Author's Note: In regards to my recent disappearance from the fandom, I must sincerely apologize: I fell very ill with a combination of strep throat, the flu, and pneumonia, and as my boss is the Boss From Hell I had a load of paperwork to do at home and couldn't even devote my bed-rest time to writing. However, I will have the new updates for Crimes of Passion and Let The New Era Of Vengeance Begin out soon, and I'm hard at work on the next chapter for Of Dreams Forgotten And Fables Untold as well.
Warnings: Slash (Very slow-building, compared to most of my fics), violence, dark themes and possible character death (not Damien or Gerald, though).
Disclaimer: I do not own the Coldfire Trilogy, which is the property of Ms. Friedman. For once, I also do not own this plot, which is the product of the brilliant (if ever so slightly twisted) mind of Alowl.
A.N.2: A quick reminder of history - in my headcanon, there were historically two major kingdoms on Erna, Mornoth and Gallivea. Gallivea covered the northeast, with the border just south of Jaggonath: Mornoth covered the rest of the continent, including Ganji-on-the-Cliffs. Mornoth covered more geographic territory, but Gallivea was more heavily populated. Ganon ascended to the throne of Gallivea in the year 294 A.S., waged some serious war, and conquered Mornoth in 301, merging the two kingdoms into one cohesive whole that was then broken up into counties and the like - Gerald was Ganon's top general, and after the war was won he got the Neocounty of Merentha as reward. The Tarrants were already fairly high on the pecking order: Gerald's father, Phillip Tarrant, was basically the equivalent of an English feudal baron. Nowhere near the level of Neocount, but recognized as a noble nonetheless. Gerald was born in 276, and his Sacrifice took place in 310: he married Almea in 298, at the age of twenty two. Going by their canon ages, therefore, his children were born in 299 (Eric), 301 (Tory), and 305 (Alix). By this reckoning, I assigned the start of Black Sun Rising to the year 1357 A.S., putting Damien's birth date (according to his canon age) at 1323.
A.N.3: So, this charming little plot bunny was adopted from the delightful Alowl, who generously allowed me to play around with it. Alowl was also kind enough to beta for me, wonderful person that she is - and a damn good thing, too, because I'm writing a few too many fics in different fandoms and I couldn't for the life of me keep in character without her help. Any OOC-ness is on me, and if any of this actually sounds like Gerald you can thank Alowl. This prologue is just to give a little backstory, and a few snippets of what the Ernan Phoenix is like.
A.N.4: Fic title is from the song Burning Earth by Firewind. Chapter title is from Noon Of The Solstice by Damh the Bard. The legend of the Leopard and the Rock Dove, shown below, is an old folk tale that my grandmother used to tell me when my cousins and I were very little and we gathered at her house for Yule celebrations. Oddly enough, I haven't come across it in any folk myth anthologies or anything - I'm not sure why it's so rare, but it was definitely an influence on my planning for this fic.
A.N.5: While I've done my best to make it in-character, please bear in mind that the first of the so-called 'excerpts' below is from one of Gerald's published works, so it's a bit more wordy than strictly necessary. Having serious ambitions for an original novel, I know a thing or two about writing, and believe me - if you want it to go over well, no matter how scientific is, you'd better dress it up in some flowery language and make it look good. Furthermore, I'm well aware that I could have gone into endless detail in those excerpts: these are only snippets, though. There will be further 'excerpts' in parts of future chapters, whether referred to or inserted like flashbacks. On that note, bear in mind that Gerald's knowledge-base was coming from a whole bunch of sorcerers who have the standard human prejudices against the fae: don't take it as too seriously fanon, there's always a chance that some of what they're saying isn't entirely accurate... and yes, I suggested that GERALD may have been WRONG about something... Look, suffice it to say that I do know what I'm doing, and I do actually have a plan.
Prologue: In Times Long Past...
Phoenix (plural phoenixes, phoenices):
A creature of Terran mythology. A bird with red and gold plumage, which at the end of its life expires in a burst of fire, only to be reborn from the ashes and begin the cycle of its life once again.
A faeborn creature. The existence of the Ernan phoenix is disputed, but its accepted basic description is that of an unknown type of avian with a long, swan-like neck, a flowing tail, broad wingspan and feathers of red and gold which are said to 'glow with yellow-gold light'. Details as to the nature of this glow are unclear. Recorded sightings are extremely rare, and often occur in life-or-death situations, rendering their validity somewhat suspect.
A term used to describe anything which is reborn, esp. something which returns after widespread destruction: After the wildfire, the forest's trees returned like phoenixes.
From the Ernan Standard English Dictionary, Seventh Edition.
At the beginning of time, many strange and beautiful creatures lived, and they were wise and clever in the ways of the world. Of these, one of the most wonderful was the bird known as Rock Dove.
Rock Dove was a beautiful creature with a long, flowing tail, wings that reached across the sky, and feathers that shone with all the colors of the rainbow. This shining rainbow glow came from magic, a special magic gifted to him by the Sky Mother herself. He was the envy of all the other birds who lived - and many other animals besides- yet Rock Dove was kind and humble, and very wise. He never used his magic for ill, only to help those in need - and because of this, it was drained very slowly, and there was always enough to make his feathers shine. The other animals wished to be as beautiful as Rock Dove, but they understood that they helped him, and did not seek his power without great need.
One day, as Rock Dove flew over the jungle near his home, the creature Leopard - who was out hunting - saw him from beneath. Leopard was entranced by the beauty of Rock Dove's feathers, and became determined to have the beautiful feathers for his own. He called out to Rock Dove, saying "Stay a moment, friend! I would talk with you!" Rock Dove, kind and caring soul that he was, could not refuse Leopard's request. He alit on a branch, and spoke to Leopard. "What is it that you would ask of me, friend Leopard?"
"What beautiful feathers you have, friend Rock Dove." Leopard said slyly. "How they shine in the sun! What could give them such radiance?"
"They shine with my magic, a gift from the Sky Mother." Rock Dove told Leopard. "They give me the strength and wisdom to help all the animals of the world."
"How remarkable! Would any who had those feathers become wise and powerful, then?" Leopard asked. Rock Dove, bound by his nature to always be truthful, nodded. Leopard's eyes grew cold and sly, and he smiled falsely at Rock Dove. "Then, friend, I wish to have some of your feathers."
Rock Dove, though, knew that Leopard's intentions were not pure. "I cannot give you any of my feathers, friend Leopard. By the Sky Mother's will, I must guard their powers carefully, and never allow them to fall into the wrong hands."
"If you will not give them to me, then I will take them!" Leopard cried, and leapt into the air. Rock Dove, wary of treachery, took flight - but Leopard was swift, and his claws caught hold of Rock Dove's trailing tail feathers and tore them loose.
Rock Dove knew that even with all his power, he was not strong enough to take the feathers back from Leopard, so he sought out the Sky Mother. "Sky Mother, Leopard has stolen some of my feathers. He is not the only one to seek my power and beauty: there will be others who try to take my feathers. They glow so brightly that I cannot hide from anyone: what am I to do?"
The Sky Mother saw that no amount of power would defeat the many animals who coveted Rock Dove's feathers, and that guile and cunning would be needed. She placed a spell on Rock Dove, hiding the glow of his feathers. Now, Rock Dove appeared simple and drab, his feathers dull grey and brown. "Now, my child, only those who know how to look and those in greatest need will see your power."
So, from that day forth, Rock Dove's power was concealed. He still sought out those animals in need, and helped those who needed him, but only the worthy could see the colors that hid within his feathers - and then, only in the sunlight, under the watchful and protective eye of the Sky Mother. Those who would seek his feathers for mischief or evil could not find him.
But Leopard kept the feathers he had stolen from Rock Dove's tail, and Rock Dove's tail remained short from that day forth. That is why greed is so very hard to defeat, because even though the power was warped by his dark intentions, Leopard discovered how to use the magic of the feathers he had stolen. Now, he hunts constantly, always seeking Rock Dove to steal more feathers. Rock Dove, though, is always hiding - and only those who need his aid most can see the colors in his dull grey feathers.
Traditional Folk Myth
On this world known to its human colonizers as Erna, there are many strange and remarkable things. Creatures that are human, creatures that are anything but, and creatures that wear the guise of humanity to conceal something very different within. Of these three, it is the last which poses perhaps the greatest threat in the eyes of the more narrow-minded Terran colonists, for surely anything that masquerades as one of them is a sinister and deadly creature.
They forget that while the leopard wears camouflage, so does the rock dove.
Each creature of Erna, whether large or small, fierce or timid, draws upon an aspect of the fae. Such is the nature of the fae: it is but energy, an energy that permeates every centimeter of the planet, and infuses all living things. To the creatures of Erna, the fae is life. Some draw upon the dark fae, wraiths conjured from fear and hate: these are cruel and hungry creatures, stalking their human progenitors with the fever of bloodlust hot in their veins. Some draw upon the tidal fae: of these, the rakh are the most notable, their every instinct and action aided and abetted by the silver glow of the moons. The greatest percentage of creatures draw upon the earth fae: these are manifold, many of them so subtly entwined in that field of blue-white energy that it is impossible to distinguish the joining. Others still are creatures of the sun, of the brilliant golden solar fae...
...Of this last variation, there are few indeed. Creatures strong enough to contain the power of the solar fae, who can withstand the rage of the devouring flames, are extremely rare. Those which can, however, are among the greatest of creatures in strength and in courage. Foremost of their ranks is the firebird, known to humanity as the phoenix.
Few are privileged even to glimpse this elusive creature, yet there is little doubt that they exist. Despite the relative rarity of sightings of these intriguing avians, the recorded accounts still number more than three dozen in the two hundred years since the Landing. Given the widespread skepticism regarding the faeborn in the first days of colonization, it is entirely possible that the actual number of sightings is far higher. Most telling of all, however, is that on very rare occasions researchers have obtained shed feathers of these creatures. Even detached from the bird itself, the feathers have been shown to have the most astonishing properties...
...Although their power manifests in varied forms, phoenices are, essentially, nothing more or less than the living embodiment of the solar fae. Their feathers radiate with solar fae, and they can conjure a form of energy that takes the shape of golden flames, but which seems to affect the manifestations of the dark fae in much the same manner as pure sunlight. Again, it is difficult to determine the full extent of their powers with so little contact between researchers and subjects, but with what little we know of the solar fae it is safe to assume that an angered phoenix could be a fearsome opponent indeed.
Considering that these creatures are, by their very nature, colorful and radiant specimens, one might rightfully wonder how they manage to ever conceal themselves from humanity. I must admit, this question has vexed even me. Theories are manifold amongst my colleagues in the realm of natural theology, but with so little hard data to work from, these theories are little more than pure speculation. While I cannot speak to the mechanism of the phoenix's concealment, as my own researches into the subject have fallen frustratingly short, I must indicate the Terran legends for which these creatures are named. According to Terran mythology, only one phoenix exists at any one time. Given the fae's propensity for interpreting human mythos in unexpected ways, I will theorize that perhaps these most elusive beings are in reality what every non-Worker has most prayed for: a type of faeborn that will not, in fact, multiply exponential with each day that passes...
...Lastly, we have the topic of behaviour. What do we know of the habits of these creatures? Of their habitat, life cycle, and diet? In truth, the extent of our knowledge of the phoenix is truly pitiable, but I have collected what little information is available and attempted to make some sense of the fragments.
The rare occasions upon which phoenices are sighted seem to have little in common in the way of setting. The most widely recorded sighting occurred on a Mornothian battlefield during the revolution of 174 A.S., where a phoenix allegedly appeared at the height of the battle of Nortfell and saved the life of the Fifth Regiment's Captain. The reports of this incident are largely uncorroborated, since only a handful of the King's warriors survived the sudden wildfire which obliterated the entire rebel army. Other sightings, however, have occurred everywhere from uncharted forests to the decks of explorer's ships. Rarely does a phoenix appear to more than one person at a time - but then, we have one or two sightings such as the Nortfell Incident, where the creature may or may not have caused a fire that wiped out an entire army. There are few if any clues as to the natural habitat of these creatures, nor is there in fact much indication of what causes them to appear. The only clear theme that connects these occurrences is that of people in danger. It seems a bit too much to hope for, however, that we have somehow given rise to a faeborn existing solely to help humans. Until we have obtained further data, our knowledge of these creatures' motivation will remain severely limited.
That said, we have no evidence that these creatures are hostile. In fact, it is within the realm of possibility that the Mornothian Revolution was only subdued due to one of these remarkable beings. This, of course, raises further questions: how intelligent are these creatures? Was this sighting entirely false, a coincidence, or did that phoenix genuinely intend to put down the rebellion and aid the Mornothian royal forces? Alas, without somehow gaining an opportunity to study one of these creatures on a closer basis, we have no way of answering these questions.
As for diet, it would be utterly ridiculous to assume that these phoenices are in any way predatory. So far, there has not been a single recorded instance of a phoenix even attempting to harm a human, nor any other animal for that matter. There is nothing in any Terran legend that would suggest the phoenix is dangerous, therefore nothing to support the idea that a faeborn manifestation of a phoenix would be dangerous. Whatever these creatures are, and no matter what their motives, it is clear that they are far different from the faeborn predators which have posed such danger to humans since the Landing. I firmly believe that, while as yet beyond our full understanding, the phoenix is not a remotely malevolent creature...
- Excerpts from the text "Of the Day and Night: A Treatise on the Creatures of the Dark, Tidal, and Solar Fae", authored by the Neocount of Merentha. Banned from print by the Proclamation of 307, issued by the Church of Human Unification on Erna.
For all the arguments of the Church, I cannot convince myself that it is a coincidence that all sightings of phoenices have occurred in situations of dire peril. There must be a connection. Yet will they listen? No. They have gone so far as to ban most of my works which discuss the theory. In the eyes of the fools who now control my creation, all that is born of the fae is evil. How long do I have before they turn on me, their very Prophet? How long until the sacrifices I have made for this Church are overshadowed by their fear of the power I wield, a power they willfully refuse to understand?
All I do, all that I have written, they have twisted and manipulated to fit their own ends. Already, there is talk of forming a team to capture a phoenix - not to study it, but to turn it into a weapon. They seek to harness the solar fae, to use against the nightborn creatures they fight, and to do so they would use the solar fae's living vessel. Though I dared not speak in open condemnation of this plan, lest they cease to heed my words at all, my whole spirit rebels against such barbaric disregard for any creature's life. Research subjects are one thing, but what they propose to do to living creature of which we know so little... no. I will never condone what they intend. To use a creature so ruthlessly sustain its life past torments that would have killed it simply to extract more of its power - it is sickening. These, their plans for a creature that has only ever appeared to help us.
With every day that passes, my creation slips further from my grasp. How could it have come to this? Less than fifteen years have passed since I began my great work, and already those fools undermine me and seek to turn my creation against everything I have worked for. I sought understanding of and harmony with the fae, not its eradication! How can they not see that? We are the strangers on this world, it is we who must adapt: even our Terran ancestors once understood that, if our few surviving records are at all accurate. They learned that lesson, however, by almost destroying their entire planet! Must our lesson be as hard-earned as theirs? Why will they not listen?
I will continue to defend the fae, and the creatures it sustains, as long as I may... but I fear my time as head of the Church is drawing to a close. It will not be long until they find a reason to excommunicate me, and what then? What of the faeborn, when they no longer have a voice within our councils? I know that not all born of the fae are evil, I know it in my very soul, yet the sheer blindness of my fellow humans has defeated my most rational arguments. If it is true that the phoenices appear to aid those in need, then I can only hope that they will be wary indeed of any who serve the Church I created. Their aims, it seems, are now far from pure.
God have mercy on the faeborn, for His warriors are far too blind to do so.
- Excerpt from the private journals of the Neocount of Merentha, dated to the summer of 308.
Fires descending upon the world
Consuming earth to ashes
Wingtips of gold against the sky curled
New rising from the rubble of the old
Gold-fire plumage shines like the sun
Creation from destruction and hope from despair
Bringing belief back to those who have none
Over the land phoenix song rings bold
From 'Song of the Phoenix', Anonymous: dated to 347 A.S.
So, there we go, that's the prologue. And yes, I wrote that poem about the phoenix. Not one of my best works, but hopefully not too atrocious either: I know the rhyme scheme is awkward as hell, but it just came out that way.