9 Midsummer, 6107 RTR (Jul 07, 2007) Alptraum finishes his examination with Kaira and the verdict is … he and the Shadow are one.
(The Right Hand of Shadow) (Alptraum) (The Light of Nala) (Necropolis) (Sylvania)

Alptraum's 'spirit exam' was extremely awkward, uncomfortable and intrusive, and it didn't help any that Kaira had cold hands for some reason. Once it was over though, Kaira's report was pretty thorough: the Shadow spirit had been successfully attached to the Barsunala spirit, and not directly to Alptraum. This provided a measure of protection from the necromantic aspects of the Shadow, and also a buffer against vampiric-spirit side effects. Now disconnected from the sarcophagus and whatever Aeztepan magic that funneled energy to it, the Shadow was more limited in what it could do, unless an external energy source was hooked up to it.

"If left alone, it can probably sustain your health and extend your left another century or two," the dragon reports, reading from a clipboard. "It's transformation magic will also be limited by the amount of magic you're able to muster up yourself. That means it will be easy to reverse magic-induced physical changes, or create temporary ones in somebody who has already been worked on by transformative Life Magic. With some practice, you might be able to draw on a person's own life energy to power the transformation, similar to a curse or turning someone into a zombie.

"Since that same magic has been used on you by the Shadow, you'll be more vulnerable to it now yourself. And using the Shadow's power on your own body may have side effects that I can't determine right now. But overall you seem spiritually healthy, with no discernible cross-contamination from the Shadow. If you don't do anything at all, you'll live longer." The nurse-costumed dragon turns over to the next sheet, and then adds, "One more thing: avoid iron. It's a safe bet that you've picked up the Shadow's allergy to some degree, and the touch of cold iron can burn you or worse if you aren't careful."

Alptraum couldn't help but complain throughout much of the procedure about the unpleasantness of it all. Even now he can't help but shift around in on the table he still sits on, rub at an ear now and then, or even at his nose. He listens to the report and feels somewhat relieved. With as long as the examination went, he was afraid Kaira found something wrong. He even lets out a sigh of relief hearing he wasn't cross-contaminated. "Okay, that's good. I was worried what with the infection from the black heart, then the infection from Vorg's blood in my hand and the rather quick merging ritual … that well, something didn't work out quite as I expected it to," he admits to his friend. At the comment about iron, his ears flick. "Uh, wait. I'm allergic to iron? Are all Shadow Dragons allergic to it? Does that also mean that Draco is as well? And … should we test to see if I picked up that allergy?"

"Black heart?" Kaira asks, looking back through the notes. "The fae in general have issues with iron, dragons being the main exception: we can draw strength from metals. Most of us anyway. The Shadow was more fae than dragon though. As for the Countess… uh, you'd have to ask her. Her Shadow Dragon is still alive, after all, so the binding isn't as complete as it is with you."

"A necromantic parasite spirit the Shadow injected into my right hand when I drew it into the knife. It tried to zombify me, but I was able to cut it out and destroy it," Alptraum explains as he rubs the back of his neck with the said right hand. "It was rather, well. It scared me pretty badly. And truth be told, I had wanted you present when the binding happened, but with you being imprisoned and running on borrowed time with the Shadow rampaging in here … I just had to go through with it. I was pretty scared during it … but it turned out to be rather painless. Just a bit cold."

The dragoness frowns for a moment. "Well… maybe it isn't anything to worry about then," she concedes. "You did pretty well on your own. Unless Vorg helped you out, in which case you still did pretty well."

"He sort of helped, but I didn't take everything he said as truth. I know he's always angling the situation to help himself," Alptraum says. He pauses for a moment and thinks on your comment about 'isn't anything to worry about'. "What isn't anything for me to worry about?" he asks.

"That spirit infection bit," Kaira notes. "If your hand tries to strangle you or anything, let me know. And most fae folk have trouble telling lies, but Vorg is tricky enough to bend the truth just enough to his advantage."

"He already said this worked to his advantage. He flat told me he now has a lot more time to convince me not to let you destroy him," Alptraum tells Kaira.

The dragon nods, saying, "Well, that's true too. We've both lost a lot of power after that big transfer, since my power pretty much comes from him in the first place. You're his only hope right now."

"Well, I have no intention of sparing him. I made a promise to you and I'm sticking to it," Alptraum reassures the dragon. His claws tap lightly on the cold table beneath him, then he asks, "So, you're really not upset with me? That Shadow was insane and a mess. It only got you because I pulled it in, in the first place. This was all my fault."

"I'm not upset," Kaira claims. "Have I acted upset?" she asks, and slides the waste bin full of used rubber gloves out of sight with her tail.

"Well, that goo you used on me wasn't very pleasant and your hands were cold," Alptraum tells Kaira. I've washed up three times now and I can still feel it in places I'd rather not."

"It would have been worse without the goo," the dragon claims. "And the other methods of doing the test wouldn't have been appropriate, I imagine."

"It was worse than being examined by a Yodhinala," Alptraum claims, "And I should know." His head rolls to the side a bit as he looks over his body in this world. "So, if anything was wrong with me outside, it would be reflected in here, correct?"

"Not necessarily," Kaira notes. "And you can put your pants back on now too if you like. In here, you are a reflection of your spirit, and your form is somewhat arbitrary. You could be turned into a hog or something outside and it wouldn't have much of an effect on that."

"You could have lied to make me feel better," Alptraum comments dryly as he slips off the table and starts getting dressed again. "But you also make it sound like if something is off outside, I can probably fix it without too much risk, correct?"

"I've no idea what's going on outside, so yes, something could be wrong," the dragon admits. "The only thing you should avoid trying for the time being is tapping into the Light of Nala. We need to know how the Shadow would react to it first."

Alptraum nods. "Do you have any recommendations on how to test that?" he asks as he stretches a bit. "We should probably find out sooner rather than later. And would you want to come out with me and check me out physically as well, just to be sure?"

"You'd need the Light just to provide enough ambient energy for me to come out," Kaira notes. "Or else have Mave or Phlagaea try to gather up enough for me to use, but that probably still wouldn't be much. If you can handle simple exposure to the Light, that should be test enough."

Alptraum nods. "All right, so I might not be able to bring you out immediately. So, if I find anything amiss when I exit, should I contact you as I usually do?" he asks as he pulls on his shirt and finishes getting dressed.

"A drop of blood should still be sufficient for that, yes," Kaira says, leaning against a counter and playing with a tongue depressor. "Or you can try to transfer me into somebody else's body."

"Not sure who would agree with doing that … but if it becomes important, I'll keep that in mind," Alptraum says, "And oh! Before I go, what do you recommend I do? Ignore the Shadow, which I don't feel unless I really try to anyway, or try to practice with its powers some?"

"Well, if you do practice with them now, while the knowledge of how they work is still fresh, you'd have a better chance of retaining it," Kaira notes. "Otherwise you'd need to retrain yourself for them, probably by studying some life magic from a wizard or a witch, or Mave."

"Or Countess Draco," Alptraum adds. "So … where is it?"

"Where is what?" Kaira asks, looking around.

"The huge hammer you'll whack over my head when you send me back outside," Alptraum remarks rather dryly. "Anyway, if I do practice, I presume I shouldn't practice on myself? Hm, would it perhaps be a worthwhile practice to try and re-mold Barba a new hand?"

"A new hand… you may not have the energy for that," Kaira points out, coming towards Alptraum. "You're still just starting out with magic, after all. And there's the question of if Barba wants a new hand."

"Right. I'm just thinking on what I should try. Do you have any recommendations?" The Eeee asks.

"Scars are probably good practice," the dragon says, stopping in front of the Eeee. "Minor wounds. Warts. Cosmetic stuff."

"Hey, can I tell you something a bit private?" Alptraum asks as he looks at Kaira. Behind him, his wings twitch a bit.

The dragon leans in close, nearly nose to nose now, and says, "After that exam? I'm amazed you have anything private left. Go ahead."

"I'm rather scared right now," Alptraum admits as he leans a bit back from Kaira. "I made a rather huge change in my life. I'm worried a bit on what the long term effects will be on me and if it wasn't a mistake of some sort. But … if I had the same situation presented to me again, I would still do it. Sylvania needs Draco County to remain."

"I'm sure you'll do fine as a royal consort," Kaira says, grinning now and reaching around to keep Alptraum from tipping over. "You've got Mave to explain it all to you if you get confused."

"It's not just that. It's a lot of things. And I do it to myself; I'm hotheaded and willing to charge headlong into danger. This time I might have sacrificed my body for all I know," Alptraum says. He blinks when the dragon stops him from leaning back and he asks, "What are you doing… ?"

"Sending you out, without a bang," the dragon says. "I have to return the favor you did for me, don't I?" And then she kisses Alptraum, leaning him back even farther.

"Glormp!" goes the rather surprised Eeee as he finds himself muzzle-locked with the dragon. "Huh," he thinks, "Even with the scales it's not unpleasant. It's not like she doesn't know me inside and out by now anyway… " So, back the Eeee goes and he pulls Kaira back with him as he lays back on the examining table.

The table seems unusually soft – it was fairly firm during the examination. And Kaira also seems different… somehow more familiar. And then there is a surprised, very un-dragon-like squeak of alarm, and Alptraum realizes he's in his bed in the Inn, and the person pulled down on top of him is Mave. Near the door, Phlagaea is apparently the one who squeaked.

Alptraum's eyes go wide and he lets Mave go. Sputtering, he scrambles backwards on the bed. "Mave, what are you doing?" he asks hurriedly. "What did I do?"

The Yodhinala just smirks, and Phlagaea says, "You were passed out, and then you just grabbed her and… uh, anyway, I couldn't wake up Tulani. I think she had too much to drink. So… I brought Mave, figuring… uh… well, figuring she'd be the next best thing, right?"

"Right, well, she's close and can channel similar power to the light," Alptraum admits as he puts his hand over his beating heart, trying to calm down. "I also have some good news. The Shadow has been rendered passive now. So, current crisis has been solved." He pauses there … then looks at his right hand, the one over his heart. "I hope, anyway."

The dragon head is shrinking away as Alptraum watches, until just the scales are left. And then those begin to flatten and merge back into the appearance of normal skin, leaving behind some ridges.

"Whew, okay, it is reverting to normal," Alptraum says and breathes a sigh of relief. He feels over the ridges left behind absently, then asks the two Eeee, "So, do I look normal? Like you remember me?"

"Yes, from what we can see," Mave answers. "Do you want a more thorough examination?"

"Your hand looks funny without any fur still," Phlagaea is forced to admit.

"Well … uh, I probably should have one, yes," Alptraum admits as he gets slowly to his feet. He keeps rubbing on that furless hand, though, then wiggles his fingers at Phlagaea. "Yes, but it isn't gross anymore, right? The fur should grow back."

The green Eeee touches Alptraum's palm with her fingertips. "It feels normal again," she says, before brushing across the outer side. "Kinda rough on this side, but… I don't know if that's normal or not?"

Alptraum feels over the side of his hand that Phlagea indicates to see if he can feel what she feels.

The back of the hand feels rough and just a little loose, as if the skin had been stretched out and was now slightly wrinkly.

"I have some anti-wrinkle cream you could try," Mave offers, reaching around Alptraum from behind and running her hands up under his shirt. "Nothing amiss on your chest," she notes.

Alptraum can't help but play with the skin a bit on the back of his hand. "It's not quite back to normal, but this isn't too bad overall. It may just be stretched from all the changes recently," he comments, then offers the hand to Mave to get her to quit rubbing his chest and take a look at the skin.

"Looks old," is Mave's diagnosis. She feels it briefly, focusing on the areas around the knuckles the most. "No swelling of the joints though, so probably not a result of fast aging."

Alptraum brings his hand around to peer at it a bit. "Well, it'll probably return to normal over time, I would imagine," he comments before he just removes his shirt and spreads his wings a bit so both Eeee can get a look at his torso before he goes back to looking at his hand. He flexes the fingers slowly, listening to them and feeling for any stiffness.

There might be a slight bit of stiffness still, but it could just be in Alptraum's imagination as well. During the flexing, though, there is the occasional click or pop from the joints.

Alptraum flexes his left hand now, listening to it as well. His eyes remain on the de-furred right, though, watching for any further changes or if it's settled out. "I don't remember popping sounds," he comments.

There's nothing unusual at all about his left hand. Phlagaea even licks the palms of both hands so Alptraum can tell if there is difference in sensitivity. But if there is, it's too subtle to notice.

"Huh. Well, it feels normal, more or less, too," Alptraum comments as he rubs the palm with his thumb … just making sure there's no small lumps forming in the middle, too. While he rubs, he checks over the claws tipping each finger.

Meanwhile, Mave goes over Alptraum's back and wings. She then announces, "I've found something."

Alptraum's ears splay out a bit. "Uh, what did you find… ?" he asks a bit worriedly.

"You'd better just turn around," Mave suggests.

Alptraum turns around slowly.

Phlagaea starts searching Alptraum's back, so doesn't see what Mave was pointing out, but once the flickering light of the room's oil lamp is behind him, Alptraum spots it immediately. Mave's shadow wavers against the wall, and even Phlagaea's reacts correctly to the firelight. But Alptraum's own shadow is steady and solid-edged, as if cast by a bright light.

"Oookay. Now that's … well, I'm not sure how to describe it," Alptraum comments. He reaches up and down, testing to see if the shadow follows his movements.

The shadow doesn't behave out of the ordinary, it simply looks darker and more solid.

Alptraum reaches out and touches his down shadow on the wall. "Well, I suppose this does make an odd sort of sense," he admits.

Cheap plaster, slightly damp, is all that registers to Alptraum's touch. "Well, you could probably make good shadow-puppets now," Phlagaea suggests.

"Heh. More or less, yes," Alptraum admits, "Absorb a Shadow Dragon and get a more pronounced Shadow." Remembering something Countess Draco did on their dinner-date, he tries to visualize the shadow pulling from the wall and wrapping around his body, obscuring it. It's a complete guess if this will do anything, but he decides to try it anyway.

The shadow remains the same as before; a black cut-out silhouette of an Eeee.

Alptraum shrugs a bit and watches the shadow mimic the motion. "That's … thankfully harmless," Alptraum notes as he settles down on his bed and well, actually pulls his pants off now too, to look for anything amiss on his lower half.

"Well, that looks the same," Phlagaea notes with a hint of relief in her voice.

"It appears that only your right hand and your shadow were affected," Mave notes, after squeezing here and there.

Alptraum wiggles his hand a bit more, checking it for any differences since he examined the shadow. "Looks that way, yes. Mave, I may need some more lessons from you. The shadow gave me its knowledge and some of its abilities. But if I don't practice and learn them, the knowledge will eventually fade from my mind. Would you be willing to assist with that?" he asks.

"Oh, certainly," the Yodhinala says, smiling – although her eyes glint suspiciously. "I can help too!" Phlagaea says.

"Excellent. I'll appreciate the help from both of you. We might even be able to work on my hand as a practice point to see if we can slowly restore the hand. I expect that will take some time, though … so I think I'll also have Phlagaea bandage it up for now," Alptraum says. His ears redden a bit and he adds, "Plus, there may be a slight chance I'll at least need some verbal instruction on some Barinala skills. There may be a time when I'll need them."

Phlagaea begins bandaging the hand as soon as it's mentioned, then asks, "What sort of abilities do you need to test, exactly?"

"Well, repairing minor cosmetic injuries, like small scars, to start," Alptraum explains, "The Shadow itself could alter flesh like clay. I certainly can't do that, but I can maybe repair small things with practice."

"Lessons can be arranged," Mave notes.

"Oh, I can help with that!" Phlagaea says. "I know all sorts of prayers for causing lesions and boils."

Alptraum holds his hand very still while Phlagaea expertly bandages his hand. He nods to Mave, saying, Thank you, Yodhinala Mave." At the comment about causing lesions and boils, though, Alptraum winces a bit. "Okay, but on who? That sounds a bit nasty." he notes.

"Why, on Mave of course!" Phlagaea says with a toothy grin. "If you can restore her beauty, then you know you'll have mastered the ability." The Yodhinala raises one golden eyebrow at this, but doesn't say anything.

"I was thinking perhaps on something that doesn't think; like say a hog," Alptraum says quickly in case a fight might break out. "Or I could try to fix a small scar on one of the Yodhblakat. Or even on you, Phlagaea? I don't remember any scars on you, though."

"I don't scar," the green bat notes. "And the Yodhblakat like their scars, I think. Maybe you can get Roogi to volunteer?"

"I could probably make one as well as remove them," Alptraum considers, then nods. "I could always ask her. Good idea. I should check with Lilith too."

"I just somehow doubt Yodhinala Mave wants me practicing on her. And if anything goes wrong, I lose my instructor," Alptraum adds, glancing to the white Eeee.

"There are plenty of others with imperfections to practice on," Mave notes. "Perhaps you could enhance Phlagaea's chest instead?"

Alptraum smirks at that. "Well, I could try doing that," he notes as he rubs his chin and looks at Phlagaea. "I imagine you two would enjoy that, given how you two seem to have worked out your differences."

The Yodhgorphat's eyes narrow as she looks at Mave, and mutters, "I'm really good at boils… "

Alptraum waves his hands. "Peace, you two, peace. It was a joke," he says.

Phlagaea then blinks and smiles as if nothing happened. "Oh, right… hehe."

"So, is anyone else awake right now? Or … hmm, I should probably wait until we get back to the castle to practice, shouldn't I?" Alptraum says.

"That seems wise," Mave notes. "And you have had a long day and should get some rest as well."

"I should. I need to check with Lilith before going to bed, though. I need to give her a quick report," Alptraum says as he involuntarily yawns.

"She is staying with me," Mave notes. "I can send her to you if you wish?"

"I would appreciate that. It should only take a few minutes to brief her on what happened, anyway," Alptraum says with a small nod. He starts getting dressed again. It would be poor form to be in the buff when she came in, afterall.

Mave nods and heads for the door. Phlagaea says, "Don't forget, you promised to wash my bandages," and then starts to follow the Yodhinala.

"Right. I'll do that before we leave, I promise," Alptraum promises the green Eeee. He sits down heavily on the bed, right hand held by the left. His thumb rubs slowly over the back of it while he waits.

It isn't too long before a knock comes at the door, and a sleepy-voiced Lilith asks, "Are you decent, Alptraum?"

"Does it matter?" comes Alptraum's reply. Even tired, ever the gypsy. "But to answer that, yes, I'm decent."

The door opens and Lilith comes in. Her raven hair is tied back into a ponytail, and she's got on a baggy shirt that falls to her knees – not exactly the skimpy Babelite lingerie she normally wears. She even scratches her butt while yawning. "So… did you get devoured by dragons or not?"

"Not exactly. Things went pretty crazy in the knife and my hand is a little worse for wear, but it's not bad. Just a little damage to the skin on the back, really," he explains, But, well … the former Shadow of Amena and I are … one. A second Dracul in Sylvania." He also waves back to his shadow, adding, "Plus it had this effect on my own shadow."

It takes a moment for Lilith to notice the difference in the shadow. "That is pretty weird. I never noticed if the Countess' shadow was like that," she says. "But you're okay then? Nothing falling off or any weird urges or hungering for the flesh of mortals?"

Alptraum offers his bandaged hand for Lilith to inspect. "Just this if you want to take a look. All in all I seem to be pretty intact," he explains. Then in a quieter voice, adds, "But I also now need to be careful around cold iron. It might really hurt me. Kaira isn't sure."

"So, hot iron is safer?" Lilith asks with an arched eyebrow, and declines a closer look at the hand. "I couldn't re wrap it that well, and would rather see it in the morning when I don't have to worry about nightmares. Oh, wait… was that a pun?" she asks, scratching her head.

"Iron in general, I think. Something about cold iron specifically was bad," Alptraum says, "And do you mind if I shift in here for a minute? I want to look at my shadow and hand through spiritual eyes."

"Nightmares… well, go ahead," Lilith relents, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "I'm cranky when I get woken up, sorry."

"It's okay. Sorry for waking you up, but I thought you would want to know," Alptraum says and stands. He takes in several long breaths, then lets the cold and usually slimy feel flow over him as the illusionary form of the Barsunala flows over his body. And in short order, the wraith stands in the room. The first thing he does is open those blind eyes and look to his shadow.

In the silvery vision, Alptraum's shadow is… a dark blotch, devoid of any detail. It keeps shifting in the mind's eye from being a black overlay to being a bottomless hole in space.

"Not unlike the shadow itself was," the wraith muses and reaches out to touch it.

The claw tip clicks against the wall, proving that the shadow isn't a hole after all. But the bandages around Alptraum's right hand seem to be outlined in black.

Alptraum leaves his hand there for a moment, then draws it back and looks at his bandaged hand up close to see if anything looks unusual.

The blackness is creeping along the edges of the bandages, as if it were oozing out from under them.

"Uh," Alptraum murmurs and uses a clawtip to lift up one edge of the bandage to peer under it.

Peeking at the back of the hand reveals the same empty blackness as the shadow. The palm is different though, showing the normal blackness, as a shade of silver, of Alptraum's skin.

Alptraum tries to poke the blackness on the back of his hand with a claw tip. Lightly, of course. Testing to see what it feels like.

The claw tip clicks against something that doesn't flex. Alptraum can feel the contact through his hand as well: it's a bit like clicking two claws together.

Alptraum draws his claw slowly across that blackness, feeling for a series of ridges … perhaps the bones of his very hand.

Click-click. The ridges are there still, possibly more pronounced than before.

Eyes narrowing a bit, Alptraum keeps running that claw back and forth a few times, trying to make out what this is. after the third pass of his claw or so, he actually tries to wipe away some of the darkness to see if he can see anything beneath it.

The darkness doesn't change, and only the bandages get further disturbed.

Not wanting to further mess up the bandages, Alptraum stops probing at his hand. He then lets the vistage of the Barsunala fall away and return to normal.

As his vision returns, Alptraum still sees blackness where the bandages have parted… but changing the angle slightly causes the lamplight to reflect, revealing a shiny blackness instead, like polished chitin or obsidian.

"Okay… " Alptraum says slowly, "That's even odder." He pauses to rub his forehead a bit, then taps along the back of his hand without removing the bandages, trying to see where the hardness begins and ends.

The stiffness seems confined to the back of the hand, but it does continue all the way up to the fur line in the middle of Alptraum's forearm. Oddly, there's no sense of restriction of movement.

Alptraum checks the underside of his forearm as well, testing to see if the stiffness is only on that side.

The underside feels… normal, for the most part. Everything feels odd there from the lack of fur though.

"You might want to leave and not have any nightmares. I think I should unwrap my hand a bit," Alptraum tells Lilith.

Alptraum also taps the back of each of his fingers on his right hand out of curiosity.

Still a bit wobbly, Lilith asks, "It's not going to have another face is it?" The same hardness extends to the back of the fingers as well.

"No. It's just … hard. Like a shell," Alptraum notes. He starts to slowly unwrap his forearm just a bit.

From the fur line down, a thin shell of shiny black chitin is exposed. It's segmented to allow movement, but… it doesn't feel like it's finished growing yet.

Alptraum carefully unwraps the rest of his hand, brow furrowing. He also starts wiggling each finger independently, making sure they all function. "It's like my hand is growing a protective shell of some sort."

"Looks like a gauntlet," Lilith offers. The chitin is raised into little spurs over the knuckles, and even seems to be extended over the claws now. "Like the Countess' armor."

Alptraum taps on it more, testing how much he can actually feel through the shell. "Was the Countess' armor crafted from the Shadow Dragon that was defeated?" he asks, then swallows softly.

"The armor is… well, old," Lilith says. "I never asked where it came from. I assumed it was made to look intimidating and dragon-like."

"Well, maybe it was grown from something," Alptraum says, looking none-too-pleased by the idea. He turns his hand over and looks to see if the chitin has grown around his arm any, or if it remains isolated to the back.

There might be some bits extending further around now, but they're also growing from the back and not the underside.

Alptraum tries to see if he can lift the chitin plate off the back of his hand.

To test to see if he can pull it from his arm, Alptraum starts at the point it joins the fur in the middle of his forearm. He tries to see if he can hook a claw under the edge and pry it up a bit.

Hooking under and tugging… HURTS! The chitin plate is growing out of his own skin, after all.

"Ow, Dagh that hurt," Alptraum complains and pulls his left hand away. He rolls his wrist and flexes his fingers again, testing the range of motion. To Lilith, Alptraum says, "I wonder if the original armor was actually the skin of the first Count Draco. They could have, well, boiled out the flesh."

"That… is a very disturbing thought," Lilith notes, shivering. "Maybe you'll be able to… uh… wear a big glove or a regular gauntlet over it?"

"I'll probably need to, yes," Alptraum says, "And we can, of course, speak to the wizards at Draco Castle on possible cures. But at this point I'm a bit worried to mess any further with my hand and just leave it be. This isn't too bad. Or at least … well, you don't think I'm hideous now?"

Lilith comes closer to get a good look at the growing armor. "No, it's kind of intriguing actu… wait, could you hold your spirit dagger next to this stuff?" she asks.

Alptraum pulls out the spirit dagger and eases it slowly close to his chitin-extruding arm.

The texture and color of the 'chitin' match that of the dragon's-blood blade of the dagger.

"This is made of Vorg's blood?" Alptraum says, eyes wide. "Or does this mean this armor is … an extension of the dagger itself?"

"Maybe it's the stuff that got into you, or got into the Shadow," Lilith suggests. "It ate Vorgulremik's body after all. Better to have this on the outside than the inside, right?"

"There … well, there is some truth in that," Alptraum admits with a nod. He holds out his hand fingers splayed. "It's … oddly beautiful in its own way. Unless there is a pressing need to try and remove it, I should just leave it be, shouldn't I?"

"Well, if it isn't dangerous yet you should leave it," Lilith notes. "Leave it until we can get it checked out by someone who knows more."

Alptraum nods at that. "Certainly. I have no intentions of trying to fix my hand anymore. It's a little odd that I can't feel much on the back of my hand now. But … it could have been a lot worse than this," Alptraum says and then extends that armored hand to Lilith. "So … still want to go on that date when we get back? People might comment if you're seen with a monster."

"Hah, you can't get out of it that easily," Lilith says, wagging a finger. "Besides, we just have to get you matching armor and tell people you're a Dragon Knight."

Alptraum laughs at that. "I wasn't trying to get out of it, I was being chivalrous and offering you an out if you didn't want to be with me," he says. His brow arches a bit and he asks, "What do you think the Countess will think of this?"

"Proof that you've merged with the Shadow, I'd guess," Lilith says.

"Heh. I suppose that's pretty obvious now," Alptraum admits with a small yawn. He hooks the armored hand around Lilith and draws her close. "Lilith," he says, practically nose tip to nose tip with her, "Thank you for being a friend. A real friend. You've always accepted how odd I was and it never seemed to bother you. That means a lot."

The white bat blinks in surprise. "You're odd? Really?" Lilith says, her eyes glowing a bit brighter.

"I'm willing to befriend those who are dangerous. Risk life, limb, and my very form to help someone. And am foolish enough to believe I can make a real difference in Sylvania for our kind, those the rest of the world fears," Alptraum notes with a grin, "That's pretty odd in the grand scheme of things. And pretty tired. Why don't you come by first thing in the morning to check on me and we'll see how much more grows, if any. It doesn't seem to go beyond that damaged part of my arm."

"Alright, I'll bring you something for breakfast," Lilith agrees, and then yawns.

Alptraum slips his arms away from the white Eeee and heads to his bed. He pulls off his shirt and wraps it around the chitin growths to protect himself from any pointy bits while he sleeps. "Goodnight, Lilith. I'll see you first thing tomorrow," he says.

"Sleep well… well, sleep, anyway, Alptraum," Lilith bids from the doorway. "Try not to scratch."

"Gah, why did you have to say that?" Alptraum grumbles as he falls into bed. He actually uses the armored tip of one of his claws to extinguish the candle nest to his bed.

In the darkness of his room, the Eeee can't help but click those chitin armored claws together. Even muffled by the shirt Alptraum can readily hear it. "You really have sacrificed a part of yourself for a woman you barely know, Alptraum," he thinks to himself, "There's no easy way back now. Those chitin plates are you, not some sort of guard. As much you as your hair, teeth, or skin. I … bah. Go to sleep. It's not likely going to change much more now anyway." So, the Eeee tries to drift off in his own mind and forget the half-numb hand. Instead, he drifts down to the burning ember that was the shadow; that which is now part of him. Sleep eventually does come to him, in the odd swirl of knowledge and memories the Shadow gave to him; sharing with him, even if in a disjoint part … a glimpse at the wonders the Shadow once saw.


GMed by BoingDragon

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Today is 20 days after Candlemass, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)