A lone man stood in the shadows of an alley, watching the unfolding scene in the city streets. He never would have thought Oz would have been that dumb to get in the way of the guard just for some little kid, a single rat in a gigantic sewer. The man smiled sadly and shook his head, Oz had changed it seemed, had become a bit more emotional, a bit less logical. In other words, Lucas thought with a dry laugh resounding in his head, he's become more like me. God, he'll hate it when he figures it out.

He sank into the shadows further, using his new found powers to melt into the walls that were drowned in the silky cousins of night. So rich in the abundant alleys of Loste Mor, shadows. They could be found everywhere. He'd learned that with Oz, a long time ago…

This should be interesting he thought, knowing that Tatyana had spoken to his old friend recently. He knew where that damn witch always was, preferring to keep his distance from her since the recent escape of his own. Well, he had been more set free, but the place he'd come from was such a hell, that to finally be gone from it, meant simply: escape.

"Ok, Oz." He mused, watching his old friend raise his hands above his head as the guards stormed out from every direction. "Show me what you can do."

……………………………………………………………………………………………

As Oz was surrounded by… his eyes flicked quickly left to right, about ten guards (he hoped), he was about to reach for his daggers when he heard a voice say, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Samuel D'Nashan. Or should I say, Oz Shadowskin?"

Oz recognized the voice of the idiotic guard he'd met on his first day. The fat man looked quite intelligent today, Oz had to admit. But it was surprising how much a blade digging into your back would raise your estimation of your opponent. Oz coughed, and decided to do what he always did in a bit of trouble. He would bluff like hell. "Oz Shadowskin?" He asked in the fake voice of a snooty merchant. "I dare say, good sirs, that you have most definitely offended me this day. I will be sure to report to your commander about this at once!"

The blade dug into his back slightly deeper. Well… Damn, that didn't work.

"Oh you'll be reporting to my commander alright," the guard said with a greedy look filling his ravenous eyes. Undoubtedly he would be getting a promotion for this. "But you'll be at the end of the thumbscrews and pincers while you give it."

Oz gulped, and started following what was always his plan B. He started trying to figure out a way to escape. He'd seen some of the handiwork of Vince, and he was sure that Vince was an amateur compared to the Royal Inquisitors of Loste Mor. Oz could stand many things; unfortunately, pain wasn't exactly one of them.

"Get moving, Shadowskin," The guard said pushing Oz painfully forward on the tip of his sword. "I hear the Governor is looking forward to that trick you did around three-four years ago. Your wanted poster has been up since then. We'll get much better jobs thanks to you."

"Gee," Oz said, his humor starting to come out. "I'm glad I could help people everywhere by putting one more ignorant fat ass in command." The guard apparently didn't like his humor, as he removed the point of the sword from Oz's back and swung the hilt into Oz's head.

Oz fell to the ground; his nose hit the ground with a sickening crunch, and if he wasn't so overcome by pain and nausea he'd realized the bastard had broken it. He got pulled to his feet by the guard, who promptly told him, "Keep your mouth shut, unless you want more. They don't need you undamaged, the Governor is willing to take you anyway he can have you. He's quite interested in that case."

"Why the hell would Cadal be interested in me?" Oz asked, which prompted the guard to knock him down to the ground again, and this time give him a kick in the side for good measure.

Oz got up to his feet himself this time, as the other guards started to relax, seeing that their comrade had this quasi-legend safely under control. It was rather amusing to finally see one of the thieves get it in return. They thought it was interesting to finally be on the winning side of the law. "Since, you asked," the guard said, as Shadow started to stir in Oz's hood, "the Governor of Loste Mor is no longer Emperor Cadal, may he live forever."

"May he live forever," the rest of the guards echoed, though none of them had any enthusiasm behind their words. The Emperor had let them die fighting in the streets, while always hungrily devouring new lands to add to his collection. The whole continent of Mor was owned by the Moren Empire, and the Emperor had wasted little time watching his own city.

Shadow finally woke up, and Oz shook his head to himself. He knew about heavy sleepers, but this was unreasonable! The guard kept up with his dramatic monologue, color and tone finally entering into it as his voice gained a new respect. "The new Governor of Loste Mor is the Emperor's Heir, and he is far more interested in what goes on within the labyrinth of the City."

Shadow yawned, and slowly stretched her neck to look around. Oz could swear he felt his feline companion jump at least a foot, and she let out a startled, "Mreow!?"

"Yeah," Oz replied, indicating all the guard with a slight motion of one of his hands, "See what happens when you sleep too much? About time you woke up."

The guard had just started to drop the hilt into the back of Oz's head once again; but this time, Shadow beat him to the punch. She sank her teeth deep into the back Oz's neck, and he was so shocked by the sudden pain of having needle sharp fangs bite into the back of his neck; that he didn't notice his leg kick backwards, knocking the overweight overconfident guard on the chin, and rendering him senseless.

The other guards immediately dropped their relaxed façade, and clenching their weapons, ran forth to attack. Shadow had her teeth digging into Oz's neck, her claws scratching both sides, and her legs kicked furiously, as she latched onto Oz's neck as if it were some gigantic mongoose. He was so absorbed in his frantic attempt to knock the psychotic cat off his neck that he never realized he had taken out the first three guards. On a frantic turn, he spotted the rest er wait, no, seven guards, it seemed.

However, Oz's luck didn't last forever, as he didn't notice one of the guards circling around him, waiting until he was behind the thief's back, and could attack with ease. The guard's chance came soon enough as he and the other two remaining members of the watch came closing in on the dangerously twitching thief at the same time.

Oz's fist rocketed out, taking the first guard down with it, but the remaining two men got within range to attack. The second man's thrust was dodged, as the thief jumped backwards, which led him to plunge into the blade of the man behind him.

Oz's eyes opened wide in shock, as he looked down at the blood spilling from his chest. That's funny he thought, as his vision started to slip in and out of focus, I've never seen the blood from this angle before. Before Oz could recognize the delirious thought for what it was, and before he could recognize Shadow leaping off his back and killing the last guard, he fell into the deep welcoming blackness. It opened its arms like the mother he had never truly known, and he embraced it.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

Lucas had watched the encounter with quite the interest. In a way, Oz had changed, drastically. But when Lucas noticed how his old friend had refused to draw his weapons, he refined his thought. In a way, he's just the same old Oz; the same old, naïve, softhearted, Oz.

He was just about to lend him a helping hand when one of the cowards stabbed Oz from behind. "Damn it!" Lucas yelled softly, emerging from the shadows, and running towards the falling form of Oz.

A large panther emerged from seemingly thin air behind Oz, and with one powerful swipe it managed to kill the guard. Lucas didn't let this fact distract him; he needed to save Oz, they had too much to plan…

The panther seemed to sense his presence; it turned, staring him down with fiery green eyes. It let off a low growl in its throat, and Lucas rolled his eyes. "Sorry, I'll have to deal with you later," he said, and with a wave of his hand, the strange creature was blown away. He could hear it land somewhere else in the city, and by the people's frightened screams he could pinpoint its location. People must've been scared of it, with that oblivion black coat of its and those intelligent green eyes.

The screams fell faint after a while though, perhaps it had disappeared again? Lucas ordered his mind to focus; he had only one thing to do. As he invoked his new found power, he laid his hands on Oz's head and chest, slowly healing his old friend of the otherwise fatal wound.

"Damn," Lucas mused, as he heard the pounding footsteps of more guards coming to arrest the famous 'Shadowskin'. Better not let them find his partner, Ghosteyes, either. Lucas thought, and sparing Oz one last look, he disappeared, melting into the shadows once again.

The guards came, surprised by the fact that one man was dead and all the other men were knocked out. They took everyone into custody, and Lucas considered whether he should rescue Oz or not. No, I think not. He thought, a dark glint setting itself behind his fierce gray eyes. Oz let me stew in my own hell for awhile, it would only be fair of me to pay that favor in return. Perhaps, after a few years, he would rescue Oz, After all, given the time, Lucas thought, remembering his own experience, even a man's sanity can be built back up.