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Warmage: Unexpected Snippet #3

 

It’s here! The final snippet before this super exciting dragon rider book launches on Feb 26th! If you pre-order it now, it will show up in your eReader as soon as it’s available! Some even get it the night before the actual release date, but no promises that will be you. The dragon’s a bit temperamental, so we can’t say when he’ll appear for sure. LOL

Either way, enjoy the last preview!

Chapter 3

Raven was up early the next day, excited to get to her chores and head back to school. The sun was just rising over the horizon casting a soft light across the ranch when she headed out to feed the goats.

She didn’t see the crossbow in time before the tip of the arrow pierced her shoulder and lodged itself into the bone.

“Rrrrrgh!” She gritted her teeth, clenching her stomach to trap the scream that wanted to escape. She slowly exhaled through her nose and glanced at the small ranch house behind her. Nothing stirring inside – yet.

She looked down at the arrow sticking out. No time to get this out now. Raven lifted her eyes and saw the skinny, gangly short elf snatching up one of the dwarf goats into its bony arms The elf’s little bald head glistened in the rising sunlight.

Her right arm pressed to her side, Raven pushed off the ground with her left arm and up to her feet. She lifted the board with her left hand, leaning it against her shoulder. When he wakes up, the first thing he’ll say is, “Why didn’t you grab the sword?”

She charged after the elf again, who set the goat down long enough to fire another arrow, quickly gathering the bleating animal back up again. The arrow streaked toward Raven’s head. She hoisted the board in front of her, putting it between her face and the arrow, which embedded itself into the wood.

Without breaking her stride, she dropped the board and lunged after the elf, wrapping her arms around his shoulder and tackling him to the ground. He was much older than the teenager, but his spindly legs couldn’t outrun her.

He dropped the goat, who bleated upon impact. Raven grabbed the animal by the scruff of its neck and pulled it back, hoping to create enough distance between the kid and its pursuer. She barely had let go of the little goat when the elf drove both feet into her jaw, snapping her head back. She fell in a heap, dazed.

“Ooooh.” He let out a squeal of delight at the ruby stone inset in silver, pinned to her jacket. He leaped into the air, his bony fingers open wide, drool sliding down the side of his mouth.

“Think again shortie!” Raven swung hard, her fist making contact with his midsection and throwing him off center. She felt the rumbling of magic passing through her, rising with her emotions. It always did.

He leapt to the side, doubled over, growling angrily. “Foul child.” He snarled, still managing a sly smile.

What spell, what spell? Raven blinked a few times to refocus her vision, just in time to see the elf snatch up the goat and take off again.

She pulled herself to her feet and picked up the board, snapping off the arrow at its shaft and leaving the head sticking out. She pumped her legs as fast as possible, trying to ignore her throbbing jaw. All I need to do is get one good shot on him and he’ll be toast.

The board was oak, heavy and nearly three feet long, eighteen inches wide. Just big enough to do some damage. In fact, Raven used the same board to fight off two beastmen the previous week. Elves have skulls like eggshells. If this thing can beat away a couple of beastmen at once, an elf will be no problem. He’s half their size. Easy pickings.

The searing pain of the arrow burned down her arm while her warm blood leaked from the wound and soaked into her sleeve.

Ahead, the elf hustled his little feet across the ranch, the dwarf goat bouncing along under his arm.

Her breath heaving rapidly, Raven gripped the board in her good hand and turned on the afterburners, rearing back and preparing to swing with all her might.

Geez, this guy is fast for such a scrawny little thing.

Raven was no stranger to old elves. Once a child reached a certain age in Brighton, you were warned about elves and their sticky fingers.

Half of Raven’s job was to keep the dwarf goats safely in their pen every day. Letting one slip by into an elf’s hands was a terrible start to the morning, and she wasn’t going to settle for it.

Once she reached within swinging distance, she took her best shot, but missed the elf’s wrinkled little head. He was a smaller target than the beastmen were; half as big but twice as fast.

The momentum of the swing pulled Raven down, slamming her face-first into the dirt. Her feet flipped up into the air, then her whole body fell. The sound of the elf’s semi-quiet cackling sickened her. I’m not going down this easy, you jackass.

The fall at least yanked the arrow out from her shoulder. The blood gushed more. I’ll deal with that later. I’ve got time.

The elf stopped running away, instead turning to face her again. As Raven rose to her knees, she heard the click of the crossbow. He was preparing another shot.

Death didn’t scare Raven. It never did. She wasn’t sure why. Even in that moment, staring down what could have been her demise, she didn’t spend a second thinking about what would happen if the elf was a decent shot.

She didn’t have to worry. He ripped off an arrow that whistled past her ears. She fell to the ground instinctively, frantically feeling around for the board in the dim morning light.

But she couldn’t find it. What is that spell?

The elf began loading up another shot in his crossbow, the goat squeezed between his legs. Then he saw Raven rise to her feet and extend her arm.

His stomach sank and he slung the crossbow over his shoulder, grasping the goat in his arms. He took off running, clutching the dwarf goat under his arm.

Now I remember. You should’ve put it down, asshole. With a devilish smile on her dirt-covered face, Raven whispered, “Offendiculum repente.”

With a grunt, the elf stumbled and fell, his feet kicking out from under him. The goat rolled off to the side, and the elf pushed up, lifting his face from the dirt.

The elf’s once-confident face fell, his eyes wide in panic. He reached for the goat, but Raven pointed to it. “Quod hic adducere!”

One of her favorite spells.

Before the elf could wrap his arms around the goat, the animal floated off the ground and up out of reach. The elf slammed his palm into the dirt in frustration.

Amused, Raven watched as the goat gently soared through the air, its legs extended straight down as if it were standing on a little platform. It flew to her and landed safely at her side.

She made eye contact with the elf, who scampered off, his footsteps echoing across the flatland of the ranch. Squinting her eyes, Raven focused on his arm. Just in case you think about coming back here. “Et disrumpam.”

He squealed as his arm whipped behind his back, the bone cracking loudly.

Raven shook her head. That was satisfying.

The elf nearly clipped his own shoulder on one of the tall wooden poles holding up the ALBY GOAT RANCH sign over the path leading to the house before he spun around it and disappeared down the road.

As her adrenaline settled down, Raven picked up the goat and cradled it with her good arm, wincing in pain from the gaping wound in her shoulder. She was lightheaded, her heart beating fast and she took a few deep breaths to calm herself down. Three spells that quickly was a risk. It could take a few minutes before a healing spell would finally work… or work enough.

The goat looked up at her and licked her face.

“You know, if you guys could try fighting back once in a while, that would really help me out. Where’s that board? You’ll be stuck inside all day if I don’t put it back.”

She saw the board lying in the grass and put down the small goat. “Follow me. I need to close up this hole in my shoulder before…”

“Raven!” She recognized the tone in her grandfather’s gruff, deep voice.

Worried, as usual. Too late for trying out one more spell to hide this wound. She dragged the board behind her while the goat trotted along at her side. She approached the pen where the other goats were stumbling around, waking up and trying to figure out where their missing brother was. She dropped the board and lifted the once-kidnappee back into the safety of his friends and family.

“Hang on, Grandpa, I gotta put this board back.” She watched as her grandfather crossed his arms when she passed. It’s okay, don’t look concerned for your bleeding granddaughter or anything.

Raven sucked in her bottom lip, doing her best to ignore the pain as she propped open the door on the inside of the shed. It allowed for the free-flowing traffic of the bouncing, dancing goats inside and out.

She stopped and leaned up against the open door for a moment, turning her head to look at the broad sky and the fast-moving clouds and take in a deep breath.

She shuffled her feet, kicking up dirt while she approached her grandfather. He was standing on the back step of the house, scowling.

“Good morning to you, too.” She held her jaw with her good hand, wiggling it back and forth to make sure it was still in place.

“Are you okay?”

“Most of me. I just have to clean this out and bandage it up. I think the jaw’s fine, just bruised up. Shame you couldn’t have hung onto any healing powers, Grandpa.”

“Yeah, well… “He cleared his throat. “What were you doing out there?”

She looked at him, her forehead wrinkled. “Seriously? Saving a goat. I know how much these things are worth. The market’s paying good money for milk these days. It’s a good time to be a rancher.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it.”

Raven hesitated, looked off in the distance where the elf had run off, then back at him. “Look, can I just get inside and clean up?”

He raised his eyebrows and repeated himself. “What were you doing out there? You were slow to get out that first spell.”

“Grandpa, he rung my bell pretty well. It took a minute for my head to clear. Did you see that punch I got off? That fight training all summer paid off. I could have taken an arrow to my eye socket!”

“Do you know why he was firing arrows at you? Do you know why he even tried to steal one from us?”

Raven held her right arm under her elbow, trying to keep it from moving. The pain radiated outward, all the way to her fingertips. “Because of the sign?” There was small print at the bottom of the sign, an SW indicating that the home belonged to a spent wizard.

A wizard who had used all of his magical energy in the great battle till there was none left. A magical emeritus. It was meant to be a sign of respect from the town leaders for services rendered so many years ago but not everyone took it like that.

Grandpa was not satisfied with her answer. “Sweetheart, if that were the case, then we’d have elves crawling all over this place, swiping my goats. Actually, we wouldn’t have any left by now. And I’d probably be dead. It’s not a secret. No, it’s because he saw you go out without anything to defend yourself besides magic. I never, ever go out to check on the goats without at least a sword on my hip.” He tilted his head down and leveled his gaze at her. “I can still take care of myself,” he said evenly.

“I know enough to take him down without needing to use a sword, Grandpa. It was just going to be a quick morning check, and I thought I had the spells if I needed them.”

“You needed them, and they were almost out of reach, that’s the problem. Things happen. Learning spells is easy but figuring out how to balance the magic and weapons so it’s all there when you need it takes time and wisdom. That’s why I’ve been teaching you both.” He lowered his chin to look at her, his forehead wrinkled. “I know your magic is different.” He let out a sigh. “It comes more easily to you and stays a lot longer. Has it every run out?”

Raven gave a slow shrug. “I haven’t pushed it to the limits, yet.”

He smiled at his granddaughter. “That is what I’m afraid of, Raven. That you’ll find the wall when you need magic the most. Enough for one day. Come on, let’s clean you up.” He hugged her gently and let go. “You look so much like her, like your mother. More every day.” He shook his head and walked back into the house, holding the screen door open for her, letting it slam behind them. “Your mother was a powerful mage, too. Have I ever told you the story…”

Raven cut him off with a quick smile. “I love you Grandpa.”

“Clever girl.”

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Are you ready for the dragon training? It starts Wednesday, February 26! Get your spot now, before everyone else does. 😉

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