God of Shadow – Chapter 4

By sundown, Adahmri cursed his thoughtlessness. His stomach growled noisily as he sank into a thick patch of grass next to a wide stream. He had not brought any food, or even a handful of rations like the packets that many of the shops in Lorre sold to travelers. His backpack did have an attached water skin, at least. He made short work of filling it, drinking it all, and then filling it again. As he sat back on his heels, a large trout slapped the surface of the water, startling the boy away from home. The stream’s water was clear, and now that he paid closer attention, Adahmri could see numerous fish swimming lazily along with the slow current.

He eased onto his knees, leaning out over the stream. He kept still, and when he felt the timing would be just right, he struck! One hand plunged into the water and grasped a plump fish around its middle. Unfortunately, he had only ever read of such techniques, and had no practical experience. The slick trout easily escaped his fingers, and the frenzy it caused as it propelled through the water alerted other fish around it to scatter in every direction.

Adahmri leaned back and sighed. “I am an idiot,” he grumbled.

Hunger kept him awake as the sky darkened and stars dotted his vision. When he finally fell asleep, he dreamt of banquets and huge, rainbow-colored trout leaping into fishing nets. Morning arrived far too soon, heralded by a painful twisting sensation in his hungry stomach. He suddenly appreciated more than ever the meals Miss Inger had provided at the Orphanage.

Adahmri slung his backpack over his shoulders and looked east, where the stream continued into the hills. Trees loosely dotted the bank, but they did not look promising, in terms of berries or other fruit; most appeared to be pine trees. He had stepped off the road last night to reach the stream, so he decided he would return and continue to follow the road north. Perhaps he would encounter a merchant, or other travelers, who could spare enough food to sell to him. If he didn’t, then he would be in trouble.

Maybe I should just go back, he ruefully admitted.

Another growl made him groan and he covered his belly with his hand. But then yet another growl answered it and he realized that the sound had not come from him. His blood ran cold, and he slowly turned his head toward the source of the noise.

Three wolves stood on the other side of the stream. As he looked at them, two of them began to trail along the water’s edge, as if searching for the best way to cross. The wolf in the center remained still, staring at him with fierce yellow eyes. Adahmri took a step back when the wolf snarled and shifted into a poise that suggested it would spring forward.

Adahmri’s heart pounded wildly. “Can it jump all the way over here?” he whispered, panicked. His hand reached for the knife he had brought, but it felt so small in his hand as he brandished it in front of him. The wolves were unfazed by the weapon, and when all three animals opted to swim across the stream, Adahmri turned on his heel and ran. He had often been able to outrun the bullies from Lorre in his youth, but these wolves were not lumbering adolescents.

Fear kept a tight grip on his heart as he fled, but soon the wolves howled and took up the chase on this side of the stream. Adahmri closed his eyes tightly and gritted his teeth. Emotions swelled in him: terror, anger, regret. What if he had been wrong? What if the heat from the summer sun had made him hallucinate Soragen’s visit and now he was to die as a result? He would never prove himself to anyone; he would never win Sielahiel’s affections. He would be remembered as the thief who ran off and got himself eaten by wolves.

His anger won.

He was such a fool, and all his dreams and ambitions meant nothing now. He halted his steps and spun around to face the wolves. If he was going to die, he wouldn’t die running away like a coward. He tightened his grip on his knife and screamed his rage and fear at the wolves that loped toward him. They were so close now.

His vision went black when the wolves reached him. The fire of his anger was not quelled by death, however. If anything, it seemed it fueled the energy within him. His body was warm, and in that moment he thought he was weightless. He had no control of his body, and he could see nothing. It lasted seconds, but it felt so much longer. When his vision returned to him, the grassy hills were just as they had been. The morning sun was bright. The warm breeze tousled his hair.

Three wolves lay dead, smoldering.

Adahmri blinked several times, taken aback by this development. His breathing had not slowed, and his pulse still raced. But he was far more exhausted than he had been just moments ago.
“What…?” Adahmri gasped the word, unable to say anything further. His body felt like it too had caught fire, but he had no wounds. The wolves had perished before they had reached him. Slowly, he looked around. He didn’t know what he would see – Soragen? Perhaps a dragon from the ancient myths?

But he was alone. He shook himself, and then approached the fallen wolves. He knelt and examined the largest – the one with the yellow eyes. Its fur was largely untouched, but steam rose from the corpse as if it burned on the inside. He drew back suddenly when he realized that it was not steam or smoke that rose and dissipated from the corpse. They were glimmering tendrils, like shadows made tangible. As he watched them fade away, he stared, fascinated.

He flexed his hand, and then dropped the knife. He looked down at his hands and gazed with awe at the dark tendrils that returned to his palms, disappearing into his body. The shadows had come from him, and they had killed his enemies.

His head snapped up and he looked north. He sensed something. He couldn’t explain it, but whatever it was called to him, beckoned him closer. Was it the Pearl? Is that what Soragen – his father – had wanted of him?

His stomach released a long growl and Adahmri groaned. He dropped his concentration on the northern horizon and turned his attention to the wolf nearest him. While he couldn’t understand how he had managed to kill these creatures with magic he had not known existed, he did know how to build a fire. He grimaced at the thought of eating wolf meat, but given his lack of alternatives, he decided he was hungry enough not to care.

He took a deep breath and stood on shaky legs. His gaze drifted up to the clear sky. Once he was finished with this quest and found his Pearls, he would find Soragen and ask all the questions which now surged through his mind.

And he would not stop until he had answers.


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Jes A. Condrey
Line Art by Mariamjs. Colored by Mike Lisle.

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