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A Trickster's Tail - Part 1

Copyright (c) 1996 Phaedrus; All rights reserved

This is a delurk, after about six months of inactivity (I'm sorry, but when you've got twenty megabytes of mail sitting in your inbox, catching up is a royal pain :-) ) . I happened to notice a couple of the NMF stories, and I loved them; I hope nobody minds if I try to throw something in here. I know the writing in this isn't very good, particularly near the end, but I wanted to get an introduction written before things with the other characters got too far along.

By the way, on the subject of being behind, I'm almost finished with a long-long-long-delayed update of the TSL; but please don't send me any entries for it yet--I'm having a hard enough time as it is. :-)

Keith was so nervous, he was afraid he might need to pee. Which would be more than a bit inconvenient right now.

He was not the sort of person that you would expect to see walking down the street in a coyote suit. But then again, that was probably why he was doing it.

Keith had first heard about the Raucous Chicken Club party back in mid-September; and as soon as he heard about it, he knew it was something that he needed to see--badly enough to extend his stay for two weeks. Not that that was a big deal; he hadn't accepted any new offers yet. (There were plenty of offers; Microsoft and IBM were in a full hiring swing; and no small number of his fellow contractors had felt the call of a guaranteed paycheck, thinning out the field somewhat--but he had been there, done that, thank you very much. Besides, he wasn't exactly hurting for funds; 30000 shares of Microsoft doesn't make you Bill Gates, but it does make your travel plans a lot more flexible.)

Ever since drama class in high school, he had always had an interest in costuming. He was glad he hadn't made a career of it, but he still remembered enough to win most of the costume contests at the holiday office parties he wound up at--and the ones he lost were usually because the boss had showed up in costume. Still, from what he had heard, the Raucous Chicken was two or three orders of magnitude above the average party; some truly unique creations showed up there.

Since this was a special occasion, and since he had plenty of time to kill, he decided to try a full-body animal costume, something he hadn't done since college. A wolf? A lion? No, those would be done to death. Something really exotic, like a dragon? No, he'd never be able to pull it off. Something in between; close enough to the standard dogs and cats that he'd have some hope of putting the head together right, but something that hadn't been done more than a couple of million times before. A coyote-morph? Yes, that might be worth going with as a starting point. He had always liked the Coyote myths; maybe he could do something with that.

But he couldn't go in a coyote costume and nothing else; not only would that be boring, but it would make it that much harder to deal with hiding the seams. He needed something to dress up the concept with, literally and figuratively. He thought about putting some Native American garb together and going as the Coyote, but that seemed awfully dangerous--someone might think he was being disrespectful of other cultures, and he certainly couldn't risk that these days. A fantasy theme? A coyote mage? Promising. Very promising. A tricksterish character, definitely; uses magic for practical jokes, manages to get himself in trouble a lot, and somehow always manages to get back out of it. Since he's an animal morph, he's probably in tune with nature and all that; so maybe he gets his power from natural areas, and can't recharge in a city. Gets around a lot, and has a lot of experience, but not enough of an attention span to put a lot of effort into any one subject; so he can do a lot of different things, but spells cast on anything other than himself tend to wear off after a few hours, or maybe a few days if he's really pushing it--and of course, they don't always do just what he wants. Probably good at sneaking around and hiding, since that's the only way he'd survive more than three months. Good. Good enough for a start, anyway...

So he went out and rented a good sewing machine. Getting the other supplies he needed was going to be a problem--the other partygoers had obviously hit the stores long before him--but a Gold MasterCard can solve a surprising array of problems, once you find the right person to read the numbers to. And Keith knew just the man for the job--an old college theater-major friend, who had gone to Hollywood to pursue The Dream of a show-biz career, and actually managed to pull it off. Three days, some long phone calls and a few frantic email exchanges later, the four boxes from Sony Pictures Studios showed up. Opening them up was like Christmas morning, especially the big roll of wonderful fake fur in just the right shade of golden brown. There was a note attached to the stack of diagrams and photos: "I always knew you were just a lonesome ol' coyote at heart, man. Just remember, if anyone at that party asks where you got this stuff, you never heard of me. And send me a snapshot; this I gotta see. --Jack"

The rest was relatively straightforward; there were mistakes and false starts, and some terrible moments with the muzzle and the ears, but the suit was ready with just over a week to spare. It certainly wouldn't win any awards at the Raucous Chicken, but Keith was pretty sure that it wouldn't embarrass him either. The claws on hands and feet were shorter than a werewolf's, functional rather than frightening. The tail was a bit over two feet long, long enough to be convincing but without the risk of getting it stepped on. He was particularly proud of the head; the pointy ears and the long muzzle were perfect, though they made him sound like he was talking from inside a long train tunnel. For the mage's outfit, he whipped up a green hooded cloak, with trim and assorted mystic sigils in a slightly darker green; it would cover him pretty thoroughly if he so chose, but he planned on wearing it loosely and with the hood down, to show off the suit. (He decided to pass on anatomical correctness--he had never done it before, and he wasn't quite sure what the room was ready for.) With four days to go, everything was ready; he started wearing it around his apartment, getting used to the feel and the heat. He found himself liking it more and more. If this Raucous Chicken thing doesn't work out, he mused, I'll be the hit of the office-party circuit for years...

Now for a name and a bit more of a background story. After some digging around at the library, he decided that "Kickaha" had a nice ring to it. Now, what was he doing on Earth? Some self-created magical accident, obviously, had thrown his life-force across the cosmos and into the body of some human, which he had reshaped into something more "suitable." When his magical power was high, he was in control, and the human personality was pretty much along for the ride; when his power was low, it was the other way around. Hmm. That might be a bit wordy for a costume party, but at least it wasn't cliched. What was he doing at a costume party? Well, having fun, obviously; what else would Kickaha be doing? Keith grinned at that; if anyone pressed him at the party for a detail he'd left out, he could make it up as he went along with a clear conscience--after all, Kickaha certainly wouldn't feel the need to tell the truth about himself...

And so it came to pass that a slightly sweaty human in a golden-colored fursuit pulled his rental car into a lot two blocks from the Raucous Chicken, silently cursing the traffic that had held him up. He adjusted his cloak, donned his Kickaha head, gave himself one last once-over in the mirror, gulped once, and headed for the club, shifting from his usual walk into the confident saunter he'd been practicing.

When he got inside, his nervousness eased a little. Yes, there were some truly impressive costumes here--there was an impressive minotaur, and that donkey over in the corner was extraordinary--but there were also some much more amateurish efforts; when he saw the guy with the sheet over his head, he knew that he wasn't going to get laughed out of the room. He didn't know anyone here, but on the bright side, that meant that he couldn't embarrass himself too much in a full-body costume. So he quickly found himself relaxing, and slipping more fully into the Kickaha persona he had practiced. He compared notes with a barbarian and a knight in shining armor, to see if they were "from the same plane"; when the barbarian jokingly asked him why the mighty Kickaha seemed to have a speech impediment, he replied, "My telepathy is on the fritz again." I should have thought of that earlier, he thought; I could have put a speaker at the top of the head or something. Oh, well; live and learn.

A fellow in a somewhat clumsily-done French poodle costume blundered into him from behind. "Have you no respect for your elders, dog?", Keith said jokingly. "Perhaps this will teach you!" With that, he started an elaborate windup for a spell, streaming nonsense syllables; the poodle cowered in terror and tried to scramble away on all fours, but Keith was hot on the trail. Just after he finished his incantation and thrust both his arms at the fleeing poodle, he suddenly felt queasy. He held his head for a moment to clear it, then looked up.

A large French poodle stood shakily where the man had been. It looked at him, and yipped plaintively.

Around the rest of the room, shouts and screams rang out. The minotaur bellowed, clearly no longer in costume. Something exploded across the room. People started running.

{{Oops,}} Kickaha thought. {{Talk about overdoing it...}}

He quickly looked around the room again, trying to figure out whether there was some way to bring things back to some semblance of what they were. {{Not a chance,}} he realized; {{Anyway, this should all wear off pretty soon anyway. Which means that I should probably be going; someone's bound to not be too pleased about this, and this party is a total loss anyway...}}

As he joined the crowd running for the exit, he looked down to see if he had been caught in the backlash. {{Oh, shit,}} he thought, as he noticed the smooth expanse of fur across his crotch; {{That was one of my favorite parts...}}

Outside, he closed his eyes, feeling for someplace quiet and out-of-the-way. A patch of land about a half-mile north called to him; a wooded area, maybe a park. It would have to do, at least until he could catch his bearings. He closed his cloak, pulled his hood over his head, muttered a few words, and started walking. Even though his clawed feet and twitching tail were still clearly visible, nobody noticed him. People had a tendency not to notice Kickaha when he walked that way.

As Kickaha arrived at the park, a man in shabby clothes staggered up. {{Damn drugs,}} Kickaha mused; {{you can't fog the mind of someone who's already fogged beyond recognition.}} "Spare change?" mumbled the man, lurching and grabbing Kickaha's cloak. Kickaha chuckled. "Well, since you asked, I suppose I can spare one more tonight..." The bum's form blurred and shifted; then a large mutt staggered away. It didn't seem to object to the change; it may not have even noticed.

Kickaha, meanwhile, suddenly felt queasy again. {{Then again, maybe I can't,}} he muttered, as he dropped to one knee...

Keith slowly blinked his eyes, staring down at his nose on the tip of his muzzle.

"Holy shit."

I already have days 2 and 3 roughly sketched out (and I hope to write at least day 2 tomorrow--well, later today). I'm not sure yet how long it's going to take Kickaha/Keith to realize that they're not responsible for what happened; I'm also not quite sure whether the two of them will wind up fighting each other for the body, or whether they'll reach some sort of "alliance." Any suggestions (preferably other than "Get off the list, you bum")?

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