The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 63

Callindra looked up at the broken black walls of Hellgate Keep.  They had been pushing hard for days and finally were within reach of their goal.  Her goal really.  Her brothers had protested at first, but when she pointed out that their mission was completely destroyed because Tryst had the Hand as well as the rest of the pieces of the Mold they had shut up.

She felt bad about their expressions of defeat, but all she could feel was the burning desire to make Dergeras pay for all his crimes.  Everything else was going to burn anyway; the High Forest, the ravaged villages she had seen with burned bodies piled high, the greed of the swamp folk, the wanton destruction of the Abyss seemed unstoppable.  The only thing she cared about was killing the one responsible.  Dergeras would feel the black steel of Shadowsliver pierce his heart or she would die trying.

“We’re here.”  She said, looking at her brothers.  “You don’t have to come in with me.  I bullied and shamed you into this and I’m not proud of that.  This fight is one I cannot back away from.”

“I’m with you sister.”  Cronos said, lifting his tired face and looking at her with determination.  “I wouldn’t have let you talk me into this if I didn’t know it was the right thing to do.  You are convincing when you’re right.”

“The only way to stop this from happening seems to be to cut the diseased plant off at the root.”  Vilhylm said, “As we have traveled these last five days I have seen the wisdom of your words, even if they were spoken with pain and passion instead of reason.”

“We can’t win.”  She said, “But we might make him lose.”

“This is our only chance.”  Vilhylm said, looking at the unmanned, broken walls.  “They can’t possibly think we would be this reckless.”

“Our sister’s inclination to rush headlong into danger is finally working out to our advantage.” Cronos said with a sardonic smile.

Normally his teasing would have made her smile or at least respond with a jibe of her own.  Callindra couldn’t bring herself to do either.  Instead she focused all of her attention on the goal, looking at the defenses and possible threats.  This keep was ancient and crumbling, the walls barely offering resistance at all now that nature had been slowly defeating them over centuries.  Beyond the walls, fires were burning, greasy black smoke reaching skyward in tall pillars undisturbed by any breeze.

“I’m going to check it out.  You wait here for my signal.”  She said, treading lightly up the slope without waiting for their assent.  Once she had reached her target; a place where a large section of the wall had fallen down, she slipped between large square blocks of basalt to peer beyond.

There were thousands of humanoid forms standing in a parody of a military camp.  None of them moved, there were no apparent guards posted and from what she could see the smoke was merely from fissures in the ground.  Out of those gaping wounds in the earth more bipedal figures emerged, each one with glittering emerald fire shining from eyes and mouth.  If they alerted these creatures to their presence it would be mere moments before they were overwhelmed, even if the abyssal creatures were as weak as newborn kittens.  Beyond the throngs stood a tumbled down structure that likely had been a keep or a cathedral; its sole remaining tower tilted drunkenly to one side.

Cursing silently under her breath, Callindra returned to where her brothers had waited.  She felt a momentary surge of pride that she was leading and they were following.  It was akin to the books she had treasured reading in Glarian’s tiny house while recovering from her shattered leg.  These were times when heroes would be made or destroyed.  She had no intention of being destroyed.

“I think I know where he will be.”  She said, experience had taught her that a whisper carried much further than simply lowering her voice.  Quickly, she described the scene she had witnessed.  “Beyond a few thousand thralls in what I believe is the ruins of Hellgate Keep itself.  In this case we can’t just charge in, but I think if we skirt around to the far side we can get access to the place while avoiding their notice.  They haven’t even posted guards.”

“I think they may be relying on senses other than their sight then.”  Vilhylm said, his voice tired.  “Who knows what kind of fiends are crawling into this world or what their abilities might be?”

“If they were that powerful, Dergeras would just use them as an army and destroy everything.”  Cronos said.  “We should be careful but not panic.  Not yet.”

“I’m going to circle around and try to get in without them seeing me.”  Callindra said, “Once we’re inside, we can bar the door if there is one.”  She stopped and looked at her brothers, taking a deep breath and letting it out.  “I don’t expect to get out alive.  This isn’t about stopping them all.  It isn’t about our mission or saving the world.  For me this is only about revenge.  Dergeras took the ones I love from me and I will not allow that to go unpunished.”

Focusing her mind, she brought a spell from the flat black blade of Shadowsliver.  Around her sound became muffled and indistinct.  “This will keep them from hearing us.”  She said, “Possibly from smelling us too; I have asked the Winds here to do my bidding.  If you are with me, keep close.”

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