In honor of the December 1st debut of Legends of Windemere: Allure of the Gypsies, I have been asked to post an excerpt from each novel this week. These are teaser sections with no spoilers. Click on the cover photo to go to the Amazon site if you’re interested.
“I don’t like this,” the captain mutters.
His stomach sinks as he watches Luke draw his sabers and three blurs launch out of the water. One of them slices through the bowsprit, which forces the forest tracker to make a short leap back to the ship. He tries to slam both sabers into the wood, but his attack is deflected by Nyx’s protection spell. Luke is sent flying back while Nimby is pressed against the railing, the halfling groaning as he clings to the rope attached to his friend. The forest tracker sheaths his blades in mid-air before he swings back and grabs onto the remains of the shattered bowsprit. The protection spell continues to push against him as he holds onto the ship with all of his strength.
“Aedyn! Nyx! What was that?” Nimby hollers.
The three blurs land on the deck and an inhuman snarl escapes their fanged maws. The creatures have slick, green skin that is pulled tight around their bones. Four arms with twisted barbs and webbed hands move these monsters across the deck. Sailors run from them as the triplets snap and spit at anything that moves. One of the monsters hums before its dorsal fin glows brightly and the wind roars like a raging dragon. Another stands on its back arms and reveals a pulsating hole in its underside. A splatter of ink hits the deck at Nimby’s feet and he begins slipping on the slick liquid.
“Rikebak demons!” Captain Higgs shouts, trying to move his leg close to Nimby. The halfling reaches for it, but keeps slipping and sliding out of reach. “They are summoned in threes. Each one controls either wind, current, or rain. All sailors pray that they will never live to see these demons. They want to take out Aedyn and Nyx. The opposing magic must be like a swarm of bees in their brains.”
“I can’t keep my footing, Luke! Can you get up to help us?” Nimby asks as he scrambles along the inky deck. The wind carries his voice away and he can only feel the rope thrash from Luke’s movements on the other end. Nimby squints through the pouring rain to see a pair of hands scrambling to hold onto the remains of the bowsprit.
The demons look at Nyx and Aedyn as if the half-elves are freshly cooked meals. They begin to slowly prowl toward the stairs leading to the quarterdeck. When nobody tries to stop them, the demons break into a slavering charge at the sources of opposing magic. They are already up the stairs when a dome of purple energy appears in front of them. A dull thud is heard as they bounce off the powerful shield.
“Fizzle help! Keep safe,” the drite announces, hovering in the middle of the dome.
The demons ravenously scratch at the magical shield until they get frustrated and turn back to the deck. All of them leap into the air and land as if they are one body. One of them sniffs the air and turns to the closed door that leads to the lower decks. A hungry grin crosses its face as it begins a cautious advance. The others are busy looking at where Luke is dangling and gleefully chirp at each other.
“That boy is going to get killed,” Captain Higgs says. He wrenches the wheel, making the ship jerk to the side and knocking the demons off-balance. “We need fire to kill those fiends. Whoever sent these things knew that we would use Nyx for a defense. She should drop the protection spell and start blasting.”
“All fine. Last line ready,” Fizzle mentions with a cute grin.
“Last line? The only one left is Fritz,” Nimby says.
The closest demon is a few yards away from the doorway when it hears a low hum from behind the wooden portal. Nimby is just as shocked as the demon when a stampeding Bessaria bashes through the door. The sheep is covered in metal armor that includes a studded steel plate on her head. It is this plate that sends all of the wooly fury of Bessaria along the spine of the demon when it collides into the forehead of the Rikebak demon. The creature gurgles and flails from the impact as its broken body quickly repairs itself.
“I’m not being left out of this one,” Fritz announces from atop his noble steed. The gnome is also covered in armor plating and has a large shield connected to the gauntlet on his left arm. His main weapon, which is on his back, does not resemble anything that anyone watching has ever seen. It has several triggers that look like they came off multiple crossbows, but the weapon resembles nothing more than a collection of long pipes with a curved handle. A thick cylinder with a plus side at both ends is fitted into a groove above the triggers.
“The hell is that?” Nimby asks.
“My daughter and I never got around to naming some of these things, but I know most of this stuff explodes,” Fritz proudly declares.
Nimby looks to the chaotic sky. “We’re doomed.”
“Bessaria! For the honor of invention!” the gnome cries.
Fritz kicks Bessaria in the sides and the sheep charges toward the confused demons. One of them attempts to hit Fritz with some ink while another leaps to knock him off Bessaria. The ink splashes against the shield before Fritz feels the other demon land on him. The gnome hits a boot-shaped button on his belt as his sheep collides with the demon it already hit. Fritz lets his leg armor stay with Bessaria’s saddle as he slips off his mount. He makes sure to keep the shield between him and the slavering demon.
“The leg armor saddle releaser sticks for a second, but it’s still usable. Commencing test of shield,” Fritz says while he pushes against the demon.
“Tests? Is that Fritz? What’s going on?” Luke nervously asks. He feels his fingers slip on the slick wood and he falls into the cold water. Luke is barely able to keep his head above the water as the defense spell continues to deflect him off the side of the ship.
“Luke!” Nimby screams, feeling the rough pull on the rope.
“I can’t get out of the water!” Luke hollers at the top of his lungs.
Nimby braces his feet and pulls on the rope with all of his strength. “Hurry up, Fritz!”
The gnome slaps a button on his shoulder and the shield makes a wild screech before launching into the air. The demon is still holding the shield while it passes the crow’s nest and explodes with a thunderous blast. Fritz ignores the slimy, twitching monster parts that replace the rain falling from the sky. He whistles for Bessaria to get out of the way before he swings his strange weapon off his back. The weapon releases an onslaught of silver streaks into the nearest demon until it is covered in gnomish throwing disks. The smell of oil carries on the wind as Fritz flips the weapon onto its side and puts his finger on another trigger.
“Too bad this gear is one time use,” the gnome mutters.
A pull of the second trigger releases a tongue of white fire that ignites the demon. Its brother watches in fear as the panicked demon twitches and burns where it stands. The remaining demon turns to leap off the ship into the calm waters when Bessaria stomps her foot and a dart from her knee armor hits the demon in the back. The dart doesn’t stop the monster from diving off the ship and trying to escape.
“You’re going to let it go?” Captain Higgs asks in irritated confusion.
“Good job, Bessaria!” Fritz says, unaware of the captain’s question. “Commencing final test and initiating the Ram Cannon. I think we’re at a safe distance.”
The push of a button on Bessaria’s rump armor causes the pieces of her flank armor to swing out and up. They click together to form a cannon that the poor beast struggles to keep steady. Fritz reaches for the cannon and aims it up and toward the front of the ship before ripping a flint cord out of the cannon’s steel backside. A deafening boom shakes the ship as a ball of fire leaves the cannon and arches back toward the river. The force sends Bessaria backwards where she crashes into Nimby before bleating in discomfort.
“Before you ask, this invention utilizes what we gnomes call a magnetic tracking system,” Fritz explains while taking his armor off. “The dart, which Bessaria fired earlier, attracts that flaming cannonball because of the metals that we used for them. It should be hitting right about . . . hmmm . . . This could be messy.”
“Messy?” Nimby asks with a mouth full of wool. Bessaria gets up and wanders toward her master.
An explosion occurs forty yards down the river and the crew watches as a wall of water rushes toward the River Scout. Fritz, Bessaria, and Nimby are the only ones in the open when the water hits. It feels like an eternity before the halfling can breathe again. His first fear is for Luke when he feels the rope hanging loose. The fear lasts for only a moment because he looks up to see the forest tracker tangled in some of the high ropes. Fritz and Bessaria clamber out of the lower deck like a pair of drowned rats.
“You’re the most useful maniac that we could ask for, Fritz,” Luke weakly says while he tries to untangle himself.