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Nox and Grimm: A Convocation of Elements, Part 2 November 29, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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The world passed below Grimm in a patchwork quilt of fields, all golden with summer wheat. The road that ran down their middle was made into a colorful ribbon by the long, winding column of riders, glittering in their jewel-bedecked finery.

Grimm tugged at the collar of his own new clothes. The heat of the day bore down on him even as he flew in these higher elevations – he was not at all dressed for the weather.  A rivulet of sweat rolled down his neck, and he directed little breeze to dry it up before it stained his new surcoat. He’d argued all morning with Nox about it, but she’d been adamant.

“If you are going to represent the House of Winds at the Convocation, you must look the part.” She’d held up the heavy, embroidered white surcoat, critically inspecting the craftsmanship. “Much as I hate to agree with my mother about anything, appearances do matter. They’ll question me enough; we can’t afford to have anyone question your right to be there.”

She had been all too right about that.  He looked down at his little friend, who seemed even tinier atop the big black war horse she rode. With her pale skin and elaborate robes, she looked like nothing so much as a porcelain doll. Beautiful, to be sure, but she did not engender the automatic fear and respect given to her father. Even their allies were already testing her, looking for a weakness. “They are like a bunch of sharks, scenting blood in the water,” he thought.

Nox must have picked up on the thought through their soul-bond. Her face tilted up toward him. “Then I will simply have to be a barracuda.  Faster, nastier and with sharper teeth.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle at that. “I could almost pity them. Almost.”

“Go on up ahead and make your entrance. We’re close enough now that we don’t need an aerial scout.”

“As my lady commands.”

The city that played host to the Convocation was an odd mix of ancient and modern construction. The hall itself lay at the city’s heart, little changed from the first time Grimm saw it over two thousand years before.  It’s broad, sweeping architecture had been designed to accommodate Air kindreds like himself, with tall vaulted ceilings and gently curving corridors that made for easy flying. The rest of the city was a mish-mosh of styles, each one reflecting the tastes of the elemental kindred that designed it. Tall towers, squat domes, square citadels, angular temples…the streets that ran between them radiated out from the Convocation hall like spokes from a wheel, until they reached the high stone defensive walls. Clusters of shops lined the entire circumference of the wall, huddled against its bulk like a jumble of sea wrack thrown up on a beach. All in all it made for a colorful mess, a far cry from the lonely trading outpost of his day.

Grimm drifted downwards, surprised to find he was a little nervous. He never hesitated on the battlefield, but politics were another matter entirely. He tugged at his collar one more time and then picked up speed, preparing to make a proper entrance.

The look of shock on the faces of the delegates was priceless.  He swept down in a roaring gale and landed on the top step before the entrance amidst a chorus of undignified shrieks. That quickly turned into gasps of astonishment as the line of Truthfinders standing guard over the doors, with their glowing swords drawn, all bowed in unison as he strode up the last step.

The first challenge came immediately and unsurprisingly from the Morning Lord’s representative. A lean, golden-haired New Dawn priest pushed through the crowd waiting to enter.  “What nonsense is this? You make us wait out here for an hour, and for what? Some deviltry conjured up by the Ice Lord’s witch?”

Morvrain, the chief Truthfinder stepped forward. “This is no spell. The Master of the hall bade us wait till he arrived to assure the safety of all who enter.”

The priest gave out a derisive laugh. “Master? Last I checked the law states this is neutral ground, held by no House. End this farce, Morvrain, and let us in.”

Grimm drew his sword and held it between the priest and the door. “I did not say you could enter.”

The priest’s face turned livid. “You have no right!”

“Actually, as Lord of this territory I could tell you all to pack up and get off my lawn,” Grimm said, with a crooked smile. “And if you don’t behave, I might just do that anyway.”

Sunlight began to concentrate around the priests’ hands, but Grimm jerked his sword up, the edge resting just beneath the priest’s chin. He raised his voice so that the entire gathering could hear him. “I am the Lord Cyclonis, vassal of the Lord Galen of the House of Winds. This is the northernmost outpost of my territory, which stretches out through the plains to the south until they reach the silver mountains.”

“You lie!” snarled the priest. “The Air kin have been dead for millennia!”

“Lie?  In front of all these Truthfinders?” Grimm said, with a rumbling laugh. “Hardly.” He lowered his sword and with a quick gesture of his hand, a gust of wind picked up the priest and dumped him back at the bottom of the stairs. “My people are not dead. Every Storm kin that ever summoned a gale, every sea captain from Oceanis that filled his sails, every Winter kin that summoned the North wind is a cousin of mine. No, my people are not gone. They simply settled down in other Houses and got married.”

A stunned silence settled over the audience. Grimm made a point of catching as many of their eyes as possible. “You will enter in order of precedence, from the oldest Houses to the new. Since there are no other full blooded Wind kindreds present, Ice will start.”  He gave them a brief nod. “Ladies, Gentlemen. I will see you inside.”

The doors blew open before him, and strode into the hall.  He couldn’t help but chuckle again as the clamor began outside, with everyone arguing over the order of entry.

He sent a quick thought to Nox. “Your turn, short-stuff.”

Her thoughts were tinged with laughter. “Get off my lawn? How am I supposed to follow that?”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something. You always do…”

(to be continued!)

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Nox and Grimm: A Convocation of Elements – Pt. 1 November 9, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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The morning of the Summer Convocation dawned in a hot, sultry haze. It pressed down on the column of riders, sticking clothes to backs and pushing tempers to their breaking point. Nox looked over her shoulder, trying to gauge how everyone was holding up. The representatives from Ice and Hail were coping well enough; their elements could sweat a bit and still hold together.  Snow and Sleet, however, were miserable and the Frost kindreds looked positively wilted.

Loki rode beside Nox, his brow furrowed as he looked up into the leaden sky. The heat did not bother him, but Fire kindreds did not enjoy humidity.  “This has to be my uncle’s doing, since he still holds the key to Storms. Combine that with the summer sun and he could easily blanket the whole region in this soup.”

“I’d summon up a wind, but there’s only more hot, damp Air to blow at you.”  Grimm’s voice was a faint, rumbling echo in their minds. The Wind knight flew far overhead, scouting the road.  “I still don’t like that you are all riding together. You make a tempting target.”

“Father is convinced there will be more safety in numbers,” Nox said. “And we’ll all be bunched up in one spot anyway once we get to the Convocation Hall.”

“Don’t remind me,” he grumbled.

As if to mock Grimm’s warning Lords Snow and Sleet rode up to meet Nox, with the gaunt Lord Hail trailing behind, a look of disapproval on his face. Snows’ long, thick white hair was plastered to his forehead, and dark sweat stains marked his tunic. “Well, Ice, you’re supposed to own the North wind.  What are you going to do about this heat?”

Hail spurred his horse to catch up. “Cool yourself off, you lazy old goat.”

Snow’s bushy eyebrows knit together. “Ice is supposed to be our leader. Why should I do her job?”

Sleet gave a quick, jerky nod of agreement. “Lucien would do it if he were here.”

“Lucien is over 400 years old,” Hail said, poking a bony finger at Sleet. “You can’t expect a 20 year old girl to match him for power.”

Snow looked as if he’d just been given a present. “If she isn’t fit to rule, then why’d he send her here?”

Loki gave Snow a menacing look, flames dancing along the length of his arm where the dragon tattoo coiled restlessly. “Be careful what you say about my betrothed. If your son had not run off, it would be him patrolling the borders and Lucien would be here. Do not lay his cowardice at Nox’s feet.”

“Cowardice, or common sense?  I’ve always said there’s something odd about Ice, and if my son left he had good reason!“

The dragon mark shot out from Loki’s hand and solidified into an obsidian saber. He spurred his horse in front of Snow, forcing the older man to stop. “Draw. Your. Sword.”

“Lords do not duel, boy,” Snow said, with a sneer.

A predatory smile crossed Loki’s face. “I have not been confirmed yet, have I?”

“I’ll stand for you, Snow!”  Sleet drew his sword, a thin, sharp rapier with a lattice bell guard.

Hail shook his head. “Don’t be a fool. He’ll cut you to mincemeat. Not to mention you owe him a debt. Neither of you would have a territory left to rule if he hadn’t stopped the Morning Lord’s attack.”

Snow turned his sneer on Hail. “Should I thank him from dragging us all into his family squabble? Balor would never have come north if he hadn’t been here!”

Hail’s face darkened. “That’s a lie, and you know it!”

“So,” Nox said, her calm, measured voice cutting through the shouting. “How much did Balor pay you to betray us?”

“What?” Snow sputtered, his eyes bulging.

“How much did he pay you to break our alliance?” Her expression was  cold and implacable.  “All we have to do is arrive at the Convocation together, vote together, and his plans crumble. Yet here you are, picking a fight when we can least afford it. Did he offer you my father’s place as the chief of the Winter Kings?”

Every eye was on Lord Snow. His eyes darted around looking for support, but even Sleet was eyeing him suspiciously. “This is preposterous! You’re just trying to change the subject – we were discussing why you haven’t done anything about the heat!”

She gave him a mocking smile. “Very well then. Loki, be a dear and draw the heat out of the air around us. Channel it out to the Fire nomads in your retinue. That will give them the energy they need to burn off the humidity.  The condensation from the cooler air should be enough to make the rest of us comfortable, and if you kick off a little rain storm, Grimm can blow it past us.”

Loki bowed from the waist with a hand over his heart. “As you wish, luv.”

Snow looked away and muttered, “That isn’t what I asked for.”

Hail let out an amused snort. “No, you asked her to freeze her fiancés giblets. Never thought how the Fire kin would feel about an artic breeze, did you?”  He raised a hand and gave Nox a respectful salute. “Nicely done, young Lady.”

He turned his horse and trotted back to meet up with his retinue, and the other Lords followed in sullen silence.

Loki continued to keep an eye on Snow. “Do you really think he sold out to my uncle?”

Nox thought about it a minute, then shook her head. “No, he’s just a greedy old fool. He thought he could grab a little power while my father was away. I have a feeling he won’t be the last one to challenge my right to be here.”

Loki flexed his arm, dismissing the saber and settling the dragon tattoo back into place. “I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.  But if Snow tries that again, I will kick his ass.”

Nox leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Aww, you always say the sweetest things!”

From overhead, Grimm’s called down to them. “Two more miles to go. I can see the city walls…”

(to be continued…)

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