Friday, January 25, 2019

Flash Fiction #339 -- Connor of Northgate/23

The idea that Ordin wanted to be heir to Northgate bothered Connor in ways he could not fully explain, even to himself.  It was just wrong, and not just because of this attitude toward the one human in their midst.

"Does he think annoying Lord Northgate is the way to the position?" Connor asked.

"No," Nylia replied.  Her voice softened.  "Lord Northgate hasn't named an heir, and if he dies, then the Royal Court names the next Lord to rule here.  Unless he physically passes the power on when he dies, it's going to be an open Keep."

Erlis shook his head.  "He won't let that happen.  Besides, even with that damned poison in him, he's doing well."

The others agreed; all except for Liam who stared at his food.  That sent a chill through Connor.

Perhaps Lord Northgate only waited for the right person to come of age.  Would it be one of this group?  Nylia, he thought, would make a suitable heir.  She had a good head for trouble.  Liam?  A seer as heir might be powerful and make a very powerful Lord, though maybe that would be too much and worry others.  Druce if he settled down?  He couldn't see either Erlis or Rendon in the role.  Possibly Godewyn -- but for some reason, the older man had never been named the heir, and there must be a reason.

Connor didn't want to worry over it.  Not tonight.

The rest of the meal went well.  Laughter rose everywhere, and even the servants -- who were on their last day of service, which would be turned over to another set in the morning -- were in a good mood. The food tasted excellent, though Connor wasn't stupid enough to try anything before one of his friends did a check.  Had Ordin tried to kill him with the poison?

It seemed too subtle for Ordin.  The magic hadn't been traced, and he couldn't imagine Ordin being that careful.

So someone else was after him as well.  Working with Ordin?

Connor almost asked, but then realized that he didn't want to upset the others on this fine night.  Liam gave him an odd look, but maybe that was his sudden silence.  Connor tried not to read too much into what Liam saw.

Food, a bit of fine wine -- a good way to spend the night.  Everyone seemed calmer, and even Druce came and sat at their table for a moment, joining in the conversation like in the old days.  He and Nylia joked.  Connor hoped that meant the trouble was past.

Later, Lord Northgate walked out with Connor, Rendon, and Liam.  He patted Connor on the shoulder.

"You did well today, Connor.  Thank you."  He gave a sideways glance.   "You look more like your father every day."

There was an odd thought.  Connor looked like someone he felt he had no connection to at all. That brought him back to other thoughts, though.

"I would like to learn more about humans.  I think it time I find out what I am."

Lord Northgate nodded as though this was expected.  Maybe this was another sign of coming of age. Connor felt oddly better for thinking about his own heritage.

Connor and Liam parted company at the doors to their rooms.  He almost thought Liam was going to say something, but his friend turned away and firmly closing the door before Connor had even gone into his room.  He supposed that meant he was safe, so Connor didn't worry when he went into his suite.

The bed looked comfortable.  Connor stripped off clothing and rubbed at his still sore wound.  He'd forgiven Druce, though he didn't expect the two of them to face each other again in any practice field.  Not soon.  It would take a while before he could feel comfortable in that relationship. 
Connor laid down and blew out the candle -- the others used magic for light, of course.  It marked him as different again, and that moment in the dark between wake and sleep seemed filled with dread and monsters.  They did not plague him for long; he fell into a deep and restful sleep for the first time in days.

And awoke with a start, the room still pitch black.  Had something moved in his room?  He held his breath, listening for the sound that would be a prelude to attack.  His fingers found the edge of his blanket, ready to toss it aside.

Connor heard a sound again.  Not in his room, though. Something outside.  He threw himself from the bed and grabbed at his pants and tunic before he even got to the window to open the shutter.

He heard shouts.  Yells, and then a scream that turned his blood cold and made him fumble with his clothing.  He couldn't see much from his window, though things moved down there that were not human.

Trolls, of course.  Trolls had made their way into the Keep without raising the alarm.  He cursed and went to the cupboard to grab his sword.  They were under attack --

Someone pounded on the door.

"Connor!" Liam shouted.

Connor threw back the lock.  Liam pushed the door open so fast that he nearly knocked Connor down.  The little light Liam had brought with him flickered as though he had trouble even keeping that fueled.

Connor could hear frantic sounds in the building itself, and some of them not good.

"Get out of here and hide," Liam said, his voice frantic.  "Do it now.  Don't fight anything you don't have to."

"Liam --"

"Do it!" Liam ordered, with far more force than was usual.  "You are the only hope we have, Connor -- but you have to get clear of this tonight."

"I can't just --"

Liam caught hold of his arm, the fingers tight enough to bruise.  "Listen to me.  If you don't do this -- it's not good, Connor. Just not good.  You have to hide while they take the rest of us."

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