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A Game of Chess – Endgame, Page 6 March 6, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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(better late than never, eh? more tonight too!)

Grimm sat across from Nox, with his back against a fallen tombstone. He tried to sit still, but kept shifting position as if he was sitting on tacks. Confused did not begin to cover what he was feeling. He was free of the Shadowkin, but he was still soul-bound to Nox. He knew they needed to talk about what had happened, but the words kept slipping away from him.

Nox started to reach a hand out to him, but dropped it back to her side. “Um, are you okay?”

“What? Oh, yes, sorry,” Grimm lied. “I keep trying to move my tail, and I don’t have one anymore.” He chuckled, shifting again. “Ridiculous, isn’t it? I have dreamt of this for centuries, and now I feel like a stranger in my own skin.”

Nox folded her hands in her lap. He had a feeling he was not fooling her at all.  “You wanted this, right? To get your life back?” she asked, in a small voice.

Grimm gave her a startled look. “Of course I did! I never had a death wish, little one.” He moved to kneel by her side, and covered her hands with his own. Hers were so small, as delicate as porcelain. “I don’t know how you did it, but I am glad. The problem is I keep wanting bark and to lick your cheek. It’s damned embarrassing!”

Her relieved laughter echoed strangely around the graveyard – nothing sounded right to him anymore. “Is that all?” she said. “Here I thought you were upset because I had kept you from moving on. I know some ghosts are unhappy at being held here, and I did take the decision away from you.”

A warm smile lit up his craggy face. “Do not worry on that count, I was never dead. Don’t ask me how Galen managed it, but I have lived for over two thousand years. Thankfully I haven’t physically aged much.” He looked down at his battered, scarred hands, and made a face. “Well, perhaps I am showing a bit of the mileage.”

“You’re an Air kin, which means you’re a healer, right? You can fix yourself up,” Nox said, with an impish grin. “Hel, you can teach me how to do it while you’re at it.”

“I could, couldn’t I?” Memories washed over him, of a time before the war with the Shadowkin. Grimm had spent his entire adult life fighting, until Galen had given him a vision of different life. Zephyra was meant to be a peaceful place, a healing sanctuary. Grimm had planned to give up the sword, and dedicate his life to research and exploration. There was so much more of the world he had wanted to see. If the Shadowkin were gone, he could pick up the pieces and try to make that dream real.

But the Shadowkin were not all gone. Katya was still on the loose, and causing havoc. Grimm had the sneaking suspicion that the soul-bond with Nox would remain until all of his ancient enemies were sent to their final rest.

Muffled shouts caught both of their attention.  Nox sat bolt upright. “Oh crud, I forgot to take down the barrier I set up to contain the blast! Brand is probably having fits, not knowing what happened!” She scrambled to her feet and jogged down the hill, weaving around the piles of shattered gravestones.

Grimm got up a little more slowly, shifting back and forth on his feet and rolling his shoulders to test his balance. He tilted his head up and wrinkled his nose. “Everything smells wrong too.” He sighed, and followed her down to the cemetery gates.

Brand was indeed having a fit. It had only been one day since Lucien designated him as steward, and he had already allowed a large chunk of his Lord’s property to be destroyed.  Both he and all of the guards with him drew their swords as Grimm caught up to Nox.

“Whoa, hold up,” she said. “He’s with me.”

Brand gave him a doubtful look, but motioned for the guards to stand down. “Welcome to the House of Ice, sir knight.”

Grimm was mildly amused to see that Brand had moved to place himself partway between him and Nox while offering to shake his hand. Once a guard captain, always a guard captain. “Come now, don’t you recognize me?” Grimm said. “You used to dare your brother to run in and touch the door of my mausoleum when you were both boys.”

Brand stared hard at him. “My word. It is you, isn’t it?” This time the handshake was more friendly. “Welcome back, sir! Or should I say congratulations? It’s not every day a man gets freed from a curse.”

“You don’t seem too surprised,” Nox said.

“Your father warned me that you might try it. But he also said to try and stop you,” Brand said, with a wince. “I am failing miserably at the tasks he set me.”

Grimm clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t feel bad. I’ve been trying to keep her out of trouble for years, without much success.”

Nox blew a raspberry at the big man. “Ha ha, very funny.  As long as we’re talking about trouble though, we still have some business to take care of. Brand, assign some men to start digging out the undercroft of the mausoleum. I need to know if the portal is still intact.” She moved briskly up the road to the mansion, Brand and Grimm following in her wake. “I’ll also need paper, and a pen, so I can send out a few messages. Is there some in father’s office?”

“Yes, my Lady. He insists on always having a fresh supply to hand.”

She gave a satisfied nod. “Very good. I won’t be here long, so you’ll need to stay on as steward for another day or two.”

Brand stopped at the entry of the courtyard and bowed. “As you wish, Lady Ice. Will you be needing anything else?”

“A bucket load of luck. I think I may have just used all of mine up with that last stunt,” she said, with a wry smile. She tucked her arm behind Grimm’s. “C’mon, you big lug. I need to pick your brains about the Shadowkin that got loose.”

“Yes, we do need to talk about that,”Grimm said. “There’s only one of them. And she may well be the most powerful of them all.”

“She?” Nox said, with a raised eyebrow. “Do you know her name?”

“Oh yes,” Grimm said, wishing he still had a hounds ears, so he could flatten them. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it…”

<–Page 5   –Beginning–  Page 7 ->



1. ganymeder - March 6, 2012

Wait, I think I must have missed something. When did Grimm get the curse lifted? Holy crap! The plot thickens… 🙂

techtigger - March 6, 2012

check out page 5, at the end. He goes from a shadowy figure, to a real person lying on the ground next to Nox. Sorry if that wasn’t clear 🙂

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