Thursday, September 13, 2018
Flash Fiction #320 -- Connor of Northgate/4
The troll swept a huge hand around, the needle in his hairy fingers catching the light. It growled and jabbed the man, who fell with hardly a gasp of pain.
Northgate bellowed in protest and rage as he staggered to his feet and rammed the troll, which did not knock it down, though the creature was off balance. Lord Northgate tried to pull a sword from the air, but he couldn't collect enough power.
He spotted the sharp end of a broken paddle at his feet. He dared not listen to the wife -- to Clarice -- as she arrived, though he could not block out her cry of anguish. Did she have the rifle? Could he get hold of the weapon, or was she as likely to kill him? Use the paddle first, then go for another weapon.
The troll held the needle up, ready to kill him with a second blow. So be it. However, it would not kill Clarice as well, or the unborn child, which he only now remembered. He would take the troll with him when he died.
Northgate swept the paddle in low -- and at the same time heard the loud retort of the rifle. The bullet went close by him and slammed into the chest of the troll, splattering fur, bone, and blood everywhere.
"You bastard! You bastard!" She fired again.
The troll didn't die. Trolls were harder than hell to kill with anything but pure magic, but she had given Northgate a chance. He pulled up magic again, the power pulsing with his labored heartbeat. The troll appeared stunned; enough so that when Clarice charged in, swinging the rifle in uncontrollable rage, it missed disemboweling her, though that needle -- the damned needle it should not have -- pierced her hand.
She did not die immediately. Northgate wasn't sure why. Less of the poison on the needle? Her emotional state? It didn't matter. Northgate used her attack to make his final blow of bright red magic to the head, straight through the eyes. The troll crumpled and died, the body falling into the lake.
Clarice went to her knees, still screaming with what breath she had left. When Northgate reached for her, she hit him with the rifle as well, until she hadn't the strength left to do more. Then she gathered her husband's body into her arms.
"Wake up, Chad. Wake up. Wake up."
The words drove a different pain into his heart.
Northgate could see the spot on her arm where the needle had scratched, an ugly wound pulsing with a combination of magic and poison. She would die of it, and the child with her. All three deaths on his soul.
Northgate could barely hold the poison at bay in his own body, but he'd been doing that instinctively from the moment he felt the power in the needle. She had no such magical abilities. He hadn't enough magic to aide her.
Only one answer.
He took hold of her cold left hand, drawing it away from the body of her husband. She had gone numb now, staring at Northgate with gray eyes that didn't see him or the world around her. Touching her, he was aware of the child as well. A boy, near-term, and aware of something wrong in the way only a child might be, linked so closely to his mother.
"We must go," Northgate whispered.
She shook her head and still held tight to her husband's arm.
He could have told her Chad was dead, to leave him. He said nothing for fear of breaking into that numbness that had taken over her mind. He needed her calm because he was not going to be able to try this next desperate action more than once.
He reached out with his other arm, the one filled with poison and screaming in pain, and forced himself to concentrate on home as he made a portal. Northgate Keep, so far away, was still part of him. He had the link to it always, a compass point in his soul. He was Lord of the place, and that meant far more than just ruling the people.
He caught hold of home and dragged her, her dead husband, and himself back to the Keep.
He almost lost the way for one terrifying heartbeat and thought he would be trapped forever in a miasmic swarm of magic between here and there. He fought against the fear and the darkness that almost took them. He could sense home, not far away.
Arrived somewhere, the cold stone floor beneath his knees. Blackness tried to take him, so he could not even lift his head to look around. It felt like home. Surely --
Northgate looked up into the face of Godewyn, one of his most trusted retainers, and someone who had been at Northgate longer than him. The older man dropped to his knees and grabbed a tight hold of him.
"Trolls," Northgate whispered.
"We know. We fought them off, but we couldn't find you. We thought you were still in the tower and sent word to the Royal Court, thinking you must be hurt and we couldn't get in."
He nodded. Didn't care much. He finally let go of Clarice since someone was trying to pry his fingers from her arm.
"The man is dead, I fear," Godewyn said with a shake of his head. "The poison. It has killed many."
"Damn," he said, a quiet word. "I knew ... dead. She would not let go. She saved me."
Fae understood about obligations and ties, and Godewyn knew why he'd dragged them both, living and dead, back to Northgate. His honor would not allow him to leave her and the child to die.
Everything went dark.
He awoke later to find Magra holding a cup of tea to his lips. She offered a tired smile.
"Go easy, Lord Northgate. We have the poison controlled, but you must regain strength. Sip the tea."