Friday, December 28, 2018
Flash Fiction #335 -- Connor of Northgate/19
The next day was not as bad as Connor had expected. In fact, the physical tests let him work off some of the anxious energy he'd built up since dinner the night before. Liam and Nylia had both checked his breakfast. Druce had stopped and thanked him for not creating trouble over his own stupidity.
"You lost your temper, that's all," Connor said with a bit of a shrug. He could still feel a slight pull at the site of the wound -- humans didn't heal as quickly as fae, even with fae magic applied. He ignored the discomfort.
"Lord Northgate talked to me about ... other problems," Druce added. He glanced once at Nylia and then back at Connor. "I'm sorry."
Druce walked away. Nylia watched him go with a frown of her own. Connor thought she might say something as well, but instead, she turned away and headed for her own first testing of the day.
Connor glanced at Liam. Liam shrugged.
They went through three rounds of testing that day, and he did remarkably well on both the hand-to-hand bout and the one using swords. However, Connor knew he could not pass the third test. It included weapons and magic.
Rion pulled the lots; Connor drew Antisha.
Of course, he did. This was the worst match either of them could make for various reasons. Her people started to protest, but she gave him a curious look and then waved her hand which quieted the others. He gave her a proper bow of his head; no admission he was different from the others, but just the same, he didn't want to make an enemy of this woman.
"I will step aside if you would prefer another match," he offered.
Antisha considered it for a moment as she looked him over. "You intrigue me. You've passed all your tests so far, and quite well, I've heard. Let's see how you do in this case."
She might be playing with him, but he hadn't that feel for her attitude. They took their places just before the round began. Everyone would be watching Antisha, and for a moment he saw Lord Northgate give him a worried glance --
They started the test, both of them with swords. Antisha moved slowly as she tested Connor, and finding he had some skill with the weapon, gave a quick smile and made him work harder.
Connor could tell they both enjoyed the pairing far more than he had expected. She lifted her free hand once and then frowned --
"Don't hold back," he said, slightly breathless.
Antisha nodded and brought magic up to her fingers, calling it up faster than he had expected. Even so, he used the sword itself to knock aside the first bolt -- not powerful enough to kill him, but it did sting through the hilt. She swung with her sword, but he ducked that blow and gave her a bright smile. She laughed and came in for another attack.
By the third time, he knew the feel of her style and knew that he had to do something drastic -- or let her win. Connor didn't think she would appreciate if he didn't give his full effort.
Antisha swung with the sword and sent a spray of magic -- but Connor ducked both, turned his sword aside, and grabbed her leg. She went down on her backside with a woof of surprise as he stood.
Her people were enraged. Two of them grabbed him and knocked him to the ground --
"If he has so much as a cut, I'll have your ears pinned to a board and mounted in my room!" Antisha shouted as she surged to her feet.
They let him go. Quickly. He had to avoid cutting himself on his own sword, but he survived the testing. Antisha had gone down, which meant he had won. Now he had second thoughts.
Antisha offered her hand, and he took it, coming shakily to his feet.
"That was not expected," she admitted. "No one has ever actually grabbed at my leg before, but it was effective, wasn't it?"
"I couldn't fight the magic," he explained, putting up his sword. Everyone watched them, shock on every face. "And I couldn't outlast you. Then I realized that Fae are used to fighting with swords and magic. I do well enough in the hand-to-hand fighting, and I knew if I threw that into a situation where you were used to sword and magic, I had a chance."
"Well done," she said. She looked thoughtful. "Something to consider in the future."
Antisha signaled the others, and they followed after her as she headed towards the chairs on the sideline. A couple of them glared at him, but they dared do nothing in her presence. He would make certain he had his friends with him until they left the court. An easy answer.
The rest of the testing dwindled to a stop. No one seemed unpleased. All everyone had to worry about was dinner tonight, oath taking tomorrow, and the final feast before the strangers in the keep packed up their bags and moved on. Connor would be glad to see the last of them and get back to the point where all they need to worry over was an attack of trolls.
Dinner did not go well.
He hadn't seen Antisha, but Ordin -- one of her followers -- came to the table. He leaned down and looked Connor straight in the face, his green eyes narrowed in anger.
"You cheated. I'm going to prove it."
"How could I have cheated?" Connor asked, lifting a hand to stop Erlis and Rendon from coming to his rescue. "Magic?"
Ordin snorted with disgust. "No, of course not. Your kind can't touch magic. You had outside help."
Ordin looked at Liam who met his glare with an even stare of his own. "I don't play favorites."
"Then what are you doing at this table?"
"Sitting with the polite people."