“What is going on here?” said T’Vosh, as everyone else began to speak.
“That’s not possible,” said Gator.
“Where did that come from?” said Cap.
“Are you okay, hatchling?” said Sys and Mearr.
“Everyone stand back,” said Guhle.
I said nothing. I was unable to speak. No sound came from my mouth, even though I opened it to exclaim in surprise. Instead, as I opened my mouth, the violet glow of the tranisium ore faded and I felt a shiver run down my spine.
Gator approached me and Tic-Toc, but T’Vosh stepped forward and help up a hand to stop him from reaching the ore. Then Guhle spoke again.
“I said stand back!” he said. “Can’t you see there’s something wrong? Look!”
Everyone looked. Guhle was pointing at me. My eyes widened. What did he see? Was there something behind me? I tried to ask, but I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even move.
“You see?” said Guhle, stepping away from the wall and striding across the room toward me. “Something’s got him.”
My stomach clenched. Got who? Me? What was it?
“What’re you talking about, Guhle?” said Mearr, some of the ferocious vitality returning to her voice.
“I’m not sure yet,” said Guhle. He gazed at me with his watchful, searching eye, but he was careful to stay out of arm’s reach. “But it definitely isn’t friendly.”
T’Vosh stepped forward, but Guhle threw out an arm to prevent him from approaching the ore. “You cannot stop a Vigilant Sentinel of the Farseer Imperium,” said T’Vosh, grabbing hold of Guhle’s arm and lowering it out of his way. “Let me pass.”
“Your fault for what happens, then,” said Guhle. “But I wouldn’t bother. I’m gonna guess your ore is worthless now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at it,” said Guhle, folding his arms across his chest and turning halfway away from me.
“It…has lost its luster.”
“Yep. You know what that means?”
“…useless?” said T’Vosh uncertainly.
Guhle nodded. “So far as I know, there’s no way to recover tranisium ore once it’s lost its luster.”
“I didn’t know such a thing was possible,” said Gator.
“Happens sometimes,” said Guhle. “No one knows why. Or at least, they didn’t. Now, I might have a guess.”
He turned back to look at me. Again, I tried to speak, but my jaw was held tight somehow.
“What makes you think the hatchling did it?” said Sys.
“I don’t. But he is being held by whatever did, which is probably the same thing that killed Chief. Let’s be honest.”
“What do you mean? Who’s got him? I don’t see anything.” Everyone in the room seemed to utter something similar to the above phrase. But Guhle simply maintained a level gaze with mine until they all calmed down again. As he did so, reality started to set in for me. He was right. I was held by…something. Unable to move because of it. But what?
“Guhle,” said Cap once everyone had quieted down. “What makes you think there’s anything else in this room than those you see here?”
Guhle turned to Cap and nodded his head in my direction. “You see hatchling there, right?”
“Good. And what direction is the light coming from?”
“Above our heads,” said Cap, and he extended an appendage to point at the center of the room. “Over there, primarily.”
“Even better,” said Guhle. Then he pointed at the floor below my feet. “Then tell me, captain. Why does hatchling’s shadow stretch towards the light?”
Everyone stood up and turned to stare. I was still unable to move, so I could not see what they were all looking at, but I felt another shiver pass through me as whatever it was came under the scrutiny of so many eyes.
Guhle stepped forward, to the very front of the pack. He looked me straight in the eye with a hardness I had never seen in him. “Who are you?” he said coldly.
For a moment, all was silence.
Then, words came out of my mouth. They were not my words, it wasn’t even my voice, but it was my mouth that moved and it was through my mouth that whatever it was that held me spoke.
“We are the shadows of the Dark among the stars,” it said. The voice was barely a whisper, yet it permeated the entire room and likely would have been heard by everyone even if they had been speaking. “We live in the silence between waking and dreaming…”
All eyes stared at me, and I felt my own bulge in fear. What was happening to me? I stood rigid, stock still, arms spread at my side. Guhle paced a moment before speaking again.
“Shadows, huh? Is that how you’re controlling hatchling? Through his shadow?”
“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine…” came the whispered reply from my mouth.
“What’s that? What does it mean?” said Mearr.
“Shakespeare,” said Gator, finally stirring from where he had stood locked in place by my words. “A writer of plays from hatchling’s home planet. They’re the words of a sorcerer.”
“So it’s magic?”
“Not likely,” said Guhle. “But sure, if that helps you come to grips with it.” He took a step closer to me. “Why are you here?”
“Do not be afraid…he is coming…”
“Who? Who’s coming?”
At that moment, one of the other Farseers stepped forward. “I have had enough of this. Clearly, he is responsible for sabotaging a key Imperium operation. He must be taken into custody.” As the Farseer finished speaking, he reached forward with a gauntleted hand for my forearm.
Before he could touch me, however, I suddenly snapped away from his grasp. A shadow, living and solid, congealed around my arm and lashed out in a fine-pointed blade as I swept my arm towards the armored Farseer. The shadow passed through the armor, cutting cleanly through layers of metal and electronics to rend the flesh beneath with little more than a whisper like rustling water.
In the space of a heartbeat, it was over. The Farseer lay dead on the floor, cut clean through the chest by the shadow blade of whatever had possessed me. The rest of the crew stood around, staring in terror.
As I exhaled, I felt my muscles beginning to obey my commands again. I could feel a tingling in my arm hairs that spread through the muscles and up into my shoulders before finally settling into tiny convulsions of my back.
“Help me,” I managed to grind out in a throaty whisper.
Guhle stared down at the body of the Farseer for a moment before shaking his head slowly and turning away from me. “Help yourself,” he said. “You gave up on us a long time ago.”
“What’re you talking about?” I tried to say, but then the cold shadow covered me again. My movements were not my own. My words were not my own.
“You will be his guests soon,” said the thing within me. “My return shall be your invitation…”
“Let him go!” cried Mearr, clutching our child to her breast.
“This husk has use still. Until his function is performed, I must occupy his space.”
Against my will, I felt my legs begin to move. Creaking and deliberate at first, the motions conducted by the shadow soon took on a more fluid composure as we fled from the room.