Soul's Shadow

by TardisGhost [Reviews - 74]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Character Study

A slit of orange light fell into the corridor, slowly dispelling the darkness with every centimetre the door opened wider. Silence hung in the air when the squeezing of metal stopped, everyone waiting for the shadows to pour out and swallow us.

"Seems to be safe," chirped the Doctor after some seconds. He pocketed his screwdriver and swiftly stepped inside the new room, first poking his head inside, then letting the rest follow.

Donna let out a heavy sigh, then followed. After her came Darwil, not uttering a word. And then it was only the Master and I, seemingly waiting for the other one to make the first move. When that didn't happen, he simply pushed me inside.

"I want you somewhere where I can see you," came his grumbling.

I wanted to grab the straps of my backpack for support, but noticed they weren't there anymore. Strange that I only now noticed the missing weight. The bag lay forgotten by the shadows in the other room. Like an omen of something… ending.

The first thing I saw when I entered was the completely round shape of everything, the black walls, the dark shelves, the wooden support beams. Or was it metal? Doesn't matter. There were rows and rows with shelves, all filled with crystals of various shapes and sizes, all hovering above their rectangular sockets, slowly floating up and down a few millimetres.

The second thing I noticed was standing so obviously right in the middle of it all that I had completely missed it at first. But now my mouth hung as much open as that of the others and I stepped beside Donna, blinking a few times to assure myself that I wasn't imagining it.

And that the dragon was dead indeed.

The creature sat there, black scales and sharp claws and purple eyes, its wings stretched upwards, snout opened towards the audience, revealing the deadly fangs. It was smaller than the one we had encountered before, but surely not less lethal.

"Is that…" Donna turned towards me, eyes wide with horror. "Please tell me your little lizard is not going to grow into that."

"Eeeerrrrr…. Weeeell…." I fidgeted with my fingers, not sure how to answer that. Because, truth was, that was exactly what the little one would grow into.

"We try to find out what their motivations are," chimed the Doctor in, sounding way too chipper again. "The fletching might be the last of her kind… in the current time line. And maybe we can get him to… err… cooperate?"

"Cooperate?" called Donna. "Doctor, do you listen to yourself? That's a dragon! And it's one of the creatures that destroyed the entire planet!"

"Not all of it," said Darwil in a tone so casual it made the hair on my arms stand up. He strode up to the taxidermied creature and tenderly caressed the scales around its snout. "And it wasn't their fault."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked. "Do you know more about them?"

Something isn't right.

It wasn't only this places' dark influence. There was something about his behaviour… about the words he used.

"It's a shame about the others," he muttered and sounded honestly sad. "Ulkta always had a knack for maps and the kids were clever and skilled in climbing and survival. And fun company too." He smiled sadly.

"You sound as if there is no hope for them." The Doctor stepped forwards, speaking through gritted teeth. "If you have anything to do with their-"

To our surprise, Darwil laughed. "No, heavens, no. I would never. Quite in opposite to that one." He thumbed at the Master. When I looked up the Time Lord wore a sneer that was meant to be threatening, but the other man didn't even flinch. "But as soon as you told me about your theory about the ghosts… about those dreams your girl has…" Darwil sighed and turned away, snatching one of the crystals from its sockets. "It coincides with what the Doctor translated from the books."

He held out the crystal and it began to rotate on the spot, suddenly emanating… voices. It was a female that spoke and she sounded hopeful.

'Day 1823 of the Black Star research program. Rofgert made progress with the sunlight emitters. If all goes well, we won't have to hide in the dark every night for much longer. Ghorl is certain he has a theory on why the dead turn into shadows, but so far he hasn't presented anything for us to look over.'

"Ohhhhh! You found out how they work!" The Doctor clapped his hands together, grinning from ear to ear.

"Doesn't answer what he meant before," tossed Donna in, hands stemmed into her hips. Even in dirty hiking clothes she still managed to look dangerous when she got angry. "What did you find out?"

"The Erdras came after the ghosts," said Darwil. "And the few passages you read out loud… I have a suspicion that they didn't attack because they were evil."

"It's still just a theory," scoffed the Master and walked to one of the shelves to pick up another crystal. "We met one of those things in person." We fought it. And there was nothing good about them."

"You would know about good, wouldn't you," taunted Donna.

The Master chuckled. "I know when I have something in front of me that is not." For whatever reason - or maybe it was a coincidence - he shortly glanced at me when he said that. He held out the crystal and let it play another recording.

'Day 2242 of the Black Star research program. Hereyna has made a breakthrough. The rings she put around the meteorite have significantly decreased the radius in which the shadows appear. If we're lucky that means Jir will be safe from now on and our team will be the only ones who have to deal with them.'

"I think…" I stepped next to the Master and observed the crystals. They were all so different. As if they had simply taken whatever they could find to store their logs. And maybe they had… maybe their technology didn't require a specific type. "They built the city around the meteor and then opened it. Otherwise they would have all been killed by the shadows long before they could finish."

"Mhm…" made the Master.

"It doesn't explain the dragons," insisted Donna. She had sat on a flight of steps, resting her head against the bannister.

"I heard of them," told Darwil, slowly walking around the dead creature. "We had so many stories as children. The Erdras… or dragons, as you call them… I used to dream of them at night and no one would believe it. I dreamed of this city, long before I knew the legends around it."

Suddenly he seemed… tired. The Doctor stopped sonicing another crystal and turned towards the other man.

"That's why you wanted to find it. I see."

Darwil nodded. "Strange thing is… in my dreams I never felt anything bad from those creatures. I felt… sadness and fear. I saw through their eyes and felt trapped in a world I didn't belong in. One I couldn't understand. And everyone around me… us… them… everyone feared and hated them. So the Erdras had no choice but to fight back, to defend themselves."

Something stung in my chest when I heard those words. It sounded too familiar…

'Day 36 of the Black Star research program.' recited another crystal the Doctor had activated. 'The shadow creatures have to be connected to the substance Rofgert found in the air inside the meteor. We illuminated a chamber for several hours and after the lights went out again I went in to gather air samples. It never gets less creepy to know they are still around me, no matter if they can touch me or not. Anyway… the density of the substance is almost thirty times higher in there than everywhere else.' For some seconds there were noises of glass clinking and the humming of some machine. 'Heavens… what if the substance is the shadows? Did I just pick up a piece of one? I hope it can't form itself into an outgrown version.'

The recording stopped and the Doctor grunted, placing the device back where he had taken it from. "Thought so. Same substance… but on us it's not doing anything. Maybe needs to be dense enough…"

"What else did you dream about?" I asked Darwil, intrigued by what he had told already.

But he shook his head and folded his arms in front of his chest. "I don't think you'd believe any of it."

I huffed. "You wouldn't believe the things I've seen in the past months. And look… in case you haven't figured it out from Donna's question, we have a hatchling in the Doctor's ship. I don't…" I swallowed and took in a breath. "I don't want to kill it. And that is why I need to know everything I can learn. Even if you think it's crazy or unimportant."

"You're way too attached to that thing," teased the Master, walking past me to join the Doctor.

"And whose fault is that?" I grumbled at him.

"Not mine. You fought off my hypnotism a long time ago." He snickered and stuck his tongue out at me over his shoulder.

"One of them is alive," muttered Darwil, eyes wide in awe. "They are only legends. Like this whole city. I can't tell you much, I'm afraid. The dreams were always vague at best."

I shrugged and trod a little closer, hesitantly letting my fingers run over the black glittering scales of the dragon. There was still a weird kind of energy bristling within them. Or maybe I only imagined it.

"I… almost died when I was a child." Darwil sat on the stairs next to Donna. No, he hadn't suddenly turned cruel, I realised. He was just tired and worn out. Too hollow to bring himself to care any longer. "Got bitten by a snake and when the doctor gave me the antidote it was almost too late. Or maybe it was. I think I was really dead for some moments. And after that… the dreams started."

I blinked, perplexed. "Same with me. Almost. I had the weirdest dreams when I was near one of them and now since I'm in this place."

Darwil hummed thoughtfully and continued his story. "I remember mostly what I already told. Aside from that I sometimes saw a peculiar… place? I'm sure it's a place. It didn't feel like the reality I know. Everything is eternally dark and time can't exist there, neither does hunger or sound. I've been there several times and once in a while I saw… other things. Things that were even darker and moved… they moved in such a strange way, as if they were only smoke."

I glared at the man, remembering the minutes I had spent there whilst the dragon had hatched. Could it really be?

"Why do I see the same things?" I mumbled, more to myself than to anyone in particular.

Darwil glanced at me with questioning eyes, but he didn't say anything. Was it the proximity to the dragons that had triggered both the dreams and the visions of the darkness? It had to be, although there hadn't been a single one around during his lifetime.

"It's because your very mind is connected to the void," spoke a voice from behind.

I winced, turning around to see the Master standing right behind me.

"What do you mean by that?" asked the Doctor. "Master, what do you know? What connection?" He was definitely alarmed.

The Master grinned, dragging out the moment to a small eternity. I couldn't bear it. The statement let my skin crawl.

"Tell me," I demanded. "You said it was only a vision, you said I wasn't really there."

"Oh, that's not what I'm talking about. His grin spread." It's rather something else I found in your dreams. In your head. When you weren't able to hide from me and when I could freely move around in your mind."

"You what?" blurted the Doctor.

I felt anger and anxiety bubble up in an equal amount. How could he dare to do that after… after we had been so close. And what else had he found that I didn't want him to see? On the other hand… after that night there wasn't much he could discover, but it didn't change that it was just utterly wrong.

He looked at me with mockingly pursed lips and a slightly tilted head. "Did you really think I wouldn't take advantage of the situation, little lumin?"

"I… Yes! Yes, I thought you'd… you'd only look at all of my dreams, which is more than bloody enough intrusion already. I didn't…"

"Och, don't tell me you trusted me? Or was your brain a little too busy processing?" Now his face morphed into an evil grin. "It was so easy to distract you. You didn't even struggle."

I gritted my teeth, tears of anger welling up, but I managed to blink them away. Of course it had been nothing but a distraction. How stupid could I be to think anything else of it? Sleeping with a human, even if it was only in a dream? He had told me often enough how disgusting the thought was to him, how deep he would have to sink to mingle with a lesser species than mine. I had been stupid to think he had only said all that as a defense for himself so he wouldn't have to deal with things he could normally suppress.

It had all been nothing but a trick.

And I had willingly participated.

I swallowed, shoving my emotions away for now. This wasn't anything new. People betraying me in some way... It was to be expected at some point. Especially considering who I was dealing with.

I pinched my eyes shut for a second and exhaled. "Whatever. Tell me what you saw. How can I be connected to the void?"

To my surprise, the Master shrugged. "That I haven't found out yet. But I assume it's the reason the egg reacted to you solely. And probably also the reason why its mother never directly attacked you."

And the reason she had shown the vision about her egg to me. That made sense.

"But how can that be?" muttered the Doctor. "We've never travelled through the void since you're on board.

"Doctor…" Donna's voice interrupted. "What is the void? Seems to be awfully important and if those creatures and this monster come from there I want to know about it."

"Yes, I think you should tell us, Doctor," agreed Darwil. "If Lucy is having dreams because of some connection, then… that might also apply to me."