The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 53

A huge and terrible dragon that was killed and taken over by some powerful force from they Abyss that only desired the destruction of all life was chasing her.   So far everything was going to plan. Callindra fought the urge to laugh hysterically.

She could hear the monster gaining on her despite running flat out and reminded herself to focus only on maintaining the spell and her course.  A steady rain of arrows began sinking into the dragon’s neck with solid sounds of impact. The attack barely slowed the beast, but that was all she needed to open the gap.  

Her desperate sprint took her directly toward the jumbled dam made from the rubble of a destroyed city that blocked the natural flow of the river with the monster close behind.  Callindra looked at the wall in front of her, scanning for Connor’s signal. A pinpoint of blue light flashed near the center of the structure. That’s when the sound of the dragon inhaling behind her and a glance that revealed it was close enough to steam the flesh from her bones no matter which way she dodged.  

The sight of the huge mouth opening like a cavern and the roiling green steam made her concentration scatter like a flock of startled doves.  Callindra lost her grip on the Weave and the spell abruptly ceased. She skipped once, the speed of her pace making the surface of the water as hard as stone before she slowed enough to sink below the filthy waves.  It saved her life.

The water just above her head was boiling and she could feel the heat even though it was dissipating rapidly in the water.  Before she could recover, the dragon swam past at full speed and she tumbled in its wake, losing all sense of direction in the murky water.  Her lungs screamed for air, but Callindra forced herself to relax and think. Releasing a tiny bubble of air from her rapidly dwindling supply, she felt it roll out of the corner of her mouth and past her ear.  She had been swimming in the wrong direction.

Spots swam behind her eyelids and she opened her mouth to take a desperate breath of fetid water when her head broke the surface.  Choking and coughing, Callindra struggled to tread water and take in the state of the battle. The coughing turned to hoarse cursing.  General Delanous had been correct; her plan hadn’t survived the first contact with the enemy.

Instead of chasing her until it slammed into the wall Connor and Vilhylm had weakened, the monster had stopped short and was casting about, most likely searching for the annoying bug that had escaped beneath the water.  There was no way for her to lead it into the wall now, but she wasn’t out of ideas yet. The only problem was she couldn’t tread water and cast a spell at the same time.

Arrows still flew from the far side of the lake, striking the monster with little effect but to annoy it.  Callindra swam forward as best she could but could see there was no way she could make it before the dragon lost interest or worse, found her as she swam.  Concentrating as she never had before, she formed the spell in her mind, moving her hands under the water and pulling Shadowsliver out at the last possible moment to release the spell.  

Whirling blades of air blasted from her blade to strike the wall mere yards from the dragon.  For a moment nothing happened except for the dragon turned in the water to focus on the source of the magic.  Then the wall gave way for a dozen yards, sending a torrent of water and a very surprised monster through the broken dam.  When the current began to draw her toward the rupture in the dam, she realized the flaw in her plan.

She opened her mouth to scream or curse and was rewarded with a mouthful of disgusting brackish water.  Spitting and coughing, Callindra frantically cast about for something to keep her from following the dragon over the dam.  Just as she got to the edge, she desperately hurled Shadowsliver at a crack between two jumbled pieces of stonework. His chain looped around a jutting piece of wall and she swung wildly out over the precipice, hung for a moment and then fell with a shriek as the chain slipped free.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 3: A Fall of Stars – Chapter 8

“My apologies.”  He said, “I am merely communicating what my goddess revealed to me.  My name is Kain.  I am a disciple of Iilimin.  She revealed to me the light when I was surrounded by naught but darkness.”  As Kain spoke the name of his goddess, a gentle white light briefly shone from him.  Each person who stood close to him felt a blanket of peace fall over their being and watched as their wounds slowly closed.

Callindra was shaking; her façade of calm control breaking.  “I thought.  I hoped that we were wrong about Jorda.  I just…”  She wiped a hand across her eyes and took a shuddering breath.  Cronos put his hand on her left shoulder and Vilhylm put his on her right.  With effort she brought her self-control back.

“We need to get moving.”  She said, “I’m sure that Taken going missing didn’t go unnoticed and they usually don’t travel alone.  Kain, you’re welcome to travel with us.  For now.”

“What about the rest of us?”  A woman in a chainmaile shirt with a round shield and a large bearded ax said.  “You just going to let us fend for ourselves?  We’re just supposed to be bait while you escape?”

“I saved you once.”  Callindra said, “What more do you want from me?”

“Lead us.”  She said, “With your skills and abilities how could the Taken stand against us?”

“I’m not a leader.  I can barely keep myself alive, how do you expect me to lead all of you?”  Callindra shook her head.  “You’re better off on your own.  I’ve failed before and had the consequences reached beyond anything you could imagine.”

The room seemed to darken and wind began to fitfully tug at the hem of her cloak.  “I’m dangerous to those around me.  I can’t turn my brothers away, I owe Holt my life and Kain might be my only chance to redeem myself in the face of the gods.  The last time a goddess trusted me she died.  You don’t want to be nearby the next time I mess up.”

She turned and strode from the inn, past the wreckage of the common room and out into the incongruously cheery day.  Rank upon rank of perfectly still Taken humans stood staring blankly with glittering emerald eyes.

“Don’t move.”  Cronos whispered, “They don’t seem to have seen us yet.”

“Get back inside.”  She said in a level voice, “We need to find a back door.”

The closest Taken swiveled their heads to look at her and they began to run.  Not like living creatures, but with wild abandon, moving faster and faster to the sound of popping tendons and breaking bones.  They saw with horror that even though some had shattered their legs with the force of their speed they kept running faster.

They slammed and bolted the door just before the first Taken hit it hard enough to splinter the wood.  “Run!”  Callindra and Cronos shouted together, pushing back through the confused crowd of people still fighting off the grogginess of the drugs.  “They’re coming, RUN you idiots!”

The shattering impacts on the door and walls continued, splatters of blood and worse leaking through the cracks.  Splinters of bone jabbed through, broken femurs and ribs driven through from the force of the creatures smashing into the wood.  With a shriek of protesting wood, the door gave way and one of the Taken tumbled into the room, body half destroyed but still moving fast despite being mostly broken.

Callindra stopped trying to push her way through and turned to unleash a blast of wind from the twin tips of her blades that blew tables, chairs and broken pieces of Taken back out the door.  “I will hold them.”  She said, voice deadly calm.

“No!”  The woman in chainmaile said, standing next to her with shield raised.  “You go.  I’ll keep them off your back.”  She grunted in effort as she deflected a thrown Taken skull.  “Just swear to me that you’ll take them with you.”

Without waiting for a response, she shouted a wordless battle cry and planted herself in the doorway.  The sounds of horrible and deadly impact drove everyone else on, slamming doors behind them as they ran through the Inn.

Callindra tried to take up the rear, but the others shoved her to the front shouting that she needed to lead them out of the inn.  One by one, the folk behind her fell to horrible fates as the recklessly fast suicidal Taken ran through the halls after them.

Forcing herself to focus, she ran to the last room.  The wall was solid without a single window.  “Vil, break it down!”  She yelled, “You, you and you, move these crates in front of the door.  Holt put an arrow through anything that tries to break through.”

The others scrambled to do her bidding as Vilhylm put a wooden mask on his face, becoming his familiar hulking form.  Thick claws began tearing through the wooden wall even as Taken runners smashed their feeble defense into kindling.  Arrows flickered past her shoulder faster than she could have thought possible, bringing a brief reprieve in the attack.

Vilhylm broke through the back wall and all but vanished under a scrabbling mass of Taken.  With a roar of rage he began flinging them off and three of the remaining prisoners ran to his aid.  Cronos leaped through the hole in the wall, twin Bastard swords swinging and Callindra saw the last of the men holding the door fall with a shattered arm bone punched all the way through his skull.

With a sob of anger and fear, she shoved Holt out of the hole grabbed Kain by the back of his robe and dragged him behind her.  The half orc priest was gripping his holy symbol and chanting as they went.  A glow of light emanated from him, briefly repelling the Taken who were pouring into the room.

Callindra began spinning Shadowsliver in an intricate set of arcs, drawing on the Weave with all her will.  “Down!”  She shouted, and wind roared around her and she thrust her blade high as twin bolts of lightning leaped from the sky to her sword’s tips and splintering into dozens of scintillating lances that incinerated the Taken.  Lightning burned through them, leaping from one to another, blasting each one into shivering bits.

“Maybe I should have tried that first.”  She said, her voice a rough whisper.  Then she looked around and saw her brothers, Kain and Holt picking themselves up from the ground.  The rescued prisoners hadn’t been fast enough.  Their bodies lay among the Taken, burned and broken.

“I tried to warn you.”  She rasped, barely able to push back the wave of despair that threatened to wash her away.  She didn’t even have the energy to cry, the spell had cored her like an apple.

“Come on sister.”  Cronos got under one arm and Holt under the other and together they helped her to walk until she got her feet underneath herself.  Together they fled from the inn, leaving the dead behind.

March Horoscopes

March Horoscopes.  Because why not.

Aries: Beating your head against that obsessive thing you do is leading you to dent the door.  Just open the fucking door, I know you’ve got a hard head but seriously, this opportunity has just been waiting for you.  The door hasn’t opened from your pounding yet and FFS remember that if you see hinges it opens toward you.  Protip: This one opens toward you.  Stubborn bastard.  And stop swearing at your kids, even though they think it’s funny.

Taurus: Nice poker face.  Now call them and say sorry.  Come on, you’re a lover not a fighter and life’s too short to stay mad.  You’ve got that outwardly cool thing going on but that internal turmoil is making you crave a cigarette and you quit years ago.  Trust me, it’ll be worth it.  If you don’t believe me ask your mom, she’s always been your touchstone anyway.  And she’d love to hear from you, even if it requires a seance.

Gemini: You’re laughing on the inside, but we love to see you laugh on the outside too.  It’s cool.  We won’t think you’re laughing at us.  Or at least the decent ones won’t.  You’ve been holding a lot of your shit in just because you’re worried about being judged for being too happy when things are bad or that if you’re down a little bit people will think you’re gonna snap.  You’re your own worst critic.  Nobody even noticed that one time you wore the same outfit two days in a row; they don’t have you under a microscope.  Relax.  Do you.

Cancer: Feeling extra outgoing this month, right?  That’s cool but remember not everyone wants a hug.  Ask first.  You won’t regret it, hugs are awesome and meeting new people is fun, especially when hugs are involved.  Oh, and don’t put that thing you’re planning on doing off like you always do because this time it’s important.

Leo: This month is your month off.  You’ve been trying to be compassionate and have come in like the Lion you are, but let that energy taper off.  Stay inside, read a good book and get some introvert time.  It’s been a long winter and you’ve been caring for everyone but yourself.  If you want proof just look at your book shelf and see the new books you haven’t had time to crack yet.  See?  Remember, only terrorists put the milk in the cup before the hot water when making tea.  Don’t make me come over there.

Virgo: It’s gotten to the point where nobody even knows if you’re being sarcastic or not.  Not even you.  I mean in some ways that’s a pretty funny inside joke that only the outsiders can get inside your outside, but that didn’t make sense and you gotta quit.  On a positive note, once you quit being such a dick there’s someone who will take notice of you and even though it won’t last more than a few months it’ll get you back in the swing of being personable again.  It’ll probably end well, as long as you’re open to outcomes and not attached to expectations.

Libra: Seriously.  Keep it up, even though you think you suck.  You’re right, currently you’re not doing nearly what you could be but damn it these things take practice.  Don’t just try and force it, get out there and experience it.  I mean hell, you’ve been struggling on your own for the last couple of months and that obviously hasn’t gotten you much more than frustrated.  Pick up the first thing you tried and abandoned when it didn’t go perfectly the first time and try it again.  Then get out there and connect with others trying the same thing.  Networking always inspires.

Scorpio: You might think people are distancing themselves from you because you’re too badass, but really they think you’re too shy and don’t want to scare you off.  You don’t really have resting bitch face like you think; it’s more like they can’t see your face because you keep your hood pulled too low and your face down all the time.  I’m not saying you have to smile and be the cheeriest fucker in the world.  Just be a tiny bit more accessible.  Yes, you should get that tattoo.

Sagittarius: I know you’re only trying to help but let’s be honest.  You’ve been giving shit advice lately.  Try listening instead of talking for a change, it’ll be as instructive for you as it will be for them.  I know that you’re already trying to interrupt me but since this is text you can’t.  Don’t be mad about it, quit being defensive and do a little introspection.  See?  Despite being crappy at giving advice, you’re good at listening and it will be appreciated.  I promise.

Capricorn: Almost everything is going well.  This doesn’t mean you can ignore the few things that aren’t going well.  At least one of them is going to attempt to bite you straight in the ass if you don’t pay attention to it.  If you know a Virgo, yes they were being sarcastic and no they didn’t get your even better and more twisted reply.  Don’t worry about it, you’ve got the less is more thing down and besides sarcasm is a personal pleasure, it’s no fun if you have to explain it.

Aquarius: You’re starting to thaw out, this is good… but beware the cold snaps.  It’s hard to break free of those things, we all know this.  Don’t be afraid that minor setbacks are ruining all the progress you’ve made so far.  Keep in mind that two steps forward and one step back is still forward motion.  Try doing something nice for someone.  Nothing warms the heart faster.  Also, quit posting while drunk.  Nothing good has ever come of that.

Pisces: Hey, you’ve discovered that organized religion isn’t for you!  Congratulations, we’ve been waiting for you to figure that one out.  This does NOT mean you need to fill a room with crystals though.  Just relax and let it happen.  The universe doesn’t need to come to you, it’s surrounding you all the time silly.  No nag champa.  NO.  Put that incense stick down.  Right.  Now.  Circle back to some old friends.  You might find they’re easier to get along with now.