Storm Callers – Snippet 2

It’s snippet time again! But first, I made you a video called  “Three Reasons to Get Excited for Storm Callers.” Check it out, then dive back into the story below.

You can catch up on Book one, Storm Raiders, here.

If you haven’t read the first snippet for Book Two, Storm Callers, you can do so here.

On with the show!

Dustin sat at the large stone table in the magistrate’s new office, looking at the dour faces of the men and women around him. He’d spent many hours at this table in the weeks following Thunderclap’s attack on Holdgate, coming to know the Storm Captains and Storm Callers even as they cycled in and out—some leaving for new assignments, and others returning to port. The council was ever-changing.

As the days passed, Dustin had also grown more confident about voicing his opinions. He might be the youngest Storm Caller at the table, but that didn’t matter now. They were shorthanded with the loss of three of their best stormships and the six Storm Callers, and they needed everyone to give their all.

A cloud of worry seemed to hang over the magistrate that morning, and the deep lines on his beardless face stood out even more prominently than usual. He’d just heard Captain Roy’s report on Thunderclap’s journey.

The magistrate’s voice was a low growl when he spoke. “So not only do we have an impossible number of Barskall somehow slipping through the Storm Wall and harassing the northern villages, but we also have a mystery Storm Caller plaguing our ships to the south.”

“One who’s apparently able to strike from a great distance,” Captain Stephen said. He helmed the Breaker, a mid-sized stormship that regularly worked the fishing channels to the south. If anyone at the table knew the weather patterns on the southern portion of the Kaldfell Peninsula, it was he.

Dustin shook his head. “I’m not sure what’s happening, but I do know that when we cleared the storms, there wasn’t another ship in sight. A Storm Caller who can cast out of sight is—”

“It’s impossible,” Ellen finished. She was Breaker’s Storm Caller. “And if it weren’t, just randomly calling up storms when you can’t even see if there are ships in the area? What would be the point?”

Captain Roy scratched his beard a moment, then offered, “Unless he knows the trade routes well. In which case, if he sees a ship passing, he knows where it’s headed. He could send a storm to cut it off.”

Ellen let out a short laugh. “That’s not really how Storm Calling works.”

Dustin met her eye. “Maybe it’s time we admit we don’t know as much about Storm Calling and its limits as we’d like to think.”

A contemplative silence fell over the room.

Dustin still hadn’t told anyone other than Syd and Abbey about his ability to use his powers without contact with seawater. It wasn’t that he wanted to keep the knowledge to himself, exactly, but so many things were in flux already. As soon as he shared the information, the world of Storm Calling would change. At that point, Dustin knew it wouldn’t be long before every Storm Caller gained his ability. Once people were shown that something was possible, it became a lot more likely they would dedicate themselves to mastering it.

And after the betrayals of Tor and Dahlia, Dustin was still uncertain who could be trusted.

“Inexplicable storms to the south and Barskall to the north,” the magistrate muttered. “Anything else?”

“Yes, actually.” The voice came from Yates, the captain of Typhoon, the largest ship currently in port other than Thunderclap.

The magistrate looked at him impatiently. “Well, let’s hear it then.”

Yates paused for a moment. He clearly didn’t want to say whatever it was that he was about to reveal. “I lost three more.”

The other Storm Captains exchanged nervous glances.

“You’re sure?” Captain Stephen asked.

Captain Yates nodded. “They’ve been gone three days. I checked with their families, and it turns out one of them owned an old fishing boat. That’s gone, too.”

“Wonderful,” the magistrate grumbled. “Headed north, I’d imagine?”

“I don’t know, but one would assume so.”

Sailors had been abandoning their posts and heading north all too frequently over the past few weeks. No one talked about the reason for the desertions out loud, but everyone knew. It was widely believed that Dahlia had fled north, and even after her attack on Holdgate many of the sailors still held her in high regard. It would appear that many of them were choosing to follow her over loyalty to their city.

There was a long silence, then Captain Roy spoke. “There’s nothing we can do to keep people here against their will. We can only try to keep morale high so that they don’t want to leave. We’ll deal with these traitors if and when we meet them on the open sea.”

The words made Dustin sit up a little straighter. If the usually jovial Captain Roy was talking like that, things had to be bad.

“Agreed,” the magistrate said. “Just as importantly, we need more sailors. We can rush some of the apprentice Storm Callers through the Testing to get them on ships if need be, but we still need crew. We’ve carried the weight of protecting the Kaldfell Peninsula for too long. It’s time to talk to Algon.”

The room fell silent again. Algon was the largest city on the Peninsula. It was located on the southern tip, far away from Barskall harassment, and they’d never been eager to aid in the Peninsula’s defense.

“And who are we going to send to talk to them?” Captain Stephen asked.

Everyone in the room knew who would have been selected for the job only a month ago—Tor. The respect he had commanded from every corner of the Peninsula would have made him perfect for the job.

Captain Roy leaned forward. “If I may make a suggestion, it seems we have two problems to sort out. Someone has to go to the Storm Wall to figure out how the hell so many Barskall are slipping through. I’d like to volunteer Thunderclap for that task. I have a bit of a history there, after all. And we have the best damn Storm Caller in the fleet.”

Dustin resisted the urge to dispute the comment. He had gone toe-to-toe with Dahlia, which was more than anyone else could say.

The magistrate nodded. “Fine. But that still leaves Algon. We need someone to travel south and convince those bastards to lend us a hand. And we need to figure out what’s up with those mystery storms while we’re at it.”

Captain Roy smiled. “I have a suggestion for that as well.”

***

Abbey stuck to the path, her eyes scanning the green foliage around her as she walked. She clutched her sword and crept silently along. They were nearing their target; she was sure of it.

In the weeks since the attack on Holdgate, the woodsmen who worked in the forest had been experiencing a series of strange raids. At first it had been small things: a missing tool here, a bit of food there.

But the occurrences soon became more brazen. Their camps were invaded by a small group of men, always during the day when most of the woodsmen were out working. The previous day, one of the woodsmen had been killed by thieves who invaded his camp.

Though the identity of the thieves hadn’t been confirmed, the timing made Abbey fairly certain it was Storm Raiders from Thunderclap who’d somehow managed to evade capture after the battle in Holdgate. Her father Benjamin agreed with her assessment.

So, on her first day back from her first voyage as a stormship sailor, they were hunting fugitives in the woods. Not an ordinary father-daughter bonding activity, perhaps, but Abbey and Benjamin had never been ordinary.

The call of a nightingale split the air, and Abbey froze. That was the signal, so she turned off the trail and headed toward the sound.

She found her father crouched beneath a group of trees. She glided over and settled in beside him.

He put a finger to his lips and nodded toward a small clearing ahead.

A pathetic swath of fabric was propped up by a collection of branches to form a makeshift tent. Three men sat around a fire, roasting a rabbit. Abbey couldn’t hear what the men were saying, but it was clear they weren’t very happy with each other.

Abbey spoke in a soft voice, knowing they were too far away to hear her over the sound of their own arguing. “It’s a wonder they’ve made it this long without discovery.”

Benjamin shook his head at the men’s incompetence. “In these woods, they could have made it much longer if they’d just avoided raiding the woodsmen’s camps.”

Abbey caught sight of an ax leaning against a tree near the men. Stolen from the woodsmen, no doubt. “What do we do now? Report this to the city guards?”

“That’s one possibility.” Benjamin watched the men for a long moment. “On the other hand, I’d hate for them to relocate while we’re away.”

A slow smile slid across Abbey’s face. “We wouldn’t want that to happen. Looking at it that way, leaving to get the city guard would be rather irresponsible.”

Benjamin nodded slowly. Abbey could tell he wanted to do this as badly as she did.

“There are three of them and only two of us,” the blacksmith told her softly.

“Yeah,” Abbey replied. “I almost feel sorry for them.”

She started to stand, but Benjamin put a hand on her shoulder.

“Hold on a moment. Let’s intimidate them first.” Benjamin closed his eyes and moved his hands in a complicated pattern. When he opened them again, his eyes were jet black.

Abbey heard a shout, so she turned toward the thieves’ camp. All three men leapt to their feet, their eyes locked on the fire. The flames were as black as Benjamin’s eyes.

The blacksmith rose to his full height and bellowed at the men. “You are under arrest for theft and treason. Put your hands in the air and wait for our instructions.”

All three men spun toward the voice. They froze when they saw Benjamin, and two of the men started to raise their hands.

The last man—a tall, muscular guy with a shock of red hair and a matching beard—stepped toward the ax leaning against the tree. “No way are they taking me in. You saw what they did to Captain Tor. They’ll do the same to us.”

Abbey sprang into action. She sprinted toward the man, sword in hand.

By the time she reached him, he had grabbed the ax. He hesitated a moment when he saw the young woman charging, but recovered quickly enough to block her sword strike with the head.

The other two men exchanged a glance, then ran at Abbey.

She angled herself toward them, keeping one eye on the first man’s ax as she prepared to defend herself again the other two.

The two running men suddenly recoiled and fell backward, landing on their asses. It was as if they’d run into an invisible wall.

Benjamin stalked toward them with an upraised hand and magic-blackened eyes. The men had tasted a bit of his power, but they didn’t yet know he was just as deadly with his sword. They’d soon learn that fact.

Abbey smiled, knowing her father had those two under control. She returned her eyes to the first man just as he drew back his ax and swung at her head. Abbey could see from the expression on his face that he was putting everything he had into that swing.

She crouched down and leaned back a little and the ax swung past, missing her face by a good three inches. The man was off-balance now, so Abbey slipped in and drove her knee into the man’s stomach.

The air rushed out of him in a whoosh and he doubled over, then fell to the ground in a heap.

To think, only a few weeks ago these three had been Storm Raiders on Thunderclap. Now they were dirty fugitives struggling to cook a rabbit over an open fire. How the mighty had fallen. Abbey shook her head.

There were shouts as the other members of the search party arrived, drawn by the noise. Some of the city guards bound the men, and they all started the walk back to Holdgate.

When Abbey and Benjamin arrived back at the blacksmith’s shop, they found Syd waiting for them.

“There you are!” Syd exclaimed as they approached. “I need to talk to you. Privately.”

Abbey nodded, her happiness at seeing her friend suddenly replaced with concern. “Yeah, of course. Let’s go inside.”

Syd rubbed her hand over her scalp, looking slightly embarrassed. “Actually, I was talking to Benjamin.”

Benjamin appeared to be as surprised as Abbey was. “Oh, okay. Shall we?”

Abbey watched in confusion as her friend and her father retired for a private discussion.

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