[identity profile] pmp.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] zg_shadows
I thought I'd post up some of the mini-fiction pieces that I wrote about Shadow whilst I played ZG. These aren't in any particular order, but for me the character just resonated on a level that I hadn't had before, and for which I am eternally greatful to annwfyn for helping me create.

The Night Before
Shadow woke with a start, all around him the noise of the city seemed at once both familiar and strange. Beside him lay the comforting warmth of Aeryn, ever since she'd got back from talking to Sharrack, Shadow had been unwilling to leave her alone for very long. It wasn't that he feared overly much for her safety, she'd shown that wasn't an issue, but if he was honest with himself, Shadow feared missing the moment.

Giving Aeryn a gentle squeeze, he moved out of the bed and into the cold morning air. He shivered briefly as the warmth was stolen from him and started to quietly make his way towards the door. As he reached the threshold, he stopped and glanced back at Aeryn, wondering how she could manage to sleep on a night like this. Later today, they hoped to save a lot of innocent people who'se only sin was to have a trace of Garou blood running in their veins.

As he quietly paced out of the door, he sensed the presence of another, tensing himself ready for action, a soft mewling reached his ears reminding of an animal in pain. As he strained his eyes in the darkness he became aware of a young boy curled in the corner. Unsure of quite how he could have gotten inside Shadow reached out a hand to gently shake the boy. It was only when his hand passed through the boy Shadow realised it was a ghost.

He withdrew his hand quickly, filled with sudden unease. He hadn't ever really understood why ghosts would find him so interesting. It's one question his parents never really answered and the Bubasti he had grown up with never knew how to answer the question. Looking down at the boy Shadow whispered words of comfort to the boy, hoping that if he could calm him down a little he'd fade into the background. He knew, almost instinctively, that ghosts tended to be highly emotional, the few he'd encountered were always attracted to a certain type of emotion but all had responded well to compassion.

As the boy gently faded from sight once more, Shadow felt a warmth encircle him. Aeryn had obviously woken and finding him gone, come down to find him. He relaxed into her arms and smiled, almost to himself. Trouble might be coming later today, but for now he had peace.


Shadow and Sulien
Shadow was stripped to the waist, his lean body covered in a thin sheen of sweat as he worked through the drills. Stands-Ready had shown him the basics of this style but he couldn't quite grasp the concepts.

Swing, retract, feint then thrust, a simple combination of moves that should have left Sulien nursing a sore wrist and a dropped staff. Instead all he'd thus far managed to do was catch her shoulder a few times.

"Damnit, if this was a broken bottle I'd have no trouble cutting her," he thought to himself, his feet hurrying backwards as Sulien's staff hummed just past his nose. Sending a rather desperate thrust towards her face, he regained his balance as she stepped back herself to ward off the blow.

As he traded blows back and forth with Sulien, Shadow began to see a pattern forming. The staff combined the reach of a bar stool with a far quicker recovery; more akin to half a pool cue. As the lessons Michael had given him began to sink in, the staff began to feel more natural in his grasp. A flurry of blows later and he finally got Sulien to drop her staff. Flashing her a cheeky grin he yelled, "Now your turn on the attack!"

Sulien nudged her toe under the staff and flicked it back into her hand, moving with supernatural swiftness into an attack posture. In the humid heat beneath the Caern's permanent cloud cover she wore only a black sports bra and shorts, but they had been practicing so long that even this light clothing was soaked with the sweat that trickled down her bare midriff over two long, ridged scars.

"You're doing well," she said evenly, between breaths, and Shadow felt a familiar strengthening of his will at the praise. "Half speed," she added as she brought her staff across for the first blow.

Disconcerted by the sudden slowness, Shadow's initial block was slightly too high. He started to shift his grip, struggling with himself not to make the lightning-quick movements he was accustomed to fighting with, and Sulien's staff slid under his and tapped his abdomen, too lightly to trigger his Rage.

Shadow glared back at her

"This isn't fair" he complained "This forced control isn't my way"

"So?" said Sulien "Deal with it"

Shadow squared his shoulders, and forced himelf to concentrate, his instincts screamed at him to lunge, make a lightning fast movement that was sure to piece Sulien's defences. Instead Shadow made a gracefully deceptive maneauver, he bought the staff round in what appeared to be a downward slash but as Sulien raised her staff high, a dextrous flick of the wrist sent the lower half moving towards Sulien's legs.

Shadow grinned to himself, he was getting the hang of the forced control but still his instincts were screaming at him to finish this. He then realised it wasn't so much his instincts as King sitting on the sidelines urging him on. Shadow flicked his eyes towards King and gave him a questioning look and turned back to see that Sulien had not only gotten back on her feet but had time to send her staff rushing towards his head. The blow sent him reeling and he looked up fiercly as Sulien as he swallowed the Rage with an act of will as he remembered her earlier praise.


Shadow at Home
Shadow was exhausted, he'd just finished a double shift and had nipped home for a few hours rest before heading back out. As he walked through the door he was greeted by the smell of someone frying bacon, in his tired state it took him a moment to register the small child grabbing at his legs

"Unca Shadow, Unca Shadow, look what I can do!" shrilled a small child as he did a handstand against the wall, his feet pounding loudly on the thin drywall.

Shadow bit back his rage and smiled thinly, he hoped that the child didn't notice the hollow look in his eyes

"That's great Timothy, but I gotta get off my feet, come sit and tell me about school"

Shadow collapsed heavily into a threadbare chair he'd aquired from an alleyway down the road. Timothy managed to compress an entire day's tale into what seemed like a single breath and Shadow did his best to sound encouraging. It was times like this when his Ban weighed most heavily upon him.

The door slammed again, and a tirade of swearing in Italian came from the hallway.

"In here Bianca" called Shadow

"Stupid men!" Bianca said as she strode in, her face nearly the same colour as her red hair.

"What now?" asked Shadow "What'd your boss do this time?"

"Oh it wasn't the boss this time, it was Carl and his mate Andy, thought it was funny to throw peanuts down my top. Then when I went to the loo to fish them out, they burst in hoping to catch me without my top on! If I didn't need this job so badly I'd have walked out on the spot. Went and told the boss and all he could say is boys will be boys and told me to take it as a joke"

Shadow managed to haul himself to his feet and put his arms around Bianca

"Want me to go have a word with them?"

"No... no, it's ok you're doing a lot for us already, no point you getting arrested or worse over a couple of sexist pigs"

Just then Kalindra walked in with a large pile of bacon sandwiches, Shadow's stomach growled appreciatively at the smell and it was all he could do not to choke as he wolfed his way through the first one. He usually skipped lunch at work, earning a bit extra pay for his efforts, not to mention most days he couldn't afford anything.

He realised that the others weren't eating much, as if waiting for him to eat his fill before satisfying their own hunger. He then realised they were trying to obey the Litany, The first share of the kill to the greatest in station.

Shadow swallowed and said to them "Go on, eat up, you don't need to keep doing that you know. I'm no better than you so stop treating me like I was ok?"

Kalindra looked puzzled at this but did what she was told and started to eat.

"Gonna have to teach them a new way" thought Shadow. He remembered the Litany that he'd learnt in the shifting sands of his homeland, the one that he kept in his heart. He'd only ever told one person his secret words, and he hoped that she'd keep them, especially from her new lover.

Bianca's voice shook him out of his thoughts

"I'll put a couple of these in the fridge for when Melinda gets back"

"Sure" said Shadow, hoping that Melinda would get back sooner rather than later. He didn't like her doing the job she was doing but he couldn't argue that it bought in the money. He just worried that each time she went out, it'd be the last time they'd see her.

"Best have a word with Fuedbringer soon, see if I can't at least get her somewhere nicer to work" Shadow thought

Shadow helped Bianca clear the tables, as Kalindra took Timothy upstairs for a wash before bed.

"Bianca?" Shadow asked "Are you happy here?"

"Where'd that question come from all of a sudden?" Bianca responded, her blue eyes radiating concern

"It's just that... all of this... the routine, the suffering... it's getting to me you know, I just want to know it all means something"

Bianca could hear the desperation in his voice, so she smiled and pushed the thoughts of how much she missed her family back in Italy away.

"Of course tesoro. It means something. Look if it makes you feel better, wear your underpants on the outside or something!" she said teasingly

Shadow gave a wry smile

"Why, you think you're cute enough to be Lois Lane?" Shadow retorted, a little of his old self showing through

Bianca blushed a little, not quite sure how to take his comment.

"Not interupting am I?" came the husky voice of Melinda from the doorway, taking a drag from her ciggarette

"Excuse me" said Bianca "I'm going to go do the washing up" pushing past Melinda.

"So gorgeous, rough day?" Melinda said, throwing her jewelry and a bundle of notes onto the table.

"Nothing compared to yours I'll bet"

Melinda gave him a brief look of warning before grabbing a couple of beers from the minifridge taken from the back of a van and chucking one over to Shadow

"Don't go there hun. It's work and nothing else pays as well"

"Sure Melinda, I just worry about you, didn't get you away from those bastards just for you to end up walking the streets"

"There's a difference Shadow, this is my choice, I choose to do the work and it's not as bad as all that, sometimes I even enjoy it"

Shadow chose to keep quiet at that, he just took a chug of beer. Privately he thought that Melinda was wrong, it did matter, if you didn't honour yourself, why would others do it for you?

"Melinda, have I ever told you about the Karoush? It's the rules I try to live by"

Melinda shook her head, and waited for Shadow to continue. It was rare that he had the energy of late to talk about anything.

"You see, it's a set of rules given to me just before my rite of passage. I guess it's kinda like the litany" letting the half truth lie despite King's loud objections from the Umbra

"There's only a few rules in it but I think they're important. Honour Yourself, Honour your Word, Honour your Kin and Kind, Honour your Earth and Honour your Silence. The last one doesn't really apply all that much to me, I have very few secrets worth keeping these days but the rest of it matters. Those rules make me different from most of the rest of the Nation, especially the part about honouring your kin"

Melinda sat and looked at Shadow thoughtfully, trying to make sense of what he'd just said. In the end she gave up and wandered over to where he sat. She curled up in his lap and put her arms around his neck.

"Hold me for a bit Shadow"

Shadow wrapped his arms around her and before long they were soon both asleep...


Shadow in the Storm
The thunder boomed in the distance, Shadow looked up and saw another bright spear of lightning cast itself down from the heavens. He smiled, a good burst of rain was just what was needed to clear the air, it was so humid here, especially when he was used to the dry desert air.

"If only it were that simple to clear everything else up" Shadow mused to himself.

Things had gone from everything seeming like it was perfect, to near disaster in the space of a week. First of all, his attempts to protect the kin had been a failure, he saved only half a dozen souls and even those he wasn't sure really appreciated the help. Those that stayed treated him like he was dirt, or like he was somehow belittling them for wanting to help them the only way he knew how.

"Sweet tears of Nala, why is this so hard" he cursed under his breath. All he'd wanted to do is protect them against a threat the Garou bought to the city. Maybe that was it, it's because they'd needed protecting against what we'd bought into their lives that they hated him.

That was the paradox Shadow couldn't resolve, he'd wanted to be a source of inspiration to the others, to show them that the Kin weren't just "territory" or "second class citizens", they were people and the only people the Garou could count on. They were far more important than anyone could realise. Without our Kin, Shadow felt the future would be very bleak for the nation, who would show them the ways of love, of compassion, of humanity.

He remembered a tale told by the campfires, of the Star Family and their conflicts and how humans had been the very last to be born, a product of all three's essence. Humans could save or damn Gaia with their actions and if we lost our connection to that, how would we know what was going on in their world.

The storm washed over Shadow, the heavy rain soaking his skin, pinning his dusty clothes to his flesh. He raised his head to the sky as the thunder and lightning raged far above him. It felt good to know that the fury of the storm had him and he was at it's mercy. He'd endure though, that's what he had to do right now, weather the storm and soon the sun would come out again.

As the rain beat down upon Shadow, he turned his thoughts to his other problem, the one that wouldn't go away. His parent's sin... he caught himself, no, it wasn't a sin to love, to care for another and want a future. That was the problem wasn't it, Shadow couldn't understand how love could be sinful, to want someone there who could understand, who could make all the bad things in the world retreat for a few hours.

The rational part of his mind told him that the others were worried that he couldn't reproduce, that they were concerned with the survival of the Garou race. Shadow didn't understand why that stopped him finding love, a chance for happiness. What was his sin other than being born?

The rain began to ease, it's fury now spent and weak, as if Gaia had taken mercy upon Shadow and saved him from destruction. He sighed, he knew in his heart that the storm around him wouldn't fade so easily.


Shadow, Meg and Aeryn
Shadow is standing guard on the caern, his patrol route varied but he's stopped for a moment as he heard noises of an approach, tensing slightly as his options flash quickly through his mind. He relaxes when he sees it's Sulien walking up to him, accompanied by a girl about 5ft 4" tall, black waist length hair, violet blue eyes, and her Fianna blood was immediately obvious.

"Meg, Shadow," Sulien says as a perfunctory introduction. "Shadow,
Meg came here looking for you. I'll take your post while you talk."

"Thanks Sulien, see you in a bit"

Shadow turns to look at Meg, even though he's confused it doesn't show and he stands fairly relaxed.

"So Meg, how can I help?"

Meg waits until Sulien has headed off and then searches for a nearby tree with a low hanging branch that she can pull herself easily up into, so she is perching somewhere.

She pauses for a moment, apparently searching for the right words.

"I wanted to talk to Aeryn as well. It didn't seem very fair just to
talk to you..."

Shadow's eyes harden slightly and he tenses

"Meg, if it's bad news, I can appreciate wanting to tell Aeyrn at the same time but I really don't want her to see me loose it again, if I can't control myself I mean...." he trails off

Meg tilts her head to one side and says absent mindedly "well, she's going to see you lose it on occasion if you're going to stay with her. I think if she wants a lover who will never hurt her, who brings with him no risk and no rage, she wouldn't be involved with a werewolf."

She glances back at Shadow.

"I don't think it's bad news. Well. Maybe. I've been asked to come and
talk to you - both of you - about what you're doing."

She smiles brightly.

"I think there was a suggestion that I know about how the story goes when the pretty Fianna girl kisses the metis."

"Yeah... you're right, but well ... no there's no adding to that. That's the trouble with us Garou, we don't know for certain what will set us off, but if I know that there's a good chance it'll piss me off, I'm doing her no favours by being near her"

He looks up and gives Meg a weak smile

Meg says nothing, but listens, without any particular reaction.

"Then again, look who am I talking to, you know all this don't you? Tell ya what, when Sulien says I'm done here, come to the pub and we'll sit over a couple of drinks."

Meg frowns slightly. "Potential veil breach," she says, absent mindedly.

"Sorry, should have been clearer, I meant the pub Aeryn and I are trying to get back open, it's a bit more private than using the house"

Meg nods and smiles. "When and where?"



The clock ticked over to 8, dead on the time Shadow had suggested, when a knock on the door, slightly odd given Shadow had peaked out of the curtain's less than a minute before but had seen no one.

Shadow opened the door to see Meg standing there, her violet eyes glittering in the twilight.

"Hey Meg, come in and have a seat. Anything to drink?"

Meg slid inside, glancing around curiously and say quietly "thank
you for giving me entrance to your home."

She'll shake her head silently at the offer of a drink, and find a
space where she can perch.

Shadow gets up and grabs a healthy sized shot of whiskey for him and Aeryn. When he's dished out the drinks, he'll sit down next to Aeryn, his arm around her shoulder.

"Thanks for coming Meg, so what have you got to tell us?"

Meg looks thoughtfully at both of them, particularly Shadow's arm
around Aeryn's shoulder.

"Michael Stands Ready asked me to come and talk to you.

"I thought we could trade stories. You could tell me the story of the
metis with fur like snow, and the daughter of Stag that he found in
the moonlight. And I can tell you the story of how those kisses end.
I'll give you all the different endings I know."

She pauses and then says "I'm not here to tell you what choices to
make. I don't do that. But I thought that maybe it was worth knowing
exactly what your choices mean."

"A story for a story? Seems a fair trade, though mine will probably be poor fodder as I'm no Galliard. Ask any questions you have when they occur.

I grew up in the deserts of the Sahara, as you can imagine from my colourings, that was hard, very hard. If it wasn't for my parents love for me, and for each other I don't think any of us would have survived.

Unfortunately, happiness doesn't last forever, and there was an ambush, my mother was killed, my father and I barely escaped. I was only 12 at the time, barely through my First Change. My father became very withdrawn after that, and threw himself into battle whenever the oppertunity presented itself, young as I was I did my best to look after him, tended his wounds, did my best to hunt food out for both of us.

It wasn't enough though, and less than 6 months after my mother died, my father went to join her."

Shadow pauses for a second, and hugs Aeryn a little bit tighter, tears forming in his eyes.

"Sorry, this tale isn't easy on me to tell, but I feel it needs telling so you understand that I *know* loss, but also so you realise that I understand what love truely is"

Meg makes no particular attempt to respond, but continues to perch,
listening to Shadow, without her attention apparently moving from his
face at any point.

After a few moments to gather himself Shadow continues with the story, his hand interlocking with Aeryn's.

"Well, as you can see, I survived, the how isn't important to what's going on, so I'd rather tell it another time. Suffice to say, I grew up in the care of others, and soon after passing my Rites of Passage, I set off to travel the world, wanting desperately to get away from the sands where my parents died.

I traveled the world, but found many many places turned me away, scared by the rage I carry as an Ahroun. I was so lonely but did what I could to make friends, mostly when I'd worn myself out from long trips.

Every now and again, I found someone who didn't shy away, from my talks with other septs I learnt that they were Kin to us, that they carry a little of our blood in them. I cherised the fact I'd found people who I could talk to, laugh with and simply be me for a few hours. Other Garou tended to treat me as a child, or I didn't understand their ways, but the Kin, they were just normal people who I could talk to.

When I came to London, I did my best to help out and fit in. When the call came down that we had to join a pack, I decided to go along with things, because I was tired of travelling. As I lived here, I begun to hear how badly the Kin in this city were looked after. It didn't seem right that others were suffering needlessly, a little bit of time and care was needed and when I couldn't convince the others to help, I did what I could.

Now we come onto the third part of my tale, on how I met Aeryn and why I've fallen in love with her.

I first noticed Aeryn when we were going up against some of the Kin, who had turned against Gaia and were rumoured to have skinned some Metis cubs so they could become us. I'd seen the way Aeryn had stepped forward to help us, but mostly she was relegated and her assistance ignored. She didn't seem surprised though, and despite the way some had talked to her, she came and she helped us.

I'll admit, I also found her quite eye catching, she obviously knew how to fight, how to move and I found her quite alluring"

Shadow pauses to give Aeryn a small kiss and a smile

"I spoke to Aeryn, got to know her a bit more, and when I stood up to speak for the Kin at a moot, about my efforts to help them when others wouldn't, well she held me and gave me a kiss, I realised what was happening. I was falling for her.

I guess you could say that's how we got here, at least from my point of view."

Meg listens, tilts her head to one side, and looks thoughtful.

"OK. So. What do you want now?

"Is your story an epic tragedy, where the young lovers defy the world? That's not as pretty as it sounds. I watched Michael get cut into pieces by an axe for me. I watched him lose rank and renown. I heard all the bad jokes."

Meg shivers slightly.

"It's not romantic watching someone bleed for you. I think I thought it would be when I was younger. I was stupid."

She looks straight at Aeryn and Shadow.

"If you want to defy the world, refuse to keep anything a secret, then that's the next part of your story. The world knows. A Fianna of rank comes to the Sept, and tells Shadow he needs to challenge. Shadow challenges. Shadow gets cut to pieces. It won't take long. It'll probably be done in under ten seconds. The challenger will wait for Shadow to attack. He'll side step, or maybe whatever Shadow does will bounce off his skin. Then he'll hit Shadow. It'll probably be with a weapon. Shadow will go down, bleeding. He'll try and get up. He'll get hit again. Aeryn will hear him grunt, hear how his breathe comes more ragged. She'll be scared. She'll want to do something, but not be able to do a damn thing, because she's kin and kin can't get involved in those fights. If she even tries, someone will hold her back.

"So she'll have to watch while Shadow gets pounded to a pulp. At the end, he will either be able to surrender, in which case he is acknowledging that he has no right to lay a finger on Aeryn ever again, or he'll be killed."

Meg shrugs.

"And when it's done, there will be no more love affair.

"In the stories, Shadow would have a chance in this fight. In this story, he won't. I know the Fianna. They don't take chances. The challenger won't be someone he has a hope in hell of beating."

She tilts her head to one side.

"That was my story. It wasn't very fun or romantic in the end. Just bloody and painful.

"If you want you can have another kind of love story - a love story in sepia tones, told in whispers and quiet kisses where no one can see.

"It can be the tale of lovers who can't meet publicly, who must gather in quiet places. It can be secret and quiet, and none will know of it but you, when you come together at the end of the night.

"Maybe that will go wrong, and you'll be exposed in shame and then in bloodshed."

Meg looks thoughtful.

"There's a beauty in that kind of love, and no real shame. Not inside. If I'd kept my secrets better, then maybe I would be sleeping in Michael's arms every night now."

She shrugs.

"Or there is a forbidden love, when you turn away from the one you love because of your duty, because of what you believe. Maybe the time has come for Shadow to say that being a Garou, following the old ways, being what the Nation wants you to be is more important than lying in Aeryn's arms.

"There's definitely a great and tragic love in that as well."

Meg pauses and glances up.

"The one thing I do know, is that there is no happy ending in your story. Not really. The Garou Nation will not realize that they are wrong. Their granite hearts won't be melted by the sight of your love. I know the Ard Righ of the Fianna. He doesn't give a damn about the feelings of a cliath and a kinfolk. He'll rant about the proud name of the Fianna being polluted. He'll snarl and snap and say that he'd rather see some Silent Strider metis dead, than laying a filthy metis hand on a precious Fianna girl.

"I know the Warlord of the Fianna. I was married to him..." and there's a slight twitch at this "...and he won't see any romance of beauty in what you're doing. When he found out I was seeing Michael, he just looked at me as if I was disgusting. Fergal and I have fought like cat and dog, but he'd never looked at me like I was dirt before. He'll just see Shadow as slime, and will deal with it accordingly.

"Even Bryn Dragon's Bane won't soften. Maybe he'll be sympathetic, but he believes in the law, and the law says that what you're doing isn't right.

"I know this.

"There is no happy ending. There are only sad endings. And I guess you get to chose which one you want."

She pauses and then looks at Aeryn.

"Chose your ending. But Aeryn - you won't pay for this. Not really. Shadow will. He's the one that bleeds. He's the one that dies. You and I - we get sneered at, and sniffed at, and maybe no nice Fianna boy will touch us again, but that's not too hard to deal with. Shadow is the one that will suffer. And that's a hard thing to bear. Believe me. I know."

She exhales slowly, as if she's unused to speaking this long.

"So. Those are my stories. Offered up in exchange for yours. I hope you find your ending.."

And she pauses.

"Thanks Meg for taking the time to do this"

Shadow looks at Aeryn, tears in his eyes

"You know, I'm sure this is the where I'm supposed to say I'd die rather than give you up, but I won't. I'm not that selfish Aeryn. Dying is easy, it's the living that's the hard part.

I will say here and now, I think Fergal dishonours himself with his hatred."

Meg stiffened and her fists clench, but she keeps silent.

"Ultimately Aeryn, I think this is your choice. my heart tells me I don't want to give you up, but I don't know if I can bear the secrecy. I made an oath to the King of Cats that I would be brave, noble and never run or hide. I made an oath to Quicksilver Fox to avoid dishonour, for he has no truck with those that consider our word to be lightly given.

For you Aeryn, you'd make me think twice"


Shadow's Run
He'd tried to do the right thing, when he'd seen Sulien watching him and Aeryn return back to her house he'd know he had to go talk to her, make it right.

He'd expected the rebuke, the warnings and the fear from her. He'd prepared himself for that, and knew his arguements well. What he hadn't expected was the soft kindness, the concern for him and what the future might hold.
That had caught him off guard and had left him reeling with emotions that he hadn't even thought about. What if it was all for nothing? What if things changed and he lost her before he'd even had a chance?

He'd left Sulien behind him, before the hot tears had welled up from inside and deciding that he needed to clear his head he set off for a run. His footsteps begun to echo as he crossed from the soft grass of Hampstead Heath and onto the hard streets of London. Twisting and turning through the narrow alleyways and broad streets he let himself fall into the steady pace of a seasoned marathon runner. He drew a few glances as he moved, but most people drew back from him, instincitvely feeling the rage that welled up inside him. The curse, he mused, was the reason he was here, he'd never been able to settle somewhere and so he was here.

He knew how special the Kin were to the Garou, they were only ones who didn't recoil in horror when he drew close. Why didn't the others see that? Why couldn't they understand just that the Kin were a gift from Gaia? Surely the other Ahroun's must feel cut off from the world in the way he did?

His footsteps echoed as he moved down a narrow alleyway, he felt much of the stress Sulien had generated begin to disappate as his muscles began to burn from the intial stress of the exercise. No matter how bad life got, this was freedom, to run, to see the world pass by at a blur and to take it all in.

His thoughts turned to Aeryn, things had gone well, he knew that he liked her, more than any other person he'd known in a long time. There was something there, maybe her warrior instincts, her brilliant mind or her looks, or maybe it was just the fact she'd seen him as something other than an idiot. As he began to pick up the pace, channelling his emotions into his actions, Sulien's words echoed into his ears

"Seize the moment Shadow, you can never know how long it will last"

So here he was, on the streets of the city, running off all the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. It had always been his way, he remembered the long runs across the Sahara in the early dawn light whenever he didn't quite understand what he was doing wrong. The Bubasti had been kind to him, taken him in where he might have otherwised starved but there was always a tension between them and him, the little differences that led him to the dunes from time to time. He knew, no matter how hard he tried, he was different to them and part of him instinctively knew that he needed others around him, to watch his back, to defend him in times of war. As much as they tried, all the Bubasti were far too self involved to become a real pack to him.

His muscles were now falling into a familiar ache that bought his mind back from the past, they demanded his attention with their persistant dull ache and he could sense his body's demands to slow his pace. He began to let go of all the bad feelings as he focussed more and more on the demands of his body, he couldn't have kept them if he'd tried, all his willpower was being used to keep his body going at a relentless pace. He could feel his spiritual energy begin to swell as he opened his mind to the city and replenished his reserves. As the night began to turn into day, Shadow began to slow, he turned and over his shoulder he could see the sun rise over the river and he knew that this was a new day and he was glad to see what it might bring.


Shadow's Speech
Shadow splashed cold water in his face, he'd been up for 16 hours solid keeping an eye on Kalindra. She'd finally gone to sleep a few minutes ago and Shadow had dared creep off to relieve himself. As he stared at his reflection in the mirror, his pale pink eyes even redder than usual Shadow wondered where he went wrong. He'd done everything asked of him, he'd gone out into the world, he'd protected and saved any that he could, he'd tried his hardest to live by their rules.

It wasn't enough, it was never enough.

Soon he'd have to go to the Moot, sit down amongst them all and sing the praises of Gaia, endure the endless lists of petty scandal that might as well have been taken straight from the script of Eastenders and then go and do whatever he was ordered to like some mindless servant.

As Shadow stood staring into the mirror, a speech started to form inside his head, one to be delivered during the cracking of the bone, the only chance he was ever given to speak freely.

"Jerusalam-rhya, I hate you, I hate you for never taking a chance to save Timothy, I hate you for all the scorn you've heaped upon me and most of all I hate you for twice taking away the person I loved

No more! I claim Melinda here and now as my mate, she's mine and I will damn well fight any who try to claim her. I am done with your sept, and challenge you for your right to lead it, if I loose, I am done with the Nation"

Shadow smelt a burning ciggarette and turned to see Melinda standing there, a silk robe half tied around her naked body.

"I heard shouting hun, I came to see what's wrong" she whispered "What do you mean claim me as your mate?"

Shadow walked over to her and embraced her, though Melinda seemed tense at the unanswered question.

"Melinda, what I mean is that I... I love you and I'm not loosing you"

Melinda stayed quiet for a couple of minutes before answering, Shadow held onto her tightly

"I don't want to leave Shadow" Melinda said finally, tears in her eyes, "You make me feel so safe when you're around"

"This time, they're not going to get to control us Melinda, one thing this has taught me is that our choices are important and that happiness might not last forever"

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February 2013

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