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Nox and Grimm – The Devil Inside August 23, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Following an armed stranger into a hidden room was probably not one of the brightest things Morvrain had ever done. Every instinct was telling him not to trust this man – but then, his instincts had told him to kill him without trial or proof of guilt. He couldn’t trust them either.

Morvrain shook his head. The only way to find out which of them to believe was to play along with ‘Grimm,’ until he showed his true colors. He would not let his men take such a risk however. He motioned them to take up positions outside, with one holding the door open, and cautiously followed the knight into the musty, ancient guard chamber.

The room itself was something of a marvel. It was lit by cunningly placed mirrors that reflected daylight in through narrow channels in the thick stone walls. They also allowed the occupants to view the area in front of the main entry doors without being seen. Clean, cool air without a hint of the rain outside circulated through the chambers, keeping the obviously antique furniture from being covered with dust. Racks of weapons, as brightly polished and sharp as the day they were set aside covered one wall, and a doorway led to a barracks room with neatly made beds. Personal effects from their former occupants were scattered about, in various states of decay. One still had a book sitting open on it, with a ribbon down the spine to mark where the reader left off.

The knight’s shoulders bowed as if under a great weight. “They thought they were coming back.” He let out a heavy sigh, and sat down on one of the sturdy benches that surrounded a central trestle table. “Have a seat, gentlemen. I’m sure the spirits of those that once served here would not mind.”

Morvrain sat gingerly on a bench. If his guess was right it was several thousand years old, and he half-expected it to turn to dust beneath him. It only creaked a little, but he still sat lightly on it. “By all accounts you are one of those spirits.”

Grimm let out a rumbling laugh. “No. Not quite. Though I was under a curse for a very long time.”

“How long?”

A crooked smile was all the answer he got to his question. “Channel some of your element. It will help counter the effects of the Fire charm that has been clouding your judgement.”

That at least sounded like a good idea. The first one he’d heard all day. The sword at his hip hummed in agreement. The stones here were ancient, laden with power, and as he drew on their strength he felt the headache that had plagued him fade away. It was time for him to retake control of the situation. “I’ll ask again, who are you?”

“The question you want to ask is, who was I.”  Grimm looked back at the barracks, lines of sorrow etched in his face. “I was a Wind knight. Does that make you feel any less fearful?”

Morvrain bristled at the dodge. “Your name, sir knight.”

“I told you my name.”

“My sword says otherwise.”

“Your sword,” he said, turning back, “isn’t old enough to understand nuance. I answer to Grimm now.”

That wasn’t the whole truth, but it was close enough that Morvrain was willing to let it drop. For the moment. “You mentioned a Fire charm?”

The knight leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table. “It’s a subtle one. Fire is passion, which can be expressed in many ways. In this case, a person touched by the charm becomes so passionate it turns to obsession, and it clouds their reason. Look at you and your men. You became so fanatical about enacting ‘justice’ on the one you thought had altered the wardstone that you were willing to commit murder.”

The energy from the ancient stones still flowed into Morvrain, helping stave off the urge to renew combat. But a part of him screamed that ‘Grimm’ was lying by omission about his true name, and to lie to a Truthfinder meant death.  Nothing else he said mattered. Even as the thought crossed his mind, his hand twitched down toward his blade.

Grimm followed the motion with his eyes, but made no move to draw his own blade. “We are on the edge of war. Imagine what will happen if all those volatile, angry, and scared Lords of the Great Houses get touched by this charm. Someone wanted a bloodbath.”

Morvrain had never killed a suspect without the due process of a trial before, but there was always a first time. His hand wrapped around the hilt of his sword – and it gave him a jolt that set his hair on end. Reason came back to him in a rush, along with the sick realization that his mind was not entirely his own right now. He jumped up from the bench so quickly that he knocked it over. “What is happening to us?”

The guard holding the door open moved inside and let it snap shut behind him.  “He’s cast a spell on you, justice Morvrain. Stand by me and together we can take him.”

Morvrain looked from the knight, back to his junior officer. “Malach. Channel energy from the stones. That’s an order.”

Grimm moved up to stand by his side. “Ask him his name, Truthfinder. His real name.”

Malach hissed, and the shadows cast by the light streaming into room seemed to wrap around him. “You were always a clever one, Grimmalkyn.”

Now the knight drew his sword. “Leave the boy go, Katya. This is between you and me.”

An oily black substance filled Malach’s eyes, and wept out of them like tears. “If you want me, you must kill my puppet, darling. I find I like wearing Stone kindreds. They last longer than most.” He let out an off-kilter laugh. “Oh, but wait. You bear Death’s sword, and cannot take a soul before it’s time. Oh yes, there is still a bit of Malach left in here. Somewhere.”

Morvrain drew his own sword. “Malach would rather be dead than this.” Behind him, he heard Grimm yell, “NO!” but he had already gone on the attack.

Every other time they had sparred, Morvrain came out the better. But not this time. Malach seemed to have gained a skill far beyond his years, his blade dancing around Morvrain’s defences. There was no room to retreat, no space for the knight to fight beside him.

He heard the knight start chanting and the air moving through the room picked up speed.

Malach’s eyes narrowed. “A good try, Grimmalkyn, but too late.”  His sword flashed out, and suddenly Morvrain was on the floor. A dark pool spread out from his midriff, which burned and felt cold all at once.

Malach fled through the door. “The suspect has killed Justice Morvrain! To arms!”

The last thing Morvrain remembered was his sword giving him the useless message that Malach was lying…


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Comments»

1. Deanna Schrayer - August 24, 2013

Angie I love how perfectly you create the atmosphere and effortlessly pull me into the story. Great last line too!

techtigger - August 24, 2013

aww, thank you! I’m glad you liked that ending – I must have re-written it ten different ways, and finally settled on this one. Always good to hear when it works! 🙂


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