Flash Fiction – Memento Mori July 22, 2011Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm
This flashfic is part of an ongoing web serial, updated every week as a part of #fridayflash on twitter. If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.
The graveyard was always so still, Grimm thought. The hound hesitated by the gate, listening to the gentle creak of its hinges as Nox walked through. The more time he spent teaching her to summon Air, the more of his memories came back. None of the ones from this place were good.
Nox gave him a sympathetic look. “You don’t have to come inside. The ghosts know better than to bother me.”
“Yes, because they know I will beat them silly if they try anything,” Grimm rumbled. He pushed past the gate and loomed over her, throwing glares around at the restive spirits. They had been getting uppity ever since they were released for the day during the firethorn attack. He followed a step behind Nox as she wound her way up the path to his old mausoleum, a low, almost subsonic growl keeping them at bay.
She stopped in front of the door and squinted up at the lintel. “Do you recognize those symbols, furball?”
“No, but I mostly used warcastings.”
“Oh well, had to ask. Can you give me a boost up?”
The hound crouched down and let her climb up onto his back. He stood up slowly, giving Nox time to balance. She stayed up there for a long time, saying a lot of “hmm’s” and “interesting’s.” Which was incredibly annoying, but he held his peace until she motioned for him to let her down.
She gave him a satisfied nod. “I know why you couldn’t get back inside. The enchantments on this tomb are not convinced that the spirits of the Shadowkin are being contained within you.”
“Well, you did release me from the old binding spell, and the soul-bond is not perfect.”
“No, it isn’t. I’m thinking the soul-bond was a safety mechanism. Something to keep you bound to the nearest member of Galen’s bloodline if you ever got loose before the Shadowkin had been dealt with.”
“A temporary solution, until the spell could be reset?”
“Probably.” She gave him a measuring look. “So, what was so important that Galen would not allow you back inside unless they were being controlled?”
Memories washed over Grimm, and the sky went dark. A storm gathered on the horizon, thunder rolling so loud he could feel the ground shake through the soles of his feet. Lightning illuminated the man walking in front of him – he was tall and thin, his dark hair peppered with grey and he had a long face that was lined with weariness and strain.
The vision swam before his eyes like a heat mirage, and was gone. Nox was shaking her head, and he realized what had happened. “You saw that too.”
“That was him, wasn’t it? Galen? That was the night he bound you to serve our family.”
“That was the night he died,” Grimm said, his ears and tail drooping.
“Can you remember anything else?” she asked.
The uneasy feeling came back with a vengeance, and he dug in his claws to keep from backing away. He was not leaving her in here alone. He looked up at the lintel…
The storm was getting closer. A damp, chill wind whipped through the graveyard, moaning around the stones. Galen touched the lintel, and the marks of elemental castings lit up all around the doorway. “This will be my last great work,” he said, with a sad smile. His hand dropped to his side…
…and Grimm was back on the sunlit hillside, with Nox sitting dazed on the grass outside the mausoleum.
“Are you alright, short-stuff?”
She winced and rubbed her backside. “I found the one pointy stone in the lawn.”
Grimm let out an amused snort. “Maybe we should stop for today.”
“If we’re ever going to break your curse, I need to study this.” She got up and stood in front of the door, exactly where Galen had been. She lifted her hand and summoned a tiny breath of pure Air. The markings around the door lit up one by one as the element flowed through them.
Grimm could feel his fur start to stand on end, and bits of light, like motes of dust swirled around Nox. She stepped through the door and more of the symbols lit up, crawling up the walls. The energy moved faster and faster, cascading through them. She turned around, her eyes shining in wonder. “I’ve never seen a casting this complex before! Galen was a genius!”
Grimm was too busy trying to shake off a rising sense of panic to reply. He could not remember what had gone wrong, but he knew Galen had died attempting this casting. His eyes darted around the room, and his heart leapt into his throat as he saw the fatal buildup of energy around one of the markings. “Nox, look out!”
She must have sensed it too. Her hand slashed downward, trying to cut off the flow of energy but it had gained too much momentum. Grimm strained against the wards that kept him outside, felt them give, and he surged into the room.
It was like running through a river of electricity. The energy lashed out from the far wall and shot straight through him. There was an audible SNAP, and a wrenching feeling in his chest.
For a solid minute he knelt next to her, too stunned to move. His arms were wrapped protectively around her and his face barely an inch from her own.
Nox reached up to touch his cheek, her eyes wide as saucers. “Grimm?”
The last of the energy from the symbols faded, and Grimm felt another wrench in his chest as he turned back into hound. He paced around the crypt, so angry that he was shaking. “That was no accident. Galen knew this casting would kill him. All this time, I thought I had done it.”
“That was only the halfway point of the spell. What was he doing?”
“I don’t know. But we are not trying it again.”