The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 51

They stayed with Beliach only overnight.  Callindra stayed up late, drinking ale with the smith and talking about swordplay, his work at the forge, anything she could think of.  For his part, her host was more than happy to sit, swap tales and drink ale.

She told him of her training and some of their recent exploits.  In return he gave her what little information about The Order that he had.  Mostly he only had names and the last time he’d seen any given member, but she also gained subtle insights about their fighting styles based on the types of weapons they wielded.

Most of them hadn’t been by in years, but he had an encyclopedic memory when it came to weapons and every single one of the ranking members had a weapon forged by him.  Only the best of the best could afford one of his blades, which made her equal parts worried and awed that Glarian had managed to procure her one of his swords.  Now she had a second one.

Her brothers had retired candlemarks ago, but Callindra felt energized.  Her Brightfang was whole once again, although she couldn’t really call him Brightfang anymore.  He was still hers, but he was so different; stronger, faster, more balanced and more dangerous.  When Tryst came out of the room where the others had been sleeping, stretching and yawning she was surprised to see that she had spent the entire night chatting with the smith.

Following the Hand and consulting maps, they made their way out of the great glacier and down from the mountains.  After a few uneventful day’s travel, they found a medium sized village tucked into a high, verdant valley between a pair of peaks.  It was named Lanthodell on the map and seemed to be mostly comprised of craftsmen who had started their own town in order to gather others with crafting skills where they could explore the limits of their abilities and learn from one another.

They found an inn called Raven’s Roost and after they had stowed their gear and had a much needed bath, they sat in the common room for a meal.  The mutton stew had a heavy cream gravy and large chunks of potatoes and mushrooms floating in it and the bread had obviously been freshly baked that morning.  The ale was light and refreshing, making everyone think of spring.

After dinner, Callindra had gone to bed early, anticipating being in a real bed for once and slept hard through the night.  The troubling dreams faded as she awoke an candlemark before dawn, her sword hilt still in her hand and a few fresh cuts on her forearms.  She really needed to make a sheath for him, but she just hadn’t had the time.  She got the feeling that he didn’t want a sheath.

She made her way to the top of the inn, finding a flat rooftop with a low wall with herbs growing in tidy garden boxes along the sides where the sun gave the best coverage.  There was a clear flat stone space in the center and she sat in the exact center, settling with her re-forged sword across her knees, trying not to think about how different he was.

Despite her best efforts she kept running over the changes in her mind.  Perfectly straight instead of the gentle curve she knew and loved.  Two razor sharp edges instead of having one flat edge for her hand to safely rest on.  Gone were the runes proclaiming her the master of the blade.  The guards were even and facing forward instead of having one that curved back over the hand and one that followed the shape of the blade.  The slightly curved wire-wrapped hilt was replaced with a straight hilt wrapped in some strange two toned gray leather that she didn’t recognize.  Instead of being mirror-polished silver, he was now a dull light-drinking flat black.  A perfect pair of tips like a razor sharp tuning fork graced the business end of the blade replacing the slender curving point he’d had before.

The only things that remained the same were the pommel and the chain.  The pommel that held her power and the chain that kept him safe.  She hadn’t been strong enough to give it up.  She hoped it would make her stronger in the end.  It had to make her stronger.

“I’ll never let anyone take you away from me again.”  She muttered, feeling the Weave pulse through his length in recognition of her oath.  It wasn’t true though, that Smith had shown her differently.  Beliach told her a person just needed to know the trick of it and anyone could remove the chain but he was a crazy old bastard.  Not for the first time she wished for the pipe that had been destroyed when she had been swallowed by that monster.

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The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 50

Callindra was awakened from her half slumber by a familiar sound; the jingling of her Mithril chain and sat up, suddenly fully awake and confused as to how she had forgotten. The curtain parted and Beliach stood there, holding a strange looking blade in his hands.

It was nearly five feet long from blade tip to pommel, perfectly straight and double edged whereas the Brightfang she knew had been single edged with a graceful curve. The tip of the blade was split, making the end into two razor sharp points. The steel was jet black, a flat color that light seemed to fall into and silver fire was fading gradually from an intricate set of runes that were scribed on the blade. This sword looked heavier and less refined than the delicate whisper of steel she was used to. Even the hilt was different; instead of a simple wire wrapping it was covered with intricately laced leather that seemed to have come from several different animals. Only the pommel remained the same.

Callindra approached and reached for the sword, hands trembling. Beliach slid the cuff back over her wrist and watched it shrink down to exactly the right size. It felt good to have it back on, but even the cuff had been changed. The one on her left wrist was tarnished and pitted in some spots where the original magic it contained had been forced out. A foot of chain still hung from it, she was unable to remove the cuff or the chain. The other now resembled a bracelet, it was delicately carved with twining vines being blown by strong winds.

She looked at her left wrist and then her right, “This is a reminder of what was. This is the promise of what will come. I will re-forge myself even as my weapon has been re-forged.”

The new blade was light and flexible despite being much larger than Brightfang. She walked out into the forge room and gave it an experimental swing; the balance was flawless. As it passed through the air the strange forked tip made a dangerous whistling sound. Callindra ran her hand down the polished blade and transformed a touch of Weave into a blast of wind that caused the forge fire to flare up. Once the spell was released she could hear the blade hum like a tuning fork.

“He sings!” She gave Bleach a smile.

“You are going to need to re-learn your Stances.” He was pointing to her right forearm which was bleeding from a deep cut. “This blade has two edges and they’re both sharp enough to shave with.”

“Sister, let’s spar so you can test out your new blade.” Cronos was hefting a bastard sword from Beliach’s huge rack of weapons, “You don’t mind if I use this do you?” The smith grunted and stumped back through the curtain to get himself a drink.

The siblings squared off and Callindra took the defensive Stance ‘Patient Avalanche’ and when Cronos began his attack she brought her blade circling around his ‘Cyclone Serpent’, attempting to wrench his sword away. Although he had anticipated this attack and jumped a quick half step backwards the chain attached to her wrist snaked out to wrap around the crosstrees of his sword. With a rapid motion Callindra pulled the loops tight and stepped down on the end of the chain, tearing the sword from his hand at the same time she brought the twin tips of her new blade to within a hair’s breadth of his chest.

“Pretty good chain work sis, but you really need to remember that you don’t have a flat edge anymore.” Once again she had managed to slice herself on the wicked edge that she was used to being blunted.

“Damn. This thing’s so sharp I didn’t even feel it.” She sighed, “This is going to take some getting used to. I can barely feel him at all. This isn’t Brightfang anymore I’m afraid, that Bond is gone forever.”

“I thought the Bond was permanent.” His brow furrowed, “Are you going to be OK?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t slow you down Cronos. Since the core of the power that connects us remains eventually we will become one body again. I just have to earn his trust and he has to learn some respect.” She flexed the blade in her hands, feeling the springy strength he contained and managed to cut herself yet again. “Ouch. See what I mean? No respect at all.”

“Well you’re certainly in a good mood all things considered.”

Callindra turned and fixed him with a rare bright eyed smile. “He said WHEN Cronos. WHEN I rescue Glarian, not IF.” Her eyes narrowed, “I will master and name this blade, then that bastard Dergeras had better be ready because I’m coming for him.”

“You wish to learn to fight?” Corrine Skystriker asked, leaning on his axe.

“No.  I do be wishing to show you how to fight.” Durrak replied.

“I am a disciple of Hammersmith Style.  What could you possibly show me?”

“I do be Durrak son of Storgar.  I will be showing you how to feel pain.”

Corrine threw back his head and laughed, “I’ve heard of you.  They say you’ve been going to every school on the range, challenging every master you come across.”

“That do be correct.” Durrak said, folding his arms across his chest. “Do you be hearing about the results of those challenges?”

The laughter cut short, “I’ve heard rumors.” Corrine said, fixing him with a skeptical but wary eye.

“They do be true.  Not one of those self-proclaimed ‘masters’ did be able to stand against me.”  He said with a feral smile, “You do be thinking you will fare better?”

“Corrine, is there a problem?” An ancient dwarf tottered out of the building, leaning on a shepherd’s crook. “Who is this gentleman?”

“Mistress Caverstorm, please.  I apologize for the disturbance, please go back to your tea.”

“But Corrine dear, who is this youngster?  A friend of yours?” She asked, looking askance at Durrak with a sly smile on her face.

“Please Mistress, go back inside.  I’ll take care of this.”  Corrine said, concern in his voice.

“Take care of it?” She asked, “What needs taking care of?”

“I do be here to defeat the master of the school mistress Caverstorm.” Durrak said, “No do be worrying, I be done shortly.”

“The master of the school?” She said, gesturing to a nearby bench. “Well then.  Corrine dear, why don’t you go sit down.”

“But Mistress-” He began.

“NOW!” she snapped, turning to point her crook at Durrak, “I am the master of this school.  I am The Master of the Drakranda style.”

“Drakranda? You do be the master of forge tongs?”  He asked with a chuckle.

“Yes.” She said and attacked without warning.  Her staff swung out, covering the ten feet between them in a blur and catching him behind the left ankle.  A swift tug was all it took to knock him flat on his back.  Before he could sit up, the end of her staff was at his throat.

“You did attack without the speaking of a challenge.”  Durrak said, anger heating his voice.

“If you expect your enemies to give you that courtesy you are a fool.”  She removed her staff from his neck and turned to walk back inside the building.  “You are welcome to come and learn here if you wish.  However, you should know we teach two styles here.  I am undisputed master of Drakranda and my counterpart teaches Korda.  Here you shall learn to be the tongs and the hammer.  Here we forge the destruction of our enemies.”

He watched her go and a smile began to creep across his face.  Durrak rose and strode into the building without even giving Corrine a second glance.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 49

“Oh come now. I know all about your little tricks. Knock it off.” With one hand he tapped her on the forehead and the Power fled.

Callindra fell to her knees, holding the hilt of her ruined companion in her hands. “No… no… this can’t be.” She stood up and looked him straight in the face. “You have to re-forge him. I’ll do anything if you re-forge him.”

Her brothers exchanged awkward glances.

“Nope, can’t be done. It was broken, can’t be fixed.”  He said, turning away.

“You HAVE to, he is my life.”  Her lower lip trembled, “He’s everything.  Beliach, please re-forge him for me. Please?”

“Fine, whaddya want to give me? Whaddya got to trade?”

“I told you I’d do whatever you want. I don’t have anything to give you, and even if I did anything I could offer would be an insult.” She was still holding her head high, looking him directly in the eyes in spite of the tears running down her face.

“Yeah. I do make one helluva blade don’t I?”  He said with a wide grin, “I’ll make you a new one if that’s what you want, but you have to promise me something.”

“Anything. Anything you ask!”

“Just promise me that when you go rescue Glarian from Hellgate keep you’ll stop by for a visit. I don’t get many visitors these days and when they do stop by they always want something from me. Come on over once you get that old bastard and tell him to bring some decent drink.”

“I swear it.”

He laughed, “No need to be so formal girl.  A word of warning though, when I re-forge this blade it won’t be anything like the old one.” She was taken aback by the sudden seriousness in his voice. “Especially if we leave this on there.” He plucked the chain from the hilt, disconnecting the charmed Mithril as though he wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. “You sure you want it back on there?”

“I need it but…” She hesitated. Did she need the chain? Was it really a sign of weakness? Why couldn’t she hold onto her sword, even in death? Did she just not trust him, or was it herself she didn’t trust? She had thought it would keep anyone from ever taking Brightfang away but Beliach had just pulled the chain off like he was picking a flower. Would having the chain just be a reminder of a painful memory?

“It’s your blade girl. I’ll put it back on there if you want it, I don’t care one way or the other but it makes a difference in the forging.”  He said, obviously thinking about different designs.

“At first I think it was a crutch. Something to keep my fear under control you know?” She said, coming to her decision. “But I’ve turned that weakness into a strength. I think I could even surprise Glarian with some of the new moves I’ve learned with it.”

“I don’t know about that but you’re going to need all the help you can get, especially if you’re facing off with The Order and Dergeras at the same time.” He reached out and deftly removed the Mithril cuff from her right wrist. “This chain is a weird one, I’ll give ya that. I’m not completely sure how it works, so be careful with it.”

He moved to one side of the room and pulled a curtain back, revealing a room with a lavish table set with almost every imaginable type of food. “Why don’t you all get a bite to eat while I work on this? Could be awhile.”

With that, he began sorting through lumps of metal next to his anvil.  Callindra watched him comparing them, tapping them with a hammer, filing pieces off with a large rasp and even touching them with his tongue.  After a few minutes, he selected a piece of metal that was covered in rough scales that flaked off as he tested it.

Walking to the anvil, he pulled a lever so massive that she had assumed it was a part of the structure of the forge.  The chains clanked and moved, pulling Megara’s head over toward the forge, while the forge itself rose to meet him.  The gentle exhalation of the massive demon’s breath instantly heated the piece of metal to an orange-red glow.

Once it came back down, Beliach began moving with inhuman speed.  Hammer and tongs were a blur as he began to work the steel, lengthening and widening the metal, re-heating and folding and drawing it out into the shape he desired.  She watched for a time, but the needs of her body eventually distracted her.

Despite her concern about the forging of her blade, Callindra was drawn into the room by the smell of roasting venison, mulled wine and freshly baked bread. She lost track of time, happily filling her stomach with rich food and drink. Finally after her hunger was sated she sat back, smoking a pipe of fine tobacco for the first time in weeks and feeling truly relaxed. Her shoulder nudged Vilhylm who was intent on some project or another and she murmured a sleepy apology.

 

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 48

Callindra spun, bringing her sword to bear on the man.  He was exactly as she remembered him; bald with a long salt and pepper beard, wearing a leather apron and covered in soot and forge dust.  Stripped to the waist in the heat, he exposed a well-muscled torso although he was obviously much older than she was.

“Expecting someone else were you?” He asked, giving her a quizzical look.

“Before I answer you I want to know what business you have with Shojin.”  She said, the tip of her blade not wavering.

“Oh he’s always making a fuss over one thing or another.” He pitched his voice like a petulant child, “Oooh, my leg hurts, I can’t use it as a pivot and it’s throwing off my swing. My blade needs to be lightened and balanced to compensate.”

She chuckled, “I gave him that limp. My name is Callindra, these are my brothers Tryst, Cronos and Vilhylm.”

“They aren’t yer brothers!” The man laughed.

“Brothers in all but blood.”  Tryst said, “That’s what really matters I think.”

“Some bonds forged in battle are stronger than blood.  There’s something to that.” He noticed the chain wasn’t looped over the obelisk any more. “This won’t do at all.” He inhaled deeply, “HEY MAJERA!”

“Hey, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Callindra was backing slowly away from the opening that looked out on the monster’s lair.

“Oh sure, he’s fine. MAAAAJEEEEERRRRRRAAAAAAA!!” He broke off into a coughing fit and seemed to hack up sparks, cinders and ash.

The immense demon opened one of his eyes a slit and fixed the smith with a baleful glare.  ”WHAT?”

“You’re missing one of yer thingies there.”  He pointed to the chain where it dangled loose.

Magera reached down, picked up the chain and looped it back over the obelisk. “FOOL.” His voice shook the room before he slipped back into slumber.

“What did you say your name was?” The smith looked at Callindra’s face for the first time.

“Callindra. Callindra Sol‘Estin.”

His gaze moved from her face to the hilt sticking up above her shoulder. “No… no, it couldn’t be.” He muttered turning towards the forge. Suddenly he spun back towards her, a massive forge hammer appeared in his hands and it brought a torrent of air with it as he swung it at her head. Callindra stood her ground, whipping Brightfang from his sheath and releasing a blast of wind that perfectly countered the blow the smith was aiming at her.

Everything stood motionless; her hair, dust motes, even the breath in her lungs was momentarily stilled. “Heh, not bad, but what’s this?” He had plucked Brightfang from her hand so quickly that she hadn’t been able to stop him and was examining the blade.

“What’s with the chain? You little fool, it throws the balance completely off.”  He began muttering angrily to himself, “Glarian, what in the world are you teaching your students? How the mighty have fallen.”

“It was better than having someone take him away again.  Have you seen Glarian lately? You are Beliach aren’t you?” The tension made her voice crack.

“He’s in Hellgate keep, supposedly trapped inside his sword last time I heard.” Beliach was still looking at Brightfang.

“Trapped inside his SWORD?”

“Yeah.” He said, obviously not paying attention to her.

“Can I have my sword back now?” Callindra was trying to restrain herself from trying to rip it out of his hands by pulling on the chain because she was pretty sure she would fail.

“I suppose so, it’s broken anyway.  The balance is completely off now. You ruined a perfectly good blade, dunno what the hell you did to it.”

“I guess someone like you doesn’t know what it means to be weak. To have others be able to completely dominate you?” She paused and her voice lowered to a whisper. “To have something inside yourself that wants to destroy you and will if you can’t channel it.”

Beliach barked a laugh, “So what? You think that chain makes you stronger? You think it keeps you safe? Why not just hold on to your damn sword?”

“You can’t hang on when you’re unconscious.”  She said, gripping her sword’s hilt tightly, “I won’t let anyone take him away again.”

“I’ve seen many a man dead on the battlefield with his fingers clutching the hilt of the blade.”

“Sure, and I’d bet you’ve seen many a scavenger pry that blade out of those fingers haven’t you?” She shook her head, “This is pointless bickering. I won’t let anyone take him away again. Look, I know this might be asking a lot but can you … can you re-balance Brightfang for me?”

“No point. You haven’t been listening to me have you girlie? Whatever you did to this blade it’s ruined, just look at these flaws.” He reached out with two fingers and tapped her sword directly in the center of the blade. Callindra watched in horror as spider web cracks spread from where his fingers touched and then shrieked in horror when it shattered like glass.

“See what I mean? Ruined.”

“What have you done? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Callindra’s voice rose in a piercing scream. Weave broke from her mouth with the cry, winds whipping around her chaotically. “I can’t control it you stupid old FOOL!” A rumble of thunder seemed to sound in the distance.

Love Letter

I wrote this random bit of poetry while thinking about the next of my D&D sessions.  It’ll be found the room of a former lord of a fallen city.

 

The sun set upon our meeting
Darkness descended
Swallowed hope
Devoured rest
Consumed peace
The sun set upon our meeting

The stars died upon our meeting
I bid farewell to sanity
I bid farewell to knowledge
I bid farewell to understanding
The stars died upon our meeting

The moon fell upon our meeting
I lost the future
I lost the past
I lost the present
The moon fell upon our meeting

I love the destruction
I love the loss
I love the violence
I love the madness
I love the confusion

Take me
Make me yours
Let the rest of the world burn
Burn it
Let
It
Burn

 

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 47

Climbing the stairs littered with broken blades would have been a slow painful exercise for most people, but Callindra practically flew up them without even thinking about it. Brightfang shone in her hand and the Mithril chain that connected him to her right wrist cuff whipped behind her in the wake of her passage. The slumbering God-Construct standing in the pool of molten lava to her right shifted his massive shoulders. Even so minor a movement caused his wings to fan heat that should have blistered her skin, but the motes of burning stone that crackled from around the demon became harmless puffs of ash before they reached her.

Her brothers were slowly making their way up the stairs behind her, but she was more intent on finding the source of the release of Weave she had sensed from above. The chamber at the top was mostly open, a massive forge dominated the room and a glistening white obelisk whose girth eclipsed any tree she had seen except for The Grandfather Tree thrust through the floor on the right-hand side.

What captured Callindra’s attention was the man stepping through a glimmering silver portal. Even if she hadn’t recognized Shojin’s face the blood red and black armor of Inquisitor would have frightened and angered her at the same time. She had given him the limp he now walked with and he had made her and Glarian fugitives, hunted across the ten continents.

“You’re still alive?” His eyes widened in surprise even as the portal he had just walked through closed.

“God’s balls.” Callindra gripped Brightfang’s hilt hard enough to make her hand ache, feeling the wire wrapping bite into her hand. This was going to be trouble in a big way. If the Inquisition was here everyone’s life was in danger. Something had been off about Shojin though, maybe that broken leg she’d given him was causing more trouble than she had dared to hope it would.

“What’s up sister?” Cronos was the first of her brothers to reach the top of the stairs. His usual attention to detail was once again making it tough to keep her secrets.

“Just saw a face that I thought I’d left behind me.” Cronos didn’t look convinced, but she didn’t care and didn’t elaborate.

Her other two brothers reached the room and they began to look around. Vilhylm was of course drawn to the forge where he examined some of the tools. Cronos was looking at the massive white pillar and Tryst was standing to one side, keeping a watchful eye on Magera. Callindra just stood with her back to a solid wall and tried to look everywhere at once. Who knew when they would return?

A powerful burst of Weave from the pillar grabbed Callindra’s attention. Cronos’s hand seemed to have been sucked into it. “What the hell are you doing?” She sprinted across the room and slammed into him as hard as she could.  He didn’t budge and cried out in pain at the strain on his shoulder and elbow.

“Gods and Demons that hurts!” Cronos was still trying to pull himself out but instead his arm jerked forward another few inches.

Tryst was approaching the obelisk, unlimbering his massive hammer. He slammed it into the wall just above Cronos’s arm with thundering force, sending spider web cracks all over the surface. Pieces of ice and snow showered down around them but her brother’s arm was still stuck fast and gradually dragging him closer as it was pulled inside.

Callindra ran to the forge and grabbed a blazing hot sword blank from the fire, pausing to marvel at the perfect balance it had despite obviously being a work in progress. Cronos yelling in pain as Vilhylm tried to pull his arm out brought her back to the reality of the situation. She ran back to her brother’s side and plunged the red hot brand into the pillar. Other than a hiss of sublimating ice her attempt to free him was completely ineffective.

“I can’t believe I ruined this blade.” Callindra tossed it regretfully over the edge to clatter with the other shattered, discarded blades on the floor.

“We have bigger problems don’t you think?” Cronos was now up to his shoulder into the sheer wall of ice. He incanted a spell, gesturing with his left hand and unleashed a wave of flame on the wall. Water poured off in sheets but his arm still didn’t show any signs of coming free. “This thing is pulling me in!  Someone get me OUT!”

”Pain pain pain. Thorns and brambles, thorns and brambles. Piercing roots and threading vines. Pain.” Callindra heard a voice in her head, almost as though someone was Wind whispering to her but somehow closer, more intimate.

Vilhylm had been staring intently at the wall for several seconds. “I see a field of blowing snow. A blizzard, driven by gale force winds.” He put on the mask he had made from Jorda’s gift and tendrils of vine grew from his fingers.  They found tiny cracks in the surface and grew into them, expanding the cracks until the top of the pillar broke free, tumbling down into the lava below with a titanic crash and a huge hiss of steam.

The chain that had been looped over it swung loosely from the collar of the giant demon.  It didn’t seem to notice or awaken from its slumber, but Callindra kept a nervous eye on it anyway.

“Thanks Vil.”  Cronos said, rolling his shoulder and grimacing in pain.

A small whirl of snow started forming on the base of the obelisk and in minutes a new gleaming spire of ice had formed as though it had never been destroyed in the first place.

“What are you all doing here? Who are you?” A voice rang out behind them, gruff and low.