Just as Voima and Vendd have settled into a new home, a fleeing Gifted enters their lives, begging for help but bringing soldiers after him. Despite the siblings’ efforts, the soldiers discover Vendd’s Power. Now Voima, an outmatched Regular girl, must find a way to defeat the kingdom’s most dangerous Gifteds in order to save her brother from certain death.
The man called out the first words that came to mind. “What's your Power?"
The woman continued her approach, answering without changing her pace, “You'll find out soon enough.”
The crowd cheered once again at her retort. The man paled. He felt his legs weaken, but he willed himself to stand upright. If she had won numerous Duels, her Power must be well suited for combat. Unlike his.
The man didn't know why he was in the arena. He wasn't a fighter. He was just a farmer with an unusual ability. He had never hurt anyone with it. He had only used it to entertain the children who lived in his small town, but that was his fatal mistake.
Once word reached the king's ears that he existed, the man's fate was sealed. Within a day, armed soldiers descended upon his quiet town, shackled him like a dangerous criminal, and brought him to the king. There was no hearing, no trial. The fact that he was a Gifted doomed him.
Gifted. As if the name meant that his Power was a blessing and not a curse.
With the woman less than twenty feet away, he told her, “I don't want to fight you.”
She laughed. “Too bad. You shouldn't have entered the arena then.”
“It wasn't my choice!”
“It's not mine either.” Her expression softened momentarily, betraying a hint of sympathy before she restored her fighter's mask. “Unfortunately, only one of us will leave this arena alive. I intend for that to be me.”
The man backed away from his opponent. He considered going on the offensive, perhaps trying to take her by surprise, but he doubted that he would survive her Power once she displayed it. Were her reflexes lightning quick? Was her skin impenetrable? So far, he had no clue.
Choosing to play to his strength, the man retreated to the nearest wall. The woman continued advancing. She flexed her arms, and the muscles rippled under her skin. Super strength? The man warned himself to stay away from her reach.
With his back against the wall, he pushed one boot off his foot. This caused the woman to stop. She evaluated his unexpected action, unsure what it meant but certain that it had to do with his Power. The man tried to kick the other boot off, but it was fastened too tightly. He bent down to loosen the laces, twisting the boot off as he worked.
The woman picked that moment to attack. She pulled her right arm back and closed the last few feet separating them. The boot flew off his foot just in time for him to roll to the side. The woman's fist struck the wall next to where the man had crouched a second earlier, spraying pebbles into the air. He didn't look back at the indentation her blow left in the stone wall.
Undaunted, H.S. eventually mastered the ABC's and continued to write throughout his grade school years, adolescence, and into adulthood. Despite earning a degree and working in a field not related to writing, he continued to pursue his writing passion. H.S. Stone's publications include novels aimed at Young Adult and Middle Grade readers as well as several short stories. He currently lives with his family in the San Francisco Bay Area.