The shadows danced and flicked along the walls edging closer to the bed and tracing extended claws towards the fabric of the doona. Adalind lay still eyes squeezed shut. She could feel when the shadows crept within touching distance, her scalp prickled in warning alerted to the danger of these creatures. The moment one strayed too close she lashed out, a razor blade in her hand. One of the shadows screeched but froze to the spot. Adalind stopped within mm’s of the shadows black skin. If it jumped and touched the blade, it’s skin would split and peel open exposing whatever it was that made them what they were.
“Adalind?! Don’t torment the shadows. You’ll be needed them one day.” Her father yelled.
“I’m just playing!” Adalind screamed back in a huff.
The place her father owned was riddled with the shadow creatures. Some would linger close to her and make her uncomfortable. It wasn’t so much that she feared them – her father made sure she could look after herself – her father had made some sort of alliance with the Shadow Lord and “not harming a hair on his daughter’s head” had been one of the rules. She never felt safe around them though. Dreg’s of monstrosity was what they were. Right on the bottom of the food chain. But in numbers, could take down anyone who was a threat, and now that they did congregate in numbers, they were to be a constant reminder of what was to come.
She was practically a prisoner in her own home. Most of the helpers in the place reported in to her father about the coming and goings of Adalind and she’d grown tired of being constantly watched. Even the shadow creatures had jumped on the bandwagon telling her father things she had gotten up to in the hopes they would climb up the ladder quicker by being a snitch. Thankfully for Adalind the stories they’d take back to her father were benign at best and only cost her one day in the holding cell in the dark with the shadows. That was enough to scare most 15 year olds like her to death. But not Adalind. Her father never did work out how she came out sane from the holding cell.
Magic was something that Adalind had a real talent in. It was taught to her when she worked out in the stalls down the laneways, away from prying eyes and snitches and her father. Thanks to a noble white witch – who would probably be hung if those words were uttered aloud – Adalind had picked up on many skills including conjuring light at will. Living in a “Kingdom of darkness” as she’d come to call it, light was one of the few powerful things to deter shadows and other lowly creatures that inhabited the area.
Many times Adalind had heard stories of the town’s children playing chicken in the forest with the creatures that lived in there. Not a safe game if you couldn’t protect yourself. Most children would return well and truly frightened. But there were those that never did return at all. This gave the forests an eerie feel and most parents forbade their children from ever entering in there. Adalind was one of the few who could confidently walk through there but only because she had magic and many of the creatures feared what they couldn’t comprehend. Including her.
Adalind dreamed of the days where she would be able to return to where she lived as a small girl before her father took her away. Where the sunshine was bright in the morning, instead of the foggy and twilight mornings that the Kingdom of darkness was subjected to. It wouldn’t take much either to cross over to the other side but with eyes and ears everywhere she doubted she’d be able to stay too long without being found. She’d snuck there a few times with the daughters of the white witch and it was only more a learning curve than anything else that she was allowed to go.
Now there were rumours spreading throughout the kingdom of a boy who could take the darkness away. Not just that but to join the kingdom of light and darkness into one like in the old days. Adalind’s father was the first to speak of such a boy and it was there that she learned of the alliance between the Shadow Lord and what they intended to do for the boy. Apparently they had been trying for years to lure the poor boy into the dark and take away any hope of breaking this dark curse. There was nothing else to call it really.
Her father also intended for Adalind to help in luring him into the dark yet the plan had not been revealed to her yet. The lucky thing about magic is that there are endless possibilities and she was able to manipulate the air into eavesdropping that night.
“Adalind?” Psst!” Adalind rolled off her bed and opened up the doors leading to the balcony. Down below in the darkness a small figure waited.
“Are you insane? What are you doing here Bellan?” Adalind hissed. She looked behind her to make sure she hadn’t woken anyone.
“You’ve got to come with me princess. We’re travelling in the night again. Mam said it’s time to learn more.” Bellan pulled the cloak away from her face to reveal silver eyes that glinted in the moonlight. Her hair was wrapped in a tight braid and blended in with the night. Adalind reached in and grabbed her cloak and covered her dark clothes. The hood slipped into place over her own dark hair and she tucked the stray strands under as well. She had been ready for this visit for the past week but she was meant to meet them in the forest when the message came, not when she was in her home.
Adalind swung her leg over the balcony. She climbed down as far as she could before making the jump and rolling to lessen the impact.
“Impressive! But I can do better. Use your magic next time fool.” Bellan whispered gleefully and disappeared towards the forest. Adalind could just make out her outline and wondered whether she should use some of her magic to become more stealthy.
“Don’t waste yours Adalind. We’re going to need all we can tonight.” Bellan whispered back. Adalind cursed her under her breath. She hated when Bellan silently linked their thoughts. Nothing was ever private with her. They followed the tree line out of the property and through the long grasses towards the forest.
“Where is Veena? Is she meeting us at the edge of the forest?” Adalind whispered to her and Bellan stopped abruptly, her body suddenly very still.
“Shh.” Bellan thought to her and they both crouched to the ground silently. It wasn't until they were quiet for a good few minutes that Adalind could understand why they stopped.
“That cursed daughter of yours would be not be here if it wasn’t for me so at least pay me some respect Delaney.” The man spoke with such disdain towards her father that Adalind bristled and slid her silver blade out of her boot. Bellan shook her head at her and held a finger to her lips.
“My daughter is of no concern of yours except to keep her protected when we go to retrieve that troublemaker. Once that’s done we don’t need to bring her into this again. She will be the reason we succeed Lawrence, mark my words.” There was a swish of cloak and Adalind spotted the small lantern swinging from the staff. Her father held one, and a stranger held the other. She’d never seen him before but she committed his face to memory just in case.
“I’m done here Delaney. You make sure she does what she was made to do. And be done with it. That girl will bring you nothing but pain and trouble if you don’t do this soon. And I mean soon! The fortune teller’s are not to be reckoned with. “ They parted ways with a bow and both headed in opposite directions. Adalind’s father headed off the way the girls had just come and Lawrence followed the forest parallel and headed towards a neighbouring town. When they were out of ear shot both girls sprinted towards the forest.
The words Lawrence had uttered rung through her head over and over as they made their way through the dark forest. What she was made to do? What was that meant to mean. She had a niggling feeling this hadn’t been the first time she’d heard this but couldn't place when the other time was. Bellan came up along a thick trunk and waited for Adalind to catch up.
“Well Mam will be interested in that conversation I’m sure. What the heck were they going on about? And who is the troublemaker. I’m intrigued.” She giggled softly. Bellan was the same height and age as Adalind but a lot thinner to look at. Verging on frail. Not that she would say that. Bellan had a tendancy to take great offence at any jokes that made reference to her frame. Adalind had seen first hand what kind of temper the daughter of a Witch had. Not pretty, especially for the boy who made reference to her daintly fragile body. It took them a week to break his sleeping curse. Bellan was banned from any visits to either Adalind or the town stalls until the curse was fixed. Adalind believed her mother cast a spell on her as well to teach her a lesson. Bound her tongue to the roof of her mouth for two days if the rumours were to be believed. Adalind was thankful she didn’t have a mother who could do such things to her. As it was she hardly seen her father much since the New Year. Inside she was hoping it could turn into being longer.