Friday, December 18, 2009

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (part 18)[Friday Fiction]

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the talented Karlene Jacobsen @ her blog, Homespun Expressions. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: I'm in a hurry. Don't have much to ramble about, sorry. But another stirring installment of the Dark Phoenix. I will try to fix that cliffhanger thing later. LOL. Enjoy! (and a special Christmas episode will be posted next week so keep an eye out for it!

When she could breathe again, Eira found herself lifted and sat quite firmly on the river bank with two very black, and very serious eyes fixed on her. She hiccupped, the alternative to a possible sneeze. The sudden expression his face, seemed to freeze any other reactions, including the trigger response sitting at the very tip of her tongue.
“I will say this exactly once, so please, apprentice, do make sure you are listening.” One hand reached up to cup her chin. “I never want to hear you say those words again, as long as you are under my instruction, understood?”
Eira blinked. “What?” The word slipped out and she leaned back. “I just said that-”
The hand immediately covered her mouth. “I know very well what you said, I heard you the first and the last time.”
She mumbled a few things through his fingers that darkened his severe expression another dozen degrees.
“That did not sound like a yes.” The hand dropped. “Yes? No? Yes?”
“There’s nothing wrong with it!” Eira burst out. “Everyone has a-” The hand covered her mouth again. It was smooth and cool, with the exception of one particular rough square beneath his thumb. Eira blinked. Her mind was wandering again. She tried to finish the sentence, for lack of any other way to explain herself and her particular choice of words. It was more than normal…at least for her family and work.
“Everyone where?” He countered, tapping her cheek with one finger to ensure her attention was focused on him. “That may be anywhere else in this universe among a wide variety of beings…even creatures, if you wish. However, if you would recall a particular conversation, I will attempt to clarify. I do believe I have mentioned you may have to adapt to a few…quirks of my own, because of personal preference?”
She mumbled. The hand moved. “No.”
“I thought so.” The hand dropped altogether.
“That’s not fair!” Eira sputtered. “Entirely unfair! You can’t just”-
“I can’t just what? It is very fair.” The eyebrows went up. “And I am more serious in this than I care for you to know. Do not let that kind of language pass through your lips for any reason whatsoever if you wish to retain the title of apprentice.” His brow furrowed. “I don’t want to even think of where you could have picked that up.”
“Hey! Don’t knock my family! You don’t know them!”
“You picked up that…from your family?” His confusion betrayed his bewilderment, for her affirmation didn’t seem to sort anything out at all.
“We just…it doesn’t…it doesn’t really matter…besides…I mean, well, okay, it does matter. You can’t say that…stuff to Mom, or Dad will have your head, but if you’re working and people are being stupid?” Her shoulders shrugged upwards unhelpfully. “I just…I’m sorry…I didn’t think I would…offend you.”
“There is very little if anything, that could possibly offend me, apprentice.” His mouth twitched. “I merely do not appreciate the context in which some words and actions are used and I do not think it is beneficial for you to insult your own intelligence.”
“You really need to work on that.”
“That…never mind. Maybe it will be your trademark.”
“I need a trademark?”
“Not now…maybe later. You’re changing the subject.”
“I am?”
“Cute.” The eyebrows shifted, to offer his unspoken opinion. “Regardless of where you learned what and for whatever reason you have it justified, a lack of varied vocabulary leads to one saying things that should never be said. You’re smart enough when you aren’t thinking yourself in circles, why not divert a fraction of that brain power to expressing the true meaning of whatever you have experienced?”
“I got as far as smart and experience.” Eira tilted her head, letting some of the water trickle out from her hair. “Why do you always have to talk with such a jumble of words?”
“I don’t know.” He said, sarcastic. “I was told I was born that way.”
“Oh. Well, that explains it.” Eira shrugged. A shiver passed through her.
“Why did I expect you to say that?”
She offered another shrug.
“Nonverbal communication is also a block for the speaker who cannot articulate and express themselves in a sophisticated manner. Are we clear?”
He closed his eyes for a moment and then reopened them. “Short.” He accented with one hand. “The short version. Don’t ever repeat what you just said, if you wish to remain….if you want to be…my apprentice, still. Understood?”
Eira swallowed. There was a swatch of darkness behind the words as they left his mouth and traveled the short distance to her ears. A scrap of darkness she hadn’t missed. “Okay…fine. It’s fair. I should have listened…I’m listening now…no swearing…no stage talk. Got it.”
“Stage talk?”
“I…uh…couldn’t possibly explain it without…I got it, okay? Can we leave it at that?”
“If you like.”
“I like.”
“Good girl.” He threw a glance over his shoulder at the water as he climbed onto the bank beside her. It faded, returning to its original course, with only a brief hiss of steam rising from the edges as the warm water collided with its cooler counterpart. “Up.” He extended a hand, seemingly more from habit than anything else, offering a towel. “Here…you can have this one…keep it in your pack from now on.”
The towel was accepted and Eira wrapped it quickly around her shoulders. She didn’t have a chance to shiver again however, because a blanket of warmth came with the towel along with a rather surprising discovery. “Hey!”
“Hmm?” His acknowledgment was absent as he lightly toweled off his hair and shoulders.
Eira turned to stare as she realized he was already dry from head to toe. She held the towel at arms’ length to survey her outfit. “Whoa. Cool.” It took a few more minutes of careful, strategic rubbing, before the gifted towel effectively removed any trace of dampness from her clothes, along with the dirt.
The Dark Phoenix waited, politely, the last few minutes until she was finished. “Better? Shall we proceed?”
“Yeah. I mean, yes. Thanks.” Eira quickly wadded it up in a round ball, tucking it under one arm. Her earlier frustration was resurfacing and it quickly overrode the awkward feeling from their most recent conversation. “Wait a minute!”
“Don’t hmm, me!” Eira snapped, she closed the short gap between them glare down at the inquisitive eyes. For once, she would make use of her size, versus his own short frame. “Gimme back my knife!”
The eyes blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
She poked him. “Don’t give me that! You gave me this stupid-” She bit back the word on the tip of her tongue and yanked on the sheath for emphasis. “I hate these little tests that you keep flinging out all over the place like-”
“Where’s your knife?” He shifted, subtly changing in form and presence. “Eira?” His request was more of a command.
“I don’t know! You took it!”
“Why would I take your knife?” He spoke each word deliberately, slowly.
“Eira, you are not thinking rationally and I need an honest answer. This is serious. Why would you think I took your knife? Is there something to suggest it? Have you any proof?”
“I need proof?” She mentally resisted the urge to poke him once more. She had a feeling if she did, he might snap her finger off. “Since when do I-”
“Please tell me you didn’t manage to leave it in there.” One finger was pointed in the general direction of the river. “If it is, you’re going back in there to retrieve it.”
“Oh, that’s nice! Really, nice!” She snapped. “You already took the stupid knife and hid it somewhere, just so you could-”
“I didn’t touch your knife.” His gaze fastened on the sheath buckled to her waist and then at her face. “I don’t understand what the prob-”
“Ha ha. As if you didn’t know!”
“I didn’t.” His voice was surprisingly cool. “When did you notice it was missing? It couldn’t have been when you were sleeping…you had it with you when I woke you…what did you do with it?”
“I didn’t do anything with it! You took it!”
“I did not take it and I do not appreciate having to repeat myself.” He frowned. “This is what’s bothering you?” The attempt to clarify seemed to add a touch of darkness to his being. “When did you notice it was missing?”
“Right after I put this stupid-”
“I would appreciate it if you would overlook the use of stupid as a word in favor of simply getting to the point?”
“I put this on!” Eira stabbed a finger at the sheath. “And then I tried to put the knife in only to discover that it wasn’t there!”
“You didn’t realize the knife was missing until after you’d put the sheath on?” His expression was mildly puzzled. “How could you not know if it was missing before you…never mind.” His head turned to the side as he backed away a few steps “This is bad…the gap between…that’s too much time…too close.”
“What? What’s too close? What gap?”
“Shh!” His head twitched in her direction, but his thoughts were clearly speeding along elsewhere. “No…that can’t be right. Yes, it can be right, it is very wrong. This is not good. I did not want this to happen.”
“Want what to happen? Hello! You could-”
“Hush your mouth!” The request was accompanied by a quick darting, glare. “This means there will be a problem…the very one I was hoping to avoid…which means…no. I don’t want to deal with that. It isn’t the kind of thing…oh dear. There will be witnesses, which means that-”
“Hello!” Eira’s hands went to her hips. “I’m sure you’re aware that you’re ignoring me on purpose and all of that, for whatever reason I’m too dense to understand, but if you don’t mind, I would really like to know what is going on here for-”
“Eira!” He whirled on her, at last. “Not another word!” The hands came together in the usual pinch and her mount clamped shut.
One last indignant squeak emerged as Eira felt her mouth shut of its own accord. There were a few choice words she was happy did not leave her mouth, though at that point, she didn’t care whether she remained his apprentice or not. Of course, this was only conveyed through wild gestures and grunts.
The eyes registered on her with mild disapproval. “I am attempting to think logically about something at this precise moment. You are distracting me at the worst possible time. If you would learn to keep quiet when necessary, I would not be shutting your mouth, half the time!” His annoyance registered with a touch of frustration. “And now I have to start thinking all over again.” He paused. “Don’t make me freeze you on top of that either!”
Eira stared at him. It took a half second for the words to register and the emotion behind them. She was beginning to feel the last strands of her temper, and confidence crumbling away to nothingness when something flickered in the wall of greenery behind him. She squinted and watched, suddenly fascinated.
The sparkle belonged to a strange, armored creature with a pointed helmet. It was something out of a fantasy novel and for that reason, Eira was completely enthralled, as she watched the thing crawl out from behind the underbrush and sidle closer. The moment was broken, however, when the helmet fell off and a hideous face of molten rock and dark energy focused solely on her. The grimace twisted into a smirk, intended only for her eyes.
Grunts, squeaks and waving arms did little for Eira, because she was roundly ignored by the Dark Phoenix as the creature approached, a sardonic expression on the fiery face. It was almost as if it knew she could do nothing to warn him. Something about the way it was and what it meant, somewhere in the back of her mind led to hostility brewing within her. And because she’d already done it once for the morning, she dropped the towel-armful and launched herself forward.
Her aim was off and it was—as the first two times, off-kilter. She managed to drag her master a few paces to the side and halfway to the ground. However, the creature had suddenly reared up, on two powerful hind legs to throw a black barb towards them. It found its mark, between the shoulder blades of the Dark Phoenix, a wound that was only worsened by the fall.
Eira stared, horrified now, from his rapidly paling form to the blackened blade sticking out of his back. She didn’t have time to think about what to do about it, she simply had to react. Scrambling to pull herself free of the tangle of arms and legs, Eira tried to summon her powers.
They fizzled miserably.
And faded away.
She swallowed.
This was going to be bad.


David A. Bedford said...

Maybe it's my computer, but I could not see the white letters clearly enough to read more than a fraction of the post. In any case, if you like clarity, check out my new release, Angela 1: Starting Over, a YA novel (the first in a series of three) set in coastal Texas. To learn more, just click on my name and follow the link to my website. I also invite you to read my blog at Thanks!

Sara Harricharan @ Fiction Fusion said...

Hi David! I do believe the background is a little crazy in the IE browser window. Firefox usually works all right. Thanks for reading though. Congrats on your new release!

J.H. said...

__Sara, do you approach writing as more an art or science? Do you care more about the story or the mechanics? How well do you balance both? Hello. A month got skipped because I was wrestling with these questions. Writing with only me and God as the audience, I cared solely about the story. This is what I connected to because I (we) knew everything that was happening. Add some other humans to the mix, like, a critique group, and now I’ve got to write so they can understand and make the same connection. It’s frustrating! I have to develop! I’m good enough! Right…? By the way, I did comment on part 17. You didn’t reply; maybe it didn’t go through, so I’m resending it.

= So I’m still in the wilderness listening to Eira and the D.Phe. trade jabs. Can I suggest, rather boldly, that you change the title of this work? "The Hunt for Dark Phoenix" is close in sounding like "The Hunt for Red October", like, the submarine movie with Sean Connery. I’ve got this serious, life-or-death, pearl-of-great-price preconception brought on from that movie. Then I read “what?” from Eira for the umpteenth time in this ‘hunt’ for the Dark Phoenix who is actually a sophisticated and long-winded principal character in the story rather than the ‘unobtainable object’, and I think, why not call it "The Laughter of Dark Phoenix". Still has that mystical ring to it. Like you said, there is some action coming, but maybe it could have come sooner, especially since you had some good master-apprentice lessons earlier that I assume you want to keep. There were so many though it dulled my energy level. That’s easily fixed by lacing dramatic moments throughout.

J.H. said...

+ The description of the D.Phe.’s expression as “darkening” is befitting this story [par. 5]. It’s not a new term, but it feels rare and foreign. I liked your use of it here.

- Then, however, you used it two other times in this installment and it lost its impact. It’s a great feeling to find the perfect description to associate with your characters, but when used too much its meaning becomes vague and the word itself becomes soggy. Review paragraphs 33 and 60 and compare.

+ “She mentally resisted the urge to poke him once more. She had a feeling if she did, he might snap her finger off” [par.53]. Great build of tension here. Instead of narrating “Eira could see the Dark Phoenix was growing angrier by the second”, you involve the reader in her actions, or lack thereof, and communicate the same thing, letting the reader figure it out.

- In contrast, paragraph 44: “Her earlier frustration was resurfacing and it quickly overrode the awkward feeling from their most recent conversation. “Wait a minute!”” Their ‘most recent conversation’ was that about the super drying towel. It wasn’t awkward though, so I knew you must have been referring to the “stage talk” conversation. That wasn’t all too clear at first. My main problem is that I’m not feeling Eira’s frustration at her missing/stolen knife. Here, I’d suggest revealing one or two of her thoughts, since her mood changes “quickly.” I said it once; this story lends itself more towards 1st person. Some day, when you’ve got more time, spend it writing from Eira’s mind so "Giggles with Dark Phoenix" will be personal.

Sara Harricharan said...

Hi again! Ah, I've been trying to figure out how to answer that question without coming across as an air-head. ^_^

It's a bit of both. Lately, I've become obsessed with plotting/mechanics/literary devices, etc. The honest answer would probably be art. I don't know if I've told you before, so ignore it if I have. Most of my story ideas come as a single snapshot of something in my head. I just catch a glimpse of them, frozen in time, in a situation and I work with it from there. Maybe it's the crazy surroundings, or the strange people in the same picture, but I write the whole story/idea out from one little "glimpse". Of course, I know that doesn't always "work" so I've been trying to divvy up some time between both sides. It's not as bad(or boring!) as I thought it'd be. I'm glad you found a critique group! Those are hard to come by where I am. ^_^ And yes, you are good enough. Regardless of where I am in my own writing adventures, if you do not believe in the talent that God has given you, technically, you have no right to complain, yes? I've found that I'm borderline when it comes to belief in my work and belief in myself to complete/create said work. I also find that when I am at the point where I am trusting God for that "validation", that it's a better place to be than thinking I know everything.

Ack. Didn't mean to go all serious on you, that's just my own opinion of these things. ^_^ I'll definitely have to redo the title sometime soon. I haven't decided what to call it, but an interesting fact is that I'd originally dubbed them "The Unevenly Matched Couple" and it was supposed to turn out as a romance, but ended up going in the complete opposite direction, so I renamed it and "tried again".

I do bounce around in POV's as the series ends. (since this was more of a giant writing experiment than anything) and there's some time spent with Eira and a few glimpses where she's a little more "real" in that sense. I think in the rewrites, I'll have alternating POV's to allow some input from both sides, or at least specific thought tags to Eira. Because she's the one with the most to say in the story, however, my fascination with the DP kind of skewed the whole thing.

Thanks for taking the time to read this installment--issues and all--I do appreciate the feedback and the time and effort it takes. I wish you all the best in your writing. By the way, are you participating in the National Novel Writing Event in November? Just curious!