14th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 7:13pm Champion’s Fist, Pier 19 Lockland.
Paprikka looked in on Mandy one more time still worried that there might be some kind of lingering effect from the magics she’d used to save the young woman. But beyond being really hungry when she woke it appeared that she’d managed to save Mandy from any further effects and purge the chaos from her. Gently closing the door she immediately bumped into her newest shadow, Tar Di, the ever eager and impatient apprentice. Rikka wasn’t sure if Tar Di was more excited about no longer having to be the cabin boy or about actually getting to use her magic. Well, at least the last would be snuffed out soon enough. Given the raw power she’d witnessed first-hand and the source meant that she needed a lot of research and planning to train Tar Di effectively and safely. But that was a problem for another day.
“Did you get the things I asked for?”
Tar Di handed the full pack to Paprikka. “There is an intensity growing around you. The lights and shadows are gathering. The colours are stronger and angry?”
“I know.” Paprikka shouldered the pack and moved back towards the deck.
“I could try to do something about them. I’ve never tried but all I have to do is…”
“No!” Rikka turns back to Tar Di and sighs lowering her voice and tone, “Until I understand exactly how your power works and how we can train it without endangering ourselves or the others we need to hold back on using it. Unless your life is in danger. For now we need to build your focus and control. Once you get those under wraps then we can teach you the ‘fun’ things.”
“Aww, but I’m your apprentice now. I should know at least one good spell right? We’ve had two days.”
“Now is not the time Tar Di,” Rikka sighed and pointed back towards her room. “Go, meditate, study the glyphs I left for you and be patient.”
“Fine. I will but I am not going to enjoy it.” She pouted at Paprikka then hesitated, worry creeping into her voice. “You are coming back right? Mr Fluffy’s gone and Mandy doesn’t like me and Mr Tyre is creepy. There are a lot of strangers on the ship now.”
She hugged Tar Di tight, “Honestly, I… don’t know. But now that I know what is going on this can’t continue so it’s time for me to face it… Watch for me.” Stepping away Rikka activated a pair of spells and disappeared.************************************
Thoughts and emotions churned through Paprikka as she attempted and failed again to gain the calm and focus she needed to settle into a meditative trance. She could feel the ley line beneath her, feel how close she was to touching it again. She could feel the presence in her sword waiting and watching though unsure as to what she was doing. Since learning the truth she’d hid her thoughts from it, her pain at the loss of her trusted friend and so much more. Even now as she struggled to find a calm moment in the storm of her mind Rikka wanted to reach for her blade and feel the comforting presence within. But that was a lie and no comfort lay in that direction.
With the lay line out of reach for now, Paprikka sent a silent prayer of thanks to Pan for granting her the knowledge and the chance to face what was happening on her own terms, she reached for the hilt and the dark presence of the other sprang forth only this time it wasn’t a shadow. A young Tian man dressed in Fire Nation finery stood before her. The intensity of his gaze reminded Rikka of the Kempai. He bowed to her and she nodded to him.
“You know.” Was all he said.
She nodded answering, “About how I was dead and brought back by Ymeri in Don Ton to serve as a vessel to save you? Yes. About how she loosened the bonds of the armour and tucked you away in my blade where my friend once was? Yes. About how the return of the Phoenix and its tears will be my doom and your rebirth? Yes.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Sadness crept into Hiro’s voice, “My friends, the ones you travel with were in grave danger from those who hunted me. I prayed for a way out, a way to stop those who wanted me dead from killing them until I could bring the fight to my enemies. Dying in Don Ton would not save my people nor my nation.”
“And I was your way out.”
“Yes, though your soul was supposed to have moved on, to find peace and Ymeri would leave a simulacrum soul in place I could guide until I could be brought back.” Hiro frowned, “But something went wrong. Though you died your soul held fast and when Ymeri brought your body back you came with it. I couldn’t do anything trapped in the sword but slip suggestions to you as you travelled. Whether by chance, luck or some greater divine purpose you fell in with my friends and I managed to get you thinking more about the Phoenix.”
“You did more than I could have hoped for in saving the Phoenix, protecting my friends and… saving Mandy like you did yesterday. You were willing to give everything to see her safe. She… means a lot to me. Thank you.” He bows low to her. “You have been a great ally and I will be forever grateful to you for what you’ve done. But you cannot change what is to be, what my goddess has set in motion. Hikaru Yamamoto needs to return to his people and free them from the evil that swallows my nation. It has been prophesized.”
His words were direct, honest and single minded. They helped calm the storm and order her thoughts. There was no malice in them, no evil in his actions only blind faith in his mission and his goddess. She breathed deep and closed her eyes, her grip on the sword never wavering as she touched the ley line and slipped from her body to face him on equal terms. Spirit to spirit. Paprikka reached out to him and though he eyed her vacant body and the opportunity she’d left he remained stoically still.
“As my eyes have been opened by the gift of another, please accept this gift and see… me.” Drawing power from the line she opened herself once more and through their connection she showed him everything holding back nothing…***Flash***
A baby’s wail fills the bloody entryway. Two look down upon a third, a poor woman and her just born babe eyes scrunched tight in need and lack of understanding. The woman’s pale hands cold as ice shakily hold the child up to the other two pleading for them to take her. To keep her safe and raise her as their own. Finally the faintest of nods and a servant rushes in to draw the babe away. The woman has no strength left and the two turn away from her to return to their warm chambers for the night.***Flash***
A small child’s unexpected use of magic leaves her standing in the corner facing the wrath of the kitchen staff. Her parents look on approval in their eyes as they speak of where best to send her for training. Her aptitude and power will raise their standing considerably if cultured just right. Her headstrong and chaotic ways will be drowned under strict rules, endless tutors and training.***Flash***
Older now she stand dripping blood from a split lip and broken nose in the same entryway looking defiant at her parents. He rages at her for resorting to fists to fight the bullies when she could have ended it with one spell. She tries to tell her side, about how it was to be fair and equal and how she’d promised not to. But they only saw her failure and the loss of status she would bring for this was not the first nor last time she’d been drawn in to a ‘fair fight’.***Flash***
Excitement ripples through the household for her mother is to have another child, a daughter, and the girl shares in the joy for a chance to have someone to play with, someone to share the lonely moments with away from her parents and the disappointment.***Flash***
Two girls playing, the elder hard pressed to keep up with the enthusiasm of the younger as they race through the forest near the estate. Their carefree chase comes to an end in a field of flowers where a bear, lean with hunger, stalks them. The younger is maimed before the elder can overcome her fear. They both survive but carry very different scars forward from there.***Flash***
Years have passed but the gulf between the sisters has widened impossibly aided by the subtle words of their parents to the younger and the hateful words shot to the elder. The final arrow finds its mark as they tell her she is naught but an orphan. Told the tale of her family’s death at the hands of raiders and how her mother begged her sister to take the child in. She has been nothing but a burden to their home and despite their best efforts see only disappointment for her future. She is told to leave everything and go. She takes only her true mother’s surname with her as she leaves.***Flash***
Desperation leads her down many paths taking any job she can muster just to keep food in her belly. Often she finds it empty and cold like the world around her. Dancing and serving at taverns becomes her life for a long while, bleak and without warmth it keeps her alive as she forgets what hope feels like.***Flash***
An older man, dressed well and captain of his own ship speaks kindly to her. He leads her away and spins hope back into her life before leaving her in the care of a friend. Here she finds a home of sorts and trains hard to learn his mysterious ways hoping to see that kind captain once more. But the season turn many times and he never returns. Eventually even her new master falls victim to age and she is left alone once more.***Flash***
Lean seasons lie ahead and though she is better prepared one cannot eat only air and drink only dreams. So she wanders far in search of anything and lands at the feet of a red-haired woman who stops her from being cast out of the temple she’d taken shelter in. She accepts the offer given and does her best to complete her duties. Only the woman with red hair speaks to her though she learns their language by listening to the others.***Flash***
She fights without reservation for her red-haired charge, a demon to stop these devils. But it is not enough for she fights alone and though her charge escapes, she does not. Black armour encases her and she dies…***Flash***
Awake she fights with the others to freedom beyond the evil city…
…overcoming her fear of the Linnorm she joins in the fight… Meeting Pan…
…listens as the others speak of finding someone more skilled and appropriate for her role on the ship. It is not the last time she hears this…
More and more images, feeling and memories pass from Paprikka to Hikaru before both stagger back from the experience. The night drifts slowly onward as the two face each other spirit to spirit.
“Do you understand now?” She asks him.
“Yes,” he nods his mind still reeling from everything she’s shown him, “But it does not change what is meant to be.”
“Why is it meant to be? Because your goddess says so?” She shook her head eyes shining with tears, “I’ve lived and fought and survived for so long. So very long seeking some place to feel like home. Some place to feel accepted.”
“And you seek it still. You will not find it here. Just as it was with all the others you do not belong here. Ymeri kept you alive and guided you to Don Ton. Ymeri put you in the place I needed you to be so I could survive. What is one life? One wretched existence to that of an entire nation? I weep for what you’ve gone through and will never forget what you’ve done Paprikka. But I will be the only one to remember.” Hikaru steps forward and embraces her. “You can still be the hero you’ve wanted to be. You can still change the world with your power. By surrendering your existence to me I can save a nation for that price. I can bring help to Prancer and force concessions from Omaru. All you have to do is let go.”
Rikka cried, wracking sobs of loss. She was supposed to be dead. Despite her best efforts she’d only delayed the inevitable. Behind Hikaru stood Ymeri annoyance and anger plain on her face for this should never have gone this far. All she had to do was give in, give up and she could let go of this existence. Had not Pan warned her many times? Had he not tried to lead her from this path? She had even failed him…She didn’t want to die… Paprikka felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked behind her. Pan stood there sadness marring his face and spoke a single word. “Choose.”
(Please send me a private e-mail to let me know if you’d rather see Hiro return or Rikka from this night. Just a message saying Team Rikka/Pan or team Hiro/Ymeri. In a few days I’ll post part 2)