Friday, July 16, 2010

Hunt For The Dark Phoenix (part 50) [Friday Fiction]

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the wonderful Joanne "JJ" Sher @ her blog, An Open Book. Stop by to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Yay! I did it! LOL, before midnight, I mean. I've been scrambling to get this done all day and of course, with my randomness, the very thought of following the precious outline I painstakingly slaved over--has done nothing but give me a headache. Alas, I've decided to give a short glimpse on the two week "spartan-training" styled "camp" that the DP puts his wonderful apprentice through. Italics and bolds were messing up, so I resorted to Capital Letters. Apologies if the headings look weird. Anyway, #2 in the series of the final 8 posts, so two down, five to go! Hopefully this will be all squared away by next Friday and the new story will be up and running. Betcha can't wait, huh? Me, I think I could take a break...*ducking* but I won't, since y'all have been so patient, encouraging and very, very nice. ^_^ Yes, this note makes no sense and yes, I am running on sugar and caffeine. I'll stop next week. Have a great weekend and happy reading! Oh-and don't forget to vote in the poll on the sidebar. If you want to see the slightest hint of romance in the end--your vote is needed!

RECAP: Interrupting one of Eira's counterattacks towards her Uncle after he has stolen two of her energy circlet summoning medallions, leads to an argument between Master and Apprentice over her 'use' of the Lyrith, Rory, things are changed for the future, when he mentions that the next two week's will be solely devoted to training her as his apprentice. 


#2 IN A SERIES OF 8 FOR THE FINAL INSTALLMENTS OF THIS SERIAL.

HUNT FOR THE DARK PHOENIX : TWO WEEKS OF TORTURE

The next two weeks was my personal torture regimen, courtesy of the legendary Dark Phoenix, my truly cruel and shameless Master.

He was very true to his word.

I was indeed his top priority in the following two weeks.

For the first morning, he woke me with a bucket of water and a most innocent expression on his face. “Good morning, apprentice.”


And what exactly is good about it? Because I didn’t want to say the words on the tip of my tongue, I stayed exactly where I was, trying not to think about the soaked bedroll.

“You don’t need a second bucket, do you?”

“NO!” I scrambled to my feet a little too quickly. A wave of vertigo hit, allowing me to take a half-step before tripping face-first towards the ground. He broke my fall with a well-placed boot in my stomach, before allowing me to thump to the ground.

“A second one might help, I don’t think you’re really awake yet.”

“I don’t need another-aiep!”

The second bucket was decidedly colder than the first one. I glared up at him, but the sparkle in his eyes didn’t even flicker. “Yes, I think two buckets does the trick.” His mouth twitched. “Use your towel to dry the bedroll and wake yourself up. We’re going running.”

“Running? Where? Why?” I rolled over to my side and then sat up. The dizziness was sort of fading and I could almost look up at him, without feeling like falling over.

“Give it a minute.” He patted my head, moving to where the fire had been the night before. He mumbled a few words and waved his hands, the burnt coals sunk into the ground and slowly, green fuzz replaced it, until the patch returned to normal.

I gave it a minute, as he’d said and eventually, I was able to stand up without feeling entirely drained. I guess I really did burn off too much. Great job, self. Don’t ever do that again.

“Better, ne?” He handed over a strange handful of flat, black straps.

“Not really.” I took the handful and tried to shake it out to see what it was. “What is it?”

“Weights.” He took it from my hand and held it up with two fingers. A sort of shape was visible for a moment, before he returned it. “To build your stamina, which is also why we’re going running. You tired after short bursts of energy, it’s a weakness. It’s seamless, so you won’t have to worry too much about restricted movement. There’s a time seal on it, so your body will adjust according to real time, however the two weeks will, uh, be accelerated.”

“WHAT?”

“I’m fitting two seasons worth of training into two weeks. Your body will age accordingly, but time will pass as the course of two weeks within this realm. Don’t take it off between now and then.”

“Are you even-”

“Stand still.”

“Hey-what-ow!”

“There.” His mouth twitched. “How does that feel?”

“Heavy?” I snapped, sarcastically. “You know, this really isn’t the-”

“Hungry?”

That caught me off guard. I had to think about it for a moment. “Not really.”

“Interesting.” He murmured. “How is your energy?”

I tried calling an energy bauble to my fingertips, but nothing happened. A slight feeling of panic washed over me as I remembered standing on the temple steps in Kouraki. The feeling of powerlessness from a lack of power wasn’t something I was used to. It wasn’t something I wanted to be used to.

“Here. Take some of mine. It’ll probably take until tomorrow for your body to catch up with what you…burnt off.” He rolled up his right sleeve, and traced an ‘X’ on the inside forearm.

What? No. NO WAY. Are you kidding me? I am not going to do that! “Um,”

“I don’t mind which point you use, but this is one will probably be the least stressful for you.”

“You’re offering me…a leech.”

“Yes.”

No. Say no. How can you even think of this after everything that you know about me and- “No.”

“You need it. Take it.”

“I don’t want it and I don’t need it.”

“Is that your final answer?”

“You can’t make me.”

“But I can order you.”

“What?” He didn’t explain and I didn’t have a chance to puzzle it out. He simply beckoned with one finger and I found myself moving forward. He extended a hand for my arm and I gave it, frozen as he rolled up the sleeve and called my leech points to the surface.

The angry red lines were embarrassing enough in the haphazard way that they overlapped each other. The ends on some were crooked and many of the lines were jagged. The very fact that they were the opposite of the, neat, smooth blue X on Master’s arm, was a humiliation I’d never experienced.

His hands were gentle as they caressed the tapestry of marks and scars, searching for a willing point. I felt the shaking starting somewhere inside of me, but I didn’t know how to stop it. The tremors started in my feet, working up until they reached my arm.

He gave a sudden shudder and then closed his eyes turning to the side. “You will have to fight that one day.” He said, finally, returning to the task at hand. I didn’t answer him as he pressed one particularly twisted mark and brought it to life.

Old feelings and memories swam to the surface as the scraps of energy within my body peeled away from their hiding places to answer the call. Shock, was the only thing that registered as I felt the marks touch and react.

Pure bliss.

I stood there, still frozen, staring into his expressionless face. Watching his golden-grey eyes as they stared right back at me. His energy was simple, clean and careful. Trickling in from a single point, it dribbled through from my arm and down to the very pit of fear I’d been guarding. It pooled, slowly at first and then more quickly, until the exchange was nearly the size of a tidal wave.

“Apprentice?” His voice cut through my personal fog. “Prepare yourself.”

I understood the meaning, but could not react. There was nothing I knew to do.

His arm moved and the connection was lost as the marks were wrenched apart. My scream caught somewhere in my throat and I didn’t dare try to let it out. I didn’t fall to the ground or cry. No embarrassing antics at all.

I only stood, staring at him and hoping, wishing, wanting him to explain the experience.

He unfurled his shirt sleeve, buttoned the cuffs and moved to close the gap between us, standing in front of me. He repeated the same actions, the angry red marks fading away as he unrolled my shirt sleeve, and buttoned it neatly. “Better?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but the sound was stuck elsewhere. I tried again, settling for the one method, I knew would work.

What was that?
 

How do you feel?
 

Fine. Better than fine. What was that?
 

Nothing out of the ordinary.
 

Master Phoenix, please!
 

That was a leech.
 

No! It can’t be!
 

Why?
 

It can’t!
 

That was a leech between two consenting parties.
 

I don’t understand.
 

You needed it and I gave it. Because you’re a signature apprentice, the power you needed was shared.
 

But…then why? Why’d it feel so good?
 

Because the feeling was mutual. I wasn’t forcing it on you—you needed it—and you weren’t forcibly taking it from me, I was giving it to you. A bond between friends, if you would. Giving and taking, becomes sharing. Understand?
 

Sort of.
 

How do you feel now? Back to the idiot status?
 

Yeah….HEY!
 

You agreed.
 

Okay, fine. I feel like an idiot. I’ve been…
 

Terrified all this time. I know.
 

Why didn’t you tell me before? Why didn’t you explain? Why didn’t you show me?
 

Timing wasn’t right.
 

What’s right with it now?
 

Signature apprentice.
 

You’re really good at this, aren’t you? All this kind of scheming and planning and-
 

You are my favorite playing piece. Shouldn’t I be taking good care of you?

********

Running is exhausting. Walking is worse. Eira thought grimly, flopping down on the ground beside Rory. He was sitting comfortably beneath a shady tree, peeling his fruit with the claws from his half-form.

Lunch was a break of fruit and sour salted dough balls, which the Dark Phoenix produced from a nicely wrapped package from his knapsack.

My arms are going to fall off. No, first my legs will crumble away to nothing and then my arms will fall off. Eira eyed her portion resting just out of reach from her spot near Rory. And that’s…really… She scowled.

That’s truly horrible of you, Master.

His mouth twitched. Moving is good for you. If you keep sitting still your muscles will tighten and you wouldn’t want that. He continued dividing a handful of nuts among the three squares of cloth. Rory called his over with a twitch of his nose and of course, the phoenix simply carried his own handful to a shady spot.

Eira watched the kerchief for as long as she could bear it and then tried to call it to her. It didn’t work.

The phoenix coughed.

Bother you. Eira scowled, willing her arms and legs to move, so she could retrieve the necessary meal. When she was comfortably settled, she tried focusing on the food before her rather than the unpleasant memory brought to the front of her first energy impersonation.

No. She reasoned, nibbling on a salted dough ball. This is worse. 
 

Don’t worry. It’ll get better.
 

Why am I now worried?

There was another cough from his corner as the phoenix dutifully speared a slice of fruit and painstakingly fitted it into his mouth. Eira’s narrowed eyes followed the movement and she caught the twitch of his mouth, the trademark sign of amusement.

Bother you. She reminded him, opting to use Rory as a backrest, with his food safely scarfed down. The Lyrith didn’t object, automatically peeling and slicing her fruit without question.

“Hey Rory?”

He grunted.

“You know about the one hundred days thing, right?”

Another grunt.

“Should I-er-we, do anything about it?”

“Only if you wish it, milady.”

“Eira. My name is Eira. Why are you being an idiot?” She snapped, stuffing her mouth instead of answering. That’s no help. I guess I shouldn’t ask then. If he thinks we’ll be fine, then we will be.

********

Night came quickly as the day blurred by and Eira found herself staring through the flickering flames into the familiar golden-grey eyes. Rory had settled down behind her in his complete animal form and he offered a steady warmth from behind. A peaceful silence had settled over their little section of reality and Eira waited for sleep that wasn’t quite coming. “Master Phoenix?”

“Yes?”

“What did you mean when you said I’d have to fight something one day?”

He chuckled. “I meant exactly that.”

“Could you explain?”

“No. You’re not that dense.”

“But-!”

“No, buts. If I keep sorting your puzzles and questions out, you will never learn to use your own head. That’s
the entire point of today and the next thirteen to come.”

“There was a point to today?”

“It will come to you, eventually.”

“I’m still waiting for it.”

“Goodnight, Eira.” He pulled the covers over his head.

“Master Phoenix?”

“Yes?” The voice was muffled.

“Thanks…for the leech.”

The eyes appeared around the edge of the bedroll, the other half of his face still hidden. “You’re welcome.”

“We’re not doing this again tomorrow, are we?”  

He sighed. “I suppose I ought to at least set some ground rules.” He yawned. “There will be none of that-no whining. None at all. I don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to hear you think it, either. Deal with it. It’s good practice for reality. Yes, we’re going to do that tomorrow and yes, you will survive. I expect you to remember your formalities and lose that empty-headed pretense you’ve been keeping around yourself since we met. Do not think through this, don’t try to dissect it, simply do it. Understand?”

“Not really.”

“Go to sleep. It’ll make more sense in the morning.”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Why are you telling me?”

“Who am I supposed to tell?”

“You’re whining.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Tell Rory.”

“Rory’s sleeping.”

“Have you asked him?”

“What good is that going to do?”

“If I put you to sleep, you’ll probably have nightmares, signature apprentice or not. You also won’t wake up tomorrow unless I call you back, which would be troublesome. If you really can’t sleep, then tell your Lyrith.”

“But I don’t-”


“Goodnight, apprentice.”

Eira made a face as he turned his back to her. She lay awake until she heard the quiet, even breathing that signaled sleep, then turned to the warm lump at her left. “Rory?”

No answer.

“Um, Rory?” This feels so stupid. “I can’t sleep.”

There was a snort and then the great, shaggy head rose up, sleepily. “What do you want me to do about it, milady?”

“I don’t know!”

One giant paw stretched over and fell on her face.

“Hey! Wait-! Rory!” Eira struggled for a moment and things faded away.

********

DAY TWO OF TRAINING

“I don’t need another bucket of-ow!” Eira scowled and rubbed her head where the ‘thwack’ had landed. “No whining. Right.” She found her feet and her head in the following minutes, biting her lip with every word dancing on the tip of her tongue.

There were lots of aches and pains from the day before and voicing any of them would’ve meant whining. From the grumpy look on her Master’s face, Eira had opted to keep even the hint of a whine to herself. She didn’t want to know what creative consequence he would think up on spur of the moment.

The morning did include running, a snack, some stretching exercises and then breakfast. Over the meal of fried fish patties and cubed toast, Eira found herself feeding Rory out of habit than anything else. He was lounging beside her in his animal form and for every other bite, she automatically handed over his share. The dim memories in the corner of her mind were pushed away as she dusted off the cloth napkin. “All done!”

Rory shook his head, drawing a smile. She patted the fluffy mane and scratched his left ear, leaning over to hug him with one arm. “Yeah, it’s all done. No more.” They tussled for a moment, as he rolled over, pouncing on her in mock seriousness.

Both froze at the sound of the phoenix clearing his throat from above them. “Lyrith.” He began, in a bored tone. “I feel like meditating, so during times such as this, it will be your job to work with your mistress.” He scowled. “You’re the one that scared her with knives, I expect you to be the one to fix it.”

“Fix it?” Eira tried to sit up, but Rory was still holding her down. “What are you talking about? Master Phoenix? Hey, Rory! Lemme go-! I—oof! You’re heavy!”

**********

DAY THREE OF TRAINING

“Buckets of water in the morning.” Eira forced a smile. “Is this just so we don’t have to take time to shower or something?” She wrinkled her nose, yanking at the handfuls of wet hair to twist them into a sloppy braid.

Her former crown of glory had now become a painful chore. Long hair was more hassle than anything in their journey, with little time or energy left to care for it. Eira fished the towel out of her pack and threw it at Rory. “Wake up, ya big fluffball.”

It was still two buckets of water, but considering how good it felt, Eira decided it probably wasn’t that bad after all.

*******

DAY SEVEN OF TRAINING

“Three buckets of water?” Eira yawned. “I’d almost say this was pushing it, but I’m not about to complain.”
She flashed a smile as she wadded up the towel and threw it at Rory. He always took care of the bedroll now and she’d focus on untangling her hair.

“Morning, Master Phoenix.”

“Morning. Someone’s cheerful today.”

“I wouldn’t call it cheerful, I just feel…better, than yesterday.”

“That’s good.”

“Not really, this stupid hair is…” Eira stopped. “I’m not whining, I’m not, really!”

“Too bad, because it sounded like a whine to me.” The phoenix reached over, taking her knife from her waistband. “I hope you’ve been working with Rory, because you can’t avoid this.” With a flick of his wrist, he sent the knife flying into the uppermost regions of a sturdy tree. At once, Rory was on his feet, shifting forms, when the phoenix whirled on him. “No, Lyrith. Sit.” He waited until Rory grudgingly lowered to the ground in his half-form, tail twitching, claws extended. “Stay!” He turned, with a golden smile to the dumbstruck girl beside him. “Apprentice? Fetch. Find me when you’re done.” He started off into the jungle.

“Wait!” Eira started forward and then stopped. “Master Phoenix!”

“The Lyrith knows how to find me, don’t follow until you have that knife.”

“But it’s all the way up…there!” Eira threw her hands up.

“Have you a fear of heights?”

“N-no.”

“Weak joints?”

“No! Abused ones, yes!”

“New boots?”

“I’m hearing an echo.”

“Good girl. Fetch.”

*********

DAY NINE OF TRAINING

“Rory?”

“What, E?”

She smiled. “The knife thing…whatever you did…thanks.”

He shrugged, hiding a smile beneath the shaggy-white-gold head of hair. “Whatever, let’s go before that grump of-”

“Shh! He can hear you, you know!”

“So?”

“So! I’m the one that’ll have to pay for your happy go-lucky-mouthfuls of nonsense!”

“Apprentice?”

“Coming, Master Phoenix!”

**********

DAY TEN OF TRAINING

“Can I have another bucket of water?”

“Greedy, aren’t you?”

“Ha, ha, very funny, Master.”

“Funny would be your quick change in personality.”

“It’s not that funny.” Eira wrinkled her nose. “It’s just…this is just me.”

“I know. It’s taken you awhile to find yourself again.”

“The…training helps.”

He tweaked her nose. “Liar.”

“Hey! That’s-!”

The requested bucket of water was thrown over her. His smile flickered briefly to the surface. “What do you say, apprentice?”

“Thank you, Master Phoenix.” Eira smirked, a handful of red energy balled in her fist as she flung it straight for him. “Tag, you’re it!”

“Left side, blind!”

A bolt of black energy sliced through the air to her left, Eira sprang backwards, dodging in the first movement back and twisting with the momentum to drift to the side. “Head shot, off, over!” She called the shot and threw the energy.

He dodged it easily, skipping lightly back through the air, with the aid of his energy. “That was off by two and a half degrees, your elbow was too far out, your shoulders too far back. When you throw, relax the movement, make it an extension of yourself.” He lobbed the energy ball back. “Catch, no foul.”

Eira dropped to a crouch, steeling herself for the inevitable force behind the return ball. “Oof! Got it!” The return shock traveled up her arms, but was countered by a burst of her own energy, keeping her form as she
“Good stance, good balance.” He congratulated, closing the gap between them to stand over her. “Hak-tum.”

She rolled upwards to her feet, offering the ball.

He thwacked her forehead. “Tell me, apprentice, what exactly did you miss?”

“Missed. Right.” She winced. “I was blind on all sides, right?”

“You are learning.” He took the ball. “Let’s think a little deeper, which one of what, would have taken you out?”

“Back left, foot slash, living thorn.”

Her reward was a brilliant smile, just for her.

******

DAY ELEVEN OF TRAINING

“Can I have another-”

“Send the Lyrith for it.”

“Rory? Rory!”

He doused her from behind, quite pleased with himself, the bucket swinging merrily from his arm. “Morning, E.”

“Morning to you two.” Eira shook her head, grabbing handfuls of wet hair and tying it into a knot with a kerchief.

“You should just cut it.” Rory suggested, tossing her the towel.

“Don’t need it.” Eira threw it back. “Besides, this is my one and only vanity as a woman!” She stuck her tongue out. “Think of it from my point of view.”

“But it pains me to see you treat it that way.” Rory padded over, comfortable in his half-form, his shirt half-buttoned, flapping softly in the morning wind. “Stand still.”


“Impossible.” Eira puckered her lips, whistling a tune from the night before.

“You’re off by two bars.” The phoenix studied her thoughtfully for a moment. “But not bad at all, considering that you only heard it once and in the simple form. You’ve done fairly well with embellishment.”

Eira shrugged.

Rory pinched her ear. “Still, milady.” He huffed. “What part of stay still?”

“All of it. What are you doing?”

“It involves a knife.” The phoenix observed. “I would suggest you focus on an answer.”

“What’s the question?”

“Have you figured it out yet?”

“It? Um…gimme a minute.”

“A whole minute?”

“Really, Master Phoenix.” She yawned, waiting while Rory’s fingers tangled through her hair. “Rory, I don’t
know what you’re doing, but I don’t think it’s helping, maybe you should just get me another buc-” She stopped.

The phoenix laughed. “Took you long enough.”

“Water?” She sputtered. “Wait a second, my elemental power is water?”

“Hey!” Rory jerked away, skittering to the side.

“What?” Eira turned, “Aiep! What did you do to my hair?” The tangle of dark brown had turned into a blue-tinged, swarming blob, desperately trying to reach the Lyrith backing away.

“He didn’t do it, you did.” The phoenix moved forward, turning her around. “Mustn’t do that. It’s call Peak Emotion Surge, slang for it is Eps. Don’t try to think through that one. In this case, it’s because your thoughts aligned with the true nature of your elemental energy and reacted. You wanted the Lyrith to fix whatever he was doing, so  your hair acted on that.”

“And turned into a-!” Two neat braids were dropped over her shoulder. He thumped her head, lightly.

“What do you say?”

“Thank you…Master Phoenix.” Eira tugged the pigtails, holding them up for inspection. “Wow. Nice.”

“You’re welcome. When you’re done admiring your-”

“Right here.” She skipped lightly to his side, waiting, smile half-hidden, hands clasped behind her back.

“We’re going to work on your summoning skills now.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes.” He paused. “You are surprised?”

“A little, yes.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Liar.”

“Hey!”

“A question deserves an answer.”

“I know that, Master.” Eira yawned. “I know.”

“Then what is it?”

She smiled. “Promise you’ll go easy on me?”

“As if.”

**********

DAY TWELVE OF TRAINING

“I’m dizzy.” Eira announced. “I want another-”

“At your request.” Rory cheerfully doused her with a wave of wetness from the glowing white staff in his left hand. He sat off to the left of the clearing, watching Eira and the phoenix as they stood in the clearing.

The phoenix directed a glare at the Lyrith, but extended a hand to his apprentice. Eira immediately caught the hand and held it to her cheek, absorbing the water directly, converting it to energy.

“Snack break?” He teased.

She grinned. “No, better than a snack break.”

“Good job. Now, then, we need to work on smoothing your outer circles and your protection barriers.”

“What’s wrong with my barriers?”

“You aren’t projecting your full energy into them.”

“It takes too much energy!”

“…are you arguing with me, apprentice?”

“No.”

“No? Come now, you’re slipping.”

“No, Master Phoenix.” She turned her head to the side. “My apologies.”

********

DAY THIRTEEN OF TRAINING

“Why is everything always directed at Rory?” Eira gritted her teeth, bracing, shifting her weight as the beam of energy slammed into her protective dome. “Just because he’s my Lyrith, doesn’t mean that every time you-ow!”

The beam faded away and Rory dashed to her side as the Dark Phoenix approached. “E!”

“She’s fine.”

Rory growled, low in his throat. His lips curling back in a hiss as he touched the body and sprang backwards.

“Down, Lyrith. Restrain yourself.” The phoenix ordered. “Apprentice?”

Eira stared up at him, waiting for her voice to return and her breath. A moment later, she wheezed and gasped. “Good grief! What was that for?”

He lightly slapped her on the back, waiting as she coughed. “Better?”

“No! What was that?”

“A counter to your attack.”

“Well, duh! I could see that. So help me, I could feel it too! How did you manage to-!”

“Calm down.”

“I am calm!” Eira fairly shouted. “Perfectly calm! What are you doing to me? You’ve had me practicing the same stupid barrier over and-”

“Language, apprentice.”

“Stupid. I said it. It's not like I'm saying something that can't be taken back. I have a right express my frustration! Stupid. There again, what’s the point of-aahh!” Eira was slammed flat into the ground again, gasping for breath. Her eyes were wide as she stared up her master’s expressionless face. “W-what was that?”

*********

“It’s called instant replay.” The phoenix waved his hand over her head as he started back towards their makeshift camp. “Better?”

A shower of water poured down. Eira turned her face upwards to meet the welcome wetness. “Yes, thank you.” She fell into step beside him. “I’m…sorry, Master Phoenix…for earlier. Really, I am.”

His hand settled on her shoulder. “I know. Apology accepted for that. Tired?”

“Exhausted.”

“How are the weights?”

“They’re okay.”

“Time stress?”

“I can feel it, a little. I don’t want to understand it though, so please don’t explain it.” She felt his laughter as a spark of happiness in their shared bond.

“I won’t then.”

“How am I doing?”

“Worried?”

“Yes. I can feel it.”

“I wondered. You’ve been stressing.”

“Sorry.” She winced. “I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”

“That apology is already accepted, are you attempting to overwrite it?”

“No. You really are annoying, Master.”

“Why thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“You’re doing quite well, considering.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t feel it?”

“No. The urgency, the air…everything. It’s like you’re hiding something from me and you want me to hurry up and understand everything before it comes to light.”

“That’s fairly accurate.”

“I don’t want to be accurate.”

“Just a little while longer.”

“I don’t know if I can’t stand a little while longer.”

“It’s never doing what we want to do, but what we have to do.”

“Bieria help us.” Eira muttered.

“You say that a lot.”

“Hmmm?”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have you ever tried to summon her?”

“No way!”

“Why not?”

“That’s too much! I couldn’t do that! I’m not qualified and-”

“Bieria doesn’t discriminate.”

“What?”

“She’s an ancient history legend. That kind of power is only found and brought on demand.”

“Like a trading card?”

“Something like that. You know the circle, it’s your card. You play it when the time is right.” The phoenix squinted up into the evening sky. “I suppose there’s time enough for one more pattern, if you’re up to it.”

“I’m up!”

“I know you are. We’ll have to find you summoning grounds soon.”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t know?” Genuine surprise was reflected in the golden-grey eyes. “Every summoner has summoning grounds. It’s a place where they feel calm, collected and at home, it is usually found in their travels, as summoners often taken positions that have to do with traveling, or they do it for money. When they cast the first medallion with all their heart, the place-the location-the realm, that particular spot, becomes their summoning ground. By order of the League, if you are under their registry, the land is yours. Just that portion, the area where you traced out the medallion and only that place, is yours. I understand that your circles can be stored and most summoners store up ribbed or basic sets, that they can pull out and modify on the spot. They usually invoke Symmetry, have you heard of that?”

“No. I never knew I was a summoner, I just did dance patterns ‘cause it was pretty and everyone told me to.” Eira frowned. “I started because of Mom. Dad would always tell me what a pretty dancer she was.”

“Symmetry is when an impression of the summoning ground is brought into the present, say for instance, you’re a planet away. The impression returns and you can cast your medallions however you like. The power, the feeling, the emotion, all of that energy is more readily accessible and empowers the summoner. It also usually ties them down, so they can roots in some place. The nomads have more than one spot, up to fifteen, I think, but they never stray too far from any one place.”

“So if I find mine, I’ll be like, stuck there for the rest of my life?”

“Would that be so bad?”

“You lost me.”

“You’ve been away from home for awhile now. You’ve been doing quite a few different things than you usually do. When this is all over, would you go back?”

“When what’s over?”

“You won’t be my apprentice forever.”

“I know that! I just…I don’t know.”

“You don’t know or you don’t want to say?”

“Why do you always do that?”

“What?”

“See right through me and speak so plainly when you do?”

“Isn’t that what you want?”

“Yeah. I mean, yes.”

“You’re welcome.”

Eira smirked. “Thank you, Master Phoenix.”

“You can use Rory in the meantime, since that’s what you’ve been doing for the past few days.”

“What?”

“You haven’t noticed? I wondered if he was doing it of his own accord or whether you were ordering him.”

“Doing what?”

“Your medallions, you trace them with your feet. I want you to get used to drawing them with your hands, that way you can cast more than one at a time and finish them quickly. You can draw the basic outlines in the air and then finish them on the ground, if needed. You’ll find a balance that works best for you. But when you move the medallion from the ground to your body, Rory’s been taking it for you.”

“What?”

"That’s why your circles have been so calm and smooth. You truly didn’t notice, did you?”
 
“Why didn’t you say something?”

“I assumed it was through mutual consent of your bond. You should’ve been able to sense it.”

“I sensed something, but I didn’t know that it was…how long, is he?”

“You’ll have to talk that out with it-him, but it’s a good option for now. He responds well to your energy. Ready?”

“Hmm, oh yes. Sorry. I was thinking.”

“Save it for later.”

*******

DAY FOURTEEN OF TRAINING


“Master Phoenix, are you alright? You’ve been kind of weird today.” Eira quietly approached the shadowy figure sitting at the ridge’s edge. Night had already come and with it, the mystery had returned to the sullen legend, he’d left, brooding, to retreat to a high point in the Cliffside paths.

The cloak ruffled softly as she neared, his hair glistening faintly in the moonlight. It had taken on a blueish-black hue and the darkness hiding for the past two weeks seemed to have finally returned.

“Be you needing something, apprentice?” His voice grated.

“Nothing, Master. Apologies.” Eira murmured the required words, phrases that were now so easy to recall as she moved forward anyway and took a seat beside him. The silence stretched beyond a comfortable length.

“You should sleep while you can.”

“I’m fine.”

More silence.

“You’re making that pet of yours worry.”

“His name is Rory and he’s fine.” Eira said, patiently. “You’re fine, aren’t you Rory?” He whined from the shadows, a sorrowful sound, but didn’t bother to approach the darkened aura. She almost smiled. “I wish you could tell me what was bothering you.”

“Nothing is bothering me.”

“If I say liar, what are you going to do?”

“Push you off the edge of this cliff.” There was the tiniest hint of humor mixed in the menace.

“Then I won’t say it.”

“Go to bed, Eira.”

“Don’t want to.”

“It would be a very wise idea to be-”

“What’s that?”

“Where?”

“In the sky, over there? That light…it’s like it’s…wait a minute, what is that?”

There was a low growl from behind her, followed by a hiss.

Eira didn’t bother to figure out which of her companions it had come from as she scrambled to her feet, completely forgetting the fact that she was on a narrow stone pathway, climbing up a mountainside. “Oh no.”

“E?” Rory’s hands were warm, resting on her shoulders. “We need to move.”

“Get her out of here, Lyrith.” The Dark Phoenix rose deliberately from his perch on the cliff’s edge, lifting his face to the sky. “I’ll deal with it.”

Rory growled.

“No, Rory. Let me go!” Eira twisted away from the ahnds. “That’s one of my circles, isn’t it? That’s the one that-!” The cry caught in her throat. “No!”

“Eira! Get back! Lyrith!”

“Rory! I order you to stay back!” Eira dodged his hands and ducked to the side, further away from the duo. “Why that wretched-!” She began and then stopped as the swirling colored lights drew near.

It was rather flat thing, hovering in the air, seeming to be searching for something, a glowing red circle on the outside, a smaller white one within.

Eira’s hands clenched into fists. “Of all the nerve.” Her voice was low and dark. “I can do something about that. I know what to do. Master Phoenix, may I use my powers?”

He didn’t even blink. “Go.”

Eira drew the circles in the air and finished the pattern with her feet on the ground. Side-step, toe-step, heel, heel, touch in front, touch in back. Ha. I’d say, ‘Eat this’ but that wouldn’t be very nice of me, now would it Unk? But I'm not that nice...

The air beneath her fingers shimmered to life. In a single swoop, Eira grabbed both patterns and meshed them together. The glowing circles before her, blended into the glowing footsteps she snatched from the ground. The hovering impressions swirled and burned, locking into place as she flung it directly over the phoenix’s head.

It whirled and burned.

When the white beam blasted out from the hovering flat, Eira’s new medallion held it at bay.

“Rory!” She called for him, settling into a defensive stance to hold the kickback from such a large protective shield.

He was beside her at once. “E?”

“I’m going to use you, okay?” She spoke more calmly than she felt.

“E…”

“Trust me.”

He slowly shed the shirt and backed away, four paces down the path.

Eira gritted her teeth, shifting with one foot, she moved slowly, until she could handle the weight with one hand, the energy exchanging between the two circlets, and then one hand was free.

A grim smile surfaced as she began tracing with the free hand. Now I understand why he wanted me to get used to tracing. Ha. Bet he didn’t think I’d need it this soon. The circles flickered to light and Eira drew on a dim memory in the corner of her head, pulling out the symbols that she’d need to use.

It took a little more effort, but her mind was still working. It sifted through the memories and found the musical equivalent for each symbol, fitting them into a tune, a melody that she could sing.

Her mouth opened and music happened.

******

“Eira?” The voice was coming from overhead. “I know you can hear me, now is a fairly good time to come around.”

She licked her lips, an effort that seemed to grow easier the more she thought of it. She snapped bolt upright. “Master Phoenix! Rory!”

“Everyone’s fine.” He patted her head. “Good job.”

“What’d  I do?” Eira picked herself up from the dusty, rocky pathway, dusting off her tunic and fussing with
her pigtails. “and why do I still feel so…energetic?”

The phoenix chuckled. “We’ve found your summoning grounds. I have to say, only you would pick here.”

“WHAT?”

“That was the most beautiful, brilliant and selfless thing I’ve ever seen you do.” A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “It was your first selfless summon and the land accepted it. Congratulations. You have your first…summoning ground.”

Eira stared at him for as long as she could manage. Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes and she tackled him in hug. “Thank you.”

“What for?” His voice was muffled. “I didn’t do anything. That was entirely you.”

She released him to turn to Rory, who immediately braced himself for the enthusiastic embrace. “Did you see it, Rory? Did you?”

“It was…pretty.” Rory allowed, wrinkling his nose. Eira took a whiff, trying to follow his sudden, new train of thought. The feelings he was relaying through their bond was not the kind of thing she could understand. It was very confusing. “I don’t like it.” He said, suddenly, his grip on her arms tightening.

“I don’t either.” The phoenix scowled. “We should get moving.”

“Now?” Rory questioned, easily sweeping Eira up in his arms and settling her on his back, half-form resumed.

“Now’s a good time. We need to cover ground.”

The Lyrith grunted. “What? What is it?” Eira clasped her hands tightly around his waist. “What’s going on?”

“Can’t you feel it if you can’t hear it?” He leapt forward, several feet over and ahead of them on the path. “Run!”

The first rustle caught her ear and Eira squinted out of the corner of her eyes as Rory darted forward.

It was a shadow.

A shadow with glowing red eyes.

© Sara Harricharan

3 comments:

Joanne Sher said...

Wow girl! Just WOW. Loving these characters, and I can't believe you're almost done with this. Totally fascinated, sweet Sawa!
Your JJ

Kristina Rohder said...

Oh my goodness...
You ended with a cliffhanger!
*shivers in fear*
This was an awesome installment! I am amazed by your ability to create such detailed and unusual worlds. Your creativity seems to have no limits!
Anyway, I think Eira is going to be a force to be reckoned with. I can't wait to see what happens next. I sense drama and excitement in the near future! :)

Catrina Bradley... said...

I loved this one! Yeah, I know, I love them all. :)