Today's Messages (OFF)
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Pages (18): [ 13 ]
|Forum: Fan Fiction|
| Topic: Predator, part 1|
|Predator, part 1 [message #5097]
||Sun, 30 April 2006 21:49
Registered: March 2006
Location: Behind you!
Well, I had him sitting on my computer for a long time waiting to be proofed, so in my spare moments I've been working him over.|
The other day I was trolling a bit and I found this thread:
That thread needs to be pinned. It was a godsend, it helped so much.
I haven't had a lot of time lately for reasons already known, so if there are some typos and so forth that's what - I didn't proof this as well as I usually do my works. Oh well.
Also, some of the formatting plays an important role, (although not as much as in Quetzal), so I'm attaching part 1 as an rtf file. Hopefully RTF is a bit more palatable than .doc, which is my "native type," if you will.
After you've read it, please place your comments here.
Edit: Errr...uploads are disabled
Get it here: http://www.geocities.com/icedrake8/Predator1.rtf
| Topic: Odds and Ends Pt. 1 (Sequel to Chancing Changes)|
|Odds and Ends Pt. 1 (Sequel to Chancing Changes) [message #4845]
||Sun, 09 April 2006 04:32
Registered: September 2005
Location: The Aegean
Since there was no further criticism on CC part 4, I decided to send it off to Sapphire's once I have finished my final reread.|
Also, due to the fact that I have reached a chapter breakpoint with my follow up 'Odds and Ends', I decided to post the first chapter here to give you something to read and maybe get some feedback out of it
If you have comments or questions feel free to post them in this thread.
"This is fan fiction for the Whateley Academy series. It may or may not match the timeline, characters, and continuity, but since it's fan fiction, who cares? To see the canon Whateley Stories, check out either Sapphire's Place (http://www.sapphireplace.com/stories/whateley.html) or the Big Closet (http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/taxonomy/term/117)."
The following story may contain adult themes and mature language. It broaches controversial topics like suicide, religion, sex, homosexuality and transsexuality. These topics are sometimes handled in an humorous fashion that may seem inappropriate to some. If any of the above is unacceptable to you or against the current laws in your geographical location I ask you not to read the story.
If you liked this story, or for constructive criticism please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Odds and Ends
November 3rd , Thursday
“Doctor Garden?” The bald man in his fifties looked up from the laboratory table and regarded the intruder impassively.
The young assistant was anxious and had to give himself a mental push when it became clear that he would not get more of a reaction than this.
“I... I am sorry to interrupt you but Intelligence assumed you wanted to see this.” He handed the scientist several printouts at that, carefully not looking at what the older man had been 'working' on.
After scanning the pages superficially Garden looked up at the aide once more. “Where did this data come from?”
“As far as I know it was sent to Do... err... Gamma-two by an old acquaintance working at Whateley Academy.”
“Whateley....” The scientist seemed lost in thought for a moment before continuing. “Contact Mister Gonzales and send him to me.” He then picked up a scalpel from a tray nearby and turned his attention back to the table as the assistant hurried to leave the room.
“Hey, what 'cher reading kid?” Lex didn't react in time, so Richardson managed to snatch the book from her hands.
“'Basic Course in American Sign Language', is it any good?” He grinned as he leafed through the book.
Lex was just about to retort something witty when Masters stepped up. “Stop hassling the rook Richarson.” she chided the man and scowled as she took the book from him.
“Sorry Mom.” Richardson quipped and got lost.
Masters sighed as if lamenting her heavy burden, but she smiled when she turned towards Lex and handed her the book back. “Come on Luther, lunch break is almost over. Back to the salt mines.”
Lex was somewhat annoyed at the treatment she was receiving. When she had decided to return to security under a new identity, she had not considered that she would have to pretend to be new at the job to keep up appearances. She was now 'The Rookie', having taken the 'title' from Dave, who did not really resent Lex for taking it.
An additional problem was her apparent age. When Lex had introduced herself to her 'new' colleagues, the LT had made clear that she was a low level mutant and older than she looked. But most of them treated her like a young girl fresh out of school anyway. No one was really harassing her, but the constant patronizing from some of them was getting on her nerves.
She had considered talking to Evers about it, but despite the rapport they had developed she was loath to discuss every minor problem with the shrink. She was no fragile Hollywood starlet, regardless what she looked like now. Even the psychiatrist seemed to agree, since he had cleared her for work almost as soon as she had started to actually talk to him.
Misinterpreting Lex' facial expression, Masters smirked at her. “Come on get going, sensor duty is not that bad,” she lied, “besides, it's part of the job.”
Lex just shrugged, put the book away and followed her 'Wet Nurse' as the 'assigned orientation officer' was called in security slang.
The young American Indian woman was highlighting some part of the circuit diagram on the overhead projector with her laser pointer while she explained something to her bored classmates.
“... so this, like, basically looks for known patterns in an audio file or a voice pattern or something like this and matches it with its database. It then more or less puzzles out the meaning and then....”
She was obviously very nervous, stumbling more than once during her presentation, but Reverse did not care. The tall boy with the reddish blond, shaggy hair was hanging on her lips without hearing a single word of what she said. The sound of her voice was like music to him, supplementing her elegant perfection and glorious beauty.
His musings were interrupted by several soft snickers behind him.
“I mean, dude, this may be 'Basic Electronics',” someone whispered, “but this is preschool stuff. Why do they even let retards like her take a class like this....” Reverse turned around in his seat, trying to find out who was talking.
“Oh, I think you upset Goggle Boy. Man, look how he's glaring at you. I think someone is in loooove.”
“Nah, he's probably just daydreaming about scoring with the retard.”
That was too much for Reverse and he leaped up from his seat preparing to lunge at the jackass.
“Mister Schmiedberger,” Professor Harper's sonorous voice interrupted him, “do you have any questions?”
Reverse whirled around feeling the heat rising in his face already. This time he didn't even notice the snickers that any mention of his surname usually caused.
“I... n...no....” He tried to think of something - anything - to add so he would not appear like a complete moron, but in the end he just plopped back down on his seat when the bell announced the end of the class. He hadn't even noticed Fizzle finishing her presentation. She had returned to her own seat and was now gathering her belongings, getting ready to leave like most of the other students.
Professor Harper raised his voice to counter the din as he addressed the class. “Remember that the practical demonstrations of your individual projects will start next week. Should you have forgotten the schedule you can look it up on the net. I wish you a Good Day.”
Reverse hurried to gather his stuff, ignoring the jeering behind him. He simply had to ask her. But when he got out of the classroom she had vanished in the mass of students milling about the hallways.
<Tomorrow....> the boy thought before heading to his next class.
Katsuo tried to will the clock to go faster, but it was hopeless. The hands appeared to be nailed down. Usually he enjoyed his classes, they tended to distract him from his situation. Today's lessons had simply washed over him while he had pondered his fate, though. Now he was feeling the huge dark cloud of depression looming at his emotional horizon, something he would rather avoid.
Onyx had mentioned some quest last night that she had been given and they had agreed on trying to solve it today. Maybe his friends in GEO would be able to get his mind off his problems, at least for a few hours.
He looked back at the clock again.
<Stupid piece of crap. Must be broken....>
David was putting away his gear, focusing on the task as much as he could. He tried his best to ignore his squadmates as they unwound from their shift while shooting ribald comments at each other. He had just set his helmet on the top shelf in his locker where it belonged, when someone tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hey, O'Brian! Are you deaf?”
Startled, Dave turned around to find that it had been Coburn addressing him. The tall, well muscled man was only clad in a towel, obviously on his way to the showers.
“They just called from the reception desk. Looks like someone is waiting for you up front.”
“Waiting for me?” David frowned, “did they say who it was?”
Coburn just shrugged and left.
Dave's eyes inadvertently started to follow the other man before he got a grip again and went to find out who was looking for him.
“No! You're doing it all wrong. It will get tangled if you put it in like that.” Cutter sounded exasperated.
<I'm doing it exactly right, just like the last two times.> Lex was getting a bit angry herself. She had always considered Cutter to be one of the nicer people on the force, but the black woman had been a complete bitch today.
Masters had had to leave early today and Lex had been glad at first when she had been told to work with Cutter. That was before the woman had made Lex fold the stupid utility harness for the fourth time in a row, though. What was especially galling was that Lex had stopped pretending to be inept on the second try.
Ever since Cutter had started to instruct her on gear maintenance this afternoon, the ex-marine had found fault in every single thing Lex did. It was getting almost ridiculous. Lex had been sorely tempted to mouth off towards the other woman but she had so far restrained herself, not wanting to fall out of character.
<Probably just her time of the month.> Lex inwardly winced at this thought and almost felt sympathy for her bad-tempered instructor. If that was really her problem then Lex could relate to it. As Doctor Polland had predicted, her own 'curse' had struck during the last weekend and it had been no fun at all. The stupid spell she was still under treated pain medications like toxins obviously, since they had hardly had any effect on her.
Lex was just trying to think of a way to get Cutter off her case, when the locking mechanism of the room's heavy steel door buzzed. Gear instructions were often held in the armory since everything needed was at hand and it was usually a quiet place to work. Both of them turned towards the door as it opened and allowed Dave inside. He seemed out of breath and was still wearing most of his squad gear
“Oh, hi O'Brian.” Cutter greeted him in a very not-pissed-off way that would have made Lex suspicious had she not been all too glad to see her friend herself. Regardless of what he wanted, it would be a welcome distraction from her 'lessons'.
“Ah, hi Cutter, I need a word with Lex real quick.” David seemed flustered which probably explained his slip. Lex glared at him none the less.
“Who?” They had never really used Lex' nickname at work during the few months that Dave worked there. She had been established as 'Jenkins' already back then and there seemed to be no point in confusing everyone. This explained Cutter's reaction and made the slip merely inconvenient instead of disastrous.
“I mean Luther!” Dave blurted out.
“Oh.... Well, I doubt she would have gotten it right anytime soon anyway, so you might as well have her.” Cutters voice was overly cool and she almost ripped the harness from Lex hands before she proceeded to stow it away in one off the racks on the wall.
Lex decided to take the chance and get lost, pulling the confused David outside behind her.
“What was that all about?” David asked pointing over his shoulder at the door just as it slammed shut behind them.
“I have not the slightest idea. What's up with you, Mister Super Spy? Too busy to memorize a simple name?” She was not really mad at him, nothing bad had happened, but a little reminder couldn't hurt.
“Sorry about that, I was distracted.... shit, I almost forgot. Your Mom is here!”
“What?!?” Lex shrieked.
David looked around in alarm but no one seemed to be close by. “Would you keep it down some?” he hissed at her. ”She showed up at the reception and asked for 'Alex Jenkins' and me. She told me she knows that you are not in Tibet and that if I would not spill the beans right now I would come to rue it.”
“Oh God! What did you tell her?”
“Nothing... yet. I managed to calm her down somewhat and put her into one of the interview rooms. I told her I would get someone who could explain everything and went looking for you.”
Lex groaned. “Oh no. Tell me you didn't. You're almost a head taller than she is. Couldn't you be a little more forceful once in your life?”
“Forceful?” Now it was Lex' turn to look around for an unwanted audience. “We are talking about your mother here! Do you remember the bear? I remember the bear and she looked very much like she did back then. I thought you wanted to write her?”
“But I did! I sent her an email right after you left last Tuesday,” Lex whined, “but it was mostly general stuff, I didn't mention where I was and more or less just let her know that I'm alive and well. I have no idea how she found out.” She was beginning to feel sick.
“Whatever. You will have to tell her now. I doubt she would have come all the way out here if she wasn't sure. Come on, she won't stay in there forever and I would much prefer not to see her scouring the whole office for you.”
Lex let out a wordless moan and followed her friend towards her doom.
David took a deep breath and opened the door to the interview room. There, right in front of the table stood Beatrix Jenkins in the exact same spot where he had left her, tapping her foot impatiently.
“You took your sweet time David. Now where is my son!” she exclaimed sternly as soon as he entered.
When she noticed Lex coming in behind him her expression softened slightly. Dave tried his best to turn invisible and slowly retreated towards the wall next to the door when a quick glare from the older women stopped him dead. She then turned her attention back on Lex.
“Hello dear. I didn't know you worked here. Susan, right?” Before anyone could reply anything she frowned. “Don't tell me you are in league with those two good-for-nothings.”
“I... I mean, I'm sorry,” Lex stammered, “I should have told you about it earlier, but I didn't want to upset you any more and it was difficult for me to sort out myself. I didn't mean to worry you and ....”
Beatrix interrupted her sternly. “Honey, you are babbling. Now, where is my son? David here seems to be of the opinion that you know more about it than he does.”
Lex gathered the last scraps of resolve she could find and stood up straight. “It's me Mom, ” she forced out. “I am Alexander. Your son. I mean, I used to be your son, I mean I still am, but I'm.... there was this accident and now I'm like this....” Her voice dwindled in the unrelenting stare her mother directed towards her.
A heavy silence settled on the room as Beatrix studied the young blond woman in front of her. She finally gave a curt nod.
“So that's how it is then. I would have expected better of you David than to take part in a cruel, childish prank like this. And I especially seem to have misjudged you young lady.” She shook her head sadly. “Should you come to your senses and decide to behave like adults, I have a room in the Miscatonic Inn down in Dunwich. I will be there for two more days.“ With that she strode towards the door, passing Lex without giving her so much as a glance and left the room.
When the door snapped shut with a muffled click only stunned silence remained. At least until Lex screamed out in frustration, making Dave glad for picking a soundproof room. She then slumped onto one of the chairs and set her head down hard on the table.
“I don't believe it. I finally manage to tell her the truth and she thinks I'm lying,” she mumbled while burying her hands in her hair, pulling several strands loose from her braid in the process.
“Well, your explanation left a bit to be desired.” Dave commented as he took off his flack vest to get more comfortable and sat down next to her.
“What do I do now?”
“I'd suggest you give yourself some time to cool off and visit her tomorrow afternoon. I mean she is your mother, how hard can it be to convince her?”
Lex lifted her head off the table and regarded him with a pained expression.
Cutter had just finished putting on her civvies and was headed towards the exit when the door to one of the interrogation rooms opened right ahead of her. Out stepped O'Brian and right behind him the rookie, Luther. He had taken off his vest, carrying it draped over his arm. The blonde's hair was tousled and her face slightly flushed.
Cutter's stomach started churning immediately when she saw this and her fists balled up inadvertently. For a moment she just stood there staring before she rushed past them without another word.
<Just a friend... hitching a ride occasionally. I hope they enjoyed their ride then.> She felt her eyes moisten, something that hadn't happened since her first night in boot camp, and hurried towards the exit before anyone could see it.
The tavern was small and obviously catered towards the local farmers more than the occasional travelers that came to this remote part of the world. The floor was made from hard packed dirt, generously strewn with straw. The tables and benches were rugged and, while they wouldn't win any design contests, they were obviously made by someone who knew their craft.
The building itself was timber framed and seemed to be in good repair. That had not kept Cyadne from regarding the common room like it was a pigsty when they first had entered. Cohan, as usual, had spent the first few minutes here to 'research' the most intoxicating drink that was offered by the bartender – it appeared to be some kind of apple brandy – and had stuck with it.
When they had finally settled down at one of the three tables Katsuo focused his attention on the fourth member of their party. The dark skinned rogue had been smiling like an idiot during the whole journey here, refusing to give any details on her 'mission'.
“So, Onyx. Since we finally have arrived at our destination, would you mind sharing with us what made you want to come this close to the dark lands?” Katsuo was genuinely curious. In the short time he had known the young woman she had always been reluctant to risk open combat. But coming this close to the black marshes, one was almost guaranteed to get into a skirmish or five. This was probably the reason why Cohan was just sitting there smiling blissfully. On the other hand that could just be the brandy doing its work.
“With pleasure my friend,” Onyx replied, still grinning broadly and pulled a rolled up piece of parchment from her cleavage. Tsuo could not help but look, wondering once more how she did it. He had personally seen her pull a dagger from there. How she had avoided cutting herself with the way the bodice of her leather armor compressed her up there was one of the big miracles of this world. He pulled away his eyes from the display and concentrated on the matter at hand. The amused look on her face told him that she had probably noticed where his attention had lingered.
“Oh my!” Cyadne exclaimed suddenly when the parchment lay between them completely unfolded. “Don't you tell me that I cut my precious time at the Academy short just because you attained a 'treasure map' from some drunken hoodlum in one of those horrible watering holes you usually visit.”
That naturally got Onyx riled up. The two women were like oil and water sometimes. “Well, my apologies 'your highness',” the rogue's voice was dripping with scorn, “but those of us who can't rely on having their every want taken care of by the lower classes have to trust their instincts when it comes to important decisions instead of running off to hide in the closest library.”
“How dare you? You drag us off to some flyspeck village of run down, flea-ridden hovels infested with pigs and sheep on that fools errand of yours and then have the insolence to insult me?” Cyadne was more or less shouting now.
Katsuo had meanwhile used the time to apply his own skills and had examined the map. He put his hand on the magician's forearm to get her attention. Not a moment too soon; he could already feel her gathering power for some kind of spell and he was sure Onyx had at least one knife ready.
“Lady Cyadne, please try to calm yourself, this is not the place and I fear your last words may have doubled the charge for our lodging tonight,” judging from the innkeepers scowl this was an optimistic estimate. “Besides, it seems that this map is genuine.” That at last shut the quick-tempered Spellcaster up and put a smug grin on the rogue's face.
Cohan chose this moment to silently slide under the table, a happy smile on his broad face.
<I swear, sometimes I feel like a babysitter with those guys.> Katsuo couldn't help but smile inwardly, though. It looked like the evening would be fun. He decided to postpone his homework until after they were done tonight.
“Ricky! Come on we're running late.” Bethany Willard's youngest son was still engrossed in some comic book when she found him lying on his bed. “Put that away and get up. Aunt Julia is waiting for us.”
With obvious reluctance the boy got up and followed his mother. On her way out she picked up the last remaining box for the garage sale on Saturday and stowed it between the others in their station wagon while Cedric got in on the front passenger's seat.
After making sure that she had locked the front door, Bethany hurried to the car and got in herself. Ricky was already reading again and she did not have the nerve to try to force a conversation with the twelve year old boy, so she let him be. As she steered the car towards town she did not notice the dark green sedan coming out of a small side road behind them, not even when it began to follow their car at a distance.
[b]November 4th , Friday[b]
Kathie strolled along one of the many gravel walks towards Crystal Hall. It was still pretty early and the mornings had gotten decidedly chilly, but she didn't really mind. One of the reasons she had taken the job in the cafeteria was that she usually didn't need much sleep, so getting up early was not much of a problem.
She had not woken Katsuo today, but she was still worried that her friend might oversleep. She was sure he had been up late again. His schedule was different from hers today, at least until they would both meet in Survival, so waking him that early would have been mean.
It seemed he was putting more and more time into playing GEO lately. Maybe she could convince him to go see a movie with her tonight. Some of the students had gotten permission to convert one of the simulation rooms into a theater on Friday nights and they usually showed decent stuff. Anything would be better than him sitting there in front of his game for yet another night.
The campus was still mostly deserted, only a lone blond guy running past in the distance, obviously on some kind of morning jog. Soon after he was out of sight, she heard someone else approaching her from behind. It sounded like the person was in a hurry. Curious if it would be another runner this early in the morning she stopped and turned around.
It was a tall blond guy she remembered seeing in some of her tech classes and he was heading straight for her. He called himself Reverse and he was a freshman but she didn't know much else about him. He wore some strange goggles, which kind of looked like night vision gear, slung around his neck. Kathie remembered that he was one of the quiet geeky types and she didn't think he had caused her any grief so far. That was usually only a matter of time, though, so she was still wary.
As he saw her stopping he slowed down to a fast walk and came up to her. He was shivering slightly, not wearing a jacket over his shirt, and put up a nervous smile as he approached. Kat just arched an eyebrow, waiting for him to do something stupid or mean. They all did sooner or later.
“Ah... Good Morning. You're Fizzle, right?” There must have been something showing on Kat's face, since he suddenly gulped and corrected himself. “I mean that's what Brad told me was your code name, if you don't....”
Kathie interrupted him, getting impatient. “What do you want?” It came out a little harsh and the boy actually flinched. This was self defense, though. All the really mean pranks started out completely innocent, just like what had happened to Montana.
Reverse was clearly flustered. “I'm sorry I really mean no offense, but I wondered if you did design it yourself?”
That question caught Kathie off guard. She confusedly looked down on the folder containing her project notes that she was holding under her arm.
“Sure I designed it myself, what do you mean?”
“Whatever did you do to Cutter yesterday? She's completely out of it today. Don't get me wrong she is a weirdo, I'm just curious what you did to get her worked up like this?” Masters sounded delighted.
“Nothing really. She was acting weird the whole time yesterday.” Lex suppressed a huge yawn. A-shift just plain sucked. She couldn't wait to get back on her normal schedule. She tried to concentrate on the computer screen in front of her while Masters prattled on, but obviously her brain hadn't booted up completely yet.
“Come on, you just have to tell me. This has to be one juicy bit if it gets our muscle-bound wallflower going like this.” Masters' facial expression at this point strongly reminded Lex of a bird of pray, or rather a vulture.
Back when she had been good ol' Officer Jenkins she had liked Master's. Now that she thought about it, that had mostly been because the blond woman was no eyesore and didn't seem to mind the guys looking at her curves either. She had been friendly enough and that had been that. Lex had liked Cutter too, but for different reasons. The black woman wouldn't win any beauty pageants anytime soon, but she had character. Where Masters was nice to look at but not much in the way of conversation, Cutter simply was pleasant company on a long shift.
For the last few days she had been assigned to Masters and the woman was already getting on her nerves. She was chatty and delighted in gossiping about their colleagues. She had tried to sound out Lex about her life, but had pretty soon realized that the rookie was very closemouthed about herself. That did not put her off in the least, though. Instead she seemed to confide in Lex even more - never volunteering secrets of her own, naturally – as if she was sensing a kindred spirit in the other woman.
Lex was just trying to think of a polite way to tell her to shut up, when Masters saved her the trouble.
“You seem to have everything in hand, I will just go for a quick smoke. Don't burn down the school while I'm gone.” She winked at Lex and left.
Lex was just getting used to the quiet when a warning signal pulled her attention back to her station. From there reflexes took over that she had developed during the last two years. She picked up the phone and called up the Chief, since he was on duty today.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Jenkins from Sensors, Sir. We have a disturbance in sector 5, it seems most of our surveillance equipment in the area just went down.”
“That's funny, I thought Officer Jenkins had left us.” He sounded mildly amused.
“Shit,” Lex blurted out before she could stop herself. She looked around in near panic but nobody was around who could have heard her slip. “Ah... sorry Sir, I was on autopilot for a minute there. Won't happen again. The readings I get from the adjoining sectors seem to suggest a low scale EMP going off in five.”
“Send a squad over to investigate. It's probably just a trigger-happy energizer, but you never know. Give me an update when this is cleared up.” His voice was back to business now. “Weren't you supposed to work with Officer Masters?”
“She is 'indisposed' at the moment, I will dispatch squad two and keep you posted.”
<Never rat on your coworkers, regardless if you like them or not.> But the Chief would probably know anyway. He was uncanny in this regard.
“Good work Luther.” Was all he said before he hung up.
<At least I'm fully awake now. Nothing like a good scare to get you going in the morning.>
David crossed the campus together with his squadmates in a fast jog, the geared up security officers hardly drawing a second glance from the few students that were up and about already. It was a common enough sight at Whateley and in Dave's opinion that said something about the school.
The Sarge motioned them to spread out and secure the area when they came close to the center of the affected zone. David cautiously advanced on the path, ready for anything. He did not really expect trouble, this was not some foreign jungle rife with guerrillas after all, just a school campus - even if it was Whateley.
The sun was just over the horizon, the trees and underbrush casting stark shadows on the gravel path they lined. Wisps of fog still hung between them, refusing to be dispelled by the still weak rays of light penetrating the shrubbery. The lanterns that lit the pathways during the night had gone out a few minutes ago, leaving everything cast in early morning twilight.
Dave stopped when he noticed a dark shape lying on the ground ahead. It did not move, but he decided to play it safe anyway and switched on the IR image enhancement built into his helmet. His field of view was superimposed with colors, mostly in the dark blues that marked cold surfaces. There were several brighter spots where the early morning sunlight made an effort to warm the ground, but the most notable heat source was the prone human shape on the ground ahead. Dave did not have a lot experience with infrared imagery, but it appeared to him that the shape was cooler than an average human body should be.
Cautiously he approached. It appeared to be a handsome boy with light hair. The youth was lying on his back on the path. David bowed down and checked his pulse.
“O'Brian here. I have an unconscious kid here, life signs low but stable.”
Katsuo had hurried back to the cottage, almost wrecking the elevator in his haste to find out what had made Kathie skip classes today. Mister Anderson had not been pleased with Katsuo's lack of attention during the class, but as long as he knew Kat she had never skipped, at least not without him knowing where she was.
When he arrived at her room he could tell that she was inside, which relaxed him somewhat. He cautiously opened the door, not daring to try knocking first, he had broken quite a few doors that way. From what he could tell she appeared to be dressed, so there wouldn't be a problem he hoped.
Katsuo found his friend huddled into a corner of the room, partly hidden by her desk. She was clutching Mr. Booges her 'Distress Bear' tightly. She hadn't noticed him entering the room.
“Kathie?” he clicked at her.
She looked up at him and squeaked before she buried her face in the bear's head again. He could tell that she had been crying.
“Go away!” Her voice was muffled by the plush animal.
“Kat, please tell me why you are upset. I want to help.” Katsuo cursed himself for his inability to convey emotion with his voice. He got down to his knees, close to her, trying to appear unimposing, which was no mean feat.
“I killed him! He came up to me and asked... he asked.... Oh God Tsuo, I killed him! He's dead!” Katsuo felt like an icy fist was clutching his innards when he heard those muffled words.
“So, what exactly happened?” the security officer asked while Caduceus removed the blood pressure meter's cuff from Reverse's arm.
“Uh, several days ago I had this idea for a new devise. It was supposed to measure gravimetric shifts by analyzing the bio-molecular resonance of the surrounding matter. You know, similar to the nanooptic filaments....” The officer stared at him flatly. The man had obviously no idea what he was talking about, but that was the whole point. “Ah well, I finished it last night and intended to bring it to class today to show it to Professor Harper. I'm not entirely sure what happened. I think the humid air shorted out one of the control circuits causing a cascading failure that destabilized the dilithium matrix. That again caused a feedback loop...,” he glanced at the officer again, “well, basically it blew up. I don't know why and I won't be able to tell unless I rebuild it, since the prototype basically disintegrated.” He smiled weakly at the officer.
“Dilithium matrix? Like on Star Trek?” The officer looked at him with scrutiny.
<Busted! That's what overconfidence gets you.> Reverse thought while his cheeks were getting hot.
“Ah, well, I'm a devisor. We work outside conventional physics, so we get to make up a lot new words and sometimes we just pick a term from somewhere.” With luck the man would take his nervousness and red head as signs of embarrassment.
He couldn't tell if the Officer really believed him but the man let the subject drop. “Do I have to remind you of the standing rules against field testing inventions on campus?”
“No Sir. It was an accident. I will make sure it never happens again.” Reverse relaxed inwardly. He was off the hook it seemed.
As soon as the officer had left, Caduceus smirked at him. “Whatever it was that you did, I recommend you don't do it again. You were lucky to come out of that blast unscathed. Also you should dress warmer, you were close to hypothermia when you came in.”
Obviously she had not believed his story. “I won't do it again, sorry. Ah, can I go now?”
Instead of answering the woman just waved him out and he was eager to comply. He had missed lunch, but if he hurried he would still be in time for his afternoon classes.
As he left the infirmary he berated himself. <Way to go idiot. 'Let's try the direct approach' good thinking genius. Probably lost every chance I've ever had with her now.>
“Luther! Phone for you. I think it's Braniac.” At least Richardson had covered the mouthpiece with his hand when he said that. 'Somehow' her new middle name had leaked out and judging from the apologetic grin Dave was currently wearing he was the most likely suspect. Lex couldn't even be angry at him because she had done the exact same thing to him in his first week here. She would survive it... probably.
She snatched the handset from Richardson's hand, forcing a smile. No need to encourage the man further.
“Yes?! What is it?” OK maybe she wasn't as good at hiding her anger as she thought.
“Lex? Is that you?” the timid voice at the other end cooled her mood at once.
“Kat? Yes, it's me. Sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you.” She glared at Richardson's back as he left the room.
“Did... did anything happen today?” The girl still sounded odd, as if she was close to tears.
“Well, this is Whateley. You would have to nuke the place to have a quiet day around here. What do you mean?”
“I mean...,” her voice faltered. The stretching silence was interrupted by Katsuo chirping something in the background, then Kathie continued,” I mean... was anyone... killed?” The last word was barely audible.
Now Lex was confused. “Uh some devisor kid zapped himself with an EMP, but he didn't...” <EMP? Wait a second...> “Kat? Is there anything you want to tell me?”
“Did... did he survive?” If her voice was any indication Lex' friend was close to a nervous breakdown.
“Yes he did. From what I heard he walked out of the infirmary a few hours later all by himself. Kathie, what happened there? Did he threaten you?”
“Oh thank God he's alive!” The relief was plain in her voice. “He's alive... Oh God he's alive,” she was suddenly sounding desperate again. The girl was wailing about something, but Lex was unable to make out words since Kat apparently had dropped the handset.
“Kathie! Talk to me. What's the problem? What happened?”
There was some noise when someone picked up the handset again. A moment later she could hear Katsuo chirping on the other end.
“Tsuo? That you?”
There was a single click, then relative silence. Kathie could still be heard in the background, moaning incomprehensively.
“Oh yes, right. One click for yes, two for no?”
“Tsuo, what the hell happened.... Ah, OK. I mean is Kathie alright?” Lex stammered, trying to think of some good questions.
“click click click”
<Three? Oh, not yes not no, in between. Alright.> “Has she been harmed?”
“click click” That was something at least.
“Are you at your cottage? I can be over in about...”
“Where are you then? Wait, I can just trace the call and....”
“No?” This was getting frustrating. Lex went over the dialog again in her mind and finally got it. “You are at Hawthorne but don't want me to come?”
“Yes! Wait a second, why? She's clearly out of it.” There was silence again until Lex realized that she wouldn't get an answer that way. “Are you absolutely sure?”
Lex was worried. She wanted to know what had happened, but Tsuo was a bright kid and really cared for Kathie. She decided to trust the boy. “OK, I won't come, but only if you promise to call me if you can't calm her down or if something else happens.”
“Please tell her to call me when she's calmer, OK?” She still had a bad feeling about the whole thing.
There was a clattering sound before the line went dead. Katsuo had hung up.
Dave looked at her with a worried expression. “What was that about? Did something happen to her?”
Lex hung up the phone and shook her head. “I don't have the slightest idea, but it seems like Tsuo is looking after her for now.”
It had taken almost two hours but Kat had finally called back. She had been calmer and had told Lex what had happened, but only in the vaguest terms. Lex was obviously still vexed by the apparent lack of trust from her younger friend since she was just scowling out of the car window.
David's former attempts at light conversation had died a horribly slow death, and the silence that had resulted from that all the way down to Dunwich was beginning to bother him.
“I'm sure she has her reasons for not telling you.”
“What?” His friend started up from her mindless staring.
“Kathie. Maybe she just isn't ready yet to confide in you.”
Lex harrumphed. “It's not just today. I mean, I like her, she's a nice kid and I'm sure she likes me too, but she doesn't tell me anything about herself.”
“I'm sure she will eventually, just give her some time. But you are right. It's a bad idea to keep secrets from friends and family - Miss Luther.” He grinned broadly and glanced in her direction. She was eying him suspiciously.
“Now what's that supposed....” She started but David interrupted her as he stopped the car. “Here we are!” he exclaimed.
Near their parking spot stood an old, but well maintained building from the beginning of the last century. There was a sign above the door, that proudly displayed the name 'The Miscatonic Inn' in bold letters.
Lex groaned wordlessly and shot Dave a withering glare. “Have I ever told you how much I hate you?”
“Not recently. Now get out and convince your Mom. You'll feel better after that,” he made shooing motions with his hands ”, now go, I'll pick you up in two hours.”
Lex just sighed in defeat and left the car.
Kathie worked on her electronics project to get her mind off what had happened today. Tsuo had left a while ago after she had convinced him that she was alright.
He had been really sweet, and she didn't know what she would have done without him and Lex. Thinking about Lex she felt guilty again. She had intended to tell her friend what had happened, but then she had realized that it would require explanations. Explanations you couldn't possibly give over the phone when you were still upset and worried out of your mind. She would tell her everything next time she saw her. If it wasn't too late already.
Reverse would talk, there was no reason for him to keep this silent. Then everyone would know and it would be over. People would turn away from her and she would be all alone again.
Kathie had to struggle to keep her emotions in check. She knew, on a rational level, that she was being unreasonable. Tsuo wouldn't abandon her and neither would Lex, she was sure of that, but that certainty wasn't enough to quell her fears. She pushed those feelings down and tried to loose herself in her work again.
When she had finished checking the circuits, Kathie put the multimeter away and slid the casing on her prototype shut. After fastening the screw holding the cover in place she leaned back in her chair and examined her handiwork.
The stainless steel box was about the size of an old VHS tape. There was a grille on the upper flat side that protected the speaker and another, smaller one on the top next to the big, sturdy power button. She had attached several straps to the device that would allow Katsuo to carry it around while keeping his hands free.
<Now to see if it works.> She picked up the box from her desk and went looking for Katsuo.
Reverse had to suppress a sneeze that probably would have wreaked havoc among the tiny parts strewn all over his desktop. He had had to take apart his goggles because they had stopped working after getting zapped this morning. As he methodically checked the components for damage, his thoughts kept revolving around the girl.
She had not liked him calling her by her supposed hero name and he didn't know her real one. If he wanted to try and talk to her again he would have to find out. He couldn't just go and call her 'Miss Smith' like Professor Harper did. Not that she was likely to let him get near her again.
<Stupid, stupid, stupid... always straight to the point... stupid!> he chided himself once more.
Using some tweezers he extracted a chip from the partly disassembled devise. He was just examining it closely, when another sneeze caught him unawares, making him squeeze the tweezers too hard involuntarily. The tiny microprocessor shot off towards parts unknown, a faint clattering sound from the far corner of the room being the only hint at its resting place.
<Just great, caught a cold on top of it. Seems to be my lucky day.>
Reverse had just gotten up from his desk to go looking for the chip, when a commotion on the hall outside caught his attention. There were people shouting things outside he couldn't quite understand and the noise seemed to get closer.
A moment later the doorknob rattled and the room's door swung open. Brad, his roommate, stumbled inside backwards, making way for a huge hulking shape that ducked through the door right behind Reverse's friend.
Reverse gasped when he recognized the large insectoid. He had seen him walking with her, and the way they had acted he was a friend of hers. As he looked up at the inhuman face that now loomed above him, all color drained from his face.
<Shit, I'm so dead.>
“Err, it looks like you two know each other... I'll be ... somewhere else.” Brad stammered, before he dodged around the big boy obstructing the door and left the room.
As soon as his roommate was gone, Reverse took several steps back. His retreat was stopped when he bumped into his chair and sat down hard. He racked his brain for something to say, but before he could think of anything, the armored figure held out one of its clawed hands towards him. Partly impaled on the talon like fingers was a sheaf of paper. Hesitantly Reverse reached out and took the short letter, ripping it some more in the process.
Between fearful glances at the black eyes scrutinizing him he began to read.
Lex tried to ignore the butterflies rummaging in her stomach and knocked on the aged oaken door. The proprietors of The Miscatonic Inn had managed to retain some of the flair of the late Victorian era in the furnishing of the place. Lex felt like she was suffocating between all the dark wood and the heavy tapestries, but that was mostly because she was nervous.
The door opened and there stood her Mom. Beatrix Luther had been a beauty when she had fallen in love with a Boston police officer almost forty years ago and she had aged well. Her blond hair was turning white, but it had been so light before, the change in color was hardly obvious. The Nordic heritage from her father's side was apparent and for the first time Lex noticed something else; resemblance.
Before the change, Lex, as well as her sister Alice, had strongly favored their father. Now Lex couldn't help but notice similarities between her mother and the person that greeted her every morning in the bathroom mirror. It was not that obvious, but it wasn't hard to believe that the two were related.
Lost in thought about this discovery, Lex didn't really think before greeting her mother.
“Hi Mom....” she noticed her mistake when the expression on her mother's face changed from neutral interest to disgust. At the last moment she managed to put her foot in the door before Beatrix could slam it in her face.
“Wait! Hear me out, please!” Lex pleaded.
“And why would I do that? You obviously plan to tell me the same ridiculous story you told me before.” Beatrix' voice was scornful but at least she had partly reopened the door.
“Just hear me out. There is no harm in just listening, is there?”
The older woman hesitated for a moment, before she grudgingly stepped aside and let her in. She was probably counting on finding flaws in Lex' story that she could use to extort information on her son's whereabouts. As long as she would listen Lex wouldn't complain.
Beatrix was standing in the middle of the room glaring at her. She obviously didn't plan on getting comfortable, so Lex just stayed where she stood, close to the door.
“As I already told you, I am Lex. There was an incident at work involving magic and I came out of it looking like this. I know you don't believe me, I probably wouldn't believe it either if I were in your place, but it happened. How about we treat this as a hypothetical situation and you try to prove me a liar.”
When her mother smirked at her, Lex knew she had won. Beatrix Jenkins had always had a way of catching people's lies and she expected to succeed here too, no doubt.
“Well, I will play along with your little charade for now. So do tell me 'son', who is Shannon Parker?” She asked with a smirk.
<Going the 'embarrassing detail' route Mom?> This would be unpleasant.
“Shannon was a girl in high school, stuck up bitch really. What you are probably hinting at was the one time she lured me into a storage room at school, promising to have sex with me. She then tied me up and stole my clothes. When I finally got out, half of the cheerleading squad stood outside with cameras. On top of it I got suspended for a week.” Lex glared back at her mother challengingly. Her blush kind of ruined the effect, though.
Reverse lay on his bed, absentmindedly fingering the rips in the sheaf of paper he was still holding.
“So basically he told you to stay away from Fizzle?” Brad asked from where he sat on his own bed.
“Kathie. Her name is Kathie, it says so in the letter. She doesn't like to be called Fizzle.” Reverse replied in an absent voice.
“Yeah whatever. From how you act I don't think you will do the smart thing and leave her alone. Do you have any idea what this Katsuo guy can do? I've seen him do some heavy lifting for the maintenance people. That's no one you want to cross.”
Reverse looked up from the letter at his friend. “Well, you certainly weren't too eager helping me when he barged in, that's for sure.”
“Hey! I ran and got the house mother. That guy lifted a cryogenic coolant tank four times his size as if it was nothing. In case you haven't noticed I'm not exactly brawny.”
Brad's protests were somewhat justified, even if they had arrived only after Katsuo had left. Still, Reverse was not in a very good mood right now.
“You could've mimicked him or something.” He shot back, but his heart was not in it.
Brad shuddered. “I wouldn't mimic someone with GSD if my life depended on it. No way to tell what that would do to me.”
“GSD? What's that?”
“Do you ever listen to Quintain at all? It's short for Gross Structural Disorder or something like that. Means his DNA is all screwed up. If I ever saw someone fitting the description, it's him.” Brad was obviously uncomfortable with that subject.
The explanation was mostly lost on Reverse, though. The boy's attention had returned to the letter already.
“Man, you got it bad. But it's your life to trow away.” Brad shrugged and began to dig through his pack for his class notes.
“... and then you shouted some more at us. The bear just turned around and fled into the underbrush. You never saw it and didn't believe us when we told you.” Lex licked her lips that had gotten dry during the last hour. She had thrown facts and anecdotes from her youth at her mother. The older woman had long since lost her smug half-smile and now just stared at Lex from where she had sat down on the bed a while ago.
Deciding that this would probably do, Lex looked at her mom challengingly, expecting the same question Dave had asked when he had finally believed her.
Beatrix' voice croaked a little when she finally spoke up. “How... how could you do this?” Both women stared at each other, the lack of comprehension evident in their faces. “I mean, couldn't you have come out the normal way? We could have talked it over instead of you running off to god knows where in Asia to get a sex change operation!”
Lex couldn't believe her ears. “What the hell are you talking about? You really think I did this deliberately?”
“Well, I have definitely never heard of anyone switching sex accidentally.” She raised an eyebrow at Lex.
Lex sighed. “Look, I'm seriously tired of arguing with you. How about I call my doctor and you can discuss everything with him.”
“I just hope he speaks English. My Tibetan is a bit rusty.”
Lex just rolled her eye and picked up the phone.
>>Test, test, one two.<< The voice that blared from the flat metal box sounded very artificial, but that didn't bother Katsuo in the least.
He chittered something again and after a moment Kat's machine delivered the translation. >>This is great.<<
Kathie just stood there grinning happily. “Glad you like it. I'll have to, like, redo the voice so you don't sound like a broken robot, but it works.”
Katsuo didn't know what to say as he touched the device in wonder. It was strapped to his chest and he was careful to be gentle in his touch, so he wouldn't damage it.
“This is ridiculous, “Beatrix exclaimed after she had hung up the phone, “how can that man claim to be a doctor and be so incompetent at the same time?”
Lex suspected she owed Doctor Polland a big favor. She doubted the conversation he had just had with her mom had been enjoyable for the scientist. Her mother had questioned him and vented her anger on the poor man after that.
“There has to be something that can be done to undo this. How can you be so calm?”
Lex was leaning against the window-sill, but Beatrix was too agitated to stay still and started pacing the room.
“I had almost a month to get used to it. Besides, they set me up with a psychiatrist and he is helping, kind of.”
Her mom rounded on her. “A month? Why on earth didn't you tell me instead of letting me go half insane with worry?”
“Ah well, at first I couldn't because of the spell, then dad died and I didn't want to put even more stress on you....”
“As if not knowing where my only son had run off to did anything to further my peace of mind.” Beatrix scoffed bitterly.
“Mom, please. I'm sorry. I've messed up again, but please don't make this hard on me. I have enough trouble coping with it as it is.” Lex could feel the tears welling up and she hated herself for it. She turned away to discretely wipe away the traitorous fluid when she found herself pulled into a hug by her mom.
“Oh I'm sorry Lex, it's just the insanity of the whole situation. Don't worry, we will find a way out of this mess.” Beatrix assured her in a calming tone while stroking her hair, just as she had done when Lex had been little.
Lex lost herself in the calm feeling bestowed by the embrace. An odd sensation startled her after a few moments and made her separate from her mother rather abruptly. When she saw the hurt look on her mom's face she hurried to explain. “No, I didn't mean to.... I mean its just that my..., “she gestured vaguely at her chest area, ”pushed into ... yours... and....” Her mom's sad smile told her that she had gotten the message across, so she slumped down into one of the leather armchairs by the window. “Damn I'm messed up, no kidding.”
Beatrix sat down on the chair next to her, leaning towards Lex. “Why don't you tell me how all of this happened. Why are you wearing that hideous patch anyway?”
Lex sighed and started into another telling of the story that she could recite in her sleep by now. “It happened in early October. I had been on evening shift that day....”
Dave studied his friend as she climbed into the car. A lot of the tension she had shown in the last two days was gone and she even remembered to move her braid out of the way before sitting down for once.
“I take it everything went well?” He asked as they drove off.
“No, but she finally believed me. It took a call to Doc Polland to convince her that I'm not a transsexual, though.” Lex appeared to be annoyed.
“Well, you are, kind of. At least now.” David teased.
“Ha ha, very funny. It seems she has her mind set on reversing what happened to me.”
“You say that as if it was a bad thing. Enjoying your life on the other side?” He glimpsed at Lex, trying to gage her reaction.
“Hell no!” Lex exclaimed. Maybe a bit too quickly? “It's just, well, you know her. She is like a badger once she sets her mind on some goal. She will hound me with one plan after the other until one of them works or she sees reason. I just doubt that either of these things will happen anytime soon. She never gives up easy and I simply can't shake the feeling that there is no way out for me.”
“What makes you think that? Female intuition?” He grinned as he looked at her.
“Oh shut up you idiot and watch the road.” Lex scolded him, but she was smiling faintly.
The scientist looked up from his work and regarded the the security guard that had intruded on him with a neutral expression.
“Sir? I just got notified that Alpha-four's status and location have been confirmed. It is alive and at Whateley.” He handed the doctor the report.
The bald man glanced over the page and picked up the phone on his desk. The guard knew better than to linger and left the office. Just before closing the door he could hear Doctor Garden behind him say, “Commence the operation.” As always the scientist's voice was devoid of emotion.
| Topic: Ma'at - Chapter 2|
|Ma'at - Chapter 2 [message #4805]
||Thu, 06 April 2006 10:30
Registered: March 2005
Edited by Amelia R.
"This is fan fiction for the Whateley Academy series. It may or may not match the timeline, characters, and continuity, but since it's fan fiction, who cares? To see the canon Whateley Stories, check out either Sapphire's Place (http://www.sapphireplace.com/stories/whateley.html) or the Big Closet (http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/taxonomy/term/117)."
From Chapter 1:
There was a hint of a chuckle in the mental voice. ~Patience, Dani. First, go to my temple; the high priestess is waiting for you. Take the time to rest, and tomorrow you will find out more of your path.~
The building was quite small in comparison to the palace, or the main temple of Ptah, and the outside walls were plain and unadorned. She walked out of the bright sunlight into the shaded interior, and had to wait for her eyes to adjust to the relative darkness. The entry was a short corridor, perhaps five meters long, with carvings on either side. As her eyes adjusted, Dani's progress stopped. The carvings were the prototypes of the forty-two principles of Ma'at:
1. Thou shalt not kill, nor bid anyone kill.
2. Thou shalt not commit adultery or rape.
3. Thou shalt not avenge thyself nor burn with rage.
4. Thou shalt not cause terror.
5. Thou shalt not assault anyone nor cause anyone pain.
6. Thou shalt not cause misery.
7. Thou shalt not do any harm to man or to animals.
8. Thou shalt not cause the shedding of tears.
9. Thou shalt not wrong the people nor bear them any evil intent.
10. Thou shalt not steal nor take that which does not belong to you.
11. Thou shalt not take more than thy fair share of food.
12. Thou shalt not damage the crops, the fields, or the trees.
13. Thou shalt not deprive anyone of what is rightfully theirs.
14. Thou shalt not bear false witness, nor support false allegations.
15. Thou shalt not lie, nor speak falsely to the hurt of another.
16. Thou shalt not use fiery words nor stir up any strife.
17. Thou shalt not speak or act deceitfully to the hurt of another.
18. Thou shalt not speak scornfully against others.
19. Thou shalt not eavesdrop.
20. Thou shalt not ignore the truth or words of righteousness.
21. Thou shalt not judge anyone hastily or harshly.
22. Thou shalt not disrespect sacred places.
23. Thou shalt cause no wrong to be done to any workers or prisoners.
24. Thou shalt not be angry without good reason.
25. Thou shalt not hinder the flow of running water.
26. Thou shalt not waste the running water.
27. Thou shalt not pollute the water or the land.
28. Thou shalt not take the gods' names in vain.
29. Thou shalt not despise nor anger the gods.
30. Thou shalt not steal from the gods.
31. Thou shalt not give excessive offerings nor less than what is due.
32. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.
33. Thou shalt not steal from nor disrespect the dead.
34. Thou shalt remember and observe the appointed holy days.
35. Thou shalt not hold back the offerings due the gods.
36. Thou shalt not interfere with sacred rites.
37. Thou shalt not slaughter with evil intent any sacred animals.
38. Thou shalt not act with guile or insolence.
39. Thou shalt not be unduly proud nor act with arrogance.
40. Thou shalt not magnify your condition beyond what is appropriate.
41. Thou shalt do no less than your daily obligations require.
42. Thou shalt obey the law and commit no treason.
The academician's mind pulled a later version of the list from the collection of facts stored from her long studies, and wondered how much the ancient proscriptions had propagated across the historical landscape. ~Golden truths in a plain wrapping. I wonder if these are some of the roots of the Hebrew's Ten Commandments?~
She stood, frozen in deep thought, until a voice from further inside the temple interrupted.
"Welcome to the temple, Meri-Ma'at. Your place is prepared for you."
~Beloved of Ma'at?~ Dani shivered at the implication.
The voice of the goddess echoed in her mind, accompanied by a warm feeling of comfort. ~How can you doubt the truth of the name, dear one?~
~It just seems ... arrogant and presumptuous to me. The only records I've seen have been of Pharaohs being called that.~
~And how many of them do you think were chosen as my avatar?~ Ma'at's chuckle interrupted the thought. ~Being humble is good, if not taken to an extreme, and I know your upbringing makes you even more hesitant about those claiming divine appointments. I chose you, though; I hope you will learn to trust me and my judgment.~
~I'm getting there, My Lady. Between my physical changes, the move so far into my past, and trying to understand what being your avatar means, it's an awful lot to adjust to.~
~I know, and you'll have the time you need to make those adjustments. You'll find that my High Priestess, Nebka, can be a help to you; she knows some of your past existence, so you can generally speak freely to her. Now you'd best pay attention; she's waiting for you to respond.~
Dani turned her attention outside herself again and found a small, older woman standing at the end of the corridor into the temple. The light from the outside revealed an amused smile -- almost a grin -- on the weathered face as the Priestess spoke again.
"My name is Nebka. Were you lost in thought, or were you praying to the Goddess?"
The new arrival returned a wry smile. "Call me Dani, Nebka. I suppose you could call it praying; I'm just trying to understand all that's going on. I have a hard time dealing with the idea of being her avatar."
The older woman nodded. "I understand at least a little of what you're going through. I didn't quite believe I wasn't imagining her call either. Come, now, you need food and rest; there will be time to talk later."
They made their way into the temple and stopped in a small room that was simply furnished, though more comfortably than the shared space for the women in the palace. A cushioned mattress, small desk, and a stool gave it the feel of a medieval monk's quarters. Dani found herself mildly conflicted; the prospect of sleeping alone for the first time in months was less attractive than expected.
~I'll miss them, especially Iri.~
The taller woman's reverie was interrupted again. "I know it isn't quite what you were used to before coming here, but these are the same size quarters as mine. We have common meals morning and evening, and I'll show you the baths on the way to this evening's meal. The other priestesses are anxious to see you."
"Now I know how Maureen O'Hara felt," Dani muttered under her breath, drawing a quizzical look from the priestess. "Sorry, I'm ...."
"... talking about someone from your past. The Goddess told me that you are a scholar whom she brought here from far down the river of time. She also said you have spent much of your life studying this land, but warned me that you would say things I wouldn't understand from time to time." She shook her head, as if to clear it. "If you leave your belongings here, I'll take you to the common room, where we have our meals."
Dani's stomach growled. "That sounds good to me." She dropped her bag on the floor by the mattress and followed Nebka out.
If she weren't so worn, Dani would have laughed. She walked into the common room and a ripple of silence propagated through as the priestesses and priests noticed her arrival. Her hostess guided her to a table, where a young woman brought the two their meals -- a simple dish of bread, vegetables, and a little fish. The cups were filled with a drink that proved to be beer. Dani made a point to thank the youngster, but only caused her to blush in embarrassment and skitter away.
"That reaction is never easy to accept; they stop treating you as a person," Nebka sighed.
"Well known people in my homeland have the same problem." She paused to consume some of her meal. "Perhaps I can at least help the situation here." She stood, drawing a puzzled look from her companion and the other occupants of the room.
Dani spent quite a while walking along the tables, pausing to introduce herself to each person in the room. Some were too shy to respond, other than a quiet statement of their name; others shook off the awe and began to converse freely. From time-to-time Dani glanced toward her seat, where the High Priestess watched the confusion spread with the avatar's movements; she grinned at the bewilderment left behind.
At last, her rounds through the room complete, Dani resumed her seat. "I hope that will break the ice," she commented as she took a sip from her cup. She noticed the blank look on Nebka's face. "Problem?"
The next morning was a little better; there were a few of the women in the baths who were willing to speak up after the episode in the common room. The young woman who served her morning meal was a bit less shy than the youngster of the previous evening, though she still insisted on calling Dani, 'Meri-Ma'at'.
As they walked to their first task for the day, Nebka gently chided the newcomer. "You may as well give up, Dani. There are men and women here whom I've known all my life, and ever since I was called to be High Priestess, I cannot get them to call me by my name anymore."
Dani smirked a little. "I suspect you acted the same way, too."
"I didn't say I expected anything else. I'm more amused by your persistence in trying to change how we act toward you."
"I can't really explain without you knowing a lot more about my homeland, and I'm not sure how much I should say about that. We respect the responsibilities people have, but most of us still treat those in authority as people."
"Isn't that disrespectful to the gods who put them in their place?"
Dani hesitated, and felt a gentle discouragement from Ma'at. "I fear that I can't say more, Nebka; the goddess can't let me say something that will disturb the flow of time. I think we need to change the topic of conversation; what do you have planned for this morning?"
"Since you're new to the temple, you should learn our ceremonies. It wouldn't be right for the Goddess' chosen to be unprepared. I have a room set aside where we can work on the songs undisturbed."
A look of horror grew on Dani's face. "Songs?!"
Before noon, the look of horror had replicated itself on the High Priestess. She shook her head in frustration.
"I'm sorry, Dani, but your singing is ..." She trailed off, unable to produce an adequate word.
"Horrible? An affront to man and the gods? Bad enough to chase starving rats from a granary?"
"Forgive me, Meri-Ma'at, but yes."
Dani turned to that inner presence again. ~My Lady? She's right that I should know this, but she's also right that my singing will be a problem. The songs are important to the ceremonies, and I just don't have that talent.~
There was amusement wound around the thought that responded. ~So what would you have me do? I could make you quite the singer, if you wish.~
Dani paused for a long time as she considered the offer. ~Ma'at, before I can answer that I need to know something. Are you ever going to let me go home again?~
There was the sensation of a warm embrace as the voice replied. ~Yes, daughter; you know, now, how much you were needed here. You will be needed just as much in your own time and place. For now, I thought you'd want to stay here for a little while and learn what you can.~
~I could stay here for a lifetime and study, you surely know that. If I'm to return to my home time, I suspect my singing will help prove my identity.~ The avatar made a wry face at the thought, which provoked a questioning look from the priestess.
~I will at least help with what's needed for the ceremonies. Nebka is right, it would be inappropriate for my avatar to be unprepared, or not participate.~
For a moment, Dani felt a strange twisting in her mind.
"I think I'm ready to try again, Nebka."
The remainder of the practice session went flawlessly, and there was a sense of intense relief on the part of both women as the last notes of Dani's part faded.
~Just don't expect the same outcome with Willie Nelson, Dani. Even miracles have limits.~
The unexpected comment started Dani giggling.
Nebka looked on for a moment before asking what the giggles were about. Shortly after getting her answer, Dani's giggles had turned to full-throated laughter from both women.
The afternoon was far less exciting. Dani quickly committed each ceremony to memory, and by mid-afternoon she was wandering the temple, examining the engravings on the walls and studying the activities of the residents. There were no surprises, but when she got to the kitchen area, she stopped and just watched for a bit. The cooks were using the available tools, only some of which were even metal, and taking little care to keep the tools, or even the food, free of dirt.
~How many people are sick because of the germs they don't even know about? Or even the dirt they don't care about? My Lady....~
The young woman could feel the nod of the goddess. ~You should speak to the High Priestess first, but you may share your thought. In fact, you may also share it with the palace as well.~
The scampering form of the avatar drew the wondering gaze of the temple attendants. She careened around a corner and skidded to a stop outside the High Priestess' quarters. A chuckle from inside revealed the lack of stealth in her approach.
"Come in, Meri-Ma'at."
Dani walked in, mildly glaring at the priestess as the business in progress was completed. She kept her silence until the room was vacated. "You didn't have to laugh! And how did you know it was me?"
"If you insist on being so undignified, you must expect laughter, and you're the only person in the temple who would be carrying on that way. Now, what brought you here in such a hurry?" The older looking woman's eyes danced with a mirth that was barely contained.
Dani quickly sketched out what she'd seen in the kitchen. At that point, she paused; the people of this time and place had no way to understand bacteria. There was a long silence, unbroken by the priestess, as the scholar tried to bridge five thousand years of medical knowledge. "I can't tell all I know, but if your kitchen staff will listen to me, and change how they do their work just a little, you won't lose quite so many people to sickness."
She proceeded to outline the addition of a formal cleansing, using soap for the cooks, and boiled water to clean the dishes and utensils, to the existing preparations and blessings when the cooks were preparing a meal.
"How will that help?" came the expected question. "What difference could using boiled water make, or washing your hands?"
"I'm sorry, Nebka, the best I can do to explain is that there are ... demons, fester demons in the dirt on your hands and in your clothing, even if they seem clean. Soap can clean them off your hands, but water needs to be boiled to get the demons out."
Dani chewed on her lower lip for a moment as she racked her memory for a suitable illustration. "Nebka, demons are invisible, right?"
"Most of them are, yes."
"And the demons that cause illness work mostly at night, correct? They are demons of the dark."
Nebka's eyes held the first glimmerings of understanding. "And the dirt makes shadows for the demons to use?"
The scholar smiled and nodded. "Exactly! And when the dirt gets into the food, the demons can spread their poisons and make people sick. They can even hide in the little bits of dirt in water; boiling the water puts the warmth of the sun -- the power of Ra -- into the water to chase the demons out. If you use some bay leaves in the water as it is boiled, the water will have a special odor that tells you it's been properly treated and blessed.
"Even when we bathe ourselves, it washes away the dirt and shadow and makes us acceptable in the sight of Ra and Ma'at.”
"The demons also, sometimes, cause wounds to fester the same way they get into the food and make it spoil. Wounds should also be cleaned with water that has been boiled. My idea won't solve all the problems, but it will help. Is there anyone else who seems to have problems at times with sickness?"
The silence stretched out before the priestess spoke again. "The midwives sometimes have a new mother sicken after birth, and sometimes the children take ill and die, too."
The scholar nodded. "If they make some of the same kind of changes, I think we can also help them. The midwives will need to use the boiled water for cleaning themselves, the mothers, and the newborns. They should also boil the cloths they use to get the fester demons out."
"If the Goddess has allowed you tell us of this, I will make sure we begin to tell everyone in the city. I'll speak to the cooks in the temple, and the midwives." Nebka shook her head. "I still don't fully understand though."
The tall woman sighed in frustration. There was so much she could do, and so many lives that could be saved. ~I can't. Saying the wrong thing could screw up five millennia of history.~
She sat heavily on a stool, burdened by the weight of the silence she had to keep.
Dani's morning had gone smoothly, despite being called on to participate in the morning's ceremonies in the temple. It was rather like being in a play, or a musical; she was grateful that she'd been enabled to perform her part in the rituals. She and some of her researchers had often wondered how the ancient Egyptians had lived out their religious lives; now she had had the chance to even be a part of it all! She was almost beside herself with excitement ~Some of what we thought was close; most of it wasn't very near the mark, though.~
The remainder of the day was hers, at least until the sunset ceremony, and she took advantage of the time to return to the palace. The morning audience time was just about over, and she should have a chance to talk with Iti and her advisers without too long a wait.
She finally arrived at the gate where Semerkhet, the guard captain who'd warned of the attack, was again stationed. He bowed low as Dani approached.
Dani returned the bow, though not as deeply. "Thank you, Captain. Are their majesties receiving visitors this morning?"
"Our orders, Lady, are to welcome you whenever you arrive. Whoever is the guard captain is to accompany you to their majesties, if that is your wish."
With a nod from the avatar, the two walked up the ramp and into the palace. They walked in silence, Semerkhet just to her right, until they reached the throne room. He bowed again, and left to return to his post. Iri was in the room, attending to Iti and her son this morning.
As he retreated, Dani noticed Iri's wistful focus on the young man. The scholar grinned as her friend suddenly felt Dani's gaze and blushed. Iti noticed the grin, followed the looks from each woman, and nodded to herself as she discerned the root cause of the reaction. Refocusing on the new arrival, the Regent extended her welcome.
"Good morning, Lady Dani. What brings you here this morning?"
"Good morning, your majesties." Dani bowed respectfully to the Pharaoh and his mother. The child grinned and wriggled as he suppressed the urge to smother the new arrival in a hug. "I have," she glanced quickly at Iri, "a couple of items I would like to talk about. One will involve your cooks and midwives; if you could have the proper people contacted, I'd be grateful."
"And the other item?"
"The other matter is a bit more personal. If you'd be willing to deal with it in private, I'd be grateful for that as well."
"We were just finished with the morning's meetings; if it is convenient, why not join us for our noon refreshments in our quarters. The chief cook and the senior midwife can join us there."
"What is convenient for you will be fine with me, Majesty."
The Regent turned to Iri. "Iri, please find the chief cook and the senior midwife, and bring them to our quarters."
The young woman shot a suspicious look at her friend as she departed.
The mother, son, and their guest retired to the royal quarters for privacy after Iri's departure. Once within the privacy of their rooms, the king's demeanor changed from dignified king to delighted child. There was a brief hug exchanged between Dani and the boy.
"Are you here to tell more stories?" he asked hopefully.
"We'll see; I have important business first." She grinned at his pout.
"What have you in mind for my servant and guard captain?" Iti asked as she doffed her headgear. "I've seen that calculating look often enough to recognize it."
"Your majesty is insightful, as always. I consider Iri a dear friend, and she seems quite taken with your young captain. He seems to be very intent on his job, though."
Taking her seat, and waving her guest to another, the queen nodded. "She has had an eye on him for a while, and until he was promoted, it seemed he returned her interest. Of late, he's taken his new position so seriously that he's been neglectful of that relationship."
"Would you object to interceding a little?"
The two co-conspirators began their planning while they waited for the return of their messenger and target of interest.
"I don't understand," the old cook complained, "why should I boil the water, then put the laurel leaves in?"
"And why would anyone want to boil cloth?" the midwife chimed in.
Iri had returned with the cook, the senior palace midwife, and their most experienced aides, shortly after Dani had briefed Iti on what she intended to cover with the new arrivals and their initial matchmaking discussions were complete.
"The leaves have a soothing odor. If you have that smell from the water, you'll know the proper ritual has been followed and the water carries Ma'at's blessing." Dani desperately struggled to give the old woman -- though she was probably forty years younger than the time-traveler's real age -- something more than just 'Because I said so' to hold on to.
She turned to the midwives. "The leaves also will ease a little of the pain the mothers have, so I think that will be appreciated. The only way to properly gain Ma'at's blessing for the cloth is to boil it."
The faces of the women were thoughtful, as they considered the new ritual. They spoke quietly among themselves for a time, finally deciding that the strange, new ritual should do no harm -- though not without some muttering about new-fangled ideas. The idea of refusing guidance from the gods was unthinkable in the end. They left promising to begin instruction immediately, though there was a grudging look still on the eldest woman's face as they departed.
Dani relaxed as they left the room. "I was beginning to wonder if they'd ever say yes."
"They take their responsibility seriously; two lives are in the midwives’ hands every time they are called. I can understand their caution." The queen looked as grave as the midwives.
"I have one other item that I'd appreciate your help on, if you're willing." Dani shook off the somber mood of the room, realizing that the topic she was raising would dim the mood again.
Iti smiled in her direction. "You know that whatever we can do is yours for the asking. What do you need?"
"The goddess has said that I will eventually be returning to my homeland. If you have a stone carver available, I have a task that I'd like done."
"What sort of carving do you have in mind?"
Dani looked around the room, and pointed to an intricately carved panel of glyphs. "Something like that panel, though the carvings will be different from anything done before."
Iti looked at the panel and nodded. "I think I understand what you want, but you'll need an engraver, not just a stone carver." She thought quietly for a moment. "If you need something that special, I'll have to call the guild master."
The thoughts of just what she had in mind left a feral grin on Dani's face.
"Why do I have a feeling that what you have in mind bodes ill for the recipient?" Iti was intrigued by the look on her friend's face.
Dani's grin didn't waver. "What I have in mind isn't going to hurt anyone. It's more a way to prove I have been here, and to play a joke on some people I know. I'll need your help putting it in a safe place once it's done, though."
The regent's face hinted at her bewilderment as she agreed to help however she could.
The avatar was feeling smug as she walked back to the temple. The meetings had gone better than she'd expected, though it was almost certain that there would be resistance from some of the more traditional women. She and the regent were also deep into planning how to shake Semerkhet out of his absurd focus on his job; if all worked out as planned, they'd remind him that there were other parts of life that were equally important.
She was startled by the mildly admonishing tone in Ma'at's thought. ~Don't you feel at least a little hypocritical?~
The archaeologist stopped dead, and her reply was eloquent. ~Huh?~
~You're criticizing Semerkhet. I find that hypocritical under the circumstances. How many children do you have?~
Dani's temper flared. ~You know perfectly well that I don't have any children! I never got married.~
The inner voice changed from admonishing to stern. ~I am the Goddess of Truth, child, and the first step is being truthful with yourself. Remember Agnes?~
The memories of Daniel's time as a doctoral candidate surged to the fore, as Dani recalled a young woman who, looking back, had done everything possible to encourage the young man to become more than a casual friend. He'd missed, or ignored, those hints as he focused on his studies. She'd finally drifted off, and he'd never even noticed.
She found herself wiping tears away as she resumed her walk toward the temple. ~Oh Goddess; I did the same thing. My students were my substitute children, but ... I see what you mean. Forgive me?~
The goddess' voice resumed its warm encouragement. ~Of course, daughter. You just needed a reminder that there's more to life than your work. That includes your status as my avatar, too, by the way. You have a second chance, child; don't deprive yourself again.~
Dani nodded absently. She stopped suddenly as the implications of that statement hit home. ~You mean ....~
~ALL of it, dear.~
~Eeep!~ As Dan, an intimate relationship and taking time to have a family had one meaning. She ran a hand over her stomach. Now, though, it would mean potentially having a child herself. ~I don't quite know how I feel about that. For once my years as a man are at war with my comfort level as a woman.~
Time flowed by like the river below the city as Dani settled into the routines of the temple, and pursued her own projects. She continued to study the carvings inside the temple, and could be found in quiet corners silently watching the daily life of the inhabitants. The priests and priestesses had settled into a slightly less formal relationship with the Goddess' chosen avatar, but only the High Priestess came close to being the friend that she craved.
Only at the palace could she find anyone who would treat her as just a person; the royal family continued to make time for her, and Dani made a point to spin tales of a magical land where people flew on the magic mats with the wings of huge, silver birds, far away across mountains and deserts.
The engravers were less enthused by her visits; they had received careful sketches of exactly what Dani wanted engraved, and the utter nonsense had caused them to appeal to the Pharaoh. Dani watched with an amused look.
"Pharaoh, these names and words are meaningless! Who ever heard of anyone with such a strange name as Ozymandias? And then there are the other designs that no-one but she understands."
The young man on the throne nodded somberly. "At times the avatar's actions are hard to understand, but she saved our mother, and is Ma'at's chosen. She asked for this as a favor. We owe our kingdom to her, and if she wants stone tablets carved with nonsense, then we will give her what she asks and more." The youngster smiled at the guild master as the older man shook his head in despair. "Take heart, somehow I think someone will be gifted with a very unique story because of your work."
Dani spoke up as Djer finished. "I appreciate the difficulty you face, guild master. Please understand that the symbols and inscriptions I've drawn are trying to put my homeland's tongue into Egyptian glyphs. Our ways of writing are so different that putting my language in your glyphs makes it look like nonsense. The people for whom the tablets are being made will understand the message they bear."
Another moon waxed and waned before the tablets were complete; Djer and Iti sent word to their friend that a formal presentation had been scheduled for the next day. There was quite the crowd as the results of the work were presented to Dani, and the scholar was careful to maintain an air of formality as she accepted the gift from the still bewildered workmen.
After the presentation had been completed, and the room was cleared, Dani stood in the throne room and looked carefully around. Her actions, peculiar even for her, finally broke the patience of the Pharaoh.
"Dani? What are you looking for?"
She broke off her survey and turned her attention to the boy. She was smiling, but there was a sorrow in her eyes that was plain.
"Now that I have the tablets," she explained, "I need to put them where only the proper people will find them at the proper time. I was looking around to make sure I knew where that should be."
"Why does it make you so sad?"
"I'm just thinking, Pharaoh, of when I return to my homeland. I'll miss you, and all my friends here." ~And you'll all be dust and legend. Pictures on the wall, or names in a list.~ She took one last look around the room. ~There. I know we found that corner on Dominic's last dig; now if I can get Iti's permission to bury the tablets at that location, I'll know where to look.~
She joined Djer as they made their way to the royal quarters; there were a couple of backup locations she could use, but the sooner the work started, the sooner she could move on to 'Operation Yente'. Dani giggled as she recalled Iti's reaction to that latest example of peculiar behavior.
"I'm not sure which worries me more: not understanding you at all, at times, or the idea of actually knowing what you're talking about."
"Alright, Dani; what are you up to?" Iri put her whole body into the most intimidating glare she could manage.
"What do you mean? What makes you think I'm up to anything?" ~Please forgive the shading of the truth, My Lady.~
~Just don't make a habit of it, Dani. Even white lies can be a problem. I'd prefer it if you just refuse to answer.~
"You know perfectly well what I'm talking about!"
Dani smiled and took her irate friend into a warm hug. The smaller woman stiffened, then relaxed as she returned the embrace.
"I'm sorry, Iri. You're as dear as a sister to me, but I can't say anything. You'll just have to wait. I know you're in love with your young captain, and that he's so fixed on his new position that he's ignoring you."
"It's only gotten worse since Snefru led his mutiny. He feels as if he failed."
"I'm not surprised. He needs to realize that there is more to really living than just his job. I'm working with Her Majesty, and Ma'at has added her blessing to my idea." Dani winced. "The Goddess reminded me that I had made the same error as Semerkhet; I feel even more obligated to do something, now."
"You can't tell me anything?"
"I want you to be able to truthfully say you had nothing to do with it. I don't know if it will work, but we want to try." Dani's serious expression cracked as a nearly irresistible pout appeared. "And pouting won't help either."
"Meri-Ma'at? The palace sent a messenger to ask for you to come right away." Huni, one of the newest temple attendants, stood nervously at the door to Dani's quarters, where the scholar sat at the desk examining a small statue.
"Huni, right?" The young woman nodded, as Dani placed the item back on the desk. "Let's go. The palace wouldn't have sent a runner if it weren't important."
A short time later she found herself in the middle of a near-screaming match between several of the cooks.
"It's a total waste of time! It does nothing but enrich the pockets of the herb sellers and the woodcutters." Dani walked into view of the antagonists. "And there she is! Have you come to get your share of the profits?"
The leader of the vocal opposition, Inyotef, was a somewhat shorter woman than the avatar, but heavy-set and muscular. She spun around and stalked in the direction of the newcomer. "I'll teach you to interfere in my kitchen!"
~Put out your hand, child, and feel yourself holding her back.~ The calm voice guided the heavily outnumbered scholar. She did as she was instructed, and felt a gentle surge flow through her arm as the voice continued. ~Now guide the power around her like the fingers of your hand. Just focus on control; I'll give you the strength you need.~
Inyotef's expression changed almost instantly from rage to fear. The tales of the avatar had circulated, but too often tales had proven to be lies. As she felt the soft restraint of the goddess' power, Inyotef felt her heart quail as she realized the truth of the stories she'd heard.
Dani, her face placid, walked toward the now-panicking woman. Everyone else in the kitchen fell back. "I heard you almost as soon as I walked into the palace. I understand that you don't like the changes I've suggested." She paused. "Do you have a son or daughter?"
Inyotef nodded carefully, still aware of the gossamer threads of power woven around her. "A ... a son, Lady."
"And what would you do to keep him healthy and strong? Would you boil some water if it meant he wouldn't get sick and die? I would; some of the people in this palace are as dear to me as family. If the Goddess permitted, I'd do more to keep them safe and well; this is the least I can do, and," she pulled the threads more tightly around her prisoner, "I won't let anyone put them back in danger." She abruptly released her captive.
Inyotef's eyes were wide with terror as the bindings, unyielding as stone, tightened. Suddenly, like the snuffing of a candle, the bindings holding her were gone. She fell to her knees and, sobbing, she begged for forgiveness from the avatar and her goddess.
Dani reached down and took the hands of the kneeling, sobbing woman, pulling her to her feet. She noted the rest of the staff, while not kneeling, were in a submissive pose; their hands were clasped before them and their heads were bowed.
"Listen to me, all of you." The heads of each person in the room came up. "I'm not really surprised that some of you are upset, but so long as I'm in the city you may come to me. I will listen, though I may not change my mind As far as the new cleansing rituals, I will listen to ideas for a better way; the cleansing must be done though. Now then, since you've decided to cause disorder within the palace, I must pronounce judgment."
Several faces went pale immediately, and their fear only increased as an evil-looking smile came to the tall woman's face. Dani felt a quiet giggle from the voice in her mind. Looking around to make sure Iri was not present, she held her finger to her lips. The staff's fear turned to shock at her next statement.
"Your penalty is to help me get Iri and Semerkhet back together. I have an idea about how, and you're ALL going to help."
Nervous titters came from the women as they swore themselves to secrecy.
That evening, as Dani lay in her quarters, Ma'at spoke up. ~Dani, you need training in how to properly use your new abilities. It will soon be time, I think, for you to begin your return to your own time and place. There is a school for mutants, called Whateley Academy, which has the facilities and teachers you'll need.~
~I'm a mutant?~
~No, but they're the only organization that can be trusted with your training at the moment. I could teach you, but the governments in your time will be less likely to interfere in our affairs if you have trained at a recognized school once you're back in your own time. Whateley could use an expert in historical mythology, too, with their collection of students.~
~Seventy-five years in college and you want me to teach TEENAGERS?~
~Among other things you will do in the future. I have work for you when you get home.~
The tablets had been buried in the location that was Dani's first choice; the stone masons managed to remove several floor pavers and make a sufficiently large space under a non-load-bearing wall to slide the carvings into place. As the last stone was secured into place, sealing the messages to the future into their resting place, Dani sent a silent plea to Ma'at to put her blessing on the project, and protect them till the proper time.
She stood, and looked at Iti. "I think it's almost time for me to leave. You said you wanted me to have a banquet with you, the Pharaoh, and a few others?"
"I think three days from today will work best for our preparations, if that is suitable."
"As it pleases your majesties."
After Dani's departure, Iti called Iri into the throne room. "Iri, I want to have a last meal with Dani as the guest of honor. Does she have a favorite food?"
"Yes, Majesty. She said my stew was her favorite."
"Very good; make preparations for three days from now. You are her friend, and you will join us at the table as well. And remember, child, we have a surprise planned. Trust us."
The kitchen staff poured their talents into the preparations, selecting the very best of the available ingredients for each dish. Iri found herself a central figure as she was handed only the best of those select goods for her stew. Inyotef, with the memory of Dani's power and mercy still fresh in her mind, was given the key role on the day of the banquet; she had a fresh bay leaf set aside and would be the one to serve the young guard captain.
The hall was filled with laughter, as the royal wine cellars supplied copious quantities of their contents for the revelers. The various dishes were loudly praised, and Iri's stew had held its place of honor. Semerkhet had found the bay leaf in his stew and set it aside, noting he was the only one nearby that had one.
At the end of the main meal, Dani stood to begin the time for storytelling as the wine cups were topped off. "First, I want to give my thanks to Iri. Her stew has always been one of my favorite dishes, and she has done a magnificent job this evening. You have truly outdone yourself. Now, who was the lucky man who found the bay leaf in his portion of the stew? I may tell you that in other lands the bay leaf, also known as laurel, is used as a symbol of honor for heroes and champions. In my land, there is a very old and honored tradition that he who gets the bay leaf in his stew wins the privilege of kissing the cook."
Iri paled at the words, and gave a fearful look around the table.
Semerkhet stood silently, cocked an eyebrow at the slight smirk on the avatar's face, which was mirrored on the Queen Regent, and walked to Iri's place. The young woman trembled as she stood, but accepted the kiss without audible protest. He said a few quiet words in her ear as they parted. The two resumed their places, joined in a glare at the matchmakers at the head table.
Dani accepted the glare without visible reaction as she continued. "I have a story I'd like to share this evening; it is short, and a bit sad, but appropriate.
"A wise man had spent years with a group of his followers, living with them and teaching them each day. The time finally came for him to leave, and he sat down with them all in a final meal. As they ended their time together, he asked them, whenever they had that meal, to let it be a reminder of the years they'd spent together and the lessons he'd taught."
"I would ask that, when you have some of this stew, you'd remember me. Wherever the Goddess leads me from here, whenever I share this stew with new friends, I will share the stories of my friends here."
She nodded to Iti. "I'll tell the story about the Queen Regent who had the courage to stand proud against rebels." She turned to Djer. "I'll also tell a story about a young Pharaoh, who thirsted for knowledge and had the heart to try to protect his mother."
She looked further down the tables at Nebka. "I have a story about a Priestess and teacher, who was gracious enough to bear teaching someone who just could *not* sing." The High Priestess smiled and raised her cup.
"And last, but not least in my heart, a special story about a guide who became as dear as a sister to me." She nodded to Iri.
The remainder of the meal was slightly more subdued, though the stories continued from various people, some related to Dani and her antics. The evening wore on, and the guests left in small waves, until only Dani's closest friends, Iti, Djer, Nebka, Iri, and Semerkhet, were left.
As they made their way to the royal quarters, Dani took the captain aside. "Semerkhet, I know you're a little upset with what we did at the banquet. I have a special story that you need to hear, though. In my homeland, there was a man who was a scholar. He loved his studies so much that he ignored a young woman who did all she could to show her love for him. She finally gave up, and left. He lived for almost one hundred years, and was renowned for his work, but he never had a wife, a family, or children. He died alone, and there was no one to carry on with his family name." She paused for emphasis. "There is more to life than your work, young man. Your duty as a man is to more than just the Pharaoh and Queen Iti. Don't make the same mistake as that scholar."
~It is time for you to say goodbye, child. Your journey needs to continue; you have other stops to make on your road home.~
Dani opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by Nebka. "It's time for you to leave us?" At the avatar's bewildered look, she continued. "I saw your face. You became still as the Goddess spoke to you, then sad."
"I'm afraid so. I don't know where the next step will take me, but it's time to take it."
There were hugs, and tears, as Dani said her goodbyes. She noticed with some pleasure that Semerkhet was standing with an arm around Iri's waist. At her questioning look, he blushed and nodded. She whispered as she said her farewell to him, "Take good care of my sister, and enjoy all the blessings that love will bring."
Iti drew a small cloth from a corner and unfolded it as Dani approached. "I had a dream, some time ago, that I needed to have a special gift made for you." She held out a lightweight, gold chain that bore a pendant in the shape of a single ostrich feather.
~Lady? May I accept this and take it with me?~ Dani's mind called out as her hand reached for the glittering necklace.
~It was made for you as a remembrance. Wherever you go, you may take it with you.~
Dani's fingers fumbled a little as she straightened the chain and slipped it over her head. It took her another moment to gather her hair and get it out of the way, so the jewelry rested properly around her neck.
She looked down for a moment at the pendant, which was so finely made that it could have been plucked from a tiny, golden ostrich.
"I ... I'm overwhelmed," she stammered. "Thank you, Your Majesties, for such a wonderful gift. Ma'at says I may take it with me, and I'll keep it as a most precious treasure."
She stepped back from the royal pair, and fought to keep her tears at bay. "I guess this is it, then. I'll always love and remember you all, and I pray the Goddess will bless you as richly as you've blessed me."
There was a bright flash, and she was gone.
The candle-lit room vanished, and Dani felt an instant of disorientation. Suddenly, she was outdoors again, with the warm sun on her back. She was on a ridge, facing down a long slope that ended in what appeared to be a large bay, flanked on her left by mountains; much closer to her, perhaps half a mile away down the slope, was a small city.
"Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely."
- Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale
| Topic: Draconis, pt 1|
|Draconis, pt 1 [message #4707]
||Sun, 02 April 2006 18:26
Registered: March 2006
Location: Behind you!
Below is part one of Draconis, as with all my characters EXCEPT Arianrhod, no TG. So enjoy, and please leave your comments in this thread.|
A warm, summery breeze blew through Annie’s shoulder-length, brown hair. She grunted with exertion, as she strove to pedal her way up the hillside. Her bike creaked beneath her, protesting at the force she was putting it under; but she made it.
The view from the top was stunning, as always. All of Arborville stretched out beneath her, and glorious New Jersey sunshine bathed everything in sight with a pure, white light. Annie, sitting astride her bike on top of that old hill, thought wistfully, it’s a shame that New Jersey isn’t known for its sunshine…I bet even California and Florida would be jealous, if anyone knew about it.
Sighing, Annie turned to ride back down the hill. This was always exhilarating. One picked up speed continually until the very bottom of the hill, at which point another hill rose out of the ground. The result was a massive adrenaline rush as velocity dropped off slowly.
Annie grinned tightly, and started pedaling up a storm. Down and down she raced, grinning madly the whole time. The wind whipped her hair behind her, and tugged at her clothes and long, lithe body.
Down and down she accelerated, never noticing until it was too late that the denim of her blue jeans on her right leg was dangerously near the gears.
Tangled, it soon got sucked in, and it took all of Annie’s skill to keep the bike going. However, the velocity was proving too great – any minute she must fall off the bike, sporting bruises and cuts galore…at best.
Annie did the only thing she could do: she cheated.
Calling silently on the powers of her ancestors, she formed a shield of force around herself, and tipped the bike. The bike fell, sure enough, as did she, but the force-shield dulled the impact, and Annie escaped with nothing more than a torn pant-leg.
Glancing around nervously, lest anyone saw, and picked the fabric out of her bike, climbed back on, and rode for home.
Home – such a wondrous word. Annie’s home was an especially interesting place. A first generation American, with both parents being German immigrants, her home was always filled with wonders. Homemade clothes were worn by all the Neber kids, and worn, woven blankets, handed down through generations, kept them warm at night. Her father, Jorg, a professional baker, ran one of the last family-owned bakeries in Arborville. His breads were renowned, and people came from miles around to buy them.
Annie’s mother, Nedina, was no less interesting. She was a master seamstress, who claimed that she could repair any cloth – and who could back it up. Annie took after her, learning the traditional female arts of sewing and needlepoint from her at an early age. Everyone agreed that while Annie was not yet Nedina’s equal, some day she would be. Nedina’s maiden name was Gluckmakker.
But Annie and her mother held a darker secret from the world at large. Both were adept at using magic.
Magic. Either it chills you to your bone, or excites every molecule in your body. The Nebers belonged to the latter. The ability to wield magic had been present in Gluckmakker women for centuries, though few outside the family knew it. Especially in recent times, when mankind became suspicious of such things, it was hidden.
Jorg had known when he agreed to marry Nedina, of course – for such is the way of things. One by one, each of their children had been told the secret, when Jorg and Nedina agreed that the child was of an age old enough to keep it.
Some of Nedina’s family disapproved of this openness, but Nedina insisted that she was not going to hide things from her children, and that was that. As such, the Neber boys had grown up accustomed to magic and its uses. None of them had the ability, however.
Nedina had almost given up hope, when Annie finally came along. The lastborn, she was also the smallest. Even as a grown teenager, she barely topped 5’1”. She was far younger than her brothers, with all three of them having moved out before she even hit puberty. Annie showed signs of the talent early, in her fifth year. She was taken to Nedina’s mother, Christine, who evaluated her potential.
Before the evaluation was even halfway done, Christine threw in the towel. “She has the greatest potential of anyone in the family for centuries,” she had said, disgustedly.
“And that is a problem, why?” Nedina had asked, pride evident.
“Because she can’t possibly receive the proper training in the States,” Christine had countered. “She will have the potential to be the greatest of our family for generations, but her talents will never be used. You can teach her some parlor tricks, but real magic is beyond you. What can you hope to teach, when you do not know it yourself,” she had sneered.
But Nedina had persevered, though her mother’s words stung. She had done her research, and had discovered a school for mutants and those with magical powers, named Whateley. Annie had grown up knowing that she would attend Whateley for high school, and the year was almost come. Another month and I’ll finally be at Whateley! She thought excitedly, as she pedaled her way home.
Annie loved using her powers. There was a freedom to it, a majesty – a feeling of ancient timelessness. Annie had grown up being forbidden from using her powers; other than in emergencies, and as with all children, forbidden things sparked and interest. That interest grew, and burned brightly.
Annie could not wait to get to Whateley.
Then, that fateful day of the bicycle almost-accident, something happened which would change everything.
“MOM! I’M HOME,” Annie bellowed as she entered the house.
Nedina came out of the back, and smiled at her daughter. “And how was your ride?”
Annie tried to tuck her bruised arm behind her body, but not before her mom saw it.
“You fell!” she accused.
“Yeah, well, the force shield took the worst of it, so I’m okay,” Annie replied, truthfulness shining through.
“Force shield?” Nedina raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah. Big oops. How many times have I told you never to use your powers in public”
“But Mom, I would’ve been seriously hurt if I hadn’t!” Annie protested. “Here,” she thrust the denim from her torn pant-leg at her mom. “See! This got caught in my gears. I was doomed if I didn’t do something!”
“We’ll talk about this later,” Nedina said icily. “In the mean time you have to repair that pant-leg .”
Grumbling, Annie went quickly upstairs. She paused a moment to admire herself in the mirror at the end of the hallway. She wished that she was taller, but other than that she was perfect. Small frame and chest, an angelic face, long brown hair – she could charm anyone she needed to. Except my parents. Grr.
She went into her room, sat down on her bed, and starting repairing the blue jeans. Stitch, pull, stitch, pull, stitch, pull. There was an almost hypnotic rhythm to it, which helped calm and soothe her soul.
Until she noticed that something was very, very wrong.
That child, Nedina thought with a smile and a shake of the head. Oh well…I was the same way with my powers at her age. She paused to observe Annie scrubbing furiously at her hand in the main bathroom.
“Cut yourself, dear?” Nedina asked worriedly.
“No…there’s this black mark on my one finger and I can’t get it off.”
“Here, let me see.” Nedina walked in, and Annie showed her the inflicted finger. Sure enough, there was a small, smooth, black patch of…something, about a half-inch below Annie’s fingernail, on her right ring finger.
“I keep scrubbing it but it won’t come off. I thought it was dirt from the fall I took or something but…” Nedina silenced her daughter with a wave of her hand. “Look,” she said softly.
Annie did look, then. Mother and daughter stood in absolute silence, and watched as the black patch slowly grew. It lengthened and stretched, and widened.
Finally able to take it no longer, Annie screeched, “Mooooooooooom!!!”
“Calm down dear, I’m sure it’s nothing. Come on out of here…I doubt scrubbing is going to help much now.” Together they walked to Nedina’s library, and started consulting texts.
“It must be a magical disease of some kind,” Nedina said. “That’s the only thing I’ve ever heard of that acts this way. And I don’t know about that dark black, shiny, color. It’s like the skin is dead.”
“No. Not dead,” Annie said with shock. “Look through this.” Annie held out a magnifying glass to her mother.
“But…those are…that can’t be,” Nedina gasped. “Scales!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too. The skin isn’t dead…it’s just gone.”
“Maybe a transformative hex? Did you piss off any of the relatives again?”
Annie winced. The last time she had annoyed Aunt Helga she had ended up with green hair for a week. “Not that I know of,” she said meekly.
“Hmm. How does it feel? Painful at all?”
“Strangely, no,” Annie replied. “It feels different, to be sure, but not bad in any way. I’m going to try a basic Dispel spell.”
Before Nedina had a chance to stop her, Annie was calling up her magical energies. She formed the proper signs with her hands, mouthed the proper release words, and the spell was away, a symbol searing itself into her finger.
The patch of black scales shrunk immediately, receding to half size, then pausing.
“There,” Annie said happily.
A gnawing doubt had struck Nedina, however. Even as she turned to consult one of her texts, on family history, Annie let out a yelp. “Didn’t work?” Nedina called over her shoulder – slightly smugly, Annie thought.
“What do you think,” Annie snapped. She held up her hand for her mother to see, and revealed that the patch of scales had somehow expanded and spread, rather than disappear. Small patches of scales were now present on every finger, and at the base of her palm, as well.
“I’d say not. Come here and look at this.”
“So? Why do I care about what girl married into the family in the twelfth century?”
“Because it may well explain what is happening to you.”
Annie peered over the massive tome, and read, “In the yere 1196 of Our Lord, Kloina Shumann marriede John Gluckmakker.” Annie paused. “Hang on a min, why is this in Olde English and not German?”
“It was, originally. The original tome of familial history collapsed several generations ago. Just before it fell apart, some of the family elders paid a monk to have it transcribed into another book, the one you hold. The monk made three copies: one in German, one in English, and one in Latin. The Latin copy he kept for himself, for its historical significance, I would assume. The German copy was lost some years ago. This copy, the English one, is the last one that we know he location of.”
“Mmm,” Annie mumbled, then resumed reading. “Tho it was sore whisper-ed that Kloina was in facte a Dragonnesse, John, smitten as he was, paid them no heed, and took the lady to wife.”
Annie paused. “Woah. Stop, rewind. There was a dragon somewhere back in my bloodline?”
Nedina nodded her head, and then shook it. “Yes and no. That is what the rumors of the day said. That said, anyone could have started the rumors to attempt to discredit the marriage. So…more research is needed. I’m going to cast a Divination spell on one of those patches. If it hurts or has any effect, let me know and I’ll stop right away, okay dear?”
Annie nodded, and gulped. Nedina cast her spell, and gasped as a flood of information arrived in her head.
“Mom! Are you okay?” Annie exclaimed.
“Yes, I’m fine. Just a lot of information to sort through.” Nedina paused. “There it is! I was right. The scales are draconic in nature.”
“Okay. So my ultimate grandmother was a dragon. What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is that the draconic blood you inherited from your ultimate grandmother, as you put it, activates whenever you cast a spell. I just cast a spell on the patches, then they didn’t change or expand in any way. So it isn’t just an exposure to magic; it has to be your magic.”
“Err…not quite.” Annie held up her other hand.
“Oh dear,” Nedina said simply. Small patches of scales, the same glossy black, were now evident on Annie’s left hand as well.
“Okay…scratch that theory. I still say that when you cast a spell, it speeds it up, though. So until further notice you are banned from magic. I think you won’t argue with that.”
“Now for the next question,” Annie said calmly. “Why me?”
“A good question, and one to which I have no answer yet. Go back to your room and try to remain calm. I’ll research this, and call up some of the others – see if they have any ideas. I want you to rest, and remember: NO MAGIC!”
Annie nodded her head dismally, and stood up to leave.
“Uh…Mom…do I seem taller do you?”
“Hmm. Maybe a little. I’d better get researching, huh?”
“Well, if you can come up with a way to make me taller but get rid of the scales, I’m all for that!” With that, Annie left for her room.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in research mode for Nedina. The reason, however, for her daughter’s affliction escaped her. She discovered much about Kloina, the purported dragon ancestor, including that the Gluckmakker family’s magical heritage started with her. Until she came along, there was no magical talent in the family.
Finally, she gave up, and went out to make supper. Jorg came stomping through, just arrived home.
“Anything new here?” he asked shortly.
“Yes, but you’ll find out soon enough. Anything at your end?”
“Blegh. Always something, you know that.”
“Well, what was it today?”
“Representatives from three different big corporations came around, sniffing for my recipes. Oh they offered to pay, sure, but they…resisted, when I told them that the recipes weren’t for sale. In the end I had to have Barney throw them out.”
Annie trotted down the steps, grinned at her dad, and threw him a hug.
“Woah there…is it just me or is my little girl not so little any more?”
“That’s the news on our end, I’m afraid.”
“You’re afraid?” Jorg asked curiously.
Nedina threw Annie an appraising look. She stood about 5’6” now, Nedina guessed, compared to her previous 5’1”. The black patches on her hands were a bit larger, but other than that nothing else appeared different.
“Somehow, something has become activated in Annie’s system.”
“Something…” Jorg trailed off, fishing for information.
“Show your father your hands, dear. Something magical. She cast two spells today, that I know about,” Nedina paused, and threw a withering look at her daughter. Annie winced, but held out her hands for Jorg to see.
“Are those…scales?” came his question.
“That’s what we said as well. One of the two spells I know about, was a simple Dispel that she cast in my presence. The patches were much smaller, and in fact there was only one of them, on her left-hand ring finger. When she cast the Dispel, it shrunk, then expanded greatly. I then cast a Divination on her, to find out more information about the scales, and discovered that they were and are draconic in nature.”
“Draconic? You mean, from a dragon?”
“Yep. So I did some digging. You remember that crazy old saw about how a long-ago female relative of mine may have been a dragon?”
“Yeah, I remember that. You used to tell it to us around the campfire at night.” Jorg turned. “This was before you came along, Annie,” he said.
“Oh,” she said simply.
“Well, it appears that the old saw has at least a grain of truth to it,” Nedina continued. “The relative-in-question’s name was Kloina, supposed to be a black dragon by the village townfolk. My male ancestor, John Gluckmakker, was madly in love with her, however, so he ignored them. By all accounts, Kloina was an excellent wife and mother, and never did anything to rouse the suspicions of her neighbors.” She paused.
“But…” Jorg trailed off. “Come on, I know there’s a but. What was it?”
“But,” Nedina said with a grin, “It just so happens that before Kloina came along, there was no magical heritage in our family, at all. It all traces back to Kloina. Suspicious, wouldn’t you say?”
“Okay, this is all well and good, but did you find out why this is happening to me, Mom?”
“No, unfortunately. I’m going to call up Grandma Christine tonight, and see what she has to say about it.”
Supper passed uneventfully, except for one point where Annie discovered that she had two large patches of scales present on each of her arms.
True to her word, and more than a little scared by the speed at which this…thing, was taking her daughter, as soon as supper was finished, Nedina called her mother.
Christine didn’t seem surprised, but then, she never seemed surprised by anything. She told Nedina that she would come right over.
Luckily, they didn’t have long to wait. Christine and her husband lived in the same neighborhood, only about ten minutes away. Before seven minutes had passed, Christine had screeched into the driveway.
“Ver iz ze,” she demanded in her usual thick German accent, bursting through the front door, laden with tomes and wands.
“In my library, Mom,” Nedina said respectfully, despite knowing what was coming.
“Pah! Joor library iz it? Mozt patetic library I ever zee. Go! Zhoo! Let me vork!” With that Christine hustled and bustled her way back to Nedina’s library, where Annie awaited her.
“Grandma,” Annie said quietly.
“Vell nov, joo are a bit talla, yez? Let me zee deez zcalez.”
Christine peered over them, and then cast a Divination spell. Her spell, however, was significantly more powerful than Nedina’s had been, and less gentle, as well. It took all of Annie’s willpower to not cry out in pain.
The minutes passed, and turned into hours. Annie got decidedly sick of being poked and prodded. Christine was especially interested in what happened when a change took place, so she forced Annie to cast three spells on herself, one each time she needed to verify a hunch.
Annie finally managed to flee her grandmother almost two hours later, pleading a snack-break.
“What happened to you!” Nedina exclaimed.
“Grandma,” Annie said quietly, mouth twisted by rage. “She made me cast spells on myself, just so she could check out her hunches! Look at my hands!”
Annie’s hands were about half-covered with black scales, and each of her fingers was now tipped by a gleaming white claw – each claw about a half-inch long. Annie towered over her mother now, having hit almost 6’ in height. The only other change that Nedina and her distraught daughter could verify was a recurving hook coming out of the apex of each elbow, gleaming white bone. They were about three inches long, and just poked through the fabric of her long-sleeved shirt.
“She has really gone too far this time!” Nedina exclaimed in rage. “I’ll deal with this, you stay here.” She stormed off to her library.
Annie just sat there, bewildered. Several minutes later, her mind frosted over by everything that had happened, she walked slowly to the fridge, got out an apple, and mechanically began to eat it. At least my…claws…don’t seem to interfere with much. On a hunch, she tried picking up a nearby pencil, and was pleased when she was able to. It was a bit tricky, involving using just her fingertips, and looked a bit weird, but she could do it.
Some while later, Nedina and her mother came back out to the kitchen.
“Well, the house is still standing, so I assume it went well?” Annie drawled ironically.
“We…see eye to eye on this matter now,” Nedina said. “We think we’ve figured it out, as well.”
“Oh?” Annie asked, patiently nibbling her apple.
“Yes. Which do you want first? The ‘why’ or the ‘what-will-happen-and-what-can-we-do-about-it’?”
“Hmm. Why, I think.”
“Okay. Basically, this is what we know. Kloina was indeed a black dragon. Before you get the wrong idea, let me assure you, not all dragons are evil, and, unlike what Dungeons and Dragons says, it isn’t divided into colors. Your ultimate grandmother was a good black dragon. There have been many evil blacks as well, however, so don’t think it is cut and dried one way or the other.
“We raised her spirit a little while back, and got the answers we sought. Once so many generations, the draconic blood in all our veins breeds true. Basically, it’s a throwback to our heritage, and it serves to resupply the family’s magical nature. For example, I – as my mother has pointed out numerous times – am on the very bottom end of magical capacity. I can do basic spells and parlor tricks, but that’s about it.
“As such, the magic of the family must be…reset, if you will. A draconic atavism once so many generations serves that purpose. The last time this happened was in the mid-1800s. It is generally about once every 150 years. A primary characteristic of those to whom this will happen is an extraordinarily high magical capacity, coming from someone in the family who has a very low magical capacity. Do you follow all this so far?”
Strangely enough, Annie did. “So basically you’re saying that I’ve been a dragon all along?”
“Yes and no. It isn’t that simple. Mom, you might want to sit down…this could take a while. There’s some Bourbon in the fridge.” Christine nodded her head, and promptly went over to the fridge.
“Okay…where to start. The draconic blood lies dormant until such time as the person starts casting spells. It then checks the power level of the casting, and decides if the person is eligible for the atavism. It isn’t that simple of a process but it is a good enough explanation for now.
“At a certain point, when the spells reach a certain level of potency, the blood activates. Probably when you took that fall on your bike earlier, and used the force shield, that activated it.
“Now we move on into the second discussion – what will happen, and what we can do about it. You don’t have to worry about becoming a full dragon for all day every day. You will be able to become completely draconic in form, if you so choose – think of it as a shapeshifting power.
“That said, you won’t be fully human, either, at least, not until such time as you master your dragon blood completely. Eventually you will be able to go either way, full dragon or full human, but until you are comfortable with yourself, and master your dragon side, the option to return to being a human will be sealed off from you. Kloina said that this is so that the new dragon, or dragoness in your case, is comfortable with his, or in your case, her, heritage.”
“I was just gonna say, it would make more sense if it were the other way around. Then they could be hidden and protected until they were able to take care of themselves,” Annie interjected.
“But it isn’t that way. You will become approximately one-third dragon in appearance, over the next day or so. I’m not going to lie to you…this isn’t going to be easy. On the plus side at least, Whateley doesn’t care what you look like. As you already know, they have a lot of strange-looking folk up there.”
“Is there anything we can do to stop this?” Annie asked in a hushed tone, hoping against hope.
“Nothing. The only thing we could even try would require the power of every member of our family with a shred of magical talent. It would basically be a complete blood transmutation. You would lose your magical powers, however, and there is a good chance you wouldn’t survive it. And even so, most people wouldn’t agree to it. The magical heritage of our family for the next 150 years is resting squarely on your shoulders. If not for you, future generations would lose their magic entirely.”
“Oh gee thanks Mom,” Annie said sarcastically. “Is there a plus side to this? ‘Cause I’m just seeing negatives here.”
“Joo getz to be talla,” Christine smiled up at her, peering over the rim of her glass of bourbon.
Annie’s laughter filled the room, with Christine and Nedina joining in. It relieved some of the tension that all three had been feeling, and they all felt much better.
“That’s true,” Annie shook her head in wonder. “I’ve always wanted to be taller. Well, I guess I got it in spades now!”
“Actually, dear,” Nedina began, seriously. “There are benefits. For example, you will live much, much longer. In fact, we have every reason to believe that unless you die through battle or disease, you should live almost forever. You will have all that time to learn and grow, until eventually you could well become a legend. You also will have abilities that many only dream of – flight, for example. It isn’t all bad. And, you will be giving a great gift to your children and children’s children.”
“But at what cost,” Annie said ominously.
Christine shrugged. “Ze iz vat ze makez it. I betta be going now,” she said calmly, and promptly turned and left. Nedina shrugged.
“She’s right you know. It is what you make it to be. You can see either side of this, but it will come to pass. So you might as well look on the sunny side of things. I’ll go fill your father in.”
“’Kay Mom. Good night…I think I’m going to go to bed early. I’ve had a very long day.”
“Good night, dear,” Nedina smiled at her daughter.
Annie awoke the next morning hoping, praying, and wishing that the events of the previous day had been a nightmare.
Before she was even out of bed, she could feel the different sensations coming from her fingers, however, and knew that it hadn’t been a dream. Damn it all anyway.
She seriously debated whether she should get out of bed and see what changes had transpired over night, or just stay in bed longer. Laziness fought with curiosity, and laziness didn’t have a chance.
Annie scrabbled out of bed and hazarded a glance at her full-length mirror.
Night had not been kind. She was now very tall, about 6’4”, she guessed. Her overall proportions hadn’t really changed, however, something for which she was very glad. Patches, varying in sizes, and of those same glossy black scales, were splotched all over her body, showing through her white nightgown. She also had two small, half-dollar-sized patches on her face, one located on each cheek. Finally, her eyes now had yellow irises, slit vertically, like a cat’s eye.
She grumbled at her bizarre reflection a bit, then got dressed and cleaned up, ambling down for breakfast when ready. As always, Nedina was in the kitchen, preparing something delectable.
Annie sniffed the scents coming from the kitchen. Mmm…bacon and eggs and toast.
She gritted her teeth, preparing for the unpleasant day facing her, then charged headlong into the kitchen.
“Morning, dear,” Nedina called over her shoulder, without even turning her head from the stove.
“Good morning, Mom,” Annie said flatly, as though there was nothing good about it.
“And how is my little dragoness today?” Nedina asked calmly.
“Err…don’t call me that. Further along in the change, of course. Pretty depressed at how my life is over. You?”
“Oh come on now, it isn’t that bad.”
“Yes it is. Hey, where’s Dad?”
“At the shop already, hard at work.”
“Already? It’s only 6:30.”
“Don’t repeat this, but I think that these forceful offers he has been getting for the business have him scared.”
“Oh.” Annie didn’t know what else to say, so she let it drop. “I just had a thought, by the way. Why doesn’t each branch of the family have their own dragon?”
“I confess I don’t know. I can only assume that the main branch, which is determined by which branch gets the Dragonheir, as you and others of your stature are called, replenishes the other branches somehow. Maybe they are doomed to die out, while only the main branch survives. I don’t know.”
Annie nodded her head thoughtfully, then made a quick jerking motion. Nedina glanced quickly over her shoulder. “You okay back there?”
“Err…bad time to ask,” Annie said through gritted teeth. “It doesn’t hurt, it’s just extremely uncomfortable!”
Nedina moved the eggs, which were now done anyway, to another burner, and rushed to her daughter’s side.
“What is it? What’s happening? Is there something I can do to help?”
“A pressure, I don’t know, and no,” Annie replied. “There. It’s done, I think.”
A few seconds later, the sound of ripping material filled the room.
Annie and Nedina threw each other a look, then both of them turned their heads. Sure enough, Annie’s comely behind now sported a short draconic tail.
“OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!” Annie exploded. “God. I can’t even wear freaking clothes anymore!”
“Now, all it means is that your clothes will need a tail-hole. How’s it feel?” Nedina asked curiously.
“How do you think it feels,” Annie snapped. “Sorry. I’m a little PO’ed at the moment. It’s really too strange to describe though.”
“Pity,” Nedina murmured. “So, breakfast?”
“Sure,” Annie replied. She wiggled around on her chair a bit, until she was comfortable – not an easy thing to do! She ended up putting her new-found tail between two of the wide bars in the back of the chair, and settled in for food.
Mother and daughter ate, cleaned up the dishes, and spent the morning hard at work on altering Annie’s pants and skirts to include a tail-hole. Lunch came and went, with no further changes having occurred. Then, just as they were finishing up the final wave of changes hit.
Every patch of scales expanded and grew, until the smallest were the patches on her cheeks, at about an apple’s size. Her hands and feet became almost completely covered, with her feet developing claws as well. Her toes fused and split, until she ended up with three long toes per foot. Annie’s heels sprouted a hooked claw, curving downward, as did each of her knees. The final change was along her spine, as it lengthened – thrusting her tail out further and lengthening it – and as it grew short spines, about 1-2” long. They poked through her skin at regular intervals, about every inch and a half, going from the tip of her tail to the top of her head.
As the changes wrapped up, Nedina said, “I think it was about this time yesterday that the changes first hit – around 3 o’clock, right?”
Annie gulped and nodded. She was receiving so many foreign stimuli she couldn’t come up with any words to describe them. She glanced back at her tail first. She could tell without looking that it was longer and heavier, although her body didn’t seem to be having any trouble supporting it. If anything, its increased size looked more natural. It arced away from her body gently downward.
Then she looked down at her transfigured feet and hands, letting out a tiny “eep.” She glanced over at her mother, who was on the phone. Pausing to listen, it didn’t take Annie long to discern that she was talking to her Dad, telling him that Annie’s changes had completed.
Her hair itching her face, Annie reached up to brush it back, and discovered the spines on the back of her neck. She frowned, and focused. Thinking about them, she could in fact feel them, and was surprised at how sensitive they were. She thought they would be just little points of bone, with no feeling, but they were every bit as sensitive as her skin was. She then, on a whim, tried moving them, and discovered that she could quite easily.
She whistled at her mother, getting her attention, then pointed at her neck impishly. She grinned while Nedina’s mouth dropped. Annie had set all the spines to undulating, providing a very…interesting…feeling; not to mention a weird fashion statement.
Nedina finished up on the phone, and told Annie that her Dad would like to see her, and that she should come down to the bakery right away.
“Uh, Mom, you don’t really think I could go about and about looking like this, do you?”
“Well, except for your tail, I don’t think it’s that bad. The scales on your face we can cover up with makeup, the eyes we can explain as contacts for a prank on your dad. Keep your hands to yourself, maybe behind your back – or, or, we could explain them as gloves that go with the contacts. The problem is that darn tail!”
As if it heard, Annie’s tail promptly started thrashing. Nedina looked curiously at her daughter, who shrugged. “What can I say…it has a mind of its own.”
“It’s too bad it isn’t a flexible tail, like a cat’s tail. Then you could just wrap it up around your waist like a belt.”
“Yeah, too bad,” Annie said sourly. “How about a minor invisibility spell?”
“Hmm. That might work, I suppose. But then how do we explain the hole in your pants?”
“Err…good point. Guess I wasn’t thinking.”
“Truth be told, dear,” Nedina began seriously, “you are taking this far better than I thought you would. I’m very proud of you.”
“Just wait until later when this all sinks in. For now I’m in shock. My mind glazed over some time last night.”
Nedina chuckled, then had an idea. “How well can you control that thing?”
“Uhh…not very well. I think it expresses emotion. Think about it…you would not want a dragon smiling at you when it’s happy. Same with frowning, et cetera. So I think if I keep my emotions under control it’ll behave itself.”
“Okay, good then. Do that…think of yourself as a rock with no emotions if you have to. Just keep that thing still.”
“Because I’m going to pass this off as a gag on your father. If the tail doesn’t move, I can say that it is a strap-on.”
“Ah. I’ll do my best, but I make no promises.”
“Well, it’s you who’ll be chased out of town if you can’t.”
“Gee thanks Mom.”
Annie walked carefully upstairs, trying to avoid damaging the wood floors with her claws. She paused, to view her reflection, and was disgusted by what she saw.
Standing before the mirror was a dragon-girl hybrid, and an ugly mix at that. “How could anyone ever love this!” she raged in despair. “I’m hideous – a monster!”
So enraptured by her anger and pain was she that she never heard her mother coming up behind her.
“No you’re not, you’re my daughter, and a beautiful girl. Now what’s this all about?” Nedina asked calmly.
“What is this all about!?” Annie shrieked. “It just sunk in what has happened to me. Look in that mirror, and tell me you can’t see what this is all about!” Tears were streaming down her face, though of anger or pain, or both, Nedina couldn’t tell.
“I can’t,” Nedina replied. “When you get to Whateley, you will see people who have it far worse than you do, believe me. Your father and I went up there several years back to check it out, and you would not believe some of the things we saw. Believe me, you have it lucky!”
Nedina was getting angry with her daughter now. She struggled to moderate her tone. “But you won’t understand that until you get there, will you? Great, so I’ve got almost two weeks of a raging teenage girl who is feeling sorry for herself to live through.”
Annie laughed despite herself. Nedina smiled. When Annie laughed, that meant the storm was almost over.
“You’re probably right. You usually are. But, look at me! I’m hideous! You might have a point that others are out there who have it worse than I do, and at least I have hope of looking normal again some day, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am still hideous.”
“Did it occur to you yet that you are currently a large number of geeks’ favorite wet dream?”
“Err…thanks for putting that image in my head, Mom,” Annie said sourly. Her tail flickered in annoyance.
“Hmm. Bad example.”
“Hmm. How about we just get you ready to go and go see your father? He’s closing the bakery as we speak.”
“Eh? Already? He doesn’t usually close up for almost an hour or two yet.
“He doesn’t want a lot of customers under foot when you come.” Nedina chuckled for a few seconds. “You know, it’s a good thing that the ceiling are as high as they are in that old building!”
Annie just fumed, tail twitching. “Not funny Mom!”
“Well, I thought it was pretty funny. You always wanted to be taller, and now that you got it, you hate yourself! That strikes me as pretty ironic.”
“Think about it from my point of view,” Annie said flatly.
“Come on, to the makeup table with you!” Nedina neatly avoided her daughter’s comment.
Grumbling, Annie let herself be pushed into her room.
A half hour later, mother and daughter were all ready to go. Standing before one of the family’s two cars, it occurred to Nedina that they had a problem.
“How are we going to get you in here?”
The car in question was a Ford Taurus sedan, an older model from the early ‘90s.
“Uhm,” Annie thought out loud. “Well, I could maybe try to snake my tail through the gap between the front seats?”
“It’s worth a shot,” Nedina said dubiously.
Five minutes and a lot of wiggling later, Annie was strapped in. Nedina went around the car and got in, and they were off for the Neber family bakery.
The bakery had been in the Neber family since the early 1800s, and as such was one of the oldest bakeries in the States. The building had been renovated more times than anyone – including the city council – cared to remember, but everyone agreed that the Neber bakery made the best bread anyone had ever tasted, for miles around.
When asked what his secret was, Jorg repeatedly answered impishly, “Magic.” Now, there was no magic used, in fact, only very old family recipes, passed down through many generations of Nebers.
Annie had never understood how this worked, until one day she asked her father. “Basically, some the family has been over here for many, many years, while others of us still lived, and continue to live, in Germany. I was born in Germany, but my parents immigrated to the States when I was still young. It’s a similar story for your mother,” he had replied.
It didn’t take long to get to the bakery from their house – a fact for which Annie was profoundly grateful. Practically before they were out of the car, she was out and stretching.
Unfortunately, she forgot that when she stretched, so did her tail. Nedina coughed pointedly, and Annie let out a small squeak.
“Wait until we’re inside, dear,” Nedina whispered softly to her daughter. Already several passersby were giving Annie strange looks.
“A gag for her father,” Nedina grinned at them. They nodded their heads – not really understanding what was going on, of course – and moved on by quietly.
Nedina practically pushed Annie inside, and then locked the door behind them.
“Jorg!” she called out.
“Coming,” he called from the back. Before long, he emerged, red-faced from the heat, into the wide-open front room.
The front room was an anomaly in and of itself. Being possessed of almost twenty-foot ceilings, it looked more like a church than a bakery. Annie had never gotten an answer to her satisfaction as to why the ceilings were that tall…something about the building’s prior use.
“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Jorg smiled at his daughter, who frowned in reply.
“Whatever,” she said dourly.
Jorg looked inquiringly at his wife, who just shook her head. “She isn’t particularly happy with her new look.”
“Ah,” Jorg said, a glimmer of understanding beginning to form. “I should that you would be honored. From what your mother has told me, it is a grave responsibility you have been given.”
“I don’t mind that, I mind looking like this!”
Jorg looked imploringly at his wife. “Why couldn’t we have had a son?”
Nedina laughed, while Annie glared.
“Look, sweetheart, just think of this as another phase of puberty, like having a zit. It’ll pass, you know that. You just have to put up with it for a while, is all.”
Annie rubbed furiously at her face with the back of her hand for a moment, then looked down at her father, black cheek scales gleaming in the light. “This is a little more than a zit, Dad!” she shot back angrily, tail swishing.
“Dear! Help me out here!” Jorg begged Nedina.
Before she could say a word, five men burst from the back of the bakery, carrying guns.
“Nobody move!” one of them whispered meanly. “Hey, I thought you said they were closing up for the night and nobody would be here,” he shot over his shoulder at one of the others.
“Well, I didn’t think anyone would be,” the man addressed replied softly.
“No matter. Looks like they’ll be going out of business in more ways than one, then.”
“Look here, what is this!” Jorg demanded, while Annie and Nedina stayed behind him. It hadn’t yet occurred to Annie that she didn’t need to hide behind her father’s imposing figure any more.
“Isn’t it obvious? Since you’re all going to die anyway I don’t see any harm in telling them. You should have accepted our offer to buy you out. It’s unfortunate that a baker of your obvious talents has to die this way. You should’ve just gone home, then we could have destroyed your store without you! Are the firebombs ready boys?”
Annie felt a strange…surge. It started all the way at her feet, and slowly rose, filling every particle of her being. Everyone in the room cried out in surprise as a glowing black shield surrounded her, but she didn’t care. Floating along, semiconscious at most, she couldn’t care less. Wafting along the aether breeze, what were the concerns of mortals to her?
In the room surrounding her, the thugs tried to shoot her with their guns, but all they succeeded in doing was wasting bullets. The black shield crackled with white energy, arcing along its surface like lightning. Nedina and Jorg took the diversion as an opportunity to get behind a stand in the corner, where they were at least a little sheltered.
The minutes passed, and nobody knew what to do. The leader of the thugs had no orders to give. He could set the fires and run for it, but what was this girl with the shield going to then? His instincts screamed torch and run, but he stood enraptured, rooted to the spot by his curiosity. His codename was Nightcat, and in this case, curiosity would truly kill the cat.
As the seconds hand of the clock moved towards to point where it had been five minutes prior, the shield grew to immensity, stretching almost thirteen feet tall, and lengthening to almost fifteen. Then it vanished completely, faded into nothingness as though it was never there in the first place.
In its place stood a black dragon.
Eyes bulged all over the room. Thugs began dropping weapons and running here and there, panicked. Nedina and Jorg, knowing that it was Annie, somehow, stood up, to watch.
The massive dragon stood up, slowly, balancing on her rear legs, stretching out her tail and wings as far as she could given the space. Her long neck curved gracefully around and up, staring balefully at the thugs.
The mouth opened, revealing a long maw filled with razor sharp teeth. It worked, as though chewing over something, and finally, words came out.
“I give you one chance. Leave this place, and never return. If you do not, you will surely die.” The words had a ring of unpleasant things to come.
All but one thug fled for his life, leaving the leader to his lonesome. The man stood his ground, disbelieving the impossibility standing before him.
Annie shrugged. The motion looked peculiar on the massive frame of the dragon, but its meaning was not lost on any in the room.
An arm shot out, lifting the man off his feet in its iron grasp. Annie lifted the man to her face, and said, “I’ve had a bad day. Do you really want to mess with me?”
The man shook his head, and Annie set him gently down. However, the man’s devotion ran deep. He raced over, and grabbed a pistol. He pointed its shaking muzzle at Jorg, and prepared to fire.
He never got the chance.
As soon as Annie saw what the man was going to do, a rumbling sound filled the room, echoing up and down and left and right. She threw her jaws open wide, as crackling black energy filled her jaws. Then she thrust her head forward slightly, and the blast was off. A steady stream of black energy crackled into the nameless thug, turning him inside out with its fury. Then he shriveled up, becoming nothing more than a blackened, inside-out husk.
The shield of energy reappeared around Annie, and, five minutes later, she stood once more in normal form before her parents, trembling with pain and fear.
“IS THAT WHAT I AM NOW!?!?!?” she screamed, then flew into her parents’ waiting arms.
| Topic: Ma'at - Chapter 1|
|Ma'at - Chapter 1 [message #4424]
||Wed, 22 March 2006 20:17
Registered: March 2005
Edited by Amelia R.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Southbound road from Cairo to Inbw-hdj (Memphis)
"On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin' music with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again"
Dan's voice wasn't anything like what it had been even a decade ago. Too many years digging in the desert, and too many long lectures, had turned his voice to a raspy tenor. Not that he'd ever been that good at carrying a tune; his reputation for singing off-key was legendary among his students and field workers.
It was early, and the car's windows were down, but the heat of the Egyptian day was rising rapidly. Despite that, he still enjoyed driving along, music blaring, while he chimed in with far more enthusiasm than ability; not surprisingly, he frequently found himself driving alone.
The road wound its way along the broad, ancient flood plains that bordered the western bank of the Nile. All this area was familiar to him; it should be, after seventy years of expeditions. He'd even been born near his destination. His parents, archaeologists themselves, had been on a dig in 1910 when he had come into the world. A smile crossed his face as he recalled his parents' skillful redirection of an overly enthusiastic excavator, their young toddler, as he got too close to the face of a newly revealed stele.
He'd grown up in the time between the great world wars, and had the quiet security of the university as the Great Depression sapped the economy. The languages he'd learned from his parents and their colleagues -- French, German, Italian, Latin, Arabic, and Egyptian -- had made light work of many university courses. He had had to take Classical Greek, but his rich background in languages made it a joy instead of a burden. He spent extra hours in the library, or in the museum, improving his ability to render accurate sketches of the relics.
He'd finally graduated in the mid-1930s. Again, he was drawn back to the ancient river that was more a home to him than anywhere else in the world; much of the time since had been spent delving into the ancient secrets buried under millennia of silt.
~Gods, this place has changed,~ he thought. ~And yet so much is the same even after thousands of years.~ He sighed. ~No more digs in my future, though.~ His doctor had warned him that his heart wasn't up to the stress of field work; it was time to stay closer to quality medical care and let younger bodies take up the task of unearthing new treasures. He'd nominally retired twenty-five years before, but his reputation had allowed him to continue to organize and lead expeditions even after his accession to 'Professor Emeritus of Egyptology' status at the university.
~I suppose she's right. I don't have the stamina anymore, and that damned twinge in my chest can't be a good sign.~
The melancholy train of thought damped his singing. He drove along and quietly listened to the music from his CD player.
~At least I've left a legacy behind. My students can carry on even when I retire from the field. Perhaps one of them will be able to confirm my theory on the Old Kingdom language.~ The thought cheered him a little as he negotiated the twisty roadway.
The road had just left another village, and rounded a bluff, when another twinge in his chest turned into crushing pain. His vision blurred, and he fought to stop his car before he crashed into another vehicle. His arms were almost too weak to steer, and it took his remaining strength to mash the brake as the machine came to a gentle stop by bumping up against a tree along the roadside.
There was the annoying blare of a car horn, and his vision went from red to white as the world faded away from Doctor Daniel Edward O'Neill.
He coughed as he stirred. The chaos in his mind began to calm as his brain processed the sounds around him. The birdsongs ringing through the air puzzled him. ~Too many birds, and too little traffic for this road.~
The 'wrongness' he felt in his body was dismissed for the moment. ~That was a heart attack, or a hell of a case of angina.~ Struggling to a sitting position, he blinked his eyes open; the blinking quickly turned to a wide-eyed stare of wonder.
The roadway, the car, the tree -- all were gone.
~Where the hell am I?~
The scene before him was weirdly the same, yet not. The shapes of the bluffs, and the transparency of the air just weren't the same. Even the smells were different; the breeze was fresher than he ever recalled.
He started to get to his feet, but sat back down abruptly when he looked down to see where he was placing his feet.
~What the ...? I have TITS?!~
A few moments exploration of his body verified the initial observation; his body was, to the extent he could verify, entirely female. The academician's brain whirled as it tried to grasp what evidence demanded as a conclusion.
~How could this happen?~ He carefully examined what he could of his body without undressing. His hands, arms, legs, and feet had the look of youth -- late teens or early twenties perhaps? Certainly nowhere near his real ninety-seven years. His skin had been sun-browned and leathery; now it was the classic, dusky color of Egyptians, and was almost too smooth, soft, and perfect. His hair, once close-cropped and gray, was now long, black, and glowing with health.
His clothing was odd, certainly different from the tough, lightweight clothing he'd put on that morning. It was more primitive, and far more coarsely woven.
He thought back to ancient legends and myths -- Tiresias came quickly to mind -- as his logical mind tried to unearth a reasonable explanation. ~I don't recall whacking any snakes of late, twined or otherwise.~ The thought brought a quiet chuckle, though as he listened more carefully, the pitch was too high, and it sounded more like a giggle.
~Okay, I don't know where I am. I appear to be a young woman at the moment. I suppose I should call myself Danielle, now.~ She grimaced at a thought. ~I hate being called Danny, and Dani won't be any better.~
Looking around again, she took in her surroundings. The terrain was almost right to be where the car had come to a stop, except there was no road. The sun was still in about the same place, so either the time was the same, or she'd slept a day through. Her stomach still felt as if she'd eaten recently, though; so she'd assume no time had elapsed.
First, she needed to find out where she was and make her way back to the dig. She should be able to convince Dominic or Gunther of her identity. They'd been on enough digs that one or another of the near-blackmail stories they had on each other should overcome their disbelief.
She had no idea how it had happened, but first thing was to get to her friends and coworkers. Once with them, she could harness their brainpower to perhaps discern what to do next.
The small village, not more than seventy people counting men, women, and squalling brats, watched as the band walked in with the alert, purposeful stride of the soldier, or successful bandit.
The procession stopped in the center of the little cluster of dusty, mud-brick houses and one of the men stepped forward and spoke loudly.
"We are here to claim this town for Iti, your rightful queen; you will gather your tribute for us to take."
Every work of man for as far as she could see was utterly absent. The only hint of habitation was a track in the dirt that traveled in approximately the same line as the road had gone.
~No food. No water, other than the river. I'll drink from the river if I must, but food will be a problem before too many days.~
Partway through her hike, she'd finally gotten too thirsty to wait for a village well. The walk to the river's edge took a few minutes, and she sipped carefully from a shallow pit dug a short distance from the broad waters of the Nile.
Her retreat was rather more rapid, as her motions caught the attention of the biggest crocodile she'd EVER seen.
~Whatever else, my new ticker works fine,~ she thought as the rush of adrenalin faded and her heart slowed down again.
The sun had risen to nearly overhead, and Danielle had finally reached a village, but it was smaller than anything she'd seen for years. Perhaps a dozen houses of typical construction, though the fields were laid out strangely. She walked with little concern, arriving just outside the center of the place in time to hear an impossible declaration in a language that had been dead for five thousand years.
By the time she recovered from the brief moment of shock, it was far too late. Several of the men in the center of the gathering were moving swiftly toward her, even as she turned to run.
"STOP HER! She'll be a perfect addition to the tribute!"
Four of the men took off after the fleeing figure, and returned with a fighting, scratching captive who was, by her tone, cursing in at least two languages the leader didn't know.
He watched the guards struggle to hold her. ~A unique prize it seems -- strong and healthy. We'll have to make sure she isn't too spoiled when she arrives.~ He strode up to her and slammed an open palm across her face; her eyes glazed for a second. "You are my captive, and will be taken as part of this village's tribute to Iti. If you cause too much trouble, you will be killed." He placed a hand on the hilt of what had to be a hammered copper short sword.
Dani's head was ringing from the force of the blow. The men weren't much taller than she, but their grip was unbreakable. She was sure that the leader wouldn't hesitate to do precisely as he said; there was little chance of anyone coming to her aid to stop him, either.
His next command was almost enough to make her lash out anyway.
"Let's make sure the merchandise is worth the taking. Strip her."
They'd finally let her dress after an utterly humiliating examination of her *entire* body. Now she trudged along, bound as a captive, to an unknown destination. The academic's brain, subdued in the crisis, came again to the fore as she observed and cataloged the sights along the way.
~If I was still in the same place, we're headed for Inbw-hdj. The sun was just past noon, and we should make it before nightfall at this pace.~
Despite the heat of the sun, she shivered at the prospect of what might lie ahead. ~It was interesting studying this time, but living in the midst of the cruelties is another thing entirely.~
Coughing from the dust kicked up by the men ahead, Dani racked her brain for any tidbit of information on an ancient queen named Iti.
~If I only knew *when* this is.~
"Dear God! The White Walls! Inbw-hdj! Memphis!"
The procession came to a brief halt as Dani caught sight of their destination and stopped. Her whole life had been spent excavating in the area; bearing the heat, thirst, and hard work as she and her fellows sought to wring clues from the pitiful remnants of the ancient capital.
Now she saw it, whole and untouched by time. The white plaster walls of the palace glowed in the light of the sunset, far more beautiful than any reconstruction could have imagined as it perched on its high hill, above the level of the flooding Nile. The mud brick walls of the city enclosed the citadel, and closed out the huddle of small, mean dwellings that clustered along the slopes of the hill.
A sharp tug on the rope binding her hands pulled her once again to current reality. There was an appraising look on the face of the leader of the 'tax collectors' as she stepped out again. He slowed and walked nearby.
"You know of the city, yet you haven't been here to see it?" he asked in that new, yet familiar tongue.
Dani looked up and saw the genuine curiosity in his eyes. She shook her head. "Where I came from, it was only legend. Stories of a great city with a white walled palace." She looked again as the light faded further and the walls shone redly. "I never thought," she almost whispered, "that I'd ever see it this way." Her eyes had gleamed with a hunger that only exploration would sate.
"Don't get your hopes up; this is likely to be the last time you see this side of the walls."
The statement had left her with a chill in the warm evening air. The rope pulled her into motion again as they walked up toward the city gate. The dirt track ran almost randomly through the clusters of houses as it wound its way toward the walls.
Her black hair swirled as she spun her head from side-to-side, frustrated at her inability to see and record everything at once. The realities of ancient Egyptian life were all around, and she focused so hard at committing it all to memory that the appearance of the palace gate startled her. The earlier exuberance she'd felt vanished in the oppressive reality of the gate. It was smaller than some she'd seen in her travels, but this one was real and signaled the new, grim reality.
The reality of being a piece of property.
The cell was small, dirt floored, and dark. She'd been given a little food and water, but after the long march it hardly sufficed; her stomach complained about the lack of nourishment, and the nagging thirst was almost worse. ~I should be grateful, I suppose, that they think me worth keeping alive. Otherwise I'd have been dead at that village. Tomorrow... we'll see what happens.~
A little straw was all the bedding provided, but her fatigue muted the hunger and thirst, and kept her from feeling the impaling ends as she slipped into sleep.
The sound of the door opening startled her to wakefulness. There wasn't the familiar metal-on-metal rattle of a latch or doorknob; here it was the dull thumping of heavy wood. There was only a little light that snuck its way in past the monstrously thick door as it was shoved open to admit... a girl? ... a woman?
The events of the previous day pounded back into her mind -- the heart attack, waking as a woman, being captured, and then bound and taken as a captive to a city she'd known only as buried ruins. The replay took only moments, but Dani realized that she was being spoken to.
"I'm sorry; could you repeat what you just said?"
The girl gave Dani an odd look. "You sound a little odd. I said you are to follow me. You will be prepared for presentation to the queen."
The prisoner's pale face evoked a sympathetic smile. "It isn't so bad. Your current dress and," she sniffed distastefully, "state of cleanliness is unsuitable. You will be bathed and then dressed appropriately. We must make haste as we have only just enough time to prepare."
She was given food and water as she was prepared, but had precious little time to feed herself. There were no clocks, and her watch had disappeared with the car and her old life, but the bars of sunlight gave Danielle the idea that perhaps an hour passed as she was bathed, dried, primped, made up, and dressed.
It was embarrassing.
It might just have been normal fare for the team of women, maids, slaves, whatever that was working Dani over, but -- damn it! -- she'd only been a woman for a day, and it was almost too much to bear. Topping it all off, her body and mind were at odds over just how to react to the physical contact. Her mind (his mind?) was priming itself as if she were still male, but somehow her body wasn't reacting. ~At least, I don't *think* it is. Is it? How do I react now?~
The distraction of the internal debate kept her brain busy as the attendants completed their bathing and drying. Dani noticed that she was markedly taller than the tallest of the women. ~Come to think of it, I was as tall as any of the men, yesterday.~
The cosmetics were minimal, and her hair was combed and brushed to the luster of the previous morning. The head attendant was getting antsy as the last wisps of cloth were draped, pretending to cover the relatively tall, slender body beneath.
After a quick visual inspection, Dani found herself led to what she assumed was the throne room in the palace.
It was just as she'd envisioned with the tall, square pillars holding the roof at least three stories up, with lines of windows below the top to let light in and air to circulate.
And the COLORS! Reds, and whites, and -- the archaeologist was muttering a running translation of the hieroglyphics that covered portions of the walls. The attendants gave her looks that she ignored as her head twisted from side to side.
~Dominic would KILL for a picture of these!~
"Are you a scribe? Can you write as well as read?"
The interruption derailed Dani's train of thought, bringing her back to the room where her future, unwilling as it was, would be decided. ~Dominic will never know. Gunter, Abby, ...~ The utter loss of everyone, and everything she cared for swelled for a moment, and her eyes welled with tears. The young woman who'd asked the question put a hand on her arm.
"If you can read and write, you will likely be taken into the queen's service. It isn't so hard, even though we all miss our families." The sympathy in the small woman's face quelled the tears for the moment. "We're housed and fed well, and guarded from those that would abuse us." She cast a significant look at the man who'd led the team that captured Dani.
~Great. I must have caught him on a *good* day.~
The throne room was just off the central courtyard and fairly modest in comparison to its twenty-first century counterparts. For this time, it must seem splendid beyond measure.
At the other end of the room were two chairs on a platform. A woman and a young child occupied the thrones and were dressed in cool, white clothing. The child wore a hat, or crown, that Dani recognized immediately as the combined red and white crowns of upper and lower Egypt. She followed her guide as she continued to examine the child Pharaoh.
~There weren't that many children who were pharaohs during the Old Kingdom. Who's the lady, I wonder? Iti, perhaps?~
Dani stopped when her guide came to a halt at a point perhaps ten meters from the thrones. There was a slight, but perceptible lag between the young woman's prostration and Dani's reluctant emulation.
"Great Pharaoh, I bring you the remainder of the tribute. She is strong, healthy, and inviolate. She also seems to be a scribe."
The child, perhaps five or six years old, kicked his feet in boredom. The woman at his side stood and addressed the newcomer.
"Is this true? Are you able to read and write? What tongues do you know?"
~More languages than *you'll* ever find out about, lady.~ The surge of defiance ebbed quickly. Egyptian royalty held an absolute power of life and death. "I know how to speak this tongue as well as how to write, though this is not the language of my homeland."
"You may rise, and approach the throne."
Dani and her guide stood again and closed the remaining distance to the platform.
"I am the Queen Regent, Iti. I stand as guardian for my son Djer until he reaches an age to take up the full burden of his throne. I also hold the power of judgment in his place, and I will deal harshly with those who try to lie to us. You claim to be literate; if that is true, you should have no problem reading the story on that panel." She pointed toward the same wall Dani had been reading as she walked in.
The young woman smiled as she quickly scanned the hieroglyphics. She knew, now, when she was and who she was standing before. Djer and his mother lived approximately 3016 B.C.E. ~More than five thousand years in my past! No wonder the place is so empty.~
"The story, Your Majesty, is of Horus Narmer and his battle to unite the kingdom." She went on to relate the tale of his finally claiming the two crowns for himself.
"Enough for now." There was a ghost of a smile on the queen's face. "You not only read, but have some skill as a storyteller. We accept this one into our service as complete payment of the tribute. The rest shall be returned to the village that provided her as her skills make her very valuable. What is your name?"
No-one noticed the anger on the face of Snefru, who had led the collection party and siphoned off his 'commission' already.
"My name is Dani, Your Majesty."
"Dani? That is a strange name, and I suspect there is a story there worth hearing. You will follow your guide, Iri. She will begin your instruction in your duties here and show you to your quarters. I will call you again and hear your story."
Iri led the way from the throne room to the women's quarters, where Dani was introduced to the small horde of females who served in the palace.
The next few weeks were a disorienting introduction to a mind-bogglingly primitive society. It was one thing to study ancient societies in the abstract; it was quite another to have to live in the reality of a city with no concept of sanitary sewers. The odors at times were almost unbearable.
The introduction to life as a woman was equally abrupt, but Iri was a patient teacher. Dani's story of being a visitor from a distant land gave her leeway, as her Egyptian peers expected little from the distant, barbarian lands.
It was vaguely disturbing to Dani that the abrupt change in gender was so easy to manage. After ninety-seven years as a man, she had expected it to be hard to adjust, even with the youth she now enjoyed. ~It's as if I found a set of clothing that fits me more perfectly than any I've worn before. Or that my whole life had been twisted out of shape before, and only now has been freed to what it should have been all along.~ The thoughts caused her to shake her head in confusion.
She quickly mastered the palace customs of bathing -- even with the small crowd of other women -- and the small amount of make-up demanded was far less of a challenge to learn than were the protocols of the palace. Not to mention the difficulty in coping with the aggressive arrogance of her original captor, whose name she now knew to be Snefru.
His reputation among the women of the staff made him sought after by the sexually active, and avoided by those put off by his arrogance. He was good in bed, but unfortunately he knew it and wanted everyone else to know, too. Dani quickly picked up on the man's attitude that women had no place running things.
~Dear heaven! I slip five millennia into the past and run into the Taliban!~
Her introduction to the joys of menstruation was mildly crampy, and quite messy, but she'd expected it and accepted it as an unavoidable aspect of her new existence. She'd noticed that most of the other women seemed to have their periods at about the same time, and took care to note how such things were handled.
It had taken only a few days from their first introduction for Iti to call Dani into her private chambers. The atmosphere was much more relaxed, though the queen still had a distinctly reserved air about her. Djer, on the other hand, was a typical child with all the energy and inquisitiveness of his age when unconstrained by the oppressive hands of adults.
"Sit, child," the older looking woman began. "There is some time for you to tell us of yourself. You obviously came from another land, though you have the appearance of any of our subjects other than your height. I have heard you speaking to yourself in a language I have never heard before. Tell us of yourself, your land, and how you came to our kingdom."
The transformed woman took a moment to gather her thoughts. The truth would be incomprehensible to these people, but perhaps she could filter it sufficiently to make it understandable without making it an outright lie.
"Your Majesties, I come from a land far to the west. I was the child of scholars, and became a scholar myself as I grew. My parents studied other lands, Egypt in particular, and I made my choice to study as my parents had. I had come to this land, and was on my way to this city, when I was found by your tax collectors and brought here."
The queen frowned slightly; hospitality to travelers was a given in the kingdom. The trade and news they brought was far more valuable than their utility as slaves. "As a traveler, you have the right to appeal for your release. Your treatment was unjust and against our law."
Dani chewed her lip in thought. "What would happen to the village where I was taken?"
"They would be punished for their actions, and required to provide their just tribute."
"Your majesties, my treatment was none of their doing. It would be unjust in my mind for them to be punished for something they had no part in."
"Then what is your suggestion?"
"I was coming here to study when I was taken prisoner. You have given me a safe place to stay and food to eat." She paused and then plunged ahead, "I came to study this place. I am willing to remain in your service as a scribe for a period of seven years as just compensation for the tribute owed; I ask only that you will permit me time to study this city and palace during that time, so long as my studies do not interfere with the duties you assign."
The Regent focused her intense gaze on the young woman before her. "Dani, we accept your offer. Your service to us will be full payment for that village's tribute."
The child piped up, "Will you tell me stories of your land?"
Iti sighed as mothers had since the dawn of humanity. "Djer, you are Pharaoh. You must remember to act as your responsibilities demand. "
"But you said when we are in here...."
Dani took pity on the exasperated mother. "Your majesties, I would be honored to share stories of my homeland. I am at your command."
Iti's royal demeanor didn't quite slip, though the gratitude in her look was clear. The formality of Dani's speech reminded the child that there was an outsider in their quarters, and that he needed to act almost as formally as in the rest of the palace.
He spoke up again, but far more formally. "We would like to hear a story now. Mother, have refreshment brought that we may not be interrupted."
The women exchanged a smile at the child-king's attempt to act properly.
"If I may begin?" Dani asked. At the nod of the Queen Regent, she began.
"This story is from the very early days of my homeland, and the first man who led us, whose name was George. He is revered even to this day as someone whom we should all want to emulate. He was tall, and strong, and brave in battle. Yet while we respect him for all that, we revere him for his honesty and justice.
"There is a story from his childhood where he took a small axe and cut down a fruit tree that his father prized. His father asked him if he knew who had cut down the prized tree. George replied: 'I cannot tell a lie; I cut down your tree.'"
Djer gasped. "How badly was he punished?"
"He was not punished at all that the stories tell, as George's father prized honesty and justice. He wanted his son to do what was right and just above all, and he was willing to give up a favorite tree to teach him that lesson."
The story was interrupted briefly by one of the servants bringing refreshments. She took the time to translate the next part of the story she wanted to tell. A few sips of her drink refreshed the scholar, and she continued. "Later, after George led my people and freed us from invaders, some of his trusted servants wanted him to take land that was not ours. George faced them with courage, and led them back to the path of right."
"He was not perfect; his anger could be fierce as a fire, and he struggled with it all his life, but his good deeds far outweighed the wrongs he committed. Our people have set aside a day each year to celebrate him and his life."
"He is worshipped as a god?" asked the child, as his mother looked on with a calculating look at the scribe.
"That is not our way. We worship our god, but not our leaders; they would reject people saying that about them."
Another question was forestalled by the young Pharaoh's tutor appearing for the next set of lessons. He reluctantly left their quarters for the next round of agonizing boredom.
"There is much you left unsaid in your tale, Dani." Iti gave the scholar a steady look as she waited for a response.
"Your majesty, you are wise and insightful. There was indeed much that I left out, and some that I told in a way that the Pharaoh would understand. My homeland is so different from here that you would think it another world. We are not perfect, and have our good and bad men, too." The young looking woman gazed across the chasm of time and space separating her from her home. "It is my home, but it is beyond my ability to return. Only the gods can get me home, now." The grief and loss washed over her again as she thought of her friends and students.
Dani had settled in after a surprisingly long and stressful day, but the settling of her status was worth it. She was an indentured servant, but the little village was safe, and there was an end to her servitude in sight.
She curled up on her mat and dropped quickly off to sleep. It seemed only moments, though, before her mind told her she was awake again.
~I must be dreaming; I have to be.~
She was back in her time, in the campus building that held the office she'd been assigned, but alone. She was also still female, or so said the gentle bounce of her breasts.
She found herself walking up to the Dean's office, aware of her actions, yet unable to control them. She had entered, and gasped as she saw what seemed to be her twin sitting at the large desk with a calm smile. The only difference was the crown worn by the woman at the desk that was topped by a huge feather. The crown and feather were unique in Egyptian mythology -- the woman could only be Ma'at.
Dani's mind retrieved the information she'd learned on the goddess. ~Ma'at was the goddess of the physical and moral law of Egypt, of order and truth. She was said to be the wife of Thoth and had eight children with him. The most important of her children was Amon. These eight were the chief gods of Hermopolis and according to the priests there, they created the earth and all that is in it. It was when the world was created and chaos was eliminated that the principles of Ma'at were set in place. The Egyptians believed that if the pharaoh ever failed to live by and maintain ma'at that chaos would return to Egypt and the world and all would be destroyed. Thus, the pharoahs of Egypt saw it as their cosmic role to uphold the principles of Ma'at, and it was due to Ma'at that the pharaohs had the authority to rule the land. She sounded like the keystone to their whole social order.~
Dani bolted awake, her heart slowly calming, as she worried at the meaning of the dream. ~What does Ma'at have to do with all this? And how? It's far too early for her to appear in this society.~
Dani was indulging again. She'd quickly inhaled the noon meal and was studying the glyphs in an alcove off the throne room. They related a story about the Scorpion King that was not-so-subtly different from the patchwork that had survived to Daniel's time. She was perhaps halfway through, and had only half an ear tuned to the main room. The queen was sitting with her counselors, her son by her side, as they considered some situation arising in upper Egypt. The usual quiet murmur of voices set a backdrop for the meeting as men and women bustled in and out on their appointed tasks.
Dani had developed a reputation as an odd one; her proclivity for breaking out into quiet tirades in languages unknown to anyone in the palace as she studied the stories on the walls no longer drew more than an amused smile and head shake from the staff. She finished her reading for the day, and returned to her place in the throne room.
She had become a favorite visitor to the Pharaoh's quarters as well, as the child was fascinated by stories from Dani's strange and wonderful homeland.
Dani had told a story of another man from her land's early days, a 'Davy Crockett', whose skill as a hunter was legend. "He was born far from our cities, and lived his early life where he had to hunt to feed his family. He was such a good hunter, and so precise with his bow, that even the animals knew him. Just his grin was enough to capture his prey. One day he was out hunting, and he used his grin on a small bear in a tree. The bear was so afraid that it climbed out of its tree and gave up."
The image caused Djer to giggle, and Iti smiled at the absurd image.
The scholar's smile dimmed a little as she continued her story. "He was a man of integrity, too. The leader of my land decided to take land that was not ours, and Davy stood up in our capital and told our leader that it was wrong to take what we had said was not ours and break our oath. Davy did not succeed, and lost his place in our government. He returned to his farm, but he retained his integrity despite the price he paid. He retains his honor, even though he is long dead."
Iti, too, was intrigued by the filtered stories of that place. She was puzzled though by even the outlook of the rulers of that strange place as Dani spoke of how her land tried to keep peace between itself and its neighbors.
"So you bind others to you by trade? What do you do when another land sends an army to take what you have?"
"My homeland is large and strong, majesty. There is food to spare, and very few go truly hungry. When we are attacked, all our people rise up to defend our homeland. Our attacker may be a great wild bull, and that bull may be able to defeat a single lion, but my people are like a pride of lions that are able to defeat even the strongest bull."
~Such a strange, strange place it must be,~ thought the baffled queen.
They were continuing their quiet discussion as they waited for the arrival of the next delegation, but the peace of the throne room was broken by the clatter of metal on metal. Cries of anger and pain rang from the palace gate, and one of the guards ran up.
"Your majesties, we are betrayed by Snefru and his men. They have taken the gate."
Iti's face grew stern as her son looked confused. "Have you signaled the city guard?"
"Yes, majesty, but the betrayers are almost through the doorway to this room."
Iti stood and drew herself up to her full height, and Dani, too, stood as she took her position to the woman's left and slightly behind. "Let them in."
The guard's face blanked in shock. "But...."
The Queen Regent stood proudly, but gave the man a kind look. "I am not much of a Regent if I cannot control my own troops. Let them in."
A few minutes later Snefru stood just at the foot of the steps as his troops took position around the perimeter of the room.
Iti gazed with barely veiled contempt on the mutineer. "You have attacked the palace and offered harm to Pharaoh. Explain yourself, Snefru."
The man's face twisted in anger and contempt. "It is bad enough that Pharaoh is ruled by a woman, but now he is being corrupted by the bizarre stories of this pathetic foreigner as well.
"I will raise the Pharaoh, and teach him the ways of men. This foreigner will be put in her proper place again as a slave, and her tongue cut out to keep her from corrupting anyone else. Take those two and put them in the prison!"
Several of his men moved in and grabbed hold of Dani and Iti. Djer leapt to his mother's defense.
"Leave her alone!" The young king charged the nearest man holding his mother.
A guard idly swatted the child away with the back of a hand, sending the crown skittering across the platform until if fell off the edge and clattered on the floor. As the youngster fell, Dani felt something swelling within her. Her vision faded for a moment, then snapped back with inhuman clarity as she heard her voice speak.
"You have raised your hand to Pharaoh, Snefru! You have chosen to bring disorder and injustice to the land."
A glow rose from the foreigner's body, lighting the throne room with brilliance like the noonday sun. The guards found themselves flying across the room, coming to an abrupt halt as they collided with pillar or wall.
Snefru paled at the glowing form, unable to move or speak as she swung her gaze in his direction.
"If you want disorder, then disorder you shall have! I am Ma'at, the goddess of Truth, Justice, Balance, and Order!" She waved an arm, and the attacker's weapons fell to dust. "Disorder robs you of your weapons, and your helpers." The fearful groaning of the men who'd attacked turned for a moment to shrieks; the shrieks had hardly died out before they were replaced by the mindless babble of infants.
"Your rightful Pharaoh appointed Iti as Regent." Dani's body seemed to float to floor level as she approached the frozen mutineer. "You rejected his decision, and show contempt for the order that preserves this land and the world. You find women worthy only as servants and slaves; you will learn their real worth."
She waved her hand, and a brilliant flash concealed the spot where the man had stood. When it faded, and the vision of those around recovered, where Snefru had been there now stood a young woman just on the cusp of puberty.
"You will remember what you were as you learn the true worth of the women you scorned so casually. And you shall receive far more mercy and kindness than you were prepared to mete out."
The glow faded, and Dani felt her body come back under her control again. She heard the Queen Regent command Snefru be taken to the servant's quarters, and the infants be cared for, as the young woman's consciousness faded.
As her mind flickered, she felt a calm, comforting presence tell her, "Be at peace, daughter. Rest now and I will explain when you awake."
Dani struggled a little as she awoke. She found she was lying on a mat that was somewhat softer than the one she occupied in the servant's quarters. Iri was sitting on the edge of the mattress.
"Shhh, my friend. You are in the Queen's quarters, and have been since you collapsed. How do you feel?"
"Tired, Iri, but fine other than that." She swung her legs off the edge of the mattress and stood, though unsteadily. "Are the Queen and Pharaoh safe? What about the men who attacked?"
Iri reached out a hand to brace her taller friend. "The queen and her son are well, and waiting for you to join them in the outer chamber. The attackers have been dispersed to families, other than Snefru. She is being trained in her new duties. Come, Pharaoh is waiting for you."
The two made their way out to where the Queen Regent and her son waited. Iti stood and waved her son to join her.
"Dani, you saved our throne and our lives. The debt we owe cannot be repaid. You are freed from your service obligation, and whatever we have is yours."
The tall scholar shook her head. "It wasn't me. Whatever happened, I was just a spectator."
As suddenly as before, Dani felt that strange pressure build. Those in the room saw a muted glow this time, but there seemed to be a crown with a large ostrich feather on her head.
"Well said, child," Dani heard her voice speak again. "Queen Regent, and Pharaoh Djer, I am Ma'at, and this woman is my chosen avatar. She was sent to teach you the way of justice and right, to set your feet on the path of Ma'at. She has other duties to perform for me, but you will do well to remember the stories she told. Teach them to your children, that your line may prosper.
"Dani is to go to my temple, and she will be told what her path is to be there."
The king spoke up, quietly and with fear in his voice. "Goddess, may she come back and share more stories?"
The glow faded, and Dani was again in control. She smiled at the young man and his mother, though the sadness in her eyes was clear. "I must be at the temple this evening, but Ma'at says that until the time comes for me to leave the city, I may return here with more stories when I have no other responsibilities."
She grinned a little. "In fact, I have a short story to tell you right now. Years ago, my homeland was attacked, and the general in a distant part of our country was leading his troops in defense of the area. Our enemy was too strong at the time and our leader wanted the general to leave, so he could build a new army and lead it. He protested, not wanting to abandon his men, but at last her obeyed.
"As he prepared to leave, he turned to the men he was leaving and told them 'I shall return.' After he left, his men fought hard before they were defeated. The general kept his promise, though it took over three years before he led his new army to final victory. He did return, as he'd promised.
"As long as I'm still in the city, and as long as I'm welcome and have time, I shall return with my stories for you. For now, with your permission, I should go and gather my belongings."
The remainder of the day blurred a little, as the reappearance of Ma'at seemed to have sapped the scholar's energy, though not as much as before. Dani had felt a sense of loss as she collected her meager belongings from the servant's quarters; despite the situation, the women had accepted her and made her feel welcome. She wept gently as she embraced Iri, who was also crying at the impending departure. The woman had started out as Dani's guide and had become a dear friend.
The little king struggled to contain his emotions, too, as Dani took her formal leave in the throne room. The child had been far less dignified earlier; he had thrown his arms around the tall woman and hugged her as strongly as his size allowed.
His mother was far more controlled, but her voice carried the full weight of her gratitude. "Dani, you are welcome here as often as your duties to your Goddess permit. It would be good to hear more of your stories."
Dani stepped back from the platform, bowing in respect rather than prostrating herself.
"I will return when I am able, your majesties. I still have much of the palace to study, and would be happy to share more stories of my home."
She walked along the disorderly streets of the city, guided only by an internal sense of where to go. Despite the opportunity to study the living society she'd worked to unearth, her thoughts were locked in more personal channels -- Why was she chosen? Why was she even a she? What now? And would she ever have a chance to go home?
A quiet voice inside her head spoke up as she continued on her way. ~Be at peace, daughter. I am here to answer some of your questions. You don't need to speak aloud, as I hear your thoughts.~
Ma'at's voice continued, ~I will start by answering your first two questions, as they are related. When you died from your heart attack, I chose you to serve as my avatar. You know, and love, my children who live here, and you had great knowledge of, and respect for, their ancient culture.
~You look as you do because your soul is that of a woman. You were blessed that your heart was strong enough, and your family kind enough, to allow you to thrive despite your soul and body being mismatched. There are many others far less fortunate.~
A picture flashed in Dani's mind of a tall, pale, red haired woman. ~Is that...?~
~Yes, daughter. Were your soul and body to match, that would be how you would look. That appearance would keep you from being able to fit in this place at this time. My children are not yet ready to accept strangers, and they need to accept you as one of their own.~
~That explains why I feel so comfortable in my body, I suppose.~ She stopped for a moment and looked around the dirty, dusty street. ~What now? What am I supposed to do as your avatar?~
There was a hint of a chuckle in the mental voice. ~Patience, Dani. First, go to my temple; the high priestess is waiting for you. Take the time to rest, and tomorrow you will find out more of your path.~
"Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely."
- Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale
| Topic: Quetzal, pt 1|
|Quetzal, pt 1 [message #4422]
||Wed, 22 March 2006 13:21
Registered: March 2006
Location: Behind you!
Well, figured I'd throw this up here too. I have 6 perspective characters, as well as a list of non-prespecs I made up that I'll use pretty heavily. I'm nothing if not prolific. |
Only Arianrhod of them is TG, so if that's all you're interested in - fair warning. Also note that Quetzal's pt1 is WAY shorter than Arianrhod - as in one post long.
Many centuries ago…
Quetzalcoatl screamed in rage. “What is your business here, interrupting me when I’m working. I’ll see your heart sent to the gods for this intrusion!” he cried, in an ancient Aztec language.
“You will see no one’s heart sent to the gods, ever again!” his enemy, Tezcatlipoca cried.
“Ah, so you think your powers are strong enough now to challenge mine, do you? You have been growing your power for many years, it is true, however, you forget that I am High Priest, with all the duties, and, more importantly, powers, befitting that role! I shall incinerate you where you stand!”
“I think not. This ends today, my old nemesis. How many times have you blocked my ascent, just for your own personal reasons? You will never get in my way again. Today, I claim victory, and the High Priesthood that rightfully should have been mine!”
“Chsaa!” Tezcatlipoca sent a bolt of energy flying at Quetzalcoatl. Queztalcoatl blocked the blast with ease, and then responded with a laser-like beam of light. Tezcatlipoca formed a shield in front of him…a mirror! Quetzalcoatl realized too late.
There, in that mirror, Quetzalcoatl saw his own demise, as Tezcatlipoca finished casting a spell on it. He then growled, and sent the blast flying back at Quetzalcoatl.
Quetzalcoatl tried to block it, but instead ended up being sucked into it! Tezcatlipoca chuckled, walked over, and picked up the energy ball that now contained Quetzalcoatl’s essence. “Now, then, to finish Quetzalcoatl’s disappearing act.”
He went out to the streets, and caught a street urchin picking pockets. He pulled the boy aside, back into an alley. “Are you going to take me and sacrifice me to the gods?” the boy asked nervously.
“Not at all, my little friend. I have a much higher task for you. Here, I want you to have this.” Tezcatlipoca gave the child the ball of energy. As soon as the urchin touched it, it absorbed into his skin.
“I broke it!” the child wailed.
“Not at all,” Tezcatlipoca soothed. “That is what it was supposed to do. Don’t worry, it will never trouble you again. If anything, you may receive some slight gifts from it, like second sight, perhaps.”
“Really? Cool!” the boy proclaimed.
“Now go out and enjoy yourself, it is a beautiful day!” Tezcatlipoca told him.
“I sure will! Thanks mister!” the boy called over his shoulder, as he receded into the crowds.
Later that day, Tezcatlipoca was proclaimed the new High Priest.
“AH MAN!” I shouted in frustration. I looked out over my family’s plantation, in Lican Nueve, Mexico, and saw rain. Everywhere I looked I saw rain. Now, ordinarily that wouldn’t have been a bad thing…crops need water, after all. However, today was a special day. It was July 23rd, and it was my 16th birthday! My family and I had laid extensive plans for today, most of which involved outdoor activities, and here it was, pouring rain! Could this day get any worse?
I got angrily out of bed, got dressed, and stormed downstairs.
“Morning, sweetie,” Mom greeted me. “Err, maybe I shouldn’t call you that, since you’re sixteen now?” she noted, seeing the look on my face.
“It’s not that. Have you seen what it’s doing out there?”
“Yep. I do believe it’s raining. Here, have a seat. Your father and siblings should be down soon, and then we can lay some new plans for today. I don’t think that our previous plans will work any more!”
I grunted in reply. We had been planning to go out to our private island, which lies just off the coast, and have a big party. But no, it had to rain!
Dad came charging down the stairs, and demanded, “Have you seen what it’s doing out there!” He was actually snarling.
“Yes dear, Antonio and I have already been over it.”
I waved weakly at Dad.
“Meh,” was all he could say.
“Why don’t you go get Maria and Jose up?”
“Yeah, I’ll do that.”
“And dear,” Mom began.
“Yes?” came the reply.
“Don’t take the weather out on them.”
“Oh all right,” he grumbled, then continued up the stairs.
We heard some crashing noises a few minutes later, and a few minutes further after that, Jose, Maria, and Dad all came trundling down the stairs.
I stood up, and said, “Before we get started on anything else, let’s all get this out of our systems.” I looked at Mom and winked.
“3-2-1,” I counted. “Have you seen what the weather’s doing!” we all shouted in unison, then collapsed laughing.
Then we all sat down and had breakfast. Since it was my birthday, I got to pick what we had. I decided after much deliberation on having Mom cook an omelet, while Dad made some smoked ham. Jose, Maria, and I all took care of everything else, like bread, coffee, and so forth. All in all, it was a right good feast.
Dad looked hurt when I told him Mom was making the omelet. You see, my Dad has a thing about omelets. He thinks that anything goes when making one. So in addition to the eggs, milk, butter, and so forth that belong, he will throw in whatever else he can think of. I distinctly remember one day where we ended up with pizza flavored omelet.
In all fairness to Dad, sometimes his creations are quite tasty. Most of the time however, they end up getting thrown out (usually while Dad isn’t looking).
In addition, there was soup leftover from last night’s supper in the fridge, and I was sure that if Dad made the omelet, it would end up in there, somehow.
Maria tried to help out Mom, but she couldn’t really get much done. Maria is the youngest of our little family, at seven. More than anything, she learns from Mom, rather than helps her. One day, if she lives up to our mother, she’ll be a magnificent cook.
Meanwhile Jose had fun slicing bread. Jose is my younger brother, at thirteen. He is also a demon when it comes to knives. He’s a big help at harvest time…just put a machete in his hands and watch him go! Once he matures a bit, Dad is planning on grooming him to take over the plantation one day.
As for me, I’m tall and handsome, if I say so myself. I hadn’t really decided yet what to do with my life. I was in that stage where it seemed I had a new passion every day. My latest was archaeology. Mexico is a good place for archaeology, with the Toltecs and Aztecs and Mayans and so forth. I had even found a few minor artifacts on our plantation; they are displayed proudly in my room.
Finally we actually started to eat. Eating was a big thing with the five of us. We could eat for hours, but we always worked it off in the fields later. As a result of that, we were all quite strong and very tanned.
After I finished my ham and was about to dig into my eggs, a wave of nausea hit. Cramps in my shoulders and a sudden pain in my eyes and scalp followed shortly thereafter.
I didn’t know what had happened…maybe I got food poisoning? But that doesn’t happen this fast. From over the table Mom asked if I was okay.
I just mumbled an answer and stumbled upstairs. I really didn’t feel well. My back and shoulders felt like they were crawling, while my pains just hurt. Every hair on my head felt like it was on fire, and my whole body was tense as a rod.
Finally, after about ten minutes of this agony, it left me as quickly as it had come. I stumbled around a bit, then opened my eyes.
What greeted me was a vibrant world, more filled with color than that which I had known previously. I could see details and fluctuations in color that I had never noticed before. I threw a glance out my window and saw that the rain had stopped as well. What a sight I saw.
A rainbow stretched clear across the horizon, but what was truly amazing was the color of it. It was so vibrant and lush and beautiful, and a thousand other adjectives that sprung to my mind. To my eyes it was an explosion of color.
Glad to be freed from the pain that had wracked me earlier, I strode down the hall, planning on rejoining the family and assuring them I was fine. I had a suspicion I that I had mutated somehow, but since the only thing I could notice as being different was an increased perception of color, I wasn’t too concerned.
That all changed when I walked by the mirror in the hallway. I only caught a glance of myself, but it was enough to bring me up short.
First of all, my hair was now as many colors and as vibrant as that rainbow. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my eyes were moving. I don’t mean like scanning things, I mean like the pupils were swirling. They, too, were all the colors of the rainbow.
Luckily, I only saw one more change. It was a warm day, almost 80 degrees and humid. As such, the males of the house usually walked around topless. Since we were all ripped from working in the fields, that wasn’t a problem. Only thing was, now my back and shoulders were covered in…feathers. Just like my hair and eyes, they were all colors. As I resumed my journey downstairs, it occurred to me that this promised to be very interesting.
As I touched down in the kitchen, and walked back out to the dining room, only my Dad was looking at me. When he couldn’t stop staring, Mom looked, followed by Jose and Maria. They all watched me as I crossed the last of the distance and sat down.
“So, it finally happened,” Dad broke the ice.
“What? What are you talking about? I figured I just had a mutation awaken this morning, but there’s no way to predict these things.”
Mom and Dad just looked uncomfortable.
“Is there?” I demanded more imperiously.
“Jose, Maria, go upstairs please,” Mom said.
“But Mooooooooooom,” they whined together.
“NOW!” Dad thundered. Dad’s a pretty easy going guy, but you don’t want him upset at you.
“Oh all right,” they grumbled.
Once they were safely upstairs, I exploded.
“YOU KNEW??? YOU KNEW I WOULD BE A FREAK???”
Mom and Dad just nodded their heads. “Calm down and let us explain,” Dad said quietly.
I sat, and he started talking.
“When you were born, we took you to a geneticist, to find out if you had the potential to become a mutant. We did the same for Jose and Maria, by the way. Anyway, the geneticist said that you would probably become a mutant, with magical powers as well. Legend from my side of the family says that one of my distant ancestors was a powerful magician. Nothing is known about your Mom’s side. However, the geneticist said you would probably be a mutant, with the capability to learn magic. Jose and Maria were both completely normal, interestingly. It was just you.
“We knew this day would probably come, but we had hoped against it.” Dad saw the look on my face and hurried to say, “Not that we think you are a freak or anything like that. Know first and foremost that we will always be here to support you, as will your siblings. It’s just that you now have a lot of things to think about and deal with. You will experience a lot of prejudice, and you will also have to learn about your powers and how to control them.
“Since we knew this was a probability, we did some research a while back, and found out about a school in the states, called Whateley. It’s for mutants and others with special abilities. Kind of a sanctuary, where they can go and learn about their powers and themselves, in addition to regular classes. How would you like to go there this year?”
I was stunned and speechless. What could I say? I had just found out that not only had my parents and family known I would probably be a mutant for many years, but also that somewhere back in the family tree was a powerful magician. And then Whateley. I knew nothing about it, but I did know that if I stayed around home, eventually I would get in trouble with prejudice, and my family would probably pay for it as well, and I didn’t want that.
“Happy birthday to me, eh guys?” I said, in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Mom replied. “On the plus side, since it stopped raining, we can go out to our island now. You don’t have to think about this at all the rest of the day.” Then she gave me a look. “But you will anyway, won’t you?”
I just nodded my head dismally.
“Well, let’s go try to enjoy ourselves at least.” She walked over to the stairs and told Jose and Maria they could come down now, while I sat there with my head spinning.
We had packed what we would want into our yacht the previous day, so all we had to do was pile in and set sail.
It was a really beautiful day, now that the rain had cleared out. The sky was a bright blue, as was the water. Our yacht knifed through the water, and in no time we were at our island. We didn’t have a name for it…it was just our island.
Dad had bought it several years ago as a gift to Mom, but we all enjoyed it equally. It wasn’t very big…scarcely more than an atoll. But it was a perfect retreat, with only one place for people to land, in a bay. The rest of the island was surrounded by reefs and cliffs.
Once we docked, we each split off to ourselves for a while. I didn’t really care what the others were doing…I had a lot to think about. I went up into the island’s interior, and sat on top of a hill. Sitting on that hill is probably one of my favorite things to do. It’s so peaceful, and quiet, and there is a hell of a view from up there.
After a while, a bird came hopping up to me. I had been sitting so still it must not have known I was there. I’m sure my newly-generated plumage didn’t hurt matters. At any rate, it hopped up to me, and I just stared at it, as if it were the bane of my existence. What can I say, I was having a bad day.
However, this led me to discover one of my powers. I inadvertently hypnotized it. It was the funniest thing. The thought had crossed my mind how funny it would be for this bird to act like a monkey, you know, how the magicians do? Well, the next thing I knew, the darn bird starting acting like a monkey. I experimented a bit more, and found I could get it to do anything I wanted it to.
Delighted, I made the bird fly up on my shoulder, and went down to the beach to find everyone else. Sure enough, they were there already, debating whether they should go and find me or not. Apparently they had decided it was time to start the party.
So I had my bird do some tricks. They couldn’t believe it at first, but were very impressed when they finally did. Then Mom raised a very interesting point.
“Can you free it?”
I replied that I didn’t know, and promptly began focusing again. It took me a while, but I finally figured out the secret. I had to think of how I hypnotized it in the first place, and then think what the next thing was that the bird would have done if I hadn’t hypnotized it.
The bird came to its sense a few seconds later, uttered a squawk of surprise, and promptly flew away.
Then another thought crossed my mind. I went over and asked Jose to stare me in the eye. He looked nervous, but with a nod from Mom he went ahead. I stared back first with no intention of hypnotizing him, and then tried to implant a notion in his head.
I looked at Mom and shook my head. Then I stared at him again, this time with the intention to hypnotize him. Then I tried to implant the same notion.
The next thing I knew, he was walking to the plane. I stood up, and threw a grin at my parents and Maria. This was going to be funny.
He emerged several minutes later wearing one of Maria’s bikinis. Mom, Dad, and I started howling with laughter, and while Maria didn’t think it was funny at first, finally she started laughing too. I think that she was worried about the safety of her bikini.
Finally I got myself under control, and told them, “The best is yet to come!”
I did the one thing that would have embarrassed him more than anything else: I released him.
He looked at us standing there laughing, and then it must have occurred to him that he didn’t feel quite right. Then he looked down at himself, shrieked, and ran back into the plane. The whole while we’re all standing on the beach cackling our heads off.
When he came back out, face beet red with embarrassment, I turned my attention to Maria. Once she was under my control, I made her start chasing Jose around the beach. Well, specifically, I had her creep up behind Jose and pinch him in the butt. The he ran around the beach, trying to avoid her grasping fingers.
Finally she caught him, and I had her kiss his butt, and just that second I released her. You should have seen the look on her face. Lord, I wish I had a camera with me. She looked like she was about ready to throw up.
I looked over at my parents and grinned wickedly. I was starting to forget my problems of earlier. Heck, I was even starting to forget how bizarre my feathered shoulders felt under my t-shirt. This was just too much fun.
As soon as my parents were under my control, I thought about what I should have them do. Finally, since they had laughed so hard at my brother and sister’s plight, I decided it was only fair that they should decide what I make the parents do.
Jose decided that Dad should be a dog, and Maria decided that Mom act like a muscleman. That wasn’t anywhere near as creative as what I had come up with for them, but it worked well enough. Although slightly cliched, it was still tremendously funny.
Needless to say, when they came to, they didn’t think it was very funny. However, they were good sports about it…since they had laughed at Jose and Maria it was only right that Jose and Maria should laugh at them.
By the time we were done having fun with hypnosis, it was past noon, and we were hungry. We decided we had better eat before partying, and that is exactly what we did. We had sandwiches to start, and then birthday cake for desert. Then we partied.
We danced, we played games, we chased each other around the beach, I messed around with their minds a little bit more, and all in all we had a great time. Suppertime came and went, and then it was time for presents.
I got decent stuff from Jose and Maria, mostly stuff I had asked for, like CDs, clothes, and so forth. Mom and Dad got me two truly marvelous gifts, however.
The first was full financial backing for me to go to Whateley, starting this year, and it included a $150 a month allowance. Score! They hadn’t thought that they would need it this year, but since I had mutated, it was needed. Apparently they had planned for it long ago, or something. It was still a little touchy of a subject with me, so I let it slide.
The second was their regularly scheduled gift. It was a very well crafted blowgun, complete with dart set. They said that they had it made as a custom gift, by a local craftsman. They warned me to be careful with it, but to enjoy myself.
It was a really neat thing. It came apart in two halves, so that I could store it nearly anywhere, including pockets, but I could easily put it together in seconds. Dad said that in year past they used to be almost as common as pocketknives, but that they were declining in popularity.
I spent about a half-hour back in the woods, practicing with my new blowgun, before coming out for some family time. Dad had started up a fire while I was practicing, and that signaled that it was time for story-time.
The stories, I noticed, seemed to have a lot to do with me, at least at first. When I asked why that was, Dad replied that he couldn’t tell the creepy stories until later, when it was closer to dark.
“Besides, after all the humiliating stuff you had us do earlier, this is just payback,” he grinned at me.
And so, he proceeded to tell the most horrid, embarrassing stories about me, that existed. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he made a few fictional ones up, which were even worse!
Finally it got dark out, and Dad moved on to the “scary” stories. I had ceased being scared by his stories years ago, but they were still great for Jose and Maria. I got a devilish idea in my head. Dad was telling the old saw about the vampire pig of Venezuela. Don’t ask me where he comes up with this stuff.
I made a handsign that we had developed a long time ago for these events, that meant I needed to go to the bathroom. I crept away from the fire, and used my new vision to track down a pig. We had a few wild pigs on our island…not many, and they weren’t true pigs, but they would get the point across. I think they were called capybaras. At any rate, I tracked one down and hypnotized it, then I rubbed my hands together with glee. This was going to be so awesome.
I crept back to the fire, and sat down, hypnoed pig off to the brush behind Dad. As Dad reached the pinnacle of his story, the most heart pounding, pulse racing part, I had the pig slowly creep forward. I had positioned it so that everyone could see it BUT Dad. Then I had it charge him, and had it bite him on the shoulder.
Well, not really bite…I wouldn’t do that to my old man. I was just being mischievous, after all. I just had the pig touch its teeth to his skin, nothing more than that. Of course, Mom, Maria, and Jose had all seen it coming, so they were all on the edge of wetting themselves. Dad thought it was just a reaction to his story, so he ignored Mom pointing at the pig behind him.
Then when the pig launched, you should have seen Dad jump. I mean, he must have gone ten feet straight up, he was so wrapped up in his story. When he landed again, he looked at the pig, which was now just standing there as I was laughing my head off, looked at me, and got this sheepish look on his face.
By then Mom, Maria, and Jose had all figured out what had happened, so they were cackling with glee as well. I finally pulled enough of myself together to look Dad in the eye, and tell him firmly, “GOTCHA!” Then I collapsed laughing again.
I made the pig walk back to the woods, and then released it when it was far enough away.
“Okay buster, just for that, you get to hear a REAL story.” He looked at all of us quite seriously, and said quietly, “This story is a real legend. Ask around, you’ll hear it from anybody, anybody who will talk about it, that is…”
“I swear I’m not making this up. In turn for this telling, I want you to promise no more stunts, young man,” he addressed me sternly.
“I promise,” I said. I was intrigued by now…Dad never tells real stories.
“This is the legend of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. It is a tale of betrayal, and of a fate worse than death.”
I felt something stir in me, like I knew this story, from somewhere. I tossed my head while Dad continued.
“Quetzalcoatl was a High Priest of the Aztec people, many centuries ago. He had everything…fame, power, wealth, a family. Then he mysteriously disappeared.”
Yep. Something was definitely affecting me more than usual about this story. Like I said, I hadn’t been affected by one of Dad’s corny stories for years. Why was my skin crawling now?
The legends say…that his enemy, Tezcatlipoca, who had openly wished for his opponent’s death for many years, was behind his disappearance. They say that…”
I didn’t get what it was that they said. I was busy feeling like I was losing my mind. I kept drifting in and out, almost as though I was going to sleep. Then, suddenly, I felt a wrenching…shift, as a force pushed me aside and seized control. I felt like a passenger in my own body. I tried moving my arms and legs, but nothing would move.
“The story is true, mortal,” I…errr, my body, said ominously. I didn’t like my…errr, its tone.
Dad looked at my body, startled. “So, the legend was true. We didn’t want to believe it, but we knew we had to be prepared for the eventuality. What do you wish, Quetzalcoatl?”
“To you, no harm, so fear me not. I wish more strength, that I might control this body and bend it to my own ends, and I wish more than anything vengeance on the one who sent me to this living death, Tezcatlipoca.”
Dad gave my body a funny look, and asked, “Will you settle for one of two?”
“If I must. What would you deny me, and how would you deny it me?”
“I would deny you control of my son’s body. Does he not have a right to control his own body, and live his own life?”
“Did I not have a right to live mine, so many centuries ago?”
My family, seated around the campfire, and I, seated in my own head, watched in awe, as Dad haggled with this entity for my very survival. Only Mom wasn’t shocked out of her mind…Mom and Dad obviously knew more than they were telling me.
“That is beside the point, and you know it. As to how I would deny you, do you recognize this?” Dad held up a shiny object.
“Ah, I see. But it would take a very potent magician to harness such power, and I sense no such might coming from you.”
“Talents can be hidden,” Dad growled. Suddenly he flared up, shining in the night, brighter even than our fire. Oddly, nobody else seemed to notice anything.
Suddenly, I felt the entity that was controlling my body flinch, and alter tactics.
“I do not wish such a fate again,” Quetzalcoatl said with a slight tremble.
“Then do you agree to allow my son to live his own life? I have no problem if you share control, but the terms of that, you must discuss with him.”
“I agree. Do you allow me to seek vengeance on Tezcatlipoca?”
“I do, however, know this: as you know, many centuries have passed. In all likelihood, he is long dead. Despite that, I understand your desire for revenge, and so I grant you leave to do what you must to find peace.”
“I thank you. Excuse me a moment,” he said.
The next thing I knew, I was facing Quetzalcoatl himself, in the limbo I found myself suspended in. He looked a little like me, but he looked far older, and his features seemed twisted somehow, as if with rage.
“Greetings, Antonio Valez. I am Quetzalcoatl, the spirit that your father was talking about in that legend. The legend is true, and the part you missed is that I was sealed into a very specific bloodline by Tezcatlipoca. In a way, I was very much as you are now – a passenger. The further problem was that I could not even discourse with the person whose body I inhabited.
“When the person I was trapped in had children, I was deposited in the firstborn. And so, I have come down through the centuries to you. You are very special, Antonio. As I believe you know, one of your father’s distant ancestors was a very powerful magician. As such, you inherited his capabilities, and it is those capabilities that allowed me to come forth, for the first time since I was Sealed.
“It is your duty to aid me in my quest for vengeance against Tezcatlipoca. In return, I promise I will allow you to live your life, and I will even aid you in times of peril. Since we share this body, it is in our mutual best interest to do this.”
“Look, Quetzalcawhoever. Can I just call you QC?”
The spirit stiffened, but nodded its head. “You may.”
“Look, QC, before this morning, as you doubtless know, I was perfectly normal.”
“And without aim or direction. I know quite well.”
“And now, you’re telling me I’m being thrown into the middle of a centuries-old feud?”
“I believe I already told you that.”
“I know you did,” I grunted. “So how exactly is this going to work?”
“You will continue your life as usual, going to Whateley. I will remain in the background, taking over only when needed. Additionally, if you have something you wish to discuss with me, I will be here with that purpose in mind as well. If you get into a fight and require aid, I will help you. However, be warned: I will not allow you to do anything to harm this body or place yourself in dire danger.”
“So you’re kind of like a guardian angel?”
“More like an avenging angel, but you can think of me in that regard if you wish. Doubtless Tezcatlipoca will learn of our existence sooner or later. He will probably try to destroy us from afar, fearing our wrath. However, it is inevitable he will make a mistake, and allow us to track him down.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Agreed. I will now retreat into the recesses of your mind. If you wish to contact me about anything, just send me a mental message.”
I felt that peculiar jolt again, and then I was in control of my body again. “What a trip that was,” I commented.
Mom rushed over and hugged me, while Dad just stood there looking proud.
“You gave us quite a scare there, son,” he said.
“Mmm,” I said back. “What’s that thing you used to scare the dickens out of QC?”
Dad held up the object. I could see it was a mirror. “Is that…” I began asking.
“Yes,” Dad confirmed. “The same mirror Tezcatlipoca used to Seal Quetzalcoatl. As soon as you were born, I did some long and hard research, and located the other half of the puzzle.”
I must have looked puzzled, because he tapped his forehead. “The spell that is needed. Without the spell, the mirror is a useless trinket. Of course, for it to work on the same entity again, it has to be the same mirror…but yeah, you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, do you?”
“Nope,” I replied cheerfully. “So does this mean you’re a mage?”
“Yeah, and a pretty decent one at that. I don’t like using those powers and spells unless I absolutely have to, though. In fact, all the males of our line, clear back to your distant ancestor, have been mages of some stature. I would assume that the same potential lies within you…”
“And with QC tutoring me as well, I stand a chance of really getting up there, don’t I?”
Dad laughed. “If you could convince that wayward spirit to teach you anything useful, yes.”
QC must’ve heard him. I felt a slight writhing feeling. “Uh, Dad, I think he heard you.”
“Oh. In that case, please accept my sincerest apologies, great one,” Dad winked at me. The writhing settled down, slowly. I nodded at Dad.
“Hmm, gonna have to watch what I say to you now,” Dad laughed.
“So did everyone here know about all this but me?”
Mom spoke up this time. “No. Neither you nor your siblings had any idea about any of this. I know all about Quetzalcoatl, because he comes from my bloodline. We never communicated, but I could feel his presence, and with all the legends in the family…well, it was easy to put together. I also knew your Dad was a mage, I found that out shortly before we married. Only made him more perfect, in my opinion, because if indeed you were the one through which Quetzalcoatl emerged again, a powerful mage would be needed to help contain him.”
“Ah,” was all I could say in reply. “Anyways, it’s getting late, we’d better get back. I got a big day tomorrow, what with all the packing and such.”
Mom and Dad looked at me questioningly. I tapped my head. “QC has decided we’re going to Whateley.”
They just nodded their heads – probably thinking I was crazy – and went off to collect the sibs, who had run off at some point.
The trip home was uneventful, fortunately. As I settled down into bed and sleep, one thought occurred to me: What a hell of a day. Then I passed out, sound asleep.
The next day brought much preparation. Dad and I had to run off to a nearby city to fill out paperwork for my extended passport, while Mom and my sibs tried to decide what I’d need at Whateley.
By the time Dad and I got back, they had already finished packing me – or so they thought. My statement of “You know I get to check what you packed,” brought some consternated looks.
I scooted them out of my room, and looked over everything. As I thought they might have, they had forgotten many things important to me. I repacked, removing things I considered nonsensical, and adding in things that were important, such as my brand-new blowgun.
Luckily for me we were big travelers, so I knew what needed to be packed. I knew how many changes of clothes I needed, how many tubes of toothpaste, and how many pairs of underwear. It had been decided that I would pack only for a short vacation, and then when I was at Whateley I could buy some more stuff, with my allowance.
I was just finishing up when QC popped up, surprising the heck out of me.
(Young Antonio), he called.
(Yo, QC, wazaap), I sent back, getting a sense of amusement from the spirit.
(I would appreciate it if you would take that necklace from on top of that piece of furniture, and put it on.)
I looked around, and then spotted what he was talking about. It was one of the Aztec relics I had found on our plantation. I had no idea about anything about it, other than that it was old, Aztec, and made primarily of turquoise.
(Sure, but why? I mean, what’s so special about it?), I sent to him.
(It is a necklace of position. An upper-guardsman would have worn it. Most such necklaces granted their wearers slight magical powers according to their station, and I want to see if your necklace is one of them.)
I walked over and put it around my neck. It felt cold and heavy, but at the same time, somehow tingly and warm.
(So…uh…how do I tell?), I asked.
(One minute please.) QC’s presence faded for a moment, and then returned. (As I thought. While you wear this necklace, you will gain slight increases to your speed, stamina, and strength. It is very minor, and will not put you at a superhero-like level, but it will provide some assistance. You might find this amusing, I know I do, but in fact I enchanted that necklace myself, long ago.) The amusement in the spirit’s voice was evident.
(Cool. So, will I notice anything?), I asked. I sent along with it a mental picture of guys suddenly becoming stronger than they thought, and flipping things over with what they considered minimal force. Like the time Superman lost his powers and then got them back, and then when he went to open his car door he ripped it off by accident.
(No, no, nothing like that. Basically you will be able to lift about 25 to 50 pounds more than usual, run approximately 10 miles-per-hour faster, and keep up at that pace for about 20 additional minutes. Note that this is more for you than it would be for other people, in less physical condition. Since you are in peak condition, the effects are magnified slightly.)
Hmm…something isn’t quite right here. But…ah! That’s it! (So, how is it, by the way, that you know modern languages and weights and speeds and stuff?), I asked.
(As I said, I have been trapped for centuries within a bloodline. This does not mean that I haven’t been awake and alert, just unable to influence the world or ‘my’ body in any way. As such I have been able to learn much, though with no practical application before now.), QC replied.
“Antonio, hon, you ready yet?” Mom called up the stairs.
“Almost, Mom,” I called back.
“Well hurry up, we gotta leave in fifteen minutes!”
“Yeah, don’t worry I’ll make it!”
(Now then), I sent to QC, (any suggestions on how to hide these feathers?).
Ten minutes later, I emerged from my room, carrying two light suitcases. I was wearing a T-shirt, and then a coat over top of that, at QC’s suggestion. He said something about that it was going to rain or something. I dunno.
The coat got a few weird looks from my family, but they shrugged it off. After everything that had happened in the last two days, I’d have been surprised if they were surprised by anything.
We were about halfway to the airport, when suddenly it began pouring down rain. Several variations of “How did you know” were immediately presented to me. I replied that QC had said it was going to rain, and that was all I knew. Which was…almost true. QC had gone on to elaborate that he had been trained as High Priest to know presciently what the weather would do that day. I didn’t feel the need to pass that on to my family though.
It took us slightly longer than anticipated to reach the airport, but then, Dad is a stickler for being early, and as such I still had about twenty minutes before the plane left. Ten of that was spent in teary-eyed farewells and parting advice.
Before I knew it, though, those ten minutes were over, and I was left to find the plane. I accomplished this feat with no problems, and settled into my seat, for a long flight.
It occurred to me suddenly, as we were taking off, how much my life had changed the past few days. I had gone from normal, ordinary teenage boy, to having mutant powers, feathers on my shoulders and back, and the ancient spirit of an Aztec High Priest residing in my head. I was pretty sure that had to be the weirdest two days any person had ever had. Boy, did I have a lot to learn about Whateley!
| Topic: Arianrhod, pt 1c|
|Arianrhod, pt 1c [message #4421]
||Wed, 22 March 2006 13:18
Registered: March 2006
Location: Behind you!
Wow....I seriously didn't realize how long this was. Good thing this post is short (only about 8 MSword pages).|
"Can my family, and Alicia, come, too?" I asked.
"We will see what we can do. If it was just up to me, then there would be no question. However, I have to ask the opinions of the other council members. Luckily for you, Llew and I are two. There are three more. Unless all three decide that they may not join us, they can. Majority rules, as the old saw goes. I may be the official leader of the council, but majority overrules even I."
Llew bid me farewell, and faded off into nothingness. By now my family could be shocked by very little. They just sat there, calmly eating their pizza. I think their minds had frozen over at some point. It was a lot for me to handle, let alone for them. I asked Rauthor if he would care to join us, but he just eyed the pizza suspiciously and declined politely. He went off, with a box of Pop-tarts, to his quarters in the basement. I just shook my head. I was almost to the same point as the rest of my family.
My alarm went off at 5am the next morning. I looked up grumpily and flailed around until I managed to shut it off. I got out of bed, changed into shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed Silverfire, and crept out to the kitchen. Just because Shannon, Alicia, Rauthor, and I would all be up didn't mean my parents had to be as well. I grabbed a quick bite to eat, went back out to the living room and let Alicia in, and met Shannon just coming out of her room. Shannon grabbed a quick snack from the kitchen, and then the three of us went down to the basement.
Rauthor was waiting for us. As soon as we got down the steps, we could see that he had been busy. Practice mats were laid out all across the basement proper. He had evidently set up his living quarters in the side rooms, including a spare bedroom that to my knowledge had never been used. A rack of weapons lined one wall.
Rauthor had us start with some basic stretches. I was pleased to discover that my new body was in decent shape already. Hardly peak condition, but I was still the last one to give out when Rauthor told us to do push-ups until we dropped. After the basic stuff, Rauthor gave us some more advanced exercises to do. Most of them involved contortions and gymnastic type stuff. We concluded the first part by lifting weights. Rauthor quickly discovered a slight problem though. I had learned enough about how to make things lighter that the weights weren't really having any effect on me. So I got out of that. I think Shannon and Alicia hated me a little for it.
Next was martial arts, as Rauthor called it. Well, it was probably used for martial purposes, but it was nothing like the Asian-style stuff we had seen. It focused on speed, primarily, and tricks to build speed. Another focus was on reading the opponent's moves. We actually didn't learn even one fancy punch or kick; we just used the ones we already knew how to do. Alicia was amazing at this. She was able to combine her basic karate knowledge with her new basic Tuata martial arts skills to devastating effect. I was the best, hands down, at just the Tuata stuff, though. I don't know if it was because I was a Tuata, or because I was built the smallest, or what, but I was the fastest at moving and reading my opponent of all of us.
Then came weapon practice. Before we did anything else, and while Shannon and Alicia took a breather, Rauthor showed me how to draw Silverfire, so I didn't look like a complete idiot. Rauthor asked each of us what weapon we would like to use. I, of course, answered Silverfire. Alicia took two of the funky daggers like Elektra used in the movies, and Shannon took a quarterstaff. Rauthor nodded, and gave each of us a basic practice to do. He went down the line, correcting each of us as needed. Then when we had that down pat, he walked over to the wall of weapons, and took down a sword of his own.
He then paired us up for sparring: Abbie vs Alicia, and Rauthor vs Shannon. We were only to use the basic drills that we had just learned, and Rauthor would hold himself to the same. We didn't use any padding or protective gear, and these were real weapons. However, when I made a basic thrust at Alicia, I understood the nature of the spar. We were not to get hit, and the lack of padding was supposed to give us a reason to want to avoid getting hit. She dodged it with ease, and then struck back. She had two weapons, which caused a problem for me. I did my best to block them with Silverfire, but then I thought of something else. I slashed down, and when she attempted to block, I used the basic Tuata martial arts I had learned earlier to dart around behind her, and placed Silverfire's tip against her back. Alicia conceded defeat, and we sat down to watch Rauthor and Shannon. Surprisingly, Shannon was doing pretty well. She had been watching us out of the corner of her eye, and decided to try what I had just done. She was no where near as fast or as smooth as I was, however, and against an opponent as experienced as Rauthor, it didn't have a chance of working. Rauthor exploded into action. He was here, he was there. None of us could follow his movements in the least. Shannon ended up with about ten small marks all over her body. Rauthor hadn't even cut the skin, just left her with a little reminder.
"And that, is how you combine Tuata arts with weapon skills," he said.
The three of us just watched him with dropped jaws.
"Nice job, Arianrhod. You were the first to figure out that when I said skills you had just learned, that statement extended back to the Tuata arts as well. Good job."
I blushed, and mumbled something about what was next.
"Next, is for just you and I. Alicia, Shannon, you two can watch, if you want, but it might be dangerous."
"Of course we'll stay!" Alicia said enthusiastically. Shannon nodded her agreement. I think she was still a little dazed.
"Very well. Then stand behind me. Arianrhod, give me Silverfire. As you noticed yesterday, it has the power to deflect energy blasts. If something happens, I will need it to protect Shannon and Alicia."
"Of course," I said, and handed him the sword.
"Now then," he started. "Let your mind empty. Focus on nothingness. Then look down at the target on the far wall."
I did just that, and looked down for a target. It took me a minute, but I found it. It was very small, only about 4" across, I estimated, and clear across the length of the entire basement.
"Now think about a small silver globe. Very small, nothing more than an inch across. Think about holding it in your hand, what it would feel like. Now, open your eyes," he talked me through it.
I opened my eyes, and looked down at my hands. My left hand was holding something, clenched tightly. Whatever it was, it was glowing. I opened my hand, and revealed a small silver globe of pure magical energy.
"Good. Now think about how it would look and feel if it was hovering over your hand, instead of resting in it."
I did, and slowly the globe floated up out of my hand. Shannon and Alicia gasped. I ignored them. This was really hard, for such a little guy. I asked Rauthor, through clenched teeth, why this was.
"It is because, unlike your previous bolts, this one is controlled force. You have to actually do the work of controlling it, instead of forming it and releasing it to do whatever it wanted. Now, look down at the target again. Focus on it. There is nothing in this basement, just you, the globe, my voice, and the target. Good. Now think about the globe hitting the target. Think about what will happen. Read how much energy is in the globe, and translate that into damage. Will the target break? Will the target just be scratched? Imagine the result. Got that?"
I nodded my head tensely.
"Good. Now only one step left. Release the globe from your control. Imagine telling it that it can now go free from your control."
I did, and instantly a burden was taken off my mind. I watched in awe as the globe jerked a little in mid-air, and then flew straight as an arrow, right at the target. Luckily, I had not put much force into it, and the target was just scratched.
Then I heard Rauthor say "Again."
Rauthor practically had to carry me up the stairs, I was so exhausted. Mom was in the kitchen, and looked up happily when she saw us.
"How was the training, dear?" she asked.
"Urf," was all I could mutter out in reply.
"Good. We don't want any more accidents, you know? By the way, speaking of, later today we have a workman coming over to touch up the plaster. I'll be out shopping, and Dad will be busy working. Could you show him where the spots are?"
I was too tired to really think about what she was asking me. "Yeah, sure thing Mom."
"Thanks dear," she said. She finished up whatever it was she was doing. "I'll be going then. He said he would come about noon. I should be back by 4. See ya then!" And she was gone.
Only after she was gone did it really hit me what she was asking me to do. I moaned. This was like the last thing I needed. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. I told Shannon to get me up at 11am, if I wasn't already. I was heading back for a little snooze. She nodded her head, and I shambled back to bed.
I didn't even bother to change. I just collapsed into bed, and was asleep before I even had to think about trying to get to sleep.
I was up again at 10:30. Even though I had been exhausted, my subconscious knew enough to wake me before Shannon had the opportunity to. I got up, and decided I felt refreshed. Time to get ready to meet the plasterer. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked refreshed too, not tired at all. Amazing what a little sleep will do for you. However, I did not look good enough for company, I decided. I sat down and started brushing my hair out, while I thought about what I should wear. Depending on how much of a bigot this guy would be, I might have a lot or a little trouble.
I decided I would try to look like a normal teenage...Tuata. I checked out what clothes I had that might fit with what I was looking for. I finally decided on a short white skirt, with a plain deep blue t-shirt. I added stud earrings in the closest holes, white ankle socks, and white sneakers. My magical necklace, and the charm bracelet I had gotten from Alicia, completed the look. All in all I was pleased with the outcome of the first time I had dressed myself since the change. I left my hair alone, falling down my back. I looked like a normal, teenage Tuata. I was noticeably non-human, but it didn't hurt the look. Shannon chose just that moment to open my door quietly, carrying the watering can.
"And what, praytell, are you doing with that?" I asked archly.
Shannon hid the watering can behind her back quickly, but not quickly enough. "I...uh...was going to get you up and go water some flowers then, yea, that's it."
"Riiiiiiiight," I said sarcastically. "Hey, what do you think of the look?"
"Looks good. I would add some makeup though. Other than that, though, you look great."
"Mmm," I said, unconvinced.
"Here, I'll help you." She set the watering can down, and came in.
I sat down and we reviewed the options. In the end, we decided on a light pink shade of lipstick, and a touch of mascara. It was minimalistic enough for me, but added enough to the look for Shannon.
Shannon and I went out and grabbed some leftover pizza for lunch. By the time we were done, it was going on noon.
We went out and waited in the living room. Shannon kept an eye out the window while I sat there, worrying. Finally she announced that the man was pulling in the driveway. We watched him get out of his truck, pull a few tools out of the back, and start up the walkway. We had replaced the door with a temporary spare Dad had found lying around somewhere, so he actually had to ring the bell. He did, and I walked over and opened the door.
I could tell from the look on his face that this was not going to be pleasant.
"Uh, hi," I said lamely.
He looked at me. Or rather, he looked first at my chest, and then at my ears. All in all, those were about the two places I wished most he would not look at.
"I don't work with your kind," he said icily.
"What do you mean, my kind!?!?" I flared up.
"Mutants. You're a mutant, aren't you?"
I started to say something I would regret. "Uh...yeah. Fine." I toyed briefly with "flipping him the bird" as Dad always called it, but decided against it. I told Shannon to take care of it and went back to my room.
A few minutes later Shannon joined me in my room. "Why did you back down?" she asked curiously.
"I don't know. What could I do? Mom and Dad really want that plaster repaired. I can't just turn him away because he's an ass or I don't like him. He still has a job to do. Shannon, I don't know if I am strong enough for this. If just a simple workman was that prejudiced, I can't imagine what school is going to be like."
Shannon said, "Well, you might not be strong enough to turn somebody away because they are an ass, but I am, apparently. He had someplace else to be, shortly after you came back. As to school, there is only one major difference. Now the hate will be active, instead of passive. You've told me stories for years now, how nobody has ever liked you. They have always been prejudiced against you, from the day you showed yourself to be so smart. It's just...they don't have to hide it, any more."
I gaped at her. "You turned him away!? How is the plaster going to get fixed!?"
"Simple. I called in Uncle Keith."
"You know Mom doesn't like having him do stuff for us."
"Well, this is an emergency. We know he isn't prejudiced against mutants. Heck, his business is primarily for mutants, who don't feel safe going to just anybody. And I refuse to give my business to somebody who doesn't like my sister." She smiled at me.
I started talked to hide my covert operation. "Thanks, by the way, for what you said about school. I still don't know if I am strong enough to deal with it, but I'll try." Mission completed. I snatched a pillow and whacked Sis over the head with it.
"Oh you are so dead," she grinned viscously.
We had fun with pillows for a while, and then our muscles started protesting again.
"Well, ouch, I guess we better go, ouch, out and wait for Uncle Keith, ouch," Shannon finally said. We tumbled out of my bed and staggered out to the living room. Not long after, Uncle Keith's pickup truck pulled in the driveway.
Uncle Keith was Dad's brother, but he looked nothing like Dad. He was a behemoth of a man, almost 6'8" tall and surely going on 300 pounds of pure muscle. He was really kind though, and he adored Shannon. She had obviously called in a favor. He ambled up to the door, and Shannon let him in. He blinked in surprise when he saw me, but didn't say anything. Shannon motioned that she wanted to whisper to him, and he knelt down so his ears were at an easy height for her.
I elected to go out to the kitchen. I was pretty sure Shannon was telling him about me, but I didn't really want to hear. With my ears, it was either leave the room or hear every word, so I chose to leave the room. Uncle Keith came out to the kitchen after a few minutes.
"So, you're the new member of the family, eh?"
"Heh, more like old member who had a little change."
"Yeah, Shannon told me about that. You seem to be adjusting rather well. Just be glad your change was only transgender. You probably wouldn't believe some of the hideous changes I've seen. And by the way, how that man treated you was completely unacceptable. I will see to it personally that he is out of business within the month."
Uncle Keith was famous in our town. Everybody knew that if he didn't like or approve of somebody, that person had a way of backing down, or leaving. He never used any violence, despite the rumors that swirled around him, but rather used logic and persuasion. At least, that was what he said. I shrugged. That man's fate really didn't concern me one way or another.
"Now then, where's this plaster you need touched up?" Uncle Keith asked kindly.
I pointed him to the two spots, and within an hour they were fixed. Keith came over to us. "You don't really have to tell your Mom that you had me do it rather than the guy she tried to get."
"Of course. She might get suspicious when the bill doesn't come, but I'm sure we can cover it up," I replied.
Uncle Keith just winked at us, went back out to his truck, and left. Shannon and I had some time left before Mom got him, so we crashed in front of the television for a while. There was nothing on, as usual, so we hauled out some of our DVDs. Between our collections, we probably had the greatest collection of anime DVDs on the planet. We debated back and forth for a while as to which series to put on, and finally decided on some Tenchi, to start, and then we would move on to Evangelion later.
Mom came home, after a bit, and asked us how it went. Shannon and I fumbled around a little, and in the end decided to lie. We told her it had gone great, no problems of any kind, and got back to watching T.V. as soon as we could.
The rest of the day was spent in blissful relaxation. Supper came and went, and then more T.V. followed. I was surprised at how much closer Shannon and I had become, just over the past few days. We had always been close, but this was...different. I don't know how to describe it. I was content, I decided. Still not happy at the wrench this little problem had thrown into my life plans, but content, for the moment.
Saturday was up next. Nothing too special happened. I was going to help Dad clean out the shed, but two things intervened. First, I was so tired after my second training session that I could barely move. Second, Mom decided that cleaning out the shed was no place for a daughter of hers. Shannon, Alicia, and I spent the day entertained in my bedroom. Shannon and Alicia took great joy in "educating me" with teenage girl shows and magazines. I only felt faintly sick. But, I did learn a few things, so I suppose it was worth it. By the end of the day I was a little more comfortable with myself, I guess.
Sunday followed, in due course. My family and I were regular Sunday-church-going Christians. Naturally, this could get very sticky. Dad had already contacted our pastor on Saturday about my change, and asked the pastor to make as little of a deal of it as he could.
I was now introduced to "Sunday best." I ended up in an outfit that was strikingly similar to the third outfit Shannon had laid out for me, namely, the sundress and hat. I was not enjoying the experience so far, and it was only going to get better as the morning went on.
No sooner than we got in the church, than the fingers came out. Everybody figured out pretty quick what had happened, being reasonably intelligent. And, it wasn't hard to figure out, seeing how I was with my family, and "Kevin" was missing.
I could feel their eyes boring into me. A few of the kindlier members of the church, who had known me my entire life, came up to greet me. I didn't know how to handle that, so I just kind of withdrew into myself.
Despite Dad's pleas, didn't that damn priest make the sermon about mutants and mutations? At least he put a positive spin on it. He told the congregation that being a mutant did not mean one was evil, and that mutations should be regarded as gifts from God, just as quick reflexes and a high intelligence and special talents are gifts. I could feel the gaze of every person in that church focus on me. I just tucked my head down, and tried to ignore it.
Luckily, our church was pretty laid back. I got the usual assorted pleasantries after the service, but nobody said anything too specific. The priest invited me to come talk to him any time I wanted, and that was when the fun began.
There was another church, of a different denomination, across the street from our church. They were widely known throughout the town for being fanatics and troublemakers, and dead set against mutants, saying that they were the works and creatures of the devil. Secretly, about half the town agreed, but most didn't have the stuff to come out and say it. As you can doubtless imagine, some rather heated arguments tended to take place, from one side of the street to the other, and back again. Needless to say, I was the subject of today's celebrity roast.
No sooner did I step out on the street, then I was promptly bombarded by a flurry of small pebbles and stones. A raucous chorus of shouts and condemnations greeted me. I spotted the plasterer from the other day amongst them. It occurred to me then that this could get ugly really quickly.
Now, the people of our church have their problems, but I give them one thing: they are loyal. They were able to look past my obvious status as a non-human, and saw only me, the child they had known in the church since the day I was born. They rallied around me and promptly started yelling back and throwing small stones of their own, back at the ringleaders on the other side. Soon we had a regular gang war between the two churches going.
Even the two pastors got involved in the fun, exchanging stones and dogma with equal fervor! Finally somebody called the police, and they sent some policemen down to break it up. It took them a while, but by bandying enough threats around, they were able to break it up. There were witnesses aplenty to verify that the other church started it, but nobody got much than a slap on the wrist. I noticed the policemen weren't exactly sympathetic with me. I half thought they would rather slap me in jail for doing nothing wrong than the worst serial murderer.
Nobody was seriously hurt, thankfully, just an assortment of scraps and bruises. We all went home that day rather discouraged. Dad said from the driver's seat, "What a show of how despicable human nature can be," but it did nothing to ease my sorrow. Rauthor, Llew, and Ghorder had been right. There was no place for me here. Humans would not accept for, not in a million years. Sure, there were some that would, like Alicia, or Uncle Keith, but they were seemingly few and far between.
| Topic: Arianrhod, pt 1b|
|Arianrhod, pt 1b [message #4420]
||Wed, 22 March 2006 13:17
Registered: March 2006
Location: Behind you!
Ack, I didn't realize how long this was =.=|
For Alicia, I steeled myself, took the clothes to a nearby bathroom, and started putting my new clothes on.
When I emerged, I was wearing a matching hot pink bra and panty set, ankle socks, old sneakers with pink details, blue jean shorts with thread detailing along the sides, and a pink t-shirt with the words "Girl Power" printed in large white letters across the front. My magical necklace, the same small hoop earrings I had found myself wearing when I awoke from my change, and a pink hair-tie, which kept my hair in a massive ponytail, completed the ensemble.
I took one look in Shannon's mirror, and sighed. Alicia would get the point, I was sure of that. There was no way anybody wouldn't get the point. Shannon and I walked together out to the living room, where Rauthor and my parents were still conversing.
Rauthor spotted us first. He stood and bowed at me. "A right vision of loveliness, my lady," he greeted me.
"Uh...thanks," I blushed. My parents were also suitably impressed. My mother virtually screeched in delight, and promptly stood up and hugged me. My dad only whistled at me.
All I could really do was stand there and blush, while my sister stood there and grinned.
Dad cleared his throat. "Rauthor has decided, and we have agreed, that he is to move into the basement, for the foreseeable future. That way he can keep an eye on you, train you in the use of your sword and powers, and just provide a friend you can talk to any time you want."
"Ok, that'll be great." I was getting nervous now, and it must have shown.
"Something the matter, dear?" my mother asked.
"Think about everything that has happened to me over the course of the past several hours, and ask me that again," I drawled ironically. "Specifically, though, I am about to have Shannon call Alicia over here, and I am getting nervous about that."
Rauthour nodded his head...my parents had obviously filled him in on who Alicia was and what she meant to me. "If you require assistance similar to that which I provided with your parents, know that I am here."
"Thanks, Rauthor...it really means a lot to me."
"How is it you say...no problem?" he rumbled out.
I nodded at Shannon. I was as ready as I would ever be.
She walked over to the phone in the kitchen, and dialed Alicia's number. Several minutes later, Shannon emerged from the kitchen, with a grin on her face.
"She is on her way over, and I don't think she is too pleased!"
"What did you tell her!?!?" I demanded imperiously.
"Only what you told me to tell her, I swear. Have you seen a clock lately? It's going on 1am already. I'm afraid I may have woken her up."
"Oh dear," I sighed. I hadn't counted on this. An irate Alicia was a dangerous thing. It was like handling nitroglycerine - you never knew when she was going to go off. And there were all kinds of possible ways for her to go off here.
"Don't worry dear, we are all here to support you, just say the word," my mother said.
"Yeah," I said distractedly. "I'll be back in my room, send her back when she arrives please."
I went to my room, and began wearing a rut in the floor. I must have walked two miles back and forth until I finally heard voices from the living room. I went over and sat down on my bed, and awaited my fate.
Alicia stormed into my room, opened the door with a rush, and demanded, "What the hell is the matter with you, it's like 1am!"
Then she saw me. "Omigosh, Kevin, is that you?"
I just nodded my head dismally.
"What happened to you!?!?!?"
"Long story," I replied. I motioned for her to sit on my bed beside me, which she promptly did, right after pulling my door gently shut. I spilled the whole story, for the second time that night. In all honestly, she took it a lot better than I thought she would. I concluded by saying that although we could now never be anything more than friends - which Alicia already knew my stands on sexual relationships - I hoped that we could remain good friends instead.
Alicia opened her mouth to say something, but I heard a noise...like a scuttling or scraping. I narrowed my eyes, and leaned over to whisper to Alicia.
"Creep over there and open the door as quickly as you can."
She got up really slowly, and quietly, and crept over to the door. When I nodded, she flung the door wide open - and revealed Rauthor and my parents all standing there eavesdropping.
"OUT!!!" I thundered, which was pretty impressive considering how much my voice had changed. As the three of them beat a hasty retreat, Alicia grinned and closed the door again.
"At least they seem to still care about you. As do I, you know. We've had many chats about mutants and mutations, and you know how I feel about non-humans. I think the big problem is you don't accept yourself yet, so you don't think anybody else will either. We may never be anything more, but know that you still have a best friend," Alicia smiled at me.
For the second time in one night, I knew what true relief was. Alicia had a point, about my not accepting myself. I just automatically assumed nobody would accept me, when as yet nobody had rejected me! I felt rather foolish about that, and told Alicia so.
"Nah, don't worry about it. Just try to become more comfortable with yourself, is all. Then everything else will fall into place."
We smiled at each other, hugged, and walked back out to the living room. I noted that nobody was eavesdropping this time.
We were all having a good late night chat, with Shannon almost asleep sitting up, when Alicia thought of something that I hadn't before.
"Obviously, we can't call you Kevin anymore. What should we call you now?"
I started to tell them that I already had a new name, but Rauthor motioned at me. I took that to mean that I shouldn't say my Tuata name just yet, so I said I didn't know, and let it go at that.
We debated back and forth for a few minutes, with Dad pushing for Christina, and Alicia pushing for Alice.
"Think of it, the dynamic shopping duo, Alicia and Alice! It would be so cool!" Nobody seriously listened to her though.
In the end, it was my mom who hit on the perfect solution. "How about Abigail? That's his...errr...her middle name anyway."
Everyone agreed, and I became Abigail that night. When my dad asked how we were going to handle the paperwork, Rauthor spoke up. He said he would handle everything in that regard. None of us really cared to know exactly what he meant by that, so nobody asked.
Alicia spoke up then. "So Abigail, what do you want to be called for short?"
I mulled it over. I didn't like Gail at all, so I went with the other half. "Abbie," I said nervously.
"Alrighty then, Abbie," Alicia said, "when do you want to go shopping?"
"What makes you think I need to go shopping?" It was a purely rhetorical question, but I felt I had to make some kind of show of resistance.
"Please. Don't insult my intelligence. I saw your sister wearing those clothes a lot like a year ago. I know you don't have anything of your own. That's why we need to go shopping! Your mom and sister should come too, make it a big outing!"
From his chair, Dad groaned. He was obviously thinking about how much such an outing would set him back. Thankfully we were pretty well off. My parents both worked over the internet, doing lord-knows-what. I think Dad did something with stocks, but I'm not sure.
I had money of my own, too, though. In addition to my rather small allowance, I had an online hosting service that paid quite handsomely...as least as far as a 14 year old was concerned. Of course, since I managed my own finances, I wasn’t going to tell Dad that, because then without a doubt he would want me to pay for everything, which wasn't going to happen.
I yawned, and then stretched. Then something unexpected happened. Again. Man, what a freaking day. From my hands came forth a small silver pulse of some kind of energy, which shot up until it hit the ceiling, raining plaster down on me. Joy.
I turned to Rauthor. "And WHAT, praytell, was that?" I raged at him. I had plaster in places I wasn't even ready to think about yet.
"Well, right off hand I would say it is a warning sign that your powers are activating."
"Great. Can anything else happen tonight? I'm taking wagers here, people!"
Shannon came over and said, "Come on, let's go get you cleaned up."
Alicia said, "Well, nothing else is happening with me around, that's for sure. I'm heading back home, to a nice cold bed. How about we go shopping tomorrow?"
I started back out with protest firmly in mind, but was stopped in my tracks by my mom's very agreeable "Sure, 9am sound good to you? We have a lot of shopping to do!"
"That's fine by me...see you then, then!" And with that, Alicia was gone.
Shannon helped me a little with my shower; through the curtain, of course. She told me all about the 4 different things I had to use on my hair now, where to wash in what order, and so on. I used to take half-hour showers for fun and to soak up the heat. Now, it seemed like I would need a half-hour just to get clean.
Then a new problem entered. Drying that massive crop of hair growing off my head. Shannon and I labored for almost another half-hour on that one. By that time, it was just past 2am, and we were both exhausted. It was a miracle I was even moving, with everything I had been through.
So we went to bed, finally. That was another challenge for me. I was used to "sleeping in the raw" as it has been put, in other words I would and could only sleep in my underwear, and that was it. I had tried, but I just couldn't get comfortable wearing clothes to bed. My sister now introduced me to a nightgown, which she told me I was to wear over my current light blue bra and panty set. I looked at that thing like it was the spawn of Satan. But my sister kept pushing, and finally I caved. It was too late for arguments.
As I lay in bed, I reviewed the day's events, as per my usual habit. I decided I would look on things as though it were a fantasy adventure, straight out of a book. And in a way, it was. I was a creature straight from fantasy, and I was about to enter and explore the unknown territory of female-kind. With that thought firmly in mind, I struggled to get at least a little sleep.
Sleep was not easy to achieve. My...breasts...kept getting in the way of how I normally laid. So I tried a different position. It was harder to get to sleep from, but in the end I was finally able to achieve my goal.
At least there were no dreams, I reflected the next morning. I decided to get up and go rouse Shannon. I realized I once more needed a new outfit. I hoped she had enough old clothes for another, since my first had been nearly ruined by the plaster, and certainly needed at least a good washing. Shannon was a late sleeper, I thought drowsily. She wasn't going to like being woken up early. I checked the clock. It read 7am. Two hours to S-day.
I went next door to Shannon's room. I didn't care if she was up or not - I had the big sister's privilege of waking up the little sister anytime I wanted. Lord knows she had woken me up anytime she wanted when I was the big brother. Time to pay back the "favor". I grinned viscously.
Well, she surprised me. She was already up and dressed and everything, the little son of a gun.
"I was wondering when you were going to pop up," she grinned. "I got your outfit for the day all ready to go, it's on the bed.
I sauntered over to the bed, and beheld the outfit du jour. Today apparently had a fantasy in blue and white theme. A short deep blue skirt started things off. Added to that were white socks, blue shoes with a small heel, and a white t-shirt with "GO!" written across the front.
My sister told me to get into all that, and that then we would get to work on the details. It took a little while, but I managed to get into it all. Naturally I screwed up a few times...did you ever notice there is no way to tell the front from the back of a skirt? Well, somehow my sister could. It took me about five tries I think before I managed to get it on to her satisfaction.
She then pointed out that in insufferable manner of hers that I was giving the world a free view of my panties. I blushed, and asked her what exactly I should do about that, besides not wear a skirt. Shannon explained to me that that is why girls always cross their legs. You know, I had never thought of that before, but now that the skirt was on the other body, shall we say, it made perfect sense.
Then we messed around with my hair for what seemed like forever. First it got brushed out, and Shannon said she wanted to try a few different styles. She pointed out that except for my ears and the sharpness of my face, I looked like an only slightly weird, but definitely human, human. We tried my hair in every way imaginable, thinking that my sharp features could be covered up slightly by makeup. At least we had a lot to work with. In the end though, even my tenacious sister had to admit defeat.
"Those things are just too long, I can't cover them up. Sorry Sis."
"Nah, it's ok. I would feel wrong hiding them anyway...they are a part of who and what I am, now."
That gave her an idea. She went back into her closet, and emerged with two deep blue hair-ties, which I noticed matched my skirt very nicely.
"If we can't hide em, we'll accent em," she said.
I began to get a bad feeling about this, but I let her have her fun. Several minutes of fighting with my hair later, she declared that my hair now looked great. I discovered my hair was now in twin ponytails. I felt I looked like a short Sailor Moon with silver hair and long pointy ears, and told my sister so. Needless to say, she wasn't impressed.
"Naw, you look great Sis. It really works on you, you'll see!"
Apparently she was enjoying giving me near-heart attacks by making me wait until I was all done before I could look in the mirror.
Next we moved onto my fingernails. Shannon did some kind of weird buff job on them, and then systematically began painting each nail a white shade. I grew more and more uncomfortable with each one she did. I had heard stories about how this stuff came off...or rather, didn't.
"You sure about this stuff coming off ok?" I asked concernedly.
"Yeah, I use it all the time, and I never have any problems," came the reply.
Then while I was sitting there unable to do anything but fret, Shannon moved on to accessories. I insisted on my magical necklace, though. She put up a little fight, saying it didn't really go with my current outfit, but caved in pretty easily when I told her she could pick out everything else. I ended up with dangly earrings in the holes closest to my head, and jeweled studs on the next ones out. Then she added a few rings on each hand. Finally she did a little something with makeup, which I refused to even think about, and capped things off with a light pink lipstick, which she showed me in a small hand mirror how to apply and fix up. A deep blue pocketbook from her collection completed the look. She had pre-stocked it with almost everything I could need - which I didn't even know what half of the stuff was. She put the lipstick container into the pocketbook, and then told me I should put some money in there too, just for emergencies. Then it was time for the big reveal.
I walked - if you could call it that, as I was still getting used to the heels - over to the mirror. Staring back at me was an exotic beauty. Her ears seemed to only accentuate the look. I had been nervous about my sister's choice of earrings, but it actually worked. Shannon had been right about how she did my hair too...the twin ponytails really looked good. My clothes fit reasonably well, and all in all, except for my unusual eye and hair color, not to mention my ears, I looked like a perfectly normal teenage girl out for a day of shopping. Again I noticed how short and tiny I was now. I didn't feel weak, but I sure looked it, which I decided might cause some problems. We checked the time. The clock read 8:28am.
Shannon and I rushed out to the kitchen...we had been so busy getting me ready, we hadn't had anything to eat yet!
Rauthor was already in the kitchen, eyeing a carton of something or other with great suspicion. He looked up at us in surprise.
"Well, hello ladies," he greeted us.
"Hi," we chimed back together. We asked Rauthor if he had seen our parents.
"You dad, no, your mom, yes. She was out here grabbing a bite of this stuff a little bit ago. She said I was to tell you she was getting ready, if you came out before she was done. By the way, do you have any idea how to make this stuff?" he held out the box for us to look at. It was a Pop-tart box.
"Let me take this one Sis," I told Shannon. "It is a box of Pop-tarts. It's like a pastry. You don't have to do anything to them...just eat one."
Rauthor looked at me, and then looked back the box. "Huh?" he asked.
"Here, give it to me," I told him. I opened the box, took out a couple Pop-tarts, and handed one back to him. I handed another to Shannon and kept one for myself, which I promptly started munching on. Pop-tarts are a big thing at my house.
"I must confess, your ways and foods are strange, Arianrhod," he told me.
"Arianrhod?" my sister asked.
"Yeah...that's my Tuata name."
"Speaking of which, why did you silence me last night, Rauthor?"
"I could tell what they - and you - were looking for. You needed a name for everyday use. Arianrhod is your formal, Tuata, name. You needed a more normal everyday name."
"I see." I didn't have time to say more, because the doorbell rang.
"Ah, that must be Alicia," I mumbled through my Pop-tart.
Shannon said, "I'll get it."
"Abbie, it's for you, and it isn't Alicia," she called from the living room a few seconds later.
"OK, on my way," I called back.
I shoved the rest of my Pop-tart into my mouth, and took off for the living room. So my eating habits weren't very ladylike yet. Cut me some slack.
"Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes," came a voice from the doorway.
I recognized who it was immediately, of course. "Llew!" I cried happily. I had completely forgotten she was going to drop by, in all the excitement.
Rauthor came plodding out from the kitchen. "These things are really good. You got any more lying around?"
He looked up in surprise when he saw Llew there.
"Hey you, what are you doing here?" Llew asked him.
"Same thing you are, I would assume, just on a longer term," he replied.
I spoke up. "There are more Pop-tarts in that box, Rauthor," I told him.
"Yeah...I meant do you have any more lying around?"
"Oh...my...gosh...you ate the whole box???" I exclaimed.
"Yeah, isn't that what you are supposed to do?" He sounded confused.
Llew just stood there laughing, and soon Shannon joined in, while I just got flustered. I mean, the dude just ate over half of a box of Pop-tarts, in a matter of minutes. What was I supposed to do?
Then the doorbell rang again. Phew, saved by the bell, literally. Llew stepped aside as I went to open the curtain we had hung as a temporary door. Thank goodness it was summer, and we could afford to do that.
This time it was Alicia. She was suitably impressed by my raiment. Specifically:
"WOW! Look at you girlfriend! You look GREAT!"
Shannon piped up. "Thanks, I did all the work!" All I could do was glare at her.
Mom came out from the back just then. "So, are we all ready to go break the bank, ladies?"
Llew's eyes lit up. "Oooh, can I come too?" she asked like a kid in a candy store.
Rauthor spoke up. "Absolutely not. Last time you went shopping it took our collective bank accounts 6 years to recover."
"It's ok Rauthor...we'll keep her in line," I told him. "Of course you are welcome to come, Llew," I smiled.
I briefly introduced her to the others, and then we trundled out to the family van. Every family seems to have one, and we were no exception. There were only 5 of us, but we needed the room for our goodies.
On our way to our first stop, namely the local Wal-mart, we discussed what all I would need. Each of the others decided to take a separate category. Alicia called things for my room, Shannon chose accessories, mom got clothing, and Llew was elected to keep an eye on me. We were worried that between Llew and I, we might run into trouble with suspicious locals. However, Llew turned out to have a little trick all ready. She mumbled a few arcane words, and within a few minutes she looked like a perfectly normal woman in her early twenties.
Needless to say, I was impressed, but also annoyed at the same time. "If you could do that all along, why didn't you do it when told you I wanted to go back?" I asked her angrily.
"It only works on me. And besides, remember that you are the test subject as to whether or not we could be accepted in the general populace," she replied calmly. Nothing ever seemed to upset her.
I was still annoyed about that, but I could see her point. And, I had to admit to myself, I was secretly beginning to enjoy my new body. I could do things with it I had only ever dreamt of doing before my change. I looked awesome too. If I hadn't been me, I would have definitely dated me. I even liked my ears, although I doubted anybody else would.
Soon we were at the Wal-mart. Did you ever notice Wal-mart loves to drop their stores in small towns with hardly any people, and then have the people from neighboring big cities go to them? Such was the case with our Wal-mart, that was for sure.
We divided right away. Shannon warped off to the realm of accessories, and Alicia went back to the home décor section. Mom, Llew, and I, all went back for clothes. I trusted Alicia to pick out stuff for my room. She knew my tastes fairly well. I wasn't worried about Shannon either, because she was going to check in on us at clothing every now and again. She had to be sure the accessories she picked out matched my new clothes, after all.
I was very uncomfortable out in the main aisles. Everywhere I went, it seemed people were watching me. Everyone seemed cold and unfriendly. This was a million times worse than when I was just a computer geek that everybody hated. Now I wasn’t even human, and humans have a love affair with prejudice.
I just kind of shrank down into myself. Llew would bend down to me and whisper to me every now and then, telling me to ignore them, that they were just jealous of how I looked.
Regardless, there were no incidents. Nobody was dumb enough to mess with a probable mutant, so everyone kept themselves to just giving me hostile looks.
A few skipped over the hostile stage and went straight to lustful. Despite trying to ignore them, they were still very disconcerting to me. All in all, I think I preferred the hostility.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we made it back to the clothing department. Mom asked if any of us had my measurements, and I gave her a slip of paper. On it was written none other than my measurements, which Shannon had taken last night. On it was scribbled, "60" tall, 92 lbs, 32B chest, 22” waist." In other words, I was short, thin, and had smallish breasts, which I had known long before we had taken any measurements.
With measurements fully in hand, we proceeded to delve into the scores of racks of clothing. I was kept very busy trying stuff on, and as a result I only saw Shannon pop in and out a few times, although practically every time I emerged from the changing rooms Llew told me my sister had dropped off a few more things. I barely got to see any of the accessories, I was kept so busy. Mom and Llew asked my opinions on everything, but I, as usual, didn't get to see what they had picked out. I guess everybody just loved me keeping me in the dark, and then unveiling everything all at once.
Time passed, as time does, and Alicia showed up. She said she had gotten everything she needed. Llew gave me something else to try on, and I grudgingly went back into that damn changing room. After that day of shopping, I never wanted to see another changing room as long as I lived. I managed to see Mom and Alicia go off to checkout with a cart piled high with all kinds of things. I asked Llew where they were going. She replied that my mother was taking Alicia home, so that she could decorate up my room before we got back. Then she handed me another piece of clothing.
Lunchtime came and went, and we decided to break at roughly 1:30pm. We had lunch for about a half-hour, and then we dove back in. After another two hours, we were finally out of there. I don't know how much we spent, but judging by Dad's reaction when we got the bill a few weeks later, it must have really been something. Of course, I didn't get to see anything. I was getting sick of this whole "hide it from Abbie" routine. Mom assured me that it was just for today, and that they were doing it because they didn't want any arguments in public.
Now, I had to ask myself, if there was a possibility of me not liking something, such that I would argue about it, why get it? I confided my concerns to Llew, and she replied that what my mom really meant was that I didn't know what I liked yet, so I had to trust them to pick out stuff for me. That made at least a fair amount of sense to me.
After we left Wal-mart, we went to the neighboring town of Reverend's Creek. Barber's Run, Reverend's Creek...you could figure out pretty quickly we had a lot of streams around here. Our target in Reverend's Creek was a custom clothes maker, by the name of Kali. She wasn't very well known, but everyone who got something from her said it was beautiful, and very high quality.
The remaining four of us walked into her store, and were greeted immediately by an attractive woman in her early 40's.
"Ah, Kali, good to see you again," my mother greeted her. Mom was a major patron of Kali's, about half of Mom's wardrobe had been done by her.
"Good to see you again as well, Denise," she greeted my mother back. "And who have you brought with you, dear?" she inquired.
"This is a friend of the family, LeAnn," Llew looked startled. I grinned at her, welcome to the human race; I mouthed silently at her.
My mom continued, "Of course you recognize my daughter Shannon, and the other young lady here used to be my son, Kevin. Due to a mutation issue, he looks as he does now, and we call her Abbie."
I just looked uncomfortable. We had agreed that saying that it was a mutation thing was the best course of action with people we couldn't trust with our lives, but it was another thing to actually hear it said.
"Let me guess, you want some clothes for Abbie?" Kali asked.
"You aren't bothered by all that?" Mom asked in return.
"Not in the least, dear. My nephew had a similar mutation happen to him...or rather her, now. It doesn't bother me in the slightest."
"Good then, yes, we want some custom clothes for her." Then Mom turned and addressed me. "This is your reward for going through everything at Wal-mart. You can order 5 outfits here, any style you want. Let your imagination run free - whatever you want."
My eyes lit up. The day was looking up, ladies and gentlemen. I asked Kali if she had any paper and pencil lying around.
She motioned for me to come into the back. I was stunned. There were piles of materials lying everywhere, and in the very center of the room was an artist's sketch table, complete with ruled paper and pen.
"Just sketch out your ideas, and let me worry about making them work," she told me. Then she went back out to talk to Mom some more, or maybe ask "LeAnn" if she could do anything for her. I chuckled at that, and begin to draw. I had several ideas in mind already, from characters I had drawn in the past, but the last couple might be a struggle.
Minutes passed, then hours. I began to get hungry. Finally, I was done. I eyed my work with some satisfaction.
The first was an elegant long dress I had thought up. It had a long sash that went around my midsection, a long skirt that went down to my ankles. The upper part had a U-shaped neckline, with ties across my back. It also had puffy shoulders, with sleeves that came down almost to my elbows.
The second was girlhood unleashed. It was a dress that I had put on an anime-style character in one of my drawings. I had been surprised to find myself sketching it out, because I really wasn't sure I would even wear it, it was so girly. I guess I reconciled it in my mind that I would just like to see one of my creations in real life. It had a high neckline, with a matching choker. There were two built-in petticoats, giving the knee-length skirt a lot of flare. The shoulders were extremely puffy, and right after the shoulder ended, built-in gloves picked up for the rest of my arms. I drew in a hairpiece for this one, too. It was a funky looking thing with a big bow on it. There were bows everywhere on this thing. A big one went around like waist like a sash, and tied in a big bow that sat on top of my buttocks. There were more little ones around the base of the skirt, the base of the shoulders, and even on a pair of matching heeled shoes I drew to go with it, there were bows. I looked at my finished drawing, and thought, no way am I wearing that. But I was getting hungry, so I kept it and moved on.
The third outfit was also on a whim. It was modeled after a sailor fuku, from several of my Japanese anime that I watched. It had a very short, pleated skirt, that was attached to the top. The top had a part that went around my neck, and tied in front of my breasts. That part was a different color than the rest of the top, and was the same color as the skirt. Other than that, the top was a normal, puffy-shouldered, v-necked, dressy t-shirt with trim.
Come the fourth and fifth, I got serious, and sketched out a few things I would actually wear regularly. One was for winter, the other for summer. The winter outfit had blue jeans, and the summer outfit had blue jean shorts. I was very careful to draw in exactly the thread designs I wanted on them. For the summer top, I made a variation on the clothes I had been wearing when I had awoken from my change. It was a wraparound, with the buttons on my right side, and also left a fair amount of stomach revealed. It had a high neckline that ran along my color bones, but left my shoulders bare. For the winter top, I chose to make a multi-layered top. I started out with a dark undershirt that was just a plain long sleeved shirt. From there I moved on to a midriff, that was light colored, and then attached the two, so it became a one piece shirt. I thought this gave off a neat effect.
I decided to leave the color options up to Kali. I wasn't good with matching colors yet, and I was afraid I would screw something up. I left Kali a note to that effect, and then went out to the front to rejoin Mom, Shannon, and Llew, who were just sitting there reading magazines. We thanked Kali, who said it would take her about a week to complete the clothes, and went to Pizza Hut for supper. It was almost 7pm when we got home, and I was anxious to find out what everybody had picked out for me!
I almost forgot to mention, on the way home, Llew talked about nothing but celebrity gossip that she had read in those magazines. Nonstop. Apparently she had found her weakness, just as Rauthor had with Pop-tarts. By the time we got home, we all would have been happy to never hear about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt ever again.
After we had parked in the driveway, we began to tackle the mammoth task of emptying the van. Mom and Shannon both loaded up, and charged up to the front door, which promptly opened to reveal a smiling Alicia and a frowning Dad and Rauthor. Llew and I started to load up what was left, but Rauthor came out and said something to Llew, who nodded and went into the house.
"Arianrhod, you can get the rest." Rauthor said.
I looked at the pile of bags of goodies, and then back at him. "You're freaking nuts, you know that?"
"I know," he said beatifically. "Do it anyway, I want to see something."
"Me fall flat on my face, you mean," I mumbled.
"What was that, I couldn't quite hear that..."
"Bah. You and I both know you heard every word. I'm going now!" The last was in protest to his glare.
I bent and first arranged the remaining bags so that I could at least get my hands through the handles. I looked at the pile again and shook my head. I couldn't have carried that much even before my change, let alone now.
"There is no way this will work," I told Rauthor, who merely smiled.
I hoisted, and grunted, and tugged, and pulled, and practically made myself fall over backwards, the bags lifted so easily. I looked wonderingly at them, and then back at Rauthor.
"It is as I thought. Your powers are beginning to activate. Ghorder told you about your body image template, right?"
I just nodded. Some small part of my mind was screaming there was no way I should be able to just stand there holding that many full bags, but I ignored it. This was too interesting.
"Well, he did not tell us that he was going to do that. I just figured it out, a while ago. I knew you looked like somebody I knew or had known, but I couldn't place it until earlier today. Once I had figured out who Ghorder had styled your body after, it was easy to figure out what your powers will be."
"Well? Are you going to fill me in on what my powers will be, or not?" I asked impatiently.
"Not," he replied infuriatingly. "Later, maybe. You have too much on your mind to think rationally right now." He peered over the edge of one of the bags. "Or let's just say you will, soon." With that he turned and went back in the house, leaving me to stand there dumbfounded. Just as I was about to look into the bag to see what he had seen, Mom's voice came ringing out from the house, saying "Don't you dare look into that bag, Abigail Parker!" I sighed, and carried my load with ease into the house.
First up, Alicia wanted to show off my room. Apparently she had some trouble doing it by herself, so she had dragooned my dad and Rauthor into helping her. No wonder they were frowning when we first saw them.
We went back the hall. It occurred to me that if she needed Dad and Rauthor's help, she didn't just hang curtains. Naturally my door was closed, all ready for the big reveal. Alicia was standing by the door, ready to open it. Mom, Shannon, Llew, and I were all clustered in the hall. Dad and Rauthor were nowhere to be seen. Probably rubbing their backs somewhere, I snickered to myself. My newfound prowess with bags had given me a little confidence. Chalk up something else I could do, or do better, as Abbie rather than Kevin. And according to Rauthor's tone, I would eventually develop a whole bevy of powers.
Alicia asked if we were all ready. Mom, Shannon, Llew, and I all looked at each other, and mouthed 3, 2, 1, "YES!!!!!!" we all screamed in unison.
"Haha, very funny," she said sourly, and opened the door.
At first I thought we were in the wrong room. My walls were the same color, a creamy beige, at least. Probably only because she couldn't paint and do everything else, though. My furniture had been completely replaced. I now had a four-post canopy bed, a dresser, a nightstand, and a low table with a big mirror on it. At least my bookshelves hadn't been touched. Everywhere I looked, I saw pink. It occurred to me that this was probably my own fault. If I hadn't decided to be so over-the-top girly with my outfit selection last night when I revealed my change to her, I wouldn't have ended up with this. The bedsheets and canopy cover were both pink, as were the curtains for my window. There was a white pull-down shade on my window too. Now that, I actually liked. I had wanted a shade for that blasted window for a long time.
The furniture, except my bookcases, thank God, was all white in color. Various accessories around the room carried the pink theme through; for instance I had a new lamp on my nightstand, white with a pink lampshade. I had a chair in my room too, white wood with pink cushions. Our house has wood flooring throughout. My room had wood flooring still, except for a few pink rugs here and there, of varying sizes. Hands down the funniest part of the whole room, for me, was my new picture frames. Alicia had really gone all out, I had to give it to her. They had white wood, with, you guessed it, pink frills along the outside edge. But, what was really, really, funny about the whole scene, was the drawings inside of them. I specialized in dragons, phoenix, night mares (demonic horses), and various other fantasy creatures. Let's just say they looked a little incongruous in their new homes. I swear, if it was alive, my one dragon would have spared me the agony of living this down and eaten me on the spot.
The reactions were fairly standard. Llew and Mom stood there grinning like idiots, congratulating Alicia on a good job, and her probable career in interior design. Shannon squealed with delight and ran all over the room, and I just stood there like a mountain, unimpressed, with a face about as craggy as a mountain.
Alicia wandered over to me. "You don't like it?" she said. It was not a question.
"Naw, I love it," I lied through my teeth.
"Alright, out," I announced. I practically had to push Shannon out. I told her she could be back later; I needed to have a chat with Alicia.
Alicia and I went over and sat on the bed again.
"The room is beautiful, Alicia, it's too nice for me, that's the problem," I started off.
"Nonsense, it fits you perfectly!"
"Well, the thing is, Alicia, that I am really not this girly. I mean, I can handle some girly things, but this is a little much for me. Last night I only dressed as girly as I did, because I was trying to hammer home a point."
"Well, I think that it will grow on you," she said.
I was afraid it might. The memory of that bow-dress I had sketched out at Kali's was too a little too fresh in my mind.
"I don't know if I want it to grow on me, though," I told her. "I never asked for any of this. I realize I’m a girl now, and I have to make do, and adapt, but this is so...so..." I drifted off.
"So you?" Alicia pushed. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you were never a very masculine man. In many ways, I think this is an improvement for you." I could see her mouth working, trying to say something. "I know that it means we can never be...what we might have been...but I can live with that if you’re happy with your new self."
I felt like I was drowning. I grabbed at the nearest straw I could, although it didn't make a lick of sense, logically. "I know I wasn't that manly a man, but all that means is I won't be that girly a girl!"
"That doesn't make any sense, and you know it." Man, that girl had a brain on her. I was suffering a nervous breakdown, brought on by her damn room design, and she could just sit there and be perfectly logical and calm. I still don't know how she did it. "You’re just uncomfortable with the leanings you have in the girly direction. I mean, if you didn't have such leanings, you never would have agreed to wear what you wore last night, regardless of how much you wanted to make a point. Heck, you never would’ve worn what you wore this morning. If you didn't have leanings in that direction you would have cut your hair yourself, rather than live with it as long and girly as it is."
I hated to admit it, and I mean I really hated to admit it, but she was - as usual - right. And the more time I spent in my new room, the more I did like it.
"I guess I have to be resigned to my fate, eh?" I mentioned.
"Yep. You can kick and scream the whole way, or you can accept it and move on with your life. 'Cause you are still you, you know. You are just different looking, and have some different tastes. At your core, though, you are still you."
"Do you mind if I kick and scream a little? Just so it looks better, you realize," I smiled at her. Somehow Alicia always managed to put a good spin on things.
"Oh, I understand completely," she said amiably. "I think this calls for an introduction to another female ritual." She grinned at me.
"Oh? And what would that be?" I asked.
"PILLOW FIGHT!!!" she screeched at me, and promptly whacked me over the head.
That continued on for almost 15 minutes. Lord only knows what Shannon, Llew, Rauthor, and my parents thought of the noises that were coming from my room.
Alicia and I emerged some time later, slightly disheveled, but happy. My mom raised an eyebrow, but that was all.
"Pillow fight," I said through a grin.
"Ah," was all she said, although she smiled back.
"OK," I started. "I'm all energized and ready to go meet my fate. Let's stock my new room, shall we?"
"I thought you would never ask," Mom said.
So we all went back to my room again, and promptly began unloading bags. My face went white several times. I knew most of the basic types of female clothing, but there were things came out of those bags I had no clue what the heck they were. Shannon unloaded the accessories, and I decided I would be happier if I helped her. Despite Alicia's and my little chat, there were things coming out of the clothing bags I was not ready to accept.
Shannon had admirable taste in accessories, I had to admit. I noticed that there were no necklaces coming forth, and asked her why. She replied that she understood that my moon necklace was very important to me, and that I wouldn't want to wear any others. I shrugged my shoulders, and began to unpack a bag. Inside it, I found numerous hair accessories, ties, clips, ribbons, headbands, and all kinds of other such things.
"I hope you were planning on keeping your hair long like it is," Shannon grinned at me.
I muttered under my breath about the duplicity of some little sisters, and went back to work. The next bag I worked on contained lipsticks and makeup. I handed it without a word to Shannon. She grinned back at me, and gave me another bag. This one contained earrings. I could handle that. They seemed to be about 50-50 distribution between danglers and hoops/studs. I asked her why that was.
"Well, picture yourself with both holes having danglers in them." I did, and it wasn't pretty. I looked like a Christmas tree. "The most you could go is danglers closest and hoops or studs further out, like we did for today. Most days, you will probably decide to just use one pair of holes. Today we wanted to accentuate your ears though, and draw attention to them, so we used both pairs of holes," she continued.
I just shrugged again, and put the various pairs of earrings into a jewelry box that I hadn't noticed before, but had been Alicia's doing. Had to be, since it was pink and white, like the rest of the room. Shannon stuck the makeup and lipstick somewhere, I didn't see exactly where, and then we moved on to the final few accessory bags. They contained bracelets, rings, shoes, and pocketbooks. I took the bracelets and rings, and put them into the jewelry box too, while my sister put the shoes and pocketbooks into my rapidly filling closet.
We asked Mom what else we could unpack, and she motioned over at some bags that were still sitting over on the bed.
These bags were revealed to contain underwear. I swear, as I took each dainty item out, my face must have been red as a beet. There were a number of bra and panty sets, a few nightgowns, and a few items that neither my sister nor I knew what they were. Mom came over and explained that one of the items was a corset, and that another was something that was designed to hold up pantyhose or stockings. The last two were petticoats. I immediately turned fire-engine red. The memory of my bow-dress came springing back to my mind. We put the various types of underwear into one of my dresser drawers, the weird stuff into another drawer, and the nightgowns, stockings, and pantyhose into another. How exactly we decided on those three classes of items going into the same drawer, I don't know. Just as we finished, so did Mom and Llew.
Mom said, "I declare this new room stocked." She came over, bent down, and whispered to me, "Welcome to the world, Abbie." And then she and Llew left Shannon and I alone in my room.
I closed my door. "Well, Sis, time for you to help me out here," I started off.
"Oh, with what?" she asked.
"We, that would be, you and me, are going to have a fashion show."
"It's simple. You’re going to lay out outfits for me, things that go together, and I'm going to wear them. I'll go out for food or something and show each one off. This way I can hopefully learn something about what goes with what, too."
"Oooh, sounds cool!" she chirped. She went over to my closet and started looking through my new clothes. "Man, you got sweet stuff in here Sis!"
"And best of all, I don't have to worry about any little sisters wearing my clothes, like they do on T.V." I smiled beatifically.
"Yeah, cause you're too small for me!" she grinned in reply. I just sighed. That was still a rather sore spot for me.
My first outfit I was to try was pretty standard. Seeing as it was about 90 F out, we decided not to try out any clothes other than summer outfits. I had enough problems without having to roast to death. The first outfit was a short white skirt, which left what seemed to me to be an obscene amount of leg exposed, white ankle socks, white sneakers with pink details, and a pink midriff top. Accessories included my necklace, of course, a pair of danglers in the holes closest to my head, a few rings, and a few bracelets. Sis told me that if we were doing this outfit for real, I would wear sandals, and we would paint my finger and toe nails hot pink to match the outfit, but that since we weren't doing it for real, there was no reason to bother with it.
I decided I would go out and grab a pair of sodas. As I went out through the living room, everyone said I looked great. I noticed Alicia and Rauthor were both gone, leaving only Llew and my parents. I paused, and asked where they had gone.
"Alicia said she needed his help with something, I don't know what," Dad replied.
"Hmmmm..." was all I said back. I had a feeling that girl was up to something again. I darted out to the kitchen, grabbed my sodas, and retreated to my room, where I told Shannon what Dad had said. Sis thought it over a bit, and decided she didn't know either. I told her she could lay out two more outfits, then I had some stuff to do. She first looked disappointed, but then grinned viscously at me. I gulped.
The second outfit was tame, compared to what I had expected. Short shorts only about as long as the skirt was began the outfit. I got to keep the same white socks, and we exchanged my pink and white sneakers for pure white. Next was the top, which was a white t-shirt, with a Barbie of some type or description on it. Now, I completely objected to the Barbie. First of all, in my opinion she was hideous, and a sign of the moral decay of America. Have you ever looked at her? She looks like Pamela Anderson. Just what every young girl needs as a rolemodel, somebody who looks like a porn star. Also, I had no intention of ever doing anything with any Barbies, period. But somehow, my sister got me into that shirt. I think she blackmailed me with something.
Next came the accessories, which was where the true hidden purpose of this outfit came shining through. Two white hair-ties explained it all. After a minute or two of fighting with my hair, which by the way put up quite a struggle - I was extremely proud of it - I found my hair up in two massive upright pigtails, one hanging down each side of my head. Next came studs in both pairs of holes, the usual few rings, my necklace, a couple bracelets, et al. Finally makeup time came. Sis added a light blush, eyeliner, mascara, red lipstick, and a few other things that I really didn't even want to know about. I walked over the to the big mirror, and had a look. It was as I feared. I looked like a beautiful teenage schoolgirl. I was frankly surprised that my sister had chosen blue jean shorts, rather than a skirt, but I decided I would probably be happier not knowing.
At first I refused to even go out of my room dressed like that, but my sister wisely pointed something out: "If Mom got you that, she expects to see you in it."
I had tried refusing to wear something my mom had bought me before, and I had always run into trouble. I decided I really didn't need any trouble, so I conceded to run out to the kitchen and grab some food. I was kinda hungry anyway. I walked through the living room, and this time noticed that the whole gang was there. Alicia was grinning about something. Hmm.
After grabbing some small bags of pretzels, and soaking up all the compliments, I returned to me room.
"Well?" Shannon asked anxiously.
"They loved it, of course," I said disgustedly. Personally, I did not like this get-up, at all. But then, who was I to argue with fashion...not to mention my parents?
"Come on, hurry up, I got your next outfit all ready to go!" From how excited Sis was, I could tell this one must be a wonder. I sighed, resigned myself, and checked out what she had laid out.
"OH NO!!!" I cried. "I don't care what you threaten me with, no way am I wearing that!"
Spread out over the bed was quite an ensemble. Hosiery, the thing that held it up, the corset, one of the petticoats, a slip, and a sundress my mom had bought for Lord-knows-what purpose, all occupied the center of my bed. On the floor sat a pair of 3" heels, and around the clothes on the bed were scattered various accessories, including a hat with a big bow on the front.
My dear sister brought up the same point as she did last time. I just crossed my arms over my chest, and flatly refused to wear that outfit. Then Shannon got one of those looks.
"If you wear that, then you can pick out your own outfits for when school starts." So that was her new game...she was going to bargain with me.
It was a tempting offer. The last thing I wanted was her to pull a stunt like this when school came around. "Teach me how to pick out outfits, so I don't look like a complete fool, and you have a deal."
"Good. I agree, now get dressed!"
Man, I thought, Shannon is really dying to get me into this. Before we started struggling with the clothes, Shannon told me to wash my face, so she had a clear slate to work on. I didn't exactly appreciate my face being compared to a piece of rock, but I complied. Then we got started. I managed the hose, the holder-up thing, and the petticoat by myself, but when I came to the corset, I realized I had a problem. I told Sis as much through the door, and she told me to cover up, because she was coming in. I promptly grabbed a nearby towel and wrapped up. Shannon came in, and walked around behind me.
"OK, hold the corset up," she said.
I held it up around my midsection, and together we struggled with that damn thing. After almost 10 minutes, we finally got it on me, somehow. I was struggling to breathe, and Shannon was panting from the effort. Quite a pair we made. Somehow we staggered out to get the rest of the clothes, and through diverse means we were able to squeeze me into them. Once I was in all the clothes, Sis began work on accessories. She let my hair out straight, applied a bright red lipstick and a little blush, and added rings, one bracelet per arm, and dangler earrings in the holes closest to my head. Then on came the hat, and we concluded by practicing walking in 3" heels for about 5 minutes. When I thought I had it down pat, Shannon and I walked out to the living room together. I did not feel comfortable going around like this by myself.
I don't really have words to describe how I felt, other than one: snug. I felt very tight and secure in these clothes. I wasn't sure I liked the feeling.
Shannon had another surprise lying in wait for me in the living room. Mom now had a camera. She smiled at me, and then raised the camera to take my picture. Now I understood. Sis was acting under orders. Mom had wanted to see me all done up in formal stuff. Well, I was not going to allow her the satisfaction of a good picture. I put my hands up to block it out even as Mom clicked the button.
Then, another silver blast of energy emerged from my hands, flying straight at the camera...and Mom.
"Mom!!!" Shannon and I screamed together. Luckily, Rauthor was there. He snared Silverfire, which he had been polishing for me, and was now lying by him on the floor, drew it, and deflected the blast, all in one smooth motion. We lost another sizable chunk of our wall, but at least we were all safe.
I broke down. I realized that my powers were slowly spiraling out of control. I had almost killed my mom with that last blast. I had no control over my powers, at all. I had no idea when a blast was about to happen, or anything. Shannon and Mom both tried comforting me, but to no avail. It then occurred to me that if I hadn't been such an ass about Mom taking a picture of me all dressed up, this whole mess probably wouldn't have happened. I mean, I was her daughter now. She had the right to dress me all up and take my picture. What right did I have to deny her? None, was the simple answer.
Rauthor ambled over. "Judging by the strength of that last blast, I have some good news for you."
I looked up at him miserably. "I need some really badly right now."
"Yes, well. I think your powers have progressed to the point where I can start working with you, training you in controlling them. I am also going to tell you, and everyone else in this room, what your powers are, exactly."
"Well, that is good news. Can it wait until I get out of this though?" I gestured at myself.
My mom answered for me. "Of course it can. I am so sorry dear, I had no idea you were so unhappy with yourself, or I never would have arranged this."
"No, its all my fault, Mom. I have to let everyone to start treating me like who I am now, which is a girl, a Tuata, a sister, and your daughter. I had no right to deny you the opportunity to try to get me to do girly things. I am just not ready for it yet, is all. Someday, I will be, I promise you. But that day is not yet, and it probably won't be for many weeks or months yet." I stood up. "Sis, let's go get me changed into something more comfortable, ok?"
"Yeah, sure Abbie."
I emerged several minutes later in a much different, much, much, more comfortable outfit. I felt so much better just being able to breathe. I decided not to take adequate air movement for granted ever again. I now had on blue jean shorts and a t-shirt. Nothing fancy, just knocking-around clothes for around the house.
Llew, Alicia, Dad, Mom, Shannon, and I all gathered to hear out Rauthor's description of my powers.
"You have two primary powers, Arianrhod," he began.
Alicia and my parents looked questioningly at me. "Arianrhod is my formal, Tuata name. It’s too formal for everyday use among humans though." They just nodded blankly.
"The first," Rauthor continued, "is of course your bolts of energy. That power, however, is significantly more than just bolts of energy. In essence, you can manipulate the energy that goes into spells. The arcane words and symbols are just the releases for the energy, and they also direct the energy. Your main power lies in the manipulation of that energy. With time and practice, you will be able to make it do practically anything you can imagine. Ghorder's daughter was able to send it around corners, alter its shape in mid-flight, form shields out of it, and various other little tricks. However, she had barely scratched the surface of what her, and your, power should be capable of. I will say nothing more on that power at this time, except that it is not a powerful power. You probably have images of massive blasts and powerful surges of energy going through your head…but the truth of it is that this power is more like a Swiss Army knife. You can use it for many things, but in the end the knife-blade is still a knife-blade, and not a sword."
"The second power is minor manipulation of gravity. As with the first, this power can be used in many, many ways. One way allows you to lift objects that you should not be anywhere near able to lift. An example is of course with the bags. In essence, you just weaken gravity's influence on the bags, making them easier for you to lift. In time, you will also be able to levitate short distances, and alter the effect of gravity on objects you are not touching. I want to emphasize, however, that this power is extremely limited. Your manipulation of spell energy is your main power."
"Finally, know that your powers are tied to the moon. Ghorder warned you of this, and now I explain his warning. When the moon is between half and full stages, your powers are enhanced, proportionate to the moon's degree of fullness. On the three nights of the full moon, your powers operate at roughly twice your "normal" level of power. At half moon, your powers are "normal." Between half and new moon, however, your powers are on the decline, to the point where you cannot use them at all on the three nights of the new moon."
I was amazed. I had a bevy of very cool powers at my fingertips, if I could just learn how to use them.
Rauthor spoke up once more. "Tomorrow, we begin training, Arianrhod. Be downstairs at 5:30am sharp. We will do basic exercises, then we shall move on to martial arts and swordsmanship, and then we shall conclude by exercising your powers."
"Martial arts?" I asked. "Cool, I have always wanted to know how to do those neat moves! And what's this about 5:30am?!?!"
"You shall not learn those martial arts. Even as the ancient Chinese, and others, we Tuata have our own style and variety of martial arts. And 5:30am sharp, Arianrhod."
I muttered under my breath for a second, and caught Shannon looking at me.
"Hey, Rauthor," I began. "Could Shannon join us, for a while, anyway?" I asked.
"Well, I am not sure why. She is not Tuata, and would not benefit from most of our training."
"I know. But, I want her to know what is going on. And, if she can learn even some of the martial arts, I would be greatly pleased. The day may come when she needs to defend herself because she is my sister, and I would like her to be able to."
"I see, you are worried that while people might not go after you, they might go after your family instead. That is wise, Arianrhod. Very well. And, I shall follow your logic another step further. Alicia, would you care to join us in training?"
Alicia piped up. "I would be delighted to, Rauthor. I know some basic stuff already, but I have a feeling it won't be like this!"
"It will be nothing like what you know, I guarantee you. Very well then, be here at 5:30am sharp, as well. Once again, Shannon and Alicia, you will not receive the full benefit of the training. Most of it is specifically for Tuata physiology and powers. However, as Arianrhod said, if you can pick up even a little to help defend yourselves, it will be worth it. Plus, it will give Arianrhod some people to help her through this. The training will not be easy on her."
I excused myself from this lovely discussion, and returned to my room to power up my computer. It was long past due I checked out what was new on my forums. There were many new threads, but I didn't take the time to read all of them. In fact, I only read one or two. I just didn't have the interest. I decided that I would retire from competitive gaming, at least for now. I wrote up a nice long post about it, copied it and posted it in several locations, and checked out how my hosting business was doing. Everything there seemed to be going well, and I decided I could always use the cash, so I let it up and made a commitment to keep up on things. I powered my computer down, and let out a sigh. I was sad that I could no longer devote my time to being the best, as I had before the change. I had mastered every strategy game that had come out. I was the undisputed best, I had played in and won cash tournaments. And it was all gone. I sobbed a little, then went back out.
Alicia looked up at me. "Just the girl I wanted to see!" she said happily.
"Oh?" I asked.
"Yep. I made you something, well, two somethings actually. Here's one." She handed me a bracelet. "It's a charm bracelet, something girlfriends give each other now and then."
"Wow, thanks, I guess." It didn't look like much, really, but the thought behind it meant a lot to me. I put it on, and held my arm up. "OK, what's next?"
"My next surprise is outside, and I needed Rauthor's help with it. Come with me!" she pulled me outside, and I beheld a big wardrobe. "It's for in your room. I couldn't find a nice wardrobe that went with your new furniture, so Rauthor and I made one for you. Rauthor and your dad will carry it in for you; I left a spot in your room for it. Do you like it?"
"Yeah, I love it. It will go really nicely with the rest of my new furniture!"
Rauthor ambled out before I could say more. "You get that end, and I'll get this end," he said.
"I don't know if I am ready for this yet, you know," I replied.
"Of course you are. Relax, and let your mind focus. Think only about the wardrobe becoming lighter. Imagine it lighter than air."
I bent down, grabbed a hold of the thing, and did just that. I focused, and imagined it lighter than air. Before I knew it, Rauthor was struggling to keep up. My end soared over his in no time flat. I was shocked. I stood there, holding it with one arm, and asked him innocently "Need some help?"
"Real...cute," he grunted. I lowered my end so that it was parallel to his, and we walked the wardrobe back into my room, into its assigned spot. Alicia, Shannon, and I moved some of my clothes around, filling up my new wardrobe and putting the rest into the closet.
The rest of the day was spent in peaceful relaxation. I tormented Shannon a bit, Mom just smiled idyllically, Dad did some work, Rauthor and Llew went off somewhere, and Alicia went home.
As we were sitting down for supper, Llew and Rauthor returned. Llew told me that she would be gone for several weeks, and that she would drop back in on us when she got back. I asked her where she was going, between mouthfuls of pizza. Rauthor explained that her primary power was teleportation. She would be in Beijing one day, London the next, and Phoenix, Arizona the third. As such, she was the primary messenger of the Tuata, and conveyed messages between the various oth
| Topic: Arianrhod, pt 1a|
|Arianrhod, pt 1a [message #4402]
||Tue, 21 March 2006 17:35
Registered: March 2006
Location: Behind you!
Greetings all.....I posted this originally on Sapphire's Place, as that is where I thought the universe's central hub was, if you will. Some of you may have read it already - I recognize John in Wauwautosa (sp?) has threads here. |
Anyway....Renae just now told me about this place (after talking via email with her, Maggie, and Starwolf for months....grrr....), so - here I am.
This is fan fiction for the Whateley Academy series. It may or may not match the timeline, characters, and continuity, but since it's fan fiction, who cares? To see the canon Whateley Stories, check out either Sapphire's Place (http://www.sapphireplace.com/stories/whateley.html) or the Big Closet (http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/taxonomy/term/117).
Any resemblance of my characters to people, real or dead, is purely coincidental. If this has really happened to you, I will be extremely jealous you got picked by destiny to get magical powers instead of me. Now that that’s out of the way…enjoy! Comments welcome; be as loving or scathing as you wish.
It was a cold night, far colder than it should be, I thought grumpily as I trudged along. For the middle of summer, this was unheard of. I stopped and took a quick whiff of the air. Hmmm. About 45 F I estimated. Despite the chill in the air, I kept moving, even though I was only wearing my typical summer fare, which is to say shorts and short sleeves. I had to be done with my late-night walk before my parents got home. The last thing I needed was to get chewed out for making them worry by staying out too long.
As I moved through the woods, I looked up at the full moon, though the branches got in the way a bit. What a beautiful moon it was this month. I was glad that it was out this month. The last three months it had been raining and cloudy, and I hadn't been able to get my full-moon walks in. That was one of my favorite things to do, along with watching various anime, drawing in pen and pencil, writing, listening to Nightwish, and doing things with my computer.
I don't know why, but I always felt a special attachment to the moon. Something about it was just beyond earthly beauty, and it energized me. That was the exact effect it was having on me now, in fact. I felt I could do anything, with that extra energy running through me. I decided when I got home I would be able to a very good job of finishing up a drawing I had been working on, but hadn't yet gotten up the nerve to finish. There was not much worse, in my opinion, than doing an amazing drawing, but screwing it up when it was almost done. That had happened to me far too often for me to take finishing touches lightly.
I was moving past a pond now. I stopped to catch my reflection...mirrors and mirrored surfaces were always neat too. I stopped to turn off my headphones for a minute. Away, by Nightwish, is a truly beautiful soft rock song, but I needed to concentrate.
I saw myself, Kevin Parker, 14 year-old genius. Ok, not a real genius, but I was a few grades ahead of where I should be for my age. In fact, this upcoming year I would be going into 11th grade. I blame it on the public schools. If they didn't teach such dumb stuff, I wouldn't be so advanced, and then I wouldn't get picked on by...well, everyone. I was the archetypal nerd. I didn't have any real friends, and only really knew two girls - my sister, Shannon, and my girlfriend Alicia.
Alicia was cool because she didn't like me just for my brain. That had happened too many times also, girls just buddying up to me so I'd do their homework for them. But, Alicia wasn't like that. She seemed to genuinely like me. She was 14, same as me, stood 5'5", and had shoulder length black hair, which she usually kept in an upright ponytail.
Shannon was an interesting character. She took after our mother, but carried it to extremes. She was really short, like our mother, only like 5'4", and really thin too. She was pretty sweet, and I had it easy, as little sisters go. She was only two years younger than I was, but she acted much older and more mature than her age. Although, she was beginning to hit puberty, which was causing some ...interesting...changes in her mentality and emotions. And Mom always sided with her, when SHE started it. Life is SO unfair. I swear; little sisters are the bane of teenage male existence. I was much bigger than she was, as I took after our father. I stood almost 6' tall, and while not heavyset, I was what they called big-boned. I could handle myself in a fight pretty well, due to my size and tenacity, but then the bullies and so on found their way around that by picking on me emotionally and mentally, when they paid any attention to me at all. I didn't have short hair, but it was certainly not long either. It was kind of interesting, in that it was brown. My mom has blond hair, and my dad black. How I ended up with brown, I have NO idea. Shannon has blond hair, too. As usual, I'm the odd man out. We all have blue eyes, though. All in all I looked like a tall, big-boned Harry Potter without glasses or a scar on my forehead.
It was a good reflection, I decided. I'd look a lot better when I had facial hair though. Lord only knows what color it would come in, but I was looking forward to it. I dunno, maybe it's a nerd thing, but somehow I thought it would make me look cool. I turned away, and continued my hike northward. Barber's Run, Pennsylvania, isn't that big of a place, really. We have a supermarket, a Walmart, and a Home Depot, and that's about it. Population: 1223. Typical small town America.
My hikes usually carried me to the south of the town, but this time I was heading north. I figured that in about a half-hour I would have to turn back south, to make it home before my parents got back from their visit with friends, and before Shannon's babysitter left, as well. Yes, my parents were that type. Shannon could handle herself quite well at home by herself, we all knew, but my parents rigidly insisted that until she was 13, she had to have a babysitter. How they decided on 13, don't ask me. Really, why they let me go on my hikes was a wonder to me and my sister, both. I think that maybe it might have something to do with the time when I brought home a rattlesnake I had killed with my knife. And when I say knife, I mean dagger. I had gotten it for my 13th birthday, from my grandfather, who has since passed away. It looks like something out of Crocodile Dundee. I mean, the blade on this thing is like 8" long. I think when I brought home that rattler, which is still in my room, by the way, stuffed and sitting on a shelf, my parents decided I could take care of myself enough that they let me go on my hikes.
As I resumed my walk northward, I reached down for my Mp3 player, to move it to the next song, Nemo, also by Nightwish. There was a story and a half there, too. I had an online friend, from Belgium, and we swapped music back and forth, in trades. So I would request song X, and he would request song Y, and we would swap them. Well, I scored big-time when I requested "Over the Hills and Far Away" by Nightwish. I had read some good reviews of it, and I wanted to see how good it was, really. I was completely blown away. I had trouble for a long time finding enough good songs of my own to swap with him for more Nightwish. Something about it was just absolutely, unearthly beautiful...kind of like my infatuation with the moon, come to think of it. I mean, on my top 10 favorite songs of all time, you have to go down like 8 spots, before you hit the first American artist on my list. That's how good Nightwish is, in my opinion. Although, there is also some random Jpop in there too, Yuki Kajiura and Maaya Sakamoto being two of my favorites.
Anyways, as I turned on my next song, I heard another song. At first I thought I had hit something I shouldn't have on my Mp3 player, and then I thought maybe my file was corrupt. By then Nemo started up, and I was hearing Nemo, and the other song. I turned Nemo off, and tried to figure out where the song was coming from. Whatever it was it was stunning. It sounded like Nightwish, actually, but the music was so much softer. The vocals sounded heavenly, just like the vocals form Nightwish. Man, I had an issue with Nightwish. But I digress. I knew I had to find out where that music was coming from, it only to pass on to the makers that I thought they were awesome, and should record a CD. Hey, I'm that way.
I finally decided the music was coming from my west, and headed towards it. As I grew closer to the source, I began seeing lights, as well, with a steady orange glow. Maybe somebody was having a party out here? I didn't know; that's for sure. The singing was continuing, drawing me closer. The latest song reminded me of an old Celtic bit I had heard some time ago, a lay about a lost maiden and her lover, torn apart by a freak storm and the wild ocean it created. Beautiful song, that. I paused, and tried to decide something. Should I just waltz in unannounced, or should I call something out and ask who's there? Hmmm. If I just walked in, goodness only knows what might happen. Some of the backwoods folk around where I live are pretty rough. On the other hand, if I call something out and announce that I'm here, I might not get to find out who is making that beautiful music. Hmmm.
Ah what the heck. I threw caution to the four winds, and strode purposefully up to the light and the music. What I found there was shocking, to say the least.
As I moved through the brush and into the light of the bonfire, I began to see shapes sitting around the fire, dancing and singing, and just in general having an obviously good time. The problem? Only some of those shapes seemed human. Most were obviously not, and a few seemed to be a combination. Why the creatures hadn't seen me, I had no idea. Now, what would most normal, rational human beings do when faced with this situation? Probably leave as quickly and quietly as they could. Did I? Not on your life. For a self-professed computer and anime nerd, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. And I still wanted to tell whoever was singing how much I enjoyed their music. That thought kind of slipped away though in the excitement of the moment, though. Who would think of music at a time like this? Well, I did. I reached down to finally turn off my Mp3 player. Why I hadn't sooner, I have no idea, and continue to this day to have no idea. But once more, I digress.
I crept towards the bonfire, slowly, quietly. I stopped behind the backs of some of the revelers, in the shadows, and coughed quietly. Immediately the figures turned towards me, and the music stopped, as did the dancing. Many voices began clamoring at once in a strange language, the likes of which I had never heard. Then one of the figures raised his, or her, hand, and immediately everything stood still. S/he walked up to me, and placed its hand on my forehead. I felt an immense, ancient power, and then knew no more.
After a while - I know not how long, exactly - I awoke, to find several of the figures standing over me. I stood up, with the figures watching me the whole time. I found myself completely surrounded, by all kinds of creatures out of every legend imaginable. There were attractive elves, stumpish dwarves, hideous ogres, and noble, scaled dragons. Those closest to me were a mix of various elvish types. One had extremely long ears, that I roughly estimated to be about 6-8" long, sticking out and back from his head. They were graceful, beautifully thin ears, but they were defiantly non-human. Other had more standard short, pointed ears, more traditionally elvish. Finally, the one closest to me, a handsome male who would have put any and all of the "hunks" at my school to shame, and he with the uber-long ears, spoke.
"H.H...Hell...llll..oo. Hello?" as the seconds passed, his speech became clearer. He talked with an accent not unlike that of an Irishman, but even then some of the inflections were strange.
"Uh...hey." I muttered out sheepishly. Here I was, face to face and talking to a living, breathing, elf, and all I could think of was hey. What a complete and utter cheesebrain I am.
"How is it that we can talk?" I asked him, or anyone else who was listening. Another nearby legendary, some kind of a cross between a girl and a deer, but definitely not a centaur, spoke up.
"You can understand us, and we you, because of a spell we had placed on you while you were unconscious."
I just stood there, awed. I had a spell cast on me. I was LIVING one of my RPG games. This was so cool. And that deer-girl was pretty hot. I mean, hot enough I would have dated her if she hadn't had the lower end of a deer stuck to her waist.
The first elf spoke up again. "I am Rauthor, leader of the High Council of the Tuata. And you are called...?" He had an air of command about him. I swear I could almost see it, it was so powerful. It didn't matter how loudly or quietly he spoke, whenever he said something, people - or whatever else - listened.
I figured I had to say something. "I am Kevin, Kevin Parker," I stuttered out lamely. God, way to go again Kevin.
"Welcome, Kevin Kevin Parker. My fellow mythics and I have come to a decision that you might be interested in." he stated flatly.
"Uh, just call me Kevin please. And, a decision? About what?" I asked plaintively. I really did not like that Kevin Kevin Parker bit. Reminded me of too many C list movies I had seen.
An elf spoke up, a female. She was different than Rauthor. She pointed ears, still, but they were short, no longer than an ordinary human's ears.
"You have seen us, and talked to us. No other human has done that for over a thousand years."
"So?" I asked. "By the way, before I forget my reason for coming here, whoever it was that was singing, you are awesome. You need to get a CD out, seriously." I just remembered what I had come there for in the first place, and it gave me a reason for being there. I was really not liking the tone in that female Tuata's voice.
"I was pass on the compliment," she stated coldly. "And what is a CD?" she then asked, equally coldly.
"Uh..." I started to reply, but was cut short by Rauthor.
"It does not matter what this CD is. Kevin Kevin Parker..."
I wanted to scream JUST KEVIN at him, but I decided to hold my breath.
"The members of the Council have decided that to ensure our safety from the rest of mankind..."
I held my breath. There were any number of things he could say that could be truly unpleasant for me. I had a girlfriend, a family, a life. Unless he just wanted to clear my memory or something, I would be in a world of hurt here. Damn my stupid ideas. I demand to see whoever thought of this crazy idea, I raged within my brain. Somewhere a tiny, wise, but cynical part of me said, you did stupid, now shut up and deal with the consequences.
Oblivious to my inner turmoil, Rauthor continued. "...you will join with us, and become a mythic, like us. You may choose what type you wish to become, but make no mistake, you will become a mythic this very night. And your old life is dead, for you will find humans are not agreeable to things they do not understand."
I just stood there, dazed. "But, what about my family, and my girlfriend, and my life??? And why not just wipe my memory or something, why go so far???" I whined. There was no other way to put it - I was fighting for my life here. I didn't come across very well, I'm afraid, but a teen's gotta do what a teen's gotta do.
"Your family and friends will be notified via dreams that you are alive and well, but out of their reach. Your life is gone, however a new life awaits you. As to our reasons, the populations of all the mythic races have been slowly falling for the past many centuries. As such, it has become standard practice that people who discover us are added to our number. This helps keep us from extinction. Now then, CHOOSE!!!"
With the last word he uttered, it hit me like a thunderbolt what he was saying. I would never see my family, or friends, again. I would never get to fulfill my dreams and hopes and ambitions. For all intents and purposes, I was going to be completely dead to the world by the end of the night.
I looked around at my choices. There was no lack of variety, that was for sure. A dragon, perhaps? I had always like dragons, but I decided that was too stereotypical. I still, somewhere deep in my psyche, had a hope of escaping all this and returning some day, so I needed something at least mostly human-looking. I thought about a merman for a while. He was mostly human, and in many of my favorite stories merpeople had the ability to shapeshift, which could be very useful indeed.
I decided against that though...swimming wasn't a big thing for me, in fact I could barely swim at all, and a life spent mostly under the seas didn't sound too appealing. I cast a glance up at the moon, and thought about my mythology. I was pretty sure I wanted something tied to the moon, in some way. If I was going to be pushed into this, I might as well at least get something I really wanted from it. So then, I thought harder, a moon-god of some kind. But, I asked myself, what group of beings was most tied to the moon. I decided to hazard a question at Rauthor.
"What creatures are most tied to the moon, Lord Rauthor?" I figured it couldn't hurt to butter the guy up a little.
"Ahhhh...a question. You are wise, human. There is no reason this must be unpleasant for you. To answer, there are several options. Elves are tied to the moon - they enjoy dancing and singing under her light. Dragons are also tied to the moon, it affects their creativity. Although I do not believe it to be mentioned in most human stories, dragons are actually masters at sculpting, poetry, painting, and other works of art. Finally, my own race, the Tuata, are also tied to the moon. Many of our people have attributes and powers relating to the moon in some way or another."
"Thanks, I’ll take that into consideration...how long do I have to decide?" I asked.
"You may have 10 of your minutes to decide what form you shall wear for the rest of your life. For hearken well, you only get one chance. If you choose poorly, you will spend the rest of your days paying for it," he rumbled out.
My mind raced. 10 freaking minutes!!!??? To make such an important decision!!!??? I thought as hard as I could about each of the three choices. I ruled out Elves fairly quickly. From what I was seeing here, Elves were nothing like the Elves I grew up with - the tough guys and gals from Tolkien being an example. All they seemed to do was dance around fires like idiots. So that narrowed it down to Tuata or Dragon. I knew all about dragons, but I needed to think about Tuata. Unfortunately, I knew next to nothing about Tuata.
The time was going by, oh ever so fast. So fast, and yet so slowly. I realized this short time, was all I had left in my human form. I asked Rauthor for a mirror. He looked surprised, but handed me one. I looked in, and drank deep of my image. I wanted to remember every detail, so that at a later time it might come out again as a drawing. After that was done, I asked Rauthor how much time remained.
"Two of your minutes, human," he replied.
"Okay, let me think here," I said hastily. I didn't want to offend him, but then I had an important decision to make.
As the imaginary clock in my head ticked off the seconds, I thought, and thought, and thought even more, until I thought my head would burst from all the thought!
Rauthor prompted me. "Time is up. What have you decided, human?"
In that instant, I knew what I wanted. I was amazed it hadn't been clearer to me sooner. I cleared my throat, for probably the last time, and made my decision known.
"For good or for ill, I choose Tuata."
Rauthor looked surprised and pleased at the same time. "It is not often we get a new member to our little family. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to it," he said
"Okay...so I've chosen, now what happens?" I asked. "How are you going to do this, magic? And will it be painful?"
"To answer your last first, no it will not be painful, in the least. Yes, we were going to use magic. It is a powerful spell, requiring two of our most powerful mages. They are on their way now. Basically you will go to sleep, and then in a few minutes you will awake, completely transformed," Rauthor explained.
"And I will still be me, right? I mean, all my memories and my thoughts and my mind and all," I inquired nervously. This was one of my biggest fears of the whole thing...I still wanted to be me.
"Of course. The change is simply of body, not of mind or soul." He cleared his throat. "Here come the two mages." He raised his hand and pointed to the right. I followed his gaze, and could see two figures approaching rapidly from outside the glade. I took a quick look at the crowd, and was amazed that there was nobody but Rauthor and the mages left. Every now and then I thought I saw the shadowy figures of others. I asked Rauthor about why everyone had left.
"The other mythics have left, because at this point the party is over, and it is now an event for Tuata only. As I said, it is not often we get a new member to our little family," he replied.
After a few more minutes, the two mages finally made their way up to us.
Rauthor spoke up again. "Kevin, meet the two mages who will add you to our number. The short one on the left is Ghorder, and the pretty girl on the right is Llewellyn."
The short one - Ghorder I guess, said in mock-anger, "Who you callin short, beefsteak???"
Rauthor just smiled benevolently.
Meanwhile, the other, Llewellyn, was looking me over. "He will make a handsome addition indeed," she murmured. Ghorder snickered about something.
"Something funny?" Llewellyn asked archly.
"Nothing, nothing at all, great lady," Ghorder bowed.
Llewellen just looked at him suspiciously.
Rauthor was just standing there laughing his head off. He pulled me off to the side. "Don't worry - these two have always been this way. I think they do it to hide how much they care for each other," he confided. Then he winked at me.
I took another look at the still-bickering pair. They certainly were an interesting duo. Llewellyn was very attractive. She had medium length blonde hair, falling down to her shoulders, an attractive face, and beautiful blue eyes. She stood about 5'4" tall.
Ghorder was the exact opposite. He was very short for a male Tuata, topping out at probably no more than 5'2", compared to Rauthor, who stood close to 6'6", and he was ugly as sin. He just looked...dirty. I don't know...maybe his body matched his mind. I was forced to wonder that question as the two of them bantered back and forth. I would gladly put myself into Llewellyn's hands, but Ghorder's...that I wasn't so sure about.
Rauthor just stood there with an amused smile on his face for probably another five minutes, until noticed I was growing more and more uncomfortable with each passing second.
At that point he stood up and boomed, "Enough!"
Ghorder and Llewellyn stopped immediately.
"Thank you. You can resume your banterings later - get to the job at hand. Kevin is nervous about this as it is, and the more you banter the more nervous he is getting. Now do it!"
"Fine, fine." Ghorder said, while muttering, "spoilsport" under his breath. "Let's get on with this, sister!" And with that he slapped her on the bottom.
Llewellyn's eyes narrowed with outrage. "Why you insignificant little..."
Rauthor cut her off. He was very good at cutting people off, I noticed. "ENOUGH!!! You can bother with him later!!!" he practically screamed at them.
"Fine. Then I am ready," she grumbled.
Ghorder smirked and said that he was ready as well. I didn't trust him. He was up to something. What it is, I didn't have any idea. But he was definitely up to something.
With Rauthor's nod to begin, the two began chanting in some language I didn't understand. I figured it must be a language of magic, since I could understand Tuata thanks to the first spell.
As the first words of the spell washed over me, I began to get drowsy. I decided foggily that I had better lie down, to avoid falling down later. Rauthor saw my weakness, and helped me lay down. I had dim recollections of more chanting, various symbols being placed around my body, and so forth, but it was all in gray, and soon afterwards I knew nothing more.
As I slowly became cognizant, the first thing I realized was a flowery smell in the air. I sat bolt-upright, took a look down at myself, and screamed my lungs out.
I was a Tuata! But, more than that, I was a girl Tuata!!!
As soon as I was done screaming, I looked around for the mages with bloodlust in my eye. I didn't think that Llewellyn was responsible for this...this...atrocity, but I swear if I could have found Ghorder, he would have been dead. Rauthor motioned for me to sit up. Then he massaged his ears a little.
"You know, you got quite a pair of lungs on you."
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!?!?!?" I screamed at him. In my moments of rage, I lost all self-control. Who cares that he was now technically one of my sovereigns, I was a girl for goodness’ sake!
"Well...I don't know how to really tell you this so you won't kill him, but Ghorder was feeling...mischievous. And since he was the one doing the body template..." he faded off.
"The results are obvious," I finished for him bitterly. I noticed with irritation my new voice was very soft and light. However, I was pleased that when I was angry, my voice had the range required to make sure it was known. "So where is the little swine?" I asked Rauthor.
"Now, now, I'm sorry about this, but it may work out for the best eventually. Do you want that hand mirror again?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure. I might as well see what the weasel...I...I mean Ghorder did to me."
Rauthor handed me the mirror, and then waited nervously.
"Stand back," I told him with narrowed eyes.
"Probably a good idea," he agreed. "I'll go try to find the weasel...I mean Ghorder for you," he winked at me.
"Yeah, please do," I grinned viciously.
I took a good look in the mirror. I was no longer wearing my old clothes, and I noticed with chagrin that my treasured Mp3 player was gone as well. My new clothes were in a silver tone, and they were strange. I guess you could call them a mix between a dress and a split skirt. It was all one piece, but the top was like a wrap-top, with buttons going down one side of my midsection, and the bottom was like a skirt, but there was a front panel that was separate from the rear two-thirds. I also had two long close fitting bracelets on my arms, and tall socks of some type and description on my lower legs. Close fitting shoes of a bizarre material covered my feet, completing the ensemble. I had never seen anything like it before, but it was comfortable and seemed to work well with my curves. Speaking of which, it was to them I turned my attention next. I was dying to know what my face looked like, but I decided to hold that off until last. I had small breasts, which I was pleased to see. They were still noticeable, but they were definitely small, which was good for me, because I had always favored girls with smaller chests. I had a little bit of hip to me, and a very, very, thin waist. Next I moved to my face. I didn't need the mirror to tell me other changes that had happened. I knew I was much, much shorter than I had been before my change. From standing next to Rauthor I was guessing I barely stood 5' tall. I also knew from the vacancy between my legs what was going on down there.
I moved to my face. I was shocked at how Tuata it was. It was not like Rauthor's, or even Llewellyn's. It was defiantly non-human. I had cheekbones so high now they could have dammed the Mississippi river. My face came gracefully to a point at my chin. I had beautifully arcing eyebrows, of a silver color. My eyes were almond-shaped now, and also silver, with very large pupils, so that I had very little white showing. My nose was very button shaped and delicate. I noticed with a shock that my hair also was silver, and now down clear past my buttocks. How I hadn't noticed it before was a miracle. I guess this body was used to the feel of it or something. I had a smallish mouth, and my lips were not very full. Still kissable, and quite excellent by Tuata standards, I could tell, but not even close to par for a human. My ears were standard-issue Tuata ears. They were long, and thin, and curved back gracefully about 6" from the sides of my head. They had two small silver loop earrings in each, near the base where the ear joined with my head. All in all, I liked my new face. It had a beauty, and a delicacy, to it, but at the same time, you could tell this girl was not taking any nonsense.
I reviewed myself once more, quickly, because I was Rauthor and the two mages walking up the hill towards me. I decided that, despite the fact that it was noticeably a girl's body, it was not a bad body. Ghorder hadn't really done that bad of a job, despite my initial misgivings.
"Heyho, Kevvy boy," Ghorder chirped happily at me.
Rauthor moved quickly into a position to intercept should anything happen.
"Howdy, Gorddy boy," I chirped right back. I noted with passing interest that my new body was very good at chirping. I wondered briefly if Tuata were part bird.
Ghorder gave me a faintly sick look.
Llewellyn just chuckled, and then moved closer to talk to me. "So, are you, how is it you say, ok? With your new body, I mean? I must confess, I almost killed Ghorder for you when I saw what he had done to you, but I stopped just short because I figured you would want him all to yourself!"
"Yeah, I guess I'm ok. I mean, it's not like I'm ugly at least. If I was still me, I would date this body - depending on what was inside, of course. But Ghorder, why a girl? I mean, I had never done anything to you, why would you put me through this?"
"I don't know...I just felt like doing it," he grinned at me. I started towards him angrily. He raised up his hands in mock fear. "Someday, I will tell you the real reason why. But today is not that day. Rest assured, I had my reasons," he replied.
"Fine. So what now?" I asked.
"Now, you need two things. You need to pick a new name, and you need to decide what you are going to do with the rest of your long life," Rauthor answered.
"A new name, eh?" I pondered.
"How about Beautiful Broad?" Ghorder smirked at me.
Llewellyn hit him over the head. "There you go, I took care of him for you. Us girls have to stick together!"
Despite myself and my being included in the feminine, I laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed, like I hadn't laughed for years. Somehow, that just struck me as tremendously funny.
Then I forced myself to stop laughing. I had a few serious things to consider yet, and this wasn't the time for laughing. I felt better though after my laugh, somehow the world looked brighter under the moon.
Suddenly, it hit me. The moon, of course. I asked Ghorder a question.
"Why is my hair, eyes, everything about me, silver?"
Ghorder chuckled. "Because Rauthor mentioned to me how much you seemed to love the moon. When your powers awake from dormancy, they will be tied to the moon as well, even more than a normal Tuata’s powers are. Does that answer your question?"
"Perfectly," I responded.
"How would one say "silver moon", in your - our - tongue?" I then asked.
Rauthor responded, "Well, the closest would be Arian, silver, rhod, wheel. So, Arianrhod, is the closest."
"Then Arianrhod I shall be," I stated.
"Then allow me to be the first to officially welcome you, Arianrhod, to the Tuata," Rauthor announced grandiosely.
"And I the second," from Llewellyn.
We all turned and stared at Ghorder, who was just standing there, buffing his nails against his coat.
"AHEM," Rauthor "coughed".
"What? Oh yes, hello," Ghorder said shortly.
"What's his problem?" I asked, even as Llewellyn was decking him again.
"He is just trying to be funny," Rauthor stated flatly. "He doesn't realize that he is about as far away from funny as the Ninth Planet is from Earth."
Llewellyn snickered at that, while Ghorder, who was rubbing the top of his head, only looked depressed.
I thought of something, an option I hadn't considered before.
"Lady Llewellyn," I began.
"Please, no lady, and just call me Llew. We are family now, in a way," she replied.
"OK then, Llew, can I talk to you in private for a moment?" I asked nervously.
"Sure...we'll be right back. Try not to kill each other in the mean time, please?"
"Oh all right," Rauthor grumbled while looking rather unhappy. Ghorder just looked hurt.
I giggled a little at that - which was a little disturbing, but it was a neat sound, almost like a brook or mountain stream's tinklings.
Llew and I went off to the side, out of earshot, which was some ways off, considering our rather impressive gear with that regard.
"Llew, could you put a spell on me, so that I could fit in better in my old life?" I asked her.
"Absolutely not. I had a feeling you wanted to ask me about this. I do, however, understand what you have lost, and so I will make you a deal. We can try to persuade Rauthor together, you will have my support in letting you go back to your world, if you wish it...rhetorical, I know.
I must have immediately looked happier because she promptly inserted a 'but'.
"But, you must agree no trickery. You must go back unabashed as to what you are. No hiding it, or any other nonsense. You must either get others to accept you, or else not. I think you will find, in time, why we believe as we do about the outside world. However, though you are new to our ways, you are a stubborn one, I can see. As such, you have to find out for yourself, how we are treated in the human world. And another thing..."
I held my breath. I could handle the first part - I would just say I had become a mutant. That was no trickery as to the fact I was different, and it still kept the other Tuata safe. I had decided I would tell my family, and Alicia, the truth though. However, I had no idea what her second 'but' would be. Unpleasant scenarios aplenty filled my now much smaller head.
"You must agree to keep in touch. Various of the Tuata will drop in on you, from time to time, and one of us will be chosen to keep a close watch over you - kind of a guardian angel bit. Whether you want it or not, you are one of us now, and we don't want to lose our latest little sister."
I winced a little when she said "little sister" but all in all I was rather touched by her little speech.
"I agree to your terms. Now then, what say we go gang up on Rauthor!" I winked at her.
"Yeah, why don't we go do that!" She winked back.
Poor Rauthor never stood a chance. It only took my and Llew's combined offensive roughly three minutes to disable his arguments and overwhelm him.
Before we parted ways, for the time at least, I had one more burning question I had to ask.
"So when do I meet all the other Tuata?"
Conversation stopped. The other three Tuata looked nervously amongst themselves.
Finally Rauthor spoke up. "The truth of the matter is, there are only a handful of Tuata spread over the world. There are 23 of us in fact, counting you. All of us were present tonight, to see you. Those were the shadows I caught you watching. Although they could not be present to greet you in person, they wished to view their latest new family member. There were many, many more, once upon a time, but we are all that are left. The others will stop in as they are able, but the three of us will be your primary contacts from the Tuata race. Now, others from other mythic races will probably drop in on you as well, but not many. Now then, we each have a gift, to present you."
"I will go first," Rauthor nodded at the other two, who stood back a step.
"I wish to present you with this sword. It has been handed down through my family for millennia. Its blade is forged out of pure silver, of the highest quality. The pommel is made out of carved moonstone...as soon as you were transformed I immediately thought of it. I want you to have it, I think you may find it will come in useful." With this he handed me the sword, encased in a beautiful sheath of embossed leather.
"Wow...I don't know what to say, Rauthor. This is a magnificent gift, thank you!" I virtually bubbled. I had always wanted a sword, but had never had the nerve to ask for one.
"Draw it, and see what you think of it," Rauthor pushed.
I nodded my head and drew the sword, albeit very clumsily. It literally dazzled me. It was so beautiful - I had never seen anything like it. "Its beautiful Rauthor. Does it have a name?" I asked.
"A name? Many swords from the era when this was made, had names, however this sword does not."
"May I name it?"
"I would be honored, as, I am sure, would be the sword."
"Then I christen this sword, Silverfire." I pronounced.
"A marvelous name, indeed!" He glanced over his shoulder, and saw both Llew and Ghorder's eyes boring holes into the back of his skull. "I guess I had better let the others go now. Farewell, Arianrhod. I will drop in on you someday soon."
Llew stepped forward next. "My gift is a little more commonplace, a mere piece of jewelry for a pretty girl," she smiled.
I blushed, another reaction that was strangely foreign, yet, not unpleasant.
Llew held out her and, and opened her clenched fist to reveal a small pendant necklace. It had a silver crescent moon at the base, and the chain was also made of silver links. It was perhaps the most beautiful necklace I had ever seen.
"Thank you so much Llew!" I gushed out. "It's beautiful - I love it!"
I reached up and put it around my neck right away. It felt very cold against my skin. I asked Llew about that.
"It is because it is magical. When you are safe, the silver is cold. When you are in danger, the silver will heat up. It will never chill your skin, or burn it, but will merely warn you when you are in danger."
"Once again, a magnificent gift. Thank you very much, Llew!"
"You are very welcome, dear. I, too, will see you soon. In fact, I will drop in on you tomorrow, and see how you and your family are adjusting."
"But, you don't even know where I live!"
"Don't worry...I'll be there, at 8:30am sharp."
"Okay...I guess I'll see you then."
She began walking away, following Rauthor.
"Thanks again...for everything."
She waved over her shoulder in response.
"Well, I guess that leaves me, then," Ghorder stated.
This oughta be good, I thought to myself.
"I am afraid that you have got something of a bad opinion of me. I wish to present you with this, as my gift." With a grand flourish, he brought out a large box from behind his back.
"Is it safe to open?" I asked archly - a trick I had picked up from Llew.
"Of course. Regardless of what you may think of me, I would never do anything to harm you. I may play some pranks on you, but I would never hurt...you." He said this with a tenderness I had not heard from him yet.
"Ghorder...are you ok?"
"Yes, I am fine." He looked at the others receding forms guiltily. "Come on, hurry up. I don't have all night."
"Fine, fine." I tried opening the box, but it was stuck. I grunted a bit and applied my full strength. Surprisingly, the box gave way well before I did. Sheesh, I thought, I must be stronger than I thought. As the box lid went flying somewhere across the field, I pulled out the contents of the box - a dress.
"A dress?" I asked him. Admittedly it was a very beautiful dress, but compared to a magic necklace and an ancient sword it kind of paled in comparison. It was a beautiful, deep blue, and was more traditional than my current outfit. It had a high bodice, which would show off a bit of cleavage, but not too much, puffy shoulders, and a knee-length skirt. The bodice and midsection of the dress was decorated with white lace, and all in all it was very attractive, and elegant. Several accessories were included as well, such as matching hair-ribbons, some hose of some kind, matching shoes of the same style as my current shoes, white silk gloves, and a matching deep blue choker.
"Yeah. A dress." I could have imagined it, but it seemed Ghorder was choking up a little. "Truth be told, it was originally for my daughter. She...died...before she was able to wear it. She was going to wear it to a party...actually her engagement party to her fiancée. But she never got the chance to." Ghorder actually seemed on the verge of breaking down.
Suddenly, a sneaking suspicion began to grow in my mind.
"Ghorder," I began sweetly, then added some steel to my voice, "you wouldn't have happened to have modeled me off of your daughter, would you?"
Ghorder looked around guiltily again, with tears in his eyes. "She was so sweet, and so beautiful, and cut down in her prime...it just wasn't fair." As he concluded his sentence, he finally broke down and started weeping openly.
"It was wrong of you to do this to me, just so you could see your daughter again." I didn't want to be too hard on him, but I didn't appreciate the fact that he was going to make me go through an awful lot of mental anguish, just so he could see his daughter again.
"I know...can you possibly forgive me?" he asked through his tears.
"I can, and I do. But, take notice...I am not your daughter. I am me, not her. I will accept your gift, and thank you for it, but know this: your daughter is dead. I may look exactly like her, but I am not her."
"I know that," he said wretchedly. "I am just glad that her visage, at least, lives again. She had the potential to go far, and accomplish many great things. I hope that she - as you - has a second chance at all that now. I doubt I will drop in on you often. It is too hard for me."
"I understand. Thank you, and thank you more for being up-front with me. That was your real gift, not a silly dress."
"And thank you, for being understanding," he bowed formally. With that, he turned, and followed the others out of the clearing.
And then I was alone.
The vale seemed so quiet now. There was no hint that there had ever been a party here, let alone a mere half-hour ago, as I estimated the time to be. Shit. I had to get home, really fast. This little detour put me way behind schedule. I took another look at my gifts. My necklace was already hanging around my neck...so that wasn't a problem to carry. I looked closely at the sword and its sheath, and found out you were supposed to strap it on. That took a little figuring out, but I got it on reasonably well. Then all that was left was the dress. I would just have to carry that. No way was I comfortable enough with my newfound femininity to wear it home.
Indeed, said newfound femininity weighed heavily on my mind as I picked my way through the woods. What exactly was I now? A Tuata...I knew that. But I was, in essence, a male soul in a female body. Could I ever really match up my soul with my new body?
I knew one thing...being lesbian or gay was not an option. It had never interested me - and indeed although I had online friends who were, I tended to ignore that aspect of them. It was just, creepy, I guess, to me. And not right, against the natural order of things. However, that left me with a dilemma. I would have somehow to bring myself to love a man.
Well, I decided, I would stick that on a back shelf in my mind - at least until I was more comfortable just being a girl in the first place, which would probably take a while. I determined that somehow I must try to be a girl, instead of a guy in a girl's body. I didn’t like the prospect of what that entailed though.
I nimbly avoided a tree that popped up out of nowhere...or so it seemed to me, being almost completely lost in thought. I was very nimble, I noticed in passing. Then I was back to my thoughts.
I made up a brief mental list of concessions of girly things I would do, and a mental list of things I would not do - yet, anyway. I was pleased that the two lists were about even. Maybe this would be easier than I thought.
I came up to the top of the hill just behind our house. I was just in time to see two strange-looking fellows get out of a car, holding something against their chests, under their jackets, and march up to our front door. I was amazed at how good my eyesight was. The moon was behind some clouds - there was no way I should have been able to see that far, and that clearly. Cooooooooool.
However, that thought quickly faded. I heard our front door get knocked down - and trust me, with ears of a size that mine now were, I could hear it very clearly - and my sister and her babysitter scream.
My mind went blank. I charged down the hill, ran around the house, dropping the box holding my dress, and drawing my sword. I was still very, very clumsy drawing my sword. I definitely wanted that sucker out before I was inside.
I raced through the front door - noting that it had indeed been kicked in - and started looking for trouble. I noticed that as soon as I passed through the front door, my necklace heated right up, warning me of impending danger.
My heart was racing...my pulse was so fast I swear I thought the robbers could hear it. I peered around the corner into my sister's room. There I saw one of the two men holding my sister and the babysitter at gunpoint. The other man was nowhere to be seen. I crept in quietly, and placed Silverfire's edge up against the back of the man's neck.
"Turn around and slowly drop the gun," I told him. My voice sounded like fresh-forged steel. I had no doubt that if he didn't do as I told him, I would kill him without so much as a second thought. Apparently he heard that tone in my voice, too, for he did exactly as I told him.
"Now, where is the other one of you scumbags?"
I heard something click behind my head. I just should have known. I had seen too many cheap action flicks to not know what was going to happen.
"You there, get down there with the other two. We don't want no trouble, just all your valuables...hehehe."
"Yeah, yeah, and maybe a little somethin' from each of yas, eh boss?"
"Yeah, I count that as one of their valuables. I got dibs on the mutant though."
"Fine, I didn't want her anyways. You're always into that kinky stuff."
"Just shut up and pick up her sword already."
The man I had pinned down and I switched places. He tried to pick up Silverfire, probably to hold against my head the way I had held it against his...but the sword did something to him. He snatched his hand back, really quickly, and told his partner that the sword had burned him.
"Nonsense," his partner told him shortly.
"Fine, then, you try picking it up!"
From the yowl of pain behind us I figured he had done just that. Good old Rauthor, I thought, you forgot to mention the sword was magical too. Made me wonder if the dress had any magical properties. Now that was an amusing thought.
Suddenly, a cloaked form filled the room. He seemed to be everywhere...or was that his billowing cloak that was everywhere?
The babysitter proved to be frail of heart. She immediately ran out of the house and down the street, somewhere, leaving my sister and I to the fates.
Then the cloaked figure stopped moving. As his cloak settled down, I saw that he had rendered both of the men unconscious. I stood up to thank him, and then caught a glimpse of a familiar face.
"Rauthor!" I cried with joy.
My sister stirred then. Crap, I had forgotten about her. She also stood up. She looked first at me, and then at Rauthor, and then promptly fainted. That worked for me, because I had to prepare a list of things to tell her and my parents both, and I wanted to talk to Rauthor.
"Rauthor, not that I'm not glad to see you and all, but why are you here?" I asked the first question on my mind.
"Let's just say I was trailing you home, to make sure that you got home fine. As it turns out, I am glad I did. You know, you really need help drawing Silverfire. I almost puked when I saw how horrible your draw was."
"That's why I drew Silverfire outside, before I needed it."
"Regardless, after seeing that little display, I have decided I am going to stick around for a few weeks at least, and train you both in the use of Silverfire and in the use of your powers. For, although they are currently dormant, you will develop magical powers, with time. And I would rather you not destroy half the town while experimenting with them."
"Amen to that," I laughed. I looked down at my little sister's prone form. "We should really move her to a couch or something." I gave Rauthor a little-girl look that my sister had used numerous times on me. I never thought there would come a time when I would use it myself, but it worked admirably, I must admit.
Rauthor grumbled a little, something about the duplicity of some females, and hoisted my sister easily with one arm. Needless to say, I was impressed. My sister wasn’t that heavy, only around 105 lbs or so, but that Rauthor could pick that much weight up with one arm was truly impressive. He then picked up the bandits and tossed them lightly out into the yard. I was worried that they would come back in as soon as they were conscious, but Rauthor said he didn't think so. This house was too much for them, and they knew it.
"Where did you want her, again?" he asked.
"Oh, uh, out in the living room on the couch is fine."
I heard a sound from outside, and looked out the window. Great, my parents were home early. This promised to be fun.
I dashed out to the living room and virtually pulled Rauthor back to my room.
"You, stay here!"
Rauthor looked a little hurt at that.
"You mean I don't get to meet your parents?"
"Not at all...you will be my last surprise. When I call for you, come out to the living room and introduce yourself.
"Fine. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?"
"Well...there is a collection of centerfolds underneath my mattress that I don't need any more...help yourself."
Before he could say more I shut the door and went out to the living room.
As I had suspected they would, my parents noticed that the door had been kicked in almost before they had pulled into the driveway. Maybe even before they had pulled on to the street. Parents are truly amazing sometimes.
As I braced myself for impact, I thought over what I was going to say. I didn't even know where to start. So much had happened, I didn't know what I should say first. I decided to just follow the flow of things, and see where it took me. And pray. Praying always helps. Lord, did I pray. This might have been the most important family discussion of all time, and I was nervous as hell.
My sister was just coming to, just as my parents walked through the front door...or what was left of it, at any rate. First they saw the door, then they saw my sister. They didn't even notice me, standing back in the corner, which was exactly what I wanted. I wanted my sister to tell them her side of the story first, and then I could come out once they knew I wasn't here to harm them.
As my sister spilled her guts, not to mention what seemed like at least a half-gallon of tears, I realized there was a major flaw in my plan. My sister had never even seen me holding Silverfire against the bandit's throat! For all she knew, Rauthor and I were two of the bad guys.
My mom asked if I had returned yet, and my sister nodded her heard no, while crying the whole time. She then said she wondered if maybe the "bad men" as she called them, had gotten me first, outside.
Well, at that point I decided that my fate was already in the hands of a higher being, so I through caution to the winds and stepped out into the open. I definitely did not want my parents getting any more worked up about my proposed lack of safety than they already were.
"Nonsense. I'm right here."
Lord, you should have seen the looks on their faces. First, a mutant steps out of a corner of their house. Then, it’s a female mutant, claiming to be their son! It's a wonder things went as smoothly as they did. Mom started screeching incoherently, my sister fainted again, and my dad just looked confused. Finally he got mom calmed down, got my sister awake again, and while I was standing there swearing fervently on every saint I could think of that I was their son and I was not a mutant and I was not a bloodthirsty killer, he motioned for me to take a seat.
"Can you offer us some legitimate evidence that you are, in fact, our son?" he asked. I was so proud of him I almost burst. He maintained his cool so nicely, and even remembered out little secret.
I had told Dad, quite seriously, some years ago, that with all the mutants and whatnot running around, if anyone ever showed up claiming to me, but didn't look like me, that he was to ask that person that question. I had a ready-made answer for him, it was kind of a password. I had come up with the idea after watching a show on mutant transformations, which had really creeped the hell out of me.
"Of course I’m your son, you dumb jackass," I told him. I am really good with passwords. No way anyone trying to be me would talk to my dad like that.
That was enough to satisfy my dad, but mom was a harder sell. My sister just sat there, with her eyes glazed over. She didn't know what to think, I could tell. Add to this little shock the fact that she had been held at gunpoint by men discussing how they were going to rape her, and you can see where see was having a rough time of things.
Dad calmed mom down again, and said, "We should at least her the girl's story, dear. I know my boy, and that is exactly how he would have said the password. My gut tells me it is him, now let's be calm, rational adults about this, and talk it over as such."
My mother simmered down. She didn't calm down; the only way I can describe it is that she simmered.
So I told my story. I told them everything. I noticed a shimmering spellveil hung over the kicked-in door. I silently thanked Rauthor for that. There was no way my story was getting out to anybody outside of the house, tonight at least.
I told them how I was not a mutant, in fact, but a mythic Tuata.
I told them how I was a girl, and looked like this, because Ghorder wanted to give his daughter's form a second chance on this Earth.
I told them about my gifts, which my sister actually helped here. She said she had heard the robbers talking about how my sword had burned them.
I told them I was being given this chance, to prove the Tuata wrong, and show that they could be accepted. I don't know if they believed me, but then when they started asking questions, I called out my trump card.
"Rauthor, come out here please," I called back to my room.
My parents looked nervously at each other. I could tell they were worried about this Rauthor fellow being in their house.
Rauthor strode out form my room, and believe me, he looked awesome. He looked like an ancient warrior from a long-ago era, cloaks billowing out behind him, craggy face, the whole bit. He also was carrying a wad of papers in his left hand. I recognized them with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
"These things are disgraceful!" he boomed out at my parents. My parents were just sitting there, staring at him, in a very similar way to how I had stared at him when I was saw them. My sister's mouth was hanging open. I leaned around Rauthor's massive form, and told her to shut her mouth cause she looked like a fish. She only stuck her tongue out at me. I was glad to see she was feeling better.
Rauthor threw the papers - which were, as I feared, my centerfold collection - into my dad's lap. Dad glanced at them, then handed them to my mother. Then both of them affixed me with that child-skewering glare parents are so good at. Let me correct my earlier statement. Parents are the bane of teenage male existence.
"Kevin Abigail Parker!" my dad shouted. Rauthor and I both winced. I don't think he realized bigger ears mean noises are louder. "You will explain this, at once!"
Well, I had known all along that this day might come, so I was prepared.
"You had a collection of them too, I asked Grandpa William about it before he passed away. Why could you have some and I couldn't!?"
Dad looked guiltily at my mother, while Rauthor just stood there, taking up most of the room, grinning like an idiot.
"Rauthor, sit down please," I told him. "I can't see through you."
He nodded at me and sat down on the couch by my sister, who was noticeably impressed. I think she had a crush on him. I shuddered mentally and physically at the possible implications of that.
Meanwhile, my parents had reached an agreement that we would put off the centerfold discussion for another day. Both of my parents asked Rauthor for more details about whether what I was telling them was true. He told them everything he knew, which was of course a lot. This seemed to satisfy my parents, especially when he pointed out the obvious physical similarities between us to them, and that no two mutants develop the same physical traits. How he knew that, I have no idea. For a Tuata, isolated from the human world, he sure seemed to know a lot of stuff.
My parents seemed quite taken with Rauthor. Finally they told everyone in the room that they believed my story, and accepted it. I never knew what relief was until that moment. Rauthor seemed very pleased too. Dad grumbled about losing his son, Mom was delighted at having another daughter, and my sister shrank from me in fear. All in all, a very pleasant conclusion. I looked over at my sister and grinned viciously. She looked faintly sick. I had had some fun as a big brother, but being big sister opened up all kinds of possibilities, one of which I was contemplating when my parents broke a rather...tender...subject.
"What about Alicia?" my mom asked.
I had already decided on this what I was going to do, but it still hurt a lot. I was going to have to tell her the whole story too, and hope that she would be willing that we could still be friends. It still hurt that my life was dead to the direction we had hoped.
"When?" my mom pushed.
"Later tonight," I replied.
My dad and Rauthor were discussing living arrangements. My sister was listening openmouthed.
"Mr. Rauthor is going live with us?" she asked with wide eyes.
I giggled. "Mr. Rauthor". Now that was funny.
My sister looked over at me in shock. "You giggled!" she declared.
"So what if I did?" I shot back.
She looked as if she was going to say something, but changed her mind.
"Come with me," she told me, virtually pulling me back to her room. I noticed from some discomfort that even though I was the "big" sister, my sister was significantly bigger than I was. I did not like the implications of that. It was going to take a lot of time for me to get used to being almost a foot shorter, and probably half my old weight.
"We gotta talk," she started, and motioned to her bed.
"Talk about what?" I asked.
She looked me up and down. "You know, I still can barely believe you are my brother," she started.
"Yeah. You're telling me." I sighed.
She looked at me closely again.
"You have no idea how to be a girl, do you? Your body is just doing some of it by itself, I see."
"Eh?" I was stumped. I had no idea what she was talking about. I just responded "Yeah...I have no idea how to be a girl. This is all kind of new to me, you know?"
"You know, I think you are doing a lot better than I would be doing if I suddenly ended up a guy. As to what I mean, I mean like you giggled out in the room there. That's a natural female reaction, but I could tell it was just automatic."
She paused, as if thinking of something. In the brief pause, I wondered when exactly my sister had gotten so wise. She had always been mature, but she sounded like a shrink here.
"Where did you get those clothes?" she resumed.
"Uh...I was wearing them when I woke up after my change. I just assumed they were like an ethnic dress of some sort."
"Have you seen yourself in a mirror lately?" she smirked.
"Just a little hand mirror."
She motioned me over to her full length mirror.
My jaw literally dropped. It turned out my skirt showed off far more leg than I would have liked, going clear up almost to my hips on the sides, where the slits were. In addition, I noticed that I wasn't wearing underwear.
"It's a wonder mom and dad didn't make you change your clothes before they would even talk to you," Shannon snickered again.
"Well, it's not like I have anything else to wear anyways, ya know."
"I know. I'll rummage around here, I think I have some old clothes that might fit you in my closet somewhere. In the meantime you should brush out that hair of yours. If you don't brush it out twice a day, it'll get tangled for sure, with how long it is."
"Hey, it wasn't my idea. I like it long like that though, even though I have to be careful to avoid sitting on it. And you know I have no idea how to brush out my hair."
That last was completely true. Sad though it was, I had only seriously brushed my hair three times in my entire life, and each time only at pain of loss of computer power.
"Fine, I'll show you, but just a few strokes. Then you do the rest while I pull your outfit together. By the way, how nice do you want your clothes to be? You said you might have Alicia over later, so I'm thinking you don't want just like a sweatsuit or something. Also, how girly am I allowed to go? I don't know what you are really comfortable with yet."
"Yeah, pick me out something nice...I do want to impress Alicia. And make it girly. I’m not comfortable with much beyond a long skirt and a t-shirt as yet, but I want to make a point, so I'll suffer being uncomfortable for a while."
"A point?" she called from over her shoulder, while rummaging through her closet.
"Uh-huh. I want to make a point that I am a girl now, that we can not be engaged romantically any more, even remotely, and that I would like to keep her as a good friend." This while grunting through a tangle in my hair. That I got it all out really amazed me.
"That's a good plan. I like Alicia, she's neat. I hope she can understand."
"I do too, Sis, I do too."
By the time I was done brushing out my hair, I was exhausted. I had known I had a lot of a hair, but I had never realized how much hair I really had. I stood up, and walked over to the bed where Shannon had laid out my new outfit. When I saw what she had picked out, I almost fainted.
| Topic: Pegasus (Random scenes)|
|Pegasus (Random scenes) [message #4098]
||Sun, 12 February 2006 17:18
Registered: July 2005
Pegasus: The beginnings|
by Xaltatun of Acheron
This is fan fiction for the Whateley Academy series. It may or may not match the timeline, characters, and continuity, but since it's fan fiction, who cares? To see the canon Whateley Stories, check out either
(http://www.sapphireplace.com/stories/whateley.html) or the Big Closet (http://bigclosetr.us/topshelf/taxonomy/term/117)."
Chapter 1: Morning.
Sted stretched in his bed and turned to look at the clock. 5:30, the same as it was every day when he woke up. The 14 year old boy slid out of bed and sat momentarily on the edge as he silently repeated the morning prayer of thankfulness for being given a new day.
This morning he tried to put the actual feeling of thankfulness in place as he repeated the words. He had discovered that trick a few months earlier, and it did indeed seem to brighten his day a bit. Maybe it was all in his mind, but then, what wasn't?
He slid out of his pajamas, leaving them lying neatly on the bed, and then walked quietly into the bathroom. He looked in the mirror over the sink and silently admired his body. It was heavily built for fourteen going on fifteen year old boy and solidly muscled. What it wasn’t was very masculine looking, or rather very teenage looking. His voice hadn’t broken yet, and the rest of puberty seemed to be taking its own sweet time as well.
He frowned at his close cropped brown hair as he took stock. It had not been behaving. Normally it stood up, but for the last week or so it seemed like it wanted to lie down flat against his skull except for an inch or so wide strip in the exact center of his brow line and running all the way back to the other end. And it might not stop there where the rest of his hair did. He'd noticed a roughness to his skin along his spine for the last few days.
He shrugged and stepped into the shower. A few minutes later he stepped out and dried himself off, wincing slightly at the tender spot that had occurred at the base of his spine. It seemed to have happened at the same time as his hair started misbehaving, and also at the same time as something really odd seemed to be happening to his feet.
It never occurred to him to tell his parents. “Life,” his father was fond of repeating, “has its painful times. Be a man and just bear up under them.” The spot at the end of his tailbone wasn't painful unless he hit it, and normally nothing touched it, even when he sat.
Unfortunately, some of the kids at school had noticed the change in his hair style. He grimaced at the memory, and wished that it would go back to looking the same as it had. A moment later, he felt a sudden twisting sensation, and the hair on the image in the mirror seemed to stand up straight again. He ran a hand through it, and stepped back in surprise. It certainly didn't feel straight!
Whatever had happened, the hair on the image in the mirror was now back flat, the way it had been before the twisting sensation. He took a deep breath and then ordered his hair to look right. Its image obediently stood up, but it still didn't feel like it was standing. He told the image to lay back down, and it did.
He thought a moment. What if he wanted long, golden blond hair? His image obediently changed, but the result was hardly flattering. It looked patchy, like pieces were missing and other pieces shifted at impossible angles. Well, angles that were impossible for a self-respecting head of hair, anyway. He experimented for a minute, finally getting the image in the mirror to behave the way hair ought to behave. He frowned a moment. Had he discovered a new method of deluding himself, or would anyone else see the illusion?
After a moment’s thought, he dashed back to get a digital camera, and took a picture of the image in the mirror. The camera dutifully showed the same image.
He dismissed the image, and then replaced it with his hair standing up as it always had. He might as well, he thought to himself, see how long it would last. Then he headed back into his bedroom to get dressed for the day and start collecting his schoolwork.
As he sat at his desk, he finally let the word he had been trying not to think of into his mind. Mutant. It wasn't impossible; mutants were supposed to show up at puberty, and he was definitely due, possibly overdue. What scared him was what his family, church, friends and schoolmates would think.
“You are,” the remembered voice of his father thundered in his head, “as God made you. Be a man. Deal with it.” He knew how far he'd get throwing that back in the old man's face.
His church? Pastor Snell had preached one of the ten sermons on the terrors of Hell that his denomination required each year, with reference to the evils of mutants, just the last week.
His friends? The kids at school? Forget it. The school counselor? He frowned. Maybe.
An hour later the family sat down to breakfast. As usual his father, Ben, said a short blessing over the food. Ben frowned at him in thought.
“You seem to be distressed over something,” he finally said.
Oh, shit! Sted took a deep breath into his barrel chest. It never paid to lie to his father, and in any case it would come out sooner or later. “Uh, I think I might be becoming a mutant.”
The way everyone froze in place was almost comical. The only reason you couldn't have heard a pin drop was because the pin wouldn't have dared. Sted watched the expressions chase themselves across his father's face in dread.
“I take it that your hair style isn't exactly what you would want,” he finally said.
Sted let out his breath. “No, it isn't. It's that and ... other things.”
“Act in haste, repent at leisure,” Ben finally pronounced. “We will say absolutely nothing to anyone about this until I have had time to think it over and find out some things.” He fixed Sted’s younger sister, Sadie, with his eyes as he said it.
She gulped. “My lips are sealed.”
“Shouldn't we send him to the doctor?” Sted's mother, Marge, asked.
“That's an idea,” Ben said slowly. “Not our regular doctor though. He's connected to the church, and I don't want anyone from the church to know until we've figured out what to do.” Sted breathed another sigh of relief at that pronouncement. “I'll see if I can find a specialist with a reputation for keeping his mouth shut.”
The doctor spent all morning examining Sted. Afterwards, Ben, Marge and Sted walked into the doctor's office and sat down in front of the desk, waiting for him. A minute later, he came in from the back door, still frowning at a stack of printout.
They introduced themselves with a bit of reserve.
“Well,” the doctor, whose name was Frank, said, “I'm not sure whether to describe this as good news or bad news, so let's get to it. First, Sted is definitely a mutant. There are two sets of physical changes, plus several mutant abilities.
“The first set of changes seems to involve his hair, ears, tailbone and feet. They seem to be progressing quite slowly as such things go, so you've got some time to adjust before things get too far from normal.
“First, his hair has definitely changed to a mane. That's finished; all that's needed is to wait for the mane part to grow out. That seems to be happening at the normal rate for hair, so it might be a year or more before it reaches its full length.
“Second, something is definitely happening to his ears. It's a bit too soon to tell exactly what, except that they're growing longer and pointier. How big they'll finish up is anyone's guess.
“Third, the mass on his tailbone is definitely the stub of a tail. Again, there's no way of telling yet what it's going to look like.
“Finally, his feet are definitely reshaping themselves into hooves that belong somewhere in the eqquus family: that is, horses, zebras and donkeys. That's not exactly common, but it happens often enough that we've got the process mapped, and it's about 10% along.”
“Cloven hooves?” Ben asked a bit shakily.
“No, that's a completely different family. Horse's hooves have an essentially unbroken nail around the front: his big toe is growing together with the rest of the toes, not separately as with a cloven hoof.” Ben relaxed in relief.
“Since mutations seem to be consistent, I think we can reasonably expect a horse's tail and horse's ears when his body is done with the changes. Although it's still early and there might be other surprises.”
He paused for comments. When he didn't get them, he continued.
“Now, that's the fairly obvious part. The next part is going to be more of a shock. The blood work and a number of smaller changes indicate you're going to lose a son and gain a daughter.”
“You're kidding,” Marge said incredulously.
“In a way, I wish I was. A very small number of mutants undergo a sex change, and it’s never an easy experience, especially on top of the rest of what’s happening. The blood work shows that puberty has begun, and it definitely isn't a normal male puberty. It also isn't a normal female puberty either. I wasn't able to find a good match in a quick search. The physical changes are subtle, but they're definitely female. What the whole picture looks like? I really can't say at this point, other than that it would be prudent to begin introducing him to the way the other half lives.”
Ben drew a deep breath. “I can't say it makes a whole lot of difference. He's not going to be able to stay with us once his appearance changes too much, so if he switches sex, well, we'll simply have to roll with it.”
“Which brings us to powers,” the doctor continued. “He's definitely got some level of illusion, he's quite a bit stronger and faster than he should be for his age, and he's gotten a bit smarter. There are some indications that he may have some magic user talents, and he may also have some gadgeteer talents. Beyond that it's something for the specialists, especially since he's still developing.”
All three of them nodded.
“None of that is particularly dangerous except possibly the magic user, and for that you can see a local wizard. There are several that take new magic users under their wing for their first few lessons.”
“Good,” Ben said. “I'll want a referral list.”
The doctor reached into a file and pulled out a sheet of paper. He checked it and then slid it across the desk.
“Finally, that brings us to further education and training for Sted here. It's good you've already decided that he can't continue his education here. There are a number of prep schools that specialize in mutants.”
“Hogwarts?” Marge asked.
“Hogwarts doesn’t exist,” the doctor chuckled. “Although it’s a useful bit of fiction to keep the public away from the very real prep schools. We have six prep schools here in North America that specialize in mutants, however we can rule five of them out right away.”
“Oh?” Ben asked.
“Well, all six have similar, and quite good, academics, but those five specialize in relatively normal looking mutants whose powers are either relatively low level or fairly unobtrusive. It lets them keep a low profile, and it provides good learning environments for the majority of mutants that do look relatively normal and have relatively low level powers.”
“I see. Sted isn't going to look at all normal.”
“Exactly. He's probably also an Exemplar 3, although maybe only 2. In addition, four of the five aren't set up to handle transsexuals.”
“I take it the other one is in the San Francisco Bay area,” Ben said dryly.
“Actually, it’s near Boy’s Town in Chicago. However, it's ruled out for the other reasons. The remaining candidate is the Whateley Academy in New Hampshire.”
“I think I've heard comments, but I don't remember very much,” Ben said as the other two simply looked puzzled.
“Well, they do try to keep a low profile.”
“The basic thing is that they're 'all else,' and that covers a lot of territory. They're expensive, but about half of the student body is on some kind of financial assistance. There's also no way of making the experience safe, as much as they try.”
“The only safety in the world is that which you make for yourself,” Ben quoted as Marge looked troubled. “Even so...”
“True. However, there aren't any alternatives. So the next step is to apply to Whateley, and that brings up the question of what to do in the meantime.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I suspect the application process and everything else may take long enough that his appearance will no longer be viable wherever he's going to school. I don't suppose it would be possible to home school him for a couple of months?”
“Actually,” Marge brightened, “it would. We decided I should stay home with the kids as long as they were in school. We've never considered home schooling because, well, we've got good schools where we are.”
Ben asked: “You mentioned illusion? I know I’ve seen him change his appearance.”
“I doubt if he could hold it all day at this point in his development. He still needs to concentrate to keep it up, and in any case it's not good to try to use that for extended periods until he's got a lot more practice. Too much risk of burnout.”
Ben frowned a moment. “How sure are you about the sex change?”
“At the moment, I'd have to say moderately. Neither the blood tests nor the physical changes are absolutely conclusive yet. Come back in two weeks, and I'll be able to say more.”
“Well,” Ben said slowly, “I've never believed in hitting a situation cold if I could prepare for it. Well begun is half done, and all that. Staying home will give a chance to practice with just him and Marge. We'll have to look into it.” He nodded decisively.
“Good,” the doctor said. “Now, I’d suggest another exam in two weeks to see how things are progressing. I’d also like to suggest you make daily measurements; while things are progressing slowly now, that’s a bit unusual and there’s no reason to think it’ll keep to a leisurely pace.”
Ben nodded. “Excellent idea. The more we know, the better.”
“Now, I’d also like you to see a specialist for a powers evaluation. That’s not absolutely mandatory; Whateley will do their own evaluation when he arrives. However, a specialist can help for between now and then, and it’ll give Whateley a better idea of what to prepare for.”
“What about a specialist for the sex change?”
“Well, I hadn’t considered it because most specialists that deal with sex changes deal with transsexuals; that is, people who are deliberately changing their sex because their current sex feels wrong to a crippling degree. That’s a well-trodden path, and Sted simply isn’t on it. You might be better off with a regular therapist that deals with sexual adjustment issues. In any case, that might not be necessary.”
“Oh?” Ben said.
“Well, besides the fact that we’re not exactly sure that’s what’s going on,” the doctor said as Sted looked relieved, “people’s reactions to undergoing this kind of forced sex change vary quite a bit. They range from total resistance and outright denial to stoic acceptance. A few even see it as a bit of an adventure. It mostly depends on Sted’s reactions and how much mentoring your wife can give in the time available.”
The doctor looked at Sted.
“Well,” he said hesitantly, “as dad said, soonest begun and all that. Besides, what you prepare for never happens.” I hope, he muttered under his breath. His father frowned and then obviously decided to ignore the side comment.
The next week was a whirlwind of activity as they prepared to withdraw Sted from school. The process hit a few bumps; bureaucrats tend to want reasons to do what they are required to do anyway. However, Ben simply plowed right on over the bumps, leaving a few bruised egos behind.
By the next Monday, everything was ready. Ben left for work, and Sadie left for school.
“Well,” Marge told her son after she stacked the breakfast dishes in the sink, “it’s time to start.”
“I guess,” he mumbled. Then he straightened up with an effort. “Yes, it is. What do you have?”
“Oh, nothing that quite justifies a death march,” she laughed at his discomfiture. “Let’s go upstairs and get started.”
He walked to the stairs, stepping carefully.
“Those shoes don’t fit any more, do they?” his mother said, observing his progress.
“Uh, not really.”
“I thought they might be getting a bit awkward about now. Take them off and go barefoot for a while.”
“But Mom,” he said, shocked.
“In the house. I know, a well brought up boy doesn’t go barefoot. Well, you might be turning into a well brought up ponygirl, and I really haven’t figured out whether she’s going to go barefoot or have to get shod. And if you do eventually get shod, I don’t know what we’re going to do about the floors.
“What I do know is that those shoes aren’t going to stay on your feet much longer. We’ll deal with the rest when it happens.”
Sted sat on the stair and slid them off of his feet. “It does feel better. I keep wanting to flex my toes, and I don’t have toes any more.” He shook his head and then carried the shoes up the stairs to his room, the nail around the growing hooves clicking on the steps.
A minute later his mother walked in, carrying an armful of clothes and a folder. “Get undressed and let’s see what we’ve got,” she said as she put the folder down on his desk and spread the clothes out on the bed. “I think we’ll start out simple. A training bra, panties, skirt and blouse.”
He slid out of his clothes with a grimace, and stood looking at the items of clothing. He picked up the panties and slid them on. Marge looked at the way they fit and shook her head.
“No, that will not do. They’re the right size, but...” She hurried out and came back with another garment. “Here. Try this.” It was a pair of tight fitting shorts.
He put them on.
“Good. We’ll have to deal with the bulge later. Now the training bra.”
“Mother!” he responded as she held the garment up in front of him.
She fixed her son with a look. “Hold still.” She reached out and massaged one breast. He flinched slightly.
“I thought they looked a bit puffy. Your breasts are beginning to come in.” She held the garment out to him again. He sighed and then took it and looked at it, turning it around in his hands a bit. Then he slid his arms into the straps and fastened the snaps behind him with an almost unconscious gesture.
“What?” she said, frowning. “I expected... Oh! Right.”
“The doctor said you’re a gadgeteer. I was expecting you to fumble the snaps the first time, but you wouldn’t, would you? That might be useful,...” she trailed off in obvious thought.
“Oh, I was just thinking about your hooves. I found a number of leatherwork patterns for boots to go over hooves to avoid damaging the floors. I’ve never learned leatherwork, but you might be able to pick it up quickly. Now let’s get the blouse on. See if you like the pattern.”
He turned the garment over in his hands, puzzled.
“It buttons in back.”
He slid his arms into it and buttoned it, frowning again as he recognized the plunging neckline in the back.
“Now let’s see,” she said as she touched his shoulder to turn him around. “Good. The V comes just above the bra strap and just below where your mane is going to end.” She ran a finger down the line of his mane, and nodded as she felt the bristles. “I’m not sure, but it does look like it might come in red. That would be a pretty color.”
She nodded. “Now the skirt, and we’re done.”
Sted picked up the skirt and looked at it, and then stepped into it, leaving the zipper at the back. He looked in the mirror and frowned at the way his blouse looked, and then lifted the skirt and pulled his blouse until it was straight.
“Good,” his mother told him.
“I thought so,” he grinned back at her. “I was puzzled until I remembered dad telling Sadie that how you dressed was a tool to impress people the way you wanted them to see you. Then I guess the gadgeteer thing kicked in, and I knew how to straighten it out.”
“And that’s right. The thing is, a lot of people don’t get it. Girls usually get it when they become teenagers and then forget; guys usually don’t get it at all.”
“So how’s this?” he asked as he put on the blond illusion.
A few minutes later they were downstairs in the kitchen. “Do the dishes,” Marge told her strange daughter, and stepped back to see how she would do at the task.
Sted walked up to the sink and looked at it, almost automatically classifying the available tools. He nodded and then filled the sink, giving it a squirt of detergent. A few minutes later all of the breakfast dishes were sparkling clean and neatly arranged in the drainer.
“So, how was your day?” Ben asked Sted at dinner.
Sted took a quick look at Sadie, and then answered. “A lot better than I expected. Housework is mostly tools, and my gadgeteer talent seems to make it rather easy to know what to do. Schoolwork is definitely different without a teacher! I’m getting the hang of moving around in a skirt. I guess the hardest part is my hooves; they haven’t finished adapting yet.”
“You aren’t having any embarrassment about dressing like a girl?”
“I’d better not! Actually, it finally sunk in that I’m never going to look normal no matter how I dress, so I either dress for comfort, or I dress to create an impression.”
Ben nodded thoughtfully. “The more confidence you project, the easier it is to carry anything off. You carry yourself like a princess, you can dress like a princess. Dress like a princess and carry yourself like a scullery maid, they’ll wonder where you stole the clothes.”
“I see. I don’t think I’ll have all that much problem there,” he grinned.
“You’ve got a confidence boost?”
“I seems like it. Might be the Exemplar 3.”
Ben nodded again. “Makes sense. Do you think you’ll be ready to go out in public for the doctor’s appointment this weekend?”
“For an hour or so at a time. That’s how long I can hold an illusion. Like this.” His hair suddenly shifted to the long blond tresses that tumbled over his shoulders in an artless disarray.
Sadie whistled. “Kewl!”
“The problem is going to be shoes. Mom says she found some leatherwork patterns for hooves, and if we can find the tools I’ll try to make some.”
The wizard looked like a little old grandmother from the old country; flowing ankle length dress and brightly colored shawl included.
“So you’re Sted,” she exclaimed as she saw him. “That’s a nice illusion you’re projecting. It really fits your personality. Let’s get you inside where I can see what you’ve got to work with.”
She bustled around for a few minutes getting everyone comfortable with coffee and, in Sted’s case, a cup of hot chocolate.
“Now let’s see,” she said as she sat in a comfortable chair next to a stand with a crystal ball in a holder occupying the place of honor. “You’ve got,” she picked up the ball and held it up between them.
“Oh, my. The doctor’s right, but there’s another real surprise waiting for you. Let’s leave that for later, though. Right now, let’s see you light that candle.” She waved at a wax candle in a candle holder that would have graced an 18th century mansion.
“How?” Sted asked, brow furrowed.
“Well, everyone does it a bit differently. Since you’re also a gadgeteer, I’d think you’d want some idea of how it would work. Warm up the wick to draw up the wax, bring it to the ignition point, something like that.”
“Oh.” Sted said a bit blankly, and then the candle lit with a soft whoosh.
“Great!” Grandma said. “So how did that work for you?”
“Like you said,” Sted answered. “I looked at it, and then I knew what had to be done. But I’m not sure where the energy came to get it started?”
“Well, that’s what being a wizard is all about. That energy came from you, and that’ll be a major limitation until you learn to tap the other sources of energy around you. That’ll come or it won’t. I rather think it will come, but it may take a while, and I really think it’s better if you take the time to learn a bit before you can put a whole lot of energy behind it.” She nodded vigorously.
“A mighty house requires a good foundation,” Ben put in.
“Well said,” the wizard replied.
“Now for the surprise. Have you ever seen the Tenchi movies?”
“That’s the one with the space pirate? Ryoko? Yes, they’re fun!”
“I was thinking more of the little animal that turns into a space ship and seems to like the princess. What’s it called?”
“A cabbit. A cat rabbit.”
“Right. See if you can change into one.”
“Huh?” Sted looked doubtful, and then the space around him twisted, and suddenly there was a little furry creature sitting in his chair. The cabbit hopped off of the chair and into the wizard’s grandmotherly lap as Ben and Marge looked on in astonishment.
“That’s great!” she said as the animal landed in her lap with a soft plop. She picked it up and scratched it behind its ears while looking at it intently. Then she bent over and put it on the floor.
“Time to turn back,” she pronounced.
A moment later, the space above the cabbit twisted and Sted stood there, looking more than a bit scared about the whole thing.
“What,” Ben asked, “was that about?”
“Well,” the wizard answered slowly, “Sted seems to have four forms, but I’m not going to have either a centaur or a winged horse in the living room!”
“We may find some place private and outdoors later to practice those transformations and see what abilities she has in those forms. That little animal seems to be pretty much invulnerable, as well as having some kind of flying ability that’s a bit weak to do much this close to Earth. I can’t really tell what abilities the other two forms have, although they’re not exactly the same as Sted’s normal form. She’s going to be an interesting puzzle.”
Sted stood on the train platform with his family, waiting for the train to arrive. The blustery January weather didn’t bother him: the hooded cloak, the mid-calf length dress and the knee length boots he’d made protected him from the cold quite well.
What did bother him was the almost two day trip without anyone else he knew. Just then, a uniformed porter came up. “Where to?” he asked Ben as the obvious traveler.
“Just my daughter, to Dunwich, New Hampshire.”
“Ah, you’ll want to be back here,” the man said as he maneuvered the handcart with Sted’s luggage farther along the platform. They followed him to where he left it next to another young girl, a pre-teen from her appearance, standing by herself. “You’ll be changing trains in Philadelphia, and this car goes right through,” he explained before walking off to somewhere else.
Sted’s slowly developing magical senses showed him a pulsing point of violet, almost ultra-violet, light in the center of her head: the light he had learned was the magical signature of mutant super-powers. As he watched, her hand moved and then the point of light bloomed and seemed to encompass her momentarily.
The girl looked at the four of them, her eyes hesitating as she saw Sted.
“Oh, hi, you’re going to Whateley?” she asked him. “You’re new? I’m Jade, by the way.”
“Uh, yes. I’m Sted, and I’m not sure what I’m getting into.”
“Neither was I. Do you know what cottage you’re going to be in?”
“Uh, Poe cottage. I’m supposed to be rooming with someone named Marty Penn.”
“And I hope you can clarify what’s going on. They were awfully vague about why they’d assigned our daughter to room with a guy.”
Jade looked a bit undecided. “I’m afraid that’s, what’s the term, need to know information. We simply don’t let it out.” She glanced at Sadie as she said it.
“I don’t think dad has ever said anything without thinking it out first,” Sted said.
“Talk in haste, repent at leisure,” Ben said, obviously pleased at what he regarded as a complement.
“Maybe once or twice,” Marge added dryly, “but not three times. Ben will tell me anything I need to know.” She gestured to Sadie and they walked off towards a concession stand.
“Well,” Jade said, recognizing she had been outmaneuvered, “Poe is the GLBT cottage.”
“GLBT?”, Ben said, puzzled at the acronym. Then the light dawned. “Oh! Well, I can see why you don’t want to make the situation common knowledge. I trust the administration knows what it’s doing, young lady.”
“I certainly hope so,” Jade replied. “Marty is, um, kind of Lizzie McGuire with super powers.”
Ben looked at the ceiling of the train shed briefly as if for inspiration. “Well, Sted has always been rather more mature for his age than one would expect.”
“Gee, thanks, dad.”
“Maybe you can clear up a couple of things they’ve recommended for Sted’s class schedule which I’m still confused about.”
“Well, there’s a martial arts class, and something called Flight I. It’s described as learning how to fly an airplane.”
“All fliers take Flight I. The airplane is really secondary, it’s just that it’s the standard way to get FAA procedures down. Nobody wants an accident in the air.”
“Makes sense. What about martial arts?”
“Mutants attract a lot of crazies. Even if your daughter isn’t going to go the super-hero route, she’s got a lot better chance of living to old age if she can see trouble coming and either avoid it or flatten it first.”
“It’s that bad?”
“They tell us that originally about half of the graduates that tried to keep a low profile didn’t live out a year. Now they teach most students to fight, regardless of whether they’re naturally a fighter or not. It protects the investment. And even without the crazies that go after mutants, there are other hazards. My first trip out there, I had to take down a mugger. That was when I didn’t have much going for me besides a martial arts background.”
Ben’s eyebrows rose at that statement.
“Well, part of it is that my travel allowance doesn’t let me get a sleeper, and even if it did you can’t get there from here on one train. I had to find cheap hotels for overnight. I think the mugger survived, but I didn’t stay around to check.”
“I’d think your parents would provide more.”
“I’m an orphan. Trying to get more money out of Child Protective Services isn’t easy, so I make do. I made my own arrangements for the holidays: I stayed with a police officer and his family and worked with him at police headquarters.”
“I’m surprised they let you do that.”
“Well, it’s not on the record. CPS likes the arrangement because they don’t have to find a foster parent, I learn police procedure, the department gets to use my, um, abilities, and everyone knows where I am. It’s a win all around.”
Ben looked puzzled, an expression that he wasn’t all that familiar with. “Police procedure?”
“Well, the difference between a super-hero and a vigilante is mostly a matter of good public relations and a good working relationship with the police.”
“Now that makes a great deal of sense.”
“It’s not like I intend to go into the hero business either. I haven’t made up my mind whether I want a position with a police force, or whether I want to go into the maintenance business.”
“Maintenance?” Ben asked, looking at the young girl with a puzzled expression.
“Most of us earn some money with work assignments; you have to if you’re on a scholarship. Mine is with the sewer plumbers. I’ve got some, um, abilities that are really useful for that kind of work.”
Something obviously connected. “Don’t I remember seeing you on television? That river tunnel problem?”
“Tell me about it! That was me, and I wish we’d have done a better job keeping the news crews away! When Ms. Carson says low profile, she really means low profile.” Jade giggled.
“Fortunately, the news crews didn’t make a connection between me and Whateley, so I probably won’t pull a week of detention for it. And the bonus they’re talking about awarding me looks real good, even though I won’t be able to get to most of it until I’m 18 or so.”
“I’d think they’d give you an award! I gather from the news reports that you saved the city several hundred million.”
“Well, it wasn’t going to be as bad as the Chicago Leak, but it wouldn’t have been pretty if we hadn’t gotten that plug in quickly.”
“I admit to feeling a lot better about the situation now.”
“I agree. Traveling with someone is always better. I think we’d best get a room together for tonight. That award isn’t in my purse yet!”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ben said.
“I think so, at least if Sted agrees!” Jade smiled at the hooded girl, and got a smile in return.
“In fact,” he said a bit thoughtfully, “I don’t like the idea of lower class hotels. Let’s see what I can pull together.” He flipped open his cell phone and started calling.
The platform started to get a bit too crowded to talk privately as more passengers arrived. Marge and Sadie came back, bearing hot dogs for the two girls.
“You shouldn’t have!” Jade exclaimed.
“Consider it a bribe,” Marge said, a bit of a smile on her face. Jade giggled as she bit into the bun.
A minute later, the train shed filled with the sound of the diesel locomotive as it slowed down the incoming train, punctuated with the sound of the air brakes releasing pressure. For a few minutes everything was a bit chaotic as the people on the platform tried to jocky for position near where they thought the doors would stop, and then the porters loading the baggage into the compartments by the side of the train.
“We’d better get on if we want a seat together,” Jade said a bit unnecessarily. The two girls pressed forward, each lugging a suitcase.
“Last time I only had a backpack,” Jade muttered. “This is awkward!”
“Isn’t it just,” the taller girl said from beside her, voice somehow sounding a bit hollow coming from the depths of her hood.
The seats were arranged in facing pairs, each pair having a small table between them. Jade looked at the overhead bin and made to climb up on the table so she could reach it.
“Here, let me,” a uniformed porter said as he saw the two girls struggling. A minute later their suitcases were in the overhead bin.
“Thanks,” Jade and Sted said in chorus. Sted held out a dollar, and the porter made it vanish with a smile as he touched his hat.
The two girls slid into the seat, Sted taking the outside as she was the larger. “Now what?” Sted asked Jade.
Jade shrugged. “We wait for the train to get moving, then they bring magazines around. They’re boring, but they’re better than sitting and staring out the window. Too bad we can’t really talk until tonight.”
“I think we can,” Sted said, diving into her purse and rummaging around. “Ah, here it is!”
“What’s that thing? It looks like a compact, but...”
“They tried to make me get one with Hello Kitty, but I put my hoof down on that!”
“I like Hello Kitty!”
“You’re welcome to her! I like having a pony on mine.” Something about the way Sted said that made Jade look at her companion strangely.
“So what is it?” she asked as Sted fiddled with some knobs and sliders.
“A sound dampener. We can talk all we want, and nobody can tell what we’re saying.”
“Kewl! Uh, does it actually work?”
“Kind of. It’ll fall over and die if anyone with real power looks at it crosseyed, and it won’t keep out a real professional, but if anyone like that is interested in us, well...” she shrugged.
“That’s better than I’ve got! So you’re a devisor?”
“Devisor 1. Also Gadgeteer 1 and Wizard 1, and they’re all kind of together and the doctor isn’t all that certain of the numbers. This thing’s kind of half devise and half spell.”
Jade giggled again. “And guaranteed to make Bunny and Fey fight over it. Well, they won’t exactly fight, but it’s going to drive them up a wall trying to figure it out. They might wind up talking to each other about something besides, uh...”
“Sex.” Sted filled in. “So they’re lesbians?” She said it like it was a deep, dark secret.
“Bunny is. I don’t think Fey has made up her mind. And it’s not a secret, at least with us.
Nothing we say, and I mean nothing, goes outside of Poe, though.”
“I understand. When dad lays down the law, we don’t talk. Period.”
“Exactly. The rest of the campus thinks that Poe is the cottage for the real weirdos, and it’s just as well. Lets us get away with a lot.”
Sted giggled. “So, how is it organized?”
“There’s six cottages. We’re the only coed cottage, well us and Hawthorn, and Hawthorn is for the kids with real problems, and I mean real problems. The other four dorms are split; two for boys, two for girls, two for kids that look normal and two for kids that don’t look at all normal.”
“I’ve been thinking,” Jade said as the train finally made its way toward Philadelphia. “They’re only expecting two of us at the hotel, and my older sister will be joining us for the trip from the station.”
“Your older sister?”
“Well, she’s a ghost. She died a while ago, but she still turns up occasionally when I need protection. She’s also a student at Whateley, takes classes and everything.”
“You’ve got a ghost as a protector.” Sted shook her head. “So there need to be two of us when we register. Well, I think I can manage that, as long as they don’t mind pets.”
“I’m also a shifter. One of my forms is a cabbit. You know...” she paused as Jade almost bent over double trying to avoid laughing.
“A cabbit,” she finally managed to get out. “I’m not laughing at you, I want to see Tennyo’s face when she sees two cabbits.”
“She’s my roommate. She looks just like Ryoko from the Tenchi Ami anime stories. She’s got some of Ryoko’s powers, and she’s got just as short a fuse, although she’s getting a bit better.”
“Oh. Two cabbits?”
“Jann, that’s my sister, can animate things. Get someone to tell you about the great cabbit chase the day we arrived. It’s just too funny.” Jade giggled again at the memory.
Sted giggled with her at the image that it brought up, and then sat up and looked at the gimmicked compact. “We’d better quit talking about secret stuff,” she said. “This is about drained.”
“It doesn’t last?”
“Oh, it’ll recharge in a few hours,” she answered from the depths of the hood. “I’ve never quite gotten the knack of pulling that much power off of the grid without blowing fuses, popping circuit breakers, causing scorch marks and other fun stuff.”
“Now, how do we organize this?” Jade muttered as the two girls got off the train, maneuvering the luggage with some difficulty.
“Just find a ladies and switch,” Sted answered. “I think two stalls together will do.”
Jade frowned and finally shook her head. “I hate walking down that street without Jann, but...” she shrugged. “This ought to do, and it won’t give people questions about where you went to and where Jann came from. Watch this,” she grinned as she pulled a compact out of her purse. “Kitty Compact. Scan!”
Sted’s eyes narrowed slightly as she saw the point of violet light in her companion’s head bloom and enter the compact.
The compact rose in the air and hovered; then it darted off to vanish in the gloom of the train station’s vaulted ceiling. Sted saw the speck of violet light at the center. It looked like... Well, if Jade didn’t want to spill that secret, it was certainly none of her business. It was also most likely nothing she could ever use.
“If we get into trouble, whatever you do, don’t look at me.”
“What? Oh. You’ve got some kind of confusion spell or devise or whatever?”
“Or something. I don’t want to give away all my tricks.”
“Dad would approve.” She dove into her handbag and pulled out what looked like the handle of a sword.
“What is that thing?”
“Light saber. It’s actually a looped positron beam. Looks neat until it cuts into something.”
“Put it away! You’ve got no idea how much paperwork, let alone trouble you can cause with excessive force!”
“Oh. I guess you’re right. You did say low profile, didn’t you?”
The two girls walked out of the station, the compact darting from one shadow to another above them, making sure it checked out all of the possible places a threat could be lurking.
“So how did you make that thing?” Jade asked in a low voice as she walked along.
“Generating a positron beam isn’t that hard. The trick is getting it to loop back without a lot of expensive, power hungry and heavy equipment. That needed a spell anchored to the devise. It generates a twisted magnetic field for the beam to ride on.”
“Kewl! I bet Bunny would be interested in it.”
“She’s the high level devisor you mentioned? She could probably make one without blinking.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. She’s more interested in special effects. Flashy stage stuff. If she made one, it probably wouldn’t hurt a fly – except by accident.”
“Now this is living it up!” Jade said as soon as the hotel’s liveried minion had showed them to their room and dropped their luggage on the rack.
“I think Dad wanted to go one bracket lower, but this was the best he could do on short notice. I recognized the expression.” Sted stripped out of her cloak and hood with a sigh of relief. “You don’t know how much I hate this thing – except when I really need it!”
“Wow!” was Jade’s reaction on her first sight of Sted. “That’s what you really look like?”
“Like it?” Sted pirouetted, tail flying out from behind her dress with the action.
“You’re beautiful! You said you had four forms?”
“Uh huh.” Sted dived into her handbag and pulled out something that looked like a plastic sting ray and dropped it onto the carpet. A moment later she seemed to shimmer and then the cabbit sat there, perched on the sting ray. It bounced into the air and then soared around the room on its plastic perch, causing Jade to duck as it buzzed her.
She dropped onto the bed and then shimmered back into girl form.
“You fly? Well, of course, you’re taking Flight 1.”
“Kind of. I can float, and the cabbit needs the airfoil to stay up. My centaur form also floats, and the pegasus flies. I think we’ve got room.” She bounded off the bed to the center of the floor and seemed to shimmer again. The shimmer swirled for a moment, expanded and then condensed into a centaur.
“I’d better not move around too much,” she said. “My shoes will rip up the rug, and the hotel wouldn’t like that.”
“Still Wow! You’re bigger than the pony rides at the park. And that’s a pretty red.”
“It’s called a roan; my mane and tail set it off nicely, don’t you think?”
“Uh. Do you take riders?”
“I might. It depends on the person. Now, here’s the last one.” She shimmered again. A moment later the shimmer condensed into a white horse with a pair of scarlet wings folded along its back.
“Eep!” Jade’s eyes bugged out at the sight.
“Like it?” Sted’s voice echoed a bit in Jade’s head.
“Telepathy?” Jade almost squeaked.
“Oh, good. You can hear me. I couldn’t do all that much testing, but some people can’t. It means we’re compatible.”
“You can ride me and stay on. Falling off at 30,000 feet isn’t a real good idea.”
“Uh. I think I’ll take a pass on that, if it’s all right with you.”
Sted whinnied and then shimmered again. A moment later she stood there back in girl form.
“All things considered, this is more convenient. Unless I was out in the wilderness somewhere; then the centaur would be better.”
“I like them all,” Jade pronounced. “But you’d fit better into a dorm room. And it keeps you away from Cavalier.”
“Totally potty devisor who’s sweet on Fey. He goes around in armor that he built himself and sounds like a refuge from a RenFaire. He built a horse that keeps breaking down in a shower of sparks.”
“Sounds like he’s studying for the White Knight award.”
“White Knight Award?”
“From Through the Looking Glass. Sequel to Alice in Wonderland. Had his horse loaded down with lots of junk, and kept falling off.”
“That sounds like Cavalier. One of the girls on the second floor had to spend hours with him to get him to sound halfway normal.”
“You don’t know the half of it! Weird doesn’t begin to describe Whateley.
“And where did you get those boots? I think half the girls would kill for them!”
“I made them.” Sted sat down and slid the zipper on one of them, pulling a hoof out. “I have to wear them unless I’m outside in the country. My magic teacher had a spell that cushions my hooves, but it’s way beyond me at the moment.”
“You made them? Don’t tell anyone or you’re going to have orders stacked up like fieldstone.”
“If it makes money...” Sted shrugged. “My family isn’t on the top of the heap by any means, and if I can make expenses here I think everyone will be happier. Besides, I like making things.”
“Typical gadgeteer and devisor,” Jade giggled again.
“This looks right rustic,” Sted said. “Like a postcard.”
“The whole town is a tourist trap. Shopping is, um, interesting. No malls; just a street of little shops.”
“You could call it the early version of the mall?”
“Not where they can hear you! But it does look like we’ve got a real problem coming up,” Jade said, looking at the sky with a worried expression on her face.
“It sure looks like a storm,” Sted agreed.
“It’s earlier than they said, and it’s supposed to be a real mess. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to get in now; I figured I might earn some extra with the maintenance crews cleaning it up.”
“I hope the bus gets here soon!”
“So do I. I haven’t got the money to stay in town overnight; besides Ye Olde Lodging House will probably be overcrowded. Let’s get the bags inside and then worry about it.”
The two girls hauled their suitcases inside, to see the station agent standing behind his counter. “The two of you are for Whateley?”
“Where else?” Jade answered for them.
“Well, they just called and said that the storm is blowing up fast enough that they don’t think the bus can make it. They said to try your luck in town.”
“Damn,” Jade said. “I think we need to talk this over.”
“Waiting room’s there,” he hooked a thumb at the door and then vanished into the back.
“Now what?” Jade asked her taller companion. “I could probably make a run for it, but it’d be awkward with all the luggage, and I’m no speed demon in the air anyway.”
“In that wind? I’d be afraid of being blown into a tree or something if I tried to fly. Now my centaur form,” she let the sentence dribble off slowly as she thought.
“I could probably make it in centaur form if I tied the bags on real tight and did something to weatherproof them. The centaur is pretty weatherproof. What I’d be worried about is traction. I wonder... Back in a minute,” she said as she eased the station door open and hurried out before the howling wind had a chance to do more than rattle the inside.
“It works,” she said after she came back in. “Shouldn’t be any problem with traction.”
“What did you do?”
“Reversed the float; I got enough heavier so that the wind couldn’t push me around. Never tried that before, but it worked like a charm. Now shifting forms in the middle of the storm isn’t something I want to try again unless I have to.”
“So you’re ready. The luggage won’t be a problem; Jann will take it. I think I want to check in with the school first, though,” she said just as a stronger gust shook the building and the lights went out.
“Damn! Well, it’s a chance to check out the new communicators,” Jade said, looking through her handbag. “Found it!” She screwed the tiny thing into her left ear and said: “Whateley Security.”
“Oh, hi, Sam. It’s Jade. Jann and Sted and I are going to come in through the storm; expect us in about an hour.”
She paused to listen. “In this storm, who’s going to notice?”
“Oh, the two campgrounds. They’re far enough back from the road, right?”
“Check. Report any stalled vehicles to county.”
“Ok, we’ll be cautious. About an hour. Tell Mrs. Horton to expect us.”
“Ok. Jade off.”
“What about weatherproofing the luggage?” Jade said as she dove into one of the suitcases and hauled out a weatherproof overcoat.
“Easy enough,” Sted said, rummaging around inside her handbag. After a moment, she pulled out a roll of a popular kitchen wrap.
“That’s going to withstand this storm?”
“It will after I get done with it.”
“But kitchen wrap?”
“I _like_ kitchen wrap. It’s so much more feminine than duct tape.” Sted giggled.
“You’ll get along with Bunny real well,” Jade threw up her hands in mock horror at the prospect.
Sted ignored her as she wrapped the suitcases in a layer of clear plastic. Then she stood back and muttered something under her breath.
“Now that’s impressive,” Jade said, looking at the bundle. “Kitchen wrap with an attitude! Bet that’s the first time that brand has ever lived up to its advertisements.”
Jade dropped a speaker disk onto the bundle and then bent over to touch it. A moment later, it rose into the air and hovered.
“Well, let’s hit the road,” Jade pronounced after almost vanishing inside of her overcoat and hat.
“Why would we want to do that? The road never did anything to us,” Sted said after she transformed to centaur form.
“A comic, yet,” Jann said as she floated out the door in front of Sted. Jade shut the door behind them, and then the centaur and the little girl vanished into the howling storm, their luggage floating behind.
“I know what Dad would say to that stunt,” Sted said as she nursed a mug of hot chocolate while sitting on one of the comfortable, if a bit worse for wear, couches in the first floor of Poe Hall.
“Oh?” Mrs. Horton said as she watched the two girls relax after the ordeal.
“Too stupid to come in out of the rain.”
“He’d have a point. Being weatherproof doesn’t turn a howling blizzard into a balmy summer day.”
“Growing up is the time to do your learning – as long as you survive the lessons.”
“I guess I survived this one,” Sted agreed.
“Pretty well, too. You look nice. I didn’t have any idea what to expect when they told me I was getting a ponygirl. Or why this dorm instead of Whitman. But you look good and it looks like you’ll do fine here.”
“I hope so. And I’ll try not to do too much damage to the floors.”
Sted slid off her boots to reveal her hooves.
“Well, Sara hasn’t managed to damage the floors yet, so you shouldn’t. Which reminds me that your uniforms and such will need to be altered for your tail. Custom tailoring them is a bit pricey, though. There’s a real good seamstress in town, but she’s also very expensive.”
“Oh, I’ll do that myself. I do most of my own clothing, and I did these boots as well.”
“You could make some money with that; just watch out that you don’t overcommit your time.”
“I do that, I’d expect Dad to be on my case even if he never hears about it!”
Mrs. Horton laughed. “Sounds like a man of the old school.”
“He sounds more like he swallowed Bartlett’s.”
Mrs. Horton chuckled. “I know the type, unfortunately. Jade, show Sted around the dorm; I’ll let you into the vault when you’re ready. You can take a pass on the statue until the storm dies down, and the main vault can wait until you go to the Crystal Hall for dinner.
“And remember,” she fixed Sted with an eagle eye, “nothing, and I mean nothing, that goes on in this cottage gets talked about outside. I expect Jade has already told you that, but I’m just going to emphasize it.”
“Uh, right, ma’am. Jade did mention it, and I’ll remember.”
“See that you do.” Mrs. Horton nodded as the two girls headed toward the staircase.
Oxymoron: Jumbo Shrimp
Impossible: Sustainable Growth
|Forum: Library Comments|
| Topic: dvancer 08|
|dvancer 08 [message #65801]
||Fri, 21 September 2012 01:55
Registered: March 2007
Just finished reading this tonight and had to write this. Excellent. What a set up and characters. Can't wait for more.
| Topic: shadowrun|
|shadowrun [message #63337]
||Mon, 13 August 2012 02:38
Registered: March 2007
Doc. I have never read in the Shadowrun Universe at all, but I am thoroughly liking this story. It seems to me you can write in any Universe, you want to and do it well, even the ones you make up yourself. Thanks.
| Topic: Nightbringer|
| Topic: Sorry|
|Forum: Whateley Academy News|
| Topic: What I'm doing.....|
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