Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.
Blood ran from a cut near Roar’s hairline, and her fierce expression went blank with unconsciousness. Locke swung around, gripping the front of Duke’s shirt and dragging the old man up onto his toes.
“Why did you do that?” he growled.
“Because someone had to. I’ve never seen someone react to a storm like that, but I know she would have only hurt herself trying to hurt you.” Even in the face of Locke’s wrath, the old man was stoic and calm. “And you’re the torque specialist. They need you out there.”
Locke wanted to argue, but the winds howled like bloodthirsty hounds, and the Rock shook forcefully even with the anchors down.
“Fine,” he growled. “Help me move her.” Together they carried Roar to the back of the Rock, and Locke found a towel to cushion her head. He hesitated a moment longer, but one glance outside the glass told him there was no time to wait. Duke pulled the lever that lowered a metal shade over the glass dome at the front of the Rock, blocking their view. Locke opened the sliding door at the bottom of the Rock, grabbed a bag of the enchanted jars they used to capture magic, and dropped into the narrow space between the Rock and the earth. He plucked the horn he carried from the pouch on his left hip and blew it hard to signal the hunters to retreat.
He knew his crew well enough to know that they had been focused on weakening the twister, not dissipating it. They would have been using opposing winds to slow the rotation. Jinx would be using her abilities as an earth witch to strengthen the surrounding trees so that the twister did not gain any more deadly debris.
They could have dismantled that twister in a few minutes, but they could not siphon off raw magic unless they got to the storm’s heart.
Jinx rolled into the space beneath the Rock, panting heavily, and Ransom squeezed under a moment after her. Sly was so silent that he didn’t realize she was already there, her short form tucked beneath the Rock horizontally above his head, until she said, “One minute out. I tried to slow the winds, but the moment I broke away to come here, they flared back to top speed.”
“It’s brutal, this one,” Ransom said. “Not that big, but the magic is potent. Even mesmerized me for half a second at the beginning.”
Locke cursed. Ransom had some of the strongest mental guards of any of them. It didn’t bode well that the twister had gotten through his defenses.
He opened the bag he’d brought with him and handed a jar to each of the three hunters. Then he rapped on the metal shell of the Rock above him and the sliding door opened, revealing a grinning Bait.
“We ready?” the teen asked, the Stormheart from his thunderstorm affinity already in his hand.
Locke nodded and said, “Good luck. Fast feet, novie. If you get killed, I’m going to be unhappy.”
“Sir, yes, sir.” Bait gave a quick salute, then slid the door closed. A moment later, they heard the top hatch open, and Bait’s feet hit the ground, running on the far side of the Rock. There was a crescendo of noise in the cyclone’s scream, and the wind picked up, the earth trembling in response. It had taken the bait all right.
Storms were fierce, and while they displayed intelligent behavior on occasion— lashing out when threatened, zeroing in on threats, even chasing prey— they didn’t have the senses that humans had. Locke had always imagined they were more like bats, who used sound to map the world around them, only storms used wind or rain or whatever tools they had at their disposal. And when Bait took off, Stormheart in hand, filling it with his magic, the twister could not tell the difference between Bait and an actual thunderstorm, but it rushed toward him to investigate.
Locke looked at his team, finding three clear and focused sets of eyes. They were ready. He waited until the first wall of the twister was close enough that the ground buckled and jerked beneath their backs. “Ready,” he said, tensing his muscles in preparation to move. The Rock lurched when the wall hit, and debris battered at the sides. They covered their eyes to keep them free of dirt. After a few agonizing seconds of deafening sound, the wall passed, settling them into temporary stillness.
“Now,” he barked, and in seconds, each hunter had rolled out from beneath the Rock into the relative safety of the eye.
Hovering just above their heads was the heart of the twister. Rotating in a miniature version of the real thing, a funnel pulsed with glowing black light— like dense smoke lit from within. Because there was no wind in the eye, it couldn’t sense them, at least not if they were careful. And at the moment, he knew it was focused on the other storm it sensed in the vicinity— whether it thought the other storm was friend or foe, he didn’t know or care as long it stayed distracted. Jinx stepped up first, lifting the jar she had enchanted to draw in magic. As an earth witch, her enchantments were the strongest he’d ever seen, thanks to her natural connection to nature, of which storms were a part. When he had first joined Duke’s crew, they’d had a fire witch. Hers had been good enough to keep the magic in the jar once they’d skimmed some of the excess energy swirling around the storm’s heart. But with Jinx’s enchantment, all she had to do was get the jar close and a smoky tendril of magic peeled away from the small spinning funnel and floated down into the jar, creating an even smaller funnel of its own. A cork formed from nowhere, stoppering the jar and sealing it shut. That was another added bonus of Jinx’s earth magic. Jinx blew them a cocky kiss and rolled beneath the Rock and out of sight. As Sly stepped up toward the heart, the eye began to move past the Rock, cutting off their simplest escape route. But it was no matter. They hadn’t all planned to get out that way. And Jinx could continue her eff orts to weaken the storm on the outside.
The enchantment on the jar called forth another tendril for Sly’s jar, and once more a cork appeared, completing the job. But when Ransom stepped up to fill the third jar, the sound from outside the eye pitched higher, and the twister dug in harder to the earth, turning up several feet of soil below them. Th e storm stilled and the funnel narrowed around them. Sly narrowly missed getting caught up in the enclosing wall of wind and debris.
“Out of time,” Locke yelled. They would have to settle for only two jars.
Almost as if in response to Locke’s call, the storm began moving again, but this time the winds shifted and it began tracking back toward the Rock. He cursed and gestured a hand at Ransom and Sly for them to attack. Sly didn’t have a twister affinity, but her wind Stormheart lent her some influence over the wind rotating around them, and she tried to slow it down.
Ransom and Locke fixated on the storm itself, each simultaneously pulling their twister Stormhearts from their belts. The magic flared to life, filling up Locke’s chest with energy; it sharpened his eyesight, allowing him to see and feel the entirety of the rotating column around him. The twister glowed a sickly greenish black, and he focused on the wall of wind next to him, shifting quickly on his feet to remain inside the eye even as the storm moved. His feet sped to a run as the twister picked up speed, and he knew they had to take this thing down now. He took a deep breath and with a scream, he threw out his hands, sending out every bit of magic in him, amplified by the Stormheart he held. It slammed into the wall ahead of him, slicing it open and forming another wall of translucent light. The howling winds slammed into that wall, and the shape of the tornado warped, trying to continue spinning despite the disturbance.
Locke heard Ransom bellow behind him, and the walls of the twister shuddered again. Wind breached the eye as the circular rotation broke apart. For a moment, there was no rhyme or reason to the movement of the wind around them. It was everywhere, moving in every direction, and dust filled his vision. Something hard lanced his shoulder, and he was thrown sideways. He fell to one knee and planted a hand on the earth to keep him from sprawling completely. Before he could force himself to stand again, the terrible roaring noise faded away and the winds dissipated, curling back to the gray sky above them.
Excerpted from Roar, copyright © 2017 by Cora Carmack.