Part Two of the Winter in Azuria Faery Tale Series
Persephonie’s first faery tale to appease the winged winter beings begins with Vivienne standing at the edge of the Northern Sea, waiting for her shadow to return to her.
For the fae of the Shadowlands, a shadow is much more than one’s reflection in the absence of light…
Vivienne stared out across the frigid waters of the Northern Sea where her shadow had attempted her crossing some three moons before. “Have you seen my shadow?” she called to the passing gulls, but they continued on across the sky, a quest of their own swelling beneath their wings.
Tis no matter, Vivienne said to herself, I’ve no need of a shadow, not really. There had been fae in the past who made their way without a shadow. And how many travelers had gifted their sacred companion to Ravenna, not understanding who it was that dwelled always beside them?
She wrapped pale green arms around the faded black silk of her dress and strode along the shoreline. Orange bled across the divide of the sea and sky, the light seeping into the water.
In other realms, Vivienne had heard, individuals found their soul’s perfect reflection in someone else rather than in the being of their shadow. “They look without rather than within,” the seer Elderflower had explained. “They think they’ve found completeness there, but they have not the understanding of shadow that we do.”
It was only in recent years among the fae of the Shadowlands that it became common to travel without one’s shadow. A loneliness had cracked the heart of her people—Vivienne sensed this—and so she and a few others had turned aside from the customary years of service to one of the guardians and chosen instead to travel the shaded realm, in search of what no one yet knew how to find.
Vivienne sensed the restlessness of her shadow even in the first days of their trip, but it took several weeks of the shadow’s prodding before Vivienne even consented to think about their parting ways. Vivienne walked deeper into the unknown realms, to the spaces said to have once been occupied by a powerful community of druids. With each step, she grew more uncertain and the distance between herself and her shadow grew.
One night, sitting beside the fire, Vivienne asked her shadow the question that had begun to burn inside her heart. “How are you at home when I am not?”
The shadow’s black skin glowed in the firelight, and her pale blue eyes burned as she stared back at Vivienne. Her answer arrived with the wind’s caress of the branches overhead and the crackle of flames in the heart of the fire. “I am your true reflection,” the shadow simply said, “where you are found, I am lost, and the reverse is true as well.”
Vivienne thought this over, weighing the shadow’s sentiments against what she had gleaned from other Shadowlands fae over the years. Her lips scrunched together, and she stared into the fire. “As we venture further away from where we met, do we roam closer to your home?”
Her shadow giggled and somersaulted through the air. “Something like that, Vivienne, but not quite as well.”
The fae sighed. She could never talk to her shadow when she was like this. The closer she thought she was to her reflection’s perceived truth, the more difficult it all became.
Full darkness set along the seashore, and gray, puffy clouds floated between Vivienne and the moons. The silk of her dress rippled behind her. “What do I need to do for you to return to me?” Vivienne whispered. The only answer she received came from the wind.
She wrapped the end of her skirt around her hand and climbed onto a rocky outcropping. The salty air whipped through her wavy strands of white hair. Vivienne tucked her knees into her chest and rested her chin on top of them, staring out to sea. “I hope, one day, that you’ll come back.” She trusted the waves to carry her wish out to her shadow, wherever she happened to be. They had both been drawn, in their earliest years, to the lulling crash of the water upon the pebbles and sand.
In her memory, Vivienne clasped her shadow’s hand. She hummed the song they’d created that first day that they saw the sea. “Ride out over the waves with me,” she sang, “There, together, where we can both be free.”
“But what Vivienne couldn’t then perceive,” Persephonie said, drawing her story for that first evening to a close, “was that her shadow floated in the air just behind her, as close as she had always been.” She bit her lip and looked up from her grandmother’s oracle cards spread out before her. Persephonie wiggled her fingers, and the magic from her palm sparked to create a frozen snowflake, huge and glittering, floating above the bowl of her hand. “What sorts of stories are you wanting me to tell, faeries?” She stretched her fingers, and the snowflake crackled and spread. Its flurry cascaded and fell across her fingers, the tingles of cold and wet wriggling against the magic she stored waiting within.
“Ahem.” A tinny cough echoed up beside her, and a frost-covered faery with dark, bark-covered skin pushed herself out of the earth. She smoothed back the lavender flowers in her hair and gazed up at Persephonie. “You don’t normally tell the stories for us, do you?” The faery’s voice sizzled, the first drops of rain upon coals.
Persephonie shook her head. “Erhm, no.” She leaned down toward the faery. “Did I do something wrong?”
The faery’s giggle was the first thaw of early spring. “To do something wrong, you must be able to do it right.” She narrowed her shining black eyes. “Do you believe in wrong stories?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Persephonie answered after she had considered the faery’s question. “They can be incomplete, certainly. And we can be wrong about a story, especially when we think there’s only one way for it to go.”
The faery bent her twig legs and sprang into the air, her iridescent wings fluttering in a snowy shimmer as she floated up to Persephonie’s line of sight. “Well, you’ve answered your question then, have you not?” She chuckled once more. “Tomorrow, tell us one of those stories, then.” The wrinkles in her skinbark deepened with her smile. “One where there are multiple ways for it to go.”
The Second in a New Winter Series
I set a couple parameters for myself for this second winter solstice story.
- I had to incorporate the prompt from the previous story
- The story needed to end with a prompt for the next story
- The story should be as close to 1000 words as possible
As I was falling asleep last night, Vivienne calling to the gulls asking after her shadow came to me. Persephonie referred to Vivienne’s love being across the sea in the first story, so I wanted to play with what all that could mean in this one.
This story is 1032 words, so not quite as exciting as 999, but close! I also kept the editing to a minimum to see what comes into being through writing a story in this way. I’m really enjoying the sense of play and how each mini-story can have its own unique style.
We’re two-for-two at the moment with one story each night for twenty-one nights, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings!
Thanks so much for joining me on this winter solstice story journey!
If you enjoyed this short story, be sure to check out some of the other short stories set in Azuria: