now. Fighting for control, she tore her eyes away from him before she lost all concentration, feeling a sense of loss. Not now. She willed the thought of him away, and pulled her eyes from his. Time resumed its normal pace.
In the heat of the fight, she winced in pain, blood trickling down her leg from her makeshift bandage. Holding her staff with both hands, she brought the end up and smashed the attacker in the eye, sending him to the ground. She twisted the staff behind her and put it in position for the next assault. Arik stood perfectly still. The attacker behind him moved closer.
She didn’t think he saw the man behind him ready to strike and didn’t wait to find out. She planted her staff solidly on the ground and vaulted high, tucking her left leg under her for balance. Arik reversed his grip on the sword and jabbed it behind him pinning the man on the spot as she threw her right leg out, kicking the enemy squarely in the temple with her heel. Arik pulled his sword out of the attacker’s chest, the man twice dead. There was no time to stop as the remaining maurders advanced. Arik fought as a man possessed, Rebeka alongside him.
Finally, the attackers lay dead at their feet.
Rebeka closed her eyes and waited for the last of the music to fade. The adrenaline spent, her thigh throbbing, she limped over to Doward.
“Who is this woman?” Arik’s voice drifted over to her. Rebeka looked up. He spoke to Logan who was cleaning a blade.
“I’d be careful taking a walk with her. She does have a way with her walking staff.” Logan laughed. He turned serious. “These men weren’t from our area,” he said, his voice casual. Arik nodded.
“Arik.” Rebeka stood a bare twelve inches from him. “They were cunning. They chose an area where we would have to split up. They must have taken the bridge apart to force us to separate. But they didn’t show the same degree of expertise in their fighting. These were not skilled fighters and they gained nothing. They were clumsy and…well, lazy. They didn’t fight with purpose. And look at their wrists.” She pointed to the outstretched arm of a dead attacker. “Each carries a mark on the inside of their right wrist, a T.” She drew the symbol in the loose dirt with her staff as she spoke.
She stopped. The men were unnaturally quiet and motionless. Their stare chilled her to the bone.
“Woman, had you waited for your proper escort this would have been avoided. Do you know how you risked the lives of my men?” His words were measured and precise.
“What?” Rebeka looked at him, astounded. “I did no such—”
“Silence.” His muscles rippled and tensed, making him look more frightening. Like a fly caught on paper, his cold stare pinned her to the spot. “Know your place, woman, and show respect. I did not give you permission to address me or my men.” He spoke in a controlled tone, but though he never raised his voice, every muscle shouted.
“What do you mean?” She wasn’t intimidated, she wasn’t cowering, and she definitely let him know it. She took a firm step toward him, setting herself scant inches in front of him. She met his stare, her violet eyes on fire. “I just saved your ass!” She saw the flare of his nostril and glint in his eye. She heard someone’s quick intake of breath. She caught them all off guard. A brief smirk lit her face. 
                 by Ruth A. Casie

1 comment:

Debby said...

I have to read these books.
debby236 at gmail dot com