The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 12

The gates of Denoria towered above them and Callindra couldn’t keep herself from gawking.  The walls were fully fifty feet high and the gates were open a full forty feet wide.  It was so thick that there were five separate gates that could be lowered if an invading force tried to break through.

Tryst was handling their entrance into the city as his credentials as a priest of Gode to pass the stringent requirements at the gate.  There was a chapter house of his faith here and he had been able to send messages ahead to them with a well-placed bit of coin.

“There’s a good place to stay called the Golden Mantle, it is a trusted establishment according to the guards at the gate.  You will be expected there, I sent a runner ahead to reserve you some rooms.”  Tryst said.  “Go and make yourselves at home.  I wish to go straight to the Chapter House and meet with the members of my order.”

“I need a bath and I need it now.”  Callindra said, trying to run her fingers through her hair and shuddering when she found it impossible.    “You can go and pray as long as you want if I get to go and get clean.”

“Since when were you so concerned about being all pretty and clean?”  Cronos asked, punching her in the shoulder.

“You could stand to get the stink of a few days without bathing on top the smell from a gods damned forest fire yourself brother mine.”  She said, giving him a punch that was noticeably stronger that the one he had given her.

“Hey!”  He said laughing, but rubbing his arm, “I don’t smell bad…”

“Right.”  Vilhylm said, “Keep telling yourself that.  We could all use a bath and a good meal.  Tryst, come and join us once you check in with your people.”

It was a short walk to the Inn, and as they drew closer Callindra began to have her doubts.  “I don’t think we belong here.  I mean look at these buildings.”  She said, pointing to the five story structures surrounding them.  All of them were immaculately painted and well cared for.  No doxies leaned out of second story windows, there wasn’t even any dung in the streets let alone garbage.

“Don’t worry little sister, Tryst is picking up the tab.”  Vilhylm said with a wry grin, “Just as long as his runner actually made it and we don’t get thrown out.”

The Golden Mantle was massive, taking up half a block and rising six stories.  The rambling structure seemed to have grown, multiple roof lines meeting and diverging but somehow looking grand and opulent in spite of the appearance that could have otherwise looked tacky.  At the entrance, a pair of guards wearing matching armor gave them matching skeptical looks.

“Gentlemen, I think perhaps you are looking for a different establishment.”  One of them says, stepping in front of the door and putting his hand on the hilt of the rather large sword at his side.  “We cater to a very specific clientele, there are plenty of places that serve travelers and adventurers closer to the gate.”

“Excuse me?”  Callindra said, her doubts momentarily overcome by ire at being called male. “You think that just because someone carries a sword and wears armor they’re automatically a man?”

“Uhhh…”  The guard looked at her and then glanced at his cohort, a slight blush coloring his cheeks.  “You were standing behind your companions miss, I didn’t see you.”

“THIS girl could cut your arms off before you were halfway through reaching for your sword.”  She said, “Especially if you don’t let her inside to take a bath.  We’ve been on the road for a week and I haven’t seen hot water for twice that.”

“Trust me man.”  Cronos said, “You don’t want to get between Callindra and her bath.”

“Callindra?”  The other guard asked, “You mean you’re the group that they sent a runner from the gate about?”  She scratched her chin and Callindra realized with belated chagrin that she was a woman.

“Yeah.”  Callindra said, “Tryst Te’Chern sent him.  This is Vilhylm and Cronos.”

“He didn’t mention anything about you being so … travel worn.”  The female guard said, “No matter, your suite is ready.  Please sign in at the front desk inside.”

“I am sorry, we’ve had a difficult week.”  Vilhylm said with an apologetic smile, “Her maybe more than the rest of us.”

Callindra mumbled something that might have been an apology and might have been a curse word and strode through the door, followed closely by her brothers.  Her soft leather shoes were quiet on the floor, but the man behind the desk looked up with a smile that might have been tattooed on.

“Ah, the exalted friends of the Church!  Welcome!”  He rang a small gold bell and a youth in a uniform seemed to appear by the desk.  “Alex, please take their bags to the suite and give them the tour.”

“Right this way miss, gents.”  The youth said, taking Callindra’s pack from her and leading the way up the stairs at a trot as though she wasn’t a filthy, armor wearing girl whose long hair had living flowers growing in it.

Too tired and dirty to argue, she followed him to a set of rooms that eclipsed anything she had ever imagined.  The floors had plush carpets, the beds had silk and they had their own private bathing chamber.

“There is hot water in the cistern enough for three baths.”  Alex said crisply, “I will have an attendant come up as soon as you are ready.”

“I don’t need help.”  She said, walking toward the bathing chamber like a moth to a candle flame.

“I’ll send one of the maids up to help.  Tallie I think is her name.”  Alex said, turning and moving swiftly from the room.

“Wow would you look at this place?”  Callindra said, spinning in a circle and laughing.  “I don’t believe it!  Gods and demons I have no idea how Tryst thinks he’s going to pay for all this, but I’m going to live it up before they try and collect.”

She walked into the bathroom and found a pleasantly plump maid in a gown that would have been modest if it hadn’t been unlaced halfway to her navel standing next to a steaming tub.  A flagon of wine with condensation beading invitingly on its sides was set next to the tub and the scent of fragrant herbal soap filled the air.

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