Here. We. Go. The sequel to Blades Of Magic: Crown Service #1 and Blades Of Illusion: Crown Service #2 is coming quite soon. Release date is pending but all I can say is don’t take your eyes off this website.
Blades Of Sorcery: Crown Service #3 Blurb Reveal
The night has lifted and Sara Fairchild is out for blood. But this time, it’s her own. A gifted fighter and a skilled battle mage, Sara is now fighting everything she stands for — her heritage. For too long, she has held onto the certainty that her father was an honorable man.
But what does honor mean when you’re at war and surrounded by corruption from all sides? As Sara Fairchild brings the Kades to their knees and manages to capture a prize that rivals Nissa Sardonien’s worth to imperial intelligence, she has to wonder — how far should she go to extract the secrets her Empress and her empire needs?
As she fights to outmaneuver her growing list of enemies and win a war that becomes more complicated by the day, Sara Fairchild knows that no matter what, the empire will never be the same.
Sara’s heart was beating rapidly. Blood was rushing through her veins as fast as if she was running a marathon. But she wasn’t. She was still. She was cautious. She wasn’t afraid, however. She was excited. Against all odds, as fire bloomed in the air above them all and even as the wave of heat coming off it was so hot that everyone had to shrink lower to avoid the flames, Sara still smiled.
She should have been furious. Even scared.
Because as soon as the Kades had seen their shield drop, they hadn’t run through the portal like scared children.
No, not them.
Instead she saw one man stride forward and use an object on his wrist to let a spate of magic fly. Like a blistering comet, it rose in the sky and went off in the distance. It didn’t come back, but what did—within minutes—was initiate a second shield.
Sara watched the shield bloomed across the night sky in a wave of gold like a flower unfurling and she cursed long and loud.
It was stronger than the first, she could feel it. That was never good.
In fact, it just made her night worse as she swallowed harshly and studied their new foe — a dome strong enough to hold them all inside as prisoners, until of course—the Kades elected to bring this one down as well.
It was visible even to the naked eye, which meant mages weren’t the only one cursing around her, as they watched some of their braver compatriots run up against the new dome. Sara guessed their objective was to bring it down by sheer physical will. Maybe even push through its enhancements, but even from here she could tell that wouldn’t work. And as she, they, watched — those individuals were thrown back as soon as they touched it.
Sara stared at the prison dome with revilement. It was the bane of her existence, but she forced herself to look away. She couldn’t focus on it for very long because they were still trapped inside with numerous Kades and, well…it wasn’t going as well as she could have hoped.
A normal person would have worried themselves crazy in a situation like this, boxed in by enemies on all sides with natural flame raining down on her and her compatriots’ heads as well as weapons coming in at them from every angle. She was always on her guard, as were the others, but she wasn’t frantic. And neither were those surrounding her.
Tensing, Sara twisted to the side at the last moment to deflect a glancing blow from a foolish first guard of the Kades, who came at her head-on with only a pike in his offense. She snorted with amusement as she took care of him with a casual swipe of her sword across his neck. He froze for a moment, blue eyes wide with shock as he looked at her in confusion. Sara gave him a small, sympathetic smile, but there was nothing else for anyone to do for him now. He was a lucky one. She’d given him as merciful death as anyone could on the field of battle, and as he opened his mouth in one last reflexive moment of desperation, she knew that he realized that.
A calmness descended in his eyes as his knees crumbled, his bloodless hands dropped the pike in his grip, and a small gurgle of blood bubbled up from the clean line she’d carved into his neck. Then there was no more; he was gone as his spirit left his eyes and his body fell to the ground. Her attention was already elsewhere as she watched for more enemies, but they were already being taken care of by the others. So Sara took advantage of the lull in activity after his death to take in her group. The group of thirteen individuals, originally fourteen, who had stood by her side as they fought their way back from a cleanup crew that had turned out to be a rotation meant to end in a death sentence. Only together had they survived and only together now would they do the same again.
Her gaze first landed on Karn, the man who — even with his foolish pride and bravado — had to be one of the best fighters in her group, if not the best. Herself excluded of course. His weapon of choice was a double-bladed axed which he swung around effortlessly as sweat poured down his dark brown chest and he laughingly took on the enemies surrounding him.
Sara’s lips twitched even if as she ducked and grabbed a knife off the fallen Kade to throw it directly at one of his many kinsmen surrounding Karn. The knife landed in that person’s left shoulder blade and seconds later as his body arced back in a pain-filled spasm in response, Karn finished him off by removing his head from his body.
The man then had the audacity to wink at her before turning back to his admiring fans. Which is precisely why Sara liked him, even though he could be a bigoted asshole when he so chose, he did so with a continuous joy for life in his eyes. Even now, with none of the enemies being able to so much as scratch him, Karn was swinging that axe back and forth while laughing in their faces.
Marx, who stood back to back with Isabelle, was swinging a long sword with dexterity as she fired arrow after arrow into enemies further afield. Reben, Sanir, and another person that Sara couldn’t quite identify through the heavy smoke around him were fighting their own battles. One large mage creature, an orc that she had never seen before but recognized from a description given to her by a tutor she hated—it had elongated arms and tusks in place of its front molars, and was pummeling Reben and Sanir without mercy. Sara flinched as she saw the orc break Sanir’s arm and throw him off into the distance like a rag doll. She wanted to go to them, but she only had time to catch glimpses of their defensive tactics as she moved to stand with Karn, holding back a different wave of enemies—even though her opponents were human, they were far trickier foes, with the dexterity and the imagination to shift between fighters and tactics.
Cursing as a particularly adept young Kade guard with spinning knives got close enough to her that her weapons were ineffective, Sara stumbled back. Deliberately. She was trying to gain some space. It was quite hard, after all, to cleave someone through with a sword when they were close enough to kiss you. But he seemed to know exactly what she was doing, sticking to her skin like honey with a maniacal gleam in his eyes. Deciding she had had enough of that and the continuous nicks of his knives against her skin, she went on the offensive.
Giving herself no time to hesitate or think it through, Sara lunged forward with all the force she could muster and head-butted him straight on, her unprotected forehead against his armored metal plate. It hurt like the dickens, but it got what she wanted done. She was free, and she put those extra feet of space that he had unwillingly introduced to good use. Sara raised her right hand overhead quickly and brought it down in a smooth sweep. His chest was covered with more armor plate, just like his head, but his collarbone was curiously vulnerable, and that was what she aimed for. Like a hot knife through butter, her sword went in at his throat and down through muscle and bone until it halted mid-abdomen. That was enough for her. She pulled herself and her sword back with one long step. Then, with a smirk of her own, Sara Fairchild watched this human menace crumble to the ground dead, and she stood up, surveying the field again.
She noted that her compatriots were in just as much trouble as before, but with some stunning displays of showmanship, Karn had managed to whittle down his opponents from an overwhelming four to a fairer two.
That had to be good enough, because those others weren’t looking so good.
As the orc lumbered toward Reben and the person Sara couldn’t identify still held back—knowing one of his fellow fighters was down and the other about to be crushed—Sara cursed and shouted at Karn, “I’m going to help them out.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him briefly drop his axe before he flipped a nearby heavy pole lengthwise and use it to shove his dual opponents back like a battering ram. It wouldn’t have worked so well if the pole he used hadn’t been on fire. Flames licked up and down the staff with wicked heat, forcing them to be wary of its touch. As for Karn, the flames didn’t seem to bother him…at all.
Sara filed that surprise away for later.
“Fine, I’ll hold this down,” Karn shouted back without taking his eyes off the armored Kade who had fallen to the ground, and the other that was already maneuvering to outflank him with evil intent in his eyes. Karn just kept his pole lengthwise and jerked it forward, forcing the maneuvering guy away with cautious steps and his friend to scramble backward on his butt. It looked like he could handle this for the moment, but Sara could already see others advancing on their position. They were using the smoke from the multiple fires burning at this point to shield their actions.
“Karn, look northwest—we’ve got more approaching,” she called out.
He glanced over but kept his focus on the two now facing him down. “Go! I told you I’ve got these ones.”
Sara grimaced. She didn’t want to leave him, but she didn’t have a choice.
With clean slices of her swords, she cut throats where she could and cleared a way to the others in trouble. But it turned out she had spoken too soon. They weren’t flailing now—their opponent was. The orc was stumbling back with ferocious cries as it held up its paw and clawed at its face in pain. Its entire head was on fire.
“Guess they didn’t need my help after all,” Sara said as she flashed a grin at a Kade first guard who had gotten too close for comfort and managed to wallop her good in the face.
She stumbled back, but she wasn’t down. Instead, Sara dropped her right-hand sword and, quick as lightning, jerked her hand to dislodge the knife that she had in her wrist sheath. It went straight into his eye and he toppled like a felled tree.
Smirking in satisfaction, she was surging forward again. This time back to Karn.
Karn gaped at the group she had gone to help and whistled. “Where did that come from?”
As they watched, the orc swung its head back and forth, trying to extinguish the inferno, but nothing helped. Fortunately for the orc, it did have a mage on its team. The invasion force’s leader waved impatiently at an initiate, who stepped out from behind its protective detail and a line of archers.
The initiate, a mage with blossoming powers who had strength in many particular areas but had yet to settle on one above all others, raised a hand, which, even from this distance, Sara could tell was held pompously, and cast a spell to rid the orc of the flames and mute its pain.
“Well, that was quick,” Karn murmured.
“Maybe not quick enough,” Sara replied as she nodded toward the bright fire in the distance. “Look.”
He did, and they both saw what she had finally spotted minutes before.
The person she hadn’t been able to make out was now highly visible and resplendent, lit by the fire surrounding them rather than masked by its smoke. It would have been beautiful, if the look on their face hadn’t been so deadly. As Sara watched and waited for the moment she might need to step in, the male figure walked forward with a slight dip in his stride. Confident but maimed. She frowned, wondering, then as now, what a person like this was doing on the battlefield.
But her doubts were soon assuaged, because it became crystal clear that this person could fight, in their own special way. He stepped forward to take on the orc, walking around it in a wide arc that had Sara wondering if this fascinating individual was just trying to stay out of the reach of its claws or had something entirely different planned. She quickly realized that the orc was tracking him, and as he hobbled in a half-circle around the creature, it followed him, giving the battered Reben time to fall back before those meaty fists could wallop her anymore. Reben didn’t bother going for Sanir, from the way his body lay on the ground unmoving even Sara could tell he was dead from this distance.
But as her eyes tracked the man who was baiting the orc, Sara had the thought that Sanir’s death wouldn’t be in vain. For one thing, this mysterious man with a hobble seemed smarter than he looked…and a better strategist than she had given him credit for. Perhaps he wasn’t the coward she had thought he was, but only time would tell if that would be enough for him to defeat the orc.
She was too far away to make any difference in the outcome if the creature decided to swing its hammy fists at his head, and besides—Sara was of the opinion that a warrior should be given the option to stand on their own two feet for first time. Reben had done so and taken a walloping in doing it. Karn had proven his mettle as well.
Let this mercenary, and mercenary he was—she could tell by the bright colors of the clothing he wore and the standard-issue boots on his feet—prove his mettle.
If he could.
Blades Of Sorcery will be available at teedun.com/bladesofsorcery.
Wishing him well Sara turned back to the opponents who were determined to take her head off, forget the hobbled stranger’s. She ducked one person’s clumsy throw of a rock while casting them an evil eye for even trying.
Then another person came at her out of the corner of her eye, and she couldn’t duck — only deflect his first blow and position herself to take advantage of the fact that he was thrown off balance. With a swift kick to his upper abdomen, Sara kept him on his guard as she tried to keep her gaze half on the orc and his opponent, and half on her own—the man who was rapidly turning this into a dance of swords. Being distracted wasn’t good battlefield tactics and certainly wasn’t what her father had taught her, but she was learning to think on her feet, and keeping a wary eye out for opponents with the potential to advance on you was a part of that.
At least…that’s what she told herself.
It didn’t take much convincing though. Although this new opponent had seemed capable at first, he kept leaving himself open to attacks that would have end his life minutes before if she hadn’t been half-focused somewhere else. As it was this clumsy lout who had thought to take her own was as green as they came. She was quite surprised at his lack of talent, and wondered if the Kade first guard—and, by extension, the Kade rebellion—was more hard up for actual warriors than they’d first appeared. It wouldn’t surprise her, but that boded well for the empire in the end.
With a surge of pride, Sara jumped wide and came fast on the left side of the guard. She didn’t bother using her weapon against him. Instead, she shoved him toward the rocky outcropping, forcing his sword hand to be pinned uselessly against his side, and then grabbed him by his long, greasy hair with a ferocity that surprised even herself and slammed his head against the rocky outcropping with such force that it split like a melon with the first blow.
Standing up as his body slumped down, Sara wasn’t sorry. She did pity him, though.
The Kades had sent him in with no more preparation than an unseasoned chicken. He hadn’t known enough to never get outflanked, he hadn’t even been wearing a helmet, and his footwork was shoddy. It had been like killing an enemy Cams — the youngest and most vulnerable members of the Mercenary’s Guild. Which told her that the Kades had horrible trainers, because even a ‘Cam wouldn’t make all of these mistakes at once, including allowing themselves to be cornered where no aid could get to them. It had only taken seconds for her to end his life once she had him backed into a corner.
Shaking her head though, Sara didn’t let this imbecile get to her. She couldn’t. Just because she knew he’d gotten the short end of the stick, didn’t mean she could have afforded to cut him any slack. No one got that…ever. Because the single time she did take it upon herself to pity an individual, well she was pretty certain that same person would be the one who ended up stabbing her in the back. Snapping out of daze as she stood over his fallen body, Sara turned away, gritted her teeth and dove back in to the fray. Fortunately for her, the group fighting around her had shielded her back as she wallowed in a bit of disgust at the state of the man-child she had killed. When she looked back over at the orc confrontation, Sara’s eyes widened in surprise to see the hobbling warrior was shining as bright as the sun.
Fire, flames, energy, and magic licked around the hobbling stranger as if he was the source of all that made light in the world, and he responded by standing taller than she had seen him before. As if just by emanating that sort of magic, he absorbed it and threw it back out tenfold.
Sara was astonished, but Karn was not.
“Huh, well, I guess it makes sense now,” he said while staring at the person who had caught all of their attentions.
“What does?” Sara asked as she glanced around, flummoxed. Even the enemy Kades had halted their advance to turn around and watch the fight between one of their orcs and, apparently, a mage on the opposite side—Sara’s side.
This mage had transfixed every single person within viewing distance, and Sara could see why. As the hobbling individual’s power grew around him, magic flowed into the center of them all and was released in waves, and it felt as if they were all being battered by ever-increasing power. Power that was all-consuming and mesmerizing. It wasn’t tangible, and that was the only mercy. It was like drowning in your own mind, as you couldn’t look away even if you wanted, and you would be forced to watch yourself slowly be consumed by what was coming. Sara felt like she was standing in the midst of a tidal pool that was gradually building into a tsunami, and even she was frightened—as a mage whose primary focus was the physical manifestation of her gift, which gave her the ability to be stronger, faster, and, in general, a better fighter than most, this was different than anything she had ever experienced before. She was out of her depth, and mages whose gifts extended to the ephemeral aspects of magic and manipulation of the currents around them—even they had to be in awe of the gifts they all felt here.
Then they had no more time for awe, as the hobbling mage finally completed his journey away from the bright magic he had been building higher and higher, and Sara realized his intent hadn’t just been to distract his opponent, the orc. No, instead he had managed to position himself directly on a nexus point of power, one of the many that Sara knew the empire had scattered throughout the land for times of need. They were wells of magic used to restore the abundance of stored gifts to the people to the land if all else fell. Well, this mage was managing to tap into something only the empress herself should have been able to unlock. Sara didn’t know how, and there was no one to question it but her and the few mages who could also see and understand what he was doing.
Besides, she knew that at the moment they had bigger problems.
Because she could see his aura clearly now.
And she suddenly knew what he was. But she couldn’t say it. That was okay—she didn’t have to, because Kade finally answered her.
“You get it now, don’t you? The orc fears him because of what he is—someone who controls nature itself,” Kade said in a hushed, reverent tone.
“And what’s that?” she asked while leveling her sword out at her side.
She had no chance of using her blade, though. It was a physical weapon in a battle that would clearly call upon magical gifts beyond her knowledge. Even the orc looked afraid.
“What is he?” Sara demanded of Karn with a voice that was ever-increasing in aggression. Not fear. Never fear.
Finally, he answered, “A mage who can call upon the very fires of the earth.”
Sara shook her head. That didn’t give her an explanation. An explanation of how to defeat him, how to hobble him in the same way his physical body hobbled his movements. Yes, she knew he was an ally, but her instincts were telling her something different. Something was off here. His power alone was too great, and with the magic he was drawing from the nexus increasing with every breath they took, she worried that whatever he unleashed next would evaporate them all.
But she couldn’t do anything about it. The only thing she could do was brace herself and hope they were all ready for it. Whatever it was.
Hunkering down as best she could while keeping her weapons ready, Sara grimaced and waited.
She had never allowed herself to be taken by surprise while in battle, and she wasn’t going to start doing so now. He was dangerous, and as he released his gift in a wave they never saw coming, she had one depressing thought: If this is what the imperial army has been fighting with for the past half-year, what horrors must the Kades have back in their own fields?
Even watching it slowly evolve hadn’t prepared her for his mastery. It wasn’t just flames and fire responding to his call. But the creatures she’d only heard about in legend—creatures built of fire and flame that lived deep within the earth where only molten rivers burned day-and-night. She watched them dance around their master with a giddy delight that couldn’t be more beautiful as they danced in the night and their skins shone with a brightness that rivaled the dome imprisoning them all in from above.
“An inferni master,” she said with just as much awe in her voice as there was terror. It wasn’t just the creatures that he was controlling which made her tense. It was the fact to even get down to the ecosystem in which they lived, and survive the encounter himself, he would have to be a high-level adept in his field. Someone the likes of which she had never seen before. As long as he was in control of his powers, this was a good thing. But being a master didn’t always denote skill, just pure power.
Sara could be a master battle mage if she tested for it, but she had no interest in subjecting herself to that battery of assault, and the crimes of her father prevented the daughter for being called forth to do so anyway. No one wanted a traitor’s girl ranked among the best in the empire. Not publicly, anyway. What she had done on the streets of Sandrin was her business, and she had the feeling that whatever she did on the fields of battle would be too.
The fact that he was a master in his gift on top of being able to tap into the nexus of power didn’t bode well for the opposing side. Hell, he was supposedly on her side, and still she had an uneasy feeling about this. Too much power in one person, which could make him almost unstoppable. As for his natural gifts’ inclination to call forth inferni, she didn’t think one had been called forth in more than two decades, but, well it was working. The orc was trembling, frozen where it stood in terror.
Stepping back, Sara looked for the inferni master’s superior officer, the man commanding him to build and build on his gifts, but she didn’t see one. The only thing she knew about him was that he wasn’t one of her group, so he had to be one of mercenaries from elsewhere. Judging by his garments, he was one of the Red Lion mercenaries working for Captain Kansid. She’d just feel a lot better if his captain had taken the field with him as well.
Sara had to wonder where the rest of the mercenaries were, anyway. They should have been by their sides in this encampment field as soon as the warning call went out and the shield wall went down for the first time. Now it was too late, they were fighting an invasion force alone and to top it off the other side could potentially get reinforcements through their portals that she couldn’t. It sucked.
Staring around at the numbers she could count on her side Sara saw no one other than the soldiers and mercenaries who had been caught off guard with her. The ones who hadn’t died, anyway.
They were half-garbed, fully sloshed with too much to drink, and woefully unprepared against the Kades. She and her team and had only managed to hold back the Kades by the skin of their teeth because of the rock formation that had sheltered them at first. Now it was too late to back down, and the field was too tense with magic to move forward.
This didn’t look right. It didn’t feel right, and suddenly Sara knew that her label for this mage was ineffectual. It wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t right, either—it didn’t encompass all that this mage was and would become.
No, he wasn’t just an inferni master.
He was something more. Much more.
She just didn’t want to find out what it was. Deciding that she’d had enough of show and tell, Sara stepped forward, glaring in defiance at the bright energy that was building around them fast and hard, like they stood in the eye of a typhoon about to hit them all.
As the air around her grew warmed and she found herself battered by waves of magic and heat, she realized she need to make a stand.
Raising her sword up in front of her, edge out, Sara Fairchild said a prayer to the gods above and below, and she walked forward.
Blades Of Sorcery will be available at teedun.com/bladesofsorcery.