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Flash Fiction – Friendly Fire December 2, 2011

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Dust motes filled the air as Nox stepped through the portal.  She pinched her nose to try and cut off an impending sneeze.  “Ahh…eeeeh… choo!  Phew, where are we, Grimm?”

“Bless you,” the hound rumbled. He looked around curiously, keeping his tail still so as not to stir up any more dust. “I am not quite sure where this is. We should have come out at the west city wall.” He lifted his nose to sniff the air, and whuffed it back out again. “It’s been sealed up a long time. The air smells musty.  We should probably open the portal again, just to let fresh air in.”

“You’re probably right,” Nox said, and ran a finger along some of the markings that were carved into the stone frame of the portal. A light breeze flowed in, stirring the dust enough to make her sneeze again.

“Cover your face,” Grimm said. He let out a low woof, and a gust of wind scoured the room clean.

“One of these days you’ll have to teach me the non-canine equivalent of those Air castings you do,” Nox said. She lifted her lantern as high as she could get it, and took stock of the newly cleaned area. The golden glow chased the shadows back into the corners, and revealed a vast, empty room built along the same lines as the rest of Zephyra. The walls were made of expertly dressed stone, and the ceiling was lost somewhere in the darkness overhead. The only difference was the lack of windows. “The Wind kindreds never built anything small, did they?”

“We used to fly as often as we walked. High ceilings and broad corridors were a necessity.” He glared down at his paws. “You have no idea how annoying it is to be constantly earth-bound.”

Nox grimaced, thinking of the spell her mother placed on her to cut off her access to Air.  “I can sympathize.”

“Have you heard anything from Serenna lately?”

“No, and I think that worries me more than when she’s right in my face. Loki said he had a talk with her after the firethorn attack, but I somehow doubt even he could charm her into leaving me alone.” Nox moved further into the room, and the light spilled over a broad set of stairs.  She cautiously moved up them, but they ended abruptly at the ceiling.  “That’s odd. There are no markings anywhere that I can see, and no lever to open it. ”

“It was probably sealed from the other side.” Grimm padded around the edge of the room. “There were more portals here, but they must have been sealed shut at the same time. The markings look like someone took a chisel to them.  I think our survey of the portal network may end here,” he said, with a gusty sigh.  “Ah well, I knew that large sections were ruined, or closed up at the end of the war with the Shadowkin. Galen wanted to keep the city from falling into enemy hands.”

Nox sat down on the bottom step and placed the lamp by her knee. “Can you point out where the portals were? Maybe we can find some references in father’s library that will tell us where they went.”

“Certainly,” Grimm said.  “There is a frame for one right behind the stairs, and another in the middle of the left-hand wall.” He paused, his ears flicking back and forth. “Nox, get off the stairway.”

She snatched up the lantern and scooted to his side. “What did you hear,” she whispered.

Grimm stared fixedly at the top of the stairs, his hackles up and teeth bared. “Footsteps. Armor clinking. Get ready to run back through that portal.”

“Not till we find out who’s poking around up there. If someone is using part of the Wind territories as a base for troops, I want to know.” She pulled a bow out of her satchel and unfolded it. A touch to the enchantments carved in the wood caused a line of force to string itself along the pulleys at either end, and bent the risers back in a wicked curve.  A crystal hung suspended along the line, and an arrow made of ice formed as she took aim.

“Here they come,” Grimm growled.

Time always seemed to defy logic when Nox found herself on the edge of battle. Everything happened in an eyeblink, and yet she was acutely aware of every action, as if it was all moving in slow motion.

The stone covering the top of the stairs ground open with a roar of effort from the men above. A blinding white light and a wave of energy filled the room, only to be met by Nox’s electric blue aura.  A blast from the depths of Winter screamed toward them, only to be deflected by the cyclone winds of Grimm’s howling defensive shield. Arrows leapt from Nox’s bow towards the shadowy figures dropping through the opening, but were shattered against their crystalline skin.

Nox blinked in shock as she realized that they were Ice kin.   She yelled, “HOLD!” at the same time as their leader.

Nox had never seen her father look so furious.

“Daughter, there are days you try my patience!”  Lucien slammed his sword into its sheath and strode over to her. “What were you thinking? Three of our allies’ Houses have been devastated by attacks using portals, and you open one up on my doorstep?”

“What do you mean your doorstep?” Nox said, her own temper rising at being dressed down in front of the men. “What are you doing moving troops around Zephyra without telling me?”

Grimm quickly moved between them. “Wait, both of you. I think I know what happened.”  Two pairs of angry blue eyes met his own placid grey. “Remember, Galen had a wife and two small children hidden away here in the north when the war started. You don’t think he would go for years without seeing them, do you?”

Nox squinted up at the bright opening overhead. “Where in Hel’s name are we then?”

“This is the undercroft of Grimmalkyn’s old mausoleum,” Lucien said. “And it very nearly became your own tomb as well. Do try to be more cautious while exploring the ruins of that city.”

Nox let out a shaky laugh. “Sorry about that. There must have been a baffle on the portal to hide its true destination. I’m sure our ancestor didn’t want anyone following him to where he had his family hidden.”

 “As long we are here, we might as well stay for a while,” Grimm said. “We were planning a visit anyway, and this will save us the trouble of riding a week to meet with you.”

Lucien nodded, but did not look pleased. “Your mother had mentioned wanting to discuss a few things with you.”

Nox winced at that. “Yeah. Sure. We can talk over dinner.”

“Don’t worry,” Grimm said, sending his thoughts to her mind alone. “I’ll be right there with you.”

She sent warm thoughts to the hound to thank him.

“Father, if you’ll give me twenty minutes I can gather up all my notes to share with you.”

Lucien crossed his arms. “Twenty minutes. We will all be waiting right here.”

Nox sighed as several of the guards spread out around the room. He wasn’t going to let go of this little gaff so easily.  Then again, with the Morning Lord using portals to invade his neighbors the caution was not unwarranted. “I’ll be right back,” she said, and hurried off through Zephyra with Grimm at her heels.


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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.

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Comments»

1. FARfetched - December 3, 2011

Things seem to be building now… I expect some serious mayhem will open up the New Year.

techtigger - December 5, 2011

yes, things always get messy when Nox’s parents show up 😀


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