Today I’m pleased to share an extract from The Queen’s Blade, Book 2: Sacrifice by TC Southwell. Enjoy!
Blade sat on the edge of the plinth, one leg swinging, the other holding him on his perch. The goblet of sacred water hissed beside him, audible when the bell’s huge booms faded and Shista’s howls died down as she drew breath. He listened to the faint sounds of running feet outside, and tensed as they drew nearer. The guards outside the door cried a challenge, their swords slithering from their scabbards. A confusion of shouts arose, followed by the clash of steel. Blade smiled, looking down at the Queen’s peaceful face.
“I knew they would fight their way in here. They are Cotti.”
The battle outside the door raged for several minutes as the Queen’s honour guard, the cream of her officers, fought to protect her. None would survive, he knew. They would fight to the death. They were all sacred Knights of the Veil, who considered themselves to be already dead, as most Bereft did. He slid off the plinth and as the battle sounds lessened. Blood seeped under the doors, and he averted his eyes.
The doors burst open, and seven Cotti soldiers stepped over the bodies of the fallen, pausing when they saw Blade. Shista gave a deep, guttural roar that rose to a wailing scream. Her claws raked the door beside him with a high shriek of tortured wood. Ten Cotti soldiers lay beyond the main doors, their twisted bodies mixed with the six dead defenders. Blade smiled, well pleased to see so many slain Cotti.
The victors edged closer, their eyes drawn to the Queen. One grinned, and Blade drew a dagger and flicked it. The Cotti clutched his throat and collapsed, thrashing as he tried to pull the weapon free, his mouth open in a silent scream. His comrades hesitated, glancing at him, then at the assassin.
From their uniforms they were cavalry, and their familiars waited outside, which made them far less dangerous than dog soldiers. Blade drew another dagger and threw it, and a second Cotti fell with a cry, clasping his neck. The remaining five shouted and charged, swords raised. Blade drew two daggers and threw them together, felling two more. The last three rushed in, howling, and he yanked out another two daggers as they reached him.
The assassin spun, his steel-tipped arms outstretched. One man fell with his throat slit, blood spouting from his jugular, the other two leapt back. Blade faced them, smiled and beckoned them closer with a dagger. A soldier lunged at him, thrusting with his sword, and Blade spun aside, his steel-shod feet clacking. He stabbed the Cotti under his outstretched arm before he had time to recover, and the soldier jerked back with a yell, collapsing.
Blade leapt over the next man’s sword as the Cotti slashed at him and sank his dagger into the soldier’s neck. This time he missed the jugular, and the injured Cotti backed away, his sword brandished. The assassin smiled as the soldier retreated to the door. When he reached it, another four Cotti ran up, and together they advanced again, spreading out to encircle the assassin.
Blade grinned, ready to take on anyone who made a move, his senses expanded to a preternatural awareness of everything around him. The soldier behind him rushed in, and Blade whipped around, took two strides and leapt, his blade-tipped boot impaling the man under his chin. The force of Blade’s kick sent the Cotti crashing onto his back. Another charged in, and Blade spun, his kick slashing open the soldier’s throat. He swayed aside as a sword skimmed past his ribs, but another slashed his arm, making him drop a dagger. He bent and jerked another weapon from his boot, straightening in time to meet a soldier’s charge and stab the man as he crashed into him, sending the assassin sprawling.
The wounded Cotti bellowed, slashing at Blade with his sword, but the weapon was too long for such close quarters. Blade stabbed him twice more before he stopped yelling, and the last two flung themselves into the melee. A sword hit the floor beside Blade’s head with a clash of steel on stone, and he lashed out with a steel-tipped foot, stabbing the man in the thigh. The soldier fell with a grunt, and Blade twisted to plunge his weapon into the man’s throat. As he did so, a sword skittered off the chain mail on his belly and sank into his thigh.
Blade snarled, jerked up his other leg and stabbed his attacker behind the knee. The man’s legs buckled, and he sank to his knees beside the assassin. Blade twisted and slashed him across the arm, making the soldier drop his sword and scramble away, clutching the wound. Blade sat up with a grimace, the sword protruding from his thigh. Gritting his teeth, he yanked it out and flung it away, then rose to his feet, his eyes fixed on the wounded soldier. The Cotti retreated to the door, cursing.
Eleven Cotti lay slain on the floor of the bier room, their blood forming crimson pools between their yellow-clad forms. The survivor watched the assassin from a safe distance, unwilling to face him again. Two more Cotti ran up, and the wounded man turned to them.
“Call the King. We’ve found the Jashimari Queen, and her pet killer, it seems.”
About the author:
T. C. Southwell was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the Seychelles when she was a baby. She spent her formative years exploring the islands – mostly alone. Naturally, her imagination flourished and she developed a keen love of other worlds. The family travelled through Europe and Africa and, after the death of her father, settled in South Africa.
T. C. Southwell has written over thirty fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as five screenplays. Her hobbies include motorcycling, horse riding and art, and she is now a full-time writer.