Thursday, April 04, 2019

Flash Fiction # 349 -- Connor of Northgate/33

Chapter Nine
By midmorning of the third day, Connor finally felt well enough to leave the cave.  He gathered a few things he could carry; some dried fruit, a jug of water and a blanket.  He'd pay them back for the loan.

Connor's arm still ached, but not with the constant pain that had threatened to make him ill and weak.  The fever had passed as well.  He felt clear-headed for the first time since the attack on Northgate.

For the first time in his life, Connor really considered that he might not have the ability to think like the fae.  He began to suspect there were aspects of magic involved that he couldn't see or feel and that they were so inherent to --

Inherent.  Inherit.

Lord Northgate had not named an heir.

Connor stopped at one of the crossroads in the little maze and considered how that affected what had happened. He'd read histories about how Lords had sometimes taken the lands of another.  He'd never heard of it done with the Gate Lords, but that didn't mean it couldn't happen.  Was there anything that would stop someone?

The Gate Stones?

The stone in the High Tower held a special power connected to the keep.  When a Lord named an heir, that person must feel the pull of the stone, though not so strong as the Lord did.  The power passed when the Lord of the Keep died, or when he was removed from power by the High Court.  Smaller pieces of the Keep stones were kept at the High Court, and if the Lord died without an heir -- or the heir died at the same times, as had happened in battle -- then the new person was named at court. The piece of stone held untapped energy that returned to it when no one else took up the power.

Were Galin and Ordin following them, or were they already heading for the Royal Court to claim the keep?  Was Lord Northgate already dead?

The thought angered and chilled him.

Connor knew nothing of the Royal court.  Would they accept Ordin and Galen?  Would they be able to convince the Royal Court that one of them should be Lord of Northgate?

Connor suddenly realized he didn't know how fae thought.  He could live among them, and he felt he understood much of what they did -- but at this crucial break, he couldn't say if the Royal Court would give over the keep to Ordin and Galen since they had won the battle.

Could it be that simple?

Connor didn't want to think so.  He also had to believe Lord Northgate still lived.

By the time Connor reached the village, he could tell something had gone wrong.  He couldn't hear a single sound, as he waited at the edge of the maze, crouched over and staring out at the corner of the buildings.  Nothing moved, and he could see signs of trouble even from here.

Connor carefully removed the stand of grass and as carefully put it back into place.  Then he crept into the village and looked around.  There was no one around and no sign of bodies -- but then there wouldn't be.  When fae died, the magic that held them together dissipated, and took the thin shell with it.
He could see they had put up a fight against the enemy, including the centaurs which had apparently trampled through, their hoof marks plain in the mud.

This would have happened with or without Connor being here.  The others would have come this way anyway, so it was stupid for him to feel any guilt.  Still, he thought about Liam's sister and wished he had at least asked her name.  He thought about Liam, too.  Lord Northgate.
This was fae business, he thought suddenly.  This was the fae world and their troubles, and there was nothing a human could do to help.

Especially if he crawled away and didn't try.

Connor found a few more bits of food and packed them away in the blanket he used as a sling.  He still had no idea how far he had to go or what trouble he might find.  Connor knew that some of the fae creatures considered it stealing to take so much as a berry from their bushes.  He'd counted on the others knowing what was safe and what wasn't until now.  He'd have to be very careful after this.

Connor had no trouble finding the path that the others had taken away from the village.  In fact, they had knocked down grass and made a new trail heading almost due south.  He found the tracks of fae with the centaurs; enough of them that he thought they must be a good part of the villagers.

Connor followed after them through the silent grasslands where everything had seemed to disappear.  He didn't hear a single bird and nothing rustled through the brush.  All the creatures of the area had been spooked.

The villagers hadn't given him away.  Some had seen Liam's sister take Connor to someplace safe.

He didn't understand what was going on and that left him feeling uneasy.  This wasn't his place.  He'd spent very little time away from the Keep, but at least he knew some of the basics of survival.  He even knew what creatures to watch out for, and kept an eye open for any griffins sailing almost silently through the sky.  However, he saw nothing at all.

Connor was better for the days of rest, at least. The trail was easy to see, though he walked long into the night without spotting any of those he followed.  Connor did find an area where the grass didn't grow and settled down under his blanket by the side of a boulder, hoping he would be less noticeable there.  He even slept, too exhausted to keep awake and listen for things that didn't seem to be around anyway.  Even the breeze was nearly still.

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