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RashE (IrashiHeart)

A Shade's Best Friend

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-A Shade's Best Friend-

A short story about one of Nicku Crestshade's oldest friends, the abandoned runt of a wolf pack.


---

The Evernethian Shades had only appeared on the continent after a sacrificial ritual in Vennterria had gone wrong, and instead of the shades perishing, they ended up stranded in a forest outside what is now known as the city of Kingstone.

The first animal that the Shades bumped into on their arrival was a small wolf, the runt of its litter. Without the rest of his pack it would die, she knew, so Nicku held out her hand and begun to sing. The pup's growl got quieter, faltered for a moment, and ended with a 'boof.' Tilting its head, the snarling faded and the hint of a wag was on its tail.

As the shade finished the verse, and the canopies above them were filled with the melodies' echo, the runt burst into a sprint, knocking the shade over and licking her face, tail wagging so hard it shook its entire body.

“Veiðimaður” she decided, it was a fine name from the Ancient Shade Language. Although she hadn’t met him yet, Icarus would come to nickname the dog ‘Vay.’

---Nine years later, weeks after the construction of Greaves---

Ike’s workshop was one of his favorite places in the world. Enclosed high up in the castle, Icarus could forge away at new inventions or modifications for his already overflowing arsenal of weapons. It was a hobby he couldn’t shake, even after Brisingr was forged and the Kingsglaive were armed.

Currently, he was working on a design that could exploit bluesteel’s diamond lattice to allow the metal to change forms in the blink of an eye. Such a feat was difficult, but not impossible. Even with a lifetime of practice, it would take time and no small miracle but the applications of this technology were almost limitless. The furnace was cold as Icarus drew diagrams to add to the overflowing trash bin of crumpled paper by his desk, so the room was almost silent.

The stillness was interrupted by the sound of bare feet rushing down the hallway. He barely had time to raise an eyebrow as the door flew open and Nicku Crestshade appeared, her eyes full with tears, running towards him.

"Ike! You have to help him, he's gonna- you have to save him!" she had buried her head into his chest and sobbed, meekly pounding on him with two closed fists. Her voice was muffled now, and for a moment it seemed like she just wanted to sit there and cry, as if it was hopeless, but must have decided to against it. She got up and pulled him hard by the shoulders out of the seat.

"What happened?" he asked, but she was already making her way for the door. Grabbing her arm, she was forced to turn around. "Blue, what is it?"

"It's veiðimaður! T-there was a Bullvore," she said, voice still thick with grief, still pulling at his arm. But now he was following her, deftly grabbing the sheathed Brisingr’s hilt as he swung into the hallway after her. "It woulda been so easy, I woulda been fine but Vay, he was just trying to help, to protect me, he didn't need to get involved but he," she cut off. Boris in his griffon form had met them on the Kingsglaive Courtyard and it wasn't a long flight from there to the forest. "There,” she said, pointing at a recent scar in the forest where several trees were split or uprooted.

The first thing he saw as he scanned the scene was the heaping corpse of the Bullvore. Nicku's handiwork was always... crude, but this was excessive. It wouldn't have even been recognizable as a Bullvore without Nicku's explanation, and the shards of broken horn which were scattered near what could have called a skull. The chest cavity was almost flat, and Ike guessed it would've taken 20 or more swings.

Behind it, the forest was in ruins, even with Nicku's inherent strength, she could've done this without it. "The curse?" he asked, much more accusatory then he meant it. The Shade was already hunched over the dog's body. Icarus heard her sobbing again, she had either ignored him or not heard him at all.

“Look what it did...” she laid down to hug it, which made a wet and gory sound. Walking over to them, he saw it was bad. The dog’s hind legs and belly were crushed, he surmised it only would’ve taken one step of a Bullvore’s massive hooves. “You gotta fix him, build him new legs like Greaves, Icarus you gotta-” she stopped, and succumbed to the sadness. Wailing, the forest heard her weep. Ike had never heard her cry, and it sent him choking on a lump in his throat. He never wanted to hear her scream like that again.

“Blue... Greaves was different, he didn’t have a soul… I made him one.” He explained slowly, though she very well knew. Ike dropped Brisingr into the grass and laid down next to her. Before he had an arm around the shade’s shoulders he paused, noticing the number of creatures that had gathered together to mourn the girl’s dog. The power of the shades, the thought hit him like a truck.

Boris, he commanded telepathically, back to the workshop. As Ike jumped off the ground and sprinted into the griffon’s saddle, he could hear the shade make a gasp that was half surprise, half betrayal. She must’ve thought Ike was running away.

---

The workshop doors smashed open a second time, and Ike had to indulge the Curse in order to get the forge roaring quick enough. No time to lose and even less time to think, he quickly grabbed the crate full of bluesteel ingots. It was about 500 crowns worth of the rare, nearly indestructible metal, but it was the first material he could think to use. No time to lose, less time to think. Given a few days, Icarus might’ve made a beautiful sculpturesque wolf, or maybe a giant bear, but time was working against him.

He was working so fast, he hardly remembered deliberately doing anything. Two massive hemispheres, each almost as big as the shade herself, were constructed, two halves of a sphere. Hastily, he hammered out two eye sockets, each holding a flawless ruby.

As the metal was white hot, Ike used hammer and chisel to shape out massive, dragonlike teeth. The Shade's wolf was always relentless, brave and loyal. The bleeding image of a Kingstonian. The bluesteel construct the King had made would serve those traits perfectly. Practically invincible, with teeth as sharp as razors, and a massive twenty-yard chain to reel him in. The Griffon had great difficulty flying them both back, and Ike was busy carving in the seal, identical to the one that animated Greaves. Such a seal could animate a corpse from an artificial soul... Now, a natural spirit? Well, there was only one way to find out.

---

She wasn’t crying anymore, just lying on Vay’s broken body. No time to lose, less time to think.

“Blue, get up. I can’t induce its soul inside it, but you can. But you have to do it now before he’s too far gone. Quick, Nicku stop crying.” he shook her awake.

At first, she didn’t understand. Her eyes were still full of tears and rheum. But a moment later she realized what he’d meant, and Ike would never forget how she smiled. Ear to ear, her azure eyes sparked again.

Ike wondered if the civilians would call this dark magic, as Nicku chanted in the language of the shades. The creatures were returning one by one, as Ike monitored the seal. The trees seemed to hum with life and every beast from squirrel to fairy tensed as they listened to her song. Some of these words Ike had never heard, but he could make out their meaning:

“Forest, gleam and glow
Let your power shine
Make the clock reverse
Bring back what once was mine

Heal what has been hurt
Change the Fate's design
Save what has been lost
Bring back what once was mine…
What once was mine.”

The diamond lattice of the spherical beast construct began to glow brightly with light, and soon the hinges connecting him moved on their own. It was muffled and reverberated with an echo, but no one present could deny what they heard: “Bark, Bark.”

For the last time that night, Nicku cried, this time with her arms wrapped around the metal beast, laughing in between coughs. “veiðimaður you’re… Hundur. I love you. I’ll never let you go again.” Her body was shuddering with emotion. “Never again.”

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