Title: The Tattered Banner
Author: Duncan M. Hamilton
Word Count: 124,000
ISBN: (paperback) 978-1481013222
Release Date: March 2013
Format: Paperback and e-book
Unique talent always attracts attention…
In a world where magic is outlawed, ability with a sword is prized above all else. For Soren this means the chance to live out his dreams.
Plucked from a life of privation, he is given a coveted place at Ostenheim’s Academy of Swordsmanship, an opportunity beyond belief.
Opportunity is not always what it seems however, and gifts rarely come without conditions. Soren becomes an unwitting pawn in a game of intrigue and treachery that could cost him not just his dreams, but also his life.
‘Ready? Duel,’ said Dornish.
Soren had just registered the words when Ranph lunged forward, the button tip of his rapier a blinding flash of light as it tore through the air toward him and stabbed into his chest. Guffaws of laughter, applause and cheers consumed the dull murmur of voices that had existed before. Soren felt embarrassed and angry. If he was to be thrown out of the Academy, it would not be to the sounds of the jeering laughter.
‘A touch! Excellent form, Bragadin. Again! Duel,’ said Dornish.
Soren dropped into a crouch and sprang backwards, his body moving clear of the path of Ranph’s sword not a moment too soon. Expecting another quick scoring touch Ranph committed too much weight to his otherwise perfectly executed thrust and paused a moment too long on his front foot as he pushed back to a balanced stance. Angered by the constant muttering Soren lashed out, sweeping his rapier back in an arc, twisting his body into it as he did. Ranph let out a yelp as the length of the rounded blade lashed across his back. Gasps replaced the laughter and cheering of the previous touch. There was more muttering, but now of disbelief, which made Soren smile to himself. This boy was fast, but he was faster.
‘A touch! All even. One more touch to be scored,’ said Dornish. There was a note of surprise in his voice. ‘Ready? Duel!’
Ranph was angry, both at the shame of having conceded a touch in front of his peers and at the hot red welt that was forming across his back, but he was not stupid and this time he approached with more caution. Soren had not really expected another swift attack, but had moved quickly just in case. Sword out in front, he took two quick steps to the left and brushed aside the testing feints Ranph fired in quickly but without the conviction of a proper attack.
The mocking voices in the background seemed to fade into oblivion, as Soren was only aware of his opponent, the sound of their boots scratching on the dull wooden floor and above all, the hammering of blood through his ears. Ranph lunged again, faster this time, his eyes not locked on Soren’s any more. Why not? They were locked on his target! Soren stepped to the side and twisted his torso, the blade passing a hair’s breadth away. Soren tried his fast counter again but somehow Ranph got his blade back in time and swatted away Soren’s with ease. The gathered audience gasped with the same excited tension that Soren had seen at the Amphitheatre. The thought that his actions could elicit the effect that Amero had on people filled him with an enormous sense of something he couldn’t quite describe, but the momentary lapse in concentration nearly cost him dearly. Ranph came back again, thrust after thrust, his front foot hammering down on the floor with each attack, breath hissing out of his mouth with exertion.
Duncan is a writer of fantasy fiction novels and short stories that are set in a world influenced by Renaissance Europe. He has a Masters Degree in History, and is particularly interested in the medieval and renaissance periods.
He doesn’t live anywhere particularly exotic and when not writing he enjoys cycling, skiing and windsurfing.
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