Secrets are brought out of the shadows

A sailboat glides across glass-smooth water and over the reflection of white clouds piling on the horizon

Out of Shadows



Raindrops slashed at Solanio’s face as he and Butch made their way up the river. Solanio pulled the hood of his cloak up and hoped the storm that was brewing would give them the cover they needed. Two quick flashes of light shimmered through the tall grass when they reached the mouth of the inlet. 

“Drop anchor,” Butch said. 

Solanio cut the engine and steered the skiv silently through the reeds. Three ragged shadows slinked toward the skiv. 

Photo by Joran Quinten.

“Oy, we ain’t got all night lads. Quick step,” Butch growled at his companions.

“And quietly, while you’re at it,” Solanio hissed.

A stout, barrel-chested man stomped aboard. His matted hair was tied back into a rattail that wagged down his sweaty back. He gave Solanio a toothless grin before moving aside for his mate. A wooden peg jabbed the deck, nearly missing Solanio’s well-oiled boot. The peg’s owner sat his skeletal frame on the crates next to Butch, his gaunt face glowering. Lastly, a brute that matched Butch in size and number for belt-knives sagged the skiv even further in the water. 

“Tiny, Bones, and Dagger, at your service.” Butch gestured to each of his mates. 

“Pleasure. Shall we?” Solanio swallowed hard and started the engine.

The pelting rain blurred Solanio’s vision, making it difficult to scan for the barge. Tiny gave a low whistle and nodded ahead into the growing darkness. Sure enough, the lights of the barge twinkled in the rainfall and river mist. 

Solanio scanned the skies. 

“What are you looking at?” Butch snapped. 

“Do you see any drones?” Solanio asked. 

Butch laughed. “Trust me. There won’t be a Whitehall drone pass over this side of the river for some time.” He tapped his temple, as if he kept the inner workings of the drones inside that thick skull. 

“Alright. I’ll pull alongside the barge and then you do the rest.” Solanio gripped the controls.

“We know the plan. Smash and grab. Done it a thousand times.” Butch drew a pair of knives from his belt and ignited their laser blades. “Ready, boys?” 

Solanio shuddered under their unnatural glow and silently nudged the skiv to the starboard side of the barge. 

On the barge, the barge he owned but had been tasked with raiding, his trusted crew relaxed on the deck as if the rain were a summer breeze. 

Butch and his men secured rigging, and silently attached the skiv to the barge, entwining them in a lattice of knots. Solanio rubbed his gold signet ring–a ring signifying his membership in the Guild–trying to summon any last luck it might supply.

The skiv aligned with the barge, and in that instant, everything stilled. The river seemed to pause, even the breeze dropped, as if the world held breath for what was about to happen. 

But the moment soon passed, broken by the pirate crew bounding onto the barge’s deck and mounting their attack. 

“Pirates!” the barge captain bellowed, snapping his crew to attention. 

Solanio sunk further into his hood, not only to hide from his barge crew but also from the squelch of soggy punches and the metallic clang of blades connecting. A mighty clap of thunder shattered the sky above, tearing at the frayed edges of Solanio’s nerves. He flipped the helm to automatic and scurried below deck as mist engulfed the skiv and barge. 

Solanio paced in the darkness, shaking his head. The clash of steel rang out from the deck above. A sickening thud pounded the boards. He closed his eyes and tried to push out the screaming voices. 


“Where is he?” 

“Show yourself!” 

Ghost? That wasn’t one of Butch’s pirate friends. 

A gust of wind ripped through the hull, shaking its metal plates. Terrified shouts and shrieks pierced the air, drifting down to him in echoes.

“There’s another one!” 

A second thud sounded, followed by a splash on the port side.

“Coward! Show yourself!” Butch screamed through the raging storm. 

What was going on up there? This was supposed to be a simple smash and grab. Butch had said as much. 

Another clap of thunder shook the skiv, threatening to roll it. Solanio knew he was needed at the helm, otherwise this hover would become his coffin. But he couldn’t bring himself to enter the fight. 

Photo by Johannes Plenio.

His fingers tapped the pistol below his cloak, remembering Prospero’s promise that its wide beam would eviscerate anything in its path. He breathed deeply, tightening his hood to mask his face. Prospero had better not have been exaggerating. 

As the skiv rolled in the rising river, Solanio crashed onto its deck. He squinted through the rain and mist to steal a look at what was happening on the barge, but he couldn’t see beyond its prow. The sounds of the fight quieted and all Solanio could hear was the lapping of water against the barge’s hull. 

Solanio blindly scrambled up the rigging, and pulled himself onto the barge. He tripped and crashed onto the deck, glancing back at what had sent him toppling. Tiny’s limp body twisted, soaking the deck with crimson blood. 

Solanio scrambled to his feet, drawing his pistol. He whirled around to find the bodies of the three barge crewmen gruesomely slain. Dagger lay in two halves, cut clean through. The crate containing the eye still sat on its pedestal in the center of the barge next to Butch. Butch’s eyes widened in a maddened frenzy. Beside him, Bones quaked. 

“Come out, ghost!” Butch shouted into the air, drawing the thunder closer. 

“What the—” Solanio’s voice caught when, from nowhere, ten silhouettes of men surrounded the barge. They drew swords which flashed like lightning in their hands. 

All the blood drained from Solanio’s face as he aimed his pistol at the closest silhouette, but before he could fire at the man, their body vanished into mist. Butch lunged at another attacker, nearly falling over the railing. Bones threw himself at the specters. Solanio continued to aim erratically at each figure that appeared before him, but each disappeared before he had the chance to shoot. 

In no more than a blink, all the shadows vanished. Bones lay on the deck, blood spilling from a gash on his neck that no medicine could mend. 

Photo by Solen Feyissa.

“I said show yourself!” Butch bellowed.

A figure landed in front of Butch. The mysterious man knelt, his face obstructed by the pitch-black cloak he wore, before he theatrically unsheathed a long, gleaming sword. He brought the blade in front of his face ready to strike. Solanio beheld a piercing blue eye in the sword’s reflection. A Newlondoner? 

Butch roared, daggers gripped tight, and pitched himself at the assassin. The man swiftly dodged Butch’s attack and swung his sword, catching Butch in the arm. Butch howled in pain through gritted teeth. The figure stood motionless while he waited for his opponent’s next attack. Solanio watched the mysterious man perform a graceful ballet of parries and feints as Butch lumbered clumsily, failing to land a single blow.

Butch slammed his body into the man and stabbed his attacker’s cloak. It rebounded off their armor plating, sending Butch crashing to the deck. Butch grabbed an edge of the cloak as he tumbled, entangling the two. Butch swung his fists wildly, finally connecting with his foe’s face to land a satisfying crack. Solanio tiptoed toward the crate which held the kraken’s eye, never daring to look away from the fight. The man spun and expertly pinned Butch. He pressed the edge of his sword against Butch’s pulsing neck.

“Who ordered you to this shameful task?” The man pressed the edge deeper into Butch’s skin.

“The Guild. It was the Guild.” Butch lifted a bloodied finger toward Solanio. “Ask him. He’s one of them!” 

Solanio froze with his hands hovering just above the crate. The figure flicked his wrist toward Solanio while maintaining his hold on Butch. 

“Your disgraceful deeds have sealed your fate.” The man bowed his head and, in one fluid motion, killed Butch with a slice of his sword.

As Butch crumpled to the deck, the man flicked his wrist again. A drone cut through the mist to face Solanio, a red light near its lens flashed. Solanio swerved to avoid the drone’s rotors. It was no Haller drone. He aimed his pistol at the figure as they approached.

“Stay where you are!” Solanio’s pistol hand shook.

“Everyone will know what you and the Guild really are.”

Solanio caught a glimpse of the blue eyes beneath the hood again. 

“I said, stay back!” Solanio yelled. 

“You cannot stop what is coming.” 

“Maybe not. But I can stop you.” Solanio pulled the trigger of his pistol. A crack boomed through the air and a flash of light illuminated the dense fog, blinding him. He stumbled backward, shielding his eyes with the crook of his arm. The pistol’s blast shrouded everything in its hot beam. What did Prospero need a weapon like this for? 

The gun’s glowing report relinquished itself to the darkness. Surrounded by shadow once again, Solanio peered across the deck at where the man’s body should have laid in a charred heap, only to discover that the man and the crate with the kraken’s eye were gone. 

“No!” Solanio slammed the pedestal that once held the crate. 

He ran his fingers through his drenched hair when Leonardo’s words echoed in his ears. Shadow Walkers. Could they actually be real? He knew his fair share of skilled Newlonders, but this man’s skills were unlike anything Solanio had ever witnessed. He was more than a myth. More than a ghost. He was real. 

Solanio forced the madness of what he’d witnessed out of his brain. He had larger worries to contend with than a fictional group of mysterious crusaders. What would that man do with proof of the Guild’s misdeeds? Of his misdeeds? Mind racing, Solanio jumped back to his skiv to race back to Newlondon. He had to warn the Guild, find a way to shore up the damage before it was too late. Before the shadow struck again. 

Balthasar steered his skiv towards the Westminster dock. Sebastian and Gonzalo stood waiting. 

“What happened to the barge?” Gonzalo asked. 

Balthasar said nothing in reply. 

“This isn’t good business.” Sebastian frowned. “Who are you, and where is the barge?” 

“I believe this is yours,” Balthasar growled, unloading the crate single-handed, as if it weighed nothing. 

Sebastian and Gonzalo’s mouths gaped like a couple of river fish. 

Balthasar bowed towards them and pulled away from the jetty. An honorable trade. When he was out of sight, he angled the mirrored panels to disappear into the coastline. 

Balthasar found the mouth of Limnoreia Estuary and guided his skiv to a pocket behind the high reeds. He closed his eyes to listen to the wind on the water. He placed his sheathed sword before the shrine in the skiv and bowed. 

“I thank the wind for its power, and the ocean for its patience,” whispered Balthasar.

He recalled the drone and replayed the attack on the barge. Holograms projected everything it had recorded. A smile played at the corner of his lips. The effort to reprogram the drone had paid off. The drone’s duplicate projections of himself around the barge proved to be perfect decoys to confuse his quarry. Balthasar tapped his wrist to enable the audio playback when the hologram replayed the moment he had pinned the pirate to the deck.

Who ordered you to this shameful task?

The Guild. It was the Guild. 

Balthasar flicked his fingers and the hologram spun to show the face of Solanio approaching the crate. He paused the recording and keyed in a command for the drone to deliver the recording to Leonato. 

“It is done.” Balthasar watched the drone disappear down the river. He snatched the communicator from his buckle, knelt before his shrine, and sent a message through the water to every Shadow Walker on the Globe. All at once, their pendants would shimmer with the same call, the same cry, the labors of their purpose realized at last. Just as every dawn began with the smallest glimmer, so too, they would rise with the words that every Shadow Walker had been waiting for, and Balthasar had finally spoken. Those fateful words could not be undone, could not be escaped, nor could the raging storm that came with them. 

His message was simple. “Out of the shadows, there shines a light.” 

If you enjoyed Shanel and Frasier’s story, feel free to leave comments below. If you would like to read more about Newlondon, read “The Beast Below” which kicked off the Newlondon stories in the Globe Folio series.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on the way soon!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross