The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 32

Tryst walked into the common room of The Drunken Thief feeling weak as a newborn lamb and hungry as a bear after his winter sleep.  The scent of roasting fish and potatoes fills his nostrils and his mouth began to water.

“Hey brother, come have some food and an ale!”  Callindra said with a smile and a wave of her pipe. “They’re grilling catfish and tubers.  The ale is flowing and we have a lead on where the bits we’re looking for might be.”  Her cheeks were slightly flushed with alcohol.

“I see not much has changed.”  He said, a grin spreading across his face, noting Cronos sitting with a pensive expression on his face and three empty plates stacked in front of him and Vilhylm was chewing on a mouthful of food.

“Oh come off it Tryst.”  Cronos said, crossing his arms.  “You’ve been out of it for weeks.  Come and eat something.”

“it’s good to see you out of bed brother.”  Vilhyl said, grinning around a mouthful of potatoes.  “Quit the tough guy act, it doesn’t fit you.”

Laughing, he sat with his family, for he thought of them as such even though they weren’t related by blood.  They talked and ate; Tryst catching himself up on the events that had transpired since he had been indisposed.

“In the end it all comes back to Adbar.”  Tryst said grimly, “The Countess nearly burned down the Grandfather Tree, we should have known the Count would be involved as well.”

“How could he have figured it out?”  Callindra asked, “Jorda gave us this mission herself, how is it possible that anyone else knew about it?”

“I would imagine that if one God knew about it another could have as well.”  Tryst said, helping himself to another serving of fish.  “I think we would be foolish not to anticipate there being more than one interested party in this matter.”

“You mean you think we have been foolish right?”  Callindra said, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, we know that Dergeras is trying to set the abyss free, but we never thought that there might be others out there who are also looking for these artifacts.”  Tryst said, “We need to recover the remaining ones as swiftly as we can and then go face Count Adbar.”

“We’ve got one advantage over any others though.”  Cronos said with a smile, “We have the Hand and it points us towards the nearest piece.  Vil and I have been checking where it points now against a map while waiting for you to get up and for Callindra to finally get out of the bath.  We’re pretty sure it is aiming us at the Whalebone Islands.”

“At least that’s the only thing of significance in that direction within a reasonable distance.”  Vilhylm amended.  “If it’s not just laying somewhere at random, that seems like the only place it could be.”

“I know it’s out of the way and not part of the plan, but I must get to the glaciers of the north.  I don’t know exactly where it is, but there’s an old burned out volcano there.”  She put a gentle hand on Brightfang’s hilt.  “I have to bring him there and get him repaired.”

“Without you to fight beside us we would be sorely lacking to be sure.”  Tryst said, “Of course we will venture there with you to find your smith.”

Callindra let out a breath, feeling the tension in her shoulders release slightly and gave her brothers a smile.  “Thank you.”

“There is a fishing village on the shore of the Drakkenmore.”  Mili said, arriving with fresh plates of food and tankards of Bog Ale.  Setting the food and drinks down, she indicated a spot on the map.  “You might be able to pay one of them to take you out to the Whalebones.”

“Thanks Mili.”  Tryst said, digging for some coins.

“Your money is no good here.”  She said firmly, “You all rid us of The Ravenger.”

“You have to make a living somehow.”  Callindra said, “What are you going to do now that all your customers are gone?”

“Oh they’ll be back.”  Mili said, “Or others will come.  There’s too much treasure out there in the swamp for them to stay away for long.  Without The Ravenger to keep them away, we will probably have to put a new wing on The Drunken Thief.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 31

Gabriel shook his head, “Maybe if we’d listened to her and fought it together you wouldn’t have been hurt so badly.  I guess we’ll never know.  Important thing is before I could tell her anything about this person who was looking for those simple clay artifacts she mentioned.”

Tryst sat up with a gasp of pain and swung his feet over the side of the bed.  “What?  Who is this person?”

“Adbar.  The Count Adbar said he was gathering them for a reconstruction project.”  Gabriel said, “He claimed they were part of an ancient statue that it was his lifetime obsession to put back together.  Called it the idle interest of a wealthy old man, but I heard a rumor it was supposed to bring the dead back to life or something.

“We figured it was just a story, but maybe not?”  Gabriel sheathed his knife.  “I thought you would want to know; he found a piece of it here and it wasn’t the first one he had acquired.”

“Adbar.”  Tryst said, running his fingers through his hair.  “Things do have a way of coming full circle.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Gabriel asked.

“Nothing that concerns you really.”  Tryst said with a sigh, “But as long as I’m confessing my sins as it were; we attempted to save his wife from the Abyssal infection.  We failed.  She tore out her own throat, summoned a demon and set the High Forest ablaze.  We managed to defeat that horrible golem, but the cost was great.”

“We saw the fire from here.”  Said Gabriel, his voice awed.  “You were there, fighting alongside a goddess?”

“Yes.  We fought alongside Jorda and between us we stopped the monster.”  Tryst said, his voice reverent. “It is a miracle we survived.  A real miracle from a real Goddess.”

A commotion outside brought a smile to Tryst’s face.  “-god rotting turnip eating slime!  I’m going to go see my brother and if you stand in my way I’ll cut off your hand and shove it so far up your ass you’ll never get it out in time for a priest to re-attach it!”

“They’ve returned.”  Tryst said, his smile growing wider.  “I’d better get out there before she does someone harm.”

The door slammed open and a figure splattered in road muck and dust stalked into the room.  Her hair was in a braid as thick as his wrist and hung all the way to the floor and tiny Brightstar flowers shone in it.  A sword hilt protruded from above her right shoulder and a thin brilliant silver chain ran from the pommel to a bracelet on her right wrist.  Incongruously, a mass of butterflies was flitting around her head, landing on her hair and her shoulders.  She didn’t seem to notice them.

“Tryst!  They didn’t want to let me in but they’re stupid.”  She yelled, seeing him sitting up she ran to him and flung her arms around his neck.  “You’re all right!  Tryst you jackass we were so worried.”

“Easy Callindra, I’m not really in a position for this level of manhandling.”  He croaked, “I just managed to regain consciousness, I’m practically an invalid!”

She let go immediately and stepped back, concern plain on her face. “Oh gods Tryst, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“I must look like hell if you’re giving me that kind of consideration.”  He said giving her a wry look.  “But really you’re in no shape to be in a medical ward.  Go and bathe sister, I’m not going to die any time soon.  Once we’ve all had the chance to get clean we can discuss our next steps over a hot meal.”

To his surprise, she looked at him with tears making muddy tracks down her cheeks.  “Yes, of course Tryst.  I just had to see you.  We were so worried… I was so worried.  I don’t know how we would continue without you.”

Before he could respond, she turned and all but ran from the room.

“You could have handled that a little better.”   Mili said, “But I’m sure she will forgive you.  After all, you just woke up from a week’s long coma.”

“Yeah.  I’m sure she’ll forgive me.”  Tryst sighed, “I’ll probably survive the bruises too.”

“She loves you very much?”  Asked Mili.

“We have been through much together.”  Tryst said, making an effort to get out of bed.  He paused, blushing slightly.  “Do you suppose I might be able to get my clothes?”

Mili laughed, “Of course Sir Tryst.”  She handed him his clothing and left him in peace to get dressed.

“I’m not a knight or a Lord.”  He said after her retreating back, “Just Tryst please.”  If she heard, she didn’t respond.

Sai’Li Learns of a Storm

One night as Sai’Li is sitting by the fire drinking tea, idly petting Ignis in his tiger form and enjoying the low rumble of his purr, she begins to reflect.  She muses about the past he has shared with her about losing his parents early, the discipline of the monastery, the isolation of his druidic life.  The gruff way he acts is typical of most Dwarves she knows, however the way he closes himself away from almost everyone goes beyond racial attitude and bearing.

She has seen this body language before, although it is usually from folk hardened from birth by the rigors of unkind training in her Lord Father’s rigorous guard training.  His methods of starting with very young children is effective, but certainly weeds out empathy and any semblance of kindness or compassion.  When she recalls the way he bridles and glares when Aurora tries to pet him, the promise of deadly violence clear in his posture reinforces her thoughts.

Taking a sip of tea, Sai’Li wonders if she is the first in his memory to touch him in a gentle manner. She can’t help but smile that the only time he opens himself up to her is when he is also at his most dangerous.  There is no doubt that the six hundred pounds of killing fury sitting contentedly by her side could tear her to shreds in moments.

Covering the smile behind her fan, Sai’Li muses on how things have progressed.  Ignis the Dwarf is still the uncouth and irascible man he has always been.  When a creature feels powerful and comfortable in its skin though; that is ironically when they are the most vulnerable.  One of her most effective and honed skills is to make beings feel comfortable and powerful.

In this case, it has not been her doing; or at least not entirely.  Her vampiric heritage does protect itself by making her mere presence sway others to her will, but there seems to be more here.  Part of it must be the lack of clothing animals are required to wear, as Ignis has shown nothing but disdain for clothing, for the rest… she has known men whose only chance of survival was to become a Tiger.  Of course, those men did not literally become an actual tiger; but instead took on the fierce predator’s killing instinct and lack of mercy.  Here, she judged the physical predator had come to appreciate her abilities as an emotional and psychological predator.

‘Anyone can cut a man in half child.’ Her Honored Father used to say, ‘But a true Master will convince the man to first give everything he has to you of his own free will and then die in the manner of the Master’s choosing.’

She shivered and wondered if it was in horror at the memory or in admiration of his great talents and seemingly limitless power.  Her Honored Father had the prowess of every form of predation she knew existed.  Someday, she hoped … but she did not know what it was she hoped for.  Freedom?  Equal power?  To take his empire?

Sai’Li buried her fingers deep into her tiger’s fur and allowed herself a small sigh of satisfaction at the rumbling of contentment from the bottom of his chest.  For now, she was content to plan and grow stronger.

After a few nights in Burnholm, Ignis has become increasingly irritable with each passing day. Late into one evening while pacing in front of the fire in his Dwarven form, he abruptly turns to Sai’Li. Speaking in a measured, quiet tone he says, “I understand you are more comfortable here than on the road, but I think we have been here long enough.  I smell a fierce storm approaching, we should take our leave tomorrow at dawn.  If we make haste and don’t let that damned wagon slow us.” His voice rises slightly, “We can likely dodge the worst of it.  If we stay, I’m not sure how long it will keep us trapped here.”. Folding his arms, he stares at her intently waiting for a response.

“We are not on the water. I do not fear the rain. What is it about this storm that worries you?” Sai’Li looks up from where she had been using an ivory and obsidian abacus to tally an account of her most recent shipment of fine instruments and goods sent through the ring to Ako, her capable assistant in her Coastwood Blossom House. “I know you are not a coward; what is different about this storm in particular?”

Ignis’s brow furrows and he turns to stare into the crackling flames.  After a few breaths, he flexes his hand like a claw and speaks again.  “Something I can’t explain feels off about it.”  He sighs and continues, “Perhaps, it is nothing more than that these are unfamiliar lands with unfamiliar storms.”

He stares at the fire for another moment before turning back to face her. “However, I can tell you that this storm feels angry and it means to linger.  The winds alone will make it too dangerous to travel in it and waiting it out will delay us more than the few days it will take for it to calm.  The roads will be mud and puddles for who knows how long after. That’s to say nothing of how many downed trees we will have to clear from our path.” Ignis gives her a small grin “And besides, if I have to stay here too much longer I’ll never get the stink of these folk out of my nose.”

“Perhaps it will be a storm from the other world; a storm that crosses the veil.”  Sai’Li muses, tapping a perfectly lacquered inch long blue fingernail against lips that sported matching lip color.  “While that might be a thing to witness it is indeed not something I wish to experience on the road.  Are you certain we will be able to avoid it if we begin our journey this morning?”

She looks out the window at the clear blue sky without a hint of cloud or wind showing just after the sun has chased away the night, trusting her Tiger’s innate weather sense in the face of what her own eyes suggest.  “Perhaps after a bit of tea.  Also, we must warn our allies here of the impending storm.  If it is as fierce as you sense then they must prepare themselves for it.”  She snaps her fingers, a sound almost a whip crack and a striking young man in a short kilt and tunic almost seems to appear at the door.  His face is not quite shining with admiration; he hides it well.

“My Lady Shirasiu?”  He inquires, bowing at a right angle and staying there.

“Please wake the others if you would be so kind Brynhild.  Prepare for them to break their fast in a quarter candlemark and inquire as to if Grandmother Mabel or Uncle Lufan would be willing to join us.”

Brynhild backed two steps before straightening and setting off at a run.  He really was such a good boy.

Ignis looks at the ivory and obsidian abacus, then back to Sai-Li.  “This is not a question of numbers, one can never be certain.”

“Certainty is more often created and believed than it truly exists my Tiger.”  She says, hiding a smile behind her fan.  “The numbers only lie if you make them do it; but they can and will without complaint when the time arises.  If you had been raised under the roof of my Honored Father you would understand that certainty is not certain and uncertainty is power.  All things can be turned to one’s advantage.”  She looks out at the brilliant sky again.  “All things.”

The sky above Burnholm is a bright blue and the sun just clearing the treetops from the east shines warm and bright.

I looks like it’s going to be a good day, but the people of Burnholm do not know what is coming. They do not know that anger and hatred and unending hunger come their way. It is drawn towards them like a shark to blood in the water, like a ghoul to a new corpse.

As morning chores get underway in the little town, the first strange thing the townsfolk notice is the number of large birds flying east this morning.  Stranger still, flocks of smaller birds are flying with haste, almost as if in pursuit of the larger more powerful birds.  When swarms of the wee Fay, the pixies the sprites and others, are seen flying with desperate speed above and around the town word is sent to Grandmother Mabel and Uncle Lufan perhaps the Elders can tell what is happening.

By the time they are found and told of the strange sightings, word from the wall comes where the watch reports movement in the trees. They claim to have seen herds of beasts moving quickly in the wood. But strangest of all is that it is both prey and predator moving together.  As they stand discussing one of the young men of town comes with word that the Lady Sai’li sends for the elders.

They both exchange a worried look perhaps the outlander knows something about these unnatural happenings. They quickly head for the Inn.

“I see by your faces that the news has reached you as well?” Sai’Li says from behind her fan, “Are you preparing the town? If you are waiting for this meeting, please do not fear insult of brevity, instead go and rally your folk to their tasks.”

“I would have you heard of the strange news we bring from those that have seen it.”  Grandmother Mabel says.  She gestures to the people who have come with her and they each give report of what they have seen.  When they finish she turns to Sai’li her head tilted a little to one side.

“Now child.” she says, “What do you know of what is happening?”

“A storm seems to be brewing.” Sai’Li folds her fan and her face is completely calm, “The exact nature of this event is unknown to me but I can tell you that it is unprecedented in nature. Perhaps from beyond the veil. I wanted to warn you of its approach that you might prepare yourselves for its arrival.”

Upon hearing her words Grandmother and Uncle exchange looks Uncle turns to Sai’L,i bows slightly turns and walks out of the room.  Grandmother turns to Sai’Li, “He will begin preparing as best he can. I hope we do not lose any more people. We have suffered so much since being taken across the veil.”  She smiles sadly, at the rembrance of those lost.

“If you are not familiar with a storm like this, then it is not likely from your world as I had hoped.  The most likely explanation then is that when our worlds were thrust together we had a storm from each world collide.  They must have fed off one another to become something new and more dangerous.”  Sai’Li says, “Excuse my rudeness would you care for tea?”

At Grandmother’s nod, she moves with elegant grace, sifting some bright green Matcha into a delicate porcelain cup and pouring hot water over it.  With a horse hair brush set in a carved wooden handle, she mixes and froths the tea before sliding it across the table to Grandmother Mabel on a matching saucer.  “Do not fear grandmother.”  She says, voice calm and reassuring.  “Your town is strong and your people stronger.  After all, as someone once said to me these predictions aren’t precise numerical formulae, they are intuition and what I have heard called an ‘educated guess’.  Perhaps we have a certain Dwarven survivalist who would wish to put her skills to the test and give us a report?”  Sai’Li suggests, giving Ignis a sidelong glance.

“After all, I know Nerata has been itching to show off.  Ah, of course I mean display her many skills and talents.”  Sai’Li says, taking a sip of tea.

Ignis lets out a deep chested hum of satisfaction.  “As much as I like that idea, it would mean staying here and waiting out the storm.  Also, it may prove to be.”  He pauses, giving her a considering stare, “Unprofitable for you.  Go or stay, the choice is yours to make.”

“I believe we can discern if this is indeed a weather event or something … other.”  Sai’Li takes the baby Elven Pine Starseeker gifted her with out and sets him on the table.  “What nears this place little one?  Is it storm or is it foe?”

The tiny figure moved and swayed, chattering in incoherent fear waving its branches.  After a few moments, Ignis shook his head.

“It says its mother’s Dryad Starseeker will meet us at the great oak in the town square.”  He said, turning and beginning to walk out of the room.

With a sigh, Sai’Li put down her teacup and rose, bowing slightly to Grandmother Mable before departing.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 30

“Here now sister, that’s not doing any good.”  Surprisingly it was Cronos that was wiping tears away and pressing a warm drink into her hands.  “I’m sure we can find something to help.  If one man can concoct a bit of healing magic what’s to say another cannot duplicate it?  Pierce’s apprentice mayhap or myself or even Vilhylm might be able to give some insight.”

She took the mug of steaming tea in shaking hands and looked at her brother through tear blurred vision.  “But my sword.  My precious Brightfang, the blade that I bound to my life and my magic with a piece of my soul.  I have broken him and there isn’t anyone in the world who can make another because there can be no other.”

“If there is a sword, there was a smith.”  Vilhylm said, coming to join them.  “If there is a smith, the sword can be forged once again.”

“You would venture to the glaciers of the north?”  Callindra asked, turning her tear streaked face towards them, “To the great mountain with the heart of fire where the demon of war Majiera sits chained to pillars of ice and the smith Beliach forges weapons for the gods?”

Cronos stared at her in shock and Vilhylm opened and closed his mouth in an attempt to form words.  Callindra wiped tears from her eyes and took her whetstone from her belt pouch.  “I will not allow him to break.  I won’t allow him to weaken.  I will fix this.  I can fix this.”

“It appeared to me that it was your last attack that caused the blade to fracture.”  Cronos said, “When it scraped along the portal’s edge as the magic was being unraveled I think it was weakened.”

Callindra smoothed out the sharp piece of metal so that it was no longer a sliver that would cut into her hand and only then noticed how she had sliced herself on Brightfang’s razor sharp blade.  The vines and tendrils that grew around the wounds quickly made any motions requiring dexterity difficult and she put her whetstone back into its pouch reluctantly.

“What will we do about Tryst?”  She asked, “We don’t have the amulet that the traitor Pierce claimed to need in order to complete whatever spell he was going to use to revive him.”

“I have an idea that perhaps the death of the Ravenger will serve to help revive him.”  Vilhylm said, “After all, it was that creature’s foul magic that laid him low to begin with.  We have to have hope Callindra.”

Hope.  What an elusive and tenuous thing.  But as she thought about it, she realized that she did feel hope.  It was all she could do, but it went beyond that.  She had seen folk brought back from the very brink of death by her brother Tryst and she felt certain that the Gods he revered would not allow him to die when he had saved so many.

Tryst stirred, trying to remember where he was.  The scent of wet peat moss and antiseptic filled his nostrils.  With an effort of will he opened his eyes and saw a ring of worried faces staring down at him.  A soft golden-green glow lit the room and he realized it was coming from him.

“How long was I out?”  He managed to ask, and at his words the folk of The Drunken Thief let out a collective breath of relief.  Tryst realized that they had all been holding weapons ready to hack and smash and that they’d all been terrified anyway.

“It has been nearly a fortnight.”  Mili said, “We were beginning to lose hope.  This must mean your companions were able to reach Pierce.”

“What would that have to do with my recovery?”  He asked, “Was this a curse?”

“You fell under the influence of the Abyss.”  She replied, “We had lost all hope, but your friends refused to give in.  Especially the young girl.  They went to find my old training master as he has made a study of such things.  If anyone has the ability to remove the curse of Abyssal Spawn it is he.”

“He can cure the Abyssal sickness?”  Tryst asked, incredulous.  “If he can, that is… I must find him!  That knowledge must be shared before it’s too late!”

Tryst tried to sit up and found his muscles too stiff to move properly.  With a groan of effort he managed to roll to one side and Mili helped him to a sitting position.  His head spun and he was desperately hungry.  One of the huge twins who served as bouncers at the Inn brought him a bowl of broth and it was all he could do not to bolt it down.

As he took careful sips, Tryst tried to martial his thoughts.  Was he finally free of it?  Could this Pierce have the key to truly fixing the infestation?

“I there was someone who was looking for these pieces your – uh – sister Callindra was talking about.”  Said a man with bandages on his chest.  He was honing a dagger where he lay in a bed convalescing from near mortal wounds.

“I’m Gabriel.  Callindra sat with me around the fire before the Ravenger attacked.”  He sighed, “I had invited her to join me after seeing her fight the bog creatures.  She turned me down of course; I had no way of knowing how far out of my league she was.  I’ve never seen anyone do anything like that before.  Running into the face of certain death with a smile on her face and fire in her heart.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 29

As her brothers prepared themselves, Cronos by beginning to incant a spell and Vilhylm by withdrawing a mask, Callindra began swinging Brightfang by his chain.  The sword wasn’t balanced for it, and instead of spinning smoothly in a circle, the blade began to roll as its curved edge caught currents of the wind.  The effect was a low rumbling thrum; much like the bullroarers village children played with.

Running forward, she launched herself off a lichen encrusted sarcophagus to leap high in the air.  Brightfang’s arc changed, the blade swinging high into the sky to gather a crackling nimbus of living lightning around its spinning length.  With a shout of anger, Callindra brought her sword flashing down with all the power she could muster.  It struck The Ravenger on the right shoulder with a flash of electricity and an impact that she could feel even through the chain.

Her feet touched the ground and she yanked hard on the chain, sending her sword twirling back towards her.  She shook from exhaustion, this wasn’t her first fight of the day and the others had taken a lot out of her already.  The Ravenger covered the distance between them so quickly that it nearly reached her before Brightfang did.

The monster’s intense heat once again scorched her body, but she had a smile of satisfaction on her face.  Its right arm was hanging uselessly by its side.  Unable to dodge its oncoming rush, all she could do was brace herself.

Vilhylm slammed into the attacker, knocking him off his feet even as he reached for her with a flaming arm.  As the monster turned to face this new threat Cronos attacked it from the other side, hacking into it with his broadsword with a spray of blood.  The Ravenger roared, spinning to attack him but Callindra slashed it across the spine and it retreated back into the chapel.

“You can’t run from me!” Callindra yelled, sprinting after it.  Coming through the door, she emerged into a scene from nightmare.

A charnel house of slaughter littered the floor, bodies torn and shredded.  A portal of glowing silver light stood on one side, the view beyond an unending field of fires and torment.  Laughter echoed throughout the chapel, seeming to come from everywhere but Callindra ignored it.  Running inside she gathered the Weave about her and her steps became faster, every movement accentuated by winds and magic.

“I have waited so long.”  The Ravenger rumbled, “I have been waiting for one who can break the seals for what seems like hundreds of years.  Perhaps it has been hundreds of years.”

“To the nine hells with your waiting.”  Callindra said, spinning in a whirlwind, Brightfang a razor sharp extension of her arm as she slammed into her enemy.  As she struck, scintillating bolts of lightning followed each swipe of her sword, hammering into The Ravenger with elemental force.

The creature staggered backwards in the face of her onslaught and she continued pressing her attack in spite of the heat that singed her hair and blistered her skin.  A series of magical bolts streaked over her shoulder in the pale violet color of Cronos’s magic, hammering into the creature one after another.  It staggered back from the onslaught and Vilhylm’s brutish form leaped forward, his arms extended in a parody of a mountain ape but with twining vines growing all throughout.

Vilhylm charged into The Ravenger with a rolling shoulder block as inexorable as an avalanche, smashing his hands into the stone floor of the chapel to give himself more leverage.  As he did so, vines exploded from the floor behind the creature, further throwing it off balance.  With a shriek of rage, Callindra spun Brightfang in a wild arc and the power of Nordji himself burst through the sword’s tip striking The Ravenger in the chest and sending it spinning backward into the shimmering portal.

“NO!”  It howled, “You know not what you do!  I was holding the power and now it returns!”  As it fell, the huge burning body began to shrink and unravel, twisting in a hideous parody until Pierce was revealed at the center, his eyes sunken and burning with emerald fire.

“Return to the Hell that spawned you!”  Callindra cried, and flung her sword forward to strike him squarely in the throat.  With a gurgling cry the desiccated form fell backward into the opening, fully consumed by it and Brightfang sang in protest as she yanked him out of the collapsing portal.  A rumbling, grinding sound began to resonate throughout the chapel and they all ran as best they could to escape before the building collapsed into rubble.

Panting and shaking with battle frenzy, Callindra slowly began to understand the import of what had just happened.  Her brother’s only hope had been of the Abyss.  When she wiped Brightfang off before sheathing him, the cloth caught on her hand and a sliver of metal sliced her palm open.  Staring at her beloved sword in disbelief, she saw that a tiny fracture had begun to form on the thick flat of the blade.  Her bonded blade Brightfang was beginning to suffer the same fate as all the other practice swords she had used.

“No.”  She whispered, not even noticing as tiny vines sprang up to stitch the small wound on her palm.  “I cannot lose you.  Not you too.”  It was too much, and she fell to her knees in the ancient graveyard and let tears fall unheeded from her eyes.  Vaguely she felt gentle hands leading her away, settling her on a bedroll and prying her hands from where she gripped Brightfang’s blade.