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Flash Fiction – Family Ties October 30, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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13 comments

This story is part of a series.  Click Here to read from the beginning.


Nox concentrated on keeping her hands still.  She was a daughter of the House of Ice, she would not show any sign of emotion. Head up, shoulders relaxed, breathing steady. Glacial calm.

“Courage, little one.” Grimm said. 

She glanced up at the massive hound. “Rabid cultists want me dead, but the thing that scares me is saying ‘No’ to my parents. How sad is that?”

“I’d call it being sensible. Your parents are far more dangerous.” 

 “Yeah, that makes me feel better.” 

They walked through the hallways of her ancestral home, a sprawling mansion that straddled the cleft of a frozen gorge. It had started out as a bridge spanning the river, lined with small shops and bookended by a pair of gatehouses. The bridge was still there, buried deep in the foundation of the building.  In the spring the thrum of the river could be felt through the whole mansion, though today the ice rendered it eerily silent. Nox forced her shoulders to relax again.

The door to her parents’ study was closed, but not locked. She rapped once to announce herself, then pushed it open. Lucien and Serenna sat in a pair of elegant, high-backed chairs, discussing business over breakfast.  Nox had to control a flare of anger. There was nowhere for her to sit, they wanted her to stand like an errant child.  She used her aura to shape a chair out of pure energy, then sat while she waited for them to acknowledge her. Grimm loomed behind her.

Lucien finally set down the papers he was reviewing and addressed Grimm. “This was to be a private, family meeting. Do you have so little respect left for me that you ignore even a simple request?” 

“I’m just here to make sure you don’t change her mind for her.”  The hound said, with a pointed look at Serenna.  She ignored him, her eyes focused on her daughter.  Serenna was a renowned sorceress, there was no doubt that she could alter Nox’s mind if she wanted to. The fact that she hadn’t argued the point with Grimm was particularly damning. 

Nox clenched her fists. If that was how they were going to play it, fine. She could play hardball too. “Have you considered my proposal?” 

“Did you leave us any choice?” Serenna said. 

“You’re the one who taught me that I should always play to win.” Nox said, pointing to the papers. “You would only be adopting Kel. There is no guarantee, written or implied, that he will inherit.  It seals the alliance and gives you wiggle room for further negotiations.” 

“We have read the document, daughter, please don’t patronize us.” Serenna said. “I suppose you think this a clever way to avoid your responsibilities?” 

“If being married off for a temporary political gain is a ‘responsibility’, then yes. I refuse to be whored out to the highest bidder.” 

“You dare speak to me like that!” said Serenna.  A poisonous glow surrounded her hands.

Grimm moved in front of Nox. “Don’t even think about it Serenna. You know you can’t win while I defend her.” 

“Enough.” Lucien didn’t have to raise his voice to cut through the argument. That one word commanded their silence. He dipped a quill pen into an inkwell and pulled the papers toward him. “In this instance, I agree with your proposal.” He locked eyes with his daughter. “In the future you will discuss any matters affecting the family with me.” 

Nox nodded, then swallowed to moisten her suddenly dry throat. “I…had some ideas for other ways I could be of service to the family.” 

“I had assumed as much.” The quill scratched on the paper. 

Serenna rose gracefully from her chair. “If this is settled, then I had best go make the preparations for welcoming my new… son.” Her lips curled distastefully around the last word. “We will speak again at dinner?” she said to Lucien. 

He inclined his head towards her. “Of course.” He turned back to Grimm. “I would like a few words with my daughter. Alone.” It was not a request. 

Grimm seemed to look through his old master, his eyes burning like brimstone. Whatever passed between them must have satisfied the hound, since his eyes returned to their normal dark grey. “I’ll be in the library when you’re ready to go, Nox.” 

She nodded and took a deep breath. Round one was over; it was time for the real negotiations to begin. 

—–

Grimm padded through the familiar stacks of the library. He had been here often, mostly during meetings to intimidate his master’s enemies. He had never been allowed to read any of the books though, and he felt this was a perfect reward for the mental dueling match he had just fought with Serenna. For a human she had a mind like steel trap. He carefully pulled out a book on astronomy with his teeth and propped it up on a reading stand. 

He was just a moment too late to block the binding spell. 

“You are not defending her now, hound.” Serenna said.  Acid green lines of energy coiled outwards from her hands, tangling him in a razor sharp net. “Tsk. Two months of freedom have made you careless.” She pulled on the cords, and Grimm collapsed to his knees with a groan. 

“I’ve been preparing this spell for a long time, I warned Lucien about your influence on our daughter.” She said, as she reached out towards him.

Grimm whipped his head violently from side to side, but she grabbed his muzzle and forced him to look her in the eyes. “Aphanios. Kazmiorr. Shaythoque.”  Her voice cut into his mind, making him shudder. 

A cold smile crossed her lips. “There. Now that you’ve been muzzled, I think it’s time I had a little talk with my daughter about responsibilities.” 

Grimm could only watch in despair as she left the room.

To be continued…


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I am not going to win NaNoWriMo October 29, 2009

Posted by techtigger in NaNoWriMo.
5 comments

And it’s okay.  No really, it’s perfectly okay. 

Life has conspired to keep me very busy this fall – I barely have time to work on 1000 word flash fiction stories each week, and my day job is about to get even crazier than usual. 

Add to that I’ve picked a concept that is going to require research, and you’ve got a perfect storm for not reaching 50,000 words by November 30th.  

Am I crazy?  Well, let’s just say the nice young men in their clean white coats will be taking me away as soon as I finish this blog post. 

Seriously though, when I signed up for NaNoWriMo again, I didn’t do it with winning in mind.  For me, the annual sprint has always been about learning.  The first time around I only managed 13000 words.  I learned that writing a first draft wasn’t about agonizing over making each line perfect, it’s all about getting words and ideas onto paper.

Last year I won (barely) but I also learned how to manage my time and set writing goals.  In the year since then I’ve learned how to edit that rough draft, write back story, plan story arcs, and a whole lot more.  Some of the fruits of that labor have made their way into my flash fiction, which still needs some work but I’m learning more every day.

This year my goal is to tackle research, and to write for a younger audience.  My concept is a collection of fairytales about the constellations, told by the stars themselves.  There will be a frame story, wherein the travelers (falling stars) meet to exchange tales.  Should be fun, though goodness knows it’s probably a year-long project, not a 30 day sprint.  

Who knows?  Maybe I’ll surprise myself like I did last year, and fall so far in love with the story that I can’t stop pouring out words.  But if I don’t, it’s okay.  For me, the whole NaNoWriMo experience is a win.

Flash Fiction – A Winters Tale October 23, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
10 comments

This story is part of a series.  Click Here to read from the beginning.


Nox walked arm in arm with Lord Kel through the sunlit silence of a winter forest.  The muffled crunch of their footsteps through the snow was the only sound, even the nearby stream was quiet under a thick layer of ice.  Grimm ghosted through the trees at a discreet distance – normally the hound had a strict paws-off policy when it came to her personal life, but these two were the heirs to the winter kings.  The houses of Ice and Snow were taking a stand against the New Dawn cult, and that made them prime targets for assassination.

Kel reached down to scoop up a dark blue flower, one of the few that could grow at these altitudes.  He handed it to her with a gallant gesture. “It matches your eyes.”

A wry smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “I like that better than the first gift you gave me.”

“I’m never going to live that down, am I?  I was six years old, as I recall.”

“You smashed a snowball in my face.”

“And you pelted me with hail.  I’d say we came out even.”  He said with a laugh.   

His tone was light, but Nox could tell that something was wrong.  She studied him more closely as they walked – they had been betrothed since she was five years old, but had never spent much time together.  She had to admit, he was ridiculously handsome.  He was also an accomplished statesman, had a great sense of humor… and she had no intention of marrying him. 

“How is Arella?” She asked.

He stopped, and she could feel the tension in his arm.  “Ah. You know then.”

Nox laughed to put him at ease.  “I cheered when I heard the rumor.  No offense.”  She winked at him.  “You know I’m not the marrying type. So, when do you make the public announcement?”

He stared off through the trees, still tense.  ‘We don’t, yet.  That’s why I asked you here today, we need to talk about our betrothal.”

“What’s there to talk about?  I never wanted it, and you obviously don’t now.”   She paused as she saw the look on his face.  “Oh no, my father wants to use it to seal the deal on that alliance.  Please tell me you didn’t agree to it?”

“No.”  He finally met her eyes.  “Arella is with child.  I love her, Nox, I won’t leave her.  Even if it means we have to go into exile.  I’m sorry, I know this is going to drop you in the middle of a political firestorm.“

Nox placed a finger over his lips.  “Hush.  You are going to make a great father, and I,”  she gave him a wicked smile “am an old hand at wrecking my parents plans for my ‘grand future.’  You stay home and take care of your fiancee.”

He took her hand and kissed the back of it. “I don’t know how I can ever repay you for this.  If you ever need my aid, don’t hesitate to call on me.”

The wicked grin got wider.  “Don’t thank me yet.  I’m about to add fuel to that firestorm.”

————-

Later, Nox and Grimm kicked back in the crowded loft over her workshop. They still hadn’t found a new location they liked. The hound was sprawled lengthwise across the couch, Nox leaning against his side with her feet propped up on a box of tools.  She frowned at the flickering image playing on the sheet she had tacked to the wall.

“Damn, still grayscale.  I’ll need to play with the projection crystals again. What did that guy call this thing?”

The hound thought for a minute.  “Bogart and Bacall collector DeeVeeDee.  You really are fascinated with that dimension, aren’t you?”

“Mom came from there, though things must have changed drastically in the past few hundred years.  So, did you catch any of the discussion today?”

Grimm sniffed indignantly. “Of course not.  Though he seems a good bit better than your usual dating fare.”

“Hey now, you promised not to comment on my social life.”

“I said I wouldn’t get involved, I never said I wouldn’t have an opinion.”   His tongue lolled out in a doggy grin. “So, when’s the wedding?”

Nox grinned back at him. “As soon as I torpedo my betrothal.”

“…what?”

“You really should have listened in like I asked…”

“Don’t make me bite you, woman.  What are you up to now?”

“Well… I always wanted a brother.  Don’t you think Kel would make a great one?” 

She was thrilled to see his stunned look.  They had a contest to see how many times they could render the other one speechless.  She had just made his jaw drop, that scored extra points.

“I’m talking about adoption, furball.  If my parents adopt Kel, they have two choices for heir and a family tie to seal the alliance.”

“And you get to go back to your tawdry affairs with your boy-toys.” 

Nox smirked.  “Damn straight.”  She looks back at the projected images.  “Check out that bar. I’d love to have a place like that.”

“Your mother would have kittens.” He said, then grinned again. “I like it, let’s open a bar.  Anything that ticks off Serenna is worth doing.”

Nox whooped with laughter. “Whoo!  One thing at a time, I need weasel out of this betrothal first.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got your back on that one.  Never did like the idea of arranged marriages.”

She hugged his neck. “You’re the best wingman ever!”

“Damn straight.”


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Flash Fiction – A Sticky Situation October 16, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
14 comments

This story is part 3 of a series.  Click Here to read from the beginning.


Grimm had done many strange, and sometimes terrible things while serving Nox’s father.  But nothing could have prepared him for what she had asked him to do today. 

The hound had a pole from an oversized butterfly net braced between his front legs. His job was to catch falling tabba pods, which involved quickly snatching the net in his teeth and swinging it into place.  He was already covered in sticky goo – the first few catches hadn’t gone well. 

“Why me?”

 Nox looked down from where she hung suspended, thirty feet in the air above him.   A thin strand of spider silk was all that kept her in place as she cut the pods from the Tabbaya tree.  “Bombs away!” 

She grinned as he swung the net around. “Was that a question or a complaint?”

His deep, rumbling mental voice held a hint of exasperation as he carefully tipped the pods into the waiting carry sack.  “Why not get a business partner with opposable thumbs?  Surely you could have found someone better suited to this work?”

Nox clicked a button on her belt, and a reel pulled her up higher on the delicate strand of silk. “You’re doing great, I only need a few more.  And just think, the refined oils from these pods will make a fantastic insulator for the transitional relay… CATCH!”

He quickly tugged the net to the left to catch the next bunch, managing to only break one this time.  “Your lips are moving, but all I hear is, this will buy Grimm many, many steaks.”  He shook the goo off of his paws. “It will, right?”

“If my theory is correct, yes.  Though why a ghost needs to eat is beyond me.”

“What do you mean, if? And how else do you think I take on a solid form, this burns a ton of energy.”

“Hunh, I didn’t know…. Whoa.  They never mentioned snakes this big in the guidebooks.”

A sibilant voice rasped somewhere above them. “hello, dinner.”

Grimm dropped the net and changed into a dog-like gargoyle, stone claws digging into the tree trunk as he scrambled upwards.  Overhead there was a click and a whirrrrr from the quick release on the reel, and Nox rocketed down the drag line.  A sharp looking object bounced off her aura shield as she zoomed past him, causing it to crackle like a fourth-of-july firecracker.  A fifteen foot long snake with a human head and arms whipped down around the tree after her.  It came to an abrupt halt though as it ended up snout-to muzzle with a snarling Grimm.

Find. Easier. Prey.” He growled.

The snakeman retreated as quickly as it had descended.

“Wise choice.  Hey short-stuff, are you okay?”

For once Nox didn’t argue with him about her size, she just reached up to give his tail a light tug. “Um, Grimm?  He brought friends. Nice look, by the way.”

Grimm turned and bounded down next to her. “Makes hiding in a graveyard easy. Hop on, I hope you can ride bareback.” 

More than forty of the snake creatures slithered out of the trees around them, and from the rustling sounds more were on the way.  Nox scooped up the bag of tabba pods and swung onto his back in one smooth motion. “The exit portal is a mile due south of here.”   She measured out a bit of the spider silk and slung it around Grimm’s neck to make an impromptu harness. “Go!”

The hound started to run but his stony paws slipped on the tabba goo, sending them skidding through the snakemen like a granite bowling ball.  The snakes hissed, Grimm howled and Nox whooped with laughter as they pirouetted through the clearing.  “Woohoo!!  E-ticket ride!”   Grimm dug in his claws to stop spinning, then used his momentum to bound over the remaining attackers.  Nox stayed low on his back, clinging to the silk rope with one hand and the carry bag with the other.  The ground shook as they pounded through the jungle, the snakemen in close pursuit.

Grimm slowed down a little as they reached the ruins where Nox had anchored the portal. She leaned forward and yelled something about a man from Nantucket.  The portal wavered, then opened just in time for them to barrel through it.  The hound spun around and barked, shutting it right in the faces of the angry snakemen.

Grimm resumed his normal, ghostly appearance as Nox slid off his back. He stared at her in disbelief.  “You locked the gate with a dirty limerick?!”

“You have to admit, no one will ever guess the magic words.”

 He shook his head, laughing.  “Technomancers. You’re all crazy.”

She waved the miraculously intact pods beneath his nose. “I see your lips moving, but all I hear is ‘buy Grimm steak’.   Looks like the goo came off when you shape-changed.  Want to go out for dinner?” 

 “Fine, but you’re buying, and lots of it.  I burned through a few cows worth of energy back there.”

She carefully slung the bag over her shoulder. “Deal.  So, tomorrow, there’s this item I need from the mile-high city…”

He groaned.  It was going to be a long week.


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Flash Fiction – Home Sweet Home October 9, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
12 comments

This story is part 2 of a series.  Click Here to read the first episode.


“We’re being followed.”

“Yep.”

“Friends of yours?”

“Nope.”

Ahead of them the real estate agent prattled on, oblivious to the conversation behind him, or the danger that they were in.  They were touring a fairly modern industrial park, one of three properties they were scheduled to visit. When Nox had invited the church grimm to work with her she hadn’t counted on how much space he would take up.  Most times he was like a ghost, but when he did materialize he wore the shape of a massive, six-foot tall hound.  One careless wag of a tail (and the resulting blast from the chemicals he had knocked over) was all it had taken to convince her go looking for a bigger workshop.  She was still cleaning up the mess a week later.

 “..accoustic dampening to keep any noise from bothering your neighbors, a modern ventilation system…”

Grimm’s rumbling mental voice overlayed the sales pitch.  “How exactly did you get an entire cult after you?”

 “I did my father a favor.” She said, a wry smile on her face. “He asked me to defuse a biometric bomb that was keyed to take out one if his political allies.  It wasn’t too sophisticated, I was even able to trace the energy signature back to its maker.  Turns out it was the leader of that ‘New Dawn’ cult. Nice man, put a death mark on my head.” 

(“Top notch security on all of the doors, windows, and every means of access is covered by closed circuit cameras…”)

 Grimm tilted his head a little to one side, the canine equivalent of a raised eyebrow. “I can’t believe your mother let you take that job.”

“Ambassador Serenna was off on another round of peace talks.  I’m sure that’s why father offered to transfer your bond to me.  He didn’t want her to kill him when she got home.”

“I could have done more to protect you if you had accepted it.”

“Just because my father is a hypocrite doesn’t mean I have to be one.  He’s kept you enslaved for centuries, despite all his speeches about ‘universal freedom’ in the Assembly.  I set you free because I happen to believe in that ideal.”

“And if your ideals cost you your life?”

She smirked. “Then there will be two ghosts making a mess in my workshop.” 

 (“And from the office you can see the lovely views of the downtown area…”)

“Lucien isn’t a hypocrite, there were reasons…” Grimm stopped abruptly, ears pricked forward, then shoved Nox into the broker.  “Get  down!”

Glass shattered as a hail of bullets ripped through the windows.  Grimm stood between them and their attackers, his growl making the air shimmer like a heat mirage. Nox watched, fascinated, as the bullets slowed down part way through the sonic shield before dropping to the floor.  She had heard Grimm could do some pretty amazing things, but she had never seen him in action before.  The broker was still babbling. “I’m so sorry miss, I’ve sold commercial properties in this area for years and never had anything like this happen. It really is a nice neighborhood.” 

She shook him to get him to shut up. “Where’s the nearest exit?”

He pointed with a shaky hand towards a stairwell. “Down there. Through the spacious loading docks.”

“Sounds lovely. You got that Grimm?”

“Get ready to run for it.”  The hound let out a sharp bark, and a visible soundwave slammed the gunmen into a wall. 

“Nice shot!”  She grabbed the arm of the broker and pulled him along with her. Her aura crackled as it expanded out to cover them.  “I’ll handle the shields, you focus on the bad guys.” 

Bullets and barks fly back and forth as they ran, Nox’s shield making a funny poing sound every time a shot bounced off it.  The noise in the stairwell was deafening.   Fortunately Nox could still hear Grimm clearly in her mind. 

“Stop here.” Grimm said.  They huddled close again on the landing just before the loading bay. “There’s more of them waiting up ahead.  They’re trying to herd us.”   He cocked an ear to one side, then stared intently at a small door in the wall next to them.  “Looks like the former owner used this to anchor a portal. Think you can open it?”

“No sweat.”  Nox put a silver ring on her finger and spun the tiny bands that wrap around it.  They whirred like the dials of a slot machine, one by one slowing to a halt. When the last one clicked into place, the portal unlocked and opened out into another deserted office building. 

Grimm sniffed at the opening. “All clear, go on through.  Not bad, short stuff.  You might just be as good at technomancy as you claim to be.”

She smirked again.  “Damn straight I’m good. And I’m not short, I’m petite. Puh-teet!” 

The hound gave her a big doggy grin as they hurried through the portal. He was enjoying having a friend to tease.   His ears flicked back and forth, but there was no sign they had been followed.   

Nox grinned back at him. “Get that out of your system before we get home, furball.”  She pointed to his tail, which was wagging happily again.   

He had a home.  A friend and a home.  Suddenly, his half-life was looking pretty good.


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Flash Fiction: Enter the Grimm October 2, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,
25 comments

This story is the first of a weekly series, updated every friday.


It was midnight, and Nox was in a graveyard that had been built over the crossroads of an old stagecoach trail.  She had flax seeds clenched in one hand to keep down the unquiet dead, only a flick of the wrist was needed to scatter them over a grave. Not that they would work on the one she was here to see, he was neither dead, nor entirely alive.  But she knew his name.  And she knew he would answer her call.

“Grimmalkyn.” 

Near the gate a vague shape formed, barely visible under the dim light of the stars.  The church grimm was here, guardian of the paths between the living and the dead. And he was playing hard to get.  Her aura crackled with the intensity of the energy she put into the call.

“Grimmalkyn, show yourself!”

A slight breeze ruffled her hair, and a mix of amusement and annoyance flickered in her dark blue eyes.  He’d always had a flair for the dramatic (or melodramatic, as she had often teased) and this place certainly fit the bill. 

“Grimm, if you don’t get your furry butt out here I am going to eat all of these doughnuts myself.”

The deep, rumbling voice of the grimm echoed in the back of her mind.  “You know the rules, call thrice and I shall appear.   Or bring doughnuts.  I see you did both, well played.”  The massive, spectral hound appeared right in front of her and sniffed at the bag in her hand. “Ooh, boston crème!”

Nox rolled her eyes.  “Yes, you bottomless pit, I brought your favorite.”  She pulled them back away from him as he tried to eat them, bag and all.  “Ah, ah, wait for it, I have something even better.”

His ears perked up. “News?”

She nodded. “News.  It seems my father thinks I’ll be needing you more than he does. Apparently I pissed off some pretty hard-core cultists.”

He made another unsuccessful attempt to snatch the bag, and glared sourly at her. “You? Irritate someone? Never.”  He heaved a long-suffering sigh.  “Well then, transfer the binding and I am yours to command.”

She opened up the bag and set it down in front of him, the sweet, sugary smell making his nose twitch.  “I, Nox, bind myself to you, guardian Grimmalkyn, but only if you choose to allow it.” She grinned impishly at him. “What do you say?”

He eyedher warily. “Those are not the words. What are you up to, little one?”

“I refuse to bind a friend. As of this moment, you are free of any debts due to my family.”

The ancient spirit gave the tiny woman a long look.   He could already feel the old bonds slipping away, and something new and unusual begin to form. She wasn’t joking, he was actually free!   And she had called him a friend… Well, there was a first time for everything. Why not?  And with Nox, his half-life would never be dull.  He snapped up the doughnuts, thoughtfully leaving one for her. “Your father is going to kill you for this.”

She shrugged and picked up the last doughnut.  “Only if the cultists don’t get me first.”

He chuckled, standing protectively by her side.  “No fear of that, little one.  Not while I’m with you.” 


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