Storm Breakers, The Storms of Magic Book 3
By P.T. Hylton and Michael Anderle
“Are you ready to begin?” Elliot asked.
He and his friends were gathered on a green hillside dotted with rocks and boulders. The stones varied in size from the proportions of the nail on a man’s little finger to boulders bigger than the man himself.
It was insanity to be hiding in such a place, especially considering the enemy they were about to face. However, that was part of the reason the men and the woman of the Tall Grass Raiders loved Elliot—he was ballsy as all hell.
He nudged the man next to him, Sigmund, and pointed at the village below. “There’s where my first arrow goes.”
He was pointing to a spot near the north edge of town. Though the village was small, its defenses were impressive. There was a guard stationed at each end of the single road that ran down the center of the town. The guards looked to be solid men, and they wore the black sash that indicated they had been trained in the Way of Stone.
A bell hung on a wooden stand near each guard station. At the first sign of trouble, Elliot knew the guards would ring the bells. At that signal, every able-bodied man and woman in the village would run from their houses and join the fight.
This was another reason Elliot planned to attack from the hill on the west side of town. When the alarm was sounded, the people exiting their homes would instinctively turn toward the bell on the north or south side of the town, whichever was closest. Their misdirected attention would give the Tall Grass Raiders another advantage.
Elliot turned toward his warriors. He looked each of them in the eye, confirming their readiness for battle.
All of them were Barskall, except Elliot. Time was that these men and women would have consumed seiderdrek before the battle, the Barskall potion that gave them enhanced speed and strength and imbued them with unquenchable bloodlust until it wore off.
It had taken Elliot a long time to convince them there were other ways to fight. More effective ways. It hadn’t been easy, but eventually they’d all come around to the idea that a strategic attack was worth more than a frenzied one.
After he’d confirmed their readiness, he gave the signal and they scattered, moving into position along the hill. When they attacked, Elliot wanted it to seem as if they were coming from everywhere. He wanted them to appear far greater than their actual number, which was a mere thirty warriors.
The men and women of the Stone Valley would be shocked to learn how few Tall Grass Raiders there were, considering the trouble they’d been giving the inhabitants for the past few years.
Elliot had crouched behind a boulder, and his friend Sigmund paused before moving into position. “You know, no matter how many times we do this, I always get a little thrill at the thought of the people in the village breaking fast, some still a-bed, with no idea the carnage that’s about to rain down on them.”
Elliot patted Sigmund’s arm. “You have a poet’s heart, my friend. But just now, I’m more interested in your sword.”
Sigmund let out a harsh laugh. “Ah, once again my ruminations are wasted on the champion of the ekkja, leader of the Tall Grass Raiders. His mind is only on bloodshed.” With that, he turned and trotted down the hill to his position.”
As he left, Elliot called to him in a loud whisper, “Watch your lines out there.”
“Watch your own,” Sigmund shot back over his shoulder.
Elliot surveyed his warriors, ensuring they were in position. Even though this was a small village, a significant amount of planning had gone into this raid and they would need accuracy and luck to pull it off.
He eyed the knee-high stone wall around the perimeter of the town. That barrier, though low, was his main concern. The Stone Shapers would use that.
His warriors thought of him as ballsy, but in truth Elliot was a planner who left nothing to chance. Though once the battle was joined, all that planning could be reduced to naught with one poor decision by his warriors.
When he was certain everyone was ready to begin, he lifted his bow and nocked an arrow.
He took careful aim and slowed his breathing, aware of the way the bow rose and fell with his every breath. He studied the rhythm of it. After he exhaled, when his body was completely still and the arrow was frozen in space, he let fly.
The bowstring twanged, and the arrow cut through the air. His aim was true, and the broadhead point sank into the chest of the guard on the north edge of town.
From that distance Elliot couldn’t tell if the guard made a noise, but he could see that he sank to his knees clutching his chest, then fell onto his side.
The guard’s partner looked around, confused, then saw the arrow sticking out of the man’s chest. He spun, frantically scanning the road ahead for any sign of the archer. It was clear he hadn’t been able to tell which direction the arrow had come from based on the way his friend had fallen.
One of Elliot’s men loosed an arrow, but that one missed its mark and embedded itself into to the road a few feet past the remaining guard. Now he knew the attack was coming from the hills to the west.
Elliot let out a soft curse, but he moved on. The raid was in progress, and it wouldn’t be stopped by a single poorly-aimed arrow.
His warriors were divided into three groups: the archers, the burners, and the runners.
The archers were ten of the best bowmen, including Elliot. Their job was to take out Stone Shapers and sow fear by raining arrows down on pre-selected targets.
The burners were tasked with creating chaos. They ran into the village along carefully pre-determined paths the bowmen knew to avoid and set fires. While all the homes in town had been built from stone, there were still plenty of flammable items, from wagons to foodstuffs.
And while the archers and the burners drew the attention of the enemy, the runners focused on the real target: a small building near the center of town.
As Elliot nocked another arrow, the remaining guard on the south end of town sprinted toward the stone wall. He reached it just as Elliot fired.
Even from so far away, Elliot could see the man’s eyes begin to glow black.
The stonewall shifted, changing shape under the man’s power. It grew higher, creating a ten-foot barrier between himself and the hills to the west.
Elliot’s arrow plinked harmlessly off it.
But that was all right with Elliot. Stone Shapers couldn’t create stone, only change its shape. In making the wall in front of him ten feet high, he’d had to draw stone from other parts of the wall. That meant there was less stone between the Tall Grass Raiders and the village.
Smoke was already beginning to rise from a few spots in the village as the burners ran through town, thrusting their torches against anything flammable. The runners were almost to their target.
Elliot fired more arrows, providing cover for his men and distraction for his enemies.
A few moments later the runners burst out of the target building, each holding a bag.
Elliot and the archers laid down covering fire and soon all the runners were safely back in the hills. “To Baer Gigur!” he called.
The Tall Grass Raiders were all smiles and jovial laughter on their way back home.
Sigmund seemed particularly happy. He was arguing with another runner about who had caused more damage.
Finally, he said, “Ah, what’s it matter? We did our job. Another village raided, and we didn’t lose a single warrior.”
Elliot did not share his friend’s happiness. He knew all they’d bought themselves was another day of survival. The war was far from over.