Thursday, September 06, 2018
Flash Fiction #319 -- Connor of Northgate/3
Lord Northgate floundered in the icy water while the humans shouted. His ears rang and understood nothing of what they said, even though, being a fae, he translated the language. Words had power and fae had an inherent ability to understand almost anything spoken.
The humans had turned their boat to come for him. Humans were, on the whole, gentle creatures in their own way.
"Must have fallen from a plane," the man said as he reached over and grabbed Lord Northgate's arm. He almost went unconscious from the pain.
"I'm telling you, there was no plane!" the woman said. She looked over the side, watching. "Are you all right?"
"Fell," he said, and could not think how else to explain the situation. They had no magic here, though in earlier times the humans had understood that it existed. Northgate couldn't begin to come up with an answer to how he came to be in their lake, not with his mind addled. A little magic later would make them believe in the plane. Just get in the boat. Just --
"What the hell is that?" the man demanded as he looked past Northgate. "Bear? Do bears swim out this far?"
"Get him in! Get him in! We have to get away from here!"
The man grunted and pulled Northgate the rest of the way in with a surprising surge of strength. The fae lord flopped like a fish out of water as he gasped and fought back the pain, and then forced himself to sit up.
The woman, who sat on a bench towards the back of the little craft, was pregnant, which took him by surprise. Young, too. Healthy with the look of someone who spent considerable time in the sun.
Observant as well. The woman took in his odd clothing, wounds, and probably even the curve of his ears with one glance and shook her head as though denying it all.
Something splashed nearby.
"We must -- go," Northgate said, assimilating more of their language.
He glanced around the little craft and managed not to groan. No engine. The man had been rowing by hand, it seemed. A pleasant morning before a fae and troll dropped into their midst.
They were not far from the shore. Northgate grabbed at the paddles, but the man took them quickly and began to row towards the lake shore. Northgate saw a dock not far away, and a pretty little cabin just beyond in the shaded woods.
Northgate turned to the lake and saw the troll's head bobbing in the water. He feared he must do something drastic. Northgate began to call on his inner power and draw a little magic into his hands from the air. Not much -- slow work while the man rowed quickly, breath gasping as they neared the dock.
The woman stared at him. She glanced to his hands where the magic had begun to glitter a little and shook her head, her face going white. He wanted to reassure her, but the troll moved closer.
They reached the dock with the creature only a couple yards behind. The man tossed a rope up and scrambled up, securing it and reaching in to help them. He'd said nothing, but he wasn't blind. The creature in the water was not a bear, and the magic in Northgate's hands was noticeable now.
"Up," Northgate said to the woman. "Both of you up and away from the dock!"
She scrambled out of the rowboat and stood by her husband, who had not moved. Lord Northgate started to pull himself out, but the man reached and lent him aid, even now with the troll's hairy arm coming up over the side of the dock.
"Go!" Northgate warned.
The troll surged upward with enough strength that boards shattered beneath his claws. His red eyes glared with rage as he focused on Northgate and didn't even notice when the man -- far too daring -- reached back into the boat and yanked up one of the paddles for a weapon.
"Clarice! Get to the cabin and grab the rifle!"
Wise. Northgate nodded, but he waved the man back stalked his way. He heard Clarice heading away which might be both safety and hope.
The man stepped forward and swung the paddle with enough force that it broke over the side of the troll's head, stunning the creature. Northgate threw as much power at it as he could. The drain put him to his knees, but he saw the troll go back down, fall into the water, twitching -- and then stopped moving. Dead. He knew it.
"Praise the gods," he whispered and looked up at the man who was watching the creature float away. "Thank you --"
A second troll leapt straight from the water and to the dock. Northgate hadn't even the strength to curse. He couldn't get back to his feet. So he threw himself at the creature's knees and knocked it down. Unfortunately, it did not go back into the water, which might have given them some hope.
He saw another of the needles in the thing's hand. It snarled and jabbed, but the needle barely pricked his skin. Even so, the result was startling and frightening.
His arm hurt with a pain that drove out the thought of all other wounds. He couldn't breathe, and the troll was already coming at him again, it's mouth open in a wide grin of trollish delight, showing the double rows of teeth that would end his life.
Northgate had not counted on the human leaping in to save him. He yelled in protest and fear and tried to get between them. The man had grabbed the other paddle, and he used it well. The troll growled in protest and swiped at it after two blows struck home, cutting the paddle apart with his razor-sharp claws. The man leapt backward in surprise.
Northgate could hear Clarice rushing back toward them --
Not fast enough.