Being stuck in a bottle wasn’t the worst fate in the world. I knew that because I had plenty of time to think of other far more terrible things that could happen to me. Of all the cold and cruel things that life might have in store though, the one thing I hadn’t expected was that I might actually catch a break.
“Just so you know, this room is warded against escape,” Inspector Brooks said.
He’d brought me, or rather the ink pot that I was trapped in, back to a second floor walkup. It was a dingy little apartment, but from how it was laid out I could see that no one actually lived there.
“Welcome to the local World Walkers embassy for the Goblin Deeps,” Brooks said as he placed my inkwell on one of the two desks in the office and removed the stopper that locked me in.
I’m not an idiot, but “Trust” was not high my list of virtues. Especially not after a night spent crushed into a tiny little bottle.
So I bolted.
I’m a shadow after all. And, in some sense, a teenager. Freedom is kind of a big thing for me.
To be completely fair too, if Brooks had mentioned that the wards that fenced the office in would jolt me with ten bajillion volts of electricity and make me glow like a blacklight, I might have listened to his warning.
Instead I spent a few entertaining minutes dancing around like jumping bean before finally collapsing into a twitching ball in the center of the room. It was sad, humiliating, and stupid and by that point I didn’t even care. Taking a lightning bolt to the face still felt better than staying trapped in that evil little ink bottle for a second longer.
“I did warn you about that,” Brooks said.
“D..dd..didn’t say any…anything about lightning bolts,” I gasped out
“Yeah, you’ll want to learn to ask about things like that in the future,” Brooks said.
He made no move to help me up, which in retrospect seems reasonable given that he probably couldn’t even touch me, but at the time was kind of annoying.
“Jerk,” I said and forced myself to sit up. If I was still trapped, I at least wanted to meet my jailer face-to-face, not writhing on the ground at his feet.
“That’s Inspector Jerk to you,” he said. “Probably with a ‘thank you’ in there somewhere too.”
“What do I have to thank you for?” I asked.
“You’re out of that bottle aren’t you?” he asked in return.
“Looks like I’m still trapped though,” I said.
“This is for your own good,” Brooks said.
“I’m so glad I’ve been kidnapped by someone who’ll let me walk around a tiny little apartment rather than a tiny little bottle,” I said. Of course the truth was, I actually was ecstatic to be able to walk around but I didn’t see any reason he had to know that.
“You’re not kidnapped,” Brooks said. “Not anymore. You’ll be reunited with your witch as soon as is feasible.”
I considered telling him that my witch was here already and that I could find her just fine on my own, but I bit back the words. I’m occasionally short sighted but I’m not totally stupid.
“Why not just let me go?” I said. “I can find her.”
“Because you’ve been marked,” Brooks said. “Mulgrave knows you’re here and if he or any of his friends find you roaming free they’re going to do more than pop you into an ink bottle.”
“I’m a shadow,” I said. “What could they possibly do to me?”
I phrased it like that not because I had any doubt that Mulgrave and his associates could do terrible things to me but because I was genuinely curious to find out what those terrible things might be.
“It’s less what they can do to you and more what they can do to your witch through you,” Brooks said.
“They could hurt Penny through me?” I asked and felt a chill run through me.
A lot of what I know about being a shadow just sort of appeared in my head when I woke up. A lot of it I wasn’t even consciously aware of but when Brooks mentioned people being able to affect Penny through me, I knew that rang true.
“You’re very new to this aren’t you?” Brooks asked.
I glared and imagined him crammed into the ink pot. He didn’t have to be a shadow, I just needed to shove harder to make him fit.
My homicidal urges were cut short by the door to the “Embassy” slamming open.
“We’ve got trouble Inspector,” said a boy a little older than me.
Without thinking about, I pressed myself up against the wall and hid in the shadow of a cabinet. I didn’t have any reason to be afraid of him, but some reflexes are harder to fight than others.
The boy was dressed in a strange kind of formal attire, like Brooks was. It wasn’t exactly a tuxedo, but it reminded me of one a little bit. Unlike Brooks though, the boy wasn’t wearing a full length cape. Instead he had a large cloth bag hoist over his shoulder.
“Of course we do,” Brooks said and gestured for the boy to bring his burden closer.
The boy laid the bag down on the floor and I saw that it was his cloak wrapped around something that I couldn’t quite make sense of.
“What happened?” Brooks asked.
“There was another attack,” the boy said. “A Watch Patrol was assaulted and this creature was there with them.
At the mention of “this creature”, the shimmery blob within the boy’s cloak stirred. Long legs and a fang filled snout unwound from the curled up mass.
I watched as the wolf stretched itself out. Except it wasn’t like any wolf I’d seen before. It’s skin was a mirror.
As it came back to its senses I saw parts of it flicker in and out of visibility, like it was drained and fading slowing away. Our eyes meet (for as much as a mirror creature and a shadow have eyes) and I saw a look of recognition pass across the wolf’s face.
He knew me and he didn’t look happy.