Friday, June 18, 2010

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (part 41) [Friday Fiction]

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the wonderfully talented Hoomi (Rick H.) over @ his blog, Pod Tales and Ponderings. Click here to read and share more great fiction and poetry!

Author's Ramblings: Well, having to churn out two installments for this week has definitely turned up the pressure, so hopefully this short installment isn't too much of a disappointment. If you missed the post for Wednesday Wanderings, it was intallment #40 in this serial--please be sure to check it out, I can't fit everything in the recap! For this week, I wasn't able to flesh out all the characters as nicely as I'd hoped, but the story is of Eira and the Dark Phoenix, so that element is coming along quite nicely. There a bit of scene jumping again, as the day spent with Eira's uncle is mostly spent with the master and apprentice in different places, so hopefully that explains just a little bit. Now, since I have a hundred billion other things that I absolutely must do in addition to wrapping up my ramblings--lolz--happy reading and have a great weekend! Don't forget to leave a comment--I love the feedback! ^_^ 

RECAP: On Wednesday,  A reluctant niece and League Master are confronted on the steps of an official League building, where the foursome have arrived in Kouraki. Deene is dispatched to see Uleah to her final destination as a messenger girl, while Eira and the DP take care of official business, where Eira must also take her basic exams. The DP seems uneasy in the city and Eira struggles with her own sense of paranoia as they leave the building to walk into a new surprise. Our heroes were then invited to the home of Eira's uncle, Garrett Omaha, where they are now. 

((and because I can't resist...a subtitle))
HUNT FOR THE DARK PHOENIX : A DEADLY DINNER SHOW

“So,” The Dark Phoenix began. “Would you mind telling me exactly why we’re spending the night at your uncle’s if all you wanted was lunch or dinner?”

“Not or, and. I want lunch and dinner.” Eira bit her lip as they stood outside in the hallway, in front of their respective guest rooms. “And it’s not like I planned for this to happen!”

“I had no idea you were so attached to your uncle.”

“A-attached?” Eira stammered, a nervous laugh escaped as she rubbed her neck. “I wouldn’t know about that. I just, I mean…it was complicated. I couldn’t…really, hey, he invited us for…I mean, I couldn’t be impolite and it’s been…weeks…in the jungle and away from civilization and…I-I’m sorry. Really sorry. I didn’t mean for things to turn out like this, I was just…you know. Hungry. Yeah. That’s it. I was hungry and that’s the most-”


“Your excuses are severely lacking.”

“What?”

“Never mind. It would be rude to refuse hospitality on behalf of your family, but we will not stay here any longer than lunch. There was no need for guest rooms.”

“Heh…right. Uncle can be a bit…uh…” Eira put her hand on the scanner beside the door, waiting patiently while it registered her identity and admitted her. “I’ll get yours…” She slung her knapsack to the floor and kicked it just inside the room. “You don’t want to go through the whole setting up guest profile thingy…security’s kind of ridiculous.”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why is it ridiculous? Is it truly necessary? Is there a reason for it?”

“Er…that’s…relative. It sorta runs in the family.” Eira slapped her hand on the scanner beside his door. It whirred and clicked open. “There you go. We don’t have to stay, we just have to…pretend.”

“I see.”

Why are you so nervous, apprentice?
 
Hey! Don’t do that…at least…don’t…you could warn me! And I’m not nervous! I don’t know what you’re talking about.

I see. Then what would you say is currently occupying the majority of your thought processes in this precise moment.

LUNCH! I’m hungry!

Eira turned on her heel with a huff, only to walk right into their host. She scrambled backwards a few moments too late, as he caught hold of her wrist and held tight. “Eira! You really should be more careful in paying attention to your surroundings. Are you all settled in?” He flashed a smile to the Dark Phoenix. “Are the accommodations to your liking?”

“We will not be staying for the night.”

“Ah, you say that now, but surely, we have been quite worried these past few months, I’m sure there can’t be any harm in staying over for the night! We’ve missed seeing our darling little flower perform for-”

“You were unaware of Eira’s whereabouts?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Mr. Durheim,” The phoenix began. “If it is at all possible to-”

“Ah, questions, question! Those can wait! I’m sure you’re both starving and I’d hate to let such a scrumptious feast go to waste! Lunch is about to start and you didn’t show, I was getting worried.”

Eira flinched at the friendly arm now pointedly draped around her shoulders, wincing as her Uncle’s free hand reached over to touch her master’s shoulder. That couldn’t end well. “U-uncle Garrett…of course…we’re coming…we’re…” She stumbled awkwardly after him as he pulled both of them down the hall.

*****

“Mr. Durheim…I was under the impression of-”

“Omaha.”

“Excuse me?”

“Ah, of course, sorry, my dear Mr. Phoenix. Durheim is my brother-in-law and his leg of the family, I hail from what we call the ‘crag-side’ a little rougher around the edges, but partial to those of us in the Omaha clan. My sister is the empty-headed creature…I mean, the lovely maiden, that brought about an alliance of our families.” The uncle dabbed his mouth with a silken napkin. “Hence, I am Garrett Omaha. I should have made a proper introduction, but I’ve been simply overjoyed at seeing my niece alive and well, that all thoughts of-”

“Why wouldn’t she be alive…and well?”

Eira nearly choked on her greens, attempting to reach for her drink, only to receive a hearty slap on the back.

“Ah, niece…smaller bites…deeper breaths.” The hand shifted from her bank to rest meaningfully on her shoulder. “Has he been starving you? I thought the conditions would have been deplorable, but to think that really-”

“Didn’t your niece tell you where she was going?” The Dark Phoenix poked a slab of meat with his knife and frowned. “I was under the impression that she had permission to-”

“She simply left one day in the middle of everything. No note, no warning and of course, the entire family has been-”

“So you registered her as a missing person with The League?”

“Naturally! I’m sure you already know that Eira is quite a precocious and difficult child to-”

“I’m not ten years old!” Eira leaned away from the hand stubbornly stuck to her shoulder. “Stop treating me like a kid!”

“Ah, Eira. You’re so noisy. Still interrupting your elders in the middle of important discussions.” A brilliant smile crept across Garrett’s face. “Now then, why are you still here dawdling with us old folk? I thought for sure you’d want to visit with your brothers and sisters! Not to mention your cousins have been worried sick!”

“Cousins?” The Dark Phoenix shot a curious look at his apprentice. “Exactly how many brothers and sisters are we talking about?”

“Now then, Mr. Phoenix, nothing for you to worry about.” Garrett patted Eira’s shoulder. “Up with you niece, go enjoy yourself! In fact, don’t forget to call your parents and let them know personally that you’re here and doing well. I know the others will be glad to-” Eira jerked upright to her feet and stomped out of the room.

Her uncle watched her leave, his smile dimming a few watts before he waved to one of the servants to clear the half-empty dinner plate. “Honestly, I don’t know what to do with that girl. But I suppose her brothers and sisters will take care of it. They're better at getting her to behave than I am.”

“Would you be needing my signature?” The Dark Phoenix handed his full plate to the passing server.

“Hmm?”

“For the release of Eira’s…information, in the missing persons report. A League signature is required. I do not mind signing for it, I can also vouch that she was adequately cared for while residing in my company.”

“Adequately? What an interesting choice of words…”

*****

Her feet continued moving until she found herself standing in the middle of a very long, very white hallway. Eira shook her head, trying to clear it and recall how she’d managed to make her way here.

She licked her lips, about to call out when the earlier feelings of uneasiness churned deeper in her stomach. There weren’t any siblings or cousins here, but she knew this place, knew this hall, knew what it meant.

Her hands curled into fists.

This was turning out to be a day worse than before.

******

Dinner?

Eira blinked, struggling to keep her eyes open and her mind to focus on something she could handle. There was still whiteness everywhere and a light shining down from the ceiling.

Her eyes closed again, to block the light, a familiar pain dulled in the back of her head. It took a few more minutes to take inventory of the rest of her body, starting with moving her fingers and toes. By the time she’d regained full use of all motor functions, her mind had settled on the fact that it could not remember.

A moan left her lips as she groggily sat up.

She was still in the hallway.

The same hallway where her feet had walked her off to. One hand went to her mouth, tears brimming and spilling over the corners. The horror registered as she scrubbed her face with her tunic sleeve.
 
No. No! I didn’t do this! This didn’t happen again! No! Help! Somebody help me…please…

The silent cries began to fade as her sobs filled the hallway with an eerie echo.

“Eira?” One voice, a young girl, was the first to appear. “Oh, Eira!” Two pairs of chubby, warm arms were flung around her neck.

“Hey guys, I found her!” The young man grinning in the hallway, flashed a thumbs-up. “And she’s being eaten alive by the twins.”

“Eira? For real?” More voices and more faces.

In a matter of minutes, the hallway was swarming with siblings, cousins and servants, everyone bustling around her. Eira found herself being carried away from the depressing hallway and off to preparation rooms in the back of the house.

It registered a few moments too late.

“W-wait a minute! What are you guys doing? I can’t perform!” Eira struggled against new hands, stronger than the ones from before, tugging at her uniform and smoothing her hair.

“Your hair is really too short.” Lyssa sighed. “What a pity! I didn’t know this is what they were going to do to you for running away again.” She smirked. "Speaking of which, you owe us...don't you want to know how much trouble you're in for pulling a stunt like that?"

“I didn’t run away. Everyone knew I was leaving.” Eira twisted. “Get your hands out of my hair and stop touching me!”

“Now, Sis.” Bryan’s face appeared directly in front of her. “You should listen to your older brothers…and seriously, we’ve been worried. And Lyssa's right, we can't just let something like this pass as if it was nothing, I mean I wasn’t even aware that you’d-”

“I don’t care if you’re older than me!” She thrashed wildly, trying to get away from the hands.

“Ohhh, that’s a pretty necklace!” Greedy hands clasped around her neck, tugging at the silver cord and charm. “Can I see it? I want to try it on!” The younger girls clamored.

A slight tremor passed through her and Eira squeezed her eyes shut. "No! You can't! That's...don't touch that!"  They should know better. She needed space. And they were in the way...again. “You should know better.” The words were pushed through her lips as her hands curled into fists.

This time, her energy answered and she surged upwards from the floor with a forceful push. A faint ring of red energy crackled ominously as they pushed the annoying people away. A few shrieks and yells of surprise greeted her ears when a neat circle of a few yards radius was cleared around her.

“Eirithea!” Bryan’s hands dissolved into blue flame as he scowled down at her. “You know we don’t use our powers against family! You know better! Don't make me-”

“And I said that you should know better!” The words came out as a hiss. “Just leave me alone!”

“I don’t think we can do that, sis.” Meron picked himself up from where he’d been thrown to the wall.

“Though I do have to say, you’ve picked up some control. I’m impressed.”

“Any idiot can master control.” Eira slowly settled back on her heels. “I don’t know who told who what, but this is all going to turn into a huge mess if you guys start messing things up. I’ve put way too much effort into this and I’m not going to let anyone ruin it!”

“Why didn’t you think of that before you left?” Lyssa yawned. “And really, I do hate your hair…it’s so short…and ugly. You definitely can’t perform with it like that and I don’t think we have a wig that will help you.”

“I’ve been gone for how many months and all you can talk about is my hair? You haven’t changed, Lyssa. What will it be next? How many credits it cost because I wasn’t part of the program anymore?” She scoffed. “It couldn’t have been that much. I was always just a stage accessory. I’m sure your fans grew when I disappeared.”

“I wish.” Lyssa snarled. “You ingrate-!”

******

“It is a lovely…estate.” The Dark Phoenix allowed, as they strolled along the waterway. “I had no idea natural rivers still ran in this corner of Kouraki, it is very beautiful, quite calming.”

Garrett forced a smile, the emotion frozen on his face. “Yes. Calming, I’m sure.”

“This is a vacation residence?”

The smile disappeared completely. “As a matter of fact, it isn’t.”

“Ah, I thought it might have been, it’s so lovely tucked away so close to nature, away from the bustle of the city. I haven’t been to Kouraki for awhile. I thought there was no country left in it.”

“We try to preserve what we can.” There was a short bark of laughter. “Besides, the credits speak when you cannot.”

“Ah, yes…which reminds me, I meant to ask. Eira’s parents…? You seem to have quite a few children in your care, I am assuming they are not yours?”

“They are busy with work. My sister cannot be bothered to check after every single one of them and…I am a favorite uncle. They leave the children to me and I see to their every need. We are more of a business than a family in that sense, those of us who can produce the commodities in the highest demand, well, we whole-heartedly do our best.” He smirked. “You are correct in thinking there is no Mrs. Omaha. I see no need for one, it would be useless.”

“A very interesting choice of words.” The Dark Phoenix said, smoothly. “Eira is adopted, yes?”

Garrett stopped a few steps ahead of him, his figure lightly shadowed by the fading sunlight. “She told you that?”

“No, but it is impossible for her to be your biological niece.” 

“Then you guessed?”

“I prefer to say it was logical reasoning.” The Dark Phoenix turned to see the silhouette of the house. “You said your sister married a Durheim…and that would be…quite a stretch, if Eira was their child.”

“How so? My sister is just one of that man’s…entourage.”

“A busy fellow then.”

“In the entertainment industry, we do what we must. I do not care what you think of it.”

“Strange…I didn’t have you marked as one working in the entertainment industry, though I was aware of your...family trade.”

“Really?” The walk resumed. “Why not? Am I lacking in some-”

“I meant on a stage, you seem happier in your own domain, not on display before the general public.”

“Celebrities pay a price for their fame.”

“Of which, you are not.”

“Why is this important to you?”

“It is a puzzle…I like puzzles…and numbers. Neat, precise and logical, they fit very well inside my mind.”

"Ah, of course...but please..." Something beeped and Garrett drew a device from his inner jacket pocket. He sighed. "I have business to take care of, so please, do enjoy the gardens to you heart's content. I'll send someone to fetch you for the evening meal, you need not worry."

"Eira-"

"Is fine. Her brothers and sisters are taking care of her. She's quite the little angel to them, they were very worried to know she'd disappeared. She means a lot to all of us."

*****

“I hate you.” Eira choked, coughing. The smooth, slender hand on her back merely tapped lightly in response. “I hate all of you!”

“No you don’t.” Lyssa smiled. “You like Dana, remember? Wonderful, precious little Dana?”

“Where is she? What did you do to her?”

“We didn’t do anything…she disappeared, uh…let’s see, right around the same time you did.”

“You didn’t even file a missing persons for her, did you?”

“So what if we didn’t? It isn’t like she was irreplaceable.”

“And that’s supposed to make it right?” Eira suppressed a moan, twisting away from the hand to brace on the wall.

“What’s the matter, E? You’re looking kind of pale and-”

“You have your own self to answer that. I hope you can live with your-”

“Now, now…didn’t you learn any manners at all?”

“My head hurts, stupid!” Eira grabbed handfuls of her hair, now long, thick and silky. An agonized groan came as she yanked at the hair, coherency seeming to fade away.

“Eira? Eira! Stop that!” Lyssa grabbed at her hands, succeeded in capturing her wrists. She used a flicker of green energy to lightly relax the muscles and pull Eira’s hands free of her own hair. “You can’t yank your own hair out…we only grew it back, it’s not something you have to-”

“It hurts! Make it stop!” Eira began to flail around. “Can’t you  make it stop? My head it…hurts!”

*****

“Dinner already?” The Dark Phoenix smiled at the young girl. “Ah, very well then, suppose you be my guide and I follow you back to the house, yes?”

“Mmmhmmm.” The curly-headed blonde offered one innocent hand. “Go, now?” Her voice was light and accented.

“Yes. Now is fine.” He took the proffered hand and slowed his pace to match the short, chubby legs. “What’s your name?”

“Gre-na.” The name was stretched out. “Grena. I’m four.”

“Ah, what a pretty name…and four years, impressive.”

“Mmmhmmm.”

“Tell me, Grena…is Eira your cousin?”

“Big sister.”

“Ah, do you miss her?”

“Nuh-uh. I like Lyssa.”

“I see. How about your…Uncle…Garrett?”

The toddler wrinkled her nose, stopping in her tracks, deep in thought. “Don’t know.”

“Hmmm…what’s for dinner?”

“Don’t know.”

“Are you hungry?”

“No.”

“Did your uncle send you to find me?”

“Yep.”

“Why?”

“He didn’t want you t’ get lost in the garden.”

“I see.”

“See what?”

“Hmm? Nothing, Grena…just…talking to myself.”

“Dinner’s gonna be fun!”

“Fun?”

“Uh-huh. Dinner show!” Grena gave a little hop and skip. “I can stay and watch. I’m old enough.” She said, importantly. “It’s good.”

“The show?” The Dark Phoenix tried to clarify. “I guess we will be staying overnight…”

******

The dining room was quite elaborately set up.

A nod of approval came from the phoenix, himself as he stood just inside the doorway to methodically file away his observations.

It was a large, high-ceiling, perfectly square room. There were tables along three sides of the wall, with the entire middle section and one wall, prepared like a stage. There were curtains, visible props and attendants rushing about, with jobs to complete.

The tables were being set and voices announced the arrival of chattering young people, with a few adults mixed in. The phoenix moved to the side, watching as the group sorted themselves out according to some unspoken ranking system.

A feeling of annoyance settled in when he realized there was far more empty seats than people and a security guard took up residence to his left. Moving yet another step away, the phoenix watched as more people were admitted, this time with tickets.

His eyebrows went up. Eira had barely been present for a handful of hours and already, it seemed her fame was enough to warrant a dinner show. He winced, feeling the faint beginnings of a headache starting in the very lightest corner of his mind. This was going to be a long dinner.

“Ah, Mr. Phoenix, aren’t you going to join us?” Garrett stood beside him, a pleasant expression offered. “Please, you are our guest, do sit here.” The chair at the left was offered as the one of his right left empty. “I do believe you are in for a treat, have you ever seen, Eira perform?”

“Eira? Perform?”

“Yes, it is quite a spectacular phenomenon. Her individual act is very unique, it’s called ‘Whirlwind’.”

“Wind?”

“Hmmm?”

“I am…surprised. I did not know her talents existed to wind.”

“Ah, but you have never seen her like this, I believe.”

“Like how…?” His words trailed off as the performers for the evening entered from the far wall.

In richly detailed costumes, crafted to showcase each body at its most beautiful, the children began to enter. The phoenix was able to pick out a few faces and eventually, even Eira’s.

Her hair had been grown to a length that would have been troublesome, if not for the costume and constant energy swarming around her. Each individual was aglow from head to toe with their respective primary energy, creating a lovely, rainbow shimmer to light the room from within.

To his credit, the host was correct. Each act was spectacular and each performer was powerful and unique in their own right. The phoenix witnessed transformations, mesmerizing vocals, captivating dance and perfect synchronization.

“This is very…well…done.” He allowed, when prompted by his host to voice his opinion.

“Pretty! Pretty!” Grena clambered into his lap. “It’s pretty!”

“Yes, it is.” The phoenix smiled, offering her a vegetable roll. “And do you dance too?”

Grena wrinkled her nose. “Nuh-uh. I’m not big ‘nuff yet.”

“Grena, do not disturb our guest.” Garrett reached over, catching her by shoulder straps of her dress and lifting her clear, to set her on the floor. “Isn’t Kimmy watching you? Go find, Kimmy.”

“But I wanna sta-!”

“Go.” The order was punctuated with a glare, at which the little girl gave a whimper and a pout. Ducking her head, she streaked off towards the exit, the gaieties forgotten. She paused in the doorway, to throw herself at one of the serving girls. The result was a loud and messy crash as the tray and its contents were splattered.

“That stupid-!” Garrett jerked up from his seat, stalking over to the source of the irritation. “Please, do excuse me.” But the polite words were spoken in barely concealed anger.

The phoenix watched this episode with mild curiosity before returning his attention to his plate. He didn’t care to see what exactly would happen next, it had been enough of a challenge to keep a mostly polite appearance for the sake of reputation. Witnessing any act of injustice at the moment would most certainly set off a chain of disasters for which he’d be obligated to oversee.

He sighed as one of Grena’s muffled wails reached his ears. She was throwing a temper tantrum, it seemed, for a reason he could not quite fathom. Her cries were quickly silenced, however, and it was a matter of moments before he dared to look again, to see a handful of bots seeing to cleanup duty.

Another sigh bubbled up and he pushed it aside. A familiar piece of meat remained in one corner of his plate and this time he remembered his reason for such distaste. Wiping his mouth, he set the napkin in the corner and placed the utensils at the edge of the plate.

“Master Phoenix?” Eira’s voice came from directly in front of him.

His head snapped up and he blinked, searching amongst the carefully applied cosmetics and curled locks of hair. “Eira?”

“I-I’m sorry you have to see me like this.” Her actual blush blossomed deeper than the painted rose dots at the edges of her cheek. “and I’m really sorry about everything else, can we leave now? Please?”

“Eira?” Garrett’s voice broke in. “Why aren’t you with the others? They’ve been so excited to know you’re back, they all wanted to perform with you tonight.”

“Ah…ha…yeah, right.” Eira forced a smile, taking a careful step back, her hands holding up the filmy skirt, her feet bare. “I’ve been really out of practice lately, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m not-”

“Out of practice? You? I doubt it. You live to dance!”

“No, I don’t.”

“Now, Eira…” Her uncle’s voice was patient and soothing. “We’ve talked about this before and we have-”

A spark of white crackled at her feet and swiftly spiraled upwards, covering her in a blinding cocoon of white energy. The dinner guests shied away from the brilliant until the light flickered off.

The light crystals in the room exploded.

A few shrieks were heard and then whispering giggles filled the room.

The glowing Eira moved slowly, stiffly to the center of the room and sat down, cross-legged, arms folded in front of her. The footprints left behind flared white and then melted away. The glow faded from her body, the last trace registering only as burning, white eyes, as her head tilted back and her mouth opened.

The Dark Phoenix wrinkled his nose, waiting while the hood of his cloak silently moved up to cover his head, adding another degree of darkness. He’d heard her voice before, but under this influence, he didn’t want to know exactly what it could do.

She sang for awhile, until the white energy in her eyes burned red. Then she rose to stand, taking the scarves tied in her hair to secure them to the bangles on her wrist. Her head turned and one finger pointed towards the host and guest of honor.

“For you!” She cooed, blowing a kiss.

Pillars of fire streamed upwards from the canisters positioned around the edges of the stage. The strange glow lit up the room as the attendants hurried in, replacing the light crystals with new ones and directing cleaning bots to see to the sharp pieces littering the floor.

Her dancing outfit of a floaty, golden skirt and blouse burned away to a wispy, white dress, similar to the whisper-folk in Pietrasaan. It fell well down to her ankles, with several thin layers of gauze and various sparkling gems scattered throughout. At the base of her neck, something silvery sparkled.

The Dark Phoenix nearly choked on his vegetable soup. So that’s where the Lyrith went…you have a great deal of explaining ahead of you, apprentice. Casting a glance to the corner of his eyes, another ripple of displeasure washed over him. Her dear uncle was staring at the necklace with an expression of pure hatred, his hands fisted in the white tablecloth. The danger I feel here…it is him…?

Attention returned to Eira as she raised one hand, wiping her forehead with a silken sleeve, the eyes burned red and she laughed as the red energies faded away and the white returned. The broken pieces of crystal on the floor began to glow white, as the sharp cutlery on the table also took to flight.

The sharp instruments flew through the air, stopping just inches away from the maniac dancing girl in the center of the room. She took a bow, snapping her fingers as she stood upright. “Listen to my song,” She intoned. “Hear what I can’t tell you.”

Wind blew through the room, with a faint mist accompanying it. A strange haze settled over the stage as Eira began to return to the original form of a serene, white statue. The knives and broken crystal swarmed around her, creating a constant, spinning barrier.

Her head tilted to the left and then she smiled as her feet began to move. Delicate white footprints decorated the expensive carpet and the smooth dancing stage as she skipped lightly around in a pattern where every other step was a twirl. The knives and crystal moved effortlessly around her, moving out when she darted in and pressing closer when she shrank away.

The pattern danced on the floor began to glow, until, even beneath her whirling skirts, Eira’s glowing feet could be seen, the symbols carved into the soles of her feet, seeming to burn even brighter. The footprints began to connect, until two double circles were formed, a smaller one inside the first. Lines crisscrossed each other, forming pointed stars and triangles, until a glowing medallion was carved into the floor.

Her feet slowed and stopped, as Eira stood in the very center of the finished pattern. Her mouth opened and soft vocals began, rising in crescendo as the energy built up, humming, glowing and sparking wildly.

From the four corners of the room, four bolts of pure-white light streaked directly to the summoner calling them. Panic set in as the dinner guests began to clear out of the room. There were more security guards than before, seemingly sprouting out of nowhere to escort the guests out.

Garrett was smuggled away by bodyguards, the room emptied in the moment it took the phoenix to realize that he was the only one left. Strange...to leave your own niece...and no counter measures...? I do not like you, Garrett Omaha.

The earlier feelings of annoyance registered with a singular moment of disgust. It took another moment to work with sorting out the feelings before he gave up altogether. It was pointless and irritating.

Slowly at first and then more rapidly, tiny wisps of black mist began to snake out of him, until his entire figure was covered with a deadly swarming cloak, even darker than before. The show before his eyes was analyzed in a single breath.

Her voice reached the highest point in the same instant the Dark Phoenix yawned. He dipped one gloved hand into the glass of wine and licked it, frowning. Then, raising the same hand, he snapped his fingers—once.

Eira!

“Eira!”

The command given in both head and heart, he stood up from his chair, knocking it over as he placed one hand on the table and effortlessly hopped over. One hand reached back for a fruit from the decorative display and he polished it on the front of his cloak as he approached the glowing girl.

Her barrier of knives and crystal blurred even faster as he approached, in all his darkened glory. The pattern on the floor groaned beneath the weight of two people, one calling and the other suppressing. Leaping from the floor, as a lighted image, it flashed forward, avoiding the Dark Phoenix to imprint itself on its summoner.

Eira’s scream echoed through the entire estate.

She stood, trapped within her own prison of fear, the pattern having forced gaps in her original defense. Through the small holes, patches of her face and body were now visible, every inch of uncovered skin, bore some mark from the pattern, still glowing a fierce white. It had simply risen and enveloped her, using her physical body for the necessary completion.

The Dark Phoenix sighed. “Apprentice…” His voice was darker, rougher and deliberate. “Cease and desist.” His right hand darted forward, the fruit in hand, directly to her face.

She gave a squeak of surprise as it registered, the whiteness flickered and left, her expression of terror muffled as the broken crystal and knives clattered to the floor. Her arms waved wildly for a moment, before she settled on grabbing the phoenix himself. “What’s going on here!”

He simply caught the fruit that fell from her mouth and held it up in answer.

She released him at once, taking the fruit in a daze. “I did it again, didn’t I?” Her voice was toneless, void of expression, a mask slowly creeping over her face. “I always do it like this…I can’t help myself. I turn into a monster and then…” She shuddered violently, tears beginning to pour from her eyes. “Always a monster…a machine, even.” The items at her feet registered and she nearly screamed. "W-what are those doing there? Get them away from me!"


"They weren't bothering you a moment ago."

"A moment ago, I didn't know they were there!" She chewed on a fingernail. "Please...please...make them go away...they're sharp...they hurt...they can hurt me..." She gagged. "They cut things...they bleed...the taste of blood..." She choked. "Get them...make it stop...please!" Her hands went to her head, the pain from before returning again. "Please make it stop!"

He caught hold of her hands easily in one of his own. "It's stopping. It's stopping." He soothed. "It stopped...it's all gone. Shhh!" He scowled at the floor and the cutlery melted away, the crystal erupting in black flame before fading to nothing. "There now, it's all gone, isn't it?" He released her hands, returning to his original intent. “You must be hungry…eat that.” He held up the fruit.

“I-I can’t…” She wailed, the emotions registering in her eyes and nowhere else. “I’m not hungry.” The fruit was beginning to crumple under the pressure of her squeeze as she hugged her arms to herself, attempting to stop the shaking that was now starting in full force.

“Liar.” He winced. “And that lie hurt.”

She gasped, her hands moving to her mouth. “Sorry! I’m sorry! Sorry!”

“Then eat it.” He guided the fruit to her mouth. “Go ahead, take a bite…”

“N-no!” Her eyes squeezed shut. “I can’t…I can’t….you don’t understand, this is bad and-”

A wide band of black energy shot straight out from his back, turning into a ribbon that suddenly ran the entire length around the room, sealing the doors and decorating the walls with a protective barrier.

A phoenix barrier. The official symbol flared on the ceiling in a dull, golden color. He almost smiled, taking the fruit from her hand and a knife from the folds of his voluminous cloak.

“You really should keep better track of this.” He carved the fruit into neat slices and held one up to her mouth. “Open. Chew. Swallow.” He pushed it gently against her closed mouth. “In that order, preferably.”

The tears slowed as her lips parted and she nearly swallowed the entire slice. Her stomach rumbled as the last hot tears flowed freely. “I’m sorry.” She managed, between bites. “I’m sorry.” A flicker of pink energy registered, the snack converting to energy to fuel her hypersensitive self.

“One apology with all your heart is enough…more than that…is annoying.” He wiped the knife with a kerchief and extended it to her. “In the future, if you happen to lose this again, I won’t forgive you.”

“M-my knife?” She stared at it, wonderingly. “T-they took it…I didn’t…I couldn’t…I’m sorry!”

“You should be.” He patted her head. “That was a silly thing to do…to let your opponent get the best of you when interacting in a familiar environment.”

A blush registered, head bowed. “I’m-”

“Sorry. Yes. I know. So you’ve said.” The Dark Phoenix slowly tugged off one black, silken glove. “Which leaves me no choice at the moment, though I will say that you are by far the best candidate.” He smirked. “This will be far be the most dangerous…considering the depth of my darkness, I’ll have to be very…very, careful.” His gaze swept her from head to the toe. “But there is no better time than the present…particularly with all of this…” His cool, smooth fingers caressed her cheek, where the pattern marks now faded away. “Do you trust me, apprentice?”

“I-I don’t have a choice, do I?” Her eyes desperately searched his face, reading nothing more than an expression she couldn’t decipher.

“Don’t you trust me, Eira?” The hand on her face, tipped her chin up, darkened, fathomless eyes seeing beyond the face before him.

“Y-you can’t trust me.”

“That is not the question.”

“I’m a monster…I’m uncontrollable…I can do…I’m…”

“That is not the answer.”

“Please…don’t hurt me!” Her eyes squeezed shut, more tears coming. “Please don’t hurt me. I can’t take it anymore!”

“I would never hurt you.” The hand from her face traveled to rest securely on her shoulder, holding her at arm’s length. “Not when it is within my power to remove the pain without hindering the result produced from overcoming one’s weaknesses. Pain is a natural element of life. You live and you die. In between of that, whatever happens…pain is always present, without it, we would be poor examples of intelligence.”

A teary half-smile surfaced. “As usual…you don’t make any sense at all.” She hiccupped, reaching for him.

He smoothed away one teardrop and as her eyes opened, he smiled, just for her. An expression so beautiful and heartbreaking, she caught her breath, one hand covering her mouth.
“…a-ask me again.”

“Don’t move.” He leaned forward, wrapping his arms tightly around her in a hug for the briefest of moments and then he released her. “Do you trust me?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“This will hurt.” He pulled away, one hand remaining on her shoulder as the other drew a handful of black energy from the folds of his cloak, it straightened and shimmered, settling into the form of a pointed javelin.

Eira cringed, unable to back away as the hand on her shoulder kept her frozen to the spot. “Happy place…?”
Her mouth spoke before her mind could give it release.

His smile didn’t waver. “Yes…think of a happy place.” She closed her eyes as he thrust the point straight through her chest.

Pain erupted everywhere.

I trust you. I trust you. I trust you. Her thoughts chanted over and over, only able to handle this level of reality as the pain began to evade every corner of her body, pushing past the barriers, the memories and her personal supply of pain, itself.

Her body writhed in his arms for a few, mercifully short moments and then, everything faded away.

© Sara Harricharan

2 comments:

Yvonne said...

Wow...beautiful and powerful! I could feel it and see it.

Kristina Rohder said...

Wow...
*flails arms*
*is speechless*
Oh my goodness, wow! This chapter was beyond amazing! I felt like I was right there with your characters, seeing and feeling everything.
Poor Eira! Her so-called family is awful! I hope she can get away from them soon.
I think the Dark Phoenix has become one of my favorite fictional people. I'm not sure how to explain it, but he is a very attractive person! :)
Anyway, I love this story! With any luck I will catch up my redaing this evening. :)