Thursday, October 04, 2018

Flash Fiction #323 -- Connor of Northgate/7

Conner stared down where they took the bodies from the cart.  He felt no love for trolls, who had killed both his parents.  He also knew that being near the creatures, even dead, gave him nightmares that he didn't want to relive.

Now wasn't the time to drag them back to the light. Instead, Connor took up the book he had been studying about the Fae High Court.  He'd feared it would be boring when Rion, the teacher who saw over his generation, handed the collection to Connor.

Instead, the tales proved to be fantastic adventures, deeds of wonder, hope -- and treachery.  He had read more than half of it already.  The stories called to him in an odd way; it wasn't always magic that won against evil.

The day went normally enough, despite the whispers and worries that spread through the keep.  No classes and no training today, it being a tenth day anyway.  Conner spent some time in the library but hadn't found much on seers.  He didn't bother to ask the others; they speculated so much that he realized he'd done more research than any of them.

The day drifted to a gray and blustery mid-afternoon.  Clouds scuttled across the bright sky and a brisk breeze blew past cracks.  People had stopped whispering about the boy and speculated on the weather again, which was always changeable.  Connor went to his room.  He had an excellent view from his window and saw anyone coming into the courtyard.

The party arrived late; almost the hour of dinner, which he had feared would be held up, much to his stomach's dismay.  Connor heard Lord Northgate and his people heading down the hall to greet the strangers as the gate opened.

Connor almost joined them, but he had not been invited.  He knew how to act appropriately in court, and one did not push his way into the Lord's retinue, though some who knew better still did so.  Connor waited until Lord Northgate was well down the stairs and then followed, along with others probably hoping for a short ceremony and a long dinner.
Connor paused as others took their places in the High Hall.  His own position was at the front row of benches, before the Northgate throne. Lord Northgate's own children would sit there once he married.  For now, his human ward held the place of honor.  That infuriated some visitors -- and a few locals as well, though they rarely dared say anything to him and never to Northgate.

Connor started for the bench, but instead, he move to the double doors where his benefactor and a few others stood. He kept back, but Lord Northgate gave a signal with his left hand.  The right, as always, rested in a silken sling.  He'd taken that injury in the same battle that had killed Connors parents.  It would never heal.   heard the word poison whispered sometimes, and it seemed a dire word, and something others wanted to ignore.  He never asked.

Connor came forward and gave a proper little bow of his head.

"Good to have you here, Connor," Northgate said and meant those words.  Truth was a power that came clearly to Fae words.  "The boy is going to be troubled enough, and I fear the others are going to be wary of him because of his gift."

"I thought so as well, my Lord," Connor said softly.  He looked out the partly open door. They were just dismounting now, a dozen fae with one smaller figure in their midst.  "I thought we might have some things in common, the two of us being different and neither really belonging here."

He hadn't expected Lord Northgate's hand to come down on his shoulder, the fingers tightening and drawing Connor's startled attention.  There was a look in the man's face that he had never seen before.

"This is your home, Connor," he said, his voice soft.  "You do belong here.  I can't deny you are different than the fae children, but I don't ever want you to feel as though you don't belong."

"That was badly worded on my part," he said in haste.  He didn't want Northgate upset. The man had always -- always -- been more than kind to him.  "I can't imagine any other life. I am different, and so is Liam from what I learned.  It might help him to realize he's not the only one."

Lord Northgate gave a pensive nod.  Godewyn, standing beside him, looked bothered and gave Connor a frown, though he couldn't of a reprimand or only an agreement that things were not, indeed, normal.

No matter.  The group started up to the steps to the Keep's great outer doors, which stood open already.  A group of four fae led the way, all of them in the bright colors and varied styles of the Wildlands.

"Lord Northgate," the woman in the lead said, bowing her head to him.  "We are grateful that you are willing to help us with our problem."

The tone of the words almost made Connor wince. They apparently wanted Liam out of their hands, and they weren't trying to hide the fact. He looked past the woman and the others and saw Liam lingering a step lower, looking up at the Keep with a bit of worry.  He would never have lived in such a place, Connor realized. In the Wildlands they didn't even live in cottages, but only temporary huts and tents.

"It is an honor to have him here," Northgate replied with the words steady and the truth a power in themselves.  Connor saw Liam look his way with surprise. "The gifts of the Seer are difficult to bear, and I hope that we might make this coming into power easier for him."

The woman gave a nod, half-distracted, as though she genuinely didn't care.