Published: 10th February, 2015
Candelight and Gleam
Sword shall guide the hands of men . . .
For over a thousand years the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, safe from the wars of its neighbors, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes.
For over a thousand years, some of Lardan’s fractious provinces have been biding their time.
Kyali Corwynall is the daughter of the Lord General, a child of one of the royal Houses, and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She has known for all of her sixteen years what the future holds for her–politics and duty, the management of a House, and protecting her best friend, the princess and presumed heir to the throne. But one day an old nursery rhyme begins to come true, an ancient magic wakes, and the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night her entire life unravels into violence and chaos. Now Kyali must find a way to master the magic her people have left behind, or watch her world–and her closest friends–fall to a war older than the kingdom itself.
An arm reached out of the dark and wrapped around her neck.
She saw it coming from the corner of her eye, but only had time to twitch uselessly sideways. Another arm immediately followed the first one, muffling her startled cry and stealing her breath.
Too shocked to be afraid, she bit down. The hand over her face jerked away. Her elbow drove backwards and her heel went up into a knee. The awful crack of bone that followed drew a pained groan from behind her, and brought her panic in a thundering flood. Her attacker staggered, pulling her with him. The dropped candle sputtered on the floor beside them, throwing huge shadows everywhere. Spurred on by the thought that she might have to finish this struggle in the dark, she shouted. It was a much softer sound than she’d intended, but the floorboards above them creaked ominously, the arms around her fell away, and he screamed, as though she had burned him.
Leaving this mystery for later consideration, Kyali flung herself at the steps and scrambled up, leaving the back panel of her skirts in his fist. Her sword clattered on the floor as she snatched at it. He came hard on her heels and, as she turned, drove himself obligingly onto it for her. Stunned, she froze again.
Her blood sang in her ears. By the look on his face—a fair face, some much colder part of her noted, with the Western short-beard—he was at least as surprised as she was. He drew a bubbling breath. A dagger dropped from his hand and hit the floor between them.
They stared at one another.
He made an odd face then, and coughed a gout of blood all over her. She blinked through the drops. She knew she had to move—not dead till they stop bleeding, Father would say—but she couldn’t. For all her years of study, all the secrecy and swordplay, she had never killed a man. She supposed, watching his face in a perversely distant way, that she still hadn’t quite managed it. But he fell forward onto her then, going limp, and after the instinctive terror of having him land on her subsided the sight of his glassy gaze, of her old practice sword sticking out of his ribs, made it clear that she had done it now.
She watched his face closely while his blood dripped down her cheek. He didn’t move. He seemed not to be bleeding anymore, though with all the blood on him already how could one tell? She didn’t intend to get closer to check. She couldn’t hear anyone else in the house. Through the haze of shock, she was grateful the soldiers weren’t here to witness this bizarrely personal moment.
“Well,” Kyali said, beginning to be pleased at how well she was taking this—and then threw up on him.
11 Random Things About Me
Because 10 is just too even a number for my rebellious soul.
1.) I occasionally take 3-hour baths. Yes, really. I have started and finished books in there, and I am not ashamed, except possibly of my heating bill.
2.) I lose every social grace I can (tentatively) lay claim to when I get behind the wheel of a car. I think it is perfectly fine to tailgate people driving too slow for my taste, and just as acceptable to bait fellow drivers tailgating me. I unconsciously speed up when somebody passes me. I gently encourage people driving in front of me to pull over with flashing headlights, honking horn, and occasional hand gestures. And yet, though my grill may be locked to your bumper the whole way in, I’m nonetheless likely to hold the door for you when we’re walking into the building together, even if you’re in the process of telling me what a dangerous bitch I am on the road. Don’t ask me to explain this. It’s a pathology.
3.) I think meat is totally gross. And I have since I was about 7 years old. When we had our family visits to McDonald’s (hey, backwoods town in Maine; it really was the big hangout) I used to eat only cheeseburgers because I believed the cheese negated the beef. This logic only worked for me until I was about 8, and then I moved on to about a pint of A-1 sauce, which certainly had the effect of negating the taste, if not the existence, of meat. And when I was 9 I gave up the red stuff altogether, and I think I was 13 or 14 when poultry went. I’d love to claim some great moral objection, but while I think the methods of raising and slaughtering are more than reason to give meat up, I stopped because it was dead flesh, and well, ew.
4.) I once dressed in poplar leaves stitched together with twigs and tree sap. I wasn’t alone, either.
5.) My first real story was an action-romance about two of my classmates in second grade. Poor Brian and Charity were drowned, mugged, shot from a cannon, chased by lions across the Sahara, and Charity herself died at least once before they shared their first sloppy, painfully-depicted kiss. Their real-life counterparts were horrified when I was picked to read the installments out loud in front of the class. The teacher, who probably wasn’t the best choice for the classroom, was extremely amused. And I, of course, was hooked.
6.) I own The Secret of Nimh. And I do on occasion watch it. So should you. Because it’s awesome.
7.) I loved writing essays in college. Even dreadfully hungover, scratchy-eyed and exhausted, I still loved writing essays. I know this makes me a freak, and I don’t care.
8.) I am a conflicted cynic: I don’t believe in happy endings, but I still want one.
9.) I count sounds. I don’t mean to; it just happens. I turn on the blinker, sit there in traffic waiting for someone who appears to be moving slowly enough that I can cut across their path, and by the time I get into the parking lot the little ticky noise has happened 128 times, 64 if you’re counting the high and low tics as one unit.
10.) I cringe when I write big angsty melodrama, and yet somehow both the emotional and the plot arcs of all my books head inevitably toward climactic scenes of great angst and melodrama.
11.) When I am stressed for too hard and too long, or in constant physical pain or ill health, I tend to write backward. And I don’t mean switching letters: I mean whole sentences, spelled (mostly) correctly, and completely backward except for the capitalization and punctuation.
About the Author
Amy Bai has been, by order of neither chronology nor preference, a barista, a numbers-cruncher, a paper-pusher, and a farmhand. She likes thunderstorms, the enthusiasm of dogs, tall boots and long jackets, cinnamon basil, margaritas, and being surprised by the weirdness of her fellow humans. She lives in New England with her guitar-playing Russian husband and two very goofy sheepdogs.
- One print copy of Sword with extra stuff and poster of the cover
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