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A Game of Chess – Endgame, Page 4 February 29, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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(the Nox and Grimm episode 100 short story continues!)

It took most of the night for the Shadowkin to recover from the damage the ghost knight inflicted on them. They had not had a body for a long time, and needed to search the memories of all the hundreds of spirits to remember how to heal themselves. But the body they had stolen from Grimmalkyn had power and physical strength to spare, and soon enough they were back on the hunt.

“Clever Katya,” one of them hissed. “She finally found a way to break the protective markings Galen placed on the guardian.”

“What a pity we can’t be there to watch as his soul wastes away, bereft of its housing.”

“Hush,” another warned, “we are too close to the girl, do not give away the game.”

The hound loped through dust filled halls and bounded over piles of rubble, steadily making its way to the castle’s heart. They lifted its muzzle to the air, tasting the wind for any sign of the girl, but all they could smell was the scent of grave dust and ancient bones. The spirits howled in frustration, and started to argue amongst themselves.

“The ghosts have hidden her, covered her trail.”

“Find one of them, make them talk.”

“No, they would only destroy themselves like the last one.”

“Then if we cannot go to her, she must come to us.”

“Yes! Lure her out, Jagur.”

The hound crouched down in a dark corner while they handed over control of the body. Jagur had the deepest voice, and could mimick Grimmalkyn’s rumbling bass. He added a hint of a pained whine to the sending. “Help…me…please…Nox…help me…”

The sound was so pathetic they nearly choked with laughter. “Again, Jagur,” they whispered, urging him on.

“Please…so tired…need you…”

A sleepy answer came from the girl.

“zzz…????…!!!!… I’m coming! Hold on!”

The call gave them a clearer direction and they ran through the castle, jaws agape with unholy glee.

“Hurry Nox…please…”

A sharp sense of dread woke Grimm from his stupor. He found himself sitting with his head hanging down on his chest. He vaguely remembered stumbling through a dark, clinging fog for what seemed like hours, lost in some obscure corner of the spirit realm.

He rubbed at his chest, trying to ease the nagging ache that had plagued him since arriving. He added it to the growing list of anomalies; as usual, he had changed back from a hound into a man as soon as he crossed the threshold, but his armor was gone and could not be called to him. Numerous attempts to summon his sword had failed as well. He could not even tell what direction the Long Road lay in. He took another look around, but there were no landmarks. “I am Hel’s servant, for goodness sake,” he said. “I can’t get lost here.”

Reality seemed determined to ignore his complaint, however. Fatigue dragged his head down again, until his chin rested on his chest and his eyelids drooped shut.

“Get up.”

Another jolt of dread shot through him. Grimm peered up through bleary eyes at the apparition standing over him. “Oh, great. Now I’m hallucinating.”

A younger version of himself gave him a reproving look.  “Hel of a time to take a nap, Grey,” he said.

Grimm stifled a yawn. “No, I’m Grimm now. Let’s call you Grey. Too confusing otherwise.  And I haven’t been able to rest in millennia, I’ve earned it.”

“Don’t you feel that? You need to get out of here.”

Grimm snorted, rubbing at his aching chest. “Tell me how to get out and I’ll go.” He looked Grey up and down, comparing him with his own battered, scarred visage. The lines of age and hardship were missing from Grey’s face, and his hair was solid black. He even stood a little straighter, his shoulders unbowed. “Hmph. The years have not been kind to me,” Grimm said.

Grey hunkered down so that his face was an inch away from Grimm’s.  “You once told Loki that the dead are as they remember themselves to be. And we used to be quite the handsome devil, back in the day. Think about it.”

“I don’t remember being such a cryptic pain in the ass,” Grimm grumbled. “How exactly does that tell me how to get out of here?”

Grey smiled. “You tell me.”

Grimm growled at him, but was too tired to argue. “You’re saying I’ve changed. The dead don’t change. Hunh. Are you trying to say that I never died?”

Grey pointed to his nose. “Got it in one. Of course, you won’t live much longer if you stay here. A living soul without a body doesn’t fare too well. Speaking of bodies,” he said, “what are you going to do about Nox, if and when you get your real shape back in the mortal realms?”

Grimm leveled a cold glare at him. “Do not even finish that thought.”

“Too late. I’m you, and you already went there. You said it yourself, you’re not dead yet, old boy.”

“She is a girl–“

“—a grown woman. One you admire. I’m just saying, if you were still my age, you’d be giving Loki a run for his money.”

Grimm launched himself at Grey, knocking them both to the ground. He held his younger self pinned by the throat, one arm cocked back in a fist. “You shut your damned mouth!”

Grey coughed and wrestled him back. “Well, this takes beating yourself up to a new level.”

Grimm landed a solid punch on him. “You are not me. You are some trick that the Shadowkin are playing.”

A third version of himself, slightly older, showed up. “I am afraid you are wrong there. Let him go, he’s just your impulsive side. You almost never listen to him, with good reason. He has no conscience or honor. But he does make a good point every now and again. Your heart got you into this mess, and it may give you troubles again.”

He reached down and pulled Grimm away from his impulsive side. “I can help with that. I’m your rational side.”

A third, even older version appeared. “You’ll need me as well. I am your ideals, your conscience. And I am about to take quite a beating, if we follow your rational side’s plan.”

Grimm sat down again, shaking his head. “Bloody Hel, whatever Katya coated those vines with has sent me on major bender.”

His rational side nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, Katya. She is the one we should focus on. You do realize that she is one of the hundreds of Shadowkin spirits you have left to deal with, right? If you ever want to be free, you are going to have to kill her.”

His conscience winced. “To be fair, unlike us she is already dead. We would only be doing our duty as the Hel’s servant by moving her on down the Long Road.”

His impulsive side brushed himself off and stood up, working his jaw back and forth. “Who says he never listens to me – that hurt! But we can’t kill Katya, we still have feelings for her, don’t we?”

“Would you all shut up for a minute?” Grimm said, and staggered to his feet, swaying unsteadily. The ache in his chest returned and grew more pronounced, and he felt a prickling sensation in his fingertips as he ran his hand over it. He had a sudden flashback to Katya, mocking him and running her hands over his chest. Anger gave him the strength to stand straight. “That bitch! She drew a casting mark on me!”

His impulsive side grinned. “Okay, maybe not.”

Grimm started tearing at the edges of the mark. He could see it now, ugly green glowing lines looped around his chest like strangling vines.  He got an edge free, and ripped the casting off all at once. An explosion of energy tore through him, dropping him to his knees, but his head immediately cleared. The dark fog faded into the more familiar landscape around the Long Road, and he could hear Nox’s distant thoughts. She sounded frantic.

“I’m coming! Hold on!” she said.

“Oh no,” he groaned. “My body is there– and the Shadowkin are controlling it.” Grimm gathered what strength he had left and staggered back down the path to the mortal realms. “Don’t go, little one! Don’t trust them!”

The three sides of him called out. “Wait, we need to plan!”  “Go, man, Go!”  “Do your duty, sir!”

“Shut up, damn you,” Grimm grumbled, and they disappeared.

He could see where he was going now, but it was hard to move. Without a body, he was constantly battered by the endless tide that swept souls down the Road to their final rest. Only his soul-bond to Nox kept him from taking that final journey, but he felt like a kite in a gale. She was in danger though, and nothing would keep him from getting to her side.  “I’m coming, little one. Hold on!”


<–Page 3   –BeginningPage 5 ->

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Comments»

1. Sharon - February 29, 2012

Oh God, oh God, oh God…. GAH!!! This is marvelous. 🙂 I keep thinking of the line in the original Willy Wonka movie: “The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts!” 🙂

God, I love Grimm. Thank you for the updates!

techtigger - February 29, 2012

you are very welcome! 🙂 more coming throughout the week, the battles are just getting started!


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