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  Book One of the Annwn Ryu Cycle
   Chapter I:
   Shadows Path”

Scott Summers, the mutant known as Cyclops, had been careful to settle on a branch out of Logan's scent range - at least he hoped - at the place he knew the other mutant practiced.
 The man who had saved his life as a child, yet revealed nothing of himself. As he settled on the branch, ruby-visored gaze on the small glade, he thought back on the past week.
 Wolverine had raised him three years among ninja. And he still didn't know why. And his other sibling. Not brother, could he have a sister somewhere? Where was she? Or he? Why was Logan being so secretive, when they had just found a bond of brotherhood at last? It bounced around in his head like stubborn frisbees, angling in all directions, colliding and falling.
 Logan was there, but had silently seated himself, falling into a mediative state.
 Scott watched his eyes, his face, everything about the stubbornly private older mutant.
 "Mint's gone." The voice was quiet in the darkened glen, still and emotionless.
 HIV didn't spread that fast! Scott was frantic. The little girl couldn't possibly be gone...
 Wolverine didn't move, but a tremor went up his back before he could control it. "No, I mean gone." His voice was quiet. "Somethin's happening, Scott."
 The younger mutant jerked a bit. Logan never called him Scott. One-Eye, Kid, any number of nicknames, but never by his first name. Almost as if he'd held him at arms length, all this time. He understood a little, but now - now he was in for the duration.
 Swinging down, he knelt down next to the shorter man, aware of the quiet tension, the raging fury he held tightly in check. "Tell me." Scott said, gently, phrasing it as a request.
 "Everyone is losin' their memory of her. Even Chuck don't recall what she looks like. What color were her eyes, Scott?" a sudden question, a newly-recalled memory of the whip-slash mnemonic games the "little innocents", the children of ninja trained in to keep their wills strong and their minds active. A game that now came into play with a vengeance.
 Scott couldn't remember, but her name made it obvious. He said as much.
 "Can you remember her voice, Scott? The way she used to spit up milk laughin' at jokes in mid-swallow? Do you remember how she felt left out when we practiced in the Danger Room? Do you remember the night she cried herself to sleep when the other kids said she didn't have a Mom and Jean and 'Roro both jumped in?" His eyes, blue as the soul of the sky, now burned with gold flecks,  his expression taut and feral. "D'you remember her belivin' in us?"
 Scott swallowed hard against the tears. "She can't be gone far..." he whispered.
 Wolverine turned back to stare into the glen, and he said nothing. "She's gone, Scott." he repeated, voice cold and very controlled. "Ya know we shared a special - bond. It's gone. Mint's gone. Somethin' just - took her away." He didn't move. Some pain was too deep for the release of tears. It was that type of pain that could drive a man mad. How much more could Logan bear? Everyone he loved was gone. His wife - in every way but simple public recognition - was a loss still bearing heavy on his soul. His
lovers were dead.. Now, his daughter, barely a baby, who had given him the unquestioning love Scott had secretly felt a secret twinge of jealousy for, was gone.
 So Scott leaned forward, and despite the growled objections, pulled the grieving samurai into his arms and held him.
 And cried for himself, and for Logan.
 For the tears a father couldn't cry.

   Three months later

 With silent grace, the slender figure bounded from rooftop to rooftop, spinning on gloved hands. Landing on a tip-toe crouch, it came to a halt and listened, head tilted, smelling the air of the muggy New Orleans night.
 A bit later, a taller figure joined the first.
 "You sure dis de place, mon petit?"
. When is de last time you know me t'be wrong, eh?" Laughter was in that voice, mischief, laughter, and sheer passion.
 "Las' time when you get me eat your jambalya taco, dat was frightful."
 "Where your sense of adventure?" The face was of a girl, perhaps sixteen or so, with eyes of velvet darkness, with only pure crystal blue irises sparkling in the dim light. "Dat was Caaaaaaajun!" She mimicked the commercialized version of the Acadian tongue with a vengeance.
 "Dat nearly caught Gambit's tongue on fire." grumbled the tall man, his own eyes dark orbs marked with ruby-red irises.
 "Dis from a man who drink t'basc' sauce as a snack!"
 Gambit rolled his eyes, but grinned down at the girl. "But you right in dis case - Gambit see dem movin'. You right, and you get full claim, dat de rule."
 "Th'ree days of Mardi Gras wit' you!" the grin was impish.
 Gambit pretended to sulk, but bent and pressed a gentle kiss on the girl's forehead. "Could never refuse you nothin', peu d'amour." he said, fondly.
  The girl laughed, a sound of open glee and life. "Aimez-vous aussi, Papa!" she replied.
 Uncle Scott....Uncle Scott
.... the silent voice echoed softly within Scott's waking mind.
 His eyes flickered open, but he saw only the translucent outline of a child, flickering palely in the moonlight.
 Mint! he tried to shout, but only an equally silent reply came out. Where are you....?
 Uncle Scott, please listen, I won't be here much longer....
 Please listen! Uncle Scott, I'm not what I thoughted or you thought either - I'm not real like I am.
 Only part of someone, was all asleeped and it woked up and I was here.
 You're a person, Mint
. His belief was firm.
 Not a whole person, an' as long as I stay I can't be, not ever.
 Scott forced himself to calm. All right, Mint, try to explain it to me. he coaxed, urgently.
 I needed to be a baby to finish myself, now I have to go or I won't be right.
 Her image began to fade, creating an odd sensation of splintering memory. Outside, an agonized howl - Wolverine!
 Please please please help Daddy unnerstand that I was his baby for two years and now the body won't work right. It's not mine total anyhow, and it's not me. I'm only part of who was I'm supposed to be, and I think that it will be gooder when you see me again. Please don't be sad. It is good, 'cause after all, I was the other one.
 Other what
? Scott felt tears on his cheeks. Oh, Sweetheart, other what?
 On the bed, next to him as she had always been, Jean Grey-Summers stirred, the outline of a Phoenix glimmering around her.
 It was small, Uncle Scott. A simple truth, stated in a child's simple honesty. I am part of a big one. But I am the child part. I will be big soon, but I have to go. I was, but I'm not now. Now I am.
 Light crackled, swirled, then formed into a Dragon-form, black as night with eyes white as a burning star, which battled the Phoenix force back into it's host with no effort at all.
  I LIVE. The vibrant voice was devoid of any emotion, any life. Whatever was birthed, despite it's power, needed.
  Outside, against the shadowed moon, Wolverine uttered a horrible cry of rage and loss.
  Scott held his wife, his mind turning over what he had seen, his heart with his brother and the woman he loved.

 Of all things in the United States, Mardi Gras was unique. Part celebration, part drinking binge, part parade, and part riot, it was as wild as any legal system would allow, even one as convoluted and unusual as New Orleans.
 Through it, the Cajuns moved easily, but the Thieves' Guild moved with the assurance of mastery.
 Gambit was a Master within that organization, and he had arranged a comfortable payment for the girl at his side.
 It was the least he could do for his daughter.
 Munching happily on a well-spiced shrimp, she cocked her head up at him, watching him with curiosity.
 It was then it happened.
 An agonizing lash of pain swirled into her head, down into her, around her, through her, burning deep into her being, tearing at the past - at the illusion - no! She collapsed to her knees, clutching her head, clinging to her identity, screaming silently into the Void.
 "Cayanne!" Her father's arms were around her, holding her, as the world ignored them - part of the beauty of Mardi Gras was it's anonymity. She couldn't speak, but the girl gritted her teeth, determined not to scream.
  "Incredible." breathed Hank McCoy. "I have never seen such a reading." The blue-furred mutant was hanging upside-down from a metal ceiling-beam.
  Professor Charles Xavier, the world's most powerful telepath, was rubbing his temples. "It was as if every reading simply vanished a moment as this one - exploded - into range.
  Normally a mutant's "surge" of occurrence appeared on Cerebro, it appeared as a dot. Powerful mutants were larger and brighter. This one had lit the board completely, burning out the lights a moment before switching to backup circuits.
 Wolverine was simply stood behind them, showing no expression at all, though Jean and Scott stood behind and near him, providing the unspoken support of family.
 "We must find this young mutant before they are injured or injure another." said Xavier, gently.
  It was odd, to see everyone glance at Wolverine. He ignored them, turning away to focus his senses on something he couldn't quite  identify. Something that was changing...coming....becoming....no. Just....something.

 "We knew this happen, mon fils." the older man said gently. "Always we were aware, non?"
"She too young." said Gambit, from where he leaned.
 "She bring the new ones to us, de young ones, dey wake up to dis soon, non? What I tell them if Cayanne not go?"
 "Cayanne is Gambit's daughter, not just Thieves' Guild!" snapped the mutant.
 Gently, the older man rested a hand on the mutant's shoulder. "Remy LeBeau, you my son, always, no matter what. Always, Jean-Paul will love you as his own son, and always Cayanne will be his son's daughter. No matter what. Dis I swear to you."
 Gambit turned to hug his father, feeling a sense of - loss. His daughter would soon have to face more than New Orleans, more than the Thieves' Guild. And life outside the family she loved and loved her would be painfully different.
 "Cayanne?" the door opened, revealing a shadow with red-flame orbs marking the eyes.
 "Qu'arrive à moi?" she whispered, through gritted teeth, anger giving her strength to face the pain.
 Remy sat on the edge of the bed, wrapping a gentle arm around her. "Listen to Remy, Épice." he said gently. "What happenin', it scares you?"  
 "Hah!" A snort of amusement. "Not scare me, Papa!" Her ebon-backed crystal eyes met his. "Hurt like de fire, but scare me -make me want t' understand it."
 "Place t' go you can learn, mon peu de feu." Remy took a deep breath. "Place wit people wit' people lik' you, wit special gift."
 Cayenne’s eyes were interested.
 "Not near home, it far from de Bayou."
 Her head cocked. "Leave home, Papa?" her elfin features were distressed.
 "We come back for visits."
 "We - dis de place yer Papa go when he leave home for times. You come wit me?" His voice was soft.
 Cayenne’s eyes lit up. "Oui!" She flung herself into his arms. "I go wit you, Papa - I follow you anywhere, even into Hell."
 Remy closed his eyes and held her tight. He promised himself that he would not allow his beloved daughter to ever have to follow the X-Men into such a battle. He would die first.

Translations  from the Cajun (French):

Aimez-vous aussi - Also like you
Épice                     - Spice
Mon peu de feu    - My little fire

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