Friday, December 21, 2018

Flash Fiction # 334 -- Coonor of Northgate/18

"You trust your friends," Lord Northgate said, and his head turned to look a little to the right.

Druce, of course.  Druce saw Lord Northgate's glance his way and looked appalled.  Druce bowed his head, his face pale.

"That altercation Druce and I had really had nothing to do with me, you know."

"Not you?" Lord Northgate asked, surprised by the answer.  He looked confused.  "But --"

"Not me, not because I am human," Connor added.  "I trust Druce.  He would never resort to poison."

"If not you then why --"
Connor sighed, sorry that he would have to bring this up.  He bowed his head a little and spoke quietly.  "Nylia."

Northgate's eyes narrowed before he nodded finally.  "Ah.  That makes more sense, in fact.  I'm glad.  I didn't want to distrust someone who had lived so long in my keep.  So, one of the outsiders?"

Northgate turned this question to Liam who still lingered at Connor's side.

"I would think so, sir," Liam replied and ran a hand through his hair. Then he got a distracted look that Connor recognized.  Liam saw things at that moment, but they seemed to be rushing by too quickly, and Liam only appeared to be more confused.  "Things almost took a strange twist tonight, sir.  I can't see how or why.  Everything is overlapping.  I don't know what happened.  I only know what would have happened."

"You did well, Liam."

"I hope so, sir.  I don't like to use my power to change things.  What if I'm wrong?"

"You think Connor's death would have served us better?"

Liam stopped and focused this time.  His head came up, and he steadied.  "No, it would not have been better for anyone, except perhaps the person who wanted him dead."

"Then you did well.  I know this is difficult for you; I know you fear of putting your own mark on the future rather than letting it happen.  Just the same, you did the right thing tonight."

"Yes, sir.  Thank you."

Lord Northgate walked away.  Rion, though, came over and moved with them for a while, a visible guard.  None of the others seemed to take it badly.
"You didn't ask how you did on the testing," Rion said when they'd found a quieter place at the edge of the room. 

"I passed," Connor said.  Then he frowned.  "Unless I didn't."

"What would make you think that?"

"I'm human.  How I did might not matter when you announced the news to the others."

Rion started to get angry.  Then he stopped and gave a little nod.  "Yes, I can see how that might occur to you.  However, as it happened, Connor lad, you did better than any of the others, edging out Antisha by a good fifteen percent."

"You will not tell her so," Connor said, worried again.

"Only if she asks."

"You think this will help me survive the rest of the testing?"

Rion gave a bright laugh, and Connor grinned, feeling his own worries lessen in Rion's good mood, which proved to be contagious.  Before this, the older fae had been their teacher and strict in his protocols.  They were changing relationships now, though.  The testing would make them all a full part of fae society.

Even him.  He was coming of age with the rest of his friends.

No one else tried to kill him that night, for which Connor felt grateful enough.  Rion and Godewyn both checked his room before he retired, and he felt like a child fearful of monsters under the bed.  It bothered him to have those feelings and to be helpless in the face of fae magic.

Helpless except for his powerful friends.  Liam went into the room with Connor when the others left.

"You saved my life.  Thank you.  I know that had to be hard --"

"No, it wasn't," Liam said and smiled.  He sat on his chair and leaned back, looking exhausted.  His eyes darted to the side for a moment, as though Liam saw something there.  Then he looked back at Connor.  "I did the right thing.  I had worried afterward, but I had seen the sudden, dark times that your death sent us into --"

"Surely not my death," Connor replied with a shake of his head.  He stripped off his vest and hung it over the chair, settling down by the desk.

"I will not say more," Liam replied, shaking his head as though he had already spoken too much.  "But I did the right thing, Connor.  All I can say as that you have to trust yourself in the future.  I won't always be able to help you.  That was a near thing."

"So if you are not around, I best not eat."

"Well, at the very least, I think people need to check your food, even if I am there.  I'm serious, Connor.  At least during the testing.  Afterward -- I'm really not sure if any of us will be safe after this is done."

"Well, there is a cheery future to look forward to."  He tried not to worry at the words -- tried not to make Liam feel any worse than he obviously did.  Then he thought again.  "Have you talked to Northgate about anything of what you've seen?"

"Yes, but I will not tell you."

"I don't expect you to.  I just wondered if you had found the path or not."

"I hope so.  I could be wrong.  I've looked to the left and the right.  Nothing good is on either side; not for a long, long time.  So far in the future, in fact, that it is mostly hope that makes me believe either way would eventually lead to something ... reasonable.  Even so, Connor --"

He stopped and shook his head.

Dark times coming, Connor thought with an unexpected shiver.  He looked to the window where the last light of day faded, shadows spreading across the keep.  Life was going to change, and maybe the Testing didn't matter so much after all.

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