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Nox and Grimm – A Changed Man October 11, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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It was nearly midnight when Grimm returned to the House of Ice.  As he flew over the rooftops of the mansion he could see a few lights still on in the windows. Not surprisingly, most of them were in Nox’s suite.  “She has more coffee than blood in her veins,” he said, with a rumbling laugh.

He was careful to set down far enough away from her avoid triggering the enchantments her father placed on him. As he touched down in a courtyard he could already feel the change coming over him,  and the urge to howl his annoyance was almost overwhelming.  He gave a quick nod to the guards and strode into the building, fighting the transformation with every step.

He always fought it. Resisting the spells placed on him had become so ingrained that he never even thought about it anymore, it had become reflex.  A sudden chill stood his hair on end as the enchantment crushed in on him.  He growled, his steps slowing as if we walked in deep snowdrifts. He leaned into the resistance, forcing himself one step further, then another before his body began to blur and fade.

Finally, he had to give up or risk injuring himself. For one brief moment a being of pure Air, invisible, and then settled into the shape of a large, shaggy wolf-hound.

Grimm heaved a sigh and shook himself from nose to tail. Maybe next time…

When he got to Nox’s room he paused outside the door, ears pointed forward, listening as she chanted out some sort of incantation. There was a strange metallic creaking sound, followed by her letting out a string of curses. That last was usually a sign that the spellcasting was over and it was safe to enter. He pushed open the door with a paw.

She was standing on a wooden crate overlooking a huge, rectangular table that dominated the room. It was covered by a detailed map of the world, and a tiny clockwork dragon sat to one side, puffing out smoke and making creaking noises as it folded its wings.  She frowned at it as she pushed a stray lock of her thick, black hair away from her face. “C’mon in, Grimm. I’m not doing anything explosive.”

“I always prefer to be careful,” Grimm said, padding over to sit next to her. He was big enough to look over her shoulder, even with her up on the box. “I do not want to get my fur singed off.”

“Oh, I don’t know, you might look good shaved like a poodle,” she said, grinning as he bared his teeth in mock-anger. “Seriously though, how did it go at Convocation Hall?”

He shrugged. “You are going to get your wish. I’m coming with you tomorrow.”

“H’ray!” she said, and threw her arms around his neck in a hug. She almost immediately let him go. “Oh wait, that means something went wrong.”

“I had a visit from Katya. She was controlling one of the Truthfinders.”

Her eyes widened in dismay. “Just one? Or have the lot of them gotten compromised?”

“Just the one, and I was able to drive her out. Still couldn’t kill her though,” he said, letting out a disgruntled growl. “She had allies nearby; as soon as she fled the storms kicked up to hurricane strength.”

Now it was Nox’s turn to shrug. “Well, we knew the Morning Lord had stolen the Key to Storms. I suppose we should be glad it’s not his element, or we’d get so much rain we’d have mushrooms growing behind our ears.”

“Small favors,” Grimm agreed.  He looked over the map, and pointed with his nose toward the dragon. “Dare I ask what this is for?”

“Aura trace. I’m trying to find Loki’s brother.”

Grimm tilted his head to one side, giving her a quizzical look. “I thought he was dead?”

“So did I. Apparently Balor has been dropping hints for years that he has him as a hostage though, to keep Father from pounding him into tar.” She waved her hand over the dragon, and with a whirr of gears and a whistle of steam it flew up to circle around the table. “This is a variation of the spell I used on you, remember? Only instead of trying to pull away a spell that’s tangled in your aura, I’m trying to have the spell pull it towards the target aura.” The dragon kept circling, but never once looked down at the map. She scowled at it and waved her hand in irritation, and it landed again with a tinny thunk.  “It should work, dangit. Even if he’s gone there would be traces left of his bones.”

Grimm shook his head. “You forget, he has been in the hands of a Shadowkin and her puppets for fifteen years. The sample aura you used is almost certainly from before that time. His aura will be changed.”

She smacked herself in the forehead. “Crud, you’re right!  Wouldn’t it be just like them to hide him in plain sight as a New Dawn priest? They’ve had ample time to brainwash him.”

Her expression changed from frustration to horror. “Oh no. Oh no.”

“What’s wrong?” Grimm asked.

“What if he was one of the priests Balor used in that sacrifice up on the mountain? By the time he and Loki were done fighting there was nothing left but ash!”

Grimm thought about that a minute, then shook his head. “No, Balor is a coward. He would not risk his only insurance against Lucien taking the field against him.”

Nox let out a gusty sigh, her brow still furrowed with concern. “Let’s hope you’re right. The question now is, how do we find him if his aura has changed?”

“Find the one who changed him. They would have to take a graft of the new aura off one of Katya’s minions. We can start with the priest who tried to change Loki.”

“He’ll be at the Convocation in Balor’s place. Everyone is furious that the old bastard won’t be there to own up to his crimes.” She let out an amused snort. “Or they’re terrified of what he’ll do while they’re away from their homes. I doubt he’ll be the only one sending a proxy. Oh well, it’ll work out better for us this way. We just need a little something that belongs to the priest, maybe a bit of cloth?”

Grimm’s ears perked up. “I can handle that part. Will a strand of hair do?”

“That will be perfect,” Nox said.  She picked up the dragon and took a small key out from between its wings. It slowly wound down, and lay as if asleep in her hand. “Well, I guess we’d better get some rest as well. Tomorrow is going to be a long day…”

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