21st of Cylus 721
The martial robes woven from wool and linen, with furs draped around his shoulders were barely enough for Rakvald to endure the bitter cold of the earth and the thin snowfall that lay upon it. As he awoke on the ground, face down, he struggled to regain his sense of bearing. He felt woozy, from the hit in the head, but that pain was easily dealt with. What wasn’t easily dealt with, the blow to his pride. Master Long didn’t understand, he hadn’t meant to scare the boy! He was just, having a bit of tentacle-shaped fun with his face.
Well, what was done was done, and never one to dwell upon his mistakes lest he begin to see his error, Rakvald moved on, into the forest. Hopefully to find his way back to Desnind. As he went along, he found Kodi clung to his collar. Its ether had just about run out, and Rakvald had no time to revive the creation. He would simply have to adhere it to himself, for safe storage. This he did, attaching it to his right forearm, where its fingers weakly grasped him by the wrist and slowly began bonding its flesh with his.
Once it was fully merged with his arm, he continued on his way. He was fairly oblivious, however, as a milky gray shape followed behind him, its tail and snake-like head gleaming with the intent on the mage.
As he went along, shivering from the cold, Rakvald cast about, getting the distinct feeling of having been followed. Yet his senses were fairly dull, especially in this form. Thus, he called upon the echo of the Dubaebo’s ability to sense ground vibrations. As Rakvald’s sandals touched the ground, he would feel their movements about, but not able to pinpoint the direction they came from.
He feared that he was being stalked, and not for friendly purposes either. As if stalking someone was ever a social call!
He lowered himself down to the ground, and with all fours, began feeling out the cardinal directions of the vibrations, to find out where it was coming from. It took those four limbs to do so, as more points of contact with the soil meant more accuracy in determining the direction of waves of motion.
Finally, he straightened his back. The vibrations were coming from directly behind him, several meters off.
Rakvald stood still for a few moments, waiting for the vibrations to get ever stronger, closer, more frequent upon the ground. Then, with a swift motion, he threw himself backward to tackle his shadow.
It was a large Ithecal, and about a good foot of height, it had on Rakvald. It had the most marvelous color of scales, pale gray, with some orange and blue marbling, very faintly saturated. Its head resembled that of a cobra, and its snout was u-shaped. Rakvald almost thought it'd be a shame to waste such a body, when the reptilian creature threw its claw across his face, lacerating him.
Rakvald shouted, and fell to the side, only to be straddled by the strong Ithecal, his legs effectively pinned. The mage struggled still as he could, fighting with his arms against the creature, and noticing its robe and get-up the same as the other novices of the House of Rivers.
This sent a flare of panic up Rakvald’s spine. Had they tracked him in order to bring him back, or else to dispose of the troublesome mage? This caused an outrage to rise from within Rakvald, and he used his right hand to deliver a haymaker into the Ithecal’s abdomen. However, the creature was unphased, even though he put his full strength behind the blow.
Try as he did, he couldn’t get free, and was forced to lay there, awaiting his fate as his graft spark busily stitched up the wound the creature had made on his cheek.
However, the unexpected happened then. ”Teach. Teach Ash-Flaw.”
It whispered, in Vahanic accented common. Then it scowled when he didn’t answer immediately but recoiled as it lifted its clawed hand.
”I can teach you.”
Rakvald said, in Vahanic, so that the creature would feel free to speak its own tongue. Rakvald smiled, ”But what is it you expect to learn?”
”Make me strong, give me the wounded lord’s blessing…”
The words seemed strange, to come out of an Ithecal. He didn’t realize, although it stood to reason, that the Ithecal slave population of Quacia held to the god of Quacia. But there they were. Perhaps they were as indoctrinated as any free citizen.
”I can teach you, and grant you a small blessing if you pay.”
The creature’s expression furrowed at that, its scaly brow narrowing as it thought over his counter-proposal.
”I can teach you to be strong, and offer you a blessing. All I need is one of your teeth, and a bit of your hide.”
Twisting its maw a bit, it finally relented by lowering its claw, and helping him to his feet, removing its body from the position where it’d straddled him.
” Tooth? What do you need my tooth for?”
Rakvald smiled, a very handsome and winning smile, or so he thought. The Ithecal only grimaced at him. ” Why, my beautiful friend, you have the finest scaley skin, I simply must wear it. I need it to work my magic, and understand the nature of your flesh before I can grant the Wounded Lord’s blessing.”
So, the creature stood still, opening its maw as Rakvald rooted around in its back jaw. He numbed the area, as a courtesy, before willing the proper sovereign substances to recede from the creature’s mouth. Then, it fell right into his hands. A tooth, with all the matter he needed in order to make a totem.
Rakvald then took it, and sat down on the cold ground, shivering yet well-composed enough to form a totem with this thing.
It took longer than expected, but after a day and a half after finding shelter, Rakvald, closely followed by Ash-Flaw, as he came to be known, had made a totem of the creature’s tooth.
Rakvald assimilated the totem into his flesh, taking it on himself. Ash-Flaw could only look on in wonderment.
Then, as he did it, Rakvald began to shift and change. He held his arms out wide, as he stood on both legs. Ash-flaw’s brow quirked at this, but he stood still, waiting for the ‘magic’ to happen, if it meant receiving his blessing.
Rakvald’s transformation often took place at the core of his being, forming from the skeletal structure as much as the muscle and skin and hair. His body began snapping in on itself. He stumbled several times through the process. Falling to one knee, as the change accelerated, he put his arms upon the ground as it began twisting his form, changing the color of his skin, it’s texture, its makeup. Then it stretched him out beyond his normal proportions. He began to take on more and more of Ash-flaw’s appearance.
His scales were pale gray, his eyes blue, and his head which resembled a cobra was nevertheless warped by strangely bat-like features. A mouth that opened four ways, for one, and long fangs. He stood at seven feet tall, and his claws were wickedly sharp on both his hands and feet. But where his left arm should’ve been, was still the tentacle mass that served as his arcane focus, the focal point for much of his craft.
He stood to his full height, the torso of the robe torn, but the skirt and pants still intact. He felt suddenly better capable of enduring the cold of Cylus. He discovered that this breed of Ithecal was uniquely suited to temperature extremes. He was thrilled at the realization and the discovery of new carnal functions.
He smiled upon Ash-Flaw, as the Ithecal gazed upon its twisted reflection in Rakvald. Yet he took the mass of tentacles that served as his hand and was lifted to his feet.
Began Rakvald, in his newly acquired voice, as he smiled, ”We will see about fulfilling my end of the bargain. But first, we must find subsistence and or shelter…”
Ash-Flaw, amazed at what he saw, knelt upon the ground, prostrating himself before the powerful mage. Rakvald shook his head and touched a claw to his kin’s shoulder. ” Rise Ash-Flaw. I am a mage, not yet a god.”
So saying, he smiled on the creature as it rose to face him, eye to eye.
Thus the compact was forged, and Rakvald intended to honor it with power, guidance, and friendship toward his wondrous new charge.
Ash-Flaw and Rakvald walked into the dark forest, following the light of the moon wither it would lead.