Author’s Ramblings: YES! I did it! Lolz. Well, not quite. I’ve just managed to get another installment done and of course, I’m already typing away at the next one. I just figured it was easier to upload now than later when my eyes are crossed at 2 am…anyway, here’s to the end coming. ^_^ Thanks again for the support, especially in these past few days when I think I’m about to strangle all the characters and pull my hair out over pointless subplots. I’ve been able to sorta insert one picy. That was a headache in itself, but it’s Eira’ summoning base. Every time she traces something, this is the pattern she’s calling to life. The squiggles are the “wings” of her pattern. This is also why she can so easily call “wings” in a circle and take flight by morphing them onto her physical body. Happy reading! Y’all are special!
RECAP: The DP and Eira split up, heading down their respective paths. Eira is playing proxy for the DP in meeting with “Eunice” at Mount Skiel, while he takes care of business. The DP’s powers are causing him to fade in and out of consciousness. Sorora briefly reappears to speak to Eira and discovers that the DP is on his own. Deene returns home to be abducted by Chessia Mureton–at Schol’s request!
THIS IS THE SIXTH POST IN A SERIES OF EIGHT TO THE FINAL CONCLUSION OF THIS SERIAL. (Older posts can be found under the tag “HFTDP” Enjoy!)
The phoenix drew as deeply on his energies as he dared. Enough to give an extra kick to the speed symbol around his neck. He tried not to think of the girl left behind, with only a slight grimace at the thought of what was ahead.
She had a point.
The thought nagged.
The thought registered with a laugh. The phoenix muffled the sound in his shoulder, slowing to a stop as he approached the Blacktooth Ridge. The jagged stones providing a safety barrier between the edge and the sheer drop, only served to darken his mood. On a whim, he’d had the stones set up. Then the locals had taken it upon themselves to name it. The stones were merely a warning to all who stumbled this far, to never fall into the pit.
He scowled, heading for the smallest ‘tooth’ and clambering over the edge. The pit was calm and silent, a constant swirl of rainbow colors and glowing energy. It was the lifeblood of the strange Skiel mountain and it would help him, until Eira’s return. Stripping off his shirt, he threw it into the pit, waiting.
Within seconds an audible hiss rose from the swirling energies below as they shifted to reveal their liquid natures. He waited until they groaned and shrieked, before he dove off the edge and into the center.
Burning fire erupted in waves over his bare skin, melting away the remaining clothes as his body struggled to adjust to the reality. Diving deeper, the phoenix continued until he reached the very bottom of the pit, his body found the exit easily and he climbed out, trembling, in the underground cavern.
Darkness was everywhere, until the energies began to glow in the bubbling river. Multicolored lights lit up the black rock cavern, lending an eerie glow and a necessary light to the interior. The energy-water rippled, the reflections dancing along the blackened walls in flashes of neon color.
His eyes took a moment to adjust as he felt the change beginning.
It didn’t take long at all.
From the tips of his toes to the tips of his fingernails, black feathers sprouted in their true glory. A soft down seemed to cover him as a matter of course, while the thicker, richer feathers eased in. The pressure in his head, mounted as he struggled to focus his mind, willing the transformation to halt mid-way.
His toes curled back, calling the tenderness of his feet to the surface as he moved to the side, towards a low, flat outcropping of rock, just a few feet from the ground. Awkwardly kneeling beside it, he leaned forward, supporting his weight on his elbows as he painstakingly folded his hands together.
A bittersweet smile hovered to the surface as he closed his eyes. Eira was right. He couldn’t take on anyone without first seeking Him.
His eyes were squeezed shut, a futile attempt to keep the tears at bay. It wasn’t a simple confession, apology or conversation. It was a process. It was an experience. It would be painful.
There were many things to be dealth with. Issues he’d avoided, mistakes he’d have to admit-particularly those he’d willfully made. With a clean heart, there might be hope.
The first tear fell.
“You’re late, woman!” Garrett glared at the blonde as she entered the mountain hideaway, pushing a sullen teenage boy before her. Her Kukurin blaster was drawn, keeping a steady bead on the boy as she straightened to her full height, after entering through the short tunnel. “What is that?”
“That’s what you wanted.” She wiped her forehead, holstering the weapon. “Where’s that idiot girl?”
“Which one?” Garrett sniped. “And this doesn’t look like what I asked you to-”
“You said to bring the person that captured the idiot girl.”
The two exchanged a glance.
“Use names!” Garrett snapped.
Chessia shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I just know that he’s the one that was seen with Uleah. His name is Deene, he’s one of that old bird’s toys.”
Deene snorted. “Toy?”
“Shut up, boy!”
There was a low growl in his throat and the mountain rumbled ominously.
“There’ll be none of that here!” Chessia glowed a faint lilac hue. “I’ve been kind enough to spare you the taste of my gift, but if you tempt me boy…” She traced a finger along his neck, curving up to his ear. “I won’t hesitate to give you a sample.”
“Leave him alone.” Garrett scowled. “Uleah went somewhere over there, she was talking with Aois.”
“So the boy is alive?”
“He’s no more dead than you are.”
“He doesn’t need charming, but this one will. Take him and get out! There’s work to be done here!”
“There’s no need to work yourself up in a temper, brother.” Leesha yawned, sauntering through the low tunnel and gliding over to join the group. “Besides, I’m here now, so things shouldn’t take-”
Garret scowled, backing away. “That’s not funny! I don’t have time for your games and lies and-”
“Uleah, darling! There you are!” Chessia crooned. “Be a dear and stop over for amoment, would you? I’ve brought you a new plaything!”
“What is it?” The pretty girl appeared, her hair in a tangle, the front of her outfit ripped to shreds and a wicked smirk painted across her face. “Ohh, a rock guardian. I’m feeling so special today.” She giggled.
“First a Lyrith and now this, I really do feel special sister.”
“Don’t remind me we’re related.” Chessia snapped. “Just hurry up and charm him like you did with the Lyrith.”
“She actually managed to charm the Lyrith?” Leesha perked up. “I’m impressed!”
“It’s nothing to be impressed about, he was ours to begin with.” Garrett sighed. “I can’t deal with this, we’re supposed to be-”
“We can’t do anything unless Schol shows himself.” Leesha said, evenly. “So behave and deal with it, until he does! Shouldn’t you be unbearably happy, right now?”
“You’ve got your Lyrith back, your idiotic niece is probably going to show up in a few hours to take him back and you’ll get a chance to lop off the head of her stupid bodyguard! I’d think that would be enough for you!”
“You left out the fact that his favorite weapon is actually alive.” Aois smirked, swinging himself over the third-level floor safety rail and landing lightly on his feet beside them. “I should thank the Lyrith, where is it?”
“He’s over there.” Uleah yawned. “And he’s still a bit rusty and rough around the edges. They tried to turn his loyalties, so it’ll take awhile for the reminders to sink in.”
Uleah stifled a laugh. “He knows where he belongs, but for now, he’s in denial.” Her hand reached toward Deene. “I hope you’re better than he was.” She mused. “It’s a pain when they resist.”
“I couldn’t find him, Tyla.” Sorora appeared in the security center room, where Tyla paced the floor and Andie followed her with his eyes.
“Didn’t I tell you to go directly to the mountain and-”
“I did. He wasn’t there. He sent the girl instead.”
“The girl?” Tyla stopped in mid-step. “He actually sent that clueless brat? I thought he liked her.”
“He does, somewhat.” Sorora yawned. “It’s completely flipped when you take a closer look and the girl isn’t that clueless right now.”
“How so?” Tyla nudged Andie out of his chair and sat down instead. “What is it? Spit it out!”
“Eira, her name is Eira.” Sorora mumbled. “And she’s…she’s taken on her powers after all.”
“I thought you said she was a summoner.” Andie frowned. “Isn’t it dangerous to use your gifts so soon after acceptance.”
“Depends.” Tyla said, sourly. “With her and him, it’s probably fine. Even if she explodes, he’d be able to weather the aftermath and with her, if she’s with him, he won’t let her reach that point. It’s dangerous!”
“Of course it’s dangerous, otherwise it wouldn’t be happening!” Sorora rolled her eyes. “This is the Dark Phoenix we are speaking of!”
“True, but when you’re that fresh, girl.” Tyla shuddered. “There’s a tremendous amount of power at play, it’s not necessarily dangerous to the holder or host, but more so to what’s around. She shouldn’t be out there running about, much less-what was she doing at the mountain?”
“Did Ben send her to meet you?”
“Why’d he do that?”
“He would have guessed.” Tyla began to scribble on her clipboard. “He’s shaprer the smaller he gets, you know.”
“We know!” Andie scowled. “I hate this time of year.”
“You only hate having to deal with him.” Sorora swatted his head. “Stop griping and start thinking!”
“Do I have to?”
“Yes!” Tyla snapped. “And if you can’t do that, then at least stay quiet so I can do the thinking for the rest of us. What did-”
“She said she was there to talk to Eunice.”
Both man and woman turned pale.
“Eunice?” Tyla managed at last. “Does he really hate her that much?”
“Maybe he didn’t have a choice?” Andie suggested. “I mean, if you’re desperate-”
“Even if I was desperate, I wouldn’t wish that fate on you.” Tyla said, darkly. “Don’t interrupt me. I need to think. He’ll need reinforcements of some sort.”
“It’s a League mission and knowing him, he wouldn’t think of his transformation first, he’d think of the objective.”
“Point.” Sorora allowed. “So we have to back him up?”
“No, I have to back him up.” Tyla sighed. “You have to stay here and keep out of trouble.”
“Andie will keep you company, won’t you Andie?”
“Why do I have to keep her company?”
She smacked him with the clipboard. “Because I said so. Now isn’t that a good reason?”
“Not really.” The duo chorused.
Tyla glared at him. “You’re to your limit, aren’t you?” Sorora looked away. “Well, aren’t you? Didn’t you tell me that when you were next to him in Kouraki, he was seventy-six percent dark, a whole two percent increase while you were there and you couldn’t handle him two feet away?”
“That was different, there were circumstances and he wasn’t tempering-”
“How about his precious Eira, were you able to tolerate her?”
“…no, ma’am. He tainted her in a dangerously dark state. She’s cluelessly just as dark as he is, or was at that point. I have no idea what he may be like now.”
“Then don’t be questioning my decisions. I know. I’ll be making the necessary arrangements. I’ll call you if I need to. I’ll have to make other arrangements because of your intolerance. Stay here with Andie and keep an eye on the monitors. Don’t either of you give me a headache, I have enough troubles already. It’s going to take a Haddock cruiser worth of paperwork to get this through on time. Have people ready for processing and all of that grunt work. He’ll take Schol down hard and we’ll need to clean up the disaster afterwards, the more people we have active, the smoother this will be. I don’t really feel like working out the hiccups today, so please actually use your brains and-”
“Fun. We get to schedule grunt work while you play with famous faces and-”
“Get to work, NOW!”
The strength had left him.
His thoughts had argued, meshed, and scattered in the course of time that had passed. He couldn’t recall much to mind, but the pressing matter of work remained. This took second priority as he allowed the feeling to sink in.
Forgiveness I don’t deserve. Yes. I don’t deserve it at all.
The phoenix lay on the floor, staring up into the darkened heights of the underground cavern as the last of his transformation worked over him. His body gave an involuntary shudder as his fingers merged and melted into wingtips.
All done. He thought, wryly. I suppose I was asking for this, wasn’t I?
Coldness seeped through his body from the ground, lending a shiver to his tortured self. It was almost welcoming, a change from the aching, burning pains that had consumed him during the quiet, meditative time.
The guilt was melting away, but the regret was taking longer.
Too stubborn. Too hard-headed.
Can’t think of that now. Need to focus. Have work to do. Need fire.
Slow, quiet breathing, turned to short, rapid breaths as he worked to retain some form of normality, an attempt to keep his two-legs, instead of two gnarled claws.
With some effort, he managed to stand on his own two feet, shuffling to the bubbling energy-waters at the cavern’s corner.
“Phoenix.” He whispered. “Fyron. I am calling you, lend me your fire.”
From the swirling colored river, a vision of red fire rose up, a twisted figure, terrifying in its glorious form as it towered over him, filling the entire cavern.
He smirked. “Good boy. Now come with me.” He tilted his head to the side, turning his neck to allow the energy to enter on vital leech point.
The faintest glow of red flickered in his eyes.
“Deene?” Rory turned as the boy was ushered into his padlocked cell. Blue energy crackled over the square at once, causing the Lyrith to dance to the side, skittish with the sudden noise and light.
The rock boy merely strolled past, taking the far, left corner to sit.
“He doesn’t feel like talking, Rei.”
“Rory. My name is Rory.” The Lyrith glared at her. “I don’t want anything to do with you, Uleah!”
“Ah, I’m hurt. You’re still resisting, aren’t you?” She threaded her hands through the cage bars. “Come here, let me have a look.”
“Stay there. I can see you just fine.” Rory snapped. “What did you do to him? Why is he here?”
“That’s none of your business…just come here.”
“You made it my business when you brought him here.” Rory growled. “Speak, or I will have your head!”
“I don’t think so.” Uleah smirked. “See, I checked with Garrett and he mentioned something about a change of loyalty. I didn’t believe him, because Aois is proof that you didn’t follow a direct order—of the most simple kind. An actual change in loyalty isn’t good for us, you know.”
“I don’t care if it’s good or bad.”
“You should.” Uleah’s hands shimmered, changing to a pair of dull, green speckled tentacles. “You really should. It’s a pity your bond is so new.”
“What are you talking about?” Rory backed away, edging towards the corner with Deene.
“Oh, you know. A new master…oops, sorry, a new mistress is fine and all that, but it appears that she didn’t care enough to solidify your bond. Lucky for us, that means it won’t be hard to change you back.”
“If you dare to-”
“If she cared, you’d have been too strong for this cage, even, right?”
“Empty threats are boring, Rei. But you can’t fight back, can you? You’re scared to even move in this little playpen.” Uleah yawned. “Deene? Be a dear and help out, would you? I don’t have the time or the patience for this.”
“Deene?” Rory turned a half-second too late. The rock guardian hulked up, surging from his corner, more rock than boy as he caught the struggling Lyrith and pulled it closer to the swarming tentacles. “Let me go-!”
The thought registered with distaste as the phoenix walked through the newly created tunnel, the fiery phoenix burning through the mountainside ahead of him. The new signature created by the creature would hide his approach and hopefully give an element of surprise.
It called out to him with a screech and he answered with a quiet chirp.
The sound was more natural coming from his throat and the actual words swirling in his head couldn’t find the way out. He settled for the primitive caws and screeches of his avian nature, guiding the creature in their way.
Eira rounded the bend and stopped again. She was stopping more out of habit than surprise, even as the sight before her was rather cliché.
The pathway dropped off abruptly, giving way to a rather fiery river of all colors of energy flickering below. The mountain in question stood on the other side, tall, dark and very black, as if it was carved into the stone. In the center of the lower tier of the monstrous rock, was a small, opening.
“Let me guess. I need to be on the other side?” Eira sighed. “Wings, bother those wings!” She began the summoning again, calling the well-used circle out again. To her surprise, it flickered briefly and faded out.
What? Eira blinked. What was that?
She tried again, only for the same result.
O-kay. This better not be one of those ‘can’t use power’ things. Eira began to trace another circle. It flared brightly and then flickered out again. She sighed. This is going to be a problem, isn’t it?
Fyron? What is it?
The phoenix took a deep breath and pushed down. With a few simple strokes of his arms, he was airborne over the fiery phoenix and landing, lightly before it.
The creature bowed its great head, bending down to his level.
Ah, they’re right behind this wall? I see. Well, burn through as thin as you dare and I’ll take it from there. Thank you.
A pleased rumble came from the avian’s throat.
Fyron! No noise…
“Uleah?” Chessia stalked to the cage, searching for the redheaded nuisance. “Ully! If you don’t…hi.” The step forward was reversed as the woman hurriedly backed away. “Garrett? Garrett!” A slight touch of panic registered in her voice.
“What?” The man rounded the corner, running his hands through his hair. “I don’t have time for more of your failed experiments. We need to-” He stopped. “Schol, how…lucky I am to have-”
The glowing Uleah moved away from the now-empty cage, the Lyrith flanking her on the left and the guardian on the right. A bright red energy surrounded her, flickering with a disjointed rhythm. “Garrett.” She rasped. “How good of you to listen to me for a change. It means things won’t be so difficult now.”
“We’ve always done our best.” Chessia forced a smile. “You’re the one that’s vague in your required-”
There was a muffled scream as the red energy peeled away from the messenger girl and thrust itself through the mouth of the surprised man.
“Schol!” Chessia darted forward, using her energy to cradle the falling bodies. Her younger sister was quickly cast aside, her attention focused on the unconscious man, fighting against the power overtaking him. “Schol? I don’t care what you do to this body, would you just-!”
The eyes flew open, a dark, deep red. “Chessy.” He purred. “My precious little Chessy. I feel for you…sometimes. Surrounded by incompetence.” He sighed. “Where is the little princess?”
“The niece or the sister?”
“Either will do.”
“The sister is over there…demanding things…as usual.” Chessia started forward. “Come with?”
Schol moved easily and fluidly, the red energy rolling off of him in visible waves. “This is a rich environment.” He licked his lips. “I like it very much.”
“Thank you, it was chosen according to your tastes and preferences.”
“Sometimes I think you are qualified to do your job.” He smirked. “But the fact that you haven’t told me where my power source has disappeared to, leads me to consider your head as a-”
“She should be along shortly.”
“And why would she? I have felt her change of heart, a change so great that even you couldn’t alter it, with all the fame you have to your name.” He chuckled.
“My redeeming qualities are-”
“Are useless on me.” He caught her by the neck, jerking her around to look at him. “You’ve been trying to control me from the very moment you revived me.” His face drew nearer. “If you do not stop this foolishness, I promise you will pay with more than your power and your body.”
“Threats are…pointless on me.” Chessia swallowed, straining away from the hand. “I need not remind you, I’m sure, that you have no real hold over me.”
He laughed, an eerie sound. “Is that your final say?”
You have got to be kidding me!
Eira tapped her foot, arms crossed, surveying the dangerous expanse before her.
I’ve tried every circle I know. This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t even been able to cast all of them so quickly, then again…I haven’t used the phoenix circle or the Biriea one. I shouldn’t. They’re too strong. I’d probably get a headache anyway.
Maybe an original circle?
Her foot tapped absently, a random rhythm in sync with her overburdened brain.
Mmm, but I haven’t cast one of those in years…I haven’t…well…it’s worth a try, it used to be so much fun and it would drive everyone crazy because…hmmm.
With a single breath, the base was laid and the circle waiting. Eira cracked her knuckles, standing at attention, head bowed, hands limp at her sides.
“Today has come, today has passed.
My thoughts are deep, my heart outcast
I want to find a level ground,
I want to find a better sound
Is this what I am?
An empty echo?
A falling shadow?
A distant light?
Is this what we are?
Twin spirits, flown?
Two hearts, as one?
A mirrored smile?
Reality won’t stop for long
We’re searching for some olden song
Trying to find a melody
Surviving, just barely!
Is this what I am?
An empty echo?
A falling shadow?
A distant light?
Is this what we are?
Twin spirits, flown?
Two hearts, as one?
A mirrored smile?
Show me the truth,
Show me your dream
Share the joy and share the pain
I am only a mirror
I am only alive
Is this what I am?
Your proof of life?
Is that what you are?
My only song…”
The music swirled around her, the energy blew upwards. In a mesh of red and white, a pure, pink energy was born, cutting viciously through the black rock, carving the original circle into the ground.
For the symbols added, it was a matter of seconds before Eira felt the energies build up. A large, pink tube shot upwards into the sky, a far reach, as she stood in the center, waiting.
The transport was mercifully quick.
The inside of the mountain was hot, with a dark glow from the redness bubbling inside. Eira didn’t want to know exactly what the liquid was, but she settled for thinking of it as lava, when her brain demanded an explanation.
In spite of the heat, it only registered as beads of sweat on her body, dampening her hair and dripping down her face into her ears. The actual temperature didn’t seem to affect her otherwise, as she darted through the maze-like inner-caverns, searching for Eunice.
“You’ll find her in a throne room. She likes to sit there and pretend she’s important. Just talk to her. Tell her you need her to come for my sake. She’ll understand.”
Sticking her head around the corner, Eira scanned the room briefly and then scurried to the next one. “There’s too many little rooms and-whoa!”
“The throne room has only one entrance and one exit. Both are the same. Be careful once you step through and know that if you must leave, then run. Run as fast as you can and don’t look back.”
“Hello?” Eira cautiously stepped inside, ducking under the low archway.
The room opened up, with a tall, cathedral-ceiling and a giant stone pillar in the midst of a bubbling red pool. There were smaller stone pillars scattered throughout the pool, but the center one held a young woman, dressed in dark purple and black, with long, black hair tied in a high ponytail. She was preening her nails and scowling at the result, with blue-tinted lips.
“Oh. It’s you.” The girl yawned. “Seriously, it took you long enough to get here.”
“Excuse me?” Eira looked from the girl to the archway where she’d just entered. It wasn’t there any more. Bother that.
“So polite too. I thought you’d come in here raging and ranting after all the work I made you do just to set foot in here.”
“Work? I didn’t-”
“Clueless too, I see.” The girl smirked. “Are you always this empty-headed, or is it just your trademark?”
“Um, right.” Eira shook her head. “This is getting a little confusing, do you mind if we start over? I’m-”
“I shouldn’t mind but I do, because it’s you, we’ll probably have to start over a dozen times!” She scoffed. “I’ll make it easy, love. I’m Eunice and you’re Eira. I don’t like you, so get out.”
Eira blinked. That was unexpected. “You’re Eunice?”
“Don’t tell me, you were expecting a swirling black ball of energy with purple sparkles trailing out.” Eunice laughed. “You’re so pathetic. You really don’t use your brain at all. I’m so not just a bunch of swarming energy!”
“Right. You’re a bunch of annoying, swarming energy.” Eira clapped a hand over her mouth. Oops. Thinking out loud. “Sorry, sorry!”
“For what? Like I care! I already hate you, there isn’t much else you could do to make me dislike you any more than I already do.”
“I-I don’t even know you.”
“Do you seriously think I care?”
“Obviously not. Look, I don’t really…care, either, but Master Phoenix sent me here to-”
“Ben wouldn’t send you if he was in his right mind. What did you do to him?”
“You did something to him, you little witch!”
“Witch? Me? Hey, hold up here a second, I don’t think that-”
“You know what? I don’t want to hold up. I don’t even want to sit here, looking down at you and talk. I don’t want to see your ugly little face and-”
“I can’t believe this.” Eira stared at her, hands on her hips. “Are we seriously having a…girl fight…in the middle of a glowing mountain, while there’s important things happening-”
“If you’ve got somewhere to go, girl, go ahead. Like I care. I don’t. So I’ll be staying here. Cheers. Have a safe return trip.”
“Master Phoenix sent me here because he couldn’t come himself-”
“And whose fault was that?”
“You’re so clueless!” Eunice threw her hands up. “Like, seriously! It’s your own fault, idiot! If he wasn’t so busy baby-sitting you all the time, he would’ve come sooner. And if he’d come sooner, he wouldn’t be like, dead, right now.”
“Dead?” Eira stiffened. “What did you just say?”
“Well, not dead dead, but close to dead.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. What does repeating a-”
“He’s almost dead or he will be.” Eunice yawned. “He should have just come here first.”
“He couldn’t!” Eira snapped, feeling her temper beginning to fray. It was too much to keep it down. “I’ve been trying to tell you that! If he could have, he would have! He couldn’t! He was out of time!”
“And it’s all because of you.” Eunice sighed dramatically. “To think, you’re the whole cause for all of this mess. We got along just fine before you showed up.”
Eira’s hands curled into fists, her smile forced. “Let’s try simple question and simple answer okay?”
“If your simple brain can handle that.” Eunice returned, sweetly.
“Are you going to help us?”
“Then goodbye. I hope you’re happy living with your choice.” Eira turned on her heel, starting for where the exit had been.
“The exit isn’t over there.” Eunice giggled. “You should have thought about that before you set foot in-”
Eira whirled around, stalking to the very edge of the pool. She focused all the emotion in a single glare and fixed it on the giggling young woman. “If you’re selfish enough to let anything happen to Master Phoenix, just because you feel insecure or jealous or something, fine, I don’t care. But don’t you think that you can stop me from-”
The cavern’s light flickered and then blacked out, the red liquid turning dark and black. There was an audible hiss, echoing off the stone walls. “Are you threatening me, you little worm?”
“I’m making a statement.” Eira held herself to her full height. “And this is pointless. Weren’t you supposed to be a bird?”
© Sara Harricharan