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Gathering Shadows – Part 1 November 30, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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A breeze blew in through the window, warm and heavy with the promise of a summer storm.  It ruffled the pages of a leather bound journal, so that the paper brushed against the broad, scarred hand that lay flat across it. Grimm blinked, brought out of his trance, and looked down at the words that slowly wrote themselves across the page.

The old knight smiled, pleased to see how well the enchantment was working. The story flowed out from his memories and wrote itself, just as Galen’s notes said that it would.  The secret to pscyho-reactive ink was a secret no more.  Nox would be thrilled – this meant that, blind or not, she could continue her studies of technomancy. Her ideas, his hands to build whatever contraptions she dreamt up.  Not a bad compromise, he thought cheerfully. It would be good to do something that did not involve bloodshed. He had seen too much of it in his long life.

Grimm flipped through the pages of the journal, wondering what Nox would think of it all. It was easy to see where his memories ended, and Galen’s began. The crafty old enchanter had found a way to record his memories within the Key to Winds. He had given the key to Grimm, and it recorded his memories as well. And Grimm had been possessed by the Shadowkin, for two thousand years.

His smile faded as he looked at the blank pages that still waited to be filled. What came next would, by necessity, tell their tale as well. Grimm shuddered at the thought. It had only been a few months since the spirits of the Shadowkin were destroyed, and he was not looking forward to hearing their voices in his head again. It took him a long while, as the moon rose and set, to work up the courage to go on.

Finally, Grimm shut the window, cutting off the humid breeze just as the first drops of rain started to fall. Then he placed his hand back on the journal, and let the memories flow slowly out onto the pages.

“Sometimes you choose the path you are on. Sometimes it is set before you. I had no idea, when I helped Galen heal someone for the first time that my whole world was going to change. Every single thing, right down to my name…”


Gathering Shadows

Grey kept a firm grip on Galen’s hand. His father lay between them, his breath coming in short, painful gasps, and his skin had taken on a bluish pallor.  Grey had seen too many people die of wyvern poison not to recognize the symptoms. Aurelius was on the way down. “Hurry Galen, please.”

The elder Air kindred grimaced. “Don’t interrupt. A healing this complicated requires a lot of juggling.”

Grey looked at him, perplexed. Galen hadn’t moved a muscle. He could only assume the man was working out something in his head.

After an eternity, (which was probably only a few moments,) Galen smiled, and gave a satisfied nod. “I have it. Brace yourself; this may feel a bit uncomfortable.” He sketched a few casting marks in the air, and they whirled around the three of them in a dizzying spiral. The marks gained in speed, rushing past in the familiar roar of a cyclone, before collapsing in on top of them.

Grey was in no way prepared for what happened next. The marks seemed to grow as they fell, burning bright before his eyes so that he could see them even when his eyes were shut.  Every hair on his body stood on end as the marks sunk into him, moving through him like the blood through his veins. He could feel something inside him changing, a door being opened – and the world rushed in.

Every smell became more sharp; the damp, earthy scent of the cave, the sour, fevered sweat on those still afflicted by the poison, the resinous scent of pine boughs added to the fire. His hearing sharpened as well, bringing sounds up from the lower caverns, hound pups whining for their mothers and healers chatting as they drew water from the cistern. Every dropped spilled from their buckets was like the roar of the ocean on the beach, every footstep and avalanche of sound. Grey reeled back, his senses overwhelmed.

Galen was shouting something. “Can’t…too wild…Aurengrey, let go, I’ll handle the backlash!”

Grey shook his head to try and clear it, the sound of his own hair blowing about as loud as trees roaring in a gale. Hadn’t Galen said letting go could be deadly?  He could feel Galen’s hold starting to slip.

Grey changed his grip and held on, the corded muscles in his arm standing out as he fought to steady them both. He could feel the energy swirling through him, swinging wildly, wobbling like a cyclone about to collapse into its center. Comprehension dawned on him like a thunderclap. Galen had tried to whirl the Wind around from the outside and gotten caught in its wake. A cyclone could only be controlled from within.

He ignored Galen, who was shouting at him. He shut out the sounds, the smells, all of the information the Wind was bringing to him and pushed it out, away from him so that he sat in its center.

The silence in the eye of the storm was pure bliss.

Grey felt his heart pounding in his chest and calmed himself, taking deep, slow breaths. Then he reached out with his senses and brought order to the storm, taming its motion and letting it flow around him.

Galen still sat across from him, a look of surprised relief in his eyes.  “Remarkable,” he said, and gave Grey a rueful smile. “That was very nearly my last mistake. Thank you.”

He watched Grey for a long minute, and nodded again. “Hand the energy back, if you would. I have the knack of it now.”  Galen sketched a new set of marks on Aurelius’ forehead with his free hand, and gently took control of the Wind.

It was only when Grey let go of the Air casting that he realized they had an audience. All of the healers crowded in around them, watching Galen intently.

The energy funneled down and spread across Aurelius’ body, forming little whorls of turbulence all across his skin. Galen placed a hand over each spot and extracted a tiny spine, no thicker than a hair. “See here,” Galen said. “The wyvern poison in the spines disrupts the flow of the elements, and without that the body’s systems begin to shut down. Remove the spine, neutralize the toxins and the body will begin to heal itself. Do not,” he said, looking around to catch every one of their eyes, “attempt a transfusion of energy as I am doing here. I mean it. If this were not such an extreme case, even I would not attempt it.”

Grey thought of how close they had come to having the casting implode, and agreed with him whole-heartedly. He was already feeling a bit woozy from the amount of energy draining out of him, but he forced himself to stay upright. “If there is another extreme case, I’ll be the donor. I know what to expect.”

“Let us hope it is not necessary,” Galen said.

It took an hour to get the last of the spines out of Aurelius. Galen dropped the last one into a glass jar with all the others, and let go of Grey’s hand.  He held the jar up, squinting at its contents. “Pernicious stuff. I’m not one to tack imprecise labels on things, but I’d say this is as close to pure evil as I’ve ever seen.”

Grey let himself sag back against the wall, feeling as empty as a cloth sack. “What’s so imprecise about evil? Seems pretty straight-forward to me.”

“Life is seldom so black and white, my young friend,” Galen said. “But there can be no good reason for something like this to exist, no excuse for it. It should never have been made.”

Grey sat up a little. “That is the second time you’ve implied that these things weren’t natural. You promised an explanation.”

“I did,” Galen said, and let out a tired sigh. “You most certainly deserve to know what caused all this. I only hope you will forgive for not telling you sooner, for I feared you would not trust me to come help your people if you knew the whole story.”  He closed his eyes, lines of fatigue etched deep in his face. “You see, it was my own family who created these horrors…”


<– Back to the first half of Grey’s story, The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 10



1. ganymeder - January 2, 2013

Whoa. So THAT’S why he was able to come up with a cure. Great intro. Looks good!

techtigger - January 2, 2013

thanks! Its’ so nice to finally get to tell Grimm’s backstory. Had to sit on it forever to keep it from being spoiler-ish 🙂

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