Gypsy Camp Tulani slept fairly well as a dragon, the forest floor providing ample comfort. Upon waking, she notices the pile of Rughrat bones piled up nearby, which she doesn't exactly recall being there when she went to sleep. Her tummy does feel full though, at least, and that's what really matters to a dragon.
Various wagons (in various states of repair) are clustered on the commons of Cataract Village. At one end of the loose grouping is a stage for dancers and others to perform, while behind that and weaving through the middle of the group is the space where the gypsies themselves come together, often filled with laundry lines, cookfires and the very young or very old among them.
Dragon-Tulani yawns widely and stretches in a manner more reminiscent of a Khatta than a reptile before standing up and brushing dirt and fallen twigs and such from her form. Tulani almost jumps straight into flight… but there's this nagging feeling that she is forgetting something. Just a short distance away is a small pile of clothing. The dragon starts trying to slip on the clothes before quickly realizing she will not fit into them. A burst of mist rolls out through the woods as Tulani abruptly resumes her 'normal' shape.
The black and white Sphynx, quickly clothed again, practically saunters out of the woods and back to the gypsy camp, running her claws through her damp hair to keep it loose.
A few cookpots are going already this early, preparing porridge or boiled eggs and other breakfast-related items as Tulani returns to camp. Nobody that she recognizes is out yet mostly the older people. After a moment to get her bearing, she sees the Reisender wagon where the rest of her gear is stowed.
Still feeling rather content in stomach, Tulani bypasses the cooking going on at the moment, and makes a bee-line straight for the wagon belonging to Alptraum's parents and raps her knuckles on the door.
The wagon door opens a crack at first, and then wider when Sabine recognizes Tulani. Behind her in the darkness comes the sound of snoring. "Ah, good morning Tulani," the Eeee woman says perkily. "I must say, you vear that costume better than I did at your age."
"Why thank you!" the Sphynx replies to Sabine, sounding quite pleased, and does a little twirl so that the skirt she is wearing flares a little. "I can't say I'm not a little sad to have to return it to you. But I must say you have excellent taste! Anyways, I just need to collect some of my gear. Alptraum let me leave it in your wagon last night so I'd know where it was."
"O'course, dear, I found most of it," Sabine says, and reaches back to into the wagon to pick up Tulani's flying harness and the scabbard holding the Light of Nala. "I could not find your clothes though. I suppose you must have hung them out after washing them, yah? You spilled the vater in here, after all."
Tulani doesn't even bat an eyelash at Sabine's suggestion, merely nodding. "Yes, of course." Taking her harness and the Light of Nala from the Eee woman, the Sphynx continues, "I'll return the costume to you in a little while if that's alright? I just want to wear it a bit longer. It makes me feel more… lively!"
"You can keep it if you like," Sabine says with a smile and a wink. "At my age, I would not try to vear it again, and I have something more dignified set aside for my funeral."
Tulani looks delighted at Sabine's suggestion. "Very well then! I accept. Thank you very much for the generous gift. You wouldn't happen to know where Alptraum ended up last night, would you?" the Sphynx asks further with a tilt of her brows.
"Vell, he was quite popular with Nyneve's daughters last night, which he never vas before," Sabine says, with perhaps a slight hint of disapproval. "Dere vagons are near the stage, so I suggest you look for him there first. Hopefully he did not act too shamefully and passed out before anything could happen. He does not hold his drink well."
"Ah, I shall attempt to find him then… Hopefully he doesn't have too bad of a hangover. And thank you once again for the costume." Tulani says to the older Eee and hurries off in the direction of the stage.
According to Lilith, vampires can cure hangovers by drinking the blood of the sufferer. Since Alptraum is the only vampire in town though, it isn't a remedy he can really look into. But then, there's the Light of Nala, and Tulani knows how to use it to banish the morning-after foulness. He just has to find her, once he figures out where he's waking up. The dim light doesn't help (although brighter light would be painful), but it certainly looks like a wagon filled with dancer costumes. The Eeee vaguely remembers flirting with the dancing sisters, and his body certainly feels like it was with a feline all night. And of course there's the black furry arm across his chest, and the purring at his shoulder those are major hints too.
"Mgpth," goes Alptraum … and he then wishes he hadn't, because it echoes in his head. Superb hearing and a hangover are not a good combination. He very, very slowly starts to move and tries to not make any more noise as he does so. First thing to do … is lift that black arm off slowly. His entire body aches and here and there he can feel thin lines that burn with a soft itch under his fur. While tries to remember exactly what happened … he looks over to the owner of that black arm.
Golden eyes open and look back at Alptraum. While the face is certainly similar, it doesn't belong to young Katka… but to her mother Nyneve herself. "Sleep vell?" the older woman purrs.
"Vish I was still asleep," Alptraum murmurs as his head pounds. It's about then that it registers who he is laying next to. He blinks a few times, then has to say with a bit of a playful smile, "And I'm glad someone appreciated my return. I hope I didn't injure you any?"
"Oh, no vorries dere," the Khatta says, and taps a bundle of herbs hanging next to Alptraum's usual necklace. "I bind your powers, eh? Good t'ing I get you before you get one o' my girls." It's then that Alptraum realizes the necklace with the symbol of the grave and the bundle of herbs are all he's wearing even his gloves are off.
Alptraum lurches upright … then grabs his head, wincing. Now realizing he's both gloveless and naked. After a few breaths, he asks the woman quietly, "How much do you know? How much have you … told others?" His bloodshot and worried eyes look to the woman.
"Vhat is dere to tell?" Nyneve says, sitting up herself, and holding the blanket to preserve her modesty. "Are you embarrassed? Katka will no remember the other night, so I can tell her she vas vith you, yah?"
"What did I do?" Alptraum asks next as he starts looking for his clothing. "I'm not embarrassed if you and I shared the evening; you wouldn't be the first older woman I've … been with. I'm more worried … well, if I did something dangerous."
Nyneve just grins knowingly, and says, "You are not the first Reaper I have shared my bed with, Alptraum. I know to seal your powers first." She reaches over with one hand and yanks the bundle of herbs free. "You are the first to vear a gauntlet as his tool of the trade, though. This is your new 'work' with the County, no?"
"One of a few tasks. As a Reaper I am … unique," Alptraum admits and rests his gauntlet hand upon his knee as he looks at the older woman. "My journey changed me. I haven't been … as forthcoming about how much. I didn't want people to worry about me and what I may face in the long years ahead."
"T'cha, you are too young to worry about such things," Nyneve says to Alptraum. "Now, you should get dressed and sneak out while you can. There is a trapdoor over here… "
The first thing Alptraum does is pull his gloves back on; the shiny chitinous growth from his right hand disappearing beneath supple leather. "And I hope my experiences from my journey allowed you an … enjoyable night?" he comments as he starts to quickly dress. The rapid movement isn't doing wonders for his headache, though.
"A young man's attentions are always a treat to one of my years," Nyneve says. "Even though you did fall asleep a few times. But it made little difference."
As Alptraum heads to the trapdoor he glances back and comments, "Well, then next time I won't drink. I can promise you that fully alert … it could be interesting." There's a flash of a playful grin as he starts through the trapdoor. "And Nyneve … thank you for not telling anyone about what I am," he whispers as he disappears.
Of course, rumor always was that Nyneve was a witch… but nobody ever tried to prove it. She's probably very good at keeping secrets. And once through the trapdoor, Alptraum is greeted by the sight of Tulani's calves walking past.
"Hmm… now where should I look… " the Sphynx mumbles to herself before pausing for a moment, tapping the scabbard holding the Light of Nala against her hip.
The sight of her calves helps distract Alptraum from the sheer pain the outside light spears into his head. But only for a few minutes and the pain registers. The first thing he does is grab his own mouth to quit from shouting, "By Dagh's festering balls … someone make the light quit screaming!" Instead of making a grab for Tulani's leg, he tries to slip out behind her.
Tulani turns around to find herself almost nose to nose with a certain Eee and immediately grins in a satisfied manner, purring, "Well good morning, sunshine. I realized you might want a hand with your head… considering how you drank last night." Her claws tap meaningfully against the base of the sword in her hands.
"Not so loud," Alptraum complains and holds his head again. His muzzle then wrinkles and he looks at Tulani oddly. "When did you start eating things raw?" The insides of Alptraum's ears look a decided shade of green moments later … and his body starts heaving.
Wrinkling her nose, Tulani immediately steps off to the side of Alptraum with a grimace, just in case he spontaneously decides to empty his stomach. She also draws the Light of Nala a short ways out of his sheath. The Sphynx' answer to the Eee's question? "Just last night apparently, if that's anything to go by."
Alptraum grabs his muzzle to keep himself from vomiting. You want disgusting? Half-digested and congealed blood is beyond disgusting… He breathes rapidly through his nose and closes his eyes, trying to settle his stomach. Somehow … he manages to stop the heaving.
Fairly sure he's not going to puke, Alptraum releases his left hand from his mouth, then reaches down and pressed the tip of his index finger to the blade.
He can feel his heart beating in his head from the hangover, but with each beat the haze begins to clear, until Alptraum finally feels 'normal' again.
"Ahh … that feels better than … well, not better than that, but close," Alptraum mutters and stands up a bit straighter. He starts adjusting his shirt and tidying his appearance.
Tulani just stands there, holding the light still, and waits… When Alptraum starts to look a little less green the Sphynx raises an eyebrow and asks coolly, "Feeling better now?"
"Much. How are you feeling this morning? You're not still … upset with me, are you?" Alptraum asks Tulani a bit worriedly.
Tulani slides the sword back into its scabbard with a soft click before answering the Eee with a satisfied grin, "I feel very full, and cool. The air here feels nice." The Sphynx arches an eyebrow and tilts her head to peer at Alptraum. "Now why in the world would I be upset with you?"
"The kenning," Alptraum answers quietly. "You were upset last night."
"Hmm? What?" The Sphynx blinks and tilts her head as though she's not quite sure what Alptraum is talking about, and it takes her a moment to remember… "Oh that… Well… I don't think I'm mad about it. If I was I could have just tried to eat you last night," Tulani says before continuing with a wry grin, "By the way, you wouldn't have any idea where my clothes have wandered off to would you? I know they're a bit torn now… but still."
"I put them in my travel bag so I could fix them later," Alptraum answers, "Which should still be at my parents' wagon." He then pauses and peers at Tulani for a bit, then taps her nose. "Looks like I'm not the only person not being careful enough."
"Ah, well that makes sense then," Tulani replies before looking cross-eyed at Alptraum's finger, licking the tip of it after he taps her nose, and continuing with a small smile, "Hmm. Oh really now? Well I still haven't eaten anyone. And I have to have some time every once in a while… Itchy scales just won't do!"
A somewhat bleary-looking black fox can be seen approaching the stage from the town, carrying a big round of bread.
"Just be careful," Alptraum whispers to her. Spotting Hexen, he nudges Tulani and shouts at Hexen, "Hey, look, Mister Seduction is awake!"
Ears fold down, and Hexen glares at Alptraum. Coming over, he says, "You… you and your stories! I had the weirdest nightmares last night. And then just when I start to fall asleep, a big wind rattles my wagon for what seems like forever, and even scared off one of our Rughrats. Now I have to go looking for it." He then turns to Tulani and smiles brightly to her, saying, "I don't know how you can put up with this guy. You must have the patience of an angel."
"Pah, every story was true," Alptraum comments, still grinning. "But be thankful; you don't have to put up with me much longer. I will be heading back to Castle Draco in an hour."
"Well, are you sure you have to go so… wait, why are you two standing around here?" Hexen suddenly asks suspiciously. "These are the Radovah wagons. Alptraum… you didn't, did you? You traitor!"
Stretching her back, Tulani waggles her fingers at Hexen as she raises her arms over her head before dropping them to her sides and purring, "Well hello there Hexen. An angel well… maybe I don't have quite that much patience… but I have enough." The Sphynx then flicks the black fox beneath the chin with her tail.
"Did what?" Alptraum asks, trying to look perfectly innocent.
Hexen nearly drops the bread after that. "Whoa… deja vu… I dreamt you stretched like that, and… and I won't be distracted!" he declares, glaring at Alptraum. "You know perfectly well what! Were you with Katka last night?"
"I don't remember," Alptraum answers … which is quite the honest answer, really. "I remember dancing with all of them, of course … but after that it's hazy."
"Do you at least remember where you slept then?" Hexen persists.
"One of the wagons," Alptraum answers as he rubs at the back of his neck. "They all look alike."
Tulani draws closer to Hexen, bumping her hip against his in a light tap for attention and purring. "Well, considering how Alptraum was drinking last night I wouldn't be surprised if he just passed out somewhere, right?" she says in attempt to draw off the conversation.
"Wha… uh… " Hexen says, trying to collect his thoughts. "He… does look like he slept under a wagon. He's got dirt on his clothes… umm. Have you had breakfast yet, Tulani? Or a massage?"
The Sphynx licks her teeth, like someone who might have eaten just recently. "Oh… I'm not too hungry right now… But a massage… now that sounds lovely," she comments back with a pleased look.
"How kind of you to offer Tulani a massage," Alptraum comments and then grins. "And perhaps you would like a massage, too, Hexen? He waggles his chitinous fingers in front of the fox's nose. "I hear that there's something called acupuncture that's all the rage in some places… "
"I'll… pass, Traum," Hexen says. "Besides, you won't have time, if there's just an hour before you go. I'll make sure Tulani's flight muscles are all nice and limber by then!" he promises with a grin.
Grinning and shaking his head, Alptraum says, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do." To Tulani, he says, "I'll go see my parents and get my pack. Just keep an eye on his wandering hands, eh?" He waves and heads in the direction of the Reisender wagon.
Tulani gives Alptraum a wink as the Eee turns, then leans in to place a kiss on the fox's cheek. "Well, you really can be a sweet one can't you… Now how about that massage?"
Hexen tries to salute without dropping the bread, and says, "Follow me, M'lady!" before turning and jogging towards his wagon. "Dad!" he calls ahead. "I need to borrow the good cot!"
Chuckling, Tulani chases after Hexen with a grin.
Reaching his parents' wagon, Alptraum raps his knuckles on the door. "Ah, Mom? Are you awake?" he calls out.
"Of course Alptraum," Sabine says, although Dimitris is still snoring. The door opens, and Alptraum notices something different about his mother now she's wearing glasses.
"When did you start wearing glasses?" is the only thing Alptraum can think to ask. "And, ah, sorry I didn't come home last night. I passed out and Nyneve looked after me."
"I only use them for close-up work," Sabine says. "Like stitching up torn clothing that my son tried to hide in his pack."
"Er, why were you looking in my pack?" Alptraum asks a bit worriedly.
"I wanted to make sure you had clean underwear," Sabine says, then takes off her glasses. "I worry about you, Alptraum. I know how Babel can… change people, what with their… loose morals and all. And you're young and impressionable and had never been to a big city before… "
"The tears aren't from what you are probably thinking," Alptraum says as he rubs over his eyelids briefly.
"I'm just happy that you came back to us," Sabine says, wiping a tear from her eye. "I've almost got this shirt mended, if you want to work on the pants. I don't want that poor girl flying back in a dance costume."
"And I'm leaving again this morning. I need to get back to Castle Draco," Alptraum admits weakly as he starts inside. "But, I'll be close and visitable now. And yes, I'll help fix the pants."
"Good boy," Sabine says, patting Alptraum on the cheek. "And when we get to the capitol ourselves, maybe we can put on a performance again, like old times, yes?"
"I would love to," Alptraum answers with a fangy smile. He settles down into one of the chairs inside the wagon and starts trying to piece the pants back together. After a bit, he asks, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Anything," Sabine replies, and then tries to nudge Dimitris awake.
"What do you think of Countess Draco's efforts to protect her lands and Sylvania? And … what sort of rumors have you heard about her?" Alptraum asks as he starts work. He's actively trying to not look at his mother right now.
"All in this county think she is a brave woman," Sabine says, as Dimitris snorts and starts to wake up finally. "But she is also very mysterious. Nobody knows what she is capable of."
"I've met her a few times. Rose has dealings with her in her work and she introduced us," Alptraum says as he stitches. "She is very brave and works very hard for her people. She inspired me to try to do more to help."
"Do not be swayed by power, Alptraum," Sabine comments, and starts brewing some tea on the small heading stove. "Gypsies are free, above all else. Do not pledge your fealty… merely lend it."
"It's not about power. It's about being willing to help others, even when it costs you," Alptraum comments as he continues stitching. He pauses, then adds, "My time in Babel was difficult. I learned things I sometimes wished I had not, and experienced the horrors that greed can bring. The one good thing I got from that experience was discovering I wanted to make things better. It's hard to explain, it's just something that I feel I need to do."
Sabine frowns slightly, and Dimitris finally finishes yawning and says, "Sounds like you caught religion there, Alptraum. We gypsies have always helped out our own, because we know nobody else would help us. It is not easy for us to think otherwise, neh?"
"No, I understand. I'm just trying to explain why I decided to help Draco County," Alptraum answers and glances up. "If they fall, Gallis' power will grow. There won't be a place left for Gypsies, or for vampires, or for any one else the world has abandoned. So, I'm trying to protect your future too. You gave me a life; I'm … trying to give that gift to others. I'm not sure I'm even making sense."
"Just do not throw yours away in doing so, Alptraum," Sabine says, and gives her boy a big hug. "It is a dangerous world out there, and you are a gentle soul."
Alptraum quirks a small grin and whispers to Sabine as he hugs her, "Plus, I'm a romantic at heart. When I met Rose … I wanted to do anything I could for her. And when she showed me how I could with who she introduced me to … well. A fool in love, I suppose. And do not worry; one thing I have learned well, is how to survive. I have a long life ahead of me."
"And I want grandchildren to bring me joy in my declining years," Sabine notes, giving Alptraum a poke on his chest as she pulls back. Dimitris, however, whispers, "Love is a wonderful thing, boy. Get as much of it as you can before settling down."
"Rose wants children too. If things go well … that you will have," Alptraum says with a smile. "Now, pants. I have to finish Tulani's pants. And oh, I hope we have some bandages on hand. Hexen is giving her a massage. I expect … someone will get hurt."