"Can I get a little help over here?" Bay-Lee shouted.
She lifted the heavy shield attached to her arm as a demonic tree tried to pound her into the ground. Using a thick branch as a hammer, it slammed against the metal barrier, driving her to her knees, and the sword slipped from her cold fingers. She used the flat of her empty palm to brace the shield. Frantic, she glanced over her shoulder, wondering why her mentor wasn't yelling out instructions or encouragement.
Where was Nick?
If a resident of the Spirit Realm stepped out into the clearing at that precise moment, they would think she was worshiping the giant tree. On her knees, she stared up at it in a combination of awe and terror. The most shocking thing about the situation was that she was still alive.
She cursed Nick's teaching methods beneath her breath. Every muscle in her body ached. Tomorrow--if she made it to tomorrow--she was going to be covered in endless bruises.
She felt around for the sword, fingers tapping the soft dirt, but her gaze stayed locked on the Devil Tree. During yesterday's lecture Nick said they were close to extinct, and she was lucky to be able to battle one. Yeah, right. In less than ten minutes the thing had almost killed her... twice.
Bare, mangled branches twisted this way and that in constant motion. Rough bark fit together like a mosaic puzzle, covering the huge trunk. A few pieces were missing, rotted away to reveal trails of dark red sap resembling blood, and that wasn't even the worst part.
Nick insisted it had a mouth that spit fire; although she hadn't spotted it yet. If the mouth appeared, she had a surprise for it. No way was she going to let a stupid tree set her on fire.
Her hand searched loose black soil for cold metal as the tree continued to twist. The borrowed weapons came from her father's private collection. Nick's idea. Since she was training to become a Warrior, he thought she should have the best stuff at her disposal. She'd chosen the shield, the sword, and a secret third item currently tucked into her ankle sheath. Her mentor didn't know about it. If he'd seen her reach for it, he might have objected.
She found the sword's hilt, and her eager fingers grasped it tight.
"You're doing fine." Nose in a book, Nick spoke from a few feet away, leaning against a 'harmless' tree. His tone lacked interest. "Keep it up."
She mumbled, "Some mentor you are."
Gunshots in the distance stole her attention. Nick didn't seem bothered by the noise or by the fact a war raged nearby. Hunters and monsters fought over the border, growing in intensity with each passing week. Casualties on both sides...
A soft creaking sound reached her ears. It rose in volume to an ominous level. She turned a split second before a branch tried to decapitate her.
She dove, hit the ground hard, and banged her elbows and knees against the deceptively soft-looking surface. It felt like there was concrete beneath the top layer of dirt. The branch swung over her head. Dark hair obscured her vision. She blew it out of the way just in time.
Another twig covered bough sliced through the air, coming straight at her.
Want to know what happens next?
Warrior is available for pre-order at B&N, and will be available everywhere on 7/13.