“We’ve all lost friends and family.” Holt said, his voice rough with memory. “We’ve all been defeated in battle. Every one of us has made decisions we regret. Those things all cut us deeply, but it’s when we stand up again that we allow those scars heal into greater strength.”
“I appreciate the effort Holt.” Callindra said, struggling to keep more tears from falling. “Some day perhaps I will appreciate the words.”
When they returned to the river, they found the townsfolk gathered. A man stood in front of the rest, looking strange as he held his hat in calloused hands and addressed Callindra. He was twice her size and half again her age, but still looked like a boy asking his mother permission to go and play.
“Lady, we were wondering if we might be allowed to settle here.” He said, twisting his hat in an unconscious gesture. “The other side of the river has bad memories and what with the new spring and all…”
“What’s your name?” Callindra asked, “And why do you think you need my permission to do anything?”
“Well. It’s your brother’s place of rest Lady.” He said, hurriedly adding. “Onell is my name Lady, we owe you our lives the most of us. We didn’t want to presume.”
“I’m no ‘lady’ Onell.” Callindra said tiredly, “You don’t need my permission, but you have my blessing. All I would ask is that you respect the grave of my brother.”
A ripple of whispers ran through the crowd. Onell blushed slightly and cleared his throat. “We were thinking Lady of calling the new stedding Cronosholt with your permission.”
Callindra sighed and glanced at Vilhylm. Her brother was looking straight ahead and nobody else would have recognized it but, despite the grief they had endured he was laughing at her. She couldn’t help but smile back at him.
“We will offer you what advice we can in constructing it to be defensible.” Callindra said, “Holt and Vilhylm have been in more battles than most and could likely give you some help.” She turned and went to sit by the stream, letting the others talk to the villagers.
Closing her eyes, she sat and leaned against a boulder with Shadowsliver across her knees. Light footsteps approached after a few minutes, the winds bringing the sound to her ears. They were the steps of a small person, not a larger person trying to be quiet.
“I brought you some food Lady.” A small boy’s voice, “Eating always makes me feel better.”
Callindra opened her eye just enough to see a roughly carved wooden bowl with a green salad topped with freshly grilled fish in it. The sight of greens made her mouth water, but she didn’t move.
“You probably want to be alone. But I want to say thank you. Me and sissy would have been…” He swallowed hard, “We would have been killed by those things. The guard was too busy fighting to get any of us littles out. We were too scared to do anything until I saw you.
“There was this huge bear and it had glowing green eyes and I could see half its skull. It was eating someone. It bit half her arm off and she was screaming and there was so much blood. A flash of light almost blinded me and a blast of lightning hit it in the chest but it wasn’t just lightning it was a sword. On a chain.
“I saw you leap and land on the guard of your sword with both feet, driving it all the way through the monster. You screamed a word, I don’t know what it was, but it blasted your sword out of the wound and you did a back flip and landed with blade in hand as the bear thing just flew apart into bits. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Callindra didn’t remember this exact moment of the fight, which was surprising. She would have thought if she’d been doing that kind of reckless acrobatics she would have remembered. Of course there was a time when her rage at the Taken had made her forget everything but killing as many of them as she could. Small wonder she was so tired.
“What’s your name boy?” She asked, her voice sounding harsh and grating to her ears.
“Gorian Lady.” He said, his voice rising in a squeak of surprise. Evidently, he hadn’t expected her to talk to him.
“Thank you for the food Gorian. I am glad you and your sister are safe.” She couldn’t help a tear leaking from her left eye. Shifting slightly to take the weight off a healing cut on her shoulder she winced as a wound on her thigh gave a twinge.
“Gorian, I’m no lady. Just call me Callindra.” She sighed and opened a red rimmed eye to look at him. He was a little twig of a half elven child with hair a brilliant white gold, violet eyes shining with hero worship from a filthy soot stained face. She idly noted that his hands were clean.
“You’re a Lady to me.” He said, “A great Lady who came in on the winds and burned the monsters to dust.”
She took the bowl and made a shooing motion. “Off with you Gorian. If your sister is anything like I was she’s probably getting into trouble without you to mind her.”
He bowed, gods and demons BOWED to her and scampered away. Finding that the smell of the fish overwhelmed her, Callindra ate every scrap of food in the bowl and wished she had more. As she rinsed the bowl in the stream and drank clean water to wash down her meal she wondered what Glarian would think of the tale of her riding in on the winds.
He’d probably laugh himself sick. If he was still alive. That dragon couldn’t have killed him just by eating him; he was a god after all. It would take more than a dragon to kill a god. Even that dragon. Wouldn’t it?