Bat Out of Hell

(The page on this entry looks as though it has gotten damp somehow, and there are various places the ink has blotted and run, as though splashed with water)

My body aches. Every limb, every joint, every vertebra, every muscle. More than that even. I ache in places I didn’t know I even had places. Of course, that might be because, for a short while, I did have places that I was not accustomed to. Even sitting here in a very hot bath, easing my pains, I can barely manage to lift the pen to write my diary. I had some more lessons from Maric today. Lessons on how to shape shift. Lesson one, the bat.

Yes, the bat. Personally, I would have preferred something that was at least approximately the same shape as I was used to, the wolf-man for, for example. Then, at least, I would have only had to deal with a moderately different shape and slightly different articulations of limbs. Oh, and I would have been the same distance from the ground that I am used to. But, no, he had to go for the bat. A different shape, a different size, completely different articulation of limbs, different senses, oh, and yes, the flying bit. OK, I have flown before, without really knowing how, but that has always been like some kind of levitation. I exercise my will and I can defy gravity, move up and down, sideways etc. I don’t really like doing it that much, since I don’t really know how it works and I am always a little afraid that I will forget how some day and come plummeting to earth. There is a world of difference, however, between that and actually having to lift yourself up by the pressure of my arms, well, mostly my fingers, against the air. I never quite realised how much of a bat’s wings are actually its fingers. No wonder I can barely hold the pen.

I was doing my rounds of the village when Maric approached. He congratulated me on my draft of the accords and made a couple of suggestions for changes. One was about the clause where appointed deputies could serve on the tribunal in place of one of the principals. He wanted to add a requirement for any decisions made by deputies to be ratified by the principals when they became available. I mentioned the possibility of a deputy having to be in place because of personal reasons, e.g. he had to recuse himself because the case involved Aoibheann. In that case, he said, he would rather sort it out man to man, with the other ruler. I suggested that I could insert a clause allowing the rulers to agree to resolve some cases between them rather than involving the tribunal. I made a note of his suggested change and remarked that it might be a while before we heard back from the fae court. Doubtless they would e going over the thing in minute detail. It could be worse, I said, we could be trying to write accords between us and the demons. That amused him, though we did speak briefly of the ongoing threat from Hell. I wondered if we were high on Asmodeus’ priorities, since his primary concerns were likely to be Vedis and Galyanna. However, since we had assisted both of those, we needed to be prepared, which was one reason he wanted to teach me further, to make me more stronger.

He then asked if I had time for further lessons in the blood magic, with the implication that this included a further session of mutual feeding. I suggested we retire to my chambers as this was not the sort of thing that should be happening in front of the villagers.

Back in the chambers, I divested myself of the sword and mail shirt, joking how I had never considered myself a warrior, yet now felt naked without the sword. He said that he had been the same when in a state of constant warfare. We shared a glass of wine, and the he asked me how much I could control my form.

I joked about diet and exercise, and then told him how I could do the fae or elf ears, but I wasn’t sure of that was actual shape-changing or just glamour. I didn’t know about changing into a wolf or bat, but then, I had never tried. He told me he could show me how to adopt different shapes, to take advantage of such things as wings and claws, as well as the strength benefits of some shapes.

I wasn’t sure about wings, since I could fly anyway, but I thought claws could be useful. I joked that I should go and have Kustav bite me, to see if I could complete the vampire/faerie/werewolf trifecta. That got a laugh and he thought Kustav might find the idea amusing. Claws were useful weapons and couldn’t easily be taken off you. Flying with wings, as a bird or a bat, he said were better than floating around conspicuously in human shape. I wasn’t so sure, figuring that turning into a bat was pretty conspicuous, but I had to admit that if I changed out of sight, a bat was less likely to be noticed. I did say I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being a bird. I already had to put up with salacious innuendo from Nemaine, without being bird-shaped.

And so the lesson began. I fed first, to give myself a little extra time to integrate the power and energy with my already strange melange. It was as exhilarating as I had previously experienced, with an additional darker, sweeter tinge, almost honey-like, which may have been something left over from his time with Vedis. The rush was almost overwhelming, and a few times, I almost felt myself going under, like a swimmer swamped by a wave. I clung to my will and surfaced again, riding the power, like a sailboat borne by a wave. Soon I had it under my control, letting it flow, letting it merge with the powers I already knew. Part of me, the accountant’s mind was there, judging what it was safe to consume, and I managed to stop myself in plenty of time. Even so, it took a few minutes to recover my poise afterwards.

I mutely offered my wrist to Maric, bracing myself for that rush of being fed from. Once again, there was the flood of power, and I could feel Maric’s hunger for the wyld, for the fae energy, awaken behind the walls of his iron will. He drank only one long draught before breaking away and sealing the wound. He sat there, staring, and for a moment, he was all predator, all hunger and power, awake, but controlled. Once he had recovered his poise, he reached out through our mental link showing me the ways of changing, of reshaping my form, changing my bones and sinews and muscles, showing me in ways that could not be conveyed by words.

I followed his thoughts, his example, and was amazed by the sensation, but almost overwhelmed again, this time by pain and discomfort, as my limbs stretched, my body shrank, bones changing, muscles changing and shifting. Every fibre of my physical body protested and resisted this abnormal shape, the unfamiliar change of balance, of weight and articulation and I had to will myself to go with the change, to dominate the pain. When I opened my eyes, I beheld a completely different world. There was Maric beside me, as a large bat, his eyes glowing. Everything seemed strange to my eyes, and I realised that there was no colour, just shades of grey. And the there was the sound! The sound assaulted my ears in a cacophony of creaks and ticks, and rustles, and it was as if I could hear every insect that dwelled within the fabric of the castle. “Holy fuck!” I said, or, at least that’s what my brain thought it said. What came out was more a series of squeaks and clicks. Maric seemed to understand, and was amused by it.

He flexed his wings and took off, flying gently around me in a circle, encouraging me to do the same thing. I watched, carefully, trying to work out the motions, and slowly flexed my arms, my fingers, trying to mimic the motions he was making. I thought I had gotten the hang of it, even if my arms hated the unaccustomed positions and articulations. Gritting my teeth, I flapped a few times and attempted to launch myself into flight.

And promptly crashed, face first, onto the small table, scattering lanterns and shattering the wine glasses. I cursed volubly, or perhaps squeakily, and tried again, with equally unsuccessful results and more cursing. I felt embarrassed, both by my failure, and my language. The latter, I am sure, Maric was used to. For all his refinement now, he had been a warrior on the battlefield for many years, and was no doubt used to cursing. An idea occurred to me. Could I still fly the way I was used to? I tried levitating, and to my relief, it still worked. Now that I was airborne, I experimented with the wings, working out how to propel myself, how to take the weight of my body on the arms and fingers. I flexed the wings some more, slowly reducing my dependence on the levitation until I was taking the entire weight by flying with wings. “I’m flying!” I squeaked, and promptly collided with the ceiling, bouncing off it and landing in a heap on the sofa. I grunted my displeasure and attempted the launch again, this time achieving it without the levitation. Soon, I was airborne and making slow and very careful circuits of the room.

Maric assured me that it would get easier with practice and suggested that it might be easier if we went outside. I agreed with him on the latter, but wasn’t sure how we would get outside without scaring the servants. I had not yet cottoned on to the fact that I was no longer the same size I had been as a human. Maric chuckled and said there was more to the castle that he should show me. He flew up towards the ceiling and disappeared through a small gap in the woodwork. I cursed and followed him, trying my very best not to bounce off the structure as he flitted through attics and out of some kind of flap in the roof. Through the link, he was teaching me about means of positioning myself. A very strange sense, it was, emitting a series of squeaks and clicks, and hearing the echoes from the surfaces around me and judging my distance from the surfaces by those echoes. A strange sense indeed, and I had severe difficulty at first integrating it into the senses I knew. It was even harder to believe those clicks instead of my eyes. After a while, I got used to it, and by the time we got out into the open air above the castle, it seemed almost natural. Maric even taught me that I could spot small insects the same way – this presumably being how bats fed.

I could not bear it long though. The new senses and means of orientation were tiring my brain, and the effort of flying was tiring my body. I signalled this to Maric and he led me back to my room, where he showed me the method of reshaping myself. That was at least easier, as if my body remembered the shape it was used to. We shared another glass of wine, after I got the servants to clear up the broken ones, but after that, I said I needed to rest, and so he left me, seemingly well pleased with my progress.

And now, I sit, soaking my aches away, at least, for those bits of me that I still have. I am not about to try shifting to soak those other bits. I might end up drowning, and that would be very difficult to explain.

 Bat Out of Hell

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