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The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 40

Using the map Cronos had gotten from Felix, Callindra estimated the location of the mountain where Beliach’s forge was.  It wasn’t that difficult; the memory of flying high above the forests, plains, oceans and glaciers was one that filled her with an inexplicable sense of rightness.  Someday, she would answer her yearning and find a way to truly fly on her own.

At first the travel had been uneventful and simple.  Trudging through dunes and skirting the swamp.  Meeting up with an old tradesman’s track and following it to a Lord’s Causeway, and finding it in a distressing state of disrepair.  Having to ford a river where the bridge had been destroyed was a setback, but it only meant they got wet and had to hang clothes by the fire at night and change into dry spares to avoid catching a chill.

None of the small settlements they passed had people in them.  It was surreal to enter a town and find all the buildings abandoned with no sign as to why the folk had left.  As they walked north, the weather began to get cooler.  Eventually, they had to detour to a larger city to find a place where they could purchase warmer clothing.

“Where are the traders in the south?”  Tryst asked the suspicious looking shopkeeper.  The man had been scratching each of the coins they had used to pay for their goods with a dagger, making sure they weren’t just gilded lead.

“Don’t know.”  The man grumbled, “I ain’t no trader.”

“When is the last time you saw a trader come through?”  Tryst asked, his voice still polite, smiling ingratiatingly.

“Bout six weeks gone.”  He waved a hand, “Now get otta here.  I ain’t your own personal gossip broker.”

“I will pay for the information if that is your wish.”  Tryst said.

“I ain’t got what you want anyway.”  The man said, “Ain’t nothing to tell.”

“Anything you could tell me would be appreciated.”  Tryst said, still smiling.

“Enough of this.”  Callindra stepped forward, a gust of wind following the motion and blowing a stack of parchments onto the floor.  “We have purchased goods from you at exorbitant prices, we have been subjected to all kinds of insult and derision, I will not stand by and watch my brother be treated in such a manner.”

“What’re you gonna do then little girl?”  He glared at her, “Chop me ta bits with that sword I suppose?”

“I notice you have a lot of goods here that are not water resistant.”  She noted idly, placing her hand on Brightfang’s hilt.  “I wonder what would happen if a sudden rain storm happened to hit.”

“Ain’t nothin would happen, there’s a roof.”  He snapped, rolling his eyes and pointing up.

“Well, I agree that there is one right now.”  Callindra agreed, idly looking where he was pointing.  Thunder rumbled in the cloudless sky and the breezes around her swirled the papers on the floor.  “But I can’t say how long that will last given the present circumstance.”

“Are you threatening me?”  He demanded, crossing his arms.

“What?”  She said innocently, “Me threatening you?  Of course not.”  Thunder rumbled again and Callindra smiled.  “I’m threatening your building.  The whole building and everything in it.”

“Last caravan was three weeks ago.”  The man said, wiping sweat off his forehead.  “I ain’t seen nothing since and dunno when the next one’s supposed to come.”

“Are you sure?”  Callindra asked, leaning forward.  Electricity arced across her fingers and he jumped back.

“OK!  They paid me to keep people trading.  They paid me to not tell nobody and just keep up appearances.”  He was looking around almost wildly now, as though he expected someone to pop out of the woodwork and punish him for talking.

“Who?”  She pressed, a pleasant smile working its way across her face.  Her hair began to gradually rise around her, the static electricity of the magic she held within her finding its exit.

“I don’t know.”  He said, holding his hands up in surrender or supplication.  “They didn’t tell me who they were.”

“That is not good enough.”  Callindra said and lightning struck the courtyard outside.  “We need more information than that and I believe you have it.”

“I really don’t know who they are.”  He said, “All I know is they’re with The Order.”

“The Order?”  Callindra’s voice rose in panic and more lightning bolts began to fall outside.

“Uh. Callindra?”  Cronos said with a touch of apprehension coming into his voice.  “You sure you have control over this spell?”

“You’re working for the ORDER?”  She shouted, the wind picking up and beginning to swirl ominously around the building.  A bolt of lightning slammed into the fountain in the square outside the shop, smashing the marble into gravel.

“They offered me no alternative!”  He screamed, “They will come, they swore they would come.  THEY ARE COMING!”

Callindra looked around wildly and bolts of electric destruction rained down outside.  “They will not take him from me!”

“Sister, calm yourself!”  Cronos shouted, reaching for her arm.  “Keep your concentration steady!”  When his hand touched her skin, he recoiled quickly with an exclamation of pain.  Electricity had arced from her body to his fingers with a loud snap.

She ignored him, focusing all her attention on the shop keeper.  “You have no idea what they have done to me.  I hope they do come, for when they do I will destroy them.”  The wind began to whip through the square, “I will raze this town to the ground, burn it to ashes and scatter the dust before the gale of my wrath!”

Tryst, Cronos and Vilhylm all attempted to move in and restrain her, but the wind was too strong.  A voice cut through the roar of the wind from the doorway.  “Oh now that’s not right at all.  I am sure that Glarian taught you better than that.”

The mention of her Master’s name brought up so casually made her certain she was with The Order and Callindra turned to unleash all of her fury upon the woman, drawing Brightfang from his sheath.  “You will PAY for what you’ve done!”  She screamed, but the woman was suddenly at her side, touching her face with a kind hand and looking into her eyes.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 39

A knock on the door of his workshop made Durrak look up from where he was putting the finishing touches on a belt knife.  The pattern welded steel was beautiful, but the lines of carbon in the blade also lent strength and made the metal much harder than a standard blade.  It was a nameday present for his neighbor’s daughter and would serve her well for hunting and everyday tasks.

A boy from a neighboring farm stood there, twisting his cap in his hands and looking nervous.  Durrak remembered his name after thinking for a minute.  “Thane laddie.  What can I be doin for ya then?”

“Uh, master Durrak.”  He said, hesitating and licking his lips nervously.  “I – uh – well I’ve been seeing a lot of Mattie and I was gonna ask for her hand but I don’t have a ring and you done such beautiful work for the midwife I figure if I gave her one of your rings she couldn’t say no.”

“Slow it down boyo.”  Durrak said, setting down the whetstone and giving Thane his full attention.  “What kind a thing do you be thinkin of?  You no do be more than fifteen summers.”

“I’m seventeen!”  Thane said indignantly, “And I’ll have my own croft next spring, da says I’ve a good hand on the plow and we cleared that south field last fall.”

Durrak blinked, remembering how humankind tended to mature earlier than his own folk.  “So you do say laddie.  An ya thinks I’ll be able ta make such a ring that she no do be sayin no eh?”

“Well, it’s more her da.”  Thane said, blushing red.  “He don’t think I can provide for her.  As though Mattie ain’t perfectly capable of deciding herself or doin the work on her own.  Damn me if she ain’t as good at near everything as I am.  But her da is a little old fashioned.”

“He just do be wanting to know you do be serious and capable laddie.  No need to be taking offense at a father lookin out for his little girl.”  He grinned, “As a father myself I do be always seeing them as my little treasures.  You do be doing well to remember that.”

“That’s why I came here master Durrak.”  He said, making a little half bow.  He took a pouch from his belt and set it on the table with an audible clink.  “I have silver and a little gold here; all I’ve been able to save.  I want to buy a ring.”

“Oh laddie, I’d have to be making one for her.  I no do be keeping things on hand and you no do be wanting some random piece of work.  If you do be having a few days it is honored I do be to make you a bridegift.”  Durrak opened the pouch and withdrew a pair of gold coins and a pair of silver coins, then laced the pouch and handed it back.  “These do be sufficient.”  He said with a smile, “Young love do be beyond price and to be helping in the joining of two such hearts do be payment beyond gold and silver.”

“You’ll do it?”  Thane asked, his voice rising in excitement.  “Oh thank you sir, thank you!”

“Do be giving me three days lad and I do be having your bridegift fashioned.”  Durrak said, waving off the boy’s exuberance.  “This no do be any great thing laddie.  You do be a good man an I see true devotion to th lass in your eye.  That do be worth a thousand pieces of gold to an old Dwarf, so it do.”

“You ain’t old Master Durrak!”  Thane said with a broad grin, “Old folks wouldn’t understand, but you get it.”

After Thane had left, Durrak began sketching with a piece of charcoal, humming happily to himself.  When Belladin came in to tell him that dinner was ready she paused in the doorway and watched him working for a time, admiring the way his fingers moved as he shaped the hot metal.  With tongs and hammer, he twisted the silver and gold, braiding and winding strands of metal into intricate patterns.  When he set it aside to cool, she approached and wrapped her arms around him.

“Durrak my heart, I have dinner waiting.  Your daughters no will wait long.”  She kissed his cheek, “We do have fresh brook trout and new spring potatoes roasted on the fireside with fiddlehead ferns an mushrooms.”

“You do be talkin as I do lass.”  He said with a chuckle, “I do be a bad influence.”

“That is beautiful work.”  Belladin said, looking at the beginnings of the ring he was making.

“It no do be so yet.”  He said, “It may be so eventually, but you always did be able to see beyond the surface Cazadora.”

“Certainly, how else would I have been able to fall in love with you heart of my heart?” She said with a smile and a kiss on the cheek.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 38

On the deck, they saw a nightmare crew of sailors rushing about and performing various tasks to keep the ship crashing through the waves.  They were all half rotting waterlogged corpses and surrounded by faint blueish green light.  None of them stopped working, but none of them failed to notice them as they climbed over the rail.  Their stares went beyond hostile and ventured into a kind of eager anticipation accompanied by unfathomed hatred and hunger.

“What in the nine Hells is this?”  Asked Cronos, looking around and drawing his sword.

“Captain Gale’s Stormraker little mortal.”  A man with a flowing black coat that hung below his knees.  Crackles of blueish flame played about his body and he wasn’t looking at Cronos, but at Callindra.  “Woe betide those who cross the Captain’s path.”  He smiled a feral grin.

Callindra didn’t give him the satisfaction of reaching for Brightfang.  “Give us a lift then?”  She asked, her voice level and even.  “Our island has disintegrated and you seem to have run over our longboat.”

The man barked a sharp laugh, “Ha!  Captain, what say you?  Should we give these poor shipwrecked lambs passage to the nearest safe harbor?”

The main cabin door slammed open and a man resplendent in a red coat embroidered with thread of gold wearing a wide brimmed tricorn hat and carrying a wide bladed cutlass strode forth, the heels of his boots striking a sharp cadence on the wood of the deck.

“What possible reason would I have to give shelter to those weak and foolish enough to stray into Bloodtear’s path my first mate?”  He bellowed, and his crew all laughed, their voices full of eager hunger that was reflected on their faces.

“You killed my boat.”  Callindra said, with a shrug.  “My brother paid good money for that boat.  What are you, some kind of pirates?”

“Of course we’re pirates you stupid little chit!”  The first mate said with another laugh.

“The question was a rhetorical one.”  Tryst said from the other side of the ship.  The sailors shrank back from an aura of greenish gold light that forced the ghostly forms away from him, but the Captain didn’t flinch.

“This here is my ship.”  Gale said, touching the rail and sending a flare of phosphorescent flames licking down the length of the wood.  “Your little god ain’t calling the shots here, I am.”  He clenched his fist and the light around Tryst winked out.

Callindra chose this moment of distraction to whip Brightfang from his scabbard and leap at the Captain, swinging her blade in three vicious slashes at neck, gut and knee levels.  To her shock, the strikes passed through him entirely, not even ruffling his beard or parting a single thread of his long coat.

Gale burst out laughing, “Oh I love this little wench, such SPIRIT don’t you think lads?”  His crew released a cheer, or maybe a jeer and closed around her and her brothers.

“You think our gods are powerless?”  Tryst demanded, raising his shield.  The golden light began to emanate from it once more and beads of sweat trickled down his face.

“She is with us, no matter what you think you hold over us.”  Callindra said, suddenly very conscious of the flowers twining through her hair.  “We are no easy meat.”

Vilhylm put a mask on and thick vines began to grow out of his sleeves sprouting thorns and tendrils.  Cronos twisted a ring on his hand and his skin took on the aspect of tree bark.  The four carefully moved until they were back to back, facing outward.

“TAKE THEM!”  Gale bellowed and the ghostly crew descended on them in a howling mass.

The enhancements gifted them by the Goddess shone brightly as the crew attacked.  When Cronos and Vilhylm returned the attack they found that instead of their weapons passing harmlessly through their enemies, they struck home with flashes of what almost appeared to be sunlight.  Spurred by her brother’s success, Callindra wove her blade in twisting pattern and released a blast of Njordi’s ice cold breath.  It cut through the ranks like knives of ice, blasting them into motes of blue green flame.

Tryst took three long strides forward through the hole she had made and lashed out with his hammer, striking the First Mate in the side with brutal force.  The pirate snarled in pain and anger as he tumbled to one side.  Her other two brothers ran forward, trying to reach the captain but were intercepted by a half dozen forms dropping from the rigging wielding swords and knives.  With a madcap grin, Callindra took a running leap over the melee, landing with a vicious downward swipe of her blade that Gale barely sidestepped.

“What affront is this?”  He asked, fixing her with an enraged glare.  She had sliced off the corner of his tricorn hat.

“We don’t have time for this.”  Callindra said, menacing him with her sword as he moved to draw his cutlass.  “Just give us safe passage to the shore of The Shieldlands and we won’t be forced to destroy you and your crew.”

“Little upstart, this is MY domain!”  He roared, pulling his sword from the scabbard in a twisting motion that knocked Brightfang aside as he nearly cut her arm off at the shoulder.

“If it’s a fight you want it’s a fight you’ll get.”  She said with a series of feints that ended with a thrust that nearly took him through the ribs.

They battled back and forth along the deck as the ship continued racing in front of a driving wind.  The Captain was good and at times it was all Callindra could do to keep her head on her shoulders.  After a few minutes, she sported a dozen shallow cuts that were gradually being stitched closed by tiny Brightstar vines.  Finally, she heard the sound she had been waiting for and broke from the fight, sprinting towards her brothers.

“Now!  Run and jump, it’s our chance!”  She shouted, sliding under a sword slash and reaching the railing.  Spinning around, she saw Cronos backing the wrong direction, facing an onslaught from three sailors.  She spun Brightfang on his chain and flung him across the deck, hamstringing one of them as Cronos cut another down.  Yanking her blade back to her hand she dove overboard in a long swan dive.

The roaring sound she had heard was the crash of surf against the shore.  As the four of them leaped off Bloodtear, they saw it continue sailing by, heeling over in the wind.  The speed it was traveling made coming about to re-engage them all but impossible.

Tryst had the most trouble getting to shore, but Vilhylm’s vines allowed him to pull them both through the water to the shore.  Coughing and spluttering, Callindra dragged herself ashore.  Strangely, despite the near miss she felt a surge of pride swelling in her chest.  It took her a few moments to realize why.  She had given an order and they had obeyed it.  Furthermore, it was an order that had almost certainly saved their lives.  She had led and they had followed.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 37

Callindra drew upon the strength of the Weave carefully, making sure not to force too much through Brightfang’s blade and summoned a steady wind that sent the Longboat surging forward.  Her brothers all stood ready to do their part as they swept forward with speed that would have been impossible without the winds obeying her commands.

As they reached the stone spires shifted, groans of protest sounding as the rocks moved against each other.  Cronos threw a spell in front of them and the movements of the towers seemed to slow, the sounds of their motion drawing out as though it was being heard from a distance.  Vilhylm reached his hand into the water and thick ropes of seaweed writhed up the stones, wrapping around them and holding them in place.  The Longboat shot through the space like a rock from a sling and the stone ceased its grumbling.

A small island was directly in front of them, a small fire somewhere near its center sending up a ribbon of bluish white smoke into the sky.  The Hand pointed directly at it.  Tryst looked at his companions and smiled.

“A mysterious island hidden behind a deadly trap.  Looks like what we’re after wouldn’t you say?”

“Oh wonderful.”  Cronos grumbled, “That’s not ominous or anything.”

Callindra sat down with a tired sigh and took out her pipe.  “As long as the heavy lifting is over, I can deal with a mystery.”

They landed the boat and carefully tied it up to a heavy stone on the shoreline.  As they made their way inland, gradually they began to feel a sense of wellbeing.  In a place like this, opposition must be easily overcome.  After all, nothing could be dangerous in such a setting of peace and tranquility.   By the time the attack came, not one of them was prepared for it.

A dozen monstrous forms erupted from the sand, indistinguishable in form except for their glowing green eyes.  They ignored Tryst who was in the lead and laid into Cronos instead, tearing his armor open with a spray of blood.

“DOWN!” Yelled Callindra and her brothers all dove for the sand.  The creatures turned to look at her as she wove Brightfang in a complex series of arcs, dancing in tiny circles on the sand as the winds gathered around her.  The blast she unleashed tore half of the creatures into bloody shreds but if it wasn’t for Vilhylm and Tryst leaping to her defense the remaining monsters would have eviscerated her easily.

Tryst mashed one into a pile of bloody sand and Vilhylm picked one up by its neck and slammed it into another.  Cronos incanted a spell from where he lay prone and bleeding and the last three were incinerated by a blast of intense fire.

“I feel insulted.”  Cronos panted, getting to his feet with a helping hand from Vilhylm.  “They seem to be taking us lightly.”

“Don’t say that.”  Callindra muttered as she inspected Brightfang, frowning over new stress cracks.  “You’re just inviting disaster.”

Despite her dire predictions, no further monsters appeared.  They cautiously made their way toward the center of the island.  When they found the source of the smoke it was a small well-built cottage with a fire in front.  An ancient woman sat on a stool beside the fire, stirring a pot of something that was boiling over it.

“So.  You have beaten my sand warriors.”  She said in a surprisingly strong voice.  “You are the first to have bypassed the wards I set, let alone my physical guardians.  Well done.  What can I do for you then my dear mortals?”  Her words struck like hammers, their psychic force driving Callindra and Cronos to their knees.  Vilhylm leaned on his staff, but kept his feet and gave the old woman an uncertain stare.

“We have come for a divine artifact.”  Tryst said, his voice ringing out clear and strong.  “You will give it to us or we will take it.”

“Ahhh…”  She stirred her stew.  “So, you’ve finally come to take this burden from my shoulders.  About bleeding time.”  Leaning forward, she withdrew a leather pouch from around her neck and offered it to Tryst.

He reached for it without hesitation and a flash of light momentarily blinded them.  When they could see again, they floated in open ocean without any land in sight.

“Wind and Wave what in the hells was that?”  Callindra said, “How are we going to get out of here?”

“Amazing.”  Cronos breathed in awe, “It was just an illusion.  An illusion so perfect that we could actually touch it.  If I hadn’t just seen it I would never have believed it.”

“Great.  How does that get us out of the water you idiot?”  Callindra shouted, her exclamation spoiled by a wave splashing playfully in her face.

“I think the sun is setting.”  Tryst said, worry tinging his voice.  “This could be very bad.  Very, very bad.”

As though summoned by his words, the sun fell behind the horizon and a huge ship crested the horizon all in the same moment, crashing across the modified Longboat that had been moored to the island and breaking it into kindling.  It was so massive that it filled their vision and swept them apart.  Callindra grabbed Cronos’s wrist as she watched Vilhylm and Tryst disappearing on the other side of the bow wave.

“Damn!”  She shouted, “We’ve lost them!”

“They aren’t stupid, they’ll get on the ship.”  Cronos growled, “Stop whining and help me climb!”

She looked over and saw that he had grabbed the anchor chain.  As the ship swept forward, she held on tightly and allowed herself to be pulled to the side of the ship.  Once she had grabbed onto the ancient barnacle encrusted planks, Cronos let her go and they clambered up the sides of the ship together.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 36

Durrak sat with his daughter Noranna reading her favorite story for the fifth time, as much to keep his mind occupied as to keep her entertained.  The midwife had assured him all was well, but that it would be better for him to stay with Noranna in the sitting until the baby was born.  The retelling of Finnegan the mighty Squirrel was interrupted by the wail of a newborn infant and Noranna made it to the doorway a heartbeat ahead of him.

The baby was being handed to a tired but beaming Belladin and already nuzzling for her mother’s nipple by the time Durrak and Noranna entered the room.  The tiny child was perfect as seen through the glow of her father’s love.

“Oh.  Oh my cazadora, my dearest one, she do be so beautiful.”  Durrak said leaning down to kiss his wife and their newest child.  The baby made a sound at the touch of his beard and he laughed heartily.  “Little Dia, you best get used to the tickle of daddy’s beard for it no will be the last time.”

Life had been wonderful for the growing family.  With the money he made from regular, heavy smith work, Durrak had been able to purchase more precious metals and gemstones.  Already he had commissions from a dozen families in the area surrounding their homestead and this spring he was taking the work he’d made over the winter to a local faire.

All that was occupying the back of his mind right now however, as he had eyes only for the gems before him; his beloved wife and their two beautiful girls.  He offered a silent prayer of thanks to Thraingaar and vowed to continue his worship by dedicating his life to the creation of beautiful and useful things at his forge.

“She will need proper rest mind.”  The midwife said, looking at Durrak with fists on hips.  “This wasn’t a particularly hard labor but it was a long one.  You better make sure to give her proper nutrition; remember that baby eats what she eats.”

“Yes Arrien, I know.”  Durrak said with a broad smile, “This no do be our first little one.  I do take good care of my dear ones of that you may rely.  I do be most grateful for your help.”  He produced an intricately wrought pendant of jade carved to look like a pair of hands with five tiny golden figures cradled within them.  Arrien had five children and was very proud of them.  He gave it to her with a bow.

“Oh Durrak.  This is too much.”  She said, but her eyes glowed with pleasure as she accepted it.

“I no do take gifts back Arrien.”  He replied, “That do be for your friendship and this do be your midwife payment.”  He handed her a twisted golden chain that matched the pendant.

“I … Durrak, I don’t know what to say.”  She said, obviously flustered.

“Would you like tea before you do be returning home?”  He asked, “I do have a pot brewing on the stove.”

“That would be lovely.”  Arrien said with a smile.  “I must admit, I am quite impressed with your fatherly ways.  ‘Tis a rarity among men in these parts.”

Durrak laughed as he led her from the bedchamber, “That do be because I no do be a man Arrien.  I do be a Dwarf and we do know how to treat the object of our adoration.  I do be loving my Belladin with all my heart, body and soul.”

Arrien laughed with him, “Oh you are a treasure indeed.”

“My daddy do be best daddy!”  Noranna said, reaching out to him.  Durrak picked her up and tickled her with his beard until she was squirming and laughing breathlessly.

“Your dear mother will be having my hide if you do be talking as I do Sprout.”  He said, plunking her down on the special chair he had made for her.  Durrak bustled about the kitchen, tossing tea leaves into a teapot and pouring hot water from the kettle over them, fetching the pot of honey and cream.

Noranna began speaking to him in Dwarven.  “Poppa, why did this lady help mommy with the baby?  Why did you give her a pretty, I thought pretties were for mommy only!”

“It no do be polite to speak a language others no do understand Noranna.”  Durrak said, giving her as stern a look as he could.  It turned out to only be a smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes without touching his mouth.

“I do be sorry lady.”  She said, not sounding sorry at all.  “I did be askin poppa why he was givin you pretties cause I thought mommy was the only lady he should be givin pretties to.”

To Durrak’s relief, Arrien burst out laughing.  “Little Noranna, your poppa was giving me this amazing piece of jewelry because I helped your mommy with the birthing of your baby sister, not because he is trying to court me.  Also I have been friends with your mommy since she was your age.  I helped your gran with your mommy’s birth.”

“Oh, lady you do be old!”  Noranna exclaimed, making Durrak blush to the roots of his hair.

“Arrien, I do be sorry, children do be saying all manner of things.”  He poured the tea and offered her a steaming cup.  “I no do know if you do be liking cream or honey.”

“Don’t fret yourself about it Durrak, I know you’re older than I am like as not.”  Arrien said, “And children do say all kinds of things, gods own truth.  I take both cream and honey please.”

He poured cream and stirred in honey, handing her the cup.  “I do be most grateful for the welcome you and the others do be showing me Arrien.  It do be more that I do be deserving.”

“Nonsense Durrak, before you came here we had no smith.  All the work we needed done had to be sent off on a week’s trip or else we had to wait for a traveling smith to come by.”  She smiled, “Your skills are far beyond any we’ve seen besides.  You are a most valuable and wonderful asset to our community Durrak.  Never forget that my boy.”

“Yeh call me boy in one sentence an tell me I’m yer senior in another.”  He said, feeling a little out of his element.  “I no do know how ta answer ta that.”

“Well.  Life isn’t a straight line boy.”  She said with a smile, “I expect you’ll find that the twists that life has in store for you will lead you down an interesting path Durrak.  Perhaps someday you will tell me what brought you here.”

She drank her tea and left, promising to return the next morning to check on the family the next day.  Durrak sat up later than he should have with Noranna, reading her stories.  As he tucked her in, she tugged his beard.

“Poppa.  Tell me about where you comed from.”  She said in a voice thick with sleep.

“The halls of Farenholm do be deep and wide.  We did delve into the earth, searching for gold and gems, and we did find them.  There do be rooms where my kin did carve the veins of gold from the embrace of the stone, allowing them to stand in all their beauty.  Halls vast enough to hold all of the village and more inside with long tables where we did sit and eat and drink and sing away the long months when the snow did fall and winds did blow.

“In summer months streams do run and some caverns do fill with winter melt, streams of water do carve out new paths.  We do find more secret places formed when the world did be born.  Places of beauty and danger.  Places of wonder.”

“But you lefted them to come stay with mommy?  To be with me an mommy?”  Noranna asked, reaching out and taking his hand.

“I did leave and I do be here with you, your mother and your baby sister.”  Durrak said softly, “I no will be leaving you my dear beloved girl.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2 – The Rise of Evil: Chapter 35

“Something here is influencing our minds.”  Cronos said, his voice deceptively calm.  “Trying to frighten us away would be my guess.”

“What risk do we run by accepting the challenge?”  Vilhylm asked, his face set in angry lines.  “I’ve never backed down from a head on fight before.   Why should I now?  They’ve thrown down the gauntlet, I say we take it up.”

“Where is the Hand pointing Tryst?”  Callindra asked, her voice haunted.  “If it’s in there we don’t have a choice do we?”

Gill reefed the sails and The Flounder slowed, not entering the pass.  “What’s it gonna be?”  He asked, looking at them in turn.

Tryst withdrew the Hand from beneath his armor and focused on it.  The hand swiveled above his palm and pointed directly toward the twin pillars of stone.  He sighed and put it back beneath his breastplate.  “Well, it looks fairly clear.  Our resolve is being tested.”

“Wait, are you serious?”  Callindra looked nervously at him, “Seems like this was more of a warning that we shouldn’t take lightly.”

“I hate to agree with her, but the vision I had didn’t leave a lot of room for success.”  Cronos said with a dour look.  “Even if I was able to barely escape things didn’t go well for the rest of you.”

“Wait. You survived in your vision?”  Callindra asked, her brow furrowing.  “I didn’t survive in mine.”

“I watched you all die.”  Vilhylm said in a flat tone.

“Everyone else perished in my vision as well.”  Tryst said, “What happened in yours sister?”

Callindra swallowed hard, “I tried to stop the walls from falling in, but I couldn’t keep the walls out and the ship moving forward at the same time.  The magic was too much for my blade.”  She closed her eyes and remembered what she had seen.

Cronos put his hand on her shoulder.  “I know what that sword means to you.”  He said softly.

“No you don’t.”  She said bitterly, “Without him to help me I lost control.  I killed us all Cronos.  My magic tore us all to shreds.”

They all sat still for a moment.  Callindra opened her mouth to answer, but Tryst responded first.  “I do not believe you would ever do such a thing Callindra.”

“I’ve seen you fight against things that should have sent you running.”  Vilhylm said with a calm certainty.  “You’ve fought for us, for strangers and for what is right.”

“You’re crazy, but you aren’t that crazy.”  Cronos said, his tone dry.  “I’m not worried about fighting next to you, even if you sometimes cut me with that damn pig sticker I know you’re more dangerous to my enemies than to me.”

They didn’t understand, but she was too overcome with gratitude to correct them.  She knew all too well how dangerous losing her control could be.  Visions of the ancient tree in her Master’s front yard disintegrating, followed by the recent vision of destroying her family.  Wiping tears from her eyes, she turned to face the pillars.

“I’m not going to let this storm cursed thing stop me with visions.”  She touched Brightfang’s hilt briefly and smiled at her family.  “It doesn’t have any power over us and I refuse to allow it to stop me from accomplishing my goal.”

“Right.”  Tryst also stood straight and faced the strait.  “I am with you sister.  Instead of running from this, we must work together to overcome it.  I cannot stop the stones from falling but I can shield us from them slightly.”

“I can raise the wind to ensure it blows us swiftly and in the right direction.”  Callindra said with a smile.

“I may be able to cause any plants beneath us to pull us through or possibly restrain the walls and slow their fall.”  Vilhylm said, placing the mask he had carved from Jorda’s gift over his face.

“When the walls begin to fall, I believe I can slow their descent with a spell.”  Cronos said frowning, “I’ve never tried it against something that wasn’t living, but the principle is the same.”

“You all are sun mad.”  Gil said, “If the walls fall, The Flounder will be swamped and if she is not, we will have no way of getting out.  I am not risking The Flounder.”

“We’ll take the longboat then.”  Callindra said, “It’ll take a little time to rig a sail so we can use wind power, but I think you can manage it.  You built this thing out of leftover scraps after all.”

Gill gave her a flat look, but shrugged.  “I suppose.  I’ll need a deposit in case you sink my longboat though.”

Tryst sighed and handed over another pouch of gold.  Gill grunted and got to work fitting a makeshift mast and sails to his longboat.  By the next morning the boat was ready.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2 – The Rise of Evil: Chapter 34

“Oh.  Well, make the best of it while you can?”  She said, “Just because the Wind does what I ask it to sometimes doesn’t mean it listens every time.”

“We’ll take as much advantage as we can.”  He said with a grin and released a rope.  A third sail caught the wind with a snap and The Flounder seemed to leap over the water much faster than a ship of her size and shape should have been able to.

By the end of the first day they had covered most of the distance to The Whalebone Islands.  On the way, they’d discovered that the archipelago was a collection of perhaps a hundred tiny islands surrounded by treacherous reefs and plagued by capricious winds.  There were few safe places to drop anchor close to any of the islands and Gill wasn’t willing to risk The Flounder.  Once they got closer they would be reduced to rowing the Longboat he kept onboard.

At highsun the following day they passed between a pair of islands that were nothing more than pillars of stone that towered several hundred feet into the sky and Gill announced that they had crossed the barrier reef that surrounded the islands.  Brightly colored fish darted away from the ship, not used to the unfamiliar shadow she cast as she sailed over their frigid home.  Callindra hung onto the railing, looking down with avid interest and a smile on her face.

“Look at that one!  It’s bright orange!”  She shouted, pointing a finger down at the water.

“Callindra, could you maybe step back from the edge?”  Cronos asked, “If you fall in I don’t think we can turn back to get you.”

“Relax Cronos, since when have YOU become the worry wort?”  She laughed, “Look that one’s bright blue!”

She turned to look at her brothers, smiling and laughing.  That’s when the sides of the pillars slammed into the ship.  The Flounder ground to a stop, flinging everyone but Tryst off their feet.

Tryst watched in horror as a stone fell from above, crushing Callindra to a bloody pulp on the deck.  Cronos twisted, trying to get out of the way as the deck of the ship slammed into him, pulverizing his body against one of the pillars.  The ship groaned under the pressure and his other companions and family were pitched into the chill waters of the Sea of Swords.

He turned, trying to find a way to escape, and as the walls slammed closed on him, he grabbed onto a rope, cut it with his belt knife and swung out barely swinging free of the stones before the mashed the ship into toothpicks.

Blink.

Vilhylm saw the pillars begin to slam together and looked around with careful deliberation flung a grapnel up towards the clifftop high above.  He climbed up the rope just in time to avoid the slabs of rock meeting, but lost sight of the ship except for broken fragments of wood fell to splash into the ocean below.

Blink.

Cronos saw the stones begin to move and sprang into action.  He whirled his hands and waves of Power coursed from his hands, hurling him up and away from the ship.  Even as he tried to find a way to help the others, the ship was crushed into kindling, his family with it.

Blink.

Vilhylm roared in fury, growing strong and leaping forth in a futile attempt to stop the walls from smashing together.  He struggled against the inexorable force of the stone, feet digging furrows into the decking.  All the power he could summon wasn’t sufficient to keep the inevitable from happening though.  The stone pillars continued to grind together, crushing Vilhylm, the ship and his family.

Blink.

Callindra summoned all the force she could as the pillars began to fall.  Drawing so much power into herself that her entire body shook with it.  Drawing Brightfang, she swung him in a circular arc and blasted Wind out in a torrent around her.  Rising off the deck of the ship and spinning faster and faster she screamed in desperation, trying to shove the walls back and the ship forward at the same time.  It was close, but at the end the power was too much for her sword.  Brightfang exploded into a shower of steel shards and without him to help her channel it, the wind itself tore her and her family into bloody shreds.

Blink.

They were sailing towards the twin pillars and Tryst grabbed Gill’s arm.  “Wait, we can’t go in this way.”  He said, his voice tense.

“I saw such horrible things.  Such awful things.”  Callindra said, “What I did was unforgivable.  Unforgivable.”  She was sitting with her back to the mast, holding Brightfang and running her hands up and down his length.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 33

The next morning they set out, burdened with food and supplies and in much better spirits than they had been for some time.  They saw almost no living things in the bog, which was a blessing as many of the creatures they had encountered before had been infected by the Abyssal disease.  By the time they arrived at the small collection of fisherman’s huts their mood had improved dramatically.

Callindra began playing her tin whistle around the fire in the evenings again and Vilhylm told stories he’d learned from the man who had taught him how to make masks.  Cronos cooked more often and created meals that were remarkably delicious, especially considering the limited variety of basic ingredients.

Their good mood evaporated when they reached the shoreline as the sun was going down a few days later.  Burned out huts and broken fishing boats littered the shoreline.  A single boat seemingly tacked together from several damaged ones was beached near a small campfire.  A young man looked up at their approach with haunted eyes.  He seemed ready to bolt, but Tryst strode forward with a smile and gentle words.

“Fear not good sir, we are not here to harm or steal from you.  In fact we wish to engage your services if you’re willing to transport us.”  Said Tryst, “We will pay you one hundred gold to bring us to The Whalebone Islands.”

“Show me the money.”  He said, voice suspicious.  Tryst took out a pouch and opened it so the other man could see the gold shining inside.

“You can count it out yourself.  My name’s Tryst, this is my sister Callindra and my brothers Vilhylm and Cronos.”

“Gil.”  The man said shortly, “We leave with the tide tomorrow morning.  Candlemark after dawn.”

“What happened here?”  Callindra asked, looking around at the wreckage.  “Was this your village?”

“Nah.  Coulda been though.”  Gill turned his back on them and began turning the fish he had cooking on long sticks thrust into the sand.

Callindra looked at his ship, taking note of how tacked together it seemed.  After a moment, she realized this wasn’t just a ship, it was a floating house.  “You have been attacked?”  She asked hesitantly, “Your village?”

“We all left before they could find us.”  Gill said, “Made boathouses.  Spread out.  Lost track of ‘em.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry.”  She said, not really knowing what to say.

Gill just grunted and took a fish from the fire, tested it and handed the stick to her.  “Eat.  More’n I can use myself anyway.”

The next morning, Callindra awoke just as the first rays of sun were cresting the horizon.  It was her first time truly seeing a sunrise over the ocean.  The winds playing around her were stronger than usual; having nothing to slow them down as they danced over the water.  She performed the Korumn, dancing with them and found Gill staring at her when she finished.

“What was that?”  He looked at the perfect compass rose left at the end of her exercise.  “How did you do that?”

She took a deep breath, feeling the relief of the power that had built up overnight being gently discharged without harm.  “Just my morning exercise.”  She said cautiously.

“No it ain’t.   You’re one of the Order ain’t ya?”  He said, gesturing with a shrewd look at Brightfang.  “Ain’t seen a sword on a chain before but I ain’t seen a sword like that one either.  Bonded blade or I ain’t captain of th Flounder.”

Callindra shrugged and sheathed her sword.  “What do you know about them?”

“I know they got power.  If you got wind control I bet you could help me launch.”  He gave her a steady look.  “That’s all I know what I care about.”

She nodded and gave him a cautious half smile.  “I can probably help you with the wind, especially since it seems like it’s favorable right now.”  Looking past him to where Cronos was poking a fire to life she found her appetite demanding attention.  She had gotten used to his cooking.

After a breakfast of fresh crabs wrapped in seaweed and roasted to perfection over hot coals, everyone but Callindra climbed on board The Flounder.  The ship wasn’t a pretty vessel, but she bobbed in the tide, her bottom only barely scraping the sand.  When Gill hauled up the anchor, she wallowed slightly in the current, but didn’t quite manage to slip out to sea.

Callindra drew Brightfang and began a slow, measured dance.  As she moved through the complex Stances of the Eighth Korumn, the slight shore breeze began to pick up.  It spun around her as her blade moved in intricate spinning circles and by the end, her feet barely touched the ground between Stances.  With the release of the magic, the wind rose in a steady rush and The Flounder heeled over, sails billowing out.

Using the last residual bits of the Power she’d gathered, Callindra ran lightly across the waves and leaped onto the deck with a triumphant smile.  “How was that for a launch?”

Gill grunted, “When’s it gonna stop?”

She frowned and glanced at the swiftly receding shoreline.  Biting her lower lip, she shook her head. “Um.  Not sure.  Is that bad?”

Gill shrugged, “Just wanted ta know how long I could rely on it.  Winds ain’t th most reliable out here.”

“Oh.  Well, make the best of it while you can?”  She said, “Just because the Wind does what I ask it to sometimes doesn’t mean it listens every time.”

“We’ll take as much advantage as we can.”  He said with a grin and released a rope.  A third sail caught the wind with a snap and The Flounder seemed to leap over the water much faster than a ship of her size and shape should have been able to.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 32

Tryst walked into the common room of The Drunken Thief feeling weak as a newborn lamb and hungry as a bear after his winter sleep.  The scent of roasting fish and potatoes fills his nostrils and his mouth began to water.

“Hey brother, come have some food and an ale!”  Callindra said with a smile and a wave of her pipe. “They’re grilling catfish and tubers.  The ale is flowing and we have a lead on where the bits we’re looking for might be.”  Her cheeks were slightly flushed with alcohol.

“I see not much has changed.”  He said, a grin spreading across his face, noting Cronos sitting with a pensive expression on his face and three empty plates stacked in front of him and Vilhylm was chewing on a mouthful of food.

“Oh come off it Tryst.”  Cronos said, crossing his arms.  “You’ve been out of it for weeks.  Come and eat something.”

“it’s good to see you out of bed brother.”  Vilhyl said, grinning around a mouthful of potatoes.  “Quit the tough guy act, it doesn’t fit you.”

Laughing, he sat with his family, for he thought of them as such even though they weren’t related by blood.  They talked and ate; Tryst catching himself up on the events that had transpired since he had been indisposed.

“In the end it all comes back to Adbar.”  Tryst said grimly, “The Countess nearly burned down the Grandfather Tree, we should have known the Count would be involved as well.”

“How could he have figured it out?”  Callindra asked, “Jorda gave us this mission herself, how is it possible that anyone else knew about it?”

“I would imagine that if one God knew about it another could have as well.”  Tryst said, helping himself to another serving of fish.  “I think we would be foolish not to anticipate there being more than one interested party in this matter.”

“You mean you think we have been foolish right?”  Callindra said, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, we know that Dergeras is trying to set the abyss free, but we never thought that there might be others out there who are also looking for these artifacts.”  Tryst said, “We need to recover the remaining ones as swiftly as we can and then go face Count Adbar.”

“We’ve got one advantage over any others though.”  Cronos said with a smile, “We have the Hand and it points us towards the nearest piece.  Vil and I have been checking where it points now against a map while waiting for you to get up and for Callindra to finally get out of the bath.  We’re pretty sure it is aiming us at the Whalebone Islands.”

“At least that’s the only thing of significance in that direction within a reasonable distance.”  Vilhylm amended.  “If it’s not just laying somewhere at random, that seems like the only place it could be.”

“I know it’s out of the way and not part of the plan, but I must get to the glaciers of the north.  I don’t know exactly where it is, but there’s an old burned out volcano there.”  She put a gentle hand on Brightfang’s hilt.  “I have to bring him there and get him repaired.”

“Without you to fight beside us we would be sorely lacking to be sure.”  Tryst said, “Of course we will venture there with you to find your smith.”

Callindra let out a breath, feeling the tension in her shoulders release slightly and gave her brothers a smile.  “Thank you.”

“There is a fishing village on the shore of the Drakkenmore.”  Mili said, arriving with fresh plates of food and tankards of Bog Ale.  Setting the food and drinks down, she indicated a spot on the map.  “You might be able to pay one of them to take you out to the Whalebones.”

“Thanks Mili.”  Tryst said, digging for some coins.

“Your money is no good here.”  She said firmly, “You all rid us of The Ravenger.”

“You have to make a living somehow.”  Callindra said, “What are you going to do now that all your customers are gone?”

“Oh they’ll be back.”  Mili said, “Or others will come.  There’s too much treasure out there in the swamp for them to stay away for long.  Without The Ravenger to keep them away, we will probably have to put a new wing on The Drunken Thief.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 31

Gabriel shook his head, “Maybe if we’d listened to her and fought it together you wouldn’t have been hurt so badly.  I guess we’ll never know.  Important thing is before I could tell her anything about this person who was looking for those simple clay artifacts she mentioned.”

Tryst sat up with a gasp of pain and swung his feet over the side of the bed.  “What?  Who is this person?”

“Adbar.  The Count Adbar said he was gathering them for a reconstruction project.”  Gabriel said, “He claimed they were part of an ancient statue that it was his lifetime obsession to put back together.  Called it the idle interest of a wealthy old man, but I heard a rumor it was supposed to bring the dead back to life or something.

“We figured it was just a story, but maybe not?”  Gabriel sheathed his knife.  “I thought you would want to know; he found a piece of it here and it wasn’t the first one he had acquired.”

“Adbar.”  Tryst said, running his fingers through his hair.  “Things do have a way of coming full circle.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Gabriel asked.

“Nothing that concerns you really.”  Tryst said with a sigh, “But as long as I’m confessing my sins as it were; we attempted to save his wife from the Abyssal infection.  We failed.  She tore out her own throat, summoned a demon and set the High Forest ablaze.  We managed to defeat that horrible golem, but the cost was great.”

“We saw the fire from here.”  Said Gabriel, his voice awed.  “You were there, fighting alongside a goddess?”

“Yes.  We fought alongside Jorda and between us we stopped the monster.”  Tryst said, his voice reverent. “It is a miracle we survived.  A real miracle from a real Goddess.”

A commotion outside brought a smile to Tryst’s face.  “-god rotting turnip eating slime!  I’m going to go see my brother and if you stand in my way I’ll cut off your hand and shove it so far up your ass you’ll never get it out in time for a priest to re-attach it!”

“They’ve returned.”  Tryst said, his smile growing wider.  “I’d better get out there before she does someone harm.”

The door slammed open and a figure splattered in road muck and dust stalked into the room.  Her hair was in a braid as thick as his wrist and hung all the way to the floor and tiny Brightstar flowers shone in it.  A sword hilt protruded from above her right shoulder and a thin brilliant silver chain ran from the pommel to a bracelet on her right wrist.  Incongruously, a mass of butterflies was flitting around her head, landing on her hair and her shoulders.  She didn’t seem to notice them.

“Tryst!  They didn’t want to let me in but they’re stupid.”  She yelled, seeing him sitting up she ran to him and flung her arms around his neck.  “You’re all right!  Tryst you jackass we were so worried.”

“Easy Callindra, I’m not really in a position for this level of manhandling.”  He croaked, “I just managed to regain consciousness, I’m practically an invalid!”

She let go immediately and stepped back, concern plain on her face. “Oh gods Tryst, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“I must look like hell if you’re giving me that kind of consideration.”  He said giving her a wry look.  “But really you’re in no shape to be in a medical ward.  Go and bathe sister, I’m not going to die any time soon.  Once we’ve all had the chance to get clean we can discuss our next steps over a hot meal.”

To his surprise, she looked at him with tears making muddy tracks down her cheeks.  “Yes, of course Tryst.  I just had to see you.  We were so worried… I was so worried.  I don’t know how we would continue without you.”

Before he could respond, she turned and all but ran from the room.

“You could have handled that a little better.”   Mili said, “But I’m sure she will forgive you.  After all, you just woke up from a week’s long coma.”

“Yeah.  I’m sure she’ll forgive me.”  Tryst sighed, “I’ll probably survive the bruises too.”

“She loves you very much?”  Asked Mili.

“We have been through much together.”  Tryst said, making an effort to get out of bed.  He paused, blushing slightly.  “Do you suppose I might be able to get my clothes?”

Mili laughed, “Of course Sir Tryst.”  She handed him his clothing and left him in peace to get dressed.

“I’m not a knight or a Lord.”  He said after her retreating back, “Just Tryst please.”  If she heard, she didn’t respond.