Shadows of Light, a Faerieland Legend
It is impossible to create harmony if everyone sings the same note. Shadow magic is by no means inferior to light; rather, it is of the same magnificence, same power, as light, as the two go hand in hand—
“Zyndra! Get down here!”
The young light faerie Zyndra shut her book with a thump, and looked out the window of her room. It was just the start of morning, when light magic was at its strongest. Zyndra groaned in annoyance. She much preferred the relaxed feel of evening, when dark magic was strongest, as opposed to the chaotic mornings filled with the chattering of noisy birds.
Zyndra muttered an incantation under her breath, and her book disappeared into thin air; or rather, thin shadow. She smiled. Another spell she had secretly mastered—the use of shadows to hide things she didn’t want seen. Piling books into her schoolbag, she descended the heavy stone steps of her Faerieland dorm room.
Her dorm master was waiting for her, irritated at Zyndra’s lack of understanding.
“You’re one of the best students at Radiance, you can’t arrive late.”
Zyndra paid no attention, only nodding in agreement and pretending to listen. But as soon as the stone door closed behind her and she was out of view, the light faerie tore down the street, darting into a deserted alleyway and activating a special technique while she ran.
“I won’t be late. Not while I can travel the way I do...”
Zyndra looked around to make sure no one would catch her in the act, and melted into the darkness underneath a bridge. She was soon long gone, having used a teleportation spell, but she didn’t know that, in fact, she had been seen...
“Queen Sarkyna,” a voice from above the deserted bridge spoke. It belonged to a Faerieland guard.
“We’ve found her.”
A few minutes away, Zyndra emerged unseen from a hidden shadow within an empty classroom of Radiance, the most prestigious school in all of Faerie City. It guaranteed the chance of becoming a Guardian, one of the city’s elite protectors, to each and every student that studied within it. It was built in the form of a miniature, magnificent castle, with intricate decorations carved into its many walls and white stone fountains that flowed with water that was rumored to increase one’s light magic strength.
Zyndra hated it.
It never taught her what she wanted to learn, and seemed far too boring. There were no secret passageways, no students with experience in anything but light magic, and nobody who questioned whether she wanted to be there or not. In fact, if one was good enough to study in Radiance, everyone else assumed they had worked for it their entire life, simply because it was so high an honor. Zyndra wasn’t unintelligent; she was one of the top students in the class, but she never really possessed any genuine interest in light magic.
Zyndra took a deep breath and prepared herself for another grueling day of boredom.
“Did you see that awesome spell I cast last class? It blew the teacher away!”
“Yeah! Can you teach me cool magic like that sometime?”
A trio of light faeries walked by Zyndra, who was pointedly ignoring them all. Perched in a tree on the far side of school, Zyndra was waiting for the final release signal that would allow her to return home. The group of faeries passed her by, not willing to acknowledge her existence at all—which was, of course, fine with Zyndra.
When the signal went out, dozens of students began milling about the edge of the campus, most of them headed towards the large marketplace that marked the center of the city. Zyndra was not among them. She, having left the campus long before her schoolmates, was busy dodging through a dark alleyway that led towards the city’s underground transportation tunnels.
It was a matter of seconds before she reached the one she was looking for.
“Vainyss! I’ve come.”
A dark, wrinkled hand reached out for her, and Zyndra was led towards the far regions of the underground pathway. Here was where the remains of the Dark Faeries gathered, hidden from the prying eyes of the light faeries.
Zyndra knew the history well. There were once six villages of faeries, representing the elements of fire, water, earth, air, light, and darkness. Those who lived a village were taught their corresponding elemental magic, and were overseen by a single leader, the one with the most powerful elemental control.
These six magic casters were responsible for maintaining the balance of the elements within the world.
However, Sarkyna, leader of the village of light, decided that the light in the world was not strong enough, and that the shadows were not needed. Thus, when Faerie City was first built and she was made Queen, she ordered all Dark Faeries banished.
The orders eventually succeeded, as the village of shadow was wiped off the map, but there were still some scattered survivors that remembered their shadow arts and continued to use them to preserve the balance between light and darkness.
One of them was Vainyss, an outcast among outcasts, who, despite her shadow village origin, preferred to live in Faerie City. And it was she who, by lending scrolls that belonged to shadow sages of old, taught Zyndra shadow magic.
“You are improving quickly, young one,” Vainyss’s old, withered voice whispered, throwing eerie echoes throughout the tunnel as she watched Zyndra work magic.
“I practice when I can,” Zyndra replied dryly, knowing that she had spent every able moment refining her shadow powers.
At the moment, she was conjuring a shroud that would shield herself and her mentor from light Guardians that might be patrolling the tunnels at the time. Ordinarily, Vainyss would set up the defense herself, as it was advanced dark magic, but as Zyndra had grown more capable, Vainyss decided to let her pupil do more and more spell casting.
“That is enough for today. Have you the scroll?”
Zyndra nodded, reaching out her arm and holding the palm of one hand flat. Within a heartbeat, the ancient text materialized in a swirl of shadow magic on her open palm.
Vainyss raised an eyebrow. “An advanced technique for one so young.”
Zyndra said nothing, merely standing up and murmuring her thanks. It was getting late, and she needed to head back home—back towards the light.
The next day was uneventful; Zyndra woke up and went to school as normal, and sat in her tree when the lessons were done. However, the day got a lot more eventful as Zyndra headed back towards Vainyss’s domain, for the next lesson.
Zyndra was busy heading towards the entrance to the underground tunnels when, from above, three hooded figures dropped down in front of her. Each pulling out a sword, they began advancing towards Zyndra, already crouched into fighters’ positions.
With no cry of warning, the three potential assassins swooped upon Zyndra, blades drawn and slashing through the air. Thinking quickly, Zyndra conjured a shield of light magic, as she did not want her shadow powers discovered. It did little good, as the swords of the warriors slashed right through it, causing no harm to Zyndra but slamming her against a wall.
Zyndra shook herself, and then began conjuring more defenses of light magic. However, the three warriors’ swords seemed immune to them, passing through the constructs as if they did not exist. Zyndra groaned—she had to either run away, or use her shadow magic.
Neither choice was advisable. If she ran away, she would be highly shamed, as in Faerie City, “running away to the shadows” was considered supreme cowardice. But if she used her shadow powers, she might be discovered, and who knew what would happen to her then...
Zyndra wasn’t one to back down. Taking a deep breath, she focused inward as the three warriors rushed at her, blades ready.
There was an explosion as all three of them were blown backwards by a large, spinning black orb of shadow energy that Zyndra had conjured and thrown at them. Zyndra was on her feet and readying another orb, gathering shadow energy in the palm of her right hand.
She wasn’t quick enough, though. One warrior took advantage of the chaos to hurl a small crystal ball at Zyndra, which blasted in midair and sent out a burst of light so piercing, it was as if the sun had blown up right where the ball detonated. All Zyndra could do was try to hide her eyes from the overpowering sight...
When she recovered consciousness, Zyndra was slumped against a tree, about ten yards away from Faerie City’s perimeter wall. Sitting up groggily, she rubbed her eyes, trying to determine her location and figure out how she had ended up here.
Someone’s idea of a joke?
Zyndra brushed a few leaves off her head and began to trudge over towards the village, but stepped on something that made a crackling sound. She looked closer at it.
What she had stepped on was a wrinkled sheet of goldenrod parchment, a material only royal commands were written on. Zyndra’s heart stopped for a moment. She picked it up, and began to read:
“Zyndra of Faerie City, you are hereby charged with treason for committing the unlawful act of using shadow magic within the City. You are hereby exiled from the village, and will be prosecuted upon your arrival, should you try to reenter it. The Royal Order of the Faerie Queen, Sarkyna.”
Zyndra crumpled up the paper, threw it away from her, picked it back up again, uncrumpled it, read it, and crumpled it yet again.
The more she looked at it, the more the truth pounded down upon her.
This is insane. Why is this happening? How did it happen?
Zyndra breathed deeply in and out a few times, trying to calm down. It was worthless sitting here and freaking out. She needed to take action.
Food. Water. Shelter.
Zyndra looked up at the tree. It was an apple tree.
And so Zyndra amused herself by sending little streams of dark energy that shot out like arrows and cut the stems of the apples. After eating her fill, Zyndra took leave of her home, walking towards the border between the City’s outside grounds and the wilder part of Faerieland. She knew Sarkyna’s influence was spread wide, but she would be able to find a decent place to spend the night among the caves within the mountains that formed Faerieland’s western border.
I guess this is it. I’m going to spend the rest of my life here.
Zyndra was poised in front of the best-hidden cave in the mountains, which she normally would have not seen herself had she not used a tracking spell. A heavy moss curtain covered the entrance, and from a few paces away the opening looked like a normal boulder. Zyndra sighed, disabled her spell, and entered the cave.
The cave was dark and surprisingly drafty, causing Zyndra to realize that it was a lot bigger than the entrance perceived it to be. She stumbled around in the dark for a moment, and then activated her shadow magic, allowing her to see in the dark.
Zyndra blinked a few times, to clear away the floating spots, and then backed into a wall in surprise.
She was not alone.
Across the cave wall from her, at least seven people were seated, and more were slightly visible in caverns beyond them. Zyndra squinted slightly, observing their clothes—they wore the garments of the original shadow village.
“Why do you run?” a voice asked. “Can you see us?”
Zyndra gulped and nodded.
“Then it is alright,” the voice replied, apparently to its fellows.
Zyndra was about to explain the situation when another voice hissed, “She is a Light Faerie. She must be done away with.”
“A moment, Aizuri. She can see us. Thus she is of shadow as well.”
There was grumbling. Zyndra, hoping to understand what was going on, decided to step forward and explain her situation...
“So, you come from Faerie City, eh?”
Zyndra nodded, in response to the one she now knew as Dysdainn.
“And now you come to us... how very fortunate for you. We of the village of shadow will grant you shelter, in exchange for news about the goings-on of the outside world.”
“You don’t ever leave this cave?”
It took a few days for Zyndra to get used to the cave, but she soon became accustomed to the daily routines of life in the shadows. She ventured out periodically as a scout, and began learning shadow magic in earnest.
And as she spent more time in darkness, her wings changed, from the iridescent gold of a Light Faerie to the dragon-like wings of a Dark Faerie.
Most of the shadow village members accepted her, but Aizuri, the leader of the ragtag group and unspoken leader, was not at all subtle in showing her displeasure of the Faerie City girl.
So Zyndra’s new life began. True, she missed her old way of living, but she knew that for now, it was for the best.
Far, far away in the palace of the Faerie Queen, Sarkyna, the planning of the first faerie festival was going on—an event that would mark the power of light, in which every Faerie (except Dark Faeries, of course) would join at the center of Faerie City and swear eternal loyalty to it, by casting a spell of light all in unison, regardless of elemental difference.
Preparations had already been made, and letters of invitation had been dispatched to each of the elemental Faerie leaders. Sarkyna was very thorough, sending messengers to the far corners of Faerieland to ensure that no one was unaware...
... including the shadow village survivors, who, through Zyndra’s reconnaissance, heard of the gathering that was to take place.
“Absolutely not,” Aizuri snapped, lightly fingering the staff that belonged only to the leader of the Dark Faeries, a relic revered by all in the shadow village.
Zyndra groaned internally. All she had done was ask if she could attend the festival, or watch from nearby. Aizuri herself was only a few years older, and it was awkward for her to pay such respect to one her age... even though she possessed the strongest shadow power in what remained of the village.
“I understand.” Zyndra bowed and left, deciding to sneak out the next day under the pretense of scouting. She couldn’t wait.
At first Zyndra thought that the sneaking out would be the simplest part of her plan, but she realized that, in the confusion offered by the traveling Faeries, she could easily enter Faerie City. Sarkyna had called everyone, hadn’t she?
As soon as she was past the gate, Zyndra took off, heading towards the large clock tower facing the City’s heart, a building which was always unlocked. Everyone would be at the festival, who would see her? Zyndra climbed the steps, wondering what would happen when the allegiance spell was cast.
“Faeries of the fire, water, earth, and air, I welcome you all. Let us join together in the allegiance spell that will protect us all, with the all-powerful force of light,” Sarkyna intoned, raising her hand to direct the flow of energy that was soon to amass within the city.
From her perch on the clock tower, Zyndra shook her head. Why, why, were Dark Faeries excluded?
The Faeries in the City raised their hands in unison, each member conjuring a sphere of light energy. The light flowed together and gathered into one large entity, which shone brightly like a star. The people were all enjoying its beauty and warmth when it suddenly started expanding.
And it wouldn’t stop.
“Stay calm, stay calm! Everything is under control!” Sarkyna shouted to the crowd, but was unnoticed. Screams of pain and terror were heard, as the gigantic blaze of light swelled, distorted, and seemed to tear away every shadow that was in the vicinity. Those who covered their eyes found little comfort, as all they were able to see was light.
Zyndra had conjured a shield of shadow energy, and was observing the chaos below her. She debated on whether to help those suffering from the light and found herself again faced with a difficult choice. If she helped the people, the shadow village would think her a traitor. If she didn’t help them, her home would be destroyed, along with many Faeries.
She flew down the stairs of the tower as fast as she could.
It greatly pained Zyndra’s darkness-accustomed eyes to look at the great blob of light hovering in the sky. Summoning all her shadow powers, she began throwing veils of shadow magic over the light, decreasing its intensity and slowly shrinking it.
As she did this, the Faeries around her began to recover.
Sarkyna regained her senses completely first. “That girl!” She spat in rage. “She’s trying to destroy our allegiance light! Stop her!”
Zyndra was too preoccupied in keeping the light at bay to fight back. The awakening light Guardians were heading towards her, but she couldn’t stop the spell; otherwise, the overwhelming light would return, stronger than ever...
And then Aizuri appeared in the crowd, dark lightning flaring from her hands, and sending the Guardians tumbling. Behind her, those that remained of the village of shadows revealed themselves, battling the Guardians and buying Zyndra precious time. It was all they could do to hold up the Guardians, but it was enough.
Zyndra had managed to shrink the light to the size of a wagon wheel. Then a wheel of cheese. Then a dinner plate. And then... nothing.
She dropped to the ground, exhausted.
The shadows had returned.
A cheer rang out from the Faeries; they were all happy to have been saved, to have had the light calmed. But Sarkyna, not understanding and furious, conjured a blade of light energy and hurled it at Zyndra.
The bolt grazed Zyndra’s shoulder and impaled itself upon the wall behind her. But instead of injuring, even angering her, the attack only made Zyndra feel stronger. She slowly got to her feet, staring Sarkyna in the eye.
She walked over to the pavilion stage, where only the strongest Faeries stood, and spoke directly to Sarkyna.
But her eyes stared among the other Faeries.
“At night, we welcome the comfort that the darkness brings us, that helps us fall asleep, do we not? And on hot days, do we not enjoy the cool shadows that shade offers us? Darker tones within a painting only serve to make it beautiful. With only light in the world, we cannot live. It is not the way it was to be. Darkness is not something to fear, it is merely a force that needs to be controlled. If we understand it, we find we can understand light better as well. There cannot be one without the other. If we have no darkness, can we really have light? But in the same way, do we not need light to know darkness? We need white to see color black.”
Zyndra, in her long, sweeping robe, paced back and forth on the white stone stage.
“The destruction of the village of shadows upset the balance of the elements. I will work to restore that balance. I will rebuild the village of shadows. Perhaps one day, the darkness will not be needed and will leave us. But for now, we need this force, to accompany the light, as the two exist together. It is a connection we must respect—there cannot be one without the other. But that does not mean either is inferior.”
Zyndra finished, looking upward into the sky, and then into the faces of those in the crowd—Faeries of fire, earth, water, air, light... and those few faces of the shadow village survivors, which had begun to cheer.
Sarkyna fumed and looked downward, disgraced. However, the rest of the Faeries nodded gravely.
“We shall live in peace, as the elements are to be. No one is greater than another. We live in harmony because of that.”
The Dark Faerie was stepping off the stage when Aizuri came to her, holding the ancient staff of the shadow village.
“In your hands, it will flourish,” she said, and bowed.
Zyndra said nothing, but bowed, with true respect, in return. She took the staff in her right hand, feeling a flow of warm energy emanate from the revered artifact.
Zyndra smiled. Turning to the crowd, she held the staff aloft and sent a ribbon of purple-tinted magic flowing through the sky.
One by one, the Faeries in the crowd added their own magic to the stream. Water, Earth, Fire, Air, and Light mingled together in an incandescent rainbow that arced over Faerie City.
The elements were in harmony once more.