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Flash Fiction – The Long Road February 26, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.  

Loki draped an arm around Nox’s shoulders, grateful for something to lean on.  The wound to his hip was giving him more trouble than he had expected, but he could not afford to show any sign of weakness in front of the enemy guardsmen.  Fortunately they were honoring the truce around the duel and leaving peacefully.   He just wished they would leave more quickly.  Damn Roald, even in death he was a pain in the ass. 

“Where is Grimm?” he asked.

“He’s chasing off those cultists that were with the Morning Lord.  He’ll be here soon.”  Nox said.

The ghost hound materialized a few feet away from them.  “I’m here now.  So if you two are quite done standing around making goo-goo eyes at each other, can we get going?”

“We were not making eyes at each other!“she protested.

“Mmm-hmm.  Just like you weren’t getting cosy in that lover’s grotto while I was out here doing all of the hard work.”

“Roald buried us in there. We were trying to get out!”

“Riiiight… I’m sure you always think about cologne when you’re in a life or death situation.” he teased.  “We’re going to have a long talk about keeping your thoughts clear when you try to contact me, short-stuff.”

Loki got a broad smile on his face when he saw her blush.  Still, as fun as it was to watch Grimm wind up Nox, he was starting to feel a little woozy.   Maybe he should sit down, just for a few minutes, while they flagged down a carriage.

“Loki?” Nox said, as he sagged downwards.  “Oh no, Loki! Stay with me. C’mon, look at me…”

 Loki opened his eyes, but Nox wasn’t there.  Instead, he was standing next to an old stone road that ran straight as an arrow through a featureless plain. He turned around to look for any other sort of landmark, but there was nothing.  He shrugged to himself.  It seemed the only choices were to take the road, or stand here and do nothing.

“I wouldn’t step on that if I were you. Once you start, it’s hard to turn back.”

Loki spun around again, startled by the deep voice coming from right behind him.  A big, powerfully built man in antique plate armor stood just an arms-length away.  Loki eyed him up, trying to figure out how he had missed seeing him before.  He was at least a foot taller than Loki, and nearly twice as broad through the shoulders.  His hands rested with easy familiarity on the pommel of a sword that stood point down in the ground.  Everything about the man was battered and battle-scarred, from his face to his heavy steel armor.  His dark, graying hair was cut short in a military fashion, and his eyes were a dark grey as well.  Loki realized he had been staring and searched to find something to say.  “Those scars must be a bear to shave around!”

Fortunately the big man looked amused rather than insulted.  “Two thousand years of fighting tends to leave its mark on you.”

Then it hit Loki – he knew that voice.   It was just missing the rumbling growl that usually accompanied it.  “Grimm? But you’re not a…”

“A hound?  No.  That’s the funny thing about ghosts.  We are as we remember ourselves to be. And here, I remember everything.”

Loki was about to ask where here was, but he had already guessed. This was the Long Road, the last road a man ever took.  The sobering reality of it sent a chill through him. “Am I dead?”

“No, but not for lack of trying.” Grimm said, with a wry smile.  “You channeled too much energy right after losing a bit too much blood. Next time you want to impress a girl, buy her flowers.”  He reached out and pulled Loki back from the edge of the road. “I’ve been keeping you here on the border.  Nox would never forgive me if I let you slip past.”

Loki looked down, and noticed the road was a lot closer again. There was a constant, invisible tide that washed past him, pushing him towards the road.   Grimm reached out and patiently pulled him back away from it again. “How do you fight it?” Loki asked.

“The sword.  I use it to anchor myself in one spot.  Although, the Road and I have something of an understanding.” He rested his hand back on the pommel.  “While you’re here,” he said, looking a bit more stern, “do I need to say what I’ll do to you if you break Nox’s heart?”

Loki laughed.  “Her newly adopted brother already gave me ‘the talk’ as soon as the rumors starting flying about us.  Honestly though, you and Kel should be more worried about her breaking my heart than the other way around.”

“Nothing worth having is ever easy.”

“Now that I’ll drink to.” Loki looked around again.  “Speaking of drinks, I’m parched.  Where can I get a cold one around here?”

Grimm nodded.  “That’s a good sign, if you’re noticing your body’s needs, it’s almost time for you to go back.”  He sheathed the sword with a smooth, practiced motion.  Then he placed one broad hand between Loki’s shoulder blades, and started pushing him away from the road.

“Wait!” Loki said.  “Will I remember anything when I go back?”

Grimm looked thoughtful at that, but kept them moving. “I honestly don’t know.  If you do, tell Nox to blow on the pages. She’ll know what I’m talking about.”

“Do what?  For which book?”

Grimm chuckled.  “Get moving, boy.  Can’t you hear she’s calling for you?”

Now that he thought about it, Loki could hear something.  He kept moving forward, until the invisible tide eased, and the world turned from grey to white.  It was time to go home.

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1. Lyn Thorne-Alder - February 26, 2010

Intriguing. Well worth reading more, and I will!

techtigger - February 27, 2010

Thank you! I hope you enjoy reading the rest of them 🙂

2. lauraeno - February 26, 2010

Oh…and will he remember to tell her? Honestly, you always leave me hanging, wanting more NOW! Great story, as usual. 🙂

techtigger - February 27, 2010

ah, cliffhangers, you know I love ’em 😉

3. Mariana N. Blaser - February 27, 2010

Ohh, how creative is your vision of the border! I thought Grimm would share more with Loki, since he could remember everything. Wait, I just realized that he actually did. Well done!

Ditto to LauraEno: as usual. 😀

techtigger - February 27, 2010

Thank you 🙂 I’ve been looking forward to writing this one for a long time – I’ve had this idea in my head for how Grimm would look, and the road, almost since I first came up with the idea for the series. So nice to finally get it written into the story!

4. John Wiswell - February 27, 2010

I hope you take it the right way when I say I should read your site more regularly. Every time I stumble back here your fantasies have such a pleasant and distinct flow.


techtigger - February 27, 2010

*lol* I completely understand! I know I never have enough time to keep up with all of the great stories on #fridayflash. But I’m glad you keep coming back 🙂

5. Marisa Birns - February 27, 2010

This was such a satisfying read! Do love the human description of Grimm.

This series is so imaginative and so wonderfully written. Yes, it does make a reader want to turn the page and see what happens next!

techtigger - March 3, 2010

thanks! When @cafenirvana asked me to describe him, I said ‘tall dark & rugged’ – which, while fun, doesn’t really cover it. So, now you know who he was, an old-fashioned knight in battered armor 🙂

6. soesposito - February 27, 2010

Oh, an embattled warrior, I love Grimm even more now!

techtigger - March 3, 2010

I get the feelign i’m going to have to start a fan club for him! *grinz*

7. Jessica Rosen - February 28, 2010

I’m always intrigued how writers see the path to the Other Side (like those caps?), if indeed they see one. This was a good one. Enough information about it imparted easily. I love your characters. They’re beautifully drawn. Even starting in the middle, I’ve come to feel for them and want to follow them. I look forward to the previous entries, but you should know that this works as a standalone, it’s so well done.

Take care,

techtigger - March 3, 2010

You are rocking the caps! 😉

The Long Road (see, more caps!) is sort of the limbo between the otherworld, and the living realms. Grimm is caught between life and death. He’s complicated like that *grinz*

I always try to make sure new readers won’t get lost while reading it. That’s one of the fun challenges of writing a longer-running web serial, you have to keep putting in bits to remind readers what they saw before, and hook new ones.

Hope you enjoy reading the rest of them!

8. Anne Tyler Lord - February 28, 2010

Angie – another great installment! You are excellent at the cliffhangers!

I just giggle each time I read “love grotto.”

techtigger - March 3, 2010

*hee* My big brother used to tease me like that, so I had plenty of ammo to draw on for Grimm 😉

I shall make myself a tiara, and claim the title of Cliffhanger Queen! 😀

9. Dana - March 3, 2010

I really enjoyed this!

I wonder if your series got Loki into my brain?

techtigger - March 3, 2010

Loki is a great name – so much history (and mischief!) behind it!

10. CafeNirvana - March 3, 2010

I agree with Anne. “Love Grotto” cracks me up 🙂

Grimm’s grip on my reader heart has become tighter. It feels sad to know he is just a ghost and just a step away from death. If I am not guessing too ahead with the plot or giving you ideas, it is rather tragic that no matter what happens, whether the curse is lifted or it destroys Nox’s land & people, he will not survive as a whole person. That choice seems to be missing if we take this bit of the story into account. Sad but makes the story all the better for it. I hope you hurry up and finish the book soon. 🙂

techtigger - March 3, 2010

Like I said, Grimm is… complicated… *grinz*

A curse that survived over 2000 years and the best the elementals had to throw at it isn’t going to go away easy. And that’s as much of a hint as I’ll give! 🙂

Of course, Nox also has other things to deal with while trying to break the curse – the deathmark the Morning Lord took out on her, family problems, distractions *ahem* from Loki…

11. Walt - August 20, 2010

I really enjoyed seeing Grimm from a new perspective and visiting the place between life and death. Good work.

12. Xanto - September 3, 2010

This was a beautiful episode that dealt with a lot. It was good to see Grimm as he once was.

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