Friday, December 11, 2009

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (Part 17) [Friday Fiction ]

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the talented Karlene "KJ" Jacobsen herself @ her blog, Homespun Expressions. Click here to read and share more great fiction!
Author's Ramblings: Well, Christmas is almost here and I've had a few requests for another episode with Theodore McGinty. You can read last year's adventure here. As for Eira and DP, well, they've had a bit of fun with tempers flying wildly and mysterious things happening. I had quite a bit of fun with this piece. Poor Eira! Of course, plenty of dialogue. I've made it through a few finals btw, more to come next week. Thank you for understanding and excusing my unedited work. lol. Have a great weekend!

The dreams weren’t kind that night.
And neither was the ground.
Eira awoke to another splitting headache with cramps and aches in places she’d almost forgotten existed. She was awakened to the persistent tapping of something on her foot that refused to be ignored.
When her eyelids finally forced themselves open, she focused, unsteadily on tall black boots standing at her feet. It took another moment before her consciousness clicked in and Eira realized that the Dark Phoenix was studying her rather quizzically from above, and methodically nudging her foot with his own.
“Finally.” The eyebrows went up. “If you didn’t wake up now, I was going to dump something on you.”
Eira took his hand in sitting up and yawned widely. It didn’t seem as if it could be morning already. It didn’t seem as if she’d gotten any sleep at all. She was about to tell him that, when his words registered. “What?”
“Lovely.” His mouth twitched at her usual trigger response. “And good morning to you too.”
“What exactly-” Eira coughed and then grimaced. The night must have been cold for her throat was burning to a degree she couldn’t recall. “is good about it.” Another cough sputtered out.
“Sleep well?” He inquired, politely, returning to his own corner where his pack was neatly buckled and waiting.
“No. I had nightmares.”
“Good ones or bad ones?” He murmured, fiddling inside the pack and then tossing something over his shoulder. “Catch.”
She did so, more out of habit than his actual warning. The object in question turned out to be the sheath for the knife he’d previously given her. The same one he’d cut her hair with. The same one she’d seen in the nightmare last night that had replayed itself over and over again. She coughed and dropped it.
“Pick it up.” He said, cheerfully, without even bothering to turn. “Tie it to whichever side is the hand you use the least, that way the hand you use the most is the one that will draw it.” He straightened, turning, a stack of towels in hand.
Eira blinked. She looked from the miniscule pack to the nearly overflowing armful. Her head throbbed and she winced, turning away from his happy expression. “What now?”
“We can cover a lot of ground today…the air’s just right.” He tucked the towels under one arm. “Before we start though, there is one thing I need to fix.” He started towards the bushes.
“Right.” Eira watched him go and then stooped to retrieve the fallen sheath. Her fingers obeyed his words, wrapping neatly around the tunic’s belt and hanging just to her right side. It was when she reached for the knife to replace it in its rightful holder, that she froze.
It took a moment, but it wasn’t the initial thought that scared her. Rather, it was the second. Eira patted the pockets and sleeves quickly, then frantically scanned the ground where she’d spent the night. The first stirrings of panic registered as she realized there was only the impression of her body in the faint dew and nothing more to show that anyone or anything else had been there.
No footprints. She shrugged her shoulders until they touched her ears. This was going to be very, very bad. Biting her lip, she dropped to her knees, crawling to the bushes to stick her head beneath the damp leaves. There was no sight of the knife under the bushes or the low branches and her efforts were rewarded in the way of muddy hands and a dirty outfit.
Trying to remove the dirt from her hands and clothes only made a bigger mess as Eira stifled a scream of frustration, sagging back onto a sturdy tree trunk. “This isn’t funny!” She told the tree, gingerly folding her arms. She was now aware of how cold it was and how damp her clothes were in addition to the horrid mud.
A trickle of wetness splashed from the tree to her head and slipped down beneath her collar. Eira jerked away from the tree with a scowl, rolling her shoulders. It was bad enough to be wet, bad enough to be awake and even worse to remember what had made the day before such a terrible memory.
On top of a short haircut, she was now reminded of the knife and then of the too-cheerful expression of her new Master. “Tell me again.” She said, through gritted teeth. “Tell me again, why in the name of Bieria, am I doing this? Whatever possessed me to the degree that led to this!” She threw up her hands, gesturing wildly in air.
Realization dawned with another inkling of frustration as Eira stomped towards the bushes. “Of course. This is another one of those tests. I’m sick of tests. I’m sick of this. I hate you!”
The words tumbled out as she charged through the bushes and tried to stop a few seconds too late. She hadn’t been counting the steps, though even if she had, Eira hadn’t calculated for the Dark Phoenix to see her coming and gallantly step to the side.
Her arms swung wildly in the air and she pitched forward into the freezing water. The scream that could have left her lips, didn’t. Eira surfaced with a choking gasp, more furious than ever.
The Dark Phoenix however, was trying not to smile, but failing in successfully suppressing his amusement as he watched from the bank, arms crossed over his chest. “I was wondering what was taking you so long to get here, but I didn’t want to bother you.” His mouth twitched. “I also would have stopped you…but judging from the dirt on your face, I daresay a bath would be somewhat in order and a fresh change of clothes, which I may have neglected to add to your pack. I can’t remember if I ordered it for a week or a month…I don’t suppose you know?”
“What?” Eira struggled to swim to the bank, feeling her arms growing numb and heavy. She was at the point of wondering exactly how dense he was, when he stooped down to her level and touched one finger to the water.
“Logically, one usually warms the water before swimming…or drowning in it.” His eyes smiled at her, while his face smoothed over, registering with a neutral expression. “I suppose that’s as safe a thing to teach you as any, if you’re going to keep up this habit of…water sports, in the morning.”
Warmth spread through her like a thick, oozing sort of feeling. Eira stopped struggling, long enough to realize that she could feel her limbs again. Of course, by the time that registered, Eira also realized that she wasn’t quite drowning anymore. Instead, the waters had calmed and were almost buoying her up, of its own accord, refusing to let her sink lower than her elbow. “Uh-” The question didn’t quite come out yet, but Eira turned and yelped in surprise. “Hey!” The word was garbled as two hands clamped down, one on her hand and the other on her shoulder.
Eira sputtered again when she surfaced and this time was met by a smiling face. The amusement in his eyes was too much at that point, for now it was more than evident on his face as the Dark Phoenix took a step backwards, as if gauging her reaction. “What was that for?”
“Whining.” He released her. “You shouldn’t be whining this early in the morning…gives me a headache and sets your temper in the wrong mood.”
She pushed him away, tilting her head to get the water out. “My mood is just fine!”
“It could use a little more…” He shrugged. “One dunking usually cools it off though.”
It took her a split-second before she twisted and lunged at him.
He dodged to the side as he done before and she compensated a moment too late-again. When he let her surface a moment later, she jerked away, lifting her chin as he released her arms. “This is not helping!”
“On the contrary…it would seem you have…quite a bit of frustration to burn.” He didn’t laugh, though he may as well have.
Eira whirled around with energy she didn’t have and aimed for his chest, changing her movement at the last moment and kicking towards his feet. She caught him off guard, because he’d blocked her original intent, but missed her secondary target and went down. For a moment, they tussled. She managed to hold him under for a brief moment, and it fueled her frustration enough for the wrestling to continue.
It was quick and mostly painless, until she was ducked again.
“No fair!” Eira coughed, the third time, retreating further away to shake the water from her head before preparing to attack again.
“You deserved it the first time.” He snapped his fingers at the water. “The second time…you were just careless…and the third…same thing.”
“I was only trying to-”
“I know.” The water in their section rose until it was shoulder height, while the river continued to run its course. “I suppose I’ll have to teach you some sort of…weaponless defense sooner or later.” His mouth twitched. “Perhaps sooner than later. I’d rather you learned to use a blade first.” His hand extended. “Better?”
“I’ve got water in my ears, in my hair…I’ve almost drowned and I’ve been-”
“You’re having a perfectly normal morning.” He wiggled his fingers. “Come on. Try again.”
“Try what?” Eira sniffed. “I don’t wanna try anything. Besides…my throat hurts.”
“Where?” He waded closer, attention shifting.
“Here.” Eira pointed and winced. “And my head hurts too.”
Cool fingers brushed lightly on her throat, followed immediately by a light thwack to her forehead. “There. Better?” He inquired, taking a few steps backwards.
She waited a moment, before she answered, and then moaned. The ache in her throat faded along with the headache. It throbbed faintly, before ebbing away to nothing altogether. “Nooooo.”
He chuckled. “I’ll spare you then…though you were doing pretty well, unless that was just raw instinct. I take it you had brothers?”
Eira snorted. “None that realized I existed…”
“Really? Then who taught you that?”
“What?” She deadpanned.
“You actually tackled me. I wasn’t expecting it, but I should have…I just didn’t think you would actually…do that.”
“Next time, think!” Eira snapped, attempting to wring some of the water from her clothes. She stopped when she realized that mud was still decorating a significant portion of her daywear.
“I suppose next time I will.” He cleared his throat, waiting for her to look up.
“What?”
“We’ll skip meditations today, as long as you do your best to focus on the lesson now.”
Her head snapped up at once. “No meditations?”
“You needn’t sound so happy about it.” He peered into the water. “We’ll work on your…water sports.”
“Very funny!”
“On the contrary…as I said earlier…it would appear you have some frustration to work off and I can’t resist the opportunity to-”
“To drown me? Dunk me? Otherwise torture me?” Eira nearly shrieked. “You’ve done all sorts of-” She broke off with another squeal and lunged forward again.
This time, he moved slower, taking care to block her blows and dodge backwards instead of immediately ending the round. “You’re losing because-”
“Because of what? My technique?”
“Your technique is fine…your spirit isn’t.” He lazily dodged another swing and circled, shifting so she was now backing towards the riverbank.
“You don’t know anything about-” Eira gasped, as he darted forward, catching her wrists and spinning her around, trapped between him and the riverbank. “Ow!”
“That.” His voice was soft in her ear. “Is not my twisting your wrists, but injured pride and misplaced anger. This is an excellent lesson you ought to learn…the sooner you learn it, the less time we spend…debating the merits of it. You should never attack in anger…at least, not with where you’re directing it. Righteous anger has its place, but being angry just because and fighting to punish, take revenge or to control another being isn’t right.”
“Says who?” Eira struggled to get loose. She was now discovering he was a lot stronger than he’d let on. “Lemme go! You’re hurting me!”
“Are you breathing?” His voice was calm. “Answer me, Eira.”
“Yeah! Duh!”
“Good. Then as far as I am concerned…you’re fine…temporary discomfort is precisely that. Temporary.” His grip relaxed. “However, it appears you do not care either way.”
“You don’t care about anything!”
“Would you care to clarify that?”
“NO!”
“Is something bothering you?”
“Oh, wow. You’re a genius!” She spat the words out. “How long did it take you figure that one out, huh? Wait a minute, are you even sure there’s something wrong?”
“Is there?”
“No. Of course not.”
“There is something bothering you.” He sighed. “Is it your hair?”
“What hair?”
“No breakfast?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Liar. You haven’t eaten yet. You’re always hungry until noon.” He shifted. “Your nightmare?”
“What?”
“Is that’s what’s bothering you, the nightmare?”
“From someone who thinks nightmares can be good, I completely fail to see the relation between-”
“Sometimes they can be good.”
“Nightmares are never good!”
“Says you!”
“Shut up!”
“Eira.” His voice softened. “Are you going to tell me what’s bothering you or should I just dunk you and we can start all over again!”
The answer Eira gave wasn’t the one he wanted to hear.
He dunked her.
© Sara Harricharan

5 comments:

Dee Yoder said...

Will these two make it to the end or will they kill each other first!? Love the dialogue and the characterizations, Sara!

J.H. said...

__Hi again Sara, and congratulations finishing this serial (not to mention finally responding to my string of comments)! I pray you blessings and wisdom with the new one and some obvious wisdom I’ll give is: do the work before the work. Making an outline or drawing a plot skeleton ‘does’ go a long way in helping your plot and thoughts stay un-random. You offered that I stop reading this story to save myself the headache. That does feel rude but at the same time, I want to offer my observations to other projects of yours especially, as your skills develop. So I’ll read and comment as I’ve done through part 20, then comment every 5th installment. Ok, let me get into this briefly, hopefully.

+ I like this part in that the D.Phe. is finally addressing Eira’s emotional state with the intent to correct it: “You shouldn’t be whining this early in the morning…gives me a headache and sets your temper in the wrong mood…one dunking usually cools it off though.” This is your purpose throughout, despite the childish act of her trying to dunk him, and you achieved it here. “You should never attack in anger…righteous anger has its place, but being angry just because and fighting to punish, take revenge or to control another being isn’t right.” Keep this lesson and the metaphor of trying not to get dunked underwater, it’s a strong one. Put it earlier in their journey, right up there with meditations and him teaching her how to heal herself.

-My Biggest frustration was not being able to follow the action. So the D.Phe warms the water and he’s standing on the bank according to paragraph 25. Through this, Eira floats in the water and then the D.Phe. dunks her, but when did he get in the water?: “…as two hands clamped down, one on her hand and the other on her shoulder” [par. 28]. That’s a hard image to picture and also seems painful; at first I thought he was about to hoist her out the river. It might be easier to simply say, ‘and suddenly she was dunked’, and leave the next paragraph to explain that it was the D.Phe., and that he perhaps pushed her under by her shoulders.
The frustrations continue as it seems even you intended for him to get into the water when he dunked Eira the first time. “She managed to hold him under for a brief moment…” you say in paragraph 36, but when did he get in?
I’ve commented that you are very mindful of your characters positions, but that same attention wasn’t taken here. Finally in paragraph 47: “He waded closer, attention shifting.” Then in par.54, it’s suggested that they are suddenly out again, “…Eira snapped, attempting to wring some of the water from her clothes,” how can she do this if she’s still in the river!?! The thing to do to avoid this is…re-read your work.

J.H. said...

[Originally sent August/20/2010]

__Hi again Sara, and congratulations finishing this serial (not to mention finally responding to my string of comments)! I pray you blessings and wisdom with the new one and some obvious wisdom I’ll give is: do the work before the work. Making an outline or drawing a plot skeleton ‘does’ go a long way in helping your plot and thoughts stay un-random. You offered that I stop reading this story to save myself the headache. That does feel rude but at the same time, I want to offer my observations to other projects of yours especially, as your skills develop. So I’ll read and comment as I’ve done through part 20, then comment every 5th installment. Ok, let me get into this briefly, hopefully.

+ I like this part in that the D.Phe. is finally addressing Eira’s emotional state with the intent to correct it: “You shouldn’t be whining this early in the morning…gives me a headache and sets your temper in the wrong mood…one dunking usually cools it off though.” This is your purpose throughout, despite the childish act of her trying to dunk him, and you achieved it here. “You should never attack in anger…righteous anger has its place, but being angry just because and fighting to punish, take revenge or to control another being isn’t right.” Keep this lesson and the metaphor of trying not to get dunked underwater, it’s a strong one. Put it earlier in their journey, right up there with meditations and him teaching her how to heal herself.

J.H. said...

[Originally sent August/20/2010]

- My Biggest frustration was not being able to follow the action. So the D.Phe warms the water and he’s standing on the bank according to paragraph 25. Through this, Eira floats in the water and then the D.Phe. dunks her, but when did he get in the water?: “…as two hands clamped down, one on her hand and the other on her shoulder” [par. 28]. That’s a hard image to picture and also seems painful; at first I thought he was about to hoist her out the river. It might be easier to simply say, ‘and suddenly she was dunked’, and leave the next paragraph to explain that it was the D.Phe., and that he perhaps pushed her under by her shoulders.

- The frustrations continue as it seems even you intended for him to get into the water when he dunked Eira the first time. “She managed to hold him under for a brief moment…” you say in paragraph 36, but when did he get in?

- I’ve commented that you are very mindful of your characters positions, but that same attention wasn’t taken here. Finally in paragraph 47: “He waded closer, attention shifting.” Then in par.54, it’s suggested that they are suddenly out again, “…Eira snapped, attempting to wring some of the water from her clothes,” how can she do this if she’s still in the river!?! The thing to do to avoid this is…re-read your work.

Sara Harricharan said...

And I've finally a chance to reply again! ^_^ I'm glad your comments came through this time, it was probably a glitch on my end somewhere.

I can see where the motions get confusing. Anything action related often has me puzzling over it. It's one of the points I've wanted to work on in my writing, along with setting/description. Thanks for pointing out this passage--I can definitely see what you're talking about

Re-reading almost always helps me to sort out some of these things. Thanks for the reminder! I tend to skip the proof reading when I'm in a hurry, as it's not for something "official" and merely for the "fun of it". Sometimes, if the weekend isn't too busy, I'll skim through it a day or so later (when it's been sitting for a bit) and run some spelling/dialogue tag edits through them. It's a habit I'm trying to break, as I've always been dashing about in too much of a hurry and it shows quite badly. Again, thanks for taking the time to read this! I do appreciate it and I hope things are going well on your end.

~Sara