Koani stood opposite Synachi, her heart racing wildly in her chest. She was scared, terrified even. Never in her wildest dreams had she ever once imagined a moment like this. She loved magic, but the idea of using it to harm someone terrified her – even if it was for self preservation. Her mother downplayed these feelings of hers and told her not to worry. Karryasa had told her that she was ready, so ready she must be.

Koani watched Synachi carefully, as if noticing the older thill for the first time. Synachi was dangerous – there was a reason why Zamfir had chosen her as head of his personal guard. Synachi was a murderer. Koani looked over at Karryasa, who smiled pleasantly in return. Zamfir, who was standing next to her, remained stoic. As far as he was concerned, he was merely entertaining his wife. This would be over soon.

Koani took a deep breath and relaxed. The quills that lined her spine fell flat against her back. She spread her arms apart and widened her stance as she lowered her centre of gravity. From somewhere along the sidelines a loud horn blew. The match had begun.

Brandishing no weapon, Synachi darted toward the young girl. One hard and fast crack over the head would be more than enough to end this match. Koani had a thin frame and completely breaking the girl’s body seemed more than easy to do. Synachi did not want to fatally injure her though. Knocking the abomination out would be more than sufficient.

As Synachi swung her fist, Koani twirled lightly out of harm’s way. When Synachi struck out at her again, once more Koani twisted away from harm. After a third and then a forth unsuccessful strike, Synachi took a step back and fell into a crouch. The head of Zamfir’s personal guards smiled faintly.

“I see what you’re doing,” Synachi said after a calculating moment. “You’re manipulating the air around me to redirect my motions. That will not work any more, little one.” With that, Synachi jumped to her feet and charged at Koani. This time when Koani tried to redirect the older thill, she found that she couldn’t. Instead the air that she was trying so hard to coax whooshed ineffectively past Synachi. Synachi had put up some sort of barrier that was deflecting the young Grader’s efforts.