‘Just takes perseverance.’ Clave grinned. ‘One day you might be as good as me. You wanna go a round?’ He turned to Shar. ‘I’ll go easy.’
Biting her lip, Shar considered turning him down. He was an impressive fighter and she was only just a beginner. ‘I… I don’t know-’
‘I reckon Shar can take you.’ Trek laughed, pushing her forward. ‘I’ll put five silver on her! Come on girl. Don’t let me down.’
Smiling at Trek’s confidence in her, Shar nodded. ‘Okay Clave. Let’s see what you’ve got.’ Stretching her arms around her, she moved opposite him, leaving Elli by herself near the tree. She didn’t like her chances but Trek and Clave made it look like so much fun.
‘Hey I didn’t see you there,’ Trek said, noticing Elli.
‘Hi.’ She dropped her eyes to the ground.
‘Oh yeah. Dematrek, this is Ellianora, my roommate,’ Shar said over her shoulder.
‘Are you ready?’
Nodding, Sharrlette turned her attention back to her opponent. He came at her fast. Throwing herself to the side, Shar felt the breeze of his swipe missing her. He turned after her, continuing his attack. Shar didn’t pause to analyse his strike. She dove straight between his legs. Rolling, she spun to see him stumbling from away from her. She launched herself, grinning, onto his back. Grabbing his arms, she clung onto his shoulders, locking her legs around his waist. He thrashed about, trying to dislodge her. Pulling his arms back, Shar tightened her grasp. On the sidelines, Dematrek was howling with laughter. He was almost falling over with amusement. Elli was even giggling to herself. Stumbling forward, Clave fell to his knees.
‘Sharrlette!’ A sharp voice called out to her.
Glancing up, Shar ducked a red blur of scales. Billea was standing a few trees away, his arms were crossed, eyebrow raised. With a quick intake of breath, she released her hold on Clave. Jumping back, she helped him to his feet. Trek had noticed Billea and vanished into the tops of one of the trees. His shirt was still lying discarded in a pile on the ground. Elli and Clave bowed as he approached them. Holding up her arm, Shar smiled as Braida landed, nuzzling her. He was surprising light. Climbing up to her shoulders, he curled himself around her neck like a lavish ruby necklace.
‘That was an interesting dual, Clave,’ Billeaphrin said, ‘I wouldn’t have expected you to fall for such an easy trick.’
Clave nodded in embarrassment. ‘With respect, my lord, I was holding back.’ He said, trying to salvage his pride.
Raising his eyebrow again, Billea didn’t comment further. He turned to Shar, who was still grinning to herself.
‘Sharrlette, I would like to speak with you. Excuse us.’ He started to walk back to the castle.
‘It was nice to meet you.’ Shar smiled back to Clave as she hurried after Billea.
‘I hope you don’t mind about… that.’ She gestured over her shoulder as they climbed the stone steps.
‘Of course not,’ Billea said, ‘It’s good practise for you. Fight as much as you want. Just don’t kill yourself.’
– Extract from Standing In The Wind’s Shadow, Book Two in the Amethyst Series by Ashleigh Galvin. Please note this is a work in progress and subject to change.