Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (part 40) [Wednesday Wanderings]

Author's Ramblings: In order to keep on schedule with the finishing up this serial, an installment will be posted today for "Hunt For The Dark Phoenix" for Wednesday Wanderings. It is significantly shorter than a regular installment, but please enjoy just the same! It will feature a brief glimpse into a few other members within The League, as well as the DP's counterpart to balance out his negative energy, the White Phoenix, Sorora. This installment takes place in the capital city of Kouraki, similar to a modern version of ancient Greece. Happy reading! 

RECAP: After leaving Pietrasaan with a strange messenger girl, the DP transports the unlikely group to the capital city of Kouraki to take care of official business. During this time, Eira is expected to take her official exams to qualify as a League apprentice, since her records are missing from the main archives as a graduate of basic training.

When the warp opened up, the foursome stepped out into a bustling city central. The streets were paved with purple shastar and various people hurried about their business, while vendors lined the street sides.

“Welcome to Kouraki.” The Dark Phoenix turned, forced smile on his face. “Deene? This lovely young…lady, is from these parts. I am assuming she had a message to deliver here, as her signature traces back, please accompany her to the final destination, when you are finished, you may report to me.”

Deene grinned. “Waltzing about the city with a pretty face…I think I can managed…Uleah?” He held out his arm. “Shall we?”

The messenger girl hesitated. “How did you know…I mean, why did you…”


“I think you should be asking if I can remove those.” The phoenix’s smile gave way to a frown. “And I would think you would ask very politely.”

Uleah wrinkled her nose. “Right. Sure.” She sighed. “Fine, my dear, legendary…ugh…of forget it. I can't remember your specific formality so excuse me if I don't use it! As a member of the League, I appeal to your goodness and humbly request a favor—that of removing these restraints, could you spare the kindness to-”

He waited while her shackled wrists thumped into his open hand. “I provide my assistance as requested.” A cold air of formality settled around him as he traced a sequence of shapes over the smooth, grey-black cuffs and they clicked open. “I sincerely hope our paths do not cross again.” The faintest hint of darkness touched his voice. “Or in the event that we do, that your…intentions are not the same.” A touch of pink colored her cheeks. “Goodbye, Deene.”

“Whoa! Scary.” Deene chuckled. “Yeah, whatever. I’ll be back when I’m done, okay?” He started into the crowd and then stopped. “Uh, Master Phoenix-”

A tiny sea-green bauble was tossed into the air. Deene caught it, a relieved expression registering as he pocketed the transportation marble. “Thanks…I don’t think my dad would like it if I stayed here. I’ll catch up in the jungle whenever you return.”

The phoenix turned away with a single nod, his attention shifting towards the annoying weight on his right arm. There was a moment of surprise as he realized the weight was Eira and that she had both hands tightly clamped around his elbow, her face bearing an expression of complete shock. He studied her for a moment, the frozen look, the shallow breathing and the vise-grip from her equally pale fingers.

“Eira…it’s just a standard test, nothing to worry that much over.” He started forward, to be partially jerked to a stop. The shock seemed to have reached her feet, in terms of keeping her frozen in place. Another sigh left his lips. “Apprentice…” A spark of black energy crackled over his arm.

“Eeip!” Eira yelped, leaping sideways, blowing on her hands before rubbing them vigorously up and down her arms. The full impact of reality didn’t seem to settle until her hands slowed and the confusion trickled out of her expression. “We’re in…Kouraki?” There was a slight tremor to her voice. “How long are we staying here?”

“Not very long.”  He started forward again, with a more deliberate pull on his arm. “Please keep walking, we cannot afford to waste a single moment.”

“Why?”

“Why not? Time is the only irreplaceable commodity I find myself conscious of.” He twisted his arm out of her grasp and settled it around her shoulders. “We’re going to get your exams out of the way, so march.”

“I don’t wanna march.”

*****

LEAGUE INTER-REALM DEFENSE, SPECIAL DIVISONS, PRIVATE OFFICE

“Ah…Sorara…so you did come. I wondered.” Andie swung his feet off the desk, turning away from the desk where several white orbs of energy spun in blissful animation. “You look lovely as ever, how have you been?” He took in the sight of the tired warrior, dressed in her official daywear, white flared pants, snug, white tank-top and flowing white cape. “Your boots are smudge.”

“See if I care.” The silvery boots moved forward, carrying their owner into the office, as the door slid shut behind.

Andie shifted to his feet, hand extended. “Sorry to annoy, I was merely making an observation. I’m so glad you had the time to stop by and take a look at this footage for-”

“I look awful and I’ve been horrible.” She snapped, reaching around him for his chair and dropping into it with a grimace. “Thanks for asking.”

“You’re training that boy of yours too hard, everyone needs a break in between.”

“Everyone but the Dark Phoenix.” The woman glared at him, pushing away a strand of silvery-white hair behind one well-pierced ear. She fiddled with the earrings for a moment and then sighed. “This better be something useful about him.”

“I didn’t know you missed seeing his face every-”

“Shut up, Andie!” Sorora rolled her shoulders back, the stiff white cape crackling with the movement.

“You got caught in ice again?” He hid a smile, referring to their mutual friend, an ice casper, with a bad habit of freezing anything within a three-feet radius.

“No!” Pink-gray eyes narrowed into a more deliberate glare. “Will you tell me what it is you want of your own accord, or do I have to beat it out of you?”

“Ah, you’ve such a way with words.” Andie snorted. “Still, just because your practices aren’t coming out the way you want, doesn’t mean you have to take it out on me. I’m just doing my job. Besides, the Dark Phoenix wasn’t cleared to take on anymore apprentices and he usually spends his time between students—sleeping! If you’re worried of your skill level dropping overnight, I sincerely doubt that’s going to happen.”

“Dropping?” A flicker of white energy sparked off the tip of her smudged boots. “Are you trying to insult me? Knowing that idiot, I’m sure he’ll find a way around the regulations—he always does!”

“Is it the regulations that bother you or the fact that he can get away with it?”

“He gets away with everything and no one so much as dares to breathe a contrary whisper because he holds a legendary ranking where-”

“You’re only twenty-eight rankings away from a respectable status.”

“Respectable?” Sorora sputtered. “You are trying to insult me! How dare you!”

“If he really was, then I’d already have a headache.” Tyla spoke from the doorway, stepping into the office.
“Andie, this had better be good, as much as I’d love to miss the next string of official meetings for whatever ridiculous purpose they serve…I need a significantly useful excuse.” Her gaze flickered towards Sorora and then to the gazing orbs floating over Andie’s desk. “I take it you caught sight of the Dark Phoenix?”

“Yes.” Andie said, simply.

Both women perked up considerably.

A spark of happiness for Sorora and a look of relief from Tyla.

“Thank goodness…it’s been what, two years since a definite confirmation?”

Sorora snorted. “It’s not like he was dead…we’d know if he was…wouldn’t we?”

“I would. You wouldn’t.” Tyla yawned. “Make it quick, Andie…updates, explanations, whatever you’ve got. I don’t care as long as you’re quick about it. No rambling.”

“Since when do I ramble?” Andie muttered. “And of course it’s important…I do follow a checklist before I dare to raise hopes.” He twirled Sorora’s chair around so she could see the desk properly. “I don’t need to remind you not to interrupt, but I’ll mention it just the same.”

He moved to stand on the other side of the desk, closing his eyes and reaching out towards the white energy orbs. “These are replays from our security monitors and memory imprints from our informants.” A spring-green energy streamed out from his fingertips, a single strand connecting to each orb as the images projected in each of them began to rewind like a video. “Here…he’s just arrived in Kouraki.”

“You’re kidding.” Tyla reached out, swiping the glowing orb to spin in her hand as she stared at the frozen image inside. “After two years of hiding…he’d come out in the open? How long ago was this?” She squinted at the picture.

“About a half-hour…I called the moment it registered. You have yourselves to blame for so much time passing.”

“With your false alarms-”

“Be quiet Sorora.” Andie fixed her with a glare. “You have yourself to thank for those last few alarms.” He beckoned to the orb in Tyla’s hand. “He’s got company with him as well, so you’d best be careful.”

“That’s not the only reason to be careful.” Tyla tossed it back, pushing her glasses further up her nose. She preferred the old-fashioned feel of the accessory and now it was comforting to feel the cool Krystal against her face as she thought through her options.

Neither of the two spoke, both waiting to hear her orders.

“Well?” Sorora interrupted, arms crossed over her chest. “Can I go drag him back?”

“Under what article and for what purpose?” Andie snorted. “He’s done nothing wrong.”

“What about his timing?” She sputtered.

“Be quiet, please?” Tyla sighed. “Andie has a point and so do you. His timing is…running out. He’s cutting it fairly close this time.” She frowned. “Speaking of which, you both usually run on the same timetable, but you’ve-”

“I pick halfsies, remember?” Sorora tossed her head. “I don’t gamble with things like that.”

“Ah, of course, point.” Tyla allowed, counting on her fingers. “Andie? Your estimate is more accurate than my guess…my guess being four weeks?”

“twenty-six days.” He answered, at once.

“Ah, that is close.” Tyla frowned. “Is this the closest he’s ever…?”

“Yes.”

“Who cares? Can I drag him in now?”

“He hasn’t done anything.” Tyla shook her head. “No, you may not.” She rubbed her forehead. “Why am I always handling damage control?” She blew out a frustrated breath. “It isn’t enough that I run at the beck and call of the legendary Riptide or Sapphire Fusion, yet I still have to take on a third? What did I do to deserve the Dark Phoenix?” The words ended with a moan.

Andie spun a glass of refreshment at his fingertips and offered it to the secretary official. “Tyla?”

“Who was with him? Anyone we know?”

“That stone guardian kid, the one he usually helps out.”

“The same one that hasn’t heard from him for-”

“He’s probably avoided him, he knows we track his movements and he never dodges security unless he has a reason.”

“You sound like you trust him.” Sorora scoffed.

“We do.” Tyla answered for them both. “And while I do not ask you to share that trust, White Phoenix, I do ask that you share the respect. He handles the responsibility that is given to him quite admirably.” Her eyes narrowed. “Even better than you do, if I may say so.”

“You may not!”

“Tyla?” Andie was fiddling with the orbs again. “Here we go…there were four in all. Uh, Master Phoenix himself, Deene…and two…girls.”

“Two girls?” The women chorused, rushing to the desk, flanking him on each side.

“Anyone we know?” Tyla squinted to see into the circle.

“How old are they?” Sorora tugged at his arm. “Let me see.”

“I don’t believe it.” Andie stared. “This one’s….” He swallowed. “This one’s that famous kid, the one that’s been missing.”

“Hmm? Which famous one?” Tyla snatched the floating orb from his hand, holding it up to her face. “Oh!” She blinked. “That famous one. I am now officially dying of curiosity. The Omaha-Durhiem family. They're going to have heads rolling, with the ruckus they've made since...” She reluctantly returned the orb. “I don’t suppose that’s reason enough to drag him in?”

“You’re getting as bad as she is.” Andie grumbled. “No, for all you know, he’s returning her.”

“I doubt it.” Sorora said, grimly. “And I don’t believe it.”

“What?”

“Take a look yourselves, both of you…that’s the Eirithea kid, the one from the Omaha-Durheim families, right? How come she’s dressed in the standard-wear of a League apprentice?”

“He didn’t.” Tyla moaned. “Please tell me he didn’t…he can’t have another apprentice! He isn’t cleared for it! I don’t want another headache! I don’t want to stand in front of the council and make excuses for-”
“I thought it was more a matter of quantity than sanity.” Andie frowned. “That is reason enough to drag him in…and I didn’t know you had to make excuses for him, I thought you were just a temp official.”

“Not necessarily.” Tyla took off her glasses, wiping them on her overcloak. “It is more a matter of…technicality. If it’s a girl, which she is, then it’s legal. He wasn’t cleared to have any more male apprentices, because he’d topped an even five hundred again.” She frowned. “And I’m an official handler…since when was my status under your scrutiny?”

“This sounds familiar.” Sorora scowled. “Now I’d like to drag him in and punch him in the head.”

“You’d break your fingers…or your hand.” Tyla snorted. “Don’t think like that. He’s done it before, he’s got what…five female apprentices trained in his entire career? Only five? The remaining numbers to make up his impressive count…have all been boys. We make him take a break at every five hundred and faithfully, he’s managed to find a way out or around it.”

“Those numbers are skewed.” Sorora whined.

“Is that because you’ve only a mere twenty-three to your name, even as his counterpart?”

“Shut up, Andie.”

“For once, I’ll mention that I’m in agreement with her.” Tyla managed a smile. “I still have important things to do and places to be, who was the fourth?”

“A messenger girl…I can’t get a straight read on her though.” Andie slowly molded the orbs together, forming a larger, brighter specimen. “That’s the best I can do and I can’t get anything off of-”

“That’s the messenger with the suspected ties to the Shadow People.” Tyla blinked. “…and to think I saw and realized without my glasses.” She frowned. “There’s a read on her all right and it’s pretty strong, can you feel it, Sorora?”

“Mmm…faintly. Very faintly.”

“You’re both too inexperienced.” Tyla sighed. “All right, that’s reason enough, haul him in for questioning, don’t keep him long if I can’t make it for the…interrogation. He needs to get back to Skiel before his time runs out…I’ve no patience with him when he-”

“And if his time runs out?” Sorora yawned. “Then what?”

Tyla whirled to face her, lilac energy beginning to crackle from her feet, upwards. “Then see-” She hissed. “That it doesn’t. Because if he does, I will have your head. As his counterpart in goodness, to counter the darkness his presence creates, it is your duty and your purpose. If he ceases to exist, then I need not remind you, that the same will happen to you.” There was a bright flash of purple light and when it faded, the Handling Official was gone.

“Well then.” Sorora flashed a cheerful smile. “I’m off.”

“Take me with you?”

“Not on your life.”

*****

“I feel sick.” Eira held an arm to her stomach as she stood on the wide, white steps of the official temple building. “Really sick. Why didn’t we have lunch? I'm hungry!”

“Lunch has nothing to do with it.” His arm settled securely around her shoulder, pulling her towards one of the great, golden pillars. “If you must catch your breath, then do so here, out of the way of the general public? The League is to clear obstacles for the people, not be an obstacle.” He frowned. “And the test wasn’t that hard.”

“How would you know?”

“You repeated every one of the questions through your mindlink. It was impossible to ignore.”

Eira snorted. “Ha. Thanks for the moral support.”

“Not a problem. The results should be registered in a moment.”

“What? So soon?”

“This is The League. The temple is more of a…official work place, but it’s more…pleasing to the eye than a regular business hub.” The Dark Phoenix attempted a smile that turned immediately into a frown. “And you could have done better, really!”

“What? Already?”

“Yes.” He sighed. “The masters receive the scores directly. Didn’t I tell you to study?”

“I did!”

“For what? One hundredth of a fraction of a second?”

“I…!” Eira shut her mouth, turning the other way. “I did my best!”

“And I suppose that would be all that mattered.” He sighed. “But usually, it isn’t. A good score is the necessary stepping stool to higher ranks. Nevermind, you will have the option to retake it within two years, if you so feel inclined.”

“Two years?” Eira tried to keep her voice down, but her exclamation drew a few curious stares. “I don’t want to wait two years just to take a stupid test for-”

“We need to get going.” The Dark Phoenix turned abruptly and began hurrying down the white stairs, his cloak billowing behind him, the crowd parting for him to pass through.

“Where?” Eira turned and rolled her eyes. His shadowy figure was already quite a ways ahead. “Hey, wait!” She started after him, stumbling on one of the steps. “Ow, oh, ah!” She tumbled forward into strong arms, hands tightening around her wrists. “Sorry about that.” She tried to pull away, wincing at the blush she knew would be on her face, keeping her head down as not to make eye contact with her rescuer.

“Eirithea?” The new voice spoke, full of wonder and disbelief. “Eirithea! It is you!”

Eira’s head jerked up, only to smash into something solid as she was smothered in a giant hug that literally lifted her feet from the temple steps. She began to struggle, pushing against the body determined to keep her captive.

“I don’t believe it! We’ve been so worried!” The voice continued. “You’ve been missing for so long! We even registered you with The League so they would-”

“Let me go-!” Eira drew her energy up from the ground, attempting to use it to shock her captor directly. It sparked somewhere and fizzled out, drawing out the first strands of fear. Something was wrong here. She tried to spark the energies again, reaching out through the shared mindlink.

Master Phoenix! Where are you?

“Now, now…no need to get so excited, in fact, we need to see someone straight away to inform them that you’ve been found and-”

The voice registered and Eira felt her arms grow limp. The reality registered with a decidedly sickening feeling to accompany her already queasy stomach.

Oh no. no. It can’t be. It can’t be at all! This can’t be happening!
 

“What, has all the fight left you?” The voice was almost mocking. “Pity, I hope whoever had the nerve to kidnap you from right under my very eyes didn’t lay a finger on your precious inno-”

“Eira?” The Dark Phoenix spoke from directly behind her. “When I said to hurry, I did mean it.” There was a touch of annoyance in his voice, masked by the hint of overall anger. “I’m happy you’re making friends and-”

The arms around her tightened as Eira tried to speak, her voice muffled in the chest of her captor, as a faint burning, blistering feeling began to creep through her body. Her eyelids grew heavy, beginning to close of their own accord. Panic set in as her body began to tremble.

“I’m sorry.” The voice was pleasant and polite. “Is there something I can help you with?”

Master Phoenix, help!

“Hey-!”

One cold, smooth hand curled around her neck and jerked.

Eira stumbled free of the dangerous embrace, slamming directly into the Dark Phoenix himself, his hand moving protectively to her shoulder, forming a protective ‘v’ over her chest.

“Some friend.” He commented, icily. “Now, if you’re quite through with wasting time, I would like to remind you that we have business to conduct for-”

“I demand that you release my niece at once!”

“Niece?” The Dark Phoenix eyed the fellow, a distinct air of distaste mirrored towards him. “This is your niece?” He frowned down at the apprentice still trembling against him. “Eira, do you know this person?”

“She’s in shock.” The man, said, helpfully, beginning to wring his hands together, a perfect expression of pure worry etched on his bearded face. “Poor thing! I believe it is you who should identify yourself and unhand my-”

“You are as clueless as you appear if you cannot tell my status and rank by now.” The words were spoken with a decidedly dark tone. “However, let it not be said I am lacking in the polite formalities of the public.” His hand dropped from around Eira’s neck to his side. “I am the Dark Phoenix, this is my apprentice, Eira.”

“She is also my niece.” The man flashed a smile. “Isn’t that right…Eira?”

Eira tried to swallow the bile welling up in the back of her throat. Her lips began to move, her mouth speaking without her permission. “H-hi…Uncle Garrett.”

©

2 comments:

Rita's Random Ramblings said...

I want to see how it ends. But I don't want it to end. I love your style! ~Rita

Kristina Rohder said...

Oh my goodness! Wow! This story just keeps getting better and better. xD
Anyway, Uncle Garrett gives me the creeps. I love how the Dark Phoenix rescued her from his clutches. The DP may not be the easiest person to get along with, but Eira is lucky to have him looking out for her.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. The plot is definitely thickening!