Get an uncut first look at Windbreak, the concluding title in the Gryphon Riders Trilogy, below:
Before anyone could stop her, Eva joined the fray. The complete chaos of her first pitched battle nearly topped her in her tracks. There appeared to be only twenty to thirty of the smoke-colored Smelterborn, but each fought with the ferocity of ten men. Gryphons screamed and dropped like arrows from the sky. Juarag raiders, Sorondaran knights, Windsworn and Scrawl rune mages fell like trees beneath an iron avalanche
“Aim for the eyes!” Eva shouted as a burst of flame shot from the hands of nearby Scrawl. She knew their magic might be the only thing to turn the tide. “Aim for the eyes — it’s the only way to bring them down!”
In the chaos, she wasn’t sure anyone heard her. To her left, a man screamed as he flew through the air before smashing into two of his fellow soldiers. Eva pushed her way forward, ignoring her friends’ shouts for her to stop. A Smelterborn loomed out of the blizzard in front of her.
Pushing aside her terror, Eva summoned her training. The Smelterborn swung at her with a sword the size of a lance. Eva raised her weapon and braced to parry the blow. Aleron’s rune-inscribed blade cut through the golem’s weapon. The Smelterborn registered no surprise or shock at having his sword cut in two. Instead, it tossed the hilt aside and raised its shield in both hands, then charged.
Eva dove to the side and shifted the grip on her sword. She swung hard sideways and sparks filled the air as the blade scored the iron face of the shield. Pivoting with the momentum of her swing, Eva severed the golem’s arm at its elbow. But the Smelterborn registered no pain. With its remaining hand, it hefted its shield overhead in a crushing blow.
Eva stumbled backward and lost her footing. She looked up just as the Smelterborn’s shield swung toward her. She gritted her teeth. So this was how it would end.
At the last moment, a figure collided with the falling shield, forcing the edge inches to the right of Eva’s head. Tahl rebounded off the shield and hit the ground hard. Scrambling, Eva swung low and severed the golem’s leg. The Smelterborn toppled over backward. Before it could recover, Eva buried her blade in its armored chest.
An all-too-familiar bone-chilling wail split the air and a dark shape shot out of the ruined helmet, like a streak of black tar in the snow-filled sky. Eva ran to Tahl’s side as he stood, using his shield to steady himself. The tumult of the battle around them faded into the back of Eva’s mind as she searched him for any serious wounds. A relieved sob tore from her chest upon finding him okay.
“Gonna be…sore tomorrow,” he grunted.
“I had it handled,” Eva said and they shared a grim laugh.
Pushing her soaked hair out of her face, Eva saw about two-thirds of the Smelterborn were down, although the humans’ superior numbers wore thin. Not far off, Sigrid, Iva, Wynn, and Chel toppled another Smelterborn after a blast of Ivan’s ice kenning struck it in the head. When they joined Eva and Tahl, the Scrawl bent over, hands on his knees like he’d just ran up the mountainside.
“Everyone alright?” Eva asked them.
“No thanks to you,” Sigrid said, hefting her notched ax. She grinned. “I’m supposed to be the one who rushes into a fight without thinking it through.”
Chel held a broken spear in her hand and nodded. Wynn only stared, face as pale as the snow.
“Wynn,” Eva said, seized by concern. “Are you okay?”
Before she could answer, Ivan, bent over again and spewed his breakfast at their feet.
“Sorry,” he muttered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
The westerners and the Juarag fought side by side as a wall of weapons and shields, herding the remaining golems toward the cliffs. Shouting and screaming, the unlikely allies drove the band of golems off the edge. Only two Smelterborn remained. Both charged the king and Arapheem. Once again, Eva charged forward, leaving her friends to follow.
The first golem fell beneath a blast of fire from a Scrawl kenning. The last, instead of retreating from the lost battle, went berserk. The Smelterborn hit the first wave of knights, armor smashing into armor as it abandoned its weapon, tossing the men and women aside with both hands. Nearby Juarag sprinted to the defense of their war leader and were crushed beneath the golem’s iron fists.
A shot of ice hit the Smelterborn in the shoulder sending it spinning. Faster than Eva could blink, the golem recovered as if the defeat of its fellow somehow added to its strength and speed. Several kennings hit the golem all at once, a storm of ice, fire, wind, and earth. The Smelterborn absorbed each blow, in turn, wading through the rune magic. More soldiers died as they crossed in front of its path.
Although nothing could stop it, the golem’s progress slowed just enough. Eva struck. Her overhead slash cut deep, leaving a gaping line of heated metal, curling back on itself. Dropping to its knees, the golem continued to crawl forward and a horrifying, guttural chant filled the air.
Eva screamed and swung down again with all of her might. A blast of ice struck the Smelterborn’s helmet. It didn’t stop crawling. Summoning the last of her strength, Eva raised her sword in both hands and drove it through the back of the golem’s head. The dark spirit trapped within burst free, knocking everyone within an arm’s length of the Smelterborn to the ground. The now-empty suit of armor gave a last twitch and lay still.