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Her dreams were filled with ice and frost, the figures of her frozen siblings beckoning her to stay with them forever. The grimacing figure of the red-eyes came and went. It sometimes loomed over her, demanding that she join in its eternal suffering, as punishment for daring to challenge it. Other times they were all running away together, trying to escape the billowing frost and terrible rumbling sounds chasing them.

Jonas would be there sometimes, fighting the cold, destroying great swaths of mist and ice with swings of his sword, battling it like he had the red-eyes. Sometimes she would see Annie, struggling to hold it back with glowing golden lines. Other times it was her shadows, spreading, creating a void where she might escape from the frost's pervasive reach.

Gradually, the scenes became warmer. She saw herself being held in Annie’s arms as they watched the mesmerizing flickers of fire. She was standing in great beams of sunlight, their fiery heat permeating her form.

She woke up with a feeling of warmth surrounding her.

She opened her eyes and saw it was still dark out. She found herself surrounded in a soft cloth, all bundled up, laying in front of a campfire. She looked around and saw Annie in much the same situation. They were somewhere she didn’t recognize at first glance. They were outside but looked to be tucked in a decently sized ditch, with decently sized hills on three sides. She spotted Jonas sitting up on top of one of them.

He seemed to be keeping watch as he had in the cave, keeping an eye out all around the area.

She started to extract herself from her admittedly nice and warm covering, and immediately stopped, hissing.

Everything still hurts…

Her body made its injuries known as soon as she tried to move. She felt significantly better than before, but she could still feel her injuries. It seemed like she could move her left foreleg again, which was a relief.

She started to unwrap herself again, this time taking it slow. She stifled a few hisses of pain as she worked herself out of her comfortable confinement. She checked herself over once she was out. Her shoulder and chest, along with some other spots were wrapped with another kind of cloth, but rather than her just being bundled in them, they were tight fitting. She could move without them really getting in the way.

What are these for?

They seemed to be wrapping her injuries.

Are they wound padding?

She guessed that made sense. They were very soft. It would likely feel a lot better to lay on them than lay directly on an open wound. She noticed the one on her shoulder had some red showing through, and thought about how she would press a wound up against something to keep the blood in.

They also help with that. They keep a wound from bleeding as much.

She kind of liked them. It was almost like she had clothes of her own.

Satisfied with her theories for why they were there, she limped over to Annie. Annie was out cold, looking completely spent. Her face was drawn and pale. Clearly whatever she had done had not left her in a good way.

Annie must have managed to heal Shadow some before she woke up. She remembered her shoulder had been mangled. The fact that she could use the leg at all meant something more than getting it wrapped in cloth had occurred.

Shadow was worried. She didn’t like seeing the thinker looking like this. Annie looked so weak and helpless. She would be in no condition to run if anything else happened. Not that Shadow was doing much better on that front…

She wished she had some way to help, but sleeping was probably the best thing Annie could do right now. She looked so tired. Shadow left Annie to her slumber and made her way up the hill toward Jonas.

Her memory of what had happened during the last bit of the battle was fuzzy, but she remembered him grabbing her, taking her away, saving her from the same fate her siblings had shared.

He saved her life. Again. This was twice now! The thinker may be grumpy but she was grateful for everything he’d done for her.

He spotted her as she hobbled up the hill, giving her a small smile and wave.

Well that’s new.

She smiled back at him. His face scrunched a bit and his smile became a little strained.

Oh, right.

She put her face back to normal. She made a mental note to figure out why her smile seemed to distress the thinkers, while they seemed fine with smiling in general.

“I see you're doing better.” He said, his voice coming out a little uneven.

She approached and met his gaze, and then rubbed on his arm and side. She could reach more with him sitting.

Thank you for saving me.

He tensed a bit at first when she approached, but he relaxed shortly after, starting to chuckle.

She’d have to give him something in thanks later, but she didn’t want to dig through Annie’s backpack for her stuff without getting permission first.

“You make it very hard not to like you, you know?” he said quietly.

He started petting her back.

She pointed a paw back at Annie and looked up at Jonas in askance. She was worried about her looking so pale.

“Uhh…” He looked over at Annie, then back to Shadow. “What about Annie?”

She took a second then realized he didn’t understand her.

She thought about it and pointed to her injured shoulder and side, before pointing back at Annie.

“Oh, I see. No, don’t you worry. She’ll be fine. She's just mana exhausted, although she has a pretty bad case of it. She’ll need to be careful about casting anything for a while, but she just needs rest. She’ll be OK.”

There were a lot of words there, but she got the sentiment from his tone and smile. He wasn’t worried. Annie must not be hurt that badly. She’d get better.

A knot of stress that had been building dissipated.

She rubbed him again.

“I wonder what you are exactly. You do know you’re nothing like a normal shadeling don’t you?”

She just cocked her head, not really sure what he was saying. He sounded friendly though.

“You’re supposed to be dumb and violent, eating everything you come across. Instead, here you are, like some sort of a weird cross between beast and child, with magic powers to boot.” He stated, shaking his head. Then he looked back down at her.

She just settled down and snuggled up to his leg, resting her head against his thigh as he rubbed her back. She heard his words but just let them wash over her. She was still tired, and didn’t feel like struggling to parse out the meaning right now. His relaxed tone told her it probably wasn't anything too important.

She felt a mellow happiness. They were a group now. She’d be with them from now on. Given some time, she knew she’d be able to understand him just fine. It was just a matter of learning. She looked forward to it.

Jonas scanned the trees as he spoke.

“You really saved us back there. If you hadn’t crippled it when it was going for Annie, I fear that’d have been it for her. I’ve gotten rusty working in the city. It was arrogance that had me thinking I could handle things alone. I should have insisted on a group, despite the cost. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.”

He yawned, mouth opened wide, and blinked, making a tired noise before shaking his head and getting back to watching the forest.

Shadow recognized that gesture. She did it too when she was tired.

She got up and sat in front of him, studying his face. He looked bad too. His face was drawn and he looked exhausted. With both her and Annie out of commission, he probably hadn’t had a chance to sleep at all.

She huffed to get his attention.

“Mm? What’s up?”

She pointed at herself, then her eyes and then motioned all around to the surrounding forest. Then she pointed at Jonas, then the camp. She laid down and mimicked sleeping for a second, then looked at him for confirmation.

Jonas was grinning at her now.

“You’ll take watch huh?”

His smile waned, and he switched to a more contemplative look.

“What the hell, why not? You did a damn good job of it earlier. If you see anything dangerous, you let out a screech like you did before, you hear?” he instructed, before stiffening for a moment.

“Oh, right umm…” He pointed at her “You.” He pointed at his eye then started looking around “See.” He brought his hands, palms up, but fingers facing forward. He started making growling and roaring noises while swiping at the air. “Monster.” He pointed at her again. “You screech.” He made a lame attempt at her screeching noise, only a lot quieter to keep from waking Annie. She chittered in laughter at the strangled noise. It sounded ridiculous coming from him.

She was pretty sure she understood his intent though. It was basically what she would have done anyway. She was also happy she finally got confirmation on the ‘you’ sound. Annie always liked to use her ‘Shadow’ name, which she liked, but she had heard the ‘you’ a lot in sentences. It was like a second name that always referred to whoever you were talking to. It was a contextual name.

She nodded to him that she understood, then started slowly pacing around, scanning the area.

She was still recovering but she could manage to keep watch so the brave thinker that stood toe-to-toe with a red-eyes and saved her life could sleep.

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A note from Zat

Something a bit more relaxed after the action.


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Zat

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