The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 31

Durrak puffed on his cigar and sipped ale.  It was decent ale for a change, gotten in trade from a strange source.  A Matriarch who lived under the city named Ellen Eth had sent it along with a note and an address in the city.

‘Dear Battlemaster Caverstorm.  It would be my pleasure to make your acquaintance.  As a person of great influence in the Undercity of Starvale, I would like to invite you to come and visit.  We could use an individual of your talents to assist us in the defense of our assets.  I include a barrel of the finest Dwarven ale as a gesture of good faith.  Very truly yours, Ellen Eth.’

He let smoke trickle out of his nostrils as he considered the signature on the note.  It was full of flourishes and embellishments; quite different from the other writing.  This woman had taken the trouble to find a scribe to write her letter, even in these dire circumstances.  What kind of person would do that?

“I’d say someone who thinks very highly of herself.  That or someone who wants you to know she is rich.  Or possibly someone who is insane.”  Lorin said cheerfully from the doorway.  He closed the door to his private chamber softly.

Durrak snorted to hide his surprise; he hadn’t realized he was talking to himself.  “Do that be Dane?”  He gestured with his cigar, “You know I no do approve of you being seducing the girls.”

“Good thing for me your approval doesn’t mean all that much to me.”  Lorin said, smiling wider.  “Besides, she’s the one who slipped into my bed.  I couldn’t very well be rude and turn her away.  Would have crushed the poor girl’s spirit I’m sure.  Isn’t it a bit early in the morning for drink?”

“The honorable Ellen Eth did be sending me a gift.”  Durrak said through a cloud of cigar smoke.  “It would be most insulting not to be sampling it.”

The smile fled from Lorin’s face.  “Ellen Eth sent you a note?  What’s that scheming …” His voice trailed off and he looked carefully about the room, swallowed hard and dipped a mug of ale.  Taking a long drink, he licked his lips.  “What did she want?”

“She do wish to be meeting with me.”  Durrak said calmly, handing over the letter.

Lorin took it and scanned it quickly.  Sweat broke out on his forehead, and he took another swallow of ale before wiping it away.  “She’s trying to recruit you.”

“It do be seeming so.”  Durrak said, taking a lit cigar from his pouch and handing it to his friend.  “I no do be interested, but it do be rude not to be responding.”

“You can’t go meet her.”  Lorin said, accepting the cigar and taking drag; flinching at the green and gold sparks that burst from it like a Firstday firework.  “She’s dangerous.  If you don’t agree to her terms or to work with her she’ll kill you.”

“You do be knowing her?”  The Dwarf asked, refilling his mug and dropping the stub of his cigar back into the pouch.  “Do be telling me of her.  She do know her ale well.”

“She used to run the Welcomers.”  At Durrak’s blank look he blew a cloud of smoke out in exasperation, “The guild of the rogue in Starvale; and likely beyond also.  They orchestrated the removal of the Iron Fist’s leadership, undermining their organization until it was nothing but a shell.

“I’ve never met a more thorough and ruthless killer.  A mind like a bag full of cats with anger issues.”  The Elf shuddered.  “She approached someone I used to work with.  Asked him if he was interested in helping her with a problem.  He apparently declined because the next time I saw him he’d been flayed alive.”

“Hmmm.  She do sound to be a formidable individual.”  Durrak mused, taking another cigar from his pouch and filling the air with bright purple smoke.  “Could she be what the city do be needing?”

Lorin choked on his ale, “What?  NO!  Durrak, she’s insane and selfish.  She’d love to see the city burn if it increased her holdings. She’ll murder the weak so that she can feed her cadre of trained killers.”

“In that case, I do be needing to deal with her.”  Durrak said, “There no do be a point in helping people to escape if she do be as bad as the Taken.”

“You can’t.”  Lorin said, “She doesn’t fight fair; she’d swarm you with a hundred men just so a hundred archers could fill you full of poison arrows.”

“But if I do be ignoring her she do be taking offense.  Or she do be assuming that I do be refusing since I no do be showing up.”  Durrak folded his thick arms over his chest.  “I do be going.”

Cursing, Lorin downed the rest of his ale and produced a whetstone.  With quick, practiced motions he began sharpening first a knife and when he’d put a razor edge on it, he began working on arrowheads.

“You no do have to be coming.”  Durrak said, exhaling smoke to hide his smile.

“The hells I don’t.”  Lorin said, “If she gets you and I knew you were going Dane would never let me hear the end of it.”

“Ah.  We no can be having that can we?”  Durrak asked, taking a drink.

“Was that a joke?”  Lorin asked, “That was a joke!  Gods all bless, it’s a momentous day, the Dwarf made a joke!”

“I do be making jokes often.”  Durrak said, “The stupid Elf no do be understanding them.”

Lorin chuckled and went back to sharpening his arrowheads.

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