The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 28

“Help you? You mean you’re coming with?” Callindra said, surprised by his sudden change of heart.  She decided to take refuge in sarcasm to hide her confusion.  “I’m glad to see you’ve gotten over your debilitating fit of cowardice. Don’t worry I’ll protect you from the big scary beasties.”

Ignoring her he turned to Vilhylm, “Would you like to see my latest research? These bears are most fascinating.” The pair of them wandered off to a fenced enclosure where a monster was being held captive, paying no mind to Callindra’s impatient outrage.

“NO!”  Callindra shouted, and the Weave leaped to her aid.  Her voice cut through the room like a thunderclap and all three of the men jumped.  Cronos and Vilhylm seemed to come out of a kind of trance, blinking momentarily in confusion.  Pierce had the good grace to appear a bit contrite.

“You were using magic on us.”  She said, realization dawning on her.  “You were trying to charm us into doing your bidding!”

Cronos edged a hand towards one of the sword hilts that protruded over his shoulder.  Vilhylm set his plate down and looked at Pierce with suspicious eyes.

“Is this true?  Have you been altering our perceptions?”  Vil asked, his eyes dark.

“Of course it is true.  Be thankful that you have at least your … sister … has the ability to see what any idiot should be able to.”

“Eh?”  Cronos drew an inch of steel, “You saying we’re idiots?”

“YES!” Callindra shouted, smacking her hand down on his and forcing the blade back into the scabbard.  “You two came in here thinking only with your noses and stomachs and proceeded to sit here wasting time while our brother is back there dying.  You ARE idiots, even if I love you both.”

“It was not their fault girl.”  Pierce said, his demeanor changing.  “You passed my test but it was really just luck.  As to your brother or whatever, if he didn’t die immediately he probably won’t for a while.  I really do need some items from the wilds in order to make a tincture to wake him up.”

“That wasn’t just something you were saying to distract us?”  Callindra asked, “Well then tell me where we can find those things and we’ll go and retrieve them.”

“I will mark them on a map I’ve made of the area.”  Pierce said, “Best hurry I’d say.”

Gripping her sword in two hands, Callindra hacked through the leg of the monster.  It howled in rage and pain, falling to the ground.  Vilhym’s fists brutally smashed into its head moments later.  Spinning in place she scanned the battlefield and saw the remaining beasts had been dispatched.

“Gods and demons, that’d better be the last of them.”  She panted, flicking the emerald green blood off Brightfang.  “These things just keep coming.”

“No, another group is approaching from the south sister.”  Cronos pointed at motion in the trees.

“Enough.”  Callindra hissed, looking up at the roiling clouds.  “GET DOWN!”  She shouted and thrust Brightfang into the air, forcing the Weave to her will through him.  Lightning crackled and a lance of pure power slammed down into her sword before arcing out to immolate her enemies where they stood.

“That was … helpful.”  Vilhylm said, wiping the sweat from his face and giving Callindra an appraising look.

“Maybe next time you lead with that.”  Cronos said, wincing as he cleaned his broadsword, a long pair of slashes across his chest making the motion painful.  “Could have saved us a lot of trouble.”

“I didn’t know it would work that well.”  She said, shaking from the exertion of the spell.  “I’ve been experimenting with lightning.  I guess I have an affinity with it, and the storm helped.”

“We got the vials from the box and the flowers, now all that’s left is the crystal that the priest has.”  Vilhylm said, removing his mask and reverting to his own normal shape from the hulking form the mask granted him.

“According to what Pierce told us, this ruined city is where the priest was interred after he perished.”  Tryst said, glancing around.  “His focal crystal should be with him.  As distasteful as it is we must now go grave robbing.”

They moved through the abandoned streets warily, alert for anything that might be threatening.  It was eerily quiet after the combat and they encountered no further resistance.  The graveyard seemed to be the only place that was in good repair.

“This doesn’t feel right.”  Callindra said, “I don’t think-“

The door to the burial chapel exploded outward and The Ravenger strode out, its body setting everything around it on fire.  A scream of rage and pain burst from it, nearly driving them to their knees.  Callindra gritted her teeth in a rictus smile.

“Oh, you’re here for a rematch.  Only this time I’m ready for you.”  Thunder rumbled overhead, “It’s time to get some back for Tryst you bastard!”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 27

They rested as long as they dared before continuing on, following a well-beaten path that had a few human footprints mixed in with the animal tracks.  They followed the trail to a giant bramble wall. Cronos approached the wall, curious as to what kind of magic made the brambles to grow that way. Vilhylm put his hand to the ground and attempted to contact the plants using the mask he had carved from Jorda’s gift.

Callindra had a bad feeling about the place that she couldn’t quite put her finger on.  Instead of approaching, she kept her distance and called out to the man she assumed was inside.  “Hey! Pierce! Let us in we need to speak with you!”

“These plants are dead. Not evil per se, but they are definitely dead. Cronos get away from there.” Vilhylm rose from where he had been kneeling. “Seriously Cronos get the hell away from the wall!”

When Cronos got close, the brambles reached out and slashed him across the leg.  He yelped and drew his sword, lopping the offending branch off as it coiled for another strike.  Dark green sap welled from it and the severed branch rapidly withered and crumbled to dust.

“I was just having breakfast, it’s a bit early for visitors.”  An opening in the brambles appeared, the thon covered vines writhing out of the way to reveal a man of middle age dressed in a brown cassock.  “I would have come sooner but your friend there was activating my defenses and I was trying to keep him from coming to further harm. Will you join me?”

Without waiting for a response, he turned and strolled back towards a sturdy cottage.

“What?  No, we need you to come with us.”  Callindra said striding after him.  “Mili says you’re the only one who can heal my brother, we spent too much time finding you and we can’t wait for breakfast!”  Her stomach growled at the enticing scent wafting out the open door.

Inside the cottage there was a table with a full breakfast spread. Eggs, bacon, fruit, fresh bread and cheese, even tea and cream. Pierce fussed around the table, smoothing the table cloth and seated himself in front of a plate of food with a satisfied sigh.

To her surprise, her brothers walked through the door without giving her more than a passing glance.  Cronos began to load a plate with eggs and fruit while Vilhylm poured himself tea and cut a steaming slice of bread.  In spite of the dire nature of their situation, they seemed content to sit and eat.

“Come in.  Sit and eat.”  Pierce gestured at the laden table, “Your brothers have already joined me, I’m sure your problem isn’t one that cannot wait until after I break my fast.  You look like you could use a good meal as skin and bone as you are girl.”

“Look. My brother is dying back at The Drunken Thief from wounds Mili says only you are going to be able to heal. I need you to come with us. Now.” Callindra’s nerves were stretched to their limit and she was out of patience. “We spent too much time finding you, we can’t wait for breakfast.”

“What kind of wounds? Mili should be able to handle most minor adventuring injuries. Besides my work here is too important to simply put aside.” Pierce took a bite of bread with honey on it and poured himself a steaming cup of tea.

“He fell to The Ravenger.”  She snapped, trying to keep herself calm.  “He’s not breathing but his heart still beats.  Mili seems to think that you’re the only one who might have the chance to save him.”

“Well if The Ravenger is involved I’m certain he’s beyond my ability to heal. Once the flames begin burning, it’s only a matter of time before the host is consumed by the corruption.” He sipped his coffee and reached for an apple. “Besides, it’s dangerous out there. Many infected creatures roam these swamps and I have no desire to leave my sanctuary except when gathering specimens.”

“It happened once before.”  Callindra said, “He got … hurt by the Abyss but he recovered somehow.  I saw it.”

“Callindra. If he won’t help us it’s not like we can force an old man against his will.” Vilhylm had finished his slice of bread and was eating a strip of bacon. “Why don’t you sit and have some food?”

Not paying attention, Callindra locked eyes with Pierce. “Listen up you poxy rat, I’m sick of all the gods damned cowards in this fetid swamp. First those weaklings whine and cry about The Ravenger when we could have ENDED that bastard with their help and now the person who can help my brother is too frightened of the boogeyman to leave his hovel?”

She took a step closer to the table and the Winds whipped around her, echoing her fury. “I don’t know what you’ve done to bewitch my brothers but it won’t work on me.  You come with me willingly or by the GODS I’LL DRAG YOU!”

The candles in the room were snuffed out in a violent gust of wind. She slammed her hands on the table and the air stilled completely, dust motes suddenly held in stasis and the tablecloth froze in mid ruffle. Callindra’s voice was deadly soft as she leaned in close to Pierce’s face. “Do I make myself clear?”

“You. Have quite a foul mouth young lady.” Pierce was leaning back in his chair, mouth pursed in speculation. “But you have piqued my interest.”

Vilhylm broke in before she could blow up at him again, “Callindra stop making things up. Tryst has never been infected before. He was just injured and that’s all that has happened this time. I’m sure he’ll recover just like he did before. Come now, you’re insulting this poor old man in his home it’s time for us to leave.”

Callindra looked at Pierce and slowly shook her head.  She hadn’t meant to say that about Tryst, she’d never told her brothers about it.  Pierce’s eyebrows rose but he said nothing. “Vyl we’re not going anywhere without him. You may have faith that Tryst will recover but I do not.”

“Tell me more about his condition. Perhaps he would be a good research subject.” Pierce leaned forward looking at Callindra intently.

“Research subject?”  She began hotly, “This isn’t some forest creature we’re talking about this is my BROTHER!”

Pierce shrugged, “Well regardless, I won’t be able to do anything for him without some additional mystic assistance. There is a crate that Mili sent me which was stolen by those blasted frog creatures. It had some components in it that I need. Then there’s the flowers that seem to grow wherever anything infected dies grow; they have properties that could be beneficial. Finally, the priest who taught me used a magic crystal as a focal point; its power will be most critical in the process. Help me find these things and maybe there’s a chance for your brother.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 26

“Please calm down… Callindra is your name right?” Mili laid a hand on her arm and gave her a pleading look, “Pierce is only a couple days away I think. I promise I’ll watch out for your brother until you can bring him back here OK?”

“What’s a true innocent like you doing in this place in the company of these… people?” Callindra was trying to calm down with varying degrees of success. The men still wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“We just ended up here I guess.”  The woman shrugged, “Now Merel helps protect the tavern and I do what I can for the victims after the dust settles.”

“What aren’t you telling us? You know more about this creature than you’re letting on!” Cronos had approached from behind and the intensity of his voice startled Mili. “What are you keeping from me?”

Mili turned to look him in the face, “Honestly I don’t know anything other than it comes here and kills everyone it can when it’s not out slaughtering travelers.”

After a pause, Cronos spun on his heel and stalked painfully back into the tavern. “Is there a place I can carry Tryst? So that he will be as safe as he can be in this hell hole?” Callindra asked. Her magically augmented strength allowed her to easily lift her brother although the effort nearly cracked half healed ribs.

“Of course, he can stay in the infirmary. Bring him in, I’ll show you the way.” Once they had reached the infirmary they found Cronos and Vilhylm in a heated conversation.

“Listen Cronos, Tryst will be FINE. This has happened before and after a little time he came to on his own. We need to keep searching and more importantly stay out of the path of The Ravenger. It’s too powerful for us.”

“I’m not going to take that chance Vilhylm, he’s our brother.” Cronos said, his voice flat and stubborn, “If he recovers while we’re gone that’s fine but I’m not going to hang around here sitting on my thumbs waiting while he could be dying.”

“Calm down little brother.” Callindra carefully laid her brother on a table near to where Vilhylm was sitting. “I can’t believe I’m saying this but I agree with Cronos.  We can’t waste any time. If you are staying behind that’s your damn deal. I’m leaving as soon as possible.”

“Fine, have it your way Callindra. You always seem to anyway.”  Vilhylm said, “We’ll leave as soon as we are recovered.”

Before they left, Mili came to stand before Callindra, “Listen, I know we haven’t been much help but we’re doing what we can. Here’s something to use as a last resort since you don’t have a healer right now.” She pressed a small carved wooden box into her hands.

“These potions don’t permanently heal so be careful with their use. They will temporarily assuage wounds so that they can heal on their own. After they wear off though they are gone and you could go from healthy to stone dead in seconds.”

“Thanks Mili, they’re certainly better than nothing.”  Callindra smiled as she took the box.  “Thank you for watching Tryst too. I’d say you’re pretty much the only person here who I think is worth the skin covering their body, but maybe I’m too harsh a judge.”

On her way out she looked the men in the room in the eye with her hand on Brightfang’s hilt above her shoulder. “If anything happens to Tryst, you’ll answer to me.” The threat of a slender sixteen year old girl shouldn’t have made burly fully grown men flinch. But it did.

It had been several days and Callindra was getting impatient. “Where in the Nine Hells is that old man anyway? Maybe they just told us this to get us out of town.”

“Relax, at least we haven’t had any trouble sister.” Vilhylm was in a good mood.

A sound made her stop short and “Shut up I’m trying to listen!” A muffled roar came from a thicket ahead.

“Good call Callindra.” Cronos said, looking at some tracks on the ground and then pointing to some claw marks on a nearby tree.  “I think there are some cave bears around here and from the sound of it they’re hungry.”

“I don’t have time for this and neither does Tryst. Get ready boys, we’re going through these things as fast as possible.” Callindra drew Brightfang and he began to resonate with arcane forces as she invoked her most powerful spell. Another set of roars erupted from behind them and two giant bears lumbered into view, a thin green mist trailing from their mouths and the familiar emerald flame burning behind their eyes.

Moving fast enough that tears streamed from her eyes and leaves whipped in tiny cyclones in the wake of her passage, Callindra ran at the bears. One opened its arms wide to swipe at Vilhylm while the other attacked Cronos. Her entire body reverberated in a rhythm focused on Brightfang and as she approached one of the monsters her mere presence began to destroy its body.

Roaring in rage it turned to take a few clumsy swipes at her that she easily dodged, her blade digging a trench deep into the animal’s side. Before it could react she sliced it again, this time straight across the gut. Glowing green ooze leaked from the wound instead of the coils of intestines that should have spilled out.

The other bear picked Cronos up in a massive hug and began chewing on his shoulder. Callindra slashed at the beast that had her brother trapped but her blade slid harmlessly through its ribs and struck Cronos instead.

“Damn it that HURT!” Cronos twisted in the bear’s grip, still unable to get loose. Callindra managed to avoid a few attacks and put a few more slashes into the bear’s hide before suffering the same fate as Cronos.

She struggled in the bear’s grip as it opened its maw and spewed acidic vitriol that was only partially deflected by her sturdy leather armor. The winds still swirled around her, the gusts as sharp as knives and flayed the monster to the bone.

Although the fight had been short it had also been brutal. Cronos was on the border of slipping into death and if it hadn’t been for the Goddesses gift Callindra would likely have been in the same situation. Taking one of the potions she dumped a couple doses down Cronos’s throat.

“I know it’s not permanent but if we can just patch you up until your body heals on its own you’ll be OK.”  She said, frowning at his wounds. “I hope.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 25

Consciousness assaulted Callindra.  There was no other way to describe it; she ached all over and her head felt like she’d been using it to break down stone walls.  Her shattered ribs made her want to scream in agony and she thought her right wrist was fractured. She tightened her left fist and felt the reassuring resistance of Brightfang’s hilt in her hand. At least she hadn’t dropped her blade. She slowly rolled onto her side and stood on shaky legs. Pain wracked her body as roots grew through her skin and into her side, setting a broken rib with ungentle strength.

Callindra shut her eyes against the pain, her breath coming out in a high pitched keening sound. When she finally managed to get her eyes open again, the sight that greeted her hurt worse than her ribs.

The colorful caravans that had been parked close to The Drunken Thief were now piles of ashes. Those children deserved better, creepy adult eyes or not. Her eyes swept over the destruction looking for her siblings and it wasn’t hard to find them.

Tryst lay in a small crater, his shield cracked down the center and breastplate caved in. He didn’t appear to be breathing. A short distance away Vilhylm lay in a puddle of his own mud mixed with blood that trickled from his mouth. Cronos wasn’t faring much better, one sword still sheathed, the other a short distance from his right hand and severe burn marks on his head and chest.

“Tryst. Wake up, Vyl and Cronos need you.” Callindra’s voice rasped in her ears. Tryst didn’t move. She put her face next to his and didn’t feel any breath. “Damn damn damn, I don’t know anything about this.” Moving to the door Callindra slammed her sword hilt against it. “Open up you thrice cursed cowards!”

The runes had begun to dissolve, or perhaps decay was a better word. The magic was rotting as though diseased and the impact of her inscrolled blade was the last straw. The protections that had enclosed The Drunken Thief fell to the ground like last year’s leaves. “Open this door or I’ll gods damned break it down!” Callindra’s shout was barely louder than a whisper, but despite the pain in her ribs the pommel of her sword made plenty of noise.

“Is it gone?” The voice reverberated from behind the door.

“What? Yes it’s gone.”

The door creaked inward showing a cluster of cautious eyes that resolved into some familiar faces. The bouncer was standing behind the door, his club nowhere to be seen. The bartender was crouching behind the bar and there was a solidly built man in the center of the room holding a forge hammer in one hand.

“Hey, do any of you know first aid or healing? My brothers need medical help.” The flames from The Ravenger had scorched her throat to the point where she could hardly talk. When she paused to take a breath a vine thrust itself into her mouth, nearly choking her.

When Callindra bit it in half and spat it out, the sap coated her mouth and wind pipe like a salve, soothing the wounds. The buxom barmaid who had approached with bandages in hand and a concerned look on her face looked startled. “I’m fine, just see to my family.” She continued in a more normal tone of voice.

Mili moved from Vilhylm to Cronos, bandaging wounds and casting small healing spells. “Merel, I need you to carry this one inside.” She was easily restraining a struggling Vilhylm with one hand; a testament to how injured he was. “He has burns all over his body and shouldn’t try to move.” Merel put his forge hammer down and lifted Vyl easily, carrying him inside.

“Why didn’t you help us instead of cowering behind your barrier? We could have beaten it if we’d had your help.” Callindra fixed the occupants of the room with a glare, “You call yourselves men? You were quick enough to throw me out when it suited you, it seems you only have the guts to pick on sixteen year old girls. You disgust me.”

“The only reason you survived is it thought you were dead. Nobody survives The Ravenger, everyone knows that.” The bartender wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“You might as well be dead.”  Callindra spat on the floor, “As for me, the next time I meet that monster I’m going to kill it. I’ll be ready this time.”

“I need help!” The barmaid priestess was bending over Tryst, “He’s not breathing and I can’t get his armor off!” Callindra and Cronos were at her side in an instant, both straining to bend Tryst’s breastplate so that it could be removed.

“Damn it, this thing is stuck. I’ll cut the strap.” Callindra reached for her blade.

“Wait, you’ll ruin the armor. Give me a second.” Cronos incanted a spell and touched himself, then the same spell again and touched Callindra. She was familiar with his strength magic and nodded.

“Good idea, let’s try again.” Even with their new strength they were barely able to bend the breastplate enough that Mili could loosen the buckle. The breastplate ran like a bell as it loosened but Tryst still wasn’t breathing.

“I can’t do anything for him.” Mili had a confused look on her face, “He’s dead. Or at least he’s not breathing but somehow his heart is still beating.” A greenish golden glow emanated from Tryst’s breast. “He’s beyond my ability to help, but maybe if you bring him to my Master he could help. He’s far more skilled than I am.”

“Your master? Who is he and where can we find him?” There was another awkward silence and when Callindra glared at them again the bartender Agon broke it.

“We exiled him from the village. He’s insane and believes he can cure the green flame curse. Not just that he was doing experiments on infected creatures. He was a danger to everyone and it wasn’t safe for the village for him to stay.”

Callindra’s anger showed in her eyes and the Winds echoed it, whipping through the space between her and Agon in a violent gust. “He’s the only person who can save my brother in this gods forsaken place and you THREW HIM OUT OF THE VILLAGE?”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 24

As she approached, pain seared her body. The air around the creature burned and her tiara began sprouting tendrils that attempted to heal the damage. Spinning Brightfang in a tight arc she struck at the creature’s leg but it contemptuously brushed her off with a massive fist, sending her cartwheeling away.

Slamming her hand down, Callindra flipped back onto her feet and skidded to a stop. Swinging Brightfang in a complicated series of arcs she began chanting, bending the winds and the weave to her will. The arcane sigils on the blade shone with flickering white light and the sword itself started to tremble violently under the pressure of the forces being focused upon it. Sweat broke out on her brow as she invoked the most powerful spell she knew. She was so intent on casting she didn’t notice her brother exiting a small tent next to The Drunken Thief.

Without warning a giant wave of mud erupted from the ground as Vilhylm, wearing a mask that seemed to be made of dripping clods of dirt, lifted it to hurl at The Ravenger. Before it could reach the creature it hardened into a solid wall from the heat the monster was generating. Dreadful intelligence pulsed behind its eyes; it knew Callindra was using powerful magic. With a single punch it shattered the wall between them, sending chunks of hardened mud flying. The winds whirled and deflected the larger pieces but couldn’t protect her from the other massive fist that slammed into her chest, rendering her unconscious.

A familiar golden light shone gently in her eyes and Callindra knew Tryst had arrived to give her healing.

“Thanks brother. With your help we won’t be defeated.” She stood on shaky legs, “Damn, he hit me harder than I thought.” Breathing was painful, she was sure she had cracked ribs. Several cracked ribs if the grating sound when she readied her sword was anything to judge by.

“We have to run! This is hopeless, there’s no way we can beat it!” Vilhylm was looking at the shattered remains of his most powerful attack, holding a javelin in either hand.

“Running away is for the weak! Besides even if we run it’s fast enough to take at least one of us down.” She inhaled deeply, the pollen from the tiny flowers blooming on her brow acting as a slight anesthetic and taking the edge off the pain. “The only kind of running I’m going to do is running straight at it.” Callindra sprinted towards the monster but it brushed the attack off without even looking at her, turning its back to her to focus on her brothers.

“Don’t underestimate me you bastard!” Reaching into the sealed case at her belt, Callindra withdrew a piece of vellum, yellowed with age and began reciting the arcana scribed upon it. The symbols began twisting around The Ravenger, breaking through a barrier of magic resistance and nearly transforming it into an unmoving statue of stone.

The creature roared in rage as the fires burning on the surface of its skin guttered and flickered, the spell coming close to putting them out. It raised its huge fists to slam them into Tryst, smashing him against the protection spell that surrounded The Drunken Thief.

“Don’t you dare turn your back on me like I’m some insignificant insect! Turn and FACE ME!”  She shouted.

Callindra’s body protested the movement but she forced it to move, attacking The Ravenger from behind. She dropped to one knee to avoid the backswing on another massive punch and slashed it behind the left knee. A fountain of scorching ichor fanned out from the wound but the Winds finally remembered their loyalty and protected her from the scalding substance.

Now that she had its attention Callindra was having wondering if maybe this had been the worst in a string of reckless decisions she had made. With a look bordering on pity The Ravenger backhanded her, shattering her already cracked ribs and flinging her aside. That look of pity burned in Callindra’s memory as consciousness blessedly fled.

Durrak put his hammer down and quenched the draw knife he had made in the warm water next to his forge.  The water hissed and bubbled, the steel cooling and hardening as he carefully moved it about to keep air pockets from forming and fracturing the glowing steel.  After a few moments of cooling, he pulled it out and took it to his grindstone and pumped the pedal a few times to get it spinning.  With extra care for the hardened, pattern welded steel he put an edge that could wound the wind on it.

With a smile, the young Dwarf tested the edge by yanking a hair from his beard and dropping it on the upturned blade.  It parted easily.

“Darling, are you coming in for dinner?”  Belladin called from the doorway in Dwarvish.  She stood leaning against the door frame, her hand resting comfortably on the swell of her pregnant stomach with a smile on her face.

“My beloved, my cazadora, I will be in just as soon as I oil this blade.”  He replied with a smile.  In the year since he had begun working as a smith, he and Belladin had courted and married.  While Durrak couldn’t deny that she had actively pursued him in a manner that her family had been slightly scandalized by, he was deliriously happy.

“Oh is that for Tilda?”  She asked, looking at the whirling patterns in the steel of the knife blade.  “It’s beautiful!  She will love it.”

“I hope so.”  He said with a chuckle, “This is a very good piece.  One of my best.”

“Every new piece you make is better than the last.”  She said, smiling and melting his heart.

“Cazadora I did make my masterpiece when forged your ring.”  Durrak said, switching to common because she liked his accent.  “It do be my finest work, I never will make better.”

She looked at the twisting, twining vines of Brightstar flowers that wound around her finger wrought in the finest gold.  Each leaf was carved from flawless jade and each flower a tiny rendition of the real thing.  Tiny chips of amber made the flowers centers and perfectly carved white opals made the petals.

“It is beautiful my love, but it’s hardly useful.”  Belladin said with a fond smile.

“It do be made for the sole purpose of beauty.”  He said, taking her hand and kissing her fingertips.  “To be making you more beautiful.  That do be why it do be my masterpiece.”

“You and your fool way of talking.”  She said, returning his kiss on the fingers with one on his lips.  “Now come and eat while the meal is hot.”

His powerful arms slid around her neck and pulled her back into the kiss.  Her protests faded away.  The dinner would be just as well cold.