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Flash Fiction – Love and Lies August 30, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, WeSeWriMo.
Tags: , ,

This is it!  The 8th episode for WeSeWriMo, woohoo!  This kicks off a new story line, and starting friday I’ll be back to the regular once-weekly schedule.  Thanks everyone for cheering me on throughout the month – it’s been hard to do 2 episodes, but a lot of fun as well.  I will definitely be doing this again next year.

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

“Argh!  This is hopeless!” Nox said. “I have nothing to wear!”

Grimm eyed up the small mountain of clothes she had thrown out of her closet and rolled his eyes. “You know how this is going to go…”

“I can’t wear anything backless, thanks to that damn Chimaera clawing me…”

“Loki is going to say something to you…”

“Nothing too short, my knees are still bruised from that disastrous attempt to land after flying…”

“You are going to blush bright red…”

“And everything longer is formal wear for court. I can’t wear that to lunch!”

“And you two will make goo-goo eyes at each other for the rest of the afternoon.”

“Formal wear, formal wear, eww, dowdy school-marm.  When did I buy that?”

“He is so besotted, you could wear a sack cloth and he would not notice.”

Nox blew a raspberry at him. “You don’t have a romantic bone in your body, Grimm.”

The hound chuckled.  “Romance is for the young.  You had better leave out some of the formal wear. We have to present ourselves at court tonight.“

She shut the door to her room but kept talking, her voice muffled by fabric.  “I’m trying not to think about that.”

“I’m surprised your father did not insist that you stay at the mansion last night.”

“I think he wanted time to talk to mother first, before I rip into her.  Any bets on whether we devolve into a cat fight?”

Grimm let out whurfs of laughter.  “You would win.  You fight dirty.”

Nox came out in a sapphire blue dress with a gauzy wrap across her shoulders.  The silver pin the Wind Knights had given her hung by a delicate chain from a loop in the shaft of the feather.  She spun around, making the skirts swirl around her calves.  “Will this do?”

A flash of memory hit Grimm as the pin caught the light.  Auburn hair, leaf green eyes, and his own feather insignia hanging on a slender, tanned neck.  He blinked and the memory was gone.

“Oh no, this looks awful, doesn’t it?”

Grimm shook himself.  “No, sorry, just wool gathering. You look fine.  Wear that flowery stuff you put in your hair.  He likes that.”

Her face lit up. “He does?  Ooh, do I have any left?” She dashed back into her room and started tossing clothes back in the closet to unbury her dresser.

Grimm got up as the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” he said, but Nox whisked past him, smelling faintly of jasmine and starflowers.

She stopped halfway down the stairs, ran back and gave him a hug.  “Thanks for the hint.”

“Oh, go on, before your dress gets covered with dog hair.”

She flashed him a smile and all but flew to the door.

Just has Grimm had predicted, Loki had her blushing in seconds.  They walked out arm in arm, neither taking their eyes off the other.  He let out an amused snort, and settled down to a blissfully quiet day with his book.  He was happy that she was happy, but it was spilling over through their soul-bond and making him feel giddy.  Which was bad enough for a guy, but at his age it was undignified.

Another memory surfaced – this time it was a name.  Katya.  Bittersweet memories, love and loss, underscored by the mocking voice of the Shadowkin, “betrayed by a woman…“ The hound rested his head on his paws, and wondered if some of the holes in his memory were there because there were things he did not want to remember.

The tolling of bells in the clock tower caught Nox and Loki off guard.

“Oh no,” Nox said. “We’re going to be late! My parents wanted me there by six.”

“A carriage won’t make it, but we can always ride,” Loki said.

Nox crinkled her nose.  “After a week in the saddle, my bruises still have bruises.  I think I’d rather be late.”

“That’s easily fixed.  Here, I know a stable close by.”  Loki led her through side streets along the edge of town to a small farrier’s shop that had a stable attached.  Loki walked in and tossed a few coins to a stableboy.  “Saddle up Cherry for me.  An extra tip if you’re fast.”

“How many horses do you have?”

Loki winked.  “In my business, having a quick way out of town is a necessity.”

“And what business is that? Dodging irate boyfriends?” she teased.

He laughed and gave her a wicked smile. “Leading maidens astray is my specialty.  Sit side-saddle.” He gave her a lift up and swung up behind her.

Nox squeaked as he scooped her up, shifted forward and sat her across his lap.  He put his arms around her to take the reins, and whispered in her ear.  “Hold tight, luv.”

She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against his shoulder, and for once, she actually enjoyed a horse ride.

Thirty minutes later they cantered into the courtyard of her family’s mansion, amidst a flurry of other guests.  Nox checked the family crests on the servants’ livery out of habit, so that she could properly greet whatever visitors had come to the dinner.  They were all attired the same, with the crest of the House of Mist emblazoned on their coat sleeves.  “The Marche Warden is here?  I went to school with his son.”  She smiled as a young man exited a carriage.  “Mikael!” she called out.  “What brings you here?”

Mikael stiffened as he looked at Loki.  “Who are you, and what are you doing with my fiancée? Is this some sort of joke?”

Loki scowled at him.  “I was thinking the same thing.”  He dismounted and lifted Nox down.

“Would someone please tell me what in the Hel is going on here?” Nox said.

Mikael looked startled.  “This is our engagement party.”

“Our what?!”

Serenna swept through the doors of the mansion, and down the stairs into the courtyard.  “You are so absent minded, dear. I told you about a new suitor before you left on your trip.” she smiled sweetly at Nox, and used the compulsion spell to keep her daughter’s lips sealed. “Mikael spoke so fondly of you, and your years spent together in school, that I saw no reason to delay your union with a lengthy courtship. Come, let us go inside. We can discuss the wedding over dinner.”

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Flash Fiction – Going Home August 27, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, WeSeWriMo.
Tags: , ,

WeSeWriMo is coming to a close, and this wraps up the mini-series.  There will be one more episode on tuesday, and then back to the regular schedule on fridays.

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

Nox hated riding horses.  At 4’10”, it was a humiliating experience. Either the horse was too tall, and she looked like a child perched on top, or the horse was more of a pony, and she still looked like a child. She glared up at the big, muscular brute one of her father’s guardsmen had brought over for her.  This one was so broad through the chest that her legs would probably stick out sideways

Loki led his own horse over next to hers. “Why don’t you ride Sybarite, luv?  He may be lazy, but he has a smoother gate than the warhorses Lucien brought with him.”  He gave her an elaborate bow, and turned the necessity of helping her to the saddle into a game of flirting.  He let his hand rest on her knee after he adjusted the stirrups. “There now, all comfy?”

She felt a blush creeping up on her face.  “Yes, that’s fine, thank you.”

He lowered his voice. “If you don’t want to go home, Sybarite can outrun any of the horses here.  There is still some masking potion in the saddlebags, along with everything else I use to disguise myself while spying.”

Nox tapped the side of her head.  “As long as Mother’s compulsion spell is in here, there is nowhere I can go that they can’t find me.” she said, placing a hand on his arm.  She could feel the heat radiating off the dragon tattoo, even though it had disappeared beneath the surface of his skin again. “Thank you for offering though.”

“The offer still stands, even if you only want to get away from all this for a little while.  I could go with you – I am a master at staying hidden and you know you are hopeless at cooking. If I don’t go, poor Grimm would starve.”

Nox shook her head stubbornly.  “Absolutely not.  I will not let you throw away everything you have worked towards for my sake!”

“And here I thought the guy was supposed to protect the girl,” he said, with a rakish grin.

“Pfft. Chauvenist,” she said, but returned the smile.

There was a small commotion behind them as Grimm made his way through the guards, who quickly shifted their horses to make way for him.  The hound looked positively cheerful, his ears up and tail wagging.  “Good morning, little one.”

Nox waved to him.  “Good morning! How are the ghosts settling in?”

“They are fine. That was a brilliant idea, moving their bones here to the castle.”

“The castle defenses are still intact, so the Morning Lord should have a hard time disturbing them again,” she said.  “I just wish we could have gotten to the ones that were stationed along his borders. I hate the thought of leaving them scattered like that.

One ghost knights, Evan, appeared next to Grimm.  “Those on the borders have been gone too long, there was nothing you could do for them.  Those that remain though, are in your debt.  Not only did you risk your life to bring us back, but you also risked oblivion in the hereafter in your fight against the Shadowkin. “ He floated up until his head was on a level with hers.  “For this, and your ceaseless efforts to aide our Captain,” he said, with a nod to Grimm, “I am honored to name you a Knight of the Winds, and welcome you into our ranks.” The ghost solidified enough to place a silver pin, shaped like a feather, on her collar.

Nox was stunned.  She had idolized the knights as a child, learning every story she could about their fight against the House of Shadows.  While here, they had become her friends as well.  But never in her wildest dreams had she thought she would be asked to join them.  “Th.th..thank you!” she stammered.

The rest of the ghosts appeared, and raised their swords in a salute.   Lucien’s guards cheered as well, banging their spears against the ground.

Grimm sent a thought for her alone to hear.  “The others may think this is only an honorary title, but everyone who is important knows that you are truly one of us.  Welcome to the House of Winds.”

Nox beamed at him.  “Did you just grant me dual-citizenship?”

“If you ever decide to cut ties with the House of Ice, you will always have a place here.  It is a bit of a fixer-upper,” he said, his tongue lolling out in a doggie grin, “but it does have that old world charm.”

“We will come back again, either way,” she said, taking a last look at the ancient castle. “We are definitely coming back.”


A week later, Nox was back in her workshop.  She looked around at the familiar clutter, thinking how small it looked after the vast, empty halls of the House of Winds.  She had only been gone a few weeks, but it felt like her whole world had changed. She reached up to touch the silver feather, and smiled.  Sometimes, change was good.

Grimm rumbled from upstairs in the kitchen. “You need to clean out the fridge, short-stuff. Something in here just growled at me.”

“Growl back, you’re bigger than it,” she said, laughing.

“But it’s green…”

Nox picked up letters that had piled up under the mail slot and headed upstairs.

Grimm had already sprawled out on the couch, lying on his back with his paws in the air and his tongue hanging out over his muzzle.  He wriggled into the squashy cushions.  “Ohh, that feels sooo good!”

Nox laughed at him.  “Should I leave you two alone?”

“I missed this couch.  I used to sleep on the ground all the time, but after few months of living here, I have gotten spoiled.” He shifted enough to make room for her to sit.

Nox leaned back against his side and closed her eyes.  The apartment was small, but it was home.  And it was good to be back.

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Flash Fiction – Raise the Dead, Part 5 August 25, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, WeSeWriMo.
Tags: , ,

WeSeWriMo is coming to a close, and I’ll be wrapping up the min-series this week.

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

There was no trace of Grimmalkyn left in the creature that faced off against Lucien.  It barely looked like a hound anymore – mad, glowing red eyes hovered over a gaping maw, and tendrils of an oily black substance dripped down its sides and oozed across the floor.

The ground was littered with dead and dying Chimaera.  Behind him, Lucien could hear the moans of wounded men, and the calm voice of the medic, Jens, as he worked to get them back on the line before the next attack.

“What are you waiting for?” Lucien thought, as he studied the battlefield.  The key to winning any battle was to understand your opponents’ strategy.  No more Chimaera had been called though, and the nightmarish beast stayed just out of arrow range. Which, Lucien had to admit, was a smart move on its part.  If he could close with the creature, he could destroy it.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw something move on the floor, but the only things there were corpses.  He thought it was just a trick of the light until something else moved.  First one corpse, then another started to jerk and twitch, and he realized each one had a black tendril plunged into its guts.   “Ready the line!” he shouted, and the men tightened up ranks.   A wave of animated corpses attacked, their eyes glowing red like the beast’s.

From there on out the battle was utter chaos.  The Chimaera were already dead – the only way to stop them was to chop off every limb, and render them immobile.  As soon as one went down, the oily tendril would pull back to burrow into another corpse, and send it shambling at the defenders.  It was not so much a battle as it was butchery, with each side trying to do as much damage as possible before they fell.

Lucien drew in energy and sent razor sharp spikes of ice shooting up from floor to ceiling. Each spike impaled a Chimaera and left it hanging above the floor.  The attack bought him a few moments to bring in the reserve troops, but no more than that.  The creatures simply ripped themselves off the spikes, and returned to the fight despite the gaping holes in their bodies.  Lucien called out new orders to his men, and pulled in energy for another assault.

Nox chanted the last of the names she had gotten from the Shadowkin, and fired her last arrow.   “Damn.  I hate leaving a job unfinished.”

Grimm let out a tired laugh, and his armor creaked as he tried to gain some traction to keep them from sliding.  “That was some fine shooting, short-stuff.”   His sword was still planted in the ground by his foot, but the ground itself had started to wash away.

Nox leaned out to the side to look around Grimm’s broad shoulders.  She chewed on the corner of her lip, thinking hard. “Why not.  What have I got to lose?  HEY! YOU AT THE END OF THE ROAD!”

Grimm pulled her back in front of him. “Nox, do not play games with Death!”

“Why not? I dance with him every time I try a new experiment.”  She leaned back out to look down the Road.  “HEY, YOU!  YES, I CAN SEE YOU.  I WANT TO MAKE A DEAL,” she yelled.

“I am getting too old for this.  Do you see all these grey hairs?  My hair was black before we were soul-bound.”


A sound rolled out from the end of the road, so deep she could feel it in her bones.  Nox looked up at Grimm, wide-eyed and shaking.  “I honestly didn’t think he’d respond,” she said, in a small voice.

“He always does.”

“I don’t understand though.  All he said was ‘To each his own time.’”

Grimm sighed.  “I think that means no, little one.”

Another bone-rattling sound shook them, and Nox’s face fell.  “He said you have to sheath your sword now.”

“Yes, I heard.”

Grimm looked down at her, familiar grey eyes in a craggy, unfamiliar face.  There was a world of sadness in them, and Nox knew it was all for her.  She gave him a crooked smile.  “Well, what are you waiting for?  You know I hate to be late for a dance.”

He squeezed her shoulder, and then wrenched the sword out of the ground and sheathed it in one smooth motion.  The invisible tide slammed into them, pulling them in opposite directions.

Nox reached out and snagged one of his armor straps.  “Grimm!”  The tide spun them around till she was completely lost.  She had no idea where the Road was, or if they were already on it.  His hand gripped hers as a bright light raced up to meet them.  She tried to hang on, but the tide was too strong. “Don’t let go!” she cried. There was a sharp pain in her head, and then everything went white, and fell silent.

One by one, the Chimaera’s eyes flashed electric blue before collapsing in heap.  There was no mistaking Nox’s aura signature, and the men let out a ragged cheer.   Lucien yelled out a command, and every man left standing charged.  Lucien threw up his arm as the beast leapt at him, and jammed his forearm between its teeth.   The creature clawed at Lucien’s sword, but the Ice Lord merely let it drop and slapped his armored hand against beast’s head.  A glyph etched in the palm of his gauntlet glowed, and the beast shrieked with all the voices of the Shadowkin at once.

It let go of Lucien and thrashed wildly as its body slowly turned to ice.  Lucien reached down to pick up his sword, and raised it for the killing blow.

Afterwards, Lucien was never exactly sure what happened.  A sound hit him, so deep and profound it left him stunned.  The black aura around the beast turned a brilliant gold, and for an instant, like an after image from looking at a bright light, the silhouette of a large man in armor stood in its place.  The last of the Chimaera fell, and as the light faded, a big, furry hound materialized.

Grimm shook himself from head to foot, and looked around in dismay.  “Where is Nox?” He lifted his nose to the wind to catch her scent, and ran out towards the city walls.

Grimm found Loki in what had been a guard tower on the outer defenses, sitting with his back to a marble tomb.  His head was bowed, and he had Nox cradled against his chest.  Everything for a quarter mile around them had been burned to the ground, the stone melted into puddles like wax.  The only things intact were the tomb, and one scared, exhausted horse.

“I used a spell capsule heal her wounds, but she won’t wake up,” Loki said, his voice thick with emotion.  “It only took a second that time she used one on me. It has been an hour now.”  He turned his burning gaze on Grimm.  “How could you leave her?  How could you choose to defend men who are already dead, when she needed you?  You are the only reason she came out here!”

Grimm’s ears flattened.  “She was not in danger when I left, and had allies close by.  What would you have me do?”

“ow,” Nox whispered, but they did not hear her.

“What you swore to do! You are her guardian!”

“seriously. ow.”   She reached up and placed her fingers over Loki’s lips.  “Can you argue more quietly, please? My head hurts.”

Loki’s eyes widened, and his shoulders slumped in relief.  He let out a broken laugh. “Hello, blue-eyes.”

She smiled up at him.  “There’s so much…thought I wouldn’t get to tell you…”

He bent down and kissed her. “Some things do not need words.”

Grimm rolled his eyes and muttered “I am drowning in sugar,” but he was grinning as he said it.

Nox laughed and held a hand out to him.  “I had been hoping to see you with a different face, furball.”

The hound ducked his head down and nudged her hand with a cold, damp nose.  “You heard what He said – to each his own time.  Mine will come, some day.”

Nox gave him a wistful smile. “Still, I wish I could have done more.”

“We are alive. For now, that is more than enough for me.”

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Flash Fiction – Raise the Dead, Part 4 August 20, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, WeSeWriMo.
Tags: , ,

Welcome to the next episode for my WeSeWriMo challenge.  I’ll be wrapping up this min-series next week.

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

Grimm could sense when one of the ghosts crossed the threshold between the realms of the living and the dead.  He had run off as soon as the first one passed over, hoping to catch the perpetrator in the act.  Unfortunately, the enemy technomancer had caught him instead.  Grimm had entered one of the crypts at a run and gotten hit straight between the eyes with a spell.  The next thing he knew, his spirit was hurtling down the path to the Long Road and somewhere along the way, like always, he changed back from a hound to a man.

The Shadowkin were waiting for him there.   They surrounded him, over eight hundred malevolent souls that wanted nothing more to destroy the last remnant of the House of Winds.  There was only a moment to choose – try to regain control of his body, or keep the Shadowkin from getting to Nox through the soul-bond she shared with him.  Which was no choice at all, really.  Grimm placed himself defiantly between them and his friend, and hoped that he could buy Nox enough time to get help.

He called in every favor the Long Road owed to him, and settled in for an ugly fight.  The Shadowkin were not trying to delay him this time.  They were spending their un-lives recklessly in an attempt to wipe him out.  Every time he cut through one of his enemies, they were dragged off by the invisible tide that draws spirits to their final rest.   There were always more to take the place of the fallen though, and Grimm was slowly being overwhelmed.  He had just taken another vicious hit when the Shadowkin made a rapid retreat.

There was a sharp tug in the ever-present tidal pull that nearly knocked Grimm off his feet.  Then another caught him, and another. It was like standing in rough surf, and the waves were dragging him back towards the Long Road.  Just in front of him a small spirit materialized.

“Grimm?  Is that you?”

His heart sank to the ground as he recognized Nox. She was his anchor to the mortal realms, and if she was here… he pushed that thought aside and reached out to catch her spirit before it could slip away.  “I am afraid so,” he said.  Grimm put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her to his side, placing his body between her and the Road. “Stay close, little one.”

She looked up at him and made a funny face. “Loki was right. You’re huge!”

“No, you are just very small,” Grimm teased. He gave her a lop-sided smile, a lump forming in his throat. He had wanted to see her in person one day, but not like this.

“Humph. I’m petite, you big lug,” she said. “Look at you, your biceps are as big around as my waist!   Are you sure you aren’t a mountain kindred?”

He laughed.  “I am very sure.  What happened after I left?”

She looked around, suddenly confused.  “Well… Loki was helping me bring back the ghosts when we ran the Morning Lord’s technomancer.  We stopped him before he could break Evan’s tomb, but something he was doing didn’t react well to what I was doing, and…”

“Boom,” Grimm finished for her.  He had seen the results when technomancy went wrong, and it was never pretty.

“Yeah.  I think I hit my head?” she said, not sounding terribly confident.  “And then I saw you.  So, what’s the plan?”

Grimm shifted his stance again.  The tidal pull was getting stronger, and he had to dig in his feet to stop them from sliding closer to the Road.  He turned so that she wouldn’t see the lie on his face.  “We get you home,” he said.  He spun his sword point-downward and dug it into the ground next to his right leg, and braced his foot against it to stop them from sliding further.  There was no need to keep the sword at the ready.  The Shadowkin would not bother risking themselves when all they had to do was wait.

Nox squinted as she looked at the horizon. “Those dark spots are the Shadowkin, aren’t they.”  It wasn’t so much a question as an angry statement.  She held out her fists and pressed them together at the thumbs. “You know, I have a bunch of their names. It would be a shame to let them go to waste after all the trouble I went through to get them.”

“You know what is happening to us?”

“Don’t ever play poker Grimm,” she said, and gave him an impish grin.  A blinding blue glow formed between her fists, and she pulled them apart to the sides until her aura formed the arc of a bow.  “You know, this whole place is energy.  I won’t even need a focusing crystal here to make an arrow.  Brace me, would you please?”

“Do you think you can reach them?” Grimm asked, as he shifted to stand behind her.

“I have their names.  I can’t miss.”  She muttered the start of a summoning spell, and recited a name three times.  “Malketh. Malketh.”  She drew back the bow, and in the distance one of the shadows was pulled closer to them. “MALKETH!”  The arrow leapt out and flew straight to its target, exploding in a shower of electric blue sparks.  The spirit shrieked and collapsed, falling into the invisible tide.

Nox chanted out more names, and the Shadowkin scattered in dismay.  It did them no good though, every time she called one, they had no choice but to answer her summons.  She scowled as she drew back the bow again.  “That takes care of the ones from the vault.  Now for the bastards that tried to make me kill Loki!”

Grimm had a fierce grin on his face.  “Hel hath no wrath…Have I mentioned that I really enjoyed working with you?”

“We’re not done yet, I still have a few more names.  Duros. Duros. DUROS!”

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Flash Fiction – Raise the Dead, Part 3 August 18, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, WeSeWriMo.
Tags: , ,

This is the next episode for WeSeWriMo, the web series writing month. As part of the challenge, I’ll be trying to do two episodes per week for the entire month of August.  Enjoy!

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

Nox winced as the combat medic cleaned the claw marks on her back with antiseptic and applied one of her mothers’ healing plasters.  She took a quick look at the fight raging between the ice elementals and the Chimaera, and waved the man off.  “That’s good enough, Jens, you had better get back out there. I’m afraid they’ll need you more than I do.”

“All too true, milady.”  He waggled a finger at Loki.  “Just you take good care of her, young sir, or there’ll be harsh words between us.”   A yell for a medic came from the lines, and Jens hurried out of the room.

Loki stood with his back against the doorway, arms crossed, where he could keep an eye on the battle and Nox at the same time.   “Why does everyone think that I can keep you out of trouble?”

She smirked at him. “Good question, since you’re usually aiding and abetting me.” She leaned out over the ruins of the balcony.  “Speaking of which, can you melt us some steps? We need to move fast if we’re going to help Grimm.”

Loki pushed himself away from the door.  A quick gesture sent a jet of flames rippling down the wall into the courtyard, and pieces of stone slumped into crude stairs in its wake. “What sort of trouble are we running off to find now?”

The steps froze solid beneath Nox’s feet as she ran down them. “This is the second time Grimm has taken off when something happened to the ghosts here.  Pretty odd behavior for someone sworn to protect my family, isn’t it?  There has to be some connection between him and the ghosts.  Tyrus’ crypt is the closest.  It’s near the portal in the city walls.”

“If that’s the case, then we go by horse,” Loki said. “We do not have time to fight our way through the Chimaera on foot.”

They pelted through the castle to where the rest of the troops were guarding the horses and supplies.  Nox grabbed her satchel and hung it around her neck, to avoid having it bang against her back.  Loki saddled up Sybarite and gave Nox a leg up onto the horse.  He swung up behind her, and they cantered out past the guards through the castle gate.

“Hang on tight,” Loki said. He snapped the reins and yelled “hyah!”  Sybarite took off like a shot, his iron-shod hooves ringing on the cobblestone streets. Nox huddled down as close to the horse’s neck as she could get without banging her nose on its bobbing head.  Loki reached past her leg to tap a carved stone in the horse’s tack, setting off the earth casting embedded in the stone.   The ground ahead of the horse’s hooves smoothed out perfectly flat as the earth energies flowed outwards around them.

It didn’t take long for a pack of Chimaera to find them.  The first one stood blocking the road, a bull with ram’s horns and a stingray tail.  Loki urged Sybarite to run faster.  As they closed in, the earth casting lifted the cobbles beneath the beast and tossed it to the side.  By the time the bull staggered to its feet they had already galloped past.

Nox laughed.  “You left the safety on! And here I thought that was just for keeping pedestrians from getting mowed down.”

“Sybarite bucks me off every time I fling fire past his head.  So I boosted the power on the casting as an alternative defense.”


The creatures quickly learned to stay out of their way, letting them get through the city in minutes. The gatehouse was dark, completely shaded by the five story tall city walls.   Loki swung down off of the horse and helped Nox down as well, to avoid jarring her back.  Then he formed a saber out of flames, lighting the area. “Someone did a thorough job of busting up this tomb. Watch your step.”

Nox put out a hand to keep Loki from stepping inside.  “Hold up, there are bone fragments everywhere.”  She crouched down and picked up a piece, causing the faint remnant of an aura to glow around it.  Her brows knit together as she concentrated, and the glow spread outwards to surround every piece of bone in a silvery corona.  “Okay, let’s hope I remember that cantrip mother taught me.”   She muttered an arcane phrase, and the bones twitched and moved closer together.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s a bone-setting spell.  Doesn’t seem to work so well on dry, dead bones, though.  I’ll need to alter it.” She thought for a moment, then nodded to herself and chanted another phrase. The bones started to vibrate in time to the rhythm. She sent a pulse of energy out into the room. “Tyrus, you are needed.”

Bone dust flowed across the floor and filled the gaps in the bones.  A misty shape began to form.  “Tyrus, you are summoned!” she said.

The bones rolled together, snapping into place and forming a full skeleton in the center of the room.  “Tyrus, report!”

The ghost knight materialized and stood at attention.  “Lieutenant Tyrus, reporting for duty,” he said, his voice faint but clear. He looked down at her from where he hovered.  “Lady, you are truly Lord Galen’s descendant. No one else could have summoned me back from the Long Road.”  He drifted down in front of them. “There were others on the Road as well. You must find them, bring them back!”

“Where are the other crypts?”

“There is one at every gatehouse – four in the city walls and twenty in the outer defenses,” he said.  “Most can be reached by the portals, but there are some you will have to ride to get to. Hurry, or our captain is lost!”

Nox nodded.  “Stay here, and guard your bones at all costs.”   She closed her eyes and sent a thought out to Grimm.  “Hang on, just a little bit longer!”

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Flash Fiction – The Year King August 14, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: ,

Got a little stuck on Nox and Grimm, so I did a true flashfic peice to get the ol’ muse up and running again.  I’ll return to the serial very soon 🙂


James woke up with his mouth hanging open and his cheek resting on a puddle of drool.  Again.  He really should have gotten up off the couch and gone to bed the night before, but he just couldn’t see the point.  He had been unemployed for over a year, and the money was running out.  Most of his furniture had been sold and replaced by pizza boxes, or ratty old pieces like the couch that he had found while out dumpster diving.  He had written the last rent check two months before, and it was only a matter of time before his landlord put him out and called in a hazmat team to clean up the mess.   Hell, he should probably stick around to watch that, maybe the hazmat guys would take pity and clean him up a bit too.  From the smell of his clothes, he needed it.

James flicked on the power for the Atari, another dumpster find that miraculously still worked. He jammed in a cartridge and was about to settle down for another thrilling day of blowing up asteroids when the phone rang. He didn’t jump up to answer it.  Long experience had taught him to screen his calls for trolling creditors.

His own voice mumbled drunkenly out of the machine.  “Make it good,” he had recorded, followed by a long burp instead of a beep.  A chipper female voice replied.  “Hello Mr. MacNair!  This is Stella from Celestial Temps, a full service staffing agency.  I found your resume online and I believe we have a job for which you are uniquely qualified.”

By the time she had gotten to the word ‘resume,’ James had jumped off the couch, gotten tangled in the joystick wires, tripped, banged his toes on the sofa leg and fallen just short of the phone.  He reached up and knocked the receiver off its cradle and dragged it to his ear.  “Hello? Hello? This is James! Damn, where’s that pen…”  He snagged a pizza box and a sharpie, scribbling madly all over the lid. “Uh huh, yes, sure!  Keeping the client confidential is fine. Yes, I’ll sign a form to that effect.  One hour?  Uh, okay.  Yeah, I can be there. Thank you!” he said, and hung up the phone.

A quick inspection in the bathroom mirror told him that he was long overdue for a date with a razor. He got showered and shaved in record time, and pulled out the one pristine object in his entire apartment – his interview suit.  Forty minutes later he was flagging down a cab and handing over the last of his cash to make the trip across town.

Celestial Temps operated out of a typical office park.  There was nothing to differentiate it from the hundreds of other buildings that grew up like mushrooms on every flat stretch of land for miles around the city.  The only thing of note was a large, white sedan with diplomatic plates parked out front.  James smiled to himself. Government work could mean big dollars, and he had learned to keep his lips shut during the legal debacle that had wrecked his former employer.  Stella was right, he was more than qualified to keep an execs’ dirty secrets.

The automatic doors swooshed open as he walked up to them, and a shimmering sound rang in his ears as he passed through.  Great, knowing his luck he was probably getting tinnitus.  He caught a glimpse of himself in the doors, and corrected the now habitual slouch.   A perky twenty-something in a snug white business jacket and skirt came out from behind a desk to greet him.  “Hello Mr. MacNair, I’m Stella. The client is already here.  Right this way please.”

Two security guards, who probably wore their Ray-Ban’s 24/7 stood outside a conference room door.  They frisked him and ran detectors over him before waving him inside.  The man waiting there was not what James had expected.  He looked like a strung-out junkie, thin with wispy hair and a nervous tick under one eye.  His suit was impeccable though, and almost blindingly white.   He waved to the chair across from him.  “Have a seat, James.  I’m glad you decided to accept the call.”  He said the last word as if it held a special significance.

James gave him a professionally polite smile.  “How could I resist so charming a girl as Stella?  I’m sorry though, I wasn’t given your name,” he said, and held out his hand.

The man’s nervous tick jumped a little faster.  “No, not yet. I have to be sure, you see?”  He added nervous drumming with his fingers on the tabletop as a counterpoint to the tick.  “What are your views on religion, James?”

James settled back in his chair.  “Is that important for the job?” he asked, a little surprised, what with all the anti-discrimination laws.

“Yes, it could be very important.  You will have to deal with members of many different beliefs if you accept the position.”

“I’m an agnostic,” James said.  “Not an atheist, just not willing to commit to anybody else’s ideas on God.”

The man smiled, and held out his hand.  “Perfect.  You’ll want to remember that, down the road, and stick to it. No matter how persuasive the others can be.”

Later, James looked down at his crisp white suit, and had to laugh.  If deities were just temps, it was no wonder everyone had a different idea about God.  Or Gods, for that matter.   Not to mention the mess they all made of the world.  The earth didn’t come with an instruction manual, and each year the new King of Kings had to figure out how things worked while simultaneously trying to make deals with his fellow supreme beings.  James still didn’t know what would happen when his year was up, but he was betting the retirement benefits were phenomenal.   He straightened his tie and grinned in anticipation.  It was time to get down to work.

Flash Fiction – Raise The Dead, Part 2 August 10, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, WeSeWriMo.
Tags: , ,

This is the third episode for WeSeWriMo, the web series writing month. As part of the challenge, I’ll be doing two episodes per week for the entire month of August.  Enjoy!

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

Nox sprinted through the castle, her feet slipping on damp, moss covered stones.  Twice her feet slid out from under her as she took a corner too fast, but she just picked herself up and kept running.  All her attempts to reach Grimm through their soul-bond had failed, and she was getting more panicked by the minute.

She skidded through an archway into what had been a small courtyard garden.  Tangles of vining roses and centuries of fallen leaves made a thick, prickly carpet on the ground.  There were arched entryways on the other three walls as well, and none of them looked familiar.  Nox spat out a curse – she must have made a wrong turn somewhere.  She thrust her fist into the air and sent up an electric blue flare from her aura to try and signal Grimm or her father.

It never crossed her mind that others might be watching.  A stuttering yowl drifted out from the far entryway, followed by glowing yellow eyes.  Nox froze in place.  “Aw, crud.  No ghosts to hold back the Chimaera.  Stupid move, Nox,” she said to herself.  She quickly ran over her options, and came up with a blank. She didn’t have a single weapon or tool on her, and there was no way she could outrun it. Almost everything she did with Ice used a touch of Air as well, and that would only bring more of the creatures.  No help for it though, she had to do something.

The Chimaera stalked out into the courtyard. It was same type that had attacked the waypost, a huge feline with long spines running down its back.  Nox knew all too well what its claws could do, so her aura shield was useless as well.  It  mirrored her movements as she backed towards the door, and let out another hair-raising yowl.  It was toying with her, like a housecat does to a  mouse.

“C’mon, girl, you’re smarter than this critter, think!”  Her eyes darted around the courtyard, looking for anything she could use.  The walls were all solidly built, but there were some small cracks she could work with.  She flicked a hand at the wall next to her, and icicles sprouted out sideways like rungs from a ladder.  The Chimaera roared and lunged for her as she scampered upwards, just missing her with a swipe from its claws.  It backed up and took a running leap at her.  Nox flattened herself against the wall and made long, sharp spears of ice sprout out all around her.  The Chimaera screamed as it slammed into the spikes and dropped back to the ground. It reached out with one of its claws as it fell though, and left bloody scores down Nox’s back.   Her own screams joined those of the creature, and it was all she could do to hang on.

The Chimaera limped back towards her, leaving a trail of gore in its wake.  Some of the broken-off spears still hung out of it, and it let out pained snarls as they snagged on the vines. Even so, Nox could see it was getting ready to jump again.  She numbed her back and made the agonizing climb up the last few feet to a second-story balcony.  She pulled herself over the edge and crawled away from the opening.  Once she was back inside, she slapped her palms down on the floor and sent ice snaking down through every little crevice.

The creature hit the wall with a thump, and started clawing its way upwards.  Nox began to shake from blood-loss and the effort of creating so much Ice without summoning any Air to hasten the process.  One set of claws latched onto the edge of the balcony, and the creature’s snarling face came up as well.  A second set of claws dug into the stone, but as its full weight hung from the balcony there was a loud CRACK.   Something akin to hatred filled the creatures’ eyes as it hung there, and then the balcony tumbled to the ground below, smashing the Chimaera beneath it.

Nox flopped, stomach down, onto the floor and lay there with her heart hammering in her chest.   She could hear shouts and footsteps getting closer, punctuated by yowls and screams of pain.  Loki’s voice rose up above the din.   “Lucien, she’s over here! Send the medic!”

She could feel the warmth radiating off of him as he knelt by her side, the dragon tattoo standing out stark black on his arm.  She tried to get up.  “Did you get my warning in time?”

“Don’t try to move, luv,” Loki said, gently keeping her still.  “We saw your flare just before the Chimaera attacked.”  He looked around.  “Where the Hel is Grimm?”

“He went nuts when the ghosts started disappearing.  His eyes were red – I don’t think he was in control of himself.”

Loki scowled. “Well, at least the blood curse will be turned on those damned monsters.”

“No, it won’t.  Only works against people.”

“And we’re the only people within fifty miles,” he said, jumping up and running to yell out the door.  “Lucien, we’ve got a bigger problem than the Chimaera!”

“Tell me something I do not know,” came the cool, sardonic answer.  Nox staggered to her feet and leaned against the doorway next to Loki.

The Lord of Ice stood in the center of the hall with his sword at the ready, his guardsmen to either side.  Beyond them loomed a huge, spectral hound with burning red eyes, flanked by hordes of the Chimaera.   Nox let out a small cry. “Grimm!”

The hound turned its gaze on her but when it spoke, it was with the voices of the Shadowkin.  “Yes, this is Grimmalkyn. He has finally taken his place as leader of the Chimaera, as we had always intended.”

Nox could see her father was pulling in energy for a lethal strike.  “Grimm is still in there!  Don’t hurt him!”

The Shadowkin filled the hall with their mocking laughter.  “Yes, there is still a fragment of the guardian left.  But not for long…”

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Flash Fiction – Raise the Dead, Part 1 August 6, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction, WeSeWriMo.
Tags: , ,

This is the second bi-weekly episode for WeSeWriMo, the web series writing month. As part of the challenge, I’ll be doing two episodes per week for the entire month of August.  Enjoy!

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

It was Grimm’s turn to be studied by Nox.  She picked up his paws, turned them this way and that, and made lots of hmmm sounds before scribbling madly in her notebook.  He had no idea what she was looking at, but he was more than willing to be patient while she worked.  He still could not believe he had one of the elemental keys, or figure out why Lord Galen would have given it to him. The souls of over eight hundred Shadowkin were trapped in his head, and only his and Nox’s combined willpower kept them in check.  The mere thought of what they would do with the power of a key made him shudder.

Nox gave him a curious look. “Something wrong, furball?”

“Just thinking. Are you sure you want to go home?”

She set his paw down and shrugged.  “I can only do a cursory survey of the keys out here.  I need my magnifiers and force gauges, and probably a ton of other tools that will have to be custom ordered from specialists. Not to mention the problems of having things delivered out here into the monster-infested wilderness,” she said, giving him an impish grin. “I don’t think Trans-Dimensional Shipping offers package insurance for Chimaera attacks.”

Grimm snorted.  “I was not concerned about myself.  I have lived as a hound for thousands of years, a few more or less will not matter.  I was worried about you.  Are you really going to trust your mother to undo the spell she placed on you?”

“Do I have a choice?  Compulsion spells are nearly impossible to break from the inside, and I don’t know anyone else with the skill to do this.  Certainly none that I would trust mucking about in my head.”

“You know how to break them though, why not try to teach me?  Once that is fixed, the Shadowkin will be effectively bottled up, and we will not need to go back.  I am serious, little one, I am fine with going on in this form.  I do not need to be changed back.”

Nox gave him a sad smile.  “I am not going to live forever, Grimm.  What then?  If you have no anchor to the mortal realms, you won’t be able to fight off the Shadowkin.”  She shook her head. “You may have been sworn to protect our family, but we were given a responsibility as well.  I won’t close my eyes and leave this mess for future generations to clean up.  Duty before self.  I will see this done.”

Grimm heaved a sigh. “You sound just like your father.”

“He’s not all bad, you know.”

“He is not all good, either.”

“But he and mother are family.  That has to count for something, right?”

“Perhaps.” Grimm said. “Listen, little one. I know you want so much to be able to trust your parents. But you need to keep your eyes open. Promise me you will.”

She leaned her head against his.  “I promise.”

“Good,” he said, and gave her a playful nudge.  “We have a few hours before your father plans to head out.  I can give you a tour of the castle, and tell you stories about the House of Winds like I used to when you were a little girl.” He gave her a sly look. “Well, you are still little… ”

She swatted his furry shoulder.  “I’m petite, dammit!  Puh-teet!”

Whurfs of canine laughter echoed around the empty hallways.  “Whatever you say, short-stuff.”

A warm breeze blew through the ruins of an ancient guard tower on the border between the territories of Wind and Ice.  It flattened the grass around the tower and roused its guardian from his crypt.  Gerard had been a Wind Knight in life and now, as a ghost, he still watched over his post, keeping the Chimaera from escaping into the valleys beyond.  He knew there were many farms out there, and even cities beyond the horizon, though he had never seen them.  They had all been built long after he died.

He drifted to face the wind, trying to decide what it was that had disturbed him.  It was early yet for the air to be so warm, but summer had often come swift and hot to the mountain plateau.  He let the breeze carry him out further from the tower, and floated up higher to get a look at the surrounding countryside.  Nothing moved, except for the long grass swaying in the wind.

By the time he realized what had drawn him out, it was too late. Pain like he had not felt since the day he died shot through him, and he rushed back to the tower with the last shreds of energy he had.  Glowing yellow eyes filled the dark room around where his crypt now lay broken – his bones were all shattered into tiny pieces.  A voice rolled out of the gloom. “Go, children of the Shadowkin. The guardian will stop you no longer.”  Chimaera poured out of a portal into the tower in a seemingly endless wave.

Gerard made a last desperate effort to sound the alarm, but a pudgy, balding man stepped out into the light and held up the last unbroken bone.  “Goodbye, guardian.”  There was a loud crack as he broke the bone over his knee, and the ghost faded away.

Miles away, Grimm stopped mid-sentence.  The hound threw his head back and let out a keening howl.

“What’s wrong?” Nox asked, looking around in alarm.

Grimm’s eyes changed from grey to brimstone red. “Someone is destroying the ghosts,” he snarled, his claws digging furrows in the stone beneath his paws.

“Please, calm down. You’re losing control, Grimm!”  She tried to hold him back, but he brushed her aside.   He let out another keening howl and disappeared, leaving Nox standing alone.

“Bloody Hel,” she cursed, and ran full tilt back through the abandoned castle to warn her father.

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Flash Fiction – The Science in the Sorcery August 4, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

This week starts WeSeWriMo, the web series writing month. As part of the challenge, I’ll be doing two episodes per week for the entire month of August.  Enjoy!

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

Nox steered Loki to a sunny windowsill. “This will do. Have a seat, and lose the shirt,” she said, her voice cool and clinical. “I’ll need you to bring the dragon tattoo up to the surface of your skin slowly, so I can see how the energy flows.”

The corner of Loki’s mouth quirked up.  “Yes, professor.  Anything to further the cause of science.”

She flicked a cautious look over her shoulder, and Loki followed her gaze.  Lucien was standing within earshot, talking to one of his guards.

“Point taken,” he said, quietly.  He put his shirt aside, careful to keep his eyes, hands, and everything else off of her.  Lucien still hadn’t said a word to him about his request to court his daughter, and Loki did not want to blow it before he got an answer.

Nox ran a finger across his shoulder, her chill aura making a hissing sound as it came into contact with the heat radiating off the tattoo. “It’s a beautiful piece of work,” she said.  “Lord Galen made all of the greater elemental keys, did you know?  Gave them as gifts to his vassals.”

“Hmm, interesting,” he said, but he was already having trouble keeping his thoughts on the lecture. Her hair always smelled like night-blooming flowers.  A few dark strands had escaped the silver clip at the nape of her neck, and brushed against his skin as she leaned closer.  Focus, Loki, he thought.  He glanced to the doorway, and could see Lucien watching the two of them with that steely, ax-murderer look every father seemed to get when he was near their daughters.  Loki sighed inwardly.  Considering how much fun he’d had earning his bad reputation, he never thought he would have reason to regret it.

Nox kept talking as if she was unaware of her father’s presence.  “In theory, this should work the same as any other artifact.  They’re like water turbines.  The elemental energy that’s all around us is the calm mill pond.”  She looked more closely at the tattoo.  “There should be a glyph that works as a sluice-gate; it lets the energy flow into a narrow channel, defined by other glyphs.” Her finger ran down his arm.  “It picks up speed, down into the core markings of the artifact that make up the impellers of the turbine.  It magnifies the power, and the other markings connect into it like gears and gear-shafts. The outer markings are the machines run by the gears.”

“So, the markings power an elemental casting, as well as give it shape?” Loki said, intrigued in spite of the distractions.  “What happens if you don’t use the energy?”

“There’s always a way to release the excess energy.  That’s why the tattoo gives off so much heat when you use it.  If the energy didn’t have a way out, it would build up in there and,” she paused and made a face, “well, let’s just say the results wouldn’t be pretty.  Of course, your key is far more complex than the average artifact.  I have no idea yet how it hooks into your psyche, where the sluice gate is, or how the ink appears and disappears.” She gave him a rueful smile. “I’m afraid you’ll be spending a lot of time your shirt off. Sorry about that.”

I’m not, he thought, but said out loud, “Did Galen say anything about the keys in his journal?”

“I can barely get the damn thing to tell me about Grimm, I never asked it about anything else. Except for something to neutralize that toxin Roald used on you, of course,” Nox said.  She ran her hand lightly over the dragon on his arm again.  “How do you summon it?”

“I’m not sure I can describe it. It is all in the mind, though. There are no external triggers.”

“All in the mind?”  Her face lit up as she said it. “Galen was a genius!  That’s a psycho-reactive ink!  It’s a liquid though, how did he get it to retain its shape? There must be something in the molecular structure…ooh, I need some paper to write on!”

“Sorry luv, but you have already stripped me down to my breeches.  I do not have any paper hiding on me,” Loki said, grinning at her enthusiasm.

“Do you know what this means?  If I can figure out the right trigger thoughts, I can get that journal to tell me what I need to know about Grimm!  And the keys, and anything else it’s hiding!  It could be as simple as thinking about an index!”  Nox flung her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on him, nearly bowling him over in her excitement.  “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome?” he said, not quite sure what he did to deserve her thanks, but he was not about to argue.

Nox all but ran across the room, grabbed her father’s hands and pulled him around in a few circles. “Isn’t this exciting?  How soon can we get home?  I have to get back to my workshop.  Ooh, you don’t have paper either, do you?”  she dropped his hands and disappeared down the hall, her voice trailing after her.  “Grimm, wait till you hear this!”

Loki could not help but laugh at seeing the stern, sober Ice Lord get spun around by Nox.  The look on Lucien’s face was priceless.  “How in the Hel did you ever have a daughter like that?” he asked, still chuckling.

“I ask myself that all the time,” Lucien replied, but he gave Loki an amused look.  “If you are anything like your father, I suppose you have already been courting my daughter, with or without my permission.”

“I’d prefer to have it.”

Lucien crossed his arms. “There are conditions. You will observe all the proper forms, and you will not be her only suitor.  I have already given permission to another who asked before you,” he said, looking stern again.  “You will not challenge him to a duel. I will not have my allies cutting each other down.”

Loki gave him an unconcerned shrug. “I give you my word that I will not provoke a fight. But if he starts something, I will finish it.”

“Do not make me regret this decision.”

“Relax, Lucien. I will behave myself. Just warn suitor number one to do the same.”

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