Book of Days: January 25, Shadows Beneath the Walls

The torches on the wall cast shadows over the approach to the castle, and while Livel didn’t regret having the light, she wished it didn’t flicker the way it did. Surely the King could pay for crystals with their warm and steady glow? The magic was difficult, and those who cast it knew its worth, but if the capital couldn’t afford it, who could? 

She could hear her mother chiding her for the thought, despite having passed two years ago. After all, it wouldn’t do for the king to be seen wasting money on frivolities, not when wood burned for little more than the effort required to fetch it. But firelight danced in the wind and the shadows danced with it, and she could swear the ones this night moved in ways they should not.

Sure, it was tricky sometimes. The fire would send some shadows going one way and others another, depending on the rocks and the trees and whatever else might affect such things. But tonight, she could swear there was something in the darkness, something made of the shadows themselves, something that moved when the fire danced, creeping toward the gates.

It had to be the stories, playing with her mind. Ever since the messenger had come from the Aslinea Township, talking of things moving on the Plains, stirring up old superstitions, well, it was hard for anyone to keep their minds focused. Especially people like Livel, who had grown up in a house that remembered the old tales, told them by the firelight of their homes, and watched for the shadows to move.

They could. She knew in the core of her being they could move, had done before the veil between the worlds was strengthened at the end of the war, but as her father was a weaver, she knew such things could wear thin in places and everyone knew the Plains of Aslinea had been thin to begin with.

At least, she hoped everyone knew. The royal family had always projected the air of those who had won a decisive victory, for all the stories said it had been by the barest of margins. King Alvaria was no different, having inherited her father’s poise and mother’s stern countenance. She never let on that anything was amiss, even sitting relaxed on her throne while the message from Aslinea talked of an illness in the township and the need for aid.

Something had been wrong with the messenger. She had clearly been attacked, for she was bandaged and showed signs of healing. She’d reached the capital in company of one of the King’s men who knew enough to have done so, though he didn’t seem to have noticed anything amiss. Except, of course, that the messenger had also been accompanied by the fool.

The king had taken them on, let them juggle and tell stories and perform tricks for those waiting, and everyone had to admit Tishaani was good at their job. Just as they all had to admit there was an edge to them well worthy of the trickster’s name they’d taken for their own.

And since they arrived, at night the shadows at the gate moved as they should not, and Livel hadn’t had a comfortable turn on watch. There were time she could swear there were whispers, rising up from the darkness below her line of sight. Sometimes, she thought, they even called her name. And when they did, her mother’s voice called to her in the back her mind, not telling her she was being ridiculous, but telling her to be wary. This, more than anything, terrified her.

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by | Jan 25, 2021

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