By the Sword - By Sara Flower

Chapter One

Talya squinted, scanning the vast coastline of Cardamon. As usual, nothing appeared to be amiss. But she could feel that something wasn’t right. It was in the air like an oncoming storm.

She faced Tanel and Hanten, her best friends. The boys hadn’t seemed to notice anything. It had to be her imagination playing tricks on her again.

“I always thought that being a knight would be more interesting than guarding the coast,” muttered Hanten.

“It’s only been two weeks. Besides, this is better than city watch,” Talya answered.

“I guess so.”

Hanten jumped off of his horse. He picked up a rock and chucked it into the sea below.

“Listen. Did you hear that?” asked Tanel.

He frowned, looking behind them at the tall trees.

“What?” asked Talya.

Her pulse quickened.

“I heard something, too. It sounded like thunder,” said Hanten.

“On a sunny day?” asked Talya.

She heard it now.

Hanten stared up the hill at the thick forest.

“Do you think something is up on Jade’s Peak?” asked Tanel.

“It could be a wild cat,” said Hanten.

“No, the sound hasn’t stopped. Listen. It has a beat like… drums.”

“Why don’t we go see for ourselves?” Talya pulled on her horse’s reins and steered him up the hill.

She rested her hand on the hilt of her shiny new sword. Her feelings wouldn’t be hurt if she had to use it. A little bit of action would be a welcome break from staring at the sea all day.

Once Talya reached the top of the hill, she glanced over her shoulder. Tanel and Hanten had just started up the rise. They seemed to take their time with everything, while Talya could never wait for anything. She was always eager to see or do the next interesting thing, stopping at nothing to get there.

Even when others try to get in my way, she thought.

She returned her attention to the woods, unsheathing her sword. Nothing jumped out at her.

“Run, Talya!” shouted Tanel.

A shiver ran down her back when she looked up the hill and saw the unmistakable glint of armor in the distance. Soldiers wearing black armor were marching down Jade’s Peak toward Cardamon. Toward them.

*****

General Edandir kicked his horse, trying to get more speed out of him. Even at such a rapid pace, his army would not make it in time. The smoke that rose to the sky in the distance meant only one thing. Malinor had attacked Cardamon – the neighboring country and only remaining ally of Sanctus.

Edandir had had more than just a hunch that Ittonifer, Malinor’s leader, had been getting restless for more bloodshed. But he hadn’t expected Sanctus’ sister nation to be attacked, let alone so soon.

He immediately thought of Cardamon’s leader – King Seraphim. From the last raven-delivered letter Edandir had received from the king, it had been clear that his faith in God had been waning. This sudden attack couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Edandir was grateful that he’d had the foresight to bring along five thousand of his men.

His intention had been to speak with King Seraphim about forming a stronger alliance and expanding Cardamon’s military, but he believed in coming prepared. If only they had arrived a day earlier.

After the king of Chira had caved in to Ittonifer’s scare tactics and threats, Sanctus and Cardamon were the only nations that remained independent of the empire.

As Edandir and his army approached the outskirts of Cardamon, he could see that the destruction to King Seraphim’s country was devastating. The once-beautiful forest nation was already half destroyed.

So much worse than the last time.

It would never be the same again.

The smell of smoke and death enveloped them. It was time to fight.

*****

Covered in blood, dirt, and sweat, Talya took on Malinorian after Malinorian. She scrambled over a heap of dead bodies and clanged her sword with yet another enemy’s. Their eyes locked for a moment. His pale blue ones were void of humanity. Before he could drive his broad sword into her, she swept to the left and then slit his throat. He was her hundredth kill of the day.

There were so many enemy knights. Too many. She wished that she still had her horse, but a Malinorian had hacked it to death hours ago.

General Landine of Cardamon was just ahead of her, making a path through the sea of Malinorians. Talya followed him.

“Look out, Talya!” called Hanten from somewhere out of the ocean of fighters.

Talya turned rapidly and barely blocked a diagonal swing to her head. Hanten came up from behind the large brute then and drove his sword through him.

“Thank

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