By the Sword - By Sara Flower Page 0,1

you!” called Talya, relieved that he was all right.

Hanten and Talya embraced briefly before taking another round of enemies. All that mattered to her was that her friends survived that day. Everything would be all right if she had Tanel and Hanten. They were the only family she really had.

The army of Cardamon had been trying for hours to push the Malinorians back, but they kept coming like a plague of hungry flies. Talya could barely breathe in between attacks.

Talya kicked an oncoming foe in the groin and then impaled him. Over one hundred kills now. But it would never pay for the innocent bloodshed that the Malinorians had spread all over the continent.

Talya tried not to look at the ground. The Malinorians’ custom was to behead each and every knight that they killed and toss the head aside. Just the idea drove her mad with rage. Human life and honor meant nothing to them. They even tortured their own kind.

Talya dodged two large Malinorians and then blocked a swing from another. She was grateful for the chain mail that covered her limbs and the lightweight armor that protected her chest and shoulders.

Wind raced through the woods. The fire that had been started in the village by the Malinorians would only spread faster with the strong gale. Talya could already smell smoke. It was close.

Talya brushed sweaty bangs away from her eyes.

I should have cut my hair shorter.

Wearing a helmet would have helped, but she’d had barely any time to prepare. Talya, Tanel, and Hanten had warned their General Landine of the imperial invasion mere moments before the enemy had attacked. The Malinorians had slain many of Talya’s countrymen before they’d even had a chance to grab their swords.

A lanky form leaped out of the trees and fired several arrows at the oncoming warriors. To Talya’s joy, it was Tanel.

Thank God he’s all right.

Relief swept over Talya as she blocked a swing from another enemy. His swift kick to her abdomen took her by surprise. Losing her balance, she stumbled backward and fell onto a dead body. She rolled off of it and came face to face with a lifeless head of one of her people. He was only seventeen. Like her.

Talya’s stomach knotted.

I can’t let this get to me. It’s what they want.

A Malinorian hovered over her.

With an angry yell, Talya jumped to her feet and crossed swords with her enemy. He blocked her swing, but she quickly sent her sword through his stomach with a quick stab.

Talya ignored her quivering arms. She couldn’t afford to tire. Not now.

The ground rumbled, the noise rising above the clangs and grunts.

Horses!

Talya faced the direction of the sound. Men in red capes rode in on their strong war horses. The army of Sanctus had arrived. The Malinorians’ focus went momentarily to their newest threat.

Talya took a run at two distracted foes and slashed their throats. Her fellow knights fought with renewed vigor as the soldiers from their sister nation joined them. For the first time in hours, they drove the army back.

A bay stallion galloped past Talya. A tall knight leaped from his saddle and landed beside her. General Edandir pulled his sword from his sheath and nodded at Talya.

“Hello, Father,” she said icily.

“Talya. It has been a while.”

It hasn’t been long enough.

“I’ve always preferred fighting on foot.” Sanctus’ general wore a slight grin.

Talya tried to ignore him as a small band of Malinorians came at them, but he remained at her side. So, suddenly he cared.

“I was hoping I would find you,” he said.

“How did you know that we were being attacked?”

Talya fought off two Malinorians while General Edandir took care of three others.

“We had been on a diplomatic mission to speak with your king. Good thing I planned ahead and brought along my best men.”

“I hope you can get to the king before these animals do,” said Talya.

“That is the plan, but my daughter is my first priority,” said Edandir.

Talya grimaced.

They both knew that she was the farthest thing from his first priority. The only time that he had ever been involved with her life was when she had made plans to enlist in the Sanctus military two years ago at age fifteen. He did everything he could to discourage Talya from her lifelong dream.

Mother would have never done that to me.

It was just as well. She had made a good life for herself in Cardamon. And she was not going to allow those Malinorians to ruin that.

Talya picked up

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