Author’s Ramblings: Well, I’m glad to get this piece up early today. (Early for me anyway) as there are more weather reports of snow/sleet and other icky weather which will give me a headache later. I’d prefer to skip the headache, so I’m early this week. I had a ton of fun tweaking this piece, because the next installment will be bringing a bit of a time crunch. Eira has a new fear and we learn exactly how ‘tempered’ the DP is. Enjoy-and happy weekend!
RECAP: Eira is finally up and on her feet after the Rock Titan’s Attack that nearly killed her. Her therapy is moving things along a lot faster than she expected, thanks to the Dark Phoenix. She has walked a few short distances and is able to speak on her own, efforts that have taken a great deal of energy. Her healing energies have also been reworked. While resting and waiting for lunch, Eira watches the Dark Phoneix complete a physical version of the game they’d played in her head.
Time continued to pass by in the leisurely motions of reality, while Eira eventually shifted around, folded the blanket and sat cross-legged, watching the carving process with one hand propping her head up. Her eyes followed the silvery blade with the smooth, precise cuts and a faint shudder passed through her.
The Dark Phoenix gave no notice of her reaction as he continued in his project, the game piece beginning to resemble the others in the pile beside him. A cloth bag was near her feet and she picked it up, toying with the strings before slowly dropping the pits one at a time inside the pouch. A yawn slipped through her careful lips, eyelids halfway closed when he moved.
“Up.” He announced, finishing off the final fruit pit and handing over the knife. “If you are falling asleep on me, I do believe it is time for breakfast. Hmmm-”
“Really? Finally? I thought we’d almost made it to lunchtime.” Eira stifled the yawn as another one welled up within. “What?”
Eira looked from the shiny blade in his hand to her own sticky fingers and dared to question. “It’s mine?” She asked again, even though he’d answered her before.
“Are you sure?”
“I gave it to you, I would expect that I could visually identify it.”
“It is yours…I am sure of it…and did you not ask me a moment ago if it was yours?”
“Do I need it?”
“That is not a question up for debate.”
“Then I do?”
The eyebrows went up. “Do you not know how to use it?”
“I-I wouldn’t say I don’t know how to not use it-”
“Do you know how to use it?”
“That’s actually a complicated-”
“Yes or no.”
“No.” He frowned. “That is not a correct answer, but I will take your maybe as a no.”
“Maybe is more yes than no.”
“Not in my reference.”
“Whenever you take it upon yourself to use such a confusing answer in the future, I would advise you to remember in my personal opinion, maybe means more no than yes, wherefore I shall take your answer in the negative rather than the affirmative.”
“We are going to do this the hard way, are we not?”
“I don’t know.”
“You do not know what?”
“We shall start from the beginning.” He shook his head, a touch of annoyance showing in the deliberate movements as he turned to face her. “Have you ever owned a knife, apprentice?”
There was a cautious shrug offered.
“Speak, Eira.” The eyebrows calmly knitted themselves together. “When you now have the opportunity and ability to speak, you chose nonverbal communication.” There was a snort. “You do not fail to amaze me. I repeat the question this one time, have you ever owned a knife, there is no complicated answer for this.”
“Sort of.” She quickly held up two hands as the eyebrows knitted together in disapproval, as he began to rise. “Please…I can explain.”
“And I would hear your explanation because…?”
“Logical?” He resumed his seat beside the tree. “Amuse me, then. I am most interested in this…logic of yours.”
“I sorta kinda had a knife…a while ago, but it like, kind of wasn’t really…like, mine? So um, we got our own. And I had to share it, but it was part mine and I couldn’t really touch it because they said I wasn’t old enough, but I sorta kinda was and because I couldn’t touch it, I didn’t really have much of a-”
“Eira.” The warning in his tone was plain.
“Please! I’m almost done!” Her hands twisted together.
“-and I finally got my own when there was this huge argument because I missed one of them and when I did, they gave me one for me and I had it and I kept it in my room, but it was too sharp, so I never touched it, except when I had to.” She let out a breath. “That’s it.”
“That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.” He said, dryly.
“No buts…yes or no answers. You had a knife, yes?”
“You lost a knife?”
“Sort of…I mean, maybe…er, yes.”
“You were given a replacement knife?”
“Yes. No…it wasn’t a replacement.”
“You were given…another knife?”
“and there was an accident?”
The twisting hands slowed. “I wouldn’t exactly call it an accident, but-”
“Yes or no?”
“I don’t know?”
“Maybe is no.” He reminded her. “You no longer have your own knife, yes?”
“Excepting the one I gave you?”
“If you’re holding it, then that’s a no, because then you would have it and I wouldn’t and-”
“And I think I have received your headache. You would only take now to bring this up. I suppose you were out of sorts when I gifted it to you the first time.” He rubbed his forehead for a moment and when he spoke again, he did not look at her. “Eira…are you afraid of knives?”
A nervous laugh leapt out. “I wouldn’t exactly-”
The head snapped around to look at her, piercing gray eyes fixing deliberately on hers. “Are you?”
She blinked at the accusation and the weight behind it, swallowing as her shoulders hunched forward and her head tilted backwards. “I-”
“solemnly swear to tell the entire truth with no falsehoods within this realm and without, under the pain of d-”
“I didn’t lie!”
“Catch, then.” His wrist curved and snapped.
Eira shrank from the flicker of silver as the blade lashed towards her and she twisted away from it with a yelp. “What did you do that for!”
“Breathe.” He advised, freezing the blade a mere inch away from her arm and reaching over to pluck it out of the air. “I will rephrase…why are you afraid of knives?”
“Knives kill people.” Eira squeezed her eyes shut as if willing everything to go away. “I don’t want one.”
“And killing would involve dying, which would return to your fear of death.” He puzzled through the short phrase. “Is that it?” The frown deepened. “You are not going to die, Eira. Especially while you are in my company, I feel obligated to mention that the moment your association became permanent rather than temporary, the chances of you dying decreased exponentially.”
“I’m sure you just said something really important, but I got stuck on the dying part. I hardly know you!”
“And whose fault is that? I claim my half of responsibility, because I do not see any reason to focus myself, which, may lead to moments like this. However, I do give your leave to ask me whatever you like, within reason.”
“Ha. Within reason? That’s cute.”
“Within reason means to puzzle the question first before you ask.”
“It means every time you are going to say ‘what’ consider whether you truly wish my answer.”
“You are also changing the subject…I regress. Eira, you do not have a choice in this knife. I expect you to have it on your person at all times. Should I offer you another in the future, or is the option available based on your skill, then the choice of a second would be entirely up to you.”
“I don’t want it!”
“That choice is not yours.” He said, quietly. “I do not expect you to like or dislike it, merely to accept it. Here.”
“Acceptation is a form of liking!” Eira shot back. “And I don’t want it-!” She scooted backwards, away from the proffered weapon.
He held up a hand, silencing her, as a new expression registered on his face. A flicker of pain reflected in his eyes for the briefest of moments and finally, he spoke. “Who or what scared you with a knife?” The question was blunt and point-blank, the eyes accusing, refusing to allow her any leeway on the answer.
Disappointment showed clearly on the face just opposite of her. “I can only help you if you want me to.”
“I don’t want your help!”
“But you want me to train you.”
“Yeah, train…like help….not…this!”
“And what is this?”
“This is torture!”
His words were careful, the eyes softening, searching. “And yet this is necessary. I am sorry you feel this way, but you cannot continue on like this. You have a fear of death, not of sharp objects, but of knives. You are partial to your hair and your boots. You have nothing to say of your family, no respect in terms of formality, your own healings almost kill you, and your energies are a wretched mess. You were almost killed by a rock titan and your concerns are more for breakfast, lunch and dinner rather than whether your body can handle a meal after such a traumatic experience-”
“I am not finished, there is a great deal I need to say to you, whether you would like to hear it or not. We have quite a journey ahead of us and I think it would be best to clear this up first. What I have mentioned are only the things that have barely begun to come to the surface, not to mention-”
“Of unexplained circumstances that need to be-”
“Stop! Go away!” The first of the angry tears spilled over. “Stop talking!”
The eyes patiently held her gaze, even as the expression shifted and hardened, betraying the seriousness beneath. “I will not…and I cannot.” The head tilted to the left. “To either of those requests. We need to talk and I cannot keep this-”
“Then leave me alone!” In the time it took her to say those words, Eira was on her feet and running blindly. There was no thought to how or where she would run, or how long her body would cooperate with her desperation. She could not cope with this reality. There was too much at stake, too much of her past, tied with her future and too much emotion to handle.
The clearing was slightly larger than the others she remembered. The greenery seemed to waver beside her as she aimed for the two thick, rounded bushes that usually kept the entrance. She could not stand to be in the same place with him a moment longer.
Which was why she heard his warning too late.
The fear in his voice was real and the urgency in his words spurred a sudden rush of adrenaline, as her mind processed only the immediate need to get away.
The pain exploded once more as she threw herself into an invisible wall, fingers grasping feebly at the thin green leaves of the two bushes. Full body contact translated into excruciating reality as the energy the protective wall was fashioned from, sucked her in and spit her back out, effectively wreaking havoc with the strands of life-energy interwoven with her powers.
Within seconds, she lay on the ground, writhing in agony as his steps on the ground, added to her misery. They carried the sound of impending doom and the realization that she could not run from them. Black energy was still spiraling over her in waves of crackling, snapping bands. She could not move, could not think and did not want to survive this one. It was an all too familiar occurrence happening yet again.
Death was no longer becoming a fear, but a welcome reality.
The approach of his footsteps were calm, unhurried and very much deliberate, changing in tone and pace from the first moment of her collision to where she lay on the ground. There was no time to determine whether the change was good or not, because he soon stood above her head, his shadow gracing one half of her face, before he knelt beside her and touched the middle finger of his right hand to the center of her forehead.
Pain was blissfully suspended and the blur of motion and time, slowed to a crawl, allowing her thought processes to register with painful accuracy.
“That was very childish.” He began, the finger keeping a firm, steady pressure on the point between her eyes. “And very foolish of you. I sincerely hope you have learned your lesson of staying put when I am talking to you. Do not ever attempt to force your way through one of my protective barriers again. I did not thread this one for your energies, because you have been asleep in a healing trance for over half of a month—almost three weeks. If you had listened to me this would not have happened. In the future, when I say ‘stop’ I do expect you to freeze in place. I will never use my energy to physically restrain you, because I believe in free will and freedom of choice. However, generally when I say something, I usually have a fairly decent reason for making such a suggestion.” The finger was removed and the pain began to return. “I cannot add to the healings you have previously endured without undoing some of them to make amends for this, you will simply have to deal with it.”
Eira closed her eyes. She’d heard most of what he’d said and did not want to remember any of it. But the prickles of pain rippling through her arms and legs were nothing compared to the throbbing ache in her head and stomach. “Am I in trouble?”
There was a pause. “In light of this…occurrence, I consider your present condition punishment enough and therefore will not add to your misfortune.”
“You’re mad at me?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re using big words…not simple ones. I-I didn’t mean to run…I wasn’t going t-to run…far.” A wave of dizziness washed over her. Misery was descending in its full capacity and nothing was making much sense any more. “You are mad at me. I didn’t…I can’t…it hurts.” One hand painfully reached up towards her head, only to be stopped by one of his own.
“Don’t. The moving makes it worse. You should know this by now.”
“Yes, I would expect it to.”
“Can’t you make it stop? Please?”
The tears continued their course, accenting her plea. “Why? Please?”
“It would interfere with your energies, particularly since our compatibility is not where it should be. My energies are still far too dark to be mixed with yours and as I have just reworked your healing process, you will not be able to use it for at least a few more hours.”
“This pain is tolerable, Eira, you will be fine. In fact, You can stay right here. There is no need to move.” He motioned to something she couldn’t see, but felt a moment later when a blanket settled over her sprawled form. He settled beside her again, choosing a nearby tree for the required backrest only a few feet away. “Comfortable?”
“You will be fine.”
He ignored the exclamation. “I am going to have to finalize a routine.”
“What?” She croaked.
“A routine.” He sighed. “I will grant your insecurity to a lack of structure, namely a fixed routine. I shall work on that first thing tomorrow.”
“I am in trouble.” She said, mournfully.
“No.” He drew the troublesome knife from one sleeve, suspending it between two fingers. “If you were, I assure you there would be no doubt as to whether you are. However, the next time I ask you a question, I do expect a truthful answer. If you do not wish to discuss it, simply say so.” He shook his head, slightly. “You worry me, apprentice. I understand there are countless implications and emotional distress tied to the answers of some of these, but I do expect you to understand my own position and reasons for asking them.”
“I don’t need a knife.”
“No, I don’t….please?”
“If you’d had it with you just now, this would not be hurting one hundredth as much.”
“The knife is tempered, Eira. It allows you to cut free from my energy, which is why it was so distressing to learn you had misplaced it. If it had been upon your person, the composition would have either allowed you to break through the barrier, or forcefully repelled you from it. Either way, it would not have cause such a headache.”
“I didn’t misplace it that…jerk that tried to kill me, stole it!” She scowled, the effort of talking was only adding to the mountain of pain steadily multiplying within. “And I did not give you a headache!”
“But he could not have taken it from you, if you had not given him the opportunity. It is as much your fault as it is his…and you did give me your headache, where exactly do you think it goes when I take it from you?”
She blinked. That had not been an answer she had expected. “Um…how about lunch?”
“You are not.”
“At this precise moment, it is your energies playing with your head, causing you to think you are hungry, because your natural instinct is a self-healing. To do so, it would require excess energy, of which you have none, so your body—or rather—your mind, is telling you to eat. You cannot eat anything right now and you do not need to.”
The petulant expression completely distorted her earlier grimace. “Why? I was hungry before this! You were gonna make lunch!”
“Why is because it will convert directly to energy and it will do more damage than good at this moment. No lunch. You are not actually hungry, anyway. Think about it, think really hard about it…you only thought you were hungry when you woke. I was humoring you.”
Eira did. “What about dinner?”
There was a strangled sound from the corner by the tree. She twisted to see what it was, but only saw the Dark Phoenix with his head buried in his hands. “Uh, hello?”
“Something is wrong.” He muttered, the head raised faintly, tired eyes finally conveying the last threads of his patience. “Every time I think I have finally reached a new level of patience, you speak. And then I am reminded of exactly how little self-control I have.” He sighed. “Somewhere…someone is laughing.”
“Every what thing?”
“Go to sleep.”
© Sara Harricharan