Leaving the Shadows

Darkness. I hate it here, but it keeps me alive, hides me from those who want me dead. Magic. I don't know what to do with it, or how to use it, but I think it's supposed to help me. Hunters. They seem to know how to restrain me from leaving without even knowing I'm here. Kiri. The one thing I have left to care about. The one thing left living for. The one thing keeping me from ending it all, right here, right now. I have to find her. Keep her safe. It's all I want now. It's all I'm asking for. It's all I've been asking for for the past seven years. But there are those that would be ready to kill even her to stop me if they found out she was my only weekness left. Shadows. The one thing holding me back from finding her.

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6. The Meadow

Chybeth has always thought that the throne room should be remodeled, and relocated to another part of the palace. She has always thought it was too bland. The walls have plain grey bricks like the rest of the palace, but Chybeth always thought they should be colorful somehow with pictures that tell stories, like of Allilandra and Aressa. The throne is made of a plain grey metal, although its usually covered in soft purple robes that hide the metal and prevent discomfort from the hard seat. My sister thinks it should be made of wood and have beautiful carvings in it. She has countless other opinions, and I don't approve of many of them. But the magic that protects our family from other magic is not the only magic the first king and queen cast for the protection of Abiladia. Their magic also protects the throne room and has made it indestructible. Because Chybeth cannot destroy the throne room, she has probably blocked it off and constructed a new new one altogether. But I know the real reason she did that. If she sat on the real throne it would kill her, like it did to Allilandra. Now she calls herself queen as she hunts me down like a hound and its lunch.

 

Despite all of this, the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me happened in the woods. When I left the palace I was two months pregnant. Seven months into living in the wilderness, I gave birth to my beloved daughter, Kiri Cassondra Nerissa. She was a beautiful baby born with Etari’s crystal-blue eyes and my blond hair.  I loved her like she was my life and I would have done anything for her. But that was the problem. Anything. And I did. I did everything. Even shattering my own heart to get her to that orphanage. If I loved her any less, I would not have given her up. A child should not grow up in the environment I was living in. She probably would have died when the harsh winds of winter came. I’ve nearly died many times in the winter myself from the cold, sickness, and lack of food.

 

I soon learned to live in a large hollow tree that now keeps me quite warm. Often times I cannot find enough to eat and starve, sometimes for days. But I never run out of water. There’s a stream nearby and when it’s frozen in the winter, there’s always snow to melt. Kiri needed and deserved so much more than that. So I risked my life to get to that orphanage so she could live somewhat of a normal life, or at least she would be able to live. But I have always loved her. My darling baby Kiri.

 

When I left my tree to take Kiri to the orphanage, it was raining. After running a while I saw a willow tree up head, and it surprised me because I had never seen a willow tree in the woods before. It must have been the only tree of its kind in the whole forest, or at least that part of the forest. I was tired from the run and I realized that this tree might provide some protection from the rain and it would hide me enough so anyone in the woods would not see me without thoroughly examining the tree. So I finally decided to rest a minute.

 

But when I pushed through it’s vine-like leaves I did not find a small dark space with water dripping from the canopy above. Instead I found myself in a huge meadow much bigger than the tree actually expanded. The moment I passed through the curtain of tree branches suddenly the rain ceased to fall and it was sunny and warm. I dropped to my knees in amazement and as my soaked clothes brushed against the soft grass those spots of clothing instantly dried. I started rolling around in the grass to dry the rest of my clothes, but froze when I saw the most beautiful and promising thing I’d ever seen: honeycombs. As I approached the honeycombs, the bees did not turn and attack me viciously, but instead they backed off and allowed me to indulge in the rich taste of the golden honey.

 

I don’t know how long I stayed there, wallowing in the pleasure of the sticky sweetness, but sometime later my attention was brought back to Kiri as she started whining softly. I instantly remember I had left her in the basket when I first entered and fell to my knees in awe. I strode over to retrieve her and lifted her out of the basket. For the first time, I took in my glorious surroundings. The meadow, a perfect circle, seemed to be at least seven times bigger than the tree itself, and it was a fairly large tree. The lush grass was long and thick. There were no weeds to defeat the beauty whatsoever. I could see several gigantic old stumps near the immense trunk of the large willow. The stumps were huge, big enough to lay down on with my arms and legs spread out wide. And on their surfaces, there were no rough edges, but instead they looked as smooth as the dark pebbles littered around the creek where I had finally found refuge from my sister.

 

I heard the sound of rushing water and walked to the other side of the trunk to find a crystal-clear stream. Water flowed from somewhere high in the tree, past too many limbs and branches for me to identify its source. The water was flooded with fish in astounding colors-grey, blue, white, purple, yellow, red, orange, gold, and even fish with all these colors at once! I was transfixed and suddenly filled with hunger, despite the amount of honey I had already consumed. I gently set Kiri down and reached my hand into the water to test the difficulty of simply grabbing a fish. The water was cool and refreshing, and I decided later to return and bathe in it. The fish were quick and slippery, but it was not long before I had a good sized fish thrashing wildly on the bank at my feet. After cleaning it, I took out the rocks I used to start fires with and cooked the fish by balancing in on a forked stick and holding it over the fire. The grass had a noticeable change in the shade of green a few meters away from me, and looking closer, I could see chives poking out of the ground. I walked over to where the herbs were growing, and picked some to add to the fish for extra flavor.

 

As it turned out, I didn’t need any extra flavor. I had chosen one of the beautiful multi-colored fish, and it tasted even better than it looked. After I had eaten all I could hold, I turned back to the stream. The fish there were so crammed they had a bit of trouble moving, and I felt sorry for them. Still, they somehow managed to swim freely and happily around each other without to much trouble. Yes, happily. I looked closer, and they actually seemed to be smiling and expressing joy. I watched as one smaller fish struggled to swim against the crowd surrounding him. His face expressed stress, I noticed. Eventually, though, he broke free and seemed to gleam with pride.  It was beautiful and terrifying all at once.

 

I cupped my hands and reached into the water. I brought some up toward my lips and realized my hands had a slight, satisfying tingle now that they were holding the water. I hadn’t thought I could feel more at ease in that meadow then I already did, but the tingling some how calmed me all the more. The water was sweet-oh, so sweet-as if the entire stream had been soaked in honey and nectar and sugar. Like the tingling in my fingers, I once again felt that gratifying surge of relief. But this had even more of an intense impact on me. It was as if I had been carrying a thousand pounds of pure agony on my back all my life, and someone had graciously lifted it off to carry the burden themselves. It was a relief I had never experienced. I felt suddenly full of energy yet completely exhausted all without warning. The closest I could come to describe it was exhilarating, and that way an understatement, by far. It was one of those things that would cause you to have the same reaction every time. That wonderful, beautiful, breathtaking reaction.

 

I dropped to a kneeling position, panting with eyes wide open. It was a quiet giggle that helped me recover from the shock. Kiri was playing with a butterfly fluttering around her and joy filled her face. I grabbed her and brought her to where I had left the basket in the grass. After sitting her down on the lush greenery, I layed down myself and pulled her into a hug before releasing her beside me. She closed her eyes, and the thought crossed my mind that this tree must contain illuminated magic. I still believe that today. But even now I don’t understand why there had been no side effects whatsoever from the illuminated magic colliding with the bit of magic that makes me a royal pureblood.

 

I woke with the sensation that something was wrong. Terribly, horribly, torturously wrong. Somehow I knew Kiri was in danger and I quietly rose to my feet, my eyes searching the meadow for danger as I lifted a sleeping Kiri up off the ground and into the basket. Every move I made was slow and careful, not letting a sound be heard. A movement by the willow’s trunk caught my eyes, and I saw a woman standing there, her emotionless eyes looking straight into my own. She was beautiful, with a light, pale color of golden and a soft pearly white wavy hair that reached down to her waist and looked as if it were silk as a gentle breeze blew through it. She was wearing a lacy, frilly dress ankle length that was coal black with jews scattered all over the dark silky material. It looked so delicate as it flowed down her back and onto the ground behind her. Her face was flawless with dark, thick eyelashes and sharp, violate eyes. Angular cheekbones and luscious pink-red lips also added to her astonishing beauty.

 

She was motionless until she opened her mouth, probably to speak. I shook of the image of her standing there and grabbed the basket with Kiri in it and started running towards the bending limbs of the willow tree. Before I pushed through, I heard the lady’s voice behind me. It was a soothing sound, and it nearly stopped me, but I wouldn’t let that happen. She sounded as if she were almost agitated, like she had tried to stop me before. “Kaima!” She spoke just that one word. My name.

 

I had disappeared through the braids of vine-like leaves before she could say another word. That was when I had run to the orphanage, where I had left Kiri, as well as my hear. I’d come back to where I have since continued lived in secret, as I had before Kiri had been born. It is as if little has changed in my life in the woods from before Kiri until now. That is what any onlooker would think. That is the way it should be. But it’s not. I see Kiri everywhere. Sometimes I see her as the baby I had once held in my arms while singing to her on the stum. But more and more lately, I’ve been seeing her as a young child, the way I suppose I have imagined she now would look, wherever she may be. I wish I knew.

 

I feel a sudden need to have a connection with her, or at least the memories of her, my darling baby. It hits me, as unexpected as the need for memories had just seconds ago. When I had left the orphanage, I noticed the tree had vanished, not even a stump in its place. It startled me, but I did not have enough energy-emotionally, or physically-to truly react or even care. But now curiosity has risen to it’s complete influence over me, and I know that although I have been avoiding the meadow to save myself the pain it would cause, it will help me release the agony swelling throughout my insides. It’s been long enough, and by now I’ve accepted the fact that my arms will never again cradle her the way they once did, and just sitting in that meadow for only a few minutes should be enough for me to let it all out. Maybe then I can live with a feeling of more security, confidence. I wish that would actually happen. I want it so much, so terribly bad, that although it is the middle of the night, I take off running through the trees.

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