The flight back to Castle Draco was no less tiring than the journey out to Cataract had been at least for Alptraum. It's nearly mid-afternoon by the time the Eeee returns to the guest suite he shares with Tulani, Mave and Phlagaea. Lilith gave him a brief welcome-back hug before taking Tulani off to 'debrief' her and check her memory and observation skills. Phlagaea was also off somewhere, likely dealing with her own new position. The only familiar face left for Alptraum to look on belongs to Mave, who's sitting in the common room and reading through an old book.
Since he's back in the castle, Alptraum starts removing his gloves. He doesn't feel he needs to wear them here or obscure anything. He walks towards Mave and tries to get a look at the title of the book she's reading. "Good afternoon, Yodhinala Mave," he comments cheerily. "I hope you have been finding things to pass the time enjoyably?"
Mave is reading something titled The History of the Angels, it looks like. She sets the book aside and smiles to Alptraum, saying, "Life is never dull for those who follow Inala. How was your visit with your family? You look tired."
"I've learned that spending so much time with those who lack wings weakens those who have them. My wings hurt after all that flying," Alptraum comments idly and crouches down beside Mave's chair. "But all in all, it was an enjoyable time, yes. They plan to visit the capitol in the near future. I'm sorry I haven't been as attentive with you as I probably should be. Is there anything you need assistance with or wish my participation in? At some point I wouldn't mind taking some time to practice magic again and see if I can channel power into the shadow in much the same way as you taught me to do it normally."
"We Eeee are not exactly built for long-distance flying, compared to one such as Tulani," the priestess notes. "I can arrange the use of one of the ritual chambers for further practice, but otherwise I am here to serve you. How did your parents react to you, if I may ask? Did you tell them you are the Barsunala?"
"Well … I left that part out," Alptraum admits and rubs at the back of his neck and shoulders with his chitinous right hand. "They were so happy to see me and so worried when I mentioned some minor things that happened … that I didn't think it wise to say much more on it."
The white Eeee takes Alptraum's right hand, and examines it. "Your scales are starting to shed," she notes, and then sets it down to continue rubbing his neck and shoulders where he left off. "I suppose you told nobody else in your tribe then, either. You and Tulani must have grown close, having to share the secret."
Alptraum lifts his right hand close to examine the state of the scales. "I suppose I could re-enforce the scales," he considers briefly. At the comment about Tulani, he lets out a sigh. "We're friends and nothing more than that," he tells the white Eeee. "We had a bit of an incident, but it's been taken care of. My control of the shadow needs work."
"So, she is not the Khatta you slept with?" Mave asks, plucking a dark hair from Alptraum's neck that is decidedly feline in origin.
Alptraum's ears flick back to hide his embarrassment. "Ah, no. I had thought I had gotten all those off," he admits. "Why the curiosity in my, uh, sleeping habits?"
"Well, to know how your shadow responds to the throws of passion," Mave notes.
Picking a bit at the shedding scales, Alptraum asks Mave, "What do you think? Should I re-enforce the scales, or try a different modification this time?" At the comment about the shadow, he admits, "I honestly don't know yet. The one I, uh … well, she knew how to bind my powers long enough that it would not harm her."
"We will have to experiment with that," Mave remarks. "Could you do feathers?"
"Feathers? Probably. Why do you ask?" Alptraum comments and glances to the Eeee.
"As for experimenting … you mean experimenting with binding my powers?" he adds a bit cautiously and arches his brow.
"First to find if it reacts, and then to control it," Mave says. "What happened with the shadow and Tulani?"
"That I will leave private, sorry. For her," Alptraum notes apologetically. He flexes his hand a bit, then says, "So, you really think feathers? Any change I do only lasts a day or so."
"No, feathers would be silly," Mave admits. "I only wanted to see if you would take the suggestion seriously."
Alptraum laughs and shrugs. "Well, I was asking a serious question," he comments and pokes her lightly in the side with his claw. "I thought you might find it interesting to see how the changes are done." He waddles a bit until he's in front of Mave's chair and settles down, offering his shoulder and wing joints to her if she wants to continue rubbing. "Now, as for your comments about controlling the shadow … I am taking from that you are looking for a way to control me?" he asks seriously.
The Yodh rubs Alptraum's shoulders, and says, "No, I merely want to make sure you do not hurt yourself with your own power." She's very good at backrubs, too.
"Well, thankfully I have someone who can repair me if I did… for the moment," Alptraum comments and looks over his shoulders. As Mave works on his shoulders, though, her hands are greeted (and covered) momentarily by the black ichor of the oozing shadow. Apparently it had started to act on the sore muscles. Frowning, Alptraum's eyes close and he forces it back under his skin. "Sorry. The power is reflexive," he explains.
"Many things are reflexive that nonetheless can be brought under control with practice," Mave asserts, and doesn't seem to have been bothered by the momentary shadow-contact. "What are you scheduled to learn next?"
"That I don't know. The elder Shadow calls me when she is in the mood to impart for knowledge to me. She is … an unusual creature," Alptraum comments as he arches forward a bit to expose more of his back. "I seem destined to be subordinate to women," he adds with a playful grin.
"Women are benevolent in their dominance," Mave notes as she rubs. "At least, Inala usually is. Although I was never one to take up the whip in my younger days within the Temple."
Alptraum really tries not to laugh at that. "You don't impress me as the pain-inducing sort, no," he ends up deciding on as his answer. He lets his hands idly rub along her lower calves and feet as she rubs his back. "So, tell me, is there anything you want to see me do with the shadow power? I should practice with it to better my control. And I figure you might at least find it interesting to observe."
"Hmmm, power is not something to be toyed with," Mave insists. "But you are a male, so that desire is to be expected. Perhaps you could change your colors to match Inala's for me sometime?"
"I am not trying to toy with it. I need to learn how to better control it," Alptraum insists. He leans his head back and looks at her upside down. "Ah, you want me to look like a Barinala for you? Pure white with blonde hair and blue eyes? Color shifts should be fairly easy, I believe."
Mave grins. "It would be nice to see," she comments.
"I'll consider doing that," Alptraum comments. "Can I ask what you would expect or want after I did that? Or is it you would really just like to see someone who looks like those you are used to?" he asks.
"I miss being surrounded by family," Mave explains. "And of course there would be love-making. That is a given."
"And that reminds me … what advice can you give me in being a proper consort to someone like the Countess?" Alptraum asks. He then quirks a small playful smile and adds, "Or would that be easier to explain to someone who looked like one of Inala?"
Mave leans back in her chair now, figuring Alptraum's been rubbed enough for the moment. "You are asking two very different questions, I think. To be a Consort is a role I am familiar with… but I believe you also wish to be her lover as well? Romance… is not exactly part of the Yodhinala life."
"Well, what would you recommend on being a consort, then? As for romance, I have my own thoughts already," Alptraum notes. He leans back against the chair now and folds his wings around himself.
"Understand first that the two roles are very different: one is public, the other private," Mave points out. "As Consort, you will be a member of the court, and expected to behave as such. You must be able to hold your own in the politicking involved, protect your mistress from such political attacks, and instill suitable envy in others all while still deferring to the Countess in as manly a way as possible."
Alptraum's brow goes up a bit, then he nods. "Politics are not my strong point, but I will learn," he comments a bit to himself. "And instill envy? I don't quite understand that one."
"You must make it clear that the Countess is the most desirable female in the world," Mave explains. "And that you are the most suitably virile male for her. All without any overt signs of affection."
"Hm. That sounds difficult," Alptraum has to admit. "How do you do that without showing signs of affection?"
"Courtly manners are a complex serious of back-handed compliments and subtle insults used to momentarily raise one's status at the expense of another," Mave notes. "In other words… it's like being in a room full of dragons. Hungry ones."
"Delightful," Alptraum mutters, "Pity I didn't inherit any of the shadow's mind." He rubs the back of his neck and thinks for a moment. "Honestly, I'm not even sure if she wants me to be her public consort," he admits.
"Things may be different here in Sylvania," Mave admits. "I have heard that shouting matches between nobles are not uncommon. You may be able to get away with being bare-chested and summoning dragons or shadows."
Alptraum laughs at that. "The Countess is … complicated for me. I guess it's obvious that I … well," he says, sounding a bit tongue tied, "That I find her extremely attractive and want to be close to her. I'm rather afraid I'll ruin the chance with her by doing something stupid."
"Ah, so you have shed ten years of your life to once more become a clumsy adolescent in her presence?" Mave asks with a sly grin. "Tell me, Alptraum, how many girls did you 'date' when you were just a gypsy?"
"That's a fairly good description of it," Alptraum has to admit with a wry grin. "When I was younger? In truth, not many. Well, none, really. We were on the move all the time and I never had the chance. It mostly ended up with Hexen and I sabotaging each other's attempts to woo someone."
"Was Phlagaea your first then?" the Yodhinala asks. "You were in Babel before the Temple of Inala was looted, weren't you?"
"Yes, she was … and I never got the chance to visit the temple of Inala," Alptraum comments with a small shrug. "You're the second Yodhinala I ever met."
"Really?" Mave asks, leaning forward now. "Who was the first of my Sisters that you met?"
"I'm not sure. She was escorting Vizier Thath when I was invited to the party he threw some months before Babel was attacked," Alptraum explains, "She looked young. Couldn't have been more than fifteen. She didn't say a word to me. She was just the first time I've ever seen a Yodhinala up close." He then shrugs and adds, "I considered visiting the temple … but with my association to Sunala, I expected I would not have been welcome."
"I wonder if she was one of my daughters then," Mave muses. "So, your experience with women is somewhat limited, I see. Phlagaea is… well, not aggressive but not shy, certainly. Then there is myself, the pinnacle of womanly charm and beauty. Have I missed any?"
"And an older, strange, woman named Doctor Floribunda Pike; then the Khatta from last night," Alptraum adds to the list. For some reason he seems to slink down a bit, feeling a bit ashamed he's been so … promiscuous.
Alptraum considers that for a moment, then adds, "And it seems most of my experiences have been with older women, too." He's now rubbing his forehead.
"They know how to handle young men, usually," Mave says. "Although anyone named 'Floribunda' must also rely on very thick glasses and is probably built like a weed not that I mean to sully any fond memories you may have, Alptraum."
"No, that's a rather good description of her. She was … well, helpful. And had these fantasies from reading books. So … I played out her fantasy for her; the mysterious and dashing stranger there to ravish her," Alptraum says in almost a whisper.
Mave just watches Alptraum's face for a moment, and then asks, "Did you notice if the Countess has the same sort of books or not?"
"Haven't looked," Alptraum admits, "But I do know she dated a few rogues… "
"Hmm, you aren't quite the 'rogue' though," Mave notes. "Although without Arkold standing next to you, you may appear to be more roguish… "
"She also said they were jerks," Alptraum adds with a sigh. "I just … I really need to spend more time with her and learn exactly what she would want. It's just so hard to get a few moments when she's not busy with a matter of the county." He takes a breath, then adds, "And I know she likes me. It's just … eh, never mind. I'll work it out somehow."
"She wants a nice, sensitive man who will take charge and be a jerk when others are watching," Mave states. "If you can get away with only being with her in private, things will be much easier. You can just be yourself, as frightening as that might seem. My impression of the Countess is that she wears her public role as a mask, but is otherwise a very vulnerable woman."
Alptraum doesn't confirm or deny that analysis. Instead, he just sits there for a bit in silence, thinking over things. "Honestly, I want to be more than just with her in private," he finally says, "So, I will work something out. It'll just take time." His wings spread back and he holds up his right hand, the pealing underside visible. "Want to watch the shadow work? I think I'll re-enforce the scales for now. Can you tell me if you can feel anything while it's working?" he asks.
Mave nods, and says, "Alright, just be careful."
Alptraum holds up hand out, fingers spread, so Mave can see his palm. Like last time, the black ichor of liquid shadow oozes out and over the flesh. Once covered, Alptraum holds there for a moment, then tickles the shadow slightly to restore the scaling of his lower forearm and palm. "It isn't unpleasant," he comments quietly, "It just feels strange when it works."
"It gives off a noticeable aura that is different than your Barsunala one," Mave notes, watching the process. "This shadow-magic is not… divine."
"It also itches a bit," Alptraum can't help but comment as the black liquid rolls and almost looks like it is bubbling on his right hand. "What does it feel like to you?"
Mave frowns in thought. "It is not like the gentle waves of Inala's love, certainly. It is very… tarnished silver warbling in a low key. Not gentle, but direct. It is like wizardry, but not Collegia magic. Not quite sorcery either. Alien."
"I believe the Shadows were from another world," Alptraum says as he starts to draw back the ichor slowly … to see if he successfully resorted the scaling or inadvertently did something bad to his right hand. "My friend, Kaira, and her creator, knows a lot about them. Anyway, for me it's … hard to explain. I can feel and reshape living things with its power. I need to make sure I keep its reflexes in check."
The scales look refreshed but also have a silver tint to them that wasn't there before.
Alptraum blinks a few times. "Okay, I'm not sure why they are silver," Alptraum admits. He taps at them with a claw on his left hand, testing feeling and such.
It doesn't feel any different from last time. And certainly isn't covered in frost.
"What do you think?" Alptraum asks and offers his scaled hand to Mave for inspection. "And mind if I try one more experiment… ?"
"The color is more striking this time," Mave admits.
Alptraum curls a lock of his hair around the finger on his right hand and holds it out. He looks directly at Mave … more specifically, her hair. Brow furrowed in concentration, he tries to alter that one lock of hair to match Mave's hair color exactly.
It's almost like a golden liquid is filling up that lock of hair in Alptraum's fingertips. It's slow to fill, but within a few minutes the entire length of that section is a golden tone that is an exact match to Mave's hair color. Quirking a grin, he notes, "Okay, I guess it is possible to make myself look like … one of you."
"Oooo, very nice," Mave says. "This will be handy, since you can match your hair to your outfit." She nods approval, as if that were the absolute best possible use of life-shaping magic possible.
Alptraum laughs and lets the small blond section fall; giving the Eeee the look of having highlights in his hair. "I have to be careful with changes to myself. I shouldn't do anything complex. However, the elder Shadow did offer to do those for me, if it is deemed necessary," he notes. "Now, all silliness aside … are you content with, ah, being, well … my personal Yodhinala as it were, for the time being? Since you said you were remaining at my side … I was assuming that is what you meant by it."
"Of course, it is Inala's will," Mave says, crossing her arms. "And you clearly need a mentor who is not covered in scales."
"The Elder Shadow isn't covered in scales," Alptraum teases and grins. "Now, is there anything I can do for you? Times I should meet with you? I don't want to seem like I'm ignoring you."
"Well, aside from turning myself into a Barinala," Alptraum notes, "Is there anything you would like me to fetch, for example, if I go out? I know you collect some things."
Mave's left eyebrow arches up, and she asks, "Are you trying to woo me with gifts, Alptraum? Or are you leading up to asking me something else?"
"I'm just asking. No strings attached," Alptraum says and holds up his hands. "If you don't that's fine. I just want to be sure I'm attending to your needs too, you know."
"Well, it is true that men would bring many gifts to their favored priestesses," Mave notes, warming up a bit to the idea. "Perhaps… hmm. Your pet dragon has often seemed… overly proud… towards me. I would like for her to attend me in a bath, perhaps. Or to both of us in a bath. That seems to be better… yes… "
This time it's Alptraum's turn for his brow to go up. "In other words, you want her to be subservient to both of us," he clarifies, just to be sure.
"Well, she is your pet," Mave notes. "You must not let such a creature push you around. It will be good practice for being more assertive with women, since she almost counts as one."
That gets a snort of laughter. "Okay, okay, I'll see what I can do," he offers, looking both amused and horrified at the idea of having to ask Kaira that. "You always surprise me, you know," he notes, "First the nose ring thing, now this. You never did find a nose ring, did you? That was just another attempt to see if I would take a silly idea seriously, eh?"
"I had actually forgotten about the ring," Mave admits, putting a finger to her lips in thought.
"That was just a joke, though, right?" Alptraum asks, "You weren't actually going to get me one… "
Mave just keeps tapping her finger to her lip and looking at Alptraum's face. "I suppose it would not look appropriate for a Consort," she finally says.
Alptraum rubs his neck, then asks something he knows he'll probably regret, "What about when I learn to color shift into a Barinala for you… ?"
"Your dragon can serve us then, too," Mave suggests. "Is that what you meant?"
"No, would a nose ring look appropriate?" Alptraum asks, grinning a bit. "I only recently remembered this because Tulani thought it would be funny to see me with one. It … sorta came up in conversation with the gypsies. I have to admit, I'm somewhat curious how it would look."
"Perhaps a small one, or a stud," Mave concedes. "The Barinala did not usually wear jewelry unless it was a gift from a worshiper. And of course you will not wear any clothes, so some jewelry would not be amiss. Did Tulani have any other suggestions?"
Alptraum hmms. "None that I can actually remember," he admits.
"Well, when you have managed the transformation, she can have a look and make more suggestions then," Mave says with a wicked grin.
"And, ah, how long would you want me to retain the coloring? I think I can manage about two days before it would have to be redone," Alptraum adds.
"Well, two days should be sufficient," the Yodhinala says. "I will need to rest a little after that."
Alptraum finally stands and stretches. "I should leave you to your book. I have several things I should check on, and I really could use a bath," the Eeee admits. "Thanks for talking with me, Mave. Do please see about borrowing a ritual chamber for some magic practice in a few days. Perhaps after the elder Shadow instructs me a bit further, we will have things to examine." And inwardly, he thinks, "And … I have that highwayman to deal with. I wonder if Mave could seduce or distract him while I work to separate him from the Frogmilker… "