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Flash Fiction – Dancing in the Dark April 23, 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 backed slowly into the horse stall, reaching behind him for his saddle bags.  “Nice kitty,” he said.    The creature outside gave a harsh, stuttering yowl.

“Did that thing just laugh at you?”  Chandra said, as she struggled to keep the panicked horse from bolting. 

Loki slipped out one of the pistols he had stowed in the packs, and pulled back the hammer with a quiet click.  “I hope not.  Something that big with a brain to match is damned dangerous. Ask me how I know.”

As if on cue, Grimm’s warning howl rang out from the inn.  Loki used the distraction to take down the creature with a couple of well-placed shots.  As the echoes from the gunshots faded, a host of big, yellow eyes turned in the direction of the stables.  “Ah, Hel.  Do you know how to reload these, CC?”

“I’ll figure it out.”  

“Good. Bullets in the left bag, blast caps in the right.” Loki gave up trying to count the pairs of eyes prowling around the darkened compound and started firing.  Between shots he could hear Nox yelling orders to the guardsmen.

 “She’s out there?” Chandra said, appalled.

“Of course she is, dammit. It’s what her father would do.”

Nox stood on top of the broad railing that ran around the porch of the inn, with Grimm crouched on the ground in front of her.  “Form up ranks!  Ranged attacks, don’t let ‘em get close!”  She whistled up a bitterly cold breeze, her breath coming out in puffs of vapor .  Her aura shield crackled and the electric blue light reflected off the ice crystals in the air to light up the entire compound. 

The men around her gasped as they got their first good look at the attackers.  The huge, tawny beasts resembled mountain lions, but with bulbous yellow eyes and long, sharp spines that ran down their backs.  “Steady!”  Nox said, as the creatures let out a simultaneous roar and charged.  “Archers, fire at will!  Warcasters, fire!”   A hail of arrows and elemental castings flew outwards in a deadly rain of metal and ice, but only the arrows had any effect. The spines lifted on the creatures’ backs and rattled as the war castings hit, breaking up the ice and scattering it before it could cut into them.

Nox picked up her own bow.  Small motors turned gears and pulleys to draw back heavy risers that were as thick as her arm.  A targeting spell floated glowing red crosshairs just in front of it, and a light touch to the focusing crystal on the bow string formed arrow out of ice.   “Acquire target. Lock.”  The metal bowstring released with a resounding *thump*, and the arrow hit one of the creatures mid-leap.  It went straight through the eye, hitting with enough force to spin it around in the air before it dropped to the ground.  “Repeat targeting sequence.  Lock.”  *THUMP*

The felines made a rush at one side of the defenders, pulling two men out into the courtyard to be shredded by the pack.  More of the big cats tried to rush into the breach, but Grimm materialized in front of them.  He howled and turned into a dog-faced gargoyle as they attacked, crushing the first two with swipes of his paws. He grabbed a third by the throat and gave a vicious shake of his head, and the creature’s neck broke with an audible crack.

Someone from the stables cried out over the din of the fight “Nox! Behind you!”  She spun around just as several big cats dove down from the roof of the inn. She screamed as their claws sank into her aura shield, and yanked her out into the courtyard.

She screamed again and convulsed as more claws tore at her shield. The claws glowed the same yellow as the creatures’ eyes, and each hit sent a backlash of energy through her nervous system.   Everything started to go blurry, and then suddenly Grimm was there.  He pounded the creatures into the dirt, each swipe of his claws backed by a ton of granite muscle.  One of the couriers rode out from the stables, and Nox had just enough wits left to grab his arm when he reached down to pull her up behind him.  She clung to his waist as he spun the horse around and made a dash back for the stables.

Her muscles still twitched and her vision swam with strange color patterns as she tried to look ahead.  She blinked, but the patterns didn’t go away. Some sort of sickly, orange energy covered the palisade walls like strangling vines.  Nox pointed ahead and yelled in the courier’s ear.  “Get me to the walls!  If we don’t wake up the trees, none of us are getting out of here!”  They galloped alongside the wall, Nox reaching out to light up the auras around the trees as they passed. “Keep going, I need to find the source!”   Grimm coursed along just behind them, taking out any cats that got too near.

 Nox leaned forward.  “There, stop there!” 

The horse reared as the man pulled it to a halt.  Nox grabbed the pistol he had tucked into his belt and fired it at what looked to be a knot in the vines.  The effect was immediate.  The energy ripped apart, and the trees swayed as if in a gale.  The ground rumbled and shook as the roots that criss-crossed the entire compound burst upwards and coiled around the creatures.  Panicked wails filled the night, and were abruptly silenced as the roots yanked the cats down into the earth. 

Ragged cheers broke out from the guards.  The whole courtyard was empty, not a sign of the cats remained.  Nox  glanced over at Grimm. “Someone wanted this waypost blind. We need to find out who, and why.”

Grimm growled ominously as he looked at the bodies of the guards who fallen in the battle.  “And then we make them pay for this.”

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1. Gracie - April 23, 2010

Wow! This is excellent. This storyline keeps getting better and better. And the action is so quick and tense, it left me a little breathless.

Whew. (wipes forehead)

“And then we make them pay for it.” Chills!

Very well done!

techtigger - April 24, 2010

thank you! fight scenes are fun to write, but hard too – spent the whole week plotting out the moves in my head before writing! 🙂

2. Kim Batchelor - April 23, 2010

Very vivid description and fast paced action. I agree, excellent final line. Just wish I could find some time to read from the first. Maybe soon.

techtigger - April 24, 2010

they’re all flash fic, so they’re quick reads if you need to catch up 🙂 Glad you liked the story!

3. Cecilia Dominic - April 23, 2010

Another great installment! I love how they stand on their own as well as work together. That goes for the characters and the parts of the serial. 🙂


techtigger - April 24, 2010

thanks! I have worked to make sure new readers won’t feel lost, and still keep the story moving. It’s a challenge, but a fun one!

4. lauraeno - April 23, 2010

*she chants “more, more”*
Such vivid scenes! Love this series, Angie!

techtigger - April 24, 2010

*bows* thank you, thank you *grinz*

I need to catch up on yours, can’t wait to see what Death is up to this week 🙂

5. 2mara - April 24, 2010

Man… I have missed a few of these. Now I MUST go back and catch up. 🙂

6. Mariana N. Blaser - April 27, 2010

Ohh, great battle!

I wonder who is the man on the horse, and if these newly waken trees will turn up against them… They seem quite vicious. Or it’s just the cats that they don’t like?

Oh, and Nox’s bow. Cool! 😀

7. Fun: Summer Kickoff Party | Don't Fence Me In - May 27, 2010

[…] with both feet off the floor. She is always such a great dance partner! And, Angie Capozello of Techtigger’s Soapbox will teach us Dancing in the Dark (please don’t try this if you’ve had […]

8. Walt - August 21, 2010

Looking forward to her reaction when she discovers Loki’s identity.

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