Now she had pouches. Pouches!

She couldn’t stop looking back at them as she walked around. They were the best things ever.

When she’d finally worked up the nerve to ask Annie for some she had just laughed and shaken her head.

She thought that meant Annie was saying no, but she just got up and pulled a few out of her backpack. She seemed to have a lot of stuff in there.

I’ll need to see if she’ll let me poke around in there sometime.

Annie had needed to spend a little bit of time modifying them since Shadow's belt was sideways compared to the way a thinker wore it. She made it so the pouches would face up while Shadow was walking on all of her legs.

Shadow had been fully prepared to have to walk around on her back legs to keep stuff from falling out of the pouches. However, once Annie had recovered from laughing at her unsteady toddling (Which wasn't very nice! She'd been trying her best!), she'd taken them off and fixed them.

This was was a lot more convenient. She did want to get better with back leg walking though. It didn't feel right at all, but having her forelegs free for doing stuff while walking did seem useful, even if her paws weren't as versatile as hands.

That was for later, however, because right now she was on mission fill these wonderful pouches with awesome stuff’.

She was also on a mission to find something to eat because her stomach was complaining at her, and the thinkers weren’t both up yet as it was still dark out. Besides, Annie had already given her so much stuff she didn’t want to ask for anything else, especially when she could hunt food for herself.

Oh! I can bring them food again! In one of the pouches!

She looked back again. Hmm. Perhaps a rabbit wouldn’t fit in one. She might be able to get its head and shoulders in but its butt would be hanging out.

Oh well, she could just carry it in her mouth. The pouches would be reserved for more awesome trinkets!

She slinked her way towards the outdoor stream, eyes open for trinkets or burrows where she might find a meal. She was hoping she could find some good replacement shells or rocks, as she was starting to run low with all the trading.

It’s going to be so much better with pouches!

She’d had to make so many tough decisions before when taking something. At best she could balance one or two things on her head and hold a few in her mouth as the swarm headed back to the cave. She hadn’t even been able to do that since she got her acid spit (thankfully that problem was fixed now). She found so many things on her outings that she was always forced to choose.

Now she could choose everything.

Well, most things. It was going to be wonderful.

It didn’t take long for her to start finding things.

She came across an interesting rock. In the pouch!

There was a faintly glowing moss. In the pouch!

Another pretty shell. In the pouch!

A vibrant mushroom. In the pouch! Carefully. Paws only, no tongue or mouth.

I’m not repeating the mushroom incident again.

She had to contort herself quite thoroughly to pull off that maneuver. It was easy for her to drop something in one with her mouth, but her legs didn’t like bending that way.

She finally made it to the stream where the number of shells available increased dramatically.

It was a free for all for shells. She scampered from spot to spot, snatching shells with a cool spiral here, or neat speckles there. She didn’t need to stress about it! She could take it all!

It wasn’t long before her pouches were almost overflowing, clinking and clacking with any small shift in her posture.

Hmm.. This might be an issue for hunting.

She took a moment to glance around.

Or the opposite.

She was not going to be her normal perfectly silent self with all the shells she was carrying.

She’d probably need to head back and drop them off.

She spotted it right as she turned to head back. A shape dropping off a high branch, utterly silent.

Thank you, lessons learned in the day.

She wouldn’t have checked before she saw what the terrors from the sky could do during the daytime.

She had figured they were all sleeping at night, but she had gotten in the habit of looking up, and it saved her.

And now she had a chance to turn things around. She tracked the dark shape out of the corner of her eye as is it swooped down, growing larger as it approached. She kept herself moving naturally, not wanting to tip the big bird off that she’d noticed.

It’s so quiet!

It was quickly approaching, and she still couldn’t hear anything, despite her knowing it was coming.

This thing is dangerous.

She tensed herself at the moment before it grabbed her, launching herself backward, not moving as fast as she'd expected. The great bird slammed into the ground in front of her. The grab had been a lot closer to landing than she would have liked. She hadn’t accounted for the extra bulk her pouches were giving her.

Close, but not close enough.

She threw herself on to its back and laid into it, tearing out feathers trying to get a grip and biting for its neck.

Why are you so fluffy?!

There was... a lot less flesh there than she was expecting. The bird jerked to the side and she went rolling off, claws and mouth filled with feathers and not much else.

She cringed at the tinkling sound of shells as they spewed from her pouch amid the rolling.

The bird steadied itself and spread its wings.

Oh no you don’t!

She threw herself back at it, this time aiming lower, aiming for a leg.

She almost stumbled with the realization that it only had two of them!

It’s kind of like a thinker in that way! I wonder if… Not the time!

She admonished herself as she plunged forward, latching on to its thigh. This time she managed to hit flesh. It shrieked in pain as she forced the thing to tumble over. She jumped back with her mouthful, swallowed, and grimaced a bit. Still a lot of feathers in there.

She wasn’t going to give this thing a chance to grab her with those nasty looking talons. She quickly circled to the wounded creature’s back before pouncing again.

This time she dug until she hit something solid. Another chomp and its struggles ceased.

She shivered as the tension slowly left her body.

These counter-ambushes seem to work pretty well.

Glancing at the ground some of her excitement at her victory was tempered. Her shells were all over the place.

I guess that’s why there are flaps.

She’d been leaving them open. While she could just manage to close them, it was not an easy task. There was a thin strap you needed to wrap around a button that would hold a flap closed. She couldn’t really manage the task at all with her paws. She could probably have done it with her mouth if the pouch was in front of her, but she was stuck using her tongue when her pouches where on her sides.

It was hard to grip the strap tightly enough to get it securely fastened. The thought of having to fasten and unfasten it every time she came across something interesting was daunting.

She set herself to re-collecting all the dropped shells. It was probably fine to only secure the flaps when she was planning to travel fast. This sort of situation shouldn’t happen all the time… hopefully.

It only took a little while to get everything gathered.

This time she did close the pouches. She grabbed the bird and set off toward the cave.

It was easier said than done. Despite the bird being a much higher proportion of fluff than she’d been expecting, it was still quite large and heavy, and its size made it hard to get a good grip on. Even after filling up her belly (and doing her best to avoid eating feathers. They were actually very unique looking, and she collected a few.), it was still unwieldy.

She ended up getting it slung awkwardly across her back, head bent to the side with it gripped in her mouth to keep it there. She bounced a bit, trying to get it to settle into a more comfortable position. She’d closed her pouches this time so she wouldn’t lose anything on the trip.

Not ideal.

She was going to be pretty exposed trying to run like this. Her head was locked to the side so she wouldn’t even be able to keep an eye out.

Well maybe I can use the shadow fluff?

She wasn’t that far from the cave, and her… inner strength? Had been getting better. She felt like she should be able to keep the fluff going for long enough.

If she could remain shadowed the whole trip she could avoid any likely ambushers.

It was as good a plan as any.

She dropped herself into shadow, a feeling of pressure inside her as the energy seeped out into the world. She checked herself over. It seemed like the shadows were covering her widely enough to cover all the extra things adorning her body.

She could feel the strain, but she thought she could maintain this for the trip, so she set off.

The trip passed uneventfully, even with all the jingles and jangles of her pouches. What she didn’t expect was the reception.

It was just getting to be light out once she made it back, and Annie and Jonas were both up, packing their things away in their backpacks, when Jonas looked over at her as she entered the cave, what with all the noise she was making.

“Annie! Ready yourself!”

Jonas dropped the things he had been packing and whipped his sword out from his hip, dropping into a combat stance, pointing his sword at her. Annie spotted her a moment later and did much the same, dropping what was in her hands and setting them to glow. There was a distinct difference in the light they gave off, and she could swear the squiggles had changed somehow. While the healing light had felt warming and welcoming, this light felt fierce, like the burning light of the sun.

Shadow stood there frozen.

What’s happening?

“Show yourself, Beast!” Jonas shouted.

Why are they suddenly angry!?

Her shadow fluff was still on.

They don’t know it’s me!

She dropped her fluff, eyes wide, stance pulled back and cowering. She’d dropped the bird on the ground once she realized she might need to bolt.

Annie dropped her hands.


”It’s dark attuned!? That’s not… Shadelings are mundane beasts!”

"...Apparently not all of them."

Annie's eyebrows had made a break for her hairline while Jonas looked affronted somehow. He glanced at Annie before slowly putting his sword back.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!

She looked over at the bird she dropped and grabbed it. She dragged it over to the still-tense pair and offered it up.

This is for you!

Annie looked down at the bird. A pained look flashed over her face before quickly switching to a smile.

"Oh, you've hunted for us again. Thank you. We'll... deal with this later. Jonas, would you mind cleaning the owl?"

"Umm. Sure."

He glanced back and forth between Shadow and Annie then grabbed the bird and started tearing the feathers off of it. 

They both still looked a little nervous.

No need to be scared it’s still just me! Shadow thought with some concern.

She wasn’t really sure what to do to calm them down. The surprise was having a much larger effect than she'd expected. She decided her best bet was to show off some of the pretty stuff she’d found. With a deft usage of her tongue, she got both pouches open quickly and flipped herself over to deposit her finds.

She started chasing Annie around, showing off the prettiest shells she'd found.

She hoped things would get back to normal soon.


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