Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (part 8) [Friday Fiction]

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Joanne "JJ" Sher @ her blog, An Open Book. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's Ramblings: A thousand apologies for such a late post, but I've only just finished it five minutes ago. I had fun-er-well, Eira did, or didn't as you will read soon. Sorry for the rough edits, I have a great deal of everything going on this weekend, and that is my best excuse for such a late post. Please enjoy-and thank you for the votes for continuing this story. I am greatly enjoying the interaction between these two and I hope you are doing the same. have a great weekend and thanks a bunch for reading my scribbles. ^_^

Eira found herself sucked into the swirl of energy and violently thrown out on the other side. The unexpected thrust sent her reeling towards the edge of a rather steep cliff. Her disoriented senses had mere seconds to comprehend the fact that she was on the other side of the warp and literally teetering on the edge of a cliff leading down to sheer drop, the bottom of which was obscured by an unusual amount of fog.

In the matter of seconds it took her mind to process the excess information and connect the dots in relation to danger, the only thing left was the scream caught in her throat. Eira threw her energy out, the only way she knew-namely, the only way she could.

There was a great rumble beneath her feet and she saw flashes of red leaving her body and sparking angrily up and down the sheer rock wall as her arms waved wildly and the ground crumbled beneath her feet.

As the last of everything gave away, a slender, strong arm caught hold of her wrist. It was a matter of minutes before the Dark Phoenix hauled her upwards, setting her safely against the rock wall on the skinny ledge. “I was not expecting you to attempt to kill yourself quite this early.”

“What?”

“Thank goodness.” He muttered, inching away on the ledge. “This way.”

“No, hold up here…what did you mean by-”

“Nothing, Eira. Just try to keep up-no falling off anywhere.”

“What’s down there?”

“Do you really want to know?”

“I don’t know…do I?”

“Step over the cracks, not on them.”

“I can’t see them.”

“They’re right there, you can see them plain as-”

“I’m not looking down.”

The Dark Phoenix paused, deliberately and then his head slowly turned to look at her. “You’re not looking down?” The words seemed to come forth with great difficulty.

Eira gave a tiny shake of her head, not daring to add any more movement than absolutely necessary.
“Have you a fear of heights?”

“No.”

“Weak joints?”

“I don’t think so.”

“New boots?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“What?”

“Why aren’t you looking down?”

“It’s a long way to the bottom.”

“But your boots are well-worn and sturdy, you’re young-no possible arthritis and you’ve already admitted that you are not disturbed of heights.”

“I’m not.”

“Then what is it?”

“I’m scared of dying!” The sentence was said with more sarcasm than anything else, but the faint tinge of fear lay beneath the words as Eira tried not to wiggle her toes. She did not want to be on the tiniest ledge on Vanderoone teetering off the corner into the unknown. The very scary-looking unknown. “What if I fall off and you’re so far ahead you can’t catch me? I just tried to…to…” She swallowed, the energy was already draining from her, she’d used too much in a moment of sheer panic.

The patient gaze rested on her until she finally dared to meet his eyes. “Repeat after me, I am not going to fall down there.” His mouth twitched on the last word, the gaze steady. “Twice for good measure.”

“What good’s that going to do?”

The eyes flickered from darkness to a pale, mesmerizing shade of blue-purple. His voice was now toneless as the command was repeated. “I am not going to fall down there. I am not going to fall down there.” Each word was pronounced deliberately and clearly, and Eira heard herself repeat them directly after him.

A chill started in the back of her left ankle and traveled upwards until it smacked into her brain. When her new master turned away abruptly, he continued the course of inching down the ledge pathway towards some unseen destination. Her legs began to move and somehow, without her control over them, began to move and hurry after him.

Eira tried to open her mouth, but no sound came out. That thought should have been terrifying enough, but as her mind continued to torture her, the only images filling her head were not of never speaking again, but of falling to a miserable death to whatever mysteries lined the bottom of the canyon. The pathway seemed to stretch on forever, but eventually, her body relaxed as her mind fitted together the fact that she would not fall. Each step was sure and precise, and when she eventually dared to peek down, noticed that she was neatly stepping over each crack.

Looking downwards did not help much, so she soon fixed her gaze on the swaying cloak and dusty boots tromping confidently ahead of her. It helped enough until her legs began to grow tired. It did not take very long for her arms, shoulders and neck to grow weary as well. Eventually, Eira was aware that the constant moving of her feet was something she had no control over and it appeared to be happily killing her.

The only way to measure time was the passing of twin suns over head as they slowly crept across the sky, setting behind a tall, pointed mountain range. A smattering of butterflies fluttered through her stomach and Eira found herself hoping those weren’t the mountains they were headed towards.

The longer the day seemed to drag on, the less Eira began to feel. First, all traces of pain left her tired legs and the kinks in her shoulder seemed to work themselves out. It did not take very long for her eyes to grow tired and soon began to close. This thought was alarming enough for her to fight the urge as best as she can, but the monotonous pace and the quickly darkening surroundings made it a little more difficult than she expected.

“Eira?” His voice was sharp. “Do not fall asleep on me.”

Her eyes snapped open and she opened her mouth to attempt to answer. No sound came out.

“Eira?” He paused for a moment and then a quiet “oh!” was heard and he resumed the pace, throwing a small, bright blue ball of energy over his shoulder.

A deep breath rushed through her lungs the moment the ball was sucked through her mouth. The audible gasp that escaped was the most welcome sound Eira had heard all day. “Thank you.” Were the first words that followed the gasp as she licked her lips.

“I am sorry, I did not mean to do that, I was not quite paying attention.” There was a soft chuckle. “I should have, the thought of you being quiet for such a long period of time does not quite fit. Are you all right?”

“Are we there yet?”

“Fairly close.”

“How can you tell? This place still looks the same-creepy!”

“We’re almost there.”

“Are you sure?”

“Do you like talking?”

Eira snapped her mouth shut.

“It’s several yards ahead. I can see it from here. There’s a clearing to left, we’ll stay there for the night. We’ve cleared the mountains, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the canyons.”

“Why would I worry about them?”

“Because you are an intelligent, independently thinking individual. It would be foolish to say you do not.”

“If I ask you what’s down there again, are you going to tell me I don’t want to know? Because I really think I want to know, I mean, if it’s something I should be worried about, I should know what it is, because-” The sentence ended in a squeak as an imaged was projected into her mind.

A terrifying tangled mass of black vines and purple thorns lined the canyon floors, with fat, sharp-toothed leech-like creatures panting hungrily as they stuck to their positions on the canyon walls. Speckles of blood in every color seemed spattered along the smooth, stone walls, and every crumbling stone that fell that far, immediately attracted the attention of greedy eyes.

A hiccup escaped. “Y-you’ve been down there?” Eira tried to suppress the shudder, but it came anyway. The images were too real, too vivid to have been a picture he’d seen. It could only have come across that real, if he had actually been there.

“Once.” He grunted. “To retrieve a student.” The path began to widen and slope downwards.

“A s-student?” Gusts of wind began to filter through as the mountain wall’s protection began to shorten. It was cold enough to make her teeth chatter and eerie in the sense of the loud wailing and moaning that began to tease her ears.

“Yes.” The path changed from rock to the softness of grass or mud. The walking continued, and gradually some protection returned as the darkness of the mountain was replaced by the stillness of the woods. “He fell off the edge.”

“And you went after him?” Eira hugged her arms to her chest, the cold was helping to keep her awake, but the talking was making more sense.

“This way.” He turned and a soft spark of yellow light leapt from his fingers, illuminating the pathway with a dull glow. “Take my hand.” The glove hand was extended in her direction as he took the first step towards a rather steep hill, with rotting logs embedded in various points, like stairs.

Eira readily accepted the help, finding it easier to keep her balance with his strength to counter her miscalculations. Her feet scrabbled and stumbled, but the hand holding fast to hers, kept her upright. “He fell?” She asked, at last, when he paused for a moment.

“Yes.” He sighed. “how, I haven’t got a clue. There was nothing he had to do but follow and yet he takes the time to fall off the edge and into that nightmare at the bottom.”

“You went after him, though.”

“Of course I did.”

“But he was a student…”

“He didn’t die, Eira.” He said, mildly. “They stole his consciousness from him and it took me an entire two weeks to wrestle and wager it back.

“Then what?”

“Then I promptly dropped him off at the closest point in civilization and sent him home.”

“S-sent him home?”

“Are you cold?” He changed the subject.

“S-sort of.”

“You shouldn’t be…the outfit I…” He stopped. “Are your feet cold?”

Eira thought about it for a moment, when his hand pulled free from hers to loop carefully around her shoulders. “I don’t know. I can’t feel them.”

“We’ll stay here.” The dull spark swerved sharply to the left and Eira found herself standing inside a very small clearing. The howling winds were fainter there and the trees were the tallest she could recall to memory. He guided her to a tree trunk and let go, bracing her against it and turning away.

Eira crumpled to the ground with a sharp exclamation of pain. It flooded through her feet, shoulders and everywhere possible, as if some huge, immoveable object was crushing the very life out of her. Her lips tried to form the words for help, but even that was overridden by the immense pain arresting her senses.

His hand rested on her shoulder. “Do not move, it makes it worse.” He moved to the center of the clearing and produced several more dull sparks which floated upwards and then sent tiny strands of energy downward to enclose them in a makeshift dome. Satisfied, he whisked off his cloak, returning to her side with an unreadable expression. “I am sorry I did this to you on the first day.” He tugged at the pant legs, working on extracting her boots. “And I forgot that you were wearing your own boots. The next time I provide you with a specific outfit-do not argue about it.”

A painful tear squeezed out of the corner of her mouth and Eira felt the scream welling up in her throat as he eased the boot off of her foot. Before the sound could leave her lips, his hand fisted and wedged partially in her mouth.

“Bite.” He ordered, as a spark of dark energy yanked off the remaining boot. “If they hear us, I can’t say I’m in the best of shape to take them on at present.”

For lack of anything else to comprehend, Eira did. It was small consolation for the senses coursing through her veins as her mind scrambled to grasp at threads of sanity while her body screamed for normality to return.

A gradual warmth crept back into her and exhausted, she leaned back against the tree and the hand was removed from her mouth. Her head was burning, aching as if it had been split into a thousand pieces and painstakingly re-glued together. His cloak was tucked around her, and his hands smoothed her face and giving warmth wherever they touched.

“That is what we call an energy impersonation.” He spoke quietly, working methodically as he finally moved away and rooted through his pack, taking out several different objects and fitting them together. “it enables me to keep track of you and to also ensure your safety, such as not falling off the ledge into the canyon. I did not ask the energy to silence you though, which puzzles me, it seems your energies tangled with mine and produced that as a side effect. I did wonder, apparently I should keep closer tabs on you. The reason you are feeling quite this miserable is because I retracted, or extracted the energy back from you. That, and you are not used to strenuous physical activity.” His gaze flickered in the dull glow. “We’ll have to work on that.” From the tangle of gadgets at hand, he snapped his fingers and then plucked a steaming cup of broth from the center of it. “here.” He cupped her hands around it, guiding the cup to her mouth. “Extracting my energy from you, required straightening some of the crooked threads in your own powers, such sudden activity generally is uncomfortable and taxes the body. Drink, it will help for now.”

The scalding brew was more than welcome as it slid down her throat in large gulps. Eira felt the shakes coming before they actually started. It was the strongest healing brew she had ever taken in such a large quantity.

His frown deepened. “This shouldn’t be affecting you this deeply…” He took the empty cup from her trembling hands and helped her to stand. “I will explain this more clearly tomorrow, but for now, you’re going to sleep in a tree.”

The expression on her face must have meant something to him, for his lips quirked the way they did instead of smiling and he steadied her with one hand. “You wanted to sleep in a tree, if I recall correctly.”

It took a touch of effort to shake her head, but Eira had a feeling it wouldn’t help in her case.
“You won’t feel a thing and it will take good care of you.” Placing one hand on each shoulder, he pressed her backwards into the tree.

A strange, tickling sensation began all over her and Eira found herself neatly floating inside a hazy tube. When realization dawned of the hazy tube being the trunk of a tree, it took every remaining ounce of wit to keep herself from freaking out.

She could see the blurry figure of the Dark Phoenix as he scooped up his cloak from the ground and retreated to the middle of the clearing. “I will wake you in the morning.” He promised. “Sleep well. You need it.”

He knelt in the clearing, eyes closed.

Eira felt another wave of headaches coming on as he straightened and his body morphed, arms stretching upwards and changing into branches as he transformed into a tall, sturdy tree, steadily growing upwards.

Her mind wavered, struggled and then gave in. Her eyelids drooped and the blackness claimed her.

© Sara Harricharan

3 comments:

Hoomi said...

Huzzah! I'm glad you decided to continue the story, and no worries about the late post. It's not like this is a strict project or firm deadline.

Great chapter!

J.H. said...

_Greetings Sara, my apologies for skipping last week. Giving helpful feedback does cost me time, and with all the solemnity and excitement of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, I didn't have much to spare.
_So I've been bulleting my comments with the plus symbol '+'. Going forward, I'm giving it some meaning. Plus means positive feedback, minus '-' negative feedback, and a question mark '?'...well, you know.
+ I applaud you (can't you hear it?)! This segment has adrenaline: "The unexpected thrust sent her reeling towards the edge of a rather steep cliff." Character development: "I’m scared of dying!"..."What if I fall off and you’re so far ahead you can’t catch me?" Back story: "There was nothing he had to do but follow and yet he takes the time to fall off the edge and into that nightmare at the bottom." And suspense: "If they hear us, I can’t say I’m in the best of shape to take them on at present"; also "...which puzzles me, it seems your energies tangled with mine and produced that as a side effect." I knew you were capable of writing this way; you're being held to a higher standard now Sara, hee-hee! Seriously, part 8 is night and day to the previous six, pacing-wise; the first installment the exception. Should you return to the D.Phe. narrative again for further editing, why not start the story here--Eira's in the tree and she reflects on the events bringing her to this point wondering if her goal is worth all this? It would force you to write from a 1st-person perspective, but I feel like this story lends itself to that kind of narration. I'll read on to discern further.
- Biggest complaint are your clunky sentences. I've always been feeling this way--with fewer words she could have been clearer--but I hadn't been convinced you write this way 'til today. For example, par.61 where the D.Phe. and Eira talk about the student who fell off. This phrase is clunky, "...the cold was helping to keep her awake...". All you are telling me is that she was alert. You showed me it was cold when she wrapped her arms around herself. So: Eira hugged her arms to her chest, alert. See, that's clear. "...but the talking was making more sense." 'But' contorted the whole sentence. 'But' is asking me to contrast something. What? The fact that she's learning more about the D.Phe. and can make more sense of him now? Or the silence of before? I pick the silence. Eira was going to nod off then. Why are you telling me this? Is it to let me know that the talking 'and' the cold was keeping her awake? If so, you could have been clearer:" "And you went after him?" Eira hugged her arms to her chest--alert, now that she was talking. " Or, since I can see that she's talking, you could say:" "And you went after him?" Eira hugged her arms to her chest, grateful her mind had a task with which to stay awake. " You phrase your sentences like this often. I'll start bringing this to your attention when I catch it.
? I don't understand why the D.Phe. did an "energy impersonation". Please tell me. When Eira responds that her feet are cold, I'm led to think that she has hypothermia. Shouldn't the D.Phe. have been concerned with warming her feet? What does "keeping track of her" and "ensuring her safety" have to do with warming her!? What's more, how did you expect your readers to make this connection?

Sara Harricharan @ Fiction Fusion said...

Sounds like a good Easter! Hi again, J.H.! I know how busy this time of year is (my finals are starting fairly soon, so the brain cells are conserving energy-lol) Thanks for taking the time out of your busy-ness to leave some feedback. I like the little bullets--easy for me to follow. #8 was a fun piece to write, because I crammed so much into it after getting back into the story. (the first 6--I turned it into 7--were a few years old, 8 was when I was jumpstarting it back again)Hmm, thank you for the vote towards a first person POV. I have considered it, but never gotten further than that. Thank you for the note on clunky sentences...I have a tendency to ramble--and then I forget to edit some of it out. (a LOT of it out!)
For the question--see if #9 explains any of that first, then I'll give the behind-the-scenes explanation, okay? I was trying to speed up the rocky cavern piece, so there wasn't too much 'explanation' in there. I did attempt to cover the energy impersonation when she wakes again and the feet come in later, I think #11? Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to read my scribbles and leave such wonderful feedback. It helps a great deal to know what works and what doesn't. I am working on the 'improvement' part of things, so--again, thank you. Much appreciated! ~S