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When you look like a teenager, other Immortals usually have one of two reactions. They think you need to be protected and try to take on your battles, or they think you must be weak and try to take your head. This has its advantages, although neither is quite correct. I may look seventeen, but I have killed.

I wondered what Cornelia would think if she knew that.
McCarthy grinned at me across our impromptu battlefield. “You kept me waiting long enough.”

“I’m here now. Are you going to fight, or blather?”

Without another word, he charged, and the next few moments were lost in a blaze of clashing swords and sparks. McCarthy was strong, I knew that from our last encounters. I was just trying to avoid being killed, and barely getting any strikes in myself. He slashed, and I broke away and behind a tree to catch my breath. My heart pounded.

“Running away again?” he yelled.

If I did that, this would never end, and he’d be following me forever. I took a moment, and pushed myself back out for round two.

How long we fought for this time, I couldn’t tell, but somehow I found the strength to keep going, and McCarthy had stopped his jibes and was quiet apart from the occasional grunt. It was a deadly dance, where the slightest misstep would have fatal consequences.

The last few moments of the fight happened as if time was moving through treacle. McCarthy lunged at me. I threw myself out of the way. He stumbled. I took my chance – and his head.

The world stood still. I stared at him lying on the wet ground. I hadn’t noticed, but the rain had stopped.

I knew what was coming, and although I had no desire to take the essence of McCarthy into myself, I had no choice but to let it happen. Thunder rolled in the sky, and the first bolt of lightning flashed.

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