I don't own Retromud, I'm a fan, yadda yadda yadda don't sue me.
Passing through the city gates, two wolves raced towards the woods. "...Ok, they definitely won't find us," the larger one said. The pup, still breathless, nodded in agreement. Too many wolves here. They leaped over a large rock before they stopped. The larger wolf stood alert, scanning the area around her. The pup tiredly plopped on a patch of grass. The larger werewolf closed her eyes in relief. "Hey ma..." the young one panted, "...didn't you take off that jewel from yer forehead?" She looked at him puzzled. "Yeah..." she touched her forehead. Her paws stopped on a smooth stone. "What the hell kind of sorcery-"
"Hey boss, I found 'em!" announced a voice from afar. "C'mon," she said. The pup frantically huffed behind her. He was surprised at how tired he was. It felt as if his legs were made of jelly, and his eyes seemed to get out of focus. "Nadim!" she screamed. A dark figure hovered over the young wolf, who was now panting on the ground. "Looks like the little one wore himself out," he smiled.
His eyes shot wide open.
The young man's back tensed as he felt around behind him, a rush of wind alerting him that he was outside. His fingers scraped across rough patches of stone as he stared forward. He was uncomfortably conscious of the silence around him and didn't process right away that he was leaning against a brick wall. Pensively he turned his head, a familiar sense of dread clenching within his chest. To his left seemed to be an endless expanse of space that would have convinced him he was blind if it wasn't for the brick wall before him. With his back fully pressed against the wall, he desperately reached out. After some time, his weary arms retreated back to his side. He held on to the wall with his right hand as he shifted hesistanly towards the darkness. How did he get there? How did he not have noticed his arrival before? He felt his smooth fingers scrape along the wall, surprised by how tender they were. They wriggled in an unfamiliar way and were somehow more flexible…and soft? He stopped to observe the thin, light digits of his left hand. Then the right.
His lips twisted into a wry smile. It's no wonder he didn't realize it right away. Pushing off from the wall, Nadim stood up and concentrated. A smooth small nose jutted out into an angular snout, rows of perfectly square teeth stretched into sharp fangs. Throughout the transformation, tufts of fur began to sprout out from his growing limbs. He cursed under his breath when his pants ripped at the back "Always forget about the tail," he muttered. Luckily he had another pair in his pack, which was now threatening to squeeze his arms off.
Loosening the straps on his pack, Nadim looked out once again to the left. What he thought was an empty expanse was a small town that seemed to be winding down to the end of the day. His mind wandered a bit before he remembered.
His mission involved going solo to the Church of Sikkar, but it required him to touch an altar that physically burned "sinners". He leaned back on the wall with both hands behind his head and sighed. This wouldn't be an easy task. "Who could I get to help me?" he wondered. The young werewolf's ears perked up once he noticed something coming his way. Before he could react, an unknown force pushed through him. He was surrounded yet again in darkness.
"Sorry," he heard a disembodied voice say. The shadow's head still faced the ground as it passed. Nadim only stared, still shocked from the initial contact. It was almost a block away when he finally recovered. He ventured out of the alley to watch it float towards a weapons shop.
"'Oy! What're you doing here?" Nadim turned his head towards an angry-looking guard.
"Damn," Nadim whispered. It was the same guard he evaded at the gate. It seems he didn't appreciate his refusal to pay the toll.
"Why hello there my friend! Just how are you this fine evening?" Nadim smiled warmly as he backed away.
'"Oh no yer not! 'Oy Kareth, it's tha' thief!"
A second guard arrived. His eyes widened as he approached the werewolf. He had to lean his head back in order to look him in the eye.
Nadim already had the whole scenario planned out: first he would casually speak about his reason for being there, then, as they try their best to keep him away, he would secretly pick their pockets. He would be long gone before they could figure it out.
Ok, so that plan didn't work out as well as he liked.
He wasn't quite sure how long he'd been running, but Nadim knew he couldn't stop to look back. For some reason, the pair of guards that ran after him grew into an angry mob of ten. He had half a mind to throw the vial containing the reason for it all:
"'Wait, stop!' said an eerie voice. The shadow appeared behind them. Both guards turned around to face her. Thank you distraction. Just as Nadim got close enough to another pouch, he heard someone scream "It's Abessa!" A few seconds later, an extremely bright light flashed, nearly blinding him. He yelped then quickly closed his mouth. 'Hey, that bastard took my gold!'"
"You sure are a charmer aren't ya?" Nadim said to the vial.
A red light emanated from within. She was obviously not very fond her current living space. After being hit by a light beam, the shadow, now identified as Abessa, was close to completely disappearing. Nadim managed to save her just in time. Sadly, that didn't end her problems. That sudden outburst would stand as further evidence against her. Mother would definitely not be happy with this, she thought.
"Get me out of here!"
"Sorry, kinda busy!" He turned a corner and went straight into a large building.
"I don't care! I need to get out right now!"
"Fine by me!"
Still running, Nadim smashed the vial against the hard floor. The shadow flitted towards a dark corner. To Nadim's relief, the portal room was close by. It was a considerably large room that contained five marble statues that can transport beings to a specific planet. He quickly scanned the room for his planet: the statue of love was Wysoom, the statue of justice was Welstar, the statue of darkness was Crypt, the statue of friendship was Sosel, and finally the statue of freedom was-
Nadim turned around to see the shadow darting towards him.
Before he could react, she clinged onto his shoulders. A wave of pure terror washed over him as he stood deathly still.
"What are you doing?" the Abessa screamed. She shook him, trying to comprehend his sudden blackout. His eyes glazed over.
"You're gonna get us-"
"They're in the portal room!"
She quickly released Nadim, causing him to snap back to reality. Nadim turned around to face the statue. Perdow it is. They leaped towards freedom.
The trip wasn't as difficult as he expected; Nadim was transported a few feet from Scarrowfell, all without a scratch. The shadow, on the other hand, didn't take it too well. Moments before being transported, they were surrounded by an overwhelmingly bright light. His companion's eyes grew faint.
Abessa's eyes glowed brighter when she gained consciousness. For some reason she was alone and currently inside of a glass jar. She managed to break free by rocking it enough for it to fall. Tiny shards of glass flew in all directions and scattered around her.
"Oh, it was only you," Nadim sighed in relief. "If you wanted out, you could have called me."
Before she could make a response, the shadow quickly noticed that she was no longer in her city. She immediately stood up.
"Where am I?"
"And in which planet, pray tell, is your guild in?"
"In Perdow, the most wonderful place you could be!" Nadim whimsically raised his arms in the air.
She looked around and suddenly noticed that they were in near darkness. The only source of light in the room hung from the left and right of the entrance. There weren't any windows present.
Surprised, she asked "Are we underground?"
The room they were in was fairly large and looked as if it could hold more than thirty people. In the middle of the floor stood a long wooden table with chairs lined along each side. To the right of the shadow was a side table with three glass containers (the fourth one in which she was contained earlier laid broken on the floor), and against wall at the other end of the room stood a common bookshelf.
Nadim stood beside her and played with a dagger.
"Yes, this is the secret underground lair of the Black Rose. It's sooo incredibly secret that if anyone who's not part of the guild find their way to it, well...," he swiftly jammed the dagger onto the tabletop "...they kinda have to die." His smile was unsettling. Abessa imagined that this was his standard screening process for prospective members. She inwardly hoped she'd guessed wrong.
Abessa cleared her throat. "Aheh…right…what exactly do you do here?"
"Oh, a lot of things. Borrowing various goods, lock handling, et cetera." He smirked.
She unconsciously held on to the table. "…So the guards weren't wrong then?" .
"…My name's Nadim. What's yours?" There was a mischievous glint in his eye.
The shadow sneered. "...Abessa."
"Abyssa eh, very fitting."
"I said Abessa!"
"Ok Abessa," Nadim said innocently. "I assume you don't want to join."
"Want me to take you back to your planet?"
Abessa thought about what had happened before. Those guards were chasing them for a valid reason. She helped a criminal escape—she couldn't just simply return now.
"Sikkar," she muttered.
Abessa sighed, then said "actually, I think it'd be better if I stayed here for a while."
"Oh, so you're considering my offer?" His head tilted to the side.
"Of course I am not. I may have helped you get away with theft, but I am not going to be a dirty criminal myself."
"Huh," Nadim glanced at her for a moment, then quickly turned his attention to the dagger. He removed it from the table and leaned beside her. His fingers deftly twirled the dagger in the air. Abessa immediately noticed the scar on his right arm-it looked recent.
He slowly slid his fingers on the blade back and forth, as if testing it. He hummed in approval.
"So…miss morality, if I'm such a monster, why ask for my help?" His eyes never left the dagger.
"I was afraid they were going to kill me."
"Well, you did attack first."
Abessa glared. "I was defending you!"
"I don't remember waving my arms screaming 'heeellllp meee!'" He smirked.
Abessa turned her head away from him, her eyes dimmed. They both stood there in silence, save for the ringing of Nadim's blade. Minutes began to feel like hours as the werewolf busied himself. He seemed to be in a trance. His thumb now rhythmically ran past the tip. Abessa flinched at the sound. The ringing had increased. More and more she was convinced that the sound would drive her mad.
"Could you stop that?"
He continued to flick the blade with his thumb. "How do you do it?"
She turned and glared. "Do what?"
"Live in Welstar. I would've thought you were just visiting, but those guards seemed very familiar with you."
The shadow wondered where he was going with this. "My family lives there; in the church of Sikkar."
Nadim snorted. "Didn't know the clergy accepted shadows now."
"I'm not part of the clergy, only my family is." She looked away from him "…I'm adopted."
The shadow remembered her early life in the city of Abarack. According to her adoptive mother, she was found scared and alone in a battlefield. Feeling sorry for the young shadow, she took her under her care, believing that even a supposed incarnation of evil could be raised to be good. Unfortunately, only few were that optimistic. Abessa was usually left out of church services due to her sensitivity to light. Her mother tried to get her involved in evening services, but her efforts didn't seem to help out with her daughter's popularity. The night the shadow appeared at mass, the entire church went into chaos. Crowds of people ran around screaming as soon as the "red-eyed demon" entered the room. After that, she was given the nightly task of scaring looters away from the church.
She really wished she hadn't recalled that.
Nadim noticed that the shadow had shrunken in size. Before, she could reach his snout; now she was a little bit shorter than his shoulders. He placed the dagger on the table.
"I'm guessing a lot of people didn't take that too well," he said.
Abessa shook her head. Her eyes seemed to disappear. The air around them became stifling as they stood in silence.
Then, a sharp noise broke through.
He slid the side of his thumb towards the end of the blade ever so gently, barely getting nicked. He applied just enough pressure at the tip, causing a sharper metallic ringing sound. It made Abessa wince. One side of the werewolf's mouth rose subtly.
Abessa felt slightly unnerved and continued to watch him. Was he even listening to her? She noticed his movements got more agitated as the silence between them increased. Every time his thumb zipped past the blade, she anticipated seeing blood. Though she herself never bled, it was still hard to watch him get so close that point...but she couldn't just turn away from him-not with that dagger in his hand. She couldn't take it anymore.
"Annoying," he said, almost affectionately-either to her or the blade- as he continued to play with the dagger.
"What I'm doing. It's very aggravating, yes?" He made the blade ring louder "See? Doesn't that just drive you insane?"
Was he mocking her? Abessa's mouth tightened as she tried to keep her composure.
"Yes, I am quite aware of that," she said.
The ringing continued.
"C-could you please stop now?"
"Stop what?" He asked innocently, still flicking his thumb.
"That," she pointed to the dagger.
"Oh, you mean this?" he said as he lifted his thumb from the dagger. He paused a few seconds before returning it to its previous position. "...I could."
Abessa glared at him. She then moved towards the door. "If he thinks that he could make a fool out of me, he had another thing coming," Abessa grumbled.
Nadim chuckled when she left the room. "If you'd joined, you'd know about the traps hidden all over the place."
A glowing red eye peeked into the room. "Did you say traps?"
Nadim nodded. "You can learn about them on your own if you'd like."
Abessa floated back into the room. He may be bluffing, but it isn't completely certain that he is. So far she knows she can't bleed, but she can still be harmed by certain weapons. She wondered if they had bright light traps.
The young shadow floated back into the room in defeat.
Nadim walked towards the door beside her and smiled. "So, shall we start with a tour?"
Abessa sneered "Of course, after you." She followed him out, unsure if she was being deceived. Did it even matter if she was? As far as she knew, there would be a warrant out for her arrest if she were to return to Abarack any time soon.