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Flash Fiction – What Goes Up October 30, 2010

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

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.


Grimm was quite literally in his element, and loving every minute of it.  The hound stood with his claws sunk into the basket of the hot air balloon, his nose to the wind and his shaggy grey fur blowing madly around him.  “Let some air out of the far side, short-stuff. We need to run ahead of this storm.”

 

“Got it.” Nox concentrated on controlling the air inside the balloon.  She was sitting between Grimm’s front paws – the balloon was bucking like a startled horse in the fierce winds, and she had to use his legs to brace herself.

Loki stood with one of the vine ropes wrapped around his forearm, balancing easily against the violent motion. He peered out into the darkness and flung bursts of flame out to fry the Chimaera that were circling them.  “You know, on a sailing ship people generally try to steer clear of cliffs.”

“We need to land, and the cliff tops are closer than the river valley.  Have some faith, fireborn. I have done this before.”

Flashes of lightning illuminated the dark clouds behind them, swiftly followed by the rolling boom of thunder.  The Chimaera cried out as one and wheeled away, darting down to the ground far below.

“You see? Even they think flying toward a cliff is a bad idea,” Loki said.

Grimm gave him a sour look. “That was not a panic move, it was a reply to an order. Someone is controlling them.”

The sky turned an eerie white as a cluster of lightning strikes walked towards them.  Nox blinked to clear the spots out of her eyes.  “Oh, that’s not good. I’d say the Chimaera aren’t the only thing the Morning Lord controls.”

“Hmph. He may have learned how to access the Storm key, but he is still a rank amateur at steering the weather.” Grimm nudged Nox’s shoulder with his nose. “All right, little one. It is time you learned to read the air currents like I do. Can you see that updraft forming on the edge of the storm?”

She shifted to look over the edge of the basket. “No…oh wait, yes. I got it.”

“Good. Let some air out of the balloon to steer us over to it.”

“Hah, we’re going to take the express route to the cliff top!” Nox concentrated on aiming a tight jet of air out of the balloon to maneuver them.  It was not easy, with her mother’s spell restricting what she could do with Air, but she fought past it with a furious determination.  The basket lurched as they crossed into the airstream.

“Very good! Now, get ready to move us out of the current, we do not want to get flung too high.”

The cliffs loomed in front of them.  Loki hunkered down inside the basket and braced himself for a rough landing. “Are you going to need more heat?”

No, but if you can pull the heat out of the air, it will make the landing go a bit faster.”

“Just say the word.”

They were getting close enough to the cliffs to see the striations in the rocks.  More turbulence shook the basket as they moved upwards.  “It will get rough as we hit the crosswinds at the top. Be ready to compensate, and move us out of the stream.”

Nox was shaking from the effort of fighting Serenna’s spell and keeping them steady at the same time, but smiled as Grimm sent a wave of confidence through his thoughts.

“You can do this, little one. It is in your blood.”

The basket rocked as they crested the top, jerking left and right and back again. Nox cried out as she fought past the spell, and a gust of air shoved the balloon sideways across the cliff.

Grimm shouted, “Now, fireborn!”

Loki glowed as bright as the sun, and the silk of the balloon deflated overhead. They hit the ground with a tremendous thump, bounced up and swung sideways, tugged by the half-full balloon. Grimm barked and the balloon collapsed with a whoosh as the sound wave pushed the last of the air out.  They hit the ground with another jarring thump and finally came to a stop.

Grimm let out whurfs of doggy laughter. “Not bad for your first landing. You even avoided the trees!”

“My pride would never let me live that down,” Nox said, rubbing her backside.  “Argh, between the horses and the rough landings, my butt will never be the same.”

Loki gave her a roguish grin. “I can always give you a massage.”

The hound snickered as Nox turned a bright red. “Why don’t we focus on getting back down to the valley, hmm?” He tilted his head, ears cocked forward. “It sounds like the battle there is just getting started.”

Nox walked stiffly over to the cliff’s edge.  “We have a good vantage point from up here. We may do more good as spotters than down in the middle of things.”

Grimm shook his head. “No, once this storm rolls in we will not be able to see anything.”  He stopped and stood perfectly still, listening intently.  His ears swiveled forward, then back.   “Yes, Lucien, I can hear you. They are fine, your daughter is a natural with Air… Oh.  That is a very good question, I will ask.” Grimm cocked an ear toward his friends.  “Lucien can keep the storm from flooding the valley, but that takes him out of the battle.  He wants to know what we can do.”

“Why can’t Kel step in, he knows how to use the weatherscope,” Nox asked.

“He does not have your finesse, little one. He would only get in Lucien’s way.”

Nox tapped a finger against her lips and studied Loki and Grimm speculatively.

“Uh oh, I know that look,” Loki said.

“She’s thought of something.”

“And we are probably not going to like it.”

Nox smiled impishly. “Actually, I think you boys are going to love it…”

(to be continued)


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Flash Fiction – On Borrowed Wings October 23, 2010

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

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.


Loki reached up to send a blast of heat into the opening of the hot air balloon. “I have to admit, the view from up here is impressive,” he said.

 

Nox had cobbled the balloon together with silk sheets requisitioned from a nearby manor house, and merged them together with a simple cantrip for fixing ripped clothes.  Another stop to talk with a local gardener got them a basket and ropes woven from living vines to finish it off.  All Loki had to do was turn on the heat, and they were airborne.

Grimm looked cheerfully over the side of the basket, his ears forward and tail wagging. “The House of Winds used these as mobile observation platforms for our allies.  Of course, we had to use birds or signal flags back then to communicate with the ground troops.  Telepathy is much more secure and reliable.”

Nox looked over the side with Grimm, one arm tossed across the hound’s neck.  Getting aloft again had gotten rid of her headache and cheered her up considerably. The valley below them was filled with row upon row of tall, pale ice elementals in silver armor. Just beyond them, the ice drake Rakastar was busy freezing the surface of the river into a slushy icepack.  Nox looked out into the dark hills beyond, but she could not see any auras glowing, outside of the usual nocturnal animals. “We should have no problem seeing the Chimaera coming.”

“The Chimaera will have no problems seeing us, either,” Loki pointed out.  “Have I mentioned how much I hate being the bait for a trap?”

Nox dropped her voice to imitate Loki.  “Don’t worry, luv, I’ll protect you.”

He batted his eyelashes and replied in falsetto, “My hero!”

Grimm let out an amused snort. “Okay, children, playtime is over. Time to set up the turbulence field.”

Nox braced herself against the edge of the basket. “All righty then. Let’s see how much Air I can move before the Ambassador’s spell cuts me off again.”

Loki frowned at that.  It was the second time she had referred to her mother only by her title. Something had happened back at the mansion, but Nox refused to talk about it.  Now was not the time to ask, however; they were about to be up to their ears in monsters.  A chill breeze kicked up around them, and he had to give the balloon another blast of heat to keep it from losing altitude.  “Ease up on the Ice, luv.  I don’t know if I can defrost us without burning holes in the silk.”

Nox grimaced, her face set with the intensity of the casting she was attempting. “Sorry, I can only summon winter winds.”

Loki peered out into the darkness. “Heat signatures on the horizon. Lots of them. That did not take long.”

At this altitude, the wind can carry the scent of an Air casting for miles in just a few minutes,” Grimm said.  The hound sent a thought down to the commanders on the ground.  “Incoming.  Have the archers ready to take out anything we miss. Remember, shoot for the eyes.”

Nox straightened up and winced.  “Oh man, my head hurts. I hope this works, furball.”

Grimm looked confidently out into the night. “It will. Watch and see.”

Loki tensed. “Here they come.”

Dark shapes rose up on the horizon and spread across the sky like a stain, blotting out the stars. The drumming of a thousand wings beating the air hit them in a wall of sound, and Grimm’s deep, rumbling growl rose up in response.  The first wave of creatures broke off and darted toward them, making a straight line for the balloon.  Fifty yards out though, they hit the turbulence.  Scaly bodies were tossed around like rag dolls, up, down, sideways, colliding and dropping from the sky like stones.  Shrieks filled the air, and the ones farthest away wheeled around and took up position, circling at a safe distance.

Eerie cries echoed all around them, as if the creatures were communicating.  Nox put on her force gauntlets.  “I think they’re getting orders from somewhere. Can you pick up anything, Grimm?”

No. But I was not listening, either.  Their minds are slimy. I will now, though.”

Loki kept scanning the horizon.  “More coming from this side.  Bigger ones, and they don’t seem to mind the turbulence so much.”

“Let’s see what their master makes of this.”  Nox reached out and made violent pulling motions with her hands.  The gauntlets crackled and spat out sparks from the wires embedded in them, filling the air with the smell of ozone.  Every creature within sight screamed at once, and plummeted to the ground.

Loki looked impressed.  “How do those things work?”

“Most flying things use the earth’s magnetic fields to navigate.  I just twisted the local energy into pretzels.”  She winked at him. “Told you I’d protect you.”

He threw back his head and laughed.  “I will never doubt you again!”

Grimm cut in, his thoughts urgent.  “Take us down, fireborn.”

“I don’t see anything else out there.”

“Now!”

Nox sent a light stream of cold air out, making the Chimaera scream in frustration as their prey slipped past.  “I’ll handle the descent,” she said. “You two just worry about keeping the critters from boarding us.”

Loki shot bursts of flame out to the sides and curled them up around the top, to keep the creatures away from the balloon. Grimm’s barks stunned anything that he missed.  Nox stayed in between them, gently cooling the air to bring them down in a slow, controlled landing.

Grimm growled.  “Take us down faster.”

“Why?”

He cocked an ear at the roiling black clouds moving towards them.  “The Morning Lord has learned how to use the Storm key.”

“Oh, bugger. “ Nox looked at how far they down had to go yet.  “Hang on. This is going to be a rough ride.”


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Flash Fiction – Winds of War October 1, 2010

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

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 stormed through the mansion, every footstep leaving patterns of frost on the floor.  Grimm paced along beside her, his claws clicking on the icy marble.  The ghostly hound’s forbidding presence kept any curious guests at bay, which just as well.  The last thing she needed was to start a diplomatic incident by snapping at a visiting dignitary.

 

“Save your energy for the battle, little one,” Grimm said, pointing his nose at the frost trails.

She let out a blistering curse, and shoved through the doors into the entry hall.

“You can be mad at me all you like, but you would have regretted it later.”

“I’m not mad at you.”

Grimm snorted.  “We are soul-bound, little one.  If you were any angrier, I would be putting up a shield.”

“Oh, I’m angry all right, but not at you.” A burst of frigid air from her out-flung hand tossed the main doors to the mansion open with a bang.  Several of the guards in the courtyard jumped at the noise.  “Brand, are the men ready?” she asked.

The guard captain saluted.  “Yes, Lady Ice.  Loki is waiting beyond the gates with your…steed?” Grimm cocked his head to the side, one ear up inquisitively, but Brand just shrugged. “Best if you see it yourself.”  He led them out through the gatehouse to where the fire elemental was waiting.

Loki turned and gave Nox a jaunty wave.  “He keeps calling me fire-brother. He seems to like me.”  As he spoke, the ice drake that guarded the river below the mansion reared up its head.  “I thought you might prefer Rakastar to a horse.”  The huge beast let out a sound somewhere between a purr and a kettle boiling as he saw Nox.

“It’s your aura,” she said. “It looks like a big, black dragon whenever you use the tattoo.  You’re lucky he didn’t see you as a rival.”

“No worries there, Lucien introduced me to him a while back. Can’t have his spies getting eaten, eh?”

Nox gave him a faint smile. “Good point.  And thank you, this was a good idea.”  She turned to Brand and said, “Send a runner and tell the Ambassador she will need to initiate the secondary river defenses.  Oh, and tell her to inform the guests that they will need to stay the night.”

Loki was taken aback at her lukewarm response, until he noticed the frost creeping across the ground at her feet.  It took a lot for an elemental to lose control like that.  Add to that the fact she was calling her mother, ‘Ambassador,’ and it was not hard to figure out what had happened.  “What did she do to you?”

Another burst of cold air surrounded her.  “I don’t want to talk about it.”

They both turned as they heard the Marche Warden’s voice coming from inside the courtyard.  “I demand to know what is going on.  Where are my hosts?”

Nox spat out another curse and headed back up to the gatehouse.  “This night just keeps getting better.”

The Warden was badgering Brand, with an embarrassed Mikael standing behind him.  “A guard captain doesn’t tell me where I can and can’t go,” he said.   “I will see this menace myself.  They could be in my own territories next.”  He looked down his nose at Nox as she walked up.

Nox ignored his disapproval and snapped orders at him.  “You can go as neutral observers.  Stay with the runners and medics.” She jabbed a finger at Mikael.  “You will not, under any circumstances, interfere.  A random casting could endanger the lives of my men.  I will have you packed on a horse and sent back if you so much as lift a finger. Understood?”  Mikael mumbled assent, and his father was too busy staring at Loki’s dragon-scale armor to reply.  Nox gave Brand a curt nod. “Good. Saddle up, gentlemen.”  She headed back out to where Rakastar and Grimm were waiting.

The Warden put a hand on Loki’s arm, but quickly snatched it back to keep from getting burned.  “Not a fake then.  I haven’t seen that armor since Kyrios passed on.”  He gave Loki a shrewd look. “So, which of his boys are you?  Kyle, or Cole?”

“My name is Loki.”

“Hah!  All right then, Loki. What do you think I should tell the Morning Lord when I see him again, hmm?  Word will get out about this.”

A brief, predatory smile crossed Loki’s face as he turned to go. “Tell him I said not to turn tail and run next time.”

The Warden’s eyebrows shot up so high they nearly disappeared beneath his hair.  “Well, well, well.  Lucien had an ace hidden up his sleeve! That does make things…interesting.”

The gathered troops filed out through the gates and assembled on the road.  Moonlight glistened off of armor and the ice drake’s pearly white scales.  Nox addressed them from between the long, curving horns atop the drake’s head.

“Listen up, men. You need to know the reality of what we face.” she said. “The Chimaera have stings in their tails, barbs on the horns, and poison in their claws. They are killing machines, and they would like nothing better than to eat you for lunch.” That drew a chuckle from the men who were with her at the House of Winds.  “I will draw them into the trap, and wipe out the aerial attackers.  I leave the rest to you.  Use coordinated warcastings to pen them up, and keep them at arrow range.  Archers, aim for the eyes, it’s their weak spot. Do not let them close on you, the line must hold.” She gave them a fierce smile.  “We will be the anvil to my father’s hammer.  These creatures have threatened our people for long enough. Tonight, we end this.”

Nox signaled Rakastar to head downriver as the troops cheered and wheeled their horses into formation for the long ride. The House of Ice was going to war.


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