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Shadows Chapter 13
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Shady Stoat

Joined: 02 Oct 2005
Posts: 2950
Location: England

Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 7:54 am    Post subject: Shadows Chapter 13  

The majority vote was for Keli to learn to control her dreams. Chapter 13 follows...

Chapter Thirteen

Keli’s eyes narrowed. She bit back an urge to say she could learn all three magics within the time allowed. Shakal’s coldness was triggering an impulsive anger in her. Yet for all of the wolf’s seeming unfriendliness, she was the only companion that the girl had. Rash words could not easily be taken back, and they were going to have to find a way to work together, if Keli was to stand any chance of surviving this city.

“Dream control,” she said aloud, not quite knowing why. Perhaps it was a more subtle form of revenge against her companion. It was the option that had seemed to annoy the Were most, in her descriptions. More than that, it was something that, to some extent, she could already do. The thought of failing, as Shakal expected her to, was a prospect that Keli could not bear.

Shakal looked at her, coolly. “You are sure?”

“I want to learn more about my dreams,” replied Keli, not looking away.

“Very well.”

The werewolf reached under her cloak and drew out a knife. Keli’s eyes widened. The blood rushed through her veins like icy water over rapids. She scrabbled backwards, scattering dirt as she sought the cellar wall with her back.

Shakal gave her a scornful look. With a sharp movement, she drew the blade over the fleshy part of her thumb. Blood welled in a thin line from the shallow cut. She deliberately put the blade down, then advanced a step towards Keli, holding her hand out before her.

“Taste and swallow,” she commanded, slowly approaching the girl, treating her as if she were a stupid but frightened animal.

Keli couldn’t seem to find her breath.

“Why?” she managed, afraid that Shakal might hear the tremble in her voice if she said more.

“I am to be your guide. The blood is a gift.” Shakal took another step. “You must accept a portion of my essence if I am to share in your magical wanderings. If you prefer, I can cut you and our blood will mingle in the ancient ways. Either way, accept my gift or not. Accept my help or not. You must choose quickly.”

The blood was already beginning to look sticky. Keli faltered, feeling queasy. Drinking the blood of one of these creatures was so… barbaric. So primitive. So different from her own people.

The ways of the beast?

Words from the temple service snuck into her mind, imitating the track of her own thoughts and mocking her. Long for her own kind as she might, the facts remained that humans would just as soon see her dead. The only ones who had shown her any kindness were the primitives, the half-beasts, the magic-wielders. She was in no position to judge them or their ways.

Keli took a deep breath and took out her own knife. Wincing, she made a nick in her own thumb and pressed it against Shakal’s waiting hand. The wolf’s long fingers intertwined with her own, feeling curiously warm. Seconds passed, and Keli was just about to ask what happened next, when she felt the heat spreading slowly from her fingers, up her arm and shoulder and flushing through the rest of her body like a crashing wave. The wolf’s fingers tightened on her own as she rocked back with the force of the sensation.

Then it was gone. She blinked and stared around the cellar, certain that something should have changed. Nothing had. Shakal uncurled her hand from Keli’s, turning her attention back to the cleaning and re-sheathing of her dagger.

“Now I must teach you to enter the waking dream state,” she said, flatly.

“Wait a minute.” Keli rubbed a hand through her reddened hair, bemused. “What just happened?”

“Our blood is one blood. You have granted me the ability to see much of what you see, hear much of what you hear, communicate without the need for spoken words. I am your guide now.” Shakal spoke distantly, as if she were remembering teachings, rather than talking from experience.

“But what does any of that mean?”

“I have no time to waste, explaining the inexplicable. You must trust me and learn what I can teach you.”

“Trust you?” Keli’s anger bubbled through, abruptly. “What have you ever done to earn my trust? You abandoned me, alone in the City!”

Shakal tilted her head. “Abandoned you? Now it is I who do not understand. We had a trade, human. Goods and food and passage through my peoples’ territory, in return for your aid in getting me into Shift City. As it worked out, I was the one who had to help you in the end. Even though the bargain was inequitable, I still left you the provisions supplied by my people. Provisions which you carry, even as you complain that I did you wrong. I would say that you came out rather better from the deal that I did, all told.”

“I… you…” Keli floundered, then rallied, “You had to sneak off then, did you? You couldn’t have just told me the agreement was ended, face-to-face?”

“Perhaps your memory is clouded, human,” replied Shakal, coldly. “You told me little or nothing of yourself, or your reasons for going to the city. Yet you questioned my purpose there and you were more than a little interested in the Beast Cult. Then there was a strangeness, an aura about you, that hinted of power. How could I know you were not a spy, sent to gather information to deal to our enemies? How could I afford to tell you anything of my motives and purpose? What reason did you give me to trust you?”

“That’s ridiculous,” exploded the girl. “A spy? Me? People were going to put me on trial, back home. They were trying to kill me, just because I have bad dreams! I was running for my life! That isn’t the sort of thing you spill out to a stranger – especially a… a…”

She faltered.

“A werewolf?” challenged Shakal, growing angry in turn. “A beast? Is that what you were going to say? Perhaps if I had been an ape, like your kind, you could have told me about your dreams?”

“What good would that have done?” Keli shot.

“Do you know how rare your magic is? Another potential Oracle, even a human one – is not something to be ignored!” Shakal stared at the girl as if she were crazy. “I would have taken you to Erath in his golden halls. He would have known how best to serve all our interests.”

“So you were wrong to abandon me by the river-bank,” Keli accused the wolf, triumphantly.

“It would seem so,” replied Shakal in bitter tones. “I made the journey to the Oracle, to serve my people. They instructed me to ask how we could best fight to destroy Itharien. I was supposed to return to them with the answer. Instead, I find that the first question from the Seer is about some human child. Why had I not brought her here? What did I know about her? Where was she now? What was the extent of her power?”

All of a sudden, Keli was lost for words. She stared, uncomprehending as Shakal began to pace the floor in agitation.

“I should be going back to my people, telling them how to survive the storm to come. Instead, I am told that you are the most important thing to me and my kin. I have no answers, no guarantee that you will succeed in your task and yet the oracle requires me to abandon my family on the wild chance that some human can defeat Itharien and his hordes. And then you will not even learn what I have to teach you!”

“Hey!” A hoarse voice sounded from the top of the stairs. “You want to fight? Do it quietly – or do it somewhere else. You hear? This is s’posed to be a safe house, damn you!”

They looked up to see Maurice standing there. For all his lack of stature, he looked furious. The wavering candlelight deepened the wrinkles in his face as he glared down at them.

An awkward silence descended. Keli felt her stomach twist with tension. If he threw them out, did they have anywhere else to go? Would Shakal even bother with her at that point? Or would she disappear into the night, just as she had the last time?

Thankfully, the little man harrumphed, breaking the tension.

“I’m going to bed. Whatever you’re doing, you keep it low, right? No amount of gold’s worth my head… though there’s some as’d say different, I guess. G’night.”

He stomped out, closing the door behind him. Before Shakal could speak, Keli cut in.

“We should start,” she said, softly.

Grave eyes regarded her. “We should.”

It was an uneasy truce. Nothing seemed resolved, but their time was too short and their situation too precarious to waste it in mutual recriminations. There was a job to do.

“Lie down,” said the wolf, following her own instructions as she spoke. Keli shifted away from the wall, flattening her back against the floor and feeling the straw prickle through her cloak.

“Watch the lights and relax. Do not attempt to direct your thoughts, let them wander where they will.”

As the wolf spoke, she held a taloned hand pointed towards the ceiling. Colours, faint and washy, began to appear on its surface, moving, mingling and dancing. The candle-flames added a surreal flickering to the sight, as Keli watched in fascination.

“How do you do that?” she breathed.

“Focus only on the lights,” replied Shakal, soft but stern.

The girl sighed, staring unmoving at the swirling patterns above her. She wondered what other powers the Were had at her fingertips… then realised that she shouldn’t be thinking about such abstractions. She tried to clear her mind of all thought, only to find herself wondering what was in the copper vats upstairs, and what was happening to the people left behind in the golden halls and… with a shake of her head, she willed herself to concentrate on the lights again.

There was a soft sigh beside her. “You are trying too hard,” said the wolf. “Let go of your control. Leave yourself open to your thoughts. Let your mind carry you, without force, to its destination.”

Keli felt an immediate pang of resentment, which she quelled, only to realise that she was attempting to control her thoughts again. She took a deep breath and willed herself to let go.

Gradually, she untensed. Patterns and images seemed to flow from the colours and shapes. Now she was watching the shimmering scales of a giant fish, an instant later fireflies glowed and danced in the morning mist. Her breathing deepened, there was an almost indiscernible tug from within, and suddenly she was floating…

…she is floating…

…is floating above a great cavern, lit in the centre, shadowy at the edges. A cage hangs from a hook in the ceiling and a lank-haired woman rocks the bars so hard that it sways back and forth like a child’s swing. She is shrieking insults and threats to those that hide, unseen in the dark corners of this place. The smell of incense is the same, the feeling of coldness, the creaking of the cage-rope, it is all exactly as she has experienced it before. Knowing what is to come, Keli understands that the woman’s struggles will make no difference. They will sacrifice her and she will burn.

She hears the familiar double-thud of the drumbeat as the chanting of many voices starts again. She feels chilled and helpless, locked into futility.


In her dream-state, Keli jerks. A whisper, in Shakal’s voice.

“This is your dream… you are the master of it… find the lights…

The knife cuts down the cage. The woman within shrieks in rage, then in pain as it lands. The priests emerge from the shadows at the edge of the room, dragging the woman towards an altar.

Keli tears her gaze away from the struggles and the screams. She looks around, seeing the flicker of the candles. They illuminate the area of the cage and that of the altar. Not the right lights at all – and now she is floating, following the Itharienites as they secure their next victim and bring out their knives.

“You must try… find the lights…

It is hard to think as the blood begins to flow and the screams take on a new urgency. The lights. Where are the lights? How can she find them – and what is the point if she does? Shakal should be teaching her to find out more about her visions, not to search for things that do not exist!

Thud-thud! Thud-thud! The drums are loud and urgent, sickening her as her eyes rove and search at Shakal’s command. If only they would stop or slow, she might be able to concentrate. She tries to will them away, tries to believe that she is the master of her own dreams… but they won’t stop and the blood is flowing and the woman’s struggles are beginning to weaken… she cannot change anything that is going to happen… she cannot take away the vision…

“You see what you see, human… but you may also see what you do not see…”

Keli’s mind screams in silent frustration. Riddles – at a time like this! She needs answers, not vague philosophies. What does it mean, anyway? ‘You see what you see.’ Of course she did. That was her curse. Nothing ever changed, no matter how hard she fought against it.

Unbidden, the wolf’s earlier words came to the front of her mind.

“You are trying too hard. Let go of your control.”

Time seems to slow. Is this the same, then? Is she attempting to fight against her dreams, rather than working with what they show her? Could it be that simple?

It makes an odd kind of sense. The visions are truth – she has always known that. Fighting against the inevitable is like standing before the tide and expecting it to turn for you. Maybe, though, the truth could be embellished; used as a canvas from which to add what she willed.

Create, not control. Would it work? There was no way to find out, other than to try it.

The smell of incense and sweat and blood makes her reel and she blocks it from her mind, savagely. That is not important. She has to find the lights.

The head priest hold the soul-stone aloft, its dark veins catching against the candlelight. Keli wills herself to focus on the sparkle and shadow, dredging up a mental image of the way Shakal’s lights were dancing. Slowly, she begins to see dark colours, radiating out from the centre of the stone. They are dark and muddy, not like the pleasant fireflies she has seen before. Nonetheless, they are here.

She strains her mind, willing the swirls into life, feeling a strange power surging through her, like frost and fire combined. As the stone begins to descend towards the woman’s belly, Keli feels it calling and pulling at her. In a moment, it will have disappeared, burning from within its victim. The lights will be gone.

She cannot allow it. Reckless with newfound power, her ethereal form swoops towards its focus. The patterns of light grow larger, they surround her and she feels a warm glow caressing her. Lost in the sensation, she floats and weaves among the colours, losing form, losing memory… floating…


“Not there, you fool! Too soon!”

The colour fades and is replaced by a smell of damp so thick she can taste it. There is no light here, yet she instinctively feels she is surrounded by… by something both ancient and aware. The ground tingles with a constant vibration, almost too weak to feel, and yet strong enough to set her teeth on edge. The whisper and buzz of voices presses against her temples like a steel band.

The voice is urgent now

“The lights. You have to find the lights again. You must leave this place now.”

‘Where am I?’ she thinks, straining to find shapes in the darkness. This would be so much easier with physical form. Can she give herself a body within her dream, she wonders. Should she try? If she can add to her dream, then why not a solid shape? Where will it end – and does it have to end at all? She could be like a god within her own visions. With time and practice, of course.

Her head hurts. She doesn’t want to think about any of that right now. She wants to get away from the cloying stench and the voices that try to penetrate her mind. Something is near, and she can no longer hear Shakal.

‘The lights,’ she thinks, a little groggily. ‘Fireflies, brightening up the darkness. They’re right in front of me.’

There is only blackness. For a moment, she sees nothing and there is only the thud of her heart and the clamour of a thousand whispered voices. Then, a single spark of red, hovering just beyond her reach. Even as she wonders if she is imagining it, a spot of yellow appears, mingling into a tiny sunset, multiplying with streaks of pale taupe and indigo. Her eyes follow the glows, the tiny beginnings of a smile on her face. Then the sparks light up a shadow beyond and her smile freezes.

Wood beams prop up a wall of packed earth and rubble. A huge set of jaws are embedded in its core, standing four feet proud of the wall itself. She can see the great cavernous hole of its mouth, and the tusk-like sharpness of its teeth as it roars its silent challenge. Wetness and mould cover it, giving it an almost living lustre. Though Keli’s head is telling her that it is made of stone, her heart is telling her that this thing is alive and about to come out of the wall, seeking her flesh as its next meal. It takes all of her willpower not to let the lights go out again, simply so she no longer has to look at the engulfing maw before her.

“You need to wake up. You need to leave this place right now!

Shakal’s voice is fainter, barely distinguishable as the whispers intensify in Keli’s head. She pushes them away, trying to look only at the lights and see nothing beyond. At the same time, the ground shivers with a new urgency. Earth starts to sprinkle from the walls and fall to the floor and the feeling of being watched intensifies.

A new voice distracts her attention.

“I hear one.”

It sounds tired and defeated as it calls out from a place behind her. She turns, abandoning the lights in her surprise. A moment later, she sees the more conventional illumination of a lantern, swinging as it approaches the room.

Now she can see more. She is in a widened tunnel, crusted with earth, mud and slime. Beams have been propped against the most unstable portions of the walls, but there are still piles of stones and loam that have fallen to partially block the way. Statue-shapes, half-buried, line the dug-alcoves, the floor and the walls. Still the dust falls all around her.

“Trust the lights. Get out of there. Keli!”

“This way.” Now there are other voices, murmuring behind the lantern-holder. Keli watches as a pale and mud-streaked boy leads three others into the makeshift cavern. Two of them are burly but deformed, looking like they must have come from the East side of the city. They hold picks in their well-muscled arms. The other is a dark-cloaked man whose face is in shadow. He is tall and stooped, though he straightens up as the roof becomes higher.

The lantern carrier is familiar, somehow. Keli stares at him, trying to work out where she has seen that face before. There is a voice in her head, telling her to get out of here, but it is faint, mingled with the buzzing, and she feels that it is important to remember…


…a mad-eyed boy, rescuing her from her family’s cellar. Hair the colour of bleached sand and a way of looking past you, just as this boy was doing, even as he approached the spot from which she observed her dream.

Blood is crusted from a gash on his neck. His nails are broken and dirtied. He seems thin and carries himself as if in constant fear of a beating. Yet he is still alive – in the dream, at least. He is still alive, and Keli feels relief, even though she has never met the boy.

He comes to a standstill, less than a foot away from where she is.

“I hear it,” he says, looking almost, but not quite, directly at her. “Another one. Near this place.”

The hooded man speak. “Track it, boy. Earn the mercy you have received.”

His voice is warm and caressing, yet the boy shivers. She looks into his frightened eyes, and for an instant, he looks back, then his gaze moves on. He takes a step forward, feeling as a blind man does. Keli, invisible and bodiless, felt like shrinking back from his touch. Her guide is silent, the boy is too near, his companions look on, waiting for their little trained dog to perform.

Keli thinks quickly. Shakal has told her to run from this place – but she knows so little about how to do that. Where would the lights take her next, and would these people notice if she created them within her dream? Can she afford to wait while the boy sniffs out her presence for his mysterious masters?

Time is growing short and she hovers, indecisive, as a thousand options run through her head…
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Joined: 16 Feb 2005
Posts: 2567
Location: USA

Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 8:10 am    Post subject:  

As much as she wants to know, she needs to back down now and trust Shakal. She should seems she is about to be discovered, which might not be too good at this time.

Her suspicions and precautions regarding Shakal have only landed her in more trouble up to this point, and she has committed to a trust and should take heed of the advice offered.
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Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 8:36 am    Post subject:  

Great chapter :D

As I was reading I found myself willing her to listen to Shakal throughout the chapter.

Therefore I can only support Fauna's suggestions. She needs to stop fighting Shakal's help and trust her, at least about her magic.

Get out of there now - follow the lights wherever they lead.

Happy Writing :)
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Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 9:09 am    Post subject:  

Freek out and run! Freek out and run! Freek out and run! She has to trust shakal, she needs to run. She can come back to save the boy later, but now she needs to save herself so:
Freek out and run! Freek out and run! Freek out and run! ... :D
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Joined: 16 Oct 2004
Posts: 5215
Location: UK

Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 9:11 am    Post subject:  

She could always freak out as well :shock:

Although freaking out is probably not a good idea - we need to concentrate on finding the lights.
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Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8879

Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 4:03 pm    Post subject:  

Mmm. Good chapter old Stoaty!

Ah, well I am torn here. Listen to wolfy maybe? :? Heh. I will wait for the poll and then decide!
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Joined: 12 Oct 2005
Posts: 287
Location: Australia

Posted: Sun Feb 26, 2006 11:55 pm    Post subject:  

I am thinking that she should run as well.
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Posted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:18 am    Post subject:  

I am thinking that there is not much options. her fear combined with Shakal's warning should be enough to make her find the lights and leave this place.

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Solomon Birch

Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Posts: 1562
Location: England..... but Japan beckons.....

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2006 10:11 am    Post subject:  

While she may think about defering to Shakal, from what I've gotten about Keli, she not only is aggravated at Shakal for abandoning her, expecting her to trust her, being so aggressive but she also has a desire to prove to her that she can wield the powers that she has been 'gifted' with.

So I think that she should defiantly ignore Shakal's warnings and try and get the boy to notice her. She does remember him as the one who saved her after all...

Anyway, so glad I caught up on this story, cos' its probably my favourite on IF! Well done Stoaty! :biggrin: :D
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Joined: 21 Oct 2004
Posts: 4123
Location: Hollywood, USA

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2006 10:05 pm    Post subject:  

I think she is too dazed and confused to follow the lights. But she has powers, does she not? Can she will the boy away, make him turn back?
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Posted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 3:57 am    Post subject:  

Ruunnnnnn away :)
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Kalanna Rai

Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3102
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 9:35 pm    Post subject:  

Flee this place of evil dream child, you have no protectors here...
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Shady Stoat

Joined: 02 Oct 2005
Posts: 2950
Location: England

Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 11:07 am    Post subject:  

Poll's going up tomorrow, guys. Last orders please :)
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Shady Stoat

Joined: 02 Oct 2005
Posts: 2950
Location: England

Posted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:13 pm    Post subject:  

Poll's up for 3 days. It's that time again :)
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Mother Goose

Joined: 09 May 2004
Posts: 511
Location: Connecticut

Posted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:38 pm    Post subject:  

Shakal's the expert. What's the point of taking instruction if you don't follow it?
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Shady Stoat

Joined: 02 Oct 2005
Posts: 2950
Location: England

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 11:29 am    Post subject:  

6-0-0 is pretty decisive. Keli has gone for retreating from the dream world, if she can. Next chapter is going up, this topic is locking down. :)
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