Rise of the Unknown (0.2) The Shadow

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PART 2

The streets of Prusnia were usually well-lit by powerful light-bulbs within tall street lamps, but that night, the confidence in that power betrayed the streets. They were too tall and too far apart to surpass the mist enveloping the city.

There were spaces of complete darkness amidst every lamp, and in one of those, stood the Shadow…as two of the city’s militia passed him by.

“Man, I can’t see a damn thing in front of me.”

“Tell me about it. I’m starting to forget what my nose looks like.”

“Lucky you,” he laughed, “forgetting that ugly thing.”

The Shadow had left the cloak and hood behind with the horse, his real gear being simpler, though not any less dark. Black cloth wrapped tightly around his limbs, over a slightly lighter black top and pants, also tight and secured. His mask was the tone of the cloths and his eye slits were the darkest part of the costume…they moved like his real eyes but showed no sign of having an iris nor anything else resembling eyes. They were just the dark slits of an otherwise featureless face. The uniform, as his mystical arts, was made to interact with the darkness within the shadows of the world.

Once the guards had gained enough distance, the blacker than black slits opened up against the surface of the wall Shadow was leaning against. They looked around the street and, once content, closed in concentration. His body melted into the wall, oozing through it to get inside the house.

Once inside, they opened again in the darkness of the environment. Its residents were fast asleep so only a couple of candles lit the environment. Even so, the Shadow kept caution high as he searched the room.

Always keeping close to the darkness of the wall, he went to a cabinet, browsing its contents. All of it was valueless, but for a ring. He eyed the ring closely, turning it around in front of him to appraise just how valuable the gem it sported really was.

Satisfied, he pocketed the ring somewhere in his dark uniform. Suddenly, he heard a noise at the front door, as if it had been crashed open.

Instincts kicked in and he leapt back to the wall, not really in time to phase through before the door to the room burst open. He froze, his awareness doing a double-take on his surroundings: the room was a simple living room with a stair access to the upper floor, and a door access to what he assumed was the entrance hall, no broken down.

Looking at the shattered door, he saw a beast. The thing was on two legs, though the feet were long claws which shot out of the leg to pierce the ground. Its two arms were bulgy and muscled, also bearing claws. The torso widened considerably as it went up from the legs, being thinnest at where the legs connected and broadest at what he could call the chest area. Its head was, for the lack of a better word, monstrous: it had huge fangs and it slumped and bent forward as if protruding from the body.

What is that?

The beasts were as black as the Shadow’s eye slits and thus darker than the shadows and mists, though they possessed a distorting kind of aura, like heatwave, and it made them hard to discern. Their eyes were pure white with nothing but a pitch black circle inside each of them, and they went around the white at blurring speeds until they stopped dead…facing the Shadow.

They are looking at me…but I cannot gauge their intentions.

The intensity of the stare was broken, however, by screams and shouts coming from outside the house. The Shadow could wait around until definite evidence of their aggressiveness showed itself but as another beast came into view through the door, he decided he wasn’t about to allow his death to become such evidence.

How fast are they? Can I phase through before they can catch me?

Stepping forward, they eyed him with curiosity. The screams outside intensified but were put aside by steps thundering down the staircase. A man walked forth, strong and scared and holding a shotgun, he didn’t even notice the Shadow.

“Da hell are you?!!”

The beasts turned to the man, startled, and Shadow concentrated to phase through the wall. The man got off a shot against one of them but the bullet did little else than delay the beast’s reaction for a second. Quickly, it stepped and stretched to pierce the man.

The second beast launched from the two legs like a frog, the heat-cloak and darkness making it seem like a ghost floating through the air.

The Shadow heard the wall being crashed against, but he was already safe. He surfaced on the rooftop and there stood, over-viewing the scene in the streets. He heard the man’s cries of anguish get cut short. He observed as beasts were swarming the patrols and whatever individuals decided to venture outside their homes, which was irrelevant because the beasts also invaded the houses.

They seemed to be impervious to gunfire, and to blades, and would walk around clumsily unless they leapt like frogs. Not exactly like frogs, he noted, their legs would bend so as to provide a slingshot muscle movement, and not exactly the piston-like jump. They weren’t jumping; they were pulling and launching themselves.

What is happening here?

Knowing full well he couldn’t get a hold of his contacts to obtain instructions, he thought about what to do. The mystic mist was no coincidence, nor perhaps the choice of location. Though one would assume the beasts to be just that, what he saw were signs of an invasion.

Out-worlders, he wondered, doubtful. Out-planers, he considered, convinced. Demons… he thought, feeling superstitious.

It bothered him to no end that he did not know what they were, but whatever they were, the fact they had yet to spot him on the roof meant they were not extra-sensorial, even if they did see well in the dark. That, he considered, was not the end of the world. Shadows were his allies but his capacity for stealth was not limited to them. This meant he could go around, which in turn meant he could leave. Run for his life.

Anyway. There were only two individuals within the city he could contact to trade impressions and only one of them was bound to know more about the creatures.

Yes… he nodded, asserting to himself, I must find the Sorcerer. If anyone is bound to know more about these creatures than I, it will be one of the House of Magni.

With purpose set, he wasted no more time. His body blended into the dark mist around him as he began to move.

He could hear the sounds of battle within the darkness that now filled the streets but his heart was cold to the suffering of others.

What mattered was information. One cannot take action without information. His search for the Sorcerer took him east-bound, and it facilitated things that the beasts did not seem to be interested in the roofs, or the sky, and so he simply kept to the above as he moved.

Alas, he eventually arrived at a large gap. He chose to detour instead of risking ground level, from which he could still hear screams.

“Nothing’s worki—GAHHHGH!!”

And death.

As he circled the gap through the roofs he began to notice there was debris all around. Confused, he looked closer to see that, indeed, the mist was framing something. Something gigantic and monstrous…which was taking up an entire avenue.

He approached it so he could make it out. He didn’t know what it was, but it was clearly something that had to do with the beasts. Something big? With signs of intrusion on the city?

Hm…if this isn’t their transportation, it is most definitely one of them. They have it perfectly cloaked, so it should be very important…

He thought for a moment on what to do about this new discovery. He felt, at the end of the thought trail, that he still lacked knowledge.

I will be cautious about this and see to gathering information first. I must keep this place in mind however, it is undoubtedly important since they want it left alone.

He turned and continued on his path around it.

Despite the delay, it did not take him too long to find her, though in the circumstances that surrounded him, ‘too long’ was a very subjective term.

“The hell are these things?!!”

“I don’t know, how many times will you be asking?”

The fact Sorcerer was not alone was significant information, though largely irrelevant as far as the circumstances were concerned. Sorcerer was a world renowned thief, 20th of her name, and basically the Shadow’s counterpart for the House of Magni.

“Until they reply? I dunno, anything’s better than fighting, we can’t hurt them.”

The man she was with, Dark Runner, was the first of his name, though still a thief of great renown. Shadow considered he might have sought her out for the same reason he was, but it was unlikely that he would have found her beforehand.

“They’re just looking at us…”

“Look, we both know you can’t channel the teleportation fast enough. I’ll jump ‘em and you get out while I hold him.”

“Are you insane? I’m not leaving you here to die.”

The Shadow considered Dark Runner’s madness, relating to one of House of Magni like that. He could not bring himself to accept such a mad hypothesis, certainly, there was more going on than a love affair.

“Look, just–”

Dark Runner suddenly jolted his eyes up, right at him, Sorcerers’ closely behind. He knew they could see his eye-slits. In fact, the Shadow was impressed he had felt him.

“Shadow?”

Sorcerer wasted no time in taking advantage of all eyes having turned to the Shadow. Quickly, she flipped and butted the staff’s end on the ground, yelling out “DAR!”

Shadow and Dark Runner both closed their eyes, avoiding the flash-bang spell that would generate a screen of smoke, but the monsters had jumped right at them, and had all crashed amongst themselves, or against the walls, temporarily blinded.

“Do it now, Sorce!”

The Shadow closed his eyes and melted into the ceiling, rising above on the rooftop like if emerging from a lake made of tar. A flash called his peripheral attention, and looking towards it, he saw Sorcerer and the Dark Runner, on top of another building.

“There’s nothing that can hurt them!” The sounds of fight and struggle continued on, somewhere below, in the now dark and misty streets. Shadow paid them no mind.

He would talk to these two great competitors, and together, they might just find a way to make a difference.

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