Nox and Grimm – If It’s Not Baroque August 3, 2013Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: #fridayflash, flash fiction, Nox and Grimm, serial fiction, serials
The stack of papers in front of Nox wasn’t getting any smaller. She stifled a sigh, dipped a quill into the inkwell and blotted the nib so that it wouldn’t dribble. She’d had an idea for a writing implement with a reservoir built in, but like so many of her plans it had been shelved away. A few months ago she was exploring the ruins of the House of Winds. Now, she was the ruler of the House of Ice and until her father returned home she was bound by duty to see that their territory was run smoothly.
Which meant wading through endless piles of paperwork. Her secretary, a thin, angular old Ice kindred named Galton stood by her elbow, ready to pick up each signed missive as soon as the ink dried. He cleared his throat, a sound she was beginning to loath. “Ach-hem. My lady, may I bring up a small issue?”
Be nice, he’s been a fixture here for hundreds of years, she reminded herself. She plastered a smile on her face and looked up at him. “Yes, Galton?”
“I know you have more important things to deal with, but if I may bring up the matter again of your quarters. Your father did request you have rooms appropriate to your new station.”
“We’ve been over this, Galton.”
He bobbed his head, making the wisps of white hair that fringed his scalp flutter like cobwebs. “I know, my lady, but you must admit that this…table is hardly the proper furnishing to make an impression on your guests. Nor is the room large enough to fit more than a handful of visitors.”
Nox leveled a cool look at him. “This is the field desk my father has used in every war he’s fought. It’s making a statement, which I assure you will make an impression that will more than make up for the room.”
Galton let out a resigned sigh. “Yes, my lady. That it will.”
He looked so dejected that Nox immediately felt bad about glaring at him. “I suppose I could consider a larger room. What one did you have in mind?”
“Your great-great-great-grandmother Nadine’s quarters,” he said, beaming.
Inwardly, Nox groaned. “The one at the end of the hall on the third floor?”
“With the marble floors?”
“You remember it then!” he said.
“And all those hideous gilt monstrosities she called furniture?”
Galton frowned in disapproval. “They are priceless antiques.”
“Everything in this mansion is an antique. No matter though,” Nox said, a mischievous smile putting dimples into her cheeks. “I can put the extra space to good use. But,” she said, holding up a hand to forestall anything further he might add, “you will not waste anyone’s time by having those travesties of interior decor cleaned. I intend to redecorate.”
Nox handed him the pile of paperwork and swept out of the room. “Prioritize those for later, please. I’ll be busy for the next few hours.”
He trailed out of the room after her, bewildered. “But, don’t you need staff to help you?”
“Nope. That will be all, Galton, thank you,” she said. “OY! GRIMM! Where are you, you great furry lump!”
A drowsy thought floated through her mind, quiet and distorted as if it came from a great distance. “In my room, short-stuff. I was remembering…”
Nox’s smile softened. Ever since getting his memories back, Grimm spent all of his free time wandering through his yesterdays. She couldn’t imagine what it must have been like, to have a whole life suddenly returned after two thousand years of emptiness. “Sorry to interrupt, but can I borrow you for a little while? I have a project I could use your help with.”
The hound’s thoughts became more focused. “I will be there in a moment.”
He met up with her outside of Lady Nadine’s suite. Nox had already thrown the doors open, revealing the space in all its gaudy glory. Grimm’s ears flattened. “Skies above, would you look at that couch? It’s big enough that I could use it for a bed. Although, I’d be afraid it would swallow me whole and spit me back out covered in brocade and lace doilies.”
Nox snickered. “If you think that’s bad, check out her chair. Nothing says “I’m compensating” like a gilt throne on four foot high dais.” She walked inside and pulled up the dust ruffle on one of the settees. There was a large chunk taken out of the carved wooden leg. “Hah, they never fixed it! I talked Kel into helping me freeze the floor once. We had a great ice hockey match going, until mother showed up. That was the day I learned the meaning of the word apoplectic.”
Grimm let out whurfs of canine laughter. “I can just imagine. So, what did you want to do with this stuff? I would have thought Loki was a better choice for a cleansing by fire.”
“Sorry, no bonfires today. Poor Galten would have a heart attack. No, I was thinking this was a good chance for me to start practicing using the elements again.” She patted her pockets, searching for a scrap of paper she had covered with casting marks earlier that morning. “Ah, here it is. What do you think of this?”
Grimm studied the paper for a moment, and then rolled his eyes. “Technomancers. Honestly, you are never happy unless you’re blowing things up.”
“Damn, I was sure this would work.” Nox looked over the calculations again, her lips pursed together.
“Oh, it’ll work,” Grimm said. “But how do you intend to stop it without causing a backlash?”
Nox brighted up. “That’s the part I need your help with. If I put Air castings around the edges of the Ice to wear away at the marks, it should keep the chain reaction from getting out of control. I just need to know the right marks to simulate the slow, steady wear of a constant wind in a canyon or mountain pass.”
Grimm looked at the casting marks again. “Hmm. That might work but it is damned dangerous. Why do you need to do this, anyway? There are easier ways to move furniture than to slide them across linked casting marks.”
“Because I have to prove my abilities before I can take my father’s place in the Convocation,” Nox said. She threw her hands up in frustration. “Thanks to mother’s spell I can’t even make an ice cube without breaking out in a sweat. I have to find some way to multiply what little energy I can channel, or let the whole world know how broken I am. I figured if this furniture gets a little beat up while I test my theories, almost no-one will care.”
A wave of sympathy came through their bond. “You are mending, little one. Give it time.”
“That’s just it, Grimm, I don’t have time. The next meeting of the Convocation is in two weeks. I can’t fake that test.” She gave him a pleading look. “Will you help me?”
“Always. Though sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing.” He sat with his tail curled around his paws, and sent a stream of Air casting marks out into the room with a low bark. “You will have to set off two chain reactions, like setting a backfire to contain a wildfire. I don’t think I have to tell you what will happen if you lose your concentration. You see? This one I made already tries to consume itself and implode.”
Nox flung out her hand and a glittering circle of Ice casting marks landed on the floor, and started to spread. “Don’t worry. Technomancy teaches you to stay focused – I haven’t let my mind wander since the first time I blew my lab to smithereens.”
“Then how do you explain all the other explosions?” Grimm grumbled.
Nox ignored him. She was too busy taking apart his example, and replacing it with her own Air casting. She let out a series of whistles, each one a different pitch to match the mixed tones he had made in his bark.
“You should do those together,” he said.
“Show me how later,” Nox replied. The ice was spreading rapidly, covering the floor in delicate frost patterns before solidifying. She let out one last whistle and clapped her hands.
The furniture shook as ice built up beneath them in, forming a slope. They rattled up higher, started to tilt, then shot down the ice ramps. They slid out through the doors on a trail of ice that constantly spread out before them. The air casting followed, eating away at the remains of Nox’s little ice road and whirled just ahead as well to guide the ice around corners. Nox let out a whoop and skated it after it, whizzing past the slack-jawed mansion staff that had come out to see what the commotion was.
Grimm loped along behind, shouting out instructions. “A little to the left! Slow down for that corner! More speed on the Air casting, the ice is growing too fast!”
Nox raced ahead, almost close enough to touch the ottoman that was bringing up the rear. “OPEN THE STORAGE ROOM DOORS!” she bellowed.
A serving maid ran to comply, and yanked them clear a bare moment before the furniture slid past. Nox grinned and waved as she went by, and then sang out a long, clear note. The Air casting roared in response, and ate away at the remains of the Ice casting, spending all its energy on the task.
Nox glided to a halt and picked up the last small piece of Ice just in time for it to collapse on itself with a tiny piff of cold air.
Grimm shook his shaggy head and let out an amused snort. “Well, as explosions go that wasn’t too bad.”
Nox flashed him a grin. “No, but the day is still young. And I still have to move in all the furniture I want to use…”