Shadow`s Wake

Tales from the Outlander Express

- November 2022 Popular Vote Pick

Crystalline clusters jutted out of the ground like icy sculptures of bushes and trees. Rain too thick to see through pelted everything, causing the formations to chime out a faint song that haunted the two wounded wanderers. Dark, gray clouds above shot down streaks of light in the distance. Every flash reflected off the strange crystals tenfold, blinding anyone with their eyes open.

“Wake up, Jake,” whispered Adaline, her cheek pressed against his own.

She tried her best to look around, but there was no direction from the land or the sky. Just rain and a foreign field. There did not look to be an end to the dark clouds above her.

“We can’t wait it out,” she muttered to herself.

The eighteen year old, frontier girl plucked herself up, cringing from the slash across her chest that ended on her shoulder and the fracture stabbing within her arm. A gift from their latest victory over the blood demons. Jake’s prize was much worse. A fact she continually reminded herself of as she struggled to drag him more than a few feet from where they dropped out of the massive, cracked open rock. Her good arm hooked under his shoulder, she pulled and dug her weathered heels into the muddy rocks until her muscles quit. Adaline collapsed partially underneath Jake and coiled into herself when another less-distant beam of lightning struck, followed not only by thunder but by an explosion of shards.

She pressed her hand into her chest, feeling a deep pain pulsing from inside. Taking deep breaths didn’t help, reassuring herself didn’t help, and just when she started to cry out from the pain, a figure in the storm called out first.

“Hello?” Adaline called back, feeling the pain fade as she focused on something else.

“What are you doing out here?”

The man wore thick gloves and had eyes as blue as the crystals in the bag slung over his shoulder. They so forcefully pierced through the blankets of rain that Adaline wasn’t prepared to be staring into the face of another person.

“Help us,” was all she could say.

The immense man did not hesitate, much to her surprise. Adaline was prepared to beg, to show proof of their need, or to defend the two of them as best she could. When none of that was needed, she found herself lagging behind the man who now carried an overstuffed bag and Jake’s unconscious body, one over each shoulder. Staggering to her feet, she scrambled to catch up and was close enough when he glanced back for her that he carried on without a word.

Too close to where they’d been sitting before, lightning struck and blasted crystals apart. She could feel the heat on her back through the rain and a few shards sprinkled down on them. Adaline let out a scream, but not even she could hear it. The two of them ran out of the crystal fields, fueled by energy she didn’t know she had left in her. As more and more streaks of lightning flashed around them, she noticed that it was getting brighter in the field. The crystals left behind, the shards that rained down, and the remnants left behind all stayed alight with the energy that filled them.

A long meadow devoid of crystals stretched out under their feet and a village peered out through the obscuring rain ahead of them, inviting them in with its warm candlelight glowing from every window. Adaline wondered if it was earlier in the day than it seemed. As if someone stopped working the water pump, the rain let up until it was barely a mist floating down from the sky. The man turned to set his eyes on her one more time before starting to speak.

“You ready to tell me why you two were out there? Where you’re from? Anything like that?”

“We were lost.”

“No doubt about that.”

“I’m sorry,” said Adaline, trying to find something else to say. The truth seemed like a topic for another time.

The man looked her over, assessing her clothes and her face, and finally stopped moving. He stared at her with such judgment, it was as if he just realized she’d been following him.

“What is it?” Adaline finally asked.

“You from this place? This world?”

The question caught her so off-guard she found herself lingering in returned scrutiny until distant thunder reminded her of how much she wanted to feel the warmth from the indoor firelight. She shook her head in response, finding her words too far away to use.

“We should hurry,” was all he said in response.

As they started jogging toward the village, Adaline glanced over her shoulder. The blue-white glow from the crystalline field illuminated several more figures bobbing up and down as they fled the bursting shards of glass-like debris, all with large bags over their shoulders.

Down the gently sloping hill, across the cobblestone bridge, sat a village with white and blue flowers woven around every softly glowing building. Fluffy trees popped up wherever there was space between the tightly tucked walls, tenderly brushing the rounded roofs in the crisp breeze. A dilapidated fence lazily contained a flock of sheep and a few cows, all huddled under the shelter of an umbrella-like tree in the middle of their pasture. Adaline could not recall having seen its match in all her life. Even as they trotted over the gray-stone bridge that covered the recently refreshed stream, she stared in longing and awe. Glancing at Jake’s dusty brown hair matted with blood on one side brought her rapidly blinking back to their reality.

“In here,” said the man, holding the door open for her with one bulky foot.

“Who’s this?” The doctor jumped up from his book, flipping it closed quick enough to whip the flames on the candle he read by.

“Don’t know, they were sitting in the middle of the fields. In the middle of the storm.”

The man who’d saved them shot him a look. The doctor narrowed his eyes at their rescuer, then at the two of them.

“Well go fetch Vulmar then,” he said, flicking his hand toward the door as he quickly approached them.

The doctor slid Jake off their rescuer’s shoulder and dragged his heels over to the bed, asking the still stunned Adaline to assist.

“What happened to him?”

“He, uh, he got, well there was this, uh…”

“Lightning strike? Shrike attacked him? I need to know or I’m going to waste valuable time trying to figure it out.”

“Somethin’ spilled and it, well it melted his arm off,” said Adaline, feeling her heart race and holding her own injured arm close to herself. “Then we hit the ground and he hit his head.”

“What about you,” he asked, still examining Jake, “got anything serious for me?”

“Not near as serious as his,” she said.

A knock at the door distracted her, but the doctor called for them to come inside. He opened Jake’s eyes with two fingers one at a time, staring into his lifeless gaze, shaking his head after the brief assessment. He plucked a bizarre tool off his desk and began to whirl it over Jake’s head and then his arm, grunting when over his arm it began to scream. The doctor clicked it and it fell silent. The door opened and two men rushed inside, quickly shutting the door behind them. The stranger spoke first.

“Is this them?”

“It is,” said the man who brought them there.

“They don’t look to be from any place I know of, but that doesn’t mean anything with certainty.”

“Of course not,” said their rescuer.

“What are your names, Miss?”

Adaline quickly assessed this new man, older than the other two, yet not quite an old man. Tall and thin with a bushy, salt-and-pepper mustache, he waited anxiously from behind a pair of brass-rimmed spectacles. His eyes were quite normally brown, as were the doctor’s. There was something off about the man who brought them there, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She could barely put her finger on anything with certainty anymore, it felt like.

Adaline introduced herself reluctantly, then Jake next. Seeing as how they were being so hospitable, she couldn’t outright refuse and she didn’t want to make enemies though her entire being yearned to be alone. Or at least, away from strange new people in strange new places for a while.

“This man is Jhaan Wyren,” said the eldest, pointing to the one who saved them. “I am Judge Vulmar Carn. That’s Doctor Darcassen Agith, helping your companion there.”

Adaline froze. None of those strange names lingered more than a few seconds in her memory.

“Thank you for bringin’ us here,” she said timidly.

“Is it true, that you come from another world?”

“I s’pose it is,” said Adaline hesitantly, her eyes flitting from one man to the other, carefully watching every expression on their faces.

They spoke about how they came to be in this land and though it pained Adaline to recount the events that had only just happened to them both, she got through it, glancing at what the doctor was doing to Jake from time to time during the story.

“Is he gonna be alright?” Adaline finally asked the doctor, unable to go another moment watching his disappointed reactions to everything he inspected on Jake’s injuries.

“We’re dangerously low on supplies right now, though I think he’s in luck. That boy needs unique treatment, but I happen to have everything we need right here. However, you could use some of our medicine yourself. Your arm is swelling and that cut across you there is not looking too well either.”

“Only just happened,” she muttered, looking down at it as best she could. Her once pale-blue dress hung loosely at the top, like a man’s unbuttoned shirt, roughly ripped open by Elodie’s blade. The doctor picked several herbs growing in pots along his window and pushed them into a shallow bowl, putting an elaborately beautiful lilac wrapped in linen into the mix last.

“Regardless,” said the doctor, expertly grinding herbs into a paste with his mortar and pestle.

Jake’s good hand twitched and he made a small whimper. Adaline leapt over to his side, inspecting him more fervently than the doctor had, placing her hand on his shoulder and carefully saying his name, but he made no further signs of rousing. The pain in her chest returned. She clutched it, straining to breathe properly without causing a scene. She backed away from Jake and tried to mentally assure herself that all would be well. He was in good hands. She opened her eyes again and looked at these strangers, intentions unknown, with unusual methods of healing, and she felt embarrassment as her lip trembled.

“Come with me,” said Jhaan, the man who rescued them. “You should speak to Shagar, she can help you through your troubles.”

“Not yet,” grumbled the doctor.

He slapped some of the muck onto her arm, onto her chest and shoulder wound, and told her to finish the rest.

“Eat it?”

“Yes, it works inside to out. Eat.”

After Adaline had a wooden spoon filled with the green-brown goop slapped into her open hand, the doctor began feverishly mixing more of the concoction in his gritty, black bowl. Jhaan stuck his tongue out and with a pained look, motioned for her to spread it over her tongue. Seemed to her that she was not the only one who had to take this disgusting, herbal medicine. She smeared it across her tongue and immediately recoiled. It tasted like she was licking freshly watered grass in a cow pasture. Before she could turn much more green, there was a sickly howl from outside the window.

“The shrikes,” said Judge Vulmar in a low voice.

“Don’t worry, they only come through here when they’re excited about something,” said Jhaan. “Let’s go, quietly.”

Adaline swallowed, unable to get enough of the muck off her tongue to quit tasting it. She was about to follow Jhaan out the door when the doctor clumsily pushed his way through, still holding the mortar and pestle in his hands, grinding away.

“I have to go to Filverel’s, I don’t have enough here.”

“My father would be happy to give you what we have, though it’s not much either.”

Adaline thought their speech sounded unusual. Forced, almost. As if they were trying too hard to be proper or weren’t accustomed to speaking aloud, or speaking at all. Before the door closed behind them, she looked back at Jake one last time, a bit of muck spread over the exposed bone and muscle on his ruined arm. He was so young beside all these men, younger even than herself, but she wanted him to wake up and stop all of this from falling on her shoulders. She didn’t want to be so relied upon, to be the one who had to figure out who to trust, who to talk to, and what to do about everything regarding their safety.

“Shagar’s home is this way,” said Jhaan.

Much to Adaline’s surprise, once the clouds emptied, the sun revealed itself as low in the evening sky. Brilliant orange overcame the dark blues and grays, a victory soon to be lost once again. The road they followed was made of loosely set stones, mostly flat on top though she still tripped an irritating number of times. They rounded dozens of corners and by the end were probably only a short, direct-distance from the doctor’s home, but the town was set up like a picturesque maze.

Jhaan stopped in front of a simple stone and wood home. Adaline could hear the fireplace crackling from beside the open window and a light chuckle floated off from a private conversation inside.

“Excuse me, ladies,” said Jhaan, knocking at the door.

“Come in, son! Come in,” called an elderly woman from inside.

There were eight older woman sitting in chairs arranged in a circle to face each other. Each had a ball of yarn and a set of crochet needles in their hands and their smiles dimmed only enough to ask who the lady that accompanied Jhaan.

“Shagar, we need to speak with you,” said Jhaan.

Several of the woman clicked their tongues and a couple of them gasped for show, shaking their heads at each other. Jhaan immediately knew why and grimaced, muttering to the elderly woman who got up from her chair.

“It’s important business,” he said.

“It must not be, if you can’t speak to me properly.”

“I’m sorry, mother.”

Jhaan kissed the woman on the cheek and all was well again. Adaline looked at the two of them and with no effort, the resemblance was immediately apparent. Her electric-blue eyes carried an energy the rest of her could not possibly have hoped to entertain. They were wide, striking, and only blinked when they had no other choice.

“Who’s this then?”

“We should take this conversation to a private location.”

“So proper,” she chuckled, following him without protest.

All of her friends called out their goodbyes in their sweet, old voices, continuing on with other conversations in her absence.

“I’d like us to go to my home.”

“Yes, there isn’t anyone there who could eavesdrop on us,” said Shagar. “Should be by now, but there isn’t.”

She was speaking to Adaline, trying to pry a smile out of her. She almost succeeded. Just three houses away, Jhaan opened his door and hurried them inside. He turned on the front room lights and Adaline saw all the signs of bachelorhood that could be squeezed into one space.

“Jhaan, really, this is unacceptable for such a guest.”

“Mother, listen,” he said, growing impatient, “this is a traveler.”

His elderly mother watched him, unaware of his point. He leaned his head toward her, widening his eyes, but she only narrowed hers, chuckling at him as if he’d lost his mind.

“What in the Heavens are you saying?”

“I ain’t from here,” said Adaline, freeing the burning desire to speak. “Not from this, well, this world as ya’ll been sayin’.”

“Oh my Heavens,” said the old lady, clutching her chest, eyes darting between them. “Like me?”

“Yes, from the sounds of it.”

Adaline felt her heart drop and then swoop back up in one huge swing of emotional realization. Shagar looked to be experiencing the same rush, though it worried them more with her.

“Sit down here, mother.”

“Well, I would…” she muttered, moving the clothes over to the end of the couch with two fingers. “Did you just get here?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Adaline, afraid to take her eyes away in case she vanished.

“I’ve been to your world,” said Shagar, repeatedly pointing at Adaline as if afraid to actually touch the point floating between them. “Desert, horses, guns…and, oh what were they…”


“Blood devils, we called them,” said Shagar.

“Not anymore,” said Adaline with a smug certainty. “They been dealt with.”

“By you?”

“No, course not, look at me,” scoffed Adaline with a chuckle. “My friend.”

“Of course, there’s two. Was with us, anyway. Is it a man?” Shagar asked Jhaan.

“A boy,” he said, shrugging a little. “Almost a man.”

“You’re both here to help us now, aren’t you? With the darkness that’s spreading.”

Adaline’s heart began to sink. She hoped everything was over, though she honestly hadn’t had time to think of anything since they spilled out into that strange field of crystals. Despite that, it was a surprise to her that they’d arrived at yet another place with an unnatural problem. She was being carted around just like before, only this time, Jake wasn’t with her.

“I don’t know.”

“You only just started out on this journey?”

“What journey? Please, tell me what’s going on,” begged Adaline. “I just wanna go home. We killed them blood demons, then another pair, then that creepy thing with the glowin’ heart…please don’t tell me ya’ll got yourselves a bloody monster here, too?”

“No,” said Jhaan quickly, putting his hand on her shoulder. “No, we’ve got shrikes to deal with here. Wolves that have been mutated by the darkness. Shagar, mother has told me about the blood demons, long ago. I am sorry for the horror you’ve gone though before coming to us.”

“If those were your first and here you stand, the two of you are far better at this than we were,” said Shagar, shaking her head. “I recall those creatures every time I see too much red. They haunt me, and yet you began with them. I am so sorry, dear.”

Adaline could feel herself wanting to be held by this kindly old lady, but she didn’t know them. She was terrified of how much she already loved this place and all she could think of was Jake waking up so that she could be vulnerable again, on purpose. She wasn’t anyone’s solid rock or savior.

“Do you have anything with you, that you brought from your conquests in the other worlds? Anything that could help us defeat this spreading darkness?” Jhaan asked.

“I don’t, I don’t have anything,” said Adaline.

“Don’t worry, dear. You would not have been sent here if you weren’t able to defeat this blight upon us.”

“Sent here?” asked Adaline. “Who’s sendin’ us places?”

There was a faint shouting from outside and Jhaan bolted up, straight as a warrior’s sculpture. He hastily flung the door open and ordered the women to follow, but he didn’t wait for them.

“Oh, not good, not good,” chanted Shagar, moving as quickly as her old bones could. “You best hurry on without me, I’ll get there in time.”

Adaline rushed out the door, mind focused solely on Jake. Sure enough, the closer she weaved to the doctor’s, the more abrasive the yelling became. She glanced left, then right, unable to remember in reverse which path they took to get to Jhaan’s house. Looking up at the horizon, toward the setting sun, Adaline saw a strange object floating above the woods just outside of town, opposite side as the crystal fields. As her eyes focused, she thought it must be a sort of lookout or guard tower.

“It’s this way,” she suddenly said to herself, remembering everything in relation to the evening sun.

“Get him quiet,” shouted Vulmar, holding Jake’s squirming body as still as he could.

Adaline saw a spill on the floor, broken glass and water pooled up in the middle of everything. It seemed to be nothing more than the nervous doctor’s drink, dropped in haste to address Jake’s worsening condition.

“I’ve made more for him, this should help. Quiet now, boy, you’re too loud,” grumbled the doctor, carefully bringing his gritty black bowl over to where Vulmar and now Jhaan helped restrain Jake.

“He’s had his arm melted clean off,” shouted Adaline. “Why ya’ll gotta talk at him like that?”

All three men stared at her for a moment, surprised by the chastisement, but it was the doctor who informed her of the danger from the shrikes.

“They are drawn to the sounds of suffering over all other things. Easy prey is irresistible to them. The sounds he’s making are that of easy prey.”

Almost before the doctor finished speaking, claws scraped across the windowsill. Scrambling inside, two mangy, rotten-looking wolf-like creatures with spikes protruding from their spines started snapping at anyone nearest them. Adaline happened to be that person. She screamed and covered her face, pressing against the wall. She only knew something had happened because nothing had happened to her. Jhaan had a strangely hooked club in his hands and was swatting the beasts away with quite effective efficiency. Clubbing one beast directly in the chin, it yelped and scurried back, all but breaking the doctor’s table clean in two, spilling everything onto the floor. The other managed to grind delicate materials under its filthy feet while everyone shouted and swung at them, jumping back when they hissed a corrosive spit, sizzling as it disappeared into the floor.

Adaline slumped to the floor, clutching her chest in agony. When she raised her head again, both beasts were watching her, frightened or confused, she couldn’t tell. They only waited a few moments longer before turning and scraping back out through the window, completely lacking the same grace and stealth by which they arrived.

Jhaan and Vulmar helped the doctor to his feet and began to assess the damage. Adaline watched them lament over the lost, precious ingredients. Ones that were needed for Jake to regain consciousness and sanity fully once again. She checked her chest wound, searching for it in vain. The outer wound had healed. To her amazement, there wasn’t a scratch left. She realized it must still be healing inside and pushed aside all her doubts, trying not to worry about the intense severity of that fresh wave of pain near her heart. Shakily standing, she overheard the doctor saying he needed to put Jake in a coma.

“What?” snapped Adaline.

“If I don’t, he is going to continue waking and could potentially die of pain. It happens.”

“Will he ever wake up?”

“Of course! Of course, this is only temporary. Water from the Timory Bog to the south, if you can call it water…it induces this deep sleep that will suppress all his pains until such time as he’s healed. Though, he’ll be quite sick afterward.”

“Can I talk to him first?” Adaline asked, nervously approaching Jake.

“He probably won’t understand you right now. But, we can leave you a moment.”

“I must figure out what’s needed, what you lost, who we can send out for supplies,” said Vulmar to the doctor.

Adaline went to Jake’s side, furrowing her brows as she watched him sweat and struggle not to make whimpering sounds. He seemed like the type who would’ve hated to see himself this way. She thought on that a moment before talking to him.

“I don’t rightly know what you’d think of yourself in a situation like this. I don’t know much more than your name and that you’re a good man…”

“Adaline?” Jake whispered, wheezing right after.

“I’m here,” she said eagerly, shocked out of her downward, doubtful spiral. She grabbed his searching hand and held it tight.

“You alright?”

“More or less,” she chuckled, touched to the point of tears. “You’re the one outta be answerin’ that sort of question.”

“I’m gonna die,” whispered Jake, shutting his eyes as if giving up.

“No you ain’t,” hissed Adaline. “There’s a doctor here, I’m gonna take care of you, just sit quiet and get better.”

The two of the three men came back inside, missing Jhaan, and Shagar could be overheard fretting from outside. Adaline leaned close to Jake’s ear and though he looked to be dead or sleeping, she whispered to him, praying that he’d hear her words and if he ever healed, that he’d forget them upon waking.

“I’m gonna take care of you, Jake. You’re gonna get better. But, you can’t leave me. You’re all I got left, so you can’t leave me here. You understand?”

Adaline stepped outside where the others had drifted to, her thoughts wrapped up in the painful, recent memories back at Willow Rock. Her father holding onto her as a blood demon reached into his chest, spilling the blood out of him like all the others. Jake, dragging her away from being the next victim, saving her life in that moment. She owed him for that and it was perhaps the feeling of a debt-of-life to another that gave her a powerful conviction. Seeing him suffer so, it troubled her to her core. Even if she were given a chance to rest, she knew that she couldn’t allow herself to drift off peacefully when things were so uncertain.

“We need more of the Dresna Lilacs, otherwise it won’t matter what else I can stock up on,” said the doctor to Jhaan and Vulmar. Shagar listened restlessly beside them, though all she contributed to the conversation was worry.

“I’ll get them,” said Adaline. “I’m the traveler, I’m supposed to do this.”

“You’re one of them and you shouldn’t go alone,” said Jhaan aggressively.

“Calm down, she can do as she wishes. She doesn’t belong to us,” said the doctor, rummaging through his pocket for his poorly-scrawled list. “Everything on here is essential.”

“Doc,” said Jhaan flatly. “While I appreciate your eagerness to be useful, this is hardly appropriate.”

“Go with her,” said Vulmar, noticing Shagar standing up straighter as soon as he suggested it.

“Why don’t we wait for the sun, hm?” Shagar suggested.

“Ten hours is a long time to a dying man,” said the doctor.

“Darcassen, you don’t seem ill. Why don’t you go on with them, bring that list,” snapped Shagar.

“He’s the only doctor we’ve got, mother. Don’t worry yourself, I’m not afraid of the shrikes, or anything else in the woods for that matter. The lady can’t go alone and I’m the most capable of guiding her safely. Talk’s over.” Jhaan turned his attention to Adaline. “I’m going to my home to gather what’s needed. Please, wait for me at the edge of town.”

“I’ll walk her there,” sighs Shagar. “I need to stretch my legs.”

The women parted ways and headed through the cobblestone maze together. Shagar was fairly silent except for a few mentions of which home belong to which person. Though all the names were lost on a stranger like Adaline, it didn’t stop the old lady from sharing. Searching for a topic of conversation to strike up, when the perfect one came to her it was something of a surprise that it hadn’t come up earlier.

“What was he like? The one you traveled with?”

“Oh my,” said Shagar, eyes wide and lips pursed. “Well let’s see. His name was Gorlon Krugorim. He was an exile, in the land I came from, for religious reasons. He believed in the All-Father, but it was forbidden.”

They stalled out at the edge of the town, a stiff breeze welcoming them to a more dangerous path.

“He was touched by one of those blood devils…”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Is that why he ain’t with you?”

“No, no it didn’t kill him. It just touched him. Touched him just before it melted away. He said he felt fine, but things started to happen to him after that. Well, anyway, it’s not a pleasant conversation. Just know that he was a brave, honorable man and did his best to put the lives of others before everything else.”

The disdain in that statement was poorly concealed, whether it be by old age or the lack of a need to conceal it.

“Jake saved my life.”

“Stole it away at the same time, too.”

“I would’a been dead. Ain’t no doubt. You know what,” she could tell she shouldn’t be speaking still, but she was too tired to stop talking, “ya’ll only wanna save him ‘cus you wanna use him. You want to use us, but I ain’t no good without him.”

“Why do you want to bring him back from the brink of death, my dear? To ensure he survives the tortures of what you both have to look forward to? He’s got the chance to go in his sleep here, under the care of a doctor and with you at his side. Not drowning in his own blood or crushed under the footsteps of a mountain or countless other ways I’ve seen people be slaughtered in agony across dozens of worlds. Unless it’s love, then you’re using him, too. And even with love, all good things have a touch of selfishness to them. You need him to keep you safe and eventually bring you home or if you love him, so you don’t lose him. But what about what’s best for him?

“If you’re looking to free yourself from his debt, here.” The old lady pulled out a holster from under a sash tied around her waist. It was shaped as though made for a knife, but inside she revealed there to be a crystal, glowing brilliantly once drawn from the sheath. “Don’t touch it. Flesh draws the explosion out, you’ll certainly be killed.”

“Thank you,” said Adaline, hesitant to take it.

“I’m going to leave you here now. Hopefully, you’ll wait for my son.”

Shagar left little doubt in Adaline’s mind about the true intention of her words. Once the clicking of her shallow heels faded away and the young westerner knew she was alone, she stared into the darkness before her. Light did not break through the hungry shadows buried under the trees. Adaline clicked her teeth thinking about the old woman’s lecture.

“Feisty ol’thing.”

Rubbing her eyes, she couldn’t help but realize between fatigue, terror, and crossing into unknown worlds that she had no idea how long she’d been awake. Speckles of her vision returned slowly, but the forest ahead remained pitch black. Matched in darkness was a figure watching her from the edge of the village, just a few buildings down. When they met eyes, Adaline jerked and recoiled into herself, not understanding what she was looking at. Candlelight was lost on the figure, licked up as if the shadowy form starved for it. The silhouette shot into the forest after a moment, calling to her from within the black.

“Adaline, hurry!”

It sounded like Jake. Adaline took a step forward, but stopped abruptly. She knew it wasn’t him, she knew what she saw, even if she didn’t understand it. If there was anything to be gained from all this, it was that she didn’t question her instincts quite as much as she used to. Hearing the steady click-pat of flat shoes on the cobblestone growing less and less faint, Adaline knew her chance to encounter this shadowy form was fading fast. Any other time and she would’ve been grateful to hear Jhaan approaching after seeing such a frightening figure so obviously trying to bait her, but there was a comforting confidence, almost a power, in knowing that she really saw it and knowing it’s intentions.

Rushing forward, she threw herself into the abyss, allowing the shadows to swallow her whole.