Thursday, August 15, 2019

Flash Fiction # 368 -- Connor of Northgate/52

Chapter Eighteen

Connor staggered as they entered the crowded royal courtyard.  The world spun around him so that for a moment he wasn't sure they had actually made to their destination.  Nothing settled and he almost went to his knees with the sudden pain.  Liam caught his arm and then shoved him aside and into the protection of his friends.

People began to shout all around them.

"There he is!  There's the traitor!"

Connor realized they were yelling about him.  He looked around in shock and dismay, the headache redoubled.  Colors still blurred and flared, but he could stand on his own feet now -- something important, so his companions didn't have to protect him.

He thought Galen yelled something and it couldn't be good.  Druce grabbed hold of the frail lord and shook him so hard that Connor would have worried about the older man's life if he could have found the empathy to care at all.  Galen had gone too far.
Liam moved to stand before Connor and lifted one hand to signal the people to silence.  Then he suddenly went to his knees as well.  People had weapons in hand --

Antisha, herself pale and shaky, suddenly shoved forward and yelled loud enough to get everyone's attention.

"What the hell is going on!  Back off, you fools, or I'll see your heads on the walls before the sun is down!"

Silence.  Now there was power.  And worry, Connor thought.  He doubted Antisha had ever made such a threat before, but even he didn't question her intentions, at least at this moment.

"Princess --" one of the men said, but he lifted a hand and held the others back.  "We heard what Connor did --"

"I don't know what you heard, but maybe you better learn the truth before you do anything that cannot be undone," she said. People shifted nervously, but they remained quiet. "This is the real heart of our trouble: Galen, our good lord of Southgate, made a mirror creature of himself.  That creature is in the building, isn't he?"

"That can't be --" the man began.  "No Gate Lord would do such a thing --"

Antisha and Druce dragged the real Galen forward and held him up.  He tried to bow his head, to make sure they didn't see him -- but it was no use.

"At least stand up like a man and face what you've done," Erlis ordered, his voice so full of disdain that even Connor flinched at the sound.

"This is Galen," the soldier said.  He seemed to be someone of rank.  The others were listening to his tale.

Connor left them to tell the tale as he and knelt beside Liam.  His friend had a bad cut across his shoulder, and Connor feared he couldn't do the magic to heal the wound.  He tugged at Nylia's pant leg, too far gone to even speak --

"Oh hell," she said and dropped to her knees.  Her magic spread over Liam, but a moment later, she looked at Connor and gave a cry of worry that drew the attention of the others.

Connor wasn't certain what had happened.  He thought everything had gotten very quiet, but maybe he had started losing his connection with here and with himself.  He wanted to close his eyes and rest.  He trusted the others would handle --

Druce quickly put a hand on his shoulder and pushed magic through Connor so fast it felt like fire bursting through his head.  He cried out.  What had been fuzzy before became sharp and loud.  He found himself gasping as though he had not breathed for some time, and if they'd had any meal of note in the last few days, he would have been violently ill.

Erlis caught hold of Connor and pulled him to his feet -- the last place he really wanted to be, but apparently, they were moving.  Maybe they would go somewhere he could rest. Possibly somewhere safe --

No, not safe.

The battle had raged up around them again, with both weapons and some magic.  Connor looked around as much as he dared because he feared he was still going to pass out.  Royal soldiers encircling his small group and protected them, so apparently whatever Antisha had said finally got through to them.  They shouted to others, and the Connor feared cacophony of sound would kill him.

Other things might kill him faster, though. Trolls had appeared, and very many of them.  He saw ogres as well and other things that climbed walls and leapt into the fray, attacking anything that came within range of their blows and weapons.

The trolls were fighting viciously to get to Connor's group, which finally must have convinced the others that they were not part of the enemy attack.  They still held Lord Galen captive, dragging him toward the castle.  He didn't want to go, and Connor wouldn't have trusted the man to work with them.  Wise of the others to keep him in hand.

They reached the door at least.  Fae were fighting against the trolls and their army, but the trolls only fought them if they were attacked.  They were still interested only in Connor's group, and he had to wonder if it was Galen they wanted now.

"Tell -- tell the fae to pull back," he said to Antisha and guard beside her.  "They only want us.  Don't get killed now!"

The guard gave him an odd, quick glance.  It touched on honor, he supposed.  Then the guard gave a quick bow of his head, an acknowledgment of Connor's status that he had not expected.  The fae sent a few soldiers out and around the mass, and almost immediately, the fae began to fall back.

"Antisha -- your parents?" he finally managed to ask.
"With the stones," she said.  "We didn't dare leap straight there with magic.  You don't look well, Connor."

"Human," Galen snarled, as though he spat the word out.  "He's not one of us.  He shouldn't be allowed to touch magic."

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