The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 7 October 19, 2012Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm, serial fiction
The land that flowed beneath Grey as he flew eastward was nearly empty of life. The great herds that once covered the plains had dwindled down to small, furtive groups that bolted in terror as his shadow passed over them. The sky was bereft of birds and the trees, when he came down for the night held only silence in their branches.
It was well that he had thought to bring his hound along on the journey – twice on the first night, Cavall held off thin, desperate coyotes long enough for Grey to send them running with blasts of Wind. He didn’t kill the beasts, however. It wasn’t their fault that the wyverns had taken the top rung on the food chain, and left nothing behind. “Those coyotes are not much different from us,” Grey said. “The tattered remnants of our kind, too stubborn to give up and move on.”
Cavall flicked an ear in his direction but didn’t take his eyes off the darkness around them.
Grey sat with his back to a rock and drew patterns in the dirt with the tip of his knife. “I’m not expecting to find much on the coast either. Not after seeing all this. Why would traders sail into a port if there is no-one left to trade with?” He looked up at the stars overhead, finding the pole star. “We’ll go north, and start the search there. There’s a storm coming, we can catch the leading edge and slingshot around it to cover more ground.”
Cavall let out a yawn and rested his head on his paws.
Grey chuckled. “You’re a top notch guard dog, Cavall, but a terrible conversationalist.” He leaned forward and finished drawing the casting marks, and slapped the ground with the palm of his hand. The sound sent up puffs of dust that swirled away in miniature funnel clouds, making a barrier to discourage any other starving predators. “There, that should let us get some sleep.”
The morning dawned dreary and still. Grey tested the air, reaching out to find the edges of the storm. It was a large one, bigger than any he’d seen in his sixteen years but was confident of taming it. “Well, it’s going to be a wet ride. Sorry about that, but if we don’t find a fresh supply of medicine soon there won’t be anyone left to go home to. Here, lie down.”
The hound complied, and Grey arranged Cavall’s legs to avoid them getting broken by a wind shear. Then he wove layer upon layer of air around them in a protective shield, and crouched down next to the hound to protect him as best he could from the elements. Young and confident he may have been, but he was not foolish enough to fly without taking precautions. Once he was sure that they were as safe as he could make them, he shouted out a word to summon the winds. They shot up through the low, heavy clouds and were swallowed up by the storm…
The remnants of the hurricane swept across the high mountain plateau, pounding into the walls of a half-finished city that sprawled out below Galen’s castle. The Lord of House Zephyr stood on the balcony outside his bedchamber, his long black hair and heavy robes flapping and tugging in the strident winds. Galen had chosen this place to build his city because of the constant, ever changing winds that blew up through the mountain passes. But even he, who knew the moods of the weather so well, was puzzled by the news the storm winds brought him.
“How curious. After more than a hundred and fifty years, the elements still find ways to surprise me. There is something, or someone bending the storm around them in a way I’ve never seen.”
His wife, wisely staying out of the damp chill, was curled up on a divan reading a book. “You are going out into that storm, aren’t you?” Elena said, with an amused sigh.
He came back inside, the rain streaming away from him as he absentmindedly sketched an Air casting to wring the water out of his robes. “A new way to shape the Wind. Fabulous! I must find the source!”
Elena uncurled from her seat and crossed the floor to stand in front of him. “Put on some warmer clothes and take an escort with you, beloved,” she said, and kissed him affectionately on the tip of his nose.
“Of course, and nets and poles, in case we should need to carry whatever it is back…” Galen said. He tossed his robes aside in favor of sturdy trousers and a shirt, with a warm jacket over top. By the time he was done his wife was standing by the door to their suite with a group of guards already prepared to go. A delighted smile lit up Galen’s face, and he kissed her tenderly. “What would I do without you?”
“You would forget your shoes,” Elena said, and her merry laughter filled the room as he ran back inside to stomp into boots.
Galen hurried through the castle, his guards staying close on his heels. A flick of his hand created another effortless Air casting to keep them all dry. They flew out into the night, heedless of the tempest raging around them. Galen reached out with his senses, searching for the faint signs of the foreign casting.
He found it deep in the woods beyond the city. The trees creaked and groaned around him, their limbs swaying beneath the pounding waves of rain. He peered into the gloom near their roots. “There it is, a globe of layered air. Interesting choice.” He walked around it, studying it intently. “Something is moving inside, but I can’t see what it is. Ah well, only one way to find out.”
“Sir, wait!” cried one of the guards, but he was too late. The globe fell apart as Galen touched it and a large, hairy beast howled as it leapt out at him.
Galen raised his hand and the creature stopped in mid-leap, caught by a tendril of Air. “Well, what are you? A wolf? No, wolves don’t wear collars. Some sort of dog, I’d guess. I don’t suppose you made that Air casting?”
The guards had moved up to surround him, swords at the ready. One of them advanced cautiously on the hollow where the dog had been. “My Lord, there is something else here.”
Galen carefully set down the whining, struggling wolf-hound and built a barrier of solidified air around it. “Easy, fellow. I won’t hurt you.” He pushed past his guards and took the lamp, holding it high. “Ah, and here is your master.”
He knelt down, carefully clearing away the broken tree branches that were tangled up with the person lying beneath them. “Good heavens, he’s just a boy. Barely old enough to shave!”
His guard captain looked skeptical. “If he’s a boy, they grow them big wherever he comes from. And that’s a sword at his hip.”
“And broken spears beneath him, yes, but a boy nonetheless,” Galen said impatiently. He put a hand on the young man’s forehead, using his healing talent to read his vital signs. “Old wounds on top of the ones caused by the storm, exhaustion, malnutrition, and some sort of toxin in his blood…what a hard life you have had,” he said, compassion and pity in his voice. “Bring him, and his loyal friend there. Gently now. It would be a shame for him to have survived so much, only to perish due to our carelessness…”