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Flash Fiction – Shades of the Past September 17, 2011

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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The Morning Lord was a cruel man, but a cunning one as well, which meant he always kept his hands clean of the dirty work.  That was the one thing Loki had going in his favor – there was no chance that his uncle would come to inspect the prisoners and recognize him.  Even if his lackeys figured out who it was that languished in their Lord’s prison, he would wait in his castle like an old, fat spider. He preferred to let his prey struggle till they wore themselves out. Only then would he come to administer the killing blow.

And that meant Loki and Anders had a little more time.

They did their best to rouse the other prisoners, cajoling them to lie in groups to conserve body heat. Loki sat with the youngest of the captured Fire nomads, using the last bits of energy he had stored in the dragon tattoo to keep them warm.  They huddled against him, shivering, too tired to even cry.

Anders sat with his back to Loki’s.  “The kids can’t take much more of this, Red.”

“I know,” Loki said, and tried to find a little more energy to radiate through the tattoo.  “Grimm said Nox has a plan, though.”

“For what that’s worth. No offense, but you know as well as I do that it would take an army to crack open a fortress of this size.”

Loki chuckled. “Don’t underestimate her. My lady has a knack for breaking things.” He shifted, causing pins and needles to prickle in his limbs.  “Here, sit with the kids for a bit. I’m going to stagger around and see if I can’t get some feeling in my legs.”

“Go for it. I gave up on mine hours ago.”

Loki had just started to make a tottering circuit around the edge of the cell, when he felt a vibration through the soles of his feet. It came again, and again, at regular intervals, getting stronger with each repetition.

“Did you feel that?” Anders said.

“Yes! Ten gold says those are warcastings going off!”

Muted flashes came from a roughly door-shaped area off to one side. Loki hurried over to inspect it. It looked like the rest of the walls, but became slightly transparent with each burst of light. There was still no sound, however, only the vibrations through the walls and floor.

An electric blue glow added itself to the display, and Loki started pounding on the doorway. “Nox! In here, luv!”   The glow got closer, passed, and started to recede. “No. Dammit, she can’t hear us.  Nox!  Grimm!”  He pounded on the wall again, and then shot the last dying ember of heat from the dragon tattoo under the edge of the door.

There was another tremor, and the glow moved closer again. Loki slumped against the door in relief. He could barely make out Nox’s face on the far side.  She frowned at the door and ran her hands over it, obviously not able to see him. “C’mon, luv, figure it out. You’re a genius, you can do it.”

He could see her lips moving, and she sketched a symbol in the air.  The door rang like a bell, a pure chiming sound that made it waver and turn clear.

Nox jerked back as if startled, dismay on her face. She put her palm against the doorway and he could see her say his name.

If he looked as bad as he felt, he couldn’t blame her for jumping when he appeared. He pressed his hand to the barrier, over the spot where hers lay. “Hello, blue eyes,” he said, exaggerating so she could read his lips.

The floor rattled, and dust started trickling down from the ceiling.  Nox looked sharply over her shoulder and spoke to someone behind her.  When she turned back, she had that speculative look that always worried Grimm – lips pursed, a finger tapping against them, and a calculating gleam in her eye. Loki thought the chaos that usually followed that look was one of her more endearing traits, but then, he was Fire.

She pointed to his arm, drew three symbols with her aura, and mimed popping a balloon with a pin. She wanted him to use the tattoo to punch a hole in the barrier.

It was a good plan, except that he had no energy left to power it. His heart sank and he shook his head.  The floor rattled, and he could see Nox talking urgently to one of the ghosts of the Wind knights.  They must have been the ones doing the warcastings. From the look on her face, the fight wasn’t going well.

Loki racked his brain, trying to remember everything his father told him about the dragon mark. For a moment, he thought he could hear his father’s voice again, patiently explaining how Fire worked.

::It comes from the heart, son. It starts there, and ends there, more so than any other element::

With the words came a solution. Not a good one, but he did have a bit of energy he could draw on. It was going to hurt like Hel though…

The tattoo rose to the surface of his skin, symbols spinning in time with his thoughts. His heart thudded painfully as he drew the heat from his body’s core.  It felt like steel bands wrapped around his chest, making it hard to breathe, and sharp pains shot down his arm. His heart labored and slowed, his vision narrowing down to a dark tunnel.

The symbols spun back and a needle of scarlet flame drilled into the barrier.

Nothing.

Something.

The barrier exploded inwards as the elements rushed in to fill the void in the cell. Loki heard Nox say, “oh, crud,” and the backdraft from a room full of Fire kin igniting blew out at them. He threw arms out, the symbols of the tattoo spinning again as his own body burst into flame.  He blocked as much of the doorway as he could, absorbing the excess heat until his skin glowed like molten glass. His heart gave a sluggish thud, skipped a beat, and settled into a more normal rhythm as the energy poured in.

The torrent died off as everyone regained control over their elements. Loki looked for Nox, and found her being hidden behind two of the ghost knights.  “Are you all right?” he asked, worried.

“Yeah, I’ve had worse blow-backs in my workshop.”  She coughed and wiped soot from her face. “Although I’ll need to look up a cantrip for growing back singed eyebrows,” she said, with a rueful grin. “All right, let’s get you all out of here. We hijacked the portal in the courtyard, so up we go.”

She stopped, and slapped at her pockets.  “Wait, I know it’s here somewhere…got it!”  She brandished a small silver ring. “Going to need this to open the portal again. Evan, call in the skirmishers and clear us a path to the main courtyard. Loki, organize the prisoners, kids in the middle, and you boys,” she said, pointing to some teenagers, “help those fellows in the corner. They don’t look like they know which way is up yet.”

The prisoners stumbled out into the hallway, bumping and tripping over each other in their hurry to escape.  One look at them told Loki they were in no shape to run. “All right, stay close, everyone,” he said. “Slow and steady’s the word.”

Up and up they spiraled, through corridors lit with flickering globes like miniature suns. The noise of battle grew louder, running feet and the clash of arms, punctuated by the boom of warcastings. The ghost knights had done their job well, leaving most of the hallways empty. But as they reached the last set of stairs leading up to the courtyard, their luck ran out.  Spirit wards crackled into life along the stairwell and Nox cried out as the ghosts disappeared. “Evan! Tyrus!”

An entire company of red robed cultists waited at the top of the stairs, their glowing swords drawn. The prisoners froze in terror, only a few of them making any attempt to form a weapon from the elements.

Loki looked over Nox’s head at Anders. “A hundred of them, three of us.”

Anders shrugged. “Should we ask them to surrender now?”

The sound of clapping came from beyond the troops, and the golden haired Sun priest who had tried to forcibly ‘convert’ Loki made his way between them.  “Youthful bravado is always so entertaining. Pointless, of course.”   The priest gave Nox a chilling smile. “You must be Lucien’s half-blood abomination. Which means the young duelist is the pretender to the throne. The fake dragon mark is a nice touch, but I think we have seen enough of your sorcerous tricks, little girl.” He cupped his hands around a golden light. It oozed out between his fingers and crept along the floor, sending out tendrils to drag itself closer to the prisoners. “The Sun conquers all,” he intoned. “Surrender to it, and be remade!”

Loki pushed Nox behind him. “Don’t let it touch you!”

::Do not fear the light::

Loki glanced quickly around to see who had spoken. The voice was heart-breakingly familiar, and with each word the dragon tattoo pulsed on his arm. Loki felt the blood drain from his face. “Dad?”

::The light is a lie, son. They use fear to keep you from seeing the truth::

Loki knew his father was dead, along with everyone else he had known. But there was no denying it was his voice. Time seemed to slow as he spoke, and everyone was frozen in place around him.

::The sun is nothing more than a ball of fire. The dragon can eat its light like candy::

A million questions flooded Loki’s mind, all the things he had ever wanted to ask his father. But there was only one that mattered now.  “Show me how?”

His hand raised itself of its own volition, and time sped up to its normal pace. The eerie golden light leapt up to strike, and the dragon roared off his arm to meet it. The light entered its gaping jaws and pulled up short, coiling around until it formed a ball, like a golden pearl.  The dragon filled the stairwell, forcing the soldiers to retreat from its volcanic heat.  It towered over them, the light pearl held in its teeth. It looked straight at the horrified priest, and bit down. The pearl exploded, sending golden fire rippling down its scales, turning to scarlet as reached its tail.

The dragon slowly faded, leaving a crimson figure of a man in its wake.

The priest’s eyes widened and he cowered back. “No. You’re dead. We killed you!”

The specter reached out, and the glow around the soldier’s swords went out. Then the swords themselves began to melt.

::Death is the fate that awaits traitors to their House, and murderers of blood kin. You tell my brother I said that::

The priest and his followers took one look on the advancing specter, and fled.

Loki ran up to try and see his father’s shade more clearly, but it faded away.  Anders pounded him gleefully on the back. “Damn, man! That was one Hel of a pyrotechnics show! I didn’t know you had it in you!”

“I didn’t,” Loki said, but Anders had already turned to help Nox gather the prisoners and get them moving again.

Nox spun the bands on her silver ring, and the portal opened onto the familiar moonlit ruins of a guard tower on the outskirts of the Wind territories.  The ghost knights were waiting for them on the other side, guiding the escaped prisoners through.

Loki was the last one to cross over, and he hesitated on the threshold of the portal. He raised his hand in a salute. “Thanks Dad. I owe you one.”  The portal snapped shut behind him, and Nox spun the ring again to scramble it to keep anyone from following them.

Loki didn’t need to hear his father’s advice to know what to do next. When you win the fight, kiss the girl. And he did.


<–Previous   –BeginningNext->

*NOTE* Apologies for the misfire last weekend, I posted a draft by accident. I combined 2 episodes this week to make up for it, hope you enjoy the double-length story!

-Angie

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.

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Comments»

1. Mari Juniper - September 28, 2011

Wow, finally caught up! This was fun, Angie. Keep’em coming. 😀

techtigger - September 29, 2011

as the great Stan Lee says, you keep reading ’em, I’ll keep writing ’em 🙂

2. ganymeder - September 29, 2011

Whoa. Speechless. Wow. And the movie will be out when exactly? Can you imagine how awesome that would be? I’ll settle for the ebook though. *taps fingers impatiently* 😀

techtigger - September 29, 2011

you know, i’ve always wanted to see this done as an anime movie. All i need is a few million to cover production costs… 🙂


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