Betrothed, p.18
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       Betrothed, p.18

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice


  Sam stood on the training ground, holding a long staff, facing off with yet another of Aiden's men. There were dozens of his warriors there, and by now, Sam had faced nearly all of them. None of them had posed even the slightest challenge.

  Sam didn't know what it was, but it seemed as if everyone else were moving in slow motion next to him. He'd anticipated their every move, was always a second ahead of them, always felt when to sidestep, dodge, duck, or strike. It had been like cutting through butter, and Sam was amazed at his own skills and power.

  Facing him now was Cain - large, muscular, and holding a long staff just like Sam's. He charged, scowling.

  But he was no match for Sam. As Cain swung wildly, Sam blocked blow after blow. Cain couldn't get anywhere close.

  When Sam was ready, he knocked Cain's staff clear out of his hands with one sharp strike, and the staff when flying over his head, and into the crowd. Sam then followed up with a hard jab in the solo plexus, knocking Cain to his knees.

  An impressed groan rose up from the crowd, and Sam stood there, victorious, yet another coven member down.

  Aiden stepped out of the crowd, towards Sam, facing him.

  "You are losing," Aiden said, disapprovingly, slowly shaking his head in front of everyone.

  Sam didn't know what he meant. He had defeated everyone who had appeared, and easily. He felt stronger than he ever had. He had listened to Aiden's lessons all morning long, and he felt as if he were following every one of them, and becoming a better warrior with each bout. How was he losing? What did he mean?

  "You are still fighting from the wrong place," Aiden continued. "You fight from here," he reached out and touched Sam's heart. "Not from here," he added, reaching out and touched Sam's forehead.

  "You don't know what you're talking about," Sam spat back, defiant. "Not one of your people could beat me. And you're embarrassed. That's all it is. I fought perfectly. You just refuse to admit it. "

  There was a startled gasp from the crowd. No one had ever spoken to Aiden that way before.

  But Sam wasn't afraid. He called things as he saw them.

  Aiden slowly shook his head.

  "Reactive," he said. "Too reactive. Just because you win, doesn't mean that you will always win.

  Winning or losing doesn't matter. Fighting from the right place is what matters. Your technique is still external. Not internal. Your emotions control you. "

  Suddenly, Aiden extracted a staff from within his robe, swung it, and cracked Sam hard along the rib cage.

  Sam yelled out in pain, feeling the bruise in his ribs. He dropped to one knee, and looked up in astonishment. He hadn't noticed Aiden holding a staff - and, more surprisingly, he had never seen a blow coming. How could Aiden have possibly moved that fast? It was like, one moment, he was standing there, and the next, he was in pain.

  Sam looked up at Aiden, blind with rage. He had embarrassed him in front of all the others - and no one embarrassed him.

  Sam leaned his head back with a primal snarl, and lunged right for Aiden's throat.

  Sam leapt through the air, both hands extended, aiming right for Aiden's throat. He couldn't control the rage that was overcoming him. He knew in the back of his mind that he should control himself - but he couldn't. He was out for blood, and he didn't care who it was.

  But just at the moment when Sam expected to feel his hands closing in on Aiden's throat, Sam instead felt himself go flying through the air, and land, face first, in the mud.

  Sam turned, and looked up, and saw Aiden standing off to the side.

  How had he done that? A second before, he had been there. Somehow, he had gotten out of the way and thrown Sam, before Sam could even reach him.

  Aiden was still shaking his head.

  "Reactive," he said. "Predictable. You rely on your strength. It is your biggest asset. But also your biggest weakness. "

  Sam leaned back and roared, a primal roar, feeling a rage course through him like never before.

  It shook the entire place. Without thinking, he rolled over and grabbed a spear, hoisted it and aimed it right for Aiden's heart.

  The crowd gasped in horror.

  Aiden managed to sidestep it, though, and it went flying past him, into a tree many yards away.

  Sam would not be appeased. He grabbed whatever weapon he saw before him - a huge battle axe - held it with two hands, and charged right for Aiden. Even as he was doing it, Sam, on some level deep inside, was shocked by his own actions. It was as if an evil strain were coursing through him, one he couldn't predict or control, forcing him to do so. Deep down, he didn't want to kill Aiden. But some new, unknown, evil part of him had been sparked, and it was carrying him away on its own wings. He realized, even as he was doing it, that there was nothing he could do to control it.

  He realized, in some deep part of himself, that, paradoxically, Aiden had been right all along.

  But it was too late. He swung down, right for Aiden's chest, ready to cut him in half.

  There was another horrified gasp from the crowd, and Sam expected to feel the blade entering Aiden's flesh.

  But at the last second, instead, he felt himself go flying through the air, and felt the blade plunge into the mud.

  Sam, bent over, his back exposed, felt a sharp point in the small of his back.

  He turned and saw Aiden standing there, unharmed, holding a sharp spear to his back.

  Finally, Sam realized he was defeated, broken. The fighting spirit inside him departed, and the evil strand that had overcome him passed just as quickly. He felt emptied out, hollow, embarrassed, and remorseful.

  Aiden stood there, scowling down.

  All the other vampires, except Polly, started to charge towards Sam, as if to exact revenge for their leader.

  "No!" Aiden shouted, and the vampires all stopped. "He's not in control of what he does. I don't want him harmed. "

  Aiden reached down and held out a hand. Sam felt terrible, so guilty, as he slowly reached up and took it, and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet by Aiden, the man who he had just been prepared to kill.

  Sam hung his head low. "I'm sorry," he said.

  "Don't apologize to me," Aiden answered. "Apologize to yourself. You are reckless. A danger to us all. This is why you were not chosen. And until you acknowledge your faults, you will never overcome them. "

  Sam looked up into Aiden's eyes, took a deep breath, and finally realized he was right. He realized that he did, indeed, have so much to learn.

  "Will you teach me?" Sam asked. "I am ready now. " Aiden stared back, and Sam couldn't decipher the expression in his eyes. But suddenly, Aiden's eyes drifted higher, towards the sky, clearly watching something.

  Sam turned, to see what it was.

  Sam's heart leapt. There, on the horizon, flying towards them, was a group of vampires, flying low.

  And leading them was his sister.

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