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Flash Fiction – One Step Forward… June 22, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Grimm loped through the wasteland of ash and rock that covered the mountain, his fur blending into the scenery. There was no point in him using scent to track his quarry; all he would get for his trouble was a nose full of soot. To make things even more difficult, the Earth kin would sense his footsteps from the vibrations in the ground long before he caught up to them. No, the only way to track them down was to get airborne.

He looked up at the sky and smiled a huge doggy grin. There should have been no reason for his good mood – Nox was still blind and powerless, her mother in a spell-induced coma, and Loki was slowly being turned to stone by the rogue Earth kin. Even Grimm himself was a mess, having been forced to turn back into a hound, and yet his spirits were soaring. Things were about to change, for both of them.

Grimm sat down with his tail curled around his front paws and waited for Lucien to arrive. The Ice Lord did not keep him waiting long. He rode up on one of his big black warhorses, plumes of ash kicking up around the stallion’s hooves.  “Is she safe?” he asked.

“Let me check,” Grimm said, and cocked his ears forward in a listening pose. Their soul-bond was so strong now he hardly had to work to pick up on what she was thinking. “Nox has woken up Loki enough to get him moving. They’re fine.” Actually, the two were already lip-locked but he was not about to tell her father that.

Lucien swung down off the horse and ground tethered the reins. “Very well then. Are you ready to try this?”

Grimm’s tail gave an involuntary thump of excitement. “I’ve been ready all week. Are you sure you can generate enough energy to power the casting? Nox had to use sorcery to multiply the effect.”

“This may not be as elegant as one of my daughter’s solutions, but I believe it will serve.” Lucien paced around Grimm, hanging casting marks made of ice in the air. They were similar to the ones that used to adorn Grimm’s mausoleum.  “I have added some safeguards – if you get within fifty feet of her you will feel a warning. If you get within thirty feet, it will force you to change back.  I will not allow her anywhere near that sword of yours.”

Grimm craned his neck around to look at the casting. “Fair enough. Let’s do this before your casting marks melt.”

Lucien took up his place at the ‘door’ to the casting. He touched the first mark, and chill energy rushed through the construct.

Grimm’s fur stood on end. He dug in his claws as the winds buffeted him and he leaned forward into the arctic blast of energy. The casting marks glittered in the sunlight, bright enough to blind him and he closed his eyes just before the full force of the enchantment hit.

It stung. Then it hurt. It felt like he was being turned inside-out and he threw his head back and howled.

The casting stuttered to a halt, and Grimm found himself sitting on the ground. He looked at his hands and a triumphant smile split his craggy face. “It worked! Lucien, I take back everything I’ve ever said about you!”

Lucien sank down slowly onto the ground next to him, his face even more lined than before and his cheeks were sunken in. “Good. That is good,” he said, swaying.

Grimm put a hand on Lucien’s shoulder to steady him. “Damn it, I thought you said you could handle the energy!”  He closed his eyes again and focused on sending healing energy through the stricken Ice kin. Lucien’s heart lurched a few times before it steadied.  “You stubborn, stiff-necked, close-mouthed dolt!  What good will you do Nox if you’re dead?”

Lucien gave him a piercing look. “What good will you do her as a hound? You cannot heal in that form and you can only do the most rudimentary Air castings. She needs the Wind knight that swore fealty to her, not a pet.”

Grimm tried to flatten his ears at him, forgetting that he was a man at the moment. “I will still be a hound when I get within thirty feet of her.”

“This is only the first step, and a temporary one. But we have proven it can be done,” Lucien said.

Grimm clanked to his feet and rolled his shoulders to settle his armor. “This is the last step, if you don’t find a better way to channel enough energy.”

Lucien shrugged. “I said it was not as elegant as her solution. I will work on that.” He got up and staggered over to his horse, leaning against it for a moment before pulling himself into the saddle.

“Where are you going?” Grimm asked.

“There have been too many uninvited guests in my back yard. It is long since time I sealed my borders to the south.” He turned the stallion toward the pass between the mountain peaks . “Tell Nox she is to rule the House of Ice while I am gone.”

Grimm reached out to snag the horse’s bridle. “Do you have a death-wish Lucien? You need to rest!”

The look Lucien gave him was cold and forbidding. “Duty before self, Grimmalkyn. I may be tired but I am not so beaten that I cannot do my duty. Make sure you do the same.”

“Damn it man, you can’t keep beating yourself up like this. If anyone is to blame for what happened to Nox and Serenna, it is the Shadowkin.”

“And who let the Shadowkin in, if not me?” Lucien pulled the horse’s head free and cantered off.

Grimm sighed and shook his head. “Stubborn fool. You never did listen to me.”

The enchantment was already starting to fray around the edges. Grimm gathered up the winds and rocketed skyward, not wanting to waste what little time he had before changing back. He still had a few Earth kin to round up.

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This flashfic is part of an ongoing web serial, updated regularly as a part of #fridayflash on twitter.  If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.


Flash Fiction – Hidden Dragon June 2, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Nox rode at break-neck speed, crouched low across the neck of her laboring horse as they pounded up the mountain trail. Loki was somewhere near the top of the pass, half-buried in a chamber deep beneath the earth. When Anders delivered the dire news it had taken all of ten minutes for her to organize a rescue party and hit the eastern trails. A full cohort of tall, pale Ice kindreds streamed out behind her like a comet’s tail, urging their horses to keep up with their Lady.

Grimm had shrunk down into a small, long-haired breed of terrier and rode in a pack on Nox’s back.  His front paws were on her left shoulder and his head was next to hers so that she could ‘borrow’ his eyes to see. “You know, I could have run beside you,” he grumbled.

“You said we should stick together in case I have a problem with the heat,” Nox said. “And goodness knows you’ve carried me often enough. I’m just repaying the favor.” She leaned with the horse, working hard to remember everything Loki taught her about riding over rough terrain. Where there was still a path left it smoothed itself ahead of them, the enchantments carved into stones embedded in the horse’s tack providing sure footing for the big chestnut stallion. But more often than not they were jumping small chasms or circling around fields of boulders and broken tree stumps that jutted up from the ground. There was no direct route to the mountain pass anymore, not since the eruption.

Grimm tapped her shoulder with his paw. “Slow down, we’re almost there.”

They topped a rise and Nox reined in her horse to a walk. The ground ahead looked like a moonscape, pockmarked and grey with ash. A thin line of smoke still wafted out from a cavern entrance that was choked with the recent lava flow, and a group of Fire nomads worked feverishly to clear the entrance. As they cantered down into the crater Nox saw one of the men throw down his broken shovel in frustration.

He turned and walked out to meet her. “I’m sorry Lady Ice, but he’s working against us. Whatever the Lord Dragon is doing to calm the mountain is keeping us from melting the entrance clear. Everything solidifies into stone as soon as we heat it, and the few tools we have with us are useless.”

Grimm hopped out of the pack and bounded ahead while Nox slid gingerly off her horse. “Move aside,” the terrier commanded, getting a startled look from the Fire nomads. “Stop digging while I listen.” His ears cocked forward, and he let out a low ‘woof’ that echoed down the small area open at the top of the cavern.  He thumped the ground with his paw and listened again to the echoes. “I think we can clear it, but I’ll need to draw a few casting marks from the inside to make sure we don’t break Loki along with the rock,” he said, and looked down at his paws with a sigh. “This would be easier with hands.”

Nox gave a little shrug. “If you can be my eyes, I can be your hands. I’m small enough to fit in there.”

“That could work,” Grimm said. “Borrow a knife from someone and give me a lift up.”

“Okay, short-stuff,” she teased, dodging his half-hearted nip at her ankles. She placed him in the opening, then one of the Ice kin handed her a belt knife and gave her a leg up. She pulled herself the rest of the way in and waited for Grimm to come back from exploring the cavern.

“He’s there, and still alive despite doing his best impression of a lawn ornament,” Grimm said, taking up position just in front of her head. “We need to wake him up and get him warmed up, or you’re going to end up with a statue for a boyfriend.”

“I’ll take care of that,” Nox said. She tucked the knife down the front of her shirt and started pulling herself forward.

“Better you cuddling up to him than me,” Grimm said, snickering at Nox’s blush. “I still don’t know how he got into this mess though. He trained with House Vulcan, he should have had no problem keeping himself clear of the enchantment.”

“Maybe the Shadowkin did something? Or she had the Morning Lord mess with his casting?” Nox said, grimacing as she scraped her forearms and knees on the rough surface.

The terrier flattened his ears as the mention of the Shadowkin. “Maybe. But I don’t smell anything except Earth energy.”

They finally entered the inner chamber, which was lit by two scarlet beams coming from where Loki’s eyes used to be.  Only his shoulders and head were free of the stone, and his skin was black and cracked like cooled lava.

Grimm turned back as he heard Nox make a choked sound, and placed a comforting paw on her arm. “Sorry, I should have warned you about how he looked. He’s still in there, I can hear his thoughts.” He nudged her elbow with his nose. “Go on, get his attention. I need a few minutes anyway to plan out what Air castings to use to break him out.”

Everything went dark for Nox as Grimm left the area, but she did not need to see to hold Loki. She lay on her side with her arms wrapped around his neck and cradled his head to her chest. Her lips brushed his forehead as she whispered, “Loki, wake up love. I know you can hear me. You need to wake up now.”  She shifted so that she could give him a slow, lingering kiss. “Love, I need you. Wake up.”

The entire cavern groaned and shifted, causing a rain of dirt and small bits of rock to rain down from the ceiling. Nox moved to protect Loki’s head. “Grimm, was that supposed to happen?”

“That wasn’t him,” Grimm growled. “There are Earth kin in the area. We need to get you out of here!”

“I’m not leaving him,” she said, wincing as a chunk of rock bounced of her shoulder.

“I can put a barrier up around him.”

“Then you can put it around us both,” she said.

“Stubborn woman,” Grimm grumbled, but did not waste any more time arguing. If he had been the one trapped she would do the same for him. Well, perhaps not quite the same, he thought with a chuckle, looking at the way she held Loki. “All right, carve these casting marks with the knife,” he said, sending a stream of images to her mind. “They will make a bubble of air that should keep this area reasonably stable.”

Nox quickly complied, and returned to Loki’s side. “Tell the men I ordered them to help you hunt down those Earth kin. I want them alive, Grimm. I want to know why they’re trying to kill Loki.!”

<–Previous   –Beginning–  Next->

This flashfic is part of an ongoing web serial, updated regularly 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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