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Flash Fiction – Family Ties October 30, 2009

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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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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1. Michael J. Solender - October 30, 2009

yours is a beautiful and capturing style that pulls the reader along. i love your word choices – thrum- is so very fun to see used. wonderful dialogue and tale.

2. Marisa Birns - October 30, 2009

The story continues…and continues to be a very good read!

3. Laura Eno - October 30, 2009

Now I am desperate for the next installment! Great story you have going here. I’m thinking a violent death for that witch, after Grimm and Nox are somehow rescued. 🙂

4. Cecilia Dominic - October 30, 2009

Uh oh, if Mama ain’t happy… Is that why he wasn’t allowed to read — too much distraction?

Wonderful, as always. A deep castle with deep secrets about your heroine.


techtigger - October 30, 2009

They couldn’t let Grimm research a way to set himself free, now could they? Fortunately for him, Nox had free run of the library 😉

5. Carrie Cleaver - October 31, 2009

Nice style. Thanks for sharing.

6. Laurita - November 1, 2009

The adventures of Nox and Grimm continue. I look forward to them every week. I hope they continue for a long time.

7. soesposito - November 2, 2009

No! Poor Grimm. 😦

8. donnacarrick - February 28, 2010

Wow — great forward movement!

9. Walt - August 4, 2010

Wow, talk about a cliff-hanger. Good thing the next installment is only a click away and now a week 🙂

10. Xanto - September 2, 2010

Good grief! She doesn’t pull any punches, does she? Great episode!

11. Peter Newman - October 6, 2011

This is warming up nicely now. Reminds me a bit of Amber, with all the family politics, high magic and multiple worlds. And it’s nice to arrive so late, I know I have a year’s worth of stuff ahead of me to enjoy. Lovely!

techtigger - October 6, 2011

Thank you! Amber is one of my favorite series, so that’s a high compliment indeed 🙂 Feel free to drop me a line on twitter if you have any questions, I’m always happy to chat about the stories, or writing in general. @techtigger

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