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.

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.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 22

“I see a sewer grate.”  She said, “If we’re lucky there is an entrance to the sewers in this building.  We can sneak underneath all these Taken and escape on that river boat.”

Cronos moved to the center of the warehouse and wrought a spell more subtle than Callindra would have thought him capable of.  A hole burned through the roof nearly silently as he summoned and spread a layer of acid across the roof tiles.  They slid down a rope Reed anchored to a chimney into the darkness of the warehouse.

“Follow me.”  Kain said, “I can see in the dark.  Everyone hold hands.”

They put their trust in him and moved through the building in complete darkness.  After what seemed forever, Kain stopped.  “I can see a grate.  I’m going to lift it and take a look.”

He was back in a few minutes, “I think it leads out to the water, I didn’t see anything in the way.”

Callindra went down first, stumbling slightly as Kain helped her descend to the tunnel below.  A faint glow of flickering firelight gave just enough illumination that she could see the rough stone of the sewer under her feet.  While the others climbed through the grate, she crept down the tunnel.  Something about the way the wind moved made her stop just before the sewer emptied into the river.

Something was slowly moving in the water of the river, making ripples that lapped at the edge of the tunnel.

She focused on the ripples in the water and the corresponding disturbances in the air and realized that something very large or a very large number of things were lurking just beneath the surface of the water.  If they entered the water here, it was likely to be nearly as much if not more difficult than braving the throngs of Taken above.

Behind her, Holt made just enough of a sound approaching that she was sure he’d done it on purpose to alert her of his presence.  The man had an uncanny ability to move without making a sound.  She held up a hand to signal him to stop and backed up slowly to where he waited.

“What is it?” He asked, his mouth close to her ear.

“Something is in the water.”  She said, turning her face to his ear in turn.  “Either one or two big things or many small things.  I can’t be sure.  There isn’t a way to get by without alerting them of our presence I don’t think.”

“One of the others may have an idea.  Perhaps there’s a spell that could be used.”  He said, his voice confident.

If only she wasn’t so exhausted she could probably have formed a wind bridge, or at very least she could have gotten herself there.  Maybe Holt was right though.  Maybe Cronos had a trick up his sleeve.  They retreated up the tunnel to the others and told them what they’d found.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 21

He nodded shortly, slung his bow over his back and climbed up the rope at a speed that belied his age and recent injuries.  Arrows began flying down in a steady rhythm the moment he had reached the rooftop.

“Kain.  My hand’s broken and I can’t climb with it like this.”  Callindra stepped in to take his place and he retreated as though they’d practiced the maneuver for years.  He really did have a talent for reading body language.

A hot flash of fire tore through her arm and down her hand as he slapped an ungentle spell into her.  It wasn’t much, but it repaired enough of the damage that she could swing Shadowsliver properly again.

“You get up there next Kain.”  She ordered, “Holt was tortured and I don’t know how much longer he can stay on his feet.”  He frowned, but nodded and obeyed.

“I can climb faster sister.”  Vilhylm said, “You go next.”  He was wearing his brutish mask, muscles bunching as he bashed a huge fist into a guard hard enough to dent his breastplate.

“You go.”  She snapped.  “I’m grabbing Cronos and jumping.”

He looked at her but glanced at their brother and headed for the rope.  She flung herself to where Cronos still moved through the steps of a lethal dance and flung Shadowsliver about his middle.  The chain of her sword wrapped underneath his armpits, slicing through three Taken as it flashed in front of him before the hilt slapped into her palm and she tore a spell from the Weave.

An explosion of wind blasted them into the air in a barely controlled tumble.  She was dimly aware of Taken being tossed aside like twigs from the force of the winds that bore them aloft, but it was hard to concentrate.  For some reason she knew she was supposed to be paying attention to something but whatever it was couldn’t be that important if she couldn’t remember it.

Her unconscious body tumbled to the rooftop and rolled to a stop at Reed’s feet.  He stared at her in shocked surprise.  “She’s insane.”

“Time to go.”  Cronos said, picking up his sister’s supine form and fumbling to keep from being cut by her sword.  Her hand still clutched it in a white knuckled grip.

They watched below as the Taken swarmed over the guards below, burying them in a wave of rotting limbs and emerald green ichor.  Behind where the horde had come from, the city burned.  Screams of terrified people came to them over the sound of combat and flames.

“We gotta get to the dock.”  Reed said, pointing over the rooftops.  “With a little luck we can get there sticking to the rooftops.”  He led the way over a zigzagging set of plank bridges and dizzying leaps from one building to another.

When they reached a warehouse near a run-down dock.  A few small craft were moored there, one of which was a small flat-bottomed river boat with oars and a square sail.  Perhaps a hundred Taken milled about aimlessly in the open are between them and the dock.

Cronos set Callindra down on the rooftop and turned to Kain.  “Can you revive her?  I can’t carry her and fight at the same time.”

The hulking half orc reached out and brushed fingers across Callindra’s forehead.  A few of her wounds stopped bleeding, but others still slowly leaked through scabs that hadn’t quite closed.  Kain slumped, breathing hard and shook his head.  “That’s all I can do.”

“It’s enough.”  Callindra rasped, her eyes flickering open.  “I just overdid.  Too much magic.”

“You had many deep cuts.”  Kain said, “I managed to stop most of the bleeding.”

She looked down at the slashes through her armor and into her side and legs.  When had she gotten cut?  “Where are we?  What is going on?  Is everyone all right?”

“We’re at the docks.”  Reed said in a low voice, “Keep your damn voice down, there’s a hundred or so of those things down there.  They haven’t seen us yet, but if you don’t shut up they will.”

Callindra looked over the edge of the roof and fought off despair.  There was no way they could get through all the Taken below without being seen and fighting them all wasn’t an option.  The light of the city burning behind them was throwing tall shadows across the dockside, but it was also illuminating the river.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 20

“We have to get out quickly.”  She said, “They can’t have missed all that noise.”

“How do you plan to get us out?”  Holt asked.

“We will have a distraction when you signal for it.  I figure you can shoot an arrow or something.  The rest of them are waiting outside.”  She grinned at him, “I’m going to take us right out the front door.”

She sat and began taking deep, calming breaths with Shadowsliver across her knees.  Holt began gathering his equipment from racks while she meditated.  The air around her stilled as she slowly breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth.  Glarian’s… no Luftin’s words echoed in her mind. ‘The First Korumn is of the Breath.’

“Are you ready?”  Holt whispered, “What are you doing?”

Callindra opened her eyes and gave him a calm look.  “Please fire an arrow out the window to the alley directly across the square.”  Whatever he saw in her eyes made him swallow hard.

“Right.  I can do that.”  He said, stringing his longbow and taking an arrow from his quiver.  “Tell me when you’re ready.”

She stood in a smooth, languid motion and gently drew the spell from Shadowsliver’s blade.  The last time she’d used this spell was just before she’d seen Jorda murdered by Morde.  Her concentration wavered, but her meditation had served her well and she managed to keep control over the Weave.

Holt moved to the window and fired his arrow at her nod.  It passed through the barred window without even the sound of feathers cleaving the air.  He turned to give her a puzzled look and blinked at her apparent absence.  A moment later, she walked close enough and he could see her again.

“They won’t see us and likely won’t hear us either.”  She said, feeling the calmness in her voice from the magics she had wrought.  “The Winds will shelter me, and you too if you stay close.”

“I thought I knew who you were.”  He said, putting another arrow to the string of his bow.  “I believe I may have been mistaken.”

“Go ahead and ask questions after we’re out of here.”  Said Callindra, “I need to focus.”

Shouts of surprise, explosions and the clash of steel on steel came from outside and Callindra led her friend slowly to the door.  He lifted the bar and followed her through the door and she nearly lost her tenuous hold on the Weave.  Instead of a distraction, her brothers had started a war.

“We’re going to have to fight our way out.”  She said to Holt, cursing in Orcish again and surveying the scene.  “There’s no way we can get through there without them running into us.  I’ll lead.  You put an arrow in the eye of anyone I can’t reach in time.”

Callindra dropped her spell and ran ahead with her sword swinging instead.  Her first blow hamstrung a startled guard and her second cut into the neck of another who was turning to face them.  She screamed in pain as the impact of her sword strikes hit her injured hand and she almost dropped Shadowsliver.  She’d forgotten all about it in the rush to escape.

What she saw in the alleyway where her brothers had been froze her heart.  A horde of Taken with glowing green eyes were being held back by a single figure.  Cronos stood resolute against hundreds, a hand and a half sword in each hand flying in a blur as he cut limbs, heads, bodies and weapons.  Cronos and Kain faced the town guard, but their attacks lacked coordination and their foes weren’t restricted by the walls of an alley.

Gritting her teeth against the pain and her exhaustion, Callindra passed her hand down Shadowsliver’s blade and unleashed a blast of wind in the first and most basic spell she knew.  It slashed through two of the guards and knocked a third to the ground.  Holt fired arrows with nearly inhuman speed and accuracy even while running alongside her.

They managed to punch through the guards to reach the others and a shout from above drew Callindra’s attention.  A rope fell and Reed shouted from the roof top.

“Get the hell out of there!  More Taken are coming from the other side, this place is doomed!”

“Holt.  Go.”  She said, clumsily hacking at a guard with Shadowsliver in her right hand.  He opened his mouth but she glared.  “Putting the archer on the high ground is common god rotting sense.  You can cover us from up there.  Move!”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 19

A year ago, these words would have sent Callindra through the door in a fury.  Her losses and experience had taught her to bank the fires of her rage however, and she waited patiently instead.  The exertion of flying to the top of this place had drained her, but she needed an edge if she was going to survive and escape with Holt.  Closing her eyes, she touched Shadowsliver’s hilt and incanted a spell.

“You touch her.  You die.”  Holt’s voice reached her ears, sounding harsh as though he’d screamed it raw.  She was shocked by the level of anger in it to the point she almost lost her grip on the spell she was casting.

“Listen to the old grandfather, still feeling protective of the whelp.”  The honey sweet voice purred.  The sound was followed by the crack of kiln dried wood hitting flesh.  Callindra lost her temper and released her spell.

Everything seemed to slow as she borrowed the speed and fury of Njordi, the Great North Wind.  The door swung open with enough force that it shattered against the wall and she was through and halfway across the room before her targets had turned their heads.  Shadowsliver reached out in a perfect lunge, punching cleanly through the skull of a thin man clad only in a leather loincloth who stood beside a brazier filled with glowing coals and a variety of metal bits.

The impact hurt.  Callindra’s left hand felt as though she had punched a stone wall and she nearly lost her grip on his leather-bound hilt.  Gritting her teeth, she managed to maintain her concentration on the spell and ripped the blade free with a twist, breaking the man’s skull in twain.  With a practiced motion, she turned and hurled her sword at the wide woman who seemed to be made all of slabs of muscle.  She turned from bringing her hand back to deliver another blow with the wooden staff in her hand surprise turning to glee on her face.

It could have been the pain of impact, the speed of her motion or her horror at seeing Holt in the cell beyond the woman, bound in shackles.  It might have just been bad luck.  Whatever the reason, she saw her blade fly past her opponent’s neck, inflicting only a shallow cut.

Cursing, she tried to pull the blade back, but he had already passed through the bars and the sudden motion caused his chain to wrap around the bars of the cage.  Although she was moving much faster than the other woman, Callindra saw her smile as she turned and began to swing her staff.

In a reckless, desperate move she saw that the huge woman was trying to strike her feet so Callindra did the only thing she could think of.   Wrapping the chain around her left hand, she leaped into the air, turning a neat flip over the striking staff and the woman’s head while letting the chain loop around her neck at the same time.  With a wrench of her hips, she twisted in the air one and a half times before the chain jerked taunt and nearly tore her arms from their sockets.

The chain cut halfway through the woman’s throat, spraying blood into the chamber as Callindra bore her to the ground, screaming in pain and rage.  The spell fled as her concentration broke, but she kept the tension on the chain for another count of ten just to make sure the bitch was dead.

With a shake, she forced herself to let go of the chain.  She realized she was still snarling an unending string of curses in a low harsh language.  More of Kain’s native tongue had rubbed off on her than she’d thought; Orc was an excellent language to swear in.

“Callindra?”  Holt’s voice shook slightly, “By all the Gods and Demons how did you…  What did you… are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”  She snapped, before looking down at herself; clad in black and splattered with blood and knew her face was still set in a grimace of pain and rage.  “I’m fine.”  She said in a calmer tone of voice, “Let’s get you out.”

Her left hand throbbed and the fingers didn’t work the way they should as she untangled Shadowsliver’s chain from the bars and fumbled a ring of keys from the dead man’s belt.  Her hand twinged when she tried to turn the key in the lock and she had to use her right hand instead.  Once inside she began unlocking Holt’s bonds.  He watched her with hooded eyes.

“What happened there?”  He asked, his voice still hoarse.  “You were different.  I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“I lost my temper.  Bad things happen when I lose my temper.”  She said, fighting to keep the dregs of her anger from building on itself.  The keys fell from the numb fingers of her left hand and she bit back an orcish oath.  If only she had a god rotting sheath for her sword instead of having to carry him.

That thought made her freeze.  She did not want to put Shadowsliver, her life, her soul her companion down.  Taking a deep breath, Callindra picked up the keys with her right hand and unlocked the rest of Holt’s shackles.