Mendaran balanced on a narrow ledge, waiting for his opponent to strike. A lava lake bubbled twenty feet below him, bathing the fire-blackened crags in a ruddy glow. Mendaran grinned. He could have fought this battle in the dueling-pits of the Royal Citadel, but he enjoyed being out in the wasteland.
Mendaran’s step-mother Carashanza regarded him coolly, holding her sword before her. She was one of the immortal Ankaykari, and although she looked like a slender human woman, she was far stronger than him. Carashanza’s skin was ebony-black and her eyes burned like embers. She could have melted into the air, shattered Mendaran’s blade or struck him to the ground. Instead she fought without magic, even though his sword-fighting skills now surpassed hers.
Mendaran felt the ledge crumble slightly. He adjusted his balance.