Thursday, December 13, 2018

Flash Fiction # 333 -- Connor of Northgate/17

"True," Liam agreed and smiled again.  "But tomorrow we do the physical tests --"

"And that is when I'm bound to not do as well," Connor replied.  "I can't match a fae using magic, you know."

"No, you can't," Liam agreed and looked straight at Connor, his head tilted slightly.  "But you can be yourself."

Connor started to ask what he meant, but Liam shook his head.  Then he stood and gave a stretch.  "We better get ready for tonight's feast.  We'll be on show again, Connor."

"Just a few more days and this will be over," he said.

Liam gave a distracted nod and walked out of the room.  Erlis watched him go and then looked back at Connor.  "He's not as helpful as I would like."

"Liam walks carefully," Connor said.  "I wouldn't want to be him."

"Would you want to be fae at all?"

"Yes, of course."

The answer surprised Erlis who sat up and looked at him with a different worry.  "We've never mistreated you, have we?"

"No.  However, that doesn't mean I am one of you, and that becomes more obvious as we grow older.  Yes, I would want to be fae because the fae world is all I know.  I don't know what it means to be human, except that it means being different."

"I'd never looked at it from your side," Erlis admitted.  "I never thought about the difference."

"Thank you."

Erlis smiled and stood.  "I'll see you downstairs then."

Connor dressed for the occasion in his best satins and lace, pulling his hair back so that it tied behind his head in a little wrap Nylia had made for him -- magic imbued, so it wrapped up on its own.

Having his hair pulled back this way hid his round ears, so different from the rest of the fae.  He'd noticed how that had helped when dealing with strangers who often couldn't help but stare at his ears.

Dinner started out well enough.  Rion announced that everyone had passed the test, so there was general frivolity from the twenty-three who had been sweating the announcement.
"Some of you could have done better," he said, but then gave an unexpected shrug -- so unlike him that it took the attention of everyone from Northgate Keep.  "But at least I'll not have to deal with any of you for the next ten years again."

That brought a bit of laughter, and Rion gave a nod to Lord Northgate and went back to his place.  Connor sat back and relaxed again.  He'd been sure he was fine, but it didn't hurt to have those words said aloud.

Unless, of course, the fae didn't care if the human did well or not.

That thought bothered him through part of the dinner.  He could not dismiss it and didn't know why such a doubt caught him now.

Or maybe he did.  Connor didn't glance much at the others in the room, but the strangers did bother him.  He'd lived all his life in a very small world where people didn't stare.  These strangers did, and Connor didn't see acceptance anywhere.  He hadn't expected it, but to face them was another matter.  He wanted everyone to go home.

That thought seemed childish; he purposely brushed the feeling aside and determined to finish the meal in a better mood.

Which might have worked if someone hadn't tried to poison him.

Servants brought food and took plates away.  Sometimes in the press of things they even used magic, so he wasn't surprised when one plate disappeared, and another appeared.  He lifted a fork --


Liam sat across from him with Lord Northgate at the head of the table to their left.  He stood and threw himself across the table as he knocked the plate to the floor.  The gold gave a loud clank.  Everyone stared.

Connor glanced at the floor and then stared as the food let off a yellowish smoke and began to eat through the floor like acid.

"No one move," Lord Northgate ordered.  "Except Liam.  Off the table.  Tell me what happened."

"I didn't see it -- not until just now," he said and shook his head as he slid back, both hands running through his hair and knocking bits of ivy aside.  "I'm sorry, Lord Northgate.  I don't know what happened."

"But you do know what would have happened if you hadn't stopped Connor."

He gave a wary nod, a glance at Connor, and then back to Lord Northgate.  "Nothing good would have come of his death, sir.  Nothing at all."

Northgate nodded.  Then he, Godewyn and Rion went to work trying to trace the food, but they lost the work in the miasma of magic all around them. 

Connor just sat back and said nothing, but he was going through his own list of people who might not be happy with him right now.

Druce?  Maybe, but he doubted it.  He suspected the newcomers as more likely, and let himself look over the various groups.  Most were looking his way, but then they had been from the start.  Antisha was the only one who met his eyes when he looked her way.

She didn't look happy.  Connor hoped that was because someone had tried to poison him and not because the plan had failed.  Did the royal court want him removed?

Connor looked away before she read anything in his look.  The questions remained though.

The dinner, luckily, was mostly over anyway.  The tables disappeared -- mostly by magic this time -- and the groups gathered to talk and listen to the excellent musicians Lord Northgate provided.

"You do not have to stay, Connor," Northgate said, his good hand resting on Connor's shoulder.  The man looked pale with anger.  "This is dangerous --"

"Yes, it is," Connor agreed.  "But I don't see that hiding will make me safer.  I'd rather be here with my friends."

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