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Flash Fiction – Lucien and Serenna July 30, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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14 comments

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


Serenna’s study overlooked the great hall of the House of Winds.  She had purposefully had it built there, with a window to look down on the weatherscope.  It was one of the wonders of the northern kingdoms, a two story tall machine made entirely of brass.  A highly detailed globe hung in the middle, with endlessly spinning hoops all around it to denote weather patterns.  Little brass clouds slid out on wires, and lamps to mark the sun and moon swung around outside of it all. It was mesmerizing to watch, but it always filled Serenna with anxiety.  On one hand if it was active, she knew her husband was alive. But on the other, if he needed to draw on so much power then in all likelihood his life was in danger.  For years, when they had first married, Lucien had spent more time at war than at home, earning his nickname of ‘Battle King.’   She was no battle mage, to follow him to war. Her skills lie with the mind, and healing, so while he was gone she quietly fretted in her study, watching the weatherscope spin.

It had been spinning off and on for days now, since he had gone to bring their daughter home.  Serenna went about the day-to-day business of running the most prestigious House of the Winter kindreds, but every time she saw the rings move, her thoughts went back to their last conversation.

Lucien had come into her study, and asked her to seal the room so they would not be overheard.  Then he had simply sat down next to her, and held her hand.  “I know about the compulsion spell. Why, Renna?”

At first, guilt at the disappointment in his voice had made her look away.  Anger had swiftly followed though, and she lifted her chin defiantly. “I did what had to be done.  Ky and Eva murdered in the own home, along with everyone else, and for what?  One of those keys?” She waved a hand in a sharp motion at the weatherscope.  “Kyrios was a Dragon Lord, as strong as you, and yet he was cut down all the same.  Look at what happened to that poor boy of theirs, branded with the key at ten years old. It is no wonder Loki has struggled to handle the energy, and he will need to hide for years yet if he is not to be killed as well.  Do you want that for our daughter?  To spend her life as a target for every power hungry madman in the Realms?”

“Nox is stronger than you know, and she had such potential, even at five years old. She would have out-done all my achievements, given time.”

“She still has all that potential, but for the wrong element!  How would she hide her true ancestry?  She is not evenly balanced like you, Luc.  She is Air down to her fingertips, how would she have covered that?”

His face turned cold. “Now she is nothing, Air or Ice. You should have spoken to me, Renna.”

“When? Where have you been these past fifteen years, Luc?  You have distanced yourself from us both, and left me to raise our child all but alone.  And I have done so, as best I saw fit,” she said, so full of anger it had nearly made her choke.  She jerked her hand free from his and stood up. “She will never hold one of those damned elemental keys, I have seen to that.  She is not ‘nothing.’ She is as close to human as I could make her!”

Lucien suddenly looked more tired than she had ever seen him.  He stood up as well, and brushed a lock of her blond hair from her face. “I love you, Renna. You have been as strong and wise a consort as I could have ever asked for. But this time you were wrong.  I’ll admit that I am as much to blame for this –  I should not have left you to raise a child you could not hope to understand.  Elementals are not like you. Nox is not like you.  I will bear an equal part of the guilt in this, and will do my part to set it right.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. “I leave at dawn to bring her home.  Grimmalkyn will be returned to the graveyard where he can do no-one any harm.  I need you to find a way to undo the damage your spell has caused to our daughter.  Work swiftly, Renna.”

Just like that, the fifteen years she had spent working to get her daughter out of the bloody political games the elemental Lords played was ruined.  She knew her husband well – he had yet to name Kel as heir, despite the intent behind adopting him into the House.  Lucien still meant Nox to follow him as ruler.   Serenna would have to deal with that when the time came. Lucien could not undo the compulsion spell without her help, and she had no intention of removing it. If he thought that little talk of his changed anything, he was sorely mistaken.

There was one thing they agreed on, and that was the need to deal with Grimmalkyn.  It was time that accursed beast of Lucien’s was put down.  There would be no return to the graveyard for him, unless it was a permanent rest.  And as for Nox…Serenna had at least a week until they returned home.  Time enough to make new plans for her wayward daughter.


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A quick note – Starting next week, I will be taking part in WeSeWriMo – the Web Series Writing Month.  Nox and Grimm will be coming to you twice a week for the month of August, with new episodes on Tuesdays and Fridays!

Fabulous Flash Award July 29, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, writing.
5 comments


Jon Strother,  founder of FridayFlash said:

“I have decided to start the Fabulous Flash Award to spotlight some folks I feel deserve recognition for their, well… fabulous flash fiction.”

I can’t tell you how honored I am to be given this, there are so many talented writers on #fridayflash.  Thanks to Sam Adamson @futurenostalgic and Laura Eno @lauraeno for giving me the award, and for their kind words and constant encouragement of my writing.  My own four picks for the award are below, after the rules. Time to share the love! 🙂

Fabulous Flash Award:

  1. acknowledge receiving the award in a blog post
  2. link back to the person who awarded it
  3. select four other fabulous flashers to receive the award to keep spreading the joy
  4. write one or two short lines explaining why you’ve chosen each recipient
  5. optionally (I know not everyone is on Twitter) tweet, “I just gave the Fabulous Flash Award to (name). They’re worth reading.” Include a shortened URL back to your post in the tweet.

I’d like to give the Fabulous Flash Award to these four excellent writers:

Monsterbat – The youngest member of our community, and incredibly talented!  His stories and poems make me smile every time.  I’m so glad he (and his mom @ganymeder !) have joined us at #fridayflash!

Catherine Russell @ganymeder  – Not just an awesome mom who is encouraging her boy to write, she is a fantastic writer as well.  Very smooth writing, easy to read and always fun.

Jeff Posey @AnasaziStories – I have been reading his Anasazi stories since I first found #fridayflash, and they never cease to amaze me with how well they are written.  I get pulled into their world every time.

Alex Carrick @alex_carrick – A very funny writer, his lists have had me in stitches for weeks!  Always good to see some humor amidst all the plot twists and dark endings in flashfic.

Go! Read!  Leave comments for these fabulous flashers!  You’ll be glad you did 🙂

Flash Fiction – Three Elements July 23, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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12 comments

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


Loki hid around the corner of a hallway, straining to hear what was being said in the room at the far end of the corridor.  There was no door to close off the room where Nox was talking to her father– any wood in the castle had long since rotted away.  Even so, the hallway was long enough that Loki could not make out more than a few words, without moving closer. And he could not do that without being seen.  He shot a questioning look at Grimm. “Can you hear anything?” he whispered.

The hound nodded.  He was crouched close to the floor, ears cocked forward and head tilted a bit to one side.  “Nox is angry, but not so much that we need to step in,” Grimm said, his voice no more than a quiet rumble in Loki’s mind.  He flicked an ear back at him.  “Don’t speak, think loudly, and I will hear you.  I just usually prefer not to.”

Loki smirked at that. Considering where his thoughts tended to wander when Nox was around, he did not blame the hound for shutting things out.

Grimm rolled his eyes. “My point exactly,” he grumbled.  He cocked his ear forward again.

“Can’t you just read their minds?” Loki thought, loudly.

“They would notice if I did. We’ve spent too much time in each other’s thoughts.”

Nox’s voice grew louder for a moment.  Loki noticed Grimm’s hackles were raised up, which was never a good sign.

“No! That bastard!” Without any warning, Grimm let out a rumbling growl and tore off down the hall.

Loki sprinted after him, and raised the dragon tattoo up to the surface of his skin.  He had a feeling he was going to need the extra firepower.

Nox had just taken her father’s hand when Grimm barreled into the room.  The hound threw his shoulder into Lucien, knocking his old master off his feet, and turned to shove Nox away from her father. He started pacing around her, growling so low he made the stones shake.  Nox realized he was doing an Air casting, like the chants the Wind Knights used.

“Grimm, what are you doing? Stop this!”

“He’s lying to you little one,” he said, and forced her back a few more paces.

“I read his aura Grimm, he was telling the truth.” Nox tried to get past him, but Grimm had backed her up to the wall.

“The best lies are cut from whole cloth out of the truth.  If he already knew about the damage your mother’s spell caused, why wait till now to fix it?  They would have done so already if they could.”

Loki entered the room just as Lucien drew his sword. Patterns of frost crept down the Ice Lord’s blade, and the temperature in the room plummeted.

“You would poison my daughter’s mind against me?” Lucien said.

Grimm snarled at him.  “Serenna has already poisoned her mind with that spell. I will never let her tamper with Nox again!”

Loki stepped in between them, flames wreathed around him.  “I can’t let you do this.  Stand down, both of you!”  The flames started taking on the shape of a dragon, and the room was filled with a sharp hissing noise as Lucien’s Ice casting brushed up against Fire.  Steam was pulled in by Grimm’s air casting and circled around him like a fog.  The air felt heavy, charged with the energy from three of the Great Keys of the elementals being invoked at once.

Hidden by all the steam and smoke, Nox slipped out from behind Grimm’s sonic shield.  Everyone else jumped when she spoke.  “AHA!  That’s it, how could I have missed it!” she said. “Stay put, you three, but keep doing what you’re doing. This is fascinating!”  To everyone’s surprise, she picked up Loki’s hand and started turning his arm this way and that, studying the tattoo.

“Ah, luv?  I may need that arm to keep the peace,” Loki said. He didn’t dare move, for fear of giving Lucien or Grimm an opening to attack each other.  Nox stood on tip-toes, peering down the back of his shirt to see the tail of the dragon tattoo on his shoulder.  Loki gave Grimm a helpless shrug.  “I’m at a loss, how about you?”

“Little one, this is not the time to play absent-minded professor,” Grimm said, keeping his eyes on Lucien.

“Ooh, forget about the silly fight.”  Nox turned and put her nose right up close to the blade of Lucien’s sword. “Look at the patterns, Grimm!  It was right there in front of me all along!”

Lucien moved his sword away from Nox before she could cut herself on it. “What are you doing, daughter?” he said, exasperated.

She gave him an impish grin.  “Finding answers.  Can’t you see it?  Oh, wait, what am I saying. Of course you can’t see it yet, you don’t have my aura sight.” She waved her hand, and the room was bathed in colored light.  White surrounded Lucien, crimson around Loki, and Nox had her usual electric blue.

Nox pointed to the sword. “Frost makes patterns. The tattoo is a pattern.  All elemental castings require a pattern to shape the energy.  Look at Grimm.”  The hound’s aura was made of swirls of black and gold.  “Grimm’s aura is a pattern.  This shape he’s stuck in is part of one big, insanely complicated casting!  If I can figure out how these Great Keys were made, I may be able to undo his curse!” She beamed at Loki and her father.  “It’ll take years, and I’ll need to study your keys in detail, but hey, I’m a technomancer.  I’m good at this!”

Lucien sheathed his sword.  “I cannot stay out here in the wilderness. If you wish to study the key to Ice, then you must come home.”

“Well, sure, I can’t expect you both to move out here.  Don’t worry, Grimm,” she said. “We’ll make plenty of trips back to visit with the ghosts of your old friends.  And we may yet find something useful in Lord Galen’s lab, once we find it.”  She linked her arm into Loki’s and walked out into the hall with him.  “Okay, now, don’t get any funny ideas, but I need you to take off your shirt.”

“You wish is my pleasure, Lady,” he said, with a wicked smile.

Back in the room, Grimm still faced off with his old master.  “Till later then?”

“A truce, for now,” said Lucien. “But we will settle this.”


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Flash Fiction – The Key July 17, 2010

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

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


In some ways, the Lord of Ice and his daughter were very much alike, or so Loki thought.  Both were pale, dark haired, with those piercing blue eyes.  And, for the moment at least, they both wore the same cold expression.   Nox had been far from composed earlier though, when she learned her father was coming.  Damn, but she had a temper.  Loki hadn’t thought she knew those sort of words.  He carefully hid his smile, to avoid having her temper turned on him.

Lucien still sat astride his horse, looking up at the castle walls where Nox stood.  He had led a small army into the territories once held by the House of Winds, ostensibly to beat back the Chimaera that were invading his lands.  Loki knew better though.  He was here for his rebellious daughter, and perhaps, to deal with a young fire elemental who had gotten overly-familiar with her.  Well, fire was impetuous.  Perhaps that excuse would keep him from ending up encased in a glacier.

Nox let out a small sigh.  “Let’s get this over with.”  A dozen ghosts appeared around her and summoned the wind, lifting her gently from the walls and down to the ground.  The horses of the nobles and guards behind Lucien shifted uneasily, as their riders registered shock at this little display. No one had seen an air elemental in millennia.  Even as ghosts, the knights were impressive. Nox nodded to them as her feet touched the ground.  “Thank you again, sir knights.  Please, stay, I am sure my father will have questions for you.”

Loki exchanged a look with Grimm. “Do you think he will miss the implied threat they pose?”

The hound snorted. “He will at least think twice before trying to take Nox home against her will.”

Below them, Lucien dismounted and handed the reins of his horse to the nearest guard.  “I will indeed have questions for them, daughter, and for you as well. But first, my men have fought hard this day, and there will not be time to return to our lands before nightfall. Is there somewhere that they can pitch camp?”  He directed that last question to one of the knights, but the ghost deferred to Nox.

“The courtyard in the castle is large enough, and the defenses are mostly intact,” she said.  “As long as the men do not wander, the ghosts will keep them safe while they are here.”

Grimm shook his head.  “Did you notice he said my men, not ours?  As if Nox were not a member of the House?”

Loki drummed his fingers on the stone wall next to him. “What did she put in that letter she wrote?”

“She all but told her parents to piss off.  Only she was less polite. He has not officially cut her off from the House yet, although I guess their talk later will decide that.”

“Ouch. Does she want to stay connected to Ice?”

“If she does not, then I will adopt her into Winds.  Lucien and all his schemes be damned,” Grimm said, suddenly fierce. “I may do that anyway, she belongs with us.”

“It looks like they are heading inside. Do we eaves drop on them?”

“I was going to suggest it.  If they come to blows, I will sit on Lucien. You grab Nox.”

“Deal.”

—-

Nox perched on a pile of rubble in the room she had chosen to talk privately with her father.  It would at least put her head on level with his, so that she could look him in the eye without craning her neck.  “Well, now that we are alone, can we ditch the niceties?   Why are you here?” she asked, not bothering to mask her anger anymore.

“It is long since time we talked, daughter.”

“About what?  Will you try to explain what you’ve done to me?  Why should I trust anything you or mother tell me?”

He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a child’s teething ring to hand to her.

“What is this,” she asked, warily.

“An heirloom.  Every child of our house is given this, to hold back their secondary element and let Ice take the fore. It didn’t work this time, you were too human. So we tried a human solution.”

Nox got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Ice is my secondary element. You kept that from gaining strength, and then you strangled my primary with sorcery.” She let out a bitter laugh. “Bravo, father.”  She flung the ring at his feet, and clenched her fists in rage.  “You ruined me to hide an element no one cares about anymore. Was it worth it?”

Lucien bent down to pick up the ring. “You know that every House has one artifact that is a key to access the heart of their element.  Fire has the dragon tattoo, Ice has the great weather scope.”

Nox looked stunned.  “Grimm.  He’s a key?”

“Lord Galen hid the key to the House of Winds in the last place the Shadowkin would look for it. We have hidden who we are for generations to protect Grimmalkyn.  Would you have him become a target for every power-hungry fool that can cast a binding spell? You have seen what Loki can do with the dragon, and what his uncle will do to get it. I cannot let that kind of power fall into the wrong hands.”

Nox blinked away tears she had not realized were falling.  She had said she would risk her life to help Grimm. Her father had risked her life.  Would she have done the same, in his shoes?

He held out his hand. “Come home, daughter.  Your mother and I will do everything in our power to heal the damage we have done to you.”

If she were whole again, she could better help Grimm fight the Shadowkin.  Left as she was, they were fighting a losing battle.  Nox wiped away the tears with her sleeve and took his hand. “I’ll trust you this once. For Grimm’s sake.”


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Flash Fiction – Letters Home July 9, 2010

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

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


Lucien sat alone in his study.  Two origami birds had fluttered in and unfolded in his hand an hour before, and he had re-read the notes at least a dozen times since then.  It was hard to believe that those two, fragile scraps heralded the end of every plan he and Serenna had made.

He had not shown them to his wife yet, not until he had come to some decision on how to act.  Grimm had tried to warn him that there was more going on between Nox and her mother than just two strong-willed women butting heads.  Lucien had not listened, and now, when it was perhaps too late, he was regretting that decision.  Loki’s letter added another layer to the already deep troubles surrounding his daughter.

Lucien raked his hair back out of his eyes and read the notes again, hoping that this time he would think of some way to untangle the dangerous mess.

————-

Father,

I am writing this from within the observation tower of Lord Galen’s castle.  We’ve had to move camp again, though I hope we can stay secure here for at least a few days.  Shadowkin creatures roam the streets below us; we can hear them day and night.  The ghosts call them Chimaera, after an old fairy tale monster.  It seems too whimsical a name for a horde of foul-smelling, killing machines, but I guess it’s better than calling them critters.

I should probably explain the ghosts.  The last defenders of Zephyra are still here, in spirit.  Wind knights, true air elementals.  They’ve been keeping the Chimaera penned up in and around the city, for the most part.  Or at least they were, until the Morning Lord took over the House of Storms.  He’s been systematically taking out all the ghosts stationed along his new territorial borders.  He was almost certainly behind the Chimaera attack on our waypost.  All he had to do was take out the guardian ghost, leave a trail to lure the critters to fresh meat, and you can figure out the rest.

He knows about Loki.  So do I, now.  I begin to see how little you trust me, or my judgment.  If you had let my orders stand, and sent Loki back to work spying for us, rather than on me, his secret would have been kept.  You have what you wanted, I am safe from the Morning Lord’s attentions – he has a bigger fish to reel in now.  I’ll let you figure out how to handle the aftermath of this.  Why waste my time offering ideas for dealing with the problem, when my job as spy master is obviously nothing more than a sham?

Odds are, you and mother already know that I have summoned Air.  She has always had a tracer built into her spells, to let her know when the safety has been tripped.   Yes, I know about that too. I even understand the reasons for casting the spell.  But I will never forgive you for what you have done to me.  Never mind that you have made me a cripple, and left me to suffer my whole life.  The spell has created a fatal weakness in my psyche, and the Shadowkin know it.  Was that why you were so horrified when you realized I was soul-bound to Grimm?  Did you know they would have an open gate into my mind?

You know what? Forget it.  Even if you remove the spell now, the damage is done.  I will never be right, or whole.  I had only to ask the ghosts here about that, and they can only tell truth.

Don’t bother telling me we’ll talk when I return, I’m not coming home.  I intend to stay here, to keep working to free Grimm of his curse.  Damn the danger, I will succeed or die trying.

– Nox

————-

Lucien,

We’ve got a problem.  My uncle and I have crossed swords, and he knows that the dragon mark is not lost.  The fight ended in a draw, but I do not doubt that he will make another try for it.

The good news is, he won’t dare use anyone other than his brainless cultists to come after it.  Any other fire elemental would at least hesitate, if not outright defect to my side.   I have no wish to start a civil war amongst my own people though, so let’s keep playing this your way, for now.  Politics and behind the scenes deals, until we are in a stronger position.

He has plans for Nox.  He has tried to capture her twice, but I have no idea why. Bargaining chip?  Maybe his pet technomancer wants to study her work?  It doesn’t make any sense though, why put out a death mark out on her, and then try to take her alive?  Something has changed.  We need to figure out what it is, and fast.  Rest assured though, he won’t lay a hand on her while I am with her.

I know this is probably not the best time for this, but at the rate things are moving, I may not get the chance to speak to you in person.  I know you and my father were close friends, and you have done more for me than I can ever hope to repay.  I owe you my life, and my freedom.  I also know you have other plans for Nox, but I am hoping you will rethink them.

I wish to formally request the right to court your daughter.  I love her.

Don’t tell her I asked for your permission though, she’ll never forgive me.

-Loki

———-

Lucien pushed his chair away from the desk.  The time for making plans was over.  The Morning Lord’s actions could not go unanswered.   As for Nox… first, he needed to talk to his wife.  Then he would talk to his daughter.  In person.


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Flash Fiction – Zombieluv Dialogues July 7, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
8 comments

“You’re looking lovely this morning, sweetheart.  Have you been losin’ weight?”

“You know how it is, a gobbet here, a chunk there…”

“You know I like a gal with some backbone, and you got plenty showin’ babes!”

*giggles* “Oh go on, you old charmer, you.  Better get movin’, the necromancer hates it when you’re late.”

“Give me a kiss, doll, and I’m on my way.”

“Ooh, don’t forget your lunch, I packed you a fresh liver.  And watch out for those tenth level clerics!”

“They don’t exactly wear signs around their necks, schnookums. Them’s the breaks with this job.”

“I can’t help it if I worry, I heard Skelly had to wait a whole week for her husband to get re-animated!”

“Now then, don’t go getting yourself in a tizzy. Overlord Bane is a great man.  Some day he’ll take over the world, and when he does, we’ll be going straight to the top along with him.  We’ll have our very own mausoleum –  no more of these second-hand crypts.  Fresh brains every day, too.”

“Ooh, can we eat some monks?  I hear all that thinkin’ makes their brains nice and wrinkly.”

“We’ll eat a whole monastery, sweet-cheeks.  Only the best for my baby!”

“Aww, I love you too, honeybuns. Ooh, there’s the alarm claxon, must be another group of adventurers. You’d better go.”

“See you in the mornin’ babes.”

Flash Fiction – Under Siege July 2, 2010

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

This story is part of a weekly series, updated every friday. Click Here to read from the beginning.


Loki awoke with Grimm’s rumbling voice echoing in his mind.

“Get up, fireborn.  No rest for the wicked, you need to get up, now.”

“Huh? Wha-happen’d?” Loki made a face as he shoved himself upright. “Ugh, I’ve had hangovers that were more pleasant.”

The hound snorted. “Your saddlebags are by the far wall. Get yourself together; we may have more unwanted guests on the way.”

“Lovely.” Loki peeled himself off the floor and took stock of his surroundings.  The room they were in was small, with no windows, two empty doorways and not much else.  Like every building in the ancient city, it was made of stone.  Rain drummed on the roof, reminding him of the day’s events.  The fight in the valley…the dragon tattoo lifting off his arm and carrying his spirit into battle…Nox falling… He looked to where she lay, her head still pillowed on Grimm’s side.  “How is she?”

“As well as she can be, all things considered. I need you to watch over her while I scout the area. One of the knights, Viktor, hasn’t checked in.”

“He’s a ghost, how do you lose one them?”

“I intend to find out. Try to keep Nox out of trouble while I’m gone.”

“Oh, sure. Give me the hard job.”  Loki laid out the bed roll from his pack and then carried Nox over to it. “Is there a full med kit in her satchel? She had a pretty rough landing; we’ll need to wrap that knee.”

Yes, it’s in there somewhere.  You had a rough re-entry yourself.”

Loki shrugged. “Getting back into your body is always harder than going out.  I get sick as a dog every time.” He looked over at the hound. “No offense.”

Grimm chuckled as he paced out of the room.  “None taken. I’ll be back soon.”

Loki waved at him. “Hey, send in one of the ghosts, would you?”  He had not even finished the sentence when one of them appeared at his shoulder.

“Can I help you?” the ghost said, in a low, breathy voice.

Loki held up a hand and checked his breath. “Yeah, watch her while I go shave my teeth…sorry, what was your name?”

“Evan.”  The ghost gave him a knowing smile. “You may want to shower as well, if you do not want to offend the lady.”

“That bad, eh?”

Evan pointed to the far doorway. “There is a balcony at the end of the hallway. I am afraid the rain is the best we can offer.”

“It’ll have to do. Yell if she wakes up.”

Wind and rain assaulted him as soon as he left the hallway. There was no railing, or roof on the balcony.  Loki considered making a hot spot over his head to warm up the water, but thought better of it. It was too soon after using the dragon mark.  He was having a hard enough time resisting the urge to send his spirit out again.  Rain drops sizzled and danced on the surface of the tattoo as if it was a hot frying pan.

Behind him, a sleepy voice spoke. “You’re naked.”

Loki looked over his shoulder in surprise.  “Oh! Hello luv.”  Nox was standing on his clothes, just inside the doorway.  “Let me say, before you make any judgements, the rain is really cold.”

“You are as shameless as an alley cat, standing there like that.”  She took a step out onto the balcony.  “I was looking for something.  There’s no shower in my workshop though, so this must be a dream.”

Loki grinned as he realized what was going on. “You’re sleepwalking, luv.  Go back to bed.”

“Okay.  My dreams have a nice butt though.  I still need to find that book.  What shelf did I put the mayo on, Grimm?”

Loki had to stifle a laugh. He did not want to wake her up abruptly when she was that near to a ledge.  He gently took her shoulders and steered her back into the room.  “Go lie down, Nox.  You’ll find the mayo in the morning, I promise.”

“mmm hmm…”

“Hey Evan, you were supposed to warn me… Evan?  Grimm?”  Footsteps made hollow echoes in the stairwell beyond the other door.  “Bloody Hel. That’s no ghost.”  He tossed on some clothes and grabbed a pistol out of his pack.

“Your ghosts won’t be coming.”  The Morning Lord strode into the room.  “If you scatter their remains, they dissipate.  It amused me to see the great and terrible hound out digging for bones.  I think he meant to reassemble them.  Or maybe he was hungry, so hard to tell with dumb beasts.”

Loki smirked at the bandages wrapped around the Morning Lord’s head.  “Grimm took a good sized piece out of you.  I think it’s an improvement.”  He slid one foot back to nudge Nox, hoping she would wake up.  She just mumbled something about pickles and rolled over to curl up around her satchel.

Half a dozen New Dawn cultists stood in the hallway behind their leader.  The Morning Lord gave Loki a thin smile.  “I came here for the girl, but imagine my surprise at finding you still alive, after all these years.  That was quite a show you put on today, nephew.”

“You lost any right to claim kinship when you murdered my family.”

“So fierce! Yet so foolish, just like your father.”  He lifted his hand, and the cultists aimed their crossbows at Nox.  He sneered as Loki glanced back at her.  “You are just as weak as Kyrios.  Born five seconds before me, and that gave him the right to be king?  It should go to the strongest!  Give me the dragon’s mark, boy, or I kill the girl.”

“You want it? Come get it.”

“Will you fight me with it? Fool.  The dragon is useless against another fire elemental.”

“Pistols work just fine.” Loki placed himself in front of Nox and took aim.

The Morning Lord stepped back behind his flunkies. “Kill the girl, but he is mine.”

A dome of electric blue light surrounded Nox just as the cultists fired.  What the Morning Lord had not seen was Nox winking at Loki a moment before.  She rolled up to a sitting position, pulled her bow out of her satchel and started firing.  Loki emptied the pistol into his uncle, but the bullets shattered against an invisible barrier.

“Must be something that pet technomancer of his made,” Nox said.  “Fire releases stored energy, cut through his shield and he’s wide open.”

Loki tucked the pistol into his belt, formed a saber out of fire and charged.  The cultists ignored him, following the Morning Lord’s orders and focusing on Nox.

“This is the problem with ruling fanatics, Uncle.  They don’t think for themselves!”   The dragon tattoo slithered down Loki’s arm and merged into the blade of his saber.  The blade turned to obsidian, with the dragon glowing scarlet in its core.

The Morning Lord backpedaled, hastily forming a sword of his own.  “What are you doing?”

“Giving you the dragon mark. Isn’t that what you wanted!” Their blades clashed in a furious exchange, but Loki kept the upper hand.  He was younger, faster, and a far better duelist.  “You’ve spent too many years playing politics, you bastard.”

“You know what they say, age and treachery always beats youth!” The Morning Lord reached into his robes and flung a handful of dust at Loki.

Loki recognized the somnolence powder, and surrounded himself with a wall of flames to burn it off. By the time the dust cleared, the Morning Lord was gone – only the fading outline of a portal hole marked where he had stood.   Loki cussed and headed back to the room to find Nox.  Grimm was already there.  He had taken out all the cultists, and had the entire band of ghosts there with him.  “You found their bones?” Loki asked.

“I am a hound,” Grimm said, his tongue lolling in a doggy grin.  “Let me guess, Balor ran. The coward.”

“We’ll get him next time. Count on it.”  Loki knelt by Nox.  “Oh, I never got to answer your question.”

She looked confused.  “What question?”

“You keep the mayo in the fridge, not the shelf. And thanks for the compliment.”

“That wasn’t a dream?” she squeaked, her face turning bright red.

Grimm let out a long-suffering sigh.  “I can’t even tell them to go find a room.”  He rolled his eyes at the ghost standing next to him. “Were we ever that young?”

Evan smiled. “No, sir. I don’t think we were.”


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