Authors: Amy Bai
Tags: #fantasy, #kingdoms, #epic fantasy, #high fantasy, #magic, #Fiction, #war, #swords, #sorcery, #young adult, #ya
First edition published 2015.
Copyright © 2015 by Amy Bai
All rights reserved.
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No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, via digital transfer, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Published in the United States by Candlemark & Gleam LLC, Bennington, Vermont.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-936460-62-5
Cover art and design by
Map design by Alan Caum
Book design and composition by Kate Sullivan
To Art: my rock, my goad, my shoulder, my always.
Table Of Contents
Dark the wind that brings the storm
and lost, all, to its breaking,
Yet firm shall hold Sword, Song, and Crown
A land of their own making.
Sword shall guide the hands of men
and Song shall ease their sorrow,
Crown shall harbor all their hope
And lead them to tomorrow.
erry we’ll meet till the tides they all turn,
then dance with the blades as the shadows return…"
Children skipped and sang an old nursery rhyme in the parched air of the late afternoon. Their shadows fell strange in the slanting light. In the shadow of an oak thick with age, a girl crouched glumly on her heels, drawing aimless lines in the dirt with a battered practice sword. She was noble, this girl, a scion of the great House of Corwynall, whose oak it was: the oak and a great deal more. The silver locket at her breast declared it even if her patched dress did not.
"Sing we a new song, for sadness and woe,
kings and queens all shall the darkest road know—”
The children, passing under one another's linked arms, stared at her and interrupted themselves with whispers. The girl never spared them a glance. Only someone who knew her very well would have marked the way her gaze held them always in its periphery, how her face tightened when a gust carried their words across the yard.
"Rise shall the earth and the heavens shall fall,
fire can guard from what water can call…"
It was the most senseless thing she had ever heard. Why couldn't they sing “Skip to the River” or some other silly rhyme?
The tip of her sword dug into the earth. She blunted the only weapon her father would allow her till she had proved herself worthy of better, and recited the Five Tenets of Siege Defense in her head, hating that she hated their stares.
They were too young to help in the fields, barely able to toddle. But they learned it from their parents, who were too far away right now to stare.
What did the general's daughter do today?
those parents would ask when they were home in their cottages over supper.
And their eyes would follow her in tonight as they headed home to talk—she hoped—of something more significant than the state of Kyali Corwynall's gown or the battered old sword she carried everywhere.
Bold thoughts, coming from a girl crouched under a tree.
She pinned her gaze on the far hills, refusing to notice the sly looks of the children. The mountains were wrapped in a haze of summer heat, little more than shadows against the sky. The soldiers always teased her when she looked in that direction: the mountainfolk taught the Gift and the sword to all who proved both worthy and Gifted… and they took girls and boys both for study.
You ought to go
, her father’s officers often jested, secure in the knowledge that no Corwynall of the royal line ever left the family estates.
They'd like you up there.
Síog girl, fae child
, her brother would usually add, being less wary of her temper and endlessly amused by how those names made her blush.
Surely they would have you, you look enough the part
Sometimes, like now, it almost seemed like a good notion. Up there, the air would be cool and there would be snow in the winters, which she had never seen. Up there, no one would know her name, or stare at her.
Bind them together with holly and rue
, the next lines of the song were, and she heard it even though they didn't sing that one. Kyali bit her tongue, annoyed that they had managed to fix the silly thing in her mind
. Those that will follow the heart's voice be true
This was the last time she tried to be helpful to the estate staff.
The headman's niece, whose rightful custody these little imps were, was probably behind the barn with one of the soldiers, looking to get herself a marriage the old-fashioned way.
That was unkind. Arawan was not a fool. But Arawan was not here,
was, minding babes with eyes like pointing fingers, and likely providing considerable amusement to the soldiers of the Third Battalion, who were scattered about the estate on boring guard duty today. Those men didn't find her odd, if only because she'd tagged after so many of them in her younger years. They weren't above a jest at her expense. But jests she would take from them, and from her brother Devin, as she took orders from her father and her father's officers… and neither from anyone else. Even now the men posted at the stables were sneaking looks at her, grinning. It was almost enough to make her smile back.
In the sunlit yard, the children sprawled like puppies, panting in the heat, and argued over what to sing next. Their voices hung in the air like dust.
"Dark the wind that brings the storm,
and lost, all, to its breaking;
yet firm shall hold Sword, Song, and Crown
a land of their own making—”
Fierce shushing from one of the guards stopped that rhyme, which was senseless but lately seemed much less silly. There were no smiles on the soldiers' faces now. There was a scowl on hers. Now nobody ventured a glance toward her. Somehow that was worse than the stares.
A shiver twisted over her and Kyali bent her head to look at the ground so nobody could see her expression.
Arawan would have to come back soon.