Shadows of the Mind


Author: Miah Billie – Third Place Senior Division 2023

Chapter 1

Wind that sliced like steel on fresh flesh. Snow, though cold as ice, burned when it met skin. Wind that hissed like a thousand snakes past uncovered ears. Snow like a long white sheet stretched beyond the seen world. Snow and nothing else. The worst of it was that one could never escape it.

Her unbound silver hair was tugged in every direction. Her bare feet did not sink nor bleed onto the snow. The one sanctuary the girl had was a thick bear hide. But even that did not stop the wind from coiling around her and sinking its razor sharp teeth into her ripe flesh.

She had crawled through the frozen hell for a time that was lost to her. She could not remember the begging and doubted she would see the end. The girl had no recollection of her life before the cold land. She did not even know her own name. The only thing that raced through her mind was the longing, but for what she could not say. And she needed it more than the wind tormented her.

Walking without any sense of direction, the girl caught the bitter scent of salt on her frozen nose. For a moment she waited, unmoving, with her breath locked in. Silver eyes tightly shut, and ears open. She for the first time in the cold land heard beyond the screeching wind. Large waves crashed upon the earth with a distant roar. Her eyes broke free of the iron clench she had laid upon them. The sun that was once enveloped in dark clouds blazed brightly in the sky above her. The wind was gone along with the scars it bore her.

Clutching the bear hide, the girl soared like an arrow to the salt filled waves. The seen world tore into a place beyond her imagination. She abruptly stopped. Towering cliff walls loomed high above the cold sea. Black sand pushed the raging sea away from the mountain cliffs. She inched towards the edge and looked upon the sand and sea. The girl knew that she had to be down there, but there was no path down that was clear to her. She leaned forwards.

A deafening crack ripped through the air, burning her ears. And suddenly she was falling. The girl twisted through the void she was prey to. Her screams filled the space around her. Her bear hide met the black sand before her. The girl plowed into the ground with a loud thump.

There was no pain, only the tickle of icy sand on her exposed flesh.

She shook off the black sand and crawled to her bear hide. Wrapped in the warm fur the girl spied a figure by the water. As she stood, the figure turned towards her. The girl slowly approached, as it approached her. She was filled with nothing short of uncertainty. In the middle of the beach, they stood. The figure was a tall man around her age. (She was not sure what her age was, but even so they seemed close.) The man was like a twin to her, silver eyes and hair, pale moon skin; it was haunting how similar they looked.

The man looked at her knowingly. “You do not seem to know me.” He said in a soft and gentle tone.

The girl quietly asked, “No. Do you know me?”

The man smirked. “The damage that she inflicted upon you is beyond what I imagined.”

“Who?” She demanded. “Who are you? What is this place? Who am I?” She quickly added.

“I am Roland, a friend to you. You are Linairu, the Dove. And this is the End.”

“The Dove? What is the End, and who hurt me?” She repeated.

Roland sighed. “The End is the edge of the subconscious. A prison made by the Raven. It is constantly changing to keep you trapped within. It is full of tricks and illusions. Magic is stripped from the ones that are banished here, and in your case, memories.”

“You keep referring to people as birds as if I know what you are talking about.”

“There are three of us that go by the names of birds. You, Kyrith, and I make one soul. You are the Dove. Pure and kind. Kyrith is the Raven. Cunning and hateful. I am the Snowy Owl. Neither light nor dark. Together there is balance. You were banished to the End by Kyrith. She is corrupting the soul. Only with your help can I stop her.” With more time Linairu was sure she would have remembered being a part of a soul. Roland offered his hand to her. Linairu slowly extended her hand out, but then stepped back. Roland was clad in a black suit, while her hide was gray.

Roland stepped toward her. Suddenly he scared her in a way the cold land never did. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“You are a very good liar.” She answered.

“Excuse me?”

“I respect that you know the limits to your talent and didn’t wear the mask of the dove.”

Roland played dumb. “Linairu, I have no idea what you mean.”

She said as clearly as possible, “You are the Raven and I the Owl.” Linairu ran past him towards the waves. He chased her, screaming curses and horrible things. Linairu dropped the gray hide and dived into the icy water.

Chapter 2

The sweet scent of honey and the songs of birds woke Linairu. She lay on the warm forest floor. When she entered the sea, hands of leaves grabbed her legs and forced her into crushing darkness. The next thing she knew she was falling through fluffy clouds to the floor of the forest. Landing had knocked her unconscious. When she woke her hair was braided down her back. Gray pants, boots, and shirt had been put on her.

The girl stood with her head raised to the stars. Gold, green, silver, and blue leaves reflected the light of the moon. Linairu crept through the dense woods. Night birds coed as she passed their high perches. She needed to find Kyrith and stop Roland from corrupting the soul. Linairu followed the smell of honey, for it woke her from the darkness. The stars burned brighter the farther she trailed into the forest.

The stinging sound of bees cut through the air. Trees parted in a perfect circle around an evergreen stump. Bees of pure gold swarmed low in the small opening. Linairu stepped into their sanctuary. Bees landed on her; she held one in the palm of her hand. Linairu dared to cross the parting. As she passed the stump, Linairu noticed a decaying raven sprawled out beside it. Black goo oozed from the carcass. It crawled up the bee’s home in vain like streams. Bees that landed on the stump were devoured by the goo. The bees that were on her darted to their fallen friends, and in turn were consumed. Soon every bee was a part of the growing goo. Linairu could do nothing to stop it.

The dark substance had grown into a towering being when the goo melted away. Roland, wrapped in a darkness like none she had seen before, steeped off the fallen evergreen. Linairu turned to the trees. The sparkling trees laced themselves into a cage. The jeweled leaves withered away into black shrivels that cascaded to the ground. Linairu wanted to scream. Roland, it would seem, would stop at nothing to keep her on the side lines. Although she should have expected him to find her. Did he need or keep her from Kyrith?

With a cat-like stride and smirk painted on to his face, Roland inched toward her. With one hand he cupped her cheek. “Oh darling, did you seriously believe you could escape me?” Linairu pushed his hand from her face.

“Stop following me.” She hissed.

With a soft laugh Roland calmly said, “And why would I do that?”

“What do you need me for?”

His cruel smirk remained on his cold face. “Let’s play a little game, Linairu.” She despised the sound of her name on his tongue. He leaned into her and whispered into her ear. “You run, and I chase.” Roland shoved her into the cage of trees. The branches pulled her through their bars.

Linairu dropped to the forest floor. She lay with her back to the ground and face to the star filled sky, but that was for a mere moment. Linairu sprang to her feet and ran. She knew there was a trap of some sort, but she did not want to be alone with the Raven.

Trees moved to block her path. Their branches knitted a labyrinth before her. Linairu looked behind to find only darkness. The farther she ran away from the dark, the stars burned brighter above the maze. It was the warm stars that made her feel secure, but they betrayed her to Roland. If he thought that the dark scared her, he was mistaken. Linairu knew nothing of herself, and yet she knew that she was never scared of the dark. Never scared of it swallowing her whole or losing her way. But rather what lurked there, of the things that would make her fear the cold and sunless world. If Roland thought she would stray into his reach, then, he was false. Linairu freely walked toward the void. To become unfindable, she must be unpredictable.

Chapter 3

The violent wind pushed and pulled her side to side. Linairu stumbled through the void erratically. The darkness consumed the very air she breathed, but not Linairu. She glowed like a torch that would light her path ahead. Every ounce of goodness oozed out of her pores to fight off the darkness. The distant crack of thunder tore through the howling wind, with a startling roar.

Cold rain buried her warmth down to her bones. She braced herself for every drop of water that pelted her. Even with the rain and wind she could not tell up from down, left from right. Linairu could not even feel the ground beneath her feet, assuming there was any at all. Through the pain and frustration, Linairu found inner strength to pull herself deeper within the darkness, for nothing else would.

The natural horrors that plagued the darkness did come from a source that was determined to push her back. It felt as if the storm came from one direction, but then another. Linairu stood as still as a wolf watching its prey. Beneath her unfeeling toes there was still nothing. The End was never what it seemed. Everything was in front of you, but if you were not looking, you would never see it. Changing her view, Linairu waited. Past the pool of darkness was Linairu wrapped in dim light. All around, she found herself looking right back at her. Mirrors on mirrors lined a dome like bug eyes.

Wind and rain propelled on and off the mirrors, moving faster with every lunge. The mirrors moved when Linairu did. She moved back and forth looking for a fault in the dome. She found none in the structure, but rather the material. Mirrors are made of glass, and glass can break. The moving of the dome with every step she took kept her at the center. Linairu went to her knees. Pushing her hand down as far as she could, she still felt nothing. Linairu raised her forearm above her head. Her fists went through the panel with one stroke. Now that, she felt. She stood, blood dripping into the mirror. The hole she made brought on a spiderweb of cracks that quietly grew. Linairu stomped on the nearest crack. The panel gave way for darkness to grab her. Shadows within shadows grew darker the farther she plunged.

Light broke through the shadows. Linairu landed face first into golden sand that burned with the heat of a thousand suns. She had made it out of the End. The only remains of the mirror world were the smashed panels that were buried in her flesh like thorns. Linairu rose, spitting sand out of her mouth. An overwhelming feeling raced through her. Energy bolted through her body stopping at the tips of her fingers. It was more familiar than anything she had witnessed thus far. Magic like what Roland had, but unlike his, hers was not dark. At least not entirely.

Linairu hovered her hand over her wounds. Agony rolled through her as rigid shards of glass were drawn from tissue. As the last glass thorn fell to the burning ground, Linairu’s head grew light upon her shoulders. Her vision frayed, and her body ached. Beads of sweat rolled down her brow.

Out of nowhere, a new world engulfed her. It was not of her present time, but of her past. She, Roland, and Kyrith sat around a round table made of white crystal. Engraved on the back of all their chairs was a bird of their nature. Rainbow tinted stone wrapped around them in the form of a castle in the sky. Floor to ceiling windows lined the crystal wall. In front of each was a white clothed figure bearing the dove across their chest. Linairu was in the realm of good, for there was no safer ground.

Roland was draped in the same black suit as before. His cold face gave away not even an inch of emotion. Linairu donned smoke gray armor with the owl stamped on her breastplate. She lacked a sword and shield, but that was to be expected. Kyrith was identical to Linairu, besides from the short cut hair. Even with the likeness to Roland nothing in her was cold. She glowed with kindness and joy, but Kyrith seemed drained. She was draped neck to toe in silver white dove wings that formed a gown.

It was Roland who spoke first. “Why my dears, have I been summoned to this quaint little meeting?”

“Roland, we both know there is no vail that befolds your eyes on what your shadow creatures have done and are still doing.” Linairu barked back.

“Shadow Soldiers.” Roland moaned.

“It does not matter what they are called. They are still killing the priest and priestess of the White Cloth.” Kyrith’s voice was laced with kindness and worry.

“My Shadow Soldiers have done none of what you say. Anyhow, if your Order of The White Cloth are dying, then why not consider all the options.” Silence swept over the hall.

“Oh, my dear Kyrith, I take it that you have not. Is it truly impossible that this is not a battle between good and evil, but rather one conjured by morally gray?”

“What are you suggesting?” Asked Linairu.

“We both know what I mean. There is no vail stuffed in your ears, Linairu.” A cocky smile plagued Roland’s face. He continued with sinister joy sewn through every word. “I am no fool. Why would I openly attack you Kyrith? Who has the most to gain from our fighting?” Kyrith’s gaze shifted to Linairu.

Roland had planted the seeds of deceit in her mind. Linairu began to dig them out. “No, you are not a fool. That is why you openly attack. So you can place the blame on me while your bigger plan escalates. Don’t tell me you are planning to take control of the soul. And with only one of the three to fight, you could easily do it.” Before he could water the soil with his silver tongue, Kyrith stood.

“Roland, you are no longer welcome here. Leave.” With a flick of his hand, Roland transformed into a raven. Eyes ablaze he darted to the nearest window opening and threw the panel into the vibrant clouds.

Kyrith sat, giving Linairu her full attention. She asked with hope painted on her face. “Lin, do you think he is going to take control? What will happen to us, to the soul?”

“If he does, then the soul is lost. He will consume our power, and in doing so kill us.”

“How do you know such things?”

“Never you mind. Do not worry; he will not win; as long as I have breath in my lungs, I will fight.”

Chapter 4

Like the cold land, the hot one was endless. Time was lost to Linairu. She knew it had been a good amount of time, since her wounds had healed. The sun would collapse, and the moon would rise, how many times, she could not say. Linairu inched further south with every passing day, but it was not enough. Roland could have reached Kyrith and become a step closer to control.

After she saw her past, it all came back to her. All of what had happened, and what would, if her schemes paid off. There was not one doubt in Linairu’s mind of what she must do, and quickly. When she came back to the present, Linairu found her armor and weapons on the sand. She quickly pulled her armor on, attached sword and shield to her back, leaving room for a dagger on her hip.

The sun fell from the sky only to rise again. It did so hundreds of times leading up to the day Linairu looked upon crystal clear water, and above it a castle in the sky. The desert dissolved into a calm sea that reflected the purple-pink sunset before her. At the shoreline a rowboat sat waiting for her to board. As Linairu approached, she noticed there were no oars. In the land of light things worked themselves out. Without an ounce of surprise, the boat moved when she sat. Slower than Linairu liked, the rowboat sailed toward her long-desired destination. The closer she had gone the more tainted the water grew. Blood swept through the tide. Priest and priestess of the White Cloth lay in the shallow water.

Magic consumed her flesh. As an owl, she soared up through the sky to the crystal castle. The window panel, shattered from Roland, made an easy door for her. The once beautiful room was drenched in blood and gore. Fallen champions from the Order of The White Cloth to Shadow Soldiers carpeted the stone floor. If there were any survivors, none lay in the council chamber.

Linairu marched through the castle in search of wounded and Kyrith, only to find none. Linairu stood in front of the last hiding spot Kyrith could be. “Dove, I know you are in there.” The portrait of Kyrith moved ever so slightly before Kyrith stepped out of herself.

She hugged Linairu, squealing. “Lin! Oh, I thought you were dead! A day after the meeting Roland attacked only to leave. What happened to you?”

“After I left the castle, I went to Roland.”

Kyrith broke away.

“To talk sense into him, but clearly, I failed. He banished me to the End and stripped me of my memories to keep us apart. He must have called off the attack to meet me at the beach.” Linairu made the End feel like an eternity of ever-changing obstacles that never stopped, but it was only an illusion of the mind. Moving past what you thought you saw, or thought was the only way through. She knew her idolized prison would be used against her one day.

Like the Order of The White Cloth and Shadow Soldiers, Linairu had an army of her own, the Ash Guard. If she was to save the soul, she would need them. “Kyrith, are all of the White Cloth gone? What happened to the Ash Guard?”

“Our armies are gone. I am sorry, Lin, there was nothing I could do.” That was nothing short of a major setback.

Linairu groaned.

“Oh Lin, it will be okay. Good always defeats evil.”

Suddenly, Linairu knew how to gain control. “Dove, you have to challenge Roland to single combat.”


“Good always wins.”

“But what if it doesn’t? Roland will win if I lose.”

“I will be there the whole time.”

Kyrith pondered the notion before replying. “You better not cheat. Promise me you will not cheat, Lin.”

“I promise.”

“Well then let’s see what really conquers evil.”

Chapter 5

Evil and good met at neutral ground, the Circle Square. Despite its name, the large top of the mountain was smoothed down to an oval. No walls ran along the perimeter, only open sky and death. At the center of the Circle Square, Roland and Kyrith stood ten feet away from each other. Linairu stood the same distance away from them both. Standing in the shape of a triangle showed the balance that flowed between them and their powers.

They skipped the formalities; they all knew the rules. Fight to the death. “Are we to duel in the open or not?” Roland asked prior to the start of the battle. Kyrith looked to Linairu.

“Since you tried to trap me in a labyrinth it is only right you should duel in one.” Without an argument Roland nodded. With a sharp stroke of her wrist a labyrinth rose around the competitors.

At the top of the tall walls, Linairu crept after white and black lights. Roland and Kyrith’s magic quickly flashed with loud pops. They raced through the labyrinth with the speed of light. Linairu rose to her full height with her arms raised to the cloudy sky. As the spell she cast left her, clouds were ripped from the sky and pulled towards the labyrinth.

The fog settled when the screams started. Linairu dropped to the floor and followed the cries to Roland. She found him alone (the fog did its job nicely) clutching his throat. In between screams, blood gurgled out of his mouth. “You!” He managed to say.

“Yes, it is me. Did you forget I was here?” she replied.

“You did this!”

Linairu put a hand to her chest as she sarcastically said, “What, who, me, the gray?” She closed the gap between them.

“Just because you are good, does not mean there is no darkness within you.” He spat.

With a smile on her face, Linairu whispered to Roland, “Oh more than you can ever imagine my dear.” She unsheathed her dagger from her hip and slid the blade across Roland’s throat. She held him upright, waiting. Black smoke slid out of his gaping mouth like a snake breaking out of old skin. Black blood ran down his chin and throat, seeping through his fingers. With her free hand, Linairu scooped up his powers. Roland hit the ground with a loud thump. She leaned her head back, and with both hands forced the smoke into her mouth. Linairu felt pain, anger, vengeance, swarm in her chest. Power followed the darkness, and it felt good.

Linairu turned to find Kyrith wide eyed. Fear covered any kindness there was in her. Her hands shook, but despite it, Kyrith found the courage to ask her why. “Dove, good and evil can only ever fight each other.”

“You will always do the right thing, opposed to Roland. The two of you only have one choice. But I will always be torn. I will always have the option to be evil or good. Which may seem wrong, but it depends on the situation I am in.”

“You started all of this.”

“No. Roland was plotting against you. That’s when I saw the opportunity to take control.”

“We could have worked together. We could have brought him to the light.”

“Roland would have made the soul dark. Destructive and hateful things could only follow. You     would have made the soul bright, kind, but naive. Seeing the good in people, giving them a second chance to redeem themselves is not always the best thing to do. People take advantage of the kind. To be good is to be vulnerable.”

“Not everyone is bad Lin.”


“When you went to Roland after the meeting, you knew he would banish you. Didn’t you?”

Kyrith was buying her time.

“I did. People can be so predictable. I cannot let you suspect me. I knew Roland would be happy at the chance to banish me and fight you alone. Don’t worry I knew you would survive without me while I got my memories back.”

“You’re evil.”

Linairu gave her a sad smile. “Maybe with your powers I will be evened out.” Linairu threw the same dagger that killed Roland into Kyrith’s throat.

The blade fell to the ground with a clank. Kyrith stood before her in dove wing armor. The blade never had a chance at piercing her collar. “Magic can be so convenient don’t you think?” Kyrith conjured a transparent crystal sword and shield. And so, they dueled for the crown of their realm.

Kyrith was no match to Linairu in swordsmanship, but she fought like a born warrior. The sound of steel on steel was a song in their ears. The girls wore every scrap and bruise like medals. Exhaustion crept through their bodies. Soon the only sound that echoed through the labyrinth was the sound of their uneven breath. They stopped, separated, and walked on either end of a circle they made in their mind.

Circling each other, Linairu broke the silence, “Give up! You can never win.”

Kyrith gave her a weak smile. “You don’t seem to be getting anywhere either. Roland weighing you down?”

“When I am done with you, send him my regards.”

“Bite your tongue!” Kyrith hissed, calm and cruel. “With any hope, the bitter tang will give you a taste of your words.”

“How mean of you,” she said with a laugh.

Kyrith rushed at her, only to leap out of her reach. She darted to other end of the circle they had drawn, ending in the middle. Kyrith spread her arms out, “Let us not dance around death any longer.”

Linairu’s anger built up in her. She didn’t care what it cost her; dropping her shield she charged, lifting her sword high. As she approached Kyrith, she knew her mistake. Kyrith went low, tripping Linairu, stood and bolted out of the circle. Linairu lay at the center of a glowing symbol. Trapped, she screamed. At the edge of the circle Kyrith spoke, “Winter brings death. It is cruel, unforgiving, and fierce. Yet it is endurable.”

“No,” Linairu pleaded.

“I, Kyrith the Dove, banish you to walk the End for all eternity. You will be plagued with all of your memories. As you know, magic is prohibited there. If you try to escape, you will be put somewhere worse, like Roland’s formidable prison. Funny, you built your own cage. You will be free to rule over the End in any way you see fit. I hope your crown was worth it.” With one last kind smile, Kyrith cast the banishing spell. Linairu’s deafening screams went through the End without so much as an echo.

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