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A Game of Chess – Endgame, Page 5 March 3, 2012

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

The night had gone from bad to worse. Viktor’s destruction had rattled all of the ghosts, and then Nox was shaken by two conflicting distress calls from Grimm – one begging her to go out, the other to stay put. Both voices sent echoes of pain through the soul-bond, enough to make Nox ache down to her bones.

The last straw came just before dawn, in the form of a single blackened lump of glass. Nox clenched it in her fist, heedless of the residual heat burning into her palm. She had no doubt that it had been made by Loki – she could see his energy signature, blazing in a scarlet corona around it. There was nothing left of the hallway where the ghosts found it, just shattered rock and a few slagged pieces of glass like the one in her hand.

The Shadowkin were destroying everyone she loved. Her family, Grimm, and now it looked like they had gotten to Loki as well. The ghosts expected her to fall apart. They were even now quietly making plans for what to do if she could not go on.

They didn’t know her well at all.

She bored a hole in the glass, threaded it on a piece of string and hung it around her neck. Then, with it tucked safely inside her shirt, she set about building an arsenal.

Everything Nox needed was here in Galen’s lab, shelves full of things that would blow up nicely if mixed the wrong (or right) way. She made darts out of ice, and froze caustic powders to their tips. She carved purposefully flawed casting marks on their shafts to make them splinter on command. More chemicals were packed with flash powder into small, multi-chambered ice globes, each one primed to blow on impact as the different substances mixed. By the time she was done her satchel was bulging with an array of destructive little bundles, each cocooned in a protective spell to keep them from breaking before she was ready.

She motioned the ghost knights to gather around her. “All right gentlemen. It’s time to get down to business. There are a few hundred Shadowkin that need their asses handed to them. You know my plan – I just need to get back to Grimm’s old crypt to pull it off.”

The ghosts all pounded a fist to their chests in a salute. “We are ready, Lady Zephyr!” Evan said, his eyes gleaming silver in the early morning light. They gathered by the door, and Nox palmed one of her little bombs.

The Shadowkin were waiting for them. Oily black spears shot out from nowhere, impaling two of the ghosts before the door had finished opening. There were hooks in the spears, and they dragged the semi-corporeal ghosts with them as they retracted back down the hall.

Nox lobbed the first bomb over their heads and covered her face as the concussion wave blew back toward her.  The spears disintegrated, freeing the ghost from whatever dark enchantment had held them. One of them waved her on. “Go, go! We’ll hold them as long as we can!”

Nox whipped another bomb down the hall for good measure, and smiled as she ran just ahead of the blast. A dozen ghosts stayed behind, and the same number surrounded her. There was no need to hide their presence now, so they summoned the winds to lift her over any obstacles.

A mere handful of minutes later, a blood-curdling howl erupted not far behind them. Nox cursed, and scattered more of the ice grenades around the hallway. “Dammit, I bet mother cooked up something let them to hurt you all. Evan, plan B, harass and delay.”

Evan let out a piercing whistle, and got one back in reply to acknowledge the signal.  The ghosts peeled off from the group by twos, each pair heading down a side corridor.

Nox flew through the castle, sowing tiny frozen seeds of destruction in her wake. Evan and Liam were the only ghosts left with her, but she could hear the others battling in the distance.  More explosions erupted, followed by howls of rage.  The knights began to chant, weaving protections around Nox as the sounds of battle grew closer.

They turned down one corridor, and another, winding their way back out of the castle until they finally came to the portal that would take Nox home. Evan opened it just as the Shadowkin smashed through the wall behind them.  “Go, my Lady!” he said, and shoved her through.

Nox stumbled, turned around and flung a handful of darts back through the portal. They whizzed through the air, gaining speed as the casting marks poured energy into them. The beast roared as they hit, then shrieked as they splintered and drove even deeper into its hide.  It stopped, eyes locked on Nox, and a wave of dark energy rolled out from it.

The knights drew their swords, and closed the portal.

Nox sprinted up the stairs to the mausoleum, startling the guards her father had left there. “Out, get out, all of you! Now, that’s an order!”

They didn’t argue – the howls and explosions from the undercroft were more than enough  to convince them to move. Nox hurried to the door of the crypt, and slammed it shut behind them. She looked up at the scrap of blue sky visible through the oculus in the roof and drew in a draft of Air.

Energy swirled down into the room, coiling around her in a silken skein of electric blue light. Nox backed up until her back was against the door, and she reached up on tiptoe to touch the lintel. The energy siphoned off, filling the casting marks carved into its edges and cascading through the ones in the room.

A dark presence filled the entrance to the undercroft, its eyes glowing brimstone red. It clawed its way out of the stairwell and crouched on top of the crypt, hundreds of voices hissing out of its jaws.  “There is nowhere left to run, and you are not strong enough to fight us. Your dear mother saw to that,” they said, and let out a chorus of rasping laughter. “We were going to make your end quick, but after your little surprises, we plan to make this last. Do you think your father will hear your screams?”

“Maybe,” Nox said, and she reached out to a different set of carvings in the door. “But I’m sure he’ll hear yours.”

The crypt slid shut over the stairs, placing the beast dead-center in the room. It crouched lower and hung on, claws digging into the granite. As soon as the way was shut, the circuit was closed and all the casting marks lit up at once, blindingly bright. The beast bunched its legs and leapt straight up at the oculus, but an invisible force dragged it back down and slammed it onto the slab.

Nox walked calmly forward and sent her aura out in a figure eight across the floor, with the smaller loop around her, and the larger around the crypt. Casting marks burst into life like cold blue flames, the energy feeding into the larger half and powering Galen’s construct.  “You see, I don’t have to be strong enough to fight you. I just have to be smarter than you, and mad enough not to care if this thing blows us both to Hel.”

The beast snarled, its teeth inches from her face. “You’re bluffing. If you destroy me, you kill the guardian as well.”

Nox gave him a cold, humorless smile. “I know Grimm better than anyone. If it means getting rid of you, he’ll be okay with it.”

The beast lunged at her, but was pulled up short. More casting marks flared into life around the construct, covering every surface in the room. Nox felt the hair on her arms stand on end, and the beast began to thrash and howl. The room shook as it fought the enchantment, and cracks began to form in the stones. Nox looked up, just as a chunk fell loose and plummeted toward her.

It stopped just above her head. A shadowy figure of a huge man stood beside her, shielding her from the rain of stone that began to fall. His deep voice rumbled in her ear. “You were right. I will gladly go if I can take them with me.”

“Grimm! What took you so long?” Nox shouted over the din. He laughed and gave her a broad smile.

Now that all the pieces were in place, she flung a hand up to the oculus, and drew in more energy, sending it rocketing through the construct. “Here goes nothing!” she said.

The last series of casting marks lit up, centered just beneath the beast. It writhed and screamed as the lines of light flowed around it, and it began to slowly unravel. As each black tendril faded away, the voices died as well, fading into nothing.

Soon the beast had lost all shape, and the light surrounding it turned gold. The silence was so loud Nox could hear the blood rushing in her ears. A final casting mark burned in the air above the crypt like a fallen star, its light beating in the rhythm of a heart.

Grimm squeezed her hand, and stepped forward as the light shot straight toward them. The whole world seemed to inhale and hold its breath, and then let it out in a sonic boom.

The next thing Nox knew, she was lying in a heap on the ground outside in the graveyard. Every tombstone was flattened, and the mausoleum was smoking crater in the ground. She could hear someone coughing nearby, and she gingerly turned her aching head toward the sound.

A knight lay there, his armor battered, and his face was criss-crossed with scars. He held up a hand, staring at it in wonder as he opened and closed it. Grimm turned to her, an incredulous look on his face. “I’m alive!”


<–Page 4   –BeginningPage 6 ->

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