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Rhiannon



 I don't know if any part of this will be disturbing or inappropriate, but if it is I apologize and certainly don't mean any disrespect or harm with this posting. As always, comments are welcome, and happily received. This part of the ongoing series is dedicated to all the heroes in and outside of New York, may God be with you and keep you.

Rhiannon

CAJUN CINNAMON
  Book One of the Annwn Ryu Cycle
 
   Chapter X
   "First Steps Out of Darkness"

 Cayanne watched Logan flow through a kata, his movements graceful and swift. The kicks and punches were perfectly timed, and almost eerie in their silence. It was clear to her being hit by one alone would be potentially fatal.
 Her expression was one of intense concentration, as she tried to fathom how he managed each movement, each instant between those movements. His focus of concentration was transcended into calmness, a stillness on his craggy features.
 From the back of the class, she listened to the hushed murmurs, the quiet comments of the other students.
 "I hope he teaches us some cool moves." whispered Lance, who was directly in front of the young Cajun, and to the left of his best friend, Bert. "I hear he can seriously mess people up."
 "We'll be the baddest around." Bert boasted in reply, also in a low voice.
 Cayanne ignored them, watching Logan's movements, seeing the potential lethality, yes - but also seeing the Dance in his movements, a kind of harmony of body and mind that fascinated her.
  I've had my share o' de scraps, but always fer de reason o' gettin' out in one piece. Never knew could be a dance. I not as good with my staff as Papa, he de expert, he an artist wit his, but dis - dis new. Art, dance - danger. All t'gether. I learn dis, in pieces, I t'ink, but I watch. I learn.

 After the class was over, Logan watched the students leave, pushing and shoving one another playfully, and shook his head ruefully. He hadn't expected to find a serious student among them, but most he had decided simply needed basic survival skills...
  "Dat impressive." said a familiar voice.
  It was rare for the mutant known as Wolverine to need to look down, but Cayanne was almost two inches shorter than him. It didn't faze her in the slightest, as she regarded him with a steady gaze.
  "Take long time to learn de basics?" she asked.
  Logan shrugged.
  Cayanne rolled her eyes. "You a card carryin' member o' de stoic club too, ain'cha?" she commented, an impish grin on her face.
  "What'd ya think of class?" His voice was gruff, but showed no sign of exhaustion. Indeed, he didn't even look tired.
  "Class? Dey want learn t' beat up each other. It a tes'trone t'ing. Dey outgrow it." she shrugged.
  "I meant the kata." Logan's gaze flickered briefly with amusement.
  The girl grinned. "Dat impressive. Like wave, move from one stance to other. Like fire, like water - flow." She regarded him curiously. "Dat not how you fight."
  "Nah. Get's a bit more - inventive."
  "So you better dan de form you learn?" Did she sound impressed?
  Logan shrugged.
  Cayanne regarded him thoughtfully.
  "You show me?" she asked.
  A better opening could not have been planned.
  "Chuck wanted me t' teach ya the basics." His expression unreadable. "But it ain't gonna be easy. Two days o' the week, I'll teach ya. And I'll run ya ragged." A vague challenge.
  Cayanne burst out laughing. "Yer on." she replied, silver sparkling on velvet in her eyes.

  Xavier was in his office when Marie knocked on the door. Rather, she lifted one hand to knock, before the telepath's warm mental voice said gently, Come in, Marie.
 
"You wanted to see me?" Despite her best efforts, she knew he felt her joy bubbling over.
  "Hmmm." Leaning back, Xavier indicated a chair, dark eyes studying the younger mutant.
  "Ahm just on my way into town to pick up some supplies..." she began, after a moment's pause.
  "That was why I asked you in." His smile was wry. "As the last field trip ended rather - explosively, I wondered if you might take the younger students into town with you."
  The mutant known as Rogue made a face. "Remy and I..." she began.
  "The children would benefit from a few hour excursion, and I believe Jean will be a chaperone. You need only drive them, then return..."
  Marie grinned suddenly. "Why not? I'll tell Remy, and we can head out in an hour or so." she replied.
  Xavier smiled benignly.

  Cayanne ducked, spun, and danced around the practice blows, muscles aching with the effort. She had gained a few bruises and an increased respect for timing in the last two hours, and was hard-pressed to not simply pass out from exertion.
  Logan had given her a gi, one with a crest she didn't recognize on the left shoulder, and led her through a series of practice exercises intended to gauge her skill.
  Both clad in black, the pair's sparring was marked by tangled shadows and the distant sounds of blows.
  With a sudden, incredibly fast movement, Logan dropped to the floor, whipping his foot around the girl's exposed ankle.
  Cayanne tumbled forward, choosing a roll rather than trying to catch herself, and came up, unable to restrain her gasping.
  With another combination, Logan's blow sent her back to her mat, but she kept coming back up, though the last time she looked quite wobbly on her feet, shivering unconsciously in the cool of the improvised dojo.
 
Showing no sign of exertion himself, Logan lifted a hand, calling an end of the match.
  "Not bad." he conceded.
  "Ya. Got. Through. My. Guard." wheezed the girl. "Coulda. Taken. Me. Anytime. Oui?"
  Straightening, the other mutant decided to be straight with her. "Yeah."
  "Why. Didn't. Ya. Then?"
  "'Cause I didn't need to." Simple fact.
  Sharp, intelligent eyes studied his face. "Din what da point? I lose 'fore I start. In real fight, would be dead. Bloody, a'least."
  So, she was aware of the reality of her situation.
  Logan preferred it that way. It was possible to teach someone whose ego didn't get in the way of fact. If it did, it took a lot of work to force the lesson home. The match had revealed a great deal to his trained, warrior eye, more than even the girl was probably aware.
  Cayanne didn't fight, she danced. Oh, it could be injurious, and the grace and timing trained, but there was a passion there he had never seen in a student. A simple, burning, joy in life and learning that would make teaching her an adventure in of itself.
  "Lissen, Cayanne." His words were calm, even, spaced to get attention and hold it. "Yer good at whatcha do, right?"
  Her gaze was steady, held. "Oui. Most o' de time. I learn, get better." Again, simple fact.
  "I'm the best at what I do, darlin'." His eyes were unreadable. "What's that tell ya?"
  The teen considered, then grinned impishly. "You de best, you teach me, must mean I could be good at dis, oui?"
  Good. No arrogance, no wavering. A perfect student - once he could teach, his way.
  "Good, darlin'. Yer learnin'."

  Althea pleaded, badgered, and even whined, but Scott and Jean remained unmoved. Despite the tantrum that immediately followed, the pair refused to allow her to be included in the group going with Remy and Marie into town.
  "But I need to get some more clothes..." pled the young woman.
  "No you don't." Jean's arms were crossed, green eyes blazing. The girl had a wardrobe twice the size of most adults, yet always wanted more.
  "I haven't been able to leave the building..."
  Marie poked her head in the door. "Jean, we're almost ready." she said, pointedly ignoring Althea.
  "We'll be right there." Scott assured her, shooting his wife an exasperated look.
 
  Remy headed across the lawn and into the forested area he knew Logan had set up his makeshift dojo in. He knew that the other mutant would sense his presence long before he could speak, but he did anyway only feet from the door.
  "Logan? Ya'll finished, mon ami?"
  After a moment, Cayanne's slender form rocketed from the door, wrapping her arms around his waist.
  "Papa!" she yelled, happily, peering up into his eyes.
  Wrapping an arm around his daughter's waist, Remy grinned down at her, watching Logan emerge from the structure in jeans and a shirt.
  "What's up, Gumbo?" asked the Canadian, as Cayanne danced from foot to foot in typical tireless manner.
  "Marie and I go into town wit some o' de kids. You want come?"
  Logan regarded Cayanne, who grinned up at him.
  "The last time wasn't exactly a success, ya know."
  "Dis time I go wit dem. I keep eye out."
  "We stay'n practice, Logan?" Cayanne suggested, head cocked, eyes sparkling with mischief.
  "Nah, look's like we'll be goin' too."
 
  Althea sulked. She and Denise were in their shared room, fuming.
  "I can't belive that we're grounded!" groaned Denise, tossing her hair in annoyance. "If she hadn't caused all that trouble, we'd've been fine."
  "And to be stuck in this room doing homework!" wailed Althea. "Can you belive this? Homework! As if we were children!"
 
"Something should be done about that brat." huffed the other girl. "Everything was fine until she showed up!"

  Cayanne had one target for her visit, and not all the coaxing in the world would dissuade her - an antique bookstore called The Philosopher. Bounding from the van - this one was light grey, she noticed vaguely, in passing - she hopped impatiently from foot to foot next to her father, who grinned down at her.
  Scott regarded the small group sternly. "Everyone meet back here at 7 o'clock, on the dot." he told them, his voice carrying a tone of warning.
 
 As she was not fond of coffee, Cayanne had purchased a book called The Mabagnion, and settled into a comfortable chair for some serious reading. The bookshop doubled as an old-fashioned coffee-house, so while she read she listened in on a series of discussions and arguments that drifted her direction on the dry, musty air.
 For her own part, she stayed quiet, preferring anonymity for the time being.
 It was when the conversation turned to "muties" that her mobile face wrinkled into a scowl.
 Two young men, well-dressed and obviously very self-assured, were arguing vehemently with one another. One took the side that mutants should be sterilized at birth, thus making sure that the next generation would be human, while the other favored identification and strict laws preventing "inbreeding" of mutant and "human".
 She listened for a long time, until her sense of justice had simply been too outraged.
 "'Scuse me. You argue 'bout mutants, oui?" she asked, after making her way to the pair.
 One young man peered up at her, eyes magnified behind strong glasses. "We are. Something needs to be done." he stated.
 "Mmm." Cayanne's voice carried the noncommittal danger that would have sent her cousins running for cover were they in a conversation with her. "Your ideas, den, you stand by dem?"
 "Of course!" the first young man sputtered.
 "Certainly!" said the other.
 "Y'know, dere was man who once took de same road. He make de world take notice o' his problem. Make laws dat define line between people." she shrugged.
 "Really?" The first youth beamed, expression pleased.
 "He woulda seen ya as not good 'nough t' be 'lowed 't breed neither. Yer vision." Cayanne indicated his glasses, then turned to leave, pausing at the door. "One more thing. He write book. Really awful writer, but he write book anyhow. Maybe you should read."
 "What was his name?"
 "Adolf Hitler."
 
 Eyes of fire, cold as ice, glared down without mercy on the trio gathered before them.
 You have failed me once more. As it grew in strength, it cast out verbal speech, and the two soldiers - for by both stance and carried armament it was obvious this was their occupation - began to bleed from the nose.
 "There has been no failure." The man in the wheelchair spoke carefully, as those soulless, pitiless eyes swung around to regard him.
"We know it's location."
  It is not in your custody.
  "No, but...."
  I DO NOT TOLERATE "BUT".
  With a scream of sheer agony, one of the guards began to bleed profusely from the ears.
  "Do not kill him, he is of use..." It was nearly a plea.
 The Other knows as well. How long before he retaliates? Think you for a moment he would hesitate to set the world ablaze to recover what you, in your mindless idiocy, took from him? Time is of the essance! Go! Bring my success to me! Do not presume to show yourselves to me until then!
"We know it lives, it is......."
 GO.

 Cayanne found a place more comfortable to read in - high above the city streets, perched in a coil of stone carved in the form of a gargoyle. She was far more content in such a place than in the atmosphere she'd just left.
 Her roiling emotions were too intense to read by, so she contented herself with thinking.
 Why people hate mutants? she wondered, absently swinging her lower leg almost as a metronome. Most, dey do nothing. Just born, just tryin' grow up. Or sometimes, dey adult in body, but dere soul - well, I not a priest or nothin'. But I know if ya hurt someone long 'nough, dey gonna learn t' wanna do it back t'ya. How long 'til somethin' give? Why people not just leave other people 'lone?
 But even as she thought it, she knew it wasn't that simple. Many times, she and her cousins had come home bloody and battered, forced to fight simply because they were Acadian. Cajun was an acceptable word, but other terms - well, there was a line and they'd drawn it. And they'd fought for it as hard as if it were the Mason-Dixon Line. Even if they lost, they won. She knew that, but nursing and watching them nurse split lips and broken bones made it hard to believe.
 Then she sighed softly. That wasn't really true. She did belive, at least in some things. In her Papa, in her Grandpere, in Marie, Logan, Rafe, Nathan - the ones she believed in. That she believed. Which made sense, but then there was always the philosophy of the moment. Which side, which system, religion, nation, military - it was a list of things, factors, facets, that made people work together, at least on the surface.
  "I belive dans celui I belive dans." she said aloud, staring up at the slowly drifting clouds, defiantly. Let everyone else posture and threaten, she had drawn her line, and by it she would stand.
  It was then she heard the screams.

 Huddled in the corner, blood streaming down his face, the boy cowered away from the man he had loved all his young life, arms coiled over the hideous gash in his head. Pain and terror made it impossible for him to move, much less defend himself, as blows crashed down on his battered body.
 He barely heard the window shatter, or the small form land gracefully a few feet from his tormenter.
 "Get out of here!" The voice, normally so deep and commanding, was shrill in it's demand.
 "So you c'n beat 'im som're?" Cayanne's was furious, as she saw the sobbing boy struggle to his knees, hands outstretched in a desperate, pleading gesture.
 The tall man kicked his hands away, wiping his hands on his finely-tailored jacket as though they were contaminated.
 A flickering nimbus appeared suddenly around the youth, deep purple near his body, burning gold as the air around him flickered and blazed. His eyes, upturned in an expression of dawning despair, suddenly burned brilliant gold. The air became almost unbreathable as the heat rose incredibly fast, the boy crumpling, writhing, screaming soundlessly in agony.
 Cayanne had one horrified moment to realize that the man intended to crash the metal implement - a finely made candlestick - down on the anguished boy's head, and she reacted, flipping him over her shoulder and charging to the suffering youth's side as the older man spat once on the downed youngster, then bolted out the door.
 The air crackled, and the smell of burning material reached Cayanne's sensitive nostrils, and she turned the youngster on his back, holding his head on her lap.
  He screamed in terror, clawing wildly at the air, and she caught his hands, struggling to make herself understood, reeling under the odd sense of vertigo that hit - Surge! - fear/panic/loss/need/ache/BURNING - and suddenly she did understand. In a way she couldn't describe. Not exactly like the feeling/thoughts she shared with her father, but something.
 Hurts.
It was a sob, terror-laden, confusion, panic, deep hurt.
 Somehow she knew an attempt to reason with him, calm him, with words would be useless. So instinctively she resorted to another avenue. Safe. With it Cayanne felt a sense of calm. As strongly as she could. The calm that came when she knew when her father was there.
 He clung to her, eyes wild as the carpet caught, flames flickering into existence. The way to the door was quickly blocked off, and   Cayanne was hard-pressed to keep projecting that sense of calm. She wrapped an arm around him, dragging him toward the window, hissing as an ember stung her wrist.
 Wishing with all her might for her to-be-mother's strength, she jerked hard - and went flying backwards, over the ledge with a yell.
 Her passenger screamed.
 She - stopped. Mid-air. A few inches below the ledge. Standing on the air as though it was a stair.
 Cayanne held on to the boy for dear life, closing her eyes and forcing herself to concentrate. C'n do dis. Did before. Have to go down few inches. Den go in window where I came out. C'mon, c'mon, he need help!

 
Remy almost dropped his drink when he felt Cayanne's desperation. A brief sense/image of burning, her frustration, almost anger -
 Sliding gracefully from the stool, he managed to get out, "Cayanne!", before he charged from the bar.
 With a low growl, Logan tossed a few bills on the table, and followed his friend.

 Cayanne had to resuscitate the young victim three times, and didn't dare leave him for fear that he would simply slip away. His heart-broken sobs were matched by a dazed, frightened gaze, and he was gnawing his knuckles, his expression oddly childlike in it's openness.
  "It hurt now, but it get better." she promised, carefully wrapping her old shirt around the horrible, open gash in his head.
  His eyes, a beautiful shade of gas-flame blue, regarded her tearfully. "Huwts." he managed, around a throat constricted with sobs.
  Wrapping an arm around him, she crooned softly under her breath, then began to softly hum a lullaby.
  "Darlin', what happened?"
  She looked up into Logan's eyes, perched on the level above, flames flickering against the window behind him as he made his way down. Her father was next to him, swinging down from the ledge above the shorter mutant, flamelight flickering in the garnet of his eyes.
  "He hurt." Cayanne replied, aware that the boy had cried himself into a semi-conscious stupor. She gave a gesture at her head, indicating the area of the injury. "Need t' get him down, but he..."
  The older mutant nodded understanding, then lifted the semiconscious youth into a fireman's carry, while her father immediately moved to her side, checking her for injuries.
  "Papa." she whispered, briefly burying her face in his shirt, feeling the reassuring press of his arms around her.
  She knew, somehow, that the boy Logan had settled carefully on his shoulder had lost what she had. It left an ache behind, one that could be filled with - what? Hate? Rage? No.
  The teen-ager looked up into the eyes of her father, saying nothing, but sharing through their bond a fierce devotion and love for him, sense/feeling his strong, deep love in return.
  That would fill the ache. That alone. She would remember always - to love, and know she was loved. It still hurt, but it would heal. In time. And she briefly squeezed his hand, managing a shaky smile.
  Logan glanced back, and caught a glance of the girl and her father starting down after him.
  Remy swung down after him, in case the precious burden he carried slipped.
  Cayanne hurried to follow, fumbling in her pocket for a quarter to call the fire department.

 "You cause nothin' but trouble." snarled Lance, his tall frame leaned against the doorway.
 Hank was fretting over his newest patient, who remained unconscious - though he had sedated the youth to examine the terrible head injury that had nearly ended his life.
 Cayanne sat in a chair nearby, watching attentively, ignoring the boy.
 Marie scowled at the boy. "Ahm shure I didn't hear what Ah thought Ah did." she warned, hands clenched.
 "C'nsider de source." advised the girl, ignoring the other teen-ager entirely. "We got more 'portant t'ings t'worry 'bout, oui?"
 
"You got a point, darlin'." said Logan, coming in behind the blue-furred mutant.
 Remy was close behind him, and encircled the young woman with his arms.
 "He breathe better?" demanded Cayanne, standing up to provide better room.
 Hank smiled fondly at the girl, then regarded the adults with a "help-me-out-here" expression over her head.
 "Slightly. Cayanne, could you bring me another tray of sterilized instruments, if you please? Right side, in the lower laboratory?"
With a sharp nod, the girl slid down, then turned back with a trademark grin. "By de way, how long you want me take on dis little errand?" her voice was threaded with mischief.
 Remy chuckled, squeezing Marie close as the girl slipped out, leaving a bemused Hank McCoy staring after her.
 "What bother you, mon ami?" asked the Cajun, eyes sparkling.
 "The lad's head injuries..."
 "Bad?" Lance demanded, voice irritated.
 "Ya know, I'm sure there's somewhere else ya need to be." commented Logan.
 "But..."
 The Canadian's mutant's eyes hardened. "Now."
 One look at the danger there sent the boy almost running from the room.
 "He should be dead." said Hank, as he checked the monitors, tucking the blanket a bit closer to the still form. "I'm saying this with more than a little surprise, my friends." He looked up, eyes worried. "The amount of brain damage is massive, and as you know the brain does not regenerate..."
 "My God...he's - brain-dead?" Marie's voice was filled with horror. She leaned against Remy, unconsciously seeking and receiving support.
 "He should be. But the brain has, for lack of a better term, rebuilt itself."
 Everyone stared at him.
 "However, the tissue is new. Electrical activity in the rebuilt areas has just begun, which leads me to belive..." His large hand went to rest behind his head, expression almost awed. "Well, he should have lost all brain function - that is likely why he was breathing intermittently - the brain stem was damaged. All the higher brain functions were - disrupted. But they have simply restarted." He shook his head, eyes filling with tears. "This child has, if I am correct, lost all his memory. Of everything. His fragmented speech before sedation tells me that his only memories are of Cayanne and the fire. More precisely, Cayanne pulling him out of the fire."
  Unconsciously, everyone glanced at Logan, who remained in the shadows, expression characteristically unreadable. He, too, had suffered from gaps in his memory, lost his past.
  "He lose - everything?" Remy's voice was soft with shock.
  "In essence, he is a small child in a teen-ager's body. When he regains consciousness, I am afraid that he is going to face a world terribly confusing and frightening to him."
  "His mutation..." began Marie.
  "Yes. Apparently, he manipulates a form of plasmic energy, much as our friend Scott does. The power is, of course, intermittent, and badly undeveloped, but there is another, serious issue..."
  There was a worried, attentive silence.
  "The damage is extensive, yes, but he will recover. Physically." Hank rubbed the back of his neck. "I believe that, in some way, Cayanne assisted in his recovery. In whatever manner, this boy's body was repaired. I do not know if Cayanne knows, but from her behavior, I doubt she is aware of the fact that our young guest is, in fact, reconstructed." He stared at his friends, speaking quietly. "Almost all the underlying flesh was narcotized. Burned so severely that it was ravaged beyond repair, almost - forgive me - but liquefied. Then - reconstructed. Precisely. As though the DNA in is system was rebuilt, patterns in his brain somehow restored - it was not simply healing, but - at the risk of sounding extreme, resurrected."
  "Mon Dieu." whispered Remy, awed.
  "Part of her mutation. But I have a strange feeling that we are only beginning to understand what abilities that young woman possesses, hidden in her own mind."
  "Then we better help 'er find them." Logan's voice was steady, and he met Remy's instantly protective gaze without yielding. "I ain't suggesting we throw her in the Danger Room and see what happens, Gumbo, but we better be there for her."
  "We?" Marie broke the tension with her teasing tone.
  Logan lifted an eyebrow, then snorted. "Yeah." His next words, gruff to the point of being a growl, didn't fool his friends for a moment. "Looks like I'm in on this too."
 
  In the lab, Cayanne stared into the mirror, memory stirring like a rising viper, ready to strike, as she slammed her fist into the glass, shattering the image that floated there, superimposed over her own.
  "Non." she whispered. Her expression was one of complete, abject horror.
  The voice in her mind was gentle, kind - and in pain. Terrible pain.
  I have not forgotten your sacrifice. I need only a little more time.
 
"Qu'arrive moi?!?" she whispered, stumbling back, sliding down into the corner.
  It is time to begin. The aching need in that voice was matched only by it's dignity. I owe you a debt I may never repay.  Remember me, remember...?
  The...la dame dans le blanc
? The girl pressed her knuckled against her eyes. She was - she was what? The memory wouldn't come. Cayanne slammed her fist against the wall, frustrated and confused. Why can't I 'member dis?
  Do not concern yourself, little one.
  Don' you start
! the warning was almost reflexive.
  You do not remember. But you know. Do you not?
  Cayanne's hands trembled. Once. Then her eyes lifted.
  T'night. It would begin then.
  The voice faded.
  But the knowing of what she had to do remained.
  She put her head on her knees.
  Not sleeping,
  Waiting.
  Two people would be the beginning.
  Tonight.

Next Chapter

 

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