Shadow

Dark clouds spattered the horizon,
A salty breeze kicked up the waves,
Squall flew over a crest with a delighted cry,
Flitting through the ocean’s spray.

A Laughing gull, Squall was naturally good-natured,
And happy as any of her kind could naturally be,
Although she did hate the name her parents gave her,
She was still alive, healthy, and free!

Spotting a flash of silver, she wheeled over,
Plucking a mackerel from the dark blue mark,
Coming into shore, she shouted a greeting to the sand plovers,
Who waved their wings as they scurried through the surf.

Squall was well-liked among her colony,
Her kindness and good humor were the envy of many,
Indeed, perhaps her only folly,
Was that her bright face had touched one too deeply.

He watched as she nuzzled her mate,
Ptolemy, how his blood boiled at the name,
The colony nested in a patch of green dunes,
Surrounded by a sea of sand,
In their midst, Shadow hungered, and waited.

They shunned him for his dark streaks,
Black was only meant for the head of their species.
For his unnatural chest, where dark had bled over white,
They had given him his name.

Shadow,
A constant reminder of their blame,
Shadow,
An eternal mark of his shame.

Shadow and Squall had been close as fledglings,
Her laughter had made his heart sing,
He had hoped he could have her talon,
But it appeared she had had different plans.

Without Squall, Shadow had no one,
The black of his chest feathers had seeped into his heart,
Betrayed, lost, and alone, a new plan had begun,
A new passion burned, seething and dark.

“A thousand plagues upon Ptolemy,” Shadow uttered,
Recalling the black day when the outsider and Squall had first met,
But at the thought of his scheme, with joy he shuddered.

“A thousand blessings upon Ptolemy,” Squall whispered,
Recalling the magical day when they first met,
Stomach full of mackerel, he’d settled against her,
Sighing, she watched the terns from their nest.

Such curious little birds, she thought to herself,
Looking across the hills of sand to their tribal lands,
The Tribe of Fishhook was proud and fierce,
What they lacked in stature was made up for in boldness.

She loved to watch them fish,
Their pointed wings twice the size of their slim frames,
Boldly, they would climb and dive straight into the surf,
All for one talon-sized minnow,
They were immensely brave.

For seasons upon seasons, Endpointe colony had been protected,
Their home far-removed on a barren peninsula of sand,
The winds kicked up blinding dust, keeping them undetected,
But Shadow had found a way through the currents,
As the light fled, he set off for the treacherous main land.

The Descendants believed they were owed all of Gulldom,
But for this one Laughing gull, they made an exception,
For his betrayal, they promised him freedom,
All he asked was one small concession.

In the final moments of twilight, they came,
Dozens of black wings, led by a traitor, swallowing the sky,
The Black-backed gulls’ war chant rose over Endpointe colony,
Over the roars and the cries.

Shadow looked on as his fellow gulls were killed or captured,
Silent, still, even as his insides churned,
Ptolemy and a few brave souls took flight,
They stood no chance, but they chose to fight.

It was all over in a matter of moments,
Squall knelt over the broken body of her mate,
Her eyes met Shadow’s, her face stone,
She continued to look as they took her away,
Finally, Shadow realized the tragedy of his mistake.

The remains of his colony were herded together,
At dawn, they would be taken to meet their fate,
For a lower species, it would be enslavement or slaughter,
Shadow wanted to flee, to escape the pain,
But he was forced to wait.

“Here’s the one you wanted, alive, as the Commander agreed,
A comely lass too, I was tempted to keep her for me.”
Squall was thrown down at his feet,
He raised his eyes to the stars, his agony complete.

“We have to go,” he whispered, “Now!”
She only continued to stare at him coldly.
“You have no reason to trust me, but this I vow,
It’s the only way we’ll save your colony.”

“They had only flown a few hundred paces,
When she set upon him, forcing to him to the ground,
Screaming, she struck him in the face,
But her sobbing proved the more painful sound.

“You betrayed us, Shadow! You betrayed me!
Why?! What they do to deserve this?
Was this- was this about Ptolemy?
You brought them to get him out of the way.
Was that your horrid wish?”

“Yes,” he said after a long moment. “That was my desire.
When you chose him over me, it started a fire.
But though you created the spark, the blaze was my own.
And I stood by and watched, as it destroyed my home.”

They carried on to the territory of Fishhook,
They needed shelter; Shadow doubted the Descendant’s word,
The birds had already known they were coming,
Quickly, the gulls were escorted by a battalion of terns.

To Chief Fishhook, they told the tale,
The tern had watched the tragedy from afar,
Even so, the fierce chieftain paled,
When they told him the name of the blackguards.

In a flash, the chief shot into the night sky,
Flying over the inlet, Fishhook set his course,
He left the gulls in the protection of his warriors,
Enough to withstand the expeditionary force.

Fishhook knew of a warrior prince,
One who had mastered the art of battle,
Civil war had ravaged his lands,
And seen him captured by traitors and brigands,
But Fishhook had need of his mettle.

On the other end of the black inlet,
The island lay, dark and quiet,
The chief knew flew into a warzone,
His instinct was honed.

But it was to be Fishhook’s size and stealth,
Not his beak, that saw him prevail,
Spotting the impressive figure, he landed,
Finding the prince’s guards ailing,
He crept past the sleeping gulls, smiling to himself.

In a flash, his sharp beak severed the cords,
The prince’s wings free once more,
Without a word, the pair took off,
With good manners not to disturb the guards’ sloth.

Introductions were hastily made,
Prince Vikar learning of Endpointe’s plight,
Fishhook offered him a tempting trade,
In return, all Vikar need do was fight.

Squall and Shadow looked up, eyes wide,
As the majestic gull landed beside them,
With a cry to his soldiers, Fishhook took to the sky,
The gulls joined the battle squadrons,
Shadow finally realizing his true side.

The sentries were cut down,
Felled by diving beaks,
In the gloom, the prisoners were roused,
By roars, by shrieks.

The air swarmed with terns,
Slicing into any who could spread their wings,
Outnumbered, the Black-backeds turned to the prisoners,
But they found their way blocked by a prince.

Sensing their salvation,
The Laughing gulls rose up,
Exacting bloody repayment.

Beaks clacked,
Talons cracked,
Feathers tore,
Shorebirds warred.

Blood poured,
Black-backeds roared,
Hopes soared.

Anything but a fool,
The Commander recalled his elite squadron,
Pressing the terns, they broke through,
He vowed to return with a legion.

Above, a black shape shifted in the night,
His eyes as dark as his mark,
Down, Shadow dived,
His beak struck the heart.

Standing over the body,
Shadow laid his wing,
Covering the chest as it bled,
The Commander’s beak gasping.

“But- but you…
You wanted vengeance.”
“I know not what I want.”
Shadow’s talons tensed. “Save this.”

When they found the Black-backed,
Nearly a day later,
His throat had been slashed.

In the aftermath, the colony gathered up the dead,
Black-backed, Laughing gull, and tern all laid to rest,
Fishhook left a guard and gathered up the wounded,
The Laughing gulls knew they owed the terns a great debt,
Their gratitude and admiration, they expressed.

Rebuilding and healing,
The colony overlooked his absence,
Save one, who looked out from the dunes,
And saw him, overlooking his ruins.

Shadow met her eyes, then looked away,
Though there was longing, there would only be pain,
The dawn sun broke over the ocean,
Its rays warmed his back,
But he only felt the cold of the spray.
He knew his heart was black.

But though he took to the air,
Bound he knew not where,
Shadow knew he would find his way,
As long as his love was safe.

He could no longer have her the way he desired,
Still, he vowed with fire,
If ever Squall was threatened,
He would return for her,
And fight to the final breath.

Until that day came,
There were battles on other shores,
Calling his name,
And so Shadow flew on,
On, past the white sand and breaking waves,
On toward the great war.

“Hate (hate)
I’m your hate
I’m your hate when you want love
Pay (pay)
Pay the price
Pay, for nothing’s fair”
“Sad But True” Metallica

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