by Carrie Vaughn
Excerpt from author's site:
Jill shook her legs out one at a time. Rolled her shoulders. Loosened up. Rearranged her hold on her weapon once again, curling gloved fingers around the grip. It nestled into her hand like it had been molded there, the épée blade becoming an extension of her arm.
Across from her, on a long, five-foot-wide strip of combat, stood her opponent, a tall, powerful-limbed girl in a bleach-white fencing jacket who seemed more like a linebacker than a fencer. Her face was a shadow behind the mesh of her mask. Jill bounced in place, flicking her épée so it whipped against the air, as if she couldn't wait to start.
The score was tied. This was the last point. The air seemed to have gone out of the room, a cavernous gymnasium where two dozen fencing strips had held competitors fighting and winning and losing all day. Only a few fencers remained now. The winner of this bout would get third place for the tournament. Bronze medal. The loser, fourth place, and nothing else. A pat on the back. And Jill needed this win to qualify for the Junior World Fencing Championships. This was her last chance.
Let it all go, Jill told herself. It was just another tournament, one of hundreds she'd fenced in. Let her muscles do what they knew how to do. Remember why she loved this: With a few flicks of her sword she would outwit her enemy, and even through the mesh of the mask, Jill would see the startled look on the girl's shadowed face when she scored a touch on her.
The official glanced between them, judging their readiness. "En garde."
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