Here’s an excerpt from ‘Battlemage: A Soldier’s Tale,’ the next installment of the Dwarven Rifleman series. It’s pre-edit, so if it’s a little rough bear with us…

“Ulfgar Grellsbane and party. There is one among you that does not belong; we’ve come to bring her back to home.”

Ageyra resisted the urge to look at her companion; they could not mean any other person among them. Sergeant Haggyr shifted his grip on the gun, resting the long barrel on his shoulder. The posture was relaxed and non-threatening, but she recognized that the older dwarf would be able to bring the weapon into play very quickly.

“I’m afraid you have been misinformed m’lord. There’s non here but the Corporal, myself and recruits of His Majesty’s Royal Army. Swore them in myself, I did, an no mistake about it.”

The young noble straightened in his saddle, not liking the correction. The others of his party shifted their ponies, spreading out slightly. Ageyra noted that two of them bore guns of their own, and all of them were armed. As if any dwarf on the road would not be, of course.

Gathering his patience visibly the young dwarf spoke again. “The one I speak of was to be my bride, and no offense but she hardly belongs among the… common sorts that join up to soldier. Give her over to us now and we need not get your betters involved in this affair.”

The sergeant shifted and Ageyra saw several of the riders hands twitch towards their weapons. Nervous sorts, she thought, not used to be thwarted either, I’ll wager.

The Sergeant shrugged, and said, “That makes no never mind to me, M’Lord. I’ve no doubt you’ll have the same answer of them I’m giving you now. Best you take yourself and friends back to the city ere it gets too late. You lot don’t look prepared for a night on the road.”

The noble drew himself up and put a hand to the hilt of his sword, his gaze growing stormy as he glared at the Dwarf standing before him.

“Do not mistake me, Sergeant. We mean to have her, and we’ll not leave without her. We are prepared to take her if you force out hands. Surely you don’t think to cross blades with me over a mere girl?”

Maer shifted and made to get up but Ageyra stayed her with a hand on her arm. The other woman looked at her and she shook her head. She subsided, but Ageyra could feel the tension in her.

The Sergeant grinned wolfishly and said, “That I do not M’Lord. That’s why Corporal Kerl is going to shoot you dead the moment that blade clears leather.” The corporal’s long-gun swung up, the muzzle centered unwaveringly on the mounted figure.

“Now,” the sergeant continued mildly, “Is it your intent to take up arms against His Majesty’s Royal Army?”