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“I keep a rather powerful prisoner down here,” Collin warned. He smelled the dampness and new he was in a type of specialized dungeon. He heard a man moving around watching them, but staying silent. From the moment when he had awakened dazed, he knew who the prisoner was. Powerful? Did Collin even realize what he kept contained? And poorly at that. “How hurt are you?”
Shadow tried to stand still shaking. His senses were all focused on the man at the back of the room. He caught a half-image of shadows! It was a familiar profile…familiar scent…He was standing as the bars of his cell, hands gripping them watching. In his mind alone, he heard the familiar voice call out to him fondly…”Shade. Do not worry for me, old friend. My time will come.” Tears streamed down his face and he made a mournful sound, soft but eloquent of his agony. “Go, Shade…We will see one another again.”
“Can you walk?,” Collin asked. “Would you prefer I carry you?,” he offered sweetly trying to be gentle with him. Shadow rounded on him sinking his claws and raking them across the phoenix’s flesh unexpectedly. Collin drew back swiftly. The blood splattered his arm painfully, but he ignored it.
“Shadow,” the man in the cell screamed horrified at his new scars.
Collin moved and the cat snarled in warning backing up.
“No, Shadow! Don’t do this…” He felt familiar hands reach out to touch his fur. “Don’t…I am safe and alive. Don’t do yourself harm to save a shell that cannot be permanently injured. You know me…better than many…You know he is not hurting me. He has already harmed you more than he can ever harm me! Don’t do this…Don’t make him your enemy!” Shadow grew quiet still shaking and confused. He didn’t know what to do…He never knew what to do!
He turned, changing as he went with tears running down his face. Dios caught him tight through the bars and kissed him the way he once had, so long ago. Anyone who saw it would know what they had once been to one another. “Shade,” he whispered smiling. “You mean well, but this is not your fight.”
“I can’t leave you here like this,” his voice came out as a harsh rasp. It sounded foriegn even to his own ears. Surprisingly, Collin didn’t interupt. “Please, tell me what to do,” he begged.
“Honestly,” Dios stated. Shadow nodded. “If I were you, I would turn around…walk out of this room…and offer Ar’coln Freece whatever he wished. Then, I would live…really live…again,” he stated firmly. “Don’t let it destroy you.” He moved his forehead against Dios in protest. “I live…you should, too.”
“Reece?,” Shadow asked confused.
“Collin Brice. He has a hundred names…The man behind you. His name is Ar’coln Freece.”
Shadow shook his head. “I can’t do this again! I won’t.”
“I heard…he’s still out there. I know how you feel. Mine is the same…but, Shade…you cannot let him kill you.”
“You didn’t love yours,” Shadow whispered. “You have always been at war! Not me…not me!” Dios sighed.
“You will have to face this eventually, Shade. All you get to choose…is when…and how,” the man stated drawing back away from him. “How long will it take, Shade? You know what you are…” He jumped when Collin touched his shoulder. He wanted to turn and see the face of the man he would gladly kill at that very minute. Out of fear that he actually would see his face, he didn’t turn around. “Go, Shade…Shadow.”
He let Collin draw him away. He changed back into the cat as he went up the stairs pausing to look back, but there was nothing. Dios was gone from mobilbahis güvenilir mi his eyes…just like everything else. How long had he been caged down here like an animal?, he wondered sourly.
Once he was returned to his room, he lay down and didn’t move. De ‘Vorga cleaned him up carefully. There were a few cuts that had bled. He didn’t notice. Collin came back before he was done. He put something on his arm being far more quiet than normal. Still, Shadow didn’t move. Not even his usually expressive eyes flickered. Vorga broke the silence in concern. “What is wrong with him? Did the fall hurt him that badly? Did he rebreak something?”
“Yes,” the slaver agreed, “he rebroke something.”
Like what, Shadow wondered. His heart? Did that even count? “He seems so…so listless, mim’da,” the boy said softly. “Will he get better?”
“I don’t know, hon…I don’t have the answer this time.”
“Did I ruin it? Did I do something….”
“No!,” Collin broke into his questions firmly. “Not you.”
“But,” Vorga swallowed hard. “I always ruin things! I am not good enough to make it better.”
“Not you…” He heard the slaver kiss the boy gently. “You are perfect… I just need one other person…besides those living under this roof…to see that too.”
“Noone wants me! You would do well to sell me to someplace else…I am of no use to you!” He heard the slaver sigh wearily, touching the boy…comforting him. “I can’t do this again!”
Collin drew in a deep breath. “Alright, you win,” he whispered. By the sound of his words, it was something that the slaver couldn’t even remotely stand. “I’ll work something out.” Collin turned to leave. He paused at the door. “Are you certain? Not one doubt…I cannot protect you if you agree to this…You could die, Vorga.”
“I don’t care…I have done my last seduction. I have never been much good at it anyway,” he joked unamused.
“Oh?” Collin sounded amused. “I thought you did it quite well, honestly.” He smelled the blood rush into the boy’s face. “Better than most.”
“Mim’da,” De ‘Vorga sputtered. Collin laughed as he left.
Several days passed…but Shadow still didn’t move. Collin came for De ‘Vorga. The boy seemed perfectly serene when he answered the door. Collin sighed. He had been hoping to talk him out of such foolishness. “Vorga, I have others that I specifically train for this kind of thing.”
“And you have already told me that you can’t take any of them!” Vorga finished dressing changing out of what he was wearing into something else. He smelled Kasey, too, and turned his head toward them. The boy hadn’t made a sound. Was he really a vampire?, he wondered. “You need a willing sacrifice to pull it off…and I volunteer!” Shadow frowned. Sacrifice? Meaning the both knew he would die?
He padded out behind them silently. Kasey paused in his sure steps noting his presence among them. Shadow didn’t use any energy to guide him. He was swiftly slipping back down into the guise of the cat. He would be scanned as a normal animal if anyone looked, he knew. All it would take was completely falling back into the mentality of the beast. Kasey waited at the portal for Shadow to enter before him, closing it behind them as he followed.
They were in a new place. He perked up scenting the air in curiousity. There was thick, dense foliage and damp earth. Rotting trees were nearby. Some animals, too. But he caught a strong oder of death on the wind. He turned into it knowing they would go in this direction. He heard someone call his name, mobilbahis but the voice was distorted by the trees. It was probably Vorga. He would cry thinking he would never return.
He walked straight out of the trees and up beside the enormous house. He stumbled purposely making noise. When someone came to check, he looked up warily from chewing on a body. He stared blankly tilting his head listening for sounds, sniffing for danger. When he placed their positions, he fled into the trees. Neither of the guards followed.
“It’s attracted to the corpses…It is blind, whatever-it-is,” he heard one of them say. “It is harmless, but unless it finds unprotected kills like this…it will more than likely die. It can’t survive alone.” Shadow flinched. The words were nearly true. He would have died the day he had been taken in by the band of Gypsies. She had found him hopelessly tangled in a hunter’s trap…Even in human form, he couldn’t get free alone. “If you see it again…let it come. Poor beast might actually be tamable. I wouldn’t mind having it. Did you see it’s face?”
“Yeah…Must have been a hell of a creature that he attacked!”
“Shit! He attacked a phoenix. I can still feel the magic clinging to the scars…”
“You are kidding me! Phoenix blood really burns like that? I thought that was pure fiction!”
The first guard laughed darkly. “Oh, no! Even one of our kind would keep scars until we died from it. It won’t heal!” Shadow edged up crawling under the brush sniffing. “Hey, look…there he is! I told you…he is brave. I bet he was a sight when he could see!” Shadow shivered in reaction, but forced himself to forget the words and concentrate on the blood and meat ahead. He felt a magical flicker of magical power in warning and tensed. He growled backing away hissing at the man. “What the…Why did you do that?,” his friend asked in disbelief.
“It’s hungry, right? I don’t want to be it’s next meal.” He moved back towards his post. “I just took your words to heart, man. If that thing is deadly and hungry, I don’t want him adding to the pile. Get me?” He heard laughing as the other man followed him. He then crept back out slow and tense, alert…listening for them. They ignored him entirely. The meeting was less than a hundred yards away.
The boy was being brought in like an unknown, unwilling slave being sold. Collin and Kasey ignored him, but the kid gasped surprised to see him there. He let his ears twitch and lifted his head curiously. He heard the men move to watch him again. His cover was nearly blown. He would have to work for this one! He started to come warily to the boy, but stopped as he neared pretending to scent Collin in the air. He snarled and backed away. He could feel the phoenix’s glare.
“Kasey,” Collin warned softly.
“Yes, mim’da…he came in behind you, past me…”
“Watch him. If that creature attacks me one more time, kill it!” Kasey moved between the two silently. Vorga began to struggle fearing Collin really meant it.
“No! Shadow, run!,” he called. The cat tensed at his first scream and fled snarling to a safer distance. He turned around before reaching the trees. Someone was stalking him. He growled. “Leave him alone!” He heard a meaty punch and jerked as the boy crumpled. He stood listening for a sound. Was he alive? He moved back towards them terrified that he was too late to keep him from harm. Someone tried to grab him in his distraction. He dodged swatting at the man as he fled again.
“Careful,” the slaver warned unamused, “his claws will mobilbahis giriş pass through you like you are made of water…”
“That how he got those scars, Reece?,” the first guard asked amused by his tone. “He pass those claws into you?”
“Yes, but he was far less cautious then,” he answered already bored with the conversation. Shadow jerked again beginning to pace anxiously when he heard Vorga scream a little. It sounded strangled! It was breaking his heart to hear him being abused.
“He certainly likes this kid…I bet I could catch him if you keep hurting that boy.” he moved to the far side just a little. Shadow’s pacing drew him in a half circle around them. On one side he came very close to Kasey watching him to protect Collin, but on the other side a man suddenly stood. He ignored him, concentrating all of his attention only on Vorga and the man who held him. He ended his pacing just shy of him the way he did Kasey, but otherwise gave no indication that he knew was there.
All of them expected him to attack. They were waiting for it. He grew more and more tense. Lowering his body closer to the ground for the short dash and spring, when he finally chose to risk an attack. Still pacing, still keeping his ears and nose pinned on the man holding his kid…hurting him…He growled low and deep in warning, not pausing in his established route. At the end of one half of his circle, when he was turning back around, he pivoted and sprang! The man fell under his weight as his front paws hit his chest. His eyes turned black and he clearly saw the surprise on the man’s face as he fell beneath him. He tore his throat open sinking claws into his chest and tearing him to pieces swiftly. Too swiftly to counter…too sudden to be prepared…he went down defenseless against the attack.
His paling lips moved still so completely startled. He saw his name upon the dying man’s mouth. It was only in his mind that his last word was heard screamed, “Shade!” He felt the pain like it was his own watching his face as he changed…Holding him as he died, and feeling his betrayal as he tried to hand on to his fleeing soul.
Shadow was crying as he leaned down to kiss Tarkin’ton on his forehead. He kissed his lips and began to sing a soft, little melody. He tasted his companion’s fear of death. He felt him when he died. He held him so close he knew it would be hurting him if he was still alive. He had his eyesight, but couldn’t see for the tears he cried. Everyone felt the depth of pain within him, but he didn’t move. Why should he?, he wondered. He didn’t belong anywhere, but at this man’s side…and he had just killed him! A man he had once loved so much the rest of the word had meant nothing to him. Perhaps he should just cut open his own flesh and sing himself to sleep at his side?, he considered breifly.
Collin moved approaching slowly. He had killed the two guards freeing De ‘Vorga from them. Kasey had started to go inside the house but waited. Collin neared his bent back uncertainly. The empathic psychic must have realized by now what he had done. He had more than earned the slave he had sought! Noone but a mate was worth what he had done today!
“Don’t touch me,” he snarled angrily. “Don’t you dare!”
He heard the phoenix’s breathing hitch and knew he was fighting back his own emotions. “I can’t leave him not knowing if you will live,” the slaver whispered. “But if ever you want him, he is yours…I didn’t know,” he whispered fiercely. “I wouldn’t have asked it.”
“But it is what you wanted.” He turned and saw the hurt in the man’s eyes.
“I couldn’t have killed Aidyn…and I have never been his lover…I would not have asked…this.”
Shadow nodded. “I didn’t do it just for you…or the boy. I did it for me, too,” he said quietly thinking. “An old friend said I should live again…I mean to try.”
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