Siege (The Warrior Chronicles, 5)(2)

By: K.F. Breene

“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 wasn’t the pain and power she’d known all her life from the people in this clearing; it was the distant aura of something foreign.

She froze. A fist knocked her backward, tumbling her off Kallon. The mental assault from the others died away as hers did. Kallon scrambled to his feet, ready to claim his victory.

She stopped paying attention to the fight and focused in on that mind. It was analytical and precise, male, and searching. A mind was like that when it was hunting.

“What is it?” Kallon asked, crouching down beside her.

“Someone…” Shanti closed her eyes and followed her training. She spread her Gift farther, covering their lands in a circle. Behind them, in the villages, lay the mental hum of those she recognized, going about their day. She felt no unusual fear or anxiety. She peeled her Gift away and directed it toward the mind that was slowly working closer. He was en route to the most northern village. Her village.

“There’s someone coming…” She was on her feet in an instant. She wiped her arm across her face, smearing blood across her cheek.

“Is he Gifted?” Her grandfather motioned for the others to file in.

“No.” Shanti jogged to her sword. After strapping it on, she glanced around at the others. Her grandfather stared at her expectantly.

She needed to take charge. It was her birthright.

She still didn’t really know how.

Her grandfather had told her that it would come naturally, like it had with him. Like it had with her father. He’d tried to guide her, with little success.

She glanced at Kallon. A silent plea for help.

“Should we move closer and observe, or should we surround and capture?” Kallon asked with battle-ready eyes.

A few people shifted. They knew he was guiding her. They would question whether he was helping…or trying to take over.

She couldn’t think about that now.

Her chin rose and she met her grandfather’s expectant stare before letting her gaze travel over the others who had gathered, all older. Kallon might’ve been the best, but she was the youngest to ever reach the top tier of fighters. That had to be good for something.

“We’ll surround him silently,” she said. “I will then step out. I want to see his reaction and feel his purpose, if I can. Is he Xandre’s eyes, or is he merely curious? Hopefully this will give us some insight.”

She barely noticed her grandfather’s curt nod.

Without delay, she started jogging through the trees, feeling the others jostle in behind her, a little too close for comfort. “Fan out,” Shanti said in a low voice. “Stay silent.”

“We need to join our mental Gifts, Chosen,” Kallon said. “We can’t feel things the way you can. Our range isn’t as great.”

Shanti mentally kicked herself. That should’ve been the first thing she’d done.

She felt the battering of Gifts hitting against her. Some came in with a weird heat, stuffing into her head like a hot poker into the fire. Some slid right in, cool and certain.

“Stay calm,” her grandfather instructed, his breath coming in fast pants. He was getting too old for their fast pace. “Keep your Gift contained. Retain your focus. You must attack your adversary with a level head.”

She would attack her adversary with a sword and a snarl, actually, but she didn’t say anything. They were getting close now.

“Can you feel him through me?” she asked Kallon beside her.

“Yes we can. Just like in practice. We’re close enough for most of us to be able to feel him ourselves, now.” Kallon glanced behind him before motioning for the others to spread out. She gritted her teeth and held a hand up to slow everyone down, regaining control. She slid behind a tree trunk and stopped. The stranger moved toward them, no more than fifty steps away. She mouthed, “Wait.”

Kallon’s expression transformed into one of frustrated confusion. He shook his head.

“We wait,” she whispered.

His face cleared. Many of the others nodded and fanned out a little further.

Shanti closed her eyes, analyzing. The stranger seemed intelligent and cunning, processing the area around him quickly and efficiently. Though he moved swiftly, she didn’t hear him. There were no snapped twigs or swishing foliage. He knew how to move through wilderness without being seen or heard.

Shanti moved slowly, putting herself in line with his forward movement. Confusion and frustration colored the fighters around her. She waved her hand, trying to get them to keep their positions. Mela wrinkled her brow and shook her head. Dannon glowered.

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