Lost in Barbarian Space(10)

By: Anna Hackett

He held it up and gave her a small smile. “Let’s fight.”

Chapter Three

Colm decided to indulge the female…she was a guest, after all.

And he liked the look and smell of her. Not just her height and curves, but that determined glint in her eye.

She had guts, this one. Courage.

He circled around, his boots moving through the dirt. She lifted his sword again, holding it firmly with both hands. If she were a warrior, he’d forge something slightly smaller for her, lighter. But not by much. Honor Brandall had a strength he’d underestimated.

She attacked.

At first, her moves weren’t graceful. They were packed with power, but lacked the fluency of experience. Colm took it easy on her. He wanted her to have a taste of using the sword, but not to hurt her.

But like he’d said before, she was a quick learner.

She moved, with more speed than he’d guessed, and he felt her blade crash against his.

His surprised eyes met hers.

She smiled at him. Then she turned, stepped away, and pivoted. She came in again.

Colm leaped back to avoid a slash across the chest. He frowned, forcing himself to concentrate. They moved across the arena—step, parry, retreat. He sensed a crowd gathering and heard some warriors calling out.

Colm focused only on his opponent.

She had amazing strength, speed and stamina. If he didn’t know better, he’d guess she had nanami. There was more to Honor Brandall than met the eye.

A few times, her blade was there to meet his, before he’d even completed a move. His nanami stirred restlessly. He realized she was anticipating his moves. How?

They circled each other, and she came in again. Colm felt a tiny sting on his chest, and then he knocked her sword back with his. This time, he used all his strength.

They both pivoted, their swords clanging again. Colm lost his grip on his sword, and at the same moment, saw her blade fall from her hand.

Both swords hit the dirt at their feet.

She smiled at him. “A very good match, Warrior Mal Kor.”

“You are experienced with a sword.” He knew his voice was faintly accusing.

She shook her head. “I specialize in staff-fighting. It’s different, but some of the skills are similar. Besides, I’ve been watching you and your warriors at work. I picked up a few things.” She crouched and picked up his sword. “Thank you.” She handed it back to him.

He stared at her slim hands on his blade for a second before he took it from her. “I will see you at the feast.”

“Count on it.” Then she turned and walked away.

Colm watched the sway of her hips until the warriors surrounded him and blocked his view. They started giving him a ribbing for losing to a woman, but he ignored them. He rubbed the small cut on his chest, deep in thought. His nanami were already healing it.

Soon, the training arena cleared as people headed off to get ready for the feast. Colm found himself with an extra spring in his step as he made his way up to his rooms. Kavon’s large house was a hive of activity, people rushing here and there, to the kitchens and the great hall.

Colm caught Morghan, the head of Kavon’s household, and had a quick word with the older woman.

She shot him a harried look. “The seating is already arranged, Colm. I don’t have time for this.”

He shot her his most charming smile. “I’ll owe you a favor, sweet Morghan.”

She made a harrumphing sound, wiping her hands on her skirts. “Fine.” She waved him away. “Now, shoo. I have lots of work I still need to finish.”

Colm took the stairs two at a time. Inside his rooms, the air was cool, and he wasted no time stripping off. Used to bathing and dressing as quickly and efficiently as he could, Colm took a little more time than usual. He selected his best black-leather trousers and pulled on a small leather vest. He lifted a silver chain with a small medallion at the bottom from a box in his closet. It showed the image of a preda wolf howling—his own personal totem.

Most warriors wore a medallion with their family crest engraved on it. Colm felt a muscle tick in his jaw. He had no interest in wearing his father’s crest.

His father had already given him something far worse. A reminder Colm could never escape.

Colm settled the medallion on his chest, then pulled his long hair back and tied it with a strip of leather. Then he found the bottle of scent Aurina had given him for his birthday. She’d told him it was from a distant planet and highly prized. It smelled like the forest to Colm—something green and earthy. He splashed a little on his neck and then headed out.