Far beyond the reach of your telescopes, there is a world. It is small, insignificant; chosen because of its diminutive size. Its atmosphere, once a haven for simple life forms, is inhospitable. Only one being resides on it. This world, now completely lifeless, was given a dark purpose so that all other worlds might be spared.
Stillness. That night was the very essence of stillness. There were five comets in number that alit on that terrible planet. Four were incarnations of the phases of the moons. They shone with a clear blue light, akin to that of the moons. The fifth was warm, her golden light brighter than the rest, bringing true light to the world. She exuded the kind of light that made creatures want to live. Only there were none there for her to inspire. Their fall to the dark world was graceful, effortless. Behind them extended gloriously beautiful tails of pure light, that seemed to stretch across the entire sky.
Euvanesiel was not an angel. She was purer. She was a spirit of unparalleled brightness, a star. She was one of those that had been chosen since their creation for the purpose she was about to fulfill. Her keepers, the sisters of the moons, watched her closely, sheltered and guarded her vigilantly, lest her purity somehow be tainted or stained. When they came for her, she went willingly like a lamb being led to slaughter.
The soil on which they landed was parched. The sister of the New Moon procured a cloak woven of sorrow, which she, being the youngest, had been made to carry. Euvanesiel donned it without question. Even though the sorrow of another world now clung to her, the light of her spirit still shone, glowing red through the veil. The sorrow had not diminished her luminescent beauty. Her passion for life, the pure unbridled joy of it, could not be curbed. The sisters guided her across a line of crystals which stretched out around the wood they were approaching. Euvanesiel looked on it impassively, struck only for the shortest moment by the beauty of each individual crystal, the line itself holding no significance.
The trees were dead. Every single one of them. Their bare branches gleamed like bones in the faint moonlight. The trees, and everything within the wood's presence, were darklifeless. Life itself shied away from it, and any plants that tried to grow soon withered and died. Nothing could survive here for long. Yet, on certain nights, if one happened to be watching, one might see pale glimpses of what could be candles or lanterns flickering in the dark.
In his forest of bones, the phantom, for that is truly what he was, stood perfectly still, waiting. His face was hidden in darkness. The cloak he wore consisted of rags, bits and pieces of shadows and gloom. It sheltered him from curious eyes, though there were none there to see him. Underneath the cloak, he hid a disfigured body, bent, awkward. His steps were staggered, broken. Once, he had had a light of his own. He lost it though, during his attempt to take life and destroy it. He fed on fear and despair, on hopelessness. Now he stood at the center of the stand of trees, waiting impatiently.
A sudden gust of freezing cold wind made his cloak billow out in bone chilling magnificence. As it settled again, brittle twigs could be heard snapping underfoot. If it was at all possible, the phantom became even more still.
The four sisters, clad in silver robes, approached through the pale trees. They moved as though they floated, though the snapping undergrowth betrayed their every step. They raised their voices, first only one, then the others as well, in a keening lament. It was haunting yet beautiful. The tunes rang and circled, seeming to take on a life of their own once uttered. The spirit watched and listened with wide eyes from where she hovered in their midst. She listened to the sorrowful song, but she was blind, for she saw only the good in the world and here there was none to be seen.
They came to a halt at the center of the clearing, Euvanesiel hovering a short distance above the ground. The phantom surveyed those that stood before him. The front figure raised one hand to remove her hood. He considered her impassively though she, and any of her younger sisters for that matter, was quite beautiful. Her skin was pale, almost completely translucent with a faint silvery blue tint. Silver white hair cascaded down from her bowed head. Her eyes, fringed by icy white lashes, were closed. At the hollow of her neck, fastening and keeping her cloak in place, was a clasp depicting a full moon. It shimmered and reflected light though there was no sufficient source to be found. Thick, roiling clouds chose that moment to hide what little light the full moon shed on this world. As the moon disappeared, the wood grew darker and even more foreboding.
As one, the sisters of the moon slowly opened their eyes. They were the pale cold blue of glacial ice and seemed to glow from deep within. As the darkness grew, their eyes glowed more brightly. In their light the phantom was exposed. Finally, he stood out clearly from his surroundings.
"We have brought you Euvanesiel, a pure spirit," the eldest sister announced coldly. Her expression was one of sorrow and regret even as the phantom's hidden features twisted into the unseen semblance of a smile.
"A star," he rasped hoarsely.
She bowed her head in confirmation and stepped aside. The red cloaked spirit child looked at the phantom with huge innocent eyes.
"Release her," he commanded. Euvanesiel's bare toes touched down on the cold earth. She blinked and tilted her head to the side to look at the phantom before her. Her small smile was slightly unsure. As the phantom drew himself up to his full height, her smile faltered and gave way to fear. He reached out a hand. His long fingers were dry and boney looking, as if someone had stretched a too small skin over a skeletal hand. He hissed with something that could be described as pleasure as his fingers stroked the little girl's cheek. She was staring at him, frozen in fear, petrified and unable to do anything. Her eyes were huge, stretched wide open, like a deer caught in headlights. She did not understand the feelings she was experiencing; a wariness and an inexplicable fear. He withdrew his hand slowly, reluctantly.
"Euvanesiel," he hissed, his terrible voice marring the beauty of her name. She looked at the hood of his cape, at the dark emptiness that should have contained a face. A chanting hissing spell emanated from him, drawing her to him. Unsteadily, she toddled to him, her bare feet scratched by thorns and sharp stones as she went.
He picked her up when she reached him. Single droplets of blood were welling up in the cuts on her feet. The ground may as well have been covered in shards of glass.
The phantom rocked her almost gently, even as he brought her face close to his own, his skeletal hands constricting around her delicate throat. She gurgled uncomfortably for a minute, as it became increasingly difficult and then impossible to breathe. Just before her vibrant young life left her, realization struck. The phantom saw the miniscule change in her expression and rejoiced. He seemed to grow taller as her life force joined with his.
The moon sisters watched unblinking as the phantom drew Euvanesiel ever nearer. They heard the helpless sounds she made, and the silence that stretched on and on after the snap that announced the end of her existence. They watched every moment of it, as they had to, as he gorged himself. Regret and guilt overwhelmed the sisters.
"It has been done once again," the full moon sister said solemnly. "Once again, we, the sisters of the moons, bind you, phantom of bones, to these trees and this soil." She turned to gaze at her sisters. They were crying silent tears.
Instead of rolling down their cheeks and falling to the ground, they rose up, hovering above their heads. The droplets formed a circle that rapidly expanded, floating quickly out of view. Where they met the ground, they sat for a moment, glowing brightly despite the weak light. There was a bright flash, which cast a cold, icy light upon the surrounding area. The flash was accompanied by an ear piercing shriek of anguish.
The phantom carelessly cast aside the crystal he now held. Aside from the traces of blood on stone and thorn, there was no sign of Euvanesiel. Her body was gone. The crystal was all that was left; her heart. Carefully, the full moon sister retrieved it, making sure to avoid its many points and edges.
"We shall take our leave of thee, phantom of darkness." With tears still in their eyes but with heads held up high, they walked back to the edge of the wood. There, where their tears marked the edge of the phantom's domain, they paused for a moment to join hands and whisper a silent spell of crossing. Freshly renewed, even they, the forgers, could not cross with impunity.
Once they were outside of the phantom's domain, the full moon sister placed Euvanesiel's heart at the end of a line of crystals. They had passed it on their way to the phantom, and the thought that once the border was completed, not in tears but in hearts, they would no longer have to feed the phantom gave them the strength they needed to continue.
For a moment, they stood just looking at the crystals, how they followed the border out of sight as it wrapped around the trees, until, at last, the eldest said with a heavy heart,
"We are killers."
"We must be," added the second sister.
"In order to preserve life. We had to do it," said the third.
The fourth and youngest, the sister of the new moon, sighed. "It does not matter for what reason it was done. We shall bear the guilt for the rest of time."
"We suffer for the sake of others. Just as these have died; for the sake of others. Come, let us leave this place. I cannot bear even the thought of remaining here any longer," the eldest said with a shudder.
As one, they raised their arms, tilted back their heads and closed their eyes. Then, with a cry that was both joyous and heartrending, they vanished.
If anyone had been there to watch, they would have seen four white doves winging into the sky, not one of them so much as glancing back, flying into the stillness of night.
As they flew on, the chilling wind picked up once more, its breathy voices whispering,
"One thousand hearts do line these trees; and one thousand more will be laid to rest, before darkness is forever bound."