Part 5: Brief Candles: The Walking Shadows

Part 5: Brief Candles: The Walking Shadows

Even as Jade watched, Shini sighed, shuddered, curled up and fell asleep. Her face, which had been drawn in pain, slowly relaxed and turned into a small smile as she was cradled by the roots of the tree- as a small child finally falling to sleep after a fever is broken. She never woke up again.

Jade finally came down from the tree, moving cautiously over to where Shini lay. She felt for a pulse- finding none, she let go of the deadened wrist, watching as it fell lifelessly to the ground. Yet another one dies- yet another one falls. What did we do, in our lifetime, that fate would hand us such a bitter card? She stared at the shell beneath her, at the tranquil expression on Shini's face. And where were you, anyway? Did you really think that after Shadow, after what he did, there was any turning back? What gives you the right to die happy, after what happened? At least I have the strength to survive. Turning stubbornly away, she began gathering wood for the funeral pyre. Seems like that's the only thing I've been doing these days. Turning back to the body, she began to carefully arrange it, carefully avoiding looking at the face of her best friend…

"This is my heir, Shini. She will show your sister around as we conduct the negotiations." The monarch cast a hard glance at the petite figure sitting beside her. "I trust they will stay out of trouble."

"Yes, Highness." Said the stately man standing in front of the throne, casting a gaze as intense at the blonde five year old who stood, fidgeting, beside him. "Go on, Jade." She stepped reluctantly forward to meet the eyes of the auburn haired elf, whose eyes sparkled with mischief as she lead her out of the throne room.

"So, what do you guys do for fun around here?"

"Oh, we manage…"

Flash

Brother walked into the room, looking sadly at her. "Jade, I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?" The slim seven year old perched on the bed looked at him anxiously, immediately noting the solemn set of his features and the worried crease on his brow. This was a serious matter.

"The Elven Nations have been burned to the ground, and the royal family has been massacred, it seems-"

"What?! What about Shini?" They had kept up correspondence for two years- Shini had never mentioned anything going wrong-

"She is believed to be dead."

"Then she might still be alive?"

"Jade, I-"

"Then I'm going to look for her!" With all the fiery conviction she could muster, the seven year old began to pack her bags. She was not going to give up. She had to find Shini- because, she knew her best friend couldn't be dead, not yet.

Flash

The spires of ice flashed wickedly forward again, and she wasn't sure how much longer she dodge them. The water level below her was rising, and she was fairly sure that if she wasn't skewered or drowned, Shadow would very well leave them in there to starve. And then there was always hypothermia- a scream rang out, echoing hollowly through the walls. Shini took the needle sharp point through her palm, her fingers flexing spasmodically around it as the blood began to drip. She couldn't move- she would tear her hand to ribbons if she did- She had no time to scream a warning- the next spire shot out and took Shini through the midsection. This time there was no scream- only a gasp as she bent double- but for her hand, which tore a wider hole as she bent down. Jade's eyes went wide, and she stopped for a minute- then one took her through the shoulder. She lost all focus for a moment in the daze- when she looked up, her eyes met Shini's. Her friend was holding very still, looking sadly into Jade's eyes. With regret, and more than just a touch of fear. Moments later, she passed out.

"Shini- NO! don't fall asleep on us child, don't pass out- SHINI!"

The water was red with blood as the elf raised her head slowly. "Don't worry, Jade. I don't give that easily. I'm not dead yet."

Flash

They were five again- she pulled the knife her hand immediately and through it back across the hall. There was a dull thud, and a man dressed all in black hit the floor. Shini held up her hand calmly, saying, "Mother, I think I need a healer."

Flash

She had gone out to scout the territory for intruders, as they took turns doing often while they stayed with the journeymen. Shini had left around dusk- hours later, she was interrupted in her tasks by frantic mindcalls. Blood. A vague location, and :Jade, I need your help again!:

They had arrived later, to find her trying desperately to hold out against a stream of mages trying to attack her. Giving ground, she had looked at Jade with pure gratitude. :Thanks, friend.: Then she continued with her work.

Flash

Jade awoke out of her memories with a shake and a shiver, only then allowing her eyes to travel downward to the face set up on the funeral pyre. The tranquil visage, bathed in sunlight, no longer seemed as dead and barren. This was the face of Shini- queen, fighter, victim, and her best friend. For the first time in a year, her stolid countenance dropped for a minute, allowing the pain and sadness to leak through. Drawing silently on her power, she lit the pyre and stared at the burning white flames for several moments, watching as the face was lost amidst the flame. Ja ne, Shini. No goodbyes. I'll see you on the other side, but I'm not dead yet. Then she turned her back to Shadow's End, and walked into the horizon, never seen or heard from again.

Charis watched, as every friend she had ever had disappeared from her vision. First, two men faded from sight, taking with them pieces and chunks of heart and soul. Then one of her best friends fell, the despair taking over. After that, her surrogate mother. She could still remember-

The had appeared in her dream world, talking calmly and exploring cautiously, and never filled with panic. In fact, they were so unlike any others that she had ever seen, arriving calmly and even without summoning, that she took to watching them. The one in black held a dangerous aura, and a porcelain countenance. Following her as a shadow, the one in white was all grace and curved edges. She had not been able to stay away. Abandoning all her old rules and giving up the comfort of her shadow world, she had allowed them to bring her out, where all was light and pain, where nothing could be hidden- and it was worth every minute of it. But now- now she had no link left, and the control over the shadow world that she had given up so long ago was now slowly drawing her in- I cannot escape it this time, because now all I have left are a bunch of dreams, and even they fail me- The power backlashed, and slowly she faded away, to where all was gray and shifting- the world of her dreams. Ja ne, guys. Till next time.

The smoke drifted toward the rafters.

"…Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing." (V, v, 23-28)

-Shakespeare, Macbeth