Friday, March 01, 2019
Flash Fiction # 344 -- Connor of Northgate/28
"Galen wants to rule Northgate? Can he take it? Would the Royal Court allow him --" He stopped and frowned. How close are he and his brother?"
Antisha gave a grim smile. "Not so close as they used to be. I was to keep an eye on Ordin, but we didn't expect Galen to arrive. He has made noises about being unhappy about you, though."
"Not a surprise," Connor said and rubbed at his arm. "I've heard it a bit at the Keep, too, you know."
"From whom?" Erlis asked, his voice sharp.
"It hardly matters now."
"Oh, but it might. Someone let the trolls in, you know."
He hadn't considered that part. He knew who to blame, though.
"Damn Liam for not telling us," he snarled.
"I'll reserve my judgment on Liam," Antisha said. "I've read about Seers and know no decision is without peril. Besides, he didn't save himself."
Connor said nothing. The sight of Rendon, dead at his feet, came to him again and Connor couldn't forgive anyone who might have stopped it from happening. Right now Galen, Ordin, and Liam were all the same to him.
"We can hide in the woods," Nylia said. "There's some wild food we can eat, and the power of magic here will be a shield if we don't draw attention by using magic. There are only five of us. It's not like we're trying to hide an army of fae in here."
"The others --" Connor began, then stopped and shook his head. "No, don't tell me now. I'm not in a mental state to handle the news."
"We must concentrate on Lord Northgate," Antisha said. "He was still alive and in the High Tower which meant Liam had to have warned him. Shall you blame Lord Northgate for what happened as well?"
Connor glared at her, and she said no more. He had no idea how to survive in the woods, and he didn't want to be a problem for his companions.
"The Royal Court is our only hope," Antisha said, as though she had been speaking all along. He wondered at the argument she must be having inside her head. "We have to get to my parents because this is worse than just Northgate in danger."
Connor felt a chill but said nothing as they kept moving, farther and farther into the trees.
"Tell me who said those things to you, Connor," Nylia ordered. "It might tie someone to Galen. If there are other survivors, we don't dare let someone through who might turn on us again."
Connor thought back to better days. Everything seemed hazy before the attack; as though that battle had wiped out his entire life. His head ached --
"Careful, Connor," Erlis said. "You don't look well."
"Fever," Nylia said. She shook her head. "We can't do anything to help you, Connor. We don't dare use any magic --"
"I'll be fine," he said. He'd had a fever before as a child, and even the magic had been slow to help him. "I'll survive. Let's just get away from here."
They kept to small trails where deer -- and probably more exotic creatures -- headed into the darker woods. Night came, and tiny lights glowed nearby, providing just enough illumination to show the way.
They moved on and on until even Nylia stumbled and cut her hand on a jagged thorn.
"Rest," Antisha said, her words barely a whisper and dull with fatigue.
Druce started to argue and changed his mind. They had found a small opening between trees, so close that none of them could have stretched out entirely. Connor didn't care. He sat down and leaned against a tree by Erlis, his shoulders aching as much as his legs. His eyes wanted to shut --
Movement caught his attention. The others saw too as something small and bright swept through their little area.
"Let them be," Antisha whispered. "Fairies are just curious. Go on, little ones. Let us rest."
Something buzzed around his head, and Connor almost made a swipe at it but held still. The fairy darted in front of his face, so close and fast that he only saw a trail of blue and purple. He closed his eyes and sat still.
"On your way friends. We mean you no harm," Antisha order though her voice remained soft. She had probably dealt with some of the wildland creatures, being the daughter of the king and queen. He left her to the business of the fairies and closed his eyes for a while.
Opened them later to find a crowd of fairies, maybe a hundred or more, sitting like glowing flowers on the branches of trees and bushes around them. Perhaps they worked as guards. He was still too tired to care. A shift of his shoulders brought more pain than he expected, and he held his breath, trying to fight it away. After a short while, fever and exhaustion overcame even the pain, and he drifted back into a restless sleep once again.
The nightmares came this time, both ones he expected and ones that took him by surprise. He saw the trolls; the vast, monstrous beasts that had killed his parents. He looked for the deadly needles, there in the trampled memories that surged up through his mind. None? He wondered what that meant this time.
The bones of his parents moved, became shapes that he didn't know and couldn't face.
"Connor," a voice whispered. "Connor --"
He didn't want to look and see. He tried to leave the tomb, but the doors were swinging shut.
And there, for a moment, he saw Liam's anguished face.
"Don't forget me."
He came awake with a gasp, Erlis with a hand on his shoulder and looking worried. Nylia knelt close by, some berries in her hand that she held out. Her face showed worry and fear that he had not expected to see there, not focused on him. They had other troubles.