Now, before I say anything else, please let me apologize for being so horribly late with this update. I feel terrible for having let you wait this long, but I hope you stopped by at my profile and saw my note there. I must confess I had totally underestimated post-exam and pre-Christmas time and thus ended up having not even half the time for writing that I had anticipated to have. But now that the new year has begun and my schedule is by far less busy I finally finished Chapter 15. :D Also, I began working on the next one already, so hopefully updates will now come on a more regular basis again.
Anyhow. I hope you all had a fab time and a great NewYear's Eve! Well, and of course do I hope you're still with me and enjoying the read!
Stitch: As always, thank you so much for your support and for the amazing review. I truly feel honoured by what you say! And I seriously hope that "Through Fire and Ice" can make up for the ridiculously long wait you had to endure this time. *fingers crossed*
And in general: again, a huge thank you to everyone who is following this fic – AFairy88, Anime Princess, MidnightDew, MJDai, Stitch and Teti – for reading and reviewing. Your support is invaluable to me! Plus a warm welcome to mslm! :D
I hope dearly you will enjoy this chapter.
See you soon in "Rise of the Phoenix".
Chapter 15: Through Fire and Ice
Far away from the sailor; far away from his friends and the world which was out of reach for her Maeve crossed the gentle meadows that surrounded her master's home. The winds whistled softly in the green, telling of stories that had happened in times and spaces different from this one.
Not knowing why or where it would lead her to, the Celt wandered aimlessly the paths which had come to be so familiar to her. She had been imprisoned here for longer than she had been a member of the Nomad crew; knew each and every tree that grew in these forsaken lands. And yet tonight everything seemed new and alien to her.
The ground, the shore that sent quiet murmurs to travel the distance – the very sky even was bathed in this strangely warm glow which the moon high above her sent out. Like a blanket wrapped around a shivering body it covered the island, dancing on her own skin as if she were something curious that was worth its attention.
As if it were a living thing itself.
Her hands raised to be in her line of sight, Maeve frowned deeply while she watched the game of light that took place on her very palms. The rays seemed to leave an ever so faint glimmer to linger wherever they had touched the surface, the glistening remaining for a heartbeat only before it vanished to give way to the crimson shade again.
Never in her life had she encountered something like this before, and the longer she witnessed it the more did she wonder whether there was more to it. Whether just maybe the importance of what she saw was greater than she could ever fathom - greater than she could ever surmise.
It was in the moment in which this fleeting musing crossed her mind that the Celt suddenly awoke from her reverie. Her gaze straying back to where her home lay, her body tensed.
She should have woken him right away, should have made DimDim see it, too. If anyone knew about the meaning of the moon it would be him.
She had to return, as quickly as possible. And thus, not allowing any more time to pass by, she turned around, so intent on going back but before she could have even made a single step something around her changed once more. Something that was invisible to her, something her senses were oblivious to.
Something that yet was there.
Tentatively Sinbad closed his eyes. He tried to ignore all that was happening around him while he willed his thoughts to go back to those days that were long gone. The days which, even if the sea was rough, seemed to be filled with light and which had assured him with every sun that rose that life was worth living.
He opened the door to memories buried under the heavy burden of having lost, memories that even after all what she had done for him he still had not dared to release. But they were all still there. The way she smiled and the way she talked. How her spirit showed in her eyes whenever she felt someone needed to be taught a lesson or two. How her gaze would always become so distant when she sat at the bow with Dermott perched on her hand, the bird and his keeper lost in a conversation the winds would never carry to him.
The spark in her velvet eyes when she spoke to him without needing to voice out a single word.
He could never forget any of this, and even now, as he recalled those moments in midst a tempest that tugged at his hair and chest violently, did a warm sensation emerge from his heart to calm his restless soul – and the phoenix along with it.
Sinbad felt how the creature paused for just a moment, how it seemed to listen up while through his veins he could feel the echo of her magic flow. So faint and yet so beautiful it seemed to consume him from within, allowing him to relax even though the winds around him were taking up speed.
But unbeknown to him, on the island that was so dangerously close to Aijakar, Turok's voice hissed through the cavern, his words a threat more than anything else.
"Do not even think of it, sailor", he whispered albeit knowing the captain would not hear him. "Do not even attempt to set the fires free!"
The sorcerer's eyes were opened wide, their stare aimed at the crystal that lay between him and his daughter. He could see what happened in the Temple, and he could feel the flames which Sinbad tried to kindle. Although he did not know where they came from or what gave him access to them, he knew that he would not allow such thing to happen. And fuelling his own and his daughter's powers with the magic the blood red stone held, he demanded darkness to swallow those who tried to protect the bird.
"Hanescuræs cūn læ!", his words thundered through the cave, multiplying and rumbling as their echo was deflected by its sturdy walls.
"May Darkness feast on the light. To turn water into ice and let fire burn who strive to let it rise!"
In the shadows that emanated from the crystal his eyes began to develop a sinister glimmer they had never shown before. The dire colour that before was the stone's only, now invaded those orbs that Rumina would have never thought to see taken by anything else than his own power. And yet, when her father released the last part of his spell, she witnessed how the dark which together they had created melted into his gaze. Mixing with the magic he carried within it formed something new that exceeded everything she had ever deemed possible to exist. An ancient power that flooded all her senses and which deafened even the angry shrieking of the winds that they commanded – an ancient force she felt herself surrender to, offering all her power to it as well and chanting along with her father when outside the sky was ripped by lightning.
On Aijakar Sinbad stood still in front of the unholy crystal's crimson twin. With his mind all focused on the memories he had not found the strength to reach out to for far too long, he did not notice how a new menacing whisper added to the piercing cries of the storm – words so strange that none in the chamber knew to understand them, and so dark that none would have dared to translate them into any spoken tongue had they known of their meaning.
While in the centre of the room the captain fought for the creature and himself, the high-priestess slowly rose from her spot next to Lofar. Her pale face was still speaking of hurt, her heart beating in unison with this of the beast she had been bound to so many years ago.
The young girl felt how the bird stayed for one precious moment, how hope returned to it like the first light of the day. She knew the keeper was so close to achieving his aim, so close to finding the flames that lay dormant within him.
Like a silver stream they flowed deep within his heart, soothing and calm. Hidden from sorrow and from doubt they had endured the dark of those days that had been painted in hurt and longing. And now that he was breaking the seal he, himself, had set on them they awakened, calling to him and drawing him close.
To Sinbad it felt as if he were approaching the gentle warmth of a river that finally would meet the vast waters his soul was born to, and albeit he knew not why, deep inside he was aware he had to follow it.
For it would lead him to her.
And so, against the storm and the sizzling blackness that tried to claim him without cease, he gave into what he felt, his spirit merging slowly with the power that she had given him.
He sensed it spread, unfolding ever so carefully under his trust. Like a swelling tide it rose to consume him from within and all he would have to do was to step in.
Her essence, her light, her fire was there in front of him. Hidden and protected by the waters he bore it waited for him to set it free. While around him his friends and family struggled hard against the rough winds, he remained upright and drawing in a most shallow breath Sinbad stepped forward not only in the world only he could see, but in reality as well. His right hand he stretched to touch the phoenix' stone as well as the silver stream he had found inside his heart; ready to burst into flames.
But what he met wasn't her warmth.
It wasn't her fire.
Wasn't her light.
The captain's eyes shot wide open as the soaring pain cursed through his system. Like ice it burnt him; creeping through his every vein was a cold that he had never thought possible to feel. It stung him - like thousands of arrows it hit him from inside his very shell, kept him from going any further on this path he had taken. For a moment he felt like drowning in the chill he sensed in every bone, and clenching his teeth he grunted. The ache he felt was agonizing and it froze him right where he stood. The river was slowly disappearing from his vision while the dark closed in on him.
"You cannot win, sailor. You will fall, as will the bird. And the world shall be ours to rule!"
He heard those words be spoken to him, dark voices carrying the letters that left Turok's mind so far away. Sinbad gasped audibly as they reached his ears, but the sound got lost amongst the furious howls of the tempest.
Could it really be true? Was it him he was fighting against?
For the shortest fragment of a second time seemed to stand still for Sinbad whose past now took a hold of him, reminding him of how he had set an end to the evil sorcerer's deeds; of how he had bereft Rumina of her father.
It could not be. Not here. Not now. But he had heard the voice and he felt the dark. So powerful it was that it scared him. Scared him more than even the devil's magic had the year before. And when the phoenix screamed, so did he. It was a cry none had ever heard leave his throat before and it had everyone inside the chamber tremble.
If Sinbad would not find a way to conquer the dark, then no one would this night. It was all down to him, and the captain knew this well.
Feeling his senses take in every detail at once he gathered what was left of his strength, trying to break through the veil again and reach out to what he knew he carried inside: The gentle stream that he had found, the echo of her soul that rested securely within his own.
The cold was surrounding it like shield and the closer he got to it, the worse got the pain.
His muscles tensed and his brows furrowed in resistance, he forced the memory of her back into his consciousness, fighting the power that tried to bring him down as best as he could. But it was no use. He could not do this alone. He wasn't that strong. He needed her.
The phoenix' world shook as with another desperate cry the keeper called out to the one he sought to find, her name lingering in this realm only for short before it unfurled and grew – destined to cross time and space itself.
The trees murmured silently as the Celtic sorceress stood motionless amongst them. Her eyes were cast to the North and her senses were on alert. Her very body told her that something was approaching - an ancient power entangled with the restless motion of a sea untamed filled the air and moved the ground. It permeated the earth she walked upon and when it passed her by she felt only the slightest shiver upon her skin.
In the wind there was a whistling tune. It was faint, too faint almost to make out, but Maeve strained hard to hear the whisper that was dug so deep in its voice.
She had learned to understand the language of nature long ago and even knew to read these lands which were so distinctly different from the world outside that heaven and earth themselves spoke in other tongues than those she knew before. But DimDim had taught her well. He had taught her to listen and to feel, to open up to the secrets that remained so well hidden from all who did not know to search for them.
It had taken her long to learn the language of this realm but she spoke it well now. With her head upraised she let the breeze surround her; focused on what it carried along. And finally, she found it. The sensation, when it came, hit her fast and hard. The young woman had no time to prepare for what followed after when she realized the air was laden with nothing but the echo of her name.
Involuntarily she gasped as she heard the longing scream that tore her soul apart. She knew the voice; would recognize it amongst a thousand of others.
He was calling her. And she wanted to answer. More than anything in the world she wanted to reply; give him what he needed.
Her lips parted slightly to let her own voice melt into the wind, but long before a single sound could leave them her whole being froze. There, inside of her, something was rising. It tried to pull her into its wake, so powerful she did not believe she could escape from it. It burnt her limbs and set her skin on fire. Like a ravaging storm it surged and it wasn't until, with every ounce of strength she could muster, she yanked her heart free from the call that she felt her chest rise and fall again with the need for air.
Her knees suddenly too weak to support her any further, the redhead sank to the ground and buried her hands deep into the green grass beneath her. For a moment she closed her eyes fiercely, suppressing a sob that she did not allow herself to release while in her head, frantically, she tried to understand.
If it was him who was calling her then why did she feel like bursting into flames when she but attempted to reach out to him? Why did she suffer at the hand of the element that had ever since been the source of her magic - just as if it would aim to keep her away? She couldn't make sense of any of it and yet she yearned to give up her defence - to give into it albeit she knew it would do nothing but burn her from within; yearned to lend him whatever aid she could. She felt it tug at her even now: the trace of a spirit that searched for help.
When she opened her eyes again, Maeve's velvet gaze grazed the plain that lay in front of her. In the distance a soft shadow was silhouetted against the night sky. It was her master's house, her home. Had she had the time for it, she would have now chided herself for having run off so foolishly. She should have never left their refuge without seeking him for advice but it was too late now. She knew she had to make a decision; was aware she would not hold out much longer. Holding this what tried to take her over at the edge of her consciousness required more energy than she could summon. Either she rid herself of the call now or she abandoned herself to it, accepting all consequences this might have.
There was no choice to make.
"Oh sailor, what have you gotten yourself into this time?", she muttered tiredly while her hands clenched into fists.
No matter how much it frightened her not to know what was going on, no matter how much it tore her heart apart to see the little adobe sleep peacefully in the distance and not be sure to ever pass its garden again – it was Sinbad.
And she would not let him stand alone.
A shuddered breath had her body quiver as slowly she straightened her back and allowed the fire in. Immediately it washed over her, being a sharp white pain to her soul. But Maeve clang to the whisper that ran through the flames and biting back a cry of her own she dove deeper into the burning seas which threatened to devour her.
"Forgive me, Master. Please."
She sent a last silent plea to the man who had always been like a father to her. So dearly did she hope that he would not have to find her broken body beneath the trees; that he would understand. Maeve felt her spirit be torn from this realm, for the better or for the worse, and all she prayed for in this moment was that he would forgive her for what she did.
While she walked through the fire, the one image her heart sent to linger in her head was this of a day when DimDim and she would have ended the curse to be again with those they missed the most. It was a dream that had kept her company through so many, uncounted, nights.
It was the last thing she thought of before the world around her faded into darkness...
A/N: Alright, so that's been ch15. I feel I need to apologize for it being so heavy on descriptions. I think it's slowing dow the pace of the fic quite a bit but it was important to me to show what is going on inside of them. The battle they are fighting cannot be measured with the number of soldiers involved (never mind that there's no soldiers there to fight anyway) or the amount of magic used – it's about the risk you are willing to take for the sake of someone else, about faith and determination. And I hope I was able to bring this across.
The next chapter should then be less about this inward world and more about what is happening "outside" again. ;)