For a change in pace (and to give me the opportunity to focus on the novel this week) I have a section of a chapter for your enjoyment. Here’s a rare glimpse of Hush in action. Keep in mind this is a work in progress and subject to change.
Excerpt (from Chapter 22)
“You got me there lady.” Hush tossed Naida the crossbow. She caught it with little effort.
“What am I going to do with it?” Naida made a face.
“You are the leader right? Nothing wrong with a little versatility.” Hush smirked. “Plus, you are makin’ company with a pacifist, a priest, and an useless Dendargian. I saw you save his ass back there, and I am pretty sure it is against their code to use those things.”
Derrek made a face at that.
Naida tossed the device into the air, fell into a tight stance and drew her blade. With a firm swipe, she cleaved in in twain. It fell into two pieces on the forest floor..
Hush raised a brow.
“I do things my way. I am not going to resort to a weapon made for cowards, not unlike the long bow.” Naida clicked her sword back into her sheath.
“Like a certain mercenary that shall remain unnamed.” Zammela smirked.
“Hey now…” Hush frowned. “Not like I can’t take someone on face to face.”
“Then take me on.” Naida pointed at herself.
“What? Why?” Derrek stepped forward. “This is pointless.”
“I agree.” Zammela folded her arms. “What good is it to fight over a–”
“He was following us for some time. I want to know why.” Naida narrowed her eyes.
She knew…? Hush’s face fell blank. No. She’s bluffing.
“Let us have a little contest. I win, you tell me why you were following us.”
“And if I win?” Hush glared down at her.
“I am not really worried about the impossible.” Naida smirked. “But Zam is right, a duel seems crude. This is a test of skill…”
“Oh! How fun.” Tartagin grinned. “And the manner of contest?”
Naida pointed to a cluster of five trees. “There. Hush has to hit one of those five trees with a single arrow. He gets ten shots.”
“You have got to be kiddin’ It would only take me one.” Hush laughed. “With my eyes closed.”
Naida walked over to the trees and drew her sword. “…with me protecting them.”
Hush made a face. He plucked his bow from his shoulder. “Fine, wild-cat. You have yourself a wager.”
Taunt me will you… You regret this.
“Wait…” Derrek walked over to Naida. “You should determine the conditions before a bet. You never know what sort of thing he could–”
“Derrek. I have this. Just step out of the way,” Naida said.
“Just let her make a fool of herself if she wants to.” Zam rolled her eyes. “Actually. I take that back. I would prefer her to make a fool out of Hush. Or try doing a little of both ideally.”
Naida and Hush aimed a unified glare at Zam.
“Now you’re sure about this?” Hush shook his head and readied an arrow.
“Are you?” Naida twirled her sword eagerly.
Hush notched the arrow and drew back. The muscles in his arms tensed as he traced the five trees ahead of him. Naida stood in front of the second tree from his left. He turned and loosed an arrow to the one to the far right, but Naida had already started to move. A clean upward strike snapped his arrow in two and sent its worthless halves against the forest floor.
Tartagin let out a low whistle and began to clap. “Good show, Naida!”
Derrek and Zammela watched quietly.
Not bad. Undaunted, Hush drew another arrow. Naida paced back past the center tree and took her position. A smug smile sat on her face.
Hush felt a twinge of annoyance. Her stagger, her stance… Naida reminded Hush of him. He snagged another arrow from his quiver.
Hush drew back and loosed an arrow without adjusting. The arrow flew true towards the tree Naida protected directly. Again, Naida anticipated his action, stepped away, and swatted the arrow like an insect. It flew away broken and useless.
Hush quickly drew his third arrow and loosed quickly. Naida had already shifted her weight and worked her way to the far tree.
The snap of the arrow echoed through the forest.
“Three!” Tartagin clapped. “You are quite accomplished at this, Naida.”
“Seven to go…” Naida flicked her sword.
Hush glared at her, he plucked seven arrows from his quiver. Four he jabbed into the dirt before him. A fifth he placed in his mouth the other two he held in a particular hold. One arrow rested between his thumb and forefinger, the other rested between his ring and pinky finger.
Hush drew back and exhaled. He turned to the tree to Naida’s right, notched and pulled the string to full tension. He loosed and the arrow screamed towards the tree. Naida did not move, she simply twisted her blade and blocked the shot.
Hush slipped the second arrow and notched it, turned and loosed. The arrow flew to the tree on the other end. Naida stepped forward with two careful strides and caught the arrow with the tip of her sword.
The third arrow, plucked from the ground loosed low and vicious. Hush made his target the center tree at its base. Steel caught the wooden arrow shaft and its fragments narrowly fluttered to either side.
The fourth arrow, plucked from the ground, Hush launched the far left tree. He launched it high enough that Naida had to hop to reach it.
Hush took her airborne moment to scoop up the last two arrows and held them in his split finger hold. He notched and loosed at the far right tree. Naida broke into a two step sprint and lunged, narrowly deflecting it from puncturing the tree.
Hush aimed straight up. He overdrew the bow and loosed sending the arrow into the blue sky above. Naida looked up, alarmed. Hush sneered behind the arrow in his mouth. His eyes fixed on Naida.
“What…? Why did he waste an arrow?” Derrek put a hand to his brow.
“He didn’t.” Naida winced.
Hush plucked the final arrow from his mouth. “I see where you’re going with this Wildcat. You want to protect everyone.”
He twirled the arrow in his fingers idly.
“I will,” Naida said, “It is not a matter of want.”
“Well said. But you are forgetting one key element. Faith.” Hush pointed at her with the arrow. “Sometimes you just have to leave your fate to the winds and pray things will work out.”
Naida tensed, her eyes flitted upwards, trying to get a bead on the stray arrow.
“It was a good try. And yeah… you can stop anything I throw at you. …assuming I know where it is gonna go.”
A low whistle pierced the air. Hush’s arrow had returned. Naida snapped her eyes upwards. The arrow flew towards the roots of the far left tree. She lunged and hit the head of the arrow, tumbling it. The shaft bounced uselessly against the wood.
Sorry wildcat, but it’s the way of the world. Hush notched and loosed his last arrow. It landed clean in bark of the center tree. Hush lowered his bow, slipped it over his shoulder and offered a hand to Naida.
“I knew you were following us.” Naida stood, dusting herself off. “And I don’t really care why. I had another question.”
“You didn’t win the wager.” Hush said with a grin. “So you will have to keep–.”
“Now, I already know the answer.” Naida wore a sly smirk, and clicked her sword in the sheath. “I just needed to know how you masked your presence so well.”
“That was a matter of faith. That was just a lucky shot.” Hush tightened his jaw. “If you knew where I was shooting it, you would have stopped it. Just like you stopped that crossbow bolt.”
“So what’s your condition?” Naida said.
“Since I won through dubious means, I will accept the coin I will net from the men we managed to capture.” Hush waved it off. Crafty little wild-cat. “How about we just call it even?”
“Fair enough.” Naida let a smile come to her face.