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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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Comments»

1. Brinda - June 5, 2012

I haven’t read all of this serial yet, but from this installment I can tell you’re an expert at this — it began and ended at exactly the right places – well done. Now I want to know more about Nox and Loki but I don’t feel lost as I read this.

techtigger - June 5, 2012

thanks so much! I do try to make sure each episode can be followed without knowing the back story. I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂


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