The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 23

Callindra tossed her head back and laughed, “You mean to tell me that you throw caution to the winds to live in this swamp, 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.

Once outside she allowed her eyes to adjust to the darkness and after surveying her options, chose a campfire with a few capable looking warriors she had seen in the fighting earlier over the caravan. The hard, adult eyes of the children who peeked out a window at her were unnerving.

“Mind if I join you?” The man jerked his eyes from the flickering flames and glanced up at her.

“Ah- well…” He stammered, obviously about to tell her to leave until he saw she was proffering a flask. “Yeah of course you can. Thanks.” He shifted slightly to one side on the log he was sitting on and she sat down heavily next to him.

Callindra took out her pipe and tobacco and tamped the bowl full of Karalan Imperialis. Before accepting the flask back she concentrated for a second, igniting a tiny flame over the bowl of the pipe.  With a few puffs a thin streamer of smoke trailed from her mouth. Sighing in satisfaction she exhaled a plume of smoke, took the flask back and took a swallow.

“So, you here for fortune and glory too?” She asked giving the fighter next to her a sidelong glance. “Or do you actually have scruples?” His leather armor had seen some use as had the twin long daggers he was polishing.

“Well mainly for fortune.” He replied with a dry chuckle. “There’s a lot of money out in the swamp if you’re willing to pay the price for it. I think I saw you out there in the fray earlier. Once you get a little older and a little less impatient you’ll be one helluva fighter you know? That flip almost cost you more than you bet on. How ‘bout you? What’re you here for if not for fortune?”

“At least you’re honest. I’m here because my brothers and I have a job to do. We’re looking for an artifact of some importance and we have reason to believe it’s probably here somewhere. My luck it’s probably in the bottom of the swamp.” She blew a few smoke rings and fidgeted with the shackles on her wrists.

“Heh, so you’re here for the same thing we all are in spite of your high and mighty talk. No shame in it you know. In fact I could use some more good help, the weaklings keep dying off in my hunting party and only the suicidal go out in small groups. How ‘bout it? You want to join up with us?” He stuck out his hand, “I’m Gabriel by the way.”

“We aren’t looking for anything most of you would think of as treasure, they’re just small clay pieces broken from a statue.”  Callindra said, gripping his forearm in a swordsman’s clasp, “I’m Callindra. I’ll have to ask my brothers. Gabriel, that’s a strangely angelic name for someone with your outlook on the world.”

“Yeah, my old man wanted me to enter the priesthood. I never could stomach all that silence and the wardrobe leaves something to be desired too.” A familiar and dangerous scent struck her nostrils and she looked sharply to the sky.

“Night lights are out again tonight I see.” Wisps of vapor that glowed with a sickly green phosphorescence trailed from the swamp to wrap around one of the caravan wagons.

Callindra reached over her shoulder to loosen Brightfang in his sheath. Gabriel’s hand strayed towards the hilts of his knives, watching her nervously. “You smell that?” She asked, ignoring him.

He inhaled deeply, “Yeah, Sulphur.” Suddenly the wagon that had been enclosed in the vapor exploded as a massive figure seemingly made of black stone with glowing green lava pulsating under the surface landed on it. Raising its head to the sky it let loose a scream of rage, hunger and longing.

“Oh Gods it’s the Ravenger! Callindra, we gotta get out of here now!” He grabbed for Callindra’s hand and started backing away while the entire caravan burst into unholy green fire.

“You asked why I’m here Gabriel?” Callindra stood and unsheathed Brightfang whose steely ring sang eagerly in the night air. “This is why. Sometimes there are things that are so wrong they must be opposed no matter the cost. The forces of chaos must not be allowed to run free.”

“Nothing survives The Ravenger Callindra; come with me and live to fight another day!” Some people were running screaming into the night while others ducked behind the Drunken Thief’s imposing doors.

“I’d rather die with honor than live a coward. Pick up your blades and prove your worth.” She hefted Brightfang and thought to herself, “So this is the Ravenger eh? Those innocents are going to be killed unless I take it on. I’m sure Tryst will be here soon, there’s no way he’ll be able to avoid feeling this evil presence.” She sprinted towards the monstrosity without further hesitation.

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