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Read Chapter One for Free! The Defender of Myris Dar, A Stone Guardians Novella

Updated: Apr 11

Title page graphic for The Defender of Myris Dar, a Stone Guardians Fantasy novella by Kindrie Grove

Chapter 1: Terror on the Beach

 

Rowan ran lightly down the path that led to the beach, watching the ground as she placed her soft-booted feet on the uneven path. The morning was already hot, even the birds were no longer singing, conserving their energy through the heat of the day. 


Sunlight fell in dapples over the ground as she entered the tree-lined section she loved so well. She slowed to relish the cooler shadows, as an ocean-scented breeze lifted escaped stands from her long blond braid. She reached up to tuck them back behind her ear, and glanced up to the rustling canopy above. Her sword, which was strapped to her back, shifted, and she tightened the buckle on the strap across her chest to keep it positioned. 


She was looking forward to her morning ride. Roanus, her young gray stallion, was making beautiful progress, and she expected to be able to take him out on the next rotation with her comrades. 


Perhaps a swim in the surf after their ride would be good for him, giving her the opportunity to work with the horse in a less familiar environment, and further develop the trust between rider and mount.


The path opened and the pebble-strewn shore crunched under foot until she reached the fine, white sand of the curved beach. Rowan lifted a hand to shade her eyes, scanning the surf. As she was about to turn towards the shore path that led to the lower stable and training corral, something odd caught her attention. She frowned, studying what appeared to be a strange boulder near the high-tide line – a boulder she was certain should not be there. Then it moved. 


Rowan gasped. It was a person! 


She swiftly glanced along the shore – no boats or other people were visible.


Striding forward slowly, her senses on high alert, Rowan approached to find a man, still wet from swimming or being washed ashore. He had no weapons that she could see, nor any belongings. She walked around him to stand with the sun behind her so she could see clearly. 


He was not Myrian.


“Are you alright?” She shifted so her shadow fell over him.


He blinked, and brought a hand up to shade his eyes, giving her a piercing look. Then he groaned, and sagged back into the sand.


Rowan moved up beside him and knelt down. She pulled her water skin from its strap and helped him take a sip. “Where have you come from?”


He shook his head and grabbed at the water. Rowan offered him more, waiting for him to drink his fill while examining him. His unshaven face was sun-darkened, and his scraggly mop of hair had come loose from a pony tail. His eyes were dark, and the sockets hollowed, as though her hadn’t eaten well in a while. “Are you wounded?”


The man shook his head and struggled to sit up. Rowan helped him but when he tried to hold onto her, she disengaged and stepped back out of reach.


Rowan drawing her sword, back view, fantasy character sketch by Kindrie Grove.JPG
Rowan Drawing her Sword, graphite and white pencil crayon on toned paper

He spoke with a raspy voice but she couldn’t understand him. He tried again in broken common. “I sank boat.”


“Your ship sank?”


The man nodded.


Rowan looked out at the bay, searching again for debris. The water was calm and sparkling in the sun, with the waves churning  rhythmically over the fine sand, yet there was no wood, or barrels, no rope or wooden crates. There was nothing but the man before her. “Where?” she asked.


He waved vaguely to the left, where the beach ended in a rocky peninsula that stretched out into the bay, curving around to make a natural breakwater.


“Did your ship run aground?” Rowan looked back at the stranger. “Where is the rest of your crew?”  The hair was beginning to rise on the nape of her neck. Something was strange here, and the Myrian Guard needed to know about it. “I will take you to see a healer,” she said. “Can you walk?”


He nodded, but struggled to rise without much success. 


Rowan stepped forward to help him, and abruptly found a long dagger pointed at her chest. She gasped, pulling back, but he grabbed her wrist and hauled her toward him, reaching up to wrap his arm around her neck.


Rowan resisted, throwing her weight backward until he wrenched harder. Then she charged, lifting her other forearm and driving it into his throat, knocking him down easily with his own overbalanced momentum. He landed with a surprised grunt as her weight drove the air from his lungs. Rolling off, she stripped the knife from his grasp, and pulled her sword from its scabbard on her back, leveling it at him. “Who are you?” she hissed. “Where is the rest of your crew, pirate?”


Gasping for breath, man raised his hands in surrender. He clambered to his knees and gazed up at her, a slow and sinister smile spreading over his face. Then he began to cackle, flashing yellow, rotting teeth.


An arrow whistled passed her – close enough for the puff of air from its passage to tickle her face. 

Rowan spun. 


fantasy drawing, Rowan with Sword and Dagger, illustration by Kindrie Grove for The Stone Guardians fantasy novel series
Rowan with Sword and Dagger, graphite and Prismacolor on toned paper.


A group of pirates were clambering over the rocks to the left, bows drawn and aimed at her, and a pair of rowboats, crowed with men, came into view around the headland. 


More arrows flew toward her. She dove at the man on the ground, vaulting over him and yanking him backward. He landed on top of her with a windmilling of limbs just as the flurry of arrows landed over them. 


He screamed, stiffening above her. Rowan shoved his body away from her, and scrambled to her feet as they re-drew. She pelted up the beach toward the trees, zigzagged to make herself as hard a target as possible amidst another fall of arrows. 


Plunging into the trees, she sprinted back up the path.


Home. 


It was a risk to lure them there, but she knew the terrain, the game trails, and places to hide. 

Yet somehow she needed to raise the alarm, too. Maybe if she could lead them into the wilderness...


When she had gone some distance, she swerved off the path into the trees, doubling back and  keeping her foot-falls quiet. She worked to slow her breathing, wiping at the sweat on her forehead to keep it from her eyes. When she heard voices, she stopped and ducked down, listening to a garbled mix of tongues spoken in rough male voices. She could only understand a few words, but their intent was clear – they needed to find her before she could raise the alarm. 


These pirates must have a larger ship offshore coming in to land. A craft large enough to accommodate two rowboats the size she had seen, would be crewed by almost fifty men. She didn’t understand  how they could have made it through the Myrian Fleet.


Rowan crouched lower as her pursuers ran up the trail passed her hiding spot.  After the last one, she stepped quietly out behind them and began to follow.


Andin had gone to the rock quarry early this morning to find stone for his next carving. If she could get to him, he could run the high path to the garrison and raise the alarm. 


She stopped and stood on the path, weighing her options. 


It would take the pirates time to make it up to their home, but her mother was there, unprepared and unsuspecting. Rowan would have to beat the pirates there once she found her younger brother.


Squaring her shoulders, and taking a deep breath, she ducked back off the path to head for the quarry.

She was sweating hard, her legs aching from the climb, when she reached the quarry. Standing on the edge of the cut into the mountainside to listen, she tried to quiet her breathing to listen. Finally, she heard the tapping of a hammer. It was coming from the far side, where the stone had been hollowed into a shallow cave. 


Rowan dashed towards the sound. When she came around the corner into the hollow, she nearly collided with her brother.


“Rowan!” Andin dropped his hammer and several of his acquired rock samples scattered to ground. “You startled me. What are you –


“Andin, pirates!” Rowan gasped for breath. “There are pirates landing on the beach. They are headed up the path to the house.”


Andin dropped the rest of his gear and grasped her by the shoulders. “Mother is home!” He made to move past her but she grabbed his arm and spun him to face her.


  “There are too many. I need you to get to the garrison. Find Dell and Lesana – they will still be there before the patrol heads out for the day. Tell them an entire ship is landing.”


Andin’s eyes widened. “Rowan that could be up to fifty men!”


“I know. Just go. Run like you’ve never run in your life.”


“Come with me.”


Rowan shook her head. “No. If I don’t get back to warn mother she will not stand a chance.”


Andin stared at her with a frown of disapproval, one she had seen often from her little brother. “Don’t you dare try to take them all on by yourself.”


Rowan gave him a push toward the far side of the quarry where the high path began. “Don’t worry, I know this land better than they do. They won’t even see me coming.”


She watched for a moment as her brother hit his stride and began to run full out. He was tall and fit, and would make good time. 


Her bravado gone, Rowan swallowed and turned back the way she had come. She broke into a run and began to wend her way down toward their home. 


She could only hope to get to her mother in time.


fantasy illustration of Rowan by Kindrie Grove for The Stone Guardians fantasy novel series
Rowan with Sword, Graphite and white pencil crayon on toned paper

wax seal letter k
 

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