Chapter Sixteen

The sight that met him was not at all what he had expected.  Rather than the boy lying unconscious, the girl lay motionless, scarcely even breathing.  Her temperature was frigid; he could feel it from where he lurked in the corner opposite.  The boy was fast asleep, slumped over her body in a chair by the bed, snoring softly.  He could see the boy's chest rise and fall with each breath, sharply contrasted by the girl's own deathly stillness.  

He was horrified.  This was wrong, it shouldn't have happened like this at all.  How could his brothers have failed so miserably? Their orders had been very clear: No harm comes to the girl.  Yet here she was, so obviously hours from her death.  

He recovered from his shock quickly.  There wasn't any time to waste.  

Candles lined every flat surface in the room, forming a solid perimeter of hungry, flickering light. He was in the only shadow, his own dark substance blending perfectly.  He took a moment to listen to his other self, so far away.  His brethren had mostly settled into their black nests.  He was on his own.  If he wasn't, if he was wrong... he would just have to suffer the consequences.  The strength he needed to do this, the effort of taking solid form in such substantial light, there was no choice but to recall his other half.

Quietly, he began whispering.  One shadowy tendril at a time, he was being pieced together once more.  The soft, hushed whispering of the black nest around him slowly died away, leaving nothing but the gentle snoring of the red-headed boy and the crackle of a dozen candles burning.  He was whole again.

Tentatively, he shifted from under the door, taking his solid form.  The glow from the candles grew in intensity, almost in response, it seemed.  It was excruciating, but he had to keep moving. 

The Shadow Kid didn't remember making himself move.  All of a sudden, he was just standing over the girl, leaving little space between himself and the sleeping red-headed boy.  The boy had to be in a very deep sleep indeed if he could not feel the Shadow beside him.  It was a stupid risk to take. 

Looking down at the girl's pale face, he steeled himself for what he was about to do.  This was where he would have taken a deep breath, if he had had the lungs to do it. 

The End

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