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Flash Fiction – Storm Winds March 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.  

The armor weighed down on Grimm’s shoulders, and his arms grew heavy from swinging the blade.  The Shadowkin, still in the form of jackals circled around him, their mocking laughter echoing across the grey plain.  He had taken out at least thirty of them, but it was not enough.  They had slowly forced him away from the passage to the mortal realms.  He had to get back to Nox. She was his only link to the living world, and if they cut him off from her, he would be lost forever.    

(“Give up.”  “Give in.”  “You are beaten.”  “She is ours!” said the Shadowkin, their voices harsh in the still air.)

Grimm gave them a disgusted look.”Two thousand years, and you still can’t think of anything worth saying?  Pathetic.”

(“This ends here.”  “Today you die.” “So sad, Grimmalkyn, brought down by a woman again.”)

Grimm’s eyes narrowed.  “I am going to enjoy killing you.” 

The Shadowkin attacked all once.   Grimm raised his blade and met them head-on.   The sword flashed out, left, right, left, and three Shadowkin fell.  He grabbed another by the throat as it leapt at him, snapped its neck and flung it into its comrades.  The Shadowkin tore into him, claws screeching across his armor and leaving gouges in it.  He killed several more, but there were just too many of them.  He could not hold his ground, and every step away from the living world brought him closer to oblivion.


The Shadowkin talked directly to Nox now, promising her everything she could desire.  She caught a distorted glimpse of herself reflected in an old set of armor.  Her dark hair was matted with dust and cobwebs, her face pale and slack. The only color came from her eyes, which burned brimstone red instead of being their usual dark blue.  It didn’t matter though.  Soon nothing would bother her again.

(“Yes, yes, power and more!” “Study the artifact.” “Let us guide you!” “Take back what is yours!”)

She cleared more cobwebs away from the table where the artifact was placed.  “I can be the heir again…”

All but one of the voices fell silent. (“Wrap the coil around your arm. Extend the hollow blade, and turn the dial.  Slice through the auras of your enemies, and their powers will flow up the blade and into you. “)

“Will my aura turn black like Grimm’s?”

(“Black as night and stronger than death itself.  This is the very blade we used to make Grimmalkyn.”)

Nox leaned closer to the artifact, studying every bit of it.  “The spells imbued into it are fraying. Someone may be able to undo the changes.”

(“That has always been so, even when it was new.  But you, Technomancer, you can build a better one.  Make it stronger, to cut all the deeper.  You can perfect what we had begun.”)

“Yes… I can make things better.  Hard luck for you, though.”  She got a wicked smile on her face.  “Now, Grimm!”

Grimm stopped retreating.  Every step backwards had lured the Shadowkin closer to Death’s domain.  The Long Road was, quite literally, the highway to Hel, and since he had just recovered 50 of its most-wanted souls, it owed Grimm a very big favor.

Grimm threw his head back, a look of fierce exultation on his face.  He called out to the winds…and for the first time in 2000 years, the winds answered.  He rocketed up into the heavens, storm clouds swirling around him in a wild tempest.  He pulled them in tighter, spinning them faster and faster.  He hung suspended for one glorious moment in a solid wall of air, and then he let it go.  The tornado hammered down into the Shadowkin, tearing them to shreds and flinging their bodies towards the Road. They scrambled to escape, their claws sinking into the ground but the winds just ripped them loose one by one. Grimm reached out and sent down a second funnel cloud, and a third.   More of the Shadowkin were hurled into the air, where Grimm was waiting for them.  

The Shadowkin made a last, desperate assault on Nox. 

(“You cannot fight us forever.” “Your loved ones will pay!” “We will control you.” “We will murder them all!”)

Nox smirked. “Go ahead, stick around for a while.  Just remember, the entire time you’ve been looking into my mind, I’ve been looking into you.  The longer you stay, the sooner I’ll find a way to tear you apart.”

(“You lie!”  “Break her mind!”)

The sudden pressure in her head made Nox lurch against the table, knocking the artifact to the floor.  She forced herself to stand upright again.  “I’ve already started collecting your names.  Rakash. Avannor. Duros. Malketh.”  The Shadowkin wailed as their names were called, and fled back through the soul-bond into the ether.

Grimm materialized as soon as they left, his form wavering for a moment before settling as a massive hound.  “Not bad, short-stuff.  I’ve never seen them run so fast!”

“Are you okay? It sounded like they put up a fight.”

He sat down, his tongue lolling out in a big doggie grin. “Are you kidding? I haven’t had this much fun in centuries!”  He tilted his head to the side.  “Still, they won’t underestimate you again.”

“No, but it was worth it. I got all kinds of interesting info out of them, and they won’t try poking around in my head again anytime soon.”

“Should we thank your mother?  If we hadn’t been watching for another of her coercion spells, they might have gotten the jump on us.”

 “I somehow doubt she’d appreciate the sentiment,” Nox said, laughing.  “How many did you get?”

“127. Only 873 to go!”

“Outstanding work! We should celebrate!”

“The BBQ Shack has that half-a-heifer special!” he said, licking his chops.

 “Dinner it is!”  Nox said. “We’re going to beat them Grimm. I know it.”

“I think you’re right,” he said, still remembering the feel of the wind on his face.

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Flash Fiction – A Thousand Voices March 19, 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.  

Grimm stood on a featureless grey plain, staring out at the wall of black that was forming in the distance.  He had come back to the Long Road to avoid any temptation to read Galen’s journal while Nox had it open.  The curse had been more insistent of late, desperate to see what was written inside.  It was like having a whole room full of people whispering just behind his back, filling his mind with thoughts that were not his own.  Most of the time he could ignore the voices, but for the past few weeks the curse would not shut up. 

Grimm had a deal with the Long Road.  Every so often he took a shot at the spirits of the Shadowkin who made up the curse.  The Road did not like them; they had cheated death for far too long.  In exchange, it helped Grimm out from time to time.  It had given Grimm his sword, and sometimes it even shaped the grey terrain to aid him in his battles.  He had lost track of how many of the Shadowkin he had sent screaming to their final judgment at the end of the Long Road, but he still had a lot more fighting to do.  There were over a thousand of them left.

Today they had taken on the shape of jackals with oily black skin and brimstone red eyes.  Grimm took a look at the size of their fangs, and sighed.  He was going to have some interesting new scars by the time he was done.  Still, he enjoyed the chance to take a few more of them down, it was almost therapeutic.  And besides, he had called in the last of the debts the Road owed him to send Loki back to the land of the living.  Grimm rolled his shoulders to settle his armor, adjusted his grip on the sword and smiled.  It was time to earn a few more favors.


(The voices of the curse whispered to each other. “Quietly.” “Carefully.” “While the guardian is busy.”  “Slip through the soul-bond.”  “Look for a weakness in the girl…”)

Nox tried to shove aside the annoyance that was souring her mood.  Her parents’ mansion was crowded with visitors – courtiers, nobles, foreign diplomats – it was a typical business day for the Lord and Lady of the House of Ice.  Nox hated being around these people. Thanks to her talent for auras she could see, in full technicolor, all of the lies behind the smiles.  She had figured out how to suppress the sight years ago, thinking she would be happier not knowing how people felt.  But if she had read Roald’s aura when she first met him, she would have known that he was up to no good.  Guilt twisted in her guts, thinking of all the pain Loki had suffered because she had been too much of a coward to use her talent. 

(“There is an old wound there.”  “Pick at the corner.” “Make it bleed!” said the voices.  “Quietly, carefully, don’t let the guardian hear…”)

All of her problems came back to her powers, or lack-thereof.  She felt the old bitterness well up inside of her.  Half-human, half useless.  None of these people wanted a half-blood as the heir.  She wasn’t human enough to be a sorcerer like her mother, and she didn’t have enough of her father’s elemental blood to handle any of the greater castings. And no-one cared about what she could do with auras, everyone considered that to be nothing more than parlour tricks. The people wanted a leader who was strong enough to lead them in war, as well as peace.  As far as they were concerned, Nox would never be good enough. 

(“Tear the wound open.” “A drop of poison, like the burn of salt.”  “What delicious agony…”)

Nox glowered from the back of the great hall at her newly-adopted brother.  Kel was using one of the most ancient artifacts the House owned, the weather scope, to brew up an epic winter storm to hamper the movements of the Morning Lord and his followers.  It should have been her in there, but the best Nox had ever managed to do was to give the town down the road a few goosebumps. Kel would have the entire North socked in with snow.  He was better than she would ever be, and everyone knew it.   Nox couldn’t stand to watch anymore.  As soon as she was sure no-one was looking, she fled into the labyrinth of passages that made up the mansion.

(The voices crowded in closer.  “THERE!” “Play on her pride, push her desires.” “Cloud her judgment, blind her eyes…”)

It was like a dark mist passed before her eyes.  Nox stumbled through a secret passage that only members of her family knew existed.  The mansion was riddled with them, halls and rooms that had been abandoned or forgotten as new rooms were added.  She blinked, suddenly realizing where she was.  This was the way to the storage vault.  She had spent many days in there studying old artifacts, figuring out what made them tick. There was one artifact she had never had the guts to try using, until now.  So what if it had been made by the Shadowkin.  She was tired of being weak, tired of stepping aside for those with more power.

(“yes, YES!”  “hush, He has heard us!”  “Too late, she is ours!”)

Nox reached out to open the door to the storage vault.  They wanted a more powerful heir?  They were going to get one…

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Flash Fiction – Mind Games March 12, 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.  

Nox still sat on the floor hours later, piles of notes stacked in front of her.  She put the journal down, hugged her knees to her chest and rested her forehead on them.  Slow footsteps approached her, but she did not need to look up to see who it was.  She could feel the warmth radiating off of Loki before he entered the room.  “You shouldn’t be out of bed yet,” she said. 

The fire elemental carefully lowered himself to the floor to sit beside her. “Misery loves company.  I am guessing that is not a romance novel?” he said.

She ignored his joke. “I think I need to bleach my brain after reading that. No wonder a pacifist like Lord Galen went to war. The things the Shadowkin did were horrible.  I don’t know how Galen found the courage to study their work so closely.”   

 “He probably had the same reasons you do.  He wanted to help the people who had suffered at their hands.”

“But unlike me, he actually had a chance of doing something to help.”   She looked up at him, anguish in every line of her face.  “If you had been someone else before, like Grimm, but there was no way of changing you back, would you want to know?”

“You can’t break the curse?”

Nox hunched her shoulders.  “I haven’t even gotten to the curse yet, I’ve only read through the parts on the physical changes.  They broke his body before starting on his mind.  Even Galen couldn’t figure out if they merely transfigured his body and overlaid the psyche of a hound, or if they used a hound as a base and shoved Grimm’s psyche into it.”

Loki winced. “You think they did the latter.”

“Galen did.  I honestly have no idea, I’m no biomancer.  If his body is gone, he will always be a hound, and there is no chance of changing him back.  So, if you were going to be stuck as a hound for eternity, would you want to remember that you were anything else?  Should I keep trying to get Grimm’s memories back?”

Loki thought of the ghost warrior he had met by the Long Road.  We are who we remember ourselves to be, the ghost had said.  Loki gave her an encouraging look.  “If I were Grimm, I’d want to know. The man he was deserves to be remembered.”

Nox still looked miserable.  “I just feel like I failed him.”

Loki had never seen her look so dejected, she had always been so confident.  It was like the life had been sucked right out of her.  He put an arm around her shoulders.  “Luv, for two thousand years no one has lifted a finger to help Grimm.  Everyone, including your father gave into fear, and bound him with so many spells he was nothing more than a slave.  You,” he pointed a finger at her, “have done more for him in a bare few months than anyone has since Galen passed on.  You haven’t failed him yet. You are just getting started with your studies, I’m sure you will find something. You always do.”

Nox leaned her head against his shoulder.  “I hope you’re right.”

The curse was pleased with its work. For two thousand years it had not been able to make headway against Grimmalkyn.  The guardian was too strong, thanks to the spells Galen had laid upon him. With Grimmalkyn’s spirit anchored to a graveyard, the curse could only batter itself senseless against cold stone and earth.  But now, the guardian was anchored to a mere girl through a soul-bond.  Two souls made as one – and half of Grimmalkyn’s soul had been devoured by the Shadowkin.  The darkness within him was ever so slowly seeping into her.  For now, the curse could only fuel her self-doubts, and exaggerate her fears.  But it had a foothold in her mind, and as she became more unstable, it would be able to do more.  Soon, the nightmare would begin.  First the girl would fall, and then the guardian.  And then everyone else would die. 

To be continued…

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Flash Fiction- An Open Book March 5, 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.  

Nox scowled at the journal sitting in her lap.  Lord Galen had put an iron-clad locking spell on the pages, which only allowed her to read the most basic entries.  What she needed were details of all the methods he had tried to use to break Grimm’s curse, but she was no further along than when she had started reading it a month before.  Stupid enchanted journal, she muttered.   

She put it down and went into the next room to check on Loki.  His fever had finally broken the night before, but he had not been able to stay awake long.  She put a hand to his brow to check his temperature, and read his aura.  At least that was one useful thing she had gotten out of the journal, Galen had left anything to do with diagnosing ordinary patients unlocked.  He had a detailed set of instructions for training aura readers to assist physicians.  Sometimes she wondered if the book had some sort rudimentary intelligence, it seemed to be quite willing to open to the pages she needed to help Loki.  It just did not want to help Grimm. She sighed.  It was time to get back to forcing some answers out of it.

“Hey blue-eyes, going so soon?”

Nox turned to find Loki struggling to sit up.  She hurried to give him a hand.  “Take it easy, we’ve finally got you on the mend. I’d hate to see you backslide.”  She got him settled, and sat on the edge of the bed next to him. “How are you feeling?”

He gave her a mournful look.  “Depressed.  I finally get you in bed, and I’m in no shape to do anything about it.”

She laughed and shook her head.  “Now I know you’re feeling better!   You haven’t hit on me all week.”

“A week?  What happened?”  He took a closer look at her, only just noticing how tired she appeared.  “You look almost at rough as I feel.”

“Roald dredged up some toxin from the ground to coat his sword.  Some of it must have gotten into your bloodstream when he got that hit on you.  It’s a good thing you were channeling so much fire, you burned most of it off before it could do any permanent harm.  My mother and I have spent the past week trying to get the last of if out of your system.”

Loki frowned at that.  “Where is Grimm? He was right behind me just a minute ago…” 

“I haven’t seen him all week.  He said something about going to play fetch with your soul.  Probably just as well, since you’ve been accusing him of wanting to blow up books for the past few days. If there’s one way to upset him, it’s to threaten his precious books!”  She grinned at him,  “That was one Hel of a trip those toxins sent you on.”

Loki stared off into the distance.  “No… It wasn’t books, plural, it was just one book. Something about the pages. “ he shrugged.  “Sorry, that’s all I can remember.  I talked to him though.  Or I think I did? He didn’t look like himself…”

Nox rested her chin in her hand. “A book. Why would he want me to blow up Galen’s journal?” 

“You know what he meant?”

“It could only be that journal.  Blow it up though?  Blow.  Blow!”  She smacked herself in the forehead.  “Of course!  How could I be so stupid!”  She jumped off the bed and started pacing.  “Lord Galen was a wind elemental, of course he would use air to lock it!  But does it need an actual wind?  Or just a breath?  Or maybe a whistle, I read something about them using bird song in their incantations.”

Loki gave a weary chuckle.  “No offense luv, but you’re making me tired just watching you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!  Do you need anything? Or should I just get out and let you rest?”

He stifled a yawn.  “I wouldn’t mind you staying, but I have a feeling I’ll be snoring before long. Go on, go whistle at your book.  Just do it quietly, okay?”

 “Deal.  I’ll be right in the next room if you need something.”  He was already nodding off by the time Nox had finished her sentence.  She pulled the covers up over him, kissed him on the cheek and quietly left the room.

The book lay right where she left it. She could swear the damned thing was laughing at her. Well, laugh at this, you cantankerous old scrap of wood pulp, she thought.  She sat cross-legged on the floor with it in her lap, and blew across a few pages.  They fluttered, but didn’t turn.  Humph.  She whistled a low trill, and the pages ruffled, but still didn’t turn. Right then, time to pull out the big guns.  She just hoped the ancient book was up to getting hit with a raw element. Only one way to find out.

Nox let out another low whistle, but this one had some energy behind it.  It moaned like a bitter winter wind, the kind that slips through keyholes and under doorjambs.  The temperature in the room dropped, and frost formed on the floor around her.  The book seemed to shudder, the pages turning reluctantly.  She puffed her cheeks and put more energy into it, ramping it up to a howling miniature gale.  The book shivered, and the pages snapped open toward the back.  Nox waited till they stopped moving before letting the wind drop.  “Yes!” She said triumphantly, and put a finger on the page to keep it from changing its mind.  She reached up with her other hand and snagged her notepad from the desk.  “All-righty-then. Let’s get down to business, shall we?”  She started taking notes as she read.

Veradis, in the 7th day of the Hunters Moon

I have started to retrace the steps the Shadowkin have taken in creating the curse that afflicts my old friend …

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