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Nox and Grimm – Friend or Foe August 16, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
Tags: , , , , ,

The rain swept down the city streets in waves like heavy grey curtains. The summer heat had finally broken in violent storms that buried the cobblestones in ankle-deep water, and thunder made hollow echoes in the alleyways. A lone figure made its way toward the ancient Convocation Hall, wrapped in a heavy cloak with a deeply cowled hood.

Truthfinder Morvrain watched his quarry from the shadows of a side alley, sizing up his opponent. The target was almost certainly a man, tall, broad shouldered, and by the way he moved he wore armor beneath the cloak. The rain seemed to bend around him as if he were the prow of a ship, leaving his cloak completely dry.

Morvrain held his breath as the man passed his hiding place. He paused for half a heartbeat, head tilted slightly as if listening, but there was no way he could hear anything over the drumming sound of the rain. Was there?  Thankfully he kept going, and Morvrain exhaled slowly in relief.

Then he waited until he was sure his target had gone far enough ahead before following. Someone had begun to tamper with the wardstone that guarded the entrance to the central meeting chamber. He’d interrupted their work by accident last time, as he patrolled the marble halls on another rainy, windswept day.  They’d gotten away then but he knew if he was patient, they would come back to finish the job.  They always came back to the scene of the crime, a fact that never ceased to amaze him, if only because it seemed so foolish.

The man strode quickly across the street in front of the Hall and took the stairs two at a time. He stopped before the massive carved oak doors and studied the frame around them for a moment, before touching a worn carving of a windflower. The doors swung open without a sound, and the darkness inside swallowed him up.

Morvrain signaled to two of his own men who were also waiting in side alleys to follow him in.  He stopped for a second at the entrance, and for the first time ever he noticed the hint of weathered, old casting marks on the carvings.  They faded away as he watched, answering the question of how he had missed them before.

His men caught up, and two more came out of the gloom from side hallways. One of them leaned in close to whisper, “He went straight for the wardstone.”

He nodded his thanks. “Fan out, and be ready for a fight.”

The cloaked man knelt before the stone – though in reality it was more a pillar, thirty feet of granite rising up to a rough-hewn capstone at the roof.  It was covered with casting marks that twined around its length, mixed in with the symbols for each of the Elemental Houses. Morvrain strained his eyes through the darkness to see what symbol lit up as his quarry touched the stone, but it was hidden by the cloak. Only a breath of air stirred, sighing through the empty halls.

All five Truthfinders moved forward as one, drawing in energy from their own element of Stone to muffle their footsteps on the cold marble.  Morvrain gripped the hilt of his sword, feeling the enchantments forged into it thrumming beneath his hand. He waited to draw it though, not wanting its glow to give him away.  Their circle tightened, and his heart pounded with equal parts adrenaline and anger as he moved into place. With a roar he drew his sword in a blinding flash of light, and attacked.

The man should have had no chance to defend himself but somehow he whirled around, faster than anyone his size had a right to move. He caught Morvrain’s blade on his own, sidestepped, ducked beneath a second sword thrust and neatly disentangling his own blade while shoving one of Morvrain’s men into a third with his free hand. He continued the movement, never stopping, the heavy broadsword he wielded whistling through the air as quick as a willow switch. Two more blades clanged together, and the light on one went out as it flew from its owner’s hand.  The sword their opponent held had no light at all. If anything, it seemed to swallow it up.

Morvrain swore as the man made a sudden rush to break through their lines.  He threw himself in the way, just barely catching the dark blade on his own. “Fool! You should have never come back!”

He caught a glimpse of a craggy, weather beaten face that was criss-crossed by the faint silver lines of old scars. Dark grey eyes glinted in the light of Morvrain’s blade.  “Back? I haven’t been here in centuries.”

“Liar!” Morvrain snarled, trying to maneuver his opponent into the path of the other Truthfinders.

He batted Morvrain’s blade aside. “Look to your sword, man. If I were lying it would know.”

A pulse of warm, soothing energy ran up through Morvrain’s palm, and he looked at the softly glowing light that ran along the sword’s edge. It was clear and steady.

The man moved to allow himself to keep a wary eye on his five opponents. “I know my information is badly out of date, but I thought Truthfinders at least gave a man the right of trial before taking off his head.”

The truth of those words hit Morvrain like hammer blows. What was he doing?  He had dedicated his entire life to serving justice, yet here he was, attacking a complete stranger from behind without warning, and trying to kill him without so much as learning his name. His head started to ache so badly that he thought it would split open, till it was all he could do hold up a shaking hand to call off the attack. “Who are you?” he croaked, his mouth suddenly gone dry. “Why are you here?”

“You can call me Grimm.  I am here to check on the castings built into ward stone, although, I would say that is not the only thing that’s been tampered with.” He sheathed his sword in a smooth, practiced motion and moved to a wall near the entrance to the building. A touch of his hand and whispered word opened another door that Morvrain never knew existed. “Let’s have a seat in the guard room. We need to talk…”

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1. Katherine Hajer - August 17, 2013

Nice beginning! Are you going to continue it?

techtigger - August 18, 2013

Absolutely! More next week… 🙂

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