The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 44

Callindra took her hand and used the other woman’s strength more than she had anticipated to get to her feet, feeling a shiver run through her body at the name.  “That sounds bad, makes me feel all creepy.”

“As it should.  Your mission to find these artifacts must not be slowed Callindra.   It is of the utmost importance that you find the pieces and assemble the Avatar.”  Ellyn said.  “The Trickster’s Pipe will assist, where are you going next?”

“Oh, we’re well supplied.”  Callindra said, “From the shop I kinda destroyed.”

“We will bring you to your next destination.”  Ellyn said easily.  “The Trickster’s Pipe isn’t what it seems.”

“Well, to be honest we weren’t heading for the next artifact.”  Callindra said, “We were going to go find the smith who forged my blade.  So he could remake Brightfang.”

“Oh.”  Ellyn said, nodding in understanding.  “Well, I suppose you need to be able to fight to the best of your ability if you’re going to be able to stand against the forces of darkness?  Where exactly is this smith then?”

“North if my memory serves.  I was a little distracted when I saw it last.”  Callindra sheathed her sword and shrugged, “It’s in a volcano on a glacier though.  Can’t be that many of them right?”

“He has trouble near the glaciers.  She said with a frown.  “The extreme cold and ice makes travel difficult, but I can get you close.”

“Any help you can give us is more than we had before.”  Callindra said with a grateful smile.  “Maybe you can teach me more about sparring?  I’m always eager to learn a new technique.”

“Tomorrow perhaps youngling; I’m not up to two bouts like that in one day.”  Ellyn laughed, “Come on Callindra, let’s go take a bath and wash the sweat off.”

“Oh absent gods yes!”  Callindra said, feeling her smile widen.  “It is so refreshing to be in the company of someone who doesn’t mock my desire not to be a sweaty mess.”

“Follow me, dear.  You won’t be disappointed in the baths here.”

“Cardorzada!” Belladin called from the doorway of their house, holding back Noranna, their eldest daughter with one hand and gesturing with a basket laden with food in the other. “You’ve forgotten your midday meal!”

Durrak turned from where he was hooking up the wagon to Tuk’s harness with a wide grin, “I’d forget my own head were it not for you my heart.”  Noranna broke free and ran to him squealing for another kiss goodbye.  Dia, their youngest was thankfully down for a nap.  If she’d begged him to stay he would have been hard pressed to resist and she most certainly would have.

Belladin brought the basket and placed it carefully under the cart’s seat while he was covering Noranna’s face with kisses and promising that he’d only be gone for a fortnight.  With this trade completed, he’d be sure to make enough to buy provisions that would last all through the winter.  Durrak gave his wife a deep and lasting kiss, then patted the slight swelling of her belly with a foolish grin.  He hoped their third child would be a boy, but he would love another girl as much.

“Leave now my darling.  The sooner you go, the sooner we can celebrate your return.”

He checked the three chests of intricately carved jewelry to ensure they were secure and swung himself onto the seat.  He hated to go but it really was only for a fortnight.  With the gold this trading journey would yield, he would surely have enough to repair the roof before winter with enough left over to give the children something fun and perhaps some fresh and interesting spices for his sweet Belladin.

With a smile on his face and a song in his heart, Durrak set out on his way.

A candlemark later, they met in the common room again.  Jamison was serving pints of ale and the others were pouring over maps.  They looked up when the two entered.

“We’re packing it in.”  Ellyn said, “These youngsters need a lift and we’re going to give it to them.”

“You aren’t thinking about heading to the glacier are you?”  Driffen asked, raising his eyebrows.  “We’ve had trouble with – ah – certain folk in the past.”

“We ain’t gonna get within a day’s flight of Magera.”  Ellyn snapped, “I’m not crack brained enough to risk that much.”

“Oh.  Well.  Good to know.”  Driffen said sarcastically, “Here I was afraid you were gonna take an unnecessary risk.”

“A risk yes.”  Ellyn said, giving him a significant look.  “But not an unnecessary one.”

“What?”  Driffen asked, and then his eyes widened.  “Oh.  Are you … Ellyn are you sure?”

“If she says she’s sure.  She is sure.”  Horus said, his voice flat.  “That is all.”

“Right.  I’m sure that’s right.”  Driffen said, averting his gaze.  “We’re packing it up.  Time to go.  The Mistress of the Pipe has commanded it.”

Ginny frowned, following the exchange.  “We have another couple of leads to follow up on here.”  She said, and then seemed to figure something out. “But debts need to be paid first of course.”

“Debts?”  Tryst said, smiling at her.  “If anything we are in your debt.”

“Agreed.”  Callindra said, looking between them with a confused look on her face.  “What could you owe us?”

“Not a debt to you exactly.  It’s a long story.”  Ellyn said, “I’ll just say we owe Jorda, and you’re doing something for her.  This should balance the scales a little bit, but if not at least we have tried.  Enough, if you accept our gift of transport I will hear no more of it.”

“How are you going to get us there?”  Cronos asks, raising an eyebrow.  “What do you mean by ‘packing it in’ exactly?”

“My Trickster’s Pipe has well earned his name.”  Ellyn said with a mischievous smile.  “Keep your seat and drink your ale.  We depart now.”

Callindra sat next to her brothers and accepted a tankard from a smiling Jamison.  Ellyn drew an iron rod from her belt and shook it.  The heads of tiny keys erupted from all sides of it in a forest of bristling points.  Walking behind the bar, she opened a tiny door and thrust the rod into it, twisting and turning it a dozen times as she inserted it until it clicked completely home.

A hum of pure arcane power rippled throughout the room and it began to move ever so slightly.  It was so subtle that at first they didn’t notice it, but then the room tilted far enough to one side that it became obvious and Vilhylm moved to look out the window.

“We’re moving.”  He said, “What kind of thing is this?”

“My Trickster’s Pipe is my home, my place and my sanctuary.  It changes to fit my needs.”  Ellyn says, her voice reflecting her concentration.  “And right now I need to travel.”

Advertisements

A World Lost: Current Events in the City of Einn Boer

More setting the scene for a new Dungeons and Dragons game I’m going to be running soon.

Hedveig stood at the ancient rusted doorway and tried to stay awake.  The Great Gate hadn’t been opened in his lifetime or his father’s lifetime.  The rust scale on it was so thick he doubted the iron portal would even swing on its hinges anymore, even if someone did try to open it.  It was an important duty for the síðr vorðr; the Long Guard though; they had stood there for centuries, barring the way to any who would dare try and intrude on Einn Boer.

He stretched, feeling his joints crack and listening to the odd echo they made inside his armor.  As the old warrior settled back into his parade rest stance, heard the echo again.  It was coming from behind him, but was not coming from inside his armor.  Hedveig removed his helmet and put his ear to the door and he could hear a tapping sound plain as if someone had been tapping on his helmeted head.

Something was out there.  Something was trying to get in.  Hedveig pulled his long copper and bone horn from his belt and blew three measured blasts followed by two quick ones.  He continued the summons, watching for one of his fellow guardians to approach, the noise deafening him to the sounds coming from the great gate behind him.  He never heard the intruder.

When the runner arrived breathless and wild eyed, he found Hedveig laughing and joking.  Grudgingly, he admitted that his senior Guardsman had pulled one over on him and saw the humor in it.

“It’s not like you to pull something like this Hedveig.”  Reklar grumbled, giving him a wry smile, “What’s the occasion for you developing a sense of humor?”

“It’s the anniversary isn’t it?”  Hedveig said with another chuckle.  “Seven hundred years.  That’s long enough for even the memories of the less mortal races fade.

“Well, yes of course.  The festival is tomorrow.  Are you taking Bellia?”

“Probably.”  Hedveig smoothed his moustache, “You had better get back to your post.”

“Yes sir, right you are sir.”  Reklar said, snapping a smart salute.  The junior Guardsman retreated, his thoughts troubled.  Hedveig had not been acting like himself at all, and had in fact volunteered for guard duty during the festival.  For him to joke, for him to even smile on duty was unheard of.  Perhaps the old bastard had finally loosened up; but Reklar doubted it.

Lady Taryn Vaknair Torben the Third looked out over her city, feeling a glow of satisfaction despite the worry that gnawed at her.  The magic was faltering and nothing she or the Elders had tried seemed to be working.  All the symptoms pointed to the city’s Godheart dying and there didn’t seem to be any way of stopping it.

Below her balcony, the citizens gathered for the sesquicentennial, the seven hundredth anniversary of their retreat into Einn Boer.  The lights of their magic twinkled merrily as they danced, laughed, ate and drank.  They had no idea of what was truly happening, and it was imperative that they remain ignorant of it.  Order was an illusion only barely maintained by the thoughts of the people and she was well aware of that fact.

“My Lady, will you be attending the opening ceremonies?”  Londrak, her personal valet, lover, confidant and spymaster asked from the door.

“Of course I will.  You wouldn’t allow otherwise.”  She said, her voice distant.  “I am troubled Lon.  These developments and our lack of ability to remedy them frighten me.”

“The defenses are strong My Lady.”  He was holding a stylish jacket for her.  The newest fashion of ladies wearing jackets and trousers was a bit disconcerting to her at first, but sometimes it was most liberating.  When she was feeling vulnerable though, she needed the familiarity of her corset and skirts.

“Not tonight Lon.  I will wear my peach and cream gown, this being a formal occasion.”  She waved him off, “Now go away and fetch Droga.  Unless you wish to help me dress?”

Londrak grinned wolfishly, “I would be glad to help, but it seems putting these contraptions on is more difficult than removing them My Lady.  I will send her in.”

Gray crouched on an intricately carved gargoyle three stories above a square crowded with revelers.  He wasn’t so much looking for specific marks as he was watching for trends.  If enough well-off individuals were present and if they were intoxicated sufficiently he would send in the Greylings to do their business.  It was up to him to keep an eye on the ebb and flow of the crowd and choose the right time to strike.

The slightest scrape of boot on roof tile made him shift to the left.   Not enough to betray that he’d heard the noise, but just enough to give him a good throwing angle for his blades if he needed it.  Another sound identified the person attempting to sneak up on him.  He relaxed; it was only Lithia.  He could tell by the slight limp she had from a poorly healed broken ankle.

“I instructed you all to wait for my signal Lithia.”  He said in a low voice that wouldn’t carry beyond a few paces.

“Gray, we have a problem.”  She replied, not moving from the shadow of a nearby gable. “Someone has been poaching, and they’ve botched the job.”

He cursed silently to himself, “Show me.”  The last thing they needed was the Long Guard thinking his Greylings had been responsible for a murder.  They were thieves certainly and while they didn’t shrink from killing when necessary it was considered quite gauche, not to mention getting unwanted attention from Longshanks often led to someone having to be sacrificed.  Someone expendable usually, but that didn’t lessen the blow to his pride.

They slipped silently from the rooftop, shimmying down one of the building’s many carved pillars.  Homeowner’s vanity made these kinds of things easy.  The corpse wasn’t far away and it was strange.  A single circular hole in the back of the head was the only sign that any harm had come to the body.  No blood even leaked from it to stain the crisply ironed Long Guard uniform.

While he was investigating it, the body dissolved into dust.  Gray blinked in surprise, staring at the pile of dust that glowed with a slight greenish sheen.  “Well, at least we need not worry about disposing of the corpse.”  Gray muttered, “I don’t like it Greylings.  We’re leaving.  Someone get a sample of that for the Underman.”

When nobody moved, Gray spat to the side and pulled out a vial.  Scraping up a bit of the dust, he stoppered the vial and carefully placed it into his padded pouch.  “Come on you superstitious slugs, let’s get otta here before the shit starts flying.”

They slipped into the shadows, vanishing into the night, but not out of sight of a pair of glittering green eyes that watched from the windowsill.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 43

“You aren’t telling me everything.”  Callindra said, “How about we make a bet?  If I beat you then you have to tell me what you’re hiding.”

Ellyn’s smile came back and she laughed, “If you beat me I won’t be able to tell you anything.  Because the day you beat me I’ll be dead!”

“We’ll see about that!”  Callindra said, springing to her feet and drawing Brightfang from his sheath.  “Let’s go!”

A candlemark later, Callindra finally fell and couldn’t force herself to rise.  She was simply and utterly exhausted.  Although a dozen cuts were healing with tiny tendrils of Brightstar vines and a dozen more had already healed, Ellyn was unmarked.  The woman fought with a pair of narrow blades, shorter than swords but longer than daggers and she wielded them with a brutal and ruthless efficiency.  Despite her age, she moved like nothing Callindra had ever seen.  Not since Glarian.

She lay there, trying to slow her breathing and feeling the sting of Jorda’s gift as it stitched her cuts together.  Although she wanted to talk, to ask Ellyn questions, to try and understand how she had been so hopelessly outclassed, it was all she could do to keep from losing consciousness due to sheer overexertion.

“You fight just like he did.”  Ellyn said with a smile, “You don’t hold anything back.  As much as I admire that, it isn’t a good way to fight.  As you can see, when your enemies use your enthusiasm against you it’s only a matter of time before you are defeated.”

“Almost.  Had.  You.”  Callindra managed.

“Oh, I’ll admit that you’d have done a serious amount of damage if you had managed to hit me.”  Ellyn said, “But that wasn’t the exercise here was it?  We were sparring you silly girl, this wasn’t a battle.  You spent all your energy trying for a kill stroke and completely ignored dozens if not hundreds of chances to get a touch.

“I’m guessing you’ve never sparred before.  Not really sparred anyway.”  She tucked a slightly sweaty strand of hair behind one of her ears.  “This isn’t supposed to be life and death, it’s a chance to improve your skills by testing them against someone else’s.”

“If that was the… case…”  Callindra panted, “Why did you… have to… cut me?”

Ellyn smiled, “Because you fought with all your spirit little one.”  She said gently, “It was all I could do to keep your blade from touching me, and not all of us have the strength and resilience of youth.  Or those… peculiar gifts you seem to have.  Tell me, where did you find such an exquisite item?”

“Jorda gave it to me.”  Callindra said, finally managing to get her breathing under control by relaxing fully against the reed mats on the floor.

“Jorda?  The Goddess?”  Ellyn asked, raising an eyebrow.  “You’ve been to The Grandfather Tree?”

“Oh yeah.  Just about burned it down.”  She said, trying to make her tone light but feeling the bitterness twist her words.

“I’ve heard about the fire.”  Ellyn said softly, “I had hoped it was just a rumor.”

Callindra found herself telling the woman everything.  How they had moved from one place to another, always seeming to be one step behind.  How it felt like for every good deed they tried to accomplish, two worse things seemed to happen.  About how she had been kidnapped and tortured. How she had lashed out after, trying to be stronger, to be harder and faster.  Worst of all, how Brightfang had begun to bear the effects of her fear and anger.

“When we brought that evil into the High Forest.”  She said, “When we were just trying to help a woman… and then she tore her own throat out, summoned a demon from her blood and set fire to everything…”  Callindra’s voice trailed off and she was surprised to find tears on her cheeks.

“I have been through much in my life.”  Ellyn said, looking at her with sympathy on her face, “But never so much all at once at such a young age.”  She reached out a hand to Callindra, “We have long been searching for the answers to questions regarding Dergeras.  And his master, a being we only know as Morde.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 42

Without waiting for another invitation, she sat down and set to filling her plate.  “You said this is ‘The Trickster’s Pipe’ didn’t you?  What does that mean?”

“The Pipe is what it is.”  Driffen said, giving her an annoyed look.  “Nothing less.”

“Right, like how when I walked down four stairs, I traveled nearly twelve feet right?”  Callindra said, taking a bite out of a rosy skinned apple.  “I forget what it’s called… an extra-something space right?  This whole building is just made of magic isn’t it?  No wood or stone, just Weave that’s forced into shape based on the will of the one who controls it?”

Tryst and Vilhylm looked at her with puzzled expressions, but Cronos nodded slowly as he looked around.  “Amazing that I didn’t notice it before.”  He said, “Now that you mention it, I can see what you mean.  It’s not … really there is it?”

“Oh, it’s solid enough boy.”  A soft voice came from behind Callindra and she spun to see the woman from the day before.  “This is my place.  You’re welcome here because I happen to know your companion, or more importantly the man who trained her.”

“I have to thank you Ellyn.”  Callindra said, touching Brightfang’s hilt and bowing from the waist until her body was bent at a right angle.  “Your swift and prudent action saved my life and likely my friends as well.  When I had lost control you brought me back.  I am in your debt.”

“I’ll remember that Callindra.”  Ellyn said with a wicked grin, “I don’t forget debts.”

“Neither do I.”  Callindra responded, looking her in the eye.  To her surprise, the other woman looked away first.

“Good.  I like guests with integrity.”  Ellyn said, “Sate your hunger and then meet me in the practice room.  I’m sure Jamison can tell you where it is.”  She turned and strode from the room.

“Well.  Where can I find the practice room?”  Callindra asked with a hesitant look around the table.

“You’re not serious are ya girl?”  Driffen asked, looking at her with his rheumy eyed gaze.  “She’s not known for restraint.”

Callindra set her mug of light ale down and started to laugh.  “That’s wonderful, exactly what I need to warm up in the morning.  Where is that practice room?”

“I’ll show you.”  Horus said, “That way I can intervene if things get out of hand.”  He led the way to the door she had walked through and pushed the door back toward the stairway instead of pulling it into the room as she had.  It opened on a completely different place, showing a practice room with a floor covered in woven reed mats.  Ellyn was stretching on the far side.

“You came.”  She said, sounding mildly surprised.  At Callindra’s scowl, she smiled and waved a hand in a dismissive gesture.  “Sorry, I just didn’t think they’d let you.”

“As though they could stop me?”  Callindra said, still annoyed.  “I love my brothers but they’re thickheaded sometimes.  A chance to spar with someone who has a different fighting style is always a welcome thing.  It keeps me sharp.”

Ellyn smiled and Callindra felt a strange familiarity with her again.  It was unnerving, but something about this woman spoke to her on a level she couldn’t understand.  She began to stretch as well, limbering up muscles stiffened by her exhausted sleep.

“I find a good spar tells me more about a person than a year in their company.”  Ellyn said, and her smile was feral.  “What will I learn from you today?”

“If it goes as planned, at least you’ll have a measure of me.”  Callindra responded, “Will you tell me how you know Glarian if I manage to impress you?”

“He used to travel with us.”  Ellyn said, “I heard he’d taken an apprentice but I didn’t believe it at the time.  You say that he is your master, and I sensed the influence of his magic on you.  That’s why I reminded you of his training.  You did not disappoint.”

Callindra was sitting with one leg behind and one in front, touching her forehead to her knee.  “How well did you know him?”

Ellyn didn’t answer right away.  When Callindra looked up as she switched legs, the older woman was staring; her face a neutral mask.  “He traveled with us for five years.”

“So you must have known him at least a little bit.”  Callindra said with a grin, “So was he always such a cryptic, annoying old man?”

“What?”  Ellyn was smiling in spite of herself now, “Oh he was a wild, impetuous person.  Always picking fights and although he won more than he lost he was never without cuts and bruises.”  The smile slipped away from her face.  “He was always so bent on defending that fool Title of his, killing men, women and weapons with equal disdain.  One thing never changes.  Nothing cuts like the wind.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 41

“There’s no need for that girl.”  She said quietly, “You must let it go before it destroys you both.  Listen to how he screams in protest.”

It was only then that Callindra heard the protesting cries of her blade.  “I can’t, I don’t know how.”  She began to panic now, uncertain of how to stop.

“I know that’s not true.”  The woman said soothingly, “Remember your training.  Remember the Korumn.”

Power raged through her, threatening to tear her asunder and Callindra collapsed into a sitting position.  Brightfang cut into her thigh when she was careless with his edge but she didn’t notice.  The memories of the first time her master had taught her anything about magic came back to her.  She could almost hear his voice.

“The first Korumn is of the Breath.”  He whispered into her ear and she calmed her mind, shutting out the chaos and struggle in order to focus on the storm of power that threatened to rip her, her sword, her family and everyone else into tiny shreds.

She regained the briefest amount of control and stood, beginning the Korumn of Release.  Every foot must be placed perfectly, each position of her hands essential and yet she executed them with the precision of long practice.  As Callindra neared the middle of her Korumn, the shopkeeper regained his feet and his voice.

“What madness is this?  Did you all see what she did?  What she threatened me with?”  The man shrieked.  “I will have justice when The Order arrives, just see if I don’t!”

Callindra tried to tune out the man’s strident cries were cut short by a blow to the side of the head from a short cudgel the woman tucked back into her belt and from there it was all Callindra could do to keep her focus.  She finally finished the Korumn and felt the power whisper out of her, harmlessly rejoining the flow of the Weave; the force that created and sustained life.

“Well done.”  The woman said, “My name is Elyn.  You’d be Callindra if I’m not mistaken?”  Her voice had a tone of something guarded and closed as she introduced herself.

“I am Callindra.”  She responded in a shaking voice, sheer exhaustion lowering her guard entirely.  It was all she could do to stay on her feet and keep Brightfang in her hands.

“Come to my shop.”  Elyn said, “I can put you and your friends up for the night and get you set up better for an exploration up north than this blithering idiot ever could.”  She nudged the unconscious shopkeeper with the toe of her leather boot.

“That’s a good enough recommendation for me.”  Callindra said, turning almost drunkenly to her brothers.  “How about you?”

Tryst caught her before she hit the floor.

Callindra awoke in an unfamiliar room with a terrible headache and yet felt a totally at peace for the first time in ages.  She wasn’t sure where it had come from, but the happiness she felt was too good for her to bother questioning it.  The bed was soft and she was dressed only in her smallclothes.  Well, not ‘her’ smallclothes because they were clean and she didn’t have a clean set left, but a set that fit quite well.  The comforting weight of Brightfang’s leash tugged at her right wrist as she stretched and smiled.

The moment she began to stir, lights turned on in the room.  They illuminated a small chamber with a bed, side table and her clothes, clean and folded on a chair.  After a few minutes of awkward maneuvering, Callindra managed to wriggle into her clothes without slicing any of them to shreds with Brightfang’s razor edge and cautiously opened the door.

A small hallway showed five other doors and a stairway leading down what appeared to be a half flight of stairs, but ended up actually covering at least an entire floor.  She could feel the Weave thrumming throughout the entire structure.  Almost as though the building wasn’t enchanted but as though it was entirely created of magic.

For some reason she couldn’t quite put her finger on she felt at ease here.  She somehow knew everything was going to be all right while she was in this place.  Callindra began to whistle a merry tune as she walked into the room, pushing the door wide to see her family sitting around the table with a group of strangers.  The brown-haired woman who had confronted her the day before was absent, but there were four others.

A man as wide as he was tall with thick red hair and a moustache that hung in two long braids long enough to be tucked into his leather belt.  A blonde-haired man with piercing blue eyes wearing copper spectacles with lenses that made his eyes seem huge.  A tall slender woman with auburn hair and soft brown eyes.  A slender silver haired man with eyes cloudy with age.  They all stopped and looked at her as she strode into the room.

“Sister, you’re awake!”  Tryst said, rising and walking toward her.  “Are you feeling all right?”

“I’m fine Tryst.”  She said, “Never better.  Would you mind introducing me?  I seem to have slept through the exchange of pleasantries.”

The blonde man stood with a slight bow, “I am Jamison, the innkeeper of The Trickster’s Pipe.”

“M’name’s Horus.”  The stout man said, taking a loud slurp from his tankard, “Blacksmith.”

“I am Ginny, I mind the store.”  The red-haired woman said with a smile.

“Driffen.”  The old man says, not looking up from the book he is reading.

“My name is Callindra Sol’Estin.”  She said, “What is this place?  Where is the woman who… helped me yesterday?  I owe her my profound and sincere thanks.”

“Ellyn is out taking care of the things that must be taken care of for our departure.”  Jamison said, “She will return shortly.  In the meantime won’t you join us for brunch?”  He gestured toward the table and Callindra felt her stomach rumble in anticipation at the array of fresh fruits and vegetables arrayed there.

The City of Einn Boer and The World Lost campaign setting

This is a setup for a new D&D Campaign I’m starting soon…

Seven centuries ago, the world was struck by a great Cataclysm.  The history you have been taught does not go into details; but the broad strokes paint a world gone mad, overrun with horrible demons and voracious undead that made war on the mortal races.  Led by creatures only known as Harbingers, these armies laid waste to the world.

Only a few brave adventurers and powerful magic weavers managed to secret groups of mortals away into vast cities; sealed away from the death and destruction being wrought outside.  These enclaves thrived without the worry of outside interference.  They were designed to be places free of strife; where mortal kind would not want for anything and therefore would not attempt to leave.

Also taken inside these arks from destruction were animals, seeds and other things they would all need when it was finally safe once again to go outside to reclaim the world.  If that was ever possible.  Those that could be stored in stasis would be and some of the others were raised generation after generation.

In the beginning, or so the history books say, there was enough power for everyone to have anything they wanted.  In the beginning, magical energy flowed through every being in the enclave of Einn Boer.  In the beginning, as we are told, every person could summon everything with the wave of their hand. Over time the magic faded to the way it is today, but the rest of the powers remain.

Images for stores to advertise their wares leap out at passersby to attract their attention, fountains flow with clean water for drinking and washing at every corner, the air is always clean and there is endless food.  The food may not taste exactly like what it simulates anymore, but anyone can summon it any time they wish.  It tastes better when raw ingredients are summoned and prepared, and many people and businesses maintain at least their own herb garden.

At one time, apparently gold was more than just a marker for how much things were worth for reference when trading.  The older history books mention mining gold, fashioning it into coins and using them to buy things.  In the modern-day things like real, not summoned food, herbs, a musical performance, a poetry reading, inventing a new card game, a new carving pattern or any number of other diversions are trade goods.  Everyone is looking for a new distraction; especially the longer-lived races.

Where does it all come from?  Where does it all go?  That is a question that more and more the younger generations are wondering.  In the small forest, as trees are harvested more simply appear randomly in a few days.  When things are tossed into the sewers, they simply vanish overnight.  A few folk have tried to go investigate what happens there; some never returned and others reported nothing at all.  When people die, they are buried but there are rumors that their bodies vanish rather than slowly decomposing over time.  Someone must know the answer, but if they exist, they aren’t telling.

Einn Boer is governed by an elected Monarch and a Council of Nine; each race having a representative.  The current Queen, a human named Lady Taryn Vaknair Torben, is the third generation of the Torben family to be elected.  She is seen as a fair, just and honest leader by nearly everyone and won re-election by a wide margin in the last election.  Recently a new political figure has risen in popularity by attempting to draw correlations between rumors of instability with the Torben family’s so-called ‘inherited monarchy’.

Cthrag Graksen is a red scaled Dragonborn who advocates for investigating how Einn Boer functions, even going as far as to hint that he would like to attempt to open The Great Gate and see the state of the world outside.  His veiled attacks on the Torben family have spread some dissent through the ranks and now the election that is slated to take place the day after the Septecentennial Celebration is uncertain for the first time in three generations.

Order is maintained by the Síðr Vorðr, The Long Guard.  They are independent from the city’s government and their main mission is to keep anyone from opening The Great Gate.  Secondary to that, they are a military order that trains in the arts of combat against the day that The Great Gate is opened.  Rumors have been circulating that the head of Síðr Vorðr is the one who holds the key to the Gate itself and that he is immortal.  Of course nobody really believes those rumors.  Not really.  Or if they do, they’re wise enough to let on.

Worship of the Gods once was much more than the occasional visit to a shrine or a temple.  Although the gods are represented equally, the gradual increase of the population of Einn Boer has led to once vaunted temples giving way to smaller meeting halls that more often than not double as community meeting places and are no longer dedicated sacred spaces.

Although they are purported to once having had other names, now The Father of the Gods is now called Skaberen.  Onde and Gode are his sons and in Skaberen’s absence they now balance one another, Onde being pure evil and Gode pure good.  The many others who once held sway and if the histories are to be believed, once played great games with mortal kind are Tido; the goddess of time, Kaaos; the god of chaos, Ruma; the goddess of magic, Ild;, the god of fire, Luftin; the god of wind, Jorda; the goddess of earth, Illimin, the goddess of light.  Once the different races had their own gods as well, but these have long since been forgotten.

 

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 40

Using the map Cronos had gotten from Felix, Callindra estimated the location of the mountain where Beliach’s forge was.  It wasn’t that difficult; the memory of flying high above the forests, plains, oceans and glaciers was one that filled her with an inexplicable sense of rightness.  Someday, she would answer her yearning and find a way to truly fly on her own.

At first the travel had been uneventful and simple.  Trudging through dunes and skirting the swamp.  Meeting up with an old tradesman’s track and following it to a Lord’s Causeway, and finding it in a distressing state of disrepair.  Having to ford a river where the bridge had been destroyed was a setback, but it only meant they got wet and had to hang clothes by the fire at night and change into dry spares to avoid catching a chill.

None of the small settlements they passed had people in them.  It was surreal to enter a town and find all the buildings abandoned with no sign as to why the folk had left.  As they walked north, the weather began to get cooler.  Eventually, they had to detour to a larger city to find a place where they could purchase warmer clothing.

“Where are the traders in the south?”  Tryst asked the suspicious looking shopkeeper.  The man had been scratching each of the coins they had used to pay for their goods with a dagger, making sure they weren’t just gilded lead.

“Don’t know.”  The man grumbled, “I ain’t no trader.”

“When is the last time you saw a trader come through?”  Tryst asked, his voice still polite, smiling ingratiatingly.

“Bout six weeks gone.”  He waved a hand, “Now get otta here.  I ain’t your own personal gossip broker.”

“I will pay for the information if that is your wish.”  Tryst said.

“I ain’t got what you want anyway.”  The man said, “Ain’t nothing to tell.”

“Anything you could tell me would be appreciated.”  Tryst said, still smiling.

“Enough of this.”  Callindra stepped forward, a gust of wind following the motion and blowing a stack of parchments onto the floor.  “We have purchased goods from you at exorbitant prices, we have been subjected to all kinds of insult and derision, I will not stand by and watch my brother be treated in such a manner.”

“What’re you gonna do then little girl?”  He glared at her, “Chop me ta bits with that sword I suppose?”

“I notice you have a lot of goods here that are not water resistant.”  She noted idly, placing her hand on Brightfang’s hilt.  “I wonder what would happen if a sudden rain storm happened to hit.”

“Ain’t nothin would happen, there’s a roof.”  He snapped, rolling his eyes and pointing up.

“Well, I agree that there is one right now.”  Callindra agreed, idly looking where he was pointing.  Thunder rumbled in the cloudless sky and the breezes around her swirled the papers on the floor.  “But I can’t say how long that will last given the present circumstance.”

“Are you threatening me?”  He demanded, crossing his arms.

“What?”  She said innocently, “Me threatening you?  Of course not.”  Thunder rumbled again and Callindra smiled.  “I’m threatening your building.  The whole building and everything in it.”

“Last caravan was three weeks ago.”  The man said, wiping sweat off his forehead.  “I ain’t seen nothing since and dunno when the next one’s supposed to come.”

“Are you sure?”  Callindra asked, leaning forward.  Electricity arced across her fingers and he jumped back.

“OK!  They paid me to keep people trading.  They paid me to not tell nobody and just keep up appearances.”  He was looking around almost wildly now, as though he expected someone to pop out of the woodwork and punish him for talking.

“Who?”  She pressed, a pleasant smile working its way across her face.  Her hair began to gradually rise around her, the static electricity of the magic she held within her finding its exit.

“I don’t know.”  He said, holding his hands up in surrender or supplication.  “They didn’t tell me who they were.”

“That is not good enough.”  Callindra said and lightning struck the courtyard outside.  “We need more information than that and I believe you have it.”

“I really don’t know who they are.”  He said, “All I know is they’re with The Order.”

“The Order?”  Callindra’s voice rose in panic and more lightning bolts began to fall outside.

“Uh. Callindra?”  Cronos said with a touch of apprehension coming into his voice.  “You sure you have control over this spell?”

“You’re working for the ORDER?”  She shouted, the wind picking up and beginning to swirl ominously around the building.  A bolt of lightning slammed into the fountain in the square outside the shop, smashing the marble into gravel.

“They offered me no alternative!”  He screamed, “They will come, they swore they would come.  THEY ARE COMING!”

Callindra looked around wildly and bolts of electric destruction rained down outside.  “They will not take him from me!”

“Sister, calm yourself!”  Cronos shouted, reaching for her arm.  “Keep your concentration steady!”  When his hand touched her skin, he recoiled quickly with an exclamation of pain.  Electricity had arced from her body to his fingers with a loud snap.

She ignored him, focusing all her attention on the shop keeper.  “You have no idea what they have done to me.  I hope they do come, for when they do I will destroy them.”  The wind began to whip through the square, “I will raze this town to the ground, burn it to ashes and scatter the dust before the gale of my wrath!”

Tryst, Cronos and Vilhylm all attempted to move in and restrain her, but the wind was too strong.  A voice cut through the roar of the wind from the doorway.  “Oh now that’s not right at all.  I am sure that Glarian taught you better than that.”

The mention of her Master’s name brought up so casually made her certain she was with The Order and Callindra turned to unleash all of her fury upon the woman, drawing Brightfang from his sheath.  “You will PAY for what you’ve done!”  She screamed, but the woman was suddenly at her side, touching her face with a kind hand and looking into her eyes.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 39

A knock on the door of his workshop made Durrak look up from where he was putting the finishing touches on a belt knife.  The pattern welded steel was beautiful, but the lines of carbon in the blade also lent strength and made the metal much harder than a standard blade.  It was a nameday present for his neighbor’s daughter and would serve her well for hunting and everyday tasks.

A boy from a neighboring farm stood there, twisting his cap in his hands and looking nervous.  Durrak remembered his name after thinking for a minute.  “Thane laddie.  What can I be doin for ya then?”

“Uh, master Durrak.”  He said, hesitating and licking his lips nervously.  “I – uh – well I’ve been seeing a lot of Mattie and I was gonna ask for her hand but I don’t have a ring and you done such beautiful work for the midwife I figure if I gave her one of your rings she couldn’t say no.”

“Slow it down boyo.”  Durrak said, setting down the whetstone and giving Thane his full attention.  “What kind a thing do you be thinkin of?  You no do be more than fifteen summers.”

“I’m seventeen!”  Thane said indignantly, “And I’ll have my own croft next spring, da says I’ve a good hand on the plow and we cleared that south field last fall.”

Durrak blinked, remembering how humankind tended to mature earlier than his own folk.  “So you do say laddie.  An ya thinks I’ll be able ta make such a ring that she no do be sayin no eh?”

“Well, it’s more her da.”  Thane said, blushing red.  “He don’t think I can provide for her.  As though Mattie ain’t perfectly capable of deciding herself or doin the work on her own.  Damn me if she ain’t as good at near everything as I am.  But her da is a little old fashioned.”

“He just do be wanting to know you do be serious and capable laddie.  No need to be taking offense at a father lookin out for his little girl.”  He grinned, “As a father myself I do be always seeing them as my little treasures.  You do be doing well to remember that.”

“That’s why I came here master Durrak.”  He said, making a little half bow.  He took a pouch from his belt and set it on the table with an audible clink.  “I have silver and a little gold here; all I’ve been able to save.  I want to buy a ring.”

“Oh laddie, I’d have to be making one for her.  I no do be keeping things on hand and you no do be wanting some random piece of work.  If you do be having a few days it is honored I do be to make you a bridegift.”  Durrak opened the pouch and withdrew a pair of gold coins and a pair of silver coins, then laced the pouch and handed it back.  “These do be sufficient.”  He said with a smile, “Young love do be beyond price and to be helping in the joining of two such hearts do be payment beyond gold and silver.”

“You’ll do it?”  Thane asked, his voice rising in excitement.  “Oh thank you sir, thank you!”

“Do be giving me three days lad and I do be having your bridegift fashioned.”  Durrak said, waving off the boy’s exuberance.  “This no do be any great thing laddie.  You do be a good man an I see true devotion to th lass in your eye.  That do be worth a thousand pieces of gold to an old Dwarf, so it do.”

“You ain’t old Master Durrak!”  Thane said with a broad grin, “Old folks wouldn’t understand, but you get it.”

After Thane had left, Durrak began sketching with a piece of charcoal, humming happily to himself.  When Belladin came in to tell him that dinner was ready she paused in the doorway and watched him working for a time, admiring the way his fingers moved as he shaped the hot metal.  With tongs and hammer, he twisted the silver and gold, braiding and winding strands of metal into intricate patterns.  When he set it aside to cool, she approached and wrapped her arms around him.

“Durrak my heart, I have dinner waiting.  Your daughters no will wait long.”  She kissed his cheek, “We do have fresh brook trout and new spring potatoes roasted on the fireside with fiddlehead ferns an mushrooms.”

“You do be talkin as I do lass.”  He said with a chuckle, “I do be a bad influence.”

“That is beautiful work.”  Belladin said, looking at the beginnings of the ring he was making.

“It no do be so yet.”  He said, “It may be so eventually, but you always did be able to see beyond the surface Cazadora.”

“Certainly, how else would I have been able to fall in love with you heart of my heart?” She said with a smile and a kiss on the cheek.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 38

On the deck, they saw a nightmare crew of sailors rushing about and performing various tasks to keep the ship crashing through the waves.  They were all half rotting waterlogged corpses and surrounded by faint blueish green light.  None of them stopped working, but none of them failed to notice them as they climbed over the rail.  Their stares went beyond hostile and ventured into a kind of eager anticipation accompanied by unfathomed hatred and hunger.

“What in the nine Hells is this?”  Asked Cronos, looking around and drawing his sword.

“Captain Gale’s Stormraker little mortal.”  A man with a flowing black coat that hung below his knees.  Crackles of blueish flame played about his body and he wasn’t looking at Cronos, but at Callindra.  “Woe betide those who cross the Captain’s path.”  He smiled a feral grin.

Callindra didn’t give him the satisfaction of reaching for Brightfang.  “Give us a lift then?”  She asked, her voice level and even.  “Our island has disintegrated and you seem to have run over our longboat.”

The man barked a sharp laugh, “Ha!  Captain, what say you?  Should we give these poor shipwrecked lambs passage to the nearest safe harbor?”

The main cabin door slammed open and a man resplendent in a red coat embroidered with thread of gold wearing a wide brimmed tricorn hat and carrying a wide bladed cutlass strode forth, the heels of his boots striking a sharp cadence on the wood of the deck.

“What possible reason would I have to give shelter to those weak and foolish enough to stray into Bloodtear’s path my first mate?”  He bellowed, and his crew all laughed, their voices full of eager hunger that was reflected on their faces.

“You killed my boat.”  Callindra said, with a shrug.  “My brother paid good money for that boat.  What are you, some kind of pirates?”

“Of course we’re pirates you stupid little chit!”  The first mate said with another laugh.

“The question was a rhetorical one.”  Tryst said from the other side of the ship.  The sailors shrank back from an aura of greenish gold light that forced the ghostly forms away from him, but the Captain didn’t flinch.

“This here is my ship.”  Gale said, touching the rail and sending a flare of phosphorescent flames licking down the length of the wood.  “Your little god ain’t calling the shots here, I am.”  He clenched his fist and the light around Tryst winked out.

Callindra chose this moment of distraction to whip Brightfang from his scabbard and leap at the Captain, swinging her blade in three vicious slashes at neck, gut and knee levels.  To her shock, the strikes passed through him entirely, not even ruffling his beard or parting a single thread of his long coat.

Gale burst out laughing, “Oh I love this little wench, such SPIRIT don’t you think lads?”  His crew released a cheer, or maybe a jeer and closed around her and her brothers.

“You think our gods are powerless?”  Tryst demanded, raising his shield.  The golden light began to emanate from it once more and beads of sweat trickled down his face.

“She is with us, no matter what you think you hold over us.”  Callindra said, suddenly very conscious of the flowers twining through her hair.  “We are no easy meat.”

Vilhylm put a mask on and thick vines began to grow out of his sleeves sprouting thorns and tendrils.  Cronos twisted a ring on his hand and his skin took on the aspect of tree bark.  The four carefully moved until they were back to back, facing outward.

“TAKE THEM!”  Gale bellowed and the ghostly crew descended on them in a howling mass.

The enhancements gifted them by the Goddess shone brightly as the crew attacked.  When Cronos and Vilhylm returned the attack they found that instead of their weapons passing harmlessly through their enemies, they struck home with flashes of what almost appeared to be sunlight.  Spurred by her brother’s success, Callindra wove her blade in twisting pattern and released a blast of Njordi’s ice cold breath.  It cut through the ranks like knives of ice, blasting them into motes of blue green flame.

Tryst took three long strides forward through the hole she had made and lashed out with his hammer, striking the First Mate in the side with brutal force.  The pirate snarled in pain and anger as he tumbled to one side.  Her other two brothers ran forward, trying to reach the captain but were intercepted by a half dozen forms dropping from the rigging wielding swords and knives.  With a madcap grin, Callindra took a running leap over the melee, landing with a vicious downward swipe of her blade that Gale barely sidestepped.

“What affront is this?”  He asked, fixing her with an enraged glare.  She had sliced off the corner of his tricorn hat.

“We don’t have time for this.”  Callindra said, menacing him with her sword as he moved to draw his cutlass.  “Just give us safe passage to the shore of The Shieldlands and we won’t be forced to destroy you and your crew.”

“Little upstart, this is MY domain!”  He roared, pulling his sword from the scabbard in a twisting motion that knocked Brightfang aside as he nearly cut her arm off at the shoulder.

“If it’s a fight you want it’s a fight you’ll get.”  She said with a series of feints that ended with a thrust that nearly took him through the ribs.

They battled back and forth along the deck as the ship continued racing in front of a driving wind.  The Captain was good and at times it was all Callindra could do to keep her head on her shoulders.  After a few minutes, she sported a dozen shallow cuts that were gradually being stitched closed by tiny Brightstar vines.  Finally, she heard the sound she had been waiting for and broke from the fight, sprinting towards her brothers.

“Now!  Run and jump, it’s our chance!”  She shouted, sliding under a sword slash and reaching the railing.  Spinning around, she saw Cronos backing the wrong direction, facing an onslaught from three sailors.  She spun Brightfang on his chain and flung him across the deck, hamstringing one of them as Cronos cut another down.  Yanking her blade back to her hand she dove overboard in a long swan dive.

The roaring sound she had heard was the crash of surf against the shore.  As the four of them leaped off Bloodtear, they saw it continue sailing by, heeling over in the wind.  The speed it was traveling made coming about to re-engage them all but impossible.

Tryst had the most trouble getting to shore, but Vilhylm’s vines allowed him to pull them both through the water to the shore.  Coughing and spluttering, Callindra dragged herself ashore.  Strangely, despite the near miss she felt a surge of pride swelling in her chest.  It took her a few moments to realize why.  She had given an order and they had obeyed it.  Furthermore, it was an order that had almost certainly saved their lives.  She had led and they had followed.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 37

Callindra drew upon the strength of the Weave carefully, making sure not to force too much through Brightfang’s blade and summoned a steady wind that sent the Longboat surging forward.  Her brothers all stood ready to do their part as they swept forward with speed that would have been impossible without the winds obeying her commands.

As they reached the stone spires shifted, groans of protest sounding as the rocks moved against each other.  Cronos threw a spell in front of them and the movements of the towers seemed to slow, the sounds of their motion drawing out as though it was being heard from a distance.  Vilhylm reached his hand into the water and thick ropes of seaweed writhed up the stones, wrapping around them and holding them in place.  The Longboat shot through the space like a rock from a sling and the stone ceased its grumbling.

A small island was directly in front of them, a small fire somewhere near its center sending up a ribbon of bluish white smoke into the sky.  The Hand pointed directly at it.  Tryst looked at his companions and smiled.

“A mysterious island hidden behind a deadly trap.  Looks like what we’re after wouldn’t you say?”

“Oh wonderful.”  Cronos grumbled, “That’s not ominous or anything.”

Callindra sat down with a tired sigh and took out her pipe.  “As long as the heavy lifting is over, I can deal with a mystery.”

They landed the boat and carefully tied it up to a heavy stone on the shoreline.  As they made their way inland, gradually they began to feel a sense of wellbeing.  In a place like this, opposition must be easily overcome.  After all, nothing could be dangerous in such a setting of peace and tranquility.   By the time the attack came, not one of them was prepared for it.

A dozen monstrous forms erupted from the sand, indistinguishable in form except for their glowing green eyes.  They ignored Tryst who was in the lead and laid into Cronos instead, tearing his armor open with a spray of blood.

“DOWN!” Yelled Callindra and her brothers all dove for the sand.  The creatures turned to look at her as she wove Brightfang in a complex series of arcs, dancing in tiny circles on the sand as the winds gathered around her.  The blast she unleashed tore half of the creatures into bloody shreds but if it wasn’t for Vilhylm and Tryst leaping to her defense the remaining monsters would have eviscerated her easily.

Tryst mashed one into a pile of bloody sand and Vilhylm picked one up by its neck and slammed it into another.  Cronos incanted a spell from where he lay prone and bleeding and the last three were incinerated by a blast of intense fire.

“I feel insulted.”  Cronos panted, getting to his feet with a helping hand from Vilhylm.  “They seem to be taking us lightly.”

“Don’t say that.”  Callindra muttered as she inspected Brightfang, frowning over new stress cracks.  “You’re just inviting disaster.”

Despite her dire predictions, no further monsters appeared.  They cautiously made their way toward the center of the island.  When they found the source of the smoke it was a small well-built cottage with a fire in front.  An ancient woman sat on a stool beside the fire, stirring a pot of something that was boiling over it.

“So.  You have beaten my sand warriors.”  She said in a surprisingly strong voice.  “You are the first to have bypassed the wards I set, let alone my physical guardians.  Well done.  What can I do for you then my dear mortals?”  Her words struck like hammers, their psychic force driving Callindra and Cronos to their knees.  Vilhylm leaned on his staff, but kept his feet and gave the old woman an uncertain stare.

“We have come for a divine artifact.”  Tryst said, his voice ringing out clear and strong.  “You will give it to us or we will take it.”

“Ahhh…”  She stirred her stew.  “So, you’ve finally come to take this burden from my shoulders.  About bleeding time.”  Leaning forward, she withdrew a leather pouch from around her neck and offered it to Tryst.

He reached for it without hesitation and a flash of light momentarily blinded them.  When they could see again, they floated in open ocean without any land in sight.

“Wind and Wave what in the hells was that?”  Callindra said, “How are we going to get out of here?”

“Amazing.”  Cronos breathed in awe, “It was just an illusion.  An illusion so perfect that we could actually touch it.  If I hadn’t just seen it I would never have believed it.”

“Great.  How does that get us out of the water you idiot?”  Callindra shouted, her exclamation spoiled by a wave splashing playfully in her face.

“I think the sun is setting.”  Tryst said, worry tinging his voice.  “This could be very bad.  Very, very bad.”

As though summoned by his words, the sun fell behind the horizon and a huge ship crested the horizon all in the same moment, crashing across the modified Longboat that had been moored to the island and breaking it into kindling.  It was so massive that it filled their vision and swept them apart.  Callindra grabbed Cronos’s wrist as she watched Vilhylm and Tryst disappearing on the other side of the bow wave.

“Damn!”  She shouted, “We’ve lost them!”

“They aren’t stupid, they’ll get on the ship.”  Cronos growled, “Stop whining and help me climb!”

She looked over and saw that he had grabbed the anchor chain.  As the ship swept forward, she held on tightly and allowed herself to be pulled to the side of the ship.  Once she had grabbed onto the ancient barnacle encrusted planks, Cronos let her go and they clambered up the sides of the ship together.