Lana’s Ballad to Shade
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE ANYONE. Even those you consider to be the closest of your friends can turn against you in an instant. You know this, and I can never tell you this enough. Never assume you know whom you are dealing with. There was a time I thought I knew so many things, but they pale in comparison to what I know now. Those you trust the most, those who love you with the entirety of their being, those whose blood runs in your veins as well—they will be the ones lying dead at your feet when all is said and done. In the meantime, hold on to the ones you love, hold on tightly, memorize their faces, their voices. Cherish the way they laugh because, when the time comes and the darkness seems vast, insatiable and untouchable, that is when you’ll need those memories, those pictures in your mind to help you find the tiny sparks in the dark. Your enemies will stand face to face with you and wait to watch you crumble under the weight of their unflinching stares. Never give them such satisfaction. With that, with your soul and sense of self intact, you can crush them into a billion little pieces before they can even realize what you’ve done.
Don’t let the weariness bring you to murkiness and loss. It may seem like it’s endless and can chip away at your soul bit by tiny bit. I’ve been there, and I’m here. Your mother is here, your father, your spirit guides. We may stand in the background, forgotten at times and lost to the chaotic mess life can turn into, an afterthought. But we are the tiny lights, the flames burning in the pitch of night like stars in the sky. Don’t ever let go, and we’ll always be here to guide you. Nothing will hold us from you. Your powers are immense, but your heart is the greatest magic of all. Never forget it, for the trials and tribulations ahead will want you to forget. They will seek to drain you, wither your soul and chip away at your strength in every way possible. You will persevere. There is no other choice.
Memory is gold, and the memories I have given you will be your saving light when the world’s hope burns out and there is nothing but ash and dust left in its place. Never forget these things. Never let go of yourself.
THE WORDS MADE her flinch with a sharp pain along her temples. Shade rubbed the tingling away, recalling the words her grandmother Lana whispered into her head in her dreams. In times of doubt and despair, she could hear her the most. Lana’s memories had danced along the tips of Shade’s thoughts since she had downed the memory potion Lana had created for her before she died in exile.
Thinking of the loss of her Faery grandmother and, recently, her mother Jade, brought searing tears to Shade’s eyes. The thoughts stung like a prickling cactus sinking its needles into her brain. She missed them often, even though Lana was always with her, every moment of every day.
It was a precious feeling, listening to Lana’s whispers spiraling across her mind, an energy she clutched to her chest as she took in a deep breath and focused on the horizon. Something told her the biggest battle she would ever have to face was coming, tumbling across the oceans and land, an unbridled beast who knew nothing of love, nothing of family—only hate and destruction. Shade had been preparing for that moment for a while now, but the constant struggle and vigilance was exhausting. Still, she gripped her sword with a victorious determination as the days went on, never letting her guard down and keeping an ever-constant watchful eye.
The Unseelie army was going to pay for taking so much from her. Aveta, Arthas… all of them would be made to pay for every hurt, every loss and drop of crimson blood shed from her loved ones. It was a debt which must be paid for with nothing less than equal compensation. It would never be dismissed, and she would make sure it would be collected, regardless of cost or time. Mortality could wait.
THE VISCOUS FLOW of blood dripped from the razor’s edge of Shade’s sword, black as pitch, which coated the ground beneath her in a gritty mess. She could hear the next Unseelie warrior coming around the bend, where the pine trees stood tall and the ground shifted with the accumulation of dried leaves and needles. Bending her knees, she held the sword out horizontally. Her eyes focused on the faraway drifts of rustling wind, and her ears listened to every traitorous snap of twigs under feet.