Excerpt from Book 2: The Shining Stone


When the attack came, it began with a low, rumbling sound that shook the earth and sent the horses skittering sideways in fear. "Rockslide!" yelled Prince Killian, pointing up the mountain slope to the right, where dozens of large boulders were rolling down, headed directly for them.


"Nay, Ogres! A trap!" cried Reagen, gesturing upward at the rim of the canyon, where huge manlike figures with hairy bodies, oversized heads and abnormally long arms were silhouetted against the bright afternoon sun, jumping up and down, and waving those extended limbs about in the air. They appeared to be jeering and bellowing with bestial delight as they watched the deadly hail of rocks hurtling down upon the company of riders below. The horses reared and screamed in panic as the companions tried to calm them and spur them to safety, but there was nowhere safe to go.


"To me! To me!" yelled Niocal, using his magic to amplify his voice so that he could be heard over the deafening avalanche plummeting toward them, gathering force as it came, crushing everything in its path. Those close enough to the senior mage could do naught but heed his cries and gather near him, though to what avail they knew not, with imminent destruction all but certain.


As the wall of boulders raced down toward the main body of the party, threatening to inundate them and smash their bodies to a bloody pulp, Niocal spoke a word loudly and gestured with his hands. A dazzling light shot out from his fingers and sped along the edge of the path for thirty feet in either direction, forming a shimmering curtain, a transparent barrier directly in front of the massive rockslide.


Then, as Killian and the others looked on in amazement, the boulders struck the magical barrier, crashing into it violently with the force of tons…and stopped! Simply and miraculously stopped! So did the next wave of rocks coming behind, and the next, until the granite onslaught became an inert wall of stone lining the road, rising ten feet into the air.


All those behind the barrier escaped unharmed, but the soldiers riding in the vanguard of the party, up ahead beyond the protective barrier, were less fortunate. They went down under the crush of the boulders, the screams of the men and squeals of their horses filling the air as they were mangled and broken beneath the weight of the stones.


For the first time, Princess Ellianthia was glad to have Niocal along on the journey, feeling stunned by the sheer power of the mage's defensive spell. She and the others were scanning the right side of the hill for more attackers, when Reagen cried, "Ware the left!"


They turned to see a barrage of smaller rocks and spears being hurled from high above the left side of the road to strike the soldiers bringing up the rear just behind them. Three more men of the war band went down immediately, one squashed flat by a stone the size of a huge pumpkin, the others skewered with long, wooden shafts tipped with crude flint spear tips. Then, scores of the giant, hairy creatures began to lope down the hillside, screaming guttural war cries as they loosed more boulders and spears at the companions.


The Elfin maid heard an angry curse behind her, and turned just as Niocal, his face clenched tightly in concentration, finished a short chant and thrust forth his staff in his right hand. She could feel the surge of magic gathering, building, until she thought the very air around him might explode. Then he spoke a word of power, and the world blazed red with his lethal Rain of Fire Spell.


As the torrents of flames shot forth, she was momentarily back in the Great Forest, watching with horror as they incinerated everything in their terrible path, burning an incendiary swath some thirty feet wide. But this time, it was not the screams of her comrades and the silent cries of the trees that she heard. This time, it was the panicked howls of these foul beasts bursting into flames, running around frantically like living torches as their hair and skin caught fire.


When the destruction from the spell—the spell she had hoped to never see again—was finished, nearly two score of the Ogres had perished. For a moment, every living creature present on that killing field, friend and foe alike, paused to gape in shock at the terrible devastation wrought by the battle mage. Yet, incredibly, dozens of the Ogres remained alive, and the death of their fellow beasts seemed to only enrage them more. They resumed their charge down the hillside, continuing to launch stones and spears as they came.