The Soul of a Shadow [Changeling: The Lost story]


She was a terror, a hellion. At least that’s what the neighbors said. She could be heard yelling defiantly at her parents at all hours, sneaking out, sneaking back in, throwing things when she was upset.

They’d tried everything: cajoling, yelling, threatening, therapy, punishment, pleading, none of it worked. Finally, in despair, they threw up their hands and sent her away to her great aunt in Britain.

Grandma Leona, as everyone called her, lived in a small town about two hours north of London. Hell on earth, Brie thought. And they seriously expected this old crone to tell her what to do? She began here just as she had ended at home, sneaking out with boys, going to the local pub at all hours, terrorizing the neighborhood girls. But her behavior was not limited to outside Leona’s house. Brie messed with her tidy cottage as well, breaking things, stealing, hiding things to confuse her great aunt.

However, Grandma Leona was less patient than her parents. She tried a few things, even swatting the girl with a switch, but her old bones were not made to deal with someone else’s mistake.

One night, when Brie had snuck out, again, Leona took several household items and made her way into the deserted back garden. Placing a jar of honey, a bowl of mead, and some bread and pork at the woods’ edge, she stepped back twenty paces and turned her back on the tree line.

“Good Neighbors and especially you, O Darkened King, please hear my words. My grand-niece is a terror amongst mortals. She flaunts all rules, mortal and your own. I beg you, come teach her a lesson. Teach her the necessity of rules, of obeying those who know more than she. Take my offering and help me, please.”

Grandma Leona waited for a few moments and then headed back to the house, leaving the offering for whichever of the Good People would see fit to accept it.

The next day, Brie was a completely different girl. Kind, courteous, obedient, helpful.

A completely different girl…

= = =

“I don’t belong here. I want to go home. Please! Please let me go home,” she sobbed and blubbered.

He stood over her, an ebon cane in his hand, which he brought down on her back again. Unfortunately, she only cried harder.

“I want to go home, you bastard! You can’t—you can’t keep me here!”

“I shall do whatever I please with you, you ugly trollop. First, we must make you presentable.” He clenched his hand and raised it upward.

The shackles around her wrists rose up, the chains clanking heavily as she was raised to her feet, the large shackle around her neck forcing her head up.

He paced and forth before her, observing, examining. His painfully, terrifyingly beautiful face was serious, grave. Then, raising the cane, he moved it along her face, feather-light and white-hot all at once. As he moved it along her face, her features began to reshape themselves. A higher brow here, get rid of those mortal wrinkles and blemishes, deepen the dimples, straighten the nose, draw out the cheekbones. He spent all night changing her, listening to her screams as her skin stretched, retracted, bones moved and realigned.

Finally, just as the Arcadian sun began to pink the horizon, he stopped.

“You shall remain here, now that you are a little less ugly,” he droned, the wolfish look in his eyes flashing.

She just hung there, the shackles tight around her wrists, ankles, and neck. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, she fell asleep in that position.

= = = =

She never knew how long she was there. But he came to her every night, fashioning her until she was perfect in his sight. Then, when he came to her, it was to revel in that beauty that he had made…whether she wanted it or not.

After a while, Grayfold moved her from her cell to a rich, ivory-laden room. She was his favorite nocturnal concubine. But the shackles always remained. Even when he bedded her, the shackles were never taken off. They were part of her now. Her freedom was totally gone; Grayfold decided when she ate, when she slept, when he had his way with her, who else had their way with her. She never saw daylight; her room had no windows, only candlelight; he always came to her at night, and the darkness was her life.

Slowly, over the years, she began to change. Her skin darkened, as did her hair. The shadows of her room became a part of her, swathing her body, wrapping her like clothing. This pleased Grayfold, for when he came to her, all it took was a swipe of his powerful hand to disperse the shadow-raiment and lay her body bare to his sight and touch. That body that was now beautiful and perfect.

She never knew how she escaped. One day she was in her ivory tower and the next, she was scarred, bruised, cut, and broken in a place totally different. A place that smelled, looked, sounded, and felt different. Some part of her knew she was “home” but it felt…wrong in a way. Oh, yes, she was glad to be away from Grayfold, but something was missing.  It was then that she looked down at her hands.

Her shackles were gone! Her beautiful nightmetal shackles had disappeared. On her wrists, ankles, and neck were only thin, whitening scars outlining the bindings that had been there for years. Her limbs felt strangely light…and entirely wrong.

It was then that she began to cry—breaking, wracking sobs. It was as though she had lost five very important limbs, five very intense parts of her. Those shackles told her who she was; what she was for; what her life’s purpose was; what her place was in the world. Those shackles were her identity. And he had taken that from her, tossed her out into the cold like a used-up doll.

Even as she cried, she began to weave leaves together and wrap them around her wrists, neck, and ankles. Anything to cover those scars, anything to make her feel normal again. She felt better once they were covered but it still felt wrong. She would have to figure out a way to make it right again. She HAD to make it right again.

Fanfiction: Phoenix Burns: The Zion Files (The Matrix)


Author’s Note: This is the beginning of an idea born out of a thrown-together roleplay of my husband’s and mine when we were dating. 🙂 It’s not done and I don’t know if it ever will be.

Phoenix Burns

~From the Zion Files~

Panel 1

Bleak, dank, cold. The world as it really was. The Nebuchadnezzar whirred and hummed its way through the entrails of the Desert.

Deep within its bowels, a glow of hope resided as Morpheus piloted the ship. Home. “Zion, this is the Nebuchadnezzar requesting shield disablement and docking placement.”

Within the last human city, engineers worked expertly, a short redhead responding to the request. “Nebuchadnezzar, this is Zion. You are cleared for docking at the north gate. Shield and battlements disabled. Bay 20. Door’s open. Beds are made. Welcome home!”

The captain smiled. Home.

“Come on, people! Move it!” Tank hurried his crewmates, leaping the last few steps, his footfalls ringing on the metal floor as he descended from the upper deck into the core.

Trinity chuckled as she hefted an old, burnt-out EMP pack onto her back. “Calm down, Tank. We’ll be out of here soon. Zion’s not going anywhere.”

But Tank would not be subdued. He was, after all, “good, old-fashioned, homegrown human”, born right here in warm old Zion.

Neo helped Morpheus load up some equipment to be repaired while they were docked. Morpheus could tell that the young man was nervous; it was obvious in his frame, carriage, even speech.

‘It’s only natural,’ the older man thought. Neo had never been to Zion before, it would be his first time seeing the city, and the city’s first time seeing him…the One. Reports were already flooding all over Zion; some believed whole-heartedly, others did not. Some just did not know, those who had lived long enough to see many try and fail, try and fail. They just did not know.

Neo was still adjusting to his new self, learning what he was and was not capable of. It had only been three months since his resurrection and he was discovering that, emotionally, he was still fully human. And so he felt fear.

Morpheus plunked a strong hand on Neo’s shoulder as he moved to lift his bag. “It will be alright, Neo. There is nothing to fear. This is home.”

Neo gave a sort of weak smile, the pale skin at the corners of his mouth barely crinkling, as though even his muscles weren’t sure what to feel or do.

Gears clunked and clanked as the ramp of the Neb lowered, allowing her crew to disembark. Morpheus was at the head of the troop but was soon overtaken by Tank, who could not contain his excitement and ran on ahead to greet his family. Neo and Trinity trailed behind somewhat; there was no rush. They had time.

As they exited the docking level and came out into the open of the city, Neo glanced around, in utter amazement of the metal structure that was Zion. The floors of dwellings went up and down forever, the warm glow of light flooding even to the corners. Feet could be heard above and below, children running along the skyramps, playing tag and greeting family and friends. Neo also heard something that made his heart stop: laughter. It echoed over, under, and around him. It was beautiful!

Trinity smiled as she watched Neo survey their home, the last one—the only one—humans had left. Morpheus walked head of them, down the sky-bridge of the 102nd level. Suddenly, Neo found himself very confused for Morpheus’ arms were suddenly full of a young lady. After a hearty hug, they began to walk off arm-in-arm.

Trinity stopped when Neo didn’t move to follow her. “What is it?”

He pointed vaguely. “I didn’t know Morpheus had a wife.”

“She’s not his wife,” Trinity replied gently, “She’s his daughter.”

“Daughter?”

“Ensulieka is the child of two friends Morpheus had when he was still plugged into the Matrix; he’s kept an eye on those friends all these years. Ensulieka showed extreme promise and so, with the consent of the Council, he freed her and adopted her when she was brought here.”

Just then, Neo saw another individual approach the two. “Captain Morpheus, the Council requests your presence immediately.”

“Of course,” Morpheus turned, casting an apologetic glance at Ensulieka.

“It’s all right, Morpheus. We have time,” she smiled and made her way over to Trinity and Neo as he left with Captain Rahim. “Can I help you two with anything?”

Trinity smiled quietly, shifting her weight. “No, I think we’re good, Ensulieka.”

“So this is Neo,” Ensulieka held a hand out to him. “It’s a pleasure and honor to finally meet the man to whom my father has dedicated his life.”

Neo simply nodded, not sure what to say as he shook her small hand. There was a strength to her grip that reminded him of his mentor.

She was a girl no older than Mouse had been before he died, with long, jet black hair that was straight as a pin, skin like caramel and chocolate, and hazel eyes with more green than anything else. She was dressed simply in a soft, flowing shift that ended about midriff with long sleeves, a sort of silverish color, and a long skirt of wine, much like Morpheus’ shirt. Perhaps she had made his clothes for him; one never knew. Her hair was bound back by scraps of cord and yet looked attractive. The length of her hair and clothes effectively hid the plugs in her arms and head. She possessed a grace and countenance that much belied her years; just like Morpheus. One could tell that he had raised her.

Just then, a loud voice called. “Neo! Neo! Wait up!”

Both Neo and Trinity grimaced. “How did he know we were coming?” she muttered.

The young man running towards them was Neo’s first save, a boy they had all come to call Cable, but whom the crew of the Neb still called “Kid”. He was energetic, eager, and worshiped the earth Neo walked upon. They had had to get another ship to bring him back to Zion, just so they could have some peace and quiet. He was worse than Mouse on his most annoying day.

Ensulieka smiled. “I’ll take care of this.” She quickly brushed past them. “Cable, I am so glad I found you. Look, I have something that I need you to look at…” With that, she grabbed his arm, leading him away from Neo and Trinity.

“Yeah, Ensulieka, but…”

“It’s just a little thing and I could probably fix it myself but I would really like you to take a look at it for me; I’d like an expert’s opinion.” she quickly babbled on.

“Expert? Me?”

“Of course, silly boy. Who’d you think I was talking about?” Behind her back, Ensulieka gave Neo and Trinity a thumbs-up before she led Cable around the corner.

Neo smiled. “She is definitely Morpheus’ daughter.”

“That’s what everyone says.” Trinity agreed before leading him on to what would become their home.

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