Murashu must escape a strange place before he's trapped forever.
- This was done for an image (https://www.furaffinity.net/view/26690406/). I originally recorded it and put it on my YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU2tCigbmwo). This story was a fun one to write. The characters are not mine, they belong to Murashu, the owner of the artwork at the link above.
It seemed as though the darkness had a consciousness. It appeared to move inward and outward, pressing inside and out of rooms and hallways in the very large and strange estate. Even the stone walls felt alive. Faint whispers could be heard just behind Murashu. He kept scanning each room and hallway he past, his large ears rotating, searching for the source of each voice. But no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't find them. The very darkness itself was whispering to him. Calling to him. Making vague promises and threats. Asking questions and saying things that no one could understand.
"Did you do it?"
"Why did you do it?"
"Where is the knife?"
"What happened to the pup?"
"Why is there so much blood?"
Each question held a note of pain that throbbed in the back of his head. The darkness pulsed and moved, in an out, around him. Pressing in upon him. He could see almost nothing in front or behind. Each pathway was discovered by touch. Ancient stone walls felt almost powdery beneath his claws and pads. Scents made no sense whatsoever. He couldn't smell himself. He could smell others: a strange pup, a young one. Water of some kind. The coppery scent and taste of blood. More water. Nisaba. Then a market. Spices and herbs of a healer of some sort.
None of it made sense. He heard sounds and things that couldn't possibly be real. Though the house, castle or whatever he was wondering through seemed to be empty, the voices kept coming. Someone gently sobbing in the distance. Further beyond was laughter. Farther still was the sound of rushing water, singing its babbling song as it deftly danced around the rocks and obstacles downstream.
His head was throbbing now. Still, he pressed onward through the massive building. Feeling and smelling his way out, his way to freedom. Around one corner he heard a loud voice, then another. They were talking, but none of their words made sense. It was as if each syllable from one word pressed into another, forming a stream of incoherent babbling.
His hackles began to stand on end. He didn't like that sound. Didn't like this room or those voices. Quietly. Deftly. He snuck past a stone doorway. Past the voices. His tail tucked firmly between his legs as he did so. He hadn't felt this afraid since he was a pup, sneaking out to be with his friend Nisaba on that first moonless summer night they spent together.
As he moved through the hallway, searching for an escape, the voices kept drifting in and out. The ones asking the strange questions faded. The incoherent voices began to rise. Their incessant babbling rising in volume behind him. Murashu dared not seek these voices out. A primal fear inside of him told him that if he sought them, found who was speaking those words he'd begin to understand them. Then he'd never find his way out. He would never return back to....home.
As he thought of the word itself, the world began to change. The voices asking the questions returned. The incoherent babbling also rose in volume. The darkness drifted backwards somewhat, now turning the world a pale orange-brown. Each featureless wall and hallway seemed to go on forever.
The pain also grew. His head pounded with each syllable of each question. The questions where inside him and outside of him. They rose up around him, and through him, amplifying his torment.
"What was he doing?"
"How did she get up there?"
"Where is that knife?"
"Who else saw them?"
It was getting to be too much. His head felt as if it was going to crack open and spill out. He opened his mouth, pointing his nose to howl in agony...but nothing came out. No sound could be heard. Except the questions. And the babbling which seemed to be getting closer.
The questions hurt. They hurt his head. Made his fur stand on end. He could almost smell blood. But the babbling now...it was almost becoming comforting. If he listened to it, he could almost understand the words. Murashu didn't want to hurt so much for no reason. He just needed to listen...to sit down. Let the darkness take him. Listen to the words. It would be so much better to just lie down and sleep. Lie down and sleep. Forever.
The voice rang through his head. Was that Nisaba? Where was she? Where was he?
He looked around, searching in the inky blackness for sound, smell, or sight of her. The darkness had caught up with him. It was thicker than ever. Murashu couldn't even see the walls anymore. Smell anything. Hear anything but the incessant babbling, and....a candle?
His ears twisted, searching for the source of the flame. He knew it was somewhere in here. The inky blackness around him hid the walls, the floors, his very self from himself, but he knew...Just for a moment, he heard the gentle sound of a flame licking at the wick of a candle in the middle of this torrent of nowhere.
The babbling grew louder now, darkness thicker. The cloudy darkness had almost solidified into a gelatinous blob. Murashu stood up off the floor. The thick black pressed harder inward on him now. Trying to enter him. It was insane. Angry. Hungry. And it wanted his life. To reach inward and steal his very soul.
But beneath the sound of the loud angry babbling, every once in a while, he heard a candle. Whenever he heard the gentle snap of the wick, he took a step in that direction. Once. Twice. It was growing louder now. The babbling reached a fever pitch, a dark desperation with a inside it. He couldn't understand it, but he knew what it wanted.
It wasn't going to have it. At least not yet. "It's not my time" he heard a voice say. Murashu was surprised to find out it was his own. His throat felt raw. Muscles ached. As he rounded a final corner, the blackness became thickest. Each step felt like swimming through butter. Each sound was drowned out by the constant voices: the angry hungry babbling.
Until suddenly, he stood alone in a room. In the center, was a candle. The dark pressed upon it, but could not snuff the flame out. Each time the darkness touched the flame, the light grew brighter for just a moment, danced around on the wick, and threw the darkness backward just a bit farther with its wonderful, beautiful light. The incessant and terrible babbling grew louder and worse. It was a steady stream of nonsense like the ringing of a bell.
But so did something else. Sounds. An animal outside somewhere. Laughter. A gentle sob that he wanted to touch and comfort. His tail twitched a bit. Even the pain wasn't so bad now. At least it told him he was alive.
The candle sat in a small brass holder, with a simple finger loop on it. It was the kind of thing that some of the candlemakers would throw in for free if you bought a large enough box of sticks. He looped one finger through it, and held it in a tight fist as he stood. All sounds ceased.
He looked down at the candle. It had only been burning for a little while. There was a lot left to go in the stick. "I've a lot of life left..." he muttered looking down at it.
A claw gently tapped him on his nose. He looked upward in wonder. All fear had left him. Above him, floating in and through a small stream of smoke that drifted upward from the candle was Nisaba. She seemed to be sitting on the very ceiling and with one clawed digit, was guiding him upward. Even here, in this place, halfway between life and death, she would not leave his side.
Her ears were folded in a gentle comforting smile. Her claw beckoned him upward. There was no darkness any longer. There was simply Nisaba. And the candle that she was now holding. And a ceiling? And the shaman? And his mother? All looking down upon him. He was sitting...no. He was laying on a mat. The markings on the wall and the ceremonial cloths and markings and rugs.... was he at the Shamans? Why was he here?
"Wha..." He began, but his head reverberated with the sound.
"Ssh.... Don't talk." Nisaba whispered to him. "Don't worry. You're in Kam Uli's house. The healer is here as well."
"Wha...happen..." He asked. His head pounded with each syllable, but he simply had to know.
"We were out hunting in the woods, remember? You heard a cry of a little pup, and dove into the water to rescue it. You saved her life, but nearly died when you hit your head on that rock." Nisaba looked down at him with a loving look of disapproval. "You didn't wait for me to get the guard."
"She awwight," he asked. His mouth felt like it was full of cotton. His muzzle was partially wrapped in something.
"Yes, she's just fine because of you." Nisaba whispered.
"I'm so glad you're okay," His mother replied, gently rubbing her muzzle lovingly along his.
Sensation was coming back slowly. His fur felt tacky. As if he'd been swimming and didn't brush it out afterwards so it could dry properly. His head throbbed in pain. His muscles ached. But he was alive. He only had one question left. Something that had been nagging at him for a while.
"Knife," he asked, his ear tipped in a question.
"Why do you need a knife," His mother asked him.
"No..." Murashu groaned, "I heard it. Knife."
"Oh," Nisaba replied with a smile. "The pup had a knife. Got it from somewhere. The guards think there may have been blood on it? I don't know. They get to untangle that knot."
"Okay," Kam Uli shouted. "Me and healer Mendalla need all of you to leave for now. Murashu needs his rest."
Nisaba and his mother gave him a gentle nuzzle before getting up to go, being careful of his injuries. After they left, Uli and Mendalla sat down near him. Uli had been the local shaman for as long as Murashu could remember. His fur now was speckled with grey and white from age, especially around his muzzle. He had dark spots through his fur, and a thin feline tail that snaked out behind him.
Mendalla was different. He was close to Murashu in size. Except his ears appeared to be smaller and triangular, with a tail was just a bit thicker than his. He bent down and examined Murashu's eyes with a candle, watching his pupils react to the light.
"So, you saw the darkness," Uli said.
"Do you want to know what it was," Uli's ear cocked in a question.
Murashu already knew what it was though. It was death. Not just any death, though. The kind of death that doesn't come and take the pain away from the elders in the middle of the night. It was the kind of death that stole children from their mothers. That took lovers away from each other far before their appointed time. The kind that relished in the pain it caused the living. He didn't want to say it though. Talking that much would only hurt more, so he merely shook his head.
"Well," Mendalla said, looking down upon him. "He seems to be doing better now, but he still needs his rest to recover from his ordeal."
"Very well," Kam Uli replied. He stood and grabbed a candle and lit it. It was a candle that had burned very little. It sat in a brass candle holder with a simple finger loop at the end. He sat it on a small table near Murashu. "If it's sleep you need, then it's sleep you shall have. But fear not. I shall be here the entire time watching over you."
Murashu wasn't afraid. This wasn't the darkness, the thing that wanted to end his life and steal his soul. It was the darkness of restful sleep that would help heal him. When he opened his eyes again, Nisaba would probably be there waiting for him with more mischief. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to slip into a restful healing slumber while the Shaman watched over and protected him.