For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

(A/N:  Well, some people (all of 2, maybe?) wanted a Nire story, so, here it is.  I'm just gonna put up the first chapter till I see how well it's doing.  So, if you want more, let's have some good reviews.  'Kay?  As always, read and review.  Ummm…  That's all, folks!)

Discalimer: Good gods, I'm going to have to do a disclaimer every five seconds in this tale!  Okay…let's see…in this chapter…reading it…oh, good.  Raistlin Majere belongs to…shit, I don't remember the particular author, but on a whole, Wizard of the Coast publishing company.  This is a work of fiction (sort of).  Any resemblance to a person, place, or thing is (probably) entirely on purpose (especially when dealing with Nire's family).  Yada yada yada (good gods!  I'm watching Seinfeld too much.  Say, anyone want to come to my house for a Festivus celebration…)

Chapter One

            She was nine.  Only nine years old, and the world had already fucked her over.  She was lucky in some ways.  Her family wasn't poor, and her parents were still together.  She had a roof over her head, and she supposed she had a family who loved her.  She was always well fed - oh, yes, she could attest to that.  On the surface, she was a normal girl, in a wonderful family.  None of the dysfunction appeared to the outside world.

            On the surface, she was a happy kid.  But she had learned early on the real rules of the world.  Her sister, Kerry, was the kind of girl society loved.  She was thin, petite, cute, and popular, a real social butterfly.  By studying hard, she managed to get straight A's.  She was the favorite of every teacher.  Nire, on the other hand, was none of these things.  She was fat, tall, ugly, had few (of any) friends, and was a loner - even at a young age.  She was smarter than most of her teachers, and didn't need to study to get straight A's - hell, almost straight 100s.  But she found out early enough that that wasn't enough.  She wasn't willing to play the suck-up game like her sister was, so the teachers didn't like her.  She was always passed over for opportunities and awards because of that.  AS an early age, she learned that the world isn't about fairness, but about personality and politics.

            So, she was a loner, one of the few, the forgotten, the unknown.  She saw into the world deep enough to scare those she talked to, and not just in the outside world.  She was an outcast, in life and in her family.  Her sister was the one loved by everyone - the one who always got her way.  Kerry was the favorite of the family - even though the two parents didn't realize it.  She was the social one, the one who knew how to interact with people, so she always got whatever she wanted.  Nire usually didn't give a shit either way, and usually faded into the background.  She was the one nobody noticed - and the one who noticed everyone.

            It was Nire who saw the evil side to her sister, the one hidden under the perfect exterior.  She was the only one that saw that Kerry had the mean streak that made her cruel to anyone who wasn't pretty and popular.  Nire saw in shades of gray, whereas Kerry saw only in Kerry's shade of black and Kerry's shade of white.  Nire was the one who saw how much of a bastard and a hypocrite her father was.  She hated him, and Kerry, and tended to stay secluded in her room.  Living with those two, with the family, was almost a living hell.

            The only refuges Nire had from her life were the woods, music, and her books.  She was a gifted musician - able to play the piano at a very early age and picking up on the flute quickly, once she bought one.  Nire absolutely loved the outdoors, even though she was very overweight.  She would spend hours, just sitting under a tree down in the woods on her property, just enjoying the quietness and the solitude.  By the time she was three, she could read almost as well as an adult.  When she was nine, she got into fantasy - Tolkein first, of course, then a myriad of others.  She spent most of her time reading, lost in the worlds of her books.

            By the time Nire was nine, she was depressed most of the time.  Nobody knew it, though - she was phenomenally adept at hiding things.  She lied, all the time.  The way she saw life was that the number one rule was to never trust anyone, never give anyone anything they could use against you.  She had learned that it was pointless to trust anyone - they would always end up hurting you in the end.  At some point of other, she had been - well, not friends, but acquaintances - with all of the kids who were now popular.  As soon as they had started climbing the social ladder, they would ditch her.  So now, Nire did not open her heart to anyone.  Once people started getting too close, she would push them away.

            But Nire was happy as she was.  At least, she thought she was.  From what she could see, the rest of people her age were shallow.  But she knew how the world worked.  Older people still saw her as a little kid, yet she was light-years ahead of everyone else her age.  Thus, she was a loner.  A bitter, cynical loner at the age of nine.

*  *  *  *  *

            Her life would change, though.  That fateful day came during the summer before she turned ten.  It was boiling hot out, but she couldn't stand to be inside the house.  Her father was being more of an asshole than usual.  Even though she hated hot weather - she was so overweight that it made her horribly uncomfortable - she had run outside, into the woods.  Of course, she stopped running soon, for she wasn't athletic in the least.  She headed directly for her secret grove, making doubly sure not to leave a trail.  In her hand, she carried the latest book she was reading, from a new series she had discovered - Brothers Majere in the Dragonlance series.  She settled down against her tree, sheltered from the rest of the world by a ring of pine tree, and began to read.  She allowed herself to become lost in the world of Raistlin and Caramon Majere, a welcome respite from her world, and her life on Earth.

            Nire figured that she must have been sitting there for at least an hour - she was almost halfway through the book.  Maybe it was safe to go back now - maybe her father had left to go to the store of something.

            She raised her eyes from her book, putting in the bookmark and dropping it into her lap.  She closed her eyes for a moment, relishing the last few minutes of silence she had before going back tot he hellhole she called a home.  She sensed a sudden shift in the air, barely perceptible, and opened her eyes.  It wasn't the shift of a coming storm, or weather change, so she opened her eyes, holding perfectly still.  The only thing that moved was her eyes, flickering around the grove, and her nostrils, flaring a little as she sniffed the air.  She couldn't detect the smell of coming rain, that special smell that heralded an imminent thunderstorm.  Everything looked normal, except…there!  Her eyes abruptly flickered back to a spot a couple yards in front of her.  The air there was shimmering slightly, as when the heat waves are rising from the boiling hot pavement.  Only, there was no pavement here, just grass and pine needles.

            She stared at the spot, waiting.  She knew that something out of the ordinary was happening, something that could end up either in bloodshed, or being something very special.  She laughed inwardly - she had always been a bit melodramatic.  Her silent waiting paid off.  A form started to fade in on the shimmering spot.  As it became clearer, her heart began to beat a little faster - she wasn't frightened, not exactly.  She was more…excited.

            The form took on solidity and shape.  Nire was careful to stay as still as she could, to not draw attention to herself.  There was a man standing with his back to her.  At least, she was pretty sure it was a man.  He was dressed in a flowing, red robe that brushed the pine needles that carpeted the forest floor.  White hair streaked with gray fell to slightly below his shoulders.  He was muttering something to himself in either gibberish or a foreign language.  As she watched, he slowly turned around, his eyes almost passing over her.  Then he did a double take.  He said something to her, which she obviously didn't understand.

            Nire blinked, then smiled slightly.  "I have absolutely no clue what you're saying," she said, shaking her head slightly.  She was very careful to speak "proper English", eliminating her accent as much as she could.  Now she could see the man from the front, and was he ever strange looking!  White hair, golden skin, golden eyes with hourglass pupils, everything golden and shining in the sun.  He looked thin, sickly, and malnourished, brittle and easy to break.  Yet, an aura of power exuded from him.  Around his waist was a belt with pouches that were obviously filled with herbs and powders.

            The man crouched down in front of her.  "Do not be afraid, child," he said in perfect English.  There was no kind of accent that Nire could discern, not even the New England one she had.  "I mean you no harm.  Could you tell me what world I am in?"

            "I don't know," Nire said confidently, staring straight back into his strange eyes.  She still tried to eliminate all traces of her own accent.  "If I do, will you stop talking to me like I'm a five-year-old?"  She was not afraid of him - there was nothing she could do to protect herself from him if he proved to be hostile, so there was no point in feeling fear.  It would just be wasted energy.

            Her comment seemed to set him back on his heels.  But he quickly recovered from his shock and let out a low, appreciative chuckle.  "You are a fearless one, all right.  Could you tell me what world I am on?"

            Nire stood up, as did he, and looked him up and down.  "Earth.  Who are you?"

            He seemed to be looking her up and down now, taking her measure.  She stood defiantly, waiting for an answer.  Finally, he said, "Raistlin Majere."

            Nire slowly looked down at her book, then back up at him and cocked an eyebrow.  "Reeeeally."

            Raistlin extended a hand in silent request.  Nire placed the book in his bony hand, then crossed her arms, waiting for an explanation.  He looked at the front, flipped it over to the back, and seemed to read it.  Then he handed to back to her with a slight smile.

            "I had not thought these had reached as far as Earth.  Yes, that is about my brother, Caramon, and I."

            "Prove it," Nire said shortly.  She had learned not to take anything anyone said as true without some concrete evidence.

*  *  *  *  *

            Raistlin knew the moment the new place started fading in around him that he had done something wrong.  He swore to himself once the world became substantial, and started to turn around, looking at the woods he was in.  His eyes almost passed over the child sitting against the tree with a book in her lap, she blended in so well.  Then he did a double take.

            "Hello, child," he said gently.  "Would you be so kind as to tell me what world this is?"

            The girl-child blinked at him.  She looked to be about nine or ten, not the prettiest child in the world - too fat, without the cutesy face of most children. She had wild, curly brown hair that fell to just below her ears, held back from her face by a black headband.  Her eyes weren't exactly blue, but they weren't exactly gray, either.  They were an in descript color of blue-gray.  The most amazing thing was that, although he saw the forest around her wither and die, she herself didn't.  She grew older, true, but did not die.  It was the most amazing thing he had ever seen, for even elves withered to his hourglass eyes.  That was the curse of the hourglass pupils - to see people as they would be far in the future.

            She told him she couldn't understand him.  Luckily, he had thought to use that spell to allow him to speak any language once he had heard it.  She was a fearless child, and he liked that.  Although she was an ugly little girl, she had spirit.  And she knew a bit about him - she was reading a book about him and his twin, Brothers Majere.  This could be an interesting time in this particular realm.  She demanded proof that he really was Raistlin Majere.

            "What would you like?  I have the hourglass pupils, golden everything, what more would you want?"

            Nire thought for a second.  A wistful look crossed her face, which she quickly masked.  "Magic?"

            Raistlin liked this girl.  There was something about her - she seemed to be a loner, like him.  "You want to see some magic?  All right, child."  He cast a simple cantrip for her, a burst of sparkles and flashing lights.

            She snorted and looked skeptical.  "I could do that with fireworks."  Then her face turned to a thoughtful visage.  "I wonder…"

            Raistlin looked on in faint amusement as she closed her eyes in fierce concentration, the tip of her tongue protruding from the corner of her mouth.  Then, to his surprise, she copied his movements exactly, producing her own flash of sparks and lights.  This child had talent, if she could do that.

            Nire looked slightly surprised and elated at the same time, and once again quickly masked it.  "Okay, now I believe you.  May I ask what you are doing here on Earth?"

            "Testing out a gate spell."  Raistlin considered the child.  From what he had seen in the few minutes he had been in this realm, she was powerful.  That must have been what had thrown off the gate spell - it had been drawn to her power.  She had been able to cast that cantrip after seeing him do it a mere one time.  That was another thing - the cantrip had used up more power than it should have.  Possibly, magic was hard work in this realm.

            Nire was regarding him, too, with fierce intensity.  From what she had read, Raistlin Majere was evil.  But hadn't he given his life, or something like that, for some good cause?  She would dearly love to learn magic - it had surprised her that she had been able to cast that spell.  Perhaps she had some sort of talent…but how to ask?  Unlike her usual blunt way, which had mixed results, she wanted to do so in a way that he would be hard-pressed to refuse.  Admittedly, she had only known him for a few moments, yet she had read about him.  And he looked weak, so she could just sit on him and crush him like a twig if he got nasty.  It looked like he was made of skin and bones.

            Raistlin was still musing.  If this child was brought under his tutelage, and influenced by him…  Of course, he couldn't tell by just that one instance if the girl-child would be useful, but she showed potential.

            "What is your name, child?" he asked.

            She looked at him for a moment with a calculating look in her eyes.  Then she said, simple, "Nire."

            "Well, how would you like to learn magic from me?"

            At this point, Nire's mother caller her, the sound drifting faintly through the trees.  Nire glanced in the direction the sound had come from.

            "I hafta go.  Come back at the same time tomorrow, and I'll give you an answer."  That call was more insistent this time.  "Coming!" Nire yelled, then turned back to Raistlin.  "Same time tomorrow?"

            Raistlin nodded curtly.  By the look in the girl's eyes, he was fairly certain she would say yes.  He would merely leave the gate open.  Nire set off towards her house - that was what Raistlin assumed lay in that direction - at a jog.  He stood for a moment, then returned to his tower on Krynn.  Plans needed to be laid - he could not bring the girl to stay at his tower.  The culture shock would be too great.  She was obviously from a society of advanced technology, what with the type of clothes she was wearing.  That was the type he had seen on other worlds with advanced technology.

            He readied a small room they could use.  He wondered if the child would have enough discipline to become a mighty mage, or even a minor one.  He had tried a brief mind probe on her, which she had deflected without knowing it.  Although he did not have a use for her immediately, it was always good to be prepared.

            Raistlin's thoughts were broken off by a fit of coughing.  The coppery taste of blood was in his mouth, and the red stain of it flecking his lips and handkerchief.  He stopped his preparations, going downstairs to get a cup of his special tea.

*  *  *  *  *

            Nire impatiently waited for the appointed hour to arrive.  She did not want to leave for her secret spot until a few moments before Raistlin was due to be back.  She wasn't sure if he would actually be there, but leaving right before would allow her to be down there for longer.  It was usually an hour and a half before one of her parents started to call her.

            She fidgeted in her room for a while, until she couldn't stand it anymore.

            "Goin' fuh a walk in th' woods!" she yelled and high-tailed it out of there.  Her father was in a bad mood, as usual, and was giving the cold shoulder to everyone.  Being outside was a wonderful release form the tension in the household, and it was a bit cool and less humid than the day before.

            She settled against her tree.  She would have to be careful, and keep her emotional distance from the mage.  It would not do if she pushed him away before she learned all she could.  The girl was glad she had been gifted with an unusually keen ability to see the world around her, which allowed her to see that fact.

            At exactly the appointed time, the mage faded in before her.  Nire rose to her feet on impulse, not out of respect.

            "Well?" Raistlin said impatiently.  He had been up most of the night in coughing fits, and was not in a good mood.

            "Yes."  Nire was prone to answering everything she could in monosyllables.

            Raistlin nodded curtly.  "Come with me, then."  He held out a golden hand.  That was the only way to get through this type of magic gate - be touching the one who cast it.

            Nire looked at him untrustingly for a moment, then seemed to shrug to herself and took his hand.  They took a step, and stood as the world of Krynn and Raistlin's tower faded in around them.  Once everything was solid and substantial, Nire dropped Raistlin's hand.  She did not really like physical contact with people.

            "I've got about an hour and a half."

            Raistlin seemed about to say something, but then just looked at her and said, "Fine.  Come."

            So, Nire thought, he is a man of few words.  "What do I learn first?" she asked aloud.

            "To be silent," Raistlin replied.

            Nire grinned to herself - that wasn't too hard.  She followed him to a tiny, bare room.  There was a single spellbook on a stand.  The walls and floor were bare stone.  The only other things in the room were two chairs.

            "First, I must cast a spell on you to allow you to understand and speak Common."

            Nire did not object, so he did it.  When Raistlin started to speak again, Nire was aware he had switched to a different language - Common - but found she was able to understand him.

            "Sit."  Raistlin sat, holding his staff in front of him.  "You must learn how to pronounce words in the language of magic."

            "Why not just use another spell?"  Nire looked at him, honestly wanting to know the answer.

            "Because that's not how it's done."

            Nire raised an eyebrow again.  "You don't know, do you?"

            Raistlin sighed inwardly.  Was this even worth it?  "Nobody has been able to invent a spell that will teach the language of magic.  It just can't be done.  You have to practice to get it.  Now, a is pronounced as ai.  Say it."

            "Ai."  She paused for a beat.  "Yi yi."

            Raistlin struggled not to grin.  She had a sense of humor.  He made her continue repeating it until he was satisfied, which didn't take long.  In fact, teaching her every singly pronunciation, and having her repeat them back to him on her own, only took a half hour.  She was good with languages.

            "Why do you want to learn magic?"

            Raistlin's question took Nire by surprise.  Nonetheless, it only took her a couple seconds to come up with an answer.

            "Power.  I want power.  And no one in my world can perform anything more than parlor tricks," That was all she was willing to say.  But there was more.  If she learned magic, she could come live in this world.  To her, reading about it, Krynn sounded better than Earth.

            Raistlin did not give any sign that he had even heard her words.  "Now you must learn herbs and practice penmanship."