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The Thief Of Callandaria

One coin slipped from the purse of the fat merchant arguing over the price of his produce with an equally fat woman carrying a suckling babe.

One coin from the purse of a drunken soldier in the service of a Lankire judging by the richness of his clothing.

One coin from a rich landowner in town seeking to slake his lust with a rather busty and baldy wine wench.

One more coin and she would have enough for a decent room and bath in the inn whose doorway she lurked about unnoticed.

That was her way. Her people’s way. Steal no more than you need.

From her vantage point she could see much but not be seen. In her hooded cloak she seemed nothing more than a bit of cloth blowing in the wind. Upon closer inspection she looked like one of many beggars dressed in dark rags weaving amongst customers and merchants.

Then with the changing of the wind she felt herself become prey. She nudged her hood back a bit and scanned the busy market place. The late day sun shown down on the street as hawkers and customers bargained and argued. Children begged for treats and played around their mothers' feet. Wagons carried in goods and wares. All was as it should be but still she knew she was being watched.

She pressed her back against the wall and felt the security of her sword strapped to her back. She held out one hand pretending to beg for coins. People avoided her outstretched hand like a plague. That was why she had no conscience against stealing what she needed. The town and its people were fat and well cared for yet they couldn’t spare a few coins for a beggar.

Just now though, she had other worries.

She peeked at the gathering shadows from beneath her raggedy hooded cloak and prayed for the setting of the sun. When it set she would melt into the shadows and be off. She wanted to leave now but thought it foolish since she did not know where or even if there was danger here. The prickly sensation at the base of her scalp that she always got when she was about to be caught had never failed or misled her and she doubted that she was wrong now. Still she would wait. It would look suspicious for a beggar to leave the market place so early for one. If she waited until the rest of the beggars left the market place she stood a good chance of melting in with them and getting away.

It was not long until sunset but it seemed like an eternity. A nervous sweat was forming between her shoulder blades. When the shadows lengthened enough for her to see them from beneath her hood without trying she started to make her way through the thinning crowd.

Most mothers and children had long since headed for homes if they had them. It was the time when visitors searched for lodging, beggars cried out their last pleas for food or coins, and men came to sample the inns’ wares of food, wine, women and various other entertainments.

She saw three men leave an animal lodge headed in her direction. She knew in an instant by their purposeful strides that they were the ones who watched her. They did not falter in step; they pushed aside any who stood in their way. Their focus was in her direction. She could hope that they were on their way to the inn she had hoped to lodge in but she doubted it. As they drew closer the leader's eyes locked with her own.

Her breath caught. His eyes were bluer than the bluest sky she had ever seen but they glittered cold and menacing. He was tall and powerfully built. He looked like he had been chiseled from a mountain of steel. He seemed unbreakable.

Then she had felled unbreakable men before. Those she couldn’t bring down in a good honest fight were brought down nonetheless. She was not above cheating to even the odds.

Fine, she thought, Come on! She pulled back her hood revealing her face. Reaching behind her, she unsheathed her blade.

She stood with sword in hand facing the three warriors wondering. Why with all the women to be had in this city did they pick me?

She had barely arrived in Asacalita, the capital city of the Teril Realm. She hadn’t had time to get into her usual trouble. The weight of the coins she had pilfered earlier shifted calling her a liar. Well, she thought, not very much trouble.

She assayed her would be attackers. Would be because she was an expert at getting out of trouble. She had to be since she could get into trouble without even thinking about it. Which was what it seemed she had done. This time she had no idea what she had done to any of them.

They considered her as she considered them. The two men bringing up the rear dismissed her with the total lack of respect that most men did. The one or two tings, tiny colored musical crystals, just visible beneath her hood proclaimed boldly that she was nothing more than a Baltiry woman. The fact that she carried a rather elegant and wicked looking sword unlike most women and all Baltiry women always escaped most people’s attention until it was pressed somewhere vital on their person.

The blue eyed one seemed to be their leader. She regarded him coolly as he stepped forward. He didn’t look like anyone who she had relieved of their wealth. Then she rarely looked at faces, only purses. The fatter the purse the prettier the person as far a she was concerned.

Handsome. She thought with a bit of longing. Women must fall willingly into your bed, blue eyes. So what do you want with me?

His voice boomed loudly and everyone and everything in the small street stopped. “We have been sent by the Lankire Evon Javronder of the 6th Realm. He would like to meet with you, thief!”

At his last words a few richly dressed clutched their purses tighter as they finally peered at the girl who moments ago had been mistaken for a beggar in rags. Upon closer inspection all knew her in an instant. The few mothers with children left in the market place clutched their young ones as they huddled close to the man who protected them and hurried away. The rich moved even faster. Still a small crowd remained who felt they had nothing to lose by watching. From a safe distance of course.

She looked around and realized that she was almost completely on her own. Almost. She adjusted her grip on the hilt of her long sword and waited. She did not take offense at being called a thief because that is what she was and a very good one at that.

She inclined her head in curiosity. “To meet with me? Why would the Lankire want to meet with me?”

The speaker moved closer to her but did not bother to arm himself. He stopped just short of her sword. He spoke in a confidential tone. “He has a job for you.”

She eyed their swords and daggers strapped to arms and thighs. “Really? And does he always send three well armed men after those he wants to employ? I cannot believe that just one of you isn’t sufficient to subdue me. I am but a woman.”

Their leader flashed straight white teeth at her. His eyes softened just a bit when he did.

“Your fame precedes you, thief. Everyone knows of The Thief of Callandaria. So sly she has outwitted the wisest of men and so cunning she has slipped past whole legions of warriors. No, the Lankire would not send just one against one as wily as you. This job” he sobered as he spoke this last “is far too important.”

She relaxed a bit then and lowered her sword. Another time and she would have preened like Dinay at such praise from one such as he. Looking at him anew she could see by his bearing and the cut of his clothing and weaponry he was no ordinary foot soldier. He held a high rank here.

“What is this job?”

“Suffice it to say that if you succeed, you will be almost as rich as a kirely.”

Now he had her attention. That much richness could buy her a home and perhaps even some respectability. And she wouldn’t have to depend on a man to do so. Still, there was always a catch.

She eyed him suspiciously as she asked, “And if I fail?”

His eyes turned hard as a winter ice as he answered. “You die.”

She swallowed hard. “Then I respectfully decline the Lankire’s invitation.”

He eyed her coldly as his hand rested meaningfully on the hilt of his own sword at last. “You don’t understand, thief. If you decline, you die.”

“I see.”

She looked around again for help and saw none. The small crowd that had started to gather was now dispersing. There was much to see here but no one wanted any part of any business that resulted in death at the hands of the Lankire, hers or theirs by accident.

“Not to worry, thief. This job is what you do best. I do not believe that you will fail.”

She squinted into the shadows over the leader’s shoulders, peering at a pair of yellow eyes peering back at her in the gathering darkness.

“I am not of The Noble Clan. Flattery will not make me preen and purr at your feet.”

“No flattery, thief. We do not have time for it. Do you come or do you die here and now?

She sheathed her sword on her back as she searched for a way to escape. She had planned on staying at the establishment behind her. It had been pointed out as the best in town if a visitor sought a decent meal, a bath and a room for the night. When the leader had pronounced her the Thief of Callandaria the establishment had closed and barred its doors to her.

She was cornered. Bitterly, she thought, If I’m so smart then how did you trap me so easily?

“I assure you, even if you escape us here that you will be hunted down, tried and sentenced to death. Running is useless.”

She weighed his words for only a moment before nodding her accent.

He nodded back. “You are wise, thief.”

She flashed him a tight smile. “So I am told.”

She didn’t like this one bit. Nor did she trust that she’d leave with her life if she succeeded in whatever task the Lankire had for her. This could be a trap to jail her or worse. She clenched and unclenched her jaw as these thoughts and more raced through her head.

If worse should come to worse, if she could get away, the Baltiry would hide her. But the freedom she loved would be denied her for the rest of her days. She wasn’t quite sure she didn’t prefer death.

She called out to the two eyes that were pinned to her in the darkness. “Dinay!”

At the name a loud purring sounded from behind the men. As they turned they saw yellow eyes drawing near from the approaching night. Their swords came up for battle as they uttered startled curses.

She laughed at their reaction, relieving some of the tension in her body. Which was good. She needed to be loose if she needed to escape.

“Surely, three well armed warriors of the Lankire are not afraid of a member of The Noble Clan. Especially with the strength of the Lankire’s whole army at your disposal.”

The great cat eased into the light of an open window. Light from the window spilled across its dark coat making it seem but a shadow amongst shadows if not for its eyes. The great cat halted before the men sniffing.

The leader bowed low and his men followed suit as he spoke. “Noble Clan, please forgive my intrusion on your domain.”

Dinay, yawned once before speaking. “Who asks for such a privilege?”

His composure faltered before the great cat. “First born of the Lankire, Evam, Noble One.”

Dinay groaned and stretched. “You disturb me, kirely one. Why?”

The thief was amused that even nobility of the people grew nervous before The Noble Clan. They who taught man how to speak and reason. Then she was shaken at the realization of just how noble the man before her was. The task must truly be important for a kirely, child of a kire, to be sent to fetch her. Her curiosity was now justly engaged.

“My father has need of your…” he hesitated a moment searching for the right word that would not offend the noble one. “companion’s skills, noble one. That is if you could but spare her a few days.”

The thief watched amused already knowing the answer to the question. Dinay would not interfere, not just yet anyway. She could say no and that would be the end of that. The Lankires ruled the people but the Noble Clan members ruled them. She could tell no matter how indifferent Dinay pretended to be that she was curious about this task too. She would not say no just yet. If ever. She was just as mystified by the inner workings of The Noble Clan as everyone else on Callandaria even though she had been traveling with one for five and a half seasons. If she failed in her mission for the Lankire there was no telling whether Dinay would save her life or let her die.

Dinay glanced over at her. “He grovels nicely, this one. He speaks smoother than most of his kind.” Dinay spoke to Evam. “I will hear why the Lankire needs this thief. Though she acts differently, she is not special.”

Those words did sting. “Hah! I’ll remember that, Dinay, the next time you need your ears scratched!” Coming forward, she raked her nails over one ear roughly. Dinay purred her satisfaction leaning into the hand that was fast drawing away. She stopped at Dinay’s side.

“So are you coming, oh spoiled one?”

Dinay grunted in annoyance. “Where else would I go? You do not leave my sight until the debt is repaid. Or have you forgotten?”

The thief rolled her eyes in exasperation and grabbed the scruff of Dinay’s neck as she drew herself up onto Dinay’s back. The thief looked down at her escorts and locked eyes with the kirely. She was slightly amused at the amazement on their faces. Both girl and cat were use to such reactions to their comings and goings. No one had ever been known to ride on the back of a Noble Clan and she was just a mere thief.

Dinay spoke breaking the men from their daze. “Do we ride to the Lankire or to my rest? I am losing patience with you, first son. How will your father feel if I tell him that he cannot have the use of my…” Dinay peered around at her before finishing. “companion as you say because you were not courteous to me?”

Evam recovered quickly. “Forgive me, Noble One. I meant no disrespect. Our mounts are in the lodge across the way, there.” He nodded to a structure a short distance away.

“Then let us be off. The night grows chill. I wish a fire, a meal, and either an explanation or a nap.”

Evam nodded respectfully. “Yes, noble one, of course.”

The men turned toward the lodge as Dinay and her companion moved after them ever so quietly amused.


Chapter 2

The girl, the great cat and the three men stood in the Lankire’s study. The girl tried without much success not to fidget. She was nervous. In all her life as a thief, she had traveled the 12 realms of Callandaria and no Lankire had ever summoned her.

Most knew to be summoned by a Lankire meant one of two things. Either honor or death. Given her profession she doubted she was now nor ever to be honored by a Lankire. Yet, his first born said that he had a job for her. A job that would make her richer than her wildest dreams if she succeeded or dead if she failed.

She had reason to be nervous.

She studied the swords and battle axes arrayed on the wall behind the great desk from which the Lankire governed his realm. If she failed in her task she imagined one of them might be used to take her head. She swallowed and tried to look bored.

She did not have long to wait. They had not been in his study long before Lankire Evon Javronder of the 6th Realm entered. She saw the resemblance between him and his son immediately. The Lankire was an older mirror image of his son. Where his son’s hair was tawny his was going silver.

He approached with a sense of urgency. “Welcome thief.”

She dropped to one knee as did the men behind her. Dinay, as usual, looked on indifferently.

“Rise, thief.” She stood and stepped to the side as the Lankire greeted Dinay.

“Welcome noble member of the Clan.” Dinay nodded to the Lankire as she settled down to pretend to doze. The Lankire regarded Dinay for a moment with a mixture of amusement and awe.

The Clan are true nobility. They had been as they are since man warred with each other over food. Long before the 12 Realms came into being.

The Lankire turned his piercing gaze back to the girl. “What are you called, thief? In my entire realm I could find no one who knows your name. Truth, I know no one on Callandaria who knows your name.”

Inside she flinched. Very few ever asked and those who did got her usual glib answer. Under more pleasant circumstances she probably could have slipped the Lankire such an explanation but not today. She swallowed that old pain and answered with a jovialness that her heart did not feel.

“That is because I have no name, great Kire.”

He queried her with a look.

“My father wanted sons very badly. Therefore, he refused to name his daughters until my mother produced a son.” Her throat stung as she swallowed bitter tears at the mere mention of her mother. “Sadly, she died giving birth to the son he wanted and my little brother died soon after her. Hence, I have no name.”

Something in the Lankire’s eyes softened and she hardened. She did not care for his or anyone else’s pity. She didn’t need it or want it. Life was hard for those not born to nobility. It was something she accepted without question. The Lankire seemed to sense her feelings. He turned toward his desk shutting out the pain in her eyes.

“Pity” he threw over his shoulder, “I could have told him how useless boys truly can be. I have two of them and neither has brought me much joy.” As he sat he threw a scowl over her head at his son.

“Still,” focusing on her again, “he must have had some way of distinguishing you from your sisters.”

Smirking, she answered. “He numbered us by the way we came into the world. I was the seventh girl, therefore, he called me Seven.

He grunted his obvious dislike at the idea. Seven found herself warming toward him with his grunt.

“Seven? Your da was an idiot!”

Seven grinned. “You are most wise, good Kire. Far be it from me to dispute you.”

“Ha! Sly tongued thing, aren’t you? From the reports I hear of you from time to time, you are also very lucky.”

Seven squirmed inwardly at his knowing gaze. What can he know? I am very careful. Most don’t even know that I’ve passed their way if I can help it.

The room went quiet for a pregnant moment before he continued.

“Time is short. I will get right to the point.”

Seven tensed and quieted her thoughts. If what the Lankire requested proved unreasonable she would need to think and act fast. In the quiet she heard the subtle change in Dinay’s breathing. That old cat was no more resting than Seven was.

Good, we are both ready, she thought.

The Lankire’s steady gaze settled on Seven. In that look she saw his pain and fears reflected back at her. That scared her more. When a man as rich and as well armed and fortified as Lankire Evon Javronder of the 6th Realm was afraid then all was most assuredly lost.

“The reason you have been brought here is because I have need of your skills.”

Seven inched cautiously closer to the Lankire’s desk. “Of course, good Kire. How can I be of service?” And can I please keep my wicked life and freedom?

The Lankire folded his hands on his desk and looked to her beseechingly. All the sternness was gone. In its place was a tired man who needed her help. The silent plea in his eyes softened her yet more.

“I need you to steal someone for me.”

Seven’s brow drew together in bewilderment. This was new. Not the stealing part. She had been asked to steal for Lankires before. Things of value done in sport and jest between the Lankires. Never, had she been asked to steal a person.

“Two nights ago, my two sons went out for their usual trouble making among the people of our realm. They are identical twins and sometimes they find it amusing to switch identities. They perpetrated this switch that night and consequently, Thrayal, the younger has been captured by Sera Beandi.”

Sera Beandi was the Lankire of the 7th realm which was mostly desert. He was rumored to be cruel and quite insane. She had wisely as all Baltiry avoided his realm since he succeeded his father as Lankire. There were rumors that he had helped his own father into an early grave. Most sane people avoided the desert realm that he controlled because of the rumors.

Even the other Lankires had shunned him lending credence to the stories of torture, cruelty and depravity that ran rapid in his realm with him in power.

“His plan was to take both but Evam was with good friends when they came for him. They were able to repel their attackers. Beandi wants me to consent to the marriage of my first born to his daughter, Laier.”

He shook his head to clear it of the worried thoughts that had plagued him since he heard of his son’s capture.

“I knew we Lankires should have dealt with Beandi when we heard the rumors but we didn’t and now my sons may pay the price for our reluctance to take one of own to task.

“We thought it was enough that we shunned him. Refused marriage contracts between his family and our own. We left him with the choice of marrying a commoner from his own realm or not at all.”

Seven nodded. Only a few generation ago some of the Lankires began marrying those not of nobility. All of the intermarrying between the kirely had lead to illnesses that only they seemed to have. Their loyal subjects grew strong while the nobility grew weaker. Only Beandi’s realm still held to the old way of marrying nobility only. The price they paid was an increasing incidence of insanity. Its latest victim would seem to be Sera Beandi.

“Besides that his daughter is the most disagreeable child I have ever met. Not to mention she is too young. They always married their women off too young in the desert. It is one of the reasons his line continues to weaken. The alliance is unwanted and has been refused more than once. He has no allies and is in desperate need of them. His own realm is on the verge of collapse.

“Now, with Thrayal as hostage, if I do not answer him yes in 10 days time, he dies.”

He slammed his desk in frustration. “If I had any sense, I’d let Thrayal be married to the little snit to teach him a lesson. However, I don’t believe he would live long past the birth of his first son.”

Seven dropped her eyes to the rug beneath her feet as the Lankire spoke. She considered the intricate pattern of the rug as her mind formulated and discarded plans. It could be done but she might need some help. Only might. Looking up, she spoke the obvious aloud. “You want me to steal him back?”

He looked at her eagerly if not skeptically. She was a pretty little thing. Skin the color of fresh baked bread. Sharp sparkling eyes with just a bit of a slant looked back at him. Her eyes were the color of the lake at dusk. Surely she had no more than 20 or 22 full seasons of life behind her. Younger than his own sons. Beyond that the cloak hid from his view. She was not what he had expected and wondered could she breach Beandi’s walls and get out with Thrayal alive. Even as he wondered he doubted it. But they would kill Thrayal at the sight of any troops from his own realm. She was either fortune smiling on him or a death sentence for his son. Still what choice did he have?


Internally, she relaxed a bit. It could be done. If the Baltiry would help her, she could be there and back in 7 days time. She hoped that would be enough.

“How much time is left?”

He looked at her full of hope. “Beandi’s envoy arrived today. It was only luck that a noble clan member had been spotted in the market place.”

She arched a brow. Lucky for whom? How many times have I told Dinay to stay out of sight when I am acquiring our needs?

She released a tense breath. She had plenty of time. “Then I should leave immediately.”

He eyed her curiously. “You show no hesitation. Do you think it can be done?”

Her smile beamed confidence. “I know it can be done. We shall see if it can be done by me.”

It was his turn to glitter coldly at her. “Have you been told the penalty for failure?”

She motioned to the men behind her. “If I fail, I die.”

He nodded.

“Then I shall succeed or die trying.”

He looked back at her grimly. In his heart he hoped but his mind still doubted. “Good. I shall send 20 of my best men with you. Including his brother at his own insistence.”

She looked back in surprise at Evam’s stoic face. “Begging your pardon, good Kire, but I can travel so much faster on my own.”

“That may be but I will send them in case you need help along the way.”

She nodded. His tone said they were coming whether she wanted them or not. “Do you think it wise to send your first born? He is who they were seeking.”

“Yes, but they do not know that they don’t have him.” He could see her next words before she spoke. “Yes, I know they wanted both but Evam has made up his mind. He is going.”

“Very well. Then might I suggest we leave tonight? Preferably now, while there is no moon. I would just as soon that no one knew I was involved. Once your sons are back with you Lankire Beandi could be most vindictive. The riches I have been promised for success would do me no good if I was now being hunted by him.”

“I assure you, Seven, you will never need to worry about Beandi if you succeed.”

The Lankire stood coming around his desk toward her. He seemed to be resting his worry for his son on her very small young shoulders. He hoped he had not misplaced his faith in the girl. He smiled tiredly down at her.

“Th-Seven,” They both smiled at his stumble. “have you no wish to know your reward?”

Seven laughed nervously.

“Good Kire, my life will be more than enough.”

Dinay opened her eyes and snorted before turning her back on the whole group. In Dinay’s way she had just called Seven a liar. In part, Seven was lying and in part she told the truth. She valued her life and freedom more than any jewel on the whole of Callandaria. Still, she wouldn’t say no to a few jewels, some coins, perhaps some land and furs, maybe a soldier or 100 as body guards in thanks for services rendered. And just maybe a male pleasurer for her lonely nights.

She wasn’t greedy. She knew others who would have asked for far more. However, since she didn’t quite trust anything about this situation she would be happy to just get away with her life.

“Hmm. That is all? You sell your talents too cheaply.”

She looked at him trying to read him but could not. “Good Kire, whatever gift you choose to bestow on this poor and humble thief is completely up to you. I am only rendering a service.”

He looked at her thoughtfully. “Think on it. Perhaps by the time you return you will have a request in mind. In the meantime, a meal has been prepared in my private rooms. We can eat there and discuss plans for Thrayal’s rescue. Follow me.”

Without waiting he turned and exited the room. Seven paused, she would prefer to go now and eat on the way but she didn’t seem to have a choice. She glanced over her shoulder at the four amused faces behind her before following the Lankire. Something was not right and she was betting at least one of the faces behind her knew what that something was. 

Chapter 3

As the moon reached its pinnacle on Callandaria signaling that night was half over the wind blew twisting shapes and shadows across the lower valley of the 6th Realm.

A farmer up late tending a sick animal paused as he crossed the open space between his home and barn. The clouds parted for a moment and the moon cast its glow on the landscape below him. He saw trees. At least that is what he would tell himself till the day he died. But for a moment, his heart skipped at what appeared to be a legion of soldiers on horseback riding at breakneck speed. At their lead a small slight shape that could be no other than a girl on the back of a Noble Clan member. He rubbed his tired eyes and the moon hid behind the clouds again.

When he opened his eyes again there were just trees and bushes below him. Still he stood for a long time, listening for the telltale sound of the tingles that all Baltiry women wear jingling on the breeze. When no sound reached him but the wind in the trees he called himself an old fool and headed off to bed.

Though all knew of the Baltiry girl who traveled with a Noble Clan member, everyone knew that no one dared ride upon a Noble One’s back. In all the recorded time of Callandaria that had never been known to happen.

Seven rode the soldiers hard into the night. Not because she needed to but because she wanted to know how hard it would be to escape them.

She had not lied to the Lankire. She did believe that she could rescue his son. Even if the Baltiry would not help her she was sure that she could get him safely out. But something was not quite right. All during the meal the Lankire and his son exchanged curious looks.

She didn’t know what to make of the two of them. They could be just an angry father and son but her instincts told her it was more to it than that. When her mission for the Lankire was complete she would not be returning to the 6th Realm with his men if she could help it. So as they rode into the night she formulated not just one plan but three.

One plan to get Thrayal with the Baltiry’s help, one plan to get him without their help and one more plan to give the Lankire’s men the slip when the job was done. By the time they found the caves where they would bed down for the day she had two out of three plans complete.

She gave herself a mental pat on the back. Not bad for not having slept the night before.

Seven spotted the nearly hidden opening to the caves. Most avoided the area because they believed there were mischievous spirits that lived there. In truth the spirits in question were just the Baltiry. It was one of their favorite wintering spots.

Deep in the caves there were warm springs that were perfect to wait out the long winters. As a child she and the other Baltiry children had often ventured up to the top to play tricks on any travelers brave enough to ignore the stories and spend a night in the upper part of the caves. Nothing really bad, just enough to ensure that the tales grew far and wide and people stayed away.

The Baltiry, though a friendly and lively band of roaming entertainers were also very private and secretive about their comings and goings. The Lankire of the Baltiry said that it added to the mystery and magic that only they could provide the 12 Realms of Callandaria.

Seven didn’t know about that. She hadn’t stayed long enough after she came of marriageable age to find out about whether that was true or not. When Dahrin, Lankire of the Baltiry, set his eyes on her for his son Dahweth, Seven knew it was time to leave the best home she had ever had.

As Dinay slowed to a stop before the hidden opening to the cave Seven jumped down. She felt that old familiar pang whenever she came across something that reminded her of the Baltiry. She missed traveling with them dearly, especially her Baltiry mother, Kairna. As far as Seven was concerned, Kairna had saved her from a fate worse than death.

The opening to the caves was large enough for man, beast and several wagons to pass through comfortably. It was another reason the Baltiry loved spending the winters there so much. The vines were a natural curtain. Their leaves ever green and their thorns sharp knives.

Seven sang the song that the Baltiry had taught her and the vines that covered the opening trembled. Her voice was clear and sweet but it was alone and small. Normally, there would be many voices to sing to the vines but hers alone would have to do. She sang in a language that only the Baltiry knew.

The men behind her stirred nervously on their calm mounts. They all knew that these caves were haunted by wicked spirits. Leave it to a Baltiry to bring them here. Only Evam and the horses seemed calm and unfazed as he sat quietly contemplating the small figure singing to vines that seemed to sway to her song.

They all drew back in surprise when a small section of vines peeled back to admit them to the cavern within. These were stinger vines. They were not poisonous but quite painful. Even Evam was reluctant to go forward.

Dinay moved forward as Seven continued to sing. When she cleared the opening, Seven turned and motioned toward Evam and his men to move forward quickly. She was tired and only one voice as opposed to the many that normally sang to the stinger vines. She had never tried this alone and didn’t want to press her luck.

Evam went first and his men followed closely behind. All eyed Seven and the vines suspiciously. Seven didn’t blame them. Stinger vines moving of their own accord was not something that was seen every day, if at all.

When the last man cleared the opening Seven sang her thanks to the vines for their hospitality before following inside. The vines fell gracefully back into place.

Evam watched for Seven as he dismounted. He doubted that she would run without Dinay but she was a very clever thief. He doubted even she could save his brother which was why he had insisted on going. If she could not get him out then he would trade himself for Thrayal. He had told no one this. Not even his own father.

He relaxed a bit when he saw her clear the opening and the vines fall back blocking out the rising sun. It had been decided that they would travel by night and sleep by day. He had not wanted to rest at all but she being a woman, he supposed she would need rest. He hadn’t argued the point when it was brought up.

The men moved uneasily as they set up their sleep rolls and brought out their rations. Seven watched from beneath her hood amused. She could have easily done without her cloak as it was not yet winter. The leaves had not even begun to turn on the trees yet. She just didn’t want the men to see her amusement at their expense. It might lead to explanations about the Baltiry that she did not want to get into. She could already feel the kirely one and a few others just waiting for an opportunity to question her about the singing.

Dinay knew these caves well and slinked off into the darkness unnoticed to hunt for her own provisions as Seven unpacked some bread, cheese and a bit of dried meat and water for herself.

One or two of the soldiers sat a bit too close for Seven’s liking so she unsheathed her sword and laid it across her folded legs as she ate. They got the message and moved back with the rest of the men. Except for Evam.

Evam jerked his head toward the vines. “I have never seen anyone do that.”

Seven swallowed the bread she had been chewing before she replying. “I imagine there is a lot you haven’t seen yet, kirely one.”

That was not the answer he had waited to hear. “How did you do that? Make the vines move?”

Seven took a long swig of tepid water as she contemplated an answer that would satisfy him without betraying anything she had been taught. As she quenched her thirst she longed to drink from the cold stream that fed into the lake just outside the cave. She didn’t dare risk being seen though. She meant what she said. She did not want anyone to ever know that she had aided Thrayal’s escape. Despite Lankire Javronda’s assurances she had him swear his men to secrecy. After all that it would be foolhardy to risk being seen in the area with his men just for a sip of cold water. There would be time enough for that when her mission was completed.

“I do not know.” She lied smoothly, “It is a song that all Baltiry are born with.”

He nodded his acceptance and bit off a hunk of bread. Seven relaxed when he believed her lie. She watched him chew on more than just bread and cheese. She knew his thoughts even if his father did not.

She spoke softly so her voice would not carry beyond them. “You know that sacrificing yourself for your brother will not work. Don’t you?”

His head shot up and he looked at her sharply. His eyes darted around at the men in the cave to see if any of them had heard.

Seven lowered her head and smiled secretly. “No need to worry, kirely one, I can and will deliver your brother safely to you.”

She spoke with such confidence that he wanted to believe her. Evam tried to bore into the top of her covered head and see her thoughts. Then he gave himself a mental shake as he reminded himself that he was not Baltiry. Only they had been known to read minds.

And she had read his. He wondered what else she had gleaned.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Sure of what? That you plan to surrender yourself to Lankire Beandi? Or that I can rescue your brother?”

He grunted in admiration at her understanding. His father was right. She was far smarter than any ordinary woman.

“Both.” He replied.

“Well, why else would you insist on coming along, if not to surrender yourself if I fail?”

“Most would say to ensure the safe return of my brother.”

She shook her bowed head. “Then most would be wrong. Your men are well trained and armed. Once we have your brother, I have no doubt that they will keep him safe.”

He tried to judge her form beneath the cloak and couldn’t. She hadn’t removed it during their quick meal in his father’s rooms so he had no idea what she looked like beneath it. He was curious now as he did his best to compliment her.

“Perhaps, I came to keep you safe.”

Her shoulders twitched but he couldn’t tell if she was insulted or pleased. She had yet to raise her head and meet his eyes.

When she spoke it was the same smooth dead calm as before. “I doubt that too, kirely one. Or do you not trust your own men?”

That thought was absurd to the point of being ridiculous. His men were well trained, the best armed and loyal to a fault. “What? No- I mean yes! I trust them implicitly! There are other men out there you know?”

She popped in the last piece of the bread she had rationed for that morning into her mouth. Then she stroked her sword from hilt to pointed tip. It gleamed in the low light filtering in the cave through the vines.

“I assure you, kirely one, I am quite skilled with this sword. You need not concern yourself with my welfare. If you ever did.”

He smirked at the way she had almost called him a liar to his face. She was brave and smart. Still, he wondered was it enough to free his brother.

“I am tired, kirely one, and if you were not so worried about your brother you would realize how tired you are. I see it in the shadows under your eyes.”

Evam rubbed tiredly and a bit subconsciously at his face. He had not slept since he had found out his brother had been taken.

Before he could deny his tiredness she spoke again. “Go and at least lie down awhile. Give your body rest if not your mind. We have another hard night’s ride ahead of us.”

He looked at her quizzically as he rose and turned toward his own bedroll. He had more questions for her. But it would seem they would have to wait until she was rested.

Two of his men sat at the front of the cave. They would take turns keeping watch during the day for spirits and wayward travelers. Evam had volunteered for the last watch. He lay down on his bedroll a short distance away from her.

He doubted he would sleep but he would rest his body. As his mind started to replay that fateful night when he and Thrayal’s games suddenly turned on them he heard Seven’s sleep laden voice in the dim cave.

“Rest, kirely one. In a moon or two you and your brother will be together again causing your father more headaches and this will be nothing but a bad memory.”

He doubted it and almost told her so when she started humming. It was low and melodious. He started to look around to see if anyone else heard but then he found his eyelids and limbs too heavy to move. It occurred to him that she was doing this. Making him sleep as his mother had when he was a child. He thought about fighting it but gave in to her instead. Soon not just Evam slept but so did his men including the ones on duty.

Seven remained awake until Dinay returned from her hunt satisfied. Then girl and cat settled down for some much needed rest.

Chapter 4

Seven sang to the vines and stepped through the small opening into the approaching night. The sun had set and the sky was turning purple. Seven sang as she walked the short distance to the cool lake.

She had lit a small fire in the cave when she awoke. The men were going to be well rested but she imagined a bit miffed at her. She shrugged as she finally stood on the bank and sang and waited.

Before long she heard the men moving in the cave. There was some cursing going on to be sure but she wasn’t concerned with that. They would be much more effective at protecting the two kirely if they were rested. She had said she was going to return the Lankire’s sons safely and if his men made a mistake she was sure she would be the one to pay for their error. It was always simpler for people to blame the outsider for their problems. In this case, as almost always, she was the outsider. The only time in her life when she hadn’t been an outsider was with the Baltiry. But then the Baltiry were just a band of outsiders themselves.

Seven ignored the noise from the cave and watched the lights that had appeared beneath the water. They moved languidly in the distance. Moving slowly closer to the shore. She should be eating her meal before they began their ride but she needed to get a message to the Baltiry. Problem was that she wasn’t quite sure where they were.

As the first light approached the shore the water before her parted smoothly as a glowing tentacle rose before her. It shot straight up into the air illuminating the darkened wood.

Seven stood unfazed and continued to sing. Soon more tentacles floated in the air swaying to her song. One by one they all floated around her and settled on the dry land. Seven stepped forward onto the tentacle before her. Soft sound floated into the air as she did not unlike the gentle cooing of a dove.

Seven smiled. She hadn’t done this in ages. Being The Thief of Callandaria didn’t give her nearly as much time for the simple pleasures she had enjoyed when she was with the Baltiry.

Pah! As if I am the only thief on Callandaria. And as if the Baltiry are the only thieves in the whole world.

The Baltiry were considered strange but the magic and joy they brought to the 12 realms was enough to make up for it. People turned a blind eye to the things they stole. They never took more than they needed. Sometimes they took what wasn’t wanted. People definitely didn’t mind that.

They were known throughout the 12 realms as child stealers. Though many said that they had heard about a child that the Baltiry had charmed away no one had ever heard of a parent coming after the Baltiry to reclaim their child.

As Seven walked forward the huge fleshy back of a creature floated to the surface. When she was in the middle of it she began to bounce lightly up and down. Her voice wavered comically but the creature only floated calmly beneath her.

She heard an oath behind her and she held her hand up to the kirely and his men to signal she was well. She continued to sing and bounce. The creature cooed back to her.

Evam and his men had awakened in the cave to find her gone but her bedroll and Dinay still within. Evam had started to take his men to task for falling asleep and then stopped. He realized that Seven had done this. Why he wasn’t sure. He had been headed outside to question her when he was confronted by the sight of Seven dancing on the back of a water wiel.

He uttered an oath and called to his men as he drew his sword to come to her aid. Water wiels were poisonous, dangerous meat eaters. They also weren’t too particular about what type of meat they ate. They didn’t hunt humans but they weren’t averse to eating a human if one happened to fall into their hunting waters when they were hungry.

When Seven held up her hand to stop them they all looked at each other in shock. Then they all passed a look between them. Baltiry.

Seven sang a message to the water wiel and it cooed its understanding. It would pass her message along as the Baltiry had not been seen near its home this season. Hopefully when she and the men camped again she would have her answer.

Seven felt someone behind her. Knowing the fear and suspicion that his men had of her she knew it could be no one other than Evam.

She bounced higher and turned in mid air to face him. She held her finger to her lips and watched in admiration at the almost effortless way he was able to keep his balance as she bounced. He would have made a good performer with the Baltiry. But then of course he hadn’t been unwanted.

Their eyes met and something pleasant stirred inside them both.

If only there were time, kirely one, if only there were time. She thought it and felt that all too familiar longing for someone of her own.

Evam felt the familiar stirring in his blood and smiled invitingly down at her thinking, When this is over, Seven I shall satisfy that longing I see in your eyes.

Seven blinked at the answer to her longing shining in his own eyes. It surprised her and her voice faltered and stopped as surprise took her breath away. Something unsaid hung in the air between them and it scared her. All of a sudden she felt overwhelmed. They had agreed to something somehow and Seven wasn’t sure what she had agreed to.

As she was about to ask the question the water wiel remembered it was hungry and though it would not harm Seven, the Kirely and his men were fair game. Without Seven’s song to calm it there was nothing else on its mind but food.

Seven saw the first glowing tentacle rise up off the ground into the night air.

“Go!” She shouted at Evam and peered around him at his men and shouted. “All of you! Run now!”

Evam looked down in confusion. He had gotten lost in the feeling of connection between them. It was the first time he had ever felt this way with a woman and it shocked him. He liked the feeling and only wanted to explore it more. How strange that he should feel it with a total stranger. A Baltiry at that.

At her shouts he remembered he was on the back of a dangerous water animal that could submerge at any moment and drag them both into the water with them. The poison that the tentacles dispensed rendered a person unable to move.

Seven had stopped bouncing and was urging him to run. He ducked and tossed her over his shoulder and turned and ran back the way he had come. The tentacle he had used to board the wiel was waving in the air menacingly.

He pulled his long knife from its sheath as he ran toward it. As he ran toward it he tried to swipe at it with his knife but Seven looked around knowing that men would attack what they didn’t understand. At the last second she struck him hard on the shoulder and his blow missed its mark.

He cursed and swore she’d pay for that later.

Evam jumped clear of the tentacle and ran back toward the cave. When he was clear his men followed him.

Seven sang out to the vines in alarm and they peeled back at once.

Evam dumped Seven on a bedroll in anger. She landed hard on her back side but the roll absorbed most of the shock. She knew what was coming now and she looked up calmly at him.

“Why did you do that? You could have gotten us both,” he gestured at the men behind him, “all of us killed!”

“If you had cut the wiel, kirely one, all of us would have been killed. It was hungry and there is other prey for it to eat nearby. However, if you had harmed it then the wiel would have seen that as an attack and would have retaliated in kind.”

She looked around at them. “Did we not all make it back unharmed? It could have snatched up anyone of you but it didn’t.”

The men considered her words but were still unsure. Only Evam seemed to accept her words.

He stared down at her wondering how one so young could know so much more than he. Then the Baltiry were known for their wisdom in the ways of nature. He should not have doubted her.

“Then thank you, Seven.”

Something warm shined in his eyes and it warmed her through and through. “You are w-welcome, kirely one.”

He grimaced at the title. It was the first time she had seen him do so and she wondered had the wiel or one of the vines harmed him. “Evam!” He said with force.


He softened his tone. “Call me Evam. I owe you my life it seems. So call me Evam.”

She stared at him a little wide eyed. She was to call a kirely by his first name. “Oh. Alright, Evam.”

The soft way she breathed his name stirred his blood more. When there was more time he would thank her properly.

She both liked and disliked the way he was looking at her. She saw the desire and welcomed it. But she saw something else too and that scared her. Something she couldn’t quite name. The silence in the cave was what brought her back to her senses. She looked around at the other men in the cave and saw the smug way they looked at her. She was still just a woman in their eyes. Albeit a woman who could sing vines and water wiels into submission but still a woman who desired. That they understood.

She turned toward to her bedroll in irritation. She swore under her breath when she saw Dinay. She had seen it all. She could only imagine how Dinay would tease her about her obvious attraction to Evam.


His name echoed in her mind and warmed places in her body that had long been denied.

“We should be riding. If we keep the same pace as last night we should be at the border to the 7th Realm by daybreak.”

Evam was more than a little disappointed at her words. He had hoped they would have time to talk on the ride this night. He wanted to know more about Seven. Then there would be more time after his brother was safely home.

He turned to his men. “You heard her. Make ready to leave.”

She was on her knees rolling up her bed and gathering her things. She whispered tersely to Dinay. “I swear, oh spoiled one, not one word from you about him. Not one!”

Dinay chuckled and purred at the same time assuring Seven that there would not only be one word forthcoming but several.

Seven groaned inwardly as she stood with her things and headed toward the vines to sing.
If you liked these first chapters and want to read more you can purchase the complete book on Amazon. Just click the link: The Thief Of Callandaria


  1. Umm when is part 2 coming out already lady??? WTH?!?!?!?

  2. When is part 2 coming out? I absolutely love this story!


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