Author’s Ramblings: And this took a lot more time to finish than I expected, but mostly because I’ve been out running errands today (a typical Monday, if you would) and time has been short. I’ve been fussing around with this piece in my head most of the morning and afternoon, but couldn’t bring about the change I wanted on the timeline, so things are kind of short and choppy to keep up with the pacing, it’s actually just conversation breaks. To keep from making this entire bit a long scroll of dialogue, I’ve actually slashed it in several places, blanking it out so it isn’t overwhelming. ^_^ (Tuesday postscript! Ack, I meant to post this BEFORE I ran out this morning, but alas, I am barely keeping my multi-tasking together, so here’s last night’s post! Unfortunately, I still can’t get the images to post. >_>)
RECAP: Rory is snatched away from Eira in their hiding place, while running from the shadow creatures. As she stumbles through the rocky portion of the mountains, alone, her final transformation comes to light as she absorbs her summoning book (leaving a tattoo mark on her left wrist) and sheds all ‘caps’ on her powers, her boots and her hair. This allows her tremendous power to regenerate and she opts to search for her mission companions instead of continuing on alone. After their brief separation, Eira finds the DP in his regressed form with the physical form of a 7-year-old boy, seemingly being devoured by scaled, bird-like creatures. She rescues him and they stay in a makeshift camp, protected by her summoning medallion of safety. They decide to travel through the night to cover ground and have just transported to where Eira had previously been.
THIS IS THE FOURTH POST IN A SERIES OF EIGHT TO THE FINAL CONCLUSION OF THIS SERIES. (Older posts can be found under the tag “HFTDP”)
“Nothing to worry about?” Eira grimaced, clutching her stomach. “This feels vaguely familiar.”
“The book suits you.”
“What?” Eira coughed, spitting into the ravine. “Stupid circle.” Her head snapped up. “I didn’t mean to-”
The phoenix chuckled. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that one.” The smile was warm, an expression that seemed out of place on such a small face, tinged with a faint golden glow. “The book, did you like it?”
Eira looked at her wrist and then back at the little boy, sitting patiently on the rock, waiting for her stomach to finish the waltz. “I think so.” She grimaced. “I don’t know…ugh. So much for dinner.”
“Feel any better?”
“That doesn’t help, but thanks.” Eira made a face. “Yecch. I could use a bucket of water.”
“The elemental pull would give us away. Sorry. Here.” He fished something out of his shirt and tossed it.
Eira opened the tiny, silken drawstring bag to find a handful of round, white sparkly things. She looked from the bag to him. “What is it?”
“Er, let’s not stay here too long, yes?” He hinted, edging away from the dangerous side of the cliff and starting off at a brisk walk. “Those taste good. If you’re done doing that, can we go now?”
“They taste like mint.” Eira trotted after him, stuffing her mouth. “vewy gouf. Fank oo.”
“Glad you like them. Next time, add a stabilizer symbol to your outer circle. It’ll help with the rough travel. I see the book took you quite easily, how was it?”
“It was…nice. My mom used to have one like that.” Eira chewed thoughtfully. “But I was never allowed to even touch it, though somehow I don’t think that’s what you were asking me.”
“Then answer the right question, how was it?”
“It hurt like…and now my head’s all stuffed with…stuff, and I’m so full of energy that I don’t know what to do with it!”
“So your excess energy is newly created frustration? That’s not a very good source, you should chose a more pure-”
“Don’t add more knots to my head.” Eira held up her hand in the moonlight. “What’s so special about this book?” She squinted, trying to see the symbols that were inked there.
“Every summoner, from their day of birth, receives a summoning book like that. It’s unique to each individual. It holds all the symbols and summons that will come naturally to them and it also is an encyclopedia of sorts. All the rules, regulations and whatnot that a basic summoning student should know.” He shrugged. “Most children absorb it when they come of age. I was only saying that it suited you.”
Right. Eira rolled her eyes. And I was only saying that it looked like the one that my mother… Eira stopped. “Master Phoenix?”
“This is my mother’s book, isn’t it? The one they gave her for me?”
Took you long enough.
“So you’ve been running from God this entire time?” Eira’s brow furrowed into a knot.
The answer was so soft, Eira almost thought she’d imagined it. “But isn’t that kind of stupid?” She blushed. “I mean, not that I know much about this whole god-thing, but I’d think that you couldn’t really run from someone who-”
“It is. The heart is a foolish thing when it is selfish and belonging to no one.”
“So you were selfish?”
“No. I was everything I was trying to hammer out of you.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I shouldn’t be here, Eira.” He said, finally. “And please keep up, I know my legs are shorter in this form, but you’re lagging and we can’t afford to stop here. It’s too dangerous.”
“It’s the easiest land-set for a tracer.”
“Oh. Got it. Hurrying up now!” She willed her feet to move faster. “If you shouldn’t be here, then-”
“There has never been a neutral Dark Phoenix, much less one associated with the League.”
“Because it upsets the balance.”
“The Dark Phoenix is dark. Haven’t you given it any thought at all?”
“Sort of.” Eira yawned. “I mean, not that I lost any sleep over it, but your picture and your actual-”
“The picture was a joke.” The phoenix sighed. “And after it was done, I couldn’t convince them to discard it, however misleading.”
“No, truly, but it has served a fairly decent purpose, because I am no longer bothered by dim-witted annoyances who think it their duty to test my loyalties to the League.”
“One foot in front of the other, you’re shuffling. The usual way, either ridiculous demands like you did a moment ago-”
“I had a valid reason!”
“Or by interrupting my daily routine and constantly badgering me throughout the entire day so that I could never-”
“How did you do it?”
“It! If every other Dark Phoenix before you has been some despicable dark creature, then how come you’re all nice and good and-”
“I’m not nice, I’m far from good and I most definitely am dark. I simply spend a significant amount of my time proving it otherwise.”
“That’s why you mediate so much, isn’t it?”
“You are smarter than you look.”
“Hey! Be nice!”
“I am not nice.” But the words were said with a teasing tone. “I was merely stating the obvious.”
Eira gave chase.
Collapsing on the dusty ground, Eira stared up at the starry sky, trying to catch her breath. “That was very unfair of you, Master.” She allowed the grumble, rolling onto her side to watch him, head propped up with one hand.
“Exercising in the night air is good for you.” He smirked. “And I thought you had excess energy to burn.”
“I guess not…I’m just…” Eira yawned. “Sorry.”
“Here’s safe enough for now.” The phoenix surveyed the small path of relatively smooth rock. They’d managed to find the end of the pathway—a path that opened out onto the top of the mountainside they’d been climbing. “If anyone attacks, at least you’ll have smooth grounds for medallions and I’ll have plenty of open air.”
“You didn’t really answer my question.”
“It’s not an answer I can actually give you.”
“Then why don’t you tell me a story instead?”
“Yeah, you know, so I can sleep and stuff?” Eira shook out her bedroll and watched as the phoenix traced a circle in the dirt and then snapped his fingers. She shook her head as a small campfire came to life. “You really need to stop doing that.”
“It’s convenient.” He allowed. “And it’s easier to simply do it than trying to explain how to do it.”
“But if you never give me a chance to try-!”
“You’ve had plenty of chances to try—aren’t you tired?”
“That’s cheating.” Eira flopped onto the bedroll. “I’m exhausted.”
“I thought you had excess energy to burn.”
“You’re not helping.”
“I can’t help it.
“I was…serious, about the story, please, tell me what’s going on? Make it a fairy tale if you think I can’t handle the tru-”
“It’s not that you can’t handle it.” The boy phoenix settled down on the opposite side of the fire, his small figure nearly obscured by the flickering red flames. “It’s more a matter of whether I can stand to share it.”
“Do you really want to hear it?”
“If you would be so kind, dear Master.” Eira stuck her tongue out. “If this is another one of your-”
“There once was a little boy who lived in a very happy family. He didn’t have a single care in the world and no bad things ever happened to him. He was good, kind and pure. He was so precious that the people in his village would protect him from anything they deemed too horrible, dirty or dark. He grew up naïve and very, very innocent.”
Eira rolled onto her side, studying his face through the flames. He sat cross-legged, as if meditating, with one hand on each knee and his head bent, lost already in a different world. “And then what?”
“Then one day, he went walking out in the woods and something scared him. He ran until he realized that he didn’t know where he was anymore. In all the running, he stumbled across a dead body. Well, a mostly dead body, it was a young girl with a pretty face all slashed up and blood everywhere.”
“Fairy tale, fable or horror story?” Eira joked.
“Tragedy.” The phoenix sighed. “The girl turned out to be a very bad girl. She was strong, dark and very cruel. She turned into a bird and died. The little boy was worried about the dead bird, but he didn’t know anything beyond the fact that everything was scary and strange. He picked up the bird and it almost killed him.”
“How? Wasn’t it dead?”
“Apprentice, do you really need a-?”
“Shutting up now. Sorry, sorry!”
He glared at her.
“Apologies, Master.” Eira mumbled, curling up into a ball. “Hurry up with the end!”
“The bird wasn’t an ordinary bird, but a phoenix bird, looking for a host. Since the little boy was the only one alive, the phoenix chose him. It tried its best to taint him, rip him apart and turn his whole life dark. But the innocent little boy that knew nothing of evil darkness, couldn’t be tainted that way. He thought the bird was suffering and brought it home with him, attempting to care for the creature and-”
“Master Phoenix? I won’t interrupt again, really, I won’t, but please tell me that the creepy phoenix bird isn’t Eunice sitting on your shoulder!”
“If you interrupt again, I won’t bother to finish-”
“I won’t! I won’t!”
“You just did.”
“But that was because you were threatening to-”
“The creature grew rather fond of the boy and stopped trying to kill him. However, because the bird could not survive by living off the boy, it ended up killing everyone and everything else that it came into contact with. This caused a series of mysterious deaths where some scared people called the League in to investigate. The League brought a little girl with white hair, called the White Phoenix. Her job was to control the black bird and then kill it. The little boy that knew nothing of darkness and death was now tainted when he realized that even with good there was bad. So the boy stopped the girl from killing the bird and they both got into trouble. The little boy was upset that the girl was in trouble, so he asked the bird to help him. The bird promised he would help the girl if the boy would set him free. The boy agreed. The bird tried to help the girl, but it wasn’t in his nature to help, so he ended up causing disaster. The boy was upset and he shouted at the bird. When he shouted at the bird, he gave the creature permission.”
A muffled squeak came from Eira’s corner, but she shook her head quickly, both hands clapped over her mouth.
“Speak.” The phoenix sighed. “And stop making faces, really!”
“I’m not doing it on purpose!” Eira burst out. “But-”
“Is this a pointless question?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t asked it yet.”
“Then spare us both and don’t.” He rubbed his hands together. “The little boy was so angry with the bird, he didn’t realize how it troubled his spirit. The moment he was engulfed with rage, blinded by anger and tormented by injustice, the very dark phoenix bird ate his heart out.”
Eira flopped onto the bedroll with a muffled string of words, ending with pounding her fist into the bedroll.
“I’m so glad to know you disapprove.” The phoenix snorted. “Your enthusiasm is strangely disconcerting.”
The apprentice opted to return his earlier glare instead.
“As the dark phoenix bird ate the boy’s heart, the boy returned to his senses. He realized that he didn’t want to hurt the bird and he didn’t want to hurt the girl. But it was too late, as the bird ate the very last of the boy’s heart, the boy shouted out that he wouldn’t die. The little boy used every ounce of willpower to his name to cast the strongest illusion energy over the pesky bird. The bird was so stunned, it didn’t kill him like it had planned. By hesitating, the bird gave itself away and the heart-less boy charmed it into obedience. The League was worried such a powerful child had absorbed and accepted such a dangerous power that they tried to control him. The boy grew up and became very bored. So one day, the boy ran away.”
Eira rolled her eyes, throwing her hands up in the air. She didn’t say anything, instead, waiting for the story’s end.
“The boy ran until he reached the faraway mountains where no one had ever gone before. He was weak and exhausted and he fell into a pit of fire. His powers were so strong that they saved him. It also awaked the bird’s true powers and potential. The bird tried to control the boy, now that they were absorbed into each other, but the boy refused to give in. The bird tried to kill him again, but the boy didn’t die. But it scared him enough that he came to his senses. The boy asked himself many hard questions. Many of the questions didn’t have answers, so he searched for them. He searched for something to soothe a restless soul and something to atone for lives he had unknowingly taken in bringing the cursed bird into his home and town.”
“So? Did he find it?” Eira couldn’t keep the words to herself any longer. Her fingers curled in the bedroll as she lay on her stomach, her feet waving happily in the air behind her, the symbols glowing faintly.
“Yes, he did.”
“What was it?”
“Peace?” Eira blinked. “That…isn’t the ending I was waiting for.”
“The boy found peace when he finally searched himself. He searched for the question of his existence and then he found a reason to exist. He searched for his creator and found an even better thing. He learned a story about a God of love, a God who wouldn’t condemn him as a cursed being, who wouldn’t reject him for the mistakes he’d made and who wouldn’t turn him away as being hopeless.”
“Such a thing exists?” Eira said, bitterly. “It’s a great fairy-tale alright, you’ve really outdone yourself, Master.”
“And to think I haven’t finished yet.”
“And you believe that?” Eira hugged her knees to her chest. The ache inside was growing steadily worse. She couldn’t understand it, she couldn’t fight it and just listening to the strangely twisted story of the phoenix-boy sitting across from her, seemed to make it even more unbearable.
“With all my heart.”
“But you don’t even have…proof! Real proof!”
“I am proof enough. I’m alive. I’m sane—mostly, when I’m around you, I tend to think otherwise, however, that is beside the point.”
“Hearing this from a little kid is even weirder.” Eira shot back. “You know, this time I really can’t-”
“I already told you, I can’t help this form and if it bothers you so much, then you should have spoken earlier! I would have gladly changed forms into-”
“Stop.” Eira suddenly stared at him. “This is why you didn’t save Rory the other day, isn’t it?”
“You couldn’t.” She shook her head in disbelief. “You couldn’t save him, because you just couldn’t. You just told me awhile ago that you can’t keep…shrinking, regressing or whatever it is that you’re doing. Everytime you use your powers, you shrink, yes? When you reach your breaking point, you can’t do anything else. Ha.
No wonder you’ve been so useless these past few-”
“How would I know?”
“It’s your body. Your head. Your heart. Your soul in the balance.”
A paleness crept over her face as Eira’s angry outburst faded away. “You make it sound so simple.” She said, at last. “Things aren’t like that you know! They aren’t all rosy and perfect and-”
“Would you like to know what happened to the little boy?”
“Huh? But everything turned out all right.” She turned to look at him in confusion , half-heartedly scrubbing at the tears dripping from her eyes. “I thought you were the little boy.”
“Then how come you never entered the fairy-tale?”
A tinge of blush colored her white face. “H-how would I know? I’m not the one telling the stupid-!”
Both eyebrows went up, the effect still the same, regardless of size.
Eira winced. “Apologies.”
He sighed. “That’s because the story wasn’t finished yet. The little boy grew into a man. The man turned into a hermit. A very powerful hermit. The hermit was content to live a boring life on a lonely mountain range, because it ensured that he couldn’t hurt people. If he couldn’t hurt people, then he couldn’t be hurt by them and he would also have a back-up safety net, in case his spiritual side of things didn’t work out. The hermit was a very serious and-”
“-grumpy and bossy and-I’m just trying to help!”
“Stop helping.” The fire dimmed, flickering down to a small circle of red coals. There was nothing but the air between them left, the temporary barrier no more. “He was so relaxed in his ritualistic life that he got greedy and very selfish. He wanted to be famous for what he’d done, to go down in history as a legend. So he went and did that. It left him feeling a little empty. Worried that he’d turn into a monster like the bird had promised him, the hermit returned to his lonely mountain. From time to time, he did errands for the League, most of them involved helping troubled young souls similar to his own. He was very good at it. He was so good that they started to worry whether he was loyal to them or not, so they put a limit on how many people he could help within a set period of time. This mad the hermit angry, but the hermit was very smart, so he found a way around it.”
“I’ll give you a hint, just to be sure that your brain is still functioning in its current capacity. You’re the sixth female apprentice I’ve ever had. In all my hundreds of students and apprentices, you’re the sixth girl.”
“I don’t get it.”
“It’ll come to you.”
“Whenever you say that, I start to worry. Do you realize that those ‘things’ pile up and all of them happen to me at the same time?”
“That’s your own fault, apprentice.”
“So the hermit asked God for a friend on the outside. Someone who was real, someone who he could tell his secret and someone who would challenge him to be different, in a good way. The hermit wasn’t thinking of a bigger picture when he made this request, but instead, focused on his own selfish desires. God sent someone who fit that description very well.”
“Who was it?”
“Forget that, who was it?”
“The hermit didn’t agree with the selected person and decided to retract his wish. He pretended that he’d made a mistake and decided to run away from the mess, so he wouldn’t have to deal with it. So he wouldn’t have to face his Creator with the same lie he’d feed to the unsuspecting person. But of course, these plans couldn’t stand up to God’s will and impeccable timing. The hermit was also very much overdue for a particular lesson involving obedience, acceptance and humility.”
“Sounds painful.” Eira smirked. “Was it?”
The boy peered at her miserably from beneath the shaggy head of hair. “You have no idea.”
“And then what? It just sort of went on with-”
“And that’s it?” Eira was on her feet, pacing the length of her bedroll and back. “That can’t be it!”
“It isn’t all of it. You still don’t understand, do you?”
“No, I don’t! I wish you’d spell it out in plain basic, because my head is hurting from putting together all these weird clues that don’t make any sense at all-”
“While he was so busy trying to hide his secret, the hermit gave himself away.” The phoenix said, quietly, rising to his feet and turning his face to the night sky. “He made the right choice for the moment, but the wrong choice for everything else. He was trying to fight the inevitable and as a result, he simply happened to him when there was no room for anything else. He couldn’t run, he couldn’t hide and he couldn’t explain it away without causing pain on both sides.”
“That’s not helping at all!” Eira began to cry again, this time, hot, angry tears that burned down her cheeks. “You’re not being the least bit-!”
“He got attacked by Shadow-Clannad and almost had his avian heart ripped out of his chest by avian-serpents. He was found by his apprentice and healed with a gift from a bird called Eunice.”
Eira stomped forward and grabbed the thin shoulder, yanking the boy around to look at her. “Don’t you make fun of-!” She stopped, staring into the sad, golden-gray eyes as he cried with.
Slowly, she fell to her knees, hugging the thin body close to her, crying on the shoulder that had held her tears once before. “It hurts.” She said, finally. “It really hurts.”
“Where?” He whispered into her hair, his skinny arms curving around her neck, patting her head, gently.
“My heart.” She hiccupped. “It hurts. I don’t really want to die.”
© Sara Harricharan