Sunrise and Darkness
Sunrise again. The Spirit woke in the inky darkness, stretching her long limbs. Knowing it was time, she trotted to the dark canvas positioned at the mouth of her home. She began to paint. Arms flashing, colours dancing: purple from her pelt, blue from her back, pink and gossamer strands from her iridescent wings. She splashed and splattered and swung, pulling from the colours of her body, covering the blackness with shifting shapes. A hoof print stamped out the sun. Blowing on it, she filled the circle with warm and fiery light. She stepped back, examining the shimmering canvas before her. Satisfied, she threw it up toward the sky. Day broke over the Enchanted Forest.
The night creatures were driven away by the streaks of Sandy's fur in the sky. They could not venture into the sun. Their fur, feathers, scales, skins would burn, and their nocturnal eyes melt. No one knew where they slumbered during the day, and no one was fool enough to attempt to find out. Likewise, all the day creatures bundled up in their homes to let the midnight hours while away. Then, the night creatures would come out: horrendous, malformed, dangerous. Their snarling snouts would sniff out any day creature unfortunate enough to be caught after dark. At night, even Sandy was confined to her cave of clouds, fearing the shapes that lurked in the nighttime. Should she descend to the forest, her glowing body would render her a conspicuous and immediate target.
She conjured up cloud after cloud to create a staircase to lead her to the Forest floor. Down she trotted from the heights of the sky until her hooves hit soft soil and loamy leaves at the outskirts of the Forest. She intended to greet the day creatures, as she did every morning, and collect the offerings that had been made to her. She hoped desperately for new hoof wax, as the golden shine on her feet was dimming from her daily painting sessions. As she walked, Sandy smiled and nodded to the emerging day creatures. Small Pteris flittered toward her while bouncing Cybunnies, fluffy Jubjubs, and croaking Quiggles scurried around her feet. A Hissi wound its way around her legs, forming a glittering, slithering bracelet. An Xweetok waved shyly as it splashed in a nearby stream. "You made a beautiful day today," she squeaked out. Sandy smiled benevolently at her and the Xweetok blushed before scurrying off.
As Sandy continued on, the animals thinned out and disappeared altogether. She was approaching her shrine, which the creatures were only permitted to visit in the afternoons. For now, she was allowed to be alone in the palace built to honour her. She reached her shrine and entered the wooden structure. The open ceiling allowed the light she had created to pour in and reflect upon the gold and gems that encrusted the room. No one dared steal any out of respect for the Spirit. While she was kind, she was also immensely powerful, and the creatures knew not to test her.
At the centre of the room was a small, raised pedestal. Upon it were her offerings: tasty candy, interesting stones, and - she sighed happily – hoof wax. She opened the jar and sat down to shine her feet. Then, everything went dark.
Sandy awoke in a room of rough stone and blackness. Even the light from her body could not penetrate the dark that surrounded her. She saw movement in the shadows. It was a creature of blackest black, pure darkness. From it a rough voice resounded: "Hello, Sandy. Do you know who I am?"
The terrified Ixi replied: "Yes. You are Baku, the Spirit of the Night. What do you want with me?
Baku came forward with the slowest of steps, and each foot to the ground was like thunder. His very movement vibrated the cold, hard room, echoing Sandy's shaking nervousness.
"It's not what I want with you," Baku chided. "It's what you want with me."
Sandy's weakness had always been her uneasy nature. She was thoughtful and could be protective, if need be, but the very magnitude of her own power was not something she liked to think about. Sitting at the foot of Baku's towering shadow, she quickly remembered that there was no one waiting to rescue her. Her shallow, nervous breaths evolved into deep, concentrated ones as she tried to calm the overwhelming terror of the unfolding events.
"Is it," was all she could manage.
"Yes..." Baku began pacing back and forth, still a few metres away and enveloped in the blackness. "You see, I have some information you may want to be privy to. That is, if you want to see your darling friends again."
A loud clang of metal reverberated violently as Baku kicked something in the darkness. Sandy could make out faint whimpers from nearby. She lifted her body forward, hoping that her natural glow would illuminate the velvety darkness. Just barely, she was able to witness a tiny Meerca with distinctive spots – those just like the Meercas from the Forest – squeezed inside a rusty cage. Sandy gasped.
"That's right!" Baku roared. He was amused. "And he's not the only one. Oh, young Spirit of the Day, your inexperience is working against you. The Night descends."
"But there—there is an arrangement. You have your time and I—" Sandy looked to the little Meerca, still in a state of shock. "—we have ours."
"If only life were so fair," Baku retorted.
Baku stepped forward, into the quiet glow emitted by Sandy's freshly waxed hooves, and she could finally witness his grandiose form. She saw first his massive feet, hardened with callouses and finished with tusk-like nails that clicked as he walked. His muscular legs bled seamlessly into his towering torso via the shimmering scales of black and dark blues that decorated his figure. Thick, midnight black wings jutted from his chiseled back and brushed against his powerful arms. But the underside of chin – it was soft; flickers of white and silver curved around his neck like wisps of flame from a bonfire. She could see his breaths rise and fall through the delicate skin there, and made note to remember this. She guessed that he was an Eyrie, although she could not make out his face. She wondered if it was as sinister as the rest of him.
"The creatures of the Night," Baku started. "They're rested enough. They are awake, and they are... agitated."
"You are responsible for them," Sandy responded carefully.
Sandy could hear Baku let out a breathy chuckle. "Quite right," he said. "And that is why I am here to organize some play time for them.
"But I don't want—"
"Spirit, Spirit," Baku taunted. "Think not about what you want, but about"—Baku kicked the little creature's cage again, but only enough to rattle it—"what he might want."
"Okay!" Sandy cried, jumping up on all fours. She kept her eyes on the little Meerca. "Okay... The creatures of the Night, they aren't satisfied with their half of the day?"
"They need more time to be awake! To be free, to roam, to...devastate." Baku smirked. "And you're going to help me make this happen for them. In return, I will keep your weak little creatures safe." He picked up the small cage and held it forward. "Starting with this one." With the snap of his monstrous fingers, the door flew open and the Meerca sprang forward, landing on Sandy's chest and digging its face into her furry mane.
"And what if I say no? What if I say that we do not want to share the Day with you and your company?
"I don't think you have much choice in the matter." Baku snapped both of his fingers this time, and the stone dungeon lit with flames. Along the walls were endless cages, just like the ones that had freed the weak Meerca, and inside of them were the same, whimpering creatures, but in hundreds.
Sandy choked in horror, but could not get a word out.
"So first, we will have to do this day over again, don't you think?" Baku gestured to the middle of the room where Sandy's canvas sat atop a pile of white straw. "Remember this? Magnificent job you did – I think. I wouldn't know. My heart does not register these... pretty little colours. Let us try something that makes a bit more sense to me.
With one fling of his arm, Baku projected a single drop of blackness at the centre of the canvas. Sandy watched in horror as it slowly soaked in, knowing that it would soon cover the entire canvas. Then - a glowing. Light emanated from the canvas, growing brighter and brighter. In unison, Sandy’s body began to shine. The brightness became blinding, forcing even Sandy to close her eyes. Somewhere, distantly, she could hear Baku yelling and moaning.
The light faded. Sandy rose shakily to all fours and looked around. She was alone, save for the day creatures peering out of their cages and a charred, black spot where the Night Spirit once stood. On the canvas, Sandy’s painting of the sunrise from that morning shimmered and shook.
“The night can never overcome the day,” Sandy mused. She stooped to pick up a silver key from the black spot on the ground and began letting each day creature free