While Sammy sat Trypette down in the Visitor chair and explained things, Alba set the box on top of the bed and picked up the robe. “Yup, it’s definitely your size, Sammy.” Displaying the garment with a grin, he held it out to the gnome. “You should try it on.” A miniature replica of the one he was wearing, the muted black fabric seemed to absorb the light shining down on it, reflecting nothing back. Firing a look over Sammy’s head, Trypette frowned.
“A few minutes ago you were screaming about not giving Sammy you’re job, and now you’re trying to trick him into putting on the robe?” Her eyebrows pushed together as Alba disregarded her question with a casual wave of his hand and looked at Sammy.
“We all know you’re going to put it on, so what difference will it make if you do it now or in fifteen minutes?”
“He might not be able to take it off, that’s the difference.” Trypette’s voice began rising with feminine injustice. Standing on his tip-toes, Sammy made himself just tall enough to stick his face in front of her, catching her gaze.
“See how easy it is to argue with him?” Giving her a wry smile, he reached out and patted her hand.
“Positively effortless,” she breathed, her eyes taking on a soft sheen. Her return smile turned to a slight frown when he pulled his hand away and looked at Alba and the cloak.
“What happens when I put it on?” he asked, arching one arm behind him to scratch at the spot on his lower back where the ties of his hospital gown were trailing. Trypette watched him, mesmerized.
“Nothing really happens until you take the oath.” The Birch Elf’s face, already weak in expression by nature, became vacant and his slanted blue eyes stared off into nothing. “Then it’s a blood bath,” he whispered. For a moment the two gnomes stared at him, their large eyes glassed with concern. Blinking slowly, Alba focused on Sammy. “But you shouldn’t worry about it. You’re not keeping the cloak, right?” One corner of his mouth twitched when Trypette, giving herself a slight shake, rolled her eyes at him.
“Blood bath? Nice try, Alba. You’ve got nothing but sap in your veins.”
“I never said it was my blood.” Alba pressed his lips into a line as she raised a hand and flicked her fingers at him. He sneered childishly. “Besides, what do you know about it?”
“What about my soul?” Sammy interjected. “Will my anchor get reattached?”
Still holding the cloak, Alba rested his hands primly on his knees, inhaled deeply, and mechanically intoned, “Upon assuming the cloak of the Reaper, any prior calling will be rendered inactive, thus making the wearer a non-entity until the oath is sworn.” He gasped and made a small production out of refilling his lungs. “If you want to know more then you’ll have to read the manual for yourself.”
“I don’t have any time for that.” Looking up at the clock, Sammy reached for the cloak, but found himself pulled back by Trypette who had grabbed the ties of his gown.
“You have time to think this through,” she stated, fixing her bleak eyes on his gray ones.
“Not really.” Cocking his head at her, Sammy pulled at the ties. “Evidently you haven’t noticed how much I sleep. Twenty hours a day,” he said without giving her chance to reply. “I’ve already been awake over three hours now.” He pointed at the clock. “In about forty minutes I’m going to be snoring in a corner, and if that happens, I might wake up tomorrow to find myself taking an oath.” Seeing her jaw tighten, he pulled harder, forcing her to release him while Alba looked on and cleared his throat.
“The fact that the cloak is here, and your clothes are not, proves that someone has already thought about this and reached the same conclusion we are.” Despite Trypette’s distressed expression, the elf extended the hand holding the cloak. “Your anchor isn’t going to heal itself, period.”
As Sammy reached to pluck the robe from the Reaper’s hand, Trypette crossed her arms tightly over her chest and hugged herself. Shaking out the folds, the gnome held the cloak out in front him.
“Do you think I ought to take off the hospital gown first?” With the fabric in his hand, Sammy looked enamored.
“It’s not a kilt,” Alba, said, his narrow eyes gleaming. “But hey, knock yourself out.”
“If things go badly and I have to take the oath, I don’t want to be stuck wearing this gown forever.” Alba’s amused snort pulled Sammy out of his reverie. Blinking rapidly, he looked at the elf. “What?” His face reddened as the Reaper raised an arm up high and sniffed curiously into his own pit.
“Yep, I’m good.” Dropping his arm, Alba gave Sammy an annoyed look. “I don’t live in this cloak,” he said. “And I certainly don’t sleep in it. Stop letting your imagination get the better of you and just put it on.”
Nervous and red faced, Sammy swallowed hard and slipped his arms into the sleeves. The black fabric settled easily onto his shoulders and hung all the way to the floor, obscuring his bare feet. Surprised, he looked up at Alba. Reaching into the box beside him, the Reaper pulled out a pair of black, soft-soled shoes made from the same non-reflective material and dropped them on the floor in front of the gnome. Neither of them seemed to notice Trypette slide from the chair and walk softly to the door.
“How do you feel,” Alba asked.
“I don’t feel any different— ” Sammy’s eyes suddenly became distant, as though he were listening to something far away. “Wait… ah, okay.” There was a twitch in the air around him as the space he occupied seemed to inhale, then expand outward. His skin became flushed, and his hair and beard started to sparkle. He looked down to see his hands glowing with a deep, golden light that crawled up his arms and spread over his body. As the effects began to settle, the gnome looked up to find that Alba had scrabbled across to the opposite side of the bed, and was staring at him with his mouth open.
“What, in the name of all the Orbs, just happened?” Looking shocked, the elf raised both hands in front of him and crossed his forefingers in an X. “Stay away from me!”