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Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell is an author, engineer, and mother of three wonderful sons. She has been nominated for the Scribe, Rhysling, and Dwarf Stars Awards and is a member of the SFWA, IAMTW, SinC, and SFPA. She also served for several years as an editor for Mindflights. Her latest published novel is SKEIN OF SHADOWS (2012), a sequel to 2011's THE SHARD AXE, published by Wizards of the Coast. Wizards also published her first novel, LEGACY OF WOLVES, in 2007.

January 2017
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The Winds of Change

"Hey, Jester. You still have that spyglass handy?"

The warforged nodded and produced the instrument from a pouch tied to a metal loop built into his hip plate, handing it over to Greddark.

"What, you like the sand so much, you want to see it close up?" Sabira asked skeptically as the dwarf extended the telescoping glass to its full length and placed it up against his eye. "Don't worry—even moving as fast as we are, I have a feeling it's going to catch up with us sooner rather than later."

Greddark ignored her.

"The clarity with this glass is amazing - where did you get it? I used to have one - got broken in a tussle with some shifters back in Thrane - but it didn't have near the distance this one does. Some truly fine craftsmanship went into this."

"I...acquired it in the Cannith enclave, from an artificer there," the warforged admitted, not sounding particularly sheepish about it.

"Well, next time you're there, maybe you could acquire his schematics for it too," Greddark commented as he pulled the glass away from his eye so he could examine its exterior appreciatively. "I'd be willing to pay handsomely for them."

Sabira stared at the dwarf for a moment, not quite sure she'd heard him right, but figuring she probably had.

"I'm going to pretend you didn't just try to solicit a burglary in front of a Sentinel Marshal," she said.

"Good idea," Greddark replied, bringing the spyglass up to his eye and peering through it at the approaching dust cloud. "Since you don't technically have any jurisdiction here in the desert and you can't arrest me for a crime that I haven't actually committed yet, anyway."

Sabira narrowed her eyes. Greddark, looking through the glass, couldn't see her expression, but the others in the back of the wagon could, and they all moved surreptitiously away from the dwarf.

"Actually," she said, casually unharnessing her urgrosh and laying it across her lap, Siberys spear tip pointed at the dwarf, "my jurisdiction is wherever my shard axe and I say it is. Something a confessed thief who is also wanted by House Medani might want to keep in mind before he starts planning additional crime sprees in my presence. Especially since Medani bounties are notoriously generous - even better than Marshal fees, sometimes. Don't make me curious to find out how much better, hmm?"

She liked Greddark well enough, and she had no real interest in either arresting him for petty theft or turning him over to the Medanis, but he'd challenged her authority in front of men she was supposed to lead, and there was only ever one appropriate response to that. Slapping him down - hard - before anyone else had any similar ideas.

Greddark moved the glass away from his eye and glanced down at her shard axe, one eyebrow arching upward at what he saw. She'd positioned the weapon in such a way that a quick forward thrust would ensure that there would be no more Forgemaidens in his near future, if ever. They were awfully far from a House Jorasco healing center, and there were some wounds you didn't really want to trust to a potion.

He inclined his head to her with a grudging grin.

"So noted. All future crime sprees will be planned out of your hearing, to give you plausible deniability. Satisfied?"

"Hardly ever," she replied with a smirk of her own, pulling the urgrosh back a bit as the others in the wagon visibly relaxed. "But it'll do. Now, why don't you tell me what's so interesting about that dust cloud?"

"I don't know how familiar you all are with prevailing wind patterns, but the winds in this part of Xen'drik should be moving from east to west; any storm powered by those winds would also follow that route. We are traveling southwest at the moment, so the wind should be coming at us predominantly from behind, on the left. And, indeed, if you look outside, you'll see that the various ropes, tails, and robes are being blown to the right."

"So...what's so noteworthy about that?"

"Well, my dear Marshal, if you look at the dust cloud, you'll notice that it is not approaching us from the left, but from the right. In other words, it's moving against the prevailing wind. And making headway."

Sabira looked. The dwarf was right.

"It's not a natural dust storm." It wasn't a question.

"No," Greddark replied. "I'm not sure it's a storm at all."

"Well, what else could it be?"

The answer came from the back of the caravan, a series of metallic cries carried up the line of wagons on the unnatural wind.

"'Ware the dragon!"

...to be continued...

(Read Excerpt 1 here. Pre-order your copy here.)

I'm feeling: cheerfulImagine that's an urgrosh