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Flash Fiction – Borrowed Time December 31, 2010

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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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.

This episode picks up where the story left off two weeks ago in Judge and Jury.


They saw the first ghost about a mile from the mansion.

None of the guards said a word – they were all ice elementals, and showing strong emotion was not in their nature. But Nox could see the collective jump in tension in their auras. Her father guided the ice drake they rode upon closer to the river bank, and Grimm jumped off to investigate.

The hound ran to catch up with the ghost as it floated purposefully along the road.  After a hurried conversation, he trotted back to the riverside.  “It is one of the graveyard ghosts. The entire cemetery has been emptied and set on patrol.  The castle’s defenses were put on full alert several hours ago. I will not be able to get into the mansion without you or Nox opening the way, Lucien.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Loki asked.

“It means there is no one left standing to guard the perimeter,” Lucien said. He placed a hand on one of the ice drake’s horns.  “More speed, Rakastar.”

The drake surged forward, leaving a frothy wake in the water as it passed.  The guards hunkered down, hanging on more tightly to its ridge spines.  Grimm stayed on the ground, keeping pace with them as they sped toward the mansion.

The last mile seemed to take forever, like a slow-motion nightmare.  The river was in full spate, nearly touching the bottom of the bridge that formed the base of the mansion.  The icy water rushed through grooves carved in the stone arches, powering elemental castings that sealed the mansion from entry, as well as fueling its many other defenses.  Rakastar clawed his way up the bank and lowered his head for them to climb off.

Lucien did not wait for the rest of them to disembark; he jumped to the ground and strode up to the gates, and right on through the shimmering veil that surrounded the building.  “SERENNA!”  An arctic wind blew the doors inward, and he disappeared inside.

Nox yelled out to Grimm, “Stay with him!”  He nodded, keeping close on Lucien’s heels. The hounds’ deep, rumbling voice echoed in her mind.

“I do not see any movement.  Everything is covered in frost.  Hold on,” he said. “There is a guard. He is…alive?  Not dead, at any rate, and the smell of Serenna’s spells are everywhere. It is hard to pick up any scents through them.”

“Can you show me what you are seeing?” Nox asked.

“Yes.  I think I had better. Brace yourself.”

Nox blinked to adjust to the strange double-vision that came from sharing their senses through the soul-bond.  Grimm was trotting to keep up with Lucien.  She recognized the banquet hall – it was filled with more frost covered bodies. Goblets hung from stiff fingertips, stilled in the midst of a toast.

“Grimm, take a look at those drinks,” she said.

“Citrus.  Something pulpy… with seeds. Oh, Hel. How did they get firethorn past all the wards she put up to detect tampering with the food?” He flung his head up in alarm. “Lucien, wait!”

Nox had to grab Loki’s hand to steady herself as Grimm raced through the halls.  Corridors and stairs blurred past, until he slowed to a halt outside her mother’s study.  Lucien leaned against the doorway, clearly in shock.  In the room beyond, her mother lay stretched out on a divan, her stomach distended and tendrils of firethorn curling out of her mouth.  One of her arms trailed over the side, a pen and paper lying on the floor nearby. 

Lucien pushed himself off the door and knelt beside her.  He picked up the paper, and thrust it behind him. “Give this to Nox.”

Nox lost sight of the papers as Grimm took them in his teeth.  “She is alive, Lucien,” he said. “There is still hope.”

He took his wife’s hand, not looking back.  “Go, damn you.”

Grimm turned and ran, dropping the link to Nox halfway through. She rubbed her eyes and blinked to get them back into focus.  The hound paced out of the gatehouse, and dropped the papers into her hands.

“Lucien is holding the castings from within.  He has placed you in charge, little one.”

Nox was stunned. It was the first time she had ever, in her entire life, heard Grimm tell a lie.  Everyone gathered around, looking to her for direction.   She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.  “Okay.  We set up camp in the graveyard. It’s close enough to keep an eye on things, without putting anyone else at risk.”  She pointed to the medics. “Do a survey of the casualties, and prioritize them by the ones most in need of treatment.”

Jens, the chief medical officer stepped forward. “They are alive then?”

“Yes,” she said, and there was a sigh of relief around her. She held up a warning hand. “Do not move them, until I tell you it is safe to do so. My mother’s spell will hold them as they are, but any new damage will not be suspended.  Father is in her study.  Do not disturb him; he is focused on bolstering her work.  Bring any news to myself or Loki.”

“Yes milady.”  Jens gave her a sharp salute and hurried inside as soon as she parted the veil for him.

Nox pulled Loki and Grimm aside. “Grimm, can you get me a few of the seeds?”

“Do your mother’s instructions call for them?”

Nox showed them the papers, and pitched her voice low so that the guards could not hear.  “I can’t read them. She always falls back on her native tongue when she’s stressed, and I only know a few words. We’ll have to do this my way.”

“Technomancy?” Loki said. “You spend months testing new projects, luv.  How long will Serenna’s spell last?”

Nox gave him a bleak look. “A day, give or take a few hours. So I guess I had better get to work.”


<–Previous Back to Start Next->

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Comments»

1. Ganymeder - January 1, 2011

OMG, what a terrible thing to happen! I hope they can save her mother and the others!

Happy New Year!

techtigger - January 3, 2011

Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

2. Laura Eno - January 3, 2011

Whew! I just caught up on all the December stories. My personal jury is still out on whether I want Serenna to survive, revenge still being high on my list. 🙂

techtigger - January 3, 2011

*lol* Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to have sympathy for the devil 😉

3. Maria Kelly - January 4, 2011

Another great installment! I’m wondering what’s going to happen to Serenna. She’s kind of a bitch, but those are great characters. Love to hate ’em, ya know. And they are FUN to write, aren’t they? 🙂

techtigger - January 4, 2011

oh yeah! Love writing the antagonists. There’s something so satisfying about having my readers hate the villains, lets me know I’ve done a good job 😀

4. marijun - January 4, 2011

Ohhhhh! That’s all I’ve got. heh


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