Now, in honor of the release of FIRE AND EARTH in two weeks, here’s a deleted scene (or part of one, it’s actually a very long scene).
This used to be the beginning of this book. It was cut because it took too long (and too much of a diversion into setting up the world) early. It’s still a good scene, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more of this deleted scene in the next couple of weeks.
Casora stepped into the practice circle and grinned as she saluted her opponent. The sword was not her best weapon, but the chance to spar with Marcian was too good to pass up. The only sanctioned time they could touch was during such training duels. Oh, they could hold hands occasionally, but anything more would have to wait until they’d completed their required service in the war band known as the Deathless.
Of course, there wouldn’t be much chance to touch in a sword match, either. On the other hand, if she disarmed him, he could turn it into a wrestling match. Naturally, he’d win. Her speed and agility wouldn’t be much use against his size and strength in that kind of fight, but there’d be plenty of touching. Every inch of her skin tingled at the thought.
Marcian returned her salute and took up his stance, giving her the first move. She took a moment to admire all those muscles. This was going to be fun. She closed in with a move intended to lock Marcian’s sword, then danced aside when he countered with an attack. Evidently, he hadn’t thought of turning this into a wrestling match. He winked at her. Or else he was going to try to at least make the sword fight look believable first. Casora could go along with that.
She rushed forward and spun at the last instant to hit Marcian from the side with the flat of her blunted practice sword. She’d learned that move from her oldest brother and she didn’t use it very often. With real, sharp-edged weapons, it was too risky, leaving her open to her opponent’s back stroke, if he was quick enough.
Marcian was faster than he looked, but she’d taken him by surprise with that move. In trying to follow her spin, he’d left himself open. Casora took advantage of that by dropping low and pressing the point of her sword against Marcian’s belly. It was then that she noticed the edge of his blade resting beside her neck. If this had been a real battle, they’d both be dead.
She reached up and rubbed at the little scar above her right eyebrow. Maybe she should have remembered how Marcian had given her that scar the last time she tried a trick move. She’d acquired other scars since then, of course, but that had been her first. And it had become something of a joke between them.
Marcian looked down at the sword pointed at his gut and shrugged. Casora stood up and took her stance, waiting for his move. A horn blast made them both turn toward the road that ran past their camp. At the cry of “Riders coming!” Casora dropped her practice sword and dashed to her post.