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Flash Fiction – Duty Before Self September 18, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

This flashfic is part of an ongoing web serial, updated every week as a part of #fridayflash on twitter.  If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

Nox gave Loki a kiss and walked with him to the door of her room. “Thanks for the help with my chainmail.”

“I will be happy to help you back out of it again later,” he said, with a wicked grin.

Nox laughed. “Focus, sweetie. We have critters to dispatch. Do you need anything from the armory?”

The dragon tattoo rose from Loki’s arm and wrapped itself around him.  When it settled, it changed into armor made of obsidian scales, and a cloak of scarlet flame sprung from the shoulder guards and rolled down his back. “I think I am all set.”

“That is so not fair.  You aren’t supposed to be prettier than your date!”

“I can’t help being beautiful. It’s a curse,” he deadpanned, getting another laugh from Nox.

A flicker of green light from the hall outside caught Nox’s eye.  “Could you saddle up a horse for me? I have something to take care of before we go.”

He gave her a florid bow.  “As my lady commands.”

She shooed him towards the door. “Go, fop.”   Once he was out of earshot she crossed her arms and scowled. “All right mother.  You obviously wanted me to see your aura. What do you want, I don’t have much time.”

“You have all the time in the world, daughter. You are going to take off that ridiculous armor and get back to our guests,” said Serenna.

“I will do no such thing.  Duty before self, you taught me that. My duty is to protect our people.”

Serenna looked calm, but the air around her was charged.  “Your duty is what I tell you to do. This selfish desire to play with the elements nearly killed you. I won’t allow it to go any further.”

A bitter cold wind whipped around Nox. Every surface in the room was slowly covered by patterns of frost as she lost her temper. “Selfish? Every minute you delay me leads to more of our people getting killed by Chimaera! Are you going to explain to them that their loved ones died because you insisted on having a party?” she said, her voice dripping with scorn. “Father’s battle plan depends on me being there. I am the only air elemental left that can pull this off.”

Serenna gave her a quelling look. “You are not Air. You are Ice, and barely that.”

“I. Am. Air.” Nox said, putting emphasis on each word. “Or I will be, when you undo the spell that strangles my powers.”

Serenna let out an exasperated sigh.  “Do you not see what I have done for you? Without the elements, you cannot be the heir, and will not have to deal with the brutal politics that got Loki’s family killed. He may wish to continue that fight, but I will not lose you to it.  If you marry Mikael, you will never be expected to fight again.  I have even chosen a husband who shares your interests.  Is it so hard to believe that I want your happiness?”

“Maybe it wouldn’t be, if you had ever bothered to ask what it was that makes me happy, instead of always telling me.”  Nox made to brush past her mother, but a blinding pain shot through her head that dropped her to the ground.

As she started to black out, she heard Serenna say, “I am sorry. But it is for the best.”

This was not the first time her mother said those words to her. Nox had blotted out the memory of the childhood trauma, but it came back clearly in that instant.  She remembered wailing in pain as her mother cast the spell meant to cut her off from the elements.  Serenna’s face had been pale and tear streaked, and she kept saying, “Hush baby. Hush. I know it hurts. But it is for the best.”

Ice cold fury let Nox hang on to consciousness. She was not a child anymore, and there was no way in Hel she would go down without a fight.  She pushed herself up to her hands and knees. “This is your only warning.  Let me go.”

Serenna grabbed Nox by the arm and dragged her upright. “You are a disgrace, daughter. Your father has indulged your whims far too often. But no more.”

“You’re a bully. An ordinary thug who would be nothing without father’s influence.”

Serenna’s face turned livid.  “You will obey me, by force if necessary!”  Acid green energy lashed out from her hands, but was met by the electric blue of Nox’s own aura. Serenna’s head snapped back as she was struck by Nox’s counter attack.

“I can pay back every ounce of pain you inflict on me,” Nox said, as she hammered into Serenna’s defenses.  “I am not afraid of you anymore. But if you don’t let me go, you will damned well learn to fear me!”

Serenna reeled backwards as Nox blasted apart her aura shield apart.  “Stop this! I am your mother!”

Nox gave her a look that could have frozen the sun.  “I don’t have a mother.“  She grabbed Serenna by the throat and gathered in energy for a final strike.  She held her fist cocked back, her blue aura crackling around it like lightening.

Serenna looked horrified. “You wouldn’t dare!”

“You have tortured me my whole life. Why should I show you any mercy?”

Grimm materialized and paced into the room. “Because you are better than her, little one.”

Nox clenched her fist until the knuckles turned white.  “I asked you to stay out of this.”

The hound gave her a stern look. “Defend the living, and honor the dead.  Fight with courage, and show mercy to the defeated. In all things, act with honor. That is the oath you took as a Wind Knight.”

“Damn you,” Nox whispered.  She shoved her mother away, spun on her heel and walked out.

Grimm bared his teeth at Serenna. “You owe me your life. Remember that.”

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Flash Fiction – Call to Arms September 10, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

This flashfic is part of an ongoing web serial, updated every week as a part of #fridayflash on twitter.  If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

Nox was surrounded by the ‘vapid court flowers’ she had been mocking earlier in the evening. It was too late to cancel the party, since the guests were already arriving, so she had no choice but to play hostess to the whole awkward mess.  She rubbed at her temples to try and fend off a burgeoning headache.

The latest arrival was a platinum blond Mist elemental who punctuated everything she said with an annoying, high pitched titter. “You didn’t know you were getting engaged?  Where have you been hiding, deary?”

Nox stifled a sigh, and answered the question for the twentieth time.  “I was fighting monsters on the borders for the past month. My father is still mopping up a few rogues that got through.”

The girl let out another breathless little laugh.  “You say the most outrageous things!  Seriously, how could you not know?”

Nox gave the girl a tired look. “Will you excuse me?  I need some air.”  As she stood up to leave, the wrap she had been using to cover the scars on her back snagged on the arm of her chair and slid off.

The ladies all gasped in unison. “Oh my goodness!”

“You weren’t joking?”

“Did that hurt?”

She bit back a scathing reply, and instead gave them a chill smile.  “Good night, ladies. Enjoy the party.”  She put the shawl back in place and left, but not quickly enough to avoid hearing more of their conversation.

“Brrr, ice elementals. Poor Mika!”

“Forget Mika, poor Loki! What could he possibly see in a half-breed? She’s as nasty as her mother.”

The throbbing in Nox’s temples had turned into a full-blown headache by the time she got out of the hall and found Grimm.  The hound materialized and paced next to her.

“How much longer till this party is over? I’m not sure I can take much more of the brainless brigade.”

Grimm chuckled.  “Do not let them get to you.  No one ever expected those girls to be anything other than decorative, and that is all they will ever be.  You had the bar set higher.”

“Yes, but I had my wings broken so I could never reach it,” she said, her voice laced with bitterness.  She rubbed at her temples again. “Sorry.  My head is killing me.”

Grimm’s ears drooped a little in concern.  “Do you need to see the medic? You should have rested more after your head injury.”

“This is just an allergy attack. I react badly to stupidity,” Nox said, with a disgusted look.  “’‘Did it hurt.’  No, I liked having my back flayed open by claws, everyone should try it.”

Grimm let out an amused snort.  “My, you are in a foul mood.” He tilted his head to the side, and his ears flicked forward.  “Something is up at the guard barracks.  I can hear Loki there, want to check it out?”

“Absolutely.  If I’m working, they can’t make me go back inside.”

The barracks was buzzing with activity – throngs of guards hurried to strap on armor and grab weapons from the storage racks.  Nox found Loki talking to Brand, the captain of the House guard.

“Any word from my father?” she asked.

Brand looked bleak.  “More Chimaera sightings.  So many of them slipped through when the ghosts were attacked, we’ll be hunting the damned things for months.”

“I will be going with them, luv.  Can you keep your mother from doing anything irrevocable while I am gone?”  Loki said, with a wry smile on his face.  “That is, if you can stand to be with a horse trader.”

Nox wrinkled her nose at him.  “We’ll talk later. Right now, I need some paper and a pen.”

Brand pulled a clipboard off the wall and handed it to her.  “There should be blank pages under the patrol rosters. If you will excuse me, milady, I need to organize supply lines.”

“Hold that thought Brand, I have an idea.”  Nox walked behind Loki and braced the clipboard on his back while she wrote.

“Horse trader, writing desk, I’m multi-talented,” Loki quipped, and Brand coughed to cover up a laugh.

“Stand still, please.  There.  We should have new orders shortly.” Nox pulled two sheets of paper from the clip board and handed it back to Brand.

“We?” Loki started to read the note out loud. “Father, I can get them all in one place.”  He paused, clearly worried.  “You are going to fly again.”

“Damn straight I am, and you are going to help me.”

He did not meet her eyes. “That did not end too well last time.”

She stood on tip-toes and kissed his cheek.  “Don’t worry, all I need is a little bit of heat.”  She folded the papers up into an origami hummingbird, and sent it zipping off to find her father.

A few minutes later one of the sheets fluttered back into her hands.  Nox skimmed over it and handed it to Brand. “Call up the levies. We are going to need every man we can get. Grimm, can you bring me a few things from the workshop?”

“Of course.”

“Fantastic!  I’ll need my bow, force gauntlets, and the medical kit. ”

“Hopefully you will not need that last one again.”

“I second that,” Loki said, with feeling.

Nox slipped her hand into his.  “Trust in me.  I’ll be ready for them this time.”  She headed purposefully towards the stairwell.  “Oh, and I’ll need your help upstairs.  The maidservants are useless with armor. I guess they don’t cover chainmail in finishing school.  Would you mind helping get suited up?”

“I would be honored to play squire to a Wind Knight,” he said, keeping a straight face until she turned to leave.  She was still wearing a dress, which meant she’d have to change.  He gave Brand a broad grin. “I love my job!”

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Flash Fiction – Split Decision September 3, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , ,

WeSeWriMo is done, and won!  Hray!  But now it is time to get back to my regular friday schedule for the series.

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

The Marche Warden had come out of the mansion to stand by Mikael.  “I will repeat my son’s question; who, exactly, are you?”

Loki quirked up an eyebrow at that.  “I am Lucien’s choice of suitor for the Lady Nox.”

As the Warden looked between Loki and Serenna, a slow smile spread across his face.  “Oh ho, I see what game you are playing at here, Lady Ambassador.  But it won’t work, you will get no more concessions from me.  My youngest son and my word that I will sway the votes of the neutral Houses in the Convocation. Not a jot more!”

Serenna looked like she has swallowed something sour, but did not reply.

The Warden walked over to look Loki in the eye. “I’ve heard rumors of a duelist from the south.  Loki, is it? ” He hooked his thumbs in his belt.  “So what are you, hmm?  Some by-blow of old Kyrios?  Leave it to Lucien to find you, just when he needs someone to rattle that puffed up Morning Lord.  I tell you what boy, forget the girl, and I’ll give you a vote when the time comes to challenge your ‘uncle.’  You are going to need the support of men like me.  Think hard on that.”

Loki smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.  “When I challenge my uncle, it will be at the point of a sword.  I will control the entire voting block of the south, and the Convocation along with it.  You are going to need the support of a man like me.  Think hard on that.”

The Warden stared at him for a long moment, then threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Hah!  Now I see why Lucien chose you, the clever bastard!  So, what did he offer to you?”

“Nothing that was not already mine.  The Dragon throne, and a chance to win the Lady’s heart,” he said.

Nox glared furiously at them. “I will not stand here and be bargained over like a horse at a fair. What next, will you check my teeth? I assure you, they are all there,” she said, and pushed past them to storm into the mansion. “I am not for sale!”

Loki tried to catch her hand. “Nox, wait!”

The Warden tossed an arm around Loki’s shoulders. “Leave her, boy. Women never see the sense in a business transaction like this.”  He steered Loki away from Serenna, who was silently fuming at being ignored.  He lowered his voice.  “Speaking of business, let’s get down to some real horse trading.  If you and I play our cards right, we can squeeze Lucien but good over this whole mess.”

Loki looked back over his shoulder for Nox, but all he saw was Mikael hurrying to follow her inside.

Nox stopped inside the great hall, near the weatherscope.  “Thanks for the help, Grimm. I needed it!”

“My pleasure.  If you cannot talk, Serenna won’t either.  She should know better than to battle at telepathy with me.” The hound did not materialize, preferring to keep the element of surprise if Serenna tried anything else.

Nox turned as she heard footsteps behind her.  “Loki, I…oh, Mikael.”

“Hi.  I want to apologize for all that out there.”  Mikail rubbed the back of his head, causing some of his hair to stick up.  He had always been the bookish sort; glasses, sandy hair and clothes perpetually rumpled because he was too busy thinking to bother with them.  He gave her an earnest look.  “I swear, I thought you knew all about this. The Ambassador assured us you were pleased at the match.”

“I’m sure she said a lot of things,” Nox said tartly. “I’m sorry you got pulled into this.”

“It’s okay. I’m not upset. Well, maybe a little disappointed.  I always knew I’d marry for politics, but it would have been nice to have someone I could talk to.  What did you used to call the other girls?”

“Vapid?” she said, with a wry grin.

“That’s the word. You can’t hold an intelligent conversation with any of them. Although I suppose they’re pretty.”  He got a panicked look on his face.  “You are too.  I mean that.  Pretty, not vapid.”

Nox had a hard time keeping a straight face.  “You haven’t changed a bit, Mika.”

He gave her a sheepish look.  “Did I at least sound like a bruiser out there, demanding to know what was going on? Father would expect that.”

“You were the perfect outraged suitor,” she assured him.

He pushed his glasses up on his nose, and thrust a hand out to her.  “No matter what happens, I want us to still be friends.  Shake on it?”

“Of course, Mika.”

“Great!  Oh, hey,” he said, his face lighting up. “Before I forget, some of the Maestro’s old students have started getting together for drinks down at the Brickhouse café.  You’d be welcome to join us.”

“I’d like that.”

“Good. That’s great! Well, I had better go, before father starts roaring for me. You know how he is.”  He hurried out, then ran back to kiss her hand. “I have to do that. Sorry, he’ll ask.”

Nox couldn’t hold back her laughter anymore. “Go on, I’ll be there in a minute.”

Grimm’s voice rumbled in her mind. “That was more congenial than I was expecting.”

“Mika is a sweetheart.  And completely clueless. He had no idea all the girls at school were dying to fix his hair.”

“All the girls?” Grimm asked archly.

“The vapid ones. I prefer guys that need a bit less mothering.”

I don’t know, Loki may need a little mothering after that harangue you gave him.”

Nox made a face at him.  “You enjoy winding me up, don’t you?”

Grimm snickered.  “We had better get back out there as well, before your mother tries to sell you as a time-share deal.”

“Thanks, Grimm, I was just starting to relax.  Now I’m properly paranoid again.”

“What are friends for?”

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