Within the Shroud
The faerie shuddered within the black that hung all around
her. It was cold; cold and dark like a prison. All around her there were small
spots of light. Golden, purple, green, turquoise, glossy blue, midnight blue,
violet and green together, flaring orange.... There was an endless variety of
colors in a ring around the faerie. She was dressed in an ivory-colored shift
that reached barely to her knees, and she did not yet have any wings. Her hair
was white, giving her the appearance of someone aged.
Over the faerie's head, there was a large halo
of pale violet that the faerie knew to be the Eye of Queen Fyora. The faerie
monarch was watching the lesser faerie standing below, waiting to choose what
her type would be. Earth, space, dark, light. Which would it be, which one?
The Eye of the Queen rippled overhead, and then disappeared momentarily.
It was unfortunate that none of the colors around
the young faerie emanated any light. It was pitch black here, and only the colors
prevented the young faerie from believing that she was nonexistent; dead. This
thing, this piece of the underworld that they called the Shroud, was as horrible
as she had imagined it. Black. A dungeon.
A dark purple blob twitched near the faerie's
left foot. It was the essence of the Darkness faeries. Gradually, it uncoiled
itself. Slithering over to the nameless faerie's leg, it began to climb up her
body. It was frigid to the touch. Undulating like a liquid, the magic that would
make the faerie a dark faerie began to envelope her.
The faerie twisted suddenly, wrenching her waist
about without warning. The purple did not loosen its hold. But the faerie kept
struggling, now crying out.
"Please stop!" she shouted, beating at her own
body now in an attempt to force the darkness from it. "Leave me! I am not dark!"
The faerie fought as the deep purple color continued
to wind around her. It began to envelop her neck. She knew that when it covered
her head, it would be over: she would be a dark faerie.
But she was not a dark faerie.
"I am not!" she cried harshly. Raking her nails
over the shapeless mass, she managed to fling part of it away. In shock and
something like genuine offense, the other part fell to the floor. The front
reared like a snake, bright amethyst jewels glittering like eyes.
Why, little one? coaxed a soothing voice
from the essence. You should be a dark faerie. It would be fitting. You should
be one of us.
"I can't," the faerie whispered, letting tears
course in rivulets down her cheeks. "I can't...."
Come now, the solacing voice beseeched.
Do you not wish to be free of this place? Do you not wish to escape the Shroud?
"Yes," the faerie breathed, almond-shaped eyes
closing for a fraction of a second. Beyond the Shroud. It must be paradise.
Oh, it is, the essence of darkness wheedled.
It is lovely-certainly better than the Shroud. The dark looked around
itself with something that seemed like distaste. All dark and clammy. Unfeeling,
unloving. Come with me, and you will experience the Outside.
"You are unfeeling and dark," the faerie murmured.
Come on, the voice snapped, growing impatient.
My dear, that is a stereotype. That dark faeries are evil, I mean. We are
certainly not evil. Just because we are beings of the night. Why not hold a
grudge against the space faeries?
The faerie held her ground, refusing to back
down. "They are people of the stars and the moon; not simply of pitch blackness."
Leave it. The darkness swivelled its
shapeless head and gazed, with flaring amethyst eyes, into the young faerie's
face. Just come with me. Let me take you. Let me drink you, and you shall
drink in me, and then you shall LIVE. A soft chuckle came from somewhere
within the heart of the dark purple snake. You can go wherever you wish.
To perch on the white clouds, to sway with the winds of the meadows, to dance
on the peaks of mountains. You can become, little one. You can do everything,
once you just succumb to darkness and let me take you.
The faerie averted her gaze. "No. I will not,"
she protested defiantly.
The snake opened a gaping mouth and hissed wordlessly.
It was no longer trying to cajole, to persuade the faerie who stood before it.
It wanted to end her. To kill.
I would do it, the snake spat, sliding
back into the shadows. But I cannot. It is not possible. Not in the Shroud.
It lifted its head. I have been chosen for you, and you have refused. Now, you
will rot in the Shroud. Forever.
The faerie let out a piercing scream and clawed
at the blackness. She could not stay here. Not in the black. Not in the Shroud.
"I do not belong here!" she screamed desperately,
carving deep ruts in the murk with her fingers. "I belong in the world! With
life! Life! LIFE!"
She wanted to live.
She needed to live.
Then, the vibrant lavender aura above her head
gave a blinding pulse, in a way that did not give any words, but somehow brooked
no argument. And it was telling the youth to be still.
The force of the command shocked the nameless
faerie into standing still. She ceased to scream and pound at The Shroud, and
stood stock-still in the Shroud. She just looked up at the Eye of the Queen.
Was it possible...? Would the Queen of the faeries really do something that
Slowly, gradually, a thin tendril of the Queen's
Eye detached itself from the Eye itself. It wound down, coiling and twisting
gracefully like violet smoke. It circled the ring of faerie colors; it passed
over earth, space, snow, and all the others that were seated there.
It traveled about the young faerie about twenty-two
more times. In that stretch of time, the faerie felt it was not possible to
be bored. She waited, shivering and watching the tentacle of light form smoky
rings around her that smelled of violets. The scent soothed her slightly, but
not enough. Still, she stood rigid and tense, following its every motion, waiting
to see what she would become.
O Fyora, choose well. Let me become something
that I want to be.
A spot of golden light stretched upwards as
the purple limb passed over it. It reached up as though bidding that Fyora choose
it. With a thrill of hopefulness, the faerie within the ring realized what she
wanted to be. She squeezed her eyes shut tight, and sent her strongest wills
O Fyora, choose well. Let me become what
you have passed so many times. It is my dream; my very core hopes. O great Queen,
let me become this. Please. Please.
The faerie's beseeching reached such a pitch
that the piece of the Eye paused. It hesitated, reluctant to go back or to go
on. Then it began to move backwards.
The unborn faerie secretly rejoiced. Would the
Queen Fyora of the faeries really do this for her?
The finger of light stopped over the golden
splodge of color. Extending itself, it rustled close to the color.
The faerie held her breath.
The faerie let out her breath, eyes shining
with tears of delight.
The purple vanished, and now a powerful, almighty
feminine voice was booming out forcefully.
Young faerie, your choice has been made.
Go now into the world of faeries, and may you have strength and courage. You
are a faerie of the light, and your name is Luminess.
"Oh," the newly-named Luminess whispered. "O
mighty Queen, thank you for your kindness."
Go into the world. I command you to be. Become
The Shroud shuddered as though there were an
earthquake happening within it. Luminess looked down at herself and gasped.
Her skin had a golden tinge to it. It spread
out swiftly, and as it reached Luminess's forehead, she was seized by violent
spasms. They bore no pain, but hit her like physical blows, hard and in quick
succession. Her hair erupted into a radiant golden color from the gray it had
once been, and her eyes turned bright yellow. Luminess's jagged-hemmed dress
turned gold as well.... And then....
Now there was pain. A harsh tremor shook Luminess,
and there was a deep, unspeakable agony between her shoulder blades. The skin
on her back rearranged, passing smoothly aside, and a pair of luminescent faerie
wings unfolded from her shoulders. Luminess rose up into the air without flapping
them once, and her head was thrown back so that she was staring into the blinding
light of the Queen's Eye.
GO NOW, LUMINESS OF THE LIGHT! the Queen
boomed. Light emanated from Luminess, mingling with the light of the Eye and
shattering the shroud around them. The Eye retreated, and a broad rip opened
in the top of the Shroud. Light beamed down, beautiful golden light; and green,
and sky, and life.
Luminess began to laugh, laughing with felicity
and relief and delight and happiness that she had never known until now.
And she rose up into the life.