Chapters logo

CHAPTER 3 - Trespassing

Shadows Of The Stars

By ChloePublished 3 months ago 19 min read
CHAPTER 3 - Trespassing
Photo by Bartek Garbowicz on Unsplash

Owain’s feet sink into the warm sand. A comfortable breeze tosses his hair against his face. He brushes bright red strands away, sifting along the shore, his gaze traveling on and off toward the Lightwater River.

He has never before been so heavily relied on. Many full eclipses ago, he was little more than a student in the sixth grade, a schoolboy in his class. He had no responsibility, no special ability, nothing to make him considerably different from the rest of the children in the world apart from his slight stutter. He wore a uniform to school, he passed tests, and he ran rambunctiously about the playground, having not a care in the world.

Now his care is about the world, and he has the responsibility of saving the world.

Saving it from a creature called Venik.

The boy watches the lightwater flow smoothly northward, toward the inevitable Blackwoods, the inevitable grayloch, the inevitable sea, and the inevitable end. He wonders what end he himself must travel to in order to save the earth. It doesn’t seem very heroic of him to not go on some dangerous journey like this river travels every day. It runs through the Light Forest, down into the Blackwoods, and towards the sea, daily, without any fear.

As he thinks more and more about the function of the river, he realizes that he and the river are more alike than he originally thought. The lightwater is the only thing capable of keeping the living world stable, and he is the only person capable of stopping Venik from killing the rest of the earth. The river is heading non-stop in one direction, just as he is doing. The river is fearless against the responsibility of saving the world… however he, young and frightened as he is, is completely fearful of that same responsibility.

He wanders away from the edge of the Lightwater River and into the darkening treeline. The branches here are thicker, blotting out more of the sunshine that streams delightfully down from the milky-blue sky, and he can gradually see less and less in front of him until he feels as if he’s wandering through a maze of blackened undergrowth. For a place called the Light Forest, it certainly is considerably dark here.

A root juts out in front of him unexpectedly, reaching for his foot. At the abrupt sight, he trips and staggers, catching his ankle beneath the wood. With a loud thump that seems to be trapped within the brush, he falls to the forest floor, breathless. Dead leaves crinkle underneath his weight.

…Dead leaves?

…Oh no.

Dead leaves.

From behind him comes the gentle thunk of something hitting the earth. Wildly, Owain turns around, scrambling to get back to his feet, but before he can his eyes land on the most terrifying sight he has ever seen, and he pauses right in his tracks.

A creature. A gray, spindly creature with huge eyes, the pupils nothing more than small black pinpricks. Four horns stretch above its circular head; one pair larger, the other pair shorter and stubbier. A ragged cape hangs around its shoulders. Too many arms to count– four? Six?– are folded over its torso. It looks half the size of Red, but similarly enormous, and incredibly horrifying to gaze at, but strangely… calming.

The creature doesn’t move an inch, only looks him up and down with its wide, wide eyes. A wicked, sharp–toothed smile starts to form on its face.

“What are you doing here?”

Owain takes a long look at his surroundings, and he wishes to smack himself across the face. How come he hadn’t noticed the changed environment around him? The Light Forest would never have trees with branches so thick that they could blot out the sun completely. There is no light here, except for a little patch of beige blankness on the ground just in front of him. Everything around him is dead; the leaves, the bushes, the dried, cracked bark of trees. He can no longer hear the slow, lovely flow of the river; it is, instead, replaced with the sound of a gurgling, sloshing sludge at the edge of his hearing.

He swallows, his throat running dry. The mind of this creature is so loud and complicated that it hurts his ears to listen to. He strains to blot it out and tries to find his voice, knowing that it will come out as a tender, stammering squeak, but also knowing that he has no other choice but to use it.

“I don’t know,” he whispers honestly. I meant to stay by the Lightwater River, he thinks, humiliated at his own stupidity, but instead I can hear the grayloch where the sound of the river used to be. How will I get back to the Light Forest?

The creature stares at him with unblinking eyes. It doesn’t seem to move at all– not even for breathing. Its stillness disturbs him.

“A human like yourself shouldn’t be here, unprotected and all alone.” Owain winces at the hissing sound of the gray creature’s voice. “What are you doing awake?”

He has no time to think about whether he should tell this creature anything that he knows at all before he blurts out, “R– Red…” Only then does he gather the strength to stop himself, not knowing exactly how to describe what Red had done to him. Every other human on the planet is asleep, he ponders. How come Red chose to wake me up? I don’t even know how he gave me back my voice! I don’t even know anything about what he did!

The creature's wide eyes narrow thoughtfully. Owain sees a snakey tongue pass over the creature’s teeth and shudders, unnerved. “Is that so? Red has woken you?”

He nods automatically, ashamed of himself for revealing so much information but too afraid to do anything else.

“I see.” The gray creature steps toward him. He is suddenly aware that he’s still on the ground, and so, embarrassed, he pushes himself back to his feet, looking fearfully at this strange being. It is much taller than him, he notices, but it looks about as thin and boney as a leafless twig.

“Red is getting up to his old tricks again.” The creature looks away for just a moment, and then its wide eyes land back on him. “Tell me, boy, are you the only human he has meddled with?”

Owain shakes his head nervously.

The creature chuckles; a low, gravelly sound. “I never thought I’d see the day when a human willingly wandered into my territory.”

“I didn’t mean…”

“Of course you didn’t,” the creature sneers. “Even Red has enough sense to warn you not to come here.” The gray creature steps around him, and he sees the glint of long, stained talons in the dim light.

Owain stiffens. His heart pounds rapidly in his chest; the creature can certainly hear how loud it is, especially in the strange, dead silence of these corrupted woods.

“How many other toys like you does Red have in his petty forest?” It spits Red’s name with disdain, hissing.

“Nine,” he murmurs, knowing inwardly that he may have just sentenced all his friends to imminent death. What am I doing? What have I done? I have to fix this! Red gave me a voice for a reason– maybe I can use it to my advantage?

He whips around to face the creature, acknowledging its uncanny stare with his own petrified amber eyes. “A– are you going to kill me?”

It grins. “Kill you? Why would I kill you? You are one of Red’s playthings, worth more than you could possibly imagine.” The creature leans in close. Its breath smells of something cold and watery, and the dank scent of blood. “What is it, boy, that Red has so desperately used you for?”

The boy tries to steady his haggard breathing, shivering in the chill of the creature’s presence. “He wants me to do something impossible,” Owain whispers dejectedly.

“What is he trying to do?”

“He wants me to save the world,” he mutters glumly. He finds that it sounds rather ridiculous when he says it out loud.

The gray creature laughs to itself, clearly amused. “Poor boy,” it muses sarcastically, giving him a threatening glare. “Red has always had a knack for ruining the lives of children.” Without warning, it tightly grabs his wrist and, turning, tugs him along behind it.

“W– what are you–”

“Follow,” the creature snaps, and neither he nor it say anything else.

Not far from the edge of the Blackwoods is a rippling lake. The wide-eyed creature tugs Owain along behind it and to the very edge of the bank, where Owain can see that the lake is nothing like the shimmering waters of the Lightwater River. It is grayloch– a thin, dark smudge on the landscape that shows no reflections whatsoever– and it slaps lazily at his feet, seeming hungry for his very living soul. He shuffles in the muddy sand, trying desperately to be as far from the grayloch as possible.

The creature, however, is not afraid at all, and it pulls him back to the edge rather roughly. He hopes with all his might that it will not throw him into the lake to drown.

Its wide eyes bore into the side of his head. He feels smaller than ever before. “I thought you would know who I am,” it spits. “But maybe Red is too ashamed to mention anyone stronger than himself.”

Owain’s mind rushes to the immediate answer. A rippling chill passes up his spine and into his head. This creature is not a creature in the same sense that he is. It does not live, or appreciate living things. It feasts on the blood of humans; it destroys the world with its darkness; it is not a creature, but a Shadow, and a Shadow with the most wicked eyes that one has ever seen.


Venik’s bony hand lets go of his wrist, and his wide eyes give Owain a long, cold stare. “So you do understand who I am.” A sputtering of laughter, like an old car testing its rusted engine, coughs up from Venik.

Owain searches his mind for words, knowing that, if he has been put into a situation where he is capable of convincing Venik to stop, then he must do so. But unfortunately, he never quite had the time to prepare for meeting this wretched monster-Shadow, and he has no clue what to say, or how to even bring it up.

Besides, now that he can see Venik’s form– draped in ragged cloth, horned, wide-eyed, with a sharp-toothed smile– he finds the whole idea hopeless, and utterly, utterly pointless.

He glares miserably down at his shoes, not wanting to think about it.

“How was Red planning to have you… ‘save the world’?” asks Venik, tilting his head.

Owain feels his face flush with embarrassment. He hadn’t expected this hideous creature to be Venik; he would’ve more likely told it how Red planned to save the world if it had never revealed itself to be Venik. But how can he explain to Venik that he is supposed to talk him out of being evil? How can one possibly do such a thing? It will be the most humiliating thing Owain has ever done.

He shuffles slightly, clasping and unclasping his hands into fists. “He… I…” He recalls Dae’s encouraging smile, her face that tells him to go on, and swallows back his fear. “He wanted me to… talk to you. He gave me a voice.”

Venik laughs quietly, keeping his comedic thoughts to himself. “How ridiculous,” he growls, all sense of easygoingness vanishing. “He thought I would listen to reason? His reason? From a boy?!” Finding the idea utterly hilarious, his snarky voice hurtles into a fit of laughter, and Owain stands, still as a statue, staring morbidly down at his feet, a look of utter shame on his face.

Venik seems to notice this look. Abruptly his wide, colorless eyes appear before Owain’s face, and the boy flinches backward, alarmed. “Why must you look so down, boy? Don’t you realize what this means?”

Owain, breathing heavily, gives an imperceptible shake of his head.

Venik’s sharp teeth spread a crooked smile across his delighted face. “You are coming with me. You are going to be my ransom, boy.”

Ransom? A sense of dreadful dread clouds Owain’s stomach, and it suddenly becomes harder and harder to breathe. He’s going to hold me for ransom! I’m going to be a captive!

It may be better than being dead, but it certainly doesn’t sound good.

“What could Red give you?” Owain questions, trying to use his accented voice to his advantage (though so far it hasn’t worked very well).

Venik leans away from Owain, straightening up. “Oh, many things, boy. He has kept his little Light Forest all to himself, and I have been looking to expand my own territory. My ranks are growing restless, and besides, it appears that Red has been hiding little humans like yourself without my knowledge.” He sucks air through his teeth, grimacing. “What a poor creature he is. A pacifist.” Disdain emanates from Venik’s thoughts like a sickening cloud. Owain barely stops himself from gagging on it.

He glances around, taking Venik’s silence as an invitation to properly investigate his surroundings, the Blackwoods. He finds that their name does suit them, as most of the area around him not inhabited by grayloch is covered in dark, dead trees whose branches blot out the sky. The part of the sky that he can see is ashy and gray, shedding only a few droplets of precious sunlight out onto the lake. He wonders how the Blackwoods and the Light Forest could possibly live near each other without one of them taking over the other, especially because of their great differences. One is a safe haven of light and life, and the other is an endless pit of darkness and fear.

Perhaps it would be better to be dead than to be in the Blackwoods. But Owain will not– cannot– give up just yet.

Venik’s voice emerges from the silence. “What do you see?”

Owain lets his eyes graze over the dizzying sight of the grayloch. “A… a lake.”


He squints. Is it a lake? Maybe it’s a pond. No, no– it’s far too big to be a pond. “Yes,” he responds.

Venik does not seem convinced. Owain can feel two of the Shadow’s hands pressing down on his shoulders. “Is it a lake?”

“Y– yes.”

“A lake or a sea?”

He blinks. Has it just changed shape? Is that just my eyes? Did the lake become larger? Or smaller? Has the grayloch changed color? Is it now rolling in bits of crashing, bubbling waves frothing with white? He blinks again. Have the trees at the edge of his vision disappeared? Is the water pulling at his feet? Is there a current? Is it driving him forward?

He blinks thrice. The image disappears, and he is staring again at the lake. Dead trees crowd his vision on every other side. No. It was just in my head. “A lake,” he answers confidently.

“What do you see, boy?” Venik sneers softly into his ear.

Owain looks around again, searching for something new to mention. Everything around him has suddenly become much darker than before. “...Trees.”

“Hmmm.” Owain shudders at the feel of Venik’s breath. “Tell me what you see.”

He stares around for the third time. What else am I supposed to say? What else is there? It’s trees and a lake–

Abruptly all his vision turns black. He turns his head wildly, searching for some source of light to guide his way, but there is none. Terrified that he has lost his sight, he whimpers, starting to squirm and wriggle in fear.

“Shh,” Venik hisses, and Owain falters, hardly able to control his breathing. “What do you see?”

Nothing! I see nothing! “I– it’s nothing!” he shouts, barely aware of his echoing, musical voice that the grayloch recoils at the sound of.

“What is it?”

“It– it–” He struggles. “It’s darkness.”

“What kind of darkness?”

What kind? What do you mean “what kind?” There is only one kind of darkness!

But then he feels the weight, and the stare, and the invisible being and eyes that encircle him from all around, and he is aware that Venik and he are not the only things by the grayloch lake, and that there is not only one type of darkness.

“It… it’s alive.” But those are not the Shadows that inhabit that darkness; the darkness itself is sentient.

“What does it want?” Venik’s hands press down harder on his shoulders, and he feels a pair of arms wrap around his chest, holding him still, and another around his neck, restricting his breathing to ragged gasps of fear. “Focus on my voice.”

Owain swallows back a petrified screech as the sentience of darkness moves around him, as if inspecting him from head to foot. For some reason, he feels much safer with Venik than with the sentient darkness, since he knows where Venik is and who he is and generally how he thinks, but he knows naught about this darkness whose mind is an empty, mesmerizing void.

What does it want? He’s afraid to listen to the mind of this… this sentience. He’ll be overwhelmed, surely, by the utter emptiness.

“Tell me what it wants, boy,” Venik repeats. His voice brings Owain back just enough to find a suitable answer– an answer that makes him hold his breath in terror.

“M– me.”

“What does it want with you?”

He stares into the sentience, too afraid to move or struggle any longer. What do you want with me? As soon as his thoughts enter the air, they become absorbed into the dark, sentient entity, and an answer echoes into his mind. An answer that lacks voice, that lacks personality, that only contains a singular longing: “Your mind.”

The void of emptiness that is the sentient darkness’s mind seems to close around him like a black cape, enfolding him at every angle until he feels as if he’s been submerged underwater. His mind, normally rushing with thoughts, a mixture of his own and others, is now silent, thoughtless, blank. Owain stares into the blackness in front of him, feeling more hollow than he has ever felt in his life.

Is this how it is to be a Shadow? A single aimless thought emerges from the void, straining to be freed of its containing prison. Hollow, empty?

The silent voice of the sentience comes again, without sound or emotion: “A Shadow is merely an empty puppet.”

In a sudden violet jerk of light and motion, Owain emerges from the figurative black water of imagination and returns to reality, gasping and grasping the air for the sounds and thoughts and relieved to find that nature and life have come back to flood his senses. Venik still stands behind him, hands pressed onto his shoulders, but Owain is no longer nearly as afraid of the monster-Shadow as he had been before. Nothing had been more terrifying than being submerged into a state of thoughtlessness, of void mind, of nothingness.

Venik’s thoughts echo through the air, but Owain doesn’t bother to listen to them. He basks in the sounds of the outside world; the feel of wind, the sound of grayloch lapping by the shore, the shifting of mud and sand by his shoes. He never thought he’d be so thankful to return to the Blackwoods.

“What does it want with you, boy?” Venik’s voice reveals that he is not at all surprised by Owain’s reaction, which leads the boy to believe that Venik must interact with that sentient darkness on a daily basis.

Owain finds trouble repeating the phrase that was told to him by the sentient darkness. It makes him less relieved to be back in the living world. “It wants… it wants my m– mind.”

Venik’s thoughts halt momentarily in confusion, and it seems to Owain that he hadn’t been expecting that answer.

But this confusion lasts only for a second. Venik releases Owain, taking him only by the wrist and tugging him along the edge of the shoreline. “Come. It seems That was expecting you.”

The red-haired boy scrambles to follow behind the monster-Shadow, feeling much less afraid now that he is grateful for the Earth and all its thoughts and noises. He rather feels inquisitive at the moment, considering all that has just happened to him. “What was that?” he sputters, eyes wide.

Venik huffs, which comes out as a strange noise of what was perhaps meant to be laughter. “Hm… that is That, and That is what that is.”

Owain blinks. Confused, he listens through Venik’s thoughts, trying to find something that explains the strange phrase, but nothing appears except what has already been spoken, “That is That, and That is what that is.”

Maybe That is what the monster-Shadows call the sentient darkness. It certainly makes sense, though it is a bit hard to communicate about something with the name “That.”

“What… what does it want?”

“I thought you figured that out yourself, clever boy. That clearly likes you, otherwise it would not have taken to you so well.”

Owain finds that he does not like being “taken to” by a sentient darkness. “What does that mean?”

Venik visibly bristles at being asked questions, but he answers nonetheless, not having much of another choice. “It likes you.”

Owain finds that he does not like being liked by a sentient darkness, either. He wants to ask why something with That’s great power would take to him, a stuttering boy who is closer to being normal than any of his friends. What can he do that is so amazing? He certainly wasn’t capable of talking to Venik without shrinking away in fear.

“Where are we going?” he asks, aware that if he tries to run off he will most definitely be either caught or killed.

Venik huffs. In one swift movement, he turns around, his cape flapping behind his back, and shoves his face toward Owain, who shrivels like a crumpled piece of paper. “Just because That favors you doesn’t mean you get to babble like an infant. I am taking you to Shadowfort, and if you speak one word when you arrive my underlings will kill you without hesitation. You must do exactly as I say. Do you understand?”

Owain has been asked that same question three times already just today, and he is finding it harder and harder to answer “yes” every time. But this time, at least the explanation has been clear and quick enough for him to admit that, yes, he does understand, and Venik whips back around without another word and drags him along behind.

He stumbles constantly, his mind still partially in the state of searching for somewhere to hide if he ever needs to (because that is what Red trained him for, isn’t it?). All around him, the trees of the Blackwoods gradually begin to thin, revealing the human world that may have once been a beautiful haven, but now is only fallen buildings and dilapidated skyscrapers. Metal towers reach up to the heavens, some bent halfway up, some crowded by stains of blood and hanging cloth. A round satellite, split in half, blocks their way, but Venik finds no shock in this and simply trots around it while Owain stares in horror at the twisted deadness of this entire place. How could this happen? How could the whole Earth, besides the small refuge of the Light Forest, be like this?

What has it become?

A loud creaking noise draws his attention, and he lifts his gaze to see the rusted wall of a building slowly falling from its high position. Terrified that he will be struck by the slab of concrete, he jumps back, wanting to get as far from this area as possible. Venik, however, is nowhere near as frightened as he is (possibly not even frightened at all), and merely pulls him away, calmly guiding him around a second tall building and away from the sight of the crash. There’s a resonant clatter, and the ground shakes, but they are both safely hidden behind the opposite building, which stands steady despite the rumbling.

Venik is unfazed by this experience. Of course he is, Owain thinks, because this must be a daily experience for him. He can’t be afraid of all these collapsing buildings because he’s around them all the time anyway.

They continue on, none saying a word, until they pace a hill and encounter what looks to be the remains of a prison. Gray buildings wind in a semi-circle around a large, black platform splayed out over the grass. Stone towers stretch up around four corners, scouring the landscape for signs of movement. Patches of darkness spin through the barren landscape that surrounds the prison yard, as if serving the purpose of searchlights; but instead of lights, they are shadows, nor the living or the Stone or the monsters.

Perched atop the towers, on the battlement, guarding their fort at the front and at the back and at every possible angle, are crooked, gray figures, each with a set of different horns and wide, wide eyes. Owain sees their heads gradually begin to turn towards him the closer he walks toward their fort, and as more and more of them notice his arrival a blood-curdling shriek comes from within the fort, calling all of their attention. A silhouette leaps to the top of the battlement, cloaked in a cape much like Venik’s own, and glares at them both, eyes a color of faded violet.

A rush of fear engulfs Owain as each and every Shadow bounds down from their respective viewpoints and heads quickly towards him. He moves toward Venik, who says, his hands on Owain’s shoulders, “They can hear your blood, boy. Do not make a sound, and I will do the talking.”

Shakily, Owain nods, pressing his back against Venik as some form of comfort. The wave of Shadows flows onward, more and more joining in from the sides, until Owain can see almost nothing but a crowd of dark, vicious faces baring their teeth in hunger for his very life.

The Shadows surround them both from every side, the violet-eyed one leading them all. A strange scent fills the air, which Owain realizes must be the smell of Shadows, or the monster-Shadows, at least. It is the same strange smell he’d caught on Venik’s breath, a mixture of earthy blood and a cold, watery scent. He wonders what the watery scent could be (the smell of natural shadows, perhaps?) before he is completely and utterly swept over by fear as all the monster-Shadows, apart from the violet one, unwittingly lunge straight for him.


A/N: All the italics have accidentally been removed because this was transferred from Google Docs. Please enjoy, and leave any feedback you have in the comments. Thank you.

CliffhangerYoung AdultThrillerScience FictionHorrorFictionFantasyDystopianAdventure

About the Creator


she’s back.

a prodigious writer at 14, she has just completed a 100,000+ word book and is looking for publishers.

super opinionated.

writes free-verse about annoying people.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.