Dragomir didn’t return The Baron’s greeting. Instead, he promptly transformed into a Non, his brilliant green eyes launching mute accusation at the older man.
“Ah,” The Baron said, sagging. He looked a hundred years older… and, at the same time, significantly darker. Not as pitch black as Dragomir, but a shadow of his usual self, as though he’d stepped outside on a starless night. “I see. You’ve connected the dots.”
Forcing his clothes to remain in place - he was still working on that part of his Non powers - Dragomir seated himself on the floor outside The Baron’s cell. The bottom of his legs seemed to form into a soft pudding under his clothes, providing the only cushion he would ever need to remain comfortable. “Not quite. That’s what I’m here for.”
The Baron raised an eyebrow. “Hm. And, uh, how… exactly… did you find out? Was it… well, perhaps I shouldn’t say any names - ”
“Were you going to say Bora?” Dragomir snapped, gritting his teeth. “Maybe Litobora?”
“Er…” The Baron looked to one corner of his cell, then another. His eyes seemed to want to be anywhere but staring into Dragomir’s face. “That… well, possibly. Potentially.”
“Definitely,” Dragomir said. The flashbulb image of Bora’s horrifying transformation, shortly before she disappeared, floated into Dragomir’s mind. He pushed it away. “Not her. Your brother. I went to see him.”
The Baron shuddered, sweat standing out on his forehead. “You what? I… I know I’ve been out of touch this last year, but dear god, he’s on the other side of the world… did you go through codespace, or…?”
Dragomir shook his head. “No. The long way. He fucked with me. I figured he deserved a personal touch.”
“I… see.” The Baron made an effort to compose himself. It didn’t appear to work too well. “That man always seemed to know things he shouldn’t. I suppose it… doesn’t surprise me… that he found out about you. About your, erm, secret, to be more specific. I told him to keep out of my affairs, but… he never - “
“I don’t give a shit about your stupid-ass relationship with your stupid-ass brother,” Dragomir cut in. “He’s dead. I cut his fuckin’ head off. Okay? We’ve both got a dead sibling now. Let’s move on.”
Dragomir thought the news of his brother’s demise might perturb The Baron. The paunchy Non did not so much as flinch, however, and instead he used the opportunity to smoothly segue away from the topic. “What makes you think I’ll say anything?”
Dragomir cracked his pliable knuckles so far that his clawed fingers almost folded up to meet his wrists. “I’ll have you thrown off the side of this ship when we take flight if you keep your mouth shut, that’s why.”
The Baron smiled ruefully. “Dear boy. We both know you’d never do something so drastic as that.”
Dragomir grinned, though he suspected his teeth were lost in the inky flatness of his face. “Wanna test me, old man? I’d love to watch you try to fly. ‘specially with your fingers all busted up.”
“Ah, yes.” The Baron looked at the rough bandage on his hands. “I suppose I wouldn’t get very far, would I? My days of sketching are over… perhaps that’s reason enough to want you to end it all.”
Dragomir paused, then shook his head. “Suicide? Pfft, don’t buy it.”
The Baron lowered his head. “You don’t understand, Dragomir. I’ve lost a great deal. My goal… my people… my kingdom… my village… even my post as a respected advisor. I will grant you that the last was my own fault, but the point stands. Suicide seems a logical - hurk!“
The Baron lurched back abruptly as Dragomir’s hand shot through the bars of the cell at him. Dragomir’s arm thinned and thickened again, sliding easily through the narrow gap, and he wrapped his fingers hard around The Baron’s neck. The Baron’s cloak fell away, revealing a boney jawline that clacked as he struggled to breathe. He clawed at Dragomir’s arm uselessly.
“Hurk… ahck… Dra… Drag…” The Baron’s eyes widened, glowing brightly behind his glasses. “I… augh… ack…”
Dragomir waited a moment, seeming to test The Baron, then he pulled his hand away again. The Baron coughed and spat, crowding back on his cot to get as far from Dragomir as possible. The younger Non oozed his arm out of the cell, admiring its long length and rubbery texture before sliding it back into the sleeve of his tunic.
“Looked pretty goddamned scared t’me,” Dragomir said, staring at the floor. “Between that and all the running I hear you did to get this far, I’d say suicide’s the last thing on your mind. You’re too much’ve a coward to even take the coward’s way out. Try ’n tell me I’m wrong and I really will pitch you off the god-be-damned Sky Bitch. Watch if I won’t.”
Panting, flummoxed, The Baron slowly straightened. He seemed unwilling to come any closer to Dragomir, though his tiny cell enforced reasonable proximity. “Y… augh, that… ow… you’ve changed, haven’t you…?”
Dragomir’s head drooped. His spiky hair oozed down his face, then snapped back into place as his human skin tones reasserted themselves. He covered his eyes, uttering a short, hysterical laugh. “You tell me, man. Far as I know, you’re part of the reason I’m like this to start with.”
“No, but… I meant…” The Baron shook his head, cleared his throat, and sighed heavily. “God. I… I didn’t want this. Not for you. You’ve… the world has near ruined you, Dragomir.”
Dragomir remained slumped. One angry eye peeked out at The Baron through his dirty blonde hair.
“I…” The Baron straightened. With visible effort he moved closer to the bars, knees brushing against the metal. “I always thought Eve took after your wife more than you. That glare, though… I’ve seen it enough times in the last three years to finally catch the resemblance. She really is your daughter.”
“You oughta know that better ’n anybody, fat man.” Dragomir propped his fists under his chin, sat cross-legged, and watched The Baron with venomous interest. “I’ve been told a lot of things. Now I want your take on it all. What am I?”