Tuesday, August 6, 2013
MASTER OF THE DANCE by TC Southwell
Dance of Death
An extract from Master of the Dance, Book V of The Queen’s Blade series
Blade moved towards his opponent, the danger heightening his senses. Ice circled, and, from the wary glint in his eyes, Blade knew his words had dented the Cotti’s confidence. He stopped and waited for Ice to attack, since this put the Cotti at a disadvantage. Ice had no choice, however, if he wanted to kill Blade. Ice’s feet clicked as he closed the gap in a whirling leap, his blade-tipped boots lashing out towards Blade’s chest.
Blade swayed back, allowing the razor edges to skim past his vest, then slashed with a dagger, opening a shallow cut in Ice’s arm as the Cotti spun past. Ice landed with a clatter of metal-shod boots, and continued his spin, dropping to slash at Blade’s legs, forcing him to spring into the air. Blade kicked as he leapt, his boot grazing Ice’s cheek and cutting his ear when he jerked aside. As Blade landed, Ice leapt up and stabbed at him. Blade spun away and kicked his opponent, stabbing Ice in the shin. The Cotti grunted and staggered, then leapt high, one leg lashing out. The boot-blade skimmed past Blade’s shoulder as he spun aside, opening a shallow cut.
The assassins’ boots clicked without rhythm as they danced the deadly duel, beating out a chilling tattoo of swift death. The moves were too quick for the eye to follow, a blur of flashing boot-blades and slashing daggers in a continuous dance of graceful, lethal motion.
Ice whipped around, lashing out with boot and hand. His dagger ripped open Blade’s vest and shed bright blood. Blade twisted aside and leapt, reaching the extraordinary height that made him such an excellent dancer, along with his peerless speed. His rising boot punched into Ice’s chest, stabbing upwards into the pad of muscle. Ice grunted and recoiled, then lunged as Blade landed, aiming for his belly. Blade threw himself backwards to avoid the thrust, kicked upwards as he did so and stabbed Ice in the thigh.
The Cotti growled, becoming frenzied in his pain and fury. Blade rolled away as Ice stabbed at him. The dagger skimmed his ribs and opened another gash. Blade slashed at Ice’s neck as he rolled to his feet, but the Cotti flung himself sideways in the nick of time. Blade followed, whipped around and leapt, becoming a spinning dervish tipped with steel. Ice sprang away, but received another cut across his chest, then he lunged in as Blade landed, stabbing at his neck.
Blade threw up an arm, his only option, and the dagger impaled his forearm to the hilt. He grunted and wrenched free, blood oozing from the wound and his hand losing its strength. Ice grinned and lunged again, but Blade jumped back and leapt, raising his stiffened legs in the foot-crossing move he had invented, but had never tried in combat. His feet clashed in a shower of sparks, and his rising boot-blade impaled Ice’s cheek.
The Cotti assassin screamed and jumped back, dropping an instant before Blade’s boot-blade would have pierced his gut as Blade landed on one leg and lashed out with the other. As Ice dropped, he stabbed upwards, driving a dagger into Blade’s thigh. The Jashimari assassin jerked his leg down, hitting Ice on the side of the head with his heel. Ice fell, then rolled away as Blade went after him, regaining his feet an instant before Blade kicked him again, stabbing him in the calf.
Both fighters dripped blood, their vests soaked with it. Crimson trickles ran down their legs and arms, and Ice’s neck. Most of the duels fought before the Dance was banned ended when one fighter died from blood loss, and sometimes the victor succumbed too. No combat was more vicious, fast and bloody than a duel between assassins. There was no respite, no moment of inaction when they could catch their breath. From the moment the duel started, the men were a whirling blur of flashing blades until one died.
Their feet clattered and their gasping breaths rasped in the silent chamber. They gleamed with sweat and blood. As yet neither had slowed one iota, and the speed of the fight made it difficult to follow. Blade floated sideways, using the quick, foot-crossing move that looked so graceful in the Dance but had other, sinister origins. He kicked out as his opponent lunged at him, then spun away when Ice whipped around and tried to stab him in the back. His move brought him closer to the Cotti, and he slashed with both daggers, inflicting wounds in Ice’s arm and chest before he sprang away.
Ice followed, leapt high and kicked with a flashing boot-blade, stabbing Blade in the biceps of his injured arm. He spun away, using his momentum to whip around as he leapt. His boot-blade slashed across Ice’s arm, severing the muscle. Ice staggered back with a growl, his eyes widening at the sight of the blood pouring from his arm. Blade followed, his mind as cold and clear as frozen crystal, his need to survive blocking the pain of his injuries.
Master of the Dance
Captured and condemned, the Queen’s Blade is forced to face his fate and fight a deadly duel with a Master of the Dance to survive. More treacherous Cotti princes must die and the Regent’s life is in danger. Blade’s legendary skills are tested to the extreme and his web of lies and deceit is challenged, but nothing touches the frozen heart and icy mind of a killer whose heart died long ago.