by Mitzi Danielsonkaslik
I ushered Gillidore through the door and we both stared at the scene before us. Lush green grassed banks rose high against the wall intermingled with the delicate brightly coloured wild flowers with tiny thin petals lightly fluttering like butterflies in the subtle evening breeze. Tall thin willowy trunks shot up from the grass and branched out into trees with lush forest green leaves protecting and coveting delicate blossoms which grew from a light blushing pink epicenter and then stretched out until the blush faded and became pure ivory, the cheeks of a porcelain doll.
Below, a thin twisting pathway with dry brown mud lay, undisturbed by foot print. Small pebbles in shades of black and grey lined the track creating a thick boarder, a divide, barricading the thick grass that grew around from mud of the path. The track wound up to the edges of the four banks against the four high stone walls that encased the garden until it reached a huge concrete structure in the middle of the sanctuary with streams of gold intermingled with the cold stone running as rivers up to a cold still body of water in a strange translucent shade of blue lay corrupted by thick waxy green lily pads floating upon its calm surface. Ripples, like the blossoms upon the trees, began at a light pinprick and spread out into huge tidal waves in the pond. A stone structure at the center of the lake stood proudly with a tall sweeping crest, heralding the heavens, its strange symmetry seemed unnatural in this place. The water was sucked up by the structure and spirted out of its peak with an odd luminance, a blue glow. The water then pattered down to join its fellows.
Wonder struck by the beauty of this place we stepped lightly over the path and followed it around. It was then that we heard it. A soft music. It was the music of the night played by a harp. It was beautiful and pure and seemed to sum up the enchanted forest perfectly. But where was it coming from? Was it played sweetly by the roses or hummed by the buzzing bees? No, it was coming from the center of the walled garden. A person sat alone. Playing the harp with both willowy hands. A long crimson robe swayed with the subtle breeze at their feet and black hair blew in the wind. Gillidore and I approached anxiously, perplexed at the apparition. The harpist did not look up. They continued playing softly.
“Can I help you?” they muttered.
“I don’t know…,” I whispered, mesmerized by the melody.
“You seek The Shadow Master, ” they continued.
“How do you know that?” I whispered.
“I can see it in your eyes. You are one who seeks everything in life yet never stops to look at what has been accomplished. You are one who does not see what is around them, only what is ahead.”
Their words rung around my head “Do you know where I can find him?”
“Yes, as night comes this, my realm – The Nightshade Realm – becomes The Garden of Shadows. Each night I do find myself there and this world becomes his and I am forced to play so all the mortals in this forest do sleep. It is simple, tonight you must wait and believe it shall work. Believe you will be taken to The Garden of Shadows. There you will find The Shadow Master.”
What could this mean? I had seen many bizarre things in my travels but none so strange as a walled garden transforming into a different place all together as night comes. The conversation with The Nameless One continued for a short while an insignificant trail I will not bore my reader with. It was insignificant until I noticed Gillidore, uneasy with the place, had decided to leave the garden. As the water of the lake behind The Nameless One filled with pure deafening blue light, a shadow began to form upon the floor and floated lightly for a few seconds cast by a blossom tree. The shadows grew in number until they lay all over the land. The fountain within the lake was swallowed up by the water and then the water itself vanished from view. The blossom trees deceased back into the ground and the lily pads faded into the air. The path gently diffused into the earth and the grass until it was no more. The oaken door snapped shut at a push. We were trapped.
“It is time.”
The night had come.