Unexpected Inspiration Location: The Place of Shadow


Etri reached out to grab them as they ran past, catching Adair’s shoulder and Blythe’s wrist. Between the span of one breath and another, they were in the place outside of time that Etri considered a secondary, if lonely, home.

His friends were justifiably disoriented. Adair stumbled as he stepped closer to Blythe, whose eyes narrowed as she sought out the potential threat that had brought them here. In a voice barely above a whisper, but which reached Etri's ears in a place so empty, Adair asked, “Where are we?"

Etri had been equally fearful on his first trip here. It had been an accident, a touch to one of the elemental traps in his home temple that he noticed all too late. It had banished him here as though he himself were a shadow and he might still be caught here if not for an unusually curious and friendly elemental leading him back. Over the years he had learned that he could cross back and forth at will, with no danger so long as he took care to leave precisely at the time he had arrived. That had taken some calculations and experimentation. His friends would be safe if they remained with him, and since the shadows hadn't noticed them yet, Etri took a moment to pull a timer from his bag. With luck, they'd be able to return before they had left and miss the guards entirely.

As the grains of sand began to fall, Etri walked over to join them. “I apologize for not first gaining your permission. I took the opportunity before anyone could see you vanish from the street.”

Adair spun around with a grin on his face. “Etch! You brought us here! I'm so glad you're here. Where is here?”

Etri glanced down at the small hourglass to hide the smile that came so easily around Adair. He used this opportunity to better calculate how much time remained before they could again cross. “To my knowledge, there is no name for it. I have only thought of it as the 'place of shadow.' Please, we must get through the city soon. We cannot stay here long.”

“Why not?” Blythe asked as they hurried through the eerily silent streets. "Not that I want to stay. What's with this place, anyway? I know there were more buildings here before. Addy dragged me into a bakery I know was on that corner."

Adair waved his arms vaguely to the left. "And over there was the greenhouse we were in for like an hour."

If the two were back to teasing each other, it meant that they felt safe. Their trust in him made Etri's head swim just as surely as his friends must have felt moments ago. “This place is but a reflection of the real world and time does not flow as we perceive it. If we are not careful, we could be caught here for a century or return into the past. As for your second question, it is because temporary objects do not exist here.”

“What, like ice sculptures?”

Adair's comment made Etri chuckle, but Blythe was less amused. “Sheesh. You've been hanging around Sol too long. Think, art-boy. He probably means like people. Plants. The traffic we're not getting run over by."

Adair recovered before Etri could further explain. "I had noticed the lack of squash, which makes this better than the hour I spent hanging out with the vegetables."

Blythe groaned. "Etch, do us a favor and get us out of here. I don't think I can deal with a century of his bad jokes."

-An excerpt from Colorweaver (book 1) switched to Etri’s POV


Here are some facts about this location:
-As far as Etri knows, he's the only living human who has visited, besides the friends he brings later. He's never heard anyone else talk about it or found any records of anyone else visiting. The creatures from this place that are capable of communicating with humans have never revealed that this is where they come from.For instance, the priest/esses in Montglace who summon shadow elementals know that they're coming from somewhere, but have no idea what this somewhere is.

-The place of shadow isn't as creepy as you might expect, despite it being the home of ghosts and shadows. It's simply an empty and grey monochrome. Since it's only borderline real and there is no weather, the sky will always be dull, vacant grey, with no stars or planets to be seen. The air is breathable, but it's stuffy and you probably wouldn't be comfortable breathing it for long.

-This is because it isn't so much a world of its own as a reflection of the main world. The only things you'll find in this place are things that have existed in the main world for an extended period of time. This means geographical features, such as hills, mountains, and caves, but nothing like trees or plant life because nothing living exists there. In Etri's experience, rivers and lakes have been empty or missing. There may be oceans, but if so, he hasn't explored far enough to know.

-Towns and cities are ghost towns, but not in a dilapidated, creepy way. Only the oldest buildings and architecture echo over; these are all empty inside but otherwise solid and in new condition. The buildings are never furnished because anything that can be moved around counts as temporary.

-On the flip side of this, if a building has been recently torn down in the real world, its mirror will still be standing until it eventually begins to fade away. You're also unlikely to find ruins here-- old buildings will begin to vanish rather than fall apart.

-Nothing lives here because nothing native to that place is technically alive. This doesn't mean the place is unpopulated, though! One type of elemental that exists here are shades, which are echos of strong memories and emotions from the main world, vague blurs without much sentience.

-Once in awhile Etri will run into a ghost, which are usually the spirits of those who possessed magic and were killed in a way that didn't fully dissipate this power. Usually, these don’t remember who they once were, and they vary in intelligence and communication skills based on how long they’ve been ghosts, how strong their magic was to start, and how they were killed/ended up as ghosts. Some can move around and cross to the human world if they choose to, but many are echoes not much stronger than the shades.

-The creatures I often refer to as shadows are the most common type of elemental here. These are the ones capable of communication (via telepathy/feelings) and their intelligence level is somewhere around that of a smart dog. These can go wherever they wish but are easily controlled or summoned by certain humans. Shadows are mostly intangible when in the human world and are generally mistaken for a normal shadow if they're noticed at all. On their home world, and to any with the magic to see them properly, they look like a plume of smoke.

-Through trial and error, Etri has worked out how to calculate time passing in the main world while he's here in the place of shadow. Time doesn't flow linearly; instead it ebbs back and forth, almost like waves. Sometimes the waves are strong and will make "time" rush, meaning that you could step back outside into the far past or the far future. Sometimes it's weaker and almost no time has passed at all in the main world. Hourglasses are the only timekeeper he's found that work because gravity functions here even if time-- and watches-- do not. Between the hourglasses and carefully observing the waves, he can predict when he'll step back out again. The shadows and ghosts have less restriction than he does because Etri is human and has a chronological mindset at navigating this. The elementals can just pop out anywhen, but to be fair, they don't really understand what "now" is. Time has no meaning for them.

CONVERSATION

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