Those mysterious lanterns illuminate paths both good and evil. – An Unknown Village Elder
The heavily warded lands of the lanterns must be avoided at all costs, unless of course you want to loose your mind… That’s all that the girl could remember as she continued to walk down a dimly lit path in the middle of a dense bamboo forest. She had embarked on a journey for no particular reason. To go to no particular place, and to find no particular person. But she knew that she had to travel, go somewhere, and when she reached her unknown destination she would finally understand something she didn’t even know she hadn’t comprehended yet. A couple hours prior she had left a small village around sunset, right as farmers were coming back from tending their fields and the town’s few shops were closing up for the night. She didn’t know why she decided to leave then, and wander deep into the surrounding thickets of bamboo, but something had drawn her to it. Something about the strange forest seemed to hold the answers she was secretly seeking.
Local legend had it that the forest revealed grand truths to those who went into it’s bowels, but those same legends also warned of grave danger lurking beneath the its simple demeanor. There were said to be many paths within the forest, but if the wrong path was chosen – certain misfortune was sure to follow. Many a traveler had entered the forest searching for the answers they sought, only to never return. In fact very few beings had truly mastered the art of traversing the mythical place, and even they made grave mistakes occasionally.
Every once in a while a bird would chirp, a squirrel would chew its food, or a wolf would howl. Sometimes a light breeze would blow through the canopy, rustling leaves in soft choirs. But mostly everything was quiet, all that broke the silence was the girls own breathing and the occasional crunch of decaying plant matter under her feet. It was about midnight, but no stars could be seen, dense foliage enveloped the entire sky. But oddly enough, the girl’s path was still lit. Somehow, someway, countless hundreds, maybe thousands of lanterns had managed to stay alive throughout the entire forest. They twisted and turned in countless paths, revealing so many ways to go that even the most sure of individual would’ve become entirely lost. Some seemed to beckon to be followed, while others shy’d away when approached. But all of them had the same light, a deep ethereal glow that cast long dark shadows along the ground and illuminated the surrounding stalks of bamboo the color of a sunset.
The girl continued walking where her feet took her. Never once did she consider the possibilities of where she was going. For that was a luxury she could not afford. She understood how dangerous this place could be, how bad the paths could get, but she knew if she followed her instincts they would lead her in the right direction. She carefully walked among her reckless path, with a grace that seemed to imbue starlight. Every lantern she passed led her closer and closer to her destination. How long had it been? she wondered. How far had she traveled? Was there ever an end to the forest or was she in fact just moving in circles?
As she moved deeper and deeper into the thicket the landscape became ever more mystical. The bamboo trees began twisting in strange shapes, bizarre plants grew from the ground, and a faint fog overtook the ground. Tiny flying objects that glowed the color of stars moved about in the distance, but disappeared the instant they were neared. Slowly, the lanterns began disappearing. Less and less paths made themselves available, until eventually only one path remained, a final option. So the girl continued forward, on her one chosen path. Not knowing what lie at the end frightened her, but she had already made it this far, there was no more turning back.
As she continued on her path, the lanterns began spreading apart more and more, until she was completely surrounded in darkness, only seeing the faint light of a single lantern in the far distance. As she walked her legs grew dreary, and her head began to swim. She felt her breathing intensify as she began to gasp for breath. Had she been led on a bad path? She feared. Was this the end for her? But she kept walking, she continued on never giving up, never stopping. Until finally she made it to the last lantern.
Completely exhausted she arrived at its location. The lantern hung from the branch of a very tightly woven patch of bamboo. It’s light was brighter than any other’s prior, and a faint hum seemed to resonate from it. For no apparent reason the girl suddenly reached out to the lantern. Her eyes glowing in the orange light stared intently at the strange object. As she reached out the humming grew louder and began to morph into a loud shriek. The girl winced, but she did not concede her position. After a moment she again moved her hand towards the lantern, until the tip of her finger touched up against it. Then something strange happened. The lantern suddenly went out. The humming stopped. And the girl was left in a pitch black abyss. All she could see was the faint light left over in her eyes from the lantern’s intense glow. Fear suddenly overtook her, she didn’t know what to do. The path was gone, the world turned completely black. She began running. To where she didn’t know, but she had to find a way out.
She had only taken a few steps, and then suddenly the darkness disappeared. Looking around the girl was reassured to find herself still in the same bamboo forest. But the lanterns were all gone. The forest was now illuminated by floating orbs of light that magically cast blue, white, and purple hues all over the forest. It was magical looking. She felt like she was in the middle of a field of stars.
For hours she walked along in awe. She couldn’t believe how beautiful the forest had become. Was it a trap? Was the beauty false? She couldn’t decide, but she knew that she would remember this night forever. Suddenly she found herself following her reflection, looking back she saw her past self, and looking forward she saw a world of possibilities. Everything she’d needed to understand had finally revealed itself, and her most essential questions were elegantly answered.
The girl slowly closed her eyes and imagined herself sinking into a sea of starlight, and as she did she began drifting into a deep slumber. When she awoke the next morning she found herself laying in a cot that was in the same room she had stayed in the night before at the village. She got up and walked out of her room. She was greeted by another fellow traveler, and the inn keeper, who was a very old lady. The woman remarked with a hint of jealousy that the girl had been very lucky to make it out of the forest intact, and wished her the best, that the secrets revealed to her may help her find happiness.
Slowly walking out of the town the girl looked up at the sky and smiled, for she finally knew the purpose of her whimsical journey. Holding a lantern in her hand she walked down the long twisty mountain path that led out of the village, and went on her way to return to her home town.
Lantern control is a strategy that involves revealing many paths to yourself and choosing one of them. If the correct path is chosen (either by chance, or by choice), then a Lantern mage will reap the rewards of such a decision. However using such a tactic to see into the future and find the truth is not without its own dangers. A Lantern user must always be ever aware of their own actions, but also the actions of other to not upset the balance of this world. If a Lantern user becomes too ignorant to the likes of their own power, then it will surly end in great misfortune for said mage. However if utilized correctly, the strategy of Lantern Control can be used to accomplish great feats among the toughest of challenges (albeit even if it takes a while).
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