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Nox and Grimm: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? October 5, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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The desk in Nox’s suite was littered with notes. Enchanted paper messenger birds, sent by her father, had arrived in a steady stream for the past several hours. One by one they would appear overhead with a tiny *pop* and then flutter down to the desk and unfold themselves, revealing the message written within.

Nox sighed as another one appeared. “I wish father wouldn’t have waited till the day before the Convocation to go over everything.” She scribbled a quick reply, dropped her quill pen back into the inkwell and made the intricate folds to turn the paper back into a bird.  It chirped as the enchantments activated. Then it zipped upwards and circled twice around the room before disappearing with another *pop*.

Loki paced restlessly nearby, staring out the floor-length windows that lined the one wall.  “I think he hoped to be done and back before today. Resetting the defenses around the borders should not have taken this long.”  He stopped by the desk, reading the latest message and shook his head. “He should have let Grimm handle it.”

“Except that Grimm wouldn’t leave my side, not while my sight was still impaired.” Nox looked at the absurdly large pile of papers in front of her and grimaced. “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m almost wishing I was still blind. Almost.”

“Don’t even joke about, that, luv.”  Loki picked up a blank sheet of paper and made as if to take the quill, then put the paper down and went back to pacing.

Nox waved off the next bird that appeared and sent it up to flit about the roof. She got up and placed herself right in Loki’s path, forcing him to stop. She frowned up at him, hands on her hips. “You have been wearing a groove into my floor all night. C’mon, out with it. What’s got you in such a bother?”

“You aren’t the only one getting messages from Lucien.”  He pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to her.

Nox’s frown deepened as she read it. “Do we go to war…why in the world would he ask you to make that call?”

He gave her an incredulous look. “You really don’t know? Bloody Hel, the sheer number of things your parents kept from you is appalling.”

She rolled her eyes. “If I got upset every time I found out another of their secrets, I’d spend my whole life yelling at them.”  She took his hand and pulled him over to a long, squashy couch that Grimm usually sprawled out on when he stayed in her rooms. She sat and patted the cushion next to her.  “Have a seat. We might as well be comfy while you fill me in.”

Loki sat on the edge of the couch and leaned forward, his forarms resting on his thighs. “Back when we were all still little, your father and mine swore a binding oath to protect each other’s children, should anything go wrong. The oath was sealed in blood and tied to their elements. It was probably my father’s idea,” he said, with a sad smile. “It was the sort of grand gesture he liked to make.”

Nox nodded, reaching a hand out to hold his. “That’s why my father rescued you, and kept you hidden. I know that.”

Loki turned to look at her, fires burning in the depths of his cinnamon colored eyes. “But do you know why he never went to war? Despite having his best friend murdered? He and my father were like brothers.”

“I had wondered about that,” Nox said. “Tactically it made no sense for him to allow Balor so much time to secure his hold on the Fire territories. And you turned twenty one a few years ago.”  She pursed her lips, thinking the puzzle through. “Something held him back. I assumed it was my mother, but…oh, great skies. Your brother is alive?”

“We think so. I hope so. Nothing else could have stayed your father’s wrath.”

“But you don’t know for sure?” Nox asked.

Loki shook his head. “The firethorn vines would not have…” he paused, looking slightly ill. “My brother was only four. There wasn’t much left of the adults.” He swallowed a few times, and took a deep breath. “I still have nightmares about what I saw. But my uncle has dropped enough hints to keep us guessing as to what happened to Kynon.”

“All those years you worked as a spy,” Nox said, her eyes widening. “Using masking potion to change your face, visiting all those foreign territories. You were looking for him!”

“And now I have to decide if the hunt should stop,” Loki said, his expression bleak. “There is still a little over a year until he reaches twenty one, and I am the only member of my family left that can release Lucien from his oath before that time. Odds are Kynon is dead but, how can I make that call? Weigh his life against everyone else who may suffer if we let my uncle live?”

Nox stared at him for a long moment. Then she slugged him in the arm. “Did it never once occur to you that I might be able to help find him? I am an expert in auramancy, you know.”

“Ow!” he said. “Easy, luv. Your mother said there was no way to do an aura trace.”

“My mother,” she said, angrily. “Who was being used as a puppet by the Shadowkin for the past twenty years. The same Shadowkin that works with your uncle.”

Loki’s face went pale. “Oh, bugger me sideways.  She was ‘helping’ direct my search.”

“Not anymore,” Nox said, her face set and determined. “Do you have something of his? Something personal?”

“Of course.” He got up and rummaged through the pockets of his coat, pulling out a small, glass dragon that was a roly-poly version of the tattoo on his arm. “Try not to laugh. I was nine when I made this for him.”

Nox took it and held it up for close inspection. She whispered a few words and the dragon glowed, a mix of scarlet and reddish gold light swirling around it. “I can see small marks on the horns. I take it they turn?”

“Yes. It’s a night light. He was afraid of the dark, so I made a light that would only turn on when we both twisted one of the horns. I used to help him light it every night, so that he would not be afraid.” He stopped to clear his throat. “He gave it to me the night of the attack, when our parents hid me in the  cistern. He couldn’t swim, so they had to find somewhere else to hide him. But it was so dark down there, he wanted me to have it.”  He had to stop again, his voice too choked with emotion to go on.

Nox turned the dragon this way and that, studying every inch of it. There wasn’t much of his brother’s aura left, but it would have to be enough. “Well, I already know how to replicate scraps of auras. I did the same with Grimm a few years back, to help break a spell Mother put on him.” She nodded to herself. “Yes, I will make it be enough.”

Loki leaned over and gave her a long, passionate kiss. “Thank you,” he said.

Nox was so flustered by the kiss she could barely sputter out a reply. “Oh, well, I um, haven’t done anything yet.”

“Yes, you have,” Loki said, holding her close. “You’ve given me hope. More than I’ve had in a very long time.”  He let her go and walked over the desk, writing out a quick reply to Lucien. “We will play political chess with my uncle a little longer until we are sure, one way or another about Kynon.”

“If he lives, I will find him,” Nox said.

There were fires burning again in Loki’s eyes. “And then we go to war.”

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