This week’s Friday Fiction is hosted by the lovely KJ (Karlene Jacobsen) @ her blog, Homespun Expressions. Click here to read and share more great fiction!
Author’s Ramblings: I’m graduating tomorrow! ^_^ This installment reflects my random-busyness, dashing around trying to get last minute things together. I’ve worked on it throughout the day and did not have a chance for edits, however, instead of skipping it, I cannot bear to leave the story hanging–so I’ve taken the first step in thrusting our bold heroes into the twisted world of Pietrasaan. ^_^ Kind of sped up a few things to move the story along, so apologies if everything does not quite mesh together as nicely as I’d planned–I’ll do my best to smooth it out next week. Also–thank you to everyone who voted in the poll! Voting is still open until the 14th, so far, the leading votes point to a new series altogether or “surprise me”. I’ve also noticed a few votes for a continuation for Raising Rachel, I did have an epilogue written out–perhaps I’ll post it sometime this month for the Rachel fans. Anyway, I’ve still a thousand and three things left to do before tomorrow begins, so happy weekend and enjoy the read! I love all the feedback and truly appreciate everyone taking the time to read my scribbles. Oh–and I haven’t given Rory an actual classification yet–so if you’d like to venture a guess/name for him, I’m open to suggestion. ^_^ Cheers!
RECAP: Last week, after recovering from her scare in the clearing, Eira witnessed the Dark Phoenix carving a truth mark into his left bicep. Unnerved by the action, she does not have time to question his motives as they swiftly approach Pietrasaan–home of the Rogue Queen of the Rangana.
“How long does it take go away?”
“How long is awhile?”
“Are we going to eat yet?”
“Are you really hungry?”
“Did it tell you that?”
“Then how can you say that-”
“Your energies are spiking…a few points along your spine, a couple near your wrists…that usually means you’re not hungry.”
“You are not physically hungry. Your mind is preoccupied and your body is responding to your energies by attempting to keep your good humors at an acceptable level.”
“That made absolutely no sense, can’t you speak in plain basic?”
“When you are hungry, really hungry—your energies are smooth all over. I do not view you in the literal sense when you ask questions like these, instead I follow you out of the corner of my eye. You are a red-blue blob of energy. Sometimes you are smooth and rounded, other times there are spikes…rough edges, chips, cracks and they are visible. When you’re…spiking, so to speak, it is generally acceptable practice to refrain from-”
“You’re doing it again…basic, plain basic…”
“It is best to leave you alone.”
“What if I’m hungry now?”
“Good. Then there is no need to speculate.”
“What about Deene?”
“What about him?”
“You put the house in a necklace thingy…or something…how’s he gonna check it?”
The Dark Phoenix paused for a moment, there was a flicker of dark energy, rippling up from the soles of his boots to the tips of his hair. “It is not there anymore.” He said, calmly. “and Deene knows what needs to be done.”
“Why do you need my file?”
“Is there something wrong with it?”
He chuckled. “Standard procedure, apprentice. Usually, if I were to accept you—even as a student, I would not even begin to consider you, unless I had seen your file.”
“You didn’t see it.” Her brow furrowed. “And you took me on…?” She licked her lips. “Am I-”
“You are official. I will see to the legalities in Pietrasaan and it will be finalized in the next official city.”
“Why not at Pietrasaan?”
There was a faint snap and crackle at the corner of his ear and the Dark Phoenix leaned to the side with a look of annoyance. Eira flinched away from the bright flash and then waited as he stopped. She didn’t interrupt, but watched fascinated as he drew a box in the air and Deene’s face appeared inside.
She struggled to keep the smile off her face at the sight of the flickering image. It was immensely amusing to see the frustrated expression punctuated by the jumping, twisting image attempting to represent the speaker. She could heard him speak, in mumbles more than words, at which the Dark Phoenix frowned. “Eira, what name is your file under?”
“Hmmm?” Eira reluctantly shifted her attention from the happy holographic image to the serious face beside it.
“It should be Eira…something. I don’t know.”
“You do not know?”
“Have you seen it?”
Eira shrugged. “Usually, you can type in Eira and it pops up.”
“Ah…Deene?” There was another exchange between them and then the picture box evaporated.
A giggle escaped and Eira choked back the humorous remains. “Sorry.” She managed, beneath the weight of his disapproving frown.
“Eira, what is your full name?”
“What?” All traces of hilarity left her, the face staring back bearing an expression of complete horror.
“Your full name.” He repeated. “Deene cannot find you in the League system database…you mentioned you were in the basic training program…your file should be readily accessible.”
Eira shrugged. “Maybe he spelled it wrong. It’s Eira with an E.”
“And the last name…?”
“I’m the only Eira in there.”
“and you know this…?”
“I just do.”
“Food?” Eira tried.
“We will eat when we reach Pietrasaan, it is not that far away.”
“How do you know? I can’t see anything from here and I don’t hear anything.”
“What? What’d I do?”
“Usually most do not take the noise into consideration unless prompted.”
Eira rolled her eyes. “That’s the first thing you should look for. Sound…if you can hear them…then smell, some places are…distinct.”
“You categorize them that way, then?” A note of interest registered.
“I guess. I don’t know…it just…stands out-ow!” Eira walked into the outstretched hand keeping her at arms’ length. “What?” Her voice lowered automatically, her fingers twitching.
“Something…isn’t…is not…right.” His hand dropped. “Stay. Don’t move.” He started forward and turned enough to look over his shoulder. “Stay.” The command was repeated as he darted into the bushes to the left.
“Just stay?” “ Eira watched him, hands on her hips. “No hiding? No running? Just stay?” She crossed her arms, rocking forward on her toes, then back on her heels. A yawn bubbled up and she swallowed it, waiting.
The few minutes seemed very long in comparison with the directions of doing absolutely nothing. Eira finally resorted to turning tiny circles around in the path, attempting to keep a careful watch on her surroundings, without actually moving from her original square.
She could not feel anything and could not hear much apart from the usual sort of jungle-silence. One hand moved, subconsciously towards the knife tucked in her belt, she traced the hilt, absently. The design was unfamiliar and it drew her attention for a moment.
“Not from the Goldbard Armory.” She mumbled, tracing the strange bird-like shape. “Don’t know what armory…” A sudden rustle of the bushed caused her head to snap up, expectant. “Master Phoenix?”
“Over here.” He spoke from behind her.
Eira turned in time to see the golden strand flying through the air. Her mouth opened to speak as the item registered with the Dark Phoenix. His eyes flew open the spark of dark energy that lashed out, pushed her out of the way. The second cord landed where she’d stood moments before and he lay sprawled out on the ground, the cord wrapped around his neck.
Scrambling to her feet from the dusty corner where she’d been flung, Eira sucked in the shriek brimming behind her lips. His limp body was quickly turning a pale, darkened shade of blue.
“This is bad.” She jerked around, careful to keep a tree to her back, searching the bushes for the attacker.
She felt it, before she actually saw it, and heard when it stepped into the clearing, her stomach growled in response to the hiss. “Rory?”
The lower half appeared first, somewhat feline body padding softly over the grassy carpet, curving between the trees, before a bare torso was visible, two arms holding the bushes back, for the very human head to peer around the corner. He smiled, a row of perfectly even, pointed teeth. “Eira…what a pleasant surprise. Imagine running into you here.”
“I’m not running…and neither are you.” She shook her head. “Stop that. I mean…running, no one’s running, it’s not a good metaphor for…”
“Just as lovely and still so easily confused.” His voice was a purr as he moved closer, circling her, the feline form adding elegance to his height as the tawny tail twitched in anticipation.
“Lovely?” Eira scoffed. She could not help it. “Lovely? What is wrong with all of you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You! Them…the others…” She shrugged, helplessly. “You’re all going on about the lovely, the pretty, the…the…I’m not that!” She gestured towards herself and stopped. “you’re playing with my head…stop!”
“I would if I could, but you are most-”
“Don’t! I know what I am and I know what I’m not…and I’m not…what you think I am.”
“Are you?” He sighed, drawing one hand from behind him with a short, tempered blade. “You have not changed at all.”
“Funny…I thought I did.” Her eyes narrowed as her hand reached again for the blade at her waist. Her fingers groped in empty air, but she didn’t dare look to confirm what her head was telling her.
“Missing something?” He twirled the specimen on the tip of one finger. “It’s got a good weight…though I must say, it doesn’t suit you at all.”
“How would you know? You haven’t seen me since I was twelve!” Eira shifted her weight forward, settling into a defensive stance, mentally gathering her energies to herself. “Were you just bored? Or did he offer you more than the usual this time around.”
“I cannot be bought.” He smirked. “And you are still the same child now, that you were then…still playing games and breaking the wrong rules.” He tossed the knife from one hand to the other. “I’m surprised at you…I thought you hated knives and yet, you wear one.” He turned it over in his hands. “A very nice one at that…I think it will be payment enough…granted you are through with the rest of your little game. I don’t quite feel like playing much further.”
“Because you’re going to lose?”
“How brave.” He mocked. “So charming.”
“You forgot adorable.” Eira reached out to the knife with the faintest tendrils of energy. It was hers, a marked object, something she could call to her if needed.
His grip tightened on the hilt. “Ah-ah…you don’t really think I’m just going to hand it to you.”
“You could…it’d be easier for both of us.”
“Ah, but then it wouldn’t be much fun if I took it right back.”
“What makes you think I’ll let you take it back?”
“First is the fool.” The smile twisted into a grimace. “However, I do not quite have the penchant for carrying conversation…mixing pleasure with work and all of that, so if you would kindly be quiet and save both ourselves the trouble, this will be over before you know it.”
“It’s over before it’s even gonna start.” Eira backed away a few more steps, angling towards her fallen master. “What did you do to him? You’d better hope he’s okay.”
“Threatening words from a mere-”
“If you start the name-calling, I’m gonna-”
“Going to what?”
“Stay!” Eira held out her hands, tracking backwards until her foot touched the Dark Phoenix’s body. Belatedly, she remembered his warning of direct contact and skittered a half-step forward.
“Stay?” Rory twirled the knife again. “I can stay, but you know it only takes one-”
“One shot and I have it.” Eira tossed her head, stretching out her hands again, she touched the thumb and forefingers together, forming a rectangle.
“Taking my picture?” Rory tilted his head to the side. “Or trying one of your pathetic tricks for-”
“Be quiet!” Eira snapped. “I’m supposed to focus and concentrate to do this.”
“Ah, of course. I shall gladly-”
“What part of quiet you don’t get?” Eira shuffled a few steps to the right, squinting through the rectangle.
“You aren’t being much quieter yourself…how do you focus? Listening to all the-”
“Water box?” Eira mumbled to herself.
Rory padded a few steps closer. “Wrong words, try again.” The knife flipped from one hand to the next.
Her eyes narrowed. “Sand box!” Four pillars of golden energy shot up from the ground, forming a somewhat skewed box around the surprised creature. Crackles of energy fizzled to life, completing the box, forming a secure pen around Rory. He lunged forward, only to be thrown back against the other side.
A snarl and hiss slithered from his lips. “You foolish-!”
“I think I’m allowed.” Eira dusted her hands off, moving forward to study her captive. “It isn’t the talking that gives you away…it’s thinking that I want to go back.” She reached through the pen and grabbed towards the knife.
Rory jerked it out of reach, his clawed hand grasping empty air where she’d been a moment ago. In the moment he took to twist around, a spark of red energy slashed across his hindquarters.
By the time that registered, Eira stood a few feet away, tucking her knife back into her belt. She didn’t meet his furious glare, but instead turned her attentions to her master. “Next time—don’t touch my knife.” She growled, but the attitude didn’t quite reach the rest of her, a tremble crept in on the last word as she crouched beside the unmoving figure. “Master Phoenix? Please, it’s Eira…can you hear me? I don’t know what to do-”
“Try lopping his head off—that might be useful.” Rory paced the few short half-steps of the cage, then circled around with another snarl. “You can’t keep me in here.”
“I-I won’t have to.” Eira choked the words out, taking in the darkened, purple-blue skin stretched taut over the Dark Phoenix’s face. “He’s okay. He has to be.” She turned to face the pacing creature. “Undo whatever it is you did to him!”
“Make me.” Rory scoffed. “You’re just a little-”
“Insults will get you nowhere.” Eira drew herself up to her full height, enough that she didn’t have to tilt her head back to see Rory’s smirk. “Tell me how to wake him up or I will set you on fire.” One hand curled into a fist. “And so help me if I forget to put you out.”
“A fire?” That’s the best you can do? I’m flattered…I’ve seen your flames…they’re very…special.”
“Yeah. I know.” Eira rubbed her hands together and then held them out. She spit into the palm of each one, then pressed them together and blew lightly inside. As she spread the fingers apart, a faint pinkish flame grew, sprouting to an oblong flame as she continued to stretch it between her hands.
Rory flinched as she raised it up, moving forward so it was directly at eyelevel.
“Speak.” She clicked her tongue against her teeth. “Now! Or I will set you on fire and watch you burn like a-”
“You can’t help him.” Rory leaned away from the fiery handful. “And you would never be able to set me on fire.” He blew at the flames. “You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself.” The smirk resurfaced. “I know you.”
“Not half as well as you’d like to think.” Eira retreated, the flames fading to a few tentative sparks in her hands as she moved to stand beside her master again. The golden strand was now identified as a bola and Eira was careful to step over it. A moment of confusion registered when she realize that there wasn’t anything around her master’s neck…or anything around him.
“You’re blue.” She muttered. “And you were hit by…nothing?”
The energy of the sand box crackled loudly and the shadow appeared over her shoulder. “You had the chance kid, you should’ve taken it.”
Rory’s hands clamped down on her shoulders, the same instant Eira squished the fireball in her hand. She felt the flames burn through hands as they rushed to envelop her body. She heard Rory screech and felt his grip loosen, falling away as she whirled on him. Her flames sparked off, a few stray bits of brightness falling over the body at her feet. “You idiot.” She searched for a suitable insult, settling for a rush of angry energy instead, to swell her fiery figure to nearly twice his height. “The fire wasn’t for you…it was for me!”
She threw herself forward, aiming low and tackling him to the ground.
His howls, growls and hisses were muffled between the sounds of kicking, grunting and crackling flame.
“Eira!” The Dark Phoenix’s voice cut through the angry haze. “Stop! Do not-” The sentence was unfinished as one arm looped through around her neck, hauling her away.
“No, no, no!” Eira struggled against the arm, the adrenaline fading as the choke hold released, depositing her on the ground, out of reach of Rory.
“And you…do not move if you wish to live.” The white-tipped black stick was spun out of nothing, gleaming wickedly in the hand of the darkened figure now commanding it. “I do not take lightly to those who toy with my consciousness.” The pale-blue-purple had faded away to the creamy peach skin tone he usually sported, now with a pale pink flush at his cheeks. “There are three people within this realm who know how to do that.”
He pointed towards the golden bola on the ground. There was a loud slurp as a handful of black goop seeped up from the ground, swallowing the item in question. “For your sake, you had better hope they are all alive and properly functioning of their own accord.” There was a strangled sound in his throat. “I am tempted.” His voice was stiff. “Extremely tempted, however, I will refrain from a momentary lapse in…procedure, for the sake of my apprentice.” The black stick gleamed. “Beware…that I need no excuse.” The stick flashed through the air, touching lightly on several point.
Rory howled as he hung, suspended in mid-air, while the stick graced every major joint with a light thwap.
“I’m sure you understand this.” The Dark Phoenix said, conversationally. “And you’ll forgive me if I feel particularly inclined to…exercise the full potential.” He snapped his fingers. Chained golden cuffs appeared, one around each of Rory’s four feet and two on his wrists, conveniently connected to the four legs beneath him. “It takes a few minutes to get used to.” The Dark Phoenix smiled, pleasantly, turning his attention to the apprentice gathering herself up at the edge of the pathway. “Eira?”
Her head snapped up at once. “I’m sorry!” She blurted out. “Really, really sorry. I didn’t mean to use my powers, I didn’t set you on fire on purpose and I really wasn’t trying to-”
“Do you know him?”
There was a moment of silence.
“Of course she-” There was a yelp as Rory’s mouth snapped shut with an audible click.
“I see.” The Dark Phoenix crooked his finger, beckoning for him to follow. “We need to keep moving.”
“Wait-! He’s going with us?” Eira scrambled to stay ahead of him. “We can’t take-”
“Her royal highness appreciates new faces and it will distract her from you.”
“And we cannot let him out of our sight, since he knows you are a girl.”
“er…right.” Her head hung. “Wonderful.”
“My sentiments exactly.”
“A-are…you all right?”
“No , Eira. I’ve been knocked out, you’ve been knocked out, I’ve been set on fire, you were set on fire. Deene’s having issues on his end, I’m hours from where I want to be, with less answers than I care to start with and with a captive…never mind, how do you suppose I am doing?”
“Happy to be alive?” Eira winced.
There was a pause for a moment and then his mouth twitched. “Very good, apprentice…I feel…thrilled, to be alive.” He nudged her forward with the stick. “March.”
A slight tingle rippled through her and Eira stopped short a moment later. “I-” She clapped a hand over her mouth, the fingers exploring her face.
“That…is your disguise.” The Dark Phoenix sighed. “You will have to modulate your voice…to some degree, your singing voice is excellent, I have no doubt in your ability to-”
“Voice. Got it.” Eira flexed one arm, curling it into a fist. “Wow. This is-”
“An illusion.” There was a hint of amusement in his voice. “A very powerful illusion. Only a strong, extremely gifted seer will see through it and even so, only for a second. The last half of this will be your reaction time and there is one last adjustment…” The stick flipped around in front to stop her.
“What?” Eira leaned away from the white tip.
“This.” He held out one hand.
Eira stared at it for a moment and then shrugged, holding her hand out and matching it up with his fingers. His cold, long, very smooth fingers. A squeak escaped when his hand closed around hers and she felt the dark slice of energy inside her head. The pain registered, but her mind could not construct a suitable reply, leaving instead a quiet moan when his hand fell from hers. She leaned forward, bracing on her knees, trying to breathe slowly. “What was that?”
That would have been this.
Her stomach heaved as her mind connected the dots to the answer in her head and the fact that his mouth was not moving.
Oh no. No. no no no no NO! Get out of my head!
This is going to be a very long afternoon.
By the time Eira had adjusted to mindlink, they were within seeing distance of Pietrasaan. Her head was swimming with information on how to act, what to say, what not to say and how to keep her mouth shut.
The Dark Phoenix was no more talkative in her head than in real life, but it seemed a more preferable means of communication as the channel was kept in constant use.
It was a reality that eased the awkwardness between them only a smidgen. Eira found it was much easier to let him do the thinking for her, she could see the pathway ahead, accompanied by snippets of people she couldn’t remember.
Memories. He explained for her. So you can practice your reactions.
Where? I don’t see any…whoa.
In your head…you were doing a good job of keeping your reactions in your head.
A clear fizzle of energy streaked inward from the ground until it smacked into the bottom of two great wooden doors. There was a horn sounding from somewhere deep within as the great doors slowly creaked open.
Eira? Close your mouth.
A scowling young woman stood in the gateway, rows of golden bangles on her wrists and ankles, dressed in a bright pink gown, with a pale orange veil. She drummed her fingers across one bejeweled arm, speaking with authority.“You are not passing through this city.”
© Sara Harricharan