There was a dark fortress in the middle of the Enchanted Wood. For years, it had been impenetrable, although not for lack of trying. Many knights, sorcerers, and even kings had attempted to force their way into the fortress, eager to find what was hidden inside (not that there was any evidence of something being hidden inside, but they were absolutely convinced that the fortress held some sort of treasure). Most of them didn’t even make it past a mile into the forest before the branches would rustle and wave and they would be tossed out from the foliage. They would scramble to their feet and run back to their homes, never to speak of what they had seen. But they didn’t have to. The darkness under those leaves spoke for itself. Those who did make it to the fortress never made it inside. It had no doors, no windows, just solid black stone stretching above the ground. They returned home defeated, exhausted, and perplexed. And so, after so many failures, there wasn’t anyone even willing to try anymore.
Except Lukus. He was never very concerned with how probable something was or how many people before him had failed. Lukus was not a knight, sorcerer, or a king. He lived on a farm, where he tended to his family’s horses, and his favorite adventures were those that involved a fun time with the people he cared most about. Still, he was a naturally curious person, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t intrigued by the mysterious fortress in the Dark Wood. So he packed a bag and set out to see just what he could find.
As he ducked into the cool shadow of the forest, his eyes took a minute to adjust to the thick darkness. Only the smallest amount of sunlight flickered through the leaves, leaving most of the forest murky and shrouded in unsettling shade. But just a few steps later, a string of blinking lights caught his attention. He stepped closer and ran the tip of a finger along the branch, letting out a quiet “ooh” as they changed from one neon color to the next. The massive serpent above him cocked its head to the side. Any other adventurer would have already been pulled up into the branches to be briefly terrorized and then expelled from the forest. But the serpent just couldn’t bring itself to interrupt such wonder. And so Lukus continued on.
Some time later, a rare gleam of sunlight settled on a patch of the most vivid and beautiful flowers Lukus had ever set eyes on. Each petal gleamed with a sparkling luminescence that highlighted the rich hues in just the right way. He knelt to the ground and pulled a small knife from his belt. “I hope you don’t mind,” he murmured as he worked, just in case anyone happened to be listening, “but my friends’ mother likes flowers, and I have a reputation to keep as her favorite child.” The manticore crouching behind the bushes nearby relaxed its muscles. Its scorpion tale drooped from the ready position. It had heard many reasons for taking those flowers, but there was a playfulness and undeniable kindness to this one that caught it off guard. And so Lukus continued on.
For the sake of time, I won’t mention each and every stop Lukus made in the Enchanted Wood. There were many fascinating things, and he didn’t want to just pass by any of them. But eventually, he made it to the mysterious fortress, a large assortment of dangerous magical creatures trailing behind, just out of sight. Lukus didn’t hesitate as he strode up to the craggy black wall and rapped out a quick rhythm on its surface (everyone knows it’s just too boring to knock normally). There was a brief silence as even the fortress considered what to do with this optimistic stranger. But then, the unblemished surface of the wall cracked open to allow in the first person who had ever stepped foot inside those walls. Lukus stepped in and went straight to the kitchen. There would be plenty of time to explore the other treasures of the fortress. Outside, the creatures caught a glimpse of a candle flickering to life just before the door closed. With nothing else they could do, they turned and went back to their homes in the forest.
Now, as we end this story, I don’t want you to think for even a moment that Lukus was unaware of the creatures that crossed paths with him on his adventure. He was not a clueless adventurer, and he knew exactly when he encountered each one. But he also knew that the greatest darkness cannot extinguish even the smallest light. And as long as he was himself every step of the way, as long as he continued to shine his own unique light, he knew there was no darkness that could really threaten him.