Sunday, 30 September 2018

CCV - Coldsolace

Gulliver was miserable.  He wasn’t sure, but it was possible that he had never been so miserable before.  Even if he had, however, he was sure that this was in the top five moments of utter misery in his life, although he suspected that it could get pushed further down the rankings at any moment.

“Are you sure about this, Franck?” he asked for what might have been the hundredth time that day.  He hadn’t been keeping count.

“Like I said the other fifty-seven times today-” apparently Franck had “-we need all the information on the Ancients that we can get and if, as I suppose, these Liches have even a morsel more than that to which we’ve hitherto had access, then we need to acquire it, through any means necessary.”

“I know all that,” Gulliver replied miserably, “but really: just look at it!”

He was referring to Coldsolace Keep, the mighty edifice of charred stone which rose up to the north out of the barricade of cliffs that hemmed the district of Coldscolace in against the sea.  It was not just dark and imposing.  Towering over the district and branching like a twisted tree, its many buttressed, mist-shrouded turrets like barbed arrowheads, Coldsolace Keep was what dark and imposing found dark and imposing.

“Oh, it’s really nothing to worry about,” Franck reassured, “it’s only that big and charred and misshapen because of centuries of Lich attempts to escape it.  It’s a symbol of their deviousness and malign intellect, but also of the fact that they are almost completely trapped in there.”

Monday, 10 September 2018

CCIV - Cooler Heads

“You arrived just in time,” Shadowsmoke said in his low, rumbling voice once the dust had cleared on their violence.  “I’m not sure we could have done that without your help.  Good to see you again, Sarah, by the way.”  He gave her a sharp-toothed grin which, nonetheless, seemed warm and friendly for a Spiketail.

“We weren’t expecting to be the cavalry, I assure you,” Sarah replied, “but of course you’re welcome.”

“And yet,” the Shaman said glancing furtively up and down the corridor, “I fear we had best move on before more come along to bother us.  Featherflame was certainly not the only diehard among the citizens of Ashvault and her death may just make things worse.  I need to get to my home, but these unrepentant bigots keep getting in the way.”

“We’ll do what we can to help,” Frostfire said, “but then we have questions that need answers.”

“About Those-Who-Came-Before?  Yes, I suspected as much.  I knew I couldn’t be the only one who had seen the signs.  But quickly, we must hurry!”

He gestured for his followers to take the corridor off to the right, in the direction Sarah and Frostfire had been heading, then hurried along after them with the two just behind.  There were twists and turns, doorways off to other rooms to the left and right, but the Spiketails knew exactly where they were going and there was no hesitation any time a junction threatened to confuse.  Just before they reached the next set of stairs, however, they were set upon by another gang of Grinders with two snake-like Creepers and a Slatewing.  The Grinders were dispatched quickly, with the help of Sarah’s Slayer powers and a Black Sand incantation from the Shaman, but the Slatewing stayed until just before the last Grinder fell and then flew off down a side corridor.

“Fetching reinforcements, no doubt,” Shadowsmoke observed.  “That only means that we need to be quicker!” he added before dashing up the stairs.

Monday, 3 September 2018

CCIII - Sieves and Civil War

Sarah felt the heat growing against her face as she fell. So, too, grew the certainty of her demise.  Frostfire might survive in the magma, for all she knew, but for her there could be no alternative.  Her flesh would ignite long before she hit the lake of molten rock.  It would be tremendously painful, but, she hoped and prayed, it might at least be quite brief.

Please let it end soon, Lord, she prayed, please let it-

Her prayer was interrupted by a sudden jolt as she stopped falling, Frostfire’s arm tightening around her waist before beginning to haul her upwards.  She opened her eyes.  They were clinging to a ledge above the magma pool, about ten metres below the entrance to the lava tube.  Sarah had been unable to see it from above, but Frostfire must have known it was there and now he was lifting her up to place her on the solid stone away from the rising heat.

“I thought we were going to die,” she said as Frostfire climbed up beside her.  She was shaking now as the shock of the moment finally hit her.

If a Stoneskin could roll its ball-of-fire eyes, then Frostfire would have in that moment.  “Do you still not trust me?” he asked.

“Oh no,” she replied, “I do and, just then, I trusted you to kill us cleanly rather than face any other path out.”

The Spiketail seemed to absorb this and ponder it a moment before nodding.  “Good,” he said.

Somewhere up above them the fighting was intensifying and, with a tremendous roar, a Grinder plummeted past to splash into the magma far below.  Sarah saw its eyes turned blood-red to match the molten rock before, arm outstretched, it sank forever into the glowing pool.

“What is going on up there?” she asked.

“It looks like civil war,” Frostfire said emotionlessly as he looked up towards the conflict.  Then, after a moment, added, “We should find Shadowsmoke.”

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

CCII - The Magmaworms

Sarah did not need to be told to run twice.  She took off up the lava tube with Frostfire loping along beside, leaping and dodging the pieces of clinker left behind by some ancient flow as she went.  It was hard going, but there was only one way to run and that was ever onwards and upwards.  It ought to have been difficult to keep up with the Stoneskin, but Sarah’s Slayer powers had kicked in the moment she started running – it was second-nature to her now – and so she was able to match his stride with relative ease.

They had been running for about a minute before they heard the first sign of pursuit, a loud scraping sound as something sharp was dragged rapidly across the stone wall of the tube.  It was a little like the sound of a knife being sharpened, only as if the knife were being sharpened constantly and just in one direction.  It was both gravelly and shrill and it was getting louder.

Then came the low moaning sound again, building up the tunnel behind them like a storm wind and with it came a sudden, searing heat.

“It’s gaining on us,” she shouted, “how much longer is this lava tube?”

“Too long,” Frostfire admitted, but he didn’t stop running.

The sound of the creature behind them grew louder and louder as the air grew hotter and a vermillion light flickered up the walls beside them.  Sarah was sure that whatever-it-was must be only inches back, now and that, at any moment, it would begin to devour them.  She thought about her life ending this suddenly and a prayer came unbidden to her mind.

Lord God, she prayed, if this is to be the end, then please make it quick, make it painless, but if it’s not your will-

Frostfire grabbed her suddenly by the arm and yanked her sideways so that she lost her footing and was then dragged across the rock into momentary darkness.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Delays? Already!?

Okay, okay, so I've managed three weeks in a row and now, suddenly, I haven't met a deadline!  What a spectacular run that was, etc. etc. etc.

The truth is, it has been a busy week in a number of ways and, in fact, one of the reasons I've returned to writing Shadow is to help me with my real-life anxiety disorder.  Supposedly creative writing is something that can help with that or something.

Anyway, that very anxiety has made this a particularly tough week and I chose mostly just to read and sleep as a response to that rather than pushing myself to write another episode.  I have begun one and I will produce it sometime this week, but it won't be today and I'm not too concerned about that.  I want to be able to produce Shadow episodes on time, but this is absolutely not supposed to be something I get worried about.

I hope you can bear with me on this and that you enjoy the next episode when it happens. :)

As always, thank you for reading and feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Episode CCI - The Lava Tubes

                Sarah looked up at the ashen walls surrounding Ashvault and let out a deep sigh.  She had hoped never to return when she had left with Frostfire and Dimsun after receiving the ‘gift’ of Slayer powers from Shadowsmoke and though her opinion of Frostfire and the Stoneskins in general had changed quite a bit in the time since, she nonetheless found little to relish in the thought of entering the old volcano-city once more.  Besides, standing there, at the great stone gates, just made her think of Dimsun once more and though it had been almost a year since his death, it still hurt to remember.

“Let’s get this over with quickly,” she said to Frostfire as he finished sealing up the Hypostatick carriage they had ridden - slowly, thanks to the drifts of ash clogging up the roads - from the Colony and stepped up beside her.  His expression, as much as Sarah was able to read its stony crevices and burning eyes, seemed more grim than usual.  “What’s the matter?”

“It is quiet,” he replied and his cool eyes flared brightly for a second before dimming.

Sarah listened.  It was indeed quiet.  The wind made a low moan as it breathed over the ruins of Crystalvale and picked up flurries of dust, but other than that she could hear nothing and, now that she thought about it, this close to Ashvault’s busily guarded gate, that was cause for concern.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Shadow is back.

So, if you're visiting this site, you've most likely noticed that Shadow has had something of a soft-relaunch.  After almost three years of silence, Shadow is back with weekly episodes and the story of Ellis, Siren, the Former Baron and friends continues at last!

I didn't want to make a news post about it until I was sure I could get back into the rhythm of writing weekly episodes, but with three weeks of consecutive episodes behind me and with the landmark that is Episode CC under my belt, I feel confident to say that Shadow is well and truly back!

One of the main reasons I've finally returned to writing Shadow after all this time is that I've actually been struggling quite a bit in real life recently and I was advised to take advantage of creative outlets to relieve my anxiety and try to relax and feel normal.  It's a small part of a much larger treatment program, but, whatever the benefits, it does feel good to be writing again and I hope you're enjoying having Shadow back as much as I am.

Remember, you can always comment on any episode.  I love receiving feedback and answering questions.  Also, if you like Shadow, please remember to vote for it here every week, so that more people can find it more easily.

Until next week!

Episode CC - The Gates of Gihana

Ellis felt twitchy and restless as he and Siren made their way through the impossible city of the Ancients.  Partly this was because he expected the defences to come alive at any moment and force them into another race for their lives through the Escheresque streets, but mostly it was simply a symptom of the Slayer magick which had made him so suddenly powerful, and yet, ironically, had deprived him of anything to do with such power.

There was also the aspect of their search for their friends, which, despite having begun nearly an hour before, had borne no fruit whatsoever.  They had been relieved to find no evidence of Annabella and Nadiyya’s untimely demises near the entrance to the city, but that relief had quickly turned to puzzlement when there had turned out to be no clues as to what had actually become of them.  The only option remaining had been to explore the city and hope they stumbled upon a fresh lead.

And what an exploration it had become.  They had tried to be methodical, to make mental notes of the streets they turned down, doorways they passed through and ramps and steps they climbed, but there was no logic to the layout of the city – at least, there was no logic that they could discern – and Ellis quickly became lost.  He assumed that Siren had kept her bearings until she paused on a landing of one of the maze-like stairways and scratched her head.

“Oh, please don’t tell me that you’re lost, too!”

“No,” Siren replied, slightly evasively, “not lost so much, more just… a little turned around.”

“What do you mean, ‘turned around’?”

“Well… I’m not entirely sure if we’ve been here before.  All these junctions look the same!”

“So, do you have any idea how to get us back out of here?”

Siren paused then, “Uh… no.  Sorry.”