The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 37

“Your hair is still on fire.”  She commented, looking at Connor.  “What happened to your wand?  What’s wrong with it?  I’ve never seen something like that happen before.”

“I didn’t have the proper fireheart wood for the shaft and had to substitute a garnet for the ruby core.”  He said with a shrug, pulling up a leather hood that glistened wetly over his head to snuff the embers in his hair. “Sometimes it ah, misbehaves.”

Callindra stared at him in mute horror for a few moments.  What he’d just said wasn’t possible.  There were some things that just couldn’t be done.  “You can’t substitute things in an arcane creation.  That’s insane at best.  You’re lucky it didn’t explode and destroy the entire hilltop!”

“I can.  You can’t.”  Connor looked significantly at the mass destruction, obliterated bodies and some places where even the sand was melted into glass.

“Point taken.”  She said ruefully, “Seems to work, but it doesn’t seem to give you much control.”

“I only use this one when control isn’t necessary.”  He said, his honesty a bit shocking to her.  “I thought you were dead and everyone else was down.  Figured it was better to destroy everything rather than deal with the fallout.”

“Well, as long as you don’t do anything like that to me or mine again you’re welcome to travel with us.”  Callindra paused to give him a real once over, noting the travel worn but well maintained clothing he wore and the slightly too large pack on his back.  She got an unsettling feeling that he had managed to figure out a lot more about her than she had about him.

“I would welcome a bit of respite before I decide what direction to go next.  We were heading to Woodfordshire because someone heard a rumor that it was still free.”  Connor pushed up his goggles and raised a scorched eyebrow in question.

“It’s Cronosholt now.”  She said, unable to keep the pain of the memory from making her voice raw.  “We fought off a horde of Taken.  Most of us lived.  Some of the townsfolk did too, they’re rebuilding now.  I’m sure they would appreciate assistance from a traveling inventor.”

“I’m not interested in staying in a city that the Abyss broke its teeth on.”  He said, shaking his head.  “They’re not the type to just give in easily.  The only way to really survive is to avoid their notice.  Best way to do that is to kill any of them that see you and move before whatever is controlling them notices.”

“We’re moving, but we’re heading to Starvale.”  Callindra said in a flat voice.  “Our next destination is Daggerford though.  Did you pass through there?”

Connor’s face closed.  “I would prefer not to speak of it if at all possible.  I recommend against going there at all costs.  It is a place of death and despair.”

“You probably won’t want to travel with us then.”  Holt’s voice came from one side, and he stood from a depression that looked too small to hide a rabbit.  Connor started ever so slightly and had a wand in each hand before he’d begun to turn.

Callindra put a hand out to stop either of them from doing anything rash, but the tinkling of Shadowsliver’s chain caught Connor’s attention and he stood between the two, training a wand on each.  When neither of them made a threatening gesture, he shook his head and the wands vanished back up his sleeves.  She caught a glimpse of odd looking bracers with several wands latched onto each.

“Sorry.  Just edgy.”  He gave Holt a respectful nod, “Nobody has managed to sneak up on me in years.”

“Come to the fire and get something to eat.” Vilhylm said, but then gave Callindra a questioning look. “Unless you want to leave immediately?”

“Oh god and demons, the fire!  Reed!”  Callindra broke into a run, her injuries and fatigue evaporating in the heat of adrenaline.

When she broke through the bushes surrounding the low cook fire she almost ran onto the point of Alanna’s knife.  The girl was white and shaking and standing over Reed’s bleeding body.  Four Taken were weakly thrashing around her and despite her obvious fear and terror, the firm set of her jaw showed more determination and grit than Callindra would have given her credit for.

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