The dragon didn’t just stand around waiting for its death, and it swiped its massive claws at Dee. Dee noted with satisfaction that either the poison and curses were working enough to slow the creature down, or the big lizard wasn’t very quick in the first place. She avoided the hasty swipe with relative ease by moving out of reach. At the same time she took a quick glance at the wound she had just made.
The strike had penetrated the scales on the dragon’s neck, close to the creature’s head. The wound was deep and bleeding, but not a fatal one just as she had suspected. She could feel the corruption entering the dragon but its magic resistance was slowing down the progress of the corruption to a crawl. If she could manage to inject more of the shadowy power into the dragon’s body, then the corruption would progress much faster.
Dee avoided another slash from the dragon, and moved in closer and dealt another full strength blow. This time she had aimed at the beast’s belly, below the left foreleg. The scales there were a little thinner and a successful strike might manage to hinder the beast’s movement. Her strike hit true and bit deep, but she had to hastily pull back as the dragon used its tail to throw her off. The impact of the tail was rather heavy, but it had been a hasty strike and was much lighter than the old bastard’s strikes during training.
Dee realized that her best plan was to go for infighting at close range. The dragon would struggle to strike at her so close to its body, while she could attack with impunity. On the other hand, this way she had less time to avoid attacks and had to avoid being crushed by the much larger opponent. There was very little margin for error this way. Fortune favored the bold however, and Dee didn’t relish the idea of a hit and run fight.
The dragon alternated attacks with its claws and tail, managing mostly to avoid too much damage from Dee’s weapon. However, the little nicks and cuts were adding up and it could feel the deadly power within its body. The dragon knew on some level that the strange dark energy would kill it given enough time, and the only way to counter it was to kill the agile demon attacking it. There was a timer on this fight, and the dragon realized that it didn’t have the luxury of trying to wear down its opponent. It also felt the poison and curses gnawing on its strength and speed, which only made it more important to close things fast.
The large cavern they were fighting in had been chosen by Dee as she wanted some room to fight in, but now it backfired a little. The dragon used its wings to lift into the air, backing away from Dee, while also swiping at Dee with its tail with the same rather clumsy but effective movement. Dee had seen the move coming, and used the air moved by the dragon’s massive wings to flip away from the beast fast, far enough to avoid the tail strike.
However, the tail strike was not the main point of this move. Dee could feel large amounts of mana move in the surroundings as the dragon used its innate abilities to control the element it was associated with. In this case cold air and ice. The whole cavern’s temperature plummeted and a large cyclone of air started to rotate around the cavern. Ice shards were starting to mix in with the wind, and the whole cavern was engulfed in a blizzard of frost and ice.
One of Dee’s tails started glowing bright blue, apparently fighting against the cold. Dee wasn’t entirely sure why it was happening, but was thankful for the assist. That said, she was now starting to get affected by the cold even if she didn’t have to suffer the brunt of it. She had to cover herself in psionic energy to avoid getting slowed down by the chill, but not much energy was spent thanks to the weird effects of the now bright blue tail. The flying ice shards made movement difficult however. The tail did nothing against those.
“Well two can play this game.” Dee said as she shifted forms to her angel form. This time her tails remained even in this form as one of them was actively fighting the cold.
Dee gathered her newly empowered psionic energy and started to form a storm of her own to counter the one the dragon had created. Her storm moved the air in the opposite direction and instead of ice, her storm was filled with psionic energy that had weight and impact to it, as well as lightning formed from that same psionic energy. The two clashing winds somewhat countered each other, although the air was still very turbulent, and the lighting broke apart most of the ice flying around, restoring Dee’s mobility. The storm also forced the dragon to land again, even though the lighting was not enough to seriously hurt it at the current level of power.
Instead the dragon took a deep breath in preparation to use the most dangerous of the weapons possessed by dragons, its breath. ‘Welp, I don’t think the tail will protect me from that.’ Dee thought.
She used her telekinetic power to smack the dragon’s head sideways just as the frost breath burst from its mouth. The storm of ice and freezing air sprayed all over the walls on the side. Dee took this chance to once again shift forms, this time to her kitsune form. Only with two differences. She had six legs instead of four, and the four at the front were clad in the black gauntlets she had trained with, resembling hands more than paws.
She used her improved speed to flash right on top of the dragon’s back and the gauntleted claws sunk deep into the dragon’s flesh as her strength was multiplied by her form. Scales, blood and flesh sprayed from the dragon’s back and the large creature roared in pain and frustration. Dee also growled in frustration as her claws hit bone and she realized that even her improved strength wasn’t enough to break them.
She was forced to leap off as the dragon tucked in its wings and rolled on the ground. ‘This is becoming annoying.’ She thought. She was hurting the enemy but not mortally. She also suspected that the lizard had not used quite all its cards yet. Dee wasn’t sure if she wanted to get into a long fight where it was a race to see whether she could wear the dragon down before she made a potentially fatal mistake.
Suddenly a burst of pride and disdain came from within her. ‘Such a puny lizard DARED to stand against her! Did it not recognize a superior member of its own race?! It should just lay down its head obediently and die!’
Half by instinct Dee suddenly put a lot more power than she ever had used before to materialize the ethereal form of the dragon claws above her head. Except they weren’t quite as ethereal as they had been before. They were a lot more solid, and there seemed to be a pair of serpentine eyes behind the claws as they struck down at the feral dragon.
A small part of Dee’s mind lamented. ‘Dammit, I just managed to push back the hunger a bit and now this?!’
The feral dragon on the other hand suddenly felt deep terror within every fiber of its being. It saw the claws descending on it and the eyes behind, and it just froze from pure terror. On some deep level it felt the presence of the most terrible of its cousins, an Abyssal dragon. And an ancient one at that. All it wanted to do was flee but its body was not listening.
The claws easily tore through the flesh of the feral dragon, cleaving its head from its neck, neatly decapitating the feral dragon. The dragon collapsed on the ground lifelessly. Dee almost automatically consumed the dragon’s soul, which started to bring her sanity back. She also felt that the soul brought a nice bit of power with it. That moment of clarity didn’t last for very long though.
In the future Dee would not be sure if it was the soul she had consumed, or just her overdrawing on the weird power, but she was suddenly assaulted by a sharp pain shooting through her body. She was still in her kitsune form as she collapsed from the pain and she drew into a curl lying on her side, as she barely managed to breathe. The pain started from her head and went down to her four forelegs covered in the dark gauntlets. She managed to see between her narrowed eyelids as the gauntlets shattered, and another weird power surrounded the legs in their place.
Then she lost consciousness.
Moirai opened a portal towards Dee’s position. The feeling from the bracelet was somehow hollow, which she knew to mean that the bracelet was stored either in a spatial storage or wherever items disappeared every time Dee shifted forms. The details didn’t matter as she could still find the item and open a portal close by. She and Razark stepped though the opening. They found themselves in what looked like a cavern covered in ice.
All around them were signs of battle as the ground was broken and covered in blood. The blood was obviously from the decapitated dragon that lay close by. The creature was also covered in wounds that had frosted over by the dragon’s power to reduce bleeding. “Hunting a feral dragon? Good job!” Moirai mouthed almost silently.
“Moirai!” Razark suddenly yelled from the other side of the dragon. He had found Dee collapsed on the ground.
Moirai rushed there and saw Dee in her kitsune form breathing roughly in small shudders as cramps and waves of pain ran though her body. “What’s wrong?” Moirai demanded as she knelt close to Dee and put her hands on Dee’s belly. Dee was actually so large in her kitsune form that Moirai didn’t need to kneel, but she did it instinctively.
Moirai tried to check Dee’s condition, but her power was pushed out by Dee’s own. This was Dee’s defenses working automatically and at a heightened level. They didn’t allow any foreign power into her body. This was the trouble of trying to scan psions. “It seems like a backlash of power of some sort.” Razark said, as he cast several healing spells on Dee, though with limited success. That power was being pushed out as well.
“What the hells happened?” Moirai asked rhetorically, as she ran her eyes over Dee checking for external injuries that might give hints to what was wrong. She immediately noticed a couple of differences. The four forelegs were covered in deep black scales. There seemed to be some dormant power beneath them, as there was a very faint glow coming from between the scales. The only reason Moirai had not noticed them before was because they looked a bit like the gauntlets Dee used, except coming up over the whole length of the leg. There where even small spikes on the joints very similar to the segments on the gauntlets except they were more like the spikes seen on the legs of dragons. For obvious reasons.
“On her head.” Razark pointed out suddenly.
On Dee’s head was a pair of draconic horns pointing backwards. The horns were almost straight, with only the slightest bend of down and back up, which only made them seem more graceful than anything else. The horns were situated between the fox ears on top of Dee’s head, thus they were fairly close to each other. They were not very long, only about forty centimels.
“Backlash from the weird draconic power she uses?” Moirai had seen the power once before, and the connection seemed fairly obvious.
“Hmm. That might be. Or it might be due to the feral dragon.” Razark suggested.
“What do you mean?” Moirai asked, still trying various means to not get her own power within Dee’s body without getting rejected.
“Well she seems to absorb the power of those she kills. She did just kill a dragon, although a feral one. Maybe the absorbed power interacted with the power she holds in some weird way. Anyway, we won’t get anywhere here in the mountains. Let’s take her back to recover.” Razark said, while at the same time storing the feral dragon’s body.
Dee found herself in a grey and dark landscape that seemed for the most part empty. The sky was covered by a vortex of energy that made the dark clouds swirl around the eye of the vortex. The dark clouds covered the sky, but somehow Dee knew the sky above the clouds held a black moon and a golden sun representing the blessings from the two sister goddesses. As Dee looked to the left of her current position, she could see something that was the size of a large mountain. The mountain was in fact the weird hourglass formed by the dragon eating its tail. The ground itself was cracked and splintered resembling an arid wasteland and there were no signs of life. The only exception was on her right, where the dark raven stood on a tombstone. This time the raven did not have a soul in its beak.
It didn’t take long for Dee to figure out that this was not the reality and that she was now somewhere inside of her. Somewhere important. She couldn’t explain it but she could feel the importance of this place to her being. The space seemed to stretch around her as far as her eyes could see, but she intuitively knew the space was not without limit. She didn’t need to walk anywhere as her formless spirit moved around with just a thought.
She felt another presence, and an orb of blue light slowly floated towards her. “Dee. I’m glad you’re coming to.” The feminine voice was without a doubt familiar.
“Croestia. Where are we?” Dee asked rather calmly, mirroring the calm shown by Croestia.
“I’m fairly certain we are within your soul space. Or to be exact, we are within your Domain.” Croestia replied, adopting her more analytical persona.
“Domain? Isn’t that supposed to be something for immortals? Are you sure?” Dee asked genuinely surprised, although she had suspected something like this.
“Yes. This is one of those things that I just know due to my nature as a magical item. Also, Mazatl did tell you that you could store important items within your soul space. That's why I’m here.” Croestia confirmed.
Dee looked around again. “A little bleak scenery. I’m not sure I feel any power from this place either.”
“That’s probably because it’s not fully formed. Usually people form the very beginnings of their soul space when they become immortal and it grows into its full form as they gain more power and greater control. I’m not sure why yours is already like this, but it’s not fully connected to you. That’s why it’s mostly just influenced by your blessings and why it’s not conferring any of the benefits a normal soul space would.” Croestia had a fair bit of knowledge on such things thanks to the fact that she had been owned by several powerful people before. The pendant might have lost her old personality and parts of its memories, but she knew some things, especially when reminded of them like this.
“Do you know why it’s not connected?” Dee asked trying to get a grasp on things. “And more importantly, how do I connect with it?”
“Because you don’t have the requisite level of power to open one yet. I think the power from your blessings made a mess of things somehow, but that’s just a pure guess. Maybe Umbra decided to play a trick on you? Anyway, the existence of the space is not a bad thing. I would assume it will connect automatically when you raise your strength to the requisite level. It keeps growing even now, so that’s a good thing.” Croestia might have some answers but not all of them.
“What about the totem thingy Mazatl talked about? Any idea on that?” Dee thought of another question. “I know she mentioned something about Domains working a little different with totems, but I might get some ideas of what to expect.”
“Look behind you.” Croestia suggested simply.
Dee turned around and saw something that had not been there before. It was as if the thought of a totem had summoned this…whatever it was. All Dee could see was skulls. Thousands and thousands of skulls. The eyes of the skulls had an eerie green light to them, and somehow Dee knew the skulls represented all the people she had killed and the souls she had consumed. She could feel that the skull closest to her was that representing the feral dragon she had just killed, although it looked just like the others, a humanoid skull. The furthest skull was actually someone she didn’t even know. Someone she had met as a baby and had died close to her? Had she absorbed that soul without knowing?
The skulls were all identical and looking outwards from the center. The tops of the skulls were on even level, as were the skulls in general as they were uniform in size and shape. It somehow reminded her of a weird uneven floor made of skulls, although she also knew that wasn’t quite it. “It’s a foundation.” Dee suddenly said, certain that she was right.
“I believe you are right. The question is: a foundation for what?” Croestia asked reaching the same conclusion.
“I don’t have any idea. I feel it might not have been decided yet. And even the foundation isn’t finished yet. This is just the beginning.” Dee wasn’t sure where that information was coming from, but it was about her own soul, so she supposed it made sense she would know some things about it.
“Well, we can probably say with confidence that it won’t be a normal totem. It will be one of those weird things Mazatl mentioned.” Croestia concluded.
“So what happened outside?” Dee suddenly asked, changing the subject.
“Moirai and Razark came to get you. You’re back at the volcano temple.” Croestia replied. She could still observe the surroundings even if Dee was unconscious. “They assume it was a backlash from that draconic power of yours.”
“They’re probably right. We knew there would be some downsides to that power. I guess now were seeing some of them. Am I still in the kitsune form?” Dee asked, suddenly curious.
“Yes, why?” Croestia asked back.
“Well, I have a slight idea of the changes to the kitsune form. Horns and scales on the forelegs right? I’m still not sure if the other forms were affected however. I suppose we will find out soon.” Dee mused, not really sure just yet how she should react to the changes.
“There’s something else.” Croestia suddenly said.
“The tails?” Dee guessed.
“No I think you figured out the same things I did concerning them. Do you remember the three doors I mentioned way back when I first woke up and you asked for an inventory of the stuff inside my storage space? Your coming into this soul space just triggered the information on how to open two of them.” Croestia’s words came as a total surprise to Dee. She had in fact completely put the doors out of her mind.