|"WIZ-TV Transformation Charades"||Transformation Contest 2, Category 4||"A Dangerous Game"|
by Devon Erthshade
First Place - Category 4
Double-Play Prize Winner
All right, here we go... Backfire version 2, renamed to be more appropriate. Oh, and Phaedrus... no, that is NOT how I want my gift certificates made out, thank you. :)
A stiff wind blew across the plains of Deamos, carrying the first seeds of what promised to be a harsh winter. It wound around trees, ripping away leaves which had not fallen sensibly to the ground. It picked its way through Saladore village, whistling through open passages and screaming when shutters blocked its path. Nearing the end of its run, the wind passed through the window of a tower a distance from the town, into the scowling face of the wizard Athair.
Even in the best light and under happier circumstances, Athair could hardly be described as handsome. Wiry black hair heavily streaked with silver hung over a craggy face, deep-set faded blue eyes peered wearily beyond a hawklike nose. A lean build -- almost skeletal -- was hidden by his baggy clothing and the midnight-blue cloak he wore. Not that many came to see him in any case.
Athair fingered the clasp on the cloak as he turned from the window to look at the body which lay on the bed convulsing. The look of disgust and annoyance renewed itself upon the mage's features at the sight. He raised a finger at the shivering mass, whispered a spell, and quickly stepped to the door. A cloud of noxious vapors tried to follow him, but after being denied by the closed door, drifted to the open window where it was carried away by the air current.
The ground was firm, another herald of the season to come, and Athair hurried over it as if winter were at his very heels. He wrapped his cloak tighter about him as his eyes darted to and fro, seeking something on the landscape. Saladore was far enough away to make walking a not insignificant problem. But perhaps Athair wouldn't need to go that far...
A figure was dashing through the barren trees off the road to his right. Athair watched the brown shape carefully, then raised his hand in its direction. The body jerked in midstride and fell to the ground. Walking over to it, Athair saw it to be a young man clad in layers of rags, brown-haired like most of the residents of Saladore. The mage squinted at the youth, then nodding his satisfaction gestured at the inert form and began trudging home. Slowly, the body rose into the air and followed the tracks back to the tower.
Once there, the wizard opened the door and impatiently waited for the body to float inside. Muttering to himself he waved it over to rest upon the bed as he wandered about the room closing windows. At the last one he paused; it was not to admire the view, because that was obstructed by a parchment which had flown into his face. Peeling it off, he finished closing the window and looked at the paper with disdain. His expression changed to one of shock and perhaps even fear as he read the letters upon it.
The council has recently been informed that you use human beings as channeling vessels. As our relations with the mortal realm are unstable and the age of magick upon this world is ending, you are advised to find vessels other than humans to help preserve our good standing. Should you choose not to do this, the council shall have little choice but to remove you from this Realm.
Galfin, Archmage of the Wizard's Council
Athair crumpled the parchment and looked nervously at the body on the bed, asleep. Long moments passed in contemplation, the wizard alternately rubbing his chin and pacing about the room. Sometimes when he strode by the bookshelf he would scan the titles. At one such pass he stopped in his tracks and went wide-eyed, whipping his head back and forth between the shelf and the unconscious figure on the bed. An insane grin spread like wildfire across his features, and he pulled down the tome marked 'Morphological Incantations'.
The wizard flipped rapidly past the magickal creatures, the insects, the reptiles and avians, slowing at the mammals. Rodents were hardly given a second glance, mustelids and ursines as well. Aquatics were completely skipped. Athair stared long at the ungulates, finally dismissing them with a turn of the page. Felines were given similar treatment. Finally, a shaking finger traced down a list of canids, and stopped at one peculiar entry.
Athair grinned to himself like a child who had found his Christmas presents a month early. Quickly he read the spell requirements, and his left eyebrow raised. The requirements were few, and no preparation was needed. Snapping the book closed and tossing it on his desk with a smirk, he snuffed the lamps with a gesture and strode confidently over to the sleeping form. The aged wizard raised his arms, spread wide in a gesture of summoning. The chant began slowly, the pulses of magick weak while Athair found the pace. Once his rhythm established itself, he bowed his head and closed his eyes.
This was a mistake, for at that moment the young man known as Meren awoke. Looking about himself, he eyed the darkened room warily, the wizard yet to his back. Turning over, he saw the cloaked figure looming over him, glowing with an unearthly light. Meren did the only things he could think of in his panic; he flung his arms in front of his face and screamed. A flash of light and heat, and a faint wall of energy from Meren's own unskilled magick reserves formed between him and the mage, blocking and reflecting the spell.
The chanting broke off abrubtly. Athair's eyes flew open wide in surprise as he raised his head to see magickal sparks where his spell was striking the shield. Quickly he stripped away the barrier and rewove his spell, glancing nervously at his erraticly pulsing hands and tripping over the syllables of the chant. The magelight from his fingers flickered and faded, leaving the room shrouded in darkness once again.
A loud impact jarred the silence which followed. The lamps on the cluttered desk flared to life, illuminating the wizard sprawled over it. Regaining his composure, Athair turned to the lad who was then rising to his feet... and saw the whiskers. The mage stared; his casting had succeeded, he would have his familiar!
Meren stared back at his captor, his expression of fear and confusion giving way to one of fear and awe, then puzzlement. While he had heard the stories of the great wizard Athair who lived in the north tower, no description of the magick-worker had made mention of his pointed ears, nor the oddly slitted eyes which shifted color from blue to green...
The meaning of this expression became apparent to Athair when a sharp pain hit him in the face. His hands reflexively snapped up to cover his mouth, which was now an inch away from where it should have been. With a speed that belied his age he spun to dig for the book he had carelessly thrown. Once he found it, the mage almost literally began ripping through the pages, his growing claws gouging into the margins.
Meren left the mad mage to his work, instead attempting to leave via the oak door. As soon as the hinges creaked, Athair turned and gestured at the doorway hurriedly, then returned to his research. The young man had not noticed the mage's movement, and dashed out the doorway. Or rather, tried to dash; he slammed facefirst into a barrier of magick. Groaning, he probed his nose gently with one hand while feeling the visibly empty air with the other.
A quick search revealed no flaw in the invisible wall; Meren slumped back against it, for all appearnaces leaning on air. He gazed across the room, his eyes falling upon the narrow slits in the shutters which leaked the light of late afternoon. Slowly, he crept to the window and opened it, a small amount of hope showing in his features. The hope faded in the same fashion it had appeared as Meren judged the distance to the ground. Sighing in defeat, he sat on the window ledge and stared over the countryside.
As he stuffed his hands into the folds of his jacket, his fingers brushed a small piece of cloth set within. Pulling the folded scrap out, he carefully unwrapped it to reveal a small wooden ring. Intricately carved to resemble rose-bearing vines, the largest 'blossom' carried a fragment of pearled shell. Meren turned the ring slowly between his thumb and forefinger, looking between it and what he could see of Saladore, searching in vain for one figure in particular. Sighing again, he clutched that which would have served as a poor excuse for an engagement ring and raised his free hand to scratch at his nose. Shock made him drop the ring; for one thing, there was fur on his nose, and for another, he had a lot more nose.
While Meren sat examining his altered attributes, papers flew from the direction of Athair as he searched for anything which would tell him how to reverse his change. He rose stiffly from his chair, stooped over from the alterations already made to his body. Hobbling toward the bookshelves, he paused momentarily to reach back and ripped a hole in his trousers. A black-furred tail spilled from the tear to poke out from under his cloak, twitching slightly as he reached the shelves and sought his cure there.
Several crashes of books hitting the floor and screams of anguish later, Meren's ears unflattened and he peered hesitantly at the source of the noise. Ancient tomes were splayed about, fragile scrolls left trails of crumbled parchment as they rolled upon the floor, and amidst the rising dust huddled a sobbing cloaked figure. Shedding his battered and suddenly too-warm cloak and jacket, he made a stuttering walk to the weeping mage. Uncertainty showing plainly in his movements, Meren placed a furry arm around Athair.
The shock of human contact -- for all that Meren could be considered human -- brought Athair back to his senses, in a fashion. He looked at the youth in bewilderment, eyes wet, then rested his muzzle against the furred shoulder of his would-be familiar. The two shapes simply stood there, shrinking and shifting gradually.
Hours later a russet-furred fox with black 'socks' wriggled out of a pile of dust-worn clothing, sneezing as he kicked the last patchwork rag from his hind claws. Another fox, black as night with silver markings, worked his way from under a similar pile of dark clothes nearby as the russet fox watched. The two stared at each other a moment, then the black one turned to wave a paw in the air. Lowering the paw, he heaved a very human sigh, before emitting a purely animal snagger^ of annoyance.
The brown fox had nipped his flank playfully, and he turned to face the offender. The former peasant darted right under the former mage's muzzle in the direction of the door, but skidded to a halt just inside the doorway to sniff at it. The black one took this opportunity and passed right by the brown to lead a chase down and out of the tower. Winter was approaching and they needed to put on weight, but for that night any activities other than play were left like the two discarded piles of clothing.
^ : i don't think this is a word, but it describes the sound an irritated fox makes quite well. trust me on this, watch corey and basil at wolf park for a while and you'll hear basil making this sound often enough. ;)
n, Devon Erthshade, firstname.lastname@example.org
_/ | _ Devon on FluffMUCK (fluffmuck.org 8888)
/, `''/ If I had the faintest clue where I was going,
<~ .' the journey wouldn't be half as fun.
Copyright 1997: "Devon Erthshade" <email@example.com> . If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask the author for permission first. Thank you.
|"WIZ-TV Transformation Charades"||Transformation Contest 2, Category 4||"A Dangerous Game"|