The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 28

They all wrapped cloths damp from Kain’s rainstorm around their faces and followed Callindra as she led the way more cautiously through the streets.  The blessed water that had soaked into their clothes lessened the heat dramatically and more than once saved them from what would otherwise have been deadly burns.

In the next candlemark, they managed to find several knots of civilians trapped by Taken in blind alleys and after a brief fight send the people back to the river.  A few more soldiers began to follow them even though Callindra had suggested that they guard the people by the river instead.  It seemed these townsfolk didn’t trust outsiders very much.

“I just want to take one last look.”  Callindra said, frowning at the flames that had now nearly completely engulfed the city.  “We haven’t gone all the way to the north east side yet.  One of the soldiers told me there was a school there and I want to make sure no children are still waiting for someone to rescue them.”

Her companions looked as exhausted as she felt, but she wasn’t ready to stop.  “I don’t think it’s a good idea sister.”  Cronos said, echoing her thoughts. “You’re dead on your feet and so are we.”

“Just one more.”  She said, hearing the hard edge of command come into her voice.  Cronos’s eyes narrowed slightly at her tone, but he gave her a curt nod.

“One more.  Then I’m sitting on you if you try to drag us back in there.”  He said, folding his arms over his chest.

“Fine.”  She said, adjusting her armor and noting with surprise that there was a huge slash that cut all the way through one of her greaves, rendering it all but useless.  She shook her head in disgust and unbuckled it and put it in her pack just in case she could repair it later.

They went back through the streets, swiftly dispatching a few aimlessly roaming Taken along the way.  As they turned down a side street, Callindra could clearly hear children crying.  She passed her hand over Shadowsliver’s blade and commanded the Winds to bring the sound closer to her.  The sounds firmed a decision for her and she turned to her companions.

“Do you hear that?  I KNEW there were children in danger here!”  Without waiting for a response, she turned to run toward where she could hear the crying.

“Wait you impulsive fool!”  Cronos yelled after her, but instead of slowing she ran faster.

When she vaulted over a low wall into a courtyard the flames had not yet calmed she realized her mistake.  The wall was solidly at her back, but before her were a dozen misshapen monsters with long arms tipped with claws that resembled fish hooks.  A pitiful sobbing sound was coming from their throats.  She had been tricked.

Whirling Shadowsliver in a complex arc, she cut left and right, injuring the two monsters who were closest to her but knowing it was hopeless if she couldn’t escape.  Callindra tried to blast the three on her left with a spell, but when she began to summon the Weave, the creatures on her right attacked.  Although she managed to dodge most of their strikes, the pain of the injuries left by their terrible hooked claws ruined her concentration and the magic vanished in a harmless gust of wind that blew a plume of dust into the air.

Sweat and tears of pain threatened to blind her, but she grimly kept dodging, blocking and making ripostes when she could.  One such cut severed a tendon and felled an opponent, but there were still eleven of them and she was beginning to succumb to exhaustion.

With a shout, Cronos landed in the midst of her enemies like a thunderbolt.  When his boots hit the cobblestones, a deafening concussion radiated out from him, flinging the creatures to all sides.  The blast knocked Callindra backward, her head rebounding off the wooden wall behind her and momentarily stunning her.

All she could do was watch as Cronos fought like a steel dervish.  His blades were an extension of his arms and where they struck, they left great wounds and removed limbs.  Callindra tried to shake off her daze as her brother fought like she had never seen anyone fight before.

“Get OUT of here!”  He screamed in frustration and to her surprise, in fear.

The fear in her brother’s voice cleared the fog from her head and Callindra dove forward into the fight, dodging one attack and parrying another with a vicious cut that took the attackers paw off at the wrist.  Her back touched his and they fought together like only a brother and sister could.

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The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 27

Breathing heavily, she raised her head just enough to look down the alley at the group of warriors.  “Apologies for the bad first impression.”  She said, “We’re here to send these things back to the Abyss where they belong.”

“Just.  Stay away.”  One of the men said, leveling his sword at her.  “We don’t want trouble.”

“Hey, we just saved your asses you ingrates!”  Reed shouted, “Show a little respect.”

“Respect is earned Reed.”  Callindra said, frowning at him.  “We may have killed these few Taken, but I very nearly…”  She shook her head, “We’re going to take these things apart.  I don’t need their adulation or respect to do it.  I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”

A roar shook the buildings and Callindra didn’t hesitate.  Flourishing her jet-black blade and making his chain flash in concert with the whistle of his twin tips she ran towards the danger, rage still boiling in her veins.  When they rounded the corner the crackle and smell of burning buildings washed over them.  A humanoid perhaps eight feet tall had cornered a group of unarmed townsfolk, but it wasn’t the size that was intimidating.  It was wreathed in green and black flames that twisted about its entire body like a living thing.

“We have to take it down before it gets to them.”  Callindra panted, the head of the flames and her exertion making her breath come in short gasps.  “I’ll distract it and dodge out before it can hit me.  Holt, you hit it with arrows.  Cronos, if you have any water or ice to throw do it.  Kain, just be ready to heal me if it all goes to hell.  Vilhylm, if you can distract it or deflect it from turning directly on us do it.”

“I have something that could be helpful.”  Kain said, frowning in concentration.  “It will take me some time to prepare the working however.  If you can manage to keep it off them?”

Callindra ran forward, coaxing a spell from her blade and firing a single streak of bright blue lightning that lanced into the monster’s back.  She was afraid to use wind in case it fanned the flames hot enough to make approaching the creature at all impossible.

Arrows flashed over her shoulder only to burst into flame before touching the creature, the steel of their heads hitting with a splat of melting steel instead of punching through its hide.  A lance of ice came down from above, sublimating to steam without touching the monster.  They had its attention though, it turned and walked toward Callindra as though on a casual stroll.  The cobblestones beneath its feet began to bubble and melt as the heat around it grew more intense.

“Down!”  Vilhylm shouted and she leaped flat even though she had been running full speed forward.  A cobblestone sailed over her head, swiftly followed by another larger one.  The first missed the creature, but the second hit it squarely in the face.  The stone immediately began to melt and the thing stopped to scrape the molten rock out of its eyes before continuing to move towards Callindra.

She rolled backward to her feet, frantically trying to think of anything she could do to stop its advance.  The heat was so intense that she could feel her skin begin to blister.  Instinctively, she tapped the slightest bit of Weave and sent a blast of wind to blow the heat back.  The effect was immediate and devastating, the monster burst into white hot flame that immediately set the very stones beneath its feet on fire.

Callindra tried to scream, but the air was being torn from her lungs.  Behind the monster, the buildings exploded into ash and beyond them the flames spread.  The creature perished in its own flames and the city became a firestorm.

Kain stood from his meditation and held his palms to the sky.  The heat of the flames all around him seemed not to touch him.  Out of the cloudless sky rain began to fall in a relatively small area, only covering the small courtyard they were in, but it instantly snuffed the flames and cooled the burns on their skin.  Even the still smoldering remains of the Taken monster went out without so much as sputtering.

When the rain stopped after a few moments Kain looked drained and wan, but his ugly tusked face shone with beatific happiness.  “My Mistress shines with rightness and goodness.  Her light banishes the darkness.”

“Thank you.”  Callindra said, looking at the charred square with awe.  She swept a finger through the ashes and smudged some under each eye and pointed at the raging inferno that was burning through the town. “I am responsible for that.  My impulsive mistake is going to destroy hundreds of lives unless we help these folk escape.  Thanks to your goddess’s grace I have a chance to save some of them.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 26

Ahead of them, the town of Woodfordshire was burning.  Callindra could hear the screams of people and the clash of steel on steel and bone over the roar of the flames and a flame of rage had begun to burn within her breast.  She had seen enough of people being slaughtered.

“We are going to get in there, save as may of those people as we can and put an end to the Spawn of the Abyss that are causing this destruction.”  She pointed to a small beach on the river bank.  “Land there, we don’t want to risk the boat.”

With grim determination, they checked their weapons and armor once on shore.  Callindra hadn’t seen them this focused in a long time if ever.  They’d seen what the results of a town being overrun by Taken was a few days earlier.  None of them were soon to forget or forgive the destruction of so many, even though the townsfolk hadn’t all been friendly.

“Let’s make this fast and hard.  Hit anything Taken that’s in the way but focus on anything that is attacking humans.  I’m leading, Holt and Kain you flank, Reed you’re behind me as lookout.  Cronos, rear guard and damage control is on you, I’m counting on you to keep us from getting swarmed or pinned down by anything big.”

She looked at them all to see their nods of confirmation before calling on the Winds and Weave to speed her sword arm.  They moved through the outskirts of the town at a swift trot, keeping their eyes moving.

“Ware high.”  Reed said in a tense voice.  Two arrows flashed from Holt’s bow almost before Reed finished speaking, punching through the skulls of two Taken humans standing on rooftops.

They rounded a corner and saw a mob of Taken humans, animals and monsters attacking a group of warriors who were guarding the entrance to an alley.  Callindra broke into a run and slammed into the rear of the Taken, cutting two of them down with a slash to the left and right.  She was dimly aware of her companions attacking behind her but her focus was on the monsters ahead.

With a shout of anger, she swung Shadowsliver in a broad sweeping arc and released a raw blast of wind focused into tiny whirling blades that exploded into their midst.  Her spell severed limbs and carved great holes in flesh and she kept running, dodging a sword thrust.  The anger she felt at these THINGS for the atrocities they had committed against the living had reached a critical breaking point.

Three monsters that might have once been bears converged on her, reaching with wickedly curved claws.  She ducked one, parried a blow from another with a strike that split the creature’s paw to the wrist.  The third one caught her across the stomach, ripping through the tough leather of her armor and scoring the flesh beneath.

She snarled in fury, spinning to disembowel the one that hit her.  Her follow up strike took it up under the jaw as it slumped forward and punched through the top of its skull.  Callindra danced sideways, whipping Shadowsliver out of the falling monster.  The motion caused it to land in the path of the second, giving her time to dispatch the first with a slash that nearly removed its head from its body.

A rumble of thunder from above made everyone but her momentarily stop and look up.  She raised Shadowsliver over her head and a bolt of lightning lanced down into his twin tips.  She pointed five splayed fingers at the enemies on her right and scintillating bolts flashed out at her enemies, burning them to charred and smoldering flesh.

Callindra turned to the remaining foes, electricity crackling over her skin and making her hair stand on end.  They would pay for this.  She would send them back to the Abyss.  Lowering her blade, she prepared to unleash her fury on them but a ringing slap to her face made her blink in surprise.

She realized Vilhylm was shouting at her.  Looking around, she saw dead chopped and burned Taken all around them.  Her brother had narrowly stopped her from blasting the soldiers they’d been trying to protect into oblivion.  The Weave still seethed through her, demanding release.  With a curse she grounded Shadowsliver, the heat of the discharge turning the sand under her feet to glass for a pace in every direction.