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Nox and Grimm – Friend or Foe August 16, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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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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Nox and Grimm – If It’s Not Baroque August 3, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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The stack of papers in front of Nox wasn’t getting any smaller. She stifled a sigh, dipped a quill into the inkwell and blotted the nib so that it wouldn’t dribble. She’d had an idea for a writing implement with a reservoir built in, but like so many of her plans it had been shelved away. A few months ago she was exploring the ruins of the House of Winds. Now, she was the ruler of the House of Ice and until her father returned home she was bound by duty to see that their territory was run smoothly.

Which meant wading through endless piles of paperwork. Her secretary, a thin, angular old Ice kindred named Galton stood by her elbow, ready to pick up each signed missive as soon as the ink dried. He cleared his throat, a sound she was beginning to loath.  “Ach-hem.  My lady, may I bring up a small issue?”

Be nice, he’s been a fixture here for hundreds of years, she reminded herself. She plastered a smile on her face and looked up at him. “Yes, Galton?”

“I know you have more important things to deal with, but if I may bring up the matter again of your quarters. Your father did request you have rooms appropriate to your new station.”

“We’ve been over this, Galton.”

He bobbed his head, making the wisps of white hair that fringed his scalp flutter like cobwebs. “I know, my lady, but you must admit that this…table is hardly the proper furnishing to make an impression on your guests. Nor is the room large enough to fit more than a handful of visitors.”

Nox leveled a cool look at him. “This is the field desk my father has used in every war he’s fought. It’s making a statement, which I assure you will make an impression that will more than make up for the room.”

Galton let out a resigned sigh. “Yes, my lady. That it will.”

He looked so dejected that Nox immediately felt bad about glaring at him. “I suppose I could consider a larger room. What one did you have in mind?”

“Your great-great-great-grandmother Nadine’s quarters,” he said, beaming.

Inwardly, Nox groaned.  “The one at the end of the hall on the third floor?”

“Yes!”

“With the marble floors?”

“You remember it then!” he said.

“And all those hideous gilt monstrosities she called furniture?”

Galton frowned in disapproval. “They are priceless antiques.”

“Everything in this mansion is an antique. No matter though,” Nox said, a mischievous smile putting dimples into her cheeks. “I can put the extra space to good use. But,” she said, holding up a hand to forestall anything further he might add, “you will not waste anyone’s time by having those travesties of interior decor cleaned. I intend to redecorate.”

Nox handed him the pile of paperwork and swept out of the room. “Prioritize those for later, please. I’ll be busy for the next few hours.”

He trailed out of the room after her, bewildered. “But, don’t you need staff to help you?”

“Nope. That will be all, Galton, thank you,” she said. “OY! GRIMM! Where are you, you great furry lump!”

A drowsy thought floated through her mind, quiet and distorted as if it came from a great distance. “In my room, short-stuff. I was remembering…”

Nox’s smile softened. Ever since getting his memories back, Grimm spent all of his free time wandering through his yesterdays. She couldn’t imagine what it must have been like, to have a whole life suddenly returned after two thousand years of emptiness. “Sorry to interrupt, but can I borrow you for a little while? I have a project I could use your help with.”

The hound’s thoughts became more focused. “I will be there in a moment.”

He met up with her outside of Lady Nadine’s suite.  Nox had already thrown the doors open, revealing the space in all its gaudy glory. Grimm’s ears flattened. “Skies above, would you look at that couch? It’s big enough that I could use it for a bed. Although, I’d be afraid it would swallow me whole and spit me back out covered in brocade and lace doilies.”

Nox snickered. “If you think that’s bad, check out her chair. Nothing says “I’m compensating” like a gilt throne on four foot high dais.” She walked inside and pulled up the dust ruffle on one of the settees. There was a large chunk taken out of the carved wooden leg. “Hah, they never fixed it!  I talked Kel into helping me freeze the floor once. We had a great ice hockey match going, until mother showed up. That was the day I learned the meaning of the word apoplectic.”

Grimm let out whurfs of canine laughter. “I can just imagine. So, what did you want to do with this stuff? I would have thought Loki was a better choice for a cleansing by fire.”

“Sorry, no bonfires today. Poor Galten would have a heart attack. No, I was thinking this was a good chance for me to start practicing using the elements again.”  She patted her pockets, searching for a scrap of paper she had covered with casting marks earlier that morning. “Ah, here it is. What do you think of this?”

Grimm studied the paper for a moment, and then rolled his eyes. “Technomancers. Honestly, you are never happy unless you’re blowing things up.”

“Damn, I was sure this would work.” Nox looked over the calculations again, her lips pursed together.

“Oh, it’ll work,” Grimm said. “But how do you intend to stop it without causing a backlash?”

Nox brighted up. “That’s the part I need your help with. If I put Air castings around the edges of the Ice to wear away at the marks, it should keep the chain reaction from getting out of control. I just need to know the right marks to simulate the slow, steady wear of a constant wind in a canyon or mountain pass.”

Grimm looked at the casting marks again. “Hmm. That might work but it is damned dangerous. Why do you need to do this, anyway? There are easier ways to move furniture than to slide them across linked casting marks.”

“Because I have to prove my abilities before I can take my father’s place in the Convocation,” Nox said. She threw her hands up in frustration. “Thanks to mother’s spell I can’t even make an ice cube without breaking out in a sweat.  I have to find some way to multiply what little energy I can channel, or let the whole world know how broken I am. I figured if this furniture gets a little beat up while I test my theories, almost no-one will care.”

A wave of sympathy came through their bond. “You are mending, little one. Give it time.”

“That’s just it, Grimm, I don’t have time. The next meeting of the Convocation is in two weeks. I can’t fake that test.” She gave him a pleading look. “Will you help me?”

“Always. Though sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing.” He sat with his tail curled around his paws, and sent a stream of Air casting marks out into the room with a low bark. “You will have to set off two chain reactions, like setting a backfire to contain a wildfire. I don’t think I have to tell you what will happen if you lose your concentration. You see? This one I made already tries to consume itself and implode.”

Nox flung out her hand and a glittering circle of Ice casting marks landed on the floor, and started to spread. “Don’t worry. Technomancy teaches you to stay focused – I haven’t let my mind wander since the first time I blew my lab to smithereens.”

“Then how do you explain all the other explosions?” Grimm grumbled.

Nox ignored him. She was too busy taking apart his example, and replacing it with her own Air casting. She let out a series of whistles, each one a different pitch to match the mixed tones he had made in his bark.

“You should do those together,” he said.

“Show me how later,” Nox replied. The ice was spreading rapidly, covering the floor in delicate frost patterns before solidifying. She let out one last whistle and clapped her hands.

The furniture shook as ice built up beneath them in, forming a slope. They rattled up higher, started to tilt, then shot down the ice ramps.  They slid out through the doors on a trail of ice that constantly spread out before them. The air casting followed, eating away at the remains of Nox’s little ice road and whirled just ahead as well to guide the ice around corners. Nox let out a whoop and skated it after it, whizzing past the slack-jawed mansion staff that had come out to see what the commotion was.

Grimm loped along behind, shouting out instructions. “A little to the left! Slow down for that corner! More speed on the Air casting, the ice is growing too fast!”

Nox raced ahead, almost close enough to touch the ottoman that was bringing up the rear. “OPEN THE STORAGE ROOM DOORS!” she bellowed.

A serving maid ran to comply, and yanked them clear a bare moment before the furniture slid past. Nox grinned and waved as she went by, and then sang out a long, clear note.  The Air casting roared in response, and ate away at the remains of the Ice casting, spending all its energy on the task.

Nox glided to a halt and picked up the last small piece of Ice just in time for it to collapse on itself with a tiny piff of cold air.

Grimm shook his shaggy head and let out an amused snort. “Well, as explosions go that wasn’t too bad.”

Nox flashed him a grin. “No, but the day is still young. And I still have to move in all the furniture I want to use…”


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New Blog Series! From Scene to Screen August 1, 2013

Posted by techtigger in Reviews.
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Woohoo! I am very excited to announce I’ll be writing a bi-monthly (or possibly monthly, we’ll see) column on http://fridayflash.org called “From Scene to Screen.” I’ll be discussing books that got made into movies, from a writers’ perspective. (which is not the same as a movie critic!)
I’ll be looking at what worked and what didn’t in both media, and discussing things that writers can learn from them both.

The first one went live today – I’ve dug up a classic, Edgar Rice Burrough’s Mars series, which recently got made into the movie John Carter. Stop by FFDO and chime in, I’d love to hear what you thought of them both!

-Angie

Turning a Wrong into a Right July 21, 2013

Posted by techtigger in interview, writing.
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I was recently asked to submit a quick recap to a serial community I’ve supported for years. They needed content for a podcast, and while I didn’t have much time for it, I tossed something together anyway. I have always enjoyed promoting serials wherever I find them on the web. I did it for years on The Penny Dreadful because I simply love the format. Serials are fabulous.

I have to say, when I hit the send button I wasn’t expecting to get kicked in the teeth. It was patently obvious from their comments that they had never bothered to actually read my serial. It’s hard to hear someone who knows nothing about your work putting it down. I trusted them, I supported them, and I paid for it.

There are a lot of things I could have done. But let’s face it, this sort of thing happens all the time in the writing and entertainment biz. You can’t let it get to you. So I have decided to take my bad experience and turn it into something good.

You see, I have missed doing the weekly interviews on The Penny Dreadful. We always took the time to learn about the writer, their work, and asked intelligent questions. We treated them with respect. And why? Because we are writers too, and know how hard it is to do what we do.

My day job does not allow me time to do the weekly twitter chats anymore. But there is no reason why I can’t interview a serial author and post it once a month on my blog. I want to get back to doing what I love – reading and supporting serials.

So, starting in September, I will be resurrecting TPD at my new site – http://www.pennydreadfulpress.com. Nothing there yet, but I have scheduled time over the next month to gather up content and roll it out. Watch this space for announcements – and if you write a serial, don’t be surprised if I come knocking at your door, wanting to learn more about that wonderful thing you do 🙂

Nox and Grimm – Foxy Lady July 20, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Loki rode through the cobblestone streets of town, whistling cheerfully all the while. There was a note in his pocket, one of Nox’s paper messenger birds. It said simply, ‘bring dinner for three to the workshop’.  He had a picnic basket tied across the back of his saddle, the smell of warm bread wafted out from it. “Just like old times,” he thought.

It had been a long time since he was last at the workshop, but of all the places they’d been together, it was his favorite. It was where he’d first fallen for Nox. Literally and figuratively. He’d collapsed on her doorstep, wounded, and she’d taken him in without question and healed him.  He could still remember that moment, the surprise when he saw who had saved him. Ice kindreds normally had harsh, chiseled features but Nox was soft and sweet, with those big blue eyes. It was like a finding a rose in the wilderness, where no garden had ever been.

He reined in his horse and dismounted in front of a plain brown stone building, which had a curious door with no doorknob. He took the basket in one hand and pressed the other to a small panel set into the frame. Casting marks lit up and crawled across its metal surface, followed by three loud clunks as the wards disengaged the locks.

“Hey honey, I’m home!  And I brought…dinner?”

Grimm was sprawled out across the couch upstairs, as usual. The hound was arguing with a small, white fox that sat on the coffee table in front of him.   He looked up as the door clanged shut. “Oh, it’s you, fireborn.  Come on upstairs.”

“You should have told me you were bringing a date,” Loki said. “I would have gotten dinner for four.”

Grimm flattened his ears. “Very funny.”

The fox laughed so hard it fell over. “It’s hilarious!”

It was only then that Loki noticed the fox had big blue eyes. “Oh no,” he groaned. “What did you do?!”

The hound heaved a sigh. “We were trying to give me some control over my shape-shifting. Unfortunately Nox changed with me the first time we tried it – ”

“ – and now you can’t change her back,” Loki finished for him. “This is damned inconvenient.”

That’s an understatement. I seem to be stuck this way as well now. I’m almost afraid to see what will happen if we try it a third time.”

“I told you, that casting mark needs to be more curved.”

Grimm growled at the fox. “Air doesn’t work like that.”

Nox tapped a stack of papers with her paw. “I got this from Galen’s notes on the key to Winds. I guarantee you, it does.”

“I should think after two thousand years I know a bit more about Air than you.”

“But you don’t know everything.”

Loki plunked the basket of food down between them. “All right, calm down you two. If I remember right shapeshifting takes a lot out of you. You’ll think better on a full stomach.”

Nox’s ears perked up and her nose twitched, but she gave the basket an uncertain look. “How do I eat like this?”

“Same way I always do,” Grimm replied. “Face first. Oh, but watch the nose. If you get sauce up there you will regret it.”

After several minutes, and a failed attempt by Loki not to laugh at Nox’s efforts, they started dissecting the casting. Loki pointed to the offending mark. “You said this was one of Galen’s making. Are you sure you know what it was meant for?”

“It was from the enchantments he was using to try and reverse the curse put on Grimm.”

“But are you sure that was all it did?” Loki said.  He poured himself another glass of fire wine while he waited for her to mull that over.

It was Grimm that finally answered him. “It would have been very like Galen to try and take the curse on himself, to free me.”

“Oh, crud,” Nox said, her tail twitching fitfully. “You’re right. This would have transferred the enchantments to me. No wonder we’re stuck. Galen would have made sure the enchantments couldn’t snap back to you. I don’t think he counted on you willingly changing shape again though.”

“Or being soul-bound to you. We share our fates.”

“All right, we know what happened now,” Loki said. “Can you fix it?”

Nox and Grimm exchanged a long look.

“Maybe.”   

“Possibly.”

“Well, hurry up and find a way to make that a Yes, luv,” Loki said. “This puts a serious crimp in my amorous intentions toward you. My morals are sketchy at best, but I draw the line at fluffy.”

He hadn’t realized a fox could blush, but somehow Nox managed it. Grimm let out howl of laughter.  “Leave it to a fire kin to think with his hormones.”

“At least I’m honest!” Loki said, with an unrepentant grin.

Nox hopped off the table and scooted downstairs. “All right, let’s try it again. I think I know how to fix this.”

“Wow, you must be in a hurry to get some of those amorous intentions,” Grimm teased.

“Grimm!” she wailed, her cheeks glowing beneath the white fur.

Loki leaned against the railing of the loft and chuckled to himself. “Yep. Just like old times.”


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Nox and Grimm – Trading Spaces July 13, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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For Grimm, a day spent in Nox’s little workshop in town was like coming home. The hound padded up the stairs to the loft and sprawled out on the old, squashy couch with a happy woof of contentment. “We should have started holding meetings here ages ago. With the mansion’s security so badly compromised, this is probably the safest place in all the northern territories.”

Nox flopped down on the couch next to him, using his side as a backrest. She shoved a few papers off the coffee table with her feet and propped them up on top of it. “I know, this is so much more comfy!” She leaned her head back on his furry shoulder and grinned up at him. “Goodness knows we can’t sit like this at the mansion. Proprieties, milady!” she said, mimicking her chief steward’s stuffy, officious tones. “What would people think, you draped across a Wind knight like that?”

“Scandalous, for certain,” Grimm said, with a rumbling laugh. “Never mind that when I wear this shape, my thoughts are decidedly more doggie. The only thing I want from you, missy, is lunch! ”

Her grin turned to mock horror. “Goodness, you would trust me with cooking for you? My, how things have changed!”

“Loki has been giving you cooking lessons. Or at least, that’s what you claimed you were doing…”

A slight bit of color brightened her cheeks. “Well, yes, we do cook…err..well, heat things.. ahem.  So, what did you want to talk about today?”

The hound let out a few whurfs of laughter. “All right, let us get the business over with early. Then we can go out to eat.”

“Done!” Nox said, looking relieved.

“We need to discuss security at the Convocation,” Grimm said, resting his head on his front paws, and tilting it slightly to look at her. “Loki has Anders to watch his back, but we have not picked anyone to stand guard over you. Brand must stay back and watch over the mansion. Do you have any other candidates in mind? As your chief of security, I will need to brief them in detail.”

Nox tweaked his tail. “Very funny, fuzzball. As if I’d trust anyone but you.”

Grimm flicked his tail out of reach. “I cannot go. Lucien used me too often as a weapon, and I was banned from attending the Convocation a few centuries back.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Nox said. “You’re a person, even if you are fuzzy at the moment. You can change back into a knight long enough to prove that.”

All it will prove is that I am still enchanted, little one. And what good would I do you, if I cannot come within thirty feet without changing back to this?”  He thwapped her playfully with his tail, making her sputter.

“Pfaugh! Dog fur, blech!”  She reached for a book and placed it on the offending tail, knowing he’d never twitch a muscle for fear of bending a page. “All right, you big fuzzy dust mop. You have a point there. But,” she said, leaning forward to snag her satchel off a nearby chair, “I have been thinking about that. Father left me his notes on the casting he used on you.”

Grimm watched in amusement as she rummaged through the satchel, abusing all sorts of official documents by tossing them on the floor.

“Correspondence, reminders, invitations, blah blah blah. Ah, here we are.”  She flattened a small sheaf of paper out on the table. “Unusually sloppy work for him, but I guess he was in a hurry.” She smoothed out the papers, a frown putting a slight line between her eyebrows.

“Lucien has not been the same since we got your mother back from the Shadowkin.”

“No,” Nox said quietly.  “I guess not.”

Serenna still lay as they had found her, in a coma. She was not much more than an empty shell, now that the Shadowkin tossed aside her ‘puppet’.  No one had yet found a way to safely revive Serenna, though Grimm knew Nox and Lucien had both scoured every journal and grimoire of healing in the mansion.

Nox let out a sigh. “That’s a problem for another day, I guess. Let’s deal with this one. I’ve made a number of modifications to the casting marks. Take a look and see what you think.”

Grimm scanned the papers, studying every mark carefully. “That is a lot of Air to move, little one. I agree with your removing the Ice from Lucien’s equations, it slowed things down and nearly drained him. But this is still a large casting to move energy through. Are you sure you can generate enough of the elements to even start this?”

“Who said I was going to do it?” she said, regaining her good humor.  “You’re the one with the key to Winds. I’m just here to facilitate.”  She got up and went to the railing at the edge of the loft, pointing down into the workshop. “My old containment circle is still here and functional. All I need to do is turn it on after you get inside. My only job is to make sure you stay on track while you’re in the middle of the casting.”

“That is remarkably sensible for you,” Grimm said, his ears perking up. “Things really have changed.”

Nox grimaced. “Yes, well, I had a rather abject lesson in what my limits are. I was lucky to only lose my sight for a while.”

And nearly her life, Grimm thought, but there was no need to say it aloud. The important part was that she had stopped trying to do everything herself.  “Well then, we should try this right now before you lose your senses and try something typically madcap again.”

“Hah hah,” she said, and blew a raspberry at him. “After you, big guy.”

“Age before snarky, as is proper,” he said, and scooted downstairs before she could toss a pillow at him.

A quick little Air casting cleared the circle of any dust or other obstructions, and while he did that Nox checked all of the circuits and wiring connected to it. Like everything done with Technomancy, it was a hodge-podge of science, sorcery, and the elements.  It didn’t look like it should work, but Grimm had seen it contain explosions that would have leveled the building.

Nox spread the notes out across a lectern situated just outside the ring. He looked them over one last time and sat in the middle of the circle with his tail wrapped around his paws, to keep it from straying over the line. “I am ready,” he said.

Nox threw a switch and an electric crackle filled the air, along with the sharp metallic smell of ozone.  A wall of glowing energy formed around him, and Grimm checked the barrier one last time before starting the casting.

A low howl set the marks dancing around him, formed of pure air and sound waves. Energy cascaded through them, setting his fur on end. There was no pain like there had been with Lucien’s version of the spell, and he sent a quick thought to Nox. “I think it’s working!”

“It is,” she yelled over the noise, “But watch that last casting mark! You need a sharper bend in the line, like this!”

Their minds merged through their soul-bond and he caught the image of the mark, and corrected it.  BANG!  The casting ended.  Grimm stood in the softly glowing circle, looking down at his hands. Not paws, hands.  “It worked! I honestly didn’t expect it to go through on the first try!”

Nox didn’t reply, but a minute later the barrier shut down.  Grimm looked around the room in confusion. “Nox?  NOX!  Where are you!”

A little yip came from the workbench. A white winter fox, with black fur on the tips of its ears and tail sat with a paw on the switch that controlled the barrier.  Grimm groaned as he realized it had Nox’s dark blue eyes.

The fox lifted one paw and looked at it curiously. Nox’s voice echoed softly in Grimm’s mind. “Huh. I did not expect that…”


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Nox and Grimm – Season 5 Starts This Weekend! July 12, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Never pick a fight with your muse. She always wins. (and looks good doing it. it’s those fabby hats, I can never pull them of like she does.)

I had planned to wrap up Gathering Shadows before starting a new Season of Nox and Grimm, but my muse dug in her heels. You see, the events in Gathering Shadows have a direct bearing on the current timeline, and telling that story will give away too much of what is to come. Not to mention, there is no way I could wrap up a story that big in 3 episodes as I had planned.

My muse knew this, and kept tapping her foot impatiently while I tried in vain to wrangle out a way to end Gathering Shadows in such a small space. At least she’s been gracious enough not to say “I told you so” now that I’ve gotten back on track.  One of these days I’ll learn to listen to her. 😉

So, you will not only get the new season of Nox and Grimm starting this weekend, but will also have little interludes with Grimm continuing to explore his past, sprinkled amidst the main story. Woohoo!

Since it been such a while since the last N&G, here’s a quick recap.  (or you can check out the flash fiction section to read up on previous seasons )

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The last of the Shadowkin is on the loose. Katya roams the land in the shape of a lovely auburn haired Woods kindred, sowing chaos in her wake through her various cats-paws: The Morning Lord, desperate to reclaim the youth he’s lost and the power he’s never had. Serenna, Nox’s mother, twisted by her own fears and thwarted ambitions, she now lies in a coma, cast aside by her evil mistress now that her role as the spy in the House of Ice has been revealed. The priesthood of the New Dawn cult, who are slowly, unwittingly being molded into the next generation of Shadowkin as they carry out their vile experiments in the name of the Undying Sun.

The forces lined up against them are in disarray. Nox was captured and nearly killed by her mother, and her ability to channel the elements is shattered. Grimm has been freed from the Shadowkin curse but in order to save Nox’s life, he had to make another deal with Death and his future remains uncertain. Loki is the only one to come out of the last battle nominally unscathed, but not unchanged. And Lucien, Nox’s father has ridden off to shore up the defenses around their territories, and left Nox to somehow find a way to rule and defend the House of Ice with not much more than her wits.

We will pick up the action this weekend, with Nox making preparations to represent her House at the Great Convocation, a meeting of the ruling Houses of the elemental kindreds that gathers each season. But can she do it without revealing that she can no longer truly summon Ice?…

The Librarian – FFDO Blog Hop May 29, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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ffdo-bloghopI have been a part of the #fridayflash community  for four wonderful years, and I couldn’t let FFDO’s anniversary go by without posting my own little addition to the blog hop 🙂   So here it is, my first true #fridayflash in ages. Okay, so it’s not exactly a cheerful piece but it’s got a party in it, right?  🙂

It had been four years since the colonists settled on the planet they called Eden. Four years of living out their dream of a utopia where a peaceful agrarian society could benefit from careful, harmonious use of science with nature.

Gabe still recalled the excitement as they planned their annual Founders day celebration. Celia had the feast all planned out. The children ran around like maniacs, trailing flowers from the long streamers of bunting they placed on everything that didn’t move, and a few things that did but weren’t fast enough to get away.  Brody hardly left his workshop for a week as he manufactured fireworks for the finale to the evening.

Gabe spent that week as he always did, alone, turning chiorri leaves into paper to add to his collection of hand-bound books. He preferred his library to the company of his fellow colonists, but he never missed one of Brody’s light shows. They reminded him of summers on Earth.

Now, Gabe looked out over the slave market the aliens set up, right in the middle of the square where the party should have been held. Buyers from a dozen worlds gathered to purchase groups of ‘industrious, skilled bipeds.’  We learned every lesson from human history but one. If someone has something of worth, another will try to take it. Gabe shifted his hands in their seltheenium binders, turning the ring on his finger over and over. The Mendassi slavers had allowed the colonists to keep their ‘quaint decorations’ to drive up their price. Even in space, the exotic still had its appeal.

Gabe pushed to the front of his group, not caring that the crowd would not understand him. “You’ve taken my freedom!  You stole my dreams, but worst of all you destroyed my books. And for that, I will make you pay.”

A famous man once said that there were no limits to what an educated mind could accomplish when properly motivated.  While his beloved library burned, along with anything else the Mendassi considered unsalable, Gabe had slipped around the edges of the compound to place tiny emitters cobbled together from materials in Brody’s shop.

Gabe looked down to the small, innocuous activator hidden under the stone set in his ring. There will still be fireworks tonight. He twisted the ring one more time, and red lights began to blink all around the square.

 

Brain Freeze May 12, 2013

Posted by techtigger in writing.
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Writer’s block is a bitch.

Not sure when it started creeping in, but for some time now I’ve been fighting it, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by the lack of stories. The odd part is I’ve been writing. I just haven’t been keeping any of it. If writing was merely a game of numbers I’d have a full series of novels all set to go, but I’ve never worried too much about how many words I’ve written. I need to have the RIGHT words, and being something of a perfectionist I refuse to pour out crap just for the sake of saying I wrote X number of words, or X many stories. Quality over quantity.

But what to do when you hit a wall? I have had the good fortune to win a 3 month mentorship with the Evil League of Evil Writers, and got the best advice I’ve ever had. Stop writing.  I know, sounds crazy, everyone says the only way to get better is to write. But sometimes, you need to just put the pen down and give yourself some breathing space.

Actually, i think their exact words were that I had a one week license for fuckwittery. 🙂

Note, there was a time limit.  The danger of taking time off is that if you don’t set a limit on it, the little fears creep in, the excuses, the games on facebook… and suddenly you haven’t written a word for a month.  (yes, i’ve fallen into that trap too, in the past.)  So, I gave myself one week off, spent it with family and friends, slept in late and generally screwed around. Fuckwittery.

The pages that had me stymied were still there when I came back, but i didn’t dive right into writing. I sat down and tried to explain the problem to my Evil mentor. And lo-and-behold, as I tried to write out what the problem was, I saw the answer.  Yesterday, I sat down for 4 straight hours, got a chapter done and the bones of two more worked out. That was the best writing session I’ve had this year, and suddenly writing was fun again.

I also noticed that the TV was off, the wifi turned off, and I had a quiet morning alone.  I’m beginning to understand why some writers rent a hotel room and disappear for a week or two when they are working on their novel. Too many distractions. I might just have to use up some vacation time this summer, and find a place with a bottomless supply of tea and cookies 🙂

So, I still have to finish the next installment of Gathering Shadows (the breakthrough was for a novel I’ve been working on).   I’ll be sitting down this week to try to put into words where I’ve run into a block with GS. With any luck, the muse will fire off another flashbulb over my head, and I’ll see my way through the tangle.  When I do, you will be the first to know. 🙂

-angie

Gathering Shadows – Part 7 March 30, 2013

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Grey gave up on trying to button his high collared jacket all the way up. A month of daily sparring sessions with Galen’s weapons master had broadened his shoulders and chest more than he had realized. The heavy, embroidered white fabric of the jacket creaked from strain every time he lifted his arms. “I’m not going to have to wave to anyone, right?”

Aurelius laughed. “No, but let’s hope you don’t have to sneeze. If a button goes flying and hits a foreign dignitary you might start a war.”

“Thanks Dad, you’re really helping.”  Grey frowned at his reflection in the mirror and tugged at the collar again.

Merina pulled his hands away. “Careful dear, you’ll ruin the embroidery.”

“Sorry mom. It looked like it would fit when I held it up,” he said, with a rueful sigh. “I’ll be forever known as the Bare-Chested Knight.”

“I’m sure the girls will like it,” Aurelius said but his smile faded a little. “You know I’d take this on myself if I could.”

“I know, Dad.”

His father had officially, permanently stepped aside as the leader of Cyclonis. Despite Galen’s best efforts, the damage done by the poison in the wyverns spines was too extensive. Summoning the barest whisper of Air was a painful effort for him now. As Galen had put it, ‘sometimes the body just says, enough.’

Aurelius had immediately put the leadership of their tribe a vote, and the outcome was unanimous. Grey would take over as their chief and war leader. In order to give him a status to match that of Galen’s other allies, he would be made a Wind Knight and granted lands on the rolling plains to the north of the city. Through him, his people would have a place to call their own in this new country. Everyone knew they could not stay Galen’s guests forever, and this was the simplest way to settle the issue.

Except that it meant a whole new world of responsibilities for Grey. At seventeen he would be the youngest person on Galen’s council, and the least experienced in politics. And he would have to do far more than simply be the speaker for Cyclonis. To be a Wind Knight meant pledging to serve all Air kin, to act as a defender of the realm in times of need and an arbiter of justice in times of peace.  Grey wasn’t generally given to nerves, but all of this together was enough to make his mouth go dry. He tugged at his collar again, wondering not for the first time if he might have done better to go back to fighting wyverns.

A polite knock at the antechamber door was followed by Galen’s chief herald, Ewan. “Everyone is assembled in the great hall. Are you ready, sir?”

Grey started to shrug, but thought better of it as he felt the seams of the fabric stretch. “I suppose I am.”

Merina gave him a hug and kissed him on the cheek. “You’ll be fine, sweetie. You look dashing.”

Aurelius stood up and gripped his shoulder. “Don’t worry, son, all these titles are nothing more than hot air. Just remember who you are, and you can’t go far wrong.”

2000 years later Grimm could laugh a little at the painful irony of that advice, having forgotten who he was completely for millennia. But on the day he was knighted, he was glad to hear any bit of wisdom his father could share.

Ewan led them out into a long, vaulted hall that was packed to bursting with Air kindreds. It looked as if the whole city was waiting for him in the hall. Grey tugged at his collar one more time and squared his shoulders, silently repeating the words he had to say over and over in his head so that he wouldn’t forget them.

Galen sat at the head of the hall, looking every inch the Lord of his domain in sky blue robes that shimmered every time he moved, mimicking the shifting light of a mid-day sky. His wife, Elena sat next to him, resplendent in a midnight blue gown and a net of diamonds in her dark hair that twinkled like stars.  Her handmaidens, dressed all in white stood behind them. The nobles of the Air kin stood to Galen’s right, their colorful silk robes reminding Grey of brightly plumaged birds. Their long black hair was styled in fanciful braids, with gemstones twined along their length on silk bands.

To Galen’s right stood the representatives from his allies’ Houses. Grey had not been formally introduced to any them yet, and since he was going to have to work with these people on a regular basis he decided to focus on studying them while he made the long walk through the hall.

The scarlet haired Queen Darendale of the Fire nomads was the first to catch his eye, (and that of most other men in the room.) Her snug-fitting, beautifully tooled leathers were just a small step above scandalous. The last thing Grey wanted was to make a fool of himself by staring though, so he quickly moved his gaze onto safer targets.

Next to her was her secretary, Dorian. His hair was a more reddish brown, and his clothes, while just as flamboyant were thankfully far less revealing. He wore an elaborate brocade frock coat over a frilled white shirt, a ruby crusted waistcoat and crimson knee breeches. His fingers glittered with rings where they peaked out beneath long, lace cuffs.

Lords Ice, Frost, Hale and Snow stood next to the Fire kin, all seemingly cast from a similar mold; tall and gaunt, with white hair, pale skin and pale blue eyes. They wore flowing robes in silver and black, edged with furs and studded with diamonds and sapphires in the patterns of constellations.

Earth came next, two stocky, brown haired men in soft suede jackets worn over breaches and sturdy boots. Gold threads were woven in a broad, patterned trim along the edge of their clothes and the cunningly worked metal clasps for their cloaks and belts more than made up for the simplicity of their attire.

The River kin were there as well, three slender men and women, all tanned with sun bleached hair, their clothes a wild mix of every territory their waters passed through. Next to them was the representative from Oceanis, a willowy blond woman in a sleeveless sea-foam green gown, with tattoos spiraling up over her arms, neck and onto her face.

Flora was there as well, a man and woman draped in layers of pastel fabrics, all embroidered with fantastical images of birds, beasts and flowers. A moment later Grey realized it was not embroidery, but actual plants growing through the fabric in carefully cultivated patterns.

Grey’s friends stood out in stark contrast to the rest, in their more warlike attire. Aradann was there for the Forest kindreds, in scale-mail armor made of intricately carved pieces of ironwood. With his dark skin and the carved wooden beads braided into his dark brown hair, he looked and sounded like a forest in a stiff breeze whenever he moved.

Tairwyn represented his small group of Mountain kin, in steel plate armor as always. He had added delicate etching to it however, with inlaid silver and gold knotwork patterns to dress it up.  He was twirling his long mustachios thoughtfully, studying his counterparts just as Grey was.

Grey’s parents took their seats to one side, and he was alone in the crowded hall.

Galen stood, and took the sword brought forward by one of the handmaidens.  He gave Grey an encouraging smile and addressed the room. “It has been more than a hundred years since the last time anyone was elevated to the rank of Wind Knight.  When I led the Air kindreds to these peaceful shores, I set aside this very sword, and swore to never take a life again. But in doing so I forgot something very important. I was given this sword, not to take lives, but to protect them.  I was reminded of that by this brave, selfless young man. Time and again, I watched him place himself in the very jaws of danger, not for glory or for love of the fight – only to protect those around him. His courage and self-sacrifice reminded me of my own oaths, and showed me that there was still a need for knights in this world.”

“To be a Wind Knight is to serve. It is a binding oath, one that will stay with you for all of your days. Do you accept this honor, this responsibility?”

Grey could feel the eyes of the whole room on him, and all the words he had memorized slipped away. The only thing he could think to say was, “Yes.”

He heard Tairwyn chuckle quietly and mutter, “A man of few words, even now.”

A smile tugged at the corner of Galen’s mouth, but he quickly hid it. “Kneel, Aurengrey.” He lifted the sword, and tapped him lightly on each shoulder with the blade. “From this day forth, you are the sworn Guardian of our people. You are our knight defender, our strength and honor personified. You will be the first of a new order, their leader.  Rise, Captain Aurengrey, Knight of the Winds.”

Lady Elena kissed him on both cheeks and one of her handmaidens belted the sword on him, blushing the whole while. Then Grey took his place at Galen’s side, with the roar of the crowd’s cheers ringing in his ears.

A binding oath that will stay with you all of your days…

Grimm could feel it even now, tugging at his soul. He looked at his hands, rough and calloused, criss-crossed with scars. None of them could have known that their enemies would pervert that oath, and use it to make him serve their ends. How many times had the twin pulls nearly driven his mad? To kill at his new masters’ command, or to protect the last of his kind?

It was becoming harder and harder to remain objective, to merely record the events of his life. He had only been freed of the Shadowkin’s thrall for a bare few months, not nearly enough time for the wounds to heal.

There may never be enough time for that, he thought, pushing aside the turmoil in his heart. So quit dwelling on it and do your duty.

The Shadowkin were still out there. Katya still walked the earth, and so long as even one of her ilk still lived, Nox and her family would be in danger. The answer to the question of how to destroy them forever lay in his past. He had to remember, no matter the cost to himself.  He had delayed long enough – it was time to look back to that fateful return trip to the Western continent…

———————

<- Gathering Shadows, Pt. 6

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