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AMONG THE SHADOWS
The wind was howling. It unnerved her how it screeched, how it forced the trees to bow. Trees should not bow.
Many people were collapsing. She watched through the window as they fell one by one. Had she not known the terror, the pure fear that was coursing through their veins at this very moment, she would have thought their failure to stand almost comical. But she did know their fear. She knew it all too well.
Mournful, she turned away, absently rubbing a palm across the goosepimples that had overcome the flesh of her arm. She crossed the room to the lone candle that flickered pitifully atop the small nightstand beside the bed, her bare feet making almost no sound on the dusty, aged carpet. It was utterly silent in the entire inn. One could not even hear the stirrings of those who slept. The only sound was the faint whistling of the wind carressing the impassable glass of the windows. And then the quiet whew of her breath as she blew out the candle. Darkness settled as abruptly as if a blanket had been thrown over her eyes. Erratic in the panic that darkness always sent sweeping through her, she quickly slipped into bed and brought the covers up to just below her chin. But she wouldn't sleep. Not tonight.
Whispers prickled at her ears. Even with the sense of horror it brought her-enough to make her nearly wet the sheets she lay on-there came with it also a sense of longing. The things those voices murmured to her were unspeakable yet...so, so tempting.
Come with us, they offered. We will protect you from the darkness. We will honor you, praise you, like the queen you are. Come...
She should be treated as a queen. With the powers she held inside, with the knowledge that she was the key to life, she should be a queen.
No! she thought vehemenately. She could not allow herself to think like that. She was no better than anyone else. Equal. All was equal.
We can keep you safe from the darkness, the voices tried again. We can protect you...no harm will come to you while you keep company with us. Come. Come...
A lie. She knew that much, at least. They could not protect her from the darkness. They were the darkness.
She couldn't do it. She'd thought she could handle it...but she couldn't. Swiftly, she threw back the covers, stumbled her way to the window. This was dangerous, but it would have to do; she'd used up the last of her matches. She opened the window.
Freezing wind slapped into her. It tugged at her hair, stabbed at her skin like tiny pinpricks of ice. Desperate to be out of the cold and the darkness, she leaned out the window, extending an arm toward the gleaming full-moon, her eyes intent upon the distant, shining orb...
All at once, it was attacking her. The darkness was clawing at her, thin tendrils curling around her wrist and snaking up and under her nightgown. She felt the warmth in her hand gathering, turning cold as the energy from the moon pooled together in her palm.
She couldn't stop herself from crying out as the darkness contracted on her. Her weight on the windowseal went to her waist as she was lifted off her feet. The binds of darkness were attempting to drag her right out the window. Frantic, she clutched the window seal with her free hand, closing her eyes to concentrate harder as she willed the moon closer, closer, until finally, with a gasp of success, the image flooded into her mind.
She saw the particles. They were like long strands of gold, similar to that of the strings on an instrument. With mental fingers, she plucked at the strands, wove them together into a pattern that some part of her told her was right. Her palm burned as something solid fell into it. She clenched her fist at once, just as she was lifted another inch out the window, enough that she tipped off-balance. Her eyes snapped open as the sense of free-falling rushed at her; when she opened her eyes, however, she did not see the village grounds rushing toward her. Instead, she saw a blinding light shooting her way. Relief brought sharp tears to her eyes.
The bright form slammed into her chest, knocking her back into her room. The tendrils of darkness around her receded, hissing as the light burned them. The wind was cut off. With a loud snap, the window was shut.
Gasping for breath, Evelyn merely laid there on the floor, her arms thrown over her face. The light turned her eyelids scarlet nevertheless, comforting her in the knowledge that she was being watched over. She remained on the floor for quite some time, until finally, once her heart had calmed, she sat up.
The dog of moonlight was sitting between she and the window, its golden tail wagging madly. Though it was by far not the first time she'd done it, she still found she turned a little breathless as she gazed at it. So beautiful.
The shade depth was startling; it didn't go deep at all. The color was that of the moon's glow: cool and bright and silvery. Had it not been for the stars out, it would have been a wholly silver dog. It was of no concern to her. It was here and it was protecting her, and that was all that mattered.
She stood and opened her arms. The dog leapt into them as easily as if gravity didn't matter. Which it didn't, in its case. Cradeling it, she turned and walked back to her bed. Had she not been so shaky, she would have marveled again at how light it was in her embrace. As it was, all she desired now was a full night's rest. She felt the dog curl up beside her once she'd laid down. The comfort of it almost made her smile as she closed her eyes. Almost.
She felt the voices fluttering somewhere near, indistinctive and harmless. She stroked a hand down the dog's glowing backside. It didn't breathe. But it did hum its pleasure.
She hummed her own gratitude back.