Thursday, September 27, 2018
Flash Fiction # 322 -- Connor of Northgate/6
Growing up at Northgate was an adventure. Connor had understood that from the time he began to walk and got into trouble like all the other children at the keep. He wasn't the only one often reprimanded by an older fae and sent back out of the armory or out of Askela's kitchens.
He had friends among the half-dozen fae children born to the Northgate Keep. Human not fae the adults would sometimes say of him, though as a child he hadn't understood. When he grew a little older, Lord Northgate, to whom Connor was a ward, said it had to do with magic, which humans didn't have.
At first Connor thought that made him less than the fae, and he felt sadness his ten-year-old mind couldn't quite grasp and understand. That passed, though, as his friends sought him out and dragged him along to more adventures.
"I don't care if you are human," Nylia said with a lift of her head, her golden hair swinging back to show those curved ears, so different from his own.
Connor's hair was almost as blond, at least, so he didn't stand out too much. Nylia was a year older than the rest of them and seemed wiser for it.
Erlis and Renden muttered agreements.
"You belong to Northgate. You were born here. My mother says your parents were very, very brave and saved Lord Northgate. She said you deserve all the honor we couldn't give to them because they died."
He'd heard the tale from Lord Northgate, but listening to the words from Nylia made the story different. "I would rather have honor for myself," he finally said.
"That you'll have to gain on your own. However, being human isn't bad," Nylia said and looked directly into his eyes. "Don't ever let them tell you so."
And then they went on and played some more.
At fifteen, the first serious change took place in his life. It came unexpectedly, though. Lord Northgate had agreed to foster a young fae from the wild lands -- areas outside the keeps and even outside the villages.
"Liam is a seer," Lord Northgate said to the gathered court the day before the newcomer arrived. People looked shocked and worried. "He's just coming into his power and obviously confused. Liam had no early training and no one realized his power until it began to seriously manifest. I expect all of you to treat him well and help him through this time. A seer has a difficult task, sorting through the visions to learn what is real, what is possible and what is only his imagination."
The others nodded, looking troubled as they slipped away. Connor went with Erlis and Rendon, both of whom looked bothered.
"I know what a seer is," Connor said. "Why is that a problem?"
"Because sometimes they can tell you things you don't want to know," Erlis replied, shaking his head with worry. "And sometimes they can even tell you things you shouldn't know, and then you try to change the future. That's dangerous, especially for the fae."
Rendon nodded as well. "I heard he's Nylia's age. That means we'll be dealing with him. I wouldn't want his power, and I really don't want to deal with him, either."
"We'll all start coming into our powers soon," Erlis said.
Then he looked at Connor, shock in his face, as though he only now realized Connor would not have powers.
They walked on in silence to dinner. The table where Connor and his friends sat remained quiet that night, and Connor felt as though he had lost something precious with the arrival of Liam. He thought he ought to be angry at the intrusion.
That night, sitting on the bed where he had been born, Connor thought about what it meant to be different from the others. This Liam would have that taint, too. First, he was an outsider, and he couldn't remember the last time anyone had moved into the Keep. They had visitors, of course, but people didn't stay. Even the people from the Royal Court only came now and then, looked things over, and returned to the safer keeps and castles.
Yes, safer. Connor hadn't thought that through, either. He knew that there had been trolls and an invasion and the death of many people besides his parents.
Connor went to the window and looked down at the courtyard below. People moved there with bobbing lights trailing above them like glowing birds on a leash.
He would never make that light.
He felt cold then; cold at the very essential difference between him and his friends and the one thing he could not change.
Like Liam couldn't change. That thought brought him back to his original musings about how he and Liam were perhaps a bit alike. They could not change the difference that set them apart. Maybe he shouldn't be upset at the arrival of this strange fae. Perhaps, for Lord Northgate's sake if nothing else, he should make no judgments and see if he could befriend this stranger.
Connor didn't know much about the wild lands except it was where some of the odder magical creatures lived who didn't like to be in the cities and castles. In truth, he had never been far beyond the keep's walls in all his life, and he'd never thought much about it. This was home.
Connor slept lightly that night, awoke before dawn and dressed. He sat by the window and waited. Not long after sunrise, he heard the sound of others arriving, but that would not be Liam -- not at first light.
In the faint light he could see several huge creatures, all of them dead and strung across a wagon. Sounds erupted from the castle and he saw others rushing out. The guards had plainly found Trolls in the nearby hills.
Connor stood. Then he settled in the chair again. They did not need him underfoot.