Thursday, February 21, 2019
Flash Fiction # 343 -- Connor of Northgate/27
They ran, for hours, it seemed, but surely the woods were not so far away. Erlis stopped long enough to use magic to partially heal Connor's arm, at least enough to stop the bleeding.
"Rendon is dead," Connor said softly.
Erlis looked down at the ground. "I know. I saw him fall as we tried to batter back the trolls."
Erlis looked at him, his eyes narrowing, a flash of anger there that Connor felt an echo too. A moment later Erlis shook his head. "There's too much I don't understand. Lord Northgate was already to the High Tower. He had to know, too. I'm not going to make judgments yet."
Connor said nothing more, using his own anger as a shield against physical pain and mental rage. He could hold on to resentment, but he couldn't keep to his feet. Weakness swept over him, and he went to his knees, pulling Antisha with him. They were barely into the woods.
"Go," he whispered.
"No." She pulled him back up. "Don't fight me. We have to get into the trees where Galen can't easily feel us amongst all the other magic."
He'd heard that the woods were filled with incredible creatures of magic; griffins, unicorns, fairies, and even dragons in the far mountains. The fae left such places to them.
Maybe not where they should go --
No choice. Erlis took hold of his other arm --
Everything went dark for a while. Just dark and blessedly empty of pain, memories, anger, and despair. Part of him hoped not to come back.
He awoke hours later. Light streamed through tall trees, casting shadows around the little spot where they all rested. Mid-day, he thought and stayed still, trying to fight back all the emotions that battered at his aching head. He didn't want to remember. His breath caught in a little gasp as he moved his arm --
"Awake this time?" Druce asked softly, sitting beside him. The others might be sleeping, or at least resting somewhat.
"Yes," Connor whispered. He forced himself to sit up and ran a hand through his hair, trying to push it out of his eyes. "How far are we?"
"Not far enough," Druce replied, looking out into the woods. "But then I don't think we could ever get far enough."
Connor understood the feeling. His arm ached -- he concentrated on that rather than thinking about what they'd left behind -- the horror he had ignored, along with the loss and the betrayal.
The others began to sit up a few minutes later, all of them too worried to stay here much longer. They knew of a pond nearby and had not stayed there because they all feared it was too easy for someone to use magic to look at such a place. The water tasted cool and helped to ease his headache. No one said much, though. He could see the worry in their eyes that verged on panic.
"Can we keep going into the woods?" he asked at last.
"I can't think of anywhere else we can go," Druce admitted with a quick glance around them. "We have some cover here, at least, both physical from the trees and magical as well. He won't be able to track us once we're well into the woods. We've rested as much as we dare."
No one argued.
"We don't dare use any magic," Antisha added. She stared to the south, as though she saw some path through the dense trees. "Even when the rest of the magical beings are around us, we don't dare. And there's a problem. Not all of them are friendly and safe for the fae."
"Good point," Druce said. "We'll have to deal with that when it happens."
No one argued though Connor thought that might be more from shock than agreement. At least Druce and Antisha were thinking clearly. They started out with the others falling in around them and heading in the direction where Antisha had been staring. Neither said anything, so Connor assumed they had already discussed the situation and knew where they were going.
He didn't ask. He didn't care.
They hadn't gone far before Erlis, keeping close to him, shook his head and said. "It's a long way, you know. So many dangers -- and who knows what we'll find?"
"Where are we going?" Connor asked.
"We're going to the Royal Court."
Connor nodded. He wasn't sure it was the best place to go -- so far away they could take months traveling to get there. He feared they didn't have that much time.
Every sound startled the others, and more so for Connor who had never been this far from Northgate Keep in his life. He'd traveled very little into the woods with Lord Northgate when he was younger. Unfortunately, there had been trouble.
"I may be a problem," he said aloud.
Druce looked at him with a frown, but it was Antisha who shook her head. "You came and pulled me out of the wall. If you hadn't, I couldn't have used my magic to help the others."
"Lord Northgate stopped bringing me anywhere near the woods because some of the creatures were interested in me, a human, in a place were my kind never should have gone."
"Doesn't matter," Druce said. "You are with us. And quite honestly, we're most likely all a problem. We don't know, for instance, if Galen and that slinky son of his have allies here."
"I'd find that hard to believe," Antisha replied and never slowed. "The woodland beings aren't apt to take sides. They may not be allied with Galen, but they'll be no help for us, either."
"What does Galen want?" Connor asked.
Antisha dropped back to walk beside him, on the side opposite of Erlis.
"I can guess at what Galen is doing, but I can't say for certain. If I knew he was allied with other Gate Lords, it might be clearer."