Thursday, May 09, 2019
Flash Fiction # 354 -- Connor of Northgate/38
Except for a few nervous horses, the inner courtyard of the castle seemed quiet and almost deserted. A few soldiers moved quickly to take up spots guarding the prisoners, but they remained silent and aloof. Not surly, though. They did not look at the cages with any of the contempt that Connor had come to expect from all fae when they looked at him.
Ordin and Galan had gone inside the building. They had left Connor in the cage, as well as Liam who had finally sat up, bent over and coughing -- so miserable that one of the guards passed him a flask of water. They did not do the same with Connor.
Nevertheless, Connor felt calmer, safer and even more comfortable. That likely came just from being still and being out of the range of angry people.
The night turned even colder so that he huddle down in a ball, and he could hear sounds of trouble not far away in the city, though he couldn't be certain if it were a riot or an attack. Magic streaked through the air, but the castle had protection against such outward attacks.
Connor bowed his head and looked away from the soldiers. Although the others had left, he knew this was not the time to press his case. He had to be wise and careful.
Whatever was happening with Ordin and Galan, they took their time at it. Liam had looked his way, shook his head once, and curled up to sleep again. Connor badly wanted to talk to his companion, but the fact that Liam kept quiet meant he knew better than to speak about the problems, too.
The cold and dark night seemed too long already, as though time had slowed or stopped. The sounds of the city died away, though. Connor finally slept, dreams and nightmares braiding their way through his troubled mind.
"Do what you can," Lord Northgate said. "You are all that I had hoped you would be. Take care."
Connor woke with a start, the words still clear in his mind. He felt oddly at peace just then, despite the situation. The dawn had come, and the soldiers had moved to take him and Liam from the cages.
Neither Connor nor Liam could walk at first. Galen had come out of the castle and stood close by, a fierce glare on his face. "Don't trust either of them. They're tricky little bastards. If so many hadn't fallen for their act --"
"Yes, Lord Galen," the soldier in charge said as the soldiers hurried the two prisoners up into the building. "We have heard, but the King will not pass judgment without even the worst enemies standing before him."
"Yes, of course," Galen said, though his face flushed slightly. Was he worried? Or just angry that the King didn't take the situation at his word?
The soldiers escorted Connor and Liam up the stairs and into the castle, and they were not even unreasonably cruel. They didn't let Liam close to him, though. Connor would have liked at least a sign -- or maybe not. He couldn't really hope for any good to come of this, could he?
The interior of the castle was a surprising hive of activity, with servants looking worn and frantic. They must have been at work all night. The world had seemed almost peaceful until that moment.
The majestic walls of white stone were laced with random lines of black and stretched forward in long halls, past closed doors, and open archways. They did not stop at any of these places, but went to nearly the center of the enormous building and started up the stairwell. People cleared the way, dark looks cast their way.
The soldiers took them up to the Court of Judgment. The room was as Lord Northgate had described the place to him once -- a large, circular area with an intricate pattern on the floor and four pedestals marking the four cardinal points. Each stand was topped with a piece of the stones of power associated with the appropriate gatekeep.
The King, Queen, Galen, and Ordin stood in the middle of the room. The guards brought the two -- the only two prisoners, he saw -- and dropped them to their knees before the King.
Connor had met the man before; tall, powerful even for a fae, and rarely given to showing emotion. What Connor saw now didn't give him much hope.
"The trolls have been turned loose in the lands of the fae," the man said, his voice rich with anger. "And I am told you have killed my daughter and Lord Northgate."
Connor looked up at those words and couldn't hide the anger in his face; a stupid reaction, he supposed. It probably made him look defiant rather than enraged at the accusation.
"I did not --"
"How can you listen to this creature?" Ordin demanded. "Humans lie. He will never speak the truth and --"
The King did not let Ordin finish. "We dare not allow the power of Lord Northgate to be left untouched, not in this situation. And since Lord Northgate was murdered, it will be the job of his replacement to deal with the killer," the King said, looking at Connor.
Connor felt cold at that thought because he knew who was going to claim the position. Ordin looked smug again before he gave a bow of his head to the King and moved towards the north stone, lifting his head and putting his hands on the stone.
Connor rose from his knees to his feet and touched the seal on his chest. It disappeared in a flash of light.
"That won't do you any good," he said. "I was named the heir by Lord Northgate himself. I have the power."
"But -- but you said you had lost it! That you couldn't hold it!" Ordin shouted, his hand on his sword.