Shadows

Written by Katja Stein

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This is a translated version of the original text, which was written in German.

He ran silently through the streets of the Kingdom. His steps were quick and determined. In the past, he had often ran through these streets. It was brighter around the next corner but the man kept running. Shadows danced on the ground and it was as if they wanted to tell him something. There! Again! He thought as he held his head. Over and over again his younger self appeared in front of him. Tied to a chair, illuminated by torches. He saw himself: his eyes were opened wide from panic. A blade appeared and suddenly the memory vanished. He breathed faster. He knew he must stay calm; stay in the shadows.

'I knew you would come here.'

He twisted his eyes and looked in to the shadows. Cloth rustled and a woman in a dark red dress appeared. Her face was hidden by a hood, but her long blonde curls fell down her shoulders.

'Stop following me!' he hissed.

She laughed. 'You want me to follow you. I can help you.' He made a quick step towards her, pulled the hood down and grabbed her by her shoulders.

'No one can help me!' Her bright blue eyes looked up at him. She reached for the mask covering his face. But before she could touch it, he slapped her hand away.

'Don’t even think about it.'

She crossed her arms in frustration.

'Let me see.' She tried to reach for the mask again but he turned his back to her.

'No. No one can see it. Not even you, Eleonora!' She was silent for a moment, then, with evil intent on her face, she smiled.

'I’ll tell my father about you. I can find you anywhere. But the guards won’t be as nice as I am.'

He considered this briefly, then turned quickly and ran around the corner, passing the light and moving back into the shadows. He looked up to the roofs. In the next moment, he was climbing a wall. When he reached the top, he lay on the ground and tried to calm his breathing.

Where am I? Dammit. The roof gave him a view of the marketplace. He could see the intensity of the square, even at this late hour. A lot was going on. The shadowed man could see all the way to the church tower: it was almost three o’clock. The man turned and looked down to another street. A young man appeared, running towards the market. The man on the roof held his breath, observing the younger man who was now approaching the market. The young man suddenly disappeared behind a corner. Out of intrigue or something else, he didn’t know what, the man climbed down from the roof and landed in the street. Eleonora leaned on another wall and smiled with defiance.

'I told you I could find you anywhere.' The man had no time to focus on Eleonora.

'Go back into the castle and hide there.' he ordered, and, again, started to run.

'Hey! That is…' He didn’t hear more because he was already too far away. Step by step, he was closing in on his destination:  a very old, closed wine cellar. Bars lined the front facade of the building, which were accompanied by broken windows. As he ran towards the cellar, the young man who had ran out of sight opened the door. With great speed, the older man moved passed the younger, who slammed the door closed but did not see the older man tpass through, both of them disappearing into the dark. Suddenly someone screamed. The older man shuddered. Torches made the shadows dance on the walls. The younger man walked down the hall towards a stairway with the older following at a distance. The younger man was suddenly greeted by a snide, snooty looking man.

'Welcome, Andomaro.' said the snide man. It’s nice that you came. The older man hidden by the darkness could hear the spite in the voice and immediately knew who it belonged to: Eleonora’s brother, Prince Neolorus. As the two men walked down the dark corridor, they peered around the corner. A few people had gathered in the basement. Old wine barrels were stacked against the walls, empty broken bottles laid in the corners and a bittersweet smell hung in the air. Andomaro fell in with the men in the basement and stood across from Neolorus.

'What do you want? What am I supposed to do?'

The Prince smiled. 'I know you are in love with my sister.'

Andomaro opened his eyes wide. 'What? How?' He collected himself. 'I mean… that is not true. I don’t love her!'

Neolorus laughed. 'Of course you don’t. How could you possibly love her? You are nobody and she is a Princess!' He laid his hand on Andomaro's shoulder. 'That is why you are going to kill her for me.'

'What?'

Neolorus’s eyes sparkled. 'She is the most loved in our family. She will take the throne next and I will get nothing. I won’t let that happen.  We -' he opened his arms indicating the men around him 'will not let that happen. We will build our new Kingdom.'

Neolorus could see Andomaro was shaking. Suddenly. two men grabbed Andomaro by his arms.

'Are you going to help us?' asked Neolorus, cracking his knuckles.

'You have been so brave... for the both of us.' whispered the man in the shadows to himself. Andomaro was silent. Neolorus showed him a small dagger and ran it along his cheek. 'Will you kill Eleonora?' The Prince repeated, more determined.

'No.' Andomaro whispered.

'What did you just say?'

Andomaro lifted his head and looked directly in the Prince’s eyes. 'No.'

Disappointed, Neolorus stepped back and lowered the dagger. 'How unfortunate.' He grinned. 'Then there is no more use for you. Carve up his face and drown him in the river.'

'That is not going to happen!'

Neolorus turned around. The man hidden in the shadows stepped into the light, his sword sparkling, reacting to the flames.

'Whoare you?' hissed the Prince.

'I am Andomaro.' Everyone stopped for a moment, they looked around in confusion, then began to laugh. Everyone except Andomaro and the self-proclaimed Andomaro. This new Andomaro jumped forwards and began to kill the men holding Andomaros arms. They screamed and Andomaro, now extremely confused, found himself stood between two dead bodies that were holding him captive moments ago. Neolorus did not miss a beat. He pulled his sword from its scabbard and, with wrath in his eyes, demanded for the newcomer to show his face. The man lifted his hood and took off his leather mask. His face was completely disfigured. The left eye was only a scar; the nose fully lacerated and one scar went through his mouth. His skin was grey and the scars, pink. But even with all the injuries, it was still clearly Andomaro.

'You disfigured my face. You wanted to drown me in the river. But I escaped.  And I am here to protect myself and kill you.'

In Neolorus eyes was fear; his sword shook. Both Andomaros looked at each other. The men began to draw their swords, ready to kill the same man twice. But, with lightning speed, the disfigured Andomaro attacked. The younger Andomaro grabbed a sword from one of the dead and began to fight along side himself. The fight was short. Side to side, the two Andomaros looked at Neolorus, the only man left standing.

'You will pay for that.' Neolorus shouted and attacked the younger Andomaro. The Prince lunged for him, but his sword pierced the disfigured Andomaro who had seen what was about to happen to his younger self, accepted his fate, and stepped in front of him. The sword went deep in his chest. With a last surge of power, the dying Andomaro stuck his sword between Neolorus’s ribs. Both fell to the ground.

The young Andomaro knelt down. 'What have you done? And who are you really?'

The old Andomaro wore a pained smile across his face. 'I am you from the far future and I came back to protect us and Eleonora. In the future she was murdered and Neolorus became King. But I came back to prevent all this. Now you have to live for me and protect Eleonora.' His voice became quieter and weaker. 'Promise me…'

Andomaro nodded, tears brimming in his eyes. 'I promise. I’ll protect her.' One last breath left Andomaro and his eyes went dark. The young Andomaro stood up. He became dizzy. A bright light shone and the room began to rotate. He saw himself and Eleonora holding each other, he saw the King dying, Eleonora in a wedding dress. The images rushed around him and became unclear.

'Stop!' he shouted and held his head. Suddenly everything crashed and became silent.

'Andomaro, are you alright?' A woman’s voice filled his head and he opened his eyes. Andomaro lay in a bed with Eleonora next to him.

'What… happened?'

Eleonora smiled. 'You are home again. And you made it.' She gave him a kiss on his forehead. 'Rest.'

'Father!' shouted another voice. A young girl jumped on to the bed. 'Father, you saved us all!' She hugged Andomaro, who looked completely overwhelmed by what the girl and Eleonora were telling him. He hugged them both and closed his eyes. He saw the old Andomaro with the disfigured face. He smiled.

'My memories are yours now.' said the vision of the disfigured Andomaro. 'You are Andomaro, the man from the shadows who went back in the past to save everyone. Thank you.'

His voice disappeared in the distance and Andomaro was filled with all the love and memories of a life that had happened because of him; not exactly him but a very brave version of him to say the least.

'Thank you.' He said, as the man who once was, faded away.