The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 41

“There’s no need for that girl.”  She said quietly, “You must let it go before it destroys you both.  Listen to how he screams in protest.”

It was only then that Callindra heard the protesting cries of her blade.  “I can’t, I don’t know how.”  She began to panic now, uncertain of how to stop.

“I know that’s not true.”  The woman said soothingly, “Remember your training.  Remember the Korumn.”

Power raged through her, threatening to tear her asunder and Callindra collapsed into a sitting position.  Brightfang cut into her thigh when she was careless with his edge but she didn’t notice.  The memories of the first time her master had taught her anything about magic came back to her.  She could almost hear his voice.

“The first Korumn is of the Breath.”  He whispered into her ear and she calmed her mind, shutting out the chaos and struggle in order to focus on the storm of power that threatened to rip her, her sword, her family and everyone else into tiny shreds.

She regained the briefest amount of control and stood, beginning the Korumn of Release.  Every foot must be placed perfectly, each position of her hands essential and yet she executed them with the precision of long practice.  As Callindra neared the middle of her Korumn, the shopkeeper regained his feet and his voice.

“What madness is this?  Did you all see what she did?  What she threatened me with?”  The man shrieked.  “I will have justice when The Order arrives, just see if I don’t!”

Callindra tried to tune out the man’s strident cries were cut short by a blow to the side of the head from a short cudgel the woman tucked back into her belt and from there it was all Callindra could do to keep her focus.  She finally finished the Korumn and felt the power whisper out of her, harmlessly rejoining the flow of the Weave; the force that created and sustained life.

“Well done.”  The woman said, “My name is Elyn.  You’d be Callindra if I’m not mistaken?”  Her voice had a tone of something guarded and closed as she introduced herself.

“I am Callindra.”  She responded in a shaking voice, sheer exhaustion lowering her guard entirely.  It was all she could do to stay on her feet and keep Brightfang in her hands.

“Come to my shop.”  Elyn said, “I can put you and your friends up for the night and get you set up better for an exploration up north than this blithering idiot ever could.”  She nudged the unconscious shopkeeper with the toe of her leather boot.

“That’s a good enough recommendation for me.”  Callindra said, turning almost drunkenly to her brothers.  “How about you?”

Tryst caught her before she hit the floor.

Callindra awoke in an unfamiliar room with a terrible headache and yet felt a totally at peace for the first time in ages.  She wasn’t sure where it had come from, but the happiness she felt was too good for her to bother questioning it.  The bed was soft and she was dressed only in her smallclothes.  Well, not ‘her’ smallclothes because they were clean and she didn’t have a clean set left, but a set that fit quite well.  The comforting weight of Brightfang’s leash tugged at her right wrist as she stretched and smiled.

The moment she began to stir, lights turned on in the room.  They illuminated a small chamber with a bed, side table and her clothes, clean and folded on a chair.  After a few minutes of awkward maneuvering, Callindra managed to wriggle into her clothes without slicing any of them to shreds with Brightfang’s razor edge and cautiously opened the door.

A small hallway showed five other doors and a stairway leading down what appeared to be a half flight of stairs, but ended up actually covering at least an entire floor.  She could feel the Weave thrumming throughout the entire structure.  Almost as though the building wasn’t enchanted but as though it was entirely created of magic.

For some reason she couldn’t quite put her finger on she felt at ease here.  She somehow knew everything was going to be all right while she was in this place.  Callindra began to whistle a merry tune as she walked into the room, pushing the door wide to see her family sitting around the table with a group of strangers.  The brown-haired woman who had confronted her the day before was absent, but there were four others.

A man as wide as he was tall with thick red hair and a moustache that hung in two long braids long enough to be tucked into his leather belt.  A blonde-haired man with piercing blue eyes wearing copper spectacles with lenses that made his eyes seem huge.  A tall slender woman with auburn hair and soft brown eyes.  A slender silver haired man with eyes cloudy with age.  They all stopped and looked at her as she strode into the room.

“Sister, you’re awake!”  Tryst said, rising and walking toward her.  “Are you feeling all right?”

“I’m fine Tryst.”  She said, “Never better.  Would you mind introducing me?  I seem to have slept through the exchange of pleasantries.”

The blonde man stood with a slight bow, “I am Jamison, the innkeeper of The Trickster’s Pipe.”

“M’name’s Horus.”  The stout man said, taking a loud slurp from his tankard, “Blacksmith.”

“I am Ginny, I mind the store.”  The red-haired woman said with a smile.

“Driffen.”  The old man says, not looking up from the book he is reading.

“My name is Callindra Sol’Estin.”  She said, “What is this place?  Where is the woman who… helped me yesterday?  I owe her my profound and sincere thanks.”

“Ellyn is out taking care of the things that must be taken care of for our departure.”  Jamison said, “She will return shortly.  In the meantime won’t you join us for brunch?”  He gestured toward the table and Callindra felt her stomach rumble in anticipation at the array of fresh fruits and vegetables arrayed there.

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The City of Einn Boer and The World Lost campaign setting

This is a setup for a new D&D Campaign I’m starting soon…

Seven centuries ago, the world was struck by a great Cataclysm.  The history you have been taught does not go into details; but the broad strokes paint a world gone mad, overrun with horrible demons and voracious undead that made war on the mortal races.  Led by creatures only known as Harbingers, these armies laid waste to the world.

Only a few brave adventurers and powerful magic weavers managed to secret groups of mortals away into vast cities; sealed away from the death and destruction being wrought outside.  These enclaves thrived without the worry of outside interference.  They were designed to be places free of strife; where mortal kind would not want for anything and therefore would not attempt to leave.

Also taken inside these arks from destruction were animals, seeds and other things they would all need when it was finally safe once again to go outside to reclaim the world.  If that was ever possible.  Those that could be stored in stasis would be and some of the others were raised generation after generation.

In the beginning, or so the history books say, there was enough power for everyone to have anything they wanted.  In the beginning, magical energy flowed through every being in the enclave of Einn Boer.  In the beginning, as we are told, every person could summon everything with the wave of their hand. Over time the magic faded to the way it is today, but the rest of the powers remain.

Images for stores to advertise their wares leap out at passersby to attract their attention, fountains flow with clean water for drinking and washing at every corner, the air is always clean and there is endless food.  The food may not taste exactly like what it simulates anymore, but anyone can summon it any time they wish.  It tastes better when raw ingredients are summoned and prepared, and many people and businesses maintain at least their own herb garden.

At one time, apparently gold was more than just a marker for how much things were worth for reference when trading.  The older history books mention mining gold, fashioning it into coins and using them to buy things.  In the modern-day things like real, not summoned food, herbs, a musical performance, a poetry reading, inventing a new card game, a new carving pattern or any number of other diversions are trade goods.  Everyone is looking for a new distraction; especially the longer-lived races.

Where does it all come from?  Where does it all go?  That is a question that more and more the younger generations are wondering.  In the small forest, as trees are harvested more simply appear randomly in a few days.  When things are tossed into the sewers, they simply vanish overnight.  A few folk have tried to go investigate what happens there; some never returned and others reported nothing at all.  When people die, they are buried but there are rumors that their bodies vanish rather than slowly decomposing over time.  Someone must know the answer, but if they exist, they aren’t telling.

Einn Boer is governed by an elected Monarch and a Council of Nine; each race having a representative.  The current Queen, a human named Lady Taryn Vaknair Torben, is the third generation of the Torben family to be elected.  She is seen as a fair, just and honest leader by nearly everyone and won re-election by a wide margin in the last election.  Recently a new political figure has risen in popularity by attempting to draw correlations between rumors of instability with the Torben family’s so-called ‘inherited monarchy’.

Cthrag Graksen is a red scaled Dragonborn who advocates for investigating how Einn Boer functions, even going as far as to hint that he would like to attempt to open The Great Gate and see the state of the world outside.  His veiled attacks on the Torben family have spread some dissent through the ranks and now the election that is slated to take place the day after the Septecentennial Celebration is uncertain for the first time in three generations.

Order is maintained by the Síðr Vorðr, The Long Guard.  They are independent from the city’s government and their main mission is to keep anyone from opening The Great Gate.  Secondary to that, they are a military order that trains in the arts of combat against the day that The Great Gate is opened.  Rumors have been circulating that the head of Síðr Vorðr is the one who holds the key to the Gate itself and that he is immortal.  Of course nobody really believes those rumors.  Not really.  Or if they do, they’re wise enough to let on.

Worship of the Gods once was much more than the occasional visit to a shrine or a temple.  Although the gods are represented equally, the gradual increase of the population of Einn Boer has led to once vaunted temples giving way to smaller meeting halls that more often than not double as community meeting places and are no longer dedicated sacred spaces.

Although they are purported to once having had other names, now The Father of the Gods is now called Skaberen.  Onde and Gode are his sons and in Skaberen’s absence they now balance one another, Onde being pure evil and Gode pure good.  The many others who once held sway and if the histories are to be believed, once played great games with mortal kind are Tido; the goddess of time, Kaaos; the god of chaos, Ruma; the goddess of magic, Ild;, the god of fire, Luftin; the god of wind, Jorda; the goddess of earth, Illimin, the goddess of light.  Once the different races had their own gods as well, but these have long since been forgotten.

 

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 40

Using the map Cronos had gotten from Felix, Callindra estimated the location of the mountain where Beliach’s forge was.  It wasn’t that difficult; the memory of flying high above the forests, plains, oceans and glaciers was one that filled her with an inexplicable sense of rightness.  Someday, she would answer her yearning and find a way to truly fly on her own.

At first the travel had been uneventful and simple.  Trudging through dunes and skirting the swamp.  Meeting up with an old tradesman’s track and following it to a Lord’s Causeway, and finding it in a distressing state of disrepair.  Having to ford a river where the bridge had been destroyed was a setback, but it only meant they got wet and had to hang clothes by the fire at night and change into dry spares to avoid catching a chill.

None of the small settlements they passed had people in them.  It was surreal to enter a town and find all the buildings abandoned with no sign as to why the folk had left.  As they walked north, the weather began to get cooler.  Eventually, they had to detour to a larger city to find a place where they could purchase warmer clothing.

“Where are the traders in the south?”  Tryst asked the suspicious looking shopkeeper.  The man had been scratching each of the coins they had used to pay for their goods with a dagger, making sure they weren’t just gilded lead.

“Don’t know.”  The man grumbled, “I ain’t no trader.”

“When is the last time you saw a trader come through?”  Tryst asked, his voice still polite, smiling ingratiatingly.

“Bout six weeks gone.”  He waved a hand, “Now get otta here.  I ain’t your own personal gossip broker.”

“I will pay for the information if that is your wish.”  Tryst said.

“I ain’t got what you want anyway.”  The man said, “Ain’t nothing to tell.”

“Anything you could tell me would be appreciated.”  Tryst said, still smiling.

“Enough of this.”  Callindra stepped forward, a gust of wind following the motion and blowing a stack of parchments onto the floor.  “We have purchased goods from you at exorbitant prices, we have been subjected to all kinds of insult and derision, I will not stand by and watch my brother be treated in such a manner.”

“What’re you gonna do then little girl?”  He glared at her, “Chop me ta bits with that sword I suppose?”

“I notice you have a lot of goods here that are not water resistant.”  She noted idly, placing her hand on Brightfang’s hilt.  “I wonder what would happen if a sudden rain storm happened to hit.”

“Ain’t nothin would happen, there’s a roof.”  He snapped, rolling his eyes and pointing up.

“Well, I agree that there is one right now.”  Callindra agreed, idly looking where he was pointing.  Thunder rumbled in the cloudless sky and the breezes around her swirled the papers on the floor.  “But I can’t say how long that will last given the present circumstance.”

“Are you threatening me?”  He demanded, crossing his arms.

“What?”  She said innocently, “Me threatening you?  Of course not.”  Thunder rumbled again and Callindra smiled.  “I’m threatening your building.  The whole building and everything in it.”

“Last caravan was three weeks ago.”  The man said, wiping sweat off his forehead.  “I ain’t seen nothing since and dunno when the next one’s supposed to come.”

“Are you sure?”  Callindra asked, leaning forward.  Electricity arced across her fingers and he jumped back.

“OK!  They paid me to keep people trading.  They paid me to not tell nobody and just keep up appearances.”  He was looking around almost wildly now, as though he expected someone to pop out of the woodwork and punish him for talking.

“Who?”  She pressed, a pleasant smile working its way across her face.  Her hair began to gradually rise around her, the static electricity of the magic she held within her finding its exit.

“I don’t know.”  He said, holding his hands up in surrender or supplication.  “They didn’t tell me who they were.”

“That is not good enough.”  Callindra said and lightning struck the courtyard outside.  “We need more information than that and I believe you have it.”

“I really don’t know who they are.”  He said, “All I know is they’re with The Order.”

“The Order?”  Callindra’s voice rose in panic and more lightning bolts began to fall outside.

“Uh. Callindra?”  Cronos said with a touch of apprehension coming into his voice.  “You sure you have control over this spell?”

“You’re working for the ORDER?”  She shouted, the wind picking up and beginning to swirl ominously around the building.  A bolt of lightning slammed into the fountain in the square outside the shop, smashing the marble into gravel.

“They offered me no alternative!”  He screamed, “They will come, they swore they would come.  THEY ARE COMING!”

Callindra looked around wildly and bolts of electric destruction rained down outside.  “They will not take him from me!”

“Sister, calm yourself!”  Cronos shouted, reaching for her arm.  “Keep your concentration steady!”  When his hand touched her skin, he recoiled quickly with an exclamation of pain.  Electricity had arced from her body to his fingers with a loud snap.

She ignored him, focusing all her attention on the shop keeper.  “You have no idea what they have done to me.  I hope they do come, for when they do I will destroy them.”  The wind began to whip through the square, “I will raze this town to the ground, burn it to ashes and scatter the dust before the gale of my wrath!”

Tryst, Cronos and Vilhylm all attempted to move in and restrain her, but the wind was too strong.  A voice cut through the roar of the wind from the doorway.  “Oh now that’s not right at all.  I am sure that Glarian taught you better than that.”

The mention of her Master’s name brought up so casually made her certain she was with The Order and Callindra turned to unleash all of her fury upon the woman, drawing Brightfang from his sheath.  “You will PAY for what you’ve done!”  She screamed, but the woman was suddenly at her side, touching her face with a kind hand and looking into her eyes.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 39

A knock on the door of his workshop made Durrak look up from where he was putting the finishing touches on a belt knife.  The pattern welded steel was beautiful, but the lines of carbon in the blade also lent strength and made the metal much harder than a standard blade.  It was a nameday present for his neighbor’s daughter and would serve her well for hunting and everyday tasks.

A boy from a neighboring farm stood there, twisting his cap in his hands and looking nervous.  Durrak remembered his name after thinking for a minute.  “Thane laddie.  What can I be doin for ya then?”

“Uh, master Durrak.”  He said, hesitating and licking his lips nervously.  “I – uh – well I’ve been seeing a lot of Mattie and I was gonna ask for her hand but I don’t have a ring and you done such beautiful work for the midwife I figure if I gave her one of your rings she couldn’t say no.”

“Slow it down boyo.”  Durrak said, setting down the whetstone and giving Thane his full attention.  “What kind a thing do you be thinkin of?  You no do be more than fifteen summers.”

“I’m seventeen!”  Thane said indignantly, “And I’ll have my own croft next spring, da says I’ve a good hand on the plow and we cleared that south field last fall.”

Durrak blinked, remembering how humankind tended to mature earlier than his own folk.  “So you do say laddie.  An ya thinks I’ll be able ta make such a ring that she no do be sayin no eh?”

“Well, it’s more her da.”  Thane said, blushing red.  “He don’t think I can provide for her.  As though Mattie ain’t perfectly capable of deciding herself or doin the work on her own.  Damn me if she ain’t as good at near everything as I am.  But her da is a little old fashioned.”

“He just do be wanting to know you do be serious and capable laddie.  No need to be taking offense at a father lookin out for his little girl.”  He grinned, “As a father myself I do be always seeing them as my little treasures.  You do be doing well to remember that.”

“That’s why I came here master Durrak.”  He said, making a little half bow.  He took a pouch from his belt and set it on the table with an audible clink.  “I have silver and a little gold here; all I’ve been able to save.  I want to buy a ring.”

“Oh laddie, I’d have to be making one for her.  I no do be keeping things on hand and you no do be wanting some random piece of work.  If you do be having a few days it is honored I do be to make you a bridegift.”  Durrak opened the pouch and withdrew a pair of gold coins and a pair of silver coins, then laced the pouch and handed it back.  “These do be sufficient.”  He said with a smile, “Young love do be beyond price and to be helping in the joining of two such hearts do be payment beyond gold and silver.”

“You’ll do it?”  Thane asked, his voice rising in excitement.  “Oh thank you sir, thank you!”

“Do be giving me three days lad and I do be having your bridegift fashioned.”  Durrak said, waving off the boy’s exuberance.  “This no do be any great thing laddie.  You do be a good man an I see true devotion to th lass in your eye.  That do be worth a thousand pieces of gold to an old Dwarf, so it do.”

“You ain’t old Master Durrak!”  Thane said with a broad grin, “Old folks wouldn’t understand, but you get it.”

After Thane had left, Durrak began sketching with a piece of charcoal, humming happily to himself.  When Belladin came in to tell him that dinner was ready she paused in the doorway and watched him working for a time, admiring the way his fingers moved as he shaped the hot metal.  With tongs and hammer, he twisted the silver and gold, braiding and winding strands of metal into intricate patterns.  When he set it aside to cool, she approached and wrapped her arms around him.

“Durrak my heart, I have dinner waiting.  Your daughters no will wait long.”  She kissed his cheek, “We do have fresh brook trout and new spring potatoes roasted on the fireside with fiddlehead ferns an mushrooms.”

“You do be talkin as I do lass.”  He said with a chuckle, “I do be a bad influence.”

“That is beautiful work.”  Belladin said, looking at the beginnings of the ring he was making.

“It no do be so yet.”  He said, “It may be so eventually, but you always did be able to see beyond the surface Cazadora.”

“Certainly, how else would I have been able to fall in love with you heart of my heart?” She said with a smile and a kiss on the cheek.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 38

On the deck, they saw a nightmare crew of sailors rushing about and performing various tasks to keep the ship crashing through the waves.  They were all half rotting waterlogged corpses and surrounded by faint blueish green light.  None of them stopped working, but none of them failed to notice them as they climbed over the rail.  Their stares went beyond hostile and ventured into a kind of eager anticipation accompanied by unfathomed hatred and hunger.

“What in the nine Hells is this?”  Asked Cronos, looking around and drawing his sword.

“Captain Gale’s Stormraker little mortal.”  A man with a flowing black coat that hung below his knees.  Crackles of blueish flame played about his body and he wasn’t looking at Cronos, but at Callindra.  “Woe betide those who cross the Captain’s path.”  He smiled a feral grin.

Callindra didn’t give him the satisfaction of reaching for Brightfang.  “Give us a lift then?”  She asked, her voice level and even.  “Our island has disintegrated and you seem to have run over our longboat.”

The man barked a sharp laugh, “Ha!  Captain, what say you?  Should we give these poor shipwrecked lambs passage to the nearest safe harbor?”

The main cabin door slammed open and a man resplendent in a red coat embroidered with thread of gold wearing a wide brimmed tricorn hat and carrying a wide bladed cutlass strode forth, the heels of his boots striking a sharp cadence on the wood of the deck.

“What possible reason would I have to give shelter to those weak and foolish enough to stray into Bloodtear’s path my first mate?”  He bellowed, and his crew all laughed, their voices full of eager hunger that was reflected on their faces.

“You killed my boat.”  Callindra said, with a shrug.  “My brother paid good money for that boat.  What are you, some kind of pirates?”

“Of course we’re pirates you stupid little chit!”  The first mate said with another laugh.

“The question was a rhetorical one.”  Tryst said from the other side of the ship.  The sailors shrank back from an aura of greenish gold light that forced the ghostly forms away from him, but the Captain didn’t flinch.

“This here is my ship.”  Gale said, touching the rail and sending a flare of phosphorescent flames licking down the length of the wood.  “Your little god ain’t calling the shots here, I am.”  He clenched his fist and the light around Tryst winked out.

Callindra chose this moment of distraction to whip Brightfang from his scabbard and leap at the Captain, swinging her blade in three vicious slashes at neck, gut and knee levels.  To her shock, the strikes passed through him entirely, not even ruffling his beard or parting a single thread of his long coat.

Gale burst out laughing, “Oh I love this little wench, such SPIRIT don’t you think lads?”  His crew released a cheer, or maybe a jeer and closed around her and her brothers.

“You think our gods are powerless?”  Tryst demanded, raising his shield.  The golden light began to emanate from it once more and beads of sweat trickled down his face.

“She is with us, no matter what you think you hold over us.”  Callindra said, suddenly very conscious of the flowers twining through her hair.  “We are no easy meat.”

Vilhylm put a mask on and thick vines began to grow out of his sleeves sprouting thorns and tendrils.  Cronos twisted a ring on his hand and his skin took on the aspect of tree bark.  The four carefully moved until they were back to back, facing outward.

“TAKE THEM!”  Gale bellowed and the ghostly crew descended on them in a howling mass.

The enhancements gifted them by the Goddess shone brightly as the crew attacked.  When Cronos and Vilhylm returned the attack they found that instead of their weapons passing harmlessly through their enemies, they struck home with flashes of what almost appeared to be sunlight.  Spurred by her brother’s success, Callindra wove her blade in twisting pattern and released a blast of Njordi’s ice cold breath.  It cut through the ranks like knives of ice, blasting them into motes of blue green flame.

Tryst took three long strides forward through the hole she had made and lashed out with his hammer, striking the First Mate in the side with brutal force.  The pirate snarled in pain and anger as he tumbled to one side.  Her other two brothers ran forward, trying to reach the captain but were intercepted by a half dozen forms dropping from the rigging wielding swords and knives.  With a madcap grin, Callindra took a running leap over the melee, landing with a vicious downward swipe of her blade that Gale barely sidestepped.

“What affront is this?”  He asked, fixing her with an enraged glare.  She had sliced off the corner of his tricorn hat.

“We don’t have time for this.”  Callindra said, menacing him with her sword as he moved to draw his cutlass.  “Just give us safe passage to the shore of The Shieldlands and we won’t be forced to destroy you and your crew.”

“Little upstart, this is MY domain!”  He roared, pulling his sword from the scabbard in a twisting motion that knocked Brightfang aside as he nearly cut her arm off at the shoulder.

“If it’s a fight you want it’s a fight you’ll get.”  She said with a series of feints that ended with a thrust that nearly took him through the ribs.

They battled back and forth along the deck as the ship continued racing in front of a driving wind.  The Captain was good and at times it was all Callindra could do to keep her head on her shoulders.  After a few minutes, she sported a dozen shallow cuts that were gradually being stitched closed by tiny Brightstar vines.  Finally, she heard the sound she had been waiting for and broke from the fight, sprinting towards her brothers.

“Now!  Run and jump, it’s our chance!”  She shouted, sliding under a sword slash and reaching the railing.  Spinning around, she saw Cronos backing the wrong direction, facing an onslaught from three sailors.  She spun Brightfang on his chain and flung him across the deck, hamstringing one of them as Cronos cut another down.  Yanking her blade back to her hand she dove overboard in a long swan dive.

The roaring sound she had heard was the crash of surf against the shore.  As the four of them leaped off Bloodtear, they saw it continue sailing by, heeling over in the wind.  The speed it was traveling made coming about to re-engage them all but impossible.

Tryst had the most trouble getting to shore, but Vilhylm’s vines allowed him to pull them both through the water to the shore.  Coughing and spluttering, Callindra dragged herself ashore.  Strangely, despite the near miss she felt a surge of pride swelling in her chest.  It took her a few moments to realize why.  She had given an order and they had obeyed it.  Furthermore, it was an order that had almost certainly saved their lives.  She had led and they had followed.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 37

Callindra drew upon the strength of the Weave carefully, making sure not to force too much through Brightfang’s blade and summoned a steady wind that sent the Longboat surging forward.  Her brothers all stood ready to do their part as they swept forward with speed that would have been impossible without the winds obeying her commands.

As they reached the stone spires shifted, groans of protest sounding as the rocks moved against each other.  Cronos threw a spell in front of them and the movements of the towers seemed to slow, the sounds of their motion drawing out as though it was being heard from a distance.  Vilhylm reached his hand into the water and thick ropes of seaweed writhed up the stones, wrapping around them and holding them in place.  The Longboat shot through the space like a rock from a sling and the stone ceased its grumbling.

A small island was directly in front of them, a small fire somewhere near its center sending up a ribbon of bluish white smoke into the sky.  The Hand pointed directly at it.  Tryst looked at his companions and smiled.

“A mysterious island hidden behind a deadly trap.  Looks like what we’re after wouldn’t you say?”

“Oh wonderful.”  Cronos grumbled, “That’s not ominous or anything.”

Callindra sat down with a tired sigh and took out her pipe.  “As long as the heavy lifting is over, I can deal with a mystery.”

They landed the boat and carefully tied it up to a heavy stone on the shoreline.  As they made their way inland, gradually they began to feel a sense of wellbeing.  In a place like this, opposition must be easily overcome.  After all, nothing could be dangerous in such a setting of peace and tranquility.   By the time the attack came, not one of them was prepared for it.

A dozen monstrous forms erupted from the sand, indistinguishable in form except for their glowing green eyes.  They ignored Tryst who was in the lead and laid into Cronos instead, tearing his armor open with a spray of blood.

“DOWN!” Yelled Callindra and her brothers all dove for the sand.  The creatures turned to look at her as she wove Brightfang in a complex series of arcs, dancing in tiny circles on the sand as the winds gathered around her.  The blast she unleashed tore half of the creatures into bloody shreds but if it wasn’t for Vilhylm and Tryst leaping to her defense the remaining monsters would have eviscerated her easily.

Tryst mashed one into a pile of bloody sand and Vilhylm picked one up by its neck and slammed it into another.  Cronos incanted a spell from where he lay prone and bleeding and the last three were incinerated by a blast of intense fire.

“I feel insulted.”  Cronos panted, getting to his feet with a helping hand from Vilhylm.  “They seem to be taking us lightly.”

“Don’t say that.”  Callindra muttered as she inspected Brightfang, frowning over new stress cracks.  “You’re just inviting disaster.”

Despite her dire predictions, no further monsters appeared.  They cautiously made their way toward the center of the island.  When they found the source of the smoke it was a small well-built cottage with a fire in front.  An ancient woman sat on a stool beside the fire, stirring a pot of something that was boiling over it.

“So.  You have beaten my sand warriors.”  She said in a surprisingly strong voice.  “You are the first to have bypassed the wards I set, let alone my physical guardians.  Well done.  What can I do for you then my dear mortals?”  Her words struck like hammers, their psychic force driving Callindra and Cronos to their knees.  Vilhylm leaned on his staff, but kept his feet and gave the old woman an uncertain stare.

“We have come for a divine artifact.”  Tryst said, his voice ringing out clear and strong.  “You will give it to us or we will take it.”

“Ahhh…”  She stirred her stew.  “So, you’ve finally come to take this burden from my shoulders.  About bleeding time.”  Leaning forward, she withdrew a leather pouch from around her neck and offered it to Tryst.

He reached for it without hesitation and a flash of light momentarily blinded them.  When they could see again, they floated in open ocean without any land in sight.

“Wind and Wave what in the hells was that?”  Callindra said, “How are we going to get out of here?”

“Amazing.”  Cronos breathed in awe, “It was just an illusion.  An illusion so perfect that we could actually touch it.  If I hadn’t just seen it I would never have believed it.”

“Great.  How does that get us out of the water you idiot?”  Callindra shouted, her exclamation spoiled by a wave splashing playfully in her face.

“I think the sun is setting.”  Tryst said, worry tinging his voice.  “This could be very bad.  Very, very bad.”

As though summoned by his words, the sun fell behind the horizon and a huge ship crested the horizon all in the same moment, crashing across the modified Longboat that had been moored to the island and breaking it into kindling.  It was so massive that it filled their vision and swept them apart.  Callindra grabbed Cronos’s wrist as she watched Vilhylm and Tryst disappearing on the other side of the bow wave.

“Damn!”  She shouted, “We’ve lost them!”

“They aren’t stupid, they’ll get on the ship.”  Cronos growled, “Stop whining and help me climb!”

She looked over and saw that he had grabbed the anchor chain.  As the ship swept forward, she held on tightly and allowed herself to be pulled to the side of the ship.  Once she had grabbed onto the ancient barnacle encrusted planks, Cronos let her go and they clambered up the sides of the ship together.