TITLE: The Shadow Dwellers
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The dim light of the moon glinted off his sword, revealing a circle of flaming raptors above. Gio could feel the fierce rhythm of his heart pulsing in his chest as he clung to his rope—not daring to move. When the piercing cry of the raptors finally faded into the distance, he continued his descent.
After what seemed an eternity, his feet rested on the rocky ground miles from the surface. Completely enveloped in darkness, he moved ahead. The roads were familiar to him, but in the short time he was away he’d forgotten how utterly blinding the darkness was. Feeling his way along the cold walls, he moved slowly ahead.
A ball of lightening flashed around him, and burning pain shot through his arm. Death bolts. Fire rained down in all directions, threatening to consume him. As the enemy waged war from above, Gio raced toward the caves.
One last burst of lightening blasted against the stone, sealing the mouth of the cave as Gio dove toward the entrance. Once again shrouded in darkness, he moved ahead until he reached the opposite side of the cave and heard the sound of voices. He’d reached the land of the Shadow Dwellers.
“I have returned from the Unknown Lands.” Gio’s voice echoed against the stone walls. “The rumors we have heard are true.”
Gio reached for the lone torch he’d saved for this occasion. A spark flew up, and the flames illuminated the depths. The crowd fell silent, then waves of wonder overcame them as they looked upon each other’s faces for the first time.
“There is Light. The Enemy has sought to hide it from us.” Reaching for his satchel, Gio pulled out an old, faded book. “I have found the Ancient Book. It tells us we were meant to live in the light. We are not destined to dwell in darkness, as we’ve been told.”
Whispers erupted throughout the crowd.
“This light I hold in my hand is only a shadow of the Real Light. I can’t begin to describe the beauty of the world that awaits you in the light. But we must move quickly. The Enemy has planned to seal this pit once and for all. For those who desire to live in the light, you must hide in the Refuge. I will fight for you, and when the walls come down—you will be free.”
“But what will become of you? And the others?” An angelic voice pleaded through the crowd. Gio knew it was the one he loved.
“Those who choose the darkness will have their wish. They will be sealed forever in this pit. As for me, I shall not return.”
Sounds of weeping rose around him.
“Do not weep. This is the path I have chosen. If my death means your freedom, then I have found a light greater than my eyes have seen.” The flame on Gio’s torch was starting to wither as he passed it to a young man in the front of the crowd. “The light is fading. You must hurry. Do not delay.”
The young man led crowds of people toward the Refuge, while many others chose to remain. Gio looked upon them with tears in his eyes, then turned and walked through the darkness toward the center of the pit.
“It is time!” His voice echoed to the surface.
Within moments, death bolts were again raining down from the heavens. The walls of the pit began to crumble. Gio raised his sword above his head—and the magnetic force he wielded pulled the enemy into the pit as it was sealed once and for all.
As the rubble entombed him in an earthen grave, flashes of light illuminated Gio’s mind. His own eyes were fading, but visions of the Refuge consumed him. The walls were coming down, and light was dawning upon those who had dwelt in the land of deep darkness.
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