Author's Note:

I get to play around in Gaeriel's universe! Wai! That means you should read her series, Photon's Crossing, to catch some of the references. That's right, this is a fanfic based on an original story of another fanfic author. ~shrugs~ Anybody got a problem with that? My point is, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you read her stories. You can find her profile and list of stories by following the link of favorite authors from my profile. Gaeriel Mallory. And if you'd like to play here too you must ask her first. It's her world and I'm playing here with her permission...and under her orders. ~giggles~

Shadow Crossing

I know you're used to hearing from Anne's point of view, but when I mentioned my story she just shook her head and said, "I wouldn't know where to begin. You're the *real* author after all, you tell them."

I politely reminded her that a few articles and poems in a witch and wizard trade magazine was hardly qualification for being called a *real* author, but I think my brand of politeness may have put her off a bit and I got stuck writing my own story. I may spite her by telling a few of the other more sordid tales that abound where a shadow mage can see and a "humble musician" can not.

That is neither here nor there, so I should get on with my story.

I am one of the less known regulars at Photon's Crossing. I've been coming here for longer than anybody believes, and I saw Samm the first time *she* walked in. If that tells you anything. No, it probably doesn't. You see, there was *nothing* here before Samm walked in. There's a magic here that mortals can not comprehend, and immortals don't try too hard to unravel. No, I'm not pretending to understand it beyond the popular theory of photons bumping into each other and creating a dimensional rift. Whatever photons are.

(ed. The author is *obviously* exaggerating to try to prove a point. If Samm has been here forever then Elizabeth's mother would have recognized her in P. C. #10, Mother May I Or are there other things going on that the shadow mage isn't telling us?)

I'm the only regular that can not step out of the tavern and end up in my home dimension--or even the one I had stepped out from in the first place. This would be worrisome to some regulars. It would seem downright unfair to others. (Sorry Elizabeth and Telrondil, but I can't help it, really!) The problem though is that no one really notices me. I've talked to people, interacted with them, and even made friends, but they can't even see me until I talk to them first.

Do you have any idea how *lonely* that is? Especially since I'm so shy.

It doesn't help that the first time I did more than ask for a drink was the night the translation spell glitched. And I think it's my fault. (But if you could keep that under your hat I'd appreciate it.)

I really need to stop talking around the problem and get to what happened.

I cast a spell to give me the ability to speak my mind without second thoughts. It was the only way I'd have been able to say a word in the first place.

"Rull, mi'vronen me burleth roth?"

That did *not* sound right.

I removed my spell and tried again. Everybody spoke a word clearly, and then gibberish spewed forth. Every utterance of the shadow language broke the spell further until finally it was shot and Samm had to threaten Tallamyn with bodily harm if the spell ever failed again.

My head met the table repeatedly over the next few months as I tried to figure out how I could alleviate this loneliness.

I found the answer in the most accidental way. You won't believe it.and maybe that's why Anne hadn't wanted to be the one to tell the story.

I was too depressed to conjure gold anymore. Shadow magic takes a lot out of a person, and so does depression, so I established a bar tab. And my tab got bigger...and bigger...and bigger until it caught Elizabeth's eye in a way that my natural shadow nature couldn't avoid.

"Who the hell is Tsaraat, and how can he owe us thousands of gold pieces? Cumulative over almost a year? What the--?"

Her voice rang out and silenced everyone, and the silence remained for a long time after she cut herself off. Soon this was replaced by a rumble as everyone looked around and tried to figure out how something like that could have happened. They were also discreetly trying to figure out who the mysterious Tsaraat could be.

And that was enough of an inquiry to break the magic over me.

"I am Tsaraat. I'm sorry, I've been a bit under the weather lately--"

That's all it took for Samm to look at me, finally see me, and grab me by the neck to start threats to get her money.

Most people would have been quaking in their boots, wetting themselves, or muttering prayers. I was positively beaming. Someone had finally noticed me! My cloak fell off of my shoulders, and I imagine that there were a few very surprised people looking at what was revealed. I am female. Very female. And had been dressed only in my cloak. When no one notices you in a few hundred years clothing that is not functional becomes a moot point.

Samm dropped me in surprise as she recognized what I was, if not who I was. Every elf in the place drew steel and everybody else wondered why.

It was Telrondil that put a name to the spectre I represented. "A shadow elf? Alive?"

I bowed and retrieved my cloak. "Yes, I know, this means the end. I will leave peacefully." I grinned, happy to be interacting with people for a change. A simple incantation and the will of my joy put into it created a bag of gold and gems that would appease Samm and more than pay my debt.

It was sweet Anne that stopped me. "What's the rush?" She glared down every elf in the place that had a weapon trained on me, and each one looked suddenly sheepish but stubborn.

I shrugged. "I'm supposed to be evil. Or bad luck. Or something along those lines. *Civilized* elves aren't allowed to have a thing to do with my kind." I laughed sweetly.

"Are you evil? Or bad luck? It seems to me that if you've been here long enough to run up that much of a tab you've been here long enough to have brought us all to ruin by now."

"I don't know what it is I'm supposed to be this century, but elves are supposed to be a people of light, not of shadows. The path I took made me an outcast. I thought, if I could bring up the courage to be noticed, that at least here I'd be accepted. I'm happy though because I have been able to talk to so many people! All at once! I've never done that before. I got to be the center of attention for the first time in my life." I kissed the still stunned Samm full on the mouth and danced about a bit. I giggled when I stopped. "And you guys thought Santa Claus was a lonely, misunderstood, wreck of a man."

Anne wasn't finished. She was a beautifully stubborn girl, and I thought we could have been friends if I wasn't about to be kicked out for good. I'd just have to find another nexus to continue my travels from. "So why are you leaving?"

It stopped me cold. "Well, I've never been welcome anywhere before. I just assumed--"

Samm growled at me, looking highly insulted. "This is Photon's Crossing. Everybody is welcome. Right Telrondil?"

He looked stubborn and argumentative for all of two seconds. Then he actually shrugged. "You're the boss-lady. I'll stand behind your hospitality before I'll stand behind rank superstition any day. Besides, I've never heard of a happy shadow mage, only irritable insulted ones. I wonder if that could be the reason for the evil and bad luck."

If he hadn't been bonded I would have kissed him. I realized he must have been thinking of his newly adopted daughter and the sad fate of her mother.

"I--I can stay? I can keep coming back?"

"As long as your tab is never overextended again, I don't see why not." Samm shrugged and walked away as if that decided the matter--and I guess it did.

Things went back to normal after that, and after people stopped paying attention to me I noticed that they failed to see me again. Still, once I had spoken to someone, once they knew I existed, I felt I could talk to them again. Grinning from ear to ear I grabbed my forgotten drink and sat down. That's when I found out that one person hadn't gone back to business as usual. The wizard, Tallamyn, had kept his eyes trained on me and then walked over with a scowl.

"About that bit about bad luck..." he began, speaking low and almost menacingly.

"Wait. Before you finish that thought I want to say I'm sorry about messing up your translation spell. I forgot and didn't realize what kind of spell you had in place."

He nodded. "I thought so."

"I have a proposition though. I've heard that human wizards have sought out shadow mages in an attempt to strengthen their own understanding of magic, and we are notoriously difficult to find. You could become the most powerful wizard around these parts."

"You would? You would teach me to cast spells that can't be unmade by shadow?"

I was happier than ever! "I would! This is Photon's Crossing, and stranger things have happened."

Then I shuddered. This was Photon's Crossing! How much stranger could things get?