The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 8

“My apologies.”  He said, “I am merely communicating what my goddess revealed to me.  My name is Kain.  I am a disciple of Iilimin.  She revealed to me the light when I was surrounded by naught but darkness.”  As Kain spoke the name of his goddess, a gentle white light briefly shone from him.  Each person who stood close to him felt a blanket of peace fall over their being and watched as their wounds slowly closed.

Callindra was shaking; her façade of calm control breaking.  “I thought.  I hoped that we were wrong about Jorda.  I just…”  She wiped a hand across her eyes and took a shuddering breath.  Cronos put his hand on her left shoulder and Vilhylm put his on her right.  With effort she brought her self-control back.

“We need to get moving.”  She said, “I’m sure that Taken going missing didn’t go unnoticed and they usually don’t travel alone.  Kain, you’re welcome to travel with us.  For now.”

“What about the rest of us?”  A woman in a chainmaile shirt with a round shield and a large bearded ax said.  “You just going to let us fend for ourselves?  We’re just supposed to be bait while you escape?”

“I saved you once.”  Callindra said, “What more do you want from me?”

“Lead us.”  She said, “With your skills and abilities how could the Taken stand against us?”

“I’m not a leader.  I can barely keep myself alive, how do you expect me to lead all of you?”  Callindra shook her head.  “You’re better off on your own.  I’ve failed before and had the consequences reached beyond anything you could imagine.”

The room seemed to darken and wind began to fitfully tug at the hem of her cloak.  “I’m dangerous to those around me.  I can’t turn my brothers away, I owe Holt my life and Kain might be my only chance to redeem myself in the face of the gods.  The last time a goddess trusted me she died.  You don’t want to be nearby the next time I mess up.”

She turned and strode from the inn, past the wreckage of the common room and out into the incongruously cheery day.  Rank upon rank of perfectly still Taken humans stood staring blankly with glittering emerald eyes.

“Don’t move.”  Cronos whispered, “They don’t seem to have seen us yet.”

“Get back inside.”  She said in a level voice, “We need to find a back door.”

The closest Taken swiveled their heads to look at her and they began to run.  Not like living creatures, but with wild abandon, moving faster and faster to the sound of popping tendons and breaking bones.  They saw with horror that even though some had shattered their legs with the force of their speed they kept running faster.

They slammed and bolted the door just before the first Taken hit it hard enough to splinter the wood.  “Run!”  Callindra and Cronos shouted together, pushing back through the confused crowd of people still fighting off the grogginess of the drugs.  “They’re coming, RUN you idiots!”

The shattering impacts on the door and walls continued, splatters of blood and worse leaking through the cracks.  Splinters of bone jabbed through, broken femurs and ribs driven through from the force of the creatures smashing into the wood.  With a shriek of protesting wood, the door gave way and one of the Taken tumbled into the room, body half destroyed but still moving fast despite being mostly broken.

Callindra stopped trying to push her way through and turned to unleash a blast of wind from the twin tips of her blades that blew tables, chairs and broken pieces of Taken back out the door.  “I will hold them.”  She said, voice deadly calm.

“No!”  The woman in chainmaile said, standing next to her with shield raised.  “You go.  I’ll keep them off your back.”  She grunted in effort as she deflected a thrown Taken skull.  “Just swear to me that you’ll take them with you.”

Without waiting for a response, she shouted a wordless battle cry and planted herself in the doorway.  The sounds of horrible and deadly impact drove everyone else on, slamming doors behind them as they ran through the Inn.

Callindra tried to take up the rear, but the others shoved her to the front shouting that she needed to lead them out of the inn.  One by one, the folk behind her fell to horrible fates as the recklessly fast suicidal Taken ran through the halls after them.

Forcing herself to focus, she ran to the last room.  The wall was solid without a single window.  “Vil, break it down!”  She yelled, “You, you and you, move these crates in front of the door.  Holt put an arrow through anything that tries to break through.”

The others scrambled to do her bidding as Vilhylm put a wooden mask on his face, becoming his familiar hulking form.  Thick claws began tearing through the wooden wall even as Taken runners smashed their feeble defense into kindling.  Arrows flickered past her shoulder faster than she could have thought possible, bringing a brief reprieve in the attack.

Vilhylm broke through the back wall and all but vanished under a scrabbling mass of Taken.  With a roar of rage he began flinging them off and three of the remaining prisoners ran to his aid.  Cronos leaped through the hole in the wall, twin Bastard swords swinging and Callindra saw the last of the men holding the door fall with a shattered arm bone punched all the way through his skull.

With a sob of anger and fear, she shoved Holt out of the hole grabbed Kain by the back of his robe and dragged him behind her.  The half orc priest was gripping his holy symbol and chanting as they went.  A glow of light emanated from him, briefly repelling the Taken who were pouring into the room.

Callindra began spinning Shadowsliver in an intricate set of arcs, drawing on the Weave with all her will.  “Down!”  She shouted, and wind roared around her and she thrust her blade high as twin bolts of lightning leaped from the sky to her sword’s tips and splintering into dozens of scintillating lances that incinerated the Taken.  Lightning burned through them, leaping from one to another, blasting each one into shivering bits.

“Maybe I should have tried that first.”  She said, her voice a rough whisper.  Then she looked around and saw her brothers, Kain and Holt picking themselves up from the ground.  The rescued prisoners hadn’t been fast enough.  Their bodies lay among the Taken, burned and broken.

“I tried to warn you.”  She rasped, barely able to push back the wave of despair that threatened to wash her away.  She didn’t even have the energy to cry, the spell had cored her like an apple.

“Come on sister.”  Cronos got under one arm and Holt under the other and together they helped her to walk until she got her feet underneath herself.  Together they fled from the inn, leaving the dead behind.

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