1 – Shadows in the Night

sunset-horse

He didn’t know what was going on. Flames were everywhere, rushing throughout the castle halls at a terrifying speed. Guests and servants in the ballroom screamed and rushed to escape as a glass chandelier crashed from the ceiling. He sprung away from the corridor he was standing in as a flame flickered ominously behind him. Wait a minute! What was he doing? His best friend could be in trouble! He ran through the castle halls to the tower where his best friend’s room was, dodging flames. The large wooden door burst open and he ran up the tower stairs. He burst open the door head of him just like he had done to the first. For a few seconds he scanned the room for Prince Gemini, prince of the Shadow Realm. He wasn’t there. Wait! He was probably in the stables! He turned around and ran back down the stairs. A bright orange flame was slowly creeping up the staircase. At this point, he didn’t care about that. He charged through the staircase so quickly he could hardly feel the burning of the flames on his pale-blue skin. He ran through the halls squeezing past two young ladies who were hiding under a table. When he ran out of the castle through the front door, the cold night air was refreshing. Anytime else, it would have been difficult to make out the direction of stables. Tonight, however, the flames lit up the castle like the sun itself was sitting in the great hall. The ash-streaked zombie continued running across the castle ground to the stables. At first, he reached out to slide open the stable door but he saw that it was already open. He slowed his pace a tad bit and entered the stables. The unicorns were snorting and neighing with fear, but he recognized a familiar voice amid the noisy unicorns and the pounding and shuffling of hooves. “Whoa! Stand still!” Immediately, he raced down the aisle of the stable to the very end, where the stall stabling Gemini’s beloved unicorn was located. The large and ornate stall door was slid open to reveal his friend struggling to bridle Captivated, a jet black unicorn with silver spider-webbed patterns all over him. His mane, tail, and stockings were all a flaming red-orange color. Captivated had a fiery spirit and was one of the few unicorns left in the realm. “Whoa!” Gemini begged the unicorn, but Captivated wasn’t paying any attention. “Phan!” Gemini yelled over the noise. “The fire isn’t the only enemy here in the castle tonight!” Phan rushed to Gemini’s side and tried to bridle Captivated. The fact that the fire suddenly appeared spontaneously was true. Nobody knew how, when, or where it happened. “They are coming!” Gemini said. “Who?” “The enemy is upon us! Phan, listen to me! Gemini shoved the bit into Captivated’s mouth. Phan tried to force the head down so Gemini could get the bridle clipped around the head. “Take Captivated and run!” Gemini pleaded. “I need to get the others out of here!” Phan didn’t know what to do or to say. Gemini clipped the bridle on and shoved the reins at Phan. “Keep my unicorn safe!” “Where are you going?” Phan asked. “Run to safety!” “I must return to the castle to hold them back as long as I can!” Gemini ran through the stable unlocking and sliding open the stall doors to the stable. The unicorns, sensing escape, stormed out of their stalls and galloped out of the stable just in time. The roof of the stable caught fire out of the stall and out of the stable. “Gemini! You’re not a good enough sorcerer to-” Captivated, seeing his friends running to freedom, busted out of the stall. Phan never got to finish his sentence. He clung to the chained reins as hard as he could and wrapped his arms around Captivated’s neck. He closed his eyes as the unicorn galloped off away from the castle. The smoke made his eyes sting. In he distance he could hear shouts and orders being hollered over the noise. What had Gemini meant by the enemy returning? He strained to hear more, but suddenly he found himself falling off of Captivated. He opened his eyes and saw that he had fallen onto the cool sands near the water’s edge of the ocean. He looked back at the castle and saw that most of the flames were decreasing in size. The shouts became louder and louder, however, and he heard the thunder of hooves. The sounds made him want to go back, but at the same time told him to stay away. What was happening?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Phan peered into the ocean and looked down at his reflection. He was the only zombie to survive the fire in the castle, as far as he knew. Now that he thought of it, no sorcerer, queen, knight, or beast had survived, either. He knew not of the fate of his friends and family, he had been ordered to run. He was sitting on the beach by the waves catching his breath. He knew not of the fate of his friends and family, he had been ordered to run. He was sitting on the riverbank catching his breath. “You’ve really helped your prince!” he shouted to himself and hurdled a small stone he found sitting beside him into his reflection. He hated his reflection now. He hated himself now. Phan didn’t want to fail the prince -his only friend in the world. Weary and over his head in self doubt, he left the ocean edge.

Phan wandered around the beach aimlessly. A few streams of light broke through the darkness of the night. It was only a few hours until morning. The trees stood tall and strong, silently watching him on his walk along the beach. Crabs hid under the sand staring as the lone zombie passed. After walking only a short distance, he remembered that he wasn’t alone on the beach. He had forgotten about Captivated. Phan glanced around the beach for him. He spotted him underneath a palm tree, sniffing a fallen palm with curiosity. “There you are!” he said, trying to hide the fear in his voice, and perhaps to try to reassure the unicorn that he was there for him. Captivated got up and shook off the sand. He approached Phan and at first just stood staring at him. Phan collected the reins. Captivated suddenly pricked up his ears. “What’s wrong?” Phan asked. Captivated snorted out at the ocean where the waves crashed in the distance. Phan stared out into the ocean looking for something that would cause Captivated to behave that way. Captivated was noble and fearless, he didn’t snort madly at any old reason. Phan strained his sight harder and harder. It looked fine. Wait a minute! In the horizon, many black objects were moving toward the shore. Phan couldn’t make out what they were exactly, but he was sure they weren’t fish, dolphins, or seals. Ominously, like a slow-moving storm cloud, they were approaching at a slow rate. Phan didn’t want to find out what they were. “Let’s go” he whispered to Captivated. “But let’s not let them see us, if they didn’t already. Phan gently pulled in the reins. At first Captivated didn’t want to move, be then he finally and slowly turned away from the shoreline and followed Phan back up the beach to the palm trees. Dawn was almost approaching and he wanted to find someplace to stay. There was It wasn’t wise to be out with the things approaching, even during the day. There was just enough darkness left to hide Phan and Captivated during their trek down the beach. They were careful not to step on any shells or sticks, no noise could be made. Phan looked back out onto the ocean. The black figures were closer and they appeared to be moving at a slightly, yet noticeably pace. Phan could barely make out their shapes, but they appeared to be a tall, slender shape. They appeared black on color from what Phan could tell. Luckily, they were still a good distance away from shore. One of Captivated’s ears was always turned to the shapes. Somehow, this made Phan feel at least a little bit safer. If Gemini could trust Captivated with his life Phan could, too. Phan was tired from the walking. He quietly sat beneath a palm tree and looked out yet again to the ocean. The shapes were moving quicker by the minute. They were close enough that Phan could see that indeed they were black, ghost-like beings. They also had bright red eyes that seemed to pierce right through Phan and burn themselves into his mind. Each one was menacing and paid no attention to the waves or the wind. Phan also realized that the wind was picking up quite noticeably and the waves were becoming restless and rough. More beings were approaching from behind. The wind was becoming stronger and more forceful. Above him he heard it rushing through the palm tree. The sky, which should have becoming brighter with the coming of dawn, was instead a dark grey color with many clouds. It looked as if it was going to storm. He got up from underneath the tree and quietly and carefully stood on the shore staring up into the sky. Freezing, stinging raindrops fell from the sky onto Phan’s face. Odd! They weren’t to be heard while sitting under the tree! Indeed, he couldn’t hear the raindrops on the leaves of the palm tree. Phan stuck out his tongue. One by one, raindrops fell onto it. On impulse, Phan spit them back out. They didn’t taste like water one bit! Instead, they tasted more like dried-up leaves. Phan, being a zombie, could eat dried leaves and actually found them quite delicious. The reason he spit them out, however, was the simple fact that rain isn’t supposed to taste like dried, dead leaves. Captivated put his ears back and snorted. “Shh!” Phan said and covered Captivated’s muzzle with his hand. A clap of thunder arose. Captivated didn’t spook. “We have to find somewhere to hide” Phan whispered into the unicorn’s ear. “I don’t like the idea of being out here during a storm with those odd shapes out onto the ocean. “Hurry!” Phan whispered. The rain stung harder and burned his skin a bit while at the same time being ice cold. He stumbled and fell in the sand. It was hard to go on in the inclement weather. Captivated nickered at him and bent his head down. “Ow!” Phan whispered to Captivated. “I need a ride.” He grabbed onto Captivated’s mane. Captivated lifted his head up pulling Phan from the sand being blown across the beach. It stung Phan even more than the rain. Phan clung around Captivated’s neck and pulled himself onto the unicorn’s back. He lifted the reins around Captivated’s neck and gave him a kick with his heels. Captivated walked on, lowering his head to barricade his face from the brutal elements. Phan also ducked his head. Captivated seemed to stumble in the sand a couple times, but always regained his footing quickly. Phan turned his head and brushed his hair out of his eyes. The shapes were now moving rapidly towards the shore and their eyes were shining like miniature suns inside their sockets. All at once their eyes seemed to lock onto Phan and Captivated. It was certain; they were spotted. Phan kicked Captivated faster and they sped down the shore. The shapes moved even faster and the storm worsened. They needed a place to hide NOW. Phan steered Captivated away and up the beach. He looked back and saw the shapes advance further and faster be the minute. Behind the beach was a forest where a hiding place could be found. Phan rode Captivated into the dark, eerie forest just in time. The shapes were reaching the shallows and would be out of the ocean in no time. As soon as Phan was about to give up hope, a large rock caught his attention. There was a little overhang just big enough for him and Captivated’s head. Phan slowed to a walk and then stopped in front of the rock. “We can rest here, Captivated. There’s room for your head, too.” Phan crawled under the rock, but stopped. The underneath of the rock was not what he expected. Instead of the small space, a dark cave was dug. “What’s below here?” Phan asked the unicorn. He paid no attention anymore to the shapes, the storm, or the rain. His mind was occupied by the unusual cave under the rock. “I’m climbing down to get a look. Come on, there’s enough room for you down here, too!” Captivated was unsure at first about descending after his friend. Phan tugged at Captivated’s reins. Finally, Captivated lowered his head and followed Phan beneath the rock. It should have been darker down there, but instead it seemed just a tad brighter. It almost had a shimmering violet color to it. The caverns got brighter as Phan and Captivated descended further. Once it was light enough to see fairly well, he noticed that the walls were studded with many gems and jewels. They ranged from the rich, dark rubies to the pure, gleaming diamonds. Giant emeralds seemed to hypnotize his mind. Captivated didn’t care much for rubies and diamonds. His interest was the light down in the caverns. Perhaps down there was a pile of food and some carrots? His eyes hadn’t completely adjusted to the dim lighting, so he had to be extra careful not to jab Phan with his horn. An average scratch to a human would be very painful to a zombie. Wounds healed very slowly, other times not at all. As the duo made their way down, the tunnel’s width increased but by bit. The light became brighter and the tunnel more spacious and less dusty. “It’s nice down here.” Phan was impressed with the cavern. It was very mysterious and puzzling, yet beautiful and elaborate. Finally, the tunnel exited into a giant room. Great jeweled pillars supported the ceiling and the floor was composed of a mosaic style with giant sheets of pure ruby and sapphire. It was illuminated by spherical, purple-tinted gems that studded the ceiling. They seemed to give off much light, glittering and shining like the heavens. “What is this?” Phan asked quizzically. He wandered around the cavern staring up at the ceiling. “This place has more gems than the royal treasury!” He bent down and knocked on one of the sapphire tiles in the floor with his fist. Captivated seemed to enjoy rubbing the crest of his mane in one of the pillars. He looked up when Phan began speaking. He was wet from the rain and water was still dripping off of his coat. “Why is this here?” he wondered aloud. “Is it some kind of quarry or gem mine?” Captivated gave a snort in return. “You’re right. It’s too elaborate and there are no cart tracks here.” Phan was tired, so he sat down on the floor. What were the shapes outside on the shore doing? Did they find him?” Phan stomped the heel of his boot against the floor. An echo resounded through the caverns. Any normal, physical being would easily be heard coming down. “I want to go back up and see what those shapes are doing,” he stated. Captivated left the pillar and approached Phan. He bent his head down and itched his nose on the top of Phan’s head. “I’m coming!” Phan stood up and led Captivated back across the room to the tunnel. This time, it looked much darker up the tunnel than when coming down. Ascending from the cavern was more difficult than descending. Descending, he was awed and amazed by the jewels and gems. Ascending, he had already seen the gems and jewels. Also, he knew that up there were the phantom shapes. He didn’t want to see the homeland that he had known for so long attacked by the shapes. Even worse, he didn’t want to get attacked by the shapes. Captivated was reluctant to move ahead. He stopped mid track. “Come on!” Phan urged. “Get going!” Captivated bent his head down and itched it on the front of his leg. Phan rolled his eyes and tugged on the reins. This time Captivated was quick to follow. The passage became darker and darker the further up they were. When they finally reached the mouth, it was still as black as night. Phan put the reins over Captivated’s head and climbed up onto his back. He looked around the forest around them. It seemed undisturbed, just like they had left it before their descent into the cavern. Still, he wanted to check the beach. He trotted through the forest observing the surroundings carefully, to make sure that the shapes were not in or near them. So far, everything seemed fine. There was no sign of them or any other suspicious activity. Finally, they reached the edge of the woods where the forest met the beach. This was when things started to worsen. The shapes were now in a single file line floating gloomily down the beach. Their once piercing red eyes were now a deep, sorrowful deep crimson. Phan backed Captivated behind a large sandy rock with many tall grasses surrounding it. It didn’t really seem to matter, anyways. They surely would have heard him in the forest. However, they didn’t seem to see or notice him. They all seemed to just drone on like a sorrowful parade. The line didn’t go on for long. The last shadow passed him and disappeared along with the others down the beach. Phan came out from behind the rock and further onto the beach. The shadows didn’t seem to be that dangerous! he decided. Maybe they hadn’t noticed him all along.

Phan decided that he wasn’t going to hide or chase after them. He only wanted to stay on the beach and look out into the sky. It was perfectly clear without a single cloud. The stars shone perfectly , a complete opposite of the dark sky behind them. Captivated was even looking up, too. Phan tore his eyes away from the sky only when he felt something drop against his knee. He picked it up and saw that it was originally tucked behind the headstall of Captivated’s bridle. That would definitely explain the frequent itching! he realized. It was an amulet. It was a dark ruby color and in a diamond shape. A silver chain was attached to it at the top of the amulet. It was beautiful! Phan immediately put it in his jacket pocket deep underneath his coins. He looked from the sky to the amulet and back again to the sky. It was beautiful, even with all of the events that took place earlier. Phan felt that there were many wonderful things by the beach and forest. He didn’t have to go back to the castle. They could stay here until a plan was figured out or until someone found them. They could be like mice hidden in the floorboards, or like deer hiding while the hunters are out. They could blend in, like a fish in the sea. Like shadows in the night.

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