In the Shadow of Leaves 6: Won’t Be Denied


The voice had been so beautiful and loud, his head vibrated and his ears rang. Tears had sprung from his eyes and the ground had suddenly leapt up at his face. He had seen it laid out before him so clearly. Emptiness, endless, unassailable emptiness. Then in that emptiness, he had floated. A light familiar but different, like a brother, had echoed far away. That same light burning warmly within his chest aching to seep from his pores. Cupping his hands around his lips, he exhaled light. It grew to a small candle-light orb, floating above his palm. As he’d moved his hands away, a lantern had formed, then a crook for it to nestle against. And the emptiness parted around him. Behind were shadows, figures without faces, but dressed in familiar garb and manner. He’d seen the fiery hair of a figure he presumed to be Isabel. The veil of Cadence, perhaps? The tri-corner hat of Theo floating above an empty coat. The pale blue bodice with wisps of songs around it that must have been Marinette. They had followed him through the emptiness on a path of light that he left behind him.

The way was fragile, though, and the thing that had broken the world was hungry here. Darkness clawed at it, vengeful and fiery. It grabbed at clothing and tried to pull his flock into the darkness off the path. But he knew- *knew*- that he could guide them. The Mists were no barrier to him. Not anymore. Not with that warm glowing white light held aloft for all to see.


The elf was beautiful, there was no denying it. Dangerously so. Ancient, powerful, and evil beyond measuring. Perhaps its nature wasn’t evil. Perhaps its nature was just so foreign that the concept of Good couldn’t contain it. It had spoken honeyed words and made subtle gestures with its striking eyes and flowing hair. Henri could only remember snippets of the things it had said, so distracting was its features and manner. The alien creature had almost seemed… hurt at his rejection of it, in that dark grove, surrounded by its seemingly mindless guardians.

Then it had moved, slain one of its own, and ate of its flesh. It had shouted words of summoning, and a skeletal stag had appeared. Even the blood running down its chin had seemed as if loving artists had painted it there simply to accentuate the litheness of its neck. As their party turned to ruin and foul magics battered upon them, again Henri had felt that light. He had poured it into Arbor’s lantern, and the battering had stopped. They were safe. And he had waited until the last of them had fled the woods before he had allowed himself to return himself. His flock, they were his flock, and none would be allowed to stray.


The warm white light had flickered in his breast as Cole had shouted her defiance at him. The patience and love that had been so easy to feel, so easy to cling to just a few short months ago wavered. The Community, his Purpose, was fracturing even as it bonded. He could not remember the words, but he had remembered the look of hurt on her features as she’d turned away and the warmth of righteousness had swept through him.

Theo had manifested in his vision, as he swam in the light. The voice had been grating and persistent, a cloud of mosquitos trying desperately to annoy and demean. The light had shifted, turning shades of red. He could see with absolutely clarity phantom flames of black and green lifting from his hands. He knew- *knew* – that all he had to do to silence the annoyance was reach out his hand and touch the human before him. And his Purpose had suddenly felt as if it a lodestone, and the light a lake he was treading water in.

The weight of it would pull him down so far that none would see him again, not as this, not as he was. His eyes would blaze with red and green- all would love him and be terrified of him. Instead of a shadowy elf pulling at their fates from the shadows, they would have a priest in white telling them how to live and how to find harmony. There would be peace, an eternal, terrible peace.

The buzzing had passed and the light was white once more. But he could see the red in it now, just beyond his sight. A red that hadn’t existed before. A light that was so… deeply comforting. So easy to reach for. So. Tempting.

He’d fled to the woods. Deep, deep to the woods. Under a tree, by the side of a creek, he’d sat and shook and wept. Life had been so much simpler in ignorance. With each step down this new path he took, the world grew more complicated, more rigid, more inevitable. What peace was there for him now that he could see his Purpose laid out before him? What escape was there in simple pleasures? What existed for him beyond this thing now?

As his tears dried, he prayed. And the prayers didn’t stop until well after the sun had set once more.

Leave a Reply