Rise of the Unknown (0.3) The Shadow

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PART 3

“That was close,” Dark Runner pointed out.

“Why did you help us?”

“Do you know these creatures?”

“No, neither of us has any idea what they are,” Sorcerer replied.

“PULL BACK TO THE PALACE,” a yell came from the streets below, “WE NEED TO PROTECT THE LORD!”

None of the three paid any mind to the screaming and death going on around them, somewhere in the thick mist.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE THESE THINGS?!”

“By the way,” Dark Runner interjected, “I ran into one of yours. Don’t worry, he’s alive.”

Shadow eyed the two in judgmental silence.

“What were you doing in that barn? There is nothing of value there.”

“Psh, shows what you know, man. The most valuable thing to me was in there.”

Startled and embarrassed, Sorcerer jerked her head aside, “shut up, Dark Runner.”

As I thought. What a fool…like my clan, House Magni utterly controls their members…they will never abide a match with such a common thief, no matter your skill.

“Your lunacy is your own, Dark Runner.”

“HEEEEEELLLP!” Again, a yell that went ignored, but it provided Shadow with the pause for effect that he needed.

“While I searched for you, I ran into a vessel. It is…like them, and is cloaked by the mist. Unknown also, it has an entrance, and guards. I feel they plan to use it still. I fear Prusnia will fall and that it is only the start.”

“Start of what?”

“Unsure,” Shadow stated, looking around, “I fear they may plan to attack other cities.”

“Hum,” Sorcerer nodded “you think this isn’t just a raid.”

“I covered a good distance…they seem to be everywhere. They seem to be an army, and not one of them has fallen in battle.”

“Uh, ok,” Dark Runner frowned, “so what’s the use of knowing about their ship? We can’t fight them, nothing hurts them. Not steel, not fire, not any kind of magic she could think of.

“He must mean we know what direction not to go in.”

Shadow hesitated for a second, eyeing the two, trying to judge them. Would they really deny him the assistance he needed? Was Shadow the only one in the ‘business’ who valued something over his life?

“You speak truth, we cannot hurt them…much like with rulers, governments and armies. True words. But that does not mean we cannot harm them…”

Dark Runner straightened his back and looked at Shadow with a pleased smirk.

Sorcerer raised an eyebrow, “you mean to steal from them?”

“They have eyes and ears, senses we can fool. Stealing is what we do. It is what we must do, guards do not take post if there is nothing to guard.”

“Get into the alien vessel, probably neck-filled with aliens we can’t touch…and steal from them?” Dark Runner laughed, turning to Sorcerer, “I like him.”

“Aliens?”

“I disagree with that assessment,” Shadow said, ignoring Dark Runner’s comments, “but at this stage, it is a valid explanation. Irrelevant, though, for it is clear we must harm them. Whatever we steal will be vital to them. But the task is difficult to predict and so I decided I should procure your assistance.”

“Wait,” Dark Runner held up a hand, “you decided? Since when does the Shadow think for itself? What happened to the body that commands you?”

A valid question, Shadow thought. Indeed, the clan was the body that commanded the Shadow, but circumstances were he needed to exercise…independence.

“I am severed from it, as you are from your house, and you your guild. You must have noticed we are cut off…but I think with the mind they have trained, and the wisdom they have honed.”

“Still, I have never heard of thieves of our renown allying to a purpose.”

“A necessary precedent to an unprecedented event. I know not what expects us, nor what we will steal, nor even what will take to steal it. Perhaps magic, or technology, will be of more use than my arts.”

“No wait, I’m just hiding, I’m not doing anyth-GAAAAHG!!!”

“Hm,” Dark Runner shrugged, “I’m a first too, first Dark Runner. I’m down for that but I mean, unlike you two, I wasn’t grown into this thieving business by some family or clan, I’m the master of my own mind, of my own fate. Can you two really do anything that might be against their wishes? Huh?”

“Insolence,” Shadow stated, offended, “I am proud to don my name.”

Sorcerer put her hands on her hips and leaned, also offended, “Indeed! You don’t know what you’re talking about, Dark Runner, so be silent!”

He immediately raised his hands in defense, smirking at them, “Eesh, fine fine. All I’m saying is I’m in, and I’m asking if you are.”

“I would not be convincing you two if I were not…in

“I’ll go too.”

“Actually, Sorcerer should just get out of here, at least someone needs to live to tell others about this.”

“I have the best exit strategy out of all of us, and you know it. I’m going, and that way, we’ll all live to tell of this!”

“Very well, my lady,” Dark Runner nodded, bowing to her a bit mockingly, before suddenly putting his hand forward, all energetic. “Well then, let’s put it up for this shadow conclave!”

Shadow was not alone in eyeing Dark Runner perplexed and confused, though Sorcerer looked a bit more amused.

“The what?”

“Come on, legends need to be appropriately named! If they are to be made at all!” Dark Runner pulled his hand and made a fist, dramatically making a speech, “on the day darkness swallowed the world, only the shadows rose to oppose it! Brought together, for the first time ever, by the great Shadow himself! The fiftieth!”

“The twenty third,” Shadow corrected,

“Whatever,” he put his hand back in, “let’s join hands and pledge for the success of this shadow conclave!”

Shadow eyed him in utter silence, finding that whole attitude utterly ridiculous. Without a word, he turned his back to them and walked away.

“C’mon, don’t be such a stingy son of a blade, Shadow.”

“Head in that direction,” he said, pointing ahead, “avoid being seen.”

And at that, he leaped out of the rooftop, leaving a bewildered Dark Runner to plead with the Sorcerer to save what little face he had left.

“C’mon, my lady, don’t leave me hanging here!”

But she did, initiating a spell that would leave him alone.

Even though Shadow was the first to leave, he did not arrive at the vessel first. While there were still hundreds of feet to cover, he saw purple light piercing through the thick air that made up the mist, a sure sign of Sorcerer’s teleportation. And Dark Runner still arrived at her side sooner.

Shadow spotted him gliding by him using two make-shift wings that extended off his shoulder pads, his vision goggles on. He landed cleanly, retracting them, and threw something at the ground, a yoyo-like sphere attached to the back of a pedal, with a little vent attached to it. A spring was attached to the pedal.

It wasn’t that Shadow could see such details, only that they needed to be present for it to do what it did, which was to fling Dark Runner into a super jump. Dark Runner pulled it and then the steam was vented off as the pedal was retracted to his hand, like the tip of a fishing rod, but Dark Runner actually threw it again, only this time it didn’t go that far. Dark Runner stepped on it in midair and it threw him forward and up again. He retracted it and extended his small gliding wings again.

He ran across the wall of a tower, and then used the pedal to give him a bit of speed. Quite ingenious, and indeed worthy of Dark Runner’s reputation.

When he finally arrived, Sorcerer was standing with hands crossed inside her cloak, he could only imagine – they were simply inside it. Dark Runner was crouched, hands on the ground between his feet, glaring at the vessel.

“Apologies for taking so much time,” Shadow said.

“It’s okay, man. Unlike us, you gotta move around normally, right?”

“Indeed. I have mastered stealth and infiltration, not mobility. Have you spotted a way in?”

“I’m assuming it’s that spot down there,” Dark Runner stated, not really bothering to point it out, “one of them hasn’t moved for minutes.”

“I think I can take us this distance,” Sorcerer proposed, “but all this teleportation is exhausting. Once inside, we cannot abuse it.”

“I understand, that will be enough,” they turned to look at him, “we will be looking for anything of value, which is to say, anything they have either hidden away or are protecting. We will not talk once inside, but instead use hand gestures. You will follow my lead.”

Dark Runner stood up with an exciting nod.

“Alright, let’s get this legendary show on the road then. Shadow, as the patron of this little conclave… do you have any inspiring words for us?”

He eyed him, silent and without expression, his thoughts lingering despite the lack of emotional involvement. Slowly, he nodded.

“Honor and skill be with us. Glory to the Kagekawa. To the House of Magni and the Guild Tech.”

“Heh,” Dark runner smirked, “you’re a lot friendlier than I ever thought you’d be, you know that?”

Shadow ignored the statement and looked at Sorcerer, nodding her on. She nodded back and touched both their shoulders, speaking her words of magic.

He went blind for one second, and the next, they were in a misshapen twist-full corridor. Before noticing anything else, they got up against one of the walls, and then looked around in caution, observing their surroundings.

The corridors were circular and its walls and ceilings and floors seemed to be made of a much thicker form of the mist that enveloped the city, with veins of dark, as black as Shadow’s slits, pulsing and glowing across them.

Because the walls weren’t really walls, they all crouched, and after that, Shadow motioned for them to move.

He gestured at Dark Runner, pointing at the end of the corridor, where it split into two others which ran off to each side. Dark runner nodded and, in long striding and silent steps, he moved ahead of them. He retrieved a pen and clicked on its butt, making it so its sides open up to show tiny mirrors, which he used to make sure the turn was safe.

Shadow motioned for him to give him the mirrors.

“Wha-”

Shadow immediately shushed him with a firm and strong movement that sounded loud but for just half a second. Dark Runner pointed to himself, saying he could continue taking point. Shadow pointed to his eyes, saying he could see better. Dark Runner rolled his eyes and put his goggles on, rotating some dials around them. Shadow saw the lenses switching through different hues until they stopped on a dark blue tint, at which point he smiled all cocky before proceeding without permission.

Shadow eyed Sorcerer, as she followed, and she but offered a shrug, her facial features hidden inside her hood.

Feeling a bit frustrated, he shook his ego away and followed them. Whatever mode of vision Dark Runner was using, it could certainly be blinded, which was what would never happen to the Shadow. That is why he wanted to take the lead, he had the better senses, but he supposed it was just a needless safety measure…

They kept exploring the ship, running into almost no enemy. Taking good care, looking into rooms, but finding nothing that was guarded, or looked shiny and glowing. The ship was remarkably empty of anything worthy of mention, even things resembling furniture or other living arrangements.

At one point, though, their luck ran out. Dark Runner looked through the mirrors and gestured a four, indicating four of the beasts were on their way. The corridor was too long to run back and the walls too round to hide them, so by the time the beasts came by, they were all stuck to the ceiling. Shadow half-involved in its darkness, Dark Runner and Sorcerer hovering against the ceiling by some kind of magic that kept them there with such security even their clothing was also being pulled tightly against their skins. Having her cloak pulled against her accentuated her curves, showing she was definitely a woman.

Not that there was much doubt, but Shadow forgot who normally used the shape shifting-charms, whether it was the Sorcerer or the Illusionist.

They continued looking for something that might look suspicious, and eventually, they finally came upon it. A massive door, made of some kind of black pearl and framed by some kind of dark gems.

Shadow motioned for them to wait, and leaned against the door. He focused with a deep breath and allowed himself to be swallowed by the darkness and consumed by the door.

On the other side, Shadow bore witnessed to what he feared was true…

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