The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 19

Callindra sprang out of sleep and out of bed in one combined moment.  With a rattle and musical chiming of tiny links, Brightfang leapt off the floor and flew toward her in a spinning unpredictable arc of razor sharp steel.  With a sound that was half laugh of joy, half cry of terror.  She flailed with an arm still wrapped in sheets and just barely managed to grab him by the blade, the flat smacking into her palm with a satisfying smack.

She was wearing a thin cotton shift and nothing else, her hair seeming almost to twine around her with its vines and flowers smelling of sweet summer afternoons.  The winds joyfully tugging at the hem of her shift made her smile.  The sun shining on her sword made her smile.  The sight of her brothers walking through the door rubbing sleep out of their eyes made her smile so hard she thought her heart would break.

“Thank you all.”  She began, but before she could say any more her brothers gathered around her each showing that they cared in their own way.  Tryst with a pleased, but concerned look as he used a magic Delving to make sure she was fully healed.  Cronos with an awkward one armed hug and off color joke.  Vilhylm with an examination of Brightfang and her armor.

“I think we need to go.”  Callindra said, “The people looking for me aren’t going to stop.  What you did to get me out.  I mean it’s the ORDER.”

“I don’t care who it is.”  Cronos said, “None of them want to hurt you as much as we value you.  But yeah, we should get out of here.”

“Although you’re likely to still be exhausted for a few days and you have a number of new scars, I think you’re still fit to be out of bed, at least for a short time.”  Tryst said, “The Goddess’s gift has extraordinary restorative powers, but it still draws the power to heal from your body.  You shouldn’t overexert yourself and you need plenty of food to help with the process.”

“Your gear seems to be in order.”  Vilhylm said, “Your armor is in perfect repair and that chain seems like it hasn’t disrupted the integrity of your sword, although the balance is likely to be off.”

The bells in the Monastery began to ring and Tryst looked up sharply.  “Those are the alarm bells, someone’s attacking the front gate!  We have to help!”

“We have to go.”  Vilhylm said flatly, “Odds are we’re the reason the attack is happening.  A few extra swords aren’t going to make a difference here; your Brothers and Sisters can handle it.  We need to go.”

“You may be right, but I-“ Tryst began, but the door being slammed open interrupted him.  Larcel stood there.

“What are you still doing here?”  She demanded, “You need to get out before these things get through the front gate.”

“Things?  What things?”  Callindra asked, as she tried to take off her shift and discovered that it was far more difficult now that she had Brightfang permanently bonded to the chain on her right wrist.

“I don’t know.  There’s a man in a black cowl with an army of green eyed freaks out there.”  Larcel said, “Nothing for you to worry about really, we can handle it.  They’re demanding we let them search our premises for fugitives, but they don’t have any legal right to do so.”

“Shouldn’t we stay and help?”  Callindra asked, freeing herself from the shift and beginning thread Brightfang’s chain back through it. “This is probably all my fault.”

“Not a chance toothpick.”  Larcel said with a good-natured poke at her ribs.  “We’ve got this covered.”

“Thank you.”  Vilhylm said before anyone else could respond.  “Come on then, let’s get moving before we make the defense of your sacred ground more difficult.”

“Green eyed freaks?”  Tryst said, worry creasing his forehead.  “I don’t like the sound of that.  They’re likely to be Abyssal Spawn Larcel.  Do not take them lightly.

“I was there at the briefing Sir Te’Chern.”  She said to Tryst, “I heard the report and your warnings regarding these so-called Spawn.”

“Don’t underestimate even the most harmless seeming opponent.”  Vilhylm warned, “We made that mistake and it nearly cost us our lives.”­­­

Callindra had disentangled herself from the cotton shift and grinned to herself at Cronos’s blush.  She was quite nude underneath but now was not the time to discover she was shy, and she found that she really wasn’t.  Just like the books she’d read about comrades in arms, these men were her battle comrades and companions; she did not look on them with any possible romantic feelings.

“Cronos where are my clothes?”  She asked, giving the younger man an excuse to turn away.  “I need to get dressed so I can get into my armor.”

Larcel chuckled, “Your things are on the shelf next to your bed.  Let the poor boy be.”

It took a bit of time due to Brightfang and his chain, but Callindra managed to wrap herself with a breast band, get her shirt and breeches on and finally get her armor strapped into place once more.  The pressure around her chest felt comforting, like a hug from a parent, not that she remembered her parents.

“All right.  Let’s go.”  She said, finally feeling herself again.

“We’ve been waiting on you.”  Cronos grumbled, still apparently feeling salty about her teasing him.

“We have a passage that leads out of the city.”  Larcel said, “I’ll show you where the entrance is once you’re ready.”

They followed her to a conspicuously blank section of wall and pressed a pair of bricks.  The wall slid smoothly inward at her touch revealing a stairway that spiraled into darkness.  A light breeze smelling of fresh mountain air came to curl around Callindra, tickling the ends of her unbound hair and sparring with the zephyrs that had accompanied her here.

“Take care.”  Larcel gripped Callindra’s forearm.  “I’ve seen some people roughed up before, but what they’d done to you was…”  She shuddered.  “Just take care.”

“My brothers fill in where I fail.”  Callindra replied, a pained look in her eyes.  “I try as best I can but I thank Jorda that I have good people watching out for me.  I never thought I’d come closer to dying from something like that, I always figured it’d be from mouthing off to the wrong person.”

It was a weak joke, but it brought a smile to Larcel’s face.  She nodded wordlessly and Callindra followed her brothers down the stairs.

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The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 18

Durrak stood and wiped his brow and stretched, feeling his vertebra crack.  It had been hours since he had begun clearing this field and he was beginning to feel tired.  The Dwarf wasn’t exhausted, it was the good warmed muscle feeling of a morning’s honest work.  It had been years since he had stumbled out of the wilderness, bruised and on the brink of collapse and this human family had taken him in.

“Time for midday’s Durrak.”  Belladin said, surprising him.  She was only a few feet behind him, holding a large wicker basket and smiling mischievously.  He wasn’t sure why she took so much pleasure in sneaking up on him.

“My thanks Miss Verivan, the day do be growing quite warm.”  He said politely, taking off his hat.

“Come and sit with me in the shade.”  She said, turning to walk back to where a rock outcropping cast a shadow.  He followed, still unsure as to why she was paying him so much attention but appreciating it nonetheless.

Many of the other humans in this Holding seemed to dislike Dwarves for some reason, but she and her family had no such compunction.  Her father’s name was Thanel and he was a solid, no-nonsense kind of person, almost seeming to be Dwarfish in nature rather than human.

He sat with her, her father, two of her sisters who preferred work in the fields and one of her brothers.  Sandwiches with thick slices of roast venison, spicy horseradish spread and garden fresh tomato on dark heavy rolls were passed around.  Durrak sat with his back to the cool stone and accepted a mug of cool mint tea from a smiling Belladin.

“When are you going to quit this drudge work and get to what you’re good at boy?”  Thanel asked with his usual blunt directness.

Durrak blinked in surprise.  “What do you be meaning sir?”  He asked politely in his strangely accented Common.

“I mean you’re no farmer boy.  You know the forge or I’m a bald sheep.”  He took a large bite of his sandwich and looked at Durrak with calculating eyes as he chewed and swallowed.

“I do have a debt to you and it do be my intent to pay it.”  Durrak said, meeting the man’s gaze.

“I’d rather you incur more debt and pay me back faster.”  Said Thanel, “When I first inherited this property there was an old anvil, forge and a few hammers and other tools out in the back.  I ain’t got the knack but I always figured someone would come along who did, else I’d sell ‘em if times got tough.”

Durrak stared at him in surprise, his food forgotten.  “I…”  He let his voice trail off, not sure what to say.

“I ain’t one who’s lame brained enough to think all Dwarves are smiths, but I recognize the burns on your forearms.  Ya don’t get those from herding sheep.”  Thanel said, still studying Durrak’s face.  “Don’t waste that talent.  Besides, I got a plow with a damaged blade along with plenty of other things could use fixing.

“As you can see this ain’t entirely a selfless offer.”  The man said with a grin, “Don’t think you’ll get off lightly just ‘cause I want to put you to work doing something you’re trained to do.”

“Oh, I see.”  Durrak put down his mug and extended his hand, “In that case I do be accepting your offer.”

Thanel took his hand and shook it firmly.  “You still ain’t told me what brought you here son.  One day we saw the very mountain burn and you showed up about a week later.  No trade has come from the Dwarven halls there since.”

“It did be a dragon.”  He said, voice flat and dull.  “My father did take a raiding party out and killed her mate.  We no did know it had a mate, it was just threatening our city.  The Moragainnag did be warning about destruction did we not prevail against Krrakathanak.  Also her warning did say victory against him would bring peril.”

“More a gain…nag?” Belladin asked, trying to sound out the strange name.  “What is that?”

“The holy woman of their people.”  Thanel said, “Their seer.  The one with the closest relationship to their God.”

Durrak inclined his head, “Aye.  When Storgar slew her mate, Cerioth the Black’s breath did melt the gates of Farenholm to slag.  I know not if any survived, but I believe I do be the only Dwarf who escaped her mighty wrath.  As The Moragainnag did say, Death if we did kill him, destruction and chaos did we no kill him.  I must keep faith that Thraingaar spoke truly through the bones and that she did listen.”

“Well.  I am at least grateful that it gave us the opportunity to meet you.”  Belladin said, putting a small, warm hand on his large work roughened one.  Durrak felt a thrill race up his spine at her touch.  He shouldn’t be feeling happiness, to him it was as though feeling happiness was somehow dishonorable to his people’s memory.

Thanel stood, brushing the crumbs from his thighs.  “Come on boy.  I’ll show ya that forge and you can see what’s missing.”

Durrak started to his feet, breaking contact with Belladin and nearly spilling his mug of tea.  He blushed slightly at the man’s critical eye but also smiled.  It would be good to stand at a forge again.  Thraingaar would be pleased.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 17

 

“That doesn’t matter now.  We have to get out of here.”  Vilhylm said, “Now how do we activate this portal?”  He stepped across the silver circle in the floor and vanished.

The others followed close on his heels.  When they arrived on the other side, an alarm bell was ringing and the sound of running footsteps echoed in the foyer outside.  Voices shouted back and forth adding to the chaos.

“Intruders!  Just when the Masters are gone!”

“Where could they be?  We must find them and put a stop to their thieving!”

“There’ll be a promotion in this for certain.”

“Is this a test?”

“Are they trying to see how we handle an emergency?  I’ll show them I can handle myself.”

Vilhylm stood near the door, his spear in his hand.  “It looks bad out there.”  He said, not turning around.

“You can put me down.”  Callindra said, her voice weak but steady.

Tryst incanted a spell, laying more healing magic upon her and let her stand on her own.  She gripped Brightfang in both hands, facing the doorway with a determined grimace on her face.  In spite of the singed hair and lines of healing scars sutured by Brightstar vines, Callindra looked fiercer than they had ever seen her.

“Nobody is going to lock me up again.”  She said in a flat voice, “If we have to fight our way out, so be it.”

“There are too many of them.”  Vilhylm said, “Even if they’re weak they would overpower us by sheer weight of numbers.”

“Leave this to me.”  Cronos’s Master said in his dry voice.  “As long as you do not touch any of them or speak aloud you will be able to pass unseen among them.  Please ensure that you bring my apprentice with you; this will likely exhaust him to the point of unconsciousness.”

Cronos’s eyes flashed, and azure power expanded out from him in a gossamer blanket that settled over them all.  Callindra blinked in surprise; her brothers faded from her sight completely.  There was a soft crash of chainmaile armor and scabbarded swords hitting the granite floor and she groped towards it.

Even as she found Cronos’s comatose form, other hands began to lift him.  She stifled a cry, remembering the warning not to speak.  One of the others must have picked him up.  The door crashed open and a wild-eyed apprentice in hastily donned armor dashed down the corridor, a large hammer held in both hands.

Feeling slightly out of focus, Callindra wove through the mass of running people taking special care to avoid touching anyone.  It was surreal and she felt like it was all just a strange dream.  She was sure some of it was the shock from her kidnapping, injuries and healing, but being this close to people who were hunting for her and knowing they had no idea how close she stood to them nearly made her break out into hysterical laughter.

She escaped into the courtyard and then broke into the street.  Once she was clear, she ran for all she was worth, not knowing where she was going and not caring as long as it was away.  After a panicked rush, Callindra ducked into an alley breathing heavily and trembling in every limb.  The spell that kept her invisible dissipated.

Beside her, wavering lines in the air flickered and she brought Brightfang up in a sweeping stroke that she only barely managed to stop before it took Vilhylm’s head from his shoulders.  He smiled at her, “Looks like we had the same intuition.”

Callindra almost stabbed him when she flung her arms around him, hugging tightly for a moment before letting go and stepping back with an embarrassed expression on her face.  “You came for me. Thank you.”

Vilhylm looked surprised for an instant, “Of course we came for you.  How could you even doubt it?”

She shivered, “They were so powerful and nobody knew where I was…”

“Easy Callindra, don’t dwell on it right now.  Let’s get you back to the inn and get you cleaned up.”  He said soothingly.

“I don’t want to go back there.”  She said, “Can we just go somewhere else?”

“All your things are there.”  Said Vilhylm, “Your armor, your clothes, your money and everything you own other than that sword are there.”

“He is all I need.”  She said, her voice hard.  “Nobody will ever take him away from me again.”

“We don’t have to go back.”  Another voice said, and Tryst stepped into the alley with Cronos over his shoulder.  “I will take you to the chapter house.  Vilhylm can go and collect our belongings from the Golden Mantle.”

“Let me help you.”  Callindra said, moving to his side.

“You can barely walk on your own.”  He said shortly, “Just follow along and keep that sword under the cloak. For the love of all that is holy keep the cloak closed and put the hood up, you’ll get us all caught.”

They moved through the town, keeping to alleys and less traveled streets.  Once a street urchin approached looking for a handout, but a stern look from Tryst sent him running before Callindra managed to disentangle herself from her cloak and the unfamiliar length of chain now attached to her sword.

Tryst brought them to a small door at the side of an imposingly large structure and knocked with his dagger hilt.  A face blocked the light on the other side of an arrow slit, closely followed by a stern woman’s voice.

“If you require sanctuary you may come in by the front gate.”  She said, “This door is for the Member’s dormitory.”

“I am Tryst Te’Chern and although I am not a resident here I am in need of shelter for myself and my family.”

“You were in with the Lady earlier today?  The one from our Chapter House in Arkasia?”  She inquired.

“Yes.  My sister was taken by our enemies and my brother was injured in the rescue.”  He said, “You’re sister Lacrel aren’t you?”

“Tryst.  We don’t need this.”  Callindra rasped, her voice rough.  “I’ve walked for a mile tonight, I’ll walk another.”  She turned to go, the winds gusting weakly around her with weak but insistent anger.  Her borrowed cloak blew wide, revealing her naked, wounded body with the chain on her wrist and the strange profusion of flowering vines growing where she had been whipped, burned and cut.

“By the Ancient One!”  Lacrel said, throwing the door wide.  “Get in here immediately!”

“You’ve changed your mind?”  Callindra asked, turning to glare at her.  “Just because of these few scratches?”

“I am sorry.  I allowed my prejudice to delay your entry and care.”  Said Lacrel, “I will submit myself for penance if you wish, but please come inside.”

“Normally I would make an issue of it, but I’m too gods damned exhausted.”  Callindra said, “I’ll gladly forgive you if you just give me a safe bed to sleep in.”  Larcel and Tryst caught her just before she hit the ground.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 16

“We have to find that secret door.”  Tryst said, “Ignore the girl, she isn’t our first priority.”

They moved into the bathing room, checking for hidden triggers and eventually located a section of wall that slid sideways to reveal a narrow servant’s stair.  As promised, it led directly to a hallway that went to the stables on one side and the wine cellar on the other.

“If she wasn’t lying about this, odds are good she was telling the truth about the rest.”  Vilhylm mused, “Perhaps we should go and investigate this Guild eh?”

“Gods and Demons she wasn’t talking about The Order was she?”  Cronos swore, “I don’t think we can stand against the Weaponmage’s Guild.”

“I am sure I can talk to them.  My religious order has quite a bit of influence in this city.”  Tryst sighed, “Besides we don’t even know if that’s what she meant or not.”

“Time’s wasting.”  Vilhylm said shortly.  He had taken off his mask but seemed to be nearly uncontrollably twitchy.  “Let’s move.”

They ran through the streets, eventually arriving at a section of the city that had Chapter Houses facilities for various mercenary companies.  They stopped in front of a courtyard with high walls.  The symbol of two whips crossed behind a huge hammer was painted boldly on the door.  Tryst went to knock on it with a maile clad fist, but Cronos pulled him back.

“Wait brother.  We should think about this first.  If they’ve captured Callindra, they’re not to be trusted.  We shouldn’t even give them the benefit of thinking that they’ll play fair.”

“How else are we going to get in?”  Tryst demanded.

“There’s always another way in.”  Vilhylm said with a vulpine smile.  “Usually a side or back entrance.  Let’s see what secrets this place has to give up.”

The back of the compound was a working forge.  Errand runners came and went bearing sacks of coin in and leaving with leather wrapped bundles, warriors brought weapons to be sharpened and armor to be mended.  It was easy to slip into the stream of people coming and going.

Once inside, they took stock of the busy courtyard.  There were three forges working full blast, the air was hot and dozens of people stood around waiting for their turn to have weapons sharpened or armor repaired.  The boys and girls striving at and around the forges paused for a moment as a side door opened.

A pair of men walked from the door, a huge ogre of a man with a massive hammer strapped to his back and a slim blade of a man with a whip coiled on either hip.  What brought their attention was the fact that the skinny man had a small, brilliantly white flower tucked behind his ear.  Brightstar flowers didn’t bloom this time of year.

“Did you see-“ Cronos began.

“That flower-“ Vilhylm said.

“They have her.” Said Tryst grimly, “I don’t know where but they have her.”

As one, Vilhylm and Tryst started for the pair but the usually hot headed Cronos restrained them.  “Hey.  They’re leaving.  Now might be our only chance.  If she’s still alive that is.”

The other two restrained themselves and managed to stay inconspicuous enough that the busy people around them ignored their presence.  There were enough other folk clamoring for their attention that the workers in the yard were happy to ignore them.

Cronos led his brothers up to the door and to his amazement found it unlocked.  They quickly slipped through into a spacious, quiet foyer.  A fountain that looked like a quite realistic erupting volcano, complete with heat and sound stood in the center.  Murals covered the walls, showing fantastic scenes of landscapes where trees, grasses and stones were made of small humanoid figures bent and twisted into impossible shapes.  The floor was polished granite and, as impossible is it seemed, appeared to be one solid piece.

There were two exits, one a grand archway and the other a simple, small door camouflaged to match the painting so closely they wouldn’t have seen it had it not been for the dim lighting of the foyer and the dull glow of light shining through the crack.

“She’s behind there.”  Cronos said in the dry, cold voice of his Master.  “I can feel it, and she is necessary for this fight.  You must save your battle sister or be forsaken by the Gods themselves.”

Tryst shivered, feeling the full force of the old man’s eyes staring out through the young man’s face.  “Of course we’re going to save her.”  He said, his voice sounding strained.  “That’s what we came here for.”

“Then be about it damn you.”  Said the voice that wasn’t Cronos’s, “This kind of thing takes a toll upon my apprentice and I would think it a shame for him to perish because of your slothful behavior.”

“How do we open the door?”  Vilhylm asked, “I can’t pick the lock, that kind of thing was more Callindra’s style.”

“I certainly don’t know anything about that.”  Tryst said, “We can’t break it down without attracting attention.”

“Have you tried just opening the god rotting door?”  Cronos said, reaching out an pushing the door open.  “Come now, my time is limited and I fear you shall need my assistance.”

They entered, finding themselves in a hallway lit by matching sets of torches that lined the walls.  Closer inspection revealed that what had at first appeared to be torches were actually whips, the wrapped leather hanging down and glowing with flickering golden flames.  The last set had guttering emerald fire instead of gold.

“I don’t like this.”  Tryst said, looking at the last pair of whips.  “I really don’t like this.”

“Grow a spine.”  Cronos rasped, “They’re just dying weapons.  Now if I am feeling the Power here correctly there is a circle nearby that will transport you to another portion of this place.”

They moved ahead cautiously and found a circle of silver set in the solid granite of the floor.  Cronos walked confidently ahead and vanished.  After a moment’s hesitation, the other two followed.  The room the found themselves in was brightly lit, various implements were laid out in neat rows on clean white marble tables.  Tiny knives, saws, pliers and other instruments that could have been for surgery, torture or dissection shared space with dozens of hammers and other heavy tools that were obviously designed for work on a blacksmith’s forge.

Cronos was halfway across the room, heading for a doorway that glowed a dull red instead of the bright white of the one they were in.  The other two hurried to catch up, and upon passing through the doorway stopped in shock.  Callindra was strung up by her wrists, hanging from a fine shining silvery chain that connected to a pair of manacles of the same metal.

To one side was an anvil set up next to a sluggishly moving river of molten rock.  Drips of lava fell from a crack in the stone ceiling of the chamber, falling with a sizzling hiss on the girl’s forehead.  She was naked but for the multitude of Brightstar vines that grew and twined about her, trying in vain to heal the terrible wounds that cut across her body.