16.) Storytime.

[To learn what this is from and how to participate, please read this previous post]

“Right, so Tenebrae is trapped on this island, cursed to live there because of some celestial rivalry that ended up getting carried out down here, and—”

“Hey, no skipping the best parts!”

“Fine, Terynik. Fine. Who’s telling this story again? But sure, have it your way.”

“Thank you, cousin, you’re the best.”

“So Tenebrae gets cursed during a battle because—”

“Battle with?”


“You’re a brat. Okay, so there’s this desert queen and Aquila the sun, who her people worship, falls in love with her and sends her an avatar to protect her. So she decides this means she should go around invading other peoples lands and conquer them to add to her empire. Eventually she and her armies and the avatar get to us, and she realizes whoops, maybe this was a bad idea to fight in these wetlands with desert people against the natives of said wetlands. So it looks like we’re gonna totally beat them, and Tenebrae comes to the battlefield being all, hey, why are you attacking us, we’re just trying to live here. And when Aquila’s avatar sees Him, it gets all righteous about ‘beating the evil’ because for some reason Aquila is convinced Tenebrae is a rival just because He shines at night and doesn’t rely on reflecting Aquila’s light like the moons do. Don’t ask about Aquila’s logic, because he doesn’t seem to have any. Anyway, the avatar is all, must banish the evil, and the queen is all, shit I messed up and my people are all gonna die, and Tenebrae is all, then why did you come at us in the first place?

“So Aquila’s avatar casts this huge, just, so huge burst of energy to banish Tenebrae from the battlefield. It uses up all the vital energy in the area, killing all the plants and burning up the physical body of the avatar, so now Aquila’s influence is gone now, too. It’s just mortals left on the battlefield, and it’s pretty obvious how that’s gonna end up. So the battle ends, we’ve driven off the invaders, yay, but before we celebrate we’re like, um, what happened to Tenebrae, anyway? Maybe we should go find him.

“And we track him down to this island that suddenly has this looming black fortress of adamant in the center of it—”

“It wasn’t we who tracked him down. It was just my clan, because we actually know how to travel across water.”

“I was getting to that, Vitre, be patient. You’re clearly spending too much time with my annoying cousin these days. So we tracked him down, as a collective effort, but there was this massive lake or bay or something—”

“An estuary, technically.”

“Oh, well, if you want to get technical about it. And in the middle of this estuary was an island, which most of us didn’t know how to get to, but Tenebrae had only taught just your clan the secrets of tides and so on, so they crafted barges and brought the rest of us across and there was Tenebrae, and he was trapped, but we discovered that the curse didn’t stop us from coming and going as we pleased. So my clan split up, and some stayed on the island to serve him and the rest kept things going on the mainland, and then just your clan became the ferry-folk, bringing us back and forth, and—yes, I see you, Illikhr, I was just getting to that bit—and the Lupus clan protected our borders from any new threats. Okay? Everyone happy? Good, moving on.

“So as I was saying before so rudely interrupted by a certain cousin who sets a very bad example for others, Tenebrae was stuck on this island in the middle of an estuary because of the curse. And one day, the ferry-folk bring a stranger to the island. This person is sick with fever, and the ferry-folk figure, hey, what can it hurt to give Tenebrae some company and let him do a bit of that random healing he used to wander around doing back in the day? Apparently they never wondered why this person had been dumped on their shore in the first place—”

“Okay, that’s just ridiculous.”

“Sorry, do you have another version of events, Vitre? Would you like to tell this story?”

“Well, for one thing, we were acting under Tenebrae’s instructions. He was very clear about how we should always give aid and assistance to strangers.”

“Oh, so you were just acting under orders? That’s your excuse?”

“It broke the curse, didn’t it?”

“No skipping ahead!”

“Fine, okay. Sorry. Tell your version, Dmiri. Then I’ll tell mine, to show you how wrong yours is.”

“Right. Thank you. So generous. Where was I?”

“The ferry-folk were following the teachings of our religion by rescuing someone who’d been abused and abandoned, left sick and beaten to die on our shores.”

“Yeah. Exactly. So they bring this stranger to the fortress, knowing nothing about the circumstances under which this person had been left there in the first place. Which is clearly a well-thought-out plan. Obviously. I saw that, Vitre. So this person is brought to Tenebrae, who of course does the healing thing. But the stranger is scared and distrustful, and also conveniently ‘lost their memory’—fine what is it now, Illikhr?”

“One, they absolutely had lost their memory, temporarily, due to the severity of the fever, the past trauma, and the level of intervention Tenebrae had to do in order to save their life. Two, the stranger was a hybrid.”

“What does being a hybrid have to do with this story?”

“Nothing. I just always liked that part.”

“Alright. Can I continue now?”

“No one’s stopping you.”

“I beg to differ. However. As I was saying, the stranger—hybrid—didn’t trust Tenebrae even though He totally saved their life. So instead of being grateful, they sneak around the fortress and get in trouble.”

“By which, of course, you mean that your ancestress who had gone power-hungry decided Tenebrae’s interest in the newcomer was a threat, and when they were perfectly innocently exploring just as Tenebrae had said they could, she sent an energy attack at them and almost caused a relapse of the illness.”

“Actually, Vitre, what I meant was that the stranger had ignored Tenebrae’s perfectly reasonable offer of giving them a tour, and was sneaking around on their own, using their far-seeing ability with a skill that should really make you question just how much memory loss they really had, and spying on my ancestress who defended herself against a perceived attack. But for some reason, Tenebrae took their side over ours. So now the stranger is kept close by His side all the time. He shows them more of the fortress and the island, and invites them to our celebrations.”

“But your clan grew sick with envy over the favor Tenebrae had shown the Hybrid, and stole them away in the dead of night, under the shadow of eclipse, and locked them into the deepest hole in the earth, and lied to their god that the stranger had left, though the ferry-folk knew not of it, and when Tenebrae had searched to no avail, the island clan took the Hybrid from the earth and staked them out under Aquila’s burning touch, and whipped them. And when still they would not die, the island clan took the Hybrid to cell, and chained them, and forgot them.”

“Well, that’s depressing. Did we really do that, Illikhr?”

“I’m sorry to say yes, it is, Terynik. Your people were not very kind.”

“That sucks.”

“If it helps, you’re probably descended from those who stayed on the mainland. The island folk…they had learned to be crueler than our natures intended. Lupus says it was from living so long in the shadow of the curse, made out of fear and hate. It poisoned their minds and hearts, so slowly no one realized until it was too late.”

“That…isn’t the version we were taught.”

“No one likes to remember their shames.”

“Maybe. But I think we ought to, anyway. Otherwise how will we learn to be better?”

“A wise philosophy, Terynik. Would you like to finish the story now, Dmiri?”

“Sure…So, um, what happened next?”

“Tenebrae found the Hybrid…”

“Um. So the stranger told Tenebrae that…they’d been attacked by…us…”

“And Tenebrae saw the evil that had been wrought in His name, and disavowed the island clan…”

“Right, and then He…slaughtered all of the island people…because the stranger had become to precious to Him—”

“Because He’d fallen in love with the Hybrid, during those days and nights they’d spend in each other’s company.”

“Yeeah…”

“Also, it wasn’t all the island folk. It was only the ones who had conspired against His instruction, and who took part in the tortures and the lies. And He only killed a few of them; the rest He only punished.”

“Really? We weren’t taught that either…”

“And then He gave the others a choice. Those whose loyalties to had turned from His teachings were sent away, back to the mainland, so they might learn to mend their ways. Those few who were still untouched by the hatred of the curse were allowed to stay, for a little while longer.”

“Why?”

“Because He wasn’t planning on staying much longer Himself. He had grown weary of his existence. He was trying to find a way out. Then, when He confessed the truth of his nature to the Hybrid, they didn’t reject Him in fear and disgust like so many others. Tenebrae had learned He could still love another. Being loved in return taught Him how to be brave enough to stand against the Darkness the curse cast over His life. So He decided: He would either break the curse, or Himself. So He said good-bye to His love, and went alone into the Heart of the fortress, and faced the evil there. And alone, it would have destroyed him. But the Hybrid would not let their love face the Darkness alone, and sought Him out, and stood fast, and freely chose to give Him their love and their life if it meant staying by His side. Tenebrae took that strength, and bound their love to Him, and transformed the Darkness with their light. Together, Balance was created, and the curse was broken.

“Then Tenebrae and the Hybrid left the island by secret ways, and were never seen again. The fortress crumbled into ruin, the barges were all sunk or burned, and clans went on with our lives. As we always have, as we always will.”

“…will you tell us another story, Illikhr? Or Vitre? They’re so much better than ours.”

“Of course. Do you know the one about the black wolf-god?”

“You know, honestly I have a feeling that I really don’t.”

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Author: Fox MacLir

any neutral pronouns; nonbinary demi-fem; autodidact geek; introvert writer; pagan punkrock pixie panarchist; occasional artist; very tattooed.

4 thoughts on “16.) Storytime.”

  1. Love love loved it! The banter had me laughing out loud. And I recognized the story as a retelling of a previous work of yours, so that was fun to catch on to, too.

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    1. Excellent! This was easily the most fun scene to write, so I’m glad it turned out enjoyable to read, as well! At what point did you realize their stories were different mythologized versions of “Transformation”?

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  2. The first inklings were mentions of an island with a dark fortress… then “a person sick with fever” made me think of your first story, way back when. But the clincher was the bit about this stranger being scared and distrustful in spite of being healed in said fortress, and oh yeah, they’ve lost their memory too… And from there on it was just sheer delight to hear the differing perspectives and to see how time had made it all misty and so long ago that it had become legend.

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    1. That’s great! I wanted to have the “previous events” become the mythology without completely losing the connection, and I’m so glad to hear it worked for you.

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