The battle was joined, and the druids and their protectors were moving. Abdael gestured and called out, and massive sphere of darkness settled over the center of the field, engulfing half a dozen of their enemies. Screams came out of the darkness, and horrible sucking slurping sounds.
Thirty feet away, Ireena turned to gape. "What... What...?"
Abdael motioned towards the figure that was even now bearing down on her with an upraised blade, and she turned back to slip the attack and counter. Abdael moved on, one portion of his mind holding the hungry darkness in place even as his shadow-blade slid out of his hand and he approached another druid.
* * *
Later, as they unrolled their blankets on the floor of the borrowed room at the winery, Ireena looked over at him. "So what in the nine hells was that? That... thing you did during the battle?"
Abdael looked relieved. "It's called Hunger of Hadar. It's a spell. It's something warlocks can learn."
Ireena looked him over for a long moment. "...And you are a warlock. I keep thinking of you as a swordsman, but you really aren't, are you?"
"No." Abdael shook his head for emphasis. "I mean, I am, but it's not like being an arcane knight or a ranger or... any of the sorts of armsmen who use spells. This is what I am." He let his shadow slide out into a sword, then dismissed it and let it become a whip. "This is something I carry inside me, because of a bargain an ancestor made." He looked down at the uncoiled length of blackness, then withdrew it.
"A bargain," Ireena said, and stopped. Then: "A bargain with what?"
"I don't know. My mother doesn't have this, nor did hers, nor did hers. But it's been part of me since about the time I learned to walk; maybe before. Whatever my ancestor bargained with, and whatever this is that it gave me, it comes to whom it chooses. My parents had to pay a diviner to determine what was happening to me and why."
"I had no idea." Ireena fell silent.
"Well," said Abdael, "it's not something I talk about much. There doesn't seem to be much point, since there's no changing it. And everything has happened so fast here, there never seemed a good time to bring it up."
Ireena loosed a gutteral exhalation. "True. Weeks in that house, with Strahd's servants clawing at the walls every night, and then you and your friends showed up and took me along with you. Has it been a week? Two?"
"Something like that." Abdael had lost track of the time. It seemed as if he'd known Ireena all his life; it seemed as if he'd barely met her. "But if you feel... about me... what I might feel about you, well..." He drew a deep breath. "This is something you should know, and this is something you should have time to think about."
Ireena blinked. "That seems... more than fair." She shook her head. "I'll think about it, I promise. It was just... a shock."
Abdael coughed. "Sorry. As a warlock I think I'm supposed to be all dark and spooky and threatening, but I'm really not."
"Except when you are."
He nodded. "Except when I am, and then it seems to take people by surprise."
"It was definitely a surprise," said Ireena. "But you're still you, you're just a you who can do things like that. I'll need to think about that."
Abdael nodded and settled back on his blankets. "I'll be here."