(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. The Darkness was written by Laura Hart.)
He had been feeling off for a few days. One of his subjects told him another had entered his plane, one who didn’t belong, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it. Things felt different for sure. Pacing through his throne room, he had his windows wide open to let the cool mountain air in. Wondering about how things would affect him, he sat down in his chair. While he felt stronger, he also needed to be prepared if this other being came to his castle, or should he extend an invite and keep an upper hand?
He could certainly let things go on their own and see what happened. The road to his castle was a rough one. The path was not well marked, the stone was rough and jagged. There were steeps spots and landslides were always a possibility. It wasn’t always like this, but for now, he liked it this way. He liked to be bothered as little as possible by things within his realm.
He looked around his current throne room, compared to all external surroundings, this room was bright, almost welcoming. Windows were open, and fabrics draped the stone walls with pictures of green fields and blue oceans. Soft chairs lined the outside and a large rug covered the center before the throne. The platform where his chair sat was large. Once, it held more chairs, now his was alone.
He was startled by a noise and stood immediately, his senses sharpening to see who was there.
Kelly had taken her time to pass through the rough terrain to get here because she hadn’t been in a hurry. Instead, she’d taken the opportunity to take in her surroundings because they spoke of the character of the person she was about to interview. Coming to the castle, she found none tried to stop her or question her, so she went on her way, straight to the throne room where she saw him sitting on his throne in the center of the room, but he hadn’t seen her yet. Apparently he was lost in thought, so Kelly cleared her throat. When he snapped his gaze around to her and stood, she offered him a kind smile. “Greetings.” She gave him a respectful bow then straightened and locked eyes with him. “I understand you are the one they call Darkness? My name is Kelly. They call me the Muse. I have come to ask you a few questions, and then I will be on my way and not bother you again. Agreed?” She raised her brows.
Darkness, he shuddered at the world. He had not gone by his original name in over a hundred years, but the new name still stung. He peered at her curiously. What kind of questions would she ask him, and how did she get here? Was she from the same place as the other human in this realm? His brows furrowed as he nodded to her, his senses still alert. “Agreed,” his voice was stern and commanding, the deepness echoing slightly in the throne room. She looked awkward standing in the middle of the room, so he reached out and magically moved a chair over for her to sit on. “Sit if you like.” the words came out more like an order than a suggestion.
Kelly glimpsed around the room to take in her surroundings as she made her way to the chair and then sat. She smiled at him. “Darkness….that is an odd name, but I understand that is what they call you but not your real name. What is your real name?” She tilted her head to a side, curious to see if he would tell her.
He shook his head, he didn’t know if he remembered his real name anymore. He had only memories that it was pleasant, and warm. It had been a gift from his parents, a name with love, but it was gone, and so was that love. His face turned to a scowl. “Darkness suits just fine, now.” He was gruff. He remained standing, peering at this stranger.
Kelly smiled at him because she could sense his distrust of her. “You really don’t know what to think of me being here, do you? Well, let me assure you that you can trust me. I’m not here to bother you…well, pester you with questions for a few hours, yes, but not bother you otherwise, and I will be on my way eventually. Please, just relax. I would merely like to hear things from your side of the story because I think everyone misunderstands you.”
He huffed a bit and crossed his arms. He raised an eyebrow and waited for her to continue.
Seeing he still didn’t believe her, Kelly nodded and decided to glance around. “What is this place?”
His voice came out a little like a growl. “This is my home. One of nine scattered castles across the land. From here, I have view of almost everything that happens in any of the regions.” He did have nice place for his castle, and it was the largest of all castles in the plane. He had once hosted his siblings here, and many festivities. The path was not always full of danger, it used to be a finely laid stone path maintained by his staff. He felt that reminding her he had such a wide view would keep her in her place. She may not try anything funny if she knew she was being watched.
Kelly didn’t feel threatened. She’d dealt with such deities before, but she tilted her head to show her respect. She wasn’t trying to irritate him, but she would ask her questions nonetheless. “I understand where were or are more of you…your kind. Do they have their own place as well or did something happen to them?”
She was persistent. “Yes. The other castles belonged to my brothers and sisters.” His eyes narrowed. “But they’ve all died.” The castles had fallen into ruin, long ago. He had not been to visit them in a very long time, but he imagined none were usable at this point anymore. Not that that would matter, he had shielded each one away from the eyes of most, only those with divine magic would know they existed. He had done so as each sibling died because he didn’t want anyone to take over or live in those structures.
A few moments of silence and he figured she would want to know how they died. Of course, she would, he assumed. “They warred, they let greed take over and killed each other.” His lips snapped shut and his teeth ground together.
She saw how much this troubled him, but she leaned forward and softened her voice. “But you escaped. How? Why?”
He was taken aback by her question. Most cared about how you could kill a god, or other questions about his siblings. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but closed it again, giving her a curious look. “I didn’t escape. I live with the memories of what we once were, of the greatness they all held but refused to see. I often wish I shared their fates.” A frown took over his scowl. “I did not fight, as they fought among themselves. I did not give in to their greed, their lust for power. We had been gifted this, and each of us given equal space to best use our talents. The world was ours, together. “ His voice finally softened some.
“That must have been hard for you—to see them fight and kill each other. How did you not get involved?” Kelly furrowed her brows curiously as she sat back in her chair.
He tsked at her. “Not get involved? How could you make such an insinuation?” She had offended him, and she would hear the record set straight. “As they began to quarrel, we met here, in this very room,” he gestured, pointing sharply to the floor to emphasize the point. “We talked, we tried to come to answers, to make everyone happy, but they would not listen and would not come to any terms. Their fights became wars. Their ability to reason waned. And you tell me, Muse, how you pick up arms against your own family, when neither side is in the right and you’ve been cast aside as weak for trying to mediate their differences?” The scowl had returned, and his eyes were shooting daggers at her.
Kelly met his gaze unflinching. “I’m not saying you didn’t try to resolve their conflict, but apparently they fought and you didn’t pick up arms against them, and all I want to know was why. Yes, they’re family, and it’s difficult to fight against family, but the rest of *them* strove against each other regardless of their relation to each other. You didn’t. That makes it you unique.” However, Kelly didn’t want to focus on the conflict itself. She wanted to go deeper. “What was it like before the conflict, before the war?”
“They wanted power more than they wanted family.” The answer was direct. “Before they warred, things were lovely. We came here, together, each given a portion of the land as our own. We created our world from the start, adding the landscape and creatures to our own tastes and talents. We each built our dream. We marveled at each others creations. We began to work together to improve each others regions, sharing our gifts and giving to one another generously. We gathered, often. We hosted festivals for all our creations and ourselves. Laughter and dancing and food filled these very halls at least half the year.”
“It sounds like such a lovely time, and I can tell you miss it.” Kelly nodded. “Do you blame yourself though? For not being able to bring them to peace despite your best efforts?”
He felt bumps along his skin as a shiver ran down his back. “Every day.” His hands balled into fists and he turned from this woman and strode to a window, looking out over the mountainside.
“You haven’t forgiven them, have you?” When he shot her a glare, Kelly went on, “Not for the fighting but for hurting you.”
“They didn’t hurt me,” he whispered. He couldn’t muster strength to say that very loudly. “They hurt each other.” He felt a tear try to form in his eye, and was thankful he wasn’t facing her. He felt warmth wash over him as anger built inside. Without thought, he extended an arm towards a table along the wall, and his magic picked it up and it crumbled, as if it was inside a giant fist crushing it from the outside. He turned slightly to the side to see the Muse in his peripheral vision.
“Those fools, had everything at their fingertips!” His voice roared, filing the room. “And what do they have now?” The tone went back down, to a frigid calm. “Nothing,” he hissed. His arms dropped beside him, “nothing.”
Kelly watched his display of magic but remained unfazed. “They did hurt you,” she said firmly. “Because you’re hurting now. You’re hurt because you lost so much.” She rose to her feet and approached him. “Yes, you’re angry at them for their deeds, but you also know the truth: you lost your family, and that hurts. It’s okay to admit it, and it’s okay to hurt.” She stopped a short distance from him to respect his space. “But you shouldn’t let it consume you and control you.”
He looked at her squarely, one eyebrow raised. “And tell me what makes you an expert at such things?” He smirked. “It will all be over soon, the reminders will all be gone. Then, and only then, will they lay to rest.” Nodding, he turned back again to the window. A haunting smile had crept in, one telling of a plan.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, you’re not the first one I’m spoken to who’s endured such pain. Everyone’s situation is unique, but some elements remain the same.” However, Kelly caught what he had said, and she furrowed her brows. “What do you mean ‘over soon’? What are you planning?”
“Heh,” there was no real laughter, but a lot of scorn. “I’m starting over. What you see here today,” he gestured out the window, not to the room, “is all going to change.” He paused and took a deep breath. Thinking ahead and seeing a future again relaxed him and put him more at ease.
“Does this have anything to do with that other human on this world?” Kelly raised her brows as she folded her arms.
“So, he had crossed paths with her, too,” Darkness thought for a moment. “No, this dream has been coming for a long time.” He did feel more of an influx of power, though, with the human here. Just enough, he thought, to tip the odds in his favor so he could rid himself of the fairies that were holding the other divine magic in place. Once the fairies were gone, his siblings could fully pass on and he could have his fresh start. He held himself back from asking about the human.
“Then I’m assuming it has something to do with the fairies. I hear you don’t like them much.” Fairly certain that might get a reaction out of him because she knew the connection between the fairies and these gods, she watched him closely.
“Those meddlesome creatures. If you encounter them, make sure to take care and not trust them.” Genuine concern flowed with his words. “They thrive on divine magic, and cannot survive without it, but my family cannot be at peace while fairies leech from their remains. Parasites, filthy parasites.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So you intend to rid the universe of the fairies?” She began to meander around the room at a slow pace then turned back to face him. “How would this affect the rest of the universe? The humans and such?”
He laughed out loud. “Oh, my dear muse, gods have been trying to rid the universe of fairies for countless ages. I simply plan to get them off the souls of my own loved ones and out of my own realm. You humans, you won’t be affected. You won’t even know this happened, or when it happens. Your plane is, well, fairly safe as not much divine magic lingers there anymore.” He continued to chuckle at the thought of the fairies being gone for the entire universe.
Kelly observed him, wondering what the fairies side of the story was. “You sound quite confident that this plan of yours will work. Why is that? As you just said, gods have been trying to rid the universe of fairies for countless ages. How are you going to rid those who strive off your family’s souls? I mean, what chance do you have to succeed if, apparently, it’s difficult to get rid of fairies?” She lifted her brows and resumed her slow pace around the room. She was sure she didn’t fully understand the ways of this realm, and he might laugh at her, but that was okay—so long as he kept answering her questions.
“So, you know how your realm has fleas, and they feast on your house pets? Think of fairies in a similar way. You can scrub all you might, use repellants, and other barrier devices. You may make it so one animal or two are parasite free, but somewhere, somehow, other fleas still multiply and find hosts. The fairies are like this. They are easily killed, as they are small and relatively weak. However, when they have a host, you have to make sure you catch the entire group feeding off that host at once. If even one remains, any fairy slain will be reborn, their numbers replenished. Fairies know this and rarely will leave their entire group assembled in one place. It is how they assure their survival.” A sly grin came over his face. “But I believe I have a way to make them assemble.” Surely, the fairies were wondering about this other human also. He started to wonder if the magic flow he felt originated from that boy.
Kelly tilted her head when she heard this. It made sense in a way, but unfortunately a realization hit her. “It seems my time here is almost at an end. I’m sure you’d be relieved to have me stop asking questions.” Kelly smiled at him. “However, one more question, if you succeed, and if your family’s souls are laid to rest for good, then what? Would you be able to make this world anew? Or would it still be the same? And would you still be alone?”
He had not realized how quickly the afternoon had passed. “If I succeed, the world will be remade as new. No ruins, no wars. I would not be alone, as new beings would be created here, as I see fit, with kind hearts and gentle souls, friendly towards each other and themselves.” He nodded then.
A bell rang outside the room, and a small creature, appearing to be made from stone entered.
“Take the muse wherever she needs to go. See to it she remains safe as she travels out.” He turned them to his visitor.
“Be careful, watch for fairies.”
With that, he turned back to his window and stared into the sky.
Laura Hart’s story ‘Hope in Darkness’ is not yet published, but you can follow her on social media for more updates!