Friday, September 25, 2009

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix [part 9] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Sherri Ward @ her blog "A Candid Thought". Click here to read and share more great fiction!
Author's Ramblings: Well, I've managed to finish this piece one time this week, miraculous, considering my week. LOL. I managed to burn both my hands at a family cookout last weekend and today is the first day I can type almost normally without any pain, stinging, prickling or other ouches at all. I am extremely happy for it. ^_^ This week's installment has very little action-wise, mostly more issues being worked out between Eira and Dark Phoenix, but I threw in a few hints for next week, can you tell what's going to happen next? Please read, rate and comment! I love all feedback and especially knowing that this story is making sense to someone other than myself. lolz. Have a great weekend and thank you for taking the time to read this!
The loud groaning in the morning was the main clue that something was dreadfully amiss. As it was, the sound itself took a moment to register along with the fact that she could not do anything about it. Eira attempted to twist and turn only to find that she was frozen in the exact position she had left consciousness the day before.

By the time that thought caught up with her, she realized the main reason for lack of movement trumped the fact that she was stuck inside a tree trunk. It took another series of thoughts, panicking and then reasoning for Eira to give up on trying to free herself.
She’d finally come close to tears when her vision blurred then cleared and she could see through the hazy cloud again. It fuzzed as she squinted then cleared up as she witnessed a giant tree slowly shrinking in size.
The source of the horrible groaning itself.
The sounds faded and then the tree shrank to the point where it morphed from wooden branches and green leaves, to a short, energetic fellow in black. The Dark Phoenix yawned and stretched, then turned and looked directly at her. “Good morning, Eira.” His head cocked to the side. “Are you up?”
Eira found her momentary frustration now cleared up by an intense flood of relief. “Yes!” The words left her lips, bringing the new realization that she could speak in spite of her restricted confinement. “I’m in here!”
He spoke from behind her. “I know where you are…are you awake, all right and everything?”
If she could have shrugged, Eira would have. As it was, it took an extra breath to keep from attempting to jump from the sound of his voice behind instead of where she had just seen him. “uh…yeah.”
“I’ll push you out. Hold on a moment.”
Two strong hands clamped down on her shoulders and gave a firm push forward. Eira tumbled out and tucked her head between her arms as the ground rushed up to greet her. It was altogether a mostly satisfying landing and not as disagreeable as she was expecting. Free to move, a silly grin spread across her face and she sat back for a moment, sprawled out on the grass, laughing. Her head automatically catalogued the fact that her gear was elsewhere and her boots were missing. Her bare feet wiggled in the grass and the mere movement almost made her dizzy. Another smile sprouted to the surface.
“Good morning to you to. Glad to see you’re in good spirits.” He stepped out from behind the tree trunk, eyes dancing merrily. “Sleep well?”
“I think so.” Eira slowly eased upward, attempting to rise, only to squeak in pain. “Ow!” The exclamation was belated, for she thumped back to the ground, with a whimper. The pain from the day before surfaced in full-force, with a sudden surge of feeling that kept her glued to the ground.
“I was wondering how you were feeling about that…I guess this answers the question.” His cheerful expression appeared upside down as he stood by her head, looking down. “I would advise for you to stay put. Moving makes it-”
“Hurt worse. I know.” Eira moaned. “What did you really do to me? And where’s my stuff?” She twisted, trying to see where he was and what he was doing.

“I thought I explained it last night.” He sounded puzzled, as his face disappeared from view and his soft footsteps padded across the clearing to where his gear had been stowed the night before. Neatly positioned beside his own duffel was her messenger bag, with boots standing at attention near them. “You really were asleep then?”
“No, I mean, well…maybe, I don’t know. I couldn’t exactly focus on anything, much less what you were saying.”
“Oh.”
“Oh, what? I’m serious! I couldn’t…this hurts like-”
“How is your head?”
“My what?” Eira blinked, momentarily distracted. “My head? My head’s fine…I didn’t know there was anything wrong with it.”
“No headaches, nothing?”
“It’s fine.” Eira repeated.
“Hmmm…curious.” He mumbled.
“Wait a second! You changed the subject!” Eira twisted her neck further back, trying to get a better view of what he was doing. “Where’d you go? What are you doing?”
“I’m right here, Eira.” His voice was reassuring but his absence was not. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Worry? Now?” The laugh that escaped was slightly more hysterical than the first. “Who said anything about being worried? I didn’t know there was anything to worry about until you just told me not to! What exactly is that impersonation thingy? What does it do to people?”
“Honestly?” His feet came into view.
Eira followed the boots upwards to the sturdy weapon belt and then to the cheerful face still beaming down at her. “No. Fakely.” She scowled. “What are you so happy about?”
“Peaceful night’s sleep.” He knelt beside her. “And it was an energy impersonation, they generally have little to no effect on people. I fed you my energy and made you walk, move and stretch a great deal more than you’re used to. It’s simply overexertion.”
Eira rolled her eyes. “Simply overexertion?” She mimicked. “Yeah right! I feel like I could explode!”
“Literally?” His eyebrows danced upwards. “Your energies seem fine…” His voice trailed off. “And they’re not sparking at present-”
“Not literally! I just…you just, this is just…”
“Just what? You said you felt like you could explode, that isn’t a term to use lightly.” Eira rolled her eyes and his mouth twitched. “I can already see the word in your head…almost, just spit it out!”
“Weird!” The word exploded.

His mouth twitched again. “I see. Well, I am most sorry for the weirdness, but we do need to keep moving today, so I am sorry for what I am going to do and the after effects you will experience later today.”
Eira rolled her eyes again. “Do you always go around apologizing for things you do or are about to do, just for the good of the other person?”
He shrugged. “Depends. I generally do not apologize for anything, but I do feel a tad guilty on your behalf.”
“Oh joy. Should I even ask why-OW! That hurts. That really, really hurts. I mean, it hurts like-OW! What are you-!”
He winced at the moment she bit her lip. “Remind me to buy you a bloque.”
“A what?”
“A bloque.” He unrolled a bundle of dried herbs and selected several shriveled stalks.
“Something to bite, so you don’t make so much noise.”
“I do not make noise!” Eira made a face in reply. “I’ll be sure to forget that first thing for-what are you doing?”
“Herbs.” He methodically plucked the leaves from the stems. “And this won’t hurt, but the effects will annoy you later on.”
“Annoy me?”
“Hush.”
Eira clamped her mouth shut, but her eyes continued to follow his movements of leaf-stripping. Her mouth was itching to ask questions and react to the expert pokes along her ankle joint. Things were still hurting and he hadn’t done anything yet. The leaves were then gathered in one hand and the stalks in the other. His eyes closed and the hands swiveled to his side, outstretched, like a scale weighing a bet between them.
Another squeak escaped as Eira saw the leaves burst into green flame, followed by the stalks converting to a swarming mass of black energy. Simultaneously the hands came together, clasping and trapping the energies within. There was a smothered sound and then his eyes opened and the hands parted. A globe of golden-green energy hovered, spinning in the midair.
He smiled. “This is a special healing energy.” Shifting to his feet, he positioned it over her center, keeping one hand cupped around the energy orb. “It’s specific to your energy and unique signature, it will only work for you and no one else, you will learn to create it on your own, soon.”
“Really? Wow.” Eira squinted up at his darkened figure and the brightly glowing ball. “That would be so cool! It’s kinda bright though, isn’t it?”
Those were the last words that she spoke, for the light suddenly flashed bright and then faded, taking every shred of pain with it. Eira was jerked upright to her feet, where she stumbled forward a few steps and then stopped, awed. “Wow.” The pale blue-golden orb began to orbit her figure, then suddenly jerked backwards and plunged directly into her stomach. “Oof!” Eira staggered a few steps to the side and then stared down at her stomach. “Wow. That was…incredibly awesome!”

She turned to look at her master who was studying her, arms folded across his chest. She smiled, tentatively.
His mouth twitched. “Incredibly awesome? I shall have to remember that. Glad you’re up and about…now shall we?” He turned to retrieve his gear and frowned when he handed over her boots. “These boots almost cost you your feet.” They were held up before her at eyelevel. “If you want to keep them for sentimental reasons, I understand, I will store them somewhere for you, if that would help, I strongly recommend storing them, I will provide you with an adequate pair for hiking and other activities. However, by the end of today, I need you to do two things which does involve making up your mind.”

“What?” Eira stood on tip-toe and then snatched the boots from his fingers. Dropping to the ground, she tugged the socks out from inside and proceeded to put them on.
“Make a decision on the boots and cut your hair, it can't stay that long. You can grow it out later, once we're past Pietresaan even, but not before that. You will have to cut it before then, it needs to be short.”

“What?!” Her head jerked up in a hurry. “Okay, I like my boots and I’m keeping them.” She swallowed. “Please?”

“You hair is a dead giveaway, but you have until the end of today and tomorrow to come to terms with it, if that helps. We’ll be nearing civilization, in terms of people we really don’t want to get involved with.”

“My hair? Guys have ponytails-!”

“I don’t.”
“So?”
“It won’t work.”
“How do you know? I’m different! I’m a completely different person than anyone else you’ve ever trained, honest!”
“I do not doubt your uniqueness, but I seriously doubt your acting skills. I have traveled these parts countless times before, they will know when I pass through and who is with me.”

“And here we go again!” Eira tugged her boots on and then shifted to her feet grabbing her pack and slinging it over one shoulder.
“Put it on properly.”
“What?”
“Is that always your standard response?”
“Huh?”
“What, Eira, what? Every time I am attempting to make a point, or to explain something, your standard answer is what…that is not something that needs work, it is something that must be addressed immediately. As of this moment, I refuse to acknowledge a simple ‘what’ unless you can elaborate on it, after puzzling over the meaning yourself. If you do not use your brain to work through some of the challenges ahead, it will only serve as a weight to keep your head balanced.”
“My head’s balanced enough.”
“I am not going to stand here all day to argue or discuss the point, we need to get moving.”
“What about breakfast?” Eira asked, but she was already trotting after him and innocently slammed into his newly frozen figure. “What?”
He sent a look over one shoulder, taking a step forward. “I forgot about that part.” His tone was sarcastic. “And what exactly did I just tell you about saying ‘what’?”
“Uhmm.”
“Never mind.” He snapped his fingers directly in front of her face, effectively capturing her attention. “I’ll work on breakfast, in the meantime, we are walking.”
Eira shrugged, her mind already switching gears as she followed him out of the glade and down a rather well worn dirt path. “Oh cool.” The words left her lips as she stared upwards into a thick canopy of colorful leaves. “Look at all those colors!”
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” His steps quickened. “Don’t keep looking up, you won’t see where you’re going and we’re going downhill from here.”
“What?” Her thinking half of her brain returned nearly a fraction of a second too late, for it took a sudden misstep to keep from actually stepping in a pebble lined hole, which sent her lurching towards a tree. She threw out her hands, catching hold of the sturdy, sticky trunk in time. A grimace spread across her face as she hurriedly shifted to stand on her own, wiping the sticky gum, or attempting to smear it on the standard-issue pants. It didn’t work.
“Eira?” The Dark Phoenix sounded fairly far away. “Keep up!”
“Coming!” Eira scrambled in the direction of the sound, following the path until he came into view once more. Her stomach rumbled as she fell into step behind him and she blushed, knowing he’d heard it.
There was an exasperated sigh and he stopped at once, causing her to walk into him for the second time that morning. He looked skyward for a moment, then licked his lips and turned to face her. “Answer yes or no, understood?”
“Yep…er, yes.”
“Don’t make me formalize it for you.” The eyebrows knitted together neatly across his forehead. “Are you really, really hungry?”

“Yes.”
“Are you awake?”
“Yes!”
“Are you paying attention to your surroundings?”
“Yes!”
“No. You are not!” He caught hold of her shoulders and twirled her in front of him. “It is not a good idea to keep bumping into me when I haven’t worked with your energies yet, it could try to borrow some of mine, or you could be tainted-accidentally. And both would be rather horrible experiences this early in your training, no good end can come of it.” He nudged her forward. “March. We need to cover a significant amount of ground today.” Eira opened her mouth to interrupt and one hand shifted from her shoulder to close it. “I have only one rule I will specifically give you, however, I consider it common knowledge of everything polite, to wait when one is speaking, before interrupting unless the matter pertains to something of an immediate nature along the lines of a life and death situation, or merely the fact that something is about to happen. It also follows the lines of answering appropriately, regardless of whether you have an audience, of which, by the way, in the unlikely event I forget-your alias per your disguise is Ian and I will do everything I can in my power to see that we are not separated.”
“Why would we be separated?” Eira ducked lightly. “I mean, if I’m not really interrupting…and what’s my rule?”
“Your rule, besides a few other…personal quirks of mine that you will learn of in time, unless it is absolutely necessary for me to explain them, I see no reason to do so now. The only rule I give you is this. Do not, under any circumstances, use your powers while you are in my apprenticeship without my express permission. If it is a life and death situation, call me. It does not matter how you call, just simply call for me. I will hear you.”
“Wait a minute…really? I can’t use my powers at all?”
“I was getting to the explanation part-downhill, watch where you’re-” The hands on her shoulders steadied her as her wobbled then buckled. “This road isn’t exactly high priority for repairs, there are more hazards than anything along its sides, not to mention the tribes that live within, try to booby-trap the sides to capture unsuspecting guests. They know me, well enough anyway, they won’t bother us, as long as we don’t bother them and even so, I haven’t seen any of them for a few years, though I know they are alive. They simply make themselves scarce when I am passing through. Your powers are natural, this means they are connected to your life force. In your case, as I saw your energy at first, it is twisted, wrapped and coiled all around the very core of your life. Using it without understanding it, would be extremely foolish and a rather short, boring death wish.”
“A death wish is boring?”
“When there is nothing dramatic to it, yes.” The hands dropped from her shoulders. “You will be using them quite a bit, with my supervision of course and once you have gained the experience in the right situations. Experience is the key here, you need to know your limits and how to move past them, you will need to understand the effects of using your powers on others, things which will require a tremendous amount of energy, responsibility and devotion from you. It will take a lot of focus, trial and error and though I will allot you one hour of free time every afternoon and one day a week off, you will be formally considered in training the remaining hours in the day. Use your head for the common sense half of things, Eira. I know you can think logically for yourself, why you haven’t, I’ve yet to come up with a suitable answer. However, it is not something I intend to puzzle over, because I have a question for you. Ready?”
“Shoot-er-not literally.”
“I wouldn’t actually shoot you.” His voice was dry. “Do not put ideas in my head. I do not need them there. Do you know what it is to leech?”
Eira stumbled on the next step, tripping over her own feet. She was steadied by his hands from behind, but it wasn’t enough to stop the shudder that violently passed over her. “Yeah.” She didn’t bother to correct herself. “I do.”
“I would ask why the reaction, but I’d prefer to tackle that topic another day…that leaves us one option for your breakfast. There’s a grove up ahead a ways and there should be plenty of fruit and such available. We’ll stop there for breakfast.”
Eira nodded, faintly, forcing her legs to move again. It seemed as if everything had slowed and her brain frozen and iced over was now sluggishly moving her along. She took a quick shallow breath and another tremor threatened to break loose.

It was getting cold.
© Sara Harricharan

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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (part 7) [Friday Fiction]

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the lovely Karlene "KJ" Jacbosen @ her blog Homespun Expressions. Click here to read and share more great fiction!



Author's Ramblings. This week's installment is really late, because of the ususal kraziness in the life. The kind that is spelled with a "k". I do apologize for the shortness of this piece and the formatting. It's taken me a hour to get this thing to work on dial-up. GRR! I miss my internet, lol, but it is a workable ending. I've got two votes for a continuation next week...need about two more, lol, to know that this is something to devote my sparse spare time towards. Any votes? Pretty please? I'll give you carrot cake...or just regular cake, lol. Plenty of cake, either way.



"A day?" Eira waited while he opened another door and stuck his head inside to search some more. "Exactly what kind of trip are we talking about?"

"The difficult kind. They generally do not send anything remotely easy in my direction, which now, unfortunately at this moment, includes you." He shut the second door and whirled around to examine a side cabinet. His fingers flew over a tiny keypad in the corner and the space opened to reveal a clothes steampress. He suspended the cloak by the hood and shut the door, pressing the appropriate buttons. He suddenly froze and turned to look at her for a moment, the piercing gaze sweeping her from head to toe. He frowned. "You can't go as a girl though." He whirled from the steampress to the kitchen.

"I can't what?" Eira sputtered. "Wait a minute! What do you mean I can’t-hold up here-did you just tell me-"

"I did and I'd appreciate it if you really would pay attention. You always sound as if you are at a loss for words or something." He found a knapsack from under the sink and began filling it with tiny pouches. “It’s not a very good habit to have, it is a habit.” The frown relaxed into a more puzzled expression. “I’ve never thought of it as a habit, that’s a curious thought for later. Much later. Remember that, the loss of words thing, I mean. Work on it.”

"A loss for words." Eira winced. “Right. Work on it. Uh-huh. I’ll…do that.” That may have been partially correct, but she wasn't going to take him up on it. That, and she couldn't help repeating what he said, mainly it was to assure herself that she wasn't hearing things. Things that she wished she hadn't heard. "You’re skipping my question! What do you mean I can't go as a girl? I am a girl and I don’t do disguises very well or at all!"

The eyes locked onto hers again and it appeared he was searching for a way to say what was probably already halfway out of his mouth. "You really don't get much, do you?" He sighed, straightening, the knapsack in one hand. "I mean, where we will be traveling, it isn’t safe to go as a girl and I’m very sorry if you don’t do disguises, but I’m sure I’ll think of something to make it work. It’ll be too dangerous and I won’t be babysitting you at all.”
Okay. I'll review…slowly. You want me to train you, correct?"

"Yes."

"You also requested induction as an apprentice, not a student. Do you know the difference between the two?"

"What's the difference?"

"A student is expendable, an apprentice isn't." He said, matter-of-factly.

Eira blinked. "I see." She was quiet for a moment. "What if I didn’t say apprentice? What if I didn't want to be either...then what?"

"Then I would have kicked you out." He ducked behind the counter again, resurfacing with a handful of thin cloths. "Seriously. Guest or not, I really do have to go and I'm afraid I can't leave you here alone. However, as you nicely fixed that problem, you get to tag-along for the fun."

“Fun?” A slight prickle feeling shivered along Eira's shoulders. "I think our thoughts and ideas of fun would differ greatly if forced to share the same room.” She grimaced. “And I really don't think I'd want to stay here alone." She muttered.

He smiled. "Very well put, that is actually using your words…the room, thing I mean. Clever. And the house won’t hurt you, at least now that you are no longer a guess. Actually, this...home...was built for me by a good friend. It is to cater to my every whim." He paused. "I suppose I should just say outright that the house is alive."

"Alive?" Eira gnawed on a fingernail, her thoughts twisting and tumbling over each other. "Can’t you just um, drop me off...somewhere, nowhere specific until you get back?"

He shrugged. "Aye. If you so wish it. I wouldn’t recommend it at all, but since you have mentioned it, I will make the option available, with my express disapproval." He exited the kitchen, brushing past her. "I don't mean to rush you in such a delicate decision, but if you could hurry it up. I-er-we, need to be gone from here by lunchtime."

"What happens at lunchtime?"

He perked a brow. "Eira, you really don't want to know."
“I don’t?” The look directed to her said far more than his mouth would have. Eira ducked her head, properly rebuked. “Right. I don’t.”
“We’re going to have to work on that.”
“On what?”
He stopped, dead in his tracks. “I feel incredibly-” He stopped. “Eira…stop packing.”
Eira automatically took a step back to be well out of reach from his next whirl. “I haven’t actually um, packed.”
“Good.” His face lit up. “Don’t bother to.” He headed for the door, crooking his finger over one shoulder. “Hurry up. We’ve got a matter of minutes.”
Eira trotted after him and it took her a few minutes to see what exactly he meant by lunchtime. They stood on the front lawn, waiting until a colorful, filmy distortion settled over the house. It shimmered, flickered and then shrank into something that the Dark Phoenix reached up and plucked out of the air. He half-smiled. “My head isn’t completely where it usually is.”
“Really? I didn’t notice.” Eira winced.
“I have too much energy, Eira.” The tired look returned to him, briefly. “I need to use it, which is why we are leaving now.” He snapped his fingers and the tall, black stick materialized between his fingers. There was a test spin between her fingers, and then one deliberate spin.
A brilliant circle of black, tinged with purple and blue around the edges swirled to life. The portal shimmered and he hooked the left edge with the black staff. “And in you go, it should spit you out on the other end, safely disguised.”
Eira grimaced. “Disguised? Still? I’m really-”
“There will be no discussion on this, apprentice.”
“I can’t turn up in an outfit I didn’t-”
The shimmer of black passed over her and Eira felt herself twitch involuntarily. Her outfit was replaced with something heavier and with more room to move about. Her shoes were new and the collar was tight. Eira stuck her lip out. “I want my boots back!” Her toes seemed already stitched to the seams. “Please?”
There was a quiet sigh and another shimmer of black. “Anything else?”
Eira bit her lip. “Yeah, I mean, yes. What if I mess up?”
The look softened a faint touch. “I’ve already made an allowance for that.”
“You have?”
“In you go, I can’t hold this open forever.”
“oh, right.”
“Eira.”
“What?”
“I’m not going to throw this at you often…at least I’ll attempt to make an allowance for it as we’ve met under different circumstances, but your lack of formality, will be the first thing that gives you away.”
“What’s wrong with my formality? I didn’t have trouble with that at League Init.”
“Title formality.”
“Oh.”
“Oh?”
“I flunked that.”
His mouth twitched. “As I said, I’ll make an allowance for it, at least for a little while.”
“For what?”
“Formal?”
“Oh.”
“Oh?”
“Yes, Master Phoenix.”
“Good girl. In you go. I hope you like camping.”
“Camping? You’re taking your whole house with you and we have to camp?”
“I’m taking the house so no one else can.”
“That makes absolutely no sense.”
“Does it have to? We’re camping.”
“In what, trees?”
“Trees are good.”
“Oh sugar snap.”
“Eira?”
“I’m going, I’m going…exactly where is this going to spit me out?”
“Two feet ahead of where I’m going to be standing the moment you actually enter this.”
“I’m going.”
“I’m waiting.”
“Is this a slow warp or a fast warp?”
He pushed her in.
© Sara Harricharan

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (part 6) [Friday Fiction]

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Yvonne "Vonnie" Blake @ her blog. My Back Door. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: The editing on this piece was really fun. I was able to explore a bit of Eira's temper and to make her final decision more official in terms of accurately formal. At least, as formal as the Dark Phoenix cares for it to be. On a personal note, my first week of Fall Semester has been quite interesting and not having to pull something brand-new out of my head this week, certainly helped, lol. I do hope you enjoy this story, as I have only one installment left (sort of a normal ending, at least normal for me and if you'd like this to continue, I need votes, please!) Have a great Labor Day weekend! (I shall be eating chocolate pudding and sleeping as late as I can possibly get away with...)

The next morning, Eira awoke to find a steaming hot breakfast on the table, and the Dark Phoenix nowhere in sight.

For her own reasons, she didn't want to go poking where her nose didn’t quite belong, but the living space was so curiously constructed that she couldn't keep from wandering about. It was ‘curious’ as her mind told her, finding no other word to be suitable for the strange artifacts lining the walls and the many different doors lining the narrow hallways. The house, she discovered, was considerably bigger than it appeared on the outside. “Wow.”

The exclamation of admiration left her lips as she rounded a sharp corner and found herself back in the kitchen area. It took a bit more wandering about before she finally discovered the weathered door on the far end, marked “out of doors”.

“Curious way to put it.” She mumbled, tip-toeing to see out the clear panel. She rocked back on her heels a moment later, somewhat puzzled. He was shorter than her, so why was his peephole so high up?

The thought was quickly and easily dismissed as she tip-toed again and this time balanced on the door as she craned her neck to see further. She stood again, puzzled at the door when her feet had grown tired. It appeared that Dark Phoenix spent his morning in some sort of floating meditation. It was when she finally stepped outside that she saw exactly what he was doing.

He was sitting-sort of-on the hill to the side of the house, eyes closed, hovering in meditation, feet crossed under him. A slight quiver ran through her hands, settling into her stomach. She swallowed and moved closer, stopping several feet away. Feeling sure that he could sense her and not wanting to interrupt, she chose a grassy spot to the side of the house and sat down, waiting."Good morning."

His head turned, eyes still closed. His feet shifted from their mid-air perch and unfolded to touch the ground. His hands dropped to his sides and piercing eyes connected with hers.

"Morning.” Eira twisted her hands together.

"Sleep well?" He turned back to face the mountains and stretched luxuriously in the morning sun.

"Yes, thanks for asking." She scrambled to her feet. "Thanks for uh, breakfast too. You’re a really good cook. Almost as good as my mom."

He smiled. "You're welcome and thank you. I thought you might want something to eat at an earlier time. I generally don't eat until noon. It makes it harder to concentrate."

“Er, right.”

“You don’t meditate, I take it?”

Eira tried to shrug, but her shoulders suddenly felt too heavy for such a nonchalant gesture. “Not really.”

“Is that a yes or a no?”

“No.”

“I see.” His mouth twitched. “Might I ask why?”

This time, her shrug worked. Eira tucked her hands under her thighs, peering up at him from beneath furrowed brows. She couldn’t quite read his expression, but a tiny part of her didn’t want to decipher the look anyway.

“That’s not an answer.”

It took a pinch of effort to keep from shrugging automatically. “What answer are you looking for?” She hedged.

“The one on the tip of your tongue that’s making you sit on your hands to keep quiet.” The eyebrows went up. “That answer.”

Eira bit her lip.

“Anytime would be fine.” His shadow touched her knees as he stopped in front of her and then sat down to her left.

“I-I just never thought that…I mean, well, it doesn’t really…it…” The words tangled hopelessly in her mind and were thus butchered in her mouth as she tripped over her thoughts. “it’s…it’s complicated!”

There was a patient sigh and he turned to face her. “True, the answer is complicated inside of you, because you have perceived it to be so. However, that is not the answer you had in mind.”

“How would you know?” Eira demanded, feeling her temper beginning to spark. “I can’t even tell what answer I should have to begin with!”

“Should have, could have or would have?” He countered.

“I don’t know!”

“You should know.”

“But. I. Don’t!”

“Try.”

“I already tried! Nothing happened. It was just a stupid question!” The words burst from her mouth and Eira felt her face grow hot. “T-that wasn’t quite what I meant to say.” She added, hurriedly.

“On the contrary.” He returned, mildly. “You finally said what was exactly on your mind without censoring it. But I do disagree with you.”

Eira threw up her hands, her frustration getting the better of her. “So the point is?”

“Simple. There wasn’t anything stupid about it at all.” He shifted to his feet and extended a hand. “I was going to invite you to join me, but it’s a tad late…once the sun shifts past that rock, you lose the morning tranquility.”

The blush deepened as Eira reluctantly took his hand, rising to her feet. “Oh.”

“Oh, what?”

“I…” She sighed. “It’s just that…”

“You’re doing it again.” He started towards the house. “Just spit it out. It’s generally a lot better for you if you do.”

Eira squeezed her eyes shut and stopped. “I just think meditation is stupid.” There was a moment of silence, and then she dared to open her eyes.

He was studying her with a curious expression on his face. “Now you have piqued my interest.” He commented, arms folding across his chest. “Tell me, why would you think it is stupid?”

“It’s pointless.” The fading blush flared slightly. “I mean, all you do is close your eyes and breathe and think about stuff that you shouldn’t have to if your head was screwed on straight!”

“Aha. I see, so we aren’t talking about meditation exactly, but the proper way to screw one’s head on?”

The blush returned in full-force. “I didn’t quite mean it like that.”

“Yes you did.” His eyes laughed. “But I won’t plague you with my curiosity, however, I ought to tell you from now that I believe in meditation quite deeply. I see it as a concentrated effort to set aside time to quiet one’s mind and soul, to pray, to think, to live on a different level. It also helps to keep my powers within control by stabilizing my energies and allowing more detailed division of them.” He began walking again. “It is necessary whenever you hold energies greater than simply a specific task. It is helpful, no matter how small or large your gift may be, but the bigger it is, the deeper it runs and the deeper it runs, well…the more it will take from you. Meditation helps to put some of it ‘back’ in a sense.”

“Oh.” Eira shuffled after him. “It makes a little more sense, I guess, when you put it that way.”

He chuckled. “It depends how you want to see it. I used to hate meditation, simply because it was pure torture to sit still for longer than five minutes. My energies were always actively sparking, growing, morphing and meditation was more of a punishment than a recreational activity.”

“Really? What changed?”

“My master finally lost his temper over my constant fidgeting and I was sent to a mountain retreat.” There was another quiet chuckle. “I discovered that I loved the mountains and that meditating on a regular, daily basis, meant my powers functioned better and I was more in control. The more control you have over your gifts, the better off you are, literally, the more power you have.” He reached the door and held it open.

“Thanks.” Eira hurried inside, she paused in the hallway, watching as he closed the door and began to turn the assortment of locks. “Why so many?”

He shrugged. “Less of a headache.”

“Oh.”

"Have you reached a decision as yet?"

“Decision?” Eira mentally scrambled, trying to follow his train of thought.

“Our conversation last night…please tell me I didn’t confuse you quite that badly.”

"Oh. Well, I don't really know." Eira said, honestly. "I really don't. I mean, well, I sort of came, charging across the galaxy looking for-" She stopped, her face tinged pink. "I mean, I was looking for-" She tried again. There wasn’t exactly a safe way to capture her thoughts and spit them out politely enough.

He chuckled. "We are not doing this again. Feel free to censor whatever you wish to say, I don’t think I could stand to wait for you to come out with it again. Just think about it. When you find the answer, tell me." He moved to a tiny cubicle and drew his cloak he'd worn the day before. "I have a proposition for you. Granted you could say yes or no, depending, but I feel it is only fair to warn you that I test all possible students and apprentices."

"You've had apprentices?" Eira blurted out and winced. It was so very easy to say the most embarassing things that she didn't mean, than to construct a proper answer and blurt it out instead. "Sorry. I don't mean it the way it came out-really, I just-"

"It is easier to keep one's foot out of one's mouth, if generally that foot is on the ground...and not halfway to their mouth." He wrapped the cloak around his shoulders. "You did mean that the way it came out. Again, I might add. And yes, I have. I've had about twenty-seven, I believe in this past year. They were...decent." He sighed. “I keep hoping they’ll improve somewhere on their journey between their home and mine, but yet I still receive them in nearly the exact same state each time.”

"Decent?" Eira repeated. "What kind of test?"

"Abstract." He answered, rooting around in the cubicle for something else.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Eira inched forward, holding the cubicle door open.

"Impromptu, rather." He corrected himself. "I generally pick a moment at random and if the results are uniform in relation to others, then I base my decisions off of it."

"I see. So if I said yes, I'd still have to pass your...test?" She bit her lip. “And meditate, correct?”

He shrugged, readjusting the sleeves of the cloak. "I do believe that is what I said and yes, meditation would be mandatory."

Eira took a careful, deep breath, then let go of the door to cross her arms over her chest. It took another moment, the internal struggle finally drawing to an end. "Okay. Fine. What do I have to do and when can you test me?"

"I take it that is a 'yes' then?"

"Of course it's a yes." Eira rolled her eyes, tired of trying to keep her temper even. "What else would it be?" He perked a brow and she looked at the floor. "Sorry, you can be incredibly...dense, you know." Her cheeks burned as the insult left her lips, there wasn’t a way to retract it. She crossed her fingers, but there was no mistaking the relief inside. There was something to being able to freely speak one’s mind, regardless of esteemed company.

"Dense?" He repeated. "Most curious choice of words. Very well then. Do you wish to be a student or an apprentice?”

Eira took a deep breath. “An…apprentice. If you’ll have me.”

“I will.” He said, serious. “And I accept the formal responsibility of your training, expenses and such. Do you need an official ceremony?”

“What?”

“For taking you as an apprentice, there is an official ceremony that sees to the public formalities, otherwise, I take you to Vanderoone’s equivalent of a government house and sign a few papers, then you recite a few lines of something off of a squak of wood and we’re all official.”

“A squak of wood?”

“You really don’t want to know.”

“Oh.”

“Well?”

“I…don’t really care for any official thingy. I mean, I want proof that this is all…legal and everything, but-”

“You’ll have your proof.” He smiled thinly. “Thank you, though. I really hate ceremonies of any kind.” He shuddered. “It’s too much attention for something superficial and it really is…pointless.”

“Right.” Eira forced a smile. “So, now what?”

The first real smile spread across his face. “Shouldn’t you be asking about details?”

Eira rolled her eyes, then stuck her hand out. “Hi. I’m Eira. I’m your new apprentice, is there anything important I should know?” She spoke sarcastically, but he reached out and shook her hand in all seriousness.

“It is an immense pleasure to make your acquaintance, Eira. As for details, you happen to have caught me in the middle of things. We won’t be staying here, we will get the legalities squared away, at least by the…uh, let’s see.” He frowned. “I think the end of the month, is that good?”

“Month?” Eira squeaked.

“Yes, is there something wrong with that?”

“Uh-no…no, not at all.”

“Good. I didn’t think there was. Get ready. I have to see to some business on the other side of this mountain, the official kind. I’ll explain later if that helps you any.”

“It would help now.” Eira stood back from the door as he stuck his head back inside the shadowy depths. “And what exactly are you looking for in there?”

“Stuff.” His muffled reply came. “And as is my right, if you specifically must ask me a question, refer to me by my title?”

“Title?” Eira ducked as a bouncing square of black energy sprang out of the darkness. “Eep!”

“Eunice!” He whirled around, hands on hips. “Back in there! At once!”

Eira gaped as the quivering, bouncing cube of energy whirred and whined, before obeying the given command. “What was that?”

“Excess energy.” He said, matter-of-factly. “I like to store it for later use. Yes, Eira, a title. It is generally easier to call me, Master Phoenix when you require my immediate attention as I will often overlook your name in favor of calling you ‘apprentice’.” He brushed off the front of his cloak. “Stay put, Eunice.” He shut the door firmly and traced an invisible shape on the doorjamb. “As I was saying, this is official business we’ll be on. The kind that’s commissioned by The League, otherwise I wouldn’t take you out on a hike within your first month. We need to be moving a little faster.” He frowned. “Why aren’t you getting ready? It takes me a day going back and forth. I'd appreciate it if you'd hurry, time is extremely important here."

© Sara Harricharan