The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 36

Durrak sat with his daughter Noranna reading her favorite story for the fifth time, as much to keep his mind occupied as to keep her entertained.  The midwife had assured him all was well, but that it would be better for him to stay with Noranna in the sitting until the baby was born.  The retelling of Finnegan the mighty Squirrel was interrupted by the wail of a newborn infant and Noranna made it to the doorway a heartbeat ahead of him.

The baby was being handed to a tired but beaming Belladin and already nuzzling for her mother’s nipple by the time Durrak and Noranna entered the room.  The tiny child was perfect as seen through the glow of her father’s love.

“Oh.  Oh my cazadora, my dearest one, she do be so beautiful.”  Durrak said leaning down to kiss his wife and their newest child.  The baby made a sound at the touch of his beard and he laughed heartily.  “Little Dia, you best get used to the tickle of daddy’s beard for it no will be the last time.”

Life had been wonderful for the growing family.  With the money he made from regular, heavy smith work, Durrak had been able to purchase more precious metals and gemstones.  Already he had commissions from a dozen families in the area surrounding their homestead and this spring he was taking the work he’d made over the winter to a local faire.

All that was occupying the back of his mind right now however, as he had eyes only for the gems before him; his beloved wife and their two beautiful girls.  He offered a silent prayer of thanks to Thraingaar and vowed to continue his worship by dedicating his life to the creation of beautiful and useful things at his forge.

“She will need proper rest mind.”  The midwife said, looking at Durrak with fists on hips.  “This wasn’t a particularly hard labor but it was a long one.  You better make sure to give her proper nutrition; remember that baby eats what she eats.”

“Yes Arrien, I know.”  Durrak said with a broad smile, “This no do be our first little one.  I do take good care of my dear ones of that you may rely.  I do be most grateful for your help.”  He produced an intricately wrought pendant of jade carved to look like a pair of hands with five tiny golden figures cradled within them.  Arrien had five children and was very proud of them.  He gave it to her with a bow.

“Oh Durrak.  This is too much.”  She said, but her eyes glowed with pleasure as she accepted it.

“I no do take gifts back Arrien.”  He replied, “That do be for your friendship and this do be your midwife payment.”  He handed her a twisted golden chain that matched the pendant.

“I … Durrak, I don’t know what to say.”  She said, obviously flustered.

“Would you like tea before you do be returning home?”  He asked, “I do have a pot brewing on the stove.”

“That would be lovely.”  Arrien said with a smile.  “I must admit, I am quite impressed with your fatherly ways.  ‘Tis a rarity among men in these parts.”

Durrak laughed as he led her from the bedchamber, “That do be because I no do be a man Arrien.  I do be a Dwarf and we do know how to treat the object of our adoration.  I do be loving my Belladin with all my heart, body and soul.”

Arrien laughed with him, “Oh you are a treasure indeed.”

“My daddy do be best daddy!”  Noranna said, reaching out to him.  Durrak picked her up and tickled her with his beard until she was squirming and laughing breathlessly.

“Your dear mother will be having my hide if you do be talking as I do Sprout.”  He said, plunking her down on the special chair he had made for her.  Durrak bustled about the kitchen, tossing tea leaves into a teapot and pouring hot water from the kettle over them, fetching the pot of honey and cream.

Noranna began speaking to him in Dwarven.  “Poppa, why did this lady help mommy with the baby?  Why did you give her a pretty, I thought pretties were for mommy only!”

“It no do be polite to speak a language others no do understand Noranna.”  Durrak said, giving her as stern a look as he could.  It turned out to only be a smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes without touching his mouth.

“I do be sorry lady.”  She said, not sounding sorry at all.  “I did be askin poppa why he was givin you pretties cause I thought mommy was the only lady he should be givin pretties to.”

To Durrak’s relief, Arrien burst out laughing.  “Little Noranna, your poppa was giving me this amazing piece of jewelry because I helped your mommy with the birthing of your baby sister, not because he is trying to court me.  Also I have been friends with your mommy since she was your age.  I helped your gran with your mommy’s birth.”

“Oh, lady you do be old!”  Noranna exclaimed, making Durrak blush to the roots of his hair.

“Arrien, I do be sorry, children do be saying all manner of things.”  He poured the tea and offered her a steaming cup.  “I no do know if you do be liking cream or honey.”

“Don’t fret yourself about it Durrak, I know you’re older than I am like as not.”  Arrien said, “And children do say all kinds of things, gods own truth.  I take both cream and honey please.”

He poured cream and stirred in honey, handing her the cup.  “I do be most grateful for the welcome you and the others do be showing me Arrien.  It do be more that I do be deserving.”

“Nonsense Durrak, before you came here we had no smith.  All the work we needed done had to be sent off on a week’s trip or else we had to wait for a traveling smith to come by.”  She smiled, “Your skills are far beyond any we’ve seen besides.  You are a most valuable and wonderful asset to our community Durrak.  Never forget that my boy.”

“Yeh call me boy in one sentence an tell me I’m yer senior in another.”  He said, feeling a little out of his element.  “I no do know how ta answer ta that.”

“Well.  Life isn’t a straight line boy.”  She said with a smile, “I expect you’ll find that the twists that life has in store for you will lead you down an interesting path Durrak.  Perhaps someday you will tell me what brought you here.”

She drank her tea and left, promising to return the next morning to check on the family the next day.  Durrak sat up later than he should have with Noranna, reading her stories.  As he tucked her in, she tugged his beard.

“Poppa.  Tell me about where you comed from.”  She said in a voice thick with sleep.

“The halls of Farenholm do be deep and wide.  We did delve into the earth, searching for gold and gems, and we did find them.  There do be rooms where my kin did carve the veins of gold from the embrace of the stone, allowing them to stand in all their beauty.  Halls vast enough to hold all of the village and more inside with long tables where we did sit and eat and drink and sing away the long months when the snow did fall and winds did blow.

“In summer months streams do run and some caverns do fill with winter melt, streams of water do carve out new paths.  We do find more secret places formed when the world did be born.  Places of beauty and danger.  Places of wonder.”

“But you lefted them to come stay with mommy?  To be with me an mommy?”  Noranna asked, reaching out and taking his hand.

“I did leave and I do be here with you, your mother and your baby sister.”  Durrak said softly, “I no will be leaving you my dear beloved girl.”

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The Callindra Chronicles Book 2 – The Rise of Evil: Chapter 35

“Something here is influencing our minds.”  Cronos said, his voice deceptively calm.  “Trying to frighten us away would be my guess.”

“What risk do we run by accepting the challenge?”  Vilhylm asked, his face set in angry lines.  “I’ve never backed down from a head on fight before.   Why should I now?  They’ve thrown down the gauntlet, I say we take it up.”

“Where is the Hand pointing Tryst?”  Callindra asked, her voice haunted.  “If it’s in there we don’t have a choice do we?”

Gill reefed the sails and The Flounder slowed, not entering the pass.  “What’s it gonna be?”  He asked, looking at them in turn.

Tryst withdrew the Hand from beneath his armor and focused on it.  The hand swiveled above his palm and pointed directly toward the twin pillars of stone.  He sighed and put it back beneath his breastplate.  “Well, it looks fairly clear.  Our resolve is being tested.”

“Wait, are you serious?”  Callindra looked nervously at him, “Seems like this was more of a warning that we shouldn’t take lightly.”

“I hate to agree with her, but the vision I had didn’t leave a lot of room for success.”  Cronos said with a dour look.  “Even if I was able to barely escape things didn’t go well for the rest of you.”

“Wait. You survived in your vision?”  Callindra asked, her brow furrowing.  “I didn’t survive in mine.”

“I watched you all die.”  Vilhylm said in a flat tone.

“Everyone else perished in my vision as well.”  Tryst said, “What happened in yours sister?”

Callindra swallowed hard, “I tried to stop the walls from falling in, but I couldn’t keep the walls out and the ship moving forward at the same time.  The magic was too much for my blade.”  She closed her eyes and remembered what she had seen.

Cronos put his hand on her shoulder.  “I know what that sword means to you.”  He said softly.

“No you don’t.”  She said bitterly, “Without him to help me I lost control.  I killed us all Cronos.  My magic tore us all to shreds.”

They all sat still for a moment.  Callindra opened her mouth to answer, but Tryst responded first.  “I do not believe you would ever do such a thing Callindra.”

“I’ve seen you fight against things that should have sent you running.”  Vilhylm said with a calm certainty.  “You’ve fought for us, for strangers and for what is right.”

“You’re crazy, but you aren’t that crazy.”  Cronos said, his tone dry.  “I’m not worried about fighting next to you, even if you sometimes cut me with that damn pig sticker I know you’re more dangerous to my enemies than to me.”

They didn’t understand, but she was too overcome with gratitude to correct them.  She knew all too well how dangerous losing her control could be.  Visions of the ancient tree in her Master’s front yard disintegrating, followed by the recent vision of destroying her family.  Wiping tears from her eyes, she turned to face the pillars.

“I’m not going to let this storm cursed thing stop me with visions.”  She touched Brightfang’s hilt briefly and smiled at her family.  “It doesn’t have any power over us and I refuse to allow it to stop me from accomplishing my goal.”

“Right.”  Tryst also stood straight and faced the strait.  “I am with you sister.  Instead of running from this, we must work together to overcome it.  I cannot stop the stones from falling but I can shield us from them slightly.”

“I can raise the wind to ensure it blows us swiftly and in the right direction.”  Callindra said with a smile.

“I may be able to cause any plants beneath us to pull us through or possibly restrain the walls and slow their fall.”  Vilhylm said, placing the mask he had carved from Jorda’s gift over his face.

“When the walls begin to fall, I believe I can slow their descent with a spell.”  Cronos said frowning, “I’ve never tried it against something that wasn’t living, but the principle is the same.”

“You all are sun mad.”  Gil said, “If the walls fall, The Flounder will be swamped and if she is not, we will have no way of getting out.  I am not risking The Flounder.”

“We’ll take the longboat then.”  Callindra said, “It’ll take a little time to rig a sail so we can use wind power, but I think you can manage it.  You built this thing out of leftover scraps after all.”

Gill gave her a flat look, but shrugged.  “I suppose.  I’ll need a deposit in case you sink my longboat though.”

Tryst sighed and handed over another pouch of gold.  Gill grunted and got to work fitting a makeshift mast and sails to his longboat.  By the next morning the boat was ready.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2 – The Rise of Evil: Chapter 34

“Oh.  Well, make the best of it while you can?”  She said, “Just because the Wind does what I ask it to sometimes doesn’t mean it listens every time.”

“We’ll take as much advantage as we can.”  He said with a grin and released a rope.  A third sail caught the wind with a snap and The Flounder seemed to leap over the water much faster than a ship of her size and shape should have been able to.

By the end of the first day they had covered most of the distance to The Whalebone Islands.  On the way, they’d discovered that the archipelago was a collection of perhaps a hundred tiny islands surrounded by treacherous reefs and plagued by capricious winds.  There were few safe places to drop anchor close to any of the islands and Gill wasn’t willing to risk The Flounder.  Once they got closer they would be reduced to rowing the Longboat he kept onboard.

At highsun the following day they passed between a pair of islands that were nothing more than pillars of stone that towered several hundred feet into the sky and Gill announced that they had crossed the barrier reef that surrounded the islands.  Brightly colored fish darted away from the ship, not used to the unfamiliar shadow she cast as she sailed over their frigid home.  Callindra hung onto the railing, looking down with avid interest and a smile on her face.

“Look at that one!  It’s bright orange!”  She shouted, pointing a finger down at the water.

“Callindra, could you maybe step back from the edge?”  Cronos asked, “If you fall in I don’t think we can turn back to get you.”

“Relax Cronos, since when have YOU become the worry wort?”  She laughed, “Look that one’s bright blue!”

She turned to look at her brothers, smiling and laughing.  That’s when the sides of the pillars slammed into the ship.  The Flounder ground to a stop, flinging everyone but Tryst off their feet.

Tryst watched in horror as a stone fell from above, crushing Callindra to a bloody pulp on the deck.  Cronos twisted, trying to get out of the way as the deck of the ship slammed into him, pulverizing his body against one of the pillars.  The ship groaned under the pressure and his other companions and family were pitched into the chill waters of the Sea of Swords.

He turned, trying to find a way to escape, and as the walls slammed closed on him, he grabbed onto a rope, cut it with his belt knife and swung out barely swinging free of the stones before the mashed the ship into toothpicks.

Blink.

Vilhylm saw the pillars begin to slam together and looked around with careful deliberation flung a grapnel up towards the clifftop high above.  He climbed up the rope just in time to avoid the slabs of rock meeting, but lost sight of the ship except for broken fragments of wood fell to splash into the ocean below.

Blink.

Cronos saw the stones begin to move and sprang into action.  He whirled his hands and waves of Power coursed from his hands, hurling him up and away from the ship.  Even as he tried to find a way to help the others, the ship was crushed into kindling, his family with it.

Blink.

Vilhylm roared in fury, growing strong and leaping forth in a futile attempt to stop the walls from smashing together.  He struggled against the inexorable force of the stone, feet digging furrows into the decking.  All the power he could summon wasn’t sufficient to keep the inevitable from happening though.  The stone pillars continued to grind together, crushing Vilhylm, the ship and his family.

Blink.

Callindra summoned all the force she could as the pillars began to fall.  Drawing so much power into herself that her entire body shook with it.  Drawing Brightfang, she swung him in a circular arc and blasted Wind out in a torrent around her.  Rising off the deck of the ship and spinning faster and faster she screamed in desperation, trying to shove the walls back and the ship forward at the same time.  It was close, but at the end the power was too much for her sword.  Brightfang exploded into a shower of steel shards and without him to help her channel it, the wind itself tore her and her family into bloody shreds.

Blink.

They were sailing towards the twin pillars and Tryst grabbed Gill’s arm.  “Wait, we can’t go in this way.”  He said, his voice tense.

“I saw such horrible things.  Such awful things.”  Callindra said, “What I did was unforgivable.  Unforgivable.”  She was sitting with her back to the mast, holding Brightfang and running her hands up and down his length.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 33

The next morning they set out, burdened with food and supplies and in much better spirits than they had been for some time.  They saw almost no living things in the bog, which was a blessing as many of the creatures they had encountered before had been infected by the Abyssal disease.  By the time they arrived at the small collection of fisherman’s huts their mood had improved dramatically.

Callindra began playing her tin whistle around the fire in the evenings again and Vilhylm told stories he’d learned from the man who had taught him how to make masks.  Cronos cooked more often and created meals that were remarkably delicious, especially considering the limited variety of basic ingredients.

Their good mood evaporated when they reached the shoreline as the sun was going down a few days later.  Burned out huts and broken fishing boats littered the shoreline.  A single boat seemingly tacked together from several damaged ones was beached near a small campfire.  A young man looked up at their approach with haunted eyes.  He seemed ready to bolt, but Tryst strode forward with a smile and gentle words.

“Fear not good sir, we are not here to harm or steal from you.  In fact we wish to engage your services if you’re willing to transport us.”  Said Tryst, “We will pay you one hundred gold to bring us to The Whalebone Islands.”

“Show me the money.”  He said, voice suspicious.  Tryst took out a pouch and opened it so the other man could see the gold shining inside.

“You can count it out yourself.  My name’s Tryst, this is my sister Callindra and my brothers Vilhylm and Cronos.”

“Gil.”  The man said shortly, “We leave with the tide tomorrow morning.  Candlemark after dawn.”

“What happened here?”  Callindra asked, looking around at the wreckage.  “Was this your village?”

“Nah.  Coulda been though.”  Gill turned his back on them and began turning the fish he had cooking on long sticks thrust into the sand.

Callindra looked at his ship, taking note of how tacked together it seemed.  After a moment, she realized this wasn’t just a ship, it was a floating house.  “You have been attacked?”  She asked hesitantly, “Your village?”

“We all left before they could find us.”  Gill said, “Made boathouses.  Spread out.  Lost track of ‘em.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry.”  She said, not really knowing what to say.

Gill just grunted and took a fish from the fire, tested it and handed the stick to her.  “Eat.  More’n I can use myself anyway.”

The next morning, Callindra awoke just as the first rays of sun were cresting the horizon.  It was her first time truly seeing a sunrise over the ocean.  The winds playing around her were stronger than usual; having nothing to slow them down as they danced over the water.  She performed the Korumn, dancing with them and found Gill staring at her when she finished.

“What was that?”  He looked at the perfect compass rose left at the end of her exercise.  “How did you do that?”

She took a deep breath, feeling the relief of the power that had built up overnight being gently discharged without harm.  “Just my morning exercise.”  She said cautiously.

“No it ain’t.   You’re one of the Order ain’t ya?”  He said, gesturing with a shrewd look at Brightfang.  “Ain’t seen a sword on a chain before but I ain’t seen a sword like that one either.  Bonded blade or I ain’t captain of th Flounder.”

Callindra shrugged and sheathed her sword.  “What do you know about them?”

“I know they got power.  If you got wind control I bet you could help me launch.”  He gave her a steady look.  “That’s all I know what I care about.”

She nodded and gave him a cautious half smile.  “I can probably help you with the wind, especially since it seems like it’s favorable right now.”  Looking past him to where Cronos was poking a fire to life she found her appetite demanding attention.  She had gotten used to his cooking.

After a breakfast of fresh crabs wrapped in seaweed and roasted to perfection over hot coals, everyone but Callindra climbed on board The Flounder.  The ship wasn’t a pretty vessel, but she bobbed in the tide, her bottom only barely scraping the sand.  When Gill hauled up the anchor, she wallowed slightly in the current, but didn’t quite manage to slip out to sea.

Callindra drew Brightfang and began a slow, measured dance.  As she moved through the complex Stances of the Eighth Korumn, the slight shore breeze began to pick up.  It spun around her as her blade moved in intricate spinning circles and by the end, her feet barely touched the ground between Stances.  With the release of the magic, the wind rose in a steady rush and The Flounder heeled over, sails billowing out.

Using the last residual bits of the Power she’d gathered, Callindra ran lightly across the waves and leaped onto the deck with a triumphant smile.  “How was that for a launch?”

Gill grunted, “When’s it gonna stop?”

She frowned and glanced at the swiftly receding shoreline.  Biting her lower lip, she shook her head. “Um.  Not sure.  Is that bad?”

Gill shrugged, “Just wanted ta know how long I could rely on it.  Winds ain’t th most reliable out here.”

“Oh.  Well, make the best of it while you can?”  She said, “Just because the Wind does what I ask it to sometimes doesn’t mean it listens every time.”

“We’ll take as much advantage as we can.”  He said with a grin and released a rope.  A third sail caught the wind with a snap and The Flounder seemed to leap over the water much faster than a ship of her size and shape should have been able to.