Shadow Smiling

By: K. Ryan, 2003

Rating: PG for themes

Be passive, child.

Be soft, be still.

Let the shadows touch you.

Let them do what they will.

I know it hurts, my darling.

But try not to cry.

Don't tense up

Stiffen up and flinch away,

Just because you're shy.

Let them touch you,

Let them feel.

Let them pull beyond your pain

So that they can heal.

Smiles, he'd decided, long ago, were disconcerting.

He could cope with tears, with pale, barely-shadowlings of hands clutching at the hem of his robe and, occasionally, around his neck. He could cope with abuse and accusations of shattered dreams. Of wailing and denials, of a thousand questions--and former masters trying to con their way out with clever words. He could cope with prayers, with dull acceptance, and lowered eyes. He could cope with most things the dead threw at him. It would be rather tragic if he couldn't.

But he didn't like the smiles.

Mad smiles, which made the face it belonged to look like it was going to crack. Laughing smiles made by shattered men with eyes long dead before the rest of them. Sick, twisted little smiles, made by sick, twisted little people. The bemused, big-eyed smile of a baby--so confused by the new things all around it-- wondering why it wasn't hungry any more. Smiles of such sweet relief from pain that the god wanted to fly at his sister, for leaving it to him to ease.

The cheerful, honestly welcoming smile of a man who had eaten far too many coconuts.

The Black God took Hazarin Rittevon's arm, gently leading him away from life and into reality, all the while thinking that over-indulgence was such a boring way to go.

"So, my lord, where to from here, then?"

The Black God shrugged. He knew the answer--he always knew the answer, one of the reasons why his siblings never liked to play the riddle game with him--but, sometimes, that simple lifting of the shoulders was far more appropriate than the truth.

"Where do you think you belong?"

The shade of what was Hazarin blushed. "I'd…I'd like to see my mother."

The cowl prevented Hazarin from seeing the god's smile. "Well, you know where you belong, then." Stepping forward, the divinity led his newest charge through a door that wasn't there a second ago, and would vanish a second later, before vanishing himself.


An exquisite little room, full of books and rare carpets, with a pale-spotted hunting cat appearing to sleep luxuriously in one corner of a huge bed.

A woman, tall and wide-hipped, long black hair braided and coiled into a thousand different patterns, each tipped by a gold bead. A woman with full lips and a preference for Raka sarongs, despite her Carthaki roots. A woman with her oval glasses askew, her hands clenched tight at her sides. "What are you doing here, you silly boy? You're supposed to be king, now!"

Hazarin blinked. His eyes were stinging. Was this meant to happen when you were dead? "I…was king, mama. Didn't you know? I thought people here were meant to watch over the living." She looked so young….

"Of course I did. I just couldn't believe that you died from…from…" the woman grinned. "I always told you that little boys who ate too much met a bad end, particularly in court."

Her son laughed. A full body laugh--head thrown back, stomach out, eyes almost invisible, but sparkling. "I wasn't even poisoned, Mama. I died how I wanted to."

"Such a clever lad," she muttered, dryly.

Hazarin stopped smiling. "At least I wasn't strangled."

The woman touched her neck, nervously. "I just…I thought you could be--"

"--Could be what, Mama?"

"--I thought you could be great."

A small, gentle smile, little more than a curve of the lips. Hazarin held out a hand. "I'm the son of a madman and a woman who told me I could be anything I wanted. And still does, even after death. Frankly, it's a bloody good thing for the world that I've never had any ambition."

A loving mother took her hand away from the ring of bruising around her neck, and hugged her son.

The Black God watched this, unseen, before going to see what was king Oron.

With a smile.