Character Gauntlet Day Two "Memories All Alone in the Moon Light"
| Onyx sat her saddle tall and proud beside her father's horse. He looked down at her from his black gelding, and smiled lovingly. She was turning ten today and it was time for her to register with the Council of Five; more accurately four since they still had not found someone to replace Kairi. Kyo turned his eyes up to the sky, and smiled sadly remembering his late wife. She had died while giving birth to their daughter, and now the responsibility of raising her sat on his shoulders. He looked down at his daughter, who so resembled her mother, except for her eyes; her eyes were green like his and Ido's. She wore a green silk kimono with a cherry blossom tree in full bloom across the back. The front was embroidered with falling cherry blossoms that gathered at the hem and sleeves. The kimono was a gift from her maternal grandparents, and though she preferred the breeches and tunics her father favored Kyo insisted that she look her best on this very special day. As he admired his daughters beauty he noticed two black cats' ears sticking out from beneath her long black hair.
"Onyx, you need to have human ears today," Kyo said in a patient voice. He'd gone over this with her the night before, but he could not blame her for not wanting to hide who and what she was.
"Yes, papa," Onyx concentrated hard and her cat ears disappeared, and two small human ears framed her little face. "I'm sorry, I forgot."
"I know, kitten," he felt horrible for making her do that, but he knew the Council would already be difficult to surmount. There was no need to infuriate them further if it could be prevented.
When they reached the road that led to the Council Hall Onyx was practically bouncing in her saddle. Her father had prepared her for this day when she would become an official registered mage, and she couldn't wait. The first wave of apprehension hit her when they passed through the gate leading into the courtyard. The other people in the courtyard stared openly at them. Onyx touched the sides of her head with both hands to make sure her ears had not popped out. When she was sure they had not she looked at her father to see if he was in his hybrid form; he was not.
"Why are they staring?" She inquired softly.
"Because you look so lovely," Kyo assured her. It was not the true reason everyone stared, but he was not going to spoil her special day with the truth. Kyo halted his horse, and she followed his example. He dismounted, and reached up to help her down.
"Papa, I'm ten," Onyx smiled shaking her head. "I can get down on my own."
"Oh, of course," Kyo stepped back, and motioned for her to proceed.
Onyx skillfully dismounted the horse, and landed on her feet; the heels of her riding boots made a soft thud on the ground. Two grooms came to lead the horses away. Kyo removed a saddle bag from his horse, and Kairi's staff from Onyx's horse. He led his daughter over to a stone bench and motioned for her to sit. She sat, and lifted the hem of her kimono so that he could unlace her riding boots. When he slipped them off he noticed the pink lacquer on her toenails, and gave her a quizzical look.
"Kaela's mother did that for me," Onyx smiled, and removed her riding gloves to show him the matching lacquer on her fingernails. "Aren't they pretty papa?"
"Very," Kyo smiled. In the back of his mind he made a note to have a word with Kaela's mother. He pulled a pair of small wooden sandals out of his saddle bag and slipped them on her feet. He smiled ruefully when she grimaced in discomfort. "I know, but this is how a young lady is supposed to dress. You can put your more comfortable clothes on after we leave."
One of the guards approached them. Kyo stood, and offered his right forearm to the man. The other man clasped it in greeting.
"Welcome back Kyo," the older looking man grunted. "I see the years are still being kind to you. "Are you pushing ninety now?"
"I'll be turning one hundred today, Haru," Kyo corrected. "Thank you for remembering."
"How could I forget?" Haru looked down at the little girl sitting on the stone bench. His heart missed a beat as he saw a young Kairi looking up at him. "And this must be the Lady Onyx." Haru released Kyo's hand and bowed to the young girl. "You look so much like your mother."
"Thank you," Onyx nodded. She'd seen portraits of Kairi, and her father talked of her often, but Onyx could not identify with a woman she'd never met. She stood and took the staff her father held. It was too tall for her, but she had practiced walking with it. The chatoyant stone on it's tip shimmered in the sunlight. "I'm ready," she announced.
"Then come with me my lady," Haru motioned for Onyx to follow.
"Aren't you coming?" Onyx inquired looking up at her father.
"No kitten," Kyo sat on the stone bench she had vacated. "I'll be waiting right out here for you."
Onyx nodded. She straightened, and held her head high as she walked a little behind Haru. Two other guards pushed the wooden doors of the hall open for them. He led her down a torch lined hallway. The flames of the torches flickered rapidly as they passed by. He looked down at the girl and saw that her ears were no longer human. They were once again in the form of cats' ears. He decided not to mention it. The child seemed nervous enough as it was. When they reached the Council's meeting chamber he rapped on the door three times with his large fist. The door was opened from the inside, and he ushered Onyx into the chamber.
The four council members sat at a large marble table. Each was dressed in a white linen robe with a hood draped over the back. Each had a symbol of their element embroidered in the color of the element on the front of their robe. Onyx recognized the symbols from her father's lessons. There was earth, water, air, and spirit. A vacant chair stood between earth and water where fire should have sat. Onyx knew that chair had once belonged to her mother. She also knew why her mother no longer occupied that seat. That knowledge made her angry, but she tamped it down as her father told her she must. She would not shame their family by giving the council a reason to refused to accept her registration. When she and Haru reached the middle of the room; marked by the center of a pentagram; she bowed lowering her mother's staff.
"Esteemed Council," Haru addressed. "I present to you the Lady Onyx, daughter of Lady Kairi a former member of the council."
Onyx could not help the indignation she felt at the lack of mention of her father. She thought Haru was a friend, and supporter of her parents' relationship. After his pronouncement Haru, and the guard that had opened the door for them left them alone in the council chamber. Onyx remained in her bowed position.
"You may rise child," a male voice stated. Onyx straightened to stare into the brown eyes of the man with the symbol for earth on his robe. The other three council members took their seats, but he remained standing. They all noticed her ears twitch, but did not say anything. "Why have you come before us today?"
"I wish to register as a mage," Onyx stated.
"Which school has sent you here?" The member with air on her robe inquired.
"School?" Onyx inquired.
"Where you were taught magic," the woman clarified.
"My father taught me," Onyx stated proudly.
"I see," the woman smiled icily. Her mother had served on the council that had let Kairi go, but she refused to serve with Kairi's half-breed whelp. Nor would she want her daughter to serve on the same council as Onyx. "I'm sorry dear, but if you were not sent here officially by a known school..."
"But I've learned the same lessons that would be taught to me at one of your schools," Onyx argued. "My mother served on this council."
"She was dismissed," the man with earth the symbol countered, "for actions unbecoming of a council member. My dear, you and your kind are not permitted in this hall. You will not be recognized as a mage by this council."
"My kind?!" Onyx's eyes blazed with anger. She raised the staff, and a bolt of lightning shot out splitting the marble table in half. The council members dove aside just in time to avoid the debris that flew from the impact. They peered around the sides of the table at her. Onyx lowered the staff so that it tapped soundly on the floor of the chamber. The impact caused the room to tremble and cracks to spider out into the elaborate tiles. "I am Onyx, daughter of the human Kairi, and the shape-shifter Kyo! What exactly is my kind?!"
The door to the council chamber opened, and Haru entered followed by Kyo. They took in the sight of the ruined table, the council members rising to their feet, and Onyx standing angry and proud in the center of a slowly cracking tile floor. A fire ball was coalescing around the stone on the staff that Onyx held. Kyo moved quickly turning her to face him and squatting down to make eye contact with her.
"Stop this Onyx!" He commanded. "I taught you better than this. Regain your control."
Onyx closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She calmed the anger that burned within her. The fire that was forming on her staff winked out. When she opened her eyes they were sad pools of emerald green. She knew she had done the wrong thing. Kyo pulled her to him and held her. He surveyed the council members over her shoulder. They were not the same as the ones who had served with Kairi. He was worried that would happen. Humans did not last as long as his people. Anything the former council had decreed would not necessarily be upheld by the new council. The former council had not stated that Onyx would be accepted as a mage, and seemed that the new members were not willing to accept her. Kyo stood, and moved his daughter behind him.
"I apologize for her outburst," he stated solemnly. "She is still young, and learning to control her powers. I'm sure you all remember how difficult it was at her age."
"I can't say we do," Hiru's replacement shook bits of marble from his robes. "We were trained in a school specifically for mages."
"As you probably know my daughter was not permitted in those schools," Kyo argued. "As you can see she has mastered the powers you all would have mastered in your final years at that school. All she needs is a bit more tempering."
"She is destructive," Akito's replacement argued.
"Very true," Kyo agreed. "But what she destroys she can repair. Show them, Onyx."
Onyx used the staff to call forth the energy of all five natural elements. She delved the table and used earth, and fire to bind the marble back together. Next, she used the same forces to repair the cracks in the floor. In a matter of moments the chamber was in one piece. The effort caused Onyx to sag against the staff, which slid on the floor. Haru was behind her with a wooden chair, and eased her down into it.
"You see?' Kyo smiled proudly. "How many of you could do that at her age?"
"We do not deny the child has talent," the new earth council member stated. "But there are proper channels that she should have gone through to become a registered mage and she did not."
"She was prevented from doing so by the short sightedness of her elders," Kyo argued. He was getting frustrated now. "Should she be punished for that?"
The council members took a moment to discuss amongst themselves. There were at least two who disagreed with not letting Onyx register. When they came to a consensus the lead member stood once again.
"She may register as a mage," he stated, "but she will not serve on this council."
Kyo nodded. He was not happy with the last part, but he would take the small victories where they came. When Onyx was able to stand and walk on her own she and her father mounted their horses, and rode home toward the slowly setting sun.
"I'm sorry papa," Onyx said meekly from her small horse. "They just made me so mad."
"I know kitten," Kyo turned understanding eyes on her. "They were making me angry too."
"I don't want to be on their stupid council anyway," Onyx folded her arms petulantly. "They're not my kind."
"Don't you start thinking that way," Kyo snapped. He took a breath to soften his tone. "You are half human, but that should not matter. You are all mages, and that's what should matter."
Onyx nodded in understanding of her father's words. As they approached the court yard of their home Kyo sensed something was amiss. No grooms came to meet them. He and Onyx led their own horses to the stables. The stable doors hung open, and the horses were shrieking and stamping in fear. Onyx looked down when her booted foot slid in a puddle. It was dark and shiny. She'd been hunting enough to know exactly what it was.
"Blood," she gasped. "Whose?"
Her answer came at the sight of the stable hands sprawled on the ground with their throats exposed. Kyo attached his horse to two of the ropes used to hold them in place for grooming. He assumed his dire panther form and sniffed the air. The distinct scent of dire panther filled his nose. Not just any dire panther, but Ido. Onyx attached her horse to a similar set of hooks, and pulled her staff from its saddle. Kyo was tempted to tell her to wait there but he knew his daughter better than that. She was brave and fierce like her mother, better to keep her close.
"Climb on," Kyo growled hunching so that she could get on his back. Once she was on he bounded toward the palace. He lowered his head and rammed his way through the wooden doors. "Be silent now, kitten."
The palace was dark and eerily silent. At this time of the evening there should have been servants bustling, and Kaito's replacement Nori should have been waiting for them. There was a celebration planned for Kyo and Onyx. It seemed that it was not going to be a happy affair. Kyo's ears twitched at the sound of whimpering. He followed the sound to the ballroom where their evening should have ended in revelry. The sight that met them when they entered was far from celebratory. A dire panther stood over the fallen body of Lord Kiru. The women of the palace were huddled on the dais behind the banquet table. Kiru's wife locked eyes with Kyo.
"Take her and go!" She exclaimed. "He'll kill you both!"
Ido lifted his head from his fallen quarry. His muzzle was covered in dried blood, and Kiru's blood formed another layer of shiny wetness. The younger dire panther ran his tongue over his muzzle in a vain attempt to clean himself. He shifted into his hybrid form, and eyed Kyo scornfully. Onyx slid off of Kyo's back, and he shifted into his hybrid form. Onyx attempted to move around him but he blocked her.
"Stay," Kyo snapped. Onyx looked up at him in shock. He never used such a tone with her. Kyo rested his hand on her head in an attempt to comfort. "Ido, why?"
"It is my birthday gift to you father," Ido jeered. "I have made you lord of this palace. I even spared the women and children as you taught me."
"You foolish child!" Kyo snapped. "You've hurt my cause more than you know. Word will spread that a dire panther is responsible for this. Then one will become two, then three until humans feel justified not only in their fear of us, but in hunting us."
"They should fear us!" Ido bellowed. He gestured to the room strewn with the bodies of the guards he had torn open, "Just look at what we are capable of, and you, father, are no different."
"You're wrong Ido," Kyo stepped forward. "I do not tear unarmed men's throats out. I do not cause women and children to cower in fear. Nor do most of the dire panthers. This is not about them. It's about you and me."
"No," Ido shook his head. "It's about her," he extended his clawed index finger toward Onyx. "She's the reason you were banished, and she's the reason you stay here."
"She is young Ido," Kyo argued. "She needs me to teach and protect her. You do not. You have your own responsibilities as leader of the dire panthers."
"She does need you," Ido agreed, "to protect her from me!"
Ido launch himself into the air shifting to his animal form in midair. Kyo met his son in his own animal form and the two hit the ground in a rolling ball of gnashing teeth, tearing claws, and fur. Onyx watched in horror as her father and half-brother tore pieces of fur and flesh from each other. Kyo's age and experience allowed him to hold his own, but he was no match for the younger panther's strength and endurance. Ido gained the upper hand and clamped his jaws around the older panther's throat. He held on until Kyo's body went limp. The form of the panther melted away leaving a naked human corpse. Onyx threw herself on her father's body and wept.
"This is your fault, you know," Ido resumed his hybrid form, and loomed over his half-sister. "His time with you made him weak."
Onyx's weeping ceased, and her eyes filled with more fiery rage she had felt in the council chamber. She stood, and picked up her staff. A vortex of wind surrounded her, and beat against Ido, pushing him back as he attempted to advance. He shifted to his panther form and tried to dig his claws into the floor of the ballroom, but it was too smooth. The fire ball that Onyx had intended for the council rematerialized around the gem on her staff. She swung the staff like a mace sending the fireball flying straight at Ido. He had just enough time to erect a barrier before the fireball connected, and propelled him backward through a stain glass window. He used his own abilities to manipulate fire to send the flaming sphere up into the sky. The height from which he fell would have killed any other man, but Ido used a gust of wind to cushion his fall; landing on his feet. The two siblings stared at each other with equal hatred. Onyx used her staff to call lightning from the sky. She struck at Ido multiple times, but he managed to stay just ahead of the lightning. When she was certain he was out of range she turned from the window, to see her grandmother and some of the other women gathering up the bodies Ido had left in his wake. From that moment on Onyx swore an oath of vengeance against Ido. She placed a ward around her land that barred the passage of any shape-changer who tried to cross in animal or hybrid form. She was beginning to see why the Council did not want shape-changers in its ranks.
Word Count: 3,346