Jace tumbled from the portal, smacking his head brutally against the trunk of an oak tree. That was a bad idea, he thought as he stood up dizzily, but admitted to himself that the portal had been his only escape route. The upside was that he was alive and had escaped from a vicious clan of vampires. The downside was that he hadn’t a clue where he was.
Sticking to his shadowhunter nature, Jace pulled one of the knives from his belt and held it at the ready as he moved through the trees, not really expecting an attack but choosing to be prepared just in case.
He was surprised, then, when he stepped into a clearing to find himself facing a thoroughly startled-looking boy of about fifteen. The Sharpied decorations on the backpack by his feet announced his name to be Sam.
Sam’s hands, Jace noticed, were held out in front of them as though surrendering. Jace smirked. Am I really that terrifying? Next he’ll be telling me that he comes in peace, he thought, and then a blast of green light exploded from the kid’s hands.
Blinded though he was, Jace had sense enough to dart away from the light, but not fast enough. The heat caught the top of his shoulder, burning a chunk of his skin away, and Jace cried out in agony as the scent of charred flesh filled his nostrils.
He straightened and composed himself, stealthily drawing his stele from his pocket as he did so.
His eyes darted around the clearing. “Sam, is it?” he growled to buy time, and the boy, who looked like he didn’t quite know what he had just done, took a step back. “Well, Sam. I’m Jace, and I’m going to be your worst nightmare.”
His arm had been busy at work through the clichéd line, awkwardly scribbling a healing iratze onto his shoulders. It burnt away almost instantly but took a lot of the pain away with it.
“Somehow, Jace,” Sam said, his resolve seeming to harden when he saw the healing rune at work. “I doubt that.” He took a step forward. “I really do.”
They lunged at each other at the same time, Jace moving with inhuman speed and Sam spraying laser beams from his palms. Again, Jace was forced to duck, teeth clenched and eyebrows singed, in order to avoid the worst of the heat.
I’ve got to get closer, Jace thought. The lasers were deadly and he himself had little to work with aside from his current knife and the four seraph blades at his belt. Four angel blades, he thought suddenly. It was out of desperation—if Jace could ever be described as desperate—that he abandoned his steel knife and drew one of the demon-killing instruments.
“Salathiel,” he hissed, and it glowed with new life.
“The Darkness sent you here, didn’t it?” Sam called to him suddenly.
“Well, I’ve beaten his minions before, and I’ll do it again.”
Jace rolled his eyes at the deranged speech. “Go take a few shock therapy courses,” he drawled arrogantly. “You’re crazy.” And he threw the knife.
If he hadn’t been a fast thinker, Sam would’ve been dead, but he managed to skip to the side in time to avoid all but a graze to the calf. The seraph blade stuck in the ground behind Sam, hilt quivering. He drew in a pained breath but reacted quickly. Heat shot from his hands.
Jace swore violently and dodged to the left, retaliating by aiming another angel blade at the boy. Again, the glowing knife jammed into the dirt.
The lasers were constant now, and forced Jace to perform a series of acrobatics to avoid being burned to death. He almost panicked before dipping to another side—to the west, he noted—and throwing another activated seraph blade, only to have it meet the same end as the other two.
“Kind of pathetic for a nightmare,” Sam called, hands glowing green.
One more, Jace thought, ignoring Sam and fingering his last knife. One more. But he couldn’t get close enough to his opponent for the hands-on combat he relished.
He did what he could; he dodged the sinister rays and threw.
The knife stuck in the grass.
“Looks like trouble for you,” Sam called, but the light shut off and there was a hint of uncertainty in his voice. Probably doesn’t want to kill an unarmed teenager, Jace mused, but he pulled out his stele—his last resort—and dove toward his southernmost knife.
Sam shot another short beam of heat at him as he rolled to the side. Jace worked his stele furiously, thinking that once the stream of lasers started again, he wouldn’t be able to get away. The wound on his shoulder still burned furiously. “I thought you were supposed to be my worst nightmare,” Sam called, priming his hands at Jace, who was belly-down in the grass, for the final time.
Jace grinned and pulled his stele back, all pretenses of fear gone. “I am.”
Four shimmering walls of energy shot up around Sam, running from Seraph blade to Seraph blade. Sam was white-faced and shocked. He tried to press a hand to one of the walls and was thrown back with the force of the shock.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Jace clucked, standing. “Malachi configurations are tricky. Hit those walls any harder—or even touch one of those knives—and it’ll be Sam-on-a-stick for dinner.
“Cheat,” Sam hissed, voice slightly warped.
Jace laughed derisively and eyed the twenty-foot walls. “Hope you can jump, Sammy Boy.”
And he walked away.
Predicted winner: Jace