Phantom Children Pt. 5
Hey guys, it's been really busy for me at university so I have no idea when I'll have free time to write this month. Chapter 5 is actually still unfinished, but I didn't want to leave you guys hanging, so here's the first half of chapter 5.
In Which: Another deal is struck upon the ice
AO3 | Prologue | 4 | [ 5 ] | 6
THE PIT SINGS. A low, groaning thing. Muffled like how sounds distort underwater. It reminded Danny of the sounds of Jupiter he would listen to when he really needed to study; the sounds heavily mixed to be more ambient yet still echoing traces of the original, haunting melody of the universe.
The Pit calls for him. No, not the pit—the ectoplasm in the pit is what calls him. Pulls the waves toward him as if he were the moon, bright and full, whispering with garbled voices hello-hello-hello. His core whispers back the same words every time he is near it. Hello-hello-hello. The Pit lingers in the back of his mind and sings in familiar words he does not understand.
Talia calls it a fascination. Ra’s calls it a connection.
A visceral link. Like calls to like. Strange ectoplasmic middle fingers to the laws of the universe—to the great equalizer that is death.
(Danny thinks Ra’s is wrong. Not completely wrong, but not right either.)
When his ghost form is no longer trying to cannibalize his human self, Talia dials up his training. Before, she was merely an observer. Now, she fights him in the ring, teaching him how to dodge with bruised ribs and broken bones. Brutally correcting his stances with harsh jabs and quick strikes. Sweeps him off the floor with a twist of her leg when he forgets how to use his feet. Each day left him with such bone-deep fatigue that mor more once he fell asleep during his sixty minutes in front of the monitor.
They know, now, that the Pit has no adverse effect on him. That he can use the pit more than once.
Bruises and fractures, cuts and scrapes; injuries mean nothing when a dip in green waters will wash everything away.
Even the possibility of insanity starts to feel far-fetched.
Danny should hate this. He should really hate this.
He loved it.
Phantom had always been a fighter. A protector. An underdog matched up against bigger and stronger foes but always somehow coming up on top. He was popular. Liked by the citizens of Amity Park despite his dumpster fire of a reputation near the beginning. Somehow in the year and a half since Phantom’s conception, he went from town menace to this larger-than-life figure. (Ha!) The hero of Amity Park with all of the expectations and responsibilities that came with it.
But Danny—plain, ol’ Danny Fenton—wasn’t any of that. Wasn’t allowed to be any of that. Because Danny Fenton was a wimpy kid who tripped over air and regularly got shoved inside lockers. He was the ghost hunters’ son who was deathly afraid of the paranormal. A C-average student in a family of geniuses.
A persona unwillingly crafted and carefully maintained, because at least this way no one other than Jazz or Wes will be able to connect Fenton to Phantom. Who would believe it?
But here, in Nanda Parbat, he was neither Fenton nor Phantom— he was something more. He had no secret identity to keep from the people who have vigorously researched him. He had no need to hold back.
Here, Danny was free to be Danny.
Even if he was called by the wrong-right name.*
Danny floated up from the pit, his transformation seamless as he stepped onto the edge on quiet feet. Tahlia threw him a knapsack. “Ready yourself, we have places to be.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I get my sixty-minutes after the Pit, remember?”
“I did not forget.” She smiled, resting her hand on her hip. “I simply thought that by beloved child might relish a change in scenery.”
Danny perked up, hands tightening around the straps of the knapsack. “We’re going outside?” Tahlia nodded. “Like—outside-outside. With the sky and trees and—and the stars?”
Amusement softened her sharp features, jade eyes sparkling with mirth. “The very same. Though the place we are going to is quite fickle in nature, and I am unsure if we will get another chance to go. But if you really insist on it then—”
“Wait!” He snapped his mouth shut, clutching the bag closer to his chest.
(Family, his core whispered. Family-safe-safe-protect-need-see-confirm-family-home)
The sixty minutes he gets to see his family was…precious. One of the few times the restlessness in his core would draw back; melt away like frost in the spring, leaving some sense of contentment behind. It was his refuge. Sanctuary. Physical proof that what he was doing here—(staying away-away-why-go back-back-return-home-family-home-protect)—meant something.
The Pit might have increased his training regiment, but it also allowed him to leave (escorted) the walls of his rooms. And this—
Danny could go outside.
He could go outside.
If he didn’t accept this now, then who knows when the opportunity would arise again? His family wouldn’t mind, right? Jazz did say something about how spending time outdoors is good for one’s health.
He swallowed a lump in his throat. “My…my family will be alright, yes?”
Tahlia cocked her head. “Why wouldn’t they be? You have done nothing wrong that goes against our agreement, and you have progressed wonderfully in your training. I am quite proud.” At Danny’s disquieted expression, she sighed. She raised her hand. “I swear on the blood of the demon—on our blood—that I will honor our agreement and do no harm to the Fentons and your friends during our trip.”
She lowered her hand. “Are you satisfied, habeebi?”
Reluctantly, Danny nods. An agreement from Tahlia is probably the best he could do at this point. “How much time do I have to prepare?” “Everything you will need is in that back. Though, it might do you good to dress very warmly.”
Danny’s first breath of fresh air was biting. It filled the lungs crisp and clean, chilled him to the bones though he could feel no cold. Each warm exhale expressed itself in swirling mists, disappearing into the slate gray clouds above. A facsimile of his own ghost sense.
Fenton did not think much of breathing; Phantom did not need it.
Danny had never realized how wonderous it was to breathe.
“We head northeast,” Tahlia called out. Like him, she is bundled in thick black layers with long leather gauntlets strapped at the end of the sleeves. Her bag secured tightly, and a sword strapped to her back. Her long black hair is bound in a tight braid beneath her fur-lined hood.
The path is covered with snow, deep enough that his first few steps past Nanda Parbat’s gates sinks his leg midway up his calf with a loud crunch. It was hardly as deep as some parts in the Far Frozen, but over there Danny had the choice to simple float over. Tahlia trudged through the snow with a preternatural grace. The path ahead was marked only by the faint traces of footprints almost—but not quite—covered with fresh snow.
Among the many things the League had taught him, this was one: the devil is in the details.
They speak little on their trek. Not that Danny particularly minds, absorbed that he was with world around him. Nanda Parbat, he learned, was built high in the mountains. Cocooned from the rest of the world by the snow-capped mountain ranges that surrounded it. A fortress of wood and stone that seemed distinct yet so carefully hidden. The high walls protected the buildings within from view. Its roofs—elongated and curved—and tall towers modelled after east Asian architecture. Though which country, Danny does not know.
Their destination—past a large protrusion of stone that covered the fortress from view once crossed—was a lake. Frozen a pale blue with ice, surrounded by more mountain walls and the opening of a cave off to the side.
Perplexed, he said “What, are we gonna go ice fishing? Just so you kno, I’m not that big of a fan. The last time I went with my dad I was nearly eaten by a sea monster.”
“We should have enough food for this exercise, Daniel. And you need have no fear of sea monsters, this lake is devoid of any such creatures.” Once they reached the mouth of the cave, she unstrapped her bag, setting it against the stone wall. Danny mimicked the motion. “We are here to train.”
She gestures to the katana strapped to his back.
“On the ice?”
She smiled, leading him to the edge of the frozen lake. “It has become something of a family tradition of the al Ghuls, to cross blades upon the ice.” She plants a steady foot on the lake, walking towards the center with long strides.
Danny followed behind her with some trepidation. He wouldn’t die from frostbite, he was sure, and if he fell he could always fly himself out. But that didn’t stop him from flinching at the rumbling sounds the ice made beneath his feet.
“My father trained both your father and I on this lake.” Tahlia unsheathed her sword as she took her place across from Danny. “And as your father no doubt trained Damian on his own lake, I have the pleasure of training you.” She slipped into a stance. “On your mark.”
Danny slipped into his own stance, feet apart, both hands on the hilt. Then, something nudged at the back of his mind. “Who’s Damian?”
Tahlia tilted her blade, the polished sword gleaming and sharp. “Your brother. Now—begin!”
“Wait, wha—” Danny barely managed to parry the blow.
Sparks flew as blades crossed and Danny twisted off to the side.
He slipped. Head meeting the ice, the deep crackling sound of the lake making him tense.
Tahlia points the tip of her blade against his chest. A single elegant brow arched high in dissatisfaction. Danny glared at her, brushing the fringes of his hair away from his face. “To be fair, you shouldn’t say stuff like that right before a fight. You caught me off guard.”
“If you find yourself in a fair fight, you have failed to prepare enough.” She sheathed her sword before extending an arm to help Danny to his feet. “The goal of a fight is to end it—no matter the cost. Now, take you place.”
Danny picked up his sword, then, hesitates. He looked up at Tahlia. “Did you mean what you said?” Do I have a brother?
Tahlia smiled, drawing her blade once more. “Impress me and you’ll find out.”
Danny narrowed his eyes.
He adjusted his stance. You’re on.