Day 7: from Fenix Rising
“Master, what exactly will you do?” “What I must, son.”
The boy was still unsure how he felt about being called that, but thought he was starting to like it.
“Will I have to fight?”
“Yes. But not today…Not today, little one.”
He was certain he did not like being called that, but showed no sign of his disapproval. The boy clutched at the saddle of his master’s war horse, his wrists sore from the strain. They were a day’s ride from their destination but the unnatural speed of his master’s mount meant they would probably get there in half the time. They were riding hard, but not the slightest bit of fatigue expressed itself on the mare. She nickered impetuously as if asking for permission.
“Very well, Seresa… Run!”
His master spoke the last word with such intensity, the boy almost began kicking his own legs. Meanwhile, the red colored mare all but squealed in response and incredibly, impossibly, accelerated. The land mass of grassy hills and pine trees blurred slightly in the young boy’s vision as he found himself wrapped up in the strong arms of his master. He knew he wouldn’t fall with his master hanging onto him. Had he ever felt so secure before? Even the sisters had not felt this safe.
Seresa’s head reared back in a whinny of pure delight as her mane took on a sheen the boy had never seen before. The sheen grew brighter, seemingly pulsing. Was it a trick of the light? The silky hairs whipped aggressively in the wind, lashed, flapped, and swirled in a way defying reason. Is the wind getting stronger or her mane getting lighter? He was baffled by the unsettling display unfolding in front of him, convinced he could hear the tangle of hair crackling over the sound of the wind in his ears. There was an especially loud crackle and Seresa’s mane burst into flame.
“It’s okay.” he laughed. “She was showing off for you.”
The boy leaned back, pressing against the safety of his master’s chest, wary of the bright orange fire that was now the mane of his master’s horse.
“The flames won’t hurt you, son. This is Seresa’s true form, Yeshung Lumbre. Trust that you have nothing to fear from her.”
Looking up at his master, his expression grim, he gathered himself before leaning forward again. Letting go of the saddle, he reached out and slid his fingers through the silky strands of the blaze. He felt the warmth of the flames but none of their harshness, just as his eyes finally absorbed the true extent of the mare’s transformation. He had been so preoccupied with the immediate danger of potential immolation, he had failed to notice the change in Seresa’s coat. The burnished russet of her pelt had bleached into a fine cream where it had not been replaced altogether by flames. The earth under her thunderous hooves convulsed with flashes of heat and light as she charged through the world. The boy felt something light, almost fluffy in his stomach as he admired the horse. She was beyond beautiful.
“We are almost there, son. Prepare yourself.”
Despite his mental alacrity, the six-year-old had been so absorbed by the horse’s beauty he did not have time to wonder at the sheer impossibility of completing a full day’s ride in less than an hour. By the time his mind had registered the command he felt his master’s words ringing true. What was this weight in the pit of his chest? He tensed as he felt a knife of shock? Or was it fear? So many hints of… what?
“No, child. Close yourself off. You are not ready for this.”
“But master, isn’t this why-”
“Close yourself off. Do it now, before we get too near.”
Reluctantly the boy pictured himself within an orb of blue light. His mind’s eye hardened the barrier, reinforced it with a layer of white, and criss-crossed it with a web of green. As long as he could focus on this image of light and color, his empathy was nullified. This had been his first lesson since leaving the orphanage. His thoughts were centered entirely on the shield when a dull edge of iron tugged across his throat and he choked on the hot blood he was inadvertently inhaling through the ragged gash in his neck…The boy screamed in the saddle, clutching the nonexistent wound.
“Shield yourself boy! Seven layers, now!”
Still sputtering on blood he had not swallowed, he frantically pictured himself under seven impenetrable domes of color, and tried to ignore the phantom pain in his neck. What had that been? Seresa slowed and then stopped altogether, flames and sparks reverting back into silky tresses.
“We just made it.” the silver haired Eagle said.
Humidity and heat waves rose from the bowl like valley below them. Even up-wind the smell of blood and raw sewage tunneled into the young boy’s nostrils. Loud cries of anguish and aggression echoed up to them, intermixed with various commands. “Forward the rear guard!” “Give them nothing! Take everything!” “For the glory of the Crimson Throne!”
The boy had seen death before, but nothing on the scale he now observed. He saw men collapse on top of the bodies of their comrades, pools of blood curdling into sticky brown puddles. Even beneath his shield he felt more than he wanted to. . .Am I ever going to see them again? Please, Palenvar, do not forsake me. My blade shall feast on your blood for taking Paulos! We are all dead men. . . What could his master possibly do to end this? He looked up at the man whose yellow eyes were focused on the battle below. Was he looking for something? The boy returned his gaze to the vision of violence and something flashed across his mind. It was the image of a web, he was certain. Focusing on the image, he saw it develop in front of him, forming thousands of little violet strands. The strands attached themselves to individual anchors, thickening as they did so. There was one strand that was bigger than the rest, connected to all of the others. The boy looked at it, following its path as it curved through the valley and led back to…his master? A surge of pink tinged blue light careened thought the violet strands of the web and the boy’s eyes flew open.
The command was issued quietly, but with an echo of power that chilled the air around the boy. No sooner had the order been spoken, did everything in the valley become still. Soldiers who had been crossing blades found themselves unable to hold their swords up. All arms hung uselessly at the side of their wielders, all battle cries faded into long exhalations as they left lips. Enemies looked upon each other and some wondered if, perhaps, the man in front of him could not have once been considered a brother.
“I am Loren Sorenste!” boomed his master’s voice.
The boy’s face displayed his confusion at the inklings of emotions that trickled in. The Eagle of Peace? This battle cannot possibly be worth our lives. Hasn’t enough blood been needlessly spilled? There must have been another manner of negotiating, a way this could have been avoided.
“It has become clear to me that your kingdoms cannot be trusted to keep the peace. Go home, each of you.”
The soldiers stirred into motion at the command, gathering their arms, their dead, and, for the time being, leaving behind all feelings of hatred. The boy even noticed some of them leaving with the opposing army.
“And tell your monarchs, their lives are forfeit!”
A tremor of vomit colored light shot through the web as his master finished his last sentence, and both armies hurried their actions. Loren let out a tired breath as the boy looked up at him, it was as if he saw his master’s age for the first time. The web was gone now, and so was his master’s energy. Would he be able to end a war with a word one day?
“Master…is this what you’re training me for?”
The long haired man frowned at the boy and then shook his head, silver tresses getting caught in the wind.
“No son, Your destiny is unclear, Fenix.”
Fenix? Who was Fenix? Why did it sound familiar? Fenix…Fenix…
“Fenix! Wake your sorry self up, damn it!”
The wire haired Eagle sat up, alert.
“What’s wrong?” he asked
“You tell me, newbie. You were sobbing in your sleep.”
He felt his face burn, and avoided eye contact with Umo despite the room still being dark.
“What were you dreaming of?”
“I- uh, don’t remember.” he lied.
Author's Note: A select few of you out there might have read something like this before. I edited it a bit, and finally changed the horse's name, as well as the official name of our hero's mentor.For those wondering, Seresa is a bastardized version of cerseza (meaning cherry, which is in reference to her coat) Yeshung is a bastardized version of Yěshēng, which is supposedly Mandarin for "wild" and lumbre means fire in Spanish. Yes, I'm cannibalizing languages and sewing them back together, have fun figuring out what it all means! Also, I'm not sure I like Fenix being six here, so that might be subject to change in future versions.