||| THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX: BOOK 2 - ~Cult of the Butterfly~ |||

IMPORTANT STUFF TO KNOW:

- This is Book 2, aka the sequel to my original story, The Order of the Phoenix (which I originally wrote in 2008, but I made an updated, edited version to improve it.) It's probably better to read first as some things might be confusing otherwise (it's not very long) and this takes place after the events therein. I only partly rehash :)

- This story is Phoenix/Maya. In MY headcanon, it's taking place after my other story, One Last Night, but you don't have to read that story.

- Also this should be better written than OOTP1, as I hope I've improved since 2008? I like it better anyway...

||| THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX: BOOK 2 - ~Cult of the Butterfly~ |||


Introduction

JAIL - JUL 2027

MAYA:

I have never before met Kristoph Gavin face to face.

Don't ask me why they let people just visit him all the time. I suppose Nick was right all the times he started muttering darkly about the criminal justice system being 'corrupt'. But it's just a good thing for my plans today.

Not that I've told Nick about them.

Nick wants to move on. I can't let Kristoph Gavin keep on haunting and torturing the rest of his life.

The world starts to vibrate. Oh great, I'm shaking again.

Stop it! I chastise myself. You're not that weak!

The world keeps on shaking, unabated.

Nick. You're doing this to protect Nick! The pictures roll forth, of Nick screaming and throwing evidence around, so desperate to save me in court. I don't care if it was ages ago. Nothing's changed.

I focus my inner will on Nick, and not shaking. The world stills into calm.

I step into the cell.

Just looking at that petty jerk I'm instantly torn furious with uncheckable emotion.

Why? Why did you do that to Nick?

I think I hate you.

But I can't get sidetracked. Just getting randomly scared or angry won't help Nick.

Gavin's simpering his stupid, empty words in his girly voice. I can't afford to get irritated.

My magatama glows with a gentle blue light, and I train my sense and focus in synchronicity with that. It's very calming.

Hopefully my own eyes now glow with the same empty unshakable daggers of ice... or at least I don't look like a frightened rabbit.

"Actually, I was hoping we could put aside our differences and have constructive reconciliatory discussion," I stall in my best Master-ly voice. Really, I'm kinda busy.

The more I atune my focus to the pulsing of my Magatama's blue power field, the more black psyche locks are starting to hover eerily in my visual perception around Mr Gavin. They're both there and not there, superimposed so I can 'see' the locks and the scene simultaneously. I've probably seen at least 50 in the time I've been looking for them.

This is one of those cases where having more powers is just a problem. I can't use those psyche lock spells the way Nick can, 'cause I just see red locks for whatever petty little guilt or white lie the person made recently, and you can't tell the difference between them and something that actually matters.

I don't know about black locks, but I do know this guy is a jerk, and this is also a red herring. I'm looking for something else... and I almost instantly find it.

I'm well attuned to this spiritual signature, having monitored for it with obsession of late. This is almost the same.

...Is Dahlia in here?

I glance surreptitiously in the direction where I can sense the signature vibration coming from, which is moving repeatedly in a slightly jerky s-pattern.

Another one of those freaky butterflies!

Why is it in here? Well, who cares. I can worry about that later. I have to get rid of it before Mr Gavin sees something's up.

Focus your will. It worked last time. With the correct synchronicity, I can direct the channel of my own powers through the channel of the magatama, into whatever locks are in the focus of my perception.

"TAKE THAT!"

A single, huge psyche lock morphs into focus. Black, of course. Guess butterflies can't tell lies.

I start asserting the force of my psychic will into the weaker points of the lock. Psyching myself by replaying the memory of the other butterflies' lock breaking a few months back, I keep visualising this one breaking the exact same way. Sooner or later it should actually do so.

The lock doesn't want to be broken. Whatever sinister power's vested in it is fighting back. It's like beating your head repeatedly against a metal brick wall.

I grip my magatama harder, sensing its spiritual pulsing in my palm. I think of Nick, and focus my will with greater intensity. My head is burning up with pain!

I can't back down now.

Now the rest of me is burning with pain. My teeth jar as they suddenly smash against the floor. I think my legs must have just gave way. Doesn't really matter. It's getting harder to concentrate. I can feel myself going under, and it's so temping to slip into blissful unconsciousness and end this torture...

The butterfly (or whatever sinister spirit/power's in it) is trying to impinge on my own psyche. It's attacking in the way some human ghost might possess you or even enter under your own will to replace your soul in a channelling. Except it doesn't work out the same, 'cause no 'butterfly' can ever possess or be channelled by a human. Instead something weird is happening. My head starts to feel woozy.

The world starts to take on an eerie pink tint. I'm starting to get disoriented, forgetting what I'm doing. Nick. You're protecting Nick!

I grit my teeth. The pink goes.

Deflect it back. If the dumb thing has wasted its power by throwing it at me, rather than staying in defending the lock, it's got to burn out. I don't know if it's true, but I psych myself it is. And now it's actually trying to inject its power into my brain - I can just send it right back! (That's what happened in... I can't remember the episod...)

I think my eyes have stopped working. The world's gone dark as I'm collapsed on the floor, all I can still percieve is the sixth sense of the spiritual perception. I start internal trash talk to try to stay conscious. What would Nick do? I weakly force my fists to a clench. Objection! Lies!

Don't let up
. Somehow I keep forcing the weight of my psychic power into the lock through the magatama's channel, focusing on sync with its blue pulsing, not my own pain.

There's a sound like glass breaking, and the power gives a feeble sputter as I sag further into the ground in sudden recoil. There's now no resistance, and no antagonistic power. In fact, no signature power at all.

Nothing spectacular. It's just... gone.

But then there's an explosion in the back of my head.

###

I'm drowning! I'm falling! No...

My blurred eyes gradually swim into focus.

"Ms Fey,"

Barred windows, police...

"AGHHHHHH!"

Don't tell me I've been arrested again!

"Ms Fey? I'm a doctor. It's fine, don't be alarmed,"

"I d-demand my LAWYER!"

A police-uniformed face bends into view.

"You're not under arrest. This is the detention centre medical unit. Mr Kristoph Gavin assaulted you, you yourself are under no legal charge.."

"Oh..." Recollection gradually returns. "R-right.." I struggle to a sitting position.

My head has finally stopped whirling.

"Do you wish to press assault charges? No need for trial, it was all observed by prison security.."

"I g-guess..." (What did they think of all those flaming butterflies, were they on camera?) " But if he's already on death row, is there any point?"

"Medical bills compensation. Regardless, with an additional flagrant criminal charge, be aware we have already upgraded his execution priority. I believe it will now occur first thing next month."

"Oh."

"I regret you are now not permitted to visit Mr Gavin in the interim, in light of this incident..."

###

So I return to Kurain, back from my 'Master Business.' I hope it's not too late...

As I approach Fey Manor the front door thunders rapidly open.

"Maya? Maya, you're limping.."

I fling my arms around Nick joyously, I'm so happy to see him.

"OWWWW!" Nick's face erupts in a scream of pain, silly me forgetting he's still hurt from falling off that cliff a few months back.

"Sorry! I'm sorry!"

Nick's face morphs back to normal, peering at my tear filled eyes. "I-it's okay, it's not that bad. I was overreacting..." He waves a hand gingerly near his recently-broken rib. "Almost better.."

"Good, 'cause I have GREAT NEWS!"

Nick's forced grin becomes real.

"I think I got rid of Dahlia's power source!"

"Dare I ask how?"

"Um... I used my magatama to break it.." (PLEASE don't ask where!) "I was able to use that charge you gave it before to help direct my powers at c-closer range.." I start blabbering ad-libbed technical explanations to cover my sudden disconcert.

"Um. Yeah. It's fine, you're the expert.." Nick's eyes bulge cluelessly. "I know you did the right thing..."

"Well, okay, hopefully she can't possess you as easy now. But we'll find out... And along with that new charm on your magatama..." I sink my head against it as Nick's arms envelope me. It's strung around his neck. As well as the rock jutting into my cheek, I can sense it pulsing.

"I'll heat your dinner," he comments after several minutes. "I already had it ready." His eyes flick to a giant cover over something half the size of the table.

"Oh, Nick!"

###


THREE MONTHS LATER...

[BOOK 2] - PROLOGUE

AZAKURAIN - ( ~Sept 2027)

IRIS:

Iris' legs shook beneath her robe as she inched toward her designated place in the Mystic Circle . Her shaky mind wound back to the events that had brought on this predicament, back to those last sad days in Hazakurain.

She'd been made to take those Mystics' ideas seriously, because soon after Bikini confided to Iris she was retiring, and moving to a resort-style town that was a common destination for retired shrine workers (many of her old friends were already there), many far hours from the mountain where it was warm and pleasant ("which should be great for my poor old back!") Iris was distraught, and offered to move with Bikini, but Bikini was set against the idea. "My dear, everyone else in that town is over 60! And the few younger workers in the nursing home, well, they're just run-of-the-mill workers, not a highly trained and skilled shrine maiden like yourself! Such a waste!" It seemed Sister Richter was taking over here as head nun, a woman from the next mountain that had often visited and had never liked Iris much at all. Without Bikini , Iris wasn't sure she could stomach the idea of staying.

"Mystic Dora has been asking after you," smiled Mystic Patricia.

Mystic Dora was an acolyte around Iris' age from Azakurain which had befriended Iris on her annual visits here ever since childhood; she had been invaluable in partway filling the gap in the terrible time after dear Dahlia had left overseas.

"Iris, dear, the retirement resort is no place for someone like you," reiterated Bikini, "what's more, it's filled with terrible time-wasting activities not fitting for a nun before retirement, like gambling, and a nudist beach *supposed* to only be for those over 60.."

"But you're like a mother to me," tearfully reminded Iris.

"Yes, and one day a mother wants to see her dear child grow up and fulfill her potential and destiny. It's criminal your poor troubled mother tossed you out before you had a chance to show your spiritual potential. Just go and visit with dear Mystic Patricia and see how it works out, you can always come back here later! And – he's the good thing – Azakurain is only an hour from my new home, not the tedious five as it is from here!"

So that was how Iris had come here to Azakurain, as she was now. Things were very different to her horrible early nightmares of spirit training in Kurain – the practices here were indeed starkly differing, and much less terrifying.

Her stomach still sank with shame as she recalled her mother's barely veiled disappointment and fury after each mediocre training session, each stupid and weak mistake. Mother hadn't instructed all the sessions, of course, but she'd demandingly grill the trainers after each session on her and Dahlia's progress, actually, poor Mother didn't punish them, but made a distinct and noticeable effort each failing day not to outburst - it seemed like one day her frustrations just all built up and exploded…

But here – Mystic Dora and Mystic Patricia were always so encouraging! Even if Iris failed or made a mistake, they'd just reassure her that she'd surely do better next time… And it wasn't like she was supposed to be becoming Master now, so there was no unreachable goal as pressure, learning anything new seemed a 'good enough' achievement. The people here had insisted she be initiated into their order here at Azakurain, and, never one to resist pressure, Iris soon agreed, she'd been terrified of the ritual beforehand fearing she'd never be able to go through with it, but once she was in the trance she wasn't scared any more!

With some trepidation she rolled up her sleeve , and her eyes fell on her forearm bearing The Mark, where the special cells from those who Shared had been grafted into the skin, inside the ritual scar. It was a little gruesome looking (Iris' heart clenched a little each time she saw her arm anew) but it would heal in time, the people here tended to have a ritual re-scarring every few years so that the Mark was still visible on the surface as a sign of their status as an Enlightened One. Many things here seemed to take place in rituals of trance where the usual fears, misgivings and other thoughts and emotions simply never came through. Today's test, however, probably didn't. She felt positively nauseated, and wished she hadn't refused food since yesterday so she could legitimately cite illness to delay the event – but dry retching isn't much of an excuse. Though they respected other powers here instead of only that transformation channelling, in one way it was still the same as Kurain – to qualify as a full Mystic, you had to perform a successful channeling.

She fought off the sudden putrid taste in her throat with a mental reminder - The good thing about channelling here was it was very different to the insurmountable terror of the Kurain Technique. Iris' teeth clattered together as the unwanted memories of Kurain dumped forth; the sheer terror she'd felt every time she'd detected something supernatural (her only urge being to run and hide upon which her limited powers had ceased to nothing), how she'd recoiled from and been unable to persist with the pain of exertion is searching the spirit realm, and the pure fear of something as terrible as her ultimate 'goal' – falling unconscious whilst your soul was actually replaced by a spirit and you left your body!

It was all too dangerous and awful, Dahlia could be Master. She'd just been secretly grateful the day Mother declared she didn't have enough power to ever be Master and it was a waste of time to train further, she'd been left with nice Bikini the week after.

But here, thankfully, channeling was very different. To start with, your own powers were augmented by those of your butterflies (if you had them) which helped power the exerting work of capturing the spirits. Furthermore, the ghost didn't replace your soul, but just came to sit in those special cells grafted inside your Mark, like a cute little house! You remained perfectly conscious, it was a bit like having a pet!

You didn't usually transform like in Kurain, but it didn't matter – some of the Enlightened Ones could do transformation channeling but it was not required to attain respect or advancement.

Iris' heart thudded incessantly in her eardrum, but she replayed the other Mystics in her mind reassuring her they were sure she was ready to channel. Unlike her terrible childhood memories, she had shown powers already –she'd produced an additional 2 butterfly familiars. She was a bit concerned they seemed far weaker than her first one, and followed its lead or control in every action like chicks following a parent, but the other Mystics assured her it didn't matter.

The formalities of her initiation test had long ago proceeded around her. One of the Members had begun to speak in an enthused, rolling voice. The Enlightened One recounted a long and dramatic, ritualized tale, which, in summary, went like this.

The lineage of the Enlightened Ones and their traditions went directly all the way back to near the dawn of history, and the great Master MAI! She had been blessed with the power of the spirits! However, the current home at Azakurain had been the Destined Land . Those calling themselves descendents of MAI had become numerous across the earth and fallen away from her favour and obedience to the wills of the spirits. Thus, Ancestor MAI had used her radiation 'accident' as a test from the gods to select her most beloved Chosen Ones to move here. And soon her Chosen people had been rewarded! The Ancestors had blessed them with new powers, and, most exciting of all, those with the powers of the gods were born among them! These individuals were the most highly respected in the order, as they could Share their powers with their less spiritually endowed brothers and sisters!

Even if they were sickly and did not live very long (as many were, their short lifespans of course being proof of their god power and desire to hasten return to their proper spirit realm) their powers were so immense, they could be Shared with others by donating their cells to the initiation ritual – grafted into the Mark!

The tale ended in raucous unison. "Ancestor MAI selected her Chosen Ones with her radiation 'accident' test to journey to the Fated homeland we are in now! We are the children hand chosen by Master MAI!"

Iris shrank into the ground as she saw the endless eyes now turning to her. For your initiation, you were supposed to channel one of the deceased leaders, like a Master, who had become a god. You didn't fail if you accidentally only caught another low rank Ancestor instead, but your rank in the order was dependant forever after partly on the status of your first channelling. The spirit you channeled was henceforth considered your 'guardian' god who would be the one from then on to determine your blessings and impart your instructions, advice and destiny. If you were weak enough to channel someone unfortunate, your whole future was blighted accordingly.

Iris knew which ancestor-gods were good to channel, as they were the ones feted and spoken of frequently by the higher Enlightened Ones.

She searched through eternity, but it was very empty, she couldn't seem to find any ghosts at all, let alone the god Ancestors!

The exhaustion and pain made her ready to give up, when she sensed a huge power near her. Her lead Butterfly Familiar had sensed a spirit, and was using its power to draw it closer!

Iris and the other two familiars also trained all their energy and exertion in helping reel it in, and into the cells of the Mark! Iris felt nauseous both with the effort and the tension of exactly which spirit the butterfly had chosen.

"Greetings, Sisters and Brothers. It is I, The High Kristoph."