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Authors: Seth Skorkowsky

Ibenus (Valducan series) (43 page)

BOOK: Ibenus (Valducan series)
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Flinching, Mei looked up to see the reflection of a tall, slender man standing behind her. He was old, too old to be one of the dads. Grandfather, most likely. "Oh." She smiled, hiding her embarrassment as she rose. "Sorry. I didn't mean to get in the way."

"It is quite all right." His accent sounded European, though she couldn't tell which flavor. "Do you like armor?"

"Me? No, no. I…was checking out the sword."

"Ah." He smiled. "Beautiful, isn't it?" There was something in has manner, an excited neediness.

Mei glanced behind him. A pair of dads stood off to one side, staring at their phones. A trio of younger boys were ogling a nearby case. It was safe in case this guy got all creepy or something. "Yeah. It just looks…comfortable."

"It is." The old man offered a slender hand. "My name is Max Schmidt."

"Mei Tseng," she said, accepting it. The old man's grip was firmer than she'd expected.

He nodded as if to himself. "Chinese?"

"Yeah, but I'm from Sacramento."

"And you're competing here?"

"I am. Our final round is tonight."

Max's blue eyes glistened. Was he crying? "I'm sure you will do well."

"Thank you. Are you all right?"

"Yes, yes." Max dabbed his eyes. "You remind me of someone, that's all." He motioned to the sword. "It has a name, you know? Lukrasus."

"Really?" Mei scanned the case again. "I don't see it anywhere."

"Oh it's not on there. Lukrasus is

"Yours?" she turned back to the old man.

"It is. I represent El Sable Energy."

"Oh," she said. This guy didn't look the least bit South American. It was bad to talk with the judges. What about the sponsors?

He nodded. "I was a dancer when I was younger. My late son, Jean, was as well."

"I'm…sorry." She needed to get out of here. If someone saw them talking…
Missus Connolly's going to kill me
. "I don't think we're supposed to be talking. You know, with the competition and all."

"There is nothing wrong with it. I am not a judge, simply a fan."

"Oh, good." Smiling, Mei began eking her way around him. "Well, I need to meet my friends. We're going for lunch. But it was nice meeting you."

"Would you like to hold Lukrasus?" Max asked, the words stopping her cold.


"Of course." He chuckled. "As I said, it's mine. Maybe she will give you luck."

The sword was obviously a
. Nothing feminine about it, but Mei wasn't going to argue with him. "I'd love to. When can we do it?"

"Right now."

Mei blinked. "Really?" Her hands trembled, just like they did before a big performance.

Max laughed. "Really."

"But…my friends are expecting me."

"And they'll be fine without you." He winked conspiratorially. "Won’t they?"

Mei nodded, biting her lip.

"It'll only be a minute," Max said. "I'll fetch the key."

Mei turned back to the sword as the old man hurried away. Her heart thudded in nervous anticipation. "Lukrasus," she whispered, savoring the name. Somewhere deep in the back of her mind, Mei thought she heard the sword answer. It was beautiful.


About the Author

Raised in the swamps and pine forest of East Texas, Seth Skorkowsky always dreamed of being a writer. He gravitated to the darker sides of fantasy, preferring horror and pulp heroes over knights in shining armor. His first short story sale, “The Mist of Lichthafen,” was long-list nominated for a British Fantasy Award. When not writing, Seth enjoys tabletop role-playing games, shooting sports, and traveling the world with his wife.


You can find out more about Seth at


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For more information about the Valducan series, go to

BOOK: Ibenus (Valducan series)
9.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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