"But Lucerne, you promised!"
The small child stood with a prominent frown on his face, eyes pointed up at Lucerne, his older sister of a few years.
"Look, I already told that you that I'm too busy! Go find someone else to play with you!"
Lucerne's blood was starting to boil. All she wanted to do was hang out with her friends, but her brother just wouldn't leave her alone. It didn't help that her parents had left her home to watch him while they were away for the weekend.
But there he stood, big, round eyes looking up at her, shining with the faintest sign of tears forming in his eyes.
Suddenly, Lucerne had a brilliant idea.
"I know, how about I tell you a story?"
The small child nodded excitedly.
Lucerne continued in a hushed voice.
"There is a story, one not told by those too afraid they might be heard, of the wicked shadow king and his army of shadow fiends. It is said that once, there was a man who wanted more than anything in the world to have a son. This man was the king of a land with dark magics, a time from long ago. And so, when the king and his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, he was so happy. But one day, thieves came in the night to raid the palace, and they kidnapped his precious son. The next morning, the king, distraught with grief, summoned his black magicians to find his son. He made a deal for great power, but this power consumed him so much, that it turned his heart black as night, and plunged his entire kingdom into the deepest, darkest night, turning all of his subjects into shadow creatures and he the shadow king. It is said that the wicked shadow king still searches for his son to this day, sending his shadow minions in the night to kidnap young boys and return them to the palace, so he may one day find his son."
At this, her brother's face went pale, eyes wide, body trembling.
"But it is also said that little boys who go to sleep are safe!"
And hearing that, her brother ran out of the room to bed, leaving Lucerne alone. Lucerne crept into her own bedroom, and exhausted, layed down to sleep.
[[Sleep]]Lucerne began wading through the thick darkness ahead of her. As she went, she noticed a gentle breeze begin to lightly touch her skin, gently blowing through her hair and around her ears.
And the wind spoke one word.
"Lucerne", she thought she heard ever so faintly. As if the wind had let out a dying breath, and that breath bore her name.
She quickly spun around, trying to see if there were anything...or anyone around her. However, she could barely make out anything over the dim light of her small candle, it's flame flickering every so gently in the breeze.
She continued to press on, despite her growing discomfort, until her foot landed in something sticky.
Lucerne bent down where her foot had landed, bringing her candle closer for a better look. She had stepped in what appeared to be a thick, viscous substance. When she removed her foot however, she saw what appeared to be her footprint encased in something solid.
"Wax? Why would there be melted wax here?" Lucerne thought to herself.
Lucerne didn't have much time to ponder this however, for as soon as she had stopped to question it, she heard something behind her.
Lucerne recoiled at the sudden sound that broke the unending silence that seemed to abound around her. It seemed to be coming from behind her, and yet everywhere, all at once.
"Oh Lucerne...you poor, lost little thing? Do you have any idea where you are?" The voice sneered.
Fear rose in Lucerne's chest.
"Your brother is mine now. You will NEVER, see him again. Unfortunately, I have little use for you..."
Lucerne felt the ground begin to shake before her, and to her amazement and horror, saw what looked like dark tree roots quickly coming towards her.
She began to back away, keeping her eyes on the horror in front of her.
Terrified, she continued to back away. That is, until she backed off the edge of the ledge.
Lucerne began to fall.
[[Despair]]Lucerne landed in a body of water.
She tumbled beneath the cold mass of liquid, not sure which way was up, but kicking and swimming her way to the surface.
She could hear the waves lapping up against something solid near her, and so she swam in the direction she heard, tightly clutching her now extinguished candle.
She pulled herself out onto the land beside her, laying out, exhausted, alone, and afraid.
And now, without a light to see.
Sadness welling up inside of her, Lucerne began to cry, clutching her knees as she kept her head close to her chest.
She had failed. And more than anything, all she wanted...
All she wanted was to save her brother. In that moment, the love she felt for her brother was strong enough to outweigh any fear.
Suddenly, the candle in her hand flared back to life. Surprised, she stood up, shaking herself as dry as she could, and began to observe her surroundings.
And then she noticed, far in her field of vision, was a singular, speck of light. Not knowing what to make of it, she began to slowly make her way to the speck. The tiny pinprick of light began to enlarge as she approached, until she was standing before it. She found a small glowing orb of light, the same color as the light from her candle, hovering in the air in front of her.
Without a moment's delay, the orb of light was quickly absorbed by Lucerne's candle, slightly enhacing the brightness of her candle.
"Well that's interesting" thought Lucerne.
The light emitted from her candle was now enough to see a few feet around her. Looking around, she noticed what appeared to be another orb of light in the distance.
She took off in search of it, only to realize that as she approached, it seemed much higher off the ground then it had before. However, Lucerne eyed a stack of crates in the corner of her eye that might be useful to climb onto to reach the orb.
Lucerne set her candle down, pushing the crates into place well enough that she could climb onto them. However, as she did this, she noticed the light in her candle slowly wading.
She ran back over to her candle, picking it up off of the ground. Immediately, the candle flared back to its enhanced brightness.
"Hmmm...it seems to lose brightness the longer it is away from me..." Lucerne wondered.
However, she couldn't climb the crates holding her candle. So she set it down and quickly climbed to the top of the tower she created. Once she was within reach of the light orb, she reached out to grab it, and to her surprise, she was able to hold it and bring it back to her candle, where again it immediately was absorbed and the intensity of the light increased.
At this rate, perhaps Lucerne stood a chance at surviving...and perhaps conquering... this shadowed land.
More orbs of light appeared in her distant vision.
And so Lucerne set out to work to obtain every orb she could find to enhance her light.
[[Training]]"Last one" Lucerne said.
And with that, the final sphere of light was sucked into her candle flame, expanding its glow to its maximum brightness. A sphere of light now some 10 feet in diameter hung before her, illuminating her path much more than before.
With this newly collected source of light to accompany her journey in the dark, Lucerne lifted her head a little higher, feeling more confident about her chances in surviving this strange ordeal.
Now, just how do I get back up to the surface? Lucerne thought to herself. She could still feel the damp chill in the air of this subterranean place she had landed.
Her feet squished on the wet, sodden earth before her as she advanced, her toes caked with dirt and small bits of dead plants. She rubbed her arms, sore from carrying this small, curious candle she had discovered out in front of her for hours. The ache in her arms did not compare to the dull ache she was beginning to feel in her legs and feet though. At first, the adrenaline of this new, scary, dangerous place had fueled her flight, but as she was growing accustomed to the darkness, she could feel the lactic acid building up in her muscles, tensed and knotted from hours of running, jumping, and searching for the scattered spheres of light that would help her to see.
As if to answer her question, she spotted what looked like the rusted rung of an iron ladder against the wall about 30 feet away from her.
However, as she made her way to the ladder, she noticed what looked a writhing, shifting pool of something...dark on the ground in front of it. A void of twisting shapes and patterns, with black smoke rising from the center.
Suddenly, when Lucerne was no more than 10 feet away from the ladder, the void began to tremble, and a creature 10 feet tall with jagged limbs and a sickly, twisted smile shot out of the ground before her. The creature landed, crouched with its head down. It snapped its head up at Lucerne, blacknes where it's eyes should have been.
Lucerne felt her heart beating like a jackhammer in her chest. She took a deep breath, preparing to scream, when she heard a voice whisper in her ear:
"Lucerne! Use the light! It's the only way!"
Lucerne started, noting a new, very small orb of light near her shoulder. This one was moving, and she could swear it was the source of this sudden and unexpected voice.
Not entirely sure what she meant though, Lucerne closed her eyes and noticed something...different about herself. She could feel some power at the very edge of herself...something deep within her. It felt warm, burning with a gentle fire that was not uncomfortable, but somehow empowering. She tapped into this power, pushing on it with all her might, sending it out in front of her, towards the shadow creature.
A sudden, brilliant flash of white light almost blinded Lucerne's vision. Her candle exploded with light in a sudden burst, propelling an orb of light similar to the ones Lucerne had collected earlier directly at the shadow creature. It screamed, crying in pain, until it suddenly burst into smoke, disappearing.
The light, Lucerne thought. It has the power to defeat these creatures! They must fear it! I know how I am going to get my brother back!
With this renewed confidence and knowledge of how to defeat the evil shadow king, Lucerne grabbed the first rung of the rusted iron ladder, hoisting herself back to the surface to confront her brother's kindapper and escape this wicked place once and for all.
[[Climb->Solution]]Lucerne arose at the top of the ladder with a newfound confidence. She reached out onto the rocky ledge that waited above her, and PULLED herself over the edge with all of her strength.
Relieved, she took a second to breathe a sigh of relief.
And that was when she noticed she was surrounded by shadow creatures just like the one she had defeated in the underworld.
Lucerne's breath caught in her chest, but she managed to force a calmed exhale. She had dealth with this before; she could do this.
She began to flare the light in her candle a bit, illluminating the forms around her. Dozens of creatures began piling up in a circle around her, coming from seemingly nowehere and everywhere at the same time.
Lucerne reached inside of herself, searching for the fire burning deep inside of her.
She found the energy tucked away at the edge of her reach again, as she had before. She began to summon the fire again, stoking the flames of her candle with her energy until they BURST.
Suddenly, a bright flash of light so illuminating, it temporarily blinded Lucerne, burst from her candle. Unable to see, Lucerne tripped, falling to the ground with a thud.
She heard screams ring out around her as the shadow creatures fell, one by one.
And then silence.
Lucerne lay still for a moment while her vision recovered, and when she was able to see again, she noticed that where the shadow creatures once were instead hung orbs of warm light.
"You have vanquished the evil" the small voice said in her ear, the floating orb nearest her. "You have set free the souls of those who once were. Use them now to empower you on your journey."
And so Lucerne collected these orbs, feeling the power inside of her growing as she did. She set off in the direction of the castle to confront the wicked Shadow King, who had taken her brother hostage.
After a while, and a lot of walking, she arrived at the castle gates.
As she went to open them however, they swung open on their own, revealing a deep darkness within.
Unafraid, Lucerne made her way into the castle.
However, just as she had made her way into the antechamber, her candle was snuffed out completely, leaving her stranded, alone in the dark.
Laughter rang out from across the room.
"You think to stop me with a simple candle? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" Bellowed the voice.
Lucerne did not panic however. For she knew that the real power, the power to defeat the darkness, the power to defeat this great evil, lay not in her candle, bu inside of her.
And so once more, Lucerne reached deep inside of herself, feeling with her mind for that source of energy, of life, of light within her.
Summoning everything she could, and casting out all fear, she forced the energy out of her body directly in front of her with a PUSH.
What sounded like a lightning bolt and looked like a jolt of hot white electric light crashed forth from inside of her chest, slamming directly into the Shadow King opposite her.
The laughter stopped.
The Shadow King fell to the floor, screaming.
Lucerne took advantage of this distraction to make her way past the King, seeking out her little brother in the champer behind.
She found him, unconscious, chained to the wall.
She tried to use her light as a source of heat to melt the chains. She reached out, and the chains snapped with a white hot light that burned through them.
She grabbed her little brother, hoisting him onto her back, and began to run from the castle.
"NOOOOOOO. COME BACK" screamed the shadow king, still impaired.
But Lucerene kept runnning, not looking back.
Eventually, she saw a light on the horizon.
She continued running, eventually breaking through a bunch of trees. When she came out on the other side, she noticed for the first time in a while, the moon was out.
She was back home.
Exhausted, she made her way back home, putting her brother back into his bed as though he had never left.
And Lucerne, finally too tired to keep going, collapsed into the bed in her room.
She awoke the next morning, thinking that perhaps she had dreamed up the whole thing.
That is, until she saw the single candle on her nightstand.
THE ENDA single scream rang out in the night.
Lucerne awoke, terrified.
She recognized that voice. The scream had only one author, someone she had known her entire life. Long enough to identify even in the blackest night.
Her little brother.
Frantically, she went to reach to her bedside to turn on the small lamp there.
But she froze.
Where her nightstand normally stood hung nothing but blackness. A void that plunged everything around her into darkness.
A chill ran down her spine.
In a fit of panic, Lucerne shot up, panning around for any sign of where she was.
Darkness encompassed every direction.
Alone and afraid, she ducked back underneath her covers.
She hadn't been this afraid since...since that day in the woods, when she had been separated from her family on a [[camping->camping]] trip.She could still hear the wind howling that night, alone in the darkness. To her, the wind whistling through the branches of the trees that night almost sounded like they were speaking to her, whispering her name... The twisted and gnarled tree limbs protruding like shadowed hands in the night, reaching towards her...
And in the middle of it all, she felt the icy chill of something grab her hand.
At that, her parents had come running to find her. They found Lucerne, crying on the floor in the dark, alone, with a curious mark on her arm, like that of claws, or tree branches.
But it couldn't be...
She had just made the story up...
But under the covers of her bed, alone and afraid, she was reminded of the very real, awful fear of the darkness around her.
She was interupted by the soft glow of some kind of light source outside her bed, the light barely filtering through her blankets, enough for her to notice.
She slowly lifted the heavy covers, her only protection, and poked her head out enough to see where the light was coming from.
And just a few feet away from her, on the ground, was a single candle.
The candle gave off a warm glow, illuminating the surrounding area only slightly. Still she was able to see she was outside, the dirt floor exposed underneath the candle's light.
In front of her stood a vast darkness. Only the small candle she depserately held onto provided any light by which to see, and only that was a foot or two in front of her. A lifetime of fearing it, the vast, unknown blackess that was the dark. So many days spent fearing the night, so many nights spent fearing the dark. And despite all of this, she knew that if she were ever to see her brother again, she would have to journey into this unknown. She would be forced to summon a courage she had never known before, from where she was not sure.
Mustering the courage she could, she held the candle up, and looked in the direction her shadow pointed, towards the light instead of away.
Strange, she thought. But I must go on.
She was only sure of one thing: her journey had just begun.
And so, armed with nothing but her candle, she set out to find her little brother.
[[Go out->Challenge ]]