It's not only All Hallow's Eve, though. It's the Eve of NaNoWriMo, where I return to the Shadow Forest for most of the month. It's where I buckle down and write the next draft of Leiwell, Danyell, and Dayell's adventures in 'A Godling for Your Thoughts?' Leiwell is going to have more of a voice in this novel than he did in 'The Hand and the Eye of the Tower' or 'Stealing Myself From Shadows'. This seemed as good a time as any for him to find that voice.
He was cold and alone. He'd lost his way. Now, he was a shivering child, standing in the middle of the road. He wasn't sure who he was, or where he belonged. All he had was the path. It wound through the trees, a moonlit river beneath his feet. Only it wasn't the moon that illuminated his way. The light came from him. It glowed through his chest and threadbare clothing, bringing everything around him into focus.
Now he wanted to see everything. Creatures moved between the branches, drawn to his light. They, too, were given form and purpose by his illumination, for what was a shadow without light? In other places, a shadow couldn't hurt you. It was just a shade, cast by something real.
Not here. Never here. In this place, they gathered and grew stronger every time they merged with each other. Or devoured each other. They slithered down the trees, dangled from the branches, and called to him. Each dark creature did its best to lure him off the path.
"Don't be afraid," they'd murmur. They'd reach for his thin face. "Come to us." They'd try to touch his cheek. "Let us hold you in our arms, embrace your light." They'd whisper in his delicate ears, which savoured any welcoming sound. Anything which might need him. "Once you're ours, it won't matter who you were, or where you come from." They beckoned him with sleek, dark fingers. Each digit was as bony as a twig. "You'll be a part of us."
None of the shadows' promises were lies. Oh, but the boy could sense the hungry eagerness, with which they sniffed in his direction. They grew sharper, more real with his attention. He walked resolutely down the path. He tried not to listen. He didn't have much, but he wanted to hold onto what little he had, until he met the right person. The one he'd give all of himself to.
It was hard figuring out who that was. Especially when every drifting shade carried a little bit of person. None of the shadows were above using that person to lure him off the path.
Sometimes, they succeeded.
First, there was the man with the silvery white hair. The boy could sense this man was like him in many ways. The man curved his lips in an inviting smile, just for him. It was a challenge to the boy's courage and a promise to protect him at the same time.
The boy let the man pick him up and lift him off the forest path. Perhaps he should have resisted, but the man's arms were so warm. Maybe the warmth was stolen, but the boy didn't care, when the man pressed his cheek against his.
"I'm going to give you a name, my beauty," the man said. "You are Leiwell, now." He kissed the boy's lips. The sensation sent a shiver through Leiwell's small frame. Ah, but this man wasn't just taking. He'd given Leiwell a kiss and a name. He'd offered the boy a little warmth. Was it so wrong for Leiwell to leave a part of himself with the man in the woods? Even when the rest of him was struggling to find the path again?
The man didn't want to let him go. However, he released Leiwell from his embrace.
"I'll find you, again," the man vowed. "You'll return to me, for you're mine, now. Always."
Leiwell smiled and shuddered at the same time. He took a deep breath and looked for the path.
It was right there, waiting beneath his feet. It led away from the man, so he started walking. It was true that the man owned part of him, now. However, he wasn't the one Leiwell was going to give everything to.
A lady with long, golden hair and luminous eyes waited in the middle of the path. The boy blinked at the sight of her violet blue eyes, shimmering with silver light. Was she the one?
He hesitated long enough for the lady to sweep him into an embrace of mingled softness and sweetness. She carried him away from the path, from everything he'd ever knew, until she reached another woman.
The second woman opened her arms. They were thick and soft, even though her face was wrinkled and rough. The first woman left Leiwell in the second woman's arms. Never had he felt anything more solid or comforting than her embrace. He held onto her hand, when she released him. He let her lead him to a door. It opened into a world of sunlight, grass, and plants. Everything there was real.
His companion, Map, told Leiwell he was now her son, although he was not to call her Mother. She taught him to cook, to garden, and to keep her small cottage clean. You had to do things in Map's world. You couldn't just wish them to change. You also had to care for things, or eventually they'd decay.
Leiwell learned how to pull out an onion, when it was ripe and ready to come out of the ground. He learned how to chop that same onion and add it to a stew. He came to cherish the rough sound of the woman's voice, who taught him these things. She was not the one, though, he was going to give everything to.
Eventually, Leiwell closed his eyes to a world of real things. He climbed up a hill to find a ruined tower. Inside its crumbling walls, a staircase awaited him. It led not up, but down. He crept down the rough steps, while his desire illuminated his face and hands. The same desire drew him to the Door. It might look like nothing, but a moth eaten tapestry, but Leiwell walked through it. He let go of Map's world. The dark forest awaited him, along with the shining, moonlit path.
Leiwell started walking it, once more. He walked and walked, until the trees gave way to a clearing. A pool of fire spread across the path, blocking his way. Flames of red, pink, orange, and a strange violet hue leaped above the water. They formed a halo around the egg, resting on the pond's shore.
Shadows lingered on every side of the banks, but Leiwell paid them no mind. A soft, sweet cry wafted from the egg. It tugged at his heart, drew him closer.
He reached out to lay his hand on the egg. Through its shell, he could sense tiny fingers reaching out for him. Two pairs of tiny fingers.
Leiwell had finally found the ones he'd give everything.