The Shadow DarkensMature

Frederick sat in a cell by himself, hugging the ends of his rain cloak close to him as his eyes continued to drip. His face was tucked into the corner of his cell, the steady drumming of rain banging against the bricks outside.

"Not an hour after I let you go, I find you like this, Mr. Lionhart." Came Sergeant Cameron's exasperated voice, "What in Lord's name were you doing by the docks?"

"Was going for an evening drink." Frederick replied gruffly, his body shaking slightly.

"According to my constable, they found you in a room as a Mystic fled the scene. They also told me you were attempting to remove the wristband."

"I did not! The Mystic tried to."

"A non-banded Mystic? Not only is that illegal but easily traceable."

"And your officers confused him for me!" Frederick spat, pressing the palms of his hands into his eyes gently.

"You're not telling us something, Mr. Lionhart." Cameron said softly, his calculating eyes scanning Frederick's back, "A non-banded Mystic is very easy to find and my current reports dictate only one Mystic is currently roaming Silestra without a band."

Frederick's back stiffened.

"It was the same one who had intervened the situation concerning the beast that attacked The Medical Academy."

"Your point, Sergeant?" Frederick asked flatly.

"Are you affiliated in any way to this rogue Mystic?"

Frederick paused for a split second.

"No, Sergeant." He responded softly, his back still to Sergeant Cameron, "Are you going to release me or will I have to inform your superiors of your lack of proficiency?"

Cameron unlocked the cell door, eyeing Frederick cautiously as he walked out of the cell. He blindly followed the hallway by having his hand rest against the wall. His eyes ached, but they were back to their original state, Frederick chuckling at the irony of wearing the suppression wristband.

He came to the second checkpoint in the jailhouse, sighing as he wiped his eyes to see clearly. A guard was sitting near the door, a newspaper obscuring his face.

"Guard, if you please. I have been released and would much like to return to my flat."

He didn't respond, or even flinch at the sound of Frederick's voice.

"Hello?" Frederick asked tiredly, trying to make out the dim shadows cast by the faint gas lamp on the officer's desk.

Cameron aproached Frederick when he heard his irritation, trying to look over Frederick to see what the hold up was.

"Wilson, the man is free to go." Sergeant Cameron called, his voice bouncing against the brick walls.

The guard brought down his paper deliberately, Frederick reeling back in shock. The paper revealed that Wilson's face lacked any distinguishing features, two dark slits in his face masquerading as eyes. A violent white light bore through them as soon as it faced Frederick, the guard's skin rippling.

"What the-?" Cameron froze, his eyes wide as he watched the spectacle before him.

Wilson opened his mouth, a putrid black substance oozing from his throat. It swirled into a dark, smoky texture, forming phalanges as they pressed against Wilson's jaw.  They pulled apart his face like a cocoon, shadowy black material snaking out like a murderous fog as his skin crumpled to the floor like paper.

The Shadowbrood fell on all fours, pressing its weight on its knuckles as it turned to face Frederick and Sergeant Cameron.

"GIVE...ME...YOUR...WARMTH..." It boomed, formless shining eyes focusing on the two Elbanians.

"Wilson!"

"It's no use, Sergeant!" Frederick shouted, grabbing Sergeant Cameron's arm as they turned and bolted down the corridor.

The Shadowbrood moaned, the deep tone reverberating throughout the jailhouse and causing the cell bars to vibrate. It rammed its body into the checkpoint, its skin seeping past the bars like air before reforming and loping down the hallway.

Frederick and the sergeant rounded the corner, convicts of every type, color and crime at first throwing insults at the two fleeing men before realizing they were in danger and started hollering for the keys. One of the convicts managed to grab Sergeant Cameron's arm, making him topple to the ground as various tools flung themselves from his belt. He scrambled to his feet, Frederick close behind him.

 The creature smashed into the corresponding wall, its shoulder exploding into black smoke before reforming, now weaving itself into long spires as they began to race down the hallway, seeking blood.

They wrapped around the legs of the closest victims like pythons, pulling them helplessly to the ground as they scrambled for any means of escape. Their skin became a sickly pale color, their lips and fingertips turning deep shades of blue. As they drew their last breath, the Shadowbrood grew, changing shape to accommodate the tight space.

"KAH'ETEH!"

The monster looked down the hallway to see Frederick standing in the center of the hall of cells, Cameron struggling to open the back door.

"{You speak the tongue of the Ur'Kan.}"

"{If it will tame your hunger, then I speak the tongue that quells it!}"

"{Bold words for an Elbanian.}"

The Shadowbrood began to approach Frederick, its darkened tendrils retracting back into its body as the remaining convicts watched in abject silence, save one.

His skin was Caucasian, but his upper eyelids were outlined in black. He wore dirty, disheveled clothes, buttons missing on his shirt and a strap missing from his suspenders. He kept his eyes on the shadowy monster, sliding down the bars as he spotted the keys lying among the randomly dropped items from Cameron's belt. He too wore the same bronze wristband, his eyes a mix of hazel and silver shards.

"{What is your purpose, Shadowbrood?}" barked Frederick, Cameron now watching with the same fearful attention from behind Frederick.

The creature leaned down, its formless face taking up Frederick's peripheral vision.

"{I am cold.}"

An extra hand emerged from its stocky arm, reaching out to touch Frederick's cheek like a yearning child. Frederick calmly backed up against the wall, maintaining his focus on the Shadowbrood.

"Sergeant Cameron, I need the suppression wristband removed immediately." He asked coolly, trying to figure out a Plan B.

Cameron felt about his utility belt, his eyes widening as they swapped hips. Frederick saw his expression in the corner of his eye and looked beyond the beast to see the engraved pliers lying among the few items Sergeant Cameron dropped.

Frederick swallowed, eyes switching between the Shadowbrood and the pliers as he tried to think of a way to reach it in time without getting killed. The creature spread its arms out to support its hulky frame, leaning in further until its face was nearly brushing up against Frederick's.

"{Do you fear me, little Elbanian?}"

Frederick kept his calm demeanor, breathing steadily as his hand quietly and slowly began to search for anything he could use as a distraction.

"{I fear the unknown, and as I do not know what you are, I fear you.}"

"{I am the same umbra in your heart, the same vice in your gut, the same band around your wrist. Have you-}"

The creature was unable to finish, a blast of red light slicing through its arm. Purple blood sprayed against the wall, the creature howling and reeling back as its torn limb melted into a pile of the same plum colored muck.  Frederick pulled to its left, seeing the cause of the attack.

The light skinned prisoner stood before the monster, his left hand dripping blood on the floor as he held the pliers in his other hand. He made eye contact with Frederick, the other criminals in his cell funneling out behind him.

"Here!" he shouted, lobbing the pliers at Frederick before turning and vanishing down the hallway.

Frederick snatched them out of the air, forcing the shears between the band and clipping it off. A surge of relief overcame his senses, the copper rims in his eyes glowing brightly. He took the shears and scraped them across his palm, his blood flowing freely as a ring of bright blue symbols appeared at his feet.

"Sergeant, out of the way!"

 

He turned, pressing his bloodied palm against the back door as he pushed Sergeant Cameron back. His handprint glowed a bright blue, lines bleeding out from the symbol like veins as the iron door began to crack. Frederick swept his hand in front of himself and Cameron as the iron door exploded, sending shrapnel in all directions. A soft azure bubble wrapped around Frederick and Sergeant Cameron as twisted iron ricocheted and rebounded on the creature.

Purple liquid sprayed in all directions, the creature bellowing and howling as bars and walls were smashed and ripped apart like paper.

"Out! Now!" Frederick shoved Cameron through the blasted door, the rain roaring in the cover of night.

The beast recovered, spiraling tendrils of dark smoke gripping anything it could as it loomed towards Frederick. Dark purple ooze poured freely from open wounds, its hollow white orbs widening as it charged for Frederick. It rammed him into the brick wall before he had time to finish his incantation, knocking the wind out of him. Frederick collapsed on the ground, gasping for air before being dragged up by his ankle, the monster swinging him about.

Criminals inside the remaining cells began to scream for help, shaking the bars like wild primates.

Frederick gripped the monster's arm, his hands sinking past the smoky exterior to feel something solid beneath. He shouted in Ur'Kan, a blinding cyan light flashing from under his hands as the arm was severed from the beast, the momentum flinging him out into the rain slicked streets of Silestra. He hit the ground hard, stars flying in his eyes as the rain pounded on his face. He felt about his forehead and saw blood on his fingertips.

He numbly pulled his cloak over his face, regaining his wits as he began to hear screams. Standing up shakily, he saw the police station and gasped. Black smoke flooded every window, the creature bleeding through as it formed itself over the building and white eyes focused on Frederick.

He fled through the rain, his heart racing as he stomped through puddles. His gut was wrenching, his hand still bleeding freely as he tried to figure out a plan of escape. He made it towards Madison Boulevard, people and coaches bustling.

"CABBIE!" He shouted in the rain, raising his bleeding hand.

One came to a stop, Frederick looking behind him as he could sense the Shadowbrood drawing near.

"Westing and Cornerstone Ave! Now, please!" Frederick said as he dove into the coach, slamming the door shut.

The coach jerked into motion, bumbling down the street at a moderate pace as people jaywalked across the boulevard. Frederick chewed on the tip of his thumb, looking out the window every few seconds as that sense of dread grew to a stifling fear.

"Can you please hurry?" Frederick knocked at the front of the coach, the cabbie shouting outside.

"This rain is thick, sir! It's hard navigating in this busy street!"

Sudden screams and shouting caught Frederick's ear as he looked behind him in the small, circular window. Black smoke billowed out into the boulevard, white hollow eyes scanning the crowds of people as they fled in horror.

Frederick assumed the cabbie must have spotted the trouble before he was suddenly hurled back into his seat by the force of the steam trolley, hearing the cabbie shouting at pedestrians to get out of the way. Frederick's heart was banging in his chest, fingers digging into the seat cushions as he tried to think of a plan. He looked at his palm, rubbing the congealing blood in his fingertips as he shook his head. There must be another way...

The coach ran over a loose cobble, sending it jolting and clattering as the steam trolley teetered around a corner. Frederick tucked his foot into the opposite corner of the coach, trying to make sure his weight wasn't hurled into the side to tip it over.

"Watch it, cabbie!"

The ominous moan of the Shadowbrood made Frederick choke his words, his threads of a plan slipping from his grasp. He buried his face into his hands, muttering the word "think" to himself before pulling his hands away to have a blood print on his temple. He sighed and bit his lower lip, forcing his thumb into his wound and pulling the skin back to break the forming scab. Fresh blood seeped between the cracks, pooling in the creases of his hand slowly. He felt slightly dizzy, knowing at least a pint of his blood had been spent.

He traced symbols on the walls of the coach, gibbering feverishly in Ur'Kan as the coach jerked and scrambled down the roads leading to the docks. The monster wasn't far behind, covering the ground in a mix of black smoke and purple grime behind itself. He clasped his hands together, slowly pulling them apart as a bright cerulean thread of light began to weave itself in his fingers.

The creature lunged towards the coach, slithering tendrils of dark fog wrapping themselves around the cabbie as he screamed. He tried to wrench them off his body before one managed to bury itself into his left ear, making him writhe as more wrapped around his face and throat. They pulled him into the shapeless void, his screams sharply cut off. The steam trolley swerved off course, a back hub snapping off from the pressure as it careened near the edge of the docks lining the Bane River.

The light threads wove themselves into a loose ring inbetween Frederick's blood, crimson dripping into his lap as his lips fluttered the last few words of Ur'Kan. It shone brighter in his hands, the runes written on the coach walls shining the same electric blue color as it grew in intensity.

The top of the coach was suddenly ripped off, dark rainwater flooding the compartment as Frederick's concentration was unbroken. The Shadowbrood's eyes flared with pallid light, a hand reaching in to grab Frederick.

"Cah'hë ele rothwin KAH!" Frederick shouted, the ring forming a solid band in between his hands and exploding outwards.

The steam trolley rammed into a tie-off piling before Frederick could finish the ritual, the boiler in the engine exploding from the pressure and sending bronze and gears flying. The coach bucked over the mess, spinning rapidly away from the edge of the docks before smashing into the side of a building. The Shadowbrood was flung off the ruined coach, crashing into the dark waters of the river as the destroyed wheels of the coach kept spinning off axis.

Frederick came to, his head throbbing as he tried to fit colors and shapes together in his eyesight. He groaned and cradled his temple, trying to shift over onto his belly but realizing he couldn't. He looked down to see his waist pinned down by the twisted remains of the coach, clamping him between the frame like a carnivorous plant.

The Shadowbrood emerged from the water, its body seemingly melting as slimy appendages gripped more tie-off pilings to yank itself from the river.  Frederick lamely tried to pull himself out of the wreckage, still numb from the blow to his head as the creature dragged itself closer to the warped pile of metal and fabric.

Frederick managed to pull his left leg out, wincing and suspecting a broken bone before a dark hand pressed against the wall above him, its texture like dripping velvet. Frederick looked into the eyes of the creature. It reached for his face with the other hand, its water-laden flesh dribbling into clumps and plopping on the cobbled streets.

"GIVE...IT...TO...ME."

Frederick tried to fight back, his body aching and his head spinning, but it was useless as the Shadowbrood's deformed hand smothered him. His arms fell on either side of him, dark rainwater washing away the blood in his hands as more tendrils of darkness began to encircle Frederick's body, pulling him out of the destroyed coach and towards an opening cavity in the monster's chest. Frederick's body remained limp, his clothing torn up from debris in the crash as fresh wounds leaked with blood.

The monster's chest wrapped around Frederick's body like a cage, the ends weaving back into each other as he was consumed from sight. Some of its smoky exterior began to return, its body taking shape as slimy veins began to cover Frederick's body within its chest cavity. It shook its expansive back, letting out a satisfied growl before turning and loping back towards the boulevard.

A sudden roar tore through the darkness, a large white feline ramming into the Shadowbrood with brutal force. He bucked upwards as the Shadowbrood curled over him, his black-pronged horns stabbing into its shifting flesh and spewing purple all over the street. He ignored the dark monster's cries as it pulled back, black stripes illuminated on his white fur as green eyes blazed in the night.

The grimalkin backed up, hips shifting slightly before charging once again. He tackled the Shadowbrood on its back, paws raking against its darkened flesh as the Shadowbrood howled and thrashed about in an attempt to shake off this beast. It swung up and grabbed him by the ruff, hurling him effortlessly into the brick wall near the destroyed coach. His body bounced off the brick before he rolled onto its stomach, shaking his head before scrambling back on all fours.

The Shadowbrood swung its fist down, the white creature opening his jaws and clamping down with powerful fangs. The Shadowbrood screamed, flailing its captured hand. It hobbled over to the river, dunking the creature under with its arm. It screeched, wrenching its limb out of the water to find the extension missing as purple bled into the river. He climbed up its hacked arm, claws digging into its murky flesh before latching onto its neck, fangs sinking in easily.

He dangled from the Shadwbrood's neck, all four paws clawing away violently at the shadowy torso. The Shadowbrood tried to fight it off , but was losing the battle. The feline's hindpaws dug in deep, wrenching open the chest cavity to find Frederick inside. The Elbanian's skin was becoming a sickly white, black veins spanning off his face and neck.

With a snarl, he clamped his jaws down harder on the Shadowbrood's neck, the monster finally giving in and collapsing on its side. He let go once its white hollow eyed faded into nothing, turning now and diving into the opened chest cavity as he bit and tore at the limbs holding Frederick in. Gently grabbing Frederick's rain cloak within his sullied jaws, he yanked him out, the Shadowbrood's body beginning to dissolve in the pounding rain.

The large cat dragged Frederick under the safety of one of the riverside awnings, shielding him from the rain as his fur began to melt into flesh. The black-pronged horns shrank back into his skull, its feline muzzle flattening and forming a nose. Dark brow hair grew from his arched spine, flowing outwards as the neck narrowed and the chest became thinner. Within seconds, Frederick's head rested in Kelstrin's lap, amber and gold eyes peering into his.

"{...ederic....Frederi....!....}" Frederick caught it in his hearing, his eyelids feeling like stone as he tried to force them open.

Kelstrin gently tapped on Frederick's cheek, trying to bring him back to consciousness as he saw the Elbanian's eyes open.

"{Can you hear me? Can you move any of your limbs?}" he shouted above the rain, eyes wide and scanning over the damage Frederick had sustained.

He whimpered in response, his eyes meandering in their sockets. His neck went limp, his eyes rolling up under lowering eyelids.

"Iiyah iiyah iiyah!" he hissed, cutting his thumb open.

He smeared a streak of his blood across Frederick's forehead, his hands glowing a soft green as they hovered over Frederick's leg. Kelstrin closed his eyes, his lips moving silently as the bone underneath Frederick's flesh shifted and sank beneath the skin.

Frederick slowly came to, his vision swirling before he focused on the Mystic's face. He rolled out of Kelstrin's lap, struggling to stand as he gripped his now mended leg.

"{We must get out of here.}" Kelstrin said quietly, trying to aid Frederick.

"{I am not going anywhere, Kelstrin!}" Frederick snapped, pushing Kelstrin away as he regained his balance.

"{This is the third time I have saved your sorry rump! You have seen the danger, Frederico! Why be so stubborn in the face of it!?}"

"{Why do you even care?! Why have you turned up now, of all times?!}"

"{Wouldn't you do the same for your own family?!}"

Frederick stopped, looking out beyond the harbor to see the clouds were starting to spread. He swallowed hard, avoiding eye contact with Kelstrin.

"{Leave.}" He muttered, his hands curling into fists.

Kelstrin cast his head towards the ground, his body swaying slightly. His ponytail came undone, sliding past his face to hide his features.

"{If that is what you desire.}" He whispered, gripping his right bicep.

Before Frederick could argue, Kelstrin transformed back into the hulking feline creature and bounded into the night. Frederick exhaled and rubbed his eyes, searching the ground for his spectacles. He pulled aside a part of the carriage to find them intact, shoving them on his face as he gathered his bearings.

The End

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