The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 22

“So I suppose you’re here for the same reason as the rest of us eh?” Said a man, coming to sit next to her at the bar and taking a pull from the large earthenware mug of the thick bitter brew it contained, “Fortune and glory. There’s so much treasure out there it’s a wonder the whole world isn’t combing this marsh.”

She glanced around the crowded common room of The Drunken Thief taking in the contrast of the roughhewn tables and benches with the piles of glittering gemstones, gold and finely worked weapons that were being sorted on many of them.  All the men and women here were heavily armed; she counted no fewer than six daggers on one man’s belt.

“I can see the Fortune from here, but this place seems to be a little lacking of the other. My idea of Glory doesn’t include grubbing around in the dirt for some spare change.” She sampled from her own mug and sighed in satisfaction, “At least the drink measures up.”

“You’re lippy for a little tyke you know that? I suppose you acquit yourself pretty well with that toothpick of yours though, I think I saw you split one of those critters in half.” He looked at the two foot sword hilt extending above her left shoulder with grudging respect. “I haven’t seen a blade like that before, where’d you steal it?”

“He was a gift.” She replied shortly, the memory of the man who had given it to her and taught her how to use it still fresh in her mind. The Winds sensed her mood and a slight gust blew the tangle of her hair back from her face, accentuating the vines that twined through it to wrap around her brow, the tiny flowers in it twinkling like jewels. “Brightfang is my companion.” The breeze shook the Mithril chain that ran from the weighted pommel to a shackle on her wrist causing it to jingle merrily.

His eyebrows rose, “A bonded blade? Well that explains the chain I suppose. If you aren’t here for the gold then why the hells are you here? As you so bluntly pointed out there ain’t much more to this place than that.” A few other patrons who were close by had started to pay attention to the conversation.

“Callindra, are these gentleman giving you any trouble?” A hulking figure in mirror polished plate mail with a large round shield on his left arm approached the bar, setting a large battle hammer down with a resounding thud.

“You’re not bothering our sister are you?” A low voice asked, as a hand extended unseen from the shadows to rest on the shoulder of the man Callindra had been speaking with. He flinched in spite of himself, his skin crawling as though he had been touched by a corpse.

“There’s a misunderstanding, we were just having a casual conversation.” The man stood and backed away from the bar, coming into contact with a youth in black leather whose face told a story of pain beyond his years. Two bastard swords were nestled in a harness that crossed his back, their size looking almost comical until the way he moved spoke of his proficiency with them.

“Good. We don’t want any problems.” Cronos said, flicking a gold at the bartender who deftly batted it over his shoulder into the unseen cashbox and handed over another tankard of Bog Ale.

Callindra looked at her brothers and rolled her eyes, “You guys are so overprotective.”

“I wasn’t worried about your safety little sister, I was more concerned that you’d get us thrown out of here.” Tryst’s absurdly pretty face creased in a frown as he looked past her at the massive men with battle clubs the size of small trees who stood by the door, “We need to get information here.”

“Whatever, I’m going to go see if that little bald dude wants to toss some dice.” She stood and carried her ponderous tankard over to a table where a small man was inspecting some gems. “You up for a game old man?”

“Pull up a chair youngster, fifty gold buy in.” He rattled a dice cup and Callindra threw ten platinum on the table with a shrug. Tossing the dice, she grinned.

“Small straight, not bad. You might have trouble beating that.”

He deftly scooped the dice and spun them onto the table. Just before they stopped rolling his hand flickered as to move his wager into the center of the table, but Callindra saw him tap one of the dice with his sleeve, causing it to alter its course. Rather than cause a scene, she flicked a finger and sent a tiny zephyr out to make the die roll randomly again.

“What have I told you about funny business?” The bouncer was unbelievably fast and quiet for all that he was the size of a horse; she hadn’t seen or heard him approach. “When you cheat the patrons they don’t have money to drink.”

“There’s no problem, we just want to dice.” Callindra was enjoying herself and didn’t really care about the money.

Letting go of the little man who scooped up his gems and darted away leaving his wager on the table, the bouncer turned his gaze towards her and flexed his tree trunk arms. “We. Don’t. Gamble. Here.”

Callindra tossed her head back and laughed, “You mean to tell me that you throw caution to the winds to live in this shithole, gambling with your very LIVES for a few coins and yet you frown on tossing dice? You people astound me.”

“Go spend your money elsewhere. We don’t gamble here.” He folded his massive arms across his chest and Callindra sauntered out of the tavern, her blade tether rattling and jingling in some unseen draft, still chuckling.

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