Short Story: Secret Shadow

On her shoulder rested a small shadow, a wisp of almost-smoke, no larger than her cat. Young. Hard to see, which meant it was likely no more powerful than she was.

Rosalie closed the heavy door of her alcove as softly as she could and leaned her back against the cold stone. Now that she was in the safety of her room where no one could see, she pushed back her hood and wiped the tears from her cheeks with her rough sleeves. This wasn’t fair. It was bad enough that she’d been branded with the sliver of a waning crescent moon- the marking on her forearm still hurt!- but she couldn’t manage to call so much as a single shadow. All the other students had at least three. Some had so many that Rosalie had stopped trying to count them. The tiny stupid moon had taunted her every time she dressed over the last month, but now she knew why she hadn’t been granted a full moon or even a half moon. Her magic was so weak that she couldn’t even summon one lousy shadow.

She shuffled across the alcove room that was hardly longer than she was tall and over to the hard bed that she always suspected it was made from the same stone as the rest of the room. It certainly offered as much warmth. Wrapped in her blanket and curled in a ball, she let the sobs shake her body until she felt cold and weak- just as weak and useless as she truly was. In this room no one could see that she showed emotion. No one would know that she felt such jealousy and hatred for the others. It wasn’t fair at all! What had she done so wrong that she’d angered the gods into giving her so little of what was the most important thing?

It took a while for her to notice that the chill on her upper back wasn’t just the dank draft blowing in through the open window. She sat straight up and pulled her blanket over her face. A shadow here in her room meant one of the higher priests or priestesses was spying on her. She couldn’t let them know that she’d been crying. She would be disciplined if she allowed her emotions to show, so she took a few deep breaths to steady her breathing. Stone. She had to be like stone. Just like the walls and the floor and the bed on which she sat.

Again she felt the coolness brush against her shoulder, much like the stray cat she’d once kept until the ever-watching shadows had discovered it. That cat had been her only company and they’d taken it away as though it was nothing but a rat in the kitchens. Gods, she would have been happy even with a rat. She found herself sniffling again. Instead of vanishing to report her failings as would-be priestess, the shadow wove around her shoulders and back in a pattern that seemed almost... soothing?

Rosalie turned her head and lowered the blanket enough to see. On her shoulder rested a small shadow, a wisp of almost-smoke, no larger than her cat. Young. Hard to see, which meant it was likely no more powerful than she was. Not a spy for her betters because none of them would so much as glance at a shadow as worthless as this one. She hesitantly reached out her gloved hand towards it. A faint smile crossed her lips when it curled around and around her wrist, chasing itself in an endless smokey spiral.

"I’m Rosalie. Are you my shadow?"

It didn’t answer with words. It was possible it couldn’t yet talk or maybe she just wasn’t strong enough to hear its voice, but its spiral contracted around her arm until it blended into her loose sleeve. For the first time in years Rosalie let out a giggle. It didn’t matter that she had only one shadow. This one was hers and she was going to protect it until it was big enough to protect her.

(For this very short story I was given the prompt "a young girl discovers that she isn't alone" and decided to write something about what happened to one of my characters when she was a child.)



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