S5-AlraDani

Alra

Alra watched as the rest of the Lenai counted out the loot of the tower's fourth floor, but specifically watched Dani, who was also observing the process. She wondered if this was more barls than Dani had ever seen before. The weight and the privacy of Dani's coinpurse said many things. She waited for her sestra to choose a room for them and nodded approval, watching Dani and Claire gravitate as leftovers once the wizard and prettyboy selected the other. Alra had half a mind to demand Claire sleep on the first floor as a canary, but dismissed the thought with a frustrated shake of her head. She should sleep, or talk to her sister, or do something productive, but… she found herself walking to Dani. "Malyutka? Talk with Alra?"

Dani

Dani's attention moved from where they were healing a wound on their arm to the disgruntled expression on Alra's face. They didn't understand what could be upsetting the gladiator, nor did they have much energy after the fight downstairs. Vampires were not a creature Dani had ever encountered, nor were they particularly looking forward to encountering them for a second time so soon. All they wanted to do was sleep, and try to forget what must be done in the morning, but the gladiator was the only person in this tower that Dani respected and they would honor that. "Of course. What is it?"

Alra

"Downstairs, privacy." Alra led Dani downstairs, back to the second level where they'd both been the rearguard just a half hour or so before. "I want know, malyutka, why you come with Alra instead of go with Liam like plan."

Dani

Dani found a pile of rubble to sit on, pulling their legs up to cross them and returning to inspecting their wound. This question did not seem to be too serious and Dani did not care to waste the strength on it. "Because following up behind a group in a narrow passageway would make me less than useful. You wanted to sneak around and I am the stealthiest person here. Besides, you said you would have my back. You couldn't fulfill that claim if we separated."

Alra

Alra kicked at a loose stone with a growl of frustration, rolling her hands into fists, trying not to either burst into tears or launch herself at the Ostainian. She was not this whelpling's mother. She was nothing to him. Why bother? Why even bother with this much? Alra could not understand herself. The stone she'd kicked flew into the air and bounced off the wall, richoteting down the stairwell, eventually coming to a slow stop at the ground level floor. "Alra sneak. Spider stay with big group. Spider protected by sestra. By malchik lyubovnika knight. Spider cannot be protected by Alra when diving directly into most dangerous part of plan—-" She felt her voice raising, slowly wanting more and more to walk over and grab the brat, but she couldn't bring herself to do so, so she let herself take a few moments to calm down. "I am getting ready to cast very big spells. I am getting ready to kill undead, rejoin Lenai. Kill undead." She motioned with her fist to mimic the sacred flame Dani had attempted to fire into their enemies but instead had created the rubble upon which they now sad. "All of suddens, malyutka is behind Alra and Alra has no chertov way to protect little spider. And then? And then?" Her voice was rising again. "You vanish into air thin! Alra no thought where spider has gone."

Dani

Dani felt a pang begin to build in their chest. The gladiator was mad at them! They felt their brow furrow, but pursed their lips to keep from speaking. They had no reason to believe what they had done was wrong. They had done all they possibly could to remain shrouded and protected from the creatures that had wounded them so deeply so quickly. The formation of this 'plan' had not included Dani or their opinions, nor were they used to being asked or having to ask. Dani did what they wanted, because that is what has kept them alive so far, and that being surrounded by the Lenai did not change that. Yet what Alra was saying hurt.

Alra

Alra turned suddenly on him, tears stinging her eyes. "I cannot even tell if you are boy or girl, but I tell you this, malyutka, follow me without letting me know? It is no surprise vampire see you and hurt so badly. What am I to do? I cannot fight Haggar's wars on two fronts. If we were together united as one striking team, how chertov it is even said in chertov Neslethean?" Again, she turned to kick a rock, this one simply shattering against the tower wall. She ran her fingers through her hair. In Esnyan, her accent betraying her maternality towards the cleric but moreso her anger, she said quietly to herself. "You could've fucking died and I wouldn't have known until the battle was over because you didn't tell me you were with me. We could have coordinated. We could have struck out together. Instead, you do not act as one with Lenai or Alra but alone. Alone on battlefield is dead, little one." Her voice gradually softened, slowed, and finally she just let herself cry, quietly and facing away from him. Her. Them. Whatever. A few moments of silence later she tried again, "You die when alone, nothing I can do. You attack with me, is good idea, is good plan, but was not plan. If I had known, together we strike, as one. Surprise chertov skeleton bitches. Instead, you attack late, you get hurt by enemy we weren't expecting. Always you must be anticipating unexpected. Alone, you are not Lenai. Lenai only when we all know where we are and what we do in moment." Her Neslethean was still awkward and broken, but she tried to maintain that softness she'd started developing in her tone.

Dani

Lost. What was someone to do when another was crying on their behalf? The pang of pain morphed and changed and became confusion and guilt. What were they supposed to do? Supposed to say? Dani's body had gone rigid where they sat, afraid to move or speak the wrong thing. They looked down at their hands because they did not know where else to look. They were being chastised. They could barely remember the echoes of their mother's voice, but the tone was the same and it brought forth a sadness they found difficult to describe. The pain from Alra's words matched the pain of Dani's wounds. They mumbled something under their breath in Ostainian.

Alra

At the lack of a response and words she couldn't understand, Alra felt like she was obviously just not communicating well enough. But… there was a way. She really only had the one option remaining to make this conversation work. She pulled her staff from her back, and used a charge to cast Speak with Animals on herself. She called on the power of the surrounding area and felt the thrum of Neslethea's life-force in her own heart, even Dani's own life-force. Suddenly, attempting to surprise him, she cast Polymorph on him, intending to transform Dani into a tycho.

Dani

Dani jumped to their feet, aggravating another wound in their side and causing it to bleed again. They felt the pull of a spell begin to tug at them, and the shock of having a spell thrown at them while unguarded was an act of betrayal as far as Dani was concerned. They tried to push away at the magic as it radiated through them, but could not keep it back. Dani felt their body shift and crackle, limbs growing from their sides, their strength increasing, their skin hardening. In their moment of fear, they skittered away from Alra and realized what form they had been force to take. They caught sight of Mouse, having fallen in the shift, flee away from harm to the corner of the room. They returned a heated glare to Alra, guilt being replaced by rage. "How dare you?!" they tried to yell, but instead came out as a bizarre hiss.

Alra

"I understand and appreciate your anger, Dani." Alra spoke in Sylvan, naturally and comfortably being understood by Dani in this form. "It was necessary to facilitate a connection between us that allowed for linguistic understanding on a higher level. It is very important that we understand one another. I apologize for the shock of a sudden transformation, but assumed you would find this form the least distasteful of the possible forms I could have shifted you into: snakes, apes, squirrels. I wanted you to understand fully that I mean you no harm." She returned her staff to its mount on her back and looked directly into the eye which she knew to be most dominant, having taken the form several times herself. Approaching Dani and sitting on the ground in front of him. "Is it acceptable for us to talk like this? If it isn't, I understand. I will change you back immediately and we will conclude this discussion."

Dani

There was still a scuffle as Dani took another step – or three, hard to tell with so many legs – back when Alra approached but did not turn to run. Illyana would not be pleased if the gladiator got the better of Dani. Anger seethed and Dani hoped Alra could feel every ounce of it. "We were communicating just fine! This is a breech of trust! I can't believe I was going to apologize to you! You have no right on my life, on what I say or don't say, and I have no obligation to follow through with stupid plans that were created without my input. You keep saying how I could have died, but so could have you! You went up alone, without knowing what was waiting for you there. There could have been a trap, or an ambush. And sure enough, I took a blow that would have been dealt to you. I can protect myself. I have my whole life, and I don't need you to scold and baby me like a child. You said you would stand with me, yet I was the one who stood with you instead. If you want to be rid of me, just say so! If I die in this fucking tower, at least it will be on my own terms."

Alra

Alra took the verbal beating with repeated nods, smiling gently to herself. This was the anticipated reaction. Transforming someone without their permission was very rude. She had earned this. "I was doing the best that I could, Dani. But to my own eyes it appeared that you were not understanding me well enough for my message to get across. I was so deeply concerned for you that it is possible I have allowed myself to be blinded to your own independence. I apologize for that as well. There very well could have been any of those things, and you were welcome to speak up at any point in our strategy discussion. Like spider, you hide in the back and wait and then make your own decision. The Lenai are a system of equals, and your ideas are valuable. Your life is valuable, to me, to your Goddess, hopefully to yourself as well. I would encourage you to speak up more often. I have many, many abilities that protect me from those sorts of things. Do you? Look at how badly hurt you were by one attack. Have you ever seen me hurt as badly in all our time together?"

Dani

Alra's calm cooled Dani's rage, but did not remove the bite from their voice. "That's because you hide in the strength of animals rather than your own body. Of course, the mighty beasts do not bleed as I do, but at least I face may foes through my own two eyes." This point was not even relevant, Dani realized, but they wanted to jab at Alra anyway. Beneath the anger, tears pricked at their eyes, but tychos could not cry like humans. "I do not feel equal when the decisions of others control me. I am only in this tower because of what that fucking, pompous wizard did. I spoke up last night in the prison and it did not help, while you and the knight told me I was wrong to oppose this dangerous escapade. My life is more valuable to me than to you or even Illyana. My life is my own, and I will do whatever I feel I must in order to preserve it."

Alra

"Spoken almost like an Esnyan, Dani. First and foremost, above all else, Esnyans are free. But there is this question, which I pose to you now: I have trapped you in the form of a spider for another nine minutes. I will release you at your request. All I have to do is cease concentration and the spell will dissipate. I will even then provide you with healing magics, so you no longer have to tend to your own wounds. But I would prefer you understand that we are a team, that we talked about how to act as a team, and that as a teammate I was counting on you to do as we'd all agreed. When I discovered you were behind me, it was a surprise. A painful one. You took the attack but I could have taken it better. I could have protected you better. Instead, yes, you hid yourself well. Too well. And put me in the awkward situation of having opposing goals – keeping you safe and slaughtering the monsters before us. The whole purpose of me going up alone was to strengthen the vanguard as much as possible, purely because of just how much I can get hurt before it impacts me." She ran her fingers through her hair, considering. "Even now, by facilitating this conversation, have I truly acted against you? Or do you not see that I am trying to seek an outcome which is best for you?"

Dani

"You and I were the only ones that made it into that room. The others were stuck on the stairs. Even your… sestra… was unable to help as much as they wanted because the others were blocking their sight. I was not the only person today who needed help, and I would have been nearly useless on the stairs behind the others. I understand you may not have liked that I didn't tell you first, but I did not keep it from you intentionally. I just didn't see how saying it aloud mattered. If it is so important to you, I will try to bear that in mind and act accordingly in the future. But no, right now, I do not want your help releasing and healing me. I think you have made enough points for one day, and I would prefer to retain the shreds of my dignity as much as possible for the evening."

Alra

Alra's shoulders sank and a sadness came over her face. She'd failed. "Understood. I'd remind you that in this form you can climb on walls and move like a spider, but… you already do, don't you?" She moved to the stairway, releasing her concentration on the spell and causing Dani to revert to human form – despite her protestations. By the time that was finished, she was halfway up the stairs, heading directly for the bedroom she was to share with her beloved sestra.

Dani

Dani felt the cold stones against their skin as they regained their human form and pushed themselves back along the floor until their back hit the wall. They watched until Alra's feet disappeared. They felt weaker as a human, weaker and sadder. Mouse scurried back over to them as they hugged their knees against their chest and began to cry. The longer the silence stretched, the surer they were no one would hear them, and Dani let their fear and pain come flooding out in muffled sobs. Mouse nestled atop their knee, but they were as silent as ever. Dani made no move to return to upper floor that night.

S5-AlraDani

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