From the Shadows
Also by kittengriffin
There was a creak on the floorboards outside the backroom, and the purple Usul froze, her hand hovering over a small ornament that sat solemnly on the mantelpiece. She stood completely still for a few moments, ears pricked up as she waited to here if there was any more noise to come. When there was none, she released a breath she had not realised she’d been holding, and continued with her search.
It had been some time since Semira had last veered from her usual petty theft, and actually taken from houses, but with the Defender’s current campaign to lower street crime, it was slim pickings. Muttering something angrily, she grabbed the statuette she had been studying and slipped it into her bag. She didn’t really like doing this, but they needed the money and thievery was better than begging.
Semira glanced behind her, slipping across the floor to a set of chairs that lay facing the mantle and fireplace. The table between the chairs held some interesting options – the vase looked like it was made of something precious, at least, and the decorations, though not shiny, were well-formed. Picking up one of them, Semira frowned. Even if they looked pretty, she decided, she wouldn’t be able to sell them easily. Carefully replacing it, the Usul fingered the vase.
The floor creaked again, and Semira ducked behind a chair, heart beating faster than a Flightning Bug’s wings. She could feel her fur on end, and she brushed it down nervously with a shaking paw. There were a few more creaks, causing Semira to bite her lip in anxiety.
A voice from the hallway sounded, deep, but still feminine. The Usul felt her heart in her mouth, her stomach in knots. She shielded her eyes as a bright light ignited from the doorway of the room. She peered out from behind the chair, but her eyes could hardly open under the spotlight.
“Come out, I know you’re in here...” the voice came again, this time in a much darker tone. “Come out, little Neopet...”
There were sounds of someone moving across the room, and Semira crouched with her back flat against the chair, eyes closed and hands clasped in front of her, wishing with all her strength that she would not be found. And if wishes had any power at all, the Usul’s heartfelt wish might have worked some magic. But no, the sound of soft footsteps on the floor came closer, and Semira huddled closer to the chair, desperate now. Most of the furniture was similar in color to her fur, but with someone looking for her, that wouldn’t mean much.
The footsteps stopped, and Semira’s heart stopped with them. The voice spoke again, right above her head. “Well, well. What have we here? A little Usul, all alone? And what’s this?” Semira, eyes still tightly closed, felt her bag being lifted up and away. “Are you a thief, little Usul? Is that why you’re here?” The tone changed, becoming deeper, more imperious. “Look at me, little Usul.”
Reluctantly, Semira opened her eyes, raising her head to look up at the speaker. The first thing she registered was the wings. Dark and bat-like, one on either side of the Dark Faerie’s head. The second thing she noticed was the dark eyes boring into hers.
“Your name, little Usul?” the Faerie said softly, moving around the chair to stand fully in front of Semira. “I cannot keep calling you ‘little Usul,’ however appropriate that may be.”
“S- Semira.” Purple fur flattened against her body, Semira gazed up at the Faerie, fear in her bright golden eyes. “Pl- please don’t hurt me.”
“Silence!” The Faerie’s voice boomed out, surprisingly loud. “Do not speak unless I ask it of you, Semira.” Her voice changed, becoming soft and sickly sweet. “I am not opposed to letting you go...”
A flood of relief flooded though Semira, and she closed her eyes. It wouldn’t be as bad as she had thought.
“...provided you agree to my deal.”
Semira’s eyes flew open and she stared at the Dark Faerie, curiosity and fear warring for supremacy. “Wh- what deal?” she asked, before remembering the Faerie’s words. “Sorry,” she whispered, shrinking back again.
The Faerie flashed the girl a wide grin, which seemed almost sinister to Semira. But the Faerie was offering her a deal, so surely she could not be all bad? Dragging out a chair, the Faerie motioned for the little Usul to sit in it.
“Now, little Semira, you need to learn that it isn’t nice to go sniffing around people’s houses in the middle of the night...”
Semira gulped, and slouched a little further down into the chair. She watched carefully as the Faerie moved her hands about, light still emitting from her left hand, as if she was holding some kind of invisible ball. The light increased, until Semira could hardly see the Faerie’s smiling face.
“Now,” the Dark Faerie hissed, “hold still.”
There was a magnificent blast of air against the Usul’s face, followed by a loud crunching sound, before Semira found herself falling into blackness...
* * *
The moonlight was shining into the clearing, tickling her eyelids. She squirmed a bit, feeling rocks sticking into her back. Her throat was hoarse, and she wondered how long she had been lying there. Opening her eyes, Semira could just make out the trees bowing into her as she adjusted to the light. The branches reached out as if to tree and create a cage around her, brushing her face as she pulled herself into a sitting position.
Looking around, Semira shivered. Not because it was cold, but because she hadn’t been here before. She’d been in that Faerie’s house, trying to... trying to do what? She couldn’t remember. She could remember the Faerie, though. She could remember the Faerie very clearly, and she didn’t want to. Rolling over, Semira pulled herself up and out of the skeletal branches around her. In the middle of parting the branches in front of her, she froze.
Her paws were as black as the night sky above.
Semira shoved the branches away violently, trying to ignore it. Her paws were purple, she told herself. It was just a trick of the moonlight that made them look black. Or the Faerie had gotten them dirty while putting her here. Making her way through the forest, Semira focused determinedly on just getting out. Everything else could wait. Once the path ahead of her seemed clear of too much shrubbery, Semira set off at a run.
The trees became a blur besides her, the occasional branch cutting deep into her fur and the skin beneath. The shadows seemed to dance around her as she moved through the dense woods, though she wasn’t sure if the faces she saw and the eyes that peered out at her was her own paranoia or not. After some time, she noticed the trees becoming sparser until she had passed them altogether and found herself on a cobbled path.
The houses were small and shack-like, their windows obscured by the weaving of cobwebs which hung thick on them. Slowly, Semira moved through the town she recognised as Neovia until she could see the town square ahead of her. Padding towards it while catching her breath, she seemed to be the only person awake in the place. The light shone brightly, and she cursed under her breath; the glare made her eyes burn and water, though she couldn’t understand why. It was only a streetlight, after all.
Suspicious now, she could not hold back her curiosity. Using a small paw, she wiped the dust from one of the big shop windows, until she could see herself clearly in the dim light.
“Oh my...” she gasped, almost falling backwards as she observed her reflection. She was not the Usul she had been when she had awoken that morning. Her fur was as black the shadows around her, the only remnant of what she was being the purple ruff that was a deep purple. Stepping back from the window, she moved into a shadow and disappeared. Nothing but golden eyes remained, still reflected in the dusty window.
Even those closed, in time, until the Usul was nothing but shadows and memory.