The Shadow Benders

Submitted for Contest #55 in response to: Write a story about a meeting of a secret society.... view prompt

65 comments

Aug 15, 2020

Mystery


I am restless, and my legs burn with tension. Adrenaline pulses through my veins. Though I have been crouched here for hours now, all of my senses are alert, watching for danger. I cannot afford a moment of laziness. I draw my cloak tighter, and my fingers fidget nervously with the silky lining. I must not be seen. I know I have bent the shadows well, yet I shiver at being so close to the humans.

One of their young toddles around near the pot I am hidden in. It takes skill to bend shadows in full sunlight, but I have trained for years. I took the wisp of grey silhouette from under each of the basil leaves looming above me and delicately wrapped them around me like a blanket, blurring the lines and bending the grey tones until I was completely invisible to the human eye. But the young are different. Some of them can gaze beyond the web of illusion I weave, and that can be dangerous. Children believe too much and are harder to deceive. 

If we were ever to be discovered, the consequences would be great. Even one captured faerie puts their entire colony at risk for exposure. When I was small, the Elders would tell stories of faeries who were discovered and imprisoned by the humans. They were meant to frighten us into obedience, I suspect. But when I was young and wide-eyed, I was terrified of being caught. Faeries were said to be tortured, tested, and analyzed. I used to have nightmares about being trapped in a glass jar, humans pressed all around me, studying me like I was an insect. The tales taught me to stay safely tucked away in our Colony in the treetops. If just one faerie were to be discovered, it would put our entire civilization at risk for exposure. No one is supposed to stray from the safety of the Colony. I am playing with fate by daring to come so near to the human house.

But the danger is worth it. Tonight The Guild meets, for the first time since the disappearance of Aibreann. Her loss hit the colony heavily, but it only proves how dangerous it is to continue to live here. Our civilization of Dark faeries like myself have lived in the shadows for countless generations. Just out of reach of human grasp, we scurry from place to place and live our lives in fear. The Council of Elders refuses to do anything to escape our pathetic existence, sitting high and mighty on their thrones. How can they not understand that faeries are dying? No one is safe here. 

Among our colony, there are faeries who call for change. Aibreann was our beloved leader. She created The Guild, a quiet voice rising up against the tyranny of the Elders. Her voice lit a fire in our hearts, and the flash of her eyes made us shout for a better life. Without her, we are just a group of powerless rebels who meet in the shadows to discuss plans in whispered voices. We are nothing. 

Her loss is a mystery, just as all of the other disappearances for the past year have been. While we don't want to give up on her, with each day that she is gone we find it harder to believe she will return to us.

The first to vanish was an old man, back in May. At first, we thought that he had been attacked and killed by a wild animal. It wasn’t a common occurrence, but he was elderly and might not have been able to battle the creature. We didn’t question his death, but then in August, a little faerie child disappeared, my dear brother Arlen. I miss his bright smile every day.

After that, a whole family vanished. We have lost over twenty faeries now, and no one knows what could have happened to them. Yet rather than taking action, the Elders lie around gorging themselves and waving off the sobbing loved ones of those who have been Lost. 

I bite my lip until it throbs, refusing to let myself cry. I promised myself I wouldn’t wallow in self-pity. There is every chance that more and more of our kind will be Lost until there are none of us left. I cannot let that happen. 

Slowly, I rise to my feet and my legs groan with protest. It may be risky, but I need to make it across the clearing and into the woods. I have tarried long enough, and the humans show no sign of leaving. 

I run my fingers along the coarse rope which hangs at my side. Time to make a move. I unhook the brooch from my cloak and fasten it to the end of the rope. After securing it on the edge of the flower pot, I start my descent, careful to stay on the side facing away from the human children who play nearby. My toes touch the earth, and with a sharp flick of my wrist, the brooch breaks free from above and the rope falls in a messy coil at my feet. 

I gather my supplies and before I can stop to talk myself out of it, set off at a run out of the garden and lift into the air. I fly low around the perimeter of the yard, grazing the dew-tipped grass and trying to grab wisps of shadow to cover me as I zip along. If the humans were to spot me, they might see a bird or merely an unfocused blur. Hopefully, my hasty Shadow Bending will be enough.

The forbidding line of trees grows nearer, seventy feet away, now sixty. I am so close. So close to safety. Suddenly, a flash of red catches at the edge of my sight, and I react, swerving away as the human boots crash down just inches from my wings.

My heart is pounding from my close call when I reach the edge of the woods. I land heavily and pull my hood over my flaming red hair. I glance back one last time at the humans, who continue to romp about, completely oblivious to my presence.

Keeping my head low, I move quickly along the forest floor, my cape billowing behind me. True, I have avoided the humans, but it wouldn't do to be caught by a guard so far from the Colony. 

A sharp crack resounds from somewhere behind me, and I whirl around, my hand flying to my dagger. 

A tall figure emerges from the trees, his hands up, eyebrows raised. I relax. “Bailintin.” 

“Brigit,” he replies, dipping his head. 

He falls into step with me, his great wings dragging on the ground behind him. 

“Do you know who will be taking over for Aibreann?” I ask as we walk.  

“The rumor is that there will be a Wanderer at the Guild Meeting,” he replies simply. My eyes widen. Wanderers are the faeries that choose not to belong to a colony and live on their own, always moving from place to place. There hasn’t been a Wanderer in the area since I was a child. 

 I glance at the stoic figure beside me, waiting for more information, but he offers none. Bailintin is a man of few words. He has been with The Guild since the beginning and was a good friend of Aibreann’s. He would be a good leader, yet I sometimes wonder what thoughts lie beyond his serious brown eyes. 

  We continue in silence until we reach the entrance to our meeting place. The ancient oak tree where we choose to gather has long been forgotten by the Elders. The once-great tree is hollow and dead, making it an ideal headquarters for The Guild.

   Bailintin steps forward and pulls an electric blue stone from beneath his tunic. These crystals are the sign of our Guild and are made to fit perfectly into a knot at the base of the tree. As he turns it, the veins of the tree light up, and the knot slowly unwinds until a gaping hole is visible. 

  Many of the Guild members have already arrived when we enter the small space. It is only after I am seated that I notice a figure sitting at the edge of the room, who at first seems to be merely a shadow. Their hood is pulled down low, concealing their face. 

  Even after the meeting commences, my eyes drift back to the stranger. Could it be the Wanderer? 

  Aislin stands up to speak, the dim lighting framing her golden hair and haughty features. “ Since the disappearance of our dear Aibreann, we have been unsure how to proceed. She was our leader and the soul of The Guild.” There is a general murmuring of agreement before Aislin continues. “But her loss only makes it clearer why we must fight!” Her voice resonates throughout the chamber with stirring ferocity. “We must form a plan for all the noble faeries who have been Lost. Brigit will speak to us on the topic of rebellion. ” Aislin gestures to me as she sits down. 

   I rise from my chair and raise my voice. “Aislin is right,” I shout “ too many lives have been lost! We can no longer sit in the shadows and talk. It is time for action! We must overthrow the elders and lead our Society far away from this place! Join me!” My words are met with applause from many, but there are some Guild members who shake their heads. "We don't know that the Lost ones are dead!" someone in the back calls.

"Yes," another yells, "why give up on them so soon?"

   An older faerie called Brennan gets angrily to his feet and shoots back, “ We cannot just lash out! True, the Elders do nothing to stop these disappearances, but overthrowing them will be difficult and could cost us. Even if we do succeed and are able to migrate our entire civilization, we have no idea what we are up against. Whatever is taking Faeries is dangerous, and we would be foolish to think that we could defeat it. You cannot beat something you can’t see! We must wait, bide our time, and gain information about those who have been lost. There is a Wanderer with us today, who claims to have information which would be very valuable to us. I suggest we listen up.” 

  Though my blood boils, I do not argue with Brennan. I might disagree with him, but I am curious to hear what the Wanderer has to say. The attention in the room shifts to the hooded figure. 

   The Wanderer remains silent, and faeries begin to shift uncomfortably in their seats. Then, the figure rises to their feet. 

    Slowly, the gloved hands reach up, and with one dramatic movement, the hood falls. A gasp runs through the room as the shadows part and the visitor's fair face is revealed. 

It’s Aibreann. 





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65 comments

Willow Byrd
23:23 Aug 15, 2020

I LOVE the prompts this week, so I'm hoping to write more than one story. This is my first one and will be continued at some point. I would love some feedback, as this is the first Fantasy story I've posted on Reedsy. Enjoy reading!

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A.G. Scott
15:19 Aug 16, 2020

It's sometimes difficult to write fantasy in such short form, just because you have to know a lot more about the world than you are telling us in order for it to feel fully realized. Still, you did an alright job at creating an intriguing world. Some really cool choices -- focusing on faeries (I'm not familiar with a lot of faerie-based stories), and the shadow-bending (and its being ineffective with children) has a lot of potential to play with. I wish we had seen the magic played out in a little more detail, perhaps narrowly avoiding b...

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Willow Byrd
15:29 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you for your feedback, I really appreciate the honest comment. I have taken your feedback into account and made several edits on my story. Please let me know if there is anything else you might suggest that I change.

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Philip Clayberg
18:22 Nov 23, 2020

Whoa! That ending really caught me by surprise. Thank you for writing this story. You wrote it so well. The beautiful parts, the shadow-bending, getting supplies, and then the meeting. It felt like a complete world, one that I'm grateful to be allowed to visit via your story. Please say that you're going to write a sequel (or more than one) to it. I really want to know what happens next.

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Willow Byrd
18:47 Nov 23, 2020

Thank you so much for reading, Phillip, I really appreciate your kind words! The short answer to your question is yes, I hope to write a sequel at some point! I'm just waiting for the right prompt!

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Philip Clayberg
01:01 Nov 24, 2020

You're very welcome. I'm not keen on every sort of story that gets submitted to this website (it's the subject matter, language use, and characters that turn me off; just not my thing). But your story ... yes, please, more of that story. As soon as you're able to. I know the feeling of waiting for the right prompt. Sometimes, though, I *think* that there isn't a suitable one ... only to find myself looking at one and thinking, "Wait a minute. I think I *can* write a story inspired by that prompt after all." I think both "Where There...

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Willow Byrd
01:06 Nov 24, 2020

I totally understand where you're coming from on that! Sometimes you just have to wait it out for a prompt that feels right.

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Philip Clayberg
01:20 Nov 24, 2020

As I said in my previous message, sometimes the prompt you're waiting for could be staring you in the face and you just don't know it. However, it might take some reshuffling of your thoughts about where the overall story is headed. Or it might be, as I sometimes write, a linking/bridging story (not one of the important links, but a necessary one). Whatever works for you.

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Willow Byrd
01:32 Nov 24, 2020

That's true, sometimes you just have to look at it in a different way. I really haven't done sequels thus far on Reedsy, mostly because if I have a set idea in my head of what I want the second part of a story to look like, I can be pretty stubborn in finding the perfect prompts. :) You make a good point though, sometimes it does take some "reshuffling!"

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Charles Stucker
19:20 Oct 24, 2020

When I heard Aibrean had been the heart of the dissenters, I believed the culprits behind the disappearances were the faerie elders. A couple of tropes- fairies bending shadow into illusion but being unable to fool children are fairly common. The protagonists being only a few inches tall is unusual. It's more common in children's fantasy (Tinkerbelle, Redwall, etc.) because children empathize with being small more easily than adults. You handled it fairly deftly, though I have a specific question - why does Brigit carry a climbing rope w...

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Amogh Kasat
12:32 Aug 24, 2020

It's a wonderful story! Please read my latest story The Secret Organisation { Part 2 }

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Willow Byrd
13:16 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you! I will definitely read your story.

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Amogh Kasat
13:49 Aug 24, 2020

धन्यवाद

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Willow Byrd
14:08 Aug 24, 2020

No problem :)

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Amogh Kasat
14:11 Aug 24, 2020

it's our national language it means thank you

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Willow Byrd
14:17 Aug 24, 2020

Yes, I put it through google translate, as I do not speak Hindi. :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
04:04 Aug 24, 2020

I was intrigued from the start. Beautiful story! Very suspenseful.

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Willow Byrd
13:17 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you!

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:24 Aug 24, 2020

You are welcome! If you have time, please have a look at mine too. Thanks! :)

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Willow Byrd
13:32 Aug 24, 2020

I would love to :)

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Christina Hall
16:00 Aug 16, 2020

I enjoyed this. I liked how you used to shadows of the basil leaves and descending down the pot using a rope to show how small the fairy was.

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Willow Byrd
16:01 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you!

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Aditya Pillai
14:51 Aug 16, 2020

This is amazing! Engaging and compelling, it draws us in from the very beginning. Your writing style is just great, so much talent. Awesome job!

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Willow Byrd
14:52 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you!!

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Amogh Kasat
05:47 Aug 16, 2020

It's an amazing story! P.S read my both stories

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Oh my gosh, this is AMAZING! I loved your writing style! This story’s plot was terrific but I especially love the actual writing: it was swift and powerful and hooked you into the scene. And, GOD, those first couple lines: ‘ I am restless, and my legs burn with tension. Adrenaline pulses through my veins. Though I have been crouched here for hours now, all of my senses are alert, watching for danger.’ That’s a sure hook if I ever saw one! Awesome work, 10/10! ~Aerin! P. S. I just posted a new story, on this same prompt. Would you mind chec...

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Willow Byrd
01:28 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you so much!! You just made my day :) :) I will absolutely read your story. Thanks for reading!! -Helen

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Deidra Lovegren
23:52 Aug 15, 2020

Wow :) Can't wait until Netflix options this for a new series! Are you working on a novel? I'd love to see this as a longer work. Minor point for dialogue, I'd make this change: “Brigit.” He replies, dipping his head. "Brigit," he replies, dipping his head.

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Willow Byrd
00:12 Aug 16, 2020

I am not currently working on a novel, but as I was writing this I was picturing it becoming one someday. Thank you for your feedback on the dialogue, I totally missed that while editing. Thanks for reading :)

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L.A. Nolan
04:07 Oct 01, 2020

The flow and pace kept me invested until the last sentence. So well done. The suspense and intrigue was just right to keep me moving forward without skipping or scanning. Not an easy task as I tend to get impatient, but I needed to read every word.

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Willow Byrd
12:32 Oct 01, 2020

Thank you so much!

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S. M
08:11 Sep 04, 2020

Nice story!

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Willow Byrd
12:49 Sep 04, 2020

Thank you!

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K V Chidambaram
16:19 Sep 01, 2020

I am the fish that is caught in the bait you threw in the form of 'like' to my story. But I consider fortunate too for being transported to your great stories. In other words it turned out to me "a blessing in disguise". You also made the clueless and cumbersome chase to look for great writing, within reach and provided the much desired comfort zone. Thanks for liking after all !

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Aysha Sohail
21:27 Aug 26, 2020

I absolutely loved your story! I loved the names you chose and how descriptive you were. You really painted a scene with your words. If I could give a suggestion, it would be to vary the length of your sentences. I would personally throw in some shorter sentences during the scenes when you want to build tension/suspense. Overall, you did a great job, and I really enjoyed reading your story!

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Willow Byrd
23:12 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you for the feedback!!

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Kristin Neubauer
19:55 Aug 26, 2020

Wonderful, Helen! I was into it from the beginning - your writing is so beautiful and the world you created so magical. But the end - wow! I did not see that coming. I love it!

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Willow Byrd
21:06 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you!

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Bianka Nova
10:15 Aug 25, 2020

Loved the story, and especially the names. You build suspense really well, at least until the point when Brigit reaches the meeting spot. I thought that the ending came a bit too soon and was quite predictable - I think you could've build up the tension some more via dialogue before the hooded Wanderer is finally revealed. :)

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Willow Byrd
14:15 Aug 25, 2020

Thanks for your feedback. I, unfortunately, hit writers block about halfway through my story and got a little lost.😡I will most likely edit this at some point in the future, and will definitely work on the ending. Again, thanks for reading and for your detailed comment!

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Roshna Rusiniya
04:04 Aug 24, 2020

I was intrigued from the start. Beautiful story! Very suspenseful.

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Keerththan 😀
03:39 Aug 24, 2020

The opening of the story was amazing. The suspense was great and I loved it. Wonderful story. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story "Secrets dont remain buried?"

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Willow Byrd
13:17 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you! I would love to read your story :)

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Yolanda Wu
03:25 Aug 22, 2020

Wow, this was such an interesting story. I loved the opening, and the use of present tense was really effective in creating the suspense which led to the final reveal. Amazing work!

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Willow Byrd
13:21 Aug 22, 2020

Thank you for reading!!

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Avery G.
00:45 Aug 21, 2020

Wow, cool story! I loved it! Great job!

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Willow Byrd
12:42 Aug 21, 2020

Thanks!!

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Avery G.
14:43 Aug 21, 2020

You're welcome!

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