Ely: So we've evolved from co-writing Draco fanfiction to co-writing fiction?
Char: Well, you know I've always had far too many ideas in my head for my own good. When you asked I just ::dramatic:: couldn't refuse!
Char: And the Draco fanfiction was good.
Ely: That's only because we had about five or six of our friends hooked on it. It still remains uposted.
-End Cooperation Author's Note-
Seeing as how Char is out of it tonight, because most of the responses were paraphrased by yours truly (I'm far too energetic), I'll continue on my own. ::nnah nnah:: So you're stuck with me – again. ::evil grin::
This is Cooperation Disaster. We end up with strangest (my fault), most romantic (her fault), most twisted (my fault), most complicated (my fault) stories... hm. There's a bad balance here... Anyway, once again I introduce to you a new world – well, Earth 5.0 in any case. Enjoy.
Full Summary: Shona Mariasha was a simple senior at an all-girls school – and a Seer. She lived alone until an assassin threatened her life and she was spirited away to a training camp. Watching these children preparing for something she knew but did not understand, she, a Seer with very little knowledge of physical combat, was forced to learn something drastic.
Of Shadows and Fire
1 Wearing Wings of White Illusion
My name is Shona Mariasha. I am seventeen years old, I go to Mary's School for Girls, and I'm just your average Seer. Confused? I'm not surprised. Beneath all of society lies magic and I'm part of it. So are most of the girls here, but they think I don't know. I do. I know everything.
Well, not everything. I've got a C in Trigonometry – hey, I do not use my powers for evil and that includes cheating! But I digress.
My mother died from cancer when I was thirteen. My father was my teacher, my mentor, my parent, and my friend. Then, he was murdered. Why? How should I know? At the tender age of fifteen, I lived on my own and made my own way through the world. I have no friends. You don't have "friends" at Mary's School for Girls: you have people you can trust to save you when you need them. And these "friends" I have? They didn't come through for me.
You see, I'm currently staring at a yellow ceiling – kidnaped. At least, I think I'm kidnaped. I don't recognize this place. And what would they want from little ol' me anyway? I mean, okay, I'm not little or old... but still. I'm just a Seer. I'm sure there are thousands of Seers out there!
Maybe you're still confused. I wouldn't blame you. It started what I think was yesterday morning with a vision.
The black-and-white world of visions surrounded me and the pupil of my eye contracted. There was someone on my grounds. Black robe, black belt, face covered by a black scarf, and a scimitar. Ninja? Intruder, that's for sure.
My eyes snapped open and I stared at my ceiling for a moment before getting out of bed and wrapping my robe around myself. I threw a glance out my bay window and shuffled noiselessly out of my room and onto the landing of the spiraling staircase. I looked around and again, my pupil contracted as I saw another black-and-white vision.
He was at my doorstep.
My doorstep was, of course, in the room below the landing, straight across from me.
Lucky, lucky me.
The door slammed open and unhinged. That was a perfectly brilliant door, I'll have you know. It was real mahogany and the etching took almost a whole three months! Of course, when the scimitar lodged into the wall next to my ear, I knew that I had no time to complain. But, then again... jumping onto the rail and sliding down isn't the most brilliant way to meet your intruder. But I did.
What? I have my moments!
My balance was never amazing and I tipped, falling to the ground and landing with a sharp, solid thunk and an "oof!" for good measure. I heard my intruder laugh and I looked up angrily.
"Oh, right, it's so funny."
I stood up, meeting him face to face, and tilted an eyebrow as he stared openly through the black bandage mask.
"What's the matter? See something you like?"
The scimitar whizzed through the air and landed in his hands again.
"Such a pity," he said. I found the traces of an Asian accent there – Japanese maybe.
"Gee, that's a... really sharp sword-thing, Mister," I said nervously, my brashness suddenly fleeing. Wait till I catch up to it...
The vision was sharp, painful, not like the others. Both of my pupils contracted and focused on the doorway, everything going warped and colorless. Another man, taller, leaner, with a mask –
That was all I saw before a flash of power – it was blue – knocked me backwards and I slammed my head against the wall. The ninja-intruder person seemed confused and surprised... and I blacked out.
The ceiling, while very well painted and maintained, wasn't very interesting. I sat up and, instantly, the world revolved around me. I held a hand to my forehead and groaned.
I started, almost fell out of my bed, and instantly held the covers to my neck.
"You – I – who are you? Where am I?"
It was the man from the intrusion. Not the scimitar one... the other one – tall, lean, masked. He still wore a mask.
"Rest, Mariasha. You've taken a beating to the head."
"No, really? Maybe that would explain for this weirdness?" I said sarcastically, releasing my blanket and waving my arms around to indicate the room and him.
He chuckled and crossed his arms.
"My name is not important. The place is not important either."
"Can I at least have a face to go with the problem?" I asked dryly. He took off his mask and I stared openly. I ignored the brown hair falling into his tanned, angular face and the delicious smirk of his lips. I was captivated by his green eyes, light green and clear and filled with amusement.
I blinked once and restrained myself.
"Right, well... now that I've met my kidnaper, I think I'd like to... er, sleep some more," I said weakly.
"As you wish."
He smirked at me and left. I stared after him. Talk about a kidnap-me-any-day guy.
This time when I woke up, there was no one there. Thank God. I looked around the room. The bed was a single mattress with plain, crisp white sheets and a plain, crisp white pillow in a plain, crisp white pillowcase. It felt like a hospital bed. The walls were yellow and there was a small, dark wood night stand with a deep white bowl and a mirror over it. Plain. Very plain.
I tossed the sheet off me and got out of the bed, stretching. I was wearing a white robe tied tightly with a dark blue sash. I searched for shoes, but found none. The wood planks were cold, but I ignored it and padded through the open archway to what I presumed to be a living room. It looked rather Japanese, with cushions, a low eating table, and a few rugs.
There was a door to my left and I, curiosity knowing no bounds, opened it. There was a pair of shoes outside – my sandals. They pointed outward. I looked around and slipped into my sandals, realizing how very Japanese this all was. There were three wood steps to the rock path, which I stepped on to. I noticed that there was a line of houses just like mine, some bigger, some smaller. At the end of a path was something that looked like a plaza and I heard people. I flip-flopped my way down the path, noting how quiet it was except for the grunts and yells of the people in the plaza. To my right was a bank to a river, singing softly over rocks and grass, ducks and swans living together in it.
I continued down the interminably long path, houses to my left and a river to my right, until I reached the plaza that was now reminding me of a gym. Blocking my view were two thick, red columns and, between them, a cement block that I supposed would be a sort of house. I reached the plaza and found steps leading to the gap between one column and the cement block. I climbed them and slipped through the gap quietly, peering around the edge.
Children. Dressed in white robes with black sashes and barefoot, they fought each other with poles, long poles. It looked like it would hurt. The complex moves they pulled sent my head spinning and I envied their flexibility and athleticism.
"It seems as if we have a visitor, children."
I drew up straight and faced the man behind me. Old, with graying hair and a goatee and definitely Japanese features, his rheumy eyes twinkled at me and he smiled. I suddenly had the urge to bow – he radiated power and I could feel it tingle across my skin. I said nothing, merely watched as he moved into the plaza, where the students were now watching me curiously.
"Do you fight?"
I assumed that he was talking to me.
"Of course she wouldn't," one of them said arrogantly. "She has the Seeing belt!"
The children muttered and the old man pierced the impudent child with a sharp look.
"For all you know, she knows battle magic."
I was aghast. Battle magic? Me? Insane if you believed it!
"Well?" the same child asked. "Do you?"
"No," I said recklessly. The children scoffed; I had lost their approval. I'd do them one better, then. "I do illusions. I like to think they're good."
I concentrated on the spot next to the impudent child and formed a picture in my mind. Carefully, I etched it out and soon, the children had a tiger in their midst. I often created her when I was bored – she was my one true companion, illusion or not.
"This is Sahara," I said easily. The children stared and Sahara let loose a cracking roar.
"Full illusion, without beads of light. You have impressed me," the old man said.
Sahara looked upon the old man and bowed. I frowned and flexed my hand. The power was gone – I had lost hold on my illusion. I cast a look upon the man, who looked like he dearly wanted to laugh.
"You need to learn to hold on to them. Illusions can be stolen." I learned something new. "She's a beautiful beast."
"Thank you," I said stiffly, quite miffed. "And now, if you wouldn't mind...?"
"Come and take her."
I gaped at him before casting a look at his class. They seemed skeptical. I made a face, flexed my hands, and nodded.
"All right, I suppose..." I closed my eyes and concentrated.
Sahara! I thought. Come on, Sah!
I felt her surround me, the tangible aura of an illusion.
Sahara, girl, it's time to come home.
There was a pull – resistance. Damn it, I didn't know the first thing about this. I decided to fight illusion with reality. I spread my hand out and let my fingers dance in the air. Power tingled and I wove magic into a ribbon.
Let it be black.
I felt a black ribbon fall into my open palm and I dangled it, holding one end between my thumb and forefinger. I lashed out and the ribbon stretched. It caught around something, wrapping around... Sahara? My eyes snapped open. I froze. The ribbon was real. Sahara was not. I twas supposed to go through her and sever any magical connection. But it did not.
I looked up at the old man and twisted my fingers upward, letting the ribbon disappear in a wisp of black smoke and the magic enter me once more. I walked up to Sahara and touched her – there was the feel of fur under my fingers before I wrenched away. My companion, my one friend, was real, but not by my hand. The irony of the situation, that I, Miss Brilliance and Composure, should lose hold of all that I know as soon as I meet someone new, did not fail to hit me.
"Please," I said, turning away. "Let her go."
I heard a hiss and I stretched my arm out. The wisp of gold smoke that was Sahara entered my veins and I sighed deeply.
"Do you know where I could get some food? I haven't had anything to eat since I was brought here. And don't you tykes have to practice?
The soup was hot and rather good. I stirred it absently as I sat in a room that served as a cafeteria of sorts. It was empty – the students were at lessons. By avidly questioning the woman who fed me, I discovered that I as in a nameless training camp for the magical, physical, and mental. The old man was Master Guyantanamo, wiser than the oldest tree. The training camp was a preparation for a small war that was anticipated. That was all I knew and even the war part I had merely deduced from the woman's words.
Someone came up behind me and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. I turned around sharply and met the green eyes of my captor. He smiled brilliantly – I did not return it. I was no longer impressed by his handsomeness or quick answers. I wanted to kill someone. He was my first choice, along with that annoying brat under Guyantanamo.
"I hear you met Master Guyantanamo."
"It's a mouthful." I turned back to my soup.
"I hear you do illusions."
"What of it?" I focused on him and saw him frown in the back of my mind.
"Is something the matter?" Ah, the crux of the problem.
"Why did you bring me here?" I asked my soup.
"Ah," I heard him breathe. He moved and sat across from me in the Western-style table and chairs that had been provided for me when I pleaded a hurt back. "Is that all?"
"Not really, but it's my number one point."
He watched me carefully and I blinked owlishly before lifting my eyebrows at him.
"I'm sure you didn't just bring me here to gaze at me like a tiger behind bars."
He ignored my sarcastic statement. "As I'm sure you've found out by now, we are anticipating a war." Ah, I was right. "It might not be bloody – it's a power war above all else, but it uses a lot of magic and will include fighting. The enemies are monsters and they must not win."
"You're going to fight a war with children," I said flatly. "You are the monsters here."
He said nothing to that. "You are a Seer. A Diviner, which is the more universal form –"
I held up a hand. "I know what powers I possess and I know their history. Kindly inform me why I sit in your training camp."
"We need you."
I stared. Then I laughed.
"You need me? Me? Out of all the Seers in the world, you pick the misfit?"
He was looking at me strangely – a crook in his eyebrow, a glint in his eyes, and a tilt of his head.
"What do you mean 'out of all the Seers in the world'?"
"It – I – what?" We stared at each other. It clicked. "Exactly... how many Seers exist?" I asked slowly.
"Two. One already works for the other side."
I sat there, stunned. My father had not told me this. Suddenly, I felt as if all I had known and learned was a lie. One of two. I was one of two.
"Are you all right?"
I scowled and stood up. "Fine. Whenever you decide to tell the whole and complete truth, I'll be around."
I left the cafeteria but didn't get far. My pupil contracted and I watched as my captor fought with an older man who bore similar features and then panic and take off. I fell back with a gasp and then moved along, recuperating quickly as I normally did. I had recognized the decorations, or lack there of. It was in my living room – or at least, the one that had been granted to me. The only problem was that where the archway to my bedroom should have been there was nothing but a blank wall. Which led me to two conclusions: either the vision was in the far, far future or in the past. I settled for the latter and closed the door to my new home behind me.
The peace I encountered as I found a small dresser in my room and a wardrobe in the living room did not last. Someone pounded on the door and I was forced to answer or appear inhospitable. I opened the door and found my captor again, standing there and looking sheepish. I lifted my eyebrows.
"I forgot that your father did not tell you about... things... It was rather abrupt of me to say that."
"Abrupt – what things?"
He said nothing. It infuriates me when people keep things from me that affect me directly.
"Like I said before, when you want to spill the whole and complete truth, we can talk then... Mister Nameless."
He didn't seem to be focusing on me. Rather, his eyes were following the trail of my pitch black, slightly curling hair, all the way down to my knees. I snapped my fingers in front of his face and his eyes darted back up to mine – a blush stained his cheeks.
"If you have nothing more to tell me," I began coldly.
He stopped me with a hand on my shoulder, very brother-like. "Call me Tiger."
I lifted an eyebrow in his direction and he left. I closed the door behind him and slipped over to my mirror, looking at myself. Jet black hair that hung in softly curling waves down to my knees set off my dreadfully pale skin and matched my naturally dark lips. I thumbed my button nose with a long, thin finger and watched my eyes change color again. I had the Seeing eyes – amber eyes, doe-like and humongous, an amber that changed color upon emotion. Currently, they were a serene, crystalized amber, how they normally were. When Seeing, I was told they went a fire red with amber swirls, but I only had people's word for that.
I thought briefly on "Tiger" and my father and watched my amber eyes turn into a very dark amber with a tinge of red. It was my pastime when I needed to calm myself – make my eyes change color and learn to control my emotions. It was the only reason I could be so collected and calm, the way that I had practiced to gather and release and sustain and repress my emotions upon command so that they were not reflected in my face.
It had been, in the long run, a very useful pastime.
And so, I began to investigate my sparsely furnished home in interest.
I know it could have been avoided, but idle curiosity is a bad thing in a Seer. I swear I'm not going to step foot outside this house for the next month. I'm never going to live this down. I looked over at the pole I had found in the wardrobe and went over the events in my head for the millionth time.
Foolishly, I had decided to watch the practice. Sitting on the platform horizontal to the children, I watched them in unclouded interest with Master Guyantanamo next to me. Tapping the rhythm they went to against the platform floor, I watched one girl perform a complex move, launch into the air, and have her opponent land on his back after spinning through the air. I lifted my eyebrows and the old man nudged me.
"Would you like to learn?"
I gave a sharp laugh.
"Right. Me, pull moves like that. Pigs will fly unaided and sing Madame Butterfly first," I sneered.
"Jossie! Our Seer wishes to learn!"
I did a double-take. "What?"
He dragged me up and I glared openly at the sniggering students. Jossie, it turned out, was the girl who had performed the air kick. Guyantanamo pushed me lightly so that I went down the platform stairs and I muttered a couple of obscenities before slipping out of my sandals. Someone tossed a stick my way – I reacted on my instincts and fell back, ducking it. Someone snorted a laugh, soon joined in by the rest of the class, and I picked I up. Surprised by its weight, I grasped it with both hands and looked up at the disinterested Jossie.
"Right or left handed?"
"One hand goes here – no, thumb inward. Higher... The other hand here, fingers outward."
I hefted it again with my new hand positions and looked over at her. she arched an eyebrow in my direction before showing me the stance. It was strange. I felt as if I was making a fool of myself – I probably was – but everyone wore serious faces. She showed me how to strike; I managed to miss three tries in a row, causing great amusement. I kept a stoically blank face. She tossed an easy one at me – instinct led me to dart out of its way.
"You're supposed to combat me."
"Tell that to my instincts."
"You're going about it the wrong way, Jossie," someone said. "You have to break her of her habits."
"Oh my god, it's you again. Haven't you done enough?" I snapped.
He grinned disarmingly at me – I twisted my lips and sneered. People were bowing – I cast a cross-eyed look at Guyantanamo, who was grinning broadly.
"Should I be bowing and cowering in fear?" I said sarcastically. He quirked an eyebrow at me and his smile cooled, seemingly all-knowing.
He picked up a pole, longer than mine, and spun it around in idle interest.
"Show off," I grunted, leaning on my pole.
"This is a self-defense class, Swan, not modeling!"
"Swan? Is that my new name while I have a perfectly good one?"
His pole lunged out and tapped my shoulder – I shot away.
"She's going to get creamed," someone muttered.
"Even more than we would."
"Wonder what sort of flowers she'd like at her funeral?"
"Right then," I ground out. "If you want to play..." I glared openly at my pole, blaming it for the creation of the annoying being in front of me.
I flipped the pole around and he moved. Well, I say "moved". More like, appeared next to me and thwacked my shoulder blade. I rolled my eyes and faced him. He danced circles around my still figure. I sighed in exasperation whilst I felt the stinging blows of the wood everywhere.
"Get your act together, Swan!"
"Damn it, I don't do sports."
He delivered a hit to my rear and, as I was laughed at, my pupil constricted. I couldn't see the students or him and my hands tightened around my stick as I watched Tiger come up behind me and slide the stick under my feet and twist it, sending me flying. I cursed soundly and turned my head to the side, to the students.
"Her eyes, look at her eyes!"
I jabbed my pole back helplessly as I regained my vision and caught something. I inhaled sharply and –
– saw the roof and met the floor.
"Nice one, Shona," I muttered. "Memo to myself: do not play with big cats."
I heard laughter and wolf whistles. The end of a pole pressed down into my uncovered thigh and, when I realized that the robe I was wearing had slipped up my leg, I jerked around on the floor, my foot flying out in the ingrained self-defense I used on the streets. He darted it neatly and slammed his pole between my now-open legs. I pulled them back and pushed myself up, the robe returning to its previous position two inches above my knees. His face read amusement all over and carefully, I reigned in on my feelings and let my eyes glaze over.
I did not grace him with an answer, but only threw the staff at him, watching him catch it millimeters before it hit his face, and the amusement disappeared from his face. I walked away, hearing the laughter, wolf whistles, and jeers.
Only when I was carefully locked inside my room did I allow myself the luxury of pinching the bridge of my nose and going a bright, bright red. The tattoo he was talking about was the Chinese-style tiger entwined with a swan that spread over the back of my right thigh. I had gotten it after my father died – I had a vision that night of a tiger fighting a swan before they wrapped around each other and ascended into the sky.
I locked my door and fell onto my mat, dragging my hands through my hair.
It started with an assassin.
Lucky, lucky me...