The warrior wiggled his furry toes, scratched an ear, and thought about singing with Ralph and dancing with Allysen last night. He grinned and rolled out of bed. As he reached toward his jar of dried fruit and nuts, he sensed the attack and dropped to the floor.
The assassin came across the smooth stone with quick light steps, his gleaming blade slashing down from right to left. The warrior had dropped right beneath the cut, and now he leapt forward, drew a short sword, and turned to block the whirling assassin’s rising cut. As the assassin recoiled from the block, the warrior drew his long sword and attacked in ‘two heavens’ form, rotating blades beating down the defenses of the backing assassin. In seconds the warrior stopped, his short sword holding the enemy blade, the edge of his long sword across the imaginary assassin’s neck.
The attack could follow many other paths. Instead of completing a full spin after the blocked cut, the assassin could have directed his momentum ‘over the mountain’ onto the warrior’s shoulders or skull. To meet that slower, but stronger maneuver, the warrior might continue his turn into his left quarter, letting his short sword trail into a high block position. Then he would step in and shove the assassin back, and again use two heavens. Or….
The instant an attack began, chemical and electrical impulses generated by nodes throughout his body would accelerate the warrior’s movements. Had the assassin been another Tsaeb warrior, the attack would have been complete before the warrior reached his sword.
Corr Syl, the youngest fully-trained warrior of Wycliff District, liked the direct block and the power of two heavens, but he knew that if he drew both swords, his long sword could end the encounter almost instantly. He grinned, and his long gray whiskers twitched when he thought about the damage the edge-to-edge block by his almost indestructible drahsalleh sword would do to a metal blade. He added the defense against the assassin’s over the mountain maneuver to the collection of tactics in the battle kingdom of his memory world and shifted his thoughts.
Corr’s battle kingdom held perfect memories of thousands of encounters, both from real practices with other warriors and from his imagination. Narrow canyons, waterfalls, caves, and dark woods filled the battle kingdom. A tendril of Corr’s conscious mind often visited and relived favorite encounters. After Nursery Canyon where Corr had spent his childhood, Corr liked the battle kingdom best.
Barren lands and seas existing only as outlines covered most of Corr’s memory world. If no mortal attack or accident occurred, the outlines would eventually fill with images, emotions, and thoughts.
Corr twitched his fur-covered skin, and pulled on his weapons harness. As he snapped the smooth gray clasp bearing the warrior’s insignia, he ended the thread of an old argument that had lost significance. He had always questioned the value of mental combat exercises involving close-quarters surprise attacks. No normal assassin, and almost no Tsaeb warriors, could come so close undetected. But Corr’s teacher had insisted that Corr practice such situations at least once every day. After 13 years and thousands of practices, Corr’s complaint had faded. So he gave it up. All the warriors Corr knew added a close encounter attack to their other daily exercises. It must serve a purpose.
As he turned toward the door, another thoughtstream, like a mocking child, produced a conclusion: Rhya Bright doesn’t like me. Corr severed the stream and gave the freed capacity to a new botheration.
Yesterday, as Corr strolled toward the river enjoying the warm sun on his fur, Arden Aquila, the Chairman of the District Council, swooped to a landing in Corr’s path and made a befuddling announcement.
“Corr, the council has elected you as its volunteer agent; we need to have at least one warrior present at all meetings.”
When an armed Danog patrol crosses the border into Wycliff District, the Wycliff Council sends a young Tsaeb warrior named Corr Syl to investigate and recommend a response. Corr soon learns that spies have infiltrated his district, and already many lives are at risk. He catches a glimpse of something truly evil, and with no time to spare, must choose between a safe response that might fail, and a sure response that might start a global war.
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG
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