The last thing I need is another project, but sometimes an idea pops into my head that just won’t go away. Rarely do these ideas turn into something I like as much as this one below. It’s just a random beginning, and maybe I’ll do something with it, but for now, hopefully I can focus on something else for a while.
The sun never sets in Sunrise, nor does it rise in Sunset. The towns are neighbors in a hidden world, and yet they lay a land apart. In one, the sun rests peacefully atop a hilled horizon. Its light is bright and unhindered, its rays bringing the scent of dew and soil, fresh baked bread and frying meat, of new beginnings and happy endings. In Sunrise, it is as if all things were possible, and the people who call it home know only the fruits of their labor, whether hard or easy. They smile upon waking, and again when they lay their head upon feather-filled pillows before sleep takes them away. They bask in their peaceful existence in the soft rays of a sun frozen in the act of ringing in a new day.
Its neighbor is not so fortunate. In Sunset, the great ball of light lowered itself behind jagged peaks and stopped. Not one of the few inhabitants of the town knows when this happened, but theories abound. They live their lives by candlelight, as the sun is only high enough to cast a red glow across half of the sky. Only the brightest of stars peers down upon the tired population, twinkling tirelessly above a people who have never known anything other than a life of tiresome work and little reward. The landscape has gone barren, refusing to produce even scant fodder for the few pigs that manage to survive the harsh life. The people here are downtrodden and tired, pausing to face the dusky glow behind the mountains only to shake their fists in contempt.
The two cities have one thing in common, however, and that is Magic. The blood that runs through Sunrise is strong with White Magic, and the inhabitants use their powers to improve their lives even more. White Magic is of the light, while the talents of Sunset traverse down a darker path. Black Magic was once a talent of the majority of residents, but as their numbers have dwindled, so has the number of those able to wield it.
One of those few was an elder by the name of Damian. His beard was scraggly, and his once pristine black trousers and button-down shirt were now worn thin and gray. His shoulders slumped forward as if the weight of the world rested upon them. And in a way, it did. Damian knew the stories his forefathers had passed down, stories about the Magic that pumped through their veins, about its strengths and weaknesses, and about White Magic. He knew Sunset had once thrived in the darkness, and he believed it could again. Black Magic built Sunset, that much was clear, but Damian believed that played a part in the town’s decline. A very big part.
And what better way to combat Black Magic than with White?
His father once told him about Sunrise. He described the color of the sky above and the soft crunch of tall grass underfoot. He described the homes inside and out, and the people who lived in them. The Risers were tanned from the sun, their hair was fair, their eyes either blue or gray, but never dark like the Setters. They laughed often and spoke only of what was to come, preferring to leave the past where it belonged. Damian’s father knew these things not from his ancestors, though. His father was the last of Sunset’s Eagles, a trio of talented inhabitants who acted as ambassadors to Sunrise, and to the world beyond. There were always three, and only those strong in the Magic were selected for the honored position.
His father never told him why they failed to select more Eagles. He refused to talk of the work that the group did with the Eagles from Sunrise, only that it was always as a team, and only out of necessity. When he died, he took many secrets with him, leaving Damian alone and seemingly in charge. As a young boy, he didn’t want to lead his small herd of pigs to the stream; as a man, he became the reluctant shepherd of Sunset. The people looked to him for guidance, but he had none. They looked to him for aid as their children kept dying in infancy, but he had nothing more than sympathy to give. His town was dying, and he was powerless to stop it. So he turned to the only place that might be able to.
When he was a very young boy, Damian watched his father communicate with an Eagle from Sunrise. Using simple crumpled paper and a stick dipped in ink, he wrote a quick note and set it aside for a moment to let the ink dry. Damian couldn’t read then, and the message on the paper was never made known to him. His father folded the paper into an intricate sunburst and threw it into fireplace, the flames snatching the paper and turning in to ash in seconds. His father stood before the fire and stared silently into the flames. After a few moments passed, a small triangle shaped note flew out of the flames and straight into his father’s waiting hand. He unfolded the paper and read the note quickly. Nodding to himself, he ripped the paper in half and tossed it back into the flames. After he was certain no trace remained, he called a meeting with the other two Eagles, and after a lengthy talk held behind closed doors, the ambassadors never traveled to Sunrise again.
Damian replayed this memory often lately. The act of sending the message was simple and required very little digging through his memories. It was the shape of the note that had him stumped. He had sat at the only table in his tiny house and folded every piece of paper he could find in every possible shape he could imagine. He was surrounded by small piles of oddly shaped folded paper, the highest reaching almost as high as his waist, and yet none of them were the right shape. He spent months folding, creasing, cursing. Months watching the stream go dry, more townsfolk dying. So much time spent, time he didn’t have. But he finally figured it out.
It sat flat on the wooden table in a space cleared of his past attempts. Damian stared at it in disbelief. He had all but given up, only sitting down a moment before because he found this paper stuffed in the back of his kitchen cabinet and decided to give it one more chance. The chair groaned as he sat back and exhaled; he hadn’t realized he had held his breath as he folded the paper. Closing his eyes, he recalled the memory one last time just to be sure, but he already knew. For the first time in ages, Damian smiled.
The kitchen was small enough that all Damian had to do was scoot his chair over about a foot and he would easily stoke the small fire he had lit earlier. The chair legs were loud as they moved over the uneven floor, but its occupant paid the noise little attention. Grabbing the fire poker, he poked at the logs for a moment before finally getting up to throw two more on the fire. Wood was scarce in Sunset, but this fire was worth a whole cord of firewood. Damian sat back down and gently unfolded the sunburst. He grabbed the pencil resting atop his ear and stared at the blank paper in thought. Slowly, he lowered tip to paper and began scribbling. His message was short, and he replaced the pencil over his ear and began to fold the paper back into the required shape.
Damian watched the fire as it spread eagerly to the new logs. The flames grew, spewing heat back into the room and warming his toes through his boots. The heat was a welcome bonus to his actions, and for a moment he thought that even if he received no reply, it was well worth the effort. He took a deep breath and let it back out. Grabbing the sunburst off the table, he tossed it into the flames and watched the flames consume his very last hope.