The darkness had always been empty before, but that night Umbra sensed something within it. After so many nights lost and alone she was no longer afraid of what sort of creature might find her.
He came with the moonlight, turning in an unearthly dance, his nimble movements effortless and unhindered by the platinum scales of his armor. Frost trailed from the strange knight’s fingertips, leaving faint edges of crystal on the leaves. His features flickered from faerie allure to skeletal bones and back again. In his wake the entire forest seemed to unfurl.
He almost trod over Umbra’s small form and was astounded to find her gazing up at him in awe.
“Who are you?” She asked.
Soundlessly he glided in a circle around her where she crouched. His silver eyes glinted, first curious then threatening.
In the moonlight his feral visage was argent planes and salient edges - within the shadows, hollows caved into his cheeks and his flesh faded to show the bones inside.
“What an extraordinary girl to see me and have no fear.”
He reached out and stroked her tangled hair with a hand that changed from ivory-skinned to spindly bones in the undulating moonlight. Around his legs, fog twined into hunting hounds that snarled at her before prowling away with silent steps. Delicate spiders crept along his arm dropping from silk threads to peer into Umbra’s face.
“No one has ever called me that.” She stared into his cold eyes and saw how they softened for her.
“If you think I’m extraordinary then take me with you.” She said, stubbornly, “I’m lost but I don’t want to go back. I can’t go back.”
“Once you’ve danced with me, you can never rejoin the sun.” “All the sun ever did was burn my nose.” She made the spiders swing with her breath.
His laughter cracked like ice making Umbra smile without meaning to.
“I’m not a gallant banneret come to rescue you.” He warned.
“I don’t need to be rescued.” She stood up and lifted her chin to look right into his ghostly face.
He swept her into his arms, twirling back into the dance. Instantly she could feel the song all around them, dreamlike and lulling. The silver spiders gamboled across her shoulders, leaving gossamer strands until she was draped in a glittering gown. Around and around they whirled and dipped, across the grass, over old deadfalls and up the vale.
“What foolish mortals who do not how marvelous you are.” His words left small blooms of frost along the back of her neck. “I promise I will never try to change you.”
Umbra’s breath caught in her throat. No one had ever thought she was special.
“I will take you as you are too.” She returned.
His smile was first charming then gruesomely skinless.
In the towering crown of a tree their dance slowed so that they could watch the coming dawn. As the light grew Umbra twisted to hide behind him, suddenly afraid. His body grew sheer, the morning rays of the sun streaking through its fading form. Umbra’s body grew thin too so that branches showed through it. He turned and gathered her close again.
“Do not worry, my extraordinary darling.” He reassured, his powerful-then-skeletal arms fast around her. “Night is always waiting for us somewhere.”