Read The Callindra Chronicles Book One - First Quest Online

Authors: Benjamin Fisher-Merritt

Tags: #fiction, #adventure, #action, #fantasy, #magic, #swordfighting, #girl power

The Callindra Chronicles Book One - First Quest

BOOK: The Callindra Chronicles Book One - First Quest
7.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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The Callindra Chronicles
Book 1 – First Quest
A Novel written by Benjamin Fisher-Merritt
Copyright 2015 by Benjamin Fisher-Merritt

 

Chapter
1


Pox take you Callindra,
what’s the holdup?” Cook yelled out the door, “You said you had a
fresh brace of Coney’s for his Grace’s dinner, get them to me now
or you’ll get a serious beating girl!”

Callindra sighed, wiping the sweat from her
brow and tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her right ear.
“Coming, I just need to skin them.” Her mouth watered looking at
the fat rabbits, but she knew the Lord was expecting guests. It
only took moments to hook the still warm animals on a skinning post
and deftly shuck their skins off. Carefully wrapping the hides into
a tidy bundle she set them in the shade so they wouldn’t dry out
before she had the chance to clean and stretch them.

She walked through the back door with six naked
rabbits, three in each hand. “Here you go Cook, fresh off the lines
this morning.”


About rotting time.” The
large man snatched her morning’s catch from her hands, “Now get
over there and wash those dishes.”

She complied, swallowing her anger for what
seemed like the hundredth time today. “Yes Cook.” This was not what
she had in mind when she made her decision to come to the Keep
instead of going to work in the fields. She’d had high hopes of
learning a trade or convincing someone she had the wits to attend
the learning institute the Lord had created just outside the walls
of his holding. She hadn’t even considered going to a nunnery, the
Gods were a myth as far as she could see.

Instead of any of these she had been sent to
work in the kitchens in the mornings and evenings and as a
chambermaid for most of the day. The only breaks she got were the
rare moments when she got to tend to the snares she had wheedled
and begged the Lord’s hunters to teach her. Callindra knew the only
reason they had shown her was they believed snares and traps were a
lower form of hunting. When she had tried to convince Langmar to
teach her more he had responded contemptuously.


It takes skill to take down
a running stag with one single arrow and I don’t want to waste the
years it would take to train a girl how to shoot a bow when there
are plenty of boys who I know will be up for the task. Women just
aren’t suited for archery, especially not one as skinny and weak as
you. I taught you how to set snares, be grateful I did that
much.”

So for now she had to be content with what
she was given and dream of greater things. Not always easy to do
when you were up to your elbows in dirty dishwater.

-


Hey there country girl. Yeh
need someone ter help yeh cure them hides? I’m happy ter help yeh
ou’ if yeh needs it.” Jed was likable enough despite his lack of
teeth. The Lord’s Master Tanner had always been decent to her. She
hated the smell of tanning hides but she loved working with
leather. Besides, this was one of the only jobs they allowed her to
wear breeches instead of skirts.


Thank you sir, but I think
I’ve got the hang of it, at least with these little things.”
Callindra was scraping the bits of sinew and membrane from the
rabbit skins with a sharp piece of flint. “If I ever catch
something bigger I’ll be sure to enlist your help.”


As to tha, I hear they’re
lookin fer another set a hands nex offday fer tha bear hunt. I ken
pu in a good word fer yeh if yeh like.”

She could hardly believe her ears, “Would
you? Wow, thank you! I don’t know how to shoot a bow but I’d love
the chance to skin a larger animal, or at least see it done.”


Yeh got a bit a skill wi’
leather, not enough ter be trusted wi’ a bear yet tho. Could be I
migh be lookin fer a prentice come fall if yeh wan’.”

Callindra was floored; it was almost too good
to be true. “I’m flattered sir, but I can’t help but ask why?
Aren’t there plenty of others who would be better suited?”

The balding man fixed her with a critical
eye. “I got th eye fer knife skill girl. Yeh got a way wi’ blades,
yer doin better wi’ tha’ bit a rock then mos’ does wi’ a real
scrapin’ knife. Yeh wan’ ter learn from me or no?”


Yes sir, I do!” Callindra
grinned from ear to ear, “When can we start?”


Now’s good a time’s any.”
Jed took a worn but very well made hide scraping blade from his
belt. “Here I got this ‘un from th one what showed me th trade. I
alus thought it was better ‘n any other I used since.”

She took the knife from him and pulled it
from the sheath. The blade was honed to a perfect service edge and
the hilt was made of walnut worn smooth by years of use.


I don’t know what to say
sir.” Callindra swallowed a lump in her throat.


Say thanks an’ show me what
yeh can do wi’ one a them deer hides.” He gestured towards a small
pile of skins, “An call me Jed I ain’t no sir.”


Yes si- I mean yes Jed.”
She grinned against the tears that threatened, “Thank
you.”

-

The days passed quickly, and Callindra
absorbed herself in the work, learning everything she could.
Gradually she became accustomed to the unsavory smells of the
tanning yard and the strange speech patterns of her teacher.

One thing she could not get used to was how
she was treated as the tanner’s apprentice. The women ignored her,
something she was already used to. The girls treated her with
scorn, which wasn’t all that much different than it had been
before, however the fact that she was doing what they considered
‘man’s work’ added acid to their attitudes. All the men assumed she
had used her body to get the position, why did men always seem to
think with their loins?

Callindra was stopping off at the kitchen to
get some supper for her Trademaster. His lack of teeth required
soft food, and she always managed to wheedle some tenderloin or
chicken breast out of Cook. From just outside the busy kitchen she
could hear some of the serving maids gossiping.


She’s like an animal!
Honestly her hair’s always tangled and she smells like she never
bathes.” She overheard one of the village girls say. “I swear she
gets more like that horrible old man every day.”


I’d say it’s probably from
bedding him.” Said a man’s voice, the girls erupted into titters
and giggles of laughter. “You know how lovers tend to influence
each other.”


Don’t let them bother you
too much.” Cook rumbled, surprising Callindra with a moment of
kindness, “I’m glad Jed has someone to care for him, who you take
to is your business.”


I – we aren’t.” She paused
under Cook’s scrutiny. What was the use? She gave up, “Thank you
Cook. I’ll see he gets this.” Bobbing an inexpert curtsy she took
the still-warm package of food and hurried out the door before more
crude talk could reach her ears.


Watch where yer runnin
there runt!” Two of the Lord’s Huntsmen were carrying a wild boar
towards the kitchen and intentionally swung the carcass to block
her way. “In a hurry t’ get back t’ that old man eh? If you ever
want a real man t’ warm yer bed lemme know, I’d tame th’ wild otta
yeh.”

Without responding, she ducked under the boar
and ran for the small shack she shared with Jed. Outside, she found
him carefully scraping the boar’s hide.


Here, I can do that, you
have some supper. I brought a jug of cider too.” She set her
package down and drew the scraping knife he had given her. Jed
grunted his thanks and opened the cloth, inhaling the steam from
the tender meat and fresh bread. Under his watchful eye, Callindra
began carefully scraping the flesh and veins from the inside of the
hide.


If yeh wan’ th’ Lord says
yer can go wi’ on th’ bear hunt.” Jed paused to take a drink of
cider and smacked his lips in satisfaction. “Leavin firs’
light.”


Really? Oh, thank you Jed
thank you!” She gave the old man a fierce hug, “I just know I can
do something to get the Lord’s notice. If I could just prove my
usefulness maybe I could be allowed to learn more
things.”


Good luck.” He patted her
shoulder awkwardly and then scrutinized the work she’d done. “Don’
dig so hard on a pigskin, th’ leather’s finer ‘n a deer. Needs a
lighter touch.”

-

Callindra joined a line of boys, their job to
walk through the woods making as much noise as possible to drive
animals towards where the Lord was waiting on a hilltop with his
longbow. The scope of his retinue astounded her; he had a pavilion
set up with a kitchen to serve delicacies while he waited, a bower
for his Lady and their children to observe his hunting prowess from
the comfort of silk cushions, a shaded area for the other ranking
men to sit, smoke and drink.

She could feel the boys watching her as they
fanned out. Some smirked, others gawked; she was the only girl who
wasn’t serving or lounging in the pavilion. They made their way
through the forest and Callindra lost sight of the other drivers,
although she could hear them crashing through the brush.

She stifled a squawk of surprise as a great
stag jumped seemingly out of nowhere, setting her heart pounding. A
short while later, she entered a small clearing and saw three of
the Lords Huntsmen taking their leisure.


About time yeh managed ter
get here. We been gettin bored waitin fer yeh.” She recognized two
of them; they had blocked her way with the boar the day
before.


I told yeh I was gonna tame
th’ wild otta yeh girl.” He stood, and she could see a licentious
grin split his bearded face.


You’ll have to catch me
first you sick bastards!” She turned and sprinted into the woods,
listening to the laughter of the men as they followed, easily able
to track her progress. The branches seemed to bend to lash her
across the face and brush tangled her feet. Finally she emerged
from the thick wood into an open meadow. She ran across, finally
putting some distance between her and her pursuers, but fell to the
ground with a sharp pain blossoming in her shoulder.

Callindra heard the laughter behind her
change to shouts of alarm. Looking up, she gaped as a massive bear
reared up on its hind legs seemingly from nowhere, roaring in anger
at being disturbed. She stumbled to her feet, fumbling for her
knife. The bear’s claws flashed and gore splattered into her face.
Backing away, she flailed wildly, shouting her defiance and fear.
The wind roared in her ears and consciousness faded.

 

Chapter 2

 


Here now, drink this
youngling.” Glarian looked down at the slim girl laying in the
guest room of his small stone house, “It will be bitter but setting
bones was never my strong suit and it is going to hurt a lot less
if you can manage to swallow a bit of this.”

She looked up into a face framed by graying
tresses with an immaculately groomed moustache drooping on either
side of a mouth set with worry. “Where?”


Safe, I’m a friend. The
Lord holds no sway here; whatever those men had against you means
nothing to me.”

She relaxed and allowed him to help her sit
so she could take a few swallows of the harsh brew. Once she had
lapsed into a deeper, narcotic sleep, the man carefully sliced the
leg of her breeches with a small knife. His brow knitted sharply;
it was a bad break and beyond his real ability to set but he
couldn’t afford to wait until the traveling Healer came, nor could
he bring this slip of a girl anywhere the Lord’s men would
frequent.

He sighed and with an inexpert hand jerked
her leg back to as close to straight as he could; wincing as she
cried out in spite of the drug-induced nature of her sleep. Before
the bones could slide apart again, he splinted and bound the leg as
tightly as he could. He leaned back and took out the wash leather
pouch that held his pipe. Packing the bowl with tac he concentrated
for a moment, conjuring a flame until it was lit to his
satisfaction. What was he going to do with this girl?

Just a few hours before he had been stalking
a large bear; bear meat was sustaining and the animals were at
their fattest in the fall even if that was also when they were the
most irritable. Also, there was the superstition that shooting a
fat bear would mean a mild winter, but Glarian knew better. He had
followed it to a clearing and was readying the bow he had forced
himself to learn to use since leaving the Order when the lithe
figure of a girl had sprinted into view.

The three grown men who followed laughing and
cursing had intentions that were all too clear. One of the men
hurled a stone from a sling and it struck her shoulder, knocking
her to the ground. He ran forward but just before Glarian could
have loosed an arrow at him the massive bear had appeared as though
summoned from the underbrush.

BOOK: The Callindra Chronicles Book One - First Quest
7.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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