Shadows Past

By: Armand Banooni and Tracy Pegg


Shadow wandered the halls of the compound quite lost.  She had gotten turned 
around in an effort to get her bearings.  It would not do for her not to be 
familiar with her new surroundings.  As she pressed on she came across a room 
that looked to be a common area on the fourth floor. As she entered the room 
and looked around, she witnessed an odd sight (if anything around here could 
be called odd).  There was a white tiger sunning himself in a large bay 
window.  She could not help but be a little afraid yet she was intrigued at 
the same time.  Klaw sensed the presence of another in the room and peaked 
open one eye to see whom it was.  He recognized the newcomer as Shadow.  He 
could sense a bit of fear from her and was curious but decided to wait to see 
what she how she would react.  Shadow approached the tiger warily and stopped 
a good distance away.
     "Hello." She said softly.  Though he couldn't speak to her in his 
current form, Darana had taught him how to contact other telepathically.  He 
stretched out and touched Shadow's mind lightly, as if asking for her 
permission. When he sensed no resistance he replied.
      "Hello Shadow.  How are you?"
     "Lost"
     "But you are in the common room^┼how are you lost?"  
     "I don't know.  I was wandering.  I don't really know my way around."  
Klaw was curious as to why Shadow showed signs fear and decided to see if he 
could apply some of the new lessons Darana was teaching him.  Very gently he 
began to probe Shadow's mind through the link.  He got a sense of her looking 
at him in this form.  He realized that she had never seen a tiger like 
himself up close and felt he posed a threat to her.  Then, abruptly, a wall 
of ice came crashing down before him.  It was awesome, craggy, and imposing, 
coldly cutting him off from his line of questioning.  He could still feel the 
telepathic connection and could see from her face and her narrowed eyes that 
she had found him out.
    " What the hell do you think you're doing?"
     "I sensed an emotion and I wished to know what it was.  I see that you 
did not appreciate that."
     "If you want to know how I feel about something, ask.  Don't invade my 
mind without permission."  Klaw could feel the anger even through the ice 
wall she had erected.  
     "Very well.  I didn't mean invade...just to feel.  I am sorry that I did 
not ask your permission."
     "Just ask next time.  It's polite.  How would you feel if someone 
invaded your mind?"  Shadow's fear had begun to disappear, replaced by anger, 
and that too began to dissipate after Klaw's apology.
     "But I didn't invade...I just tried to sense what you were feeling."
     "You did invade.  My feelings are personal.  If I wished to share them 
with you, I would.  They are part of me and if you wish to know them, you 
need to ask."  Klaw took the opportunity to yawn languorously, showing off 
his teeth to the best advantage.  Yet Shadow stood her ground seemingly 
unafraid.  She crossed her arms before her and watched him with an arched 
eyebrow.
     "Why are you afraid?"
     "You're stronger than me and have the advantage of natural weapons in 
that form; therefore you are a potential threat."  Klaw tilted his head to 
one side.
     "With the force anyone can be a potential threat."
     "True.  I'm not used to dealing with tigers though.  And it was a shock 
to walk in and find you."
     " I have no reason to harm you.  You seem nice enough from what I have 
seen...though we have not spoken that much."
     "Then you don't know me.  I am not a nice person."
Klaw's eyes narrowed in suspicion "So you wish to harm me?"
     "No.  I have no reason to.  But I am still not a nice person."
     "So^┼if you think you have a reason, you will attack me."
     "If I feel that I am in danger, I wouldn't hesitate."
     "What do you consider dangerous?  You said you are not used to dealing 
with Tigers and you were afraid.  Doesn't that mean you felt like you would 
be in danger?"
     "You weren't threatening me therefore I didn't feel a need to react to 
my fear.  I felt that there was a potential for you to be dangerous," Shadow 
explained patiently.
     "There is always a potential for me to be dangerous.  But I don't attack 
unpro...unprov... unless someone makes me."  His brows furrowed in 
concentration as he floundered for the word and gave up.
     "Unprovoked.  Exactly.  If you were to attack me, then I wouldn't 
hesitate to defend myself, and in doing so harm you.  You present a potential 
threat not an apparent one."
     "I see.  Well, you don't have to be afraid.  I won't harm you.  And you 
have not done anything to make me think you aren't nice, like trying to throw 
me into a wall."
     "I have no reason to.  Appearances can be deceiving though.  Do not 
always believe what you see on the surface.  I may appear to be nice but I am 
not."
     "So you keep trying to tell me."
     "I do not wish to mislead you."
     "Why do you say you are not nice?"
     "I'm not.  I've done some terrible things for revenge that make me who I 
am.  And that person is not nice."  Having said that, Shadow turned to leave 
the room.  Klaw decided he wanted to pursue this a bit further and got up to 
glide alongside her down the hall.
     "You say that as if revenge is a bad thing."
     "It isn't.  What makes me not nice is that I enjoyed it."
     "I plan to get revenge and I will enjoy it."
     "What do you have to take revenge for?"
     "My family and all the members of my village were killed."
     "And who do you intend to kill to gain that revenge?  Do you know who 
did it?"
     "I intend to kill whoever is responsible slowly and with much pain, but 
I do not yet know who that is."
     "You would be wise to discover that soon."
Klaw looked up at Shadow questioningly.  "Why soon?"
     "So that you can plan how, when, and where you will kill those people.  
It takes a while to plan those types of things.  I know."
     "I will plan all that when the time comes.  For now I am becoming a more 
efficient killer."
     "That in itself could take you years."
     "It has, but I will not rush in unprepared."
     "To rush in unprepared would be a useless sacrifice."
     "Exactly."  Klaw almost sounded like her purred the last.
     "You relish the idea of killing those who destroyed your village.  I did 
too."
     "And what is wrong with that? "
     "NOTHING!  Though later you may be haunted by the faces of those that 
you killed."
     "I have killed already and have not been haunted."
     "You are different from me and may not be.  Then again, the people I 
killed hadn't a chance to defend themselves. "
     "Why do you say that?  Could they not hit you with their hands?"
     "They didn't know that I was there till they were already dead."  Her 
face ran the gamut of emotions from anger to pain to pleasure so quickly they 
seemed to blend together.
     "Their chance came in seeing you.  If they did not then you are more 
adept than they."
     "I merely warn you that things are not necessarily all that they may 
seem at first glance.  Look deeper beneath the surface to discover the truth."
     "When I tried with you, you did not like it."
     "True, but that is a risk you run when you do not yet have the 
experience to do so undetected."
     "Would that have made it alright?  If you had not known I was doing it?"
     "It wouldn't have made it alright, but I wouldn't have known to protest 
or be upset." 
     "I see^┼ But you wouldn't be upset if you had found out later?"
     "Oh, I would have been upset IF I found out.  But then would you have 
told me what you did if I hadn't felt what you were doing?"
Klaw grinned showing off his teeth again.  "Maybe."
Shadow looked dubious.  "I doubt it"
     "Why?"
     "Because we all do what we have to, to survive."
     "Is that why you are here now?"
     "Yes. This seems the best place to continue my training."
     "Is Darana going to be teaching you?"  Klaw could not help but sound 
possessive though he tried hard not to sound like he was.
     "I do believe Shade will be."
     "What will he be teaching you?"
     "I have yet to discover that."  Klaw surveyed his surroundings and 
realized they had been traveling meandering route.  "Where are you going?"
     "I don't know. I just started walking."
     "So who is haunting you?"
     "The faces of the ones I killed."
     "Why?  You shouldn't let them."
     "You don't know what I have done."
     "Then tell me.  If you keep your aggressions inside you they get worse. 
You should stretch out with them and use them.  Darana taught me that."  
For many long moments Shade stood staring into Klaw's eyes as if weighing and 
measuring every inch of him.  These ghosts from her past had plagued her for 
so long^┼and what he said did make sense.  It would be so nice to finally 
share this with someone^┼  Then she decided.  Very deliberately she brought 
down her mental shielding, moving the unyielding wall of ice she had placed 
before him, opening her thoughts and memories to him.  Klaw began to see 
flashed of memory, and realized Shadow had opened her thoughts to him, yet he 
allowed her to proceed.  He was not going to do anything to upset her now if 
he could help it.  He saw a family.  From the resemblance to Shadow and 
feelings he got from her, feelings of love and longing, he knew it was her 
family.  He saw her mother, her father, and her siblings.  They were all 
seated around a modest dinner table.  Her brother looked to be no more than 
eight years old and her sister around two.  Almost as soon as he wondered 
about it he knew it to be so from the thoughts she shared with him.  
Abruptly, the scene changed.  It changed to one of carnage, of death, and of 
overwhelming sorrow.  Klaw now saw Shadow's family hanging from the tree just 
outside their house.  In stark contrast he could see Shadow's brother and 
sister's limp swaying bodies hanging from the very same branch as the swing 
they played on not more than a day before.  It took all of his will and the 
considerable hours of Darana's teaching for Klaw not to succumb to the 
overwhelming grief and for him not to remember his own family and village.  
Not to relive the horror of the burning and the stench of death in his 
village when he had returned to it^┼too late.  He did feel Shadow's pain ball 
up and become cold hard determination and hate.  He followed flashes of her 
flight from her town and of her search for a master.  He watched as she 
stoically trained under her new master's supervision for two long years of 
intense training.  And finally he watched as she returned and slowly, 
methodically, killed each and every person left in the village with her 
deadly blades.  He drank deep of the satisfaction she felt in revenge, 
thinking how he would do the same^┼some day.  When she had finished Shadow 
carefully replaced the solid ice wall that was her shield.  Klaw approached 
her quivering form and butted his head against her, testing to see if she 
would allow him close.  When she did not protest her leaned against her.  
Shadow laid her hand on his head gently.  Then, overcome by the ordeal of not 
only sharing but also reliving her emotions, her legs gave way and she 
crumpled to the floor.  Klaw touched her thoughts once again and spoke 
gently.  "I know how you feel.  I found my village in much the same way.  
Whoever those people were, they deserved it."
     "They did but still the deaths of a whole village is a lot to carry 
around."
     "You should carry it with pride. Do not let those who do not deserve it 
cause you pain."  Klaw sat on his haunches next to Shadow with his legs 
before him close enough to remain in contact with her.  Shadow said nothing 
but rested her head on his furry shoulder.  Her mental exhaustion finally 
getting to her Shadow drifted off into a deep sleep.  Wordlessly, Klaw shape 
shifted to his half human form so he could lift her.  He used his touch on 
her mind to keep her calm, though he didn't need to, to ensure she would not 
awake.  When next Shadow woke, she found herself in her bed, still in her 
clothes but with no shoes.


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