The Darkling Chronicles
What would you do for your best friend? Even good shadowcasters break the rules...for love.
With a trembling hand, I reached out to brush blond hair from Ben’s sweaty forehead. When he sat up suddenly, I took a step back. Could he see me? He scanned the room with feverish eyes that passed right over me.
When he turned on the lamp, I flicked my fingers, casting a shadow on the wall of a bird flying. He gasped before looking around once more. Now, he definitely knew something was here. After peeking in the corner, the closet, and under the armchair for the source of the shadows, he shrugged his shoulders. He used his hands to create a barking dog. I used my magic to create a meowing and hissing cat with fur standing on end. I barely stifled a giggle from the goofy expression on his face as he scanned the room in wonder. Anka Rehmling you are in big trouble. I’d just broken three darkling rules.
I brushed the thought aside and concentrated on my epic superhero, ninja and dinosaur forms complete with sound effects. Ben looked so happy that I told myself it would be okay just this once. He had been so sick all day.
Each pull of my magic started in the pit of my stomach. The energy swirled out to my arms, before releasing from my fingertips like thread. I felt the snap of it as it disengaged from me and became the shadow upon the wall, floor, or inanimate object. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling, but rather a natural flow of so many strands of silk coming loose from the fabric of my core.
When Ben grew tired, I watched him lay back in bed and drift off to sleep, a smile upon his face. Ben had light hair with pale skin that burned and freckled in the sun. In contrast, my skin and hair were darker like the shadows I cast. We both had green eyes. I removed my hand from his arm as reality hit me.
In human years, we were both eight. However, darklings matured more quickly than humans did for the first five years. The Shadowland Council assigned Patrick Benjamin Solomon under my charge at the age of two. I cast shadows in his world and would for my lifetime. “That’s a lot of responsibility riding on your shoulders”—direct quote from Dad.
Dad. Shadowcaster rules flooded my head. 1. Always cast true to form. 2. Never talk to the human. 3. Never touch the human other than to use him as a portal. 4. A child may see you as an imaginary friend. You may play with him, but never converse.
5. Imaginary friendship shall not last longer than one year or the Council will reassign the shadowcaster.
My heart galloped in my chest. I hadn’t cast true. My palms grew sticky with sweat. I’d created my own make-believe shadows. Technically, I hadn’t talked, just made sound effects. However, I’d touched him.
This revelation caused an adrenaline surge of stress that ignited then burned out, leaving me completely exhausted. I couldn’t wait to go home. My sister, Bianca, often watched Ben while he slept so I could eat, rest, and check in with Nana and Pops.
As is often the case with shadowcasters, the Council assigned my family the entire Solomon family to cover. My dad shadowed Ben’s dad. My mom followed his mom. Bianca and I took shifts with Ben. Other shadowcasters rotated in if we required a break.
As a shadowcaster, I didn’t attend school, but instead trained on the job, tutored by my father. My grandparents, Nana and Pops, ran the household since Mom and Dad worked so often.
Ben’s sigh caused me to assess him once again. He looked peaceful. Perhaps, his fever had broken. When Mrs. Solomon slipped into the room to check on him, my mother followed, casting the appropriate shadows. My mother stood 5 ft. 10 and wore a flowing dress of purple, the family color. Jeweled combs adorned the hair around her crown, which was the darkling custom.
As I watched Mrs. Solomon fussing over Ben, I felt envious. He had a normal life. Not every darkling had the ability to cast shadows and so it was a privilege and honor to serve the Council. However, the other darkling kids went to school and played during the day. Most of them would never journey to the human world, but they benefited from the power shadowcasters brought back to Shadowland.
My mother’s brown eyes scanned me. I met them briefly before looking away. Had she heard my sound effects? I forced myself to glance back up. She gave me a gentle, yet weary smile before leaving the room with Mrs. Solomon. I sighed with relief.
As Shadow Fever runs rampant through her kind, can Bianca heal them or will Montenai's imbalance burn them all?