Hello once again, peoples!

Hehe, I guess I'll explain before we start. I know I said I was going to write a couple one shots, but this idea burrowed into my head and wouldn't stop haunting me! Anyways, you can thank my muses, first of all...

Muses: Hehe, hi! *waves at audience*

Anyways, at first I was thinking this would be a stand alone story, but because some of you asked (hehe ;)), I've made it the sequel to SotF. So there will be some references to it in this story, just so you know.

And also, being the classical music addict I am, this was inspired by a classical piece: The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky... It's really awesome! Music is a powerful thing, people! 99 out of 100 times it's music that inspires my writing. And also—

George: *coughs*

Okay, I'll stop talking so you can read! But, before that let me just say that I hope you enjoy! This prologue takes place during the last chapter of SotF, just in a different setting with a different person... it might seem a little... er, what's the word for it? Mm, cryptic, but that's how it's supposed to be... for now, at least! It'll all clear up soon, though!

Disclaimer: I don't own Danny Phantom

Playing With Fire


All was still that night in the Ghost Zone. Not a single specter, it seems, was out and about—at least in this particular area. Not a single one, that is, except for a shadowy hooded figure wandering around the courtyards of a large dark castle.

While the aura around the place resembled the feeling that emanated from Pariah Dark's castle, this one looked entirely different. It was narrower at the base but compensated for what it lacked in width by its height. An amazing arrangement of tall towers that left one awestruck reached upward towards the dark swirling clouds overhead, dark gray gargoyles perched upon the battlements with their fanged mouths opened in a silent snarl.

A wild jungle of dark green and black trees extended all the way from the edge of the floating island to snugly fit against the tall structure. Since the castle was never entered this way, brambles and ivy stretched across the entrance. The vegetation wrapped and intertwined itself in the metal bars of the portcullis so much that even if someone tried to lift it, they would have quite a bit of trouble. The way that the place was infested by the foliage... well, it was almost unnatural.

However, to the ghost that resided here, he couldn't have cared less at this predicament. In fact, he was the one who saw to it that it was this way. Ever since he had left the Human Realm and begun his afterlife in this place, he had despised the company of others. So, his abode was conveniently tucked away in the desolate outskirts of the Ghost Zone. Time stood still in this place, and there was no one to be seen for as far as the eyes could see. Everything was quiet, which was how the specter liked it. But, should any foolish ghost have had the audacity to try to penetrate the dark walls of his home, he had many... defenses... placed around the island to keep the intruder away. And for himself getting outside of his fortress (however rare the occasion might have been); well, he had his ways.

So he had existed like this for a very long time: a solitary ghost that had shut himself away from the rest of the world. He hadn't, however, been like that always; before he had been quite powerful. That was centuries previously, though, and he'd lost interest with the rest of the Ghost Zone. He now only directed his powers at intruders. Yes, he'd lost interest with the rest of the Zone; that is, until quite recently.

Something happened that he hadn't experienced for thousands of years: he'd felt... surprised.

"Yes... quite a surprise." The ghost mused out loud with the vaguest hint of a Russian accent in his voice, leisurely wandering around the courtyard alone. It was true that because of this little 'surprise' that he had begun to leave his residence more often and explore what had become of the Ghost Zone and even the Human Realm while he had been shut away. Quite a bit had changed from when he had last seen it. He cast amused glances at the statues of people and ghosts that were lined up decorating either side of the cobblestone walkway he was strolling along.

Most of these statues looked quite strange, some cowering and hunched over, some on their knees with their hands raised protectively in front of their faces, and even some that had their arms seemingly pinned to their sides, their shoulders rigid and hitched up... But, the one thing they all had in common was that their eyes were all wide open with terror.

He paused and turned to face one on the left side of the path. He approached the finely sculpted figure of a young man, who would have been quite taller than the ghost if it hadn't been for the fact that his knees were bent a bit and he appeared to be leaning backwards from fright. The ghost was now at eye level with the sculpture; he smiled pensively as he raised a pasty white hand to trace his fingertips lightly against the smooth lower eyelid of the statue's right eye. This one stood out from a lot of the others because it was much more detailed—almost lifelike, in fact. He had to admit that this statue was one of his better ones. A lot of the ones that came before him were much more roughly hewn. But, as of late the ones that he had created were much more defined and smooth; they even had irises and pupils in their wide eyes, whereas the others just had blank solid ones. It was a dramatic change since he had more... time to work on them... Yes, even though he didn't sculpt nearly as much these days, he could spend more time perfecting whatever he did sculpt.

The ghost came out of his thoughts enough to register that a large black object fast like lightning had swooped down from above and landed smoothly on his shoulder. He absentmindedly raised a hand to stroke the head of the yellow-eyed crow. The specter smiled, his thoughtful extremely pale blue eyes still not wavering from the statue in front of him. His thoughts had meanwhile turned back towards the 'surprise,' having been reminded of it by all of the statues surrounding him.

"I wonder," the ghost suddenly sighed sibilantly, startling the huge crow perched on his shoulder, "how our old friend Miss Dark is doing..." He chuckled condescendingly. The crow cawed and ruffled its feathers irritably as the figure suddenly spun sharply on his heels (causing the bird to sway precariously from the force), to start walking off in the direction of the front doors of the castle. The ghost passed by the rest of the marble statues with long strides, hands behind his back as he glanced carelessly up at the dark sky. "Well, I think it's safe to assume that she hasn't taken over the Ghost Zone yet... or even the Human Realm, for that matter; am I right, my friend?" he consulted the bird on his shoulder.

The crow's head hunched over as its shoulders bobbed up and down, hissing in what could have been interpreted as derisive laughter. The ghost smirked, "Yes, I am right..." He rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Ambitious child..." he muttered.

It had only been a couple weeks since he saw the daughter of Pariah Dark on the grounds of her father's fortress. It had been one of those rare occasions where he had actually left the walls of his own castle and thought that for curiosity's sake he would pass by the Ghost King's castle. At first he had thought that something strange was afoot since the swirling clouds above the fortress were churning, lightning flashing across the sky with deafening booms of thunder resulting. But no one was to be seen!

So, he entered the castle and deftly maneuvered his way through the booby traps as he had done so many times before to check on the slumbering king. But, to his surprise Pariah was still lying in his sarcophagus...

He sat staring up at the sarcophagus, quite bewildered; if he wasn't awake... then who was responsible for...?

"Witch boy!" came a voice from behind him, but he hardly even flinched.

His senses were keen and had heard the other entity approach from behind. The girl's voice sounded irritated, but she also sounded quite surprised. He winced at her terminology before calmly turning around to face Melania Dark. The girl was floating just inside the double doors, obviously having just entered the great hall. Her eyebrows were raised, eyes widened in genuine puzzlement.

Although he was in truth probably just as confused as she was, if not more, he concealed it well. He grinned with gritted teeth, "I do so wish that you would stop calling me that..."

"What are you doing here?" she ignored his statement and slowly stammered out, half asking, half demanding of the other ghost. "In my father's resting place?"

It was one of the rare times where the ghost girl actually showed sincerity. Although she didn't really care that he was disturbing her father's resting place, it truly did surprise her that he was here of all places. She knew perfectly well that this ghost became a recluse after her father's downfall.

"Aren't you supposed to be locked away in that castle of yours?" she asked with a little more tease in her voice.

He shrugged, "Aren't you supposed to be locked away in that infernal prison of Walker's, Melania Dark?"

She shrugged in return, "Ah, touché... You always had a way with amusing me, witch boy! You haven't changed at all from when we last saw each other."

"Really..." he rolled his eyes dryly before looking at her, rubbing his chin, "You've changed a great deal..."

"I know I have, haven't I?" she asked with a small smirk spreading across her lips. Her eyes seemed to have finally found her father's sarcophagus; her smoldering red eyes seemed to light up the rest of the hall as they slightly darkened, making her smirk seem more evil than teasing as it had been before.

The other ghost glanced behind him as if to confirm what she was glaring at. He chuckled as he turned back to her, "Still holding a grudge, are you?"

Before she could respond, however, he noticed a particular accessory that she was wearing, "Well," his tone had darkened considerably, to the point where it almost even intimidated the ghost girl, "Whatever you're planning on doing with my Gem—"

"Wait..." Melania got over the surprise at his new attitude, chuckling just as darkly, "Your Gem?"

"Yes. My Gem. I was the one who—"

"Don't make me laugh! It's not yours! It was my father's... and now it's mine." She smiled complacently, enjoying the look of contempt on the other ghost's face.

"Regardless of whose it is..." he growled shakily, "If anything happens to that, I just think it's fair of me to warn you, I'm going to..." his lips closed tightly together to form a straight line as he seemed to loom over the shorter ghost. Dark gray flames of energy licked at his hands threateningly.

Melania chuckled, "Oh, come now; there's no need for that! Now, calm down before you hurt yourself, witch boy..."

The ghost was further enraged by her words, yet he still managed to hold himself back. After all, he didn't want anything bad to happen to that crystal...

He pointed a finger slowly at her face, "I swear, if you do let something happen to it..."

"Oh, I'll do whatever I want with it... But however, it isn't my plan to destroy such an object, so you can relax." She was already floating back towards the exit at a leisurely pace.

He folded his arms, glaring after the slim young woman, though sighing with relief on the inside.

"Besides—" she said abruptly before turning around to face him again at the doors. "Even if I did let something happen to it... it's not like you'd be able to do anything to punish me in the first place... right, witch boy?"

He had reached the marble stairs leading up to the tall double doors. His feet fell violently on each step as he climbed.

"Little brat... I should have carried out my threat then and there..." he quietly growled. His gaze lowered as they glowed brighter in the semi-darkness. The whites of his eyes seemed to flash a bright yellow for the briefest moment. "Ah well, everyone makes mistakes. She'd just better not make one if she knows what's good for her... My fate is in her foolish hands."

The ghost pushed the doors aside as he entered, barely breaking his stride as he marched into the castle. The ghost bird on his shoulder was disgruntled apparently with the rough way he was walking; it gave another harsh call before taking wing, flying once around the spacious room before landing on the railing of the grandiose staircase, hunched over with its eyes on its master watching silently. He halted suddenly in the middle of the room, as if in deep thought.

He thought he had just felt something... No, it couldn't have been... But... could it? It seemed as if he was suddenly drained of energy. That hadn't happened since... But he knew that feeling well. He supposed it shouldn't have surprised him; she was bound to use it sooner or later. In fact, over the past couple of days he had starting to feel slightly more tired than before. It was just that it had been hardly noticeable compared to this. Melania must've actually used a large amount of energy this time.

That little... If she gets any more frivolous with that, I'll be comatose for a week... he found his anger returning at this stirring feeling in his chest.


"What is it now?!" he snapped, whipping around to face the two guards that had entered after him.

The guard that had spoken glanced nervously with the one next to him, slightly taken aback at his reaction.

"Er... well, sir, you see..."

"This had better be good..." he clenched his hands into fists, the whites of his eyes once again that bright hue of yellow.

"...we have just circled the perimeter, just like you asked..."

The ghost nodded slowly, his eyes softening slightly. However... "And what is it that you found so important as to bother me with at this time?"

"Well..." the guard nudged his shoulder against the one next to him, falling silent.

The soldier inwardly winced, hating to be the deliverer of this piece of news. "We found that the sneak thief has once again stolen several of the Golden Apples..."

Their master stayed silent for a moment before saying quietly and quite calmly, though it was clear that irritation was brimming under the surface, "And you still haven't managed to figure out who it is?" Who could slip past all of his traps and manage to get so close to his habitation, not to mention steal from him undetected? His voice seemed to get a little more intense, "This has been going on for a week; this thief has been sneaking in and out for quite some time now. How is it that you can't find out who the culprit is?!"

"Actually, we have... We caught it in the process of stealing them and shot at the intruder, but missed. However, the arrow did snag on this..." the guard produced a long red feather from the folds of his cloak.

The ghost's eyes widened and his curiosity was peaked at this piece of evidence. He held out his hand expectantly. The guard complied with the silent request and handed the feather humbly to him, bowing his head slightly before backing away. He began to examine the feather more closely, though what he saw only confirmed his suspicions more.

It was a rich crimson color overall, with hints of orange that gleamed metallically in the torchlight. It looked very much like a peacock's feather, with a golden "eye" at the end, which also reflected brightly. It seemed to exude a warm and soft-glowing golden light. It was even warm to the touch, which felt strange to the ghost's cold and clammy hands. He ran a thumb over the slightly damaged end of the feather; he had begun to pace up and down in front of them.

The firebird... He turned up to face the guards fiercely, "Are you meaning to tell me that all this time it was that... that pigeon that was stealing my Golden Apples and you couldn't tell who or what it was?!"

The guards seemed to look anxiously at one another to come up with a response, but he continued, "Never mind! I want that blasted bird captured right now!"

"Y-y-yes, sir!" the guards stuttered before promptly making their exit.

He then went back to pacing up and down the hall, slipping the feather under his cloak. For several hours, it seemed, he was pacing up and down, stuck in these thoughts. Lately he was having much more to think about. It wasn't often things like this had been forced on him. He wished things were back to how they had been right after the Ghost King's fall... things were much simpler then since he wasn't caught up in all that drama of the outside worlds... He stayed in here, and nothing dared to invade his property. He had after all, become a solitary ghost after those days of action ended for a reason. He was tired of it all! But, it seemed that he was being forced out of his quiet afterlife again. First meeting the Ghost King's daughter again (whom he had frankly hoped never to see again), also the firebird that was invading his territory and stealing his property... what could possibly come next?

It seemed he was answered with another bout of exhaustion, this time leaving him swaying slightly on the spot. He rubbed his temples, moaning lightly. Drat! Darn that infernal ghost girl!

"She's not being very conservative when it comes to my ener-..." he drifted off, beginning to feel a horrible stirring sensation inside his chest. "-gy..." he finished the word shakily, his knees buckling. He leaned heavily onto the railing of the staircase. The crow that had been watching him this whole time fidgeted anxiously, peering down at him worriedly.

It felt cold; so freezing, in fact, that it was starting to burn. He lifted his hand and placed it over where his ghost core should have been. The feeling was intensifying...

"Uuuuuh..." he grimaced, his grip on the railing so tight his knuckles were turning blue. The gray flames came back to his hand, starting to burn at the rail.

The burning suddenly stopped with a jarring smashing sound that echoed in the ghost's ears. However, the pain didn't stop there. He screamed out in agony as he felt a stabbing feeling at his core.

He slid down to the floor, vaguely registering what must have just happened. That's it... the Gem was gone. But... if that were so... how was it that he was still in existence?

He stood up wearily, noticing that the part of the railing he had been holding onto for support was no longer the fine mahogany wood, but rather a rock-hard stony substance.

It was then that he realized that he had also been clutching onto the fiery-colored peacock's feather…. The phoenix's powers of regeneration must have saved him for the time being…

Wait. Powers of… regeneration? Well… it looked like that pigeon had some worth after all…

*grins* Please pardon my enigmatic ways! Make sure you review! I really wanna know what you think of it!