Figure of Shadow--Part 5 - Stay away from the Light

Frodo was on Glorfindel's horse; the others walked with him, and the unconscious Lila drooped a little as she rode behind Frodo. A day had passed, Frodo had gotten worse, and Lila made no sign in either way. Flinka was, of course, still a mouse, but the mysterious sickness affected her as well, and anyone who would have seen her would have thought her dead. Lila's sleep was dreamless, but even in the dark emptiness of her mind she felt the passage of time.

Lila was in a cage; a jail; knowing she was sick; knowing she was unconscious; wanting more than anything to escape, to regain control. She hammered at the walls of her brain; pressed her mouth to the doors of sight and hollered for her eyes to open, knowing all the while that it was no use.

The day passed and the hobbits grew more and more weary, and when night came and Glorfindel and Strider let them rest, they cast themselves down in the heather a few yards from the road-side, falling asleep immediately. Strider lade Lila gently on the ground, and he and the elf took watch over the night.

When the morning sun had risen again, Glorfindel gave them some liquor, clear as spring water and of no taste, and it did not feel either cool or warm in their mouths; but strength and vigour seemed to flow into their limbs as they drank it, and when the elf poured some down Lila's throat, she stirred just a little.

Lila saw the key to the door to her cage; and it was just seven feet above her; but she was so tired, she did not think she could reach it. She jumped and jumped, but her feet barely left the ground. However, she had seemed to regain a little of her mind, and she managed to walk just a little, her eyes closed as though she were in a trance, and her jumping in her sleep was moving her legs enough that, she managed to mount the horse and take her place behind Frodo without much help.

Glorfindel was pleased at this change, however small, in the "child's" behavior. He urged them on, and only allowed two brief halts during the day's march, in which he forced more of the drink down Lila's throat. She continued to make little movements as if fighting someone, and, oblivious to everyone around, there was another person in Lila's cell, attempting to stop her from jumping up to the key.

As night fell, it was plain the hobbits could go no further. They were stumbling along dizzy with weariness, and unable to think of anything but their feet and legs. Frodo's pain had redoubled, and during the day things about him faded to shadows of ghostly grey. He almost welcomed to coming of night, for then the world seemed less pale and empty.

Deep in the prison of Lila's mind, helped along by the elf's drink, Lila was slowly sliding along the line between unconsciousness and normal sleep. (The person, the key, and the door were proof of this)

Lila's enemy did not come near her as long as she was away from the door and key, so she crouched in a corner to recover her strength. She blocked out everything; even her own cell, and the enemy turned around, watching something only It could see. Lila smiled. It would never know what hit It. She didn't scream when the same heat as before seared through her body. She didn't do so much as twitch as the pain; nothing to make It notice.

Sam, who had been curious about Lila since he first saw her, was watching her occasional movements with slight interest. His eyes widened in shock; he had seen Lila's outline waver considerably, as if it were determining whether or not to cease to exist. Finally Lila solidified, and Sam decided not to mention it, as it might just be a symptom of his exhaustion.

Lila smiled to herself as It stared in shock at her corner. Gliding behind It, between It and the door, she noiselessly became solid again and slipped the knife out of It's back pocket. When It turned around she smiled sweetly at It, and as It reached for It's sword . . .

Glorfindel looked back at the place Lila had last been, and before his very eyes she seemed to grow older, more tired, somehow.

Lila stepped over her defeated enemy. She gathered what was left of her waning strength and jumped, catching the key in her hand, forced the door open, ran a few steps and collapsed through the doorway.

Lila's eyes snapped open. Not her dream-eyes, but her real, open-to-the-world-and-awake-eyes. She closed them almost immediately. "Mmm-nnnnn," she groaned. "Someone turn off the sun."

As though through a heavy metal door, she heard Flinka's anxious voice shrieking: You turned into a shadow?! You fat oaf, you're never, never supposed to do that in your dreams!!! Idiot, you should have fought It longer! Lucky thing we're in the shadow; do you know what could happen to us?! I cannot belive you-

Flinka, shut up, okay? We don't have time for this. If you want to do something useful with yourself, be a monkey and get my hair out of my face; I don't want to move

Well, you can guess that by now the others had, of course, noticed. "Luckily" everyone failed to see a long-haired black monkey appear out of no where and brush the strand of hair that had been stuck with sweat away from Lila's forehead.

A mouse once more, Flinka whispered, All right, Lila. Just get up whenever you can, okay?

Frodo thought it must have been another symptom of his injury, for he could have sworn he had seen a shadow against a tree, waving its arms wildly, from exasperation, or panic, or something.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Hello." Lila address the first person she found on the street in Oxford. He was a child of perhaps twelve, with a large gecko Balingka. "I was wonderin' if you could help me find something."

"Dunno. What is it?"

"A shadow. Mine. He's been missing for a while, you know, and I don't feel whole without him. I've been a lookin' for him, but he keeps running off."

Suddenly the boy noticed with shock that Lila had no Balingka to be seen. Eyes wide, he said, "Hey, where's your Balingka?" A person without a Balingka was worse than one without a face, or a head.

"Oh. He's right here." Lila groped behind her back and grabbed the first living thing her hand touched. She brought it forward and showed the boy. When she looked down she realized she was holding a worm. Oh, joy. "Have you seen a shadow anywhere?"

"No. You could ask me friend, Mark. Hey, Mark! This girl here's a missing a shadow!"

Mark's Balingka, a rat on his shoulder, bent to whisper in his ear. "I seen it!" he shouted back. "Or, well, I en't, but Lauruniya says she has. Over there." He gestured to a wall where a lone shadow wave furiously at them.

"Oh, no, that's not mine. That's my sister, Marisa. She's been following me for a w-"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lila's eyes opened to the hazy, blinding bright, desert like light of early morning. As the whiteness flooded in through her eyelids, driving even the faintest wisp of dream forever from her memory, she registered the fact that her eyes would adjust slightly, but, probably from turning into a shadow in her dreams, she would never be able to see properly in the light again. While objects around her solidified, Lila forced herself to stand. Other than sight, she seemed to be doing as great as normal.

"Well," she muttered, "It wasn't too much of a price to pay."

"To pay for what?" A voice behind her replied.

Lila jumped. Literally. Her powerful legs sent her shooting up four feet before she landed absoulutly noiselessly. Shocked, Lila tentivly tried a deep knee bend. It was way too easy. (censored) it, Flinka, we've lost weight. A lot of weight. Lila didn't mean mass. She looked the same, more or less, but somehow, she was less like a mouse and more like a feather. Bad comparison, since yesterday Lila had still weighed a hearty eighty, and now she was more like twenty pounds.

Lila turned around to see Sam standing behind her. Flinka trembled slightly in her pocket. As Lila's eyes gazed straight into his, Sam saw that they weren't the same ones that she had had earlier. These were tired, old, and sad, full of pain. Like an old women who had lived a long, hard life, full of hope and disappointment, and was waiting for death with arms outstretched, only to be pulled away a stuffed into the body of a child and forced to live it over, and over, and over . . . Sam wanted to turn away, to look down, but he was trapped, drowning in those deep pools of ancient blue. Lila, sensing his wish to get away, smiled an old, weary smiled, nodded gently, and turned, leaving Sam feeling cold and empty and relieved.

Mar watched in wonder from the shade of a tree as Lila pulled Flinka out of her pocket and stroked her gently. Such an aching, throbbing, heart felt longing filled her, and the little girl shadow slid away from the trees and went to the protection and strength of the unsuspecting Lila. Lila felt love, a sensation not known for over four hundred years from anyone but Flinka, pulsing from some invisible source, and, for the first time since she was eight years old, felt truly, deeply content throughout.

Even though Lila didn't notice, Flinka's shadow did, and he was filled with suppressed joy at the sight of Mar. And Mar knew that if she had had real eyes, they would have been filled with tears. Aklimp, Flinka's shadow, turned to access his mistresses thoughts and tell her to look behind Lila, but Mar shook her head and whispered, /Not until the time is right, Aklimp. I don't want my sister to know until necessary. But if you've seen-/

/No. Not since Before./

/Hush, then. Go well and avoid the light./

Mar threw out the bonds a shadow shares with her master and attached herself-- loosely-- to Lila.
Lila felt it; her head snapped back and her whole body went rigid, then she loosened and completely for got it happened.

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