Friday, October 2, 2009

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix [part 10]( Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by our new host, the very talented Karlene "KJ" Jacobsen over at her blog, Homespun Expressions. Click here to read and share more great fiction-and check out the new FF button!

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Author's Ramblings: Wow! I'm actually posting this before midnight and even before the afternoon is really alive. Lots of happy fuzzys for me. lol. I'm excited about this week's post, just a tad little bit, I couldn't resist making an entire episode out of Eira's little "fall" last week and hopefully, this will be an enjoyable post. I've got plenty of possibilities for next week and almost a solid idea for next week. (Though I am open to suggestions, since this is a literal write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-on-fridays-only kind of story.) Have a great weekend and thanks for reading! I love every comment-it makes writing this worth it. ^_^

The temperature did not improve.

Eira continued in the lead, guided by occasional pokes to one shoulder or the other to prompt which fork in the path to take. There was no conversation within fifteen minutes, and both soon lapsed into a neutral sort of silence.

The rumbling of her stomach was quieted by a piece of jerky from her bag, a treat which she gnawed while navigating the strange pathways. It was as if they had been cut with a box-like blade that carved out a single passageway through the host of greenery.

Her thoughts continued to wander, a vain attempt to ignore his last question. Leeching. What she knew of the subject was not what she truly cared to, the very mention of the world had yanked a wealth of memories to the surface. Memories she would have rather stayed buried in her subconscious, were now floating freely through her mind. Slivers of darkness shifted to the front and Eira closed her eyes to push it away and hoped she wouldn’t stumble.

The momentary lack of sight did not cause any additional awkwardness on her behalf, by the time her eyes had opened, another layer of weariness had been added to her shoulders. Her head began to throb and she stubbornly tugged out another piece of jerky and wrenched the stick in half, cramming it into her mouth. She did not want to think of that now, not of the things that had driven her to choose her current lot in life at present.

Another shudder passed through her and it was one she could not suppress. The inward groan was preparation for the question Eira was sure would follow.

It was only a half-second late. “Cold?”

Her feet were numb, but Eira chose to ignore it. “No.”

There was another gap of silence, the sounds of her feet on the ground and his nearly silent steps behind her. The passage of time either slowed to flew, which one, Eira did not know, she was not keeping track of it. The images in her head continued their torment and when his hand touched her shoulder, she jumped.

“Eira!”

“What!” The exclamation was hurled out as she whirled around to glare at him, caught up in her own personal prison.

He blinked, surprised, taking a step backwards. “I said, the grove is up to your left.”

“Oh.” A lump caught in her throat and she choked it back. “Right.” She turned back towards the path, but he brushed past her, taking the lead.

“Right through here.” He stuck an arm through the wall of prickly greenery and held it to the side. “In. Quick.”

Eira ducked through the underbrush and found herself standing in a clearing similar to where she’d spent the night. She moved forward until she stood in the very center and then began to take in the lush surroundings.

It was quite an improvement from the first clearing. Brilliantly colored plants lined every rounded corner and fat fruits hung from overhead branches. The sound of running water was heard and Eira cocked her head, tracing the sound.

“It’s straight ahead.” The Dark Phoenix stepped through, and the bushes sprang back into place. “The stream.” He crossed the clearing and parted another handful of skinny, flexible trees. The shiny blue-purple stalks gleamed in the daylight as he retrieved a knife and methodically cut a path through them. “Don’t eat anything green, but everything else is edible.” He tossed the newly cut stalks to form a rough pile. “Don’t eat the yellow ones raw, we’ll roast those.” He continued his work. “And save the seeds from anything purple-they have special essences inside, that will be useful later.”

Eira stared after him for a moment, her mind struggling to wrap around his instructions and then refusing to comprehend them at all. She turned to the nearest tree and selected a glossy red specimen. Polishing it on her sleeve, she took a large bite.

Thankfully, it was ripe and that mouthful was immediately followed by another. Eira was more than content to stuff her mouth and silence her mind. It helped. Her stomach soon settled and she happily continued munching away, stowing a few select specimens in her bag for a later snack time.

The Dark Phoenix returned just as she was licking her fingers. He carried a small brown pouch and an armful of purple sticks. “Full, yet?” He stared upwards, moving until satisfied he was standing directly in the center of the little hideaway. “Save some room for the yellow ones, you’ll like them.”

Eira sniffled, wiping her mouth on the shoulder of her sleeve and then, for the familiarity if offered, sucked her fingertips. There was still a touch of tart nectar and it brought happier times to the surface of her mind. She didn’t say anything, but watched as he built a fire, starting it with a fine powder from the fat brown pouch. Her curiosity stirred, but she wasn’t in the mood to satisfy it.

Another shudder moved through her and she inched closer to the fire. It didn’t take long before the heat reached her and Eira moved forward enough to sit a few feet away from the warmth. Her fingers were frozen and her feet hurt. The pain in her head had grown dull. Her eyelids drooped and a quiet burp escaped.

His gaze flickered upwards, skittering over her before returning to his project. His trusty knife rendered the stalks to a neat little fuel pile which he placed just within her reach. Rolling to his feet, he headed for the bushes with the perfectly round yellow fruits.

He returned with an armful and stacked it neatly in a pyramid, settling down cross-legged across from her. His eyes rested on her as he began to peel and halve the fruit.

Eira diligently kept her gaze fixed on the tips of her boots, drawing her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. She worked on clearing the fog in her head, succeeding only in keeping the painful aches just within her limits. It was harder this time around than she remembered. The throbbing in her head grew increasingly worse as the memories struggling to be accepted fought their course in her head.

The sound of sizzling caused her to jump and Eira relaxed a fraction as she discovered the source to be a black disc of energy. It was a smooth, rippling oval, and several fruit halves were arranged on the surface as it hovered directly above the flickering flames.

For a moment, their eyes met and Eira immediately twisted away. The piercing intensity of his golden-gray eyes was too much to handle. Her mind began the usual methods of closing itself off, she had no telepathic powers to speak of, but her mind had learned enough to keep to itself. She was still fighting the mental battle when a slice of speared fruit was offered on a stick. Her lips moved, saying. “Thank you.” And she blew softly on the steaming chunk to cool it.

Her stomach began to churn as she polished off the first chunk and accepted a second piece. The uncomfortable sensation began to build within as she continued to eat. The fruit was surprisingly tasty and easy to chew. It slid down her throat, feeding the craving for warmth in her body.

The next few minutes happened so quickly, Eira did not have time to react. Her body simply responded and her energies buckled and tangled within to a dangerous point which she could no longer control.

And then they exploded.

A choked sound escaped as her stomach heaved, then promptly expelled the contents on the ground, a mere inch from her hand. Her stomach continued to heave, even as she automatically gathered her energies and fisted one hand as she’d done before. Touching it to the side of her neck, it took the remaining bit of energy and focus to tap the fist and release the healing.

The result was not what she was expecting.

A loud slurping sound echoed in the clearing as the golden blue-green orb of energy was literally pulled out of her throat and flung into the open. The exact thought that chose to present itself was the fact that maybe this is what it felt like to die. Another squeak escaped and Eira was vaguely aware of someone calling her name. This was not supposed to happen this way.

The hiccups and the shakes began almost at once and her stomach continued to regurgitate whatever invisible contents remained within. Her throat burned, a foul taste on her tongue as the finishing touch became the fiery fingers trying to pry into her head.

Cool hands touched her shoulder and then gently lifted her away from the mess on the ground. The tiny prickles in her head subsided, as a thread of dark energy somehow slipped in and Eira clung to it with the last fragments of her consciousness. She was laid on something soft and a phrase murmured over her head, ending with “please.” Darkness swirled upwards in a thousand different ways and Eira gave in without another struggle.

There was not much else she remembered, though time had passed considerably when the hands were shaking her awake. The air had grown even cooler and there was no natural light filtering through the trees. The face studying her was mildly concerned.

“Eira?”

She tried to answer, but her empty stomach and aching throat overpowered the half-hearted effort. Her lips parted with some difficulty and something was dribbled into the corner of her mouth. The sweet liquid moved easily down her throat, soothing the rawness and adding a sense of comfort.

“Before I scold you,” His voice was slightly irritated. “Would you mind telling me exactly how you were carless enough to ingest Pithiean poison?”

They were the very last words Eira cared to hear, but it explained enough for her brain to stop chasing answers around in her head. “Poison?” She asked, weakly.

An eyebrow arched, pointedly. “There’s signature traces in your stomach and your hands, though I already checked this area and there isn’t any for a few miles radius. You were in front of me for practically the entire day, I don’t recall any sudden urges to scrape poisoned sap off a tree and eat it.” He sighed. “I also specifically asked you not to use your powers and yet you went ahead and did! You could have killed yourself!”

Eira glared at him with as much feeling as she could muster. There was still too much fear wrapped around the thought of death that she didn't think she could handle that part of his rant just yet. “I had to do that and I didn’t eat any poisoned anything on purpose!”

“I gathered as much.” He snapped, rising to his feet. “We’ll have to stay here for the night, you’re in no condition to travel.”

“I-in a tree?” Everything else seemed to pale in comparison as Eira backtracked to the night before. “I don’t think I can-”

“You’re not sleeping in a tree, either. You’re in no condition for that, though I’ll bring you something to drink in a moment, it should almost be done brewing. I couldn’t put your healing energy back in while you were asleep, because this time around, I intend to knit it with your lifeforce. Expelling it the way you did, or rather, rejecting it as your powers did, is not a very good start at all, it is going to be much more difficult this time around.”

“Aren’t you even going to ask how I’m doing?” Eira felt her temper working up.

He appeared at her side, steaming cup in hand. “How are you doing?”

Eira sniffled. “Fine.”

“I thought so, you need to drink this-sit up…slowly.”

It took a few minutes to sit up on her own and then to drink the desired broth. It was filling to some degree, with a salty flavor that she craved-an opposite to her fruity surroundings. “I was poisoned?”

“You must have touched something.” He frowned. “How, I’m sure if I actually think about it, I will find a suitable answer, but for the moment, I think it would be wiser to focus on your healing rather than the cause.”

“What?”

“I already know the cause, therefore all I need is a custom cure.” He nodded towards the cup in her hand. “and that should do the trick.” The frown deepened. “However, for using your powers unauthorized and most definitely without my permission, consider all your extra hours of free time this week, non-existent. You’ve used them up for the time you were sleeping and until you can be trusted to spend a day without using your energy in any way, your hour will be mine.”

“That’s not fair!”

“I do not recall saying I would be fair.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t be!”

“Exactly how is this unfair?”

“It’s…it’s…it just is!”

“I gave you one rule, only and you broke it without a second thought.” He took the empty cup from her. “Every action earns itself a reward or consequence, in this case, I specifically requested that you refrain from using your powers in any way-”

“I was choking!”

“I would hardly call vomiting, choking when one is-”

“What if I was choking? I couldn’t help that! I couldn’t help any of it-how can there be a problem? It’s not like I deliberately decided I’m just going to go and oooh, I wanna break a rule, so I’m going to just let my head explode so I can give you a chance to yell at me?

“I was not aware that I was…yelling.” His voice dropped even lower from the bored tone. “Are you finished yet?”

“No! I’m not! How can you just-how can this-even for a healing?”

“Especially for a healing-and do not interrupt me like that again when I am in the middle of making a point.”

“Excuse me for missing the point!”

“Your body rejected a custom crafted healing graft.” Something flashed in his gray eyes. “I have seen that happen a handful of times-and it only happens when the individual has been careless enough to use their own healings instead of trusting the orb to work for them. The results are never good.”

“So I should have just let myself-”

“You should have trusted me.” His voice was even. “and in the little snap of time we have known each other, you should have already been aware of my limits, as you did test them before and correctly guessed through logical methods that I would not allow under these circumstances to-”

“Blind trust isn’t my strong point! I don’t even know what you can do! I don’t even see how you could have helped me-how am I supposed to trust someone I don’t know! Stop trying to blame this on me! It’s not my fault! I didn’t just go and get myself poisoned for the fun of it!”

“I am not accusing you of anything, nor trying to place the blame. Things like this do happen whether it be a lousy set of circumstance or merely ignorance.”

“Ignorance? Oh joy. Now there’s a big word.” Eira couldn’t keep her temper in check. “You’re just all Mr. high and mighty aren’t you? I could’ve been killed! I know what Pithiean poison is and I know what it does-I reacted because I had to and I don’t see how-”

“We are not going to argue this point. I only woke you because you needed to drink this, the best thing to do right now, would be to go back to sleep. I will wake you in the morning-you need to sleep this off.”

“Right. Great, just go ahead and change the subject and leave this as if it is nothing more than just…and since when can anyone just sleep off a poisoning in a night?” Eira scoffed. “Maybe I’ll just fall asleep and not get around to the waking up part. I doubt you would care!”

“Tell me,” He asked, lightly. “That you aren’t feeling better already? You will be fine by tomorrow morning. And your head is filled with a everything nonsensical at present-empty it. When you do, I am sure your thoughts will clear and perhaps my point will be clearer.”

Eira opened her mouth, then shut it. True, a lot of the horrible, awful feelings from earlier were now absent and whatever had been in the broth he’d given her seemed to be working its magic. Her lip curled halfway to a pout and she settled down, turning her back to him. “Still not fair.” She mumbled.
“I shall reset your healing energy tomorrow.” He rummaged through something, creating a curious set of sounds, which ended with the sound of running water. He was washing her cup. “Good night, Eira.”

Eira made a face in the dark. So incredibly unfair!

© Sara Harricharan

3 comments:

Dee Yoder said...

Well, spraks are flying between these two! I wonder what will happen when they spend even MORE time together. (:

J.H. said...

__Ah, another comment finished, and speaking of finished... congratulations Sara! You've just graduated from college, what are you gonna do next? I did not picture this was your graduating year. All the talk about finishing papers and taking finals gave me an impression of you as the studious freshman or sophomore trying to get the common classes out and done with so the specialty classes could fill the time. I can see now that you would work just as hard regardless, I compliment you. It sounds like your degree has been well earned then, congratulations again!
- A major pain this read was, why, because it's obvious you haven't fully developed the reason why Eira is mortified by the subject of leeching. This is perfectly ok, I know stories need time to write themselves, but it just seemed as if you didn't know how to drop the subject after paragraph 4. "She did not want to think of that now..." I can see that, so why are you telling me in par.5? Well, the answer seems to be so you can parade the fact that you fully intend to keep your readers in suspense: "Another shudder passed through her and it was one she could not suppress. [par.6]" "Her feet were numb, but Eira chose to ignore it. [par.8]" "...caught up in her own personal prison. [par.11]" "Eira was more than content to stuff her mouth and silence her mind. [par.19]" "Her curiosity stirred, but she wasn’t in the mood to satisfy it. [par.21]" All of paragraph 25. "...her mind had learned enough to keep to itself. She was still fighting the mental battle... [par.27]". Am I right? Three paragraphs later, you finally get to the main idea of this installment. My suggestion is open with the campfire scene. Don't even tell us that Eira ignored the D.Phe's instructions about what to eat, the audience will understand that throughout the dialogue as they realize Eira poisoned herself. Five paragraphs, easy--seven at the most--then Eira explodes.
+ I appreciated the non-comedic nature of this installment. It allowed for you to give clearer descriptive form of your ideas concerning their special powers; pars.45, "...I intend to knit it with your lifeforce", and 67, "Your body rejected a custom crafted healing graft", were key. This seriousness also allowed you to attack some of Eira's immaturity as it regards her submitting to authority. The scolding and following disagreement felt real and engaging; even though Eira is the main character, I sided with the D.Phe. on this one because of the honest quality in his judgment. Unless...it was 'him' who poisoned Eira!

Sara Harricharan @ Fiction Fusion said...

Hi J.H! Thank you for the congrats--the last two years have a been somewhat a blur and I am excited to have a whole summer ahead of me, where I will not be stressing over schedules--yet.

Why Eira is terrified of leeching was a topic I intended to tackle in Pietrasaan (the city where they are arriving/staying in this week) But you're right, that is too big a gap to toss out such a small breadcrumb. *facepalm* I probably had a happy moment--sorry, it is something I have labeled for "Character development" in Eira's case.

Eira poisoned herself by eating the sap from the tree that she fell into earlier. It would have washed away with the fruit juices on its own, leaving her unharmed, but she decided to suck her fingers--and that is what fully brought on the allergic reaction.

I'm glad you did enjoy the serious interaction between Master-apprentice. Eira definitely has issues with authority and the DP has a few issues of his own to hammer out. I've tried to give him a more authoritative expression, but it is hard to tell sometimes. I have a few things in mind for him, but most of them center on Eira getting over herself/past/personal issues to grow up and learn something useful.

I do see what you mean though--and I hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks again for taking the time and putting so much effort into these comments. I really appreciate it--and it is a tremendous help as I work through the edits and continue with future installments. Have a great week! Cheers!
~S