The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 5

A man of indeterminate middle years walked into the crowded common room of the Fox and Pullet.  Straightening his hat, he hung his cloak and bow on the hooks inside the door reserved for weapons.  The inn was tucked away in a small valley that seemed to be prospering despite the area that surrounded it being desolated by the fires and plagues that had affected so much of the world.

Just as the door closed behind him, Holt was startled as it was slammed open once again.  A travel worn trio entered, cloaks pulled tight against the rising wind.  The first was a slight figure with a long sword hilt protruding above her left shoulder.  She was closely followed by a young man in chainmaile armor with twin swords strapped to his back and a tall figure in a swirling dark cloak.

“Gods and Demons you’d better have something to drink in this place!”  The leader said, “I’m so dry I’d drink purple hippogriff!”

The hunter’s eyes widened as he took in her appearance.  The skin of her arms had a latticework of healed scars; most of them faded until they were barely visible lines.  The two and a half hand hilt of the sword was far too large to fit the size of the slender four foot long blade.  A delicate looking silver chain ran from the faceted pommel of the sword to a gleaming bracelet on her right wrist.

It was her eyes that caught and held him though.  Tempestuous seafoam green with a glitter of mischief and humor, although there were grief lines around them.  Far too many lines for one as young as she seemed to be.  The world wasn’t as kind as it had been when Holt was her age he supposed.

The innkeeper waved at the large man leaning casually against the wall and he stepped forward.  “Have to leave your weapons at the door.”  Torver said in his mild baritone, “Inn policy.  Makes for much more polite company.”

“As much as I would love to comply, as you can clearly see that isn’t an option for me.”  The girl said with a smile, lifting her right hand and shaking it.  The chain tinkled merrily.  “We are a little attached to one another.”

“I can fix that easily enough.”  Torver said, patting his wide bladed axe with a smile, “If you’d like me to I could take care of that problem for you.”

“Oh really?”  Her eyes glittered with amusement and a tinge of malice.  “A big strong man like you would help out a poor weak girl like myself?”

“I don’t wanna be responsible for damaging your weapon little one.”  He said, narrowing his eyes.  “I’ve seen this game before.”

“Let everyone witness!  If this gargantuan lump of muscles damages my Shadowsliver’s chain I will not hold him accountable for damages any more than he would hold me accountable if it was his axe instead that was broken.”  The girl said, her poorly cut reddish brown hair bristling like an angry cat’s as she addressed the bar.  The patrons were all paying attention; this was the first bit of sport they’d had in days.

Torver laughed, a booming roar of amusement.  “Done, and if I can’t cut the chain, I guess we have no choice but to allow you entry.”

The girl didn’t draw her sword, but instead laid her wrist on the bench, a heavy thing made of an oak log split lengthwise.  Torver’s laugh died and his mouth stayed open in astonishment.  “You’re not gonna put the blade down there?  What if I miss?”

“You think I’m going to risk damaging the wire wrap on the hilt?  You think I’m putting HIM in danger because of YOUR stupid rules?”  Her voice was genuinely indignant, “Or is it your own skill you doubt?”

“Callindra.”  The figure in the black cloak said in a low bass voice, “Keep a leash on your temper.  The man is just doing his job.”

“Or maybe it’s your skill with that ungainly monstrosity you doubt?”  Callindra continued, still glaring at Torver.

With a speed belied by his huge frame, Torver swung his axe in a whistling arc.  It slammed into the chain with a musical tinkling sound and tiny pieces of metal flew about the room, bouncing off walls and clattering against tankards.  Most of the people in the room burst out laughing and went back to their drinks.

“I hope that chain wasn’t important.”  The bouncer said with a sympathetic look and wrenched his axe out of the bench.  Half of the blade stayed embedded in the oak, a neat crack running from where it split over the tiny chain.  The room went from raucous laughter to stunned silence.

Callindra pulled the chain free from the crack in the wood and winced.  “Sorry.  I probably shouldn’t have goaded you into that.  I get unreasonable when I don’t have a bath or a drink for a week.”

Torver just stared at his broken weapon in disbelief.  “Gods and demons.  Who in the nine hells are you?”

“Thirsty.  We’re thirsty.”  Callindra said firmly, and moved past him towards the bar.  “Barkeep, if it makes you feel better you can keep him behind the bar.  But don’t you dare try and touch him.”  She withdrew the sword from where it was thrust beneath her armor with a practiced motion and wiped off the black steel with a practiced motion before setting the weapon carefully behind the bar with a rattle of chain.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”  The barkeep said faintly, placing a tankard, a bottle of wine and a jug of spirits on the bar.  “I didn’t know what your preference was Mistress.”

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