Good triumphs over evil, light vanquishes darkness-- at least, that's what we're taught to believe. But what if that's wrong?
Aido was born to believe darkness, death, and night-time are evil. In fact, shadows no longer exist in the world. So when one day, when he discovers he has a shadow, he begins to learn about the true difference between good and evil as he fights to return natural balance to the world.
"Kajiet sestarie anth-aranjien? Why does he want the book?" demanded an angry voice from the edge of the library. A young woman sitting at a nearby table lifted her dark eyes from her textbook. However, the bored expression on her face hadn’t changed. In fact, one might not even realize that not only was she listening to the speakers, but she understood what they were saying.
"Don't ask questions, fool, or else you know he’d happily see you swinging from the gallows,” a second impatient voice replied brusquely, still in the different language. This really intrigued the woman, though she didn’t show it. Few people could speak the Dal-Lorhien so freely; Those that could were either an inaaran—a sorcerer—or well-educated. And someone who would send the man off to the gallows… One or both of these men had to be of high rank. She kept listening.
“I’ll hold my silence, then.” The woman feigned a yawn to hide her smirk. That man clearly wasn’t happy with the death threat. “Here you are, then.”
There was a pause. The woman strained her ears to listen, while keeping her eyes glazed over her textbook.
“This isn’t easy,” the second voice said.
“What did you expect? This book has the most difficult magic in the world.”
“But… Capturing the Spirits isn’t possible.”
“Well, it must be possible, since the people who wrote it knew the Spirits themselves,” the first man replied coolly. “If anyone knew that capturing the Spirits was possible, it would be them.”
The woman froze. Capturing the Spirits? Most people would think that this was hoax, but she more than anyone else knew that they were not lying. At the university, she was studying to become an inaaran, so she knew what was possible. They had to be looking at the Anth-Aranjien ier anj Kailorké ak anj Laieké: The Book of Day and Night. That was the oldest book of magic in existence, and she knew it was kept at this very library, as the people who wrote it had once attended the university.
A few months back, the woman had read through that book, just to get a feel of the type of magic that was present. Each and every spell in that book was taboo, involving living sacrifices to gain energy, and, in the case of one particular spell, it involved the capturing of the Spirits, the powerful deities that served the One True God. The spell in question involved changing time, and would create an eternal day with no night, shadows, or other darkness. Why would these men want a spell to do that?
The first man spoke her question aloud. “Sire, forgive my question, but what does His Highness want with such a dangerous spell?”
The second man let out a slow, low chuckle. “Surely you know what his long dream has been.”
“Yes. It has been his dream since he was a boy to make all the darkness go away,” came the quiet reply.
This was too much for the woman to hear; she shouldn't be listening to this. She stood up sharply. Emperor Litorel, the only person who allowed to be called “His Highness” must be behind this absolute foolishness. Surely such a learned man would understand the dangers behind casting that spell! The book itself had explicitly written against performing it—an eternal day would cause a disruption of seasons and tides, a chaotic world without Spirits, and nobody would even be able to die! She slammed her book shut.
After she gathered her things, she strode briskly out of the library and into the hot desert air. Thinking of spells like that disturbed her, so she hoped fervently that it wasn't true.
The woman froze, and slowly turned.
Two men stood a few steps above her, staring at her with hard, dark eyes. One was a man she recognized—one of the professors at the university that she attended. The other was dressed in a full, hot uniform of a Royal Soldier. His badges glinted in the unforgiving desert sun.
“You speak the Dal-Lorhien, don’t you?” the soldier said, more of a statement than a question. The woman’s sunburned skin flushed even more. She didn’t respond. “Answer me!”
“Yes, sire,” she replied with forced steadiness. He scowled, then looked at the professor.
“Who is she?” he demanded.
“One of the university’s top first-level students in magic,” the professor replied. “She’s here on scholarship, and she’s fluent in the Dal-Lorhien and has a higher magic aptitude than most of the other students here—”
“So she knows exactly about what she overheard,” the soldier stated evenly. The woman said nothing, and looked at her feet.
In her mind, she began to recite an ancient chant to read the man's intentions. Did she have a right to be as scared as she felt?
“Well, girl, since you seem to be so powerful, how about we take you to the castle. You’ll be treated with honor as you advise His Highness Emperor Litorel with the correct way to go about performing this spell…”
His words were beyond her. She had sworn her allegiance to the Spirits when she had arrived at the university, and she would rather die than help anyone, even the Emperor, catch the Spirits. With her magic, she had seen that the man was sincere about letting her help the Emperor, but all she sensed about this situation was a terrible evil.
The word was out of her mouth before she could even think twice. The professor looked at the soldier anxiously, but the other man’s eyes were flashing with anger.
“So, you refuse to help your country.”
“I am doing quite the opposite, sire.”
The woman didn’t know why she was suddenly being so strong against a clearly larger and more powerful man. Hadn’t he just threatened the professor with a hanging? For her own protection, she said nothing further. Still, the damage was done. In a few short steps, the soldier had marched down a step or two above her, so that he was a little above eye level, and very close to her. Her eyes were forced to look into his.
“When I ask a question, you respond. Get it, girl?” he said in a dangerously quiet voice.
Still, she didn’t respond. Angry, the man seized the neck of her black frock, pulling her up. Startled, she tried to wriggle out of his grasp.
“I… I said, that I am doing quite the opposite, sire.”
“And why would you go against our Emperor and our country?” he spat, still not letting go of her.
“I’m not going to go against the Spirits!” she replied, loudly, but nervously.
“Let her go, sire, she won’t do anything to the plans,” the professor pleaded.
Still, a fire burned in her. She couldn’t let the Spirits be captured. Trying to sound a lot braver than she felt, she protested. “No, what I will do is make sure your plans fall apart! Don’t you realize how stupid this spell is? It would spell destruction of the world as we know it!”
Why didn’t she just stop there? Those thoughts would be ones she would think of later, but for now, her indignation on behalf of the Spirits had taken over her. Though she was still frightened of this soldier, she felt that if the Emperor were to truly try capturing the Spirits, she needed to put an end to this.
“I’m not going to let you get away with this, sire! I know the dangers of performing a spell like that, and it will result in the ruin of the world! Do not disrespect the Spirits by allowing this to happen! I swear on my death, I will put an end to this!”
They were gathering an audience now. Curious students had come over to watch this exchange before the soldier and the gawky genius girl. Most of them couldn’t understand what they were saying, as they were continuing to speak the Dal-Lorhien, but a few people in the crowd were able to pick up a few words. The ones that did understand what they saying were trying to translate for their friends, but few listened. All eyes were on the soldier and the student.
The soldier took no notice of their onlookers. Infuriated, he sent a flying punch at her mouth. She didn't realize what was happening until his fist smashed into her jaw. Groaning in pain, she stumbled as she clutched her mouth. At least she was free of his grasp. Unfortunately, he took advantage of her weakened state, and shoved her shoulder hard. The crowd stepped away as she tumbled down the steps, yelping in pain and surprise.
She felt her head crack on the pavement, and she groaned in pain. As she blindly put a hand to her head, she felt liquid at her fingertips. Blood? If she had thought to use magic, she would have—not that she knew spells that would help her. She didn’t learn fighting magic.
“Arrest her. This ignorant witch is guilty of treason against His Highness Emperor Litorel,” the soldier said angrily, in the Simple Language—the language everyone could understand. The crowd gasped. The woman hardly understood what he was saying, for her consciousness was drifting in and out.
“Please, sire, she didn’t mean harm, she’s just a stupid girl,” she vaguely heard the professor plead.
Somehow, the woman sensed that they were switching back to the Dal-Lorhien. “If she’s as powerful as you say she is, she cannot be allowed to go free. If she is serious, she will hinder the plans.”
She almost hoped that the professor would say he was joking about her power, even though it was true. But the man never said a word of protection for her. As she tried to listen vainly for any protection, her mind abruptly slipped into unconsciousness.
When she awoke, she was in a dank cell. She groaned, and lifted her head slowly. It felt so heavy. Remembering the events of the day, she put a trembling hand against her short blond hair. Dried blood was crusted onto her skull. Feeling ill, she set her head back down on the rough pillow that was on the cot she lay on. Was she in jail? This wasn’t her dorm room. Resisting the urge to pass out again, she forced her head back up. She could go back to sleep once she learned what had happened to her.
Grunting as she forced her body up, she looked around at the cell she was in. She wrinkled her nose as she set her bare feet on the cold floor. This definitely wasn’t her dorm.
Stepping over to the barred door, she tried looking as far down the wet hall as she could see. “Hello? Is anyone there?” she called out uncertainly.
“Ye’re awake?” a gruff, unfamiliar voice replied. A soldier in uniform—a fatter one than the one in the library—appeared at the door.
“Where am I?” she demanded.
“Ye’re at the Southeastern Jail,” he replied in a bored tone. She stared at him.
“Jail? On what charge?”
“On account o’ treason, miss. Ye’ve been sentenced to jail until the date of execution.”
Her blood ran cold. “Execution?”
He nodded. “Yep, execution. What, ye didn’t hear the sentencing carried out?”
She didn’t respond. She felt numb. Execution? Why? For wanting to save the Spirits from capture and the world from an apocalyptic spell?
“Where… Where are my parents?”
“Sorry, lass, but since they live so far away, they won’t be able to get here so soon,” he told her apologetically. She stared at him.
“And when is my date of execution?”
Again, the woman felt very sick. This man had to be joking. Two days until the execution that she knew she didn’t deserve? There were so many things in life that she wanted to do. She wanted to finish school and get a Gold Degree in magic, she wanted to get a good job and be revered by all of Inaar. She wanted to go home and see her family… Spirits, why didn’t she keep her mouth shut back at the library?
Her dark eyes filled with tears. Turning away from the guard, she slowly approached her cot again. Her desire to sleep was gone. She would be in a permanent sleep in just two short days. And the world would be ruined. She clenched her jaw as she continued to dwell on the reason she was here in the first place. The world was going to be ruined forever because she couldn’t figure out how to stay alive and warn the Spirits!
She didn’t know which tragedy was worse: The fact that she was going to be dead in forty-eight hours, or the fact that the world would soon be made to suffer in an eternal day because of her stupidity.
“s-Saaj,” she murmured, the oath for the Spirits. She paused. She needed to get in touch with the Spirits. She closed her eyes. “s-Saaj, s-kaskir aar ie. Spirits, come to me.”
She felt no response in her soul from any Spirits. Not that she expected any, but she could always hope. Telepathy was extremely rare, even among the Spirits. The only way to do so is if one had a direct connection to the Spirit that they were talking to, or be a part of their element. Even the Spirits couldn’t talk telepathically.
She repeated the command again, but to no avail. She didn’t have the direct connection. She, and the world of Ékal, would be doomed.
The next two days were spent in deep meditative trances to preserve her magic, or trying to sweet-talk the guard into letting her go. She had even tried bribing him by offering to sleep with him if he let her go, but he assured her that if he did that, then he would be taking her place at the gallows. The woman closed her eyes. She didn’t trust to ask the soldier to pass the message onto the Spirits. After all, he worked for the Emperor himself.
“s-Saaj, s-kaskir aar ie. s-Saaj, s-kaskir aar ie. s-Saaj—”
“Will ye shut up with yer babblin'?” the guard snapped at her the morning of her execution. She narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, I apologize, I was just trying to get a few last words in,” the woman replied harshly. The man scowled.
“Ye’ve been saying nothing but those last few words for two days straight!”
The woman glared at him. “Well, you won’t have to deal with it much longer!”
How had she gotten into this mess? She had been asking herself this often over the past two days, but it hadn’t made the ordeal any easier. Right now, she could easily be in her own life, her normal life of studying and practicing magic. She shouldn’t be in jail, waiting for the soldiers to escort her to her death!
She often wished for her mother and father to be with her. She hadn’t spoken to them in so long, but they had sent regularly to each other. But she hadn’t been allowed to write anything from jail. Would they remember, when she was gone, that she had loved them? She felt her eyes filling up with tears again, and she wiped them hastily. Since she had arrived, she kept crying irrationally, but she couldn’t stop. She was leaving her world behind to suffer and rot.
A group of four soldiers marched up to her cell, looking official in their freshly pressed clothing and evenly set hats. They would live to see their mothers another day. She stared dully at them.
“To the Student-Inaaran Elejel Kosinorie, you have been convicted for the treason against His Highness Emperor Litorel,” one of the young soldiers announced.
The woman snorted, even though she wasn’t truly amused. They didn’t even see it fit to use her real name—Elejel was her inaaran name. Her real name didn’t matter anymore, apparently.
“You have been sentenced to die by hanging from the gallows until you are dead. We will pray for you in the halls of the Spirit of the Grave.”
“No, you won’t,” she announced suddenly, staring them down. “You won’t pray for me! I know this because you don’t even know who I am, or why I’m going to die! I don't want lies to be the last things I hear!”
They ignored her, and opened the door. Terror seized her, paralyzing her. The soldiers walked in, and she was too frozen to move as they shackled her feet and arms. Surrounding her, they led her out of the cell for the first time in two days. However, there wasn’t much to see. There were only more cells and more cells, until…
The soldiers led her out into the sunshine. Caught off guard, the woman squinted.
“You treasonous witch!”
“I hope you suffer!”
The woman flinched as she heard the jeers of people around her. Did any of them know her? Probably. She assumed that even her best friends were here to witness her public execution. Were they among the jeerers now?
She breathed in, savoring the sweet, dry air. She could probably count how many breaths she took until she was dead. She wanted to look at her feet, but she couldn’t, not even as they put her on the block beneath the gallows. She wanted to remember the glow of the sun, the shimmering desert sand, vivid colors of the clothing people wore…
The soldier from the library was there, wearing a loose tunic of vivid red. He sneered.
She was overcome with anger as a sack was placed over her head. That monster lived! She writhed where she stood. Terror and blind fury had overcome her being as she was faced with her imminent death, and the frustration of the soldier being left alive to give the spell to the Emperor. He had to be stopped. The noose was fitted around her neck, and the executioner began to speak words she couldn’t hear.
“s-Saaj, s-kaskir aar ie!” the woman screamed over the crowd. The block was pushed from beneath her.
She felt a presence flicker within her. Something had heard her plea. Something could stop the spell.
But it wouldn’t be her.