The Shadows Chapter 21

In the Clutches of the Shadow

By Keith Adams

There was a flash of light in his eyes as Frog awoke. What had happened? Why am I here? - thought Frog, but nothing occured to him. He remembered going home, yes - the cursed woods were home, in every way that mattered, they were home, and they would be forevermore. He had seen - Nu, was it? And something else. A man dressed in black.

A spasm coursed through Frog, forcing blood-covered mucus out his mouth, his eyes to blink, push against his tongue ..... it had passed. His arms felt battered, broken, and his stomach ached. Frog looked up, and saw a man dressed in a black robe, his hair a dirty red, his faced masked with steel; the light flickered across his face, with seemed touched with - was it pity, some obscure emotion.

"Does the light hurt your eyes?" the man asked, pleasantly, as if he cared "Ah. I will turn it down." Frog didn't have time to answer. "Well, Gwenn, how are you doing." The figure was behind a desk, a wooden one, which he leaned foward on "Gwenn, let me cut to the chase. The Shadows need you."

"Shadows ...?" questioned Frog, gathering the strength to speak, if only in a rasp.

"You've heard of us, I trust. We destroyed Porre and most of Guardia's settlements on the southern continent. Very methodically, of course. Now, they believe they have won. They beat us, or so they think, annihalating our army with cannons. We took no casualities from those cannons. Frog - the Shadows need you."

"Never ... " rasped Frog.

The Shadows smiled, in a pitying, contemptous way "Never is such a strong word. Never - not if we lift the curse on you, the one Magus gave to you. We knew you wanted to destroy him - that honorless foe slayed Cyrus, killed countless thousands by way of Ozzie. That Magus made you spend the best years of your life fighting him, rarely seeing -- but I have said too much. The Shadows will give you power enough to destroy Magus, track him ndown after he fled back to his own time to wherever he is now."

Magus - Magus had escaped justice after Lavos had been destroyed - why? Why hadn't he avenged Cyrus. Magus had survived him at Magus's castle - why? Was he incapable of destroying Magus. He had let Magus walk out of the North Cape, let him aid him. He didn't need Magus's help - no that was wrong. That was wrong - Magus had done far more than him. Magus had led the scattered people into victory after victory. But that erased nothing - Magus was a murderer, plain and simple. And these Shadows, they were murderers too. He would not become no better than Magus.

"No," Frog rasped, barely able to gather the air to speak. He heard the door open, and felt gently, but forcefully moved to a wall. Two robed figures came in, followed by a tall figure Frog couldn't make out. The figure was vaguely recognizable - he had a proud bearing, almost regal, but not quite. The Shadow looked at the figure, bemused, almost comical.

"So, you decided to join us after all. How .... twisted," the Shadow laughed gaily, and smirked a lopsided smirk, almost all on the left side. "Well, with your influence, you are sure to be able to lead the Council into the web we have weaved. Guardia is done for - I knew we didn't need the High Shadow to destroy that pitiful kingdom. The Chosen One could have done it on his own, had it been his inclination. Very well. I shall give you your gift." Waves of Shadow cascaded from the Shadow into the figure, and the figure was cloaked in a whirl of blackness, and the figure was led out of the room.

"Was that a member of the High Council?" Frog croaked.

"In a manner of speaking. But in the long run, he's not important, just another figurehead. I'll be awaiting your decision but remember Frog - Magus doomed Guardia the day he arrived, and the course has been set.


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