Phantammeron book one, p.9
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       Phantammeron Book One, p.9

           Mitchell Stokely
 
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  High above the Dreaming Seas, beneath the forbidding dome of the Arch of Heaven, the mighty Shadow had flown on tattered wings. For upon his back the battered wings of his father spread above him, casting their latent darkness onto the silent seas far below. With his father’s wings and their commanding shade, he had held dominion over the powers of the nighttime skies and the many winged creatures of the netherworld that had followed him into Phantaia.

  But the Shadow had been badly burned by the fierce light of Phantaia. For it had seared his flesh, chasing away the last shadows from his wings, and bleeding him of his father’s Glourun, the dark essence which had sustained him.

  His vast shadowed armies, like trails of smoke streaming across the skies, retreated back to their homeland in broken and weary lines. They were returning to the safety of the grim Lands of Midnight from whence they had been summoned. They too had suffered a terrible loss at the hands of the Twilight Mist and the dawning of the lights of Phantaia. For their own shadows had been ripped away when their master’s great wings had failed to protect them from its golden rays.

  The Shadow was now weakened and drained of his own night essence. In a daze he drifted upon his shredded wings through the somber gray skies, striving with all his might to return to his homeland. For he was gravely injured. In his frail state he opened his black eyes once more and saw below him the vast abyss of the monstrous seas. And there bubbled forth into his bleak mind the secrets of the ocean-child named Ana, which he had dared to seek and slay.

  He now knew that what had filled the seas now dwelt in her. But as long as she yet lived, so was this world threatened. For he had seen that under the spell of those waters would this world soon fall, the fading night falter and wane. And so had he vowed to destroy those waters at all cost, pledging his life and kind until that savage deed should be done. Driven by his burning hatred of those waters he would gladly die but to see them perish before his eyes.

  But the Shadow had now sensed that a strange light was somehow wed to those waters. Should the strange girl who carried them reach her destination, what new curse of light would then befall them? With this terrible question in his mind, he flew on in doubt and despair, his ragged wings carrying his pale body on the cold winds that flung their mighty draft against the pitiless skies. Down into the Lands of Midnight he flew, until he collapsed upon the rocky cliffs that lay before the seas.

  There upon a windy ledge the Shadow lay, wrapped in his dark wings alone and dying. But Anissa, the Queen of the Cromwich, had seen his withered form upon the dark precipice and had come to his aid. Seeing him dying from his terrible wounds, she spoke to the Shadow, saying, “Soon shall your dark flesh, born of the Night, fade to gray. Without the black blood of the Night’s own essence, you shall soon perish.” The Shadow then looked up in agony at the witch, his mouth open, speechless, and with the distant glow in his crimson eyes slowly fading.

  With her garnet eyes set ablaze, Anissa looked closer at the seared flesh of the Shadow. She knew that no power could cause such harm to the Child of Night except the Sacred Lights that once burned upon the Mountains of Heaven. Anissa then said to the Shadow, “The spiritual light of the Essence Eternal must have been restored to its ancient lantern in Phantaia, as no other but its hateful flame could burn away the midnight color from your skin with such violence.”

  But the Shadow laughed, saying, “It matters not, for I now wear the Wings of Night. They once belonged to my father. Have they not protected me from those evil beams? Have I not been spared total annihilation?” Anissa looked again upon the horrible welts and wounds that lay upon the tattered wings that wrapped about him. And a knowing smile came upon her face.

  She then stared down at the Shadow with her green glowing eyes, saying to the Shadow, “Only the blood of the Murgala that grows in the depths of Phantaia can save you now. Without them you will surely die, as the Sacred Light has drained all darkness from you. Long ago your father the Endless Night had placed within the roses the last of his tears for this world, so that they might be as sustenance for the Children of Darkness. I will go forth into Phantaia when twilight falls upon the wood, find the black roses, and return with their oily essence. Yet is it a perilous venture.” Anissa looked with a grim expression at the Shadow. And he saw great fear buried in her emerald eyes.

  Anissa placed her sickly hands upon the dying Shadow’s face, like a mother’s hand upon an injured son. But her long black nails drew black blood from his lips and cheek. “I will fetch the blood of the black roses to heal you,” she said to him. “But I desire a price be paid. I desire the dark ring that lies upon the hand of Agapor. And by no other treasure shall I grant you life.”

  The Shadow looked with paltry eyes upon the crooked witch, his mind growing weak. The Shadow then said in a failing voice. “If my power is renewed and my darkness restored, I shall be free to seek the girl and slay her. Then shall the light fail and Phantaia perish with it. Only with my earned freedom might I then destroy my master Agapor, just as I slew his father. The ring shall then be yours witch. This vow I make.” But a lingering fear of the light that shined in Phantaia still haunted the Shadow’s mind.

  The witch then drew the blood of the Shadow’s cheek into her fist, speaking the words of a strange incantation as she dripped it over his body. Anissa then looked at the Shadow and smiled, saying, “By your own flesh that binds you still to this world has your sacred vow to me been made.” And she cackled to herself as the Shadow drifted away into dark dreams.

  Anissa climbed onto her great broom of yew and flew off across the Dreaming Seas, seeking to find the Murgala that now lay hidden in the depths of Phantaia’s vast wood.
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