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Yin and Yang
Friend and Foe
Chapter information

Heiress of the Nile




Lost and Found



Written by

Lady Lostris

Release date

May 13, 2013

Word count


Last chapter

Royal Pain

Next chapter


Friend and Foe is the eighth chapter of Heiress of the Nile.

Previously on Heiress of the Nile Edit

Sami followed Seraphine as she was leaving the camp, and in the darkness of the night, the warrior almost killed the kind girl, though diverted her attack at the last second for reasons she could not fathom. Enraged by her ensuing confusion, she lashed out toward the girl and was enticed to enter a bet with her: If she won the fight with the good-hearted healer, she could go; if not, she had to accept the help Sami offered her. Her arrogance being her downfall, Seraphine was easily taken down by Sami's surprising ability to chi block. Another heated conversation between the two girls the following day led to Seraphine agreeing to train Sami to hone her unique skill so she could defend herself.

Friend and Foe Edit

Sami began to regret asking Seraphine to be her tutor, especially when they were forced to train in the morning; she knew that the firebender hardly slept, but that still did not make her a morning person. Even though she was dead tired, dark patches starting to show through her sun-kissed skin underneath her eyes, Seraphine was still a tough teacher, and Sami had found out the hard way that she had not just been arrogant when she had stated that hairdressing was the least of her skills.

"Come on, Doc, get up," Seraphine snapped at Sami, who laid on her back in the sand, staring up at the light-blue sky of the morning, gently probing her nose to assess the damage. For the umpteenth time in the short half hour that they had been at it, she had once again failed to block Seraphine's leg sweeping down on her, and was knocked her on her behind. She knew what she had to do to halt the assault, Seraphine had explained it into detail of how a novice like her could do that, but she felt like the execution was so crude. She knew she was supposed to raise her hand above her head, cushion the force of the incoming leg with them, and then headbutt the back of her hands to counter the force. It was effective, but it made her feel very foolish.

"You know, I am starting to get the feeling that you just agreed to train me so that you could kick me around." She painfully scampered to her feet.

"I resent such implication." A smug smile crept on Seraphine's face. "Though I will not deny it's a nice perk. Regardless, you should've been able to block that by now. How often have we been over the fact that when I throw a fast left-right combination at you, you've got to be on the lookout for –"

"I know, I know, 'beware the backspin kick'. It's just that . . . blocking it is so . . ."


Sami guiltily rubbed her upper right arm, uncomfortable under Seraphine's hard gaze. "Well . . . yeah."

Seraphine coolly stared at the Water Tribe girl. "Fine. Let's do that one more time. I want to show you something."

Slightly worried, Sami took her position, flexing her knees and raising her hands in front of her chest in a basic defensive pose that allowed her maximum maneuver room to dodge in any direction. At least, that was what Seraphine had told her as she was yet to experience the truth behind that statement herself. So far, the pose had proven ineffective in dodging any of the attacks her teacher had aimed at her, though there was a persistent voice in Sami that kept telling her that the pose itself might not be to blame for that.

Seraphine, on the other hand, took on such a relaxed stance that it appeared as if she was waiting in line for the ferry to cross the Great River. However, nothing was further from the truth. Sami's medical expertise allowed her to notice how tightly controlled every one of Seraphine's muscles was, even though her body clearly showed signs of exhaustion by sleep deprivation.

A short nod, alerting the novice to be ready, and the warrior sprung forward to throw a quick left jab followed by the blur of a right fist. Sami crossed her arms in front of her, protecting her weak sides from the diversion attacks, though before she could block the spinning leg sweeping down on her, she found herself eating dust once more. Unlike before, however, the sand around her was suddenly blown up by a cindering hot fire blast, the heat washing over her face, making her crawl back as fast as possible.

"Be elegant, be dead. Your choice, it is a simple as that." Seraphine coldly snapped at her while lowering her hand. "Now get up and let's do this again, or stop wasting my time."

Sami looked down, feeling ashamed of her words. "I'm sorry . . ."

Even though she had heard what she wanted, Seraphine could not bring herself to stop going after the girl. "Fighting is not a game. It is not an elegance contest. You either make the hit and live, or be graceful and die! Is that really a tradeoff you want to make?"

"Sera, I said I was sorry, what more do you want?" Sami got up, her previous shame slowly changing to annoyance. She knew that Seraphine had a point, but she did not feel like it justified such an outburst of the firebender.

"What I want is for you to actually make an effort to protect yourself, cause when the time comes for you to fight, and trust me, it will, your opponent will not miss on purpose!" Seraphine widely gestured at the scorch mark on the ground next to Sami's feet. "You'd be lucky if there would still be a trace of you left after such a lamely-executed defense. But then again, you wouldn't care, would you? No, you wouldn't feel anything, cause you'd be dead, oblivious to the pain you leave behi–" Seraphine's eyes shot wide open, realizing where she was going with her sentence. What the . . . oh no, not you. She's not my friend . . . and you're dead! She looked at Sami as if she saw the girl for the first time and backed off, turning away from the worried gaze she detested so much. Her mind flickered away from the sea of sand that she saw before her to a long passed though apparently not forgotten battlefield under a crimson sky, the smell of blood and sounds of dying assailing her senses.

"Damn it, no . . . I don't want to remember this!" Seraphine hissed, squeezing her eyes shut.

"Sera! SERA!" Someone screamed out her name, the voice strained under the effort of dragging a wounded body in her direction. The events of her past continued without her. "Run, Sera, save yourself!"

"Stop it . . ." Seraphine lowered her head, violently shaking it.


She remembered this; it had been during her first campaign. Her father had taken her along on a routine job: raid a village, take some slaves, get paid. However, the entire thing had gone horribly wrong as there had been a snitch among Apepi's troops and the Shrikes had been ambushed. A lot of people had lost their lives that day; a lot of people she had cared about . . . the last people she had cared about. Oh yes, she remembered that campaign; it had changed her life forever. She had been twelve years old.

"Oh no, so not happening! Got to snap out of this."

For five days, Seraphine had barely slept two hours a night. Even though her body was in dire need of some good rest, her soldier's training enabled her to weather the physical discomfort. Mentally, however, she was completely exhausted, and it was wearing down on the tight barriers she held around her heart.

"Get out of here!" The voice was pained, sad, though smooth as honey. Though she had tried, she had not forgotten the sound of Siam's voice, not even after nearly five years.

"Stop it!" Seraphine barked at the voices filling her mind, balling her fists and opening her eyes, staring up to the shadowy figure of her dying best friend who collapsed against her. Instinctively, Seraphine held up her hands to catch her, though Siam fell right through her as the figure of her exhausted imagination that she was.

Siam was gone. As before, she had left without a goodbye, and Seraphine had to face the pain of being a survivor by herself.

Gasping for air, Seraphine stared at her hands, remembering how they had been coated in the blood of her best friend who had died in her arms that day. She felt the still warm fluid running over her fingers, down her palm, seemingly soaking into her skin, and encasing her heart.

"Never again. I promised myself, never again!" With a crack of heating air, as if to burn the sticky substance off, she lit up, her hands exploding in glowing blue flames. Increasing the heat with each breath, wave after wave of pain shot through her left arm; it started from the wound coated with Sami's ointment on her shoulder, spreading to her fingertips, and bouncing right back up and ride all the way down her spine. Now in physical and mental agony, Seraphine cried out. "Enough!"

As by command, her fire died down, the pain washed out of her body, and her mind cleared up, every trace of her past locked back up in the darkest corners of her mind. She looked around in wonder; everything was normal once more. What . . . the fuck . . . was THAT?!

"Sweet Hapi, Sera, are you okay?" Sami came rushing down to Seraphine's side, taking in the bewildered looking warrior.

Ah fuck . . . What did she hear? What did I say? I don't even know what was real and what was not. "I'm fine." Seraphine briskly stated, yanking her arm away from Sami who had tenderly grabbed hold of it to support the younger girl. Do you really expect her to believe that when you don't even do so yourself? You're going wolfbat-crazy and you know it.

Sami positioned herself before Seraphine, blocking her path. She placed her hand under the firebender's chin, gently forcing her to meet her gaze. "Yah, you might want to pass that memo on to your face, cause it seems pretty un-fine to me. Look at you: you're exhausted! Do you even sleep at all? You know, without sleep, hallucinations will begin by day four, followed by slurred speech, short attention span, and eventually death, so don't lie to me. Don't tell me that you're fine."

Hating the compassion and concern radiating from Sami, Seraphine wriggled herself free. So that was a hallucination? Greeeaaat, I AM going crazy. "Hello, drama much? I just slept badly, no need to get all worked up about it."

"Sera, please! Who are you trying to fool here? Me, or yourself? We both know that you haven't slept well –if at all– for days. Something is clearly bothering you."

Seraphine stared at the worried doctor and sighed in apparent compliance. "Fine . . . You may be right . . . something has been bothering me." Her voice was soft, and Sami immediately fell silent to listen attentively. She looked at the girl who tried her best to avoid her eyes. "For a while now, I keep hearing this incisive voice; no matter what I do, or what I say, I cannot get it to shut up and leave me alone."

Sami nodded encouragingly, her mind racing over every possible medical explanation she could think of. Hearing voices? That's bad . . . It could be a desert fever . . . No, her skin temperature felt normal when I changed her bandage this morning . . . Her eyes are also still focused and clear, and she didn't mention having headaches once, so I doubt she suffered a head trauma before I found her . . . Though if she's suffering from auditory and visual hallucinations at the same time, her sleep deprivation might be worse than I thought. Noticing that Seraphine had fallen silent and was still not looking at her, Sami slightly bent through her knees to position herself in the smaller girl's line of sight. "What is the voice telling you?"

Seraphine remained silent for a few seconds more, taking in the sight of the ever sweet and compassionate girl that was so eager to help her. She gripped her gently. "You really want to know?"

The doctor nodded softly, eager to find out what had been bothering the firebender, though careful enough as to not force her, to let her tell her story on her own tempo.

Seraphine leaned closer, whispering in Sami's ear. "Last chance to say no."

Sami nodded. She wanted to know more, though felt herself unable to speak, enchanted by the closeness of the firebender, breathing in the spicy, citrus scent of her hair.

"The voice keeps . . ." The pause for dramatic effect was testing Sami's nerves.

"Go on, you can tell me, perhaps I can help. What does the voice say? What does it do?"

"The voice . . ." Seraphine moved back, letting go of her doctor, her tone having its usual arrogant undertone again, "keeps asking me all these questions about everything. It constantly asks me how I am doing, if I am okay, if there is anything it can do for me. It goes on and on and on about talking to it, letting it in, and yada yada yada." As Seraphine talked, making yapping motions with her hands, comprehension came to Sami and she crossed her arms and stared at the younger girl with growing irritation. "Whenever I answer, the voice seems to completely disregard whatever I say as if it always knows better, and no matter what I do, it keeps asking questions anyway. It's tiresome, really." She smugly looked at the annoyed Water Tribe girl. "So . . . Doc, do you think you can help get rid of that voice?"

Sami's irritation got sparked even more by Seraphine's pompous smirk. She is so . . . so . . . FRUSTRATING! She threw her hands in the air. "Ragh, why must you always toy with me, Sera?"

The younger girl raised her shoulders and shrugged off the question. "Why must you always take everything so seriously? I told you, I'm fine, as in 'stop doting on me', 'kay, Pumpkin?"

Sami squinted her eyes in annoyance at Seraphine's latest nickname for her, though as fast as her irritation had come on, it disappeared again. Truth was, she liked to be around the brisk firebender; she liked the conversations they had together –even when she was the object of Seraphine's mocking jokes. She sighed and rolled her eyes. Asami . . . you are utterly and completely . . . pathetic! She mentally told herself to shut up. "Cute. However, it will not work, Sera. I'm just worried about you." Seraphine turned away from her, dismissively waving away her statements, though the tall girl did not let herself be stopped. "As a doctor, I can clearly see that there is something bothering you and it is tampering with your health; I'd just like to help you. You're my fri–"

"No!" Before Sami realized fully well what was going on, Seraphine had turned around and lit up, the heat washing over the Water Tribe girl so intense that it threatened to burn her respiratory tract. A sudden burst of anger slammed through her, her arrogant smirk had switched to a cold, almost feral growl. "Don't you dare finish that sentence! We are not; not now, not ever! I don't do . . . that!" Seraphine rapidly spat out the words as if they were a vile tasting poison.

She watched Sami back off, those clear blue eyes flashing with confusion, pain . . . and fear. Sighing in understanding, camouflaging a pained grunt of the strain her outburst had put on her still hurtful shoulder, she snuffed her flames. Seraphine emitted a feral hiss of annoyance, bordering a snarl, before spinning around and marching away with large strides, just barely not breaking into a run in her haste to get away from the other woman.

"So . . . you're not the friends-type, are you?" Sami's voice was smoky, a hoarse witness of the strain Seraphine's flames had put on her vocal chords. However, it drifted clear across the distance between the girls, making the firebender stop dead in her tracks, though she did not turn around.

Seraphine stared incredulously with unseeing eyes to the rocky hills she had been heading for. A part of her wondered what the hold-up was, why she had stopped. She did not want to deal with the hallucination that the girl had obviously triggered from her before, let alone that she wanted to deal with having to talk about it, or talk about why she nearly burned her for mentioning something natural as friend. Natural . . . that's what they say. No, she definitely did not want to do that.

Her anger bubbled to the surface again, however, something was standing in its way. Was that . . . was that admiration? Unable to suppress the thought, Seraphine had to hand it to the girl, she did not give up easily; she was nearly burned, had been kicked around, and had feared for her life, Seraphine had seen that, and yet, she did not back down, determined to break through her walls.

"You always get all uptight the moment someone even just alludes to the notion." Sami's soft voice came from right behind her and startled the firebender.

"Maybe I just don't want to be your friend, ever considered that?" Still without looking at her, Seraphine took a few steps, putting some space between them once again, fearing the closeness. Did I just really say that? Urch, I'm going SO soft, it's PATHETIC! At war with herself, she did not know how to deal with the situation. Resorting to the "friendly girl"-act that she had put up for five days by now and apologize would be a logical choice, though Seraphine's stomach already turned in revulsion at the thought alone.

"Yes, I did, but that's not it." Sami's matter-of-factly tone irked the mentally exhausted girl more than she could handle at that moment, and she turned around, her annoyance dripping off every syllable that passed her lips.

"Who do you think you are?!" This is SO not happening. It was –IS– all an act, a fucking act! Don't be such a baby, Seraphine! You don't care about her. You're not friends. Besides, like she would ever want to be friends with who you really are. You're a murderer and a thief, remember? The irrational anger of her inner conflict made her stomach tense, repulsed by how weak she was becoming around the girl. "You don't know me as well as you think you do, so do us both a favor and stop pretending!" She's just your ticket to medical treatment, the means to a goal. She wanted to believe that more than anything, but at the same time, she could not ignore that gnawing feeling in her heart. Then WHY can't I move away from her? . . . Gah, and WHY is it that I need to explain all this to MYSELF?! Shouldn't I know what I mean, know what I want?

Sami tightened her fists and briefly slanted her eyes as the barb hit home. She breathed in and out, shaking it off. She did not know why, and she doubted that she would ever know, but she felt like there was a thread connecting her with Seraphine, a bond that she simply could not –would not– let go of. "Sera, I'm not blind. I can see that you care, but for some reason, you don't want to admit that. Why are you so set against the idea of us being friends?"

Seraphine tensed at the word, a dry snort escaping her. "Friends . . . with me?" Laughing humorlessly, she took one step toward Sami, and her voice was bitter. "Foolish girl, you don't know what you're talking about."

"Then try me! Make me understand." Sami retorted, reaching out to the tormented girl, ignoring the insult. Seraphine jumped as though the Water Tribe girl's touch had burned her. She looked up into those blue eyes and shivered. "Please?"

The Shrike Commandant kept staring at the other girl who reminded her so much of those whom she had lost and she felt something break inside her, something that she had resisted letting go of for so many years: her guilt-ridden anger. She roughly swatted away Sami's arm, and a waterfall of snapping words chased each other out.

"You want to know, Doc? Do you? You want to know why I don't let people in anymore? Why I loathe the notion of friends? Why I hate even the bare idea of it?"

Sami stepped back, the venom in Seraphine's voice slicing into her and making her heart bleed. "Sera . . . I –"

"Do you have any idea how it feels to have the blood of your best friend soaking your clothes, coating your hands? To have its coppery taste on your lips? All the friends I ever had, they all died. And here you are, being all kind to me, helping me, being my fucking friend!" Seraphine's amber eyes were burning as she got closer to Sami who backed off in fright of the threat that emanated from the younger girl's words. "You have no idea what you're asking of me. I've tried being the friend and it never worked. I screwed up and they paid the price! I lost everything just . . . like . . . that." She snapped her fingers and grimaced.

"You didn't . . ." Disbelieve tainted Sami's voice and flickered in her eyes. "You can't blame yourself for what ha–"

Seraphine caught hold of Sami's hand and yanked the girl close. Without warning, she pushed the doctor's hand under her top on her back. The firebender locked eyes with Sami's sapphires, which widened ever so slightly when her fingers traced the outline of a single, thin scar, a few centimeters long, right where Seraphine's heart was.

"Feel that?" Her voice was cold and hard, and Sami could only reply by nodding slightly as she retracted her hand. "That was the tip of a blade, four centimeters in. It would've run me through if it wasn't for Siam jumping in its path and shielding me with her body." Her eyes became unfocused as Siam's image came to mind. "She was like my big sister. The blade pierced her cleanly, the sword driven in so deep that the hilt slammed against her stomach. I was saved because the weapon simply couldn't go any further. She died because of me. It was my fault. I wasn't paying attention, and she died because of that." A bitter pain radiated from Seraphine's every fiber, though a hard, colder shield draped itself over her eyes while she threw Sami's hand away from her. "So don't tell me that I can't blame myself, as that is the only thing that I can still do for her!"

Sami swallowed in sorrow, the first bits of truly understanding Seraphine becoming herself. "I'm sorry . . ."

The words were snorted away with a dismissive whatever, as the wounded girl walled her heart once more, swiftly repairing the breach in her defenses that Sami had caused. In no time, her body language had lost every trace of the apparent pain she carried deep inside herself and she veiled herself in arrogance once more. The girl looked back into Sami's eyes as if trying to figure out whether or not she should feel ashamed, embarrassed, or angry.

Poor Sera . . . that explains so much, the anger, the paranoia, the distance. She has seen more than anyone should ever see. Sami held the stare while Seraphine's eyes flitted back and forth, a dreadful feeling becoming her. If I do the wrong thing right now, say the wrong words –or even the right words with the wrong tone– she'll have my head . . . literally. The rageful glint appearing in those amber eyes unnerved her; she had pushed it too far, Seraphine obviously regretted every word that had passed her lips. Oooh, this is bad, this is really, really bad! Like the prey of an armadillo lioness, Sami froze, not daring to move, fearing the reaction it would trigger from the predator who was clearly still mulling over what to do with its victim.

A tensing muscle, a slight shift in temperature, and the flicker of an eerie blue light was all the warning the tall girl got and then it was all over. With a deafening sound, the sand around her exploded and the heated particles singed her skin, burning a multitude of minuscule holes in her clothes. She ducked down in a protective ball and screamed, though her voice was drowned out by raging wind rushing her by. The dust blotted out the sun, the sounds lulled her senses, she lost track of reality. This was it, she could feel it, she knew it. And then utter silence.


Seraphine ran on, as fast as she could. She did not know where she was going. All she knew, all she wanted, was to get away from where she had been. The beating of her heart merged with the thumping of her feet on the stony underground, each step more inevitable than the last, each stride leading her further away from Sami and deeper into her own confusion and doubt. The tiredness raged through her body, though she could not stop, as the exhaustion was the only thing that seemed to block out her thoughts. All she could hear was her own harsh panting and the drum of her heartbeat.

Turning between two rocks, the loose pebbles and sand covering the hard underground made her lose her balance, and the speeding girl graced the rock with her right arm, tearing open the skin. Distracted, she did not see the elevated stone doom up in front of her and tripped over it. Sliding along the rugged surface, she came to a halt on her back, the thrown-up dust immediately soaked up by the beads of sweat pearling on her face and coated in a harsh, muddy substance.

Seraphine did not know how long she lay there, could have been seconds, or perhaps even minutes. She just stared up at the sky above her with unseeing eyes, feeling her lungs burn for air and her muscles relax, grateful for the much needed break. As if in slow-motion, she raised her right arm to look at the wound; although a superficial scratch, it bled copiously, and the tiny, crimson droplets that peeked their heads started to merged with the sweat and dirt on her skin, stinging it disproportionally. Wanting to clean it out and in dire need of a sip of water, Seraphine pushed herself upright and climbed a nearby rock to survey the area; boulders and rocks were scattered all over the place as if two badgermoles had clashed in a fierce battle for territory. The land was barren and dry, though it still harbored what she was looking for: a single, lush bush stood defiantly among the rocks a bit further ahead, its youthful, green leaves contrasting vividly with the ochre-brown of its lifeless surroundings.

She slid down from her elevated position and swiftly made her way over to the only visible living thing in her vicinity. Squatting down next to the plant, she raked her fingers through the soil, picking up a handful of dirt. She kneaded it briefly before sniffing it. Satisfied, she let the sand slip through her fingers, watching how the wind playfully picked it up and painted fleeting works of art with it in the air. She stood up again, and with the eye of an eagle vulture, she attentively examined the surrounding rocks, smiling contently as she picked up on a miniscule crack in a stone's surface. The Shrike Commandant made her way over to the boulder she had singled out, and ran her index and middle finger over it, approvingly rubbing them against her thumb to feel the moist. Confident that she now had the right spot, she placed her right hand on the crack, her fingers spread apart, and lit up, her blue flames flickering with power, quickly heating the rock. When the temperature became even too hot for the firebender to bear, she retracted her hand and appraised her work; the boulder was heaving under the fiery assault, the stricken spot pulsing red-hot.

Flexing through her knees, Seraphine positioned herself sideways in front of the rock. She aimed her right palm at the heated spot, her thumb and index finger the only digits stretched, feeling the steam emanating from the rock caress her skin. She balled her left hand, only her index and middle finger held out, and moved it in a circular motion. She breathed in deeply, completely focusing on the heat, sensing it within the rock, feeling how it was already cooling around the rim of the mark she had left. Slowly reeling in the warmth, letting it fill her entire being, her left hand trailed up her right arm, over her chest, and pointed away from her, the heat tracing her every motion. As she looked toward the steam she was diverting, the satisfying sounds of the rock starting to crack under the strain of being cooled so rapidly reached her, though they did not bring joy to her mind, but rather a pained memory.

Seraphine's laughter resonated through the air, riding on the last stream of heat up into the sky. "It's working, Siam, it's working!" The excited eight-year-old jumped up and down, clapping her hands.

As a loud crack signaled the last resistance of the rock crumbling down, Siam lowered her arms and turned around, running her hand over the splintered rock. "Ah, but we're not there yet, smallish one, we still need to break through." She looked at the beaming face of the young girl. "Hey, you think a powerful girl like you could help me with this? I don't think I'm strong enough to crumble a rock all by myself. After all, I am not an earthbender."

"Neither am I, silly!"

"Ah yes, that is right. But," the twenty-two-year old raised a finger and lovingly poked the young girl in her belly, "you do have a family of earthbenders, don't you?"

Giggling and squirming, Seraphine evaded Siam's probing finger. "Yes! Daddy is the strongest earthbender in the whole world!"

Siam snickered, picked up a rock the size of her hand, and handed it to Seraphine. "That's right. So, what do you say? Think you can shatter that boulder there for me?"

The young girl looked at the offered stone, her eyes shifting between her target and the weapon. She sniffled, rubbing her nose, and decisively nodded while taking the stone. Heavy as it was, Seraphine nearly dropped it, though as Siam moved to help her, the little firebender stubbornly waved her hand away. "I can do this, I am strong!"

"You sure are; you're the strongest girl that I know." Siam said encouragingly, an amused smile on her face as the girl staggered over to the cracked boulder, swaying under the weight of the rock she carried. "Go for it, Sera!"

Huffing with effort, Seraphine raised the object over her head, and with gravity as her ally, she let the stone fall forward, not being able to hold it up any longer. The two rocks collided heavily with one another, but with the boulder brittled due to Siam's heatbending, it shattered like glass under the physical assault. Bits and pieces of stone were washed away as fresh water sprouted out of the hidden spring they had uncovered.

"Sera, you did it. Awesome!" Siam enthusiastically high-fived the little girl, picked her up and twirled her around in the air, both laughing in unison. "You have the strength of an earthbender!"

"And I can shatter rocks just like 'm, too!"

"You sure can." Siam put her down, and lovingly ran a hand through Seraphine's shoulder-length locks as she squatted down to look into those innocent, amber eyes. "Remember that, Sera, you're special, one of a kind, and there is nothing you can't do. You're better than all of us; you've got the making of greatness in you." She tugged a loose strand of raven-black hair behind Seraphine's ears. "You don't have to follow anyone; chart your own course and stick to it, not matter the squalls. And when the time comes, you'll show the world what you're made of. And I -I just hope that I'll be there, catching some of the light coming off you that day."

The little firebender beamed at her hero and hugged Siam tightly. "I love you, big sis."

"I love you, too, smallish one." Siam returned the embrace just as tightly.

With a mighty heave, Seraphine shattered the porous boulder and the memory, swiftly washing away the remains under the cold, freshly delved up water. Though having cleaned herself up and quenched her thirst, she could not get rid of her past, no matter how hard she tried, and she sagged down next to the water. She tiredly rested her head against the rock, covering her head with her shawl, and closed herself off from the world to be left alone with her thoughts; she was done running.

Siam . . . what are you doing? You died and left me alone. I was left all by myself, cause you had to go play the fucking hero and die! . . . So is it any wonder then that I didn't turn out to be the person you saw in me? Is that what this is about? Are you hurt? Disappointed? I know now that you always tried to protect me from the life my father was leading me down. I know you talked to him before that campaign, that mission that changed everything and sealed your fate . . . and mine. You did not want me to come along, did not want me to be around death. You never wanted me to take a life, never wanted me to become a murderer . . . become what you were. You HATED what you were, and you saw a second chance in me. Well, you know what? Cry me a river, things change! If you wouldn't have been so . . . so . . . YOU, then none of this would've happened! This is all YOUR fault, so what gives you the right to haunt me now? And why now? For nearly five years, you were nothing more than a memory, the last person I loved, and now . . . what are you anyway? A hallucination? A ghost? A bad dream?

With a grunt of annoyance, Seraphine buried her covered head in her arms that rested on her pulled up knees.

You know, I was doing just fine by my own. I only have myself to look out for, and others . . . they are just others. They do not concern me, thus my entire world would not be ripped from underneath me and torn to pieces right in front of my eyes if they would die. What is so bad about that? Yes, I protected my heart after you died, cause it is so much easier not to let people in than to cope with the emptiness that they leave behind . . . that YOU left behind! So who are you to judge and torment me now about that? YOU put me on this path!

Seraphine's thoughts brought her back to the events of not even an hour before, though it felt like an eternity for the firebender. She huddled up even more into a ball than she already was, now covering her head with her right arm as well.

And then there's Sami . . . Of all the people to trigger your memory from me, I'm actually not surprised that it was her. She reminds me so much of you – though she pulls off the short hair look better than you. You two have a very similar laugh. It is so easy to talk to her, to joke with her, to be around her. She has that same genuine kindness over her that you had; you would've liked her. It has been so long since someone looked at me and didn't cower away in fear. She actually sees me and smiles; do you know how weird that is? No one has ever done that, not since . . . since you . . . Arch, what is it about you two that makes me want to be . . . well, more? Both of you look at me and seem to see a totally different person, a person that I'm just not, okay?

The more she mulled over the past events, present and not-so-present events, the more she felt her anger of before bubble to the surface again. She clenched her teeth together, desperately trying to control the sudden wave of rageful adrenaline that surged through her body.

Both of you make me feel so . . . WEAK! Like the first SOFT little girl that comes around! You may not have wanted it, Siam, but I grew up to be a murderer. I am a thief and a killer, and a bloody good one at that, too! I don't need anyone, especially not FRIENDS! I am not that soft, weak, pathetic little girl I was before; I am NOT, and I'll prove that to you, to her, to the world!

As if truly arguing with her long passed best friend, she heard Siam's voice pop up in her head. If you truly are the heartless and cold-blooded killer that you claim to be . . . then why did you deliberately blow up the sand next to Sami as opposed to just ending her life right then and there?

Because . . . because . . .

Because you don't want another someone you care about to die as well?

The realization that she had come to see Sami as a friend struck her like a lightning bolt. "Ah . . . fuck!"

"You can say that again."

The strange voice made Seraphine inwardly jump out of her skin, though her external surprise was limited to the rising of her head and the lowering of her shawl to unveil just her eyes, enabling her to take in the man that had spoken to her.


The airborne sand marched down toward Sami's huddled form and draped itself around her, encasing her in an earthen tomb. It had been a while since its howling had died away and even though she knew that she was not dead, Sami had not moved. Having screamed in fright before, she had inhaled a rush of talcum fine sand, making her realize that she was still alive –or otherwise, the Spirit World paradise was just vastly overrated. She lay curled up in a ball, and each hot breath she drew had to be strained through her scarf and taken in only a sip at a time to prevent the intake of more sand. Her cloth had become damp from her breath and the air was filtered through the heavy coating of muddy earth, making it fetid and stale. Realizing that she could not stay there for much longer, she stretched out her limbs. Like a hatching gilacorn, Sami broke open her sandy egg and slithered out of her shell. She drew away her face covering and let the fresh air revitalize her body; the light was strong and the air was sweet in her dry mouth.

Her raven-black hair had turned white with sand, though it quickly regained its natural coloring as Sami stood up and shook it all off. She looked around; as expected, the place was desolate, no Seraphine in sight, a single pair of hasty footsteps running toward the rocky hills being the only witness that there ever had been a second person there. Staring at the fleeting marks, watching how the desert wind already started to smoothen them out, her thoughts wandered to Seraphine's attack, and more precisely, to the pain and confusion that the firebender was hiding behind her shield of anger and arrogance.

Sami's eyes widened in surprise as she noticed the black scorch marks on the ground. She circled around them in order to witness the situation from Seraphine's point of view. In half a circle, the sand had been burned to a crisp, surrounding the spot where she had been standing. Gasping in realization, she turned around and once more looked in the direction the firebender had vanished to. You missed on purpose! You never wanted to hurt me, you just wanted to get away! In a reflex, she reached out toward the hills, intending to follow Seraphine, though she stopped herself. You need to figure this out on your own, don't you? I'm here for you when you need me, when you come back. I know you'll be back. You said in our wager that you wouldn't leave without my okay, and I know that I can believe you, that I can trust you. A smile crept onto her face. "Don't wait too long, okay?"

With that, she dusted the last of the sand off her clothing and made her way back to the camp, not knowing that she was walking toward a piece of Seraphine's life that would shake her world.


Slowly getting up, sliding her back against the rock she had been resting against, Seraphine never took her eyes of the battered face of the elder man. He was a bulky, menacing figure, swathed in the woolen robe of the desert traveler, which barely covered his prominent biceps. His head was bared, revealing his brown hair that gleamed red like the setting sun in the light and his grotesque facial features that would haunt little children in their sleep. His left eye was an opaque jelly from the blind-worm that burrows deep into the eyeball of its victims, and underneath it, a scar, pale white against the tanned skin, slithered down till the nape of his neck.

"May your water skins stay filled and cool breezes fan your brow when you cross these barren lands, my fair lady." His nose was like the beak of a raven vulture and his voice croaked like one.

"May your days be scented with mire, gentle traveler, and may a loving wife welcome you home when your journey is done." Seraphine inclined her head, responding in the same traditional fashion.

The man's left eye glared horribly as it went over her masked facial features and her curves shining through her tight and revealing clothing. The filthy brown of his right eye sparkled greedily as it took in the sight of her golden upper armband, and he moaned softly in delight as his gaze traveled down her cleavage, following the golden necklace that suspended the superbly-detailed charm of intertwined flames, fashioned in gold and precious lapis lazuli. With an obvious effort, he tore his eyes away from the treasure resting between her breasts and looked at her face. "What is a well-formed lady like yourself doing out in the desert all alone? Is she not aware about all the dangers roaming around here?" A gap stood where his left fang would have been, the hole marring his smile.

"Dangers? What kind of dangers? Where?" Seraphine ostentatiously looked around. "I don't see anything even remotely threatening around here." Her mockingly innocent tone and defiant stare made the man's smile melt away. She was a predator looking for a bark to sharp her claws on, to prove to the world that she still had it, that she had not gone soft, and there was no better wood to be found than a desert robber. The girl casually pushed herself off the wall and daringly positioned herself right in front of the man. Staring at one another, she could not suppress the tingle of familiarity, like she had seen his gruesome face before, but the thought was pushed out of her head when the man unsheathed his sword with a scrape of metal on leather and opened his mouth, an aroma of rotten meat washing over her.

"You better show some respect, slut, or I will give you something in your belly that even you have never felt before!" He dangerously dangled his sword in front of her face. "And as your life juices are flowing out of you, I will refill them with my own seed. I'll have my way with you until your oven has cooled and your cleft has become drier than the desert itself, before leaving you here to rot under the scorching sun for the hyena vultures to peel every last bit of flesh from your bones!"

Disgust swimming in her eyes, Seraphine gawked at the man, momentarily taken aback by the too vivid image, even for her. "Okay, can you say gross? I get that you're going for the 'oh, look at me, I'm so bad and dangerous'-act, but seriously, do you really have to be so . . . ieuw about it?" Now it was the man's turn to widen his eyes in surprise at the very casual response which lacked any form of the fear he anticipated. "So, unless you want to lose that arm, I suggest you do yourself a favor; cut the crap and sheath that toothpick, before I put it away for you, okay, tough guy?" She patted the stunned man on his shoulder and passed him by, walking away with a hopeful expression on her face, silently counting to herself.

Three. Two. One . . . She was not yet a meter away from him when his roaring laughter resonated through the rocky area, bouncing off every stone and pebble, and made her stop. Oh yes, like taking candy from a baby. Her smile grew bigger behind her covering shawl, and she turned around as he spoke.

"Ah, you got me there for a second, little girl." His last chuckles of amusement bubbled away and became nothing more than distant echoes. "Disguising your fear behind a threat, smart, but not smart enough. You can't fool me. I can see it in your eyes, the fear, the terror. I can just smell the anxiety radiating off you!" Seraphine quirked an eyebrow in genuine wonder and crossed her arms. "Admit it; you're scared, aren't you?"

She cocked her head is if pondering over the answer for a bit, before sighing and shaking her head. "No. Not really, no. Though the real question is, are you?"

"What?" The word was more a bark than a well-formed question. "Why would I –"

Swiftly, Seraphine put her right hand in front of the man's face, blue fire sparking around her spread fingers, bursting into a fully fletched, cindering hot flame that danced in the dry, desert wind.

With a surprised yelp, he bounced backwards, away from the fire that threatened to lick at his face. He quickly recomposed himself, anger over the action pushing every trace of surprised shock out of his body.

"Bad decision, doll, very bad decision!" The rays of the growing morning sun caught his blade and it gleamed like bright jewels in the sky as he charged, the point of his weapon aimed at her heart.

The firebender snapped her fingers and her flame transformed into a flash of brilliant blue light which blinded her aggressor, enabling her to smoothly sidestep the incoming hand that held the sword. Let's see how difficult this actually is. I've seen her do it countless times by now, and if she can do it . . . Seraphine quickly pressed down on a point at the man's wrist, elbow, and shoulder, while applying a slight sideways, clockwise pressure, just as she had seen Sami do to her during their training.

Having expected the man's arm to go limp, it was Seraphine herself that needed to duck out of the way of the back of the elbow of that same arm, as it was aimed straight at her face. She felt the rush of the wide swing of the man's weapon pass her by. Oh, come on, it can't be that hard! Standing up, she tried again by aiming four quick jabs at the man's now unprotected side, though the effects were unsatisfactory again, and she was forced to backflip out of the way of a downwards stab. While cursing over the fact that Sami could do something in battle that she apparently could not, the man laughed at her.

"Were those mosquito bites the best you can do, little girl? Pity, I'd expected more from you after your defiant actions. I guess it is true after all what they say, 'barking cat dogs don't bite' . . . especially not when they're bitches. So why not do yourself a favor and just hand over your pretty jewelry yourself, and I promise I'll make it quick." He grinned ferally at Seraphine, who looked up, the amusement in her eyes revealing that her scarf was covering a smile on her face.

"Oh, I have no doubt at all that you would be quick." The man gritted his teeth as Seraphine ostentatiously lowered her unimpressed gaze to his groin and back up. "But alas, I fear that I must decline your . . . euhm . . . generous offer. I will, however, offer you my apologies for having been less than expected. Please, allow me the opportunity to make it up to you." She exaggeratingly curtseyed, winking at him, and spread her arms in an inviting gesture for him to come to her.

"As you wish, M'lady." The desert robber snickered, and with a grin still on his face, he dug his feet in the earth, the sand immediately encasing them. He balled his right fist, tightening his grip around the sword handle, and swung his left hand twice around in a circling motion. As by command, he shot forward, surfing the earth layer as if gliding over ice. His earthbending rapidly propelled him toward the waiting firebender, who seemingly lazily awaited his arrival. His sword flickered in the morning sunlight, ready to strike her down.

"Really, that same attack again?" Seraphine shook her head slightly in disappointment and nimbly sidestepped his charge as before. Using the man's own bending-generated velocity to increase the power behind her own blow, she brought up her knee hard into his groin without any remorse. As he doubled over in pain, staggering forward, she folded her hands together and brought them down on his back like a sledge hammer, overbalancing him and sending him sprawling down face first in the sand. Ignoring his scream, she watched amusedly how the man curled up in a protective ball, clutching the bruised and agonizingly throbbing flesh between his legs. She squatted beside him.

"So . . . was that the best you got? Pity, I'd expected more from you after your bragging statements. Oh well, I guess it's true after all what I always say, 'I am just that good'." Eager to prove her own prowess, she stepped away from him, patiently waiting for the bandit to regain his composure while leisurely picking out some dirt from underneath her nails.

As the anger of the man reached new proportions, Seraphine's thoughts had drifted back to her earlier conversation with her former friend. Pay attention, Siam. I'll show you just how powerful I have become. You tried to shield me from this life, but I have far surpassed you on every level. I am better than you ever were, and there is nothing that can stop me! As you said, I am destined for greatness, and I will –

"You . . . will pay . . . for THAT!" Seraphine looked up to see that the man had scampered to his feet, though the pain emanating from his groin was still clearly visible on his face.

"Ah, you're back up. I was beginning to wonder what took you so long. Hope I didn't break anything, as that did look kinda painful." She casually ran her left hand through her long hair, and her airy attitude sparked the fires of annoyance inside the bandit even more; his wobbly stance solidified instantly.

"You have no idea who you're dealing with! I am Hanbao, a Shri–"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, and later that same day!" Seraphine briskly cut him off, waving her hand in annoyance at the words she was not listening to. "Seriously, if you could only fight half as good as you talk, then maybe, just maybe, you would've been worth my while."

"You insolent, little –" He raised his arms, an impenetrable column of sand trailing in the wake of his motion, just in time to deflect the stream of fire that would have burned him otherwise. Balling his left fist, he solidified the sand to a sturdy rock wall, but the sudden sensation of heat made him glance up to where his blade peeked out from behind the protective wall, and he gaped at the sight. He still had been clutching the weapon in his fist when he had raised his hands and had subsequently exposed it to Seraphine's attack. Where the tempered metal had gone unprotected, the sword was already an incandescent white and the red glow around it steadily moved further along the weapon. The bandit watched it creep down the blade toward the hilt.

Seraphine lazily rested her right shoulder against the newly created wall, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Sorry 'bout that." Having been completely captivated by the slow melting process of his weapon, he had not noticed her approach, and jumped at the sound of her voice. "But in my defense, you brought that onto yourself. Seriously dude, you talk more than a tea party of old ladies. I thought you were here to threaten me, to rob me, to fight me, not to talk me to death."

Her ostentatious yawn caused a short circuit inside Hanbao's brain, and with an animal-like howl, he stomped his left elbow against the wall, a pillar of earth shooting out where Seraphine was standing.

Much to her surprise, the young firebender was catapulted in the air with great force. Producing a small burst of fire via her feet, Seraphine managed to turn midair, enabling herself to land on all fours. The velocity of the impact sent her skidding backwards, and she left blistering chips of earth in her wake as her fingers burned with one of her hottest flames, digging themselves deep into the soil to allow for a better grip. Coming to a stop, resting on her haunches, she retracted her painful fingers out of the ground; one of her nails was chipped, sending an annoyingly, disproportionate pain through her hand, and the bicep that was hit by the pillar throbbed irritably. That son of a – The distinct cracking sound of an all-devouring fissure coursing through the earth toward her made her head snap up, though with her muscles still strained from the impact of the landing, all she could do was watch as another earth pillar shot out the ground in front of her, and connected with her solar plexus, knocking the wind out of her.

The image of a worried-looking Siam floated to mind as a coughing Seraphine painfully rolled over and rested on her knees and right hand, her left one covering the sore spot. Please, Sera, stop going down this path, there is nothing there for you to find! He does not need to die; his death will not prove anything. Murder never brings any peace, to the living or the dead. Death only brings sadness and pain, it is not something to strive for. Have you truly forgotten that much of what I taught you? You look, but you don't see; you hear, but you don't listen! You're so blinded by proving you're something you're not, that you are missing the truth standing right in front of you. Open your eyes to what you're missing, Sera. You need to listen, you need to see. Open your eyes!

Seraphine ran a hand over her eyes to swipe away Siam's image. I'll deal with you later, Siam. Right now, I've got a job to do. So shut up and watch the master!

The earth cracked open on both her sides, and two boulders freed themselves from their stony prison, defying gravity as they floated up. Their long shadows made the firebender look up, and she noticed the bandit standing in a wide stance, huffing and wheezing under the effort it took him to simultaneously raise the two rocks. He caught her eye and grinned maliciously; three droplets of sweat chased each other down the side of his face. He winked, and swept his arms down, the boulders around her following the path he had set out for them.

They were too big and too close by for the firebender to attempt anything other than evade them. Jumping forward, she enhanced her speed by streaming fire out of her feet, and tumbled out of the all-crushing path of the heavy rocks just in time. Resting on her toes and right hand, she stared at the bandit with smug confidence as his attack crashed down behind her, throwing dust and rock splinters high in the air.

"All right, pretty boy, my turn."

Not granting him the time to launch another surface attack at her, she kicked out with her right leg, sliding it over the ground to the left of her right hand, while placing her other hand behind her back in order to maintain balance. As the first sparks of a raging fire stream started to bubble out of her foot, she turned her leg in a sweeping motion to the right while shifting her weight onto her left arm and leg. As her motion picked up speed, she lifted her right hand off the ground in order to let her leg pass, though immediately put it down again to rest her entire weight on both hands as now both her legs spun rapidly around her, sending blue fire streams in every direction. As her twirl reached its full speed, having turned around her axis a few times, she had enough velocity to push herself off the ground and elegantly arc in the air to land upright.

Her opponent had dug himself in by raising a solid tent around him. Though her fire now harmlessly deflected of the earthen slabs, the temperature inside the protective encasing was rising rapidly and the man had no way of getting out of it lest he would expose himself to more fire. Throwing blast after blast, the Shrike Commandant heated the hideout to the point where it was literally steaming hot, leaving the desert robber no choice but to reveal himself.

"Okay, tough guy, last chance. Either you come out, or I come in." Seraphine yelled loud enough for her voice to penetrate the impromptu barrier. She waited several seconds, though an answer never came back to her. "Guess I am coming in then. I was hoping you would go for that option."

She placed herself sideways to the steaming tent, focused on the emanating heat, and began reeling it in, swiftly weathering the stone slaps by rapidly cooling them like Siam had taught her all those years ago. Confident the rock was porous enough to be shattered, she hopped in place for a second, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She controlled her breathing and focused her strength, and with one strong, half-moon kick, she shattered the weakened stone with her left foot. As the tent crumbled down, she immediately surged forward, punching out with her right fist. However, much to her surprise, her fire blast struck cleanly through the swiveling dust; the floating sand opened up and closed again around the flaming ball, seemingly swallowing it up.

"What the . . ." Looking to the ground, she shoved some of the smaller debris with her foot, and one of the pebbles vanished underneath a large stone slab. "That sneaky bastard tunneled himself out!"

Her conclusion was barely formed when the earth behind her cracked open and Hanbao sprang out, catapulting himself straight at the firebender, the half-molten remains of his sword ready to strike. With snakelike reflexes, however, Seraphine span to the right. Pivoting out of weapon's path, she grabbed hold of his right wrist with her right hand, forcing the sword to angle away and the man to bend over slightly, while simultaneously ravaging the his jawline with a hard strike from her left elbow. Reversing her attack, she again smashed the back of her elbow into Hanbao's face with vicious force. She felt his nasal bone shift as her arm connected, and the subsequent sickening crack notified her that she had, at least, managed to knock out one of his front teeth.

Shrieking in pain, the agony spreading like a paralyzing poison to his limbs, Hanbao's grip on his sword lessened. Seraphine felt the pressure on his wrist falter, and clamped her hand over the joint, driving her thumb hard in the hollow connecting the man's hand to his arm. Applying counter pressure with her fingers, she forced Hanbao's sword hand to gradually turn up, pushing it to its limit and beyond. The muscle on her arm bulged and she suddenly felt something give under the point of her thumb and it went in deeper, the sinew and luno-triquetral ligament popping and crackling as they tore.

The terrible cry that Hanbao gave out sounded inhuman as he experienced pain beyond measure; his weapon fell out of his limp, and by now, useless hand. The Shrike Commandant released her grip and grabbed hold of the descending sword handle, instantly pivoting backwards, using the momentum of her turn to slash Hanbao's right arm so deeply that she uncovered the white of his humerus, slightly chipping the bone.

The extreme agony that spread like wildfire through his entire body left Hanbao helpless as a child. He sagged to his knees, his legs having turned soft as porridge underneath him, and sobbed and chocked over his paralyzing injuries.

Knowing the victory was hers, Seraphine proudly towered over Hanbao, taking the sword in her left hand and placing its tip underneath his chin to force him to look at her; the weapon was tainted with his blood, and as sinister raindrops, it dripped off the blade down the front of his robes. Piercing his skin, she traced a long line upwards over his right cheek, stopping underneath his eye, symmetrical to the scar that adorned the left side of his face. The superficial wound bled copiously and the fluids merged with the silent tears that marched over his face.

"Pathetic." The word seemed to speak directly to Hanbao's pride, and it sparked his defiant anger. His gaze dripped with venom, a hatred distilled to its essence, and his blood-streaked spittle splattered Seraphine's face.

As though in slow-motion, she ran her hand over the saliva dripping down her right cheek, cleaning the vile, reeking substance off. Her cold gaze moved from the phlegm on her fingers to Hanbao's marred smile, and with disgust contorting her fair features, her hand burst into hot flames, instantly vaporizing the sticky water; the light reflected in his blind eye and it gleamed like a silver coin.

"You will pay for what you've done to me, you filthy whore. You have sealed your own fate. My comrades will avenge my death!" Annoyed by Hanbao's threats, Seraphine rolled her eyes. The motion did not pass the beaten warrior unnoticed and he spat once more on the ground in front of her. "From now till the day you exhale your last breath, you better sleep with one eye open. Your doom will linger in every shadow; your imminent death will soar with the wind. There is no where you can turn to be safe. You will –"

"Mind if I cut you off right there?" Having had enough of his bravado, she swiped at his throat, ending his speech with his very last breath that burst from the severed windpipe in a crimson gust. With a powerful kick, she planted the flat of her foot in the middle of his chest and sent him backwards. As he landed on his back, a last defiant gurgle escaped the man before his soul left him and embarked on its journey to the Spirit World, where his dark heart would undoubtedly be devoured by the monster at the gates of paradise when his foul crimes were weighted in the scales of justice, condemning his spirit to oblivion.

Seraphine threw his sword toward him, the clatter of bronze on stone resonating through the once more deserted area.

"Did I go soft? I think not." Her arrogant smirk vanished, however, as she remembered Siam's plead to let Hanbao live, and she shouted out, her voice echoing among the rocks. "So is there no one else? Is there no one else?!"

All remained silent; no insect adventured to move a grain of sand, no opportunistic bird scavenging for a perished animal braved to beat a wing, and not even the howling wind forced through the narrow passageways among the rocks dared to breathe. She stared up at the cloudless sky. You see, Siam? Not even the mighty Wind Spirit dares to challenge me, so how dare you?!

Siam remained silent.

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Seraphine turned and walked away, confident that she had encased her inner demons. She passed the lifeless body of Hanbao and casually glanced as the dark pool that had formed around him, but what she saw made her freeze over. Amongst all the dark red, the unmistakable white and black coloring stood out defiantly. Rushing over, she snatched the single feather of the Butcher Bird up and examined the markings on it, her eyes growing in horror as she recognized the sign of the Desert Dwellers. She looked down upon Hanbao, snapping at him in anger.

"Of all people, of all regiments, you had to be a member of one of the scouting parties of Tegan's unit?! I'm already on a very shaky level with my dad . . . In Seth's name, how on earth am I going to explain this to him? FUCK!" She cried out in frustration over the mess she had gotten herself into, but she blanched in horror as the reality of the situation sank in. A Desert Dweller never traveled alone.

She snapped her head back with such violence in the direction of the camp that she nearly strained her neck, as the rest of her body could barely keep up. Lithe and quick as the fox gazelle, she raced back in the direction she had come from, every step more urgent than the last, every thump of her feet on the underground bringing her closer to the one person for which her heart beat in dread: Sami.

Author's note Edit

  • A thank you goes out to Wilbur Smith once more for overall writing inspiration, especially for the part with Hanbao. The traditional greetings he and Seraphine share with one another are inspired by his words.
  • This must be my most favorite chapter so far. I really liked writing for Seraphine in this chapter, exploring her past together with as I went on with the chapter. I like how her how her interactions with Siam turned out - more will come in the next chapter.
  • Hanbao's fight scene turned out to be much more elaborate than I originally expected it to be, forcing me to cut the chapter off where I ended.
  • I thank KettleMeetPot for helping me with his medical expertise.
  • In case it wasn't completely clear and some are still wondering why Hanbao didn't recognize Seraphine for who she is: her face was covered by her shawl.
  • Due to lack of a character page, I'll have to display her like this: a great deal of thanks to Minnichi for giving Siam a face.

Fun facts Edit

  • The line, "Without sleep, hallucinations will begin by day four, followed by slurred speech, short attention span, and eventually death", was more or less said directly by Doctor Maura Isles from Rizzoli and Isles, who in turn also had an impact on Sami's character as a whole.
  • This is the first chapter where we really get an insight in what's beneath Seraphine's tough warrior exterior.
  • Siam was Seraphine's firebending teacher. She taught her everything that she knows and more.
  • The similarities between Sami and Siam's names were more or less coincidental. I came up with Siam and then noticed that it was an anagram of Sami, which in turn sparked the interest to go in deeper on Siam's character. As such, Siam grew from having a few lines to having quite the impact on my favorite firebender.
  • "You got the making of greatness in you. You don't have to follow anyone; chart your own course and stick to it, not matter the squalls. And when the time comes, you'll show the world what you're made of. And I, I just hope that I'll be there, catching some of the light coming off you that day." As some of you likely have picked up, this quote is heavily inspired on what Silver says to Jim Hawkins in Treasure Planet. Awesome movie. Then again, it's Disney, what did you expect?
  • Siam was the last person to whom Seraphine said, "I love you". After her death, Seraphine closed her heart off to everyone and she hasn't let anyone in ever since. The girl in "Confrontations" was to first to bring a crack to her defenses after nearly five years, opening them up to be shattered by Sami.
    • Both the little girl and Sami have blue eyes. Significant fact? Perhaps.
  • "Smallish one" is a reference to Brother Bear, where the moose refer to Koda as "smallish bear".
  • Hanbao means "Hamburger" in Chinese and I specifically chose it as a joking nod to the WLS of 25 March. Since he will be a recurring minor character throughout many fanons, a general Hanbao page has been created: Hanbao.
  • "I want to peel the flesh from your bones while you are still live." "Okay, just because you're evil, you don't always have to be so. . . ieuw."
    This is a quote from Charmed, season 7, episode 5, "Styx Feet Under", that inspired the scene between Hanbao and Seraphine where they each say more or less the same.
  • Seraphine walking away from Hanbao while counting to herself and being glad when he calls out to her is similar to how Dimitri walks away from Anya in Anastasia.
  • "Admit it, you're scared, aren't you?" "No. Not really, no. Though the real question is, are you?"
    This was inspired by Shego from the Kim Possible series in the episode, "Dimension Twist", where a somewhat similar conversation takes place.
  • "Yeah, yeah, yeah, and later that same day!" is a nod to Jane Rizzoli from Rizzoli and Isles.
  • Siam's plea to Seraphine, asking her to stop going down the confrontational path with Hanbao is loosely inspired by Neytiri and James Cameron's Avatar.
  • "Is there no one else? Is there no one else?" is a quote from Troy, said by Achilles, of course, who else?
  • The "Desert Dwellers" is the name I originally had for the army that attack Palm Spring in "Sun Rise, Sons Fall", but I changed it to "Shrikes" to have more of a tie-in with the prologue.
  • This chapter was nominated in the fifth Fanon Awards in the category "Outstanding Writing in a Fanon Series".
  • This chapter counts 11197 words.

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