By the Sword
Author:Sara Flower

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 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.


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 a fallen shield and sprinted toward the thick of the battle. She sliced her way through more enemy knights with a new surge of energy.

Today my father will see just how capable I am.

Talya turned to help an injured knight fight off an enemy. Her calf suddenly stung. She looked to her feet. A dying Malinorian had stabbed her with his knife.

Talya bent down to slash the man’s neck, but her eyes rested on a face beside him. A face without a body. A very familiar face.

She dropped to her knees as several shivers rushed down her limbs.

Oh, God, no.


Talya screamed as she arose and drove her sword through the closest Malinorian’s chest. Tears blurred her vision. She wiped them with her free hand and rushed toward the next barbarian.

Hanten was gone.

Fueled by sorrow and rage, Talya attacked the Malinorians with a renewed fury, killing every man in her path.

Commander Jalarn’s anger grew by the second. Malinor’s men were faltering all because a scant number of horsemen from Sanctus had shown up.

One of his knights stumbled backward and almost bumped into Jalarn’s horse. A long arrow stuck out of his chest.

Jalarn looked up into the trees for the cowardly archers. He hated men that resorted to sitting safely in a tree, picking off skilled warriors one by one. He would kill every single one of them. One day, he would rid the whole world of them.

He spotted a scrawny young archer standing close to the battle, firing at several Malinorians with great precision.

Gripping his war scythe with both hands, Jalarn jumped off of his horse and sprinted toward the unsuspecting lad. As Jalarn swung for the archer’s head, an enemy knight blocked his blow with an iron shield.

Jalarn kicked the shield away and a slender, light-haired maiden stood in its place.

Jalarn swung for her throat, but she fluidly leaned backward. He came at her again, but she blocked his attack. She had some skill, but her arms were already shaking from fatigue. He would finish her off in moments.

A hateful haze clouded Talya’s mind as she stared down the enemy commander. As he raced toward her, all she could think about was Hanten.

Talya screamed as she swung her sword at the large warrior. She missed.

He was as skilled as he was strong.

Of course you have to come against me now. I’ve never felt so tired in all my life.

There was something particularly unnerving about his eyes as they glared into hers through his cast iron mask. They were harder, more calculating than the others.

Since when do I notice this stuff in the middle of fighting?

Talya tried to focus. She had not endured two years of intense training just to fall dead at the hand of a monster. He had a great amount of strength and momentum, but she had agility and speed.

She allowed him to close in on her.

Just a little closer…

He lifted his massive scythe.

So predictable.

Warriors like him were all the same. They fought with intimidating weapons that just slowed them down.

As he brought his weapon down, Talya dove out of the way and jabbed her opponent in his side. She had hit the area where there was no armor protection.

His eyes widened as blood seeped down his armor. He attacked her with another series of slashes. For his size, he was very quick.

Too quick for how weak I have become.

Despite the rapid succession of swings, Talya dodged each one. She hated being on the defense, but at least she was staying alive.

He dropped his scythe and withdrew a blood splattered broad sword from the sheath at his hip. He took a run at her again. She blocked what would have been a bone-shattering blow.

Their surroundings had grown darker. Talya and her enemy had traveled much deeper into the forest. Thick smoke surrounded them. They were very close to the fire. There were no other men fighting nearby. She had allowed herself to be lured into a trap.

A trap I can and will get out of.

Talya’s legs trembled from exhaustion, but she refused to give in to defeat. She had slaughtered more than one hundred men that day. All she needed was the right stab and the unwavering opponent before her would be dead like the rest.

The sword maiden was not as easy of a kill as he had anticipated. She was much tougher than she looked. The competition was energizing, but Jalarn had other Cardamonian knights to slay.

And a king to taunt and kill.

He leaped into the air, and, with all of his might, brought his sword crashing down onto the maiden’s blade. Her weapon flew from her hands. It landed with a clang on a nearby boulder.

She eyed where the sword had fallen and sprinted toward it. He beat her to it.

He picked it up and pointed both swords at her.

The girl raised her chin and glared at him. Instead of fear, anger radiated from her dark eyes. This one was no coward.

“Does it not disturb you that I am about to end your meaningless life?” he asked.

She pulled a dagger from a small sheath at her thigh.

Defiant to the end, I see. Amazing. For a female.

Jalarn bounded toward her.

She jumped out of the way just in time. She attempted to strike at him, but he quickly spun around and blocked the attack. He stabbed her in the left shoulder with her own sword. The blade went deep, clearly piercing her denial as well as her flesh.

He yanked the sword out of her. The girl’s mouth gaped open in a silent scream as she sank to her knees.

General Edandir led several of his men up the hill toward King Seraphim’s castle. Roughly one hundred Malinorian men were trying to break down the palace doors with a large tree trunk they must have cut down from the forest.

When a few of them saw the knights of Sanctus, they ceased what they were doing and reached for their weapons.

Edandir and his men raced toward their enemies. The Malinorians were weakened from hours of non-stop fighting. It was an easy defeat.

One hundred down.Only several hundred more to go.

“Edandir!” cried King Seraphim.

Edandir looked up.

The king peered over his balcony. Fear was apparent on his pale face.

“We have come to take you and your queen back to Sanctus,” said Edandir.

The king did not respond. Instead, he looked beyond Edandir and pointed.

Edandir turned.

Over three hundred more Malinorian soldiers were charging toward them.

Talya gritted her teeth as agony shot through her shoulder and down her arm. Her dagger was well out of reach now.

I should have never dropped it. I know better.

A pool of blood formed at her feet. She had been soundly defeated.

I can’t die yet!

Images of her mother being trapped inside of that burning house came back to haunt Talya. She could still smell the burning flesh. The Malinorians had torched Talya’s village seven years ago, but the memory was as vivid as the heartless brute that stood in front of her.

He would kill her at any second. His piercing green eyes were far more menacing than the raging lion emblem on his breastplate.

It had never occurred to Talya that she could die that day. The realization of her own fragility hit her like a sledgehammer. She would be another headless body on the forest floor in moments if she did not act fast.

How far will he toss my head? Will anyone even find me way out here, after the forest has burned down? No, stop it. Think.

Sweat poured down Talya’s face. She gagged as she breathed in a lungful of smoke. The fire was very close now.

Talya’s legs trembled as she stood, staring into the Malinorian knight’s eyes. If she was going to die, it was not going to be on her knees.

“Pathetic,” he said.

“You will be the epitome of pathetic when you find yourself in hell one day!” shouted Talya.

The warrior drew back both of the swords that he held. In moments, she would be killed by her own weapon, as well as his.

If I don’t act fast.

Talya shuddered. There was nothing else that she could do, but she was nowhere near ready to die. It had been so long since she had even spoken to God. She had not paid Him much attention since He had allowed her mother to die. Now, guilt set in. Why would He save her now?

“Lord, if you find me worthy enough to save, I will try to be a better person. Even if I die today, I’m sorry for ignoring You.”

“Shut up!” the Malinorian shouted.

Talya spat at him.

“You are alone now, and you will be alone in death,” he said.

What if he’s right?

Hoof beats sounded from behind the Malinorian. He spun around.

Talya stumbled away without looking back, taking advantage of the diversion. She tried to think of what she could use to fight back, but her head spun.

“Talya!” someone shouted from behind.

It’s Tanel!

Talya stopped and turned around. Tanel was on a horse, and it was running toward her, but so was the Malinorian knight.