The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 25

“Thraingaar’s BALLS lass what do you be doing here?”  Durrak thundered, shaking the girl’s arm.  “I did nearly be splitting you in half you little fool!”

“Easy Durrak.”  Lorin said, gently removing the Dwarf’s thickly calloused hand from its grip.  “You’re shaking the teeth out of her head man.”

Durrak’s anger faded and he stalked to the pile of rubble, tossing huge chunks of stone aside with ease until he managed to unearth the haft of his dropped gisarme.  With a grunt of effort, he pulled the weapon free and turned back to see the girl looking at him with wide eyes.  Something about her seemed too calculating, but he dismissed the thought with a shake of his head.

“I do be sorry little one.”  He said, kneeling and looking her in the eyes.  “I do be Durrak.  What do you be doing here?  It do be dangerous.  Do you be having family we could be helping you find?”

“You talk funny.”  She said, looking at him suspiciously.  “Why you talk like that?”

“Because he’s a weird person.”  Lorin said with a smile.  “Now who are you and what are you doing out here all alone?”

Durrak pulled a cigar from his pouch and watched the girl carefully as he exhaled jet black smoke that faded to red as it dissipated.  Something didn’t seem right here.  She wasn’t scared.

“I’m here from the Lady Ellen Eth Orien, Mistress of the Undercity.”  The girl gave a little curtsey, spreading the ragged ends of her tattered dress.  “If it please the gentlemen, she would like to visit with you.”

Lorin and Durrak exchanged a glance.  One or two of the refugees had mentioned rumors about someone who had set up some kind of enclave below the city, but they’d never found anyone who could corroborate them.

“I do be honored by the Lady’s invitation.”  Durrak said with a bow, “When do be a good time to visit the Lady?”

“She awaits your pleasure Lord Caverstorm.” The girl said, grinning and giving another deeper curtsey.  “Although I think she would appreciate you and Lord Lorin cleaning the ick off your armor before you present yourselves.”

“I think that can be arranged.”  Lorin said, looking at his friend over the girl’s head.  “Why don’t you come and refresh yourself as well?  We have food and water in plenty.”

“If it is not too much trouble it would be greatly appreciated.”  She said, standing next to Lorin with an expectant look on her face.  When he offered her his arm her face lit up and she tucked her arm into the crook of his elbow and let him lead her away toward one of their lesser safe houses.

Lorin was being cautious and that was good.  There was much more to this child than met the eye.  Durrak had noticed that humans were often like that.  He fought away memories that threatened to rise up as he followed, motioning for the others to take up the rear.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 24

Durrak flicked the gore from his Gisarme’s blade with an abrupt snapping motion of his wrists and brought it back to a guard position.  The last of the Taken in the square had once been an ogre and its legs were as thick as his torso.  There were two score arrows stuck in its thick hide but they hadn’t seemed to even inconvenience the monster.

“I do be getting bored of this one Lorin.”  He said laconically.  “It do be big enough to be falling hard.”

Lorin laughed, used to his friend’s dry humor by now and sent a veritable storm of arrows flying at the monster’s head.  At the same time Durrak put his head down and ran forward.  He hooked the bill of his polearm around the Ogre’s hindmost knee and jerked forward at the same time he slammed his shoulder into its thigh just above the knee.

The impact jarred him, even through Bonecrusher’s Brace, and the monster got one strike in with a fist fully half the size of the Dwarf.  He grunted in pain, but didn’t lose his grip on the haft of his weapon and used the force of the blow to rip most of the way through the joint of the knee before the blade tore free.

Landing with more grace than most would expect from his stocky form, Durrak took two swift strides and used his weapon as a lever to vault.  Hitting the Ogre in the chest with both feet was enough to make it stumble and the weakened leg crumpled beneath the weight.  The impact of it striking the cobblestones rattled windows of nearby buildings.  One swift strike with the blade side of his Gisarme made sure it didn’t rise again.

“You’re mad.”  Lorin said, laughing again.  “I swear Durrak, you have a death wish.”

“I do be wishing the death of my enemies.”  He replied, taking a cigar from his pouch and puffing on it in satisfaction.  Looking at the destruction around them his expression sobered.  “They do be seeming to be getting closer.”

“I don’t think it’s anything we need to worry about.  It’s a big city, but there are just so bedamned many of the things they’re bound to find us eventually.”  Lorin shrugged, “You always manage to make short work of them regardless.”

“My luck no do be lasting forever.”  Durrak said through a cloud of light blue smoke.  “We do be needing to get the rest of the living out before it do be too late.”

“As luck may have it, we moved the last of the refugees out just yesterday.”  Lorin said, “Unless we’re waiting to be able to get into those and see if anyone is still, alive inside.”  He pointed to the multicolored spheres of magic that floated high above the city.

“We do need to be thinking about them.”  Durrak said through a cloud of silver smoke with blue swirls in it.  “If they do be needing help we do be the only ones who may be offering it.”

“When are you going to quit pretending you’re some kind of philanthropist?” Lorin asked, “Why are you really here?”

“I did be telling you when we first met.”  Durrak said, dropping the still burning stub of his cigar back into his cigar pouch.  “I do be looking for Cerioth.”

A pair of warriors cleaned and sheathed their swords, giving Durrak a respectful bow.  “Lord Caverstorm, the last two have been slain.”

Durrak grunted, not comfortable or interested in any of this ‘Lord’ business but accepting it as an expedient way of getting and keeping respect without having to beat it out of them every day.  Something caught his eye and he went from leaning at his ease on the staff of his polearm to leaping halfway across the square in two huge bounds, bringing the wicked edge of his gisarme down fast enough that it clove the air with a sharp whistle.

When he saw the target was a child, he redirected the blow with a savage wrenching of his arms, burying the Adamantine blade in the stone wall of the building instead of the child’s head.  The stone was sheared in half with an ear-splitting crash and Durrak barely managed to scoop the child back out of the way before the entire wall of the house came tumbling down.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 23

“I might be able to manage something.”  Cronos said, frowning slightly.  “It’s not my specialty, but I could possibly reverse one of my spells and create cold instead of fire.”

“If you could freeze the surface of the river, we could just run to the boat.”  Reed said excitedly, “How long would it last?”

“I have no idea.”  Cronos said uncertainly, “I’ve never tried it before.”

“If it works though, it would also incapacitate the creatures in the water, keeping them from raising any kind of alarm until we are long gone with our river boat.”  Callindra said, smiling at the thought. “I think it’s a good idea.”

“Give me a minute to focus.”  Cronos said, clearly uncomfortable with such an important task being his direct responsibility.

“Take all the time you need.”  She said, giving him a quick, fierce hug.  “I know you can do it.”

They sat in the darkness, listening to Cronos chanting a barely audible mantra.  After a quarter candlemark, he stood slowly and stretched.  “I think I am ready.”  He said, leading the way toward the river.  When they arrived, he incanted a spell in a low voice and a tiny ball of blue light began to gather in his palm.

After it had swelled to the size of an apple, he exhaled sharply and tossed it into the water.  At first nothing seemed to happen, but then the water in a rough sphere twenty paces wide became ice with a shockingly loud report of cracking ice.

“Run!”  Callindra said, even though the others were already on the move.  They slipped and slid over the surface of the smooth surface that was already melting in the summer’s heat.

To her intense surprise and relief, they reached the side of the dock and clambered up a ladder without falling and without anything trying to stop them.  Once they had gained the dock, a howl of hunger and rage went up from the shore and dozens of Taken immediately began running down the dock with reckless speed towards them.

Arrows began whistling over her shoulder to hammer into their foes, sometimes hitting hard enough to pierce through two, but it wasn’t enough to stop the rush.  Callindra whirled Shadowsliver and prepared herself for a last stand, but Reed darted forward and hurled something down hard on the dock in front of them.

With a roar, a sheet of flame hot enough to hurt her face erupted, rapidly consuming the worm eaten planks of the dock.  He grabbed her arm and tugged hard.  “Quit staring and RUN!”

“How did you do that?”  She asked, grinning at him as they leaped into the ship.

“Alchemist’s fire.”  He said with a mournful look on his face.  “It was the only vial of it I managed to pilfer.  Better to lose it than die I suppose.”

Behind them the Taken had run into the fire and fallen through the weakened planking.  Some tried to leap over the gap and a few even succeeded but they had already deployed the oars and boat was making its way into the current and downstream.  It was a narrow escape, and that thought sobered her as the euphoria of the night wore off.

“God’s balls.” She swore, “I left almost all my gear back in the inn.”