Thursday, January 31, 2019
Flash Fiction # 340 -- Connor of Northgate/24
The battle raged somewhere else. Connor heard the sound echoing everywhere around them. "Leave the others and run? "I can't --"
"The trolls have help!" Liam dragged Connor toward the doorway. "I suspect Ordin is with them, but I can't be certain. All I know is that if you don't hide, you can't get us free. Look for the opening. Follow the breeze."
"That makes no sense, Liam," he protested. "Let me get my boots!"
Liam's light made it easier to find the boots at the end of the bed. Connor sat down and pulled them on, looking up again to see Liam watching nervously down the hall. "I don't understand."
Liam looked at him, startled. "I didn't say? They can find the rest of us because of magic. They can't find you, Connor. They won't find you because you are not magical and they have no way to trace you. That means you'll be able to free people, later. That's our only hope."
"Damn." It made sense now. He had the boots on and he let Liam take his arm again and head for the stairs -- but there his friend let go of his arm.
"Stay clear of any sounds. Get out of the Keep. That's the best I can tell you." Liam shook his head, distracted, and then focused again. "Too much going on. Every moment changes things. I can still see hope in you."
Liam started to shove him away, looking frantically down the hall as though he knew -- and he probably did -- that trouble would soon appear. Connor, propelled as much by the urgency as the shove, started down the steps.
"Connor --" Liam said, his voice almost trembling. Connor, already six stairs down, looked back, worried. His friend appeared pale and shaken. "Don't forget me."
Liam spun, dropped his magical light, and disappeared into the dark.
Connor almost called after him. Or cursed. However, Liam's sense of urgency overcame the other emotions. He hurried down the stairs, heard shouts in the hall on the next level, and rushed past, down and down. Movement caught the edge of his vision at the main floor so he went to the edge of the kitchens -- sounds there as well, and none of them good. He rushed down the curving stairs at the end of the hall into the storage area.
Connor found places to hide in amongst the baskets and sacks of food. He burrowed in to bags of potatoes and onions, carefully pulling some in around him, and barely in time.
"Nothing down here," a voice said as light filled the area like lightning come to ground. Fae voice, not a troll. "He couldn't have gotten past us all. Not a human."
Another said something too low for Connor to hear. The light died.
"Yes, we'll send someone down to go through it piece-by-piece," the first said.
Connor didn't move, listening -- and finally heard mumbled words, the two leaving. Had they thought him so stupid that he would assume they were gone if they were quiet?
Ordin's people might think that of a human. Connor would use that against them.
Connor left his place of safety and hurried to the stairs. Trolls were ransacking the High Hall while fae watched on; a nondescript set of fae so he couldn't say where they might be from and he wasn't entirely certain what they even wanted.
To take over the Northgate Keep? Could they hold out against the Royal Court and the other Keeps? This could not be an attack by all of them, could it? Why? Because of him?
No, that was crazy.
Connor carefully moved along the shadows, looking for places to hide, keeping well out of sight. He saw a group of fae take Nylia away, and Druce with her, both of them only partly conscious. They went out into the courtyard. Connor could see a flickering light through the open door.
Connor couldn't go out that door, and came close to getting him caught just being close. He headed into the darker shadows, and felt a breeze where there shouldn't have been one. Follow the breeze, Liam had said.
The enemy had blown a section of the wall apart. Maybe the sound of the explosion had awakened him. He couldn't imagine how they'd gotten this close without someone giving the alarm.
Outside the wall, Connor found bodies of those who had raced to stop the invader. People he knew lay dead at his feet as he tried to move silently past --
And stopped to kneel by one.
Damn Liam! He had to know Rendon would die. He could have stopped this! He could have said something, because this wasn't a good future, and nothing Liam could say to him would make him believe that the Seer had done the right thing in letting Rendon -- and the others -- die.
Liam became one of the enemy.
Until now Connor had taken this as a personal attack, but the sight of his dead companion brought the true nature of the attack to light. When he touched Rendon's cold, still arm, the truth came to him, the full horror of a battle against the Keep and all in it. They were hunting him, but they had already killed others.
Connor was almost so lost in his anger that he didn't hear the others coming. No time to run and hide --
He threw himself down beside Rendon, playing dead.
"I told you! The Trolls haven't come and shored the wall up up yet. Go get them now!"
"I'm not facing them down by myself," a woman said, her voice haughty despite her words. "You want them, you come with me. You saw that they did to Laster."
Connor could see a hint of movement from the corner of his eye, and as soon as they disappeared, he rose and found a body around the corner of the wall, and carried it back by Rendon.