Sword by Amy Bai
Publication date: February 10th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
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.
There was someone following them.
Devin shifted in the saddle, twisting to look behind him for the third time in the last hour. He turned back when his guard Hewet, a man who looked like he had been carved whole from dark oak but who moved with unnerving grace, hissed through his teeth. Amazing how much irritation such a small sound could hold. He scowled and faced the road ahead, which stretched on endlessly under patches of treeshadow and the blistering blue arch of the sky.
"They're closer," he said sullenly, earning himself another hiss.
Orin's briny, moody winds were far behind them now, and the rich fields of Syndimn province lay all around, shimmering under a heat haze. He missed the salt air and the fogs. He missed fish for breakfast, fish for lunch, and fish for dinner. He even missed Duchess Armelle, who had done what not one of the doddering theorists who claimed to be her court wizards had managed, and terrified him into taming his wayward Gift.
He was going to miss her heir Ysmena more, though.
Devin sighed, stopped himself from casting another glance backwards just to see if the dust cloud in their wake had grown any larger, and brought out the bone flute in his pocket.
"Put it away, my lord," Hewet said, mournful as a foghorn and utterly unamused. "Now, please."
"Surely even you prefer a little music to lighten a long journey, Hewet."
That got him an actual glower. Hewet went back to contemplating the shadows ahead of them, or the sound of the Deepwash running in the distance, or the utter lack of birds in this part of Syndimn, or whatever it was that interested a man who could probably lift a whole horse by himself but instead chose to follow around irritable sons of generals, keeping them from trouble. For his part, Devin went back to contemplating the desultory flick of his horse's ears, but he kept the flute in his hand as a silent, petty protest.
Hewet was Armelle's man, not one of his father's soldiers, who would have put up with his humors. He hadn't given his father time to send one of his own guards for an escort. He'd woken three days ago with an inexplicable need to be home, and only Armelle's ferocious scowls had stopped him from leaping ahorse that very moment, his boots half-laced and all his belongings trailing behind him like lost children.
"There are six of them, they carry horse bows, and they appeared on our trail after we passed Savvys village, which is a known crossing point on the Western border," Hewet said, without sparing his charge another glance or even altering his tone to better match the grave nature of that statement. "They may be bandits, but they are more likely border guards from the other side, and here because you look like an opportunity, my lord. We can only hope they don't know what sort of opportunity."
Devin stared at him, gone loose and clumsy in the saddle. After a long, frozen moment, he put the flute away. "What do we do?" he asked in a small voice, when it was clear Hewet would volunteer no more information.
"Why, we keep riding, my lord. I am a hired guard and you a wealthy merchant's son, should we be asked, and we know nothing of Western affairs or border troubles."
That seemed wildly optimistic. "And if we did?"
"We'd still be outnumbered three to one, not counting the pair out by the bannerstone in the field, who are clearly prepared to drive us back to the road should we leave it."
He was going to think only good thoughts about Hewet from now on.
The sound of hoofbeats came to him faintly, a leisurely, insolent pace, and Devin swallowed in a throat gone dry. "Will they... I mean, they wouldn't break the king's peace. Would they?"
When he looked over, Hewet's expression was not reassuring.