What follows is a Magewood.com Sneak Peek into IA Mullin's novel Mystillion (Redsands Book 1).
Chapter 5 Excerpt
Marilana perched carefully in the tree with an arrow nocked to her bow. She had gone out early that morning on her daily patrol armed with her short sword in addition to her normal bow and dagger. Normally, she would have finished her patrol and reported to Lady Annabella’s estate for sparing practice, but not today. She had been scouting the forest west of the South Road when she had heard the sharp trill. She made her way carefully toward the sound, and that’s when she saw the bandit scout, a sleek orange and black tiger, slipping from tree to tree staying in the shadows. Carefully drawing her bow, Marilana shot the tiger in the neck, dropping him like puppet without strings.
Moments later, Child arrived on the scene, and together they hid the body and removed any signs of their presence.
“I’ve been following a bandit raiding group of about sixty men, some mounted and some on foot,” Child had told her. “They are angling toward the farmlands on the southwest of Mystillion.”
“This is not good news,” Marilana had said. “Continue tracking them. I’ll make my way as carefully and quickly as I can to the East Road and report what you’ve seen.”
Marilana had reached the road just as Captain Branth was returning on horseback from his own morning patrol. She swung up behind him on his saddle and they had galloped flat out to Lady Annabella’s estate. The guards on the wall saw them and sounded the alarm.
Lady Annabella and Captain-General Zariff met them at the castle steps, and Marilana immediately informed them of the situation. Lady Annabella then sent her back out to scout south of the estate. Marilana spent two hours scouting the forests and found two bandit scouts attempting to prevent anyone from discovering the tracks of the raiders. She struck fast and didn’t bother to hide the bodies since they probably would not be found until after the raid. She then followed the raiders’ tracks and quickly found them turning north toward the West Road.
Marilana hurried back and met Captain-General Zariff at the rally point. After hearing her report and equipping her with two full quivers, Zariff sent Marilana into town to sound the warning.
Now, from her current position in the forest west of town, she could see a portion of the meadow surrounding the town and a long stretch of the West Road.
She wished once again that Mystillion had better defenses. Its buildings sprawled from its center in an orderly network of streets like a spider’s web. The school was placed almost exactly in the center with several blocks of merchant shops between it and the market square to the north and the Chapel of the Goddess and the courthouse to the south. While the layout made expansion easy and kept the town orderly, it also made the town easy for raids and difficult to defend without a wall. She could see the town guardsmen and a number of merchant guards hunkered down behind the barricades on the main road and larger side streets. Archers had been stationed on several of the taller rooftops. Everyone was tense, waiting for the impending attack.
Just then, the slightest movement from the forest floor caught Marilana’s attention. She saw a bandit creeping toward the underbrush at the edge of the meadow. He appeared to be alone, so Marilana drew her bow and released an arrow. Even before the arrow had impaled the bandit squarely in the back, Marilana was already nocking her bow with a second arrow. She spotted a second bandit, this a burly black bear, a moment later as he tried to ease back behind a tree. She aimed and released, her arrow striking the bandit dead center of his left eye. The bear went down in a heap, but the sound of twigs breaking drew several more bandits into her view. She released four more arrows in quick succession, but gritted her teeth in annoyance as the fourth man managed a warning cry an instant before her arrow found its mark in his neck.
The rest of the bandits broke from cover at the sound. Yells rang out all along the meadow as men charged toward the smaller streets, the ones without barricades. Marilana loosed arrow after arrow dropping tigers, deer, bears, and many others as they emerged from the cover of the trees. The archers on the roof tops opposite her began raining arrows across the short expanse of grass. Guardsmen drew back from the barricades and ran further into town making for the cross streets and smaller lanes in an attempt to cut off the bandits’ advance into the town.
Marilana paused with her next arrow as a rumbling sound began to build on the road. Turning on her perch, she grimaced as a group of ten mounted bandits rounded the turn in the road and galloped straight toward the main barricade. With the defenders spread too thin, the horses would be able to jump the barricade and race through the town. Marilana drew her bow and released her arrow. The lead horse cried out in pain as her arrow pierced its chest. It stumbled and fell. Three of the horses running behind it crashed into their leader and the sickening snaps of their breaking bones echoed among the growing tumult. The horses screamed in pain and thrashed about. One of the bandits was crushed beneath their weight, while the other three were thrown off the road. The six bandits remaining, managed to guide their horses around their downed comrades, and continued toward town. Marilana picked off three more in a matter of seconds just as Captain-General Zariff and his mounted troops emerged from the north. The bandits on foot sent up a signal shout and began retreating into the forest. Captain-General Zariff and his horsemen set out in pursuit of the three mounted bandits racing south along the meadow.
Marilana stood guard as the soldiers routed the last of the bandits. Then she watched as members of the town garrison cautiously entered the meadow and began to check the bodies. Marilana slid quietly from her perch. She crouched on the forest floor for a long moment and scanned the area. Seeing no movement, she raised the hood of her cloak and began silently tracking the retreating bandits who had turned south.