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The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 54

“Gods and demons, I knew those bastards would be looking for me after Shojin saw me at the smithy but I had no idea they’d get the word out this fast.”  She shook the chain into a merry jingle. “I need a sheath for you, I’ll have to gather some appropriate materials before we leave here.”

She got a distinct sense that this new blade didn’t want to be sheathed.  Like some newborn babies she had seen, Shadowsliver wanted to be held.  Well, she’d have to work on that.  For now, Callindra was simply thrilled to have her partner and soulmate back.  She would take him however she could get him.

They had been following the Hand for days, following a grueling pace and still they had no idea how close they were to their destination.  Callindra was beginning to feel apprehension about their destination though.  When they consulted their maps, she looked along the line of their travel and the only place that was directly in their path was Citadel Adbar.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we seem to be aimed straight at a place we don’t want to visit.”  She said after yet another uneventful day of travel.

Vilhylm gave her a questioning look and she winced, remembering his connection to the Countess who they had failed to protect.  Tryst seemed to understand and opened his mouth to speak, but she was faster.

“The only city along our current line of travel is the one surrounding the Citadel Adbar.”  She said, “I can’t imagine that the Countess Adbar didn’t get infected with the Abyssal disease at random, not if there is a piece of our puzzle there.”

She almost regretted her words when she saw the ashen look on Vil’s face, but it needed to be spoken aloud.  “I don’t want us to walk into anything with our eyes closed.”  Callindra said, “I’m sorry Vil, but we need to look at this right in the face.  She was under the control of the Abyss and if her citadel is also, we are in serious trouble.”

Visibly shaking off his dark mood, Vilhylm nodded.  “It would be foolish to enter into the situation blind.  How would we know without going in though?  Her infection was so subtle we never even saw it.  Not even Tryst saw it.”

“We can try to form a plan once we get a good look at the place.”  Cronos said, “There’s no reason to panic before we see the lay of the land.  Let’s go in with our guard up but without any preconceived ideas about what we’ll find.  That way we’ll be more likely to see anything unusual.”

“Good idea Cronos.”  Tryst said, “There is no reason to judge the situation until we see it for ourselves.”

“Yeah.  Maybe.”  Callindra didn’t sound convinced.  “You all can keep an open mind.  I’m going to keep my guard up.”

“When are you going to make a sheath for that sword sister?”  Cronos asked, giving her a quizzical look.  “I don’t think that’s a very safe way of carrying it.”

“What’s wrong with it?”  Callindra reached up to touch Shadowsliver’s hilt over her right shoulder.  Just touching his hilt gave her a thrill of happiness that was only slightly spoiled by the tickle of his edges cutting into her skin.  Instead of a sheath, she had begun simply tucking her sword between her skin and her armor.  He seemed very pleased with the arrangement, but unfortunately she was acquiring an unsettling number of small cuts every time she moved.

“Isn’t it cutting you?”  He asked, “That edge makes my shaving razor look dull.”

“Yeah.  But it’s not a big deal.”  She said, “I just haven’t found the right leather yet and I like to keep him close.”

“You realize that sounds a little unbalanced right?”  He said, giving her a wry look.  “That thing is chained to your wrist.  It’s not like it can go anywhere.”

“I don’t think you’ll ever understand what it’s like Cronos.”  Callindra said, “This goes beyond the relationship you have with your blades.  He is my life.”

“Yeah, but why let ‘him’ cut you?  You’re crazy sister.”  He said with a grin.  “What the hell kind of relationship is that?”

They crested a small rise and saw a deep valley below with a wide trade road entering a fortified city.  Dozens of wagons were coming and going.  The scene was so completely normal that it put Cronos and Callindra on edge as much as it seemed to relax Tryst and Vilhylm.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 53

“I’m glad I didn’t get any closer.”  Karas said, standing just outside of the edge of the compass.  Callindra saw with surprise that the familiar pattern was actually cut into the floor instead of just blowing the dirt around.  “It looks like you could still use a little practice with that Stance though.”

Callindra glanced at a myriad of cuts on her arms and legs that were slowly starting to sprout flower buds and green shoots and shrugged.  “It’s how I know I’m pushing the limits.  That’s why I practice without my armor on; I don’t want to damage it.”  The woman gave her a steady look.

“OK and I’m still getting used to him too.”

Karas shrugged, “I’d offer to spar but I’ve got a couple feet of reach on you.”

“Actually I think the advantage would be mine.”  Callindra said with a feral grin, “I’m Callindra.”

“Yes, I remember from yesterday, well met Callindra.”  She readied her weapon, “Let’s see what you can do with that thing then.”

Callindra assumed the Heaven and Earth Stance, crouching with one hand nearly touching the ground, sword in the other fully extended towards the sky.  “I apologize if I cut you; my control is still slightly off.  This blade is a full hand longer than it was before.”  She held the Stance for a few moments and then leaped to attack.

Karas was an expert with her Halberd, deflecting and counter-attacking to keep Callindra at the end of the blade’s considerable reach.  Callindra used every conventional trick she had learned, but was still unable to get inside her opponent’s guard.  She took a half step forward and then flung her body into a backflip, swinging Shadowsliver in a tight arc and releasing him at the precise moment he was parallel to the ground.

The Mithril chain flew through her fingers and she tightened her grip just as the tip touched Karas’s flesh.  When the blade paused, she whirled the chain around the haft of the polearm and pulled.  As she did so, Karas shifted her grip and grounded the butt of her weapon.  Callindra nearly pulled herself off her own feet.

“Nice trick, but I can tell you haven’t used it against a stronger opponent.  Now you’re weaponless and I have you at the end of a string.”

“No, it’s just starting to get interesting!”  Callindra replied and ran forward.  When the blade of the Halberd came to meet her, she gathered her chain and pulled it off course, ducking and sliding under the strike.  She regained her feet and her hand found Shadowsliver’s hilt at the same moment.  As she brought the blade to bear she realized Karas had released the polearm entirely.  Her blade was touching Karas’s ribs but her opponent had a pair of daggers leveled at her throat.

“Well played, you managed to at least take me with you.” Karas said, “Something you Bonded types always forget is that most of us can use more than one weapon.  I prefer the Halberd because it keeps the fighting at a comfortable distance most of the time but I can easily defend myself in any number of other ways.”

“I can use more than one weapon.”  Callindra said, untangling her chain from the thick wooden shaft of the Halberd, “I just choose not to.  Shadowsliver is all I need.  All I want.”  The blade was still singing like a tuning fork.  “One more thing to keep in mind, had I not grabbed the chain when I did you would likely have died.  Your defense is good, but you can’t afford to rely on your weapon’s reach to keep you safe.”

Karas snorted, “Your defense is nonexistent.  I’d work on that if I were you.”

“It’s too late for me to change my style now.  My defense is a fast and effective offense.  Besides, if the muscle, leather, steel and weave fail me, the Goddess will always be there.”  A breeze rustled across the practice grounds and a small flock of butterflies settled on the Brightstar flowers blooming in her hair.

“Who are you?”  Karas asked, her eyes widening slightly.  “I thought you were just a runaway at first, but then I realized you were a girl, not a slight boy.  Your skills with that blade make me certain it belongs to you and is not stolen; it moves like a part of your body.  Those flowers… I thought you were silly, wearing them in your hair but Brightstar flowers aren’t in season for another three months.  The wind seems to obey your whim, to play at your feet like a puppy, I don’t know what to make of you girl.”

Callindra faced her, assuming the ready Stance, “I am Callindra Sol’Estin by Glarian Sol’Estin.  I am two and a half years old.”  The wind gusted sharply and the butterflies startled from her hair in an erratic cloud.  “The winds do not bow to my will just yet, but one day I shall be Master of the North Wind.”

“I have heard of ones like you; the Disciples of Weave and Steel.”  She hesitated, as though unsure if she should say any more.  “You don’t seem to be traveling with a sanctioned Master but you aren’t a Master yourself.  Be careful, they know you’re still alive and they won’t stop until they wring whatever information it is they want out of you.”

Karas grounded the tip of her polearm in salute then turned and walked off the rooftop practice floor.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 52

Callindra sighed and stood in one lithe movement, holding her sword in one hand.  The Mithril chain tinkled merrily as the ever-capricious winds whipped around her body, tugging at her hair and the Brightstar bramble tangling through it.  With a determined expression on her face, Callindra assumed the first Stance and began moving through the rest of the them at half speed.

She could feel the power building, releasing in fits and starts just as it had when she first started to learn how to harness it, only worse.  Thankfully she wasn’t hurting herself beyond a few cuts from the unexpectedly sharp edge or unfamiliar straight shape of the sword, but these practice sessions had deadly potential.  Callindra knew from experience what could result from a lack of focus.  Even this blade, specialized as it was, could shatter if she didn’t maintain control.

The sword began to tremble with Weave; she could see particles of it like glowing motes of dust gathering along the edges.  Without warning the Weave scattered and the blade sang in protest, the vibrations hurting her hands even through her gloves.

“God’s Balls!”  Callindra barely stopped herself from hurling the sword to the ground in sheer frustration.

“Having trouble?”  Callindra whirled, sword at the ready.  A woman with an impressive physique and even more impressive halberd stood just outside of the edge of the courtyard.  “Sorry, I didn’t know anyone else was up here.  I’m Karas.”

“Callindra.” She hefted her sword, “That damn Smith didn’t tell me that he was going to change this much when the blade was rebuilt.  He changed almost everything.  He just won’t listen to me anymore.”

“Bonded eh?  I’ve never seen a bond survive being re-forged before, you’re lucky to have found a smith talented enough to fix a broken blade.”

“That sonofabitch was the one who broke him so he’d damn well BETTER have been able to fix it.  Not that he really fixed the sword though.  Everything’s different.”  Callindra frowned at the pace long length of black metal.

“From my experience it’s impossible to remake a blade exactly the way it was; I’ve broken hundreds of them.  The balance is always a little off, the wind resistance changes, the edge cuts differently, it all changes.”  Karas gestured with her polearm, “I’ve discovered it’s actually easier to get used to a totally different weapon than one that has only changed slightly.”

“I can tell you haven’t ever been Bonded before.  It feels like being abandoned.”  Her voice dropped to a whisper, thinking about Glarian at the same time.  “I’m lost without him.”  Callindra didn’t know why she was able to speak like this with a stranger.

“I would imagine he feels the same way.  You say he’s not listening to you, are you listening to him?”  Karas asked.  “If you will be here tomorrow I will spar with you, provided you spend some time listening to your blade.”  With that she turned and strode from the rooftop courtyard.

“’The first Korumn is of the Breath.’” Callindra quoted, thinking of the beginning of Glarian’s instruction.  She moved to the center of the yard and sat, feeling the wind ruffling her hair.  Closing her eyes, Callindra allowed her body to relax using the breathing exercise her master had shown her.  The vagrant playful breezes stopped circling her; the air became still.

She could feel the ground beneath her, the weight of the sword across her thighs, only a thin layer of silk between the metal and her flesh and realized for the first time that even in this stillness the blade was singing with slight vibration.  Callindra listened to the music he was making, trying to hear a pattern.  Her awareness gradually went beyond hearing, what she felt was joy.

“Callindra!  It’s time to go!”  Vilhylm broke her concentration; he had been acting strangely of late.  Well stranger than usual.  His habit of issuing orders was annoying, even more so because the orders he gave were more often than not excellent choices, especially on the battlefield.

With a sigh she stood, “I could have used another few minutes Vil.”

“You’ve been up here for three candlemarks.  If you haven’t figured things out in three candlemarks I doubt another few minutes would make much of a difference.”

“I was just starting… never mind, you wouldn’t understand.”

‘Shadowsliver.’  She could feel it more than hear it.

Callindra smiled, “Shadowsliver then.  Let’s take this up a notch, to the nine hells with this slowed down shit.”  As they moved through all the Korumn she knew Shadowsliver ceased to be simply a piece of steel and instead became a part of her.  He filled in the parts that were missing, sealing the cracks of doubt and weakness with the strange jet black metal from which he was forged.

The final Korumn, Marking the Compass was finished and the small precise jets of air that always accompanied the last eight movements came as though they hadn’t been absent for the last fortnight.  She knew without looking that they had blown the dust that lay on the stone floor into a perfect compass rose.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 51

They stayed with Beliach only overnight.  Callindra stayed up late, drinking ale with the smith and talking about swordplay, his work at the forge, anything she could think of.  For his part, her host was more than happy to sit, swap tales and drink ale.

She told him of her training and some of their recent exploits.  In return he gave her what little information about The Order that he had.  Mostly he only had names and the last time he’d seen any given member, but she also gained subtle insights about their fighting styles based on the types of weapons they wielded.

Most of them hadn’t been by in years, but he had an encyclopedic memory when it came to weapons and every single one of the ranking members had a weapon forged by him.  Only the best of the best could afford one of his blades, which made her equal parts worried and awed that Glarian had managed to procure her one of his swords.  Now she had a second one.

Her brothers had retired candlemarks ago, but Callindra felt energized.  Her Brightfang was whole once again, although she couldn’t really call him Brightfang anymore.  He was still hers, but he was so different; stronger, faster, more balanced and more dangerous.  When Tryst came out of the room where the others had been sleeping, stretching and yawning she was surprised to see that she had spent the entire night chatting with the smith.

Following the Hand and consulting maps, they made their way out of the great glacier and down from the mountains.  After a few uneventful day’s travel, they found a medium sized village tucked into a high, verdant valley between a pair of peaks.  It was named Lanthodell on the map and seemed to be mostly comprised of craftsmen who had started their own town in order to gather others with crafting skills where they could explore the limits of their abilities and learn from one another.

They found an inn called Raven’s Roost and after they had stowed their gear and had a much needed bath, they sat in the common room for a meal.  The mutton stew had a heavy cream gravy and large chunks of potatoes and mushrooms floating in it and the bread had obviously been freshly baked that morning.  The ale was light and refreshing, making everyone think of spring.

After dinner, Callindra had gone to bed early, anticipating being in a real bed for once and slept hard through the night.  The troubling dreams faded as she awoke an candlemark before dawn, her sword hilt still in her hand and a few fresh cuts on her forearms.  She really needed to make a sheath for him, but she just hadn’t had the time.  She got the feeling that he didn’t want a sheath.

She made her way to the top of the inn, finding a flat rooftop with a low wall with herbs growing in tidy garden boxes along the sides where the sun gave the best coverage.  There was a clear flat stone space in the center and she sat in the exact center, settling with her re-forged sword across her knees, trying not to think about how different he was.

Despite her best efforts she kept running over the changes in her mind.  Perfectly straight instead of the gentle curve she knew and loved.  Two razor sharp edges instead of having one flat edge for her hand to safely rest on.  Gone were the runes proclaiming her the master of the blade.  The guards were even and facing forward instead of having one that curved back over the hand and one that followed the shape of the blade.  The slightly curved wire-wrapped hilt was replaced with a straight hilt wrapped in some strange two toned gray leather that she didn’t recognize.  Instead of being mirror-polished silver, he was now a dull light-drinking flat black.  A perfect pair of tips like a razor sharp tuning fork graced the business end of the blade replacing the slender curving point he’d had before.

The only things that remained the same were the pommel and the chain.  The pommel that held her power and the chain that kept him safe.  She hadn’t been strong enough to give it up.  She hoped it would make her stronger in the end.  It had to make her stronger.

“I’ll never let anyone take you away from me again.”  She muttered, feeling the Weave pulse through his length in recognition of her oath.  It wasn’t true though, that Smith had shown her differently.  Beliach told her a person just needed to know the trick of it and anyone could remove the chain but he was a crazy old bastard.  Not for the first time she wished for the pipe that had been destroyed when she had been swallowed by that monster.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 50

Callindra was awakened from her half slumber by a familiar sound; the jingling of her Mithril chain and sat up, suddenly fully awake and confused as to how she had forgotten. The curtain parted and Beliach stood there, holding a strange looking blade in his hands.

It was nearly five feet long from blade tip to pommel, perfectly straight and double edged whereas the Brightfang she knew had been single edged with a graceful curve. The tip of the blade was split, making the end into two razor sharp points. The steel was jet black, a flat color that light seemed to fall into and silver fire was fading gradually from an intricate set of runes that were scribed on the blade. This sword looked heavier and less refined than the delicate whisper of steel she was used to. Even the hilt was different; instead of a simple wire wrapping it was covered with intricately laced leather that seemed to have come from several different animals. Only the pommel remained the same.

Callindra approached and reached for the sword, hands trembling. Beliach slid the cuff back over her wrist and watched it shrink down to exactly the right size. It felt good to have it back on, but even the cuff had been changed. The one on her left wrist was tarnished and pitted in some spots where the original magic it contained had been forced out. A foot of chain still hung from it, she was unable to remove the cuff or the chain. The other now resembled a bracelet, it was delicately carved with twining vines being blown by strong winds.

She looked at her left wrist and then her right, “This is a reminder of what was. This is the promise of what will come. I will re-forge myself even as my weapon has been re-forged.”

The new blade was light and flexible despite being much larger than Brightfang. She walked out into the forge room and gave it an experimental swing; the balance was flawless. As it passed through the air the strange forked tip made a dangerous whistling sound. Callindra ran her hand down the polished blade and transformed a touch of Weave into a blast of wind that caused the forge fire to flare up. Once the spell was released she could hear the blade hum like a tuning fork.

“He sings!” She gave Bleach a smile.

“You are going to need to re-learn your Stances.” He was pointing to her right forearm which was bleeding from a deep cut. “This blade has two edges and they’re both sharp enough to shave with.”

“Sister, let’s spar so you can test out your new blade.” Cronos was hefting a bastard sword from Beliach’s huge rack of weapons, “You don’t mind if I use this do you?” The smith grunted and stumped back through the curtain to get himself a drink.

The siblings squared off and Callindra took the defensive Stance ‘Patient Avalanche’ and when Cronos began his attack she brought her blade circling around his ‘Cyclone Serpent’, attempting to wrench his sword away. Although he had anticipated this attack and jumped a quick half step backwards the chain attached to her wrist snaked out to wrap around the crosstrees of his sword. With a rapid motion Callindra pulled the loops tight and stepped down on the end of the chain, tearing the sword from his hand at the same time she brought the twin tips of her new blade to within a hair’s breadth of his chest.

“Pretty good chain work sis, but you really need to remember that you don’t have a flat edge anymore.” Once again she had managed to slice herself on the wicked edge that she was used to being blunted.

“Damn. This thing’s so sharp I didn’t even feel it.” She sighed, “This is going to take some getting used to. I can barely feel him at all. This isn’t Brightfang anymore I’m afraid, that Bond is gone forever.”

“I thought the Bond was permanent.” His brow furrowed, “Are you going to be OK?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t slow you down Cronos. Since the core of the power that connects us remains eventually we will become one body again. I just have to earn his trust and he has to learn some respect.” She flexed the blade in her hands, feeling the springy strength he contained and managed to cut herself yet again. “Ouch. See what I mean? No respect at all.”

“Well you’re certainly in a good mood all things considered.”

Callindra turned and fixed him with a rare bright eyed smile. “He said WHEN Cronos. WHEN I rescue Glarian, not IF.” Her eyes narrowed, “I will master and name this blade, then that bastard Dergeras had better be ready because I’m coming for him.”

“You wish to learn to fight?” Corrine Skystriker asked, leaning on his axe.

“No.  I do be wishing to show you how to fight.” Durrak replied.

“I am a disciple of Hammersmith Style.  What could you possibly show me?”

“I do be Durrak son of Storgar.  I will be showing you how to feel pain.”

Corrine threw back his head and laughed, “I’ve heard of you.  They say you’ve been going to every school on the range, challenging every master you come across.”

“That do be correct.” Durrak said, folding his arms across his chest. “Do you be hearing about the results of those challenges?”

The laughter cut short, “I’ve heard rumors.” Corrine said, fixing him with a skeptical but wary eye.

“They do be true.  Not one of those self-proclaimed ‘masters’ did be able to stand against me.”  He said with a feral smile, “You do be thinking you will fare better?”

“Corrine, is there a problem?” An ancient dwarf tottered out of the building, leaning on a shepherd’s crook. “Who is this gentleman?”

“Mistress Caverstorm, please.  I apologize for the disturbance, please go back to your tea.”

“But Corrine dear, who is this youngster?  A friend of yours?” She asked, looking askance at Durrak with a sly smile on her face.

“Please Mistress, go back inside.  I’ll take care of this.”  Corrine said, concern in his voice.

“Take care of it?” She asked, “What needs taking care of?”

“I do be here to defeat the master of the school mistress Caverstorm.” Durrak said, “No do be worrying, I be done shortly.”

“The master of the school?” She said, gesturing to a nearby bench. “Well then.  Corrine dear, why don’t you go sit down.”

“But Mistress-” He began.

“NOW!” she snapped, turning to point her crook at Durrak, “I am the master of this school.  I am The Master of the Drakranda style.”

“Drakranda? You do be the master of forge tongs?”  He asked with a chuckle.

“Yes.” She said and attacked without warning.  Her staff swung out, covering the ten feet between them in a blur and catching him behind the left ankle.  A swift tug was all it took to knock him flat on his back.  Before he could sit up, the end of her staff was at his throat.

“You did attack without the speaking of a challenge.”  Durrak said, anger heating his voice.

“If you expect your enemies to give you that courtesy you are a fool.”  She removed her staff from his neck and turned to walk back inside the building.  “You are welcome to come and learn here if you wish.  However, you should know we teach two styles here.  I am undisputed master of Drakranda and my counterpart teaches Korda.  Here you shall learn to be the tongs and the hammer.  Here we forge the destruction of our enemies.”

He watched her go and a smile began to creep across his face.  Durrak rose and strode into the building without even giving Corrine a second glance.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 49

“Oh come now. I know all about your little tricks. Knock it off.” With one hand he tapped her on the forehead and the Power fled.

Callindra fell to her knees, holding the hilt of her ruined companion in her hands. “No… no… this can’t be.” She stood up and looked him straight in the face. “You have to re-forge him. I’ll do anything if you re-forge him.”

Her brothers exchanged awkward glances.

“Nope, can’t be done. It was broken, can’t be fixed.”  He said, turning away.

“You HAVE to, he is my life.”  Her lower lip trembled, “He’s everything.  Beliach, please re-forge him for me. Please?”

“Fine, whaddya want to give me? Whaddya got to trade?”

“I told you I’d do whatever you want. I don’t have anything to give you, and even if I did anything I could offer would be an insult.” She was still holding her head high, looking him directly in the eyes in spite of the tears running down her face.

“Yeah. I do make one helluva blade don’t I?”  He said with a wide grin, “I’ll make you a new one if that’s what you want, but you have to promise me something.”

“Anything. Anything you ask!”

“Just promise me that when you go rescue Glarian from Hellgate keep you’ll stop by for a visit. I don’t get many visitors these days and when they do stop by they always want something from me. Come on over once you get that old bastard and tell him to bring some decent drink.”

“I swear it.”

He laughed, “No need to be so formal girl.  A word of warning though, when I re-forge this blade it won’t be anything like the old one.” She was taken aback by the sudden seriousness in his voice. “Especially if we leave this on there.” He plucked the chain from the hilt, disconnecting the charmed Mithril as though he wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. “You sure you want it back on there?”

“I need it but…” She hesitated. Did she need the chain? Was it really a sign of weakness? Why couldn’t she hold onto her sword, even in death? Did she just not trust him, or was it herself she didn’t trust? She had thought it would keep anyone from ever taking Brightfang away but Beliach had just pulled the chain off like he was picking a flower. Would having the chain just be a reminder of a painful memory?

“It’s your blade girl. I’ll put it back on there if you want it, I don’t care one way or the other but it makes a difference in the forging.”  He said, obviously thinking about different designs.

“At first I think it was a crutch. Something to keep my fear under control you know?” She said, coming to her decision. “But I’ve turned that weakness into a strength. I think I could even surprise Glarian with some of the new moves I’ve learned with it.”

“I don’t know about that but you’re going to need all the help you can get, especially if you’re facing off with The Order and Dergeras at the same time.” He reached out and deftly removed the Mithril cuff from her right wrist. “This chain is a weird one, I’ll give ya that. I’m not completely sure how it works, so be careful with it.”

He moved to one side of the room and pulled a curtain back, revealing a room with a lavish table set with almost every imaginable type of food. “Why don’t you all get a bite to eat while I work on this? Could be awhile.”

With that, he began sorting through lumps of metal next to his anvil.  Callindra watched him comparing them, tapping them with a hammer, filing pieces off with a large rasp and even touching them with his tongue.  After a few minutes, he selected a piece of metal that was covered in rough scales that flaked off as he tested it.

Walking to the anvil, he pulled a lever so massive that she had assumed it was a part of the structure of the forge.  The chains clanked and moved, pulling Megara’s head over toward the forge, while the forge itself rose to meet him.  The gentle exhalation of the massive demon’s breath instantly heated the piece of metal to an orange-red glow.

Once it came back down, Beliach began moving with inhuman speed.  Hammer and tongs were a blur as he began to work the steel, lengthening and widening the metal, re-heating and folding and drawing it out into the shape he desired.  She watched for a time, but the needs of her body eventually distracted her.

Despite her concern about the forging of her blade, Callindra was drawn into the room by the smell of roasting venison, mulled wine and freshly baked bread. She lost track of time, happily filling her stomach with rich food and drink. Finally after her hunger was sated she sat back, smoking a pipe of fine tobacco for the first time in weeks and feeling truly relaxed. Her shoulder nudged Vilhylm who was intent on some project or another and she murmured a sleepy apology.

 

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 48

Callindra spun, bringing her sword to bear on the man.  He was exactly as she remembered him; bald with a long salt and pepper beard, wearing a leather apron and covered in soot and forge dust.  Stripped to the waist in the heat, he exposed a well-muscled torso although he was obviously much older than she was.

“Expecting someone else were you?” He asked, giving her a quizzical look.

“Before I answer you I want to know what business you have with Shojin.”  She said, the tip of her blade not wavering.

“Oh he’s always making a fuss over one thing or another.” He pitched his voice like a petulant child, “Oooh, my leg hurts, I can’t use it as a pivot and it’s throwing off my swing. My blade needs to be lightened and balanced to compensate.”

She chuckled, “I gave him that limp. My name is Callindra, these are my brothers Tryst, Cronos and Vilhylm.”

“They aren’t yer brothers!” The man laughed.

“Brothers in all but blood.”  Tryst said, “That’s what really matters I think.”

“Some bonds forged in battle are stronger than blood.  There’s something to that.” He noticed the chain wasn’t looped over the obelisk any more. “This won’t do at all.” He inhaled deeply, “HEY MAJERA!”

“Hey, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Callindra was backing slowly away from the opening that looked out on the monster’s lair.

“Oh sure, he’s fine. MAAAAJEEEEERRRRRRAAAAAAA!!” He broke off into a coughing fit and seemed to hack up sparks, cinders and ash.

The immense demon opened one of his eyes a slit and fixed the smith with a baleful glare.  ”WHAT?”

“You’re missing one of yer thingies there.”  He pointed to the chain where it dangled loose.

Magera reached down, picked up the chain and looped it back over the obelisk. “FOOL.” His voice shook the room before he slipped back into slumber.

“What did you say your name was?” The smith looked at Callindra’s face for the first time.

“Callindra. Callindra Sol‘Estin.”

His gaze moved from her face to the hilt sticking up above her shoulder. “No… no, it couldn’t be.” He muttered turning towards the forge. Suddenly he spun back towards her, a massive forge hammer appeared in his hands and it brought a torrent of air with it as he swung it at her head. Callindra stood her ground, whipping Brightfang from his sheath and releasing a blast of wind that perfectly countered the blow the smith was aiming at her.

Everything stood motionless; her hair, dust motes, even the breath in her lungs was momentarily stilled. “Heh, not bad, but what’s this?” He had plucked Brightfang from her hand so quickly that she hadn’t been able to stop him and was examining the blade.

“What’s with the chain? You little fool, it throws the balance completely off.”  He began muttering angrily to himself, “Glarian, what in the world are you teaching your students? How the mighty have fallen.”

“It was better than having someone take him away again.  Have you seen Glarian lately? You are Beliach aren’t you?” The tension made her voice crack.

“He’s in Hellgate keep, supposedly trapped inside his sword last time I heard.” Beliach was still looking at Brightfang.

“Trapped inside his SWORD?”

“Yeah.” He said, obviously not paying attention to her.

“Can I have my sword back now?” Callindra was trying to restrain herself from trying to rip it out of his hands by pulling on the chain because she was pretty sure she would fail.

“I suppose so, it’s broken anyway.  The balance is completely off now. You ruined a perfectly good blade, dunno what the hell you did to it.”

“I guess someone like you doesn’t know what it means to be weak. To have others be able to completely dominate you?” She paused and her voice lowered to a whisper. “To have something inside yourself that wants to destroy you and will if you can’t channel it.”

Beliach barked a laugh, “So what? You think that chain makes you stronger? You think it keeps you safe? Why not just hold on to your damn sword?”

“You can’t hang on when you’re unconscious.”  She said, gripping her sword’s hilt tightly, “I won’t let anyone take him away again.”

“I’ve seen many a man dead on the battlefield with his fingers clutching the hilt of the blade.”

“Sure, and I’d bet you’ve seen many a scavenger pry that blade out of those fingers haven’t you?” She shook her head, “This is pointless bickering. I won’t let anyone take him away again. Look, I know this might be asking a lot but can you … can you re-balance Brightfang for me?”

“No point. You haven’t been listening to me have you girlie? Whatever you did to this blade it’s ruined, just look at these flaws.” He reached out with two fingers and tapped her sword directly in the center of the blade. Callindra watched in horror as spider web cracks spread from where his fingers touched and then shrieked in horror when it shattered like glass.

“See what I mean? Ruined.”

“What have you done? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Callindra’s voice rose in a piercing scream. Weave broke from her mouth with the cry, winds whipping around her chaotically. “I can’t control it you stupid old FOOL!” A rumble of thunder seemed to sound in the distance.

Love Letter

I wrote this random bit of poetry while thinking about the next of my D&D sessions.  It’ll be found the room of a former lord of a fallen city.

 

The sun set upon our meeting
Darkness descended
Swallowed hope
Devoured rest
Consumed peace
The sun set upon our meeting

The stars died upon our meeting
I bid farewell to sanity
I bid farewell to knowledge
I bid farewell to understanding
The stars died upon our meeting

The moon fell upon our meeting
I lost the future
I lost the past
I lost the present
The moon fell upon our meeting

I love the destruction
I love the loss
I love the violence
I love the madness
I love the confusion

Take me
Make me yours
Let the rest of the world burn
Burn it
Let
It
Burn

 

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 47

Climbing the stairs littered with broken blades would have been a slow painful exercise for most people, but Callindra practically flew up them without even thinking about it. Brightfang shone in her hand and the Mithril chain that connected him to her right wrist cuff whipped behind her in the wake of her passage. The slumbering God-Construct standing in the pool of molten lava to her right shifted his massive shoulders. Even so minor a movement caused his wings to fan heat that should have blistered her skin, but the motes of burning stone that crackled from around the demon became harmless puffs of ash before they reached her.

Her brothers were slowly making their way up the stairs behind her, but she was more intent on finding the source of the release of Weave she had sensed from above. The chamber at the top was mostly open, a massive forge dominated the room and a glistening white obelisk whose girth eclipsed any tree she had seen except for The Grandfather Tree thrust through the floor on the right-hand side.

What captured Callindra’s attention was the man stepping through a glimmering silver portal. Even if she hadn’t recognized Shojin’s face the blood red and black armor of Inquisitor would have frightened and angered her at the same time. She had given him the limp he now walked with and he had made her and Glarian fugitives, hunted across the ten continents.

“You’re still alive?” His eyes widened in surprise even as the portal he had just walked through closed.

“God’s balls.” Callindra gripped Brightfang’s hilt hard enough to make her hand ache, feeling the wire wrapping bite into her hand. This was going to be trouble in a big way. If the Inquisition was here everyone’s life was in danger. Something had been off about Shojin though, maybe that broken leg she’d given him was causing more trouble than she had dared to hope it would.

“What’s up sister?” Cronos was the first of her brothers to reach the top of the stairs. His usual attention to detail was once again making it tough to keep her secrets.

“Just saw a face that I thought I’d left behind me.” Cronos didn’t look convinced, but she didn’t care and didn’t elaborate.

Her other two brothers reached the room and they began to look around. Vilhylm was of course drawn to the forge where he examined some of the tools. Cronos was looking at the massive white pillar and Tryst was standing to one side, keeping a watchful eye on Magera. Callindra just stood with her back to a solid wall and tried to look everywhere at once. Who knew when they would return?

A powerful burst of Weave from the pillar grabbed Callindra’s attention. Cronos’s hand seemed to have been sucked into it. “What the hell are you doing?” She sprinted across the room and slammed into him as hard as she could.  He didn’t budge and cried out in pain at the strain on his shoulder and elbow.

“Gods and Demons that hurts!” Cronos was still trying to pull himself out but instead his arm jerked forward another few inches.

Tryst was approaching the obelisk, unlimbering his massive hammer. He slammed it into the wall just above Cronos’s arm with thundering force, sending spider web cracks all over the surface. Pieces of ice and snow showered down around them but her brother’s arm was still stuck fast and gradually dragging him closer as it was pulled inside.

Callindra ran to the forge and grabbed a blazing hot sword blank from the fire, pausing to marvel at the perfect balance it had despite obviously being a work in progress. Cronos yelling in pain as Vilhylm tried to pull his arm out brought her back to the reality of the situation. She ran back to her brother’s side and plunged the red hot brand into the pillar. Other than a hiss of sublimating ice her attempt to free him was completely ineffective.

“I can’t believe I ruined this blade.” Callindra tossed it regretfully over the edge to clatter with the other shattered, discarded blades on the floor.

“We have bigger problems don’t you think?” Cronos was now up to his shoulder into the sheer wall of ice. He incanted a spell, gesturing with his left hand and unleashed a wave of flame on the wall. Water poured off in sheets but his arm still didn’t show any signs of coming free. “This thing is pulling me in!  Someone get me OUT!”

”Pain pain pain. Thorns and brambles, thorns and brambles. Piercing roots and threading vines. Pain.” Callindra heard a voice in her head, almost as though someone was Wind whispering to her but somehow closer, more intimate.

Vilhylm had been staring intently at the wall for several seconds. “I see a field of blowing snow. A blizzard, driven by gale force winds.” He put on the mask he had made from Jorda’s gift and tendrils of vine grew from his fingers.  They found tiny cracks in the surface and grew into them, expanding the cracks until the top of the pillar broke free, tumbling down into the lava below with a titanic crash and a huge hiss of steam.

The chain that had been looped over it swung loosely from the collar of the giant demon.  It didn’t seem to notice or awaken from its slumber, but Callindra kept a nervous eye on it anyway.

“Thanks Vil.”  Cronos said, rolling his shoulder and grimacing in pain.

A small whirl of snow started forming on the base of the obelisk and in minutes a new gleaming spire of ice had formed as though it had never been destroyed in the first place.

“What are you all doing here? Who are you?” A voice rang out behind them, gruff and low.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 46

Tryst leaped forward, roaring a battle cry designed to attract the monster’s attention while Cronos hacked into its back with an overhanded swing of his favorite bastard sword.  When the blade met the things back, the steel came away red hot, the edge warped from contacting the creature’s hide.

“What the hell IS this thing?”  He shouted, “We have to get her OUT of there!”

Vilhylm ran forward, growing bigger and stronger; his brutish aspect coming out.  He grabbed the creature’s limbs and tried to pull them apart, struggling to tear it in half and release his sister.  Callindra felt the thing’s throat constrict around her and with horrible force.  With a herculean effort she managed to draw a sliver of Brightfang from his sheath and released a blast of raw magic.  A slash opened in the side of its throat and she gulped a breath of fresh air.

The monster reared up, shrieking in pain and anger.  A flailing limb slammed into Cronos, knocking him onto its back.  His armor began to blacken and burn and he rolled off into the snow, cursing a blue streak.  Vilhylm slammed his fist into the creature’s vulnerable underbelly, impacting Callindra’s body slightly and shoving her face halfway out through the hole her magic had punched.

“This god-cursed bastard.  Is trying.  To EAT ME!”  She grated, trying to free her sword further.

The monster turned and tried to run back into its lair, but Tryst jumped in front of it, dropping his shield and gripping the sides of the wound, pulling with all his strength.  Vilhylm joined him, and they each pulled on a side.  As they pulled, Cronos discarded his damaged sword and drew another, hacking down and opening the cut far enough that Callindra spilled out in a burst of superheated blood.  The digestive fluids of the creature had done their work; her hair was burned off as were her clothes.  And her armor. And her sword sheath.

She shivered uncontrollably and felt as though she was sunburned all over.  “Gods and demons.  I feel burned and chilled to the bone all at once.”

“We must get her into the monster’s cave and build a fire or else she will freeze.”  Tryst said, sweeping his cloak off his shoulders and wrapping her in it.  Callindra winced at the rough wool touching her burns but pulled it around herself with her right hand, grateful for the warmth.

“That bastard burned up all my clothes.”  She said, her voice rough with pain.  “Bring its carcass into the cave, I’ll make boots from its blasted hide.”

“I’m not sure we have time for that.”  Cronos said, looking at the still steaming corpse of the monster.  “Don’t we have somewhere to be?”

“I’m not hiking across a sarding glacier nude Cronos.”  She said acidly, “I think it won’t matter for the short term if they aren’t completely cured since it’s so cold, now shut up and help Vil drag it inside.  We can probably start a fire from its damn hide.  Tryst, can you please do something about these burns?  I think I’m going to … just pass out for a bit.”

Callindra crumpled into Tryst’s arms and he carried her into the cave, followed by Vilhylm and a cursing Cronos as they dragged the beast’s body into the cave.  As Callindra had suggested, the heat from the red hot organs on the creatures back continued to give off enough heat to keep the interior of the cave warm.

After Tryst healed the worst of her burns, Callindra gradually regained consciousness.  Cronos had found some of his spare clothes that more or less fit her, and although she didn’t have the support of a breast band she at least wasn’t naked and shivering.

While her brothers rested, she deftly skinned the beast using her sword as she had so many times before.  With the creature’s brain and a bit of magic, she managed to cure the hide in a matter of candlemarks and made herself a surprisingly serviceable pair of boots that laced all the way to her knee.  She also cut out a rough breastplate that she could later reinforce to replace the beautifully embossed armor she had bartered for so long ago.  Before she could finish that, she would need buckles and more advanced tools though.

After a meal of trail rations and snow melted in a pan on the still warm back of the monster, they set off across the glacier.  Callindra found she didn’t much mind being forced to always keep Brightfang in her hand; his weight was a comfort to her although her hand quickly became stiff from the cold chilling the steel ice cold.

The next night, they camped in the lee of a massive snowdrift, setting up a tent barely large enough for all of them to fit in.  The cramped conditions at very least allowed them to benefit from each other’s warmth.  In the morning, they were able to make it to the base of the ashmount.

There was a large tunnel opening at the base of the mountain.  An unguarded opening that had a stiff breeze blowing at their backs as they walked inside.  The floor was littered with blades.  Swords, scimitars, daggers, polearms and axes were scattered like leaves from a weapon tree.  Some were broken, but others looked flawless at first glance.  There were thousands of weapons more perfect than any blade they’d ever seen for sale in any shop.

A staircase wound around the outside of the room with broken blades scattered over the steps carved into the stone.  The dominant feature in the room wasn’t the collection of weapons.  In the center of the volcano was a pool of lava thirty feet across.  Standing in the center of that pool was a figure Callindra could only think of as a demon.  It was over fifty feet tall with red skin and jet black wings.  Two huge chains ran from an iron collar about its neck to massive pillars of white stone or ice.