Spire of Solitude
While Draco Castle has many towers, few reach as high as the fabled spire does. From this vantage point, all of the city that surrounds Draco Castle can be easily seen. Not to mention a large chunk of the entire county could be seen when weather actually permits. Winds buffet against the tower and swirl around it in a dizzying rush. To add to the surreal feeling the spire imparts, the gargoyles that adorn its stonework literally howl with a baleful dirge when the winds reach their apex.
"It's not permanent," Alptraum mutters to himself where he paces atop the spire. He chose this very point because not many ever come here and privacy is paramount when you might make a fool of yourself. "Color change. Easy. You know her color well by now," he continues on, gesticulating towards the clouded sky now.
Shortly after, a white-feathered head pops up from below the window ledge. "Who's color do I know," Mortimer asks, sounding perplexed. Given his position, he seems to have been perched on one of the gargoyle's beneath the window!
"I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to myself," Alptraum notes without missing a beat. "And who said you could spy on me?"
"Who said you could spy on me?" The bird raises an eyeridge. "I was here to watch the city, and meditate. This is one of the least frequented places in the castle, after all."
"I live in this castle," Alptraum points out. "And there aren't any dead people up here for you to collect… "
"I'm a Reaper, not a grave digger or carter. We don't concern ourselves with just any dead body. Dead bodies in cities are usually seen to by the city folk, and rarely do they rise, except in hauntings and the like." The Korv climbs inside, taking a moment to dust himself off despite the motion doing absolutely nothing to fix his worn, dusty appearance. "So, are you here for the view, to talk to yourself in the manner of mad lords, or for some other reason?"
"I'm here for some practice with doing things I probably shouldn't be doing. But … if you had two really odd women to keep happy you would be doing it, too," Alptraum notes with a bit of an amused grin. "But, I'm sure some of the castle staff appreciate having a mad lord around too. Odd folk."
The Korv bobs his head. "Yes, it just isn't a Sylvanian castle without a mad lord or lady," Mortimer agrees. He walks back over to the window, leans over, then pulls his scythe up from where it must have been hanging. He shoulders it, and turns back. "Maybe I can help, yes?"
"Maybe," Alptraum agrees. "But with your distinct lack of color, I'm not sure what you could do with helping me change color … so how would you help? Phlagaea wants me to be green for her tonight, so … bah, life was so much easier when I traveled alone."
"Be careful what you wish for," Mortimer warns, shaking one pink finger at Alptraum. "As for color changing, it's not something I deal with, unless you count corpse-bloat and bruising. I have seen a great many shades of green, if that helps any. Grave moss, infected wounds, gangreen, rot zombies, poison foam … "
"You're a cheerful sort. You would fit right in at a Babelite cult," Alptraum quips.
"I've heard of Babelite cults. Nasty business, those. Your two friends seem like the well intentioned, but slightly evil sort. Be careful how they practice their art. We know very well how poorly Sylvania views darker sorts of magic, or even just their appearance," the crow advises. He then glances back at the cloudy sky, and adds, "Well, let's get to what you're doing then. I need to see a man about a werewolf sighting at sundown."
A small blot against the clouds overhead turns to a growing shadow as some form of flyer draws near, quickly gaining definition and going from a white and black smear against the clouds to a female Sphynx which circles overhead once or twice attempting to navigate the quickly moving air-currents before landing next to Alptraum, if a bit awkwardly.
"Well, they've not known anything outside of their old life. So … they're a bit odd, but getting better," Alptraum starts explaining to Mortimer. It's about then Tulani lands and Alptraum just stares at her for a moment. "What am I, cursed? Here I try to locate the most least-used room in the castle and two people show up," he he says and shakes his hands towards the sky again. Quickly to Tulani, though, he says, "Not that I mind you visiting me, of course! It's just … life is deciding to stab me with irony again. Which at least doesn't hurt as much as iron. Ow."
The Korv, Mortimer, shifts to lean on his scythe as if it were a lamp post. "Hello, Champion," he greets the woman, bobbing his head. "It seems fate has conspired to annoy your bat-friend once again, in the form of us."
Tulani quickly puts on an expression of mock-hurt, pouting at Alptraum and saying, "Well, I can just leave if you want me too, and I just wanted to see how you were doing." She follows up quickly with a slight frown asking ,"What's this about Iron?"
The Sphynx just blinks slightly at being refereed to as 'Champion', "Glad to see your looking well, Mort."
"I don't think anyone has ever said that to me before, Champion," Mortimer admits as he scratches his head.
Alptraum quickly grabs Tulani and sweeps her back. "No, no, you must stay or I will snog you into submission!" he threatens and waggles his brow. Releasing the Sphynx as quickly as he grabbed her and without missing a beat, he adds, "As for iron, well. My condition has rendered me a bit allergic to it. Contact in certain ways feels like being branded. Can't say I recommend it."
Unable to help but chuckle softly, both at the Korv's admission and the Eeee's humorous threat, Tulani stretches her wings and then proceeds to hug Alptraum warmly, "Ah, well you had me worried for a moment Alptraum. Is it any contact with iron anywhere on you?"
Mortimer, who seems to have suddenly taken an interest in scanning the skyline, does his best to look as unobtrusive as a crow with a large scythe can look. He glances back now and then, apparently not wanting to interrupt the snuggly moment or having has seen too many of these lately.
"Well, most areas might minorly itch. But my chest and hand burn pretty bad at contact," Alptraum explains. "And I was about to do something probably stupid and dangerous. But, that does seem to be my nature. Phlagaea wants me green tonight, so … I'm going to try and change my color to match hers."
"And I am here because he has once again found me," Mortimer adds. "Will he never leave me be?"
"He is full of it. Personally, I think he finds me attractive because he's been following me," Alptraum notes to Tulani.
"Stupid and dangerous certainly sounds like you Alptraum!" Tulani teasingly states with a laugh while releasing the Eeee. "But I'm glad your 'allergy' isn't worse than that. Do you mind if I watch while you … attempt to change colors? It sounds interesting."
"Alptraum suggested he could turn into a Korv; I'm still waiting," the Korv retorts. He turns around, then cackles like an old witch.
"No one can resist your amazing charm Alptraum," the Sphynx continues to tease before turning to Mort and commenting "Oh, by the way, I would still like to hear that story behind your violin sometime."
"Anytime you like, ma'am, provided any time is not a time I am doing something unfavorable to your mind," the bird replies. "And I'll have you know, I know where the Shadow has gone, so don't you worry about that."
"I could only turn into a Korv if I kenned you. And I have no intention of ever doing that again. It's … eh, not worth going into," Alptraum mutters and shakes his head. Stepping back from the pair, he says, "Okay, fine, you can watch me do dangerous things. But! I take no responsibility if you turn pink."
Tulani looks a little surprised, blinking at Mort but eventually replies in a slightly sheepish manner, "Ah… well. I'm glad for that. One thing less on my mind to worry about."
Looking back at Alptraum the Sphynx nods, noting, "Pink isn't so bad."
"On a girl," Alptraum comments with a grin.
"This should be interesting. Rarely do I get to witness extraordinary monster talent without the running, the screaming, and the killing," Mortimer remarks. He takes a seat on the floor, laying his scythe across his lap. "I happen to be partial to pink," he adds, laughing at his own pun.
Tulani takes a seat next to Mortimer, running her claws between the feathers of her wings to smooth them out, "And it looks just great on you too!" she comments sideways to the Korv.
"You are the nicest woman I have ever met," Mortimer says aside to Tulani. "And you have lovely feathers!"
"Really?" Tulani states at first, looking a bit surprised before smiling widely at Mortimer, "Why thank you! I try to take good care of my wings."
"It's so nice to meet someone who appreciates good wing care," Mortimer confides in Tulani. "I know mine are dingy, but I take good care of the fundamentals. There's no getting rid of the dinginess in my line of work."
Alptraum draws in a deep breath as he backs away from the two. His hands flex and spread slowly as he concentrates. His eyes seem to dilate as he looks off into the darkness. His right hand starts to shake slowly and then there is a soundless explosion of liquid shadow from it. It swirls and wraps around his body in a rather disturbing, undulating, embrace. And there it remains for now. The bat gone; replaced by darkness…
"It's understandable of course, all things considered." Tulani replies to Mort with a small smile before standing and taking a step towards the now shadow-wrapped Eee, looking him over with a mix of curiosity and caution.
The Korv turns his attention forward, the lifts his eyeridges. "Ahhh, the Shadow," he says with a mix of reverence and distrust, as if he were simultaneously pleased to meet a legend, but also concerned. "It's rather … like a giant dark pudding."
"It is isn't it?" the Sphynx notes, clasping her hands behind her back to resist poking the currently enshrouded Eee. "You still in there Alptraum?"
And there the darkness remains for several minutes. But as with all things, it does wash away. Or in this case, sort of ooze away into the floor into a bubbling puddle that evaporates around him. Tulani finds herself looking at … Alptraum? Well, physically he has Alptraum's build, and his clothing, and even his silvery eyes. But … the black and white Eeee is now a rather nice shade of mint green from head to toe (except for the black chitinous gauntlet on his right hand.). "That was … odd," he starts to say, then winches and clutches his right hand.
"The Reaper advisory claimed that we should never attempt to engage the Shadow alone, did you know that?" Mortimer does poke at Alptraum, but he uses the butt-end of his scythe to do it. "But few have ever given a direct account of its nature, nor its powers. It was described more as a force, rather like magic itself, or evil, than as a creature."
"Oh… oh wow… " Tulani mumbles before starting to giggle covering her mouth with a free hand. "Well… you're definitely green now Alptraum. Quite a nice shade too; very… minty."
"Now I have the urge to sneak some mint cake from the chefs tonight," Mortimer remarks, poking the bat a few more times to see if he's solid.
"Better than plaid," Alptraum quips to Tulani as he cradles his right hand. After repeatedly getting poked by Mortimer, Alptraum comments to him, "Yes, I'm real. You seem to not believe that."
"Is your hand alright Alptraum?" Tulani asks, noticing the Eeee's apparent discomfort.
The poking suddenly stops. "Always best to be sure," the Reaper insists. "Not every monster has flesh, and not every threat is solid. The ephemeral can be the greatest threat of all." He then clacks his beak, adding, "Not that I consider you a threat, but I like to know what I'm dealing with."
Alptraum glances warily towards Mortimer, then rolls his hand to show Tulani. The 'eye' on the back's glow has faded to nearly nothing. But that isn't the worst of it; the scaled underside is sunken and a bit 'leathery' looking; the tendons standing out in shark relief under the scales and the fingers looking rather 'bony'.
"I assure you I have no interest in any sort of rending, cleaving, or dismemberment of your person, Alptraum," the Korv insists as pleasantly as he is able.
"Good. Because I would have to hurt you if you tried," Alptraum says and grins towards Mortimer.
"I have no interest in being hurt, either," the bird adds. "So put aside your suspicions!"
"Well, that certainly doesn't look good… " Tulani mumbles, moving into take a closer look at the Eeee's scaled hand. "The light's almost out in the back… you should probably 'feed' it. And are you feeling okay yourself other than your hand?"
The bird takes a sudden interest in Alptraum's hand when Tulani mentions 'feeding' it. "Do you happen to have a vampiric hand there, Alptraum?" He looks like he's considering more poking.
"Yeah, I think I pushed the energy level a bit too far down with that. Been doing too much lately, I guess," The Eeee admits to Tulani. "But yes, I feel okay other than the numbness that is my right hand. Well, outside of being hungry too, anyway." Speaking louder, he notes to Mortimer, "Oh, I'm not suspicious of anyone generally. Well, except my friends. They're a right odd lot. And never mind my hand. It's just complaining… "
"Have you been using your hand a great deal?" The bird's head tilts. "I would assume that is the original point of contact, given the appearance and level of corruption. I assume amputation isn't desired, either. Hmm."
"We are not cutting off my hand," Alptraum says firmly, "So get that idea out of your head."
At the Korv's comment Tulani straightens, taking a rather protective stance. "I would rather you not cut off my friend's hand as well."
"Well I did say 'assume.' In cases such as this, amputation is usually called for. Of course, in most cases the victim is much less in control. It is hard for me to view so much bodily corruption as positive," the bird explains.
"Think of it this way; it's not so much 'corruption' as the accumulation of interesting scars over a lifetime. No matter how much Alptraum has changed physically, he's still Alptraum," Tulani stoically declares in the Eeee's defense.
"I'll take your word on that, ma'am," the bird says. He looks down and pats his scythe, frowning as if recalling something unpleasant.
"And thankfully being Alptraum hasn't become a curse word," Alptraum adds with a grin. "There are just advantages and costs to what happened to me. Right now I'm just being reminded of one. I'll be dealing with it as soon as I leave here."
"Good." Tulani notes to Mort, as though the matter were settled, returning to her usual friendly smile.
"Ahh, it's nice to meet a monster that doesn't require chasing and … other activities," Mortimer admits, sounding a little sad.
"So, anyway, do either of you know of a mage that specializes in crystals or even a living crystal?" Alptraum asks rather randomly. "And since when am I classified as a monster?"
"You are the host of a monster, and thus a monster," Mortimer explains. "Don't take it too harshly; monster is a general term we use to refer to your kind, as well as other magical beings the difference between an ordinary man and one who has been changed. Now, all monsters require tending, or worse." He looks up, and offers, "Azrael might know."
"I don't know of any mages that specialize in crystal, but you could check with the ones that work for the Countess. And Alptraum is hardly a monster," Tulani comments, making a little humph in her throat and mumbling, "Hmph… I suppose I count too that way then."
"I could make you into a monster if you keep that up," Alptraum warns. "As for this Azrael, just tell me were to find the person… "
"Threatening people with your power is very monstrous," the Korv warns. He shakes a finger, then cackles lightly. "Azrael is my mentor. You can find him at Skull Rock, if you know where to look. Bring money or alcohol, maybe a rare book. he doesn't do anything for free, but he is the oldest person I know who has specialized in dark matters and the like. A senior Reaper."
"Booze is easy to come by. I'll have to look him up, then. Or ask another mage I know who is closer. One in the Countess' employ," Alptraum notes. "Anyway! I had best go deal with an issue. You two are welcome to hang about in the tower, of course. Just … don't do anything weird… "
"I need to head out as well; I have some business in the town," Mortimer says.
"You could take Tulani with you. She can make sure you stay out of trouble," Alptraum offers with a grin.
The Sphynx chuckles and shakes her head. "So you think he needs a keeper Alptraum? I bet he'd say the same for you." She soon turns to the Korv though, saying, "I wouldn't mind keeping you company if you want, though if it's important business I understand. It was nice to see you again though."
"I have a keeper, and her name is Rosalind," Alptraum quips.
"Come if you like I'm to see a man about a werewolf. We can use the window," Mortimer offers.
Tulani looks skeptically at the Korv for a moment before shrugging. "Well, if my presence won't interfere with your business then… "
"Well, have fun you two. Don't do anything I wouldn't," Alptraum says as he heads for the boring way out of the spire … the staircase.