The Shadow Knows


df_cardinal4_icon.gif delia2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Shadow Knows
Synopsis Cardinal from the future has all the answers that a young dreamwalker wants and or needs to hear. Temptation proves to be too much as deals are laid on the table.
Date December 16, 2010

34th Street

The orb glows a bright electric blue, almost humming it's so alive as it nears its final destination. Not needing any extra light between the full white moon overhead and the crystal on the silver string, Delia keeps rowing her raft closer to the mouth of the cave. It's been a long journey to get here. She thought she had him once but she was mistaken, now there is no mistake, she's here. The lair of the Shadow Monster.

The flat square of planks has held up well through the storms. The little dowel from her pack converted quickly to a long pole well suited for pushing the little craft. She's tired though, tired of traveling and looking forward to this moment, almost as much as the orb.

As it skids up onto the pebbled beach with a gravelly crunch, a little too loud for her taste, the redhead jumps off with a splash into the unnaturally warm water. The fires of hell themselves must heat the expansive lake, nothing lives around it, the burning pits of sulphur along the sides make too much stench and smoke for anything but scrub to grow. The mouth of the cave itself belches the black clouds forming into puzzle pieces which drop into the water only to drift off to parts unknown.

This is her mission, more pieces. More for the angel who needs to know the truth.

Creeping closer, she reaches into her pack to pull the broken sword from its depths. Protection, courage, two things that she is needing in colossal amounts. Her wet feet hiss against the ground, the steam rising from her footprints make it a place unfit for creatures as lovely as the lady who gave her eye for this.

Squinting, the young dreamwalker presses forward into the cavern, into the heart of the lair of the beast.
The sound of lapping waves grows not quieter, but louder as Delia trespasses into the lightless dark of the cavern she has discovered, the border of one dreamscape blending way into another. Perhaps where her one mind washes up on far distant shores of another. The sound of rolling surf is unmistakable, a growing sound of crowing gulls and lapping surf, a beach more like one that Delia Ryans is familiar with. Never, though, a beach in the light.

The cave begins to change as Delia progresses deeper inside. The walls smooth, lose their rough and natural shape and begin to become glossy, tiled, an off-white color trimmed in green. The ground under her feet too, now crunches with the touch of gravel beneath her feet, parallel steel rails pointing towards a dim light at the end of what is clearly now a tunnel.

On one mossy wall, Delia notices a large placard demarcating the rail line that she seems to be following. It's written in white on green, all capitol letters. At her ankles, briny water smells of sea salt and is ice cold. She can barely make out the writing, telling her where the tunnel is leading.


Catching the orb in her hand, she tries to shield its light from everywhere except where she's directing it. She cups it into her fist, turning it into a makeshift flashlight and shines it at the writing. 34th street… is she already home? Did she make it?

Sloshing a little faster, her feet create cresting waves of their own as she tries to run through the frigid river that carpets the tunnel. Wherever she is, no subway could run here, at least not anymore, she'd be dead already if they could. At least, that's what she believes. She shines the light ahead of her, trying to find the beach and the crying birds, maybe even the sun. It's been over a month now since she's seen it and skin that was already too pale shines a sickly color against the blue glow.

He's here, somewhere, she can feel it. Hunching her shoulders into a coward's stance, she grips the sword even tighter. It's almost sweet how she coddles the broken weapon, as though its former owner would actually protect her from all of this. Maybe he would or maybe he would just throw her to the wolves while he made a quick getaway, no… he wouldn't do that.

"I know you're he—re?" Her voice betrays her fear. What should have sounded like a brave challenge comes out hitched and ends with a squeak. It's definitely not how a brave warrior would sound.

The water gets deeper the further Delia goes, at least until it has risen to knee-level in all its icy frigidity. A chill wind is whipping down the tunnel, though the light at the end — pale and silvery — is growing brighter and larger. Eventually, wading through the briny shallows, Delia emerges from the mouth of a ruined subway tunnel onto a tangled, broken precipice that drops off into infinitely darker waters than the shallows she's standing in. The rail tracks are bent, broken and sheared away and the other side of the tunnel is simply unseen. It's as though a portion of the land simply sunk down into a risen ocean like coastal erosion.

Moonlight reflects bright and full off of the lapping surf. Broken water manes, power conduits and sewer pipes bristle out of the sloping earth that is swallowed by the shores. To either side of the end of the train tunnel, a pebbly beach of eroded concrete smoothed into round-ish pebbles creates an urban beach of some sort. Bristling up from one end of the beach is a green and white street sign, proclaiming this to be 34th Street.

At least, what's left of it.

Ahead, impossibly, standing out on the rippling water as if he weight no more than a feather there is a silhouette cast against that low moon, half dipped below the eastern coast, these beaches of 34th street. The shadow is in the shape of a man, but has no volume, no value, no dimensions other than the one that Delia is facing.

She has found her monster.

At first sight, the sword is held in the air at the ready only to be slowly lowered as the woman takes in the form of the 'monster' ahead of her. Standing on the water like some sort of dark opposite-Jesus, the shadow is regarded with an expression of clear disappointment. For the young woman, the moment is rather anti climactic and with a weary sigh, she hangs the blade down at her side and just looks at it.

"I thought you'd be taller, or bigger muscles and all that."

Not much by way of greeting but it's the truth. Now that she's facing him, her voice is clearer, a little braver. Perhaps only because she doesn't feel like a mouse in a snake cage. She steps out of the freezing water and onto a small expanse of gravel on the beach, not taking her eyes off him.

"That would require a body," body. There's an echo of the shadow's sibilant hiss of a voice in Delia's ears as it turns, and moving as it does, it clearly resembles a man in a long jacket, viewed entirely as a single ink-brush design. "You're a long way from home, Delia. It's been a long time," Time.

Slithering around and beginning to glide across the water like a phantom, the silhouette of the man she has invaded the mind of speaks in rasping tones, the lower portion of his body looking to fade to mere tattered rags of black, no feet to speak of; a literal ghost in the mind. "Is Hokuto here?" Here?

That's a good question, one that the lonely moon on the watery horizon has no answer to.

She's not much more than he is, right now, but at least he has a body. Frowning, Delia regards him carefully as he glides/slithers closer to the beach. When he's close enough, she lifts the tip of her broken blade just a few inches to indicate such and raises her chin, shrugging her answer to his question. "That's not really my area of expertise," the young dreamwalker says in regards to Hokuto. Though she does seem to have better access to her mentor than most others, maybe.

Giving the shadow a good once over, the corner of her lip twitches a little as she straightens to her full height. "I really like your dress," sure it's a long coat, but he's just a shadow the resemblance could be mistaken for something a little more feminine.

The young woman moves as the shadow writhes closer, heedless of the blade in her hand. Something about it is a little unnerving and though she tries to stand her ground (at first), she finds herself backing up a pace or two. "I was really hoping we could just talk…"

Delia's comment on dresses causes the shadow to halt, head quirking to the side, followed by a rasp of laughter. "I miss your enthusiasm," Enthusiasm. The shadow swells, lifting up off of the water and then drifting down towards Delia like a sheet caught on the wind, awkward three-dimensional movement, like a blot of night inking through the air.

"It's not a dream," dream. The shadow lifts one hand, inky darkness receding from weathered fingers and trimmed nails as if offering Delia some sort of safe passage across the water. "This is the future," future, "or one of them at the very least. Beautiful, serene, devoid of humanity's touch… free."

The shadows begin to peel back, receding away from the man who reveals himself in part, darkness slithering away from his face and giving it definition along with his hand, while all the rest seems insubstantial. He's old, weathered like he'd been baked under a hot sun. Wrinkles crease his face, dark circles under his eyes seem permanently carved around eyes milky with cataracts. His hair is streaked with gray, salt and pepper, face roughly unshaven.

It isn't the face of the man Elisabeth had shown Delia at all, this is Richard Cardinal, but one decades older than the one she knows.

"Everything lives to be free," he explains to her, fingers curling in beckoning motion.

Delia can't help but follow along, as if guided toward the shadow by some unseen force. Perhaps it's just simple curiosity, maybe it's his will extering itself over her own. It's been known to happen lately, especially with how tired she's growing. "If it's not a dream then… How am I here?" She reaches up to rub one fist against her eye. Confused more than anything, she dips the down letting the broken end tip toward the gravel.

His face doesn't seem to surprise her too much, perhaps it would if she was more familiar with who she is dealing with rather than what. He's the shadow monster, apparently an older version of the man that explodes out of other people's pants. "Why would you want a future without people in it? I don't understand… I'm not here anymore, but you miss me?"

Her eyes squint a little as she attempts to comprehend exactly what he's saying. The angel wasn't far off when she told the young redhead that the monster speaks in riddles.

"You're not supposed to understand," Cardinal admits in a level tone of voice, watching as Delia gravitates towards him, "it's a dream." The redhead walks across the water as if it were as stable as the shifting gravel under her feet, able to support her insubstantial weight. Dream logic. "This place has people in it, but all of the scars made by humanity — most of them — have all been washed clean. It was a fresh start, a chance to begin again. We're out of fresh starts, out of do-overs. We wasted our one last chance for paradise," he motions around with a shadowy hand towards the lapping shores crashing over barnacle and moss covered skyscrapers.

"The wasteland is all that is waiting for us, Delia. Twice now, I've been directly or indirectly responsible for preventing the coming of a future that would have been better for us all, because of whatever personal rationalle I had a the time. I didn't like the management mostly…" The weathered, old Cardinal furrows his brows, keeping his hand aloft for Delia to take.

"Here you're gone, so is most of the world, buried under hundreds of feet of tidal surge. Or, so I'd guess… maybe you'd live on, like she did. But I knew you somewhere— somewhen— else. That doesn't matter any more though, what matters is that you're here— now."

Slowly, one of Cardinal's gray brows rises. "Why?"

Her eyebrows furrow into worry and she gulps, her throat rising and falling visibly. "I— I'm dead?" Turning her head, Delia's red curls spill out in front of her shoulder before she shakes negative. Not letting him drift off the subject of her eventual demise. "No, I'm not going to die. You have to tell me how I can stay alive."

As for why she's here, it takes a back seat.

The sword is lifted again and the redhead's face sets into a firm expression. Her free hand slips into the shadow monster's and her strong grip is more to make certain that he won't let her go than anything else. "You prevent it, because you don't want it? Or because it's not you… this you."

Cardinal squeezes Delia's hand, his expression shifting in mercurial fashion to something more inspecting, watching Delia like he would specimen of some sort of exotic animal. "That's not fair," he admits with a gentle tug of Delia towards him, her footsteps leaving ripples in the water as she walks, "you didn't answer my question first."

To enunciate that point, Richard tilts his scruffy chin up, looking down the length of his nose to Delia, murky eyes focused on her with a clarity unlike what eyes as blind as his should see. "Why are you here?"

"I was sent here, by the angel. I was hoping that when I found you, I'd find my body… but you don't have it, do you?" She can't feel its pull but Delia's uncertain that she'd recognize anymore it even if she was right beside it. Meeting Richard's gaze, her eyebrows twitch a little, like she's trying to read his expression or maybe even his mind. She's no telepathic though.

"She needs pieces of her puzzle, so she can find the truth to save the boy." Riddles to her, even though she's witness to every event that led up to this point. Her grip tightens around the jeweled hilt of her sword and she narrows her eyes at the seemingly blind man. "So you have to lie… unless that's what you're already doing. How do I stay alive?"

Now he looks curious, one brow raised and head canted to the side. There's a tilt of Cardinal's jaw up, and in the distance the sounds of artillery firing, muffled and far off explosions and whistling rockets streaking through the air remind Delia how the sounds of one dream bordering another can often seem like they're underwater or behind a wall. There's something else here, something he doesn't want her to see.

"You stay alive by trusting me, Delia. I can help you through this, but I can tell you that you're going to need to listen to me, do exactly what I say…" Murky eyes narrow slowly, and the hand clutching Delia's grows just a little more firm. "Can you do that for me?" As Cardinal asks that question, there's a distant flash on the eastern horizon beyond the ocean, then a few more — smaller.

The redhead pivots to looks toward the flashes and her face smooths as she reaches a decision. Turning back toward Richard, Delia nods quickly, her need to survive outmatching any other good sense she might have held earlier. Not that her dream addled brain is rife with the stuff at the moment, the agreement is quickly made regardless of the niggling in the back of her mind. "I— I can do it." She hopes.

Her worry eases with the agreement made and the deep breath she takes cleanses her fears just a little. The little explosions around them earn a fleeting glimpse in their direction and a curious twitch of her eyebrow toward him. Silently questioning the reason behind the war in his mind. "What do you need me to do? Will I find my body?"

"I can find you a body," Richard admits as if that were some sort of reasonable compromise, "from there I think we can get a better start on finding you your body." The drumming sound of explosions reverberate through the air, now met with the chering cries of thousands of voices all chanting something unintelligibly together. Feet stamp in unison, and on the horizon tall shadows are cast on distant clouds, backlit by flames. Fists are thrown to the air by these shadows, gunfire cracks and pops, the sound of breaking glass and the roar of jet engines seems both near and far all at once; echoing and hollow.

"You need to find a man named Dema. He's a good person, strong willed, capable. He'll help you find a body, find a place to ground yourself… and we can start from there." As the sounds of explosions grow louder and more clear, Cardinal's brows furrow as he turns to look over his shoulder, staring back at those silhouettes with a haunted expression.

For the barest of moments, something is overlaid over this peaceful, watery environment. Chain-link fences twelve feet high, topped with coils of razorwire. Posters are plastered to the links, flakes of ash fall from the sky, somewhere children are crying, one of them calling out in a language Delia can't speak. But the word 'Mama' is nearly universal.

Cardinal grips her hand, tighter now, "Stop."

Delia isn't the one doing this.

It's painful and Delia crumples under the shadow's hold, "I'm not… You're hurting me…" Her voice shakes almost as much as the scenery does with firefight. She squints up at the monster and wrinkles her nose as she tries to pull her hand free from his. "I know where my body is… I just don't know how to get there!" Perhaps this bit of information would save her the indignity of having to wear someone else. Would she be able to wake up?

"Why is it changing?" Her questions come in rapid succession now, she's second guessing her bargain. The deal with the devil, irresistible but a compromise of a soul. Had the redhead paid better attention in bible study, she might know this. "Why isn't it peaceful anymore? Is it because I want to live? Will I start a war if I live?"

"Some people are afraid of themselves."

The voice comes from back on the shore, a lilting female voice emanating from a black cat with vibrant yellow eyes, staring out at Delia and Cardinal on the water. Behind her, the subway tunnel and the shore has changed entirely, now there is smoke and neon lights, silhouettes and the sounds of artillery fire and crackling flames.

Cardinal, unimpressed by the intruder, does as Delia wishes and eases his grip on her hand. "Pot, Kettle," he taunts to Hokuto's tiny feline form, then turns his murky eyes to Delia. "Not everything has to do with you, not this anyway." Cardinal's brows furrow as he stares past Delia to the feline, looking strained by something, either in pain or trying to concentrate — the look is ambiguous.

"Come back this way, Delia. He can't help you find your body, you have to do this yourself…" Hokuto takes a few steps forward, paws lightly touching the surf — she seems to be heavier than the water, and the cold waves lap up over her furred feet. Behind her, those dark and blurry silhouettes vaguely resemble skyscrapers where the ruins of Midtown should be, neon lights where there should be none.

Gunfire and flames.

"This way," Hokuto says again, more urgently.

Her eyebrows furrow in confusion as she looks at the cat and Delia shakes her head to clear her thoughts again. "I— He— …" Resignedly, she lowers her head and nods to her mentor, stepping away from the shadow. She's blatantly torn as she keeps looking back to the old man but, still, she keeps plodding across the water toward Hokuto. "He told me to find Dema… To find the bogeyman."

The fledgling sinks into the water as she comes closer to the cat, until she's up to her knees in the icy ocean. When she finally reaches the shore, she's shivering with cold but her face is downcast with too many notions running through her mind. "I don't know how to get to my body." She's so close but still so very far away.

"I'll show you how to find it, with Dema's help. He's a specialist, and he's also not a murderer of children like the nightmare behind you." Cardinal's brows furrow as he watches Delia retreat, his fingers slipping from hers. There's a ripple in the water when Cardinal lays down that accusation, but there is also pointedly only silence from Hokuto in the face of it. Behind her, the sounds of gunfire, shouting and the glow of neon lights begins to fade.

Hokuto dips her head down, furred brows furrowing together as white whiskers at her forehead waggle with the motion. Her yellow eyes stare wide at Delia, and the tiny black cat dips her head down close to the edge of the surf, ears folding back in worry. As the noise of chaos and carnage starts to dim, Cardinal ripples back into a form of shadow again, gliding across the water like some sort of tattered black phantom.

"Dema is only here to help you, Delia." One shadowy hand reaches out, ephemeral and smoky, "Come with me, and I'll save you… and together, you can I can save so many more people." More people.

A nightmare, a murderer, someone to be feared, so many new aspects of her mentor have been revealed to her in such a short time. As Delia's feet get within inches of the feline, the sword fizzles from her hand and the redhead reaches down. Plucking up her mentor as though she were a regular housecat, the young woman cradles Hokuto protectively, if not a little bit too much like a baby. Who knows if Hokuto holds the same reservations as Teo when it comes to being held. "He works for the Institute," she answers the shadow, "they make people addicted to refrain… and they're looking for my dad. If I find him, he might try to use me to get my dad."

Holding the cat up to her face, her lips slide to the side as she regards her mentor, for better or for worse. "Hokuto might be all those things you say… but she's the one my dad trusts. She wouldn't do anything to hurt me, she hasn't so far." When in doubt, go with the devil you know rather than the one you don't. "When I find the red bird, everything will be alright again." She just doesn't know where to find it.

The cat looks shocked when she's picked up, gold eyes saucer-wide as she's cradled to Delias chest, front paws a little wet and back ones sandy but otherwise no worse for wear. Unlike Teodoro, however, Hokuto seems content to be held. "Your father is short-sighted, Delia, he's an adherant to old and out-dated ideals…" Ideals. "Ones that will get him killed eventually. You need to be better than him, Delia, better than old, you have to be able to adapt. Change." Change.

Worriedly, Hokuto rises up in Delia's arms, a cold nose pressed to the side of her neck before yellow eyes are afforded out to Cardinal, wide and surprised. "I don't know who you are," the cat says with the fur on her back beginning to stand on end, "but you aren't Richard Cardinal." Her tiny claws prick at Delia's arms, and Hokuto looks back over her shoulder, ears perked forward to where the smoke and haze swirls in thick clouds, parting to reveal a tall doorframe of white-painted wood, with a rich cherry colored door inside of it fit with brass fixtures,

"Anywhere is better than here," Hokuto whispers before she turns back to the shadow, undulating and rippling on the edge of the water. Behind Cardinal's silhouette, more firelight flashes and blossoms, and the roar of jets passing overhead is distantly heard.

But in her murmuring, Delia has given Cardinal the clue he needs. After all, who better to know where the red bird is, than a Cardinal.

"I know where your body is," Cardinal asserts, "stay with me, we'll figure this all out." Stay with me.

Hokuto bristles, a low yowl building in the back of her throat. "Don't listen to him."

Bristling at the shadow's words, Delia pauses at the door, freezing at the handle. She closes her eyes and takes a few deep breaths, clenching her jaw as she actually considers them. "Yeah, he's— stubborn— but he's dedicated to his job." She has her doubts that her father left his post to help look for her but it's why she didn't say family. "But he's my dad and I'll never be better than he is at what he does." It's a concession that she'd given him a long time ago, it takes a certain amount of dedication to do what he does.

Nodding to the cat, she thumbs the little lever on the brass handle and pulls. The door sticks just long enough for the redhead to catch the shadow's last appeal. A swift pivot of her head to stare at him wide eyed over her shoulder is enough. Her grip on the cat tightens as she lets go of the handle and faces the shadow. "How do I get there from here? Where are we now?" The dahlia eruptions of light behind the shadow give him a happy backdrop, if they were fireworks instead of explosions.

Concentrating, she tries to utilize a technique that a different tutor gave her. Searching the man's last memories before he drifted to unconsciousness.

He's woefully unaware of the sifting of his subconscious, and what Delia Ryans discovers are ghostly images in photo-negative, odd and distorted visages of walls and doors, too close and too large to be real, as if it were a mouse-eye view of slipping beneath a door crack like an envelope. There's a swirl of light and dark, a blur of gray and then clarity.

It comes back like a remembered dream for Delia, the image of a gray-walled bedroom that looks more like a hospital room than anything else. The heavy clunk of booted feet, black armor — FRONTLINE? The world turns gray again, and like smoke passing through a sewer grate, Cardinal filters out of the seams of a suit of Horizon armor, though not of a make Delia is familiar with.

As he levers himself down towards the cot that is his bed, his attention turns to a pair of dossiers on the nightstand, blurry and indistinct at first, save for a name on the top tab that she can barely make out:

Winters, B.

There's more details, handwriting, scrawled notes, but it's too much detail to focus on and too small and peripheral. Too late too, because when that door handle creaks open, there is not the sound of gunfire and sirens behind it, but instead the noise of creaking wood and crickets chirping.


And the feeling of Hokuto wriggling out of her arms and landing just outside the door on the gravel. When the feline's paws touch down between Delia and Cardinal, Hokuto turns yellow eyes back up to her student.

"You're almost there," Hokuto states as the shadow of Richard glides towards the door, only to have it slam shut, dropping Delia into absolute darkness. There are the sounds of crickets, the creak of wood, but not the smell of a forest anywhere.

There is one distinctive aroma, however.


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