Shadow toiled up the snow covered slope, setting down each paw carefully to avoid falling through the thin layer of ice beneath the powdery white. Cold pricked at the edge of his pelt - his pads so numb that he couldn't feel them and yet he still felt the echo of power resonating off of his insides like the ebbing of a gradually dissipating tide.
Ever since the separation, ever since his rebirth it had felt exhilarating having absolute freedom to roam...and with Naga back his confidence grew each time that he killed in the name of his master.
Glancing up at the overcast gray sky he snarled, judging the distance between himself and a nearby ledge before leaping out into open space and snagging his claws on the edge. Scree loosened and fell down the windblown outcrop as he struggled to pull himself over the lip of the rock shelf, muscles straining and ragged breaths fueling his efforts as he gradually pulled himself to safety.
Taking a moment to regain strength and calm his breath his thoughts wandered back over the last few days. They had enthralled him and altogether the beast inside was for the first time being sated. Learning constantly, devouring information rapidly with no limits and no guilt was more liberating then being whole had been, and yet he still long to be....a small corner of his mind wished, yearned for the moment when he accomplished his life's' true purpose by ridding himself of that nagging doubt and that half of himself long detached that held him back....weakness was what Naga had called it.
The fact that tenderness or love still existed inside was deplorable above all else. He was failing Naga-Skal every time that he felt it lingering like a breath of dead wind, coursing through rock, ever so desperately trying to escape, to break free.
It also meant one thing.....
One day Shadow would need to kill that part of his conscience, make sure that it would never again be able to deceive him with lies, taint his power, corrupt his soul and shroud each success with a slight stab of failure. Someday he would ascend and take his rightful place as King when Mirii was returned to it's proper glory!
For now however he was content to pick his way through the pass, admiring the angular jutting of the crags and sharp edges of rock, stark and mismatched like the jaws of an old cat biting into the throat of the horizon with constant inspiring persistence. Mewling in approval he mused that this mountain had tasted celestial blood oozing from the clouds, streaming where it had managed to sink in and where the day succumbed to night, an endless turning, a ritual that went on forever in a dance with many unknown steps to mere mortals. Shadow would learn them, perfect them, rule them.
With pleasure he sauntered onward, pride evident in each step as he made his way towards his destination. After suffering, after completing the task that his master had sent him to do Shadow was finally going home.....
"Wait!? So you two fought off spirit like things and then she tells you that you both used to be mates?"
Venger huffed his ears drooping slightly even as he asked. Denali had noted that for the most part the dog dwelt in the positive so much that when anything negative happened, even if it wasn't something that was personal, the mutt took it to heart.
"Believe it or not, yet another part of my life that I missed" he meowed uncertainly as he bathed a paw and whisked it over his face. "Other then dreams and a feeling like I should know her, I've never seen her before that night a few weeks ago."
"Something tells me that you maybe should have taken Samantha's advice about avoiding Mirii altogether" Bernard hissed impatiently. "You could've died! You could've been possessed! Seriously maimed! You barely escaped intact and even then, you're more confused now then when you started searching for answers because of some doe eyed moody queen that seems to think that you and her loved each other!"
Scrapping his claws down the bark of a nearby tree trunk he turned, eyes smoldering pools of anger.
"It's one thing to have your fun with a complete stranger and follow after her like she was covered in catnip, it's quite another to venture somewhere you've been warned not to go!"
"I'm not a kitten Bernard!" he argued. "I admit I wasn't thinking clearly when I went to Mirii. But you try having no memory of the past for a moon. Not knowing who you are and having a million signs all saying different things but no light anywhere, no hope of figuring it out....it's driving me crazy!"
"Snooping around town is not the way!!!"
"Alright you two" Venger growled. "Settle down."
Both cats stared at him and then let the matter lie although their pelts still stood on end.
After bumping into each other the three friends had found a comfortable place in the park, concealed by a tall ring of bushes and foliage. It was the same place infact that Denali had met Bernard. Filled with the tweeting of birds it was a peaceful place with the sounds of traffic all but removed and the distant murmuring hint of humans; playing Frisbee, enjoying picnics or talking in their strange grunts and complex voices. With no threat and a full belly Denali was sorely tempted to take a snooze, yet he knew that he couldn't. Not yet anyhow, especially with Bernard insisting that he had been muddle brained.
Finally breaking the silence he decided to ask a question that he had been wondering about and that had been eating at him for quite some while.
"Do either of you know more then you've let on about.....about Mirii?"
"A shattered place found in the old part of town" Bernard said softly looking away from them both. "You've unfortunately seen the forbidden parts of it before coming to know the bits of it that still thrive Denali."
Shaking his head in some amusement he finally turned and stared at his friend sadly.
"Of course with how things are and given your incredible ability to get into trouble I'm not surprised..."
"I agree with you Bernard, I do tend to find more than my share of danger."
Here he paused a moment collecting himself and look to Venger while he chose his words carefully.
"To be honest I've never been so scared in all of my life-as much of it as I can remember- and I don't want to stumble into anymore surprises; rabid dogs, spectral beings bent on killing me, bits of my past that I don't remember, or don't want to remember....but I really have no choice here."
Scuffing his claws along the smooth giving ground in desperation he sighed.
"The fact is, neither of you know what it's like to be nothing. But it's worse then that because everything that I find out, every moment leading me to the next seems to have some connection to one big event. Something happened to me...something that changed me, that took away any memories I had of my life, of who I was, if infact I did have friends, family.....whatever did happen, it caused it to all disappear."
Denali couldn't keep his voice from shaking finally voicing all of his fears to someone other then himself. He was aware of their eyes, their interest and perhaps their pity boring into his pelt as he continued.
"The only clues I have keep surfacing around Mirii. Infact the biggest connection I have had yet to start piecing this mess together was meeting Petal. My first memory is waking up, cold, barely able to breath, water in my lungs and half conscious dreams that centered around her. I have to find out why...."
"I understand..." Bernard murmured softly. "We understand and we're both with ya Den. However promise you won't explore or go on some crazy mouse hunt without one of us at least knowing that you are when we're in Mirii. In the city, it's perfectly fine. But there it would probably be wise if the three of us stuck as closely together as possible."
"Hold on! I'm not going to Mirii" Venger woofed suddenly shaking his great shaggy head back and forth. "It's a cat city for crying out loud!"
Both looked at him quizzically, Denali smirking with amusement.
"We're both cats and you like us....right" he asked?
"That's not the point. I don't like chasing cats or pretending to do it that much...when I have to I will and sometimes I even imagine that it's a game. At the same time a mutt like me has a reputation to keep up ya'know."
Denali nodded at Bernard.
"Need to keep up appearances for the other canines out there right" Bernard said slyly, understanding finally dawning on him.
"Something like that" the dog muttered thwapping his tail in what looked to be embarrassment. "You furballs inviting me is very considerate and all but I'd do better to stay away from some feline haven if it's all the same to you two....me and the usual cat crowd don't mix."
"Fair enough Venger" Denali chortled, " I completely understand where you're coming from. Me and the usual canine don't really mix that well either."
Venger gave him an awkward smile which broadened considerably as his tail whisked slowly back and forth as it hit the base of a tree.
"You two and your jokes" Bernard meowed in mock despair. "I swear at times you both seem like brothers.
The tabby curled up with his back against a raised tree root and purred.
"You sods can continue your banter while I catch a few moments of sleep. And then if you must Denali I can take you to a gathering."
"A gathering!? Where?" Denali hissed his attention concentrated completely on his friends every word.
Bernard for his part mumbled something intelligible and then smiled, his whiskers twitching with amusement.
"There I believe there will be more cats who can answer your questions far better then I can. Aristo maybe.....but more interesting would be Shasta. I can't wait to see how he takes to you."
"Bernard!? What are you talking about?"
His friend however didn't answer, lost to sleep, his blissful breaths slowing and the tip of his tail for once complete still.
Denali huffed in exasperation, sheathing and unsheathing his claws.
"Could he be anymore annoying? He knows that it's important to me but bates me with what knowledge about Mirii and then drifts off!"
"With Bernard ya have to be patient" Venger agreed flopping down on his back. "He's a strange one."
"I suppose we wait around then until he wakes up?"
"Maybe sleeping would be wise, after all time does go by faster that way" Venger yawned regarding Denali helplessly. "It will at least make it easier to wait for Bernards' explanation."
Hesitating for a moment Denali shook himself and then padded over to flop down next to the big black dog, his spine curled into his friends side, huge and warm against his fur.
"You're right, we should probably catch a few winks as well if we can..."
He could tell that Venger was trying hard not to show his surprise at his bold move. His tail thwapped at the ground but he said nothing, shaking his head slightly before shutting his eyes.
Soon Denali's own lids began to droop and fall over his vision. He felt a heavy paw scoop over his and pull him closer to the warm and vaguely he was reminded of being close to his mother. He purred, curled further into the embrace and fell asleep....