Trail of the Huntress
The Trail of the Huntress is the second book in the Darkweaver Series:
The battle for Mantor has been won. Against all odds the Terachite Nomads are in retreat.
Yet now, even before the threat of the Nomad Clans has passed, a new danger has arisen in the North.
The mystical Lords of the Inner Eye have initiated an evil plan that will force Jenna to face her destiny. A deadly path is laid before her… one filled with doubts and danger at every turn.
But sometimes even fate can be twisted. Especially when you are… ‘The Huntress.’
The Trail of the Huntress: Prologue
‘Blast those Tarmin damned recruits! What are they up to now?’
Sergeant Dren slammed his quill down on the table so hard that the rolled parchments, which littered the tabletop, jumped, causing several to fall to the floor. Standing, he pushed his chair forcefully away from his desk and strode angrily across the stone tiled floor of the workroom to the window. Outside, recruits were running in every direction across the weapons training area, all discipline seemingly abandoned. A great commotion of confused shouts enhanced the chaos, and the anger that consumed Dren’s thoughts swelled to a new level.
Ever since Baron Keevan had gone south to Mantor with the majority of his private army, Sergeant Dren, together with the somewhat ineffective Captain Risslan, had been struggling to maintain discipline levels amongst the fresh intake of recruits. The major problem was the fact that with virtually all of the Baron’s trained soldiers away, the recruits were being used to fill duties for which they were not yet ready. All of the Corporals most experienced in training new recruits had also gone south, leaving the Sergeant with an unseasoned training staff who seemed to add to his problems rather than solve them. However, limited as his training staff’s abilities may be, the mayhem that reigned within the castle at this moment in time was unforgivable, he thought to himself as he wrenched the door open.
‘STAND STILL!’ he bellowed, the anger boiling in his gut adding even more decibels than normal to his phenomenally powerful voice.
For the most part, the recruits around the eastern side of the castle froze at that huge shout. However, two recruits ignored the order and continued running towards the armoury.
‘ARE YOU DEAF? I SAID STAND STILL,’ Dren yelled at the two recruits who had seen fit to disobey his first command.
‘But, Sergeant…’ protested the nearer of the two young men, his steps stuttering to an indecisive halt.
‘Don’t, ‘But, Sergeant’ me!’ Dren growled, his voice low and dangerous. ‘When I say ‘stand still,’ I mean STAND STILL. Is that understood?’
‘Yes, Sergeant, but we’re under attack…’ the recruit blurted so fast that Dren was unable to chastise him further for answering back before the fact sunk in.
‘Yes, Sergeant. There’s a huge Shandese raiding party approaching the eastern wall.’
‘Then why has the alarm not been sounded, recruit?’
‘Reldan tried to blow the horn, Sergeant, but he couldn’t get a sound out of it. So he ran as fast as he could to tell Captain Risslan…’
‘All right. The rest can wait,’ Dren interrupted, immediately recognising from where the chaos had originated. ‘You five,’ he ordered, pointing at his designated choices. ‘Get swords from the armoury. You, you and you… collect as many bows as you can from the bowmaker’s store. You four – go into every room in the castle and ensure that everyone… and I mean everyone, is out on the walls. The rest of you get up on the walls now, and be prepared to start dislodging enemy ladders and grappling hooks. Move, people. You haven’t got all day.’
Dren was angrier than ever by now, but he gave his orders in a clear, unhurried manner, conveying a calming confidence to the panic stricken recruits. As a result, with clear directions to follow, the recruits began moving with a sense of purpose that had been lacking only moments before. The Sergeant had no need to ask where the Captain was. He could guess.
The quietly fuming Sergeant walked purposefully across the weapons training area and bounded up the steps to the eastern wall. Each powerful stride carried him up two steps at a time, and on reaching the top, Dren’s square jaw clenched in annoyance as he sighted Captain Risslan near the guard tower. Pursing his lips in a hard line, Sergeant Dren moved swiftly to intercept the Captain who was transmitting panic through the new recruits. As Dren strode along the wall, he noted that the enemy would be in a position to begin an assault within the next couple of minutes. He had to act quickly.
‘Captain Risslan,’ he boomed, unable to totally conceal the anger in his voice.
The flustered Captain was oblivious to the undertone, being totally consumed by panic and stressed to breaking point.
‘Sergeant, we’re under attack. We are not prepared for this. We haven’t any trained troops to hold the lines…’
‘Sir, forgive me for interrupting,’ Dren interjected quickly, unable to waste any more than a few seconds on the panic stricken Captain. ‘I think that it might be wise if you went and prepared your horse for battle.’
‘Yes, sir. It wouldn’t be fitting for a Captain to go into battle unprepared. Besides, who would take command if you were killed up here on the walls? You are our only Captain at present, and we would be leaderless if we lost you.’
‘Great Tarmin! I hadn’t thought of that!’
‘Well, sir, that’s just what you have Senior NCOs for. I’ll look after things up here, sir. I suggest that you direct the fight from the relative safety of the Weapons Training Area. That way we don’t lose our leader, and you will get a good view of what’s going on by being on horseback.’
It was a ridiculous proposal, but it was the best that the Sergeant could think of on the spur of the moment. However, the Captain was not thinking rationally and to his panic-filled mind, what the Sergeant was suggesting made perfect sense.
‘Very well, Sergeant. I will go at once and prepare my mount. I shall endeavour to be in position as fast as I can.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
Sergeant Dren breathed a quiet sigh of relief as Captain Risslan virtually sprinted away along the wall towards the nearest steps that led down into the castle interior.
‘Tarmin forbid that you ever have to direct the men in anger,’ muttered Dren through gritted teeth at the rapidly disappearing officer.
It had not been a surprise to Dren that the Baron had left the young Captain behind when the army had marched south to Mantor. However, what had amazed the Sergeant was that the Baron would entrust his entire castle to someone as obviously incompetent as Risslan without leaving at least one other Captain to moderate his decisions. Captains, though, were in short supply: particularly the good ones. Appointing Captains because of their family background rather than for their ability as leaders was undoubtedly the main reason for the shortfall in able commanders. Only a handful had ever been promoted up through the ranks and those had never held more than junior Captain positions. It had never failed to amaze Dren that someone as obviously intelligent and in many areas, progressive as the Baron, would not break with tradition to improve the efficiency of his army.
With no time to reflect further on the Baron’s reasons for appointing Captains, Dren focused his attention on organising the troops on the wall, and bottled up his anger and frustration as best he could, saving it all for the enemy. With his gruff voice he growled short sharp words of direction and encouragement to each group of soldiers. The recruits that he had sent to collect weapons arrived with armfuls of bows and bundles of arrows, which were rapidly distributed along the wall. Dren grabbed a sword from the pile of weapons that had been brought up from the armoury. As he did so, a great clamour of war cries from the enemy announced the commencement of the assault.
‘Bowmen, ready!’ Dren yelled. ‘And… FIRE.’
A wave of arrows sheeted into the enemy ranks. Some found their marks, but the horde continued their charge undaunted.
Another flight of arrows plunged into the Shandese warriors. However, this time the thrum of crossbow bolts, which were launched in reply, resulted in a clatter as most of the bolts smashed harmlessly against the battlements. A single cry from amongst the defenders rang out signalling their first casualty, as one of the recruits fell back clutching at the crossbow bolt deeply embedded in his shoulder.
The seething mass of Shandese raiders reached the base of the castle walls and there was another clatter as dozens of scaling ladders were thrust against the battlements. Many of the young defenders were eager to push the ladders away quickly and thus exposed themselves to more crossbow fire.
‘Easy, lads,’ Dren yelled at the top of his voice. ‘Archers fire at will. The rest of you pick off the men as they reach the top of the ladders. Every now and again push some away at random. It’s impossible to fight and climb a ladder, so use that advantage to reduce the odds.’
Dren’s voice was such that despite the ululating cries of the enemy, his booming tones carried to the furthest of his troops and they responded without question to his orders. Dren himself moved to the nearest of the scaling ladders and hacked at the first of the Shandese warriors to appear at the top of the wall. The swarthy-faced fighter fell backwards off the ladder with a cry of pain, but the view from the eastern wall as Sergeant Dren dispatched his first opponent caused the breath to freeze in his chest. A great dark cloud of unnaturally black smoke was billowing across the field from just behind the attacking force. It only took a split second for Dren to assimilate the fact that firstly: the smoke was appearing from apparently clear air; secondly, it was growing phenomenally fast and finally, it was moving against the wind. It would undoubtedly engulf the wall within the next few seconds and there was nothing that he could do to stop it.
‘Great Tarmin!’ he cursed. ‘They’ve got one of their damned Magicians with them!’
Reviews of The Forging of the Sword
“An excellent adventure, with real people, in the midst of dark days, turmoil and magic…”
Read the full review at: Reading Matters
“This is a very exciting book… it was for me, a rare thing for me to find a boring spot. Five stars.”
Read the full review at: Cool Reads
“Mark Robson is fast becoming one of my favourite authors… Like Jenna, you will find yourself embroiled in a quest, whether you’ll like it or not – but you will like it.”
See the full review at: Author Trek
Mrs Mad’s Book-a-Rama
“Now it is Jenna’s turn to be tested and face her destiny! Can Jenna save her friend (Calvyn) when she doesn’t even know where he is, or will she be facing him across the battlefield? … easy to read and will interest boys and girls, because of the content. FUN: 4 stars. Easy to Read: 4 Stars.”
See the full review at: Mrs Mad’s Book-a-Rama
Ines Mulford (10-12)
“The Darkweaver Legacy is fantastic. The characters are amazing and you can get a clear picture of them in your mind.
Mark Robson is an amazing author, who catches the excitement of your imagination in a book!! I think Trail of the Huntress is my favourite because it has a female heroine, but I really like all the other characters.
I would recommend all four books to anyone with a good imagination or someone who loves getting lost in a world of magic, war and demons!”
"I think that the 'Trail of the Huntress' is well written, Mark Robson has described the things in the book very well. "
"It was brilliant!!! I loved the book, and really look forward to reading the Imperial Spy series.They are re-readable fantasy stories that are incredibly gripping, especially the 2nd book, which is the best book I've read since Lord of the Rings. Ever since I met Mark Robson on a school visit in 2003 I have been captivated by these books. I really love them, and am really looking forward to reading the Imperial Spy. All in all, 11/10!!!"
Sanjog Sandhu (10-12)
"The Trail of the Huntress shows Jenna, who is in love with Calvyn, go on a journey to rescue Calvyn's soul from the Gorvath. Altogether an excellent read! 6/5!"
Maxine (Age 16 -21)
"I thought the Trail of the Huntress was a very good book that I found hard to put down. I have not yet read First Sword and I am dying to read it. If any one asks for a good book to read I would highly recommend these books. I can't wait to read the next one"
Marianne Bretta (11-15)
"Trail of the Huntress is one of the best fantasy books I have read. It is up with Tolkien and Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce (this is a BIG compliment for me) I love all the original ideas like Warders of the Keys and people being able to go inside rocks. I can't wait for the next one!!"
Hannah Tindall (11-15)
"After reading the first book, I was left wanting more, but if I thought that The Forging of the Sword was exciting then I hadn't anticipated what was to come. Following Jenna on her adventure was exciting, as I never knew what was coming around the next corner. Perdimonn was cleverly woven into the plot, and Calvyn's change was unexpected and unusual. At first the story-line was hard to follow, but that's just me, as I am very weird. But, once I had read it for the second time, I got the drift and really enjoyed it. At the end I was left wanting to read the next one even more than I was at the end of book one."
George Barker (11-15)
“I think that the second book was great, because of Mark's brilliant run up to the fight with the Govath which of course, was spectacular! All in all 4/5!”
Tim Cooper (10-12)
“I found this book by accident as me and my twin sister met Mark Robson in Hammicks in Cheltenham. He signed our copies of 'Forging of the Sword' and 'Trail of the Huntress'. This was 2 years ago and I finally started reading them and I couldn't put it down they were so good!”
James Green (10-12)
“Well done Mark! Trail of the Huntress was even better than the first one in my opinion. I think the final battle was described really well, as was the slaying of the Govarth. The whole book had me on tender-hooks and I just could not put it down. I would give it a smashing, well deserved 10/10!”
Ellie Cooper (13-15)
“I found this book by accident when me and my twin sister met Mark Robson in Hammicks in Cheltenham. He signed our copies of 'The Forging of the Sword' and 'Trail of the Huntress'. That was years ago and I took ages to get to read them. When I did I couldn't put them down. I have read them twice now and have loaned them to a friend who is loving them as much as I do.”
“This book is extremely entertaining with a lot of twists and turns of fortune. I think it is the best book in the series and it is my favourite book.”