"LOOK OUT!" someone shouted from my left. I looked over just in time to see something large and round collide with my face. It bounced off onto the ground and I was able to identify it as a rubber ball. I blinked, realizing that I had completely zoned out. I should have seen that ball coming a mile away, or at the very least felt it. For most people it would have been the other way around, but my sense of touch was... odd. I've never known why, but it extended to the air and magical energy around me. I'd say it was something I picked up as an air mage, but I could always do it, even back when I was a kid. I never fit in with other kids because of it, since they were always freaked out that I could 'see' things I couldn't possibly. There were other things, but that was always the hardest to hide. On the other hand, it was a trick that had saved my life on numerous occasions.
A small pair of hands picked up the ball from where it had landed. The kid that had thrown it looked up at me. "I'm sorry..." he said in a subdued voice, looking down, obviously scared that I would punish him. I looked down at him and smiled. "Oh don't apologize, then I can't get revenge!" In retrospect, my reply could have been a bit more considerate. Instead of a joke, my comment sounded much more like a threat. The kid flinched away and looked up with a terrified look just as I threw a snowball into his face. He sputtered a moment in shock as he processed the information that all I'd done was hit him with a snowball. He then looked at the snow dripping from his face with a puzzled look, at the completely snowless surroundings, and then back to me. I answered his unspoken question with a smile, "Mage."
I left it at that and let him think I had created the snowball out of this air because what I had actually done was one of those freaky things that got me into so much trouble as a kid. I could connect two points together over a seemingly endless distance to make a hole I could put stuff in. There were limits of course, but to others it looked like I pulled stuff out of nowhere. One of the reasons I became a mage was to have an explanation that didn't make most people think I was an evil spirit, though in some places magic was just as bad. In the meantime it was a very useful way to travel light. I had made a room several years back with all sorts of spells built into it to make it easier to connect to. With that and all the practice I've had, I can connect to it from just about anywhere and I kept all my stuff in it. However, with all my stuff so close together, I also had to worry about theft, and I didn't want any of the food going bad either, so I had hiding and conservation spells on the room too. I kept snowballs there year round just for kicks.
I pulled out another snowball to illustrate my point and made it 'disappear' again to the kid's awe. I looked over to where the other kids were waiting for him and asked, "Mind if I join you guys? My name's Kit." His face lit up and he said, "Sure!" before running back to the group and babbling all about me. We invented a new game where I sat still in the middle of a field while they tried to tag me as I chased them down magically with the rubber ball. If I got one of them, they had to go to the tree at the other side and count to ten before continuing and if they got me I had to do a magic trick for them. After an hour they were completely worn out and I needed to continue to the town anyway. They managed to catch me three times, but we had all had a blast anyway. I sighed, kids were always so much fun...
I arrived at the town itself with the kids in tow and sent them back to their respective houses as I continued to the market. Their mothers scolded their kids for associating with a stranger, but adults were always a lot stiffer than their children anyway, so I ignored them. I wasn't going to be talking to them so I didn't need to be on their good side. MY goal lay in the market where I would hopefully find a quartet of books that I had been tracking for some time. As I walked I listened to the local voices.
That was another talent, but one I tended to keep secret. I could hear voices that no one else could. They tended to attach themselves to things, places, or people and follow them around until the thing they followed died or was destroyed. They were also incredible gossips and when I revealed information I wasn't supposed to know, people tended to get really suspicious. People would always write off my 'seeing' things behind me as lucky guesses or good hearing, or something along those lines, and I would come off as eerie, but not evil. However when I knew things I shouldn't, like the smith's son eloping with the baker's daughter, they always thought I was a spy working with the black arts. If I told them about the voices they tended to get downright hostile. I had been run out of town more than once by an angry mob convinced that I dealt with the devil.
However, what they told me was still useful to know, when it made sense anyway. Some voices weren't attached to anything and would comment on things that had nothing to do with anything nearby. Also since the voices 'lived' so long, they tended to be eccentric if not outright insane. I suspect that they're not entirely in our world either as they tend to sometimes talk about things that make no sense what-so-ever. I once had one voice follow me around all day talking about politics in a place that didn't even exist. One in particular seemed smarter than the rest and like to follow ME around. Voices in general didn't really have a gender, but it was hard thinking of this one that way. So I pretended it was a he and called him Bora. He didn't talk often, but when he did it was usually insightful and useful information although he was also a real prankster.
This time however, the nearby voices seemed relatively sane and local, although most of them were gossiping about one particular person. It seems that the entire town thought he was a virtuous person, but he was having four affairs on his wife, one of which was actually male. He swindled everyone and then arranged for his customers to be ambushed just out of town to take back what they had bought and even more of their money besides. He also apparently wore a bright purple and foppish hat. However, none of it was related to what I was looking for.
After about an hour around the stalls, trying to look absently interested in whatever came by but not actually buying anything, I came across one vendor with a shelf full of books. Surely if anyone had what I was looking for it would be here. Looking through the titles, I had to squash my excitement when I found what I sought. All four of them were there next to each other. I checked again just to be sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me, but the quartet was still there. My search was over if I could just manage to get them off the merchant. I tried not to look too interested as I pulled them off the shelf and asked how much they were worth. Apparently my ploy didn't work because the merchant went into a spiel on how valuable they were. "Ah yes, I see you have a good eye there. Those books are probably the best value in this shop! It cost me a fortune to get those and I'm afraid that I couldn't sell them for anything less than ten gold coins."
I winced and turned around. That was an amazingly high price but I was desperate and actually willing to pay and the merchant probably knew it. They had an almost sixth sense about these things. However a voice spoke before I could say anything. <Ha! Foppish hat man only pay ONE gold for books!> I blinked as I looked at the merchant again. He was indeed wearing a bright purple and foppish hat which gave me an idea. It was a very evil idea, but I figured that if anyone, this man deserved it and I'd be out of town before word got around that I knew too much anyway. I just couldn't resist. "You lie. You only got these books for a tenth that. And if you try your usual robbing tricks after I buy them I will tell Melissa about Jessica, Jessica about Dana, Dana about Melissa, your wife about all three, and the entire town about Edward."
The merchant stared at me with an open mouth, no doubt trying to figure out how I found out so much and whether I'd actually go through with my threat. After a moment or two of blinking at me, he closed his mouth, shook his head, and considered me for a moment. "Have I mentioned you're my one hundredth customer?"
<Well that went well. Almost too well.> Bora commented. It was supposed to be sarcastic, but somehow it fell short. I'd gotten the books for free and I'd be long gone by the time the merchant might think to get rid of me to ensure my silence and get his money AND merchandise back. All in all, it HAD gone well. I finally had the books I had been searching for and without any trouble either. Which in itself was rather suspicious as Bora had pointed out, seeing as it was a Monday and all. I have always suffered from chronic bad luck, but it was always worst on Mondays for some reason. I blame it on Murphy for the most part, and most of the time I'm right. Not that he did it intentionally, he had actually cursed my mom a bit before I was born, but I was the one whose luck went all wonky because of it, go figure.
Which brought me back to today. It didn't happen too often, but not every Monday was full of bad luck. Murphy's curse really can't do anything to mess up things around me unless there's a random factor to mess up. However it really did look like I had lucked out this time (in a manner of speaking). With that determined I returned my focus to the books I had obtained. They were originally made as a quartet, each focusing on one of the four elements that supposedly made up all of existence; earth, air, fire, and water. I looked at the Book of Air first because it was the element that I primarily used. I didn't really find much new, but there were some pretty nifty tricks that I would have to try out in the future, such as an explosion spell from air pressure and a scrying spell.
I scanned the other three briefly for now as well, although I wouldn't be able to actually learn much from them in the short time I had before I wanted to leave. Again I was looking mostly for minor spells to try out, particularly in the Books of Fire and Water. I actually had passable skill in those elements even though I was nearly hopeless with earth. Which was hardly surprising if what the books hinted at were true. The elements seemed to be not some sort of individual energy unique to each one, but rather a state of stability that something could be in. I suppose it made sense in a way, as water could become solid or gaseous at times, and metal when heated melted into a liquid. According to these books, earth was solid, water was liquid, air was gas, and fire was a type of plasma or pure energy. Since gas is in between liquid and plasma in stability, I have a moderate amount of skill with them, but the thing that intrigued me most was the continued reference to water as the median state.
While water is known as a good median, the books seemed to be talking about something else. As if it were the middle state. By that idea, earth would balance air, but what would balance fire? Was there a fifth element, opposite of fire, some sort of pure matter? As bad as I was with earth, I'd probably be even worse with this other element, but I still would want to know about it. If it was true, that would mean there was a fifth book to this series that had been lost to the memories of time and if I wanted it I'd have to find it myself. I focused on the books and asked, <What is the earliest thing you can remember?> Hopefully there was a voice attached to these book that could answer his question. Thankfully, Murphy's curse couldn't do anything about things older than I was, and therefore it as well, so this was actually random chance and I seemed to be in luck. <A LONG, long time ago everything was really dark. Then there was this big light and suddenly stuff existed...> I sighed and amended my question. <Not that far back, only since you attached yourself to these books.> <Oh. Well there was this old scribe dude who made us, and a lot of wizards who read us. We were with a lot of other books all together in a big building but then it burned down. We were all saved, but one of us was away with a wizard person at the time and we've been in two pieces ever since.>
It took me a moment to sort out what it had said, the word 'dude' in particular had thrown me off, but I was able to get the gist of it easily enough. It was true then, there was a fifth element and a fifth book. The library the voice mentioned would be the Library of Alexandras that these books had originally come from. It had burned down centuries ago and was never rebuilt, but all the books that were saved got moved to other, various places. From my previous search for the four books I now had, I knew that the one place where the majority of books had gone, almost a third of them in fact, was Metamor Keep up north. If the fifth wasn't there then I would at least be able to find out where it was from there anyway. On to Metamor then. I'd been meaning to go north for a while now anyway, it was just far too hot this far south. I put the four books I had acquired in my room and pulled my staff out for the teleportation spell. I had started the circle when Bora suddenly spoke up again. <You're going to Metamor aren't you?> "Mm-hmm..." I replied absently, focusing on the spell. <Just checking. I'm going to go do some things of my own for a bit, I'll find you later.> I nodded, placing more runes on the floor. I really had no idea what he meant when he said that as voices can't really do things persay. I figure Bora got bored when I wasn't doing interesting things and went off to watch people that were. He liked sticking around me though since I could actually hear him, but apparently I wasn't much fun when I was researching stuff.
<Oh, and Kit?> "Yeah?" I asked, still focused on the spell. <Just remember what happened last time you tried to teleport on a Monday.> I paused a moment considering this. He had quite a point there, too many things could go wrong with teleportations. Sometimes only part of you teleported, or you teleported into somewhere unhealthy, such as underground or hundreds of feet in the air. I then realized a moment later that most things that went wrong happened because the mage messed up the spell or stopped halfway through, which come to think of it I had just done. I had just enough time to say, "Oh crap." before the world around me began to swirl and change.
When the world around me stopped moving I opened my eyes and found myself on a plain. Blast that Murphy, and my day had been going so well too (although to be fair, I think this one was actually Bora's fault)... I looked back around me at the plain. It seemed to go on for miles with absolutely nothing around. 'Well this is almost pleasant.' I thought warily. It was certainly better than the previous three times this had happened when I kept finding myself next to a bunch of small green things that would attack me on sight. I found out later that they were lutins, but at the time I had panicked. But not this time it seemed, this time I had the whole place to myself. Just then I heard something fall behind me and curiously, I turned around to see what it was. I really should have expected the rather large group of lutins there, but then I should have known not to stop my teleport spell either. They hadn't attacked me yet and were so far just staring at me as if trying to decide if I was prey or a threat. That didn't bode so well for me and what I said next pretty much made up their minds.
"Oh, come ON, not AGAIN!" I cried out loudly, turning back around, and running as fast as I could away from them. Almost all of the lutins chased me of course. They always did even when I didn't practically shout in their ears that I was helpless. 'Why do Mondays always have to suck?' I asked myself angrily as I continued to run, looking for a way to ditch the pursuit. Unfortunately, this time I found no cliff to jump off or cave to provide a handy escape. On the bright side, I didn't get myself trapped in a dead end like last time either. That had been quite a close call. The only thing that had saved me was my scream of frustration, which somehow caused an avalanche that cut off the chasing party. It bought me enough time to set up my escape spell and I had promised not to let it happen again. Reflecting on the recent past, I don't think that went so well...
A thrown axe that just missed my leg jolted me back into the current and unpleasant reality. I decided it would be more prudent to figure out how to escape now than to remember how I had escaped previously, but as I ran I still couldn't find anything. There was no shelter, no where to hide, just a large open field that stretched on for miles. The very first time I had eventually been able to get away by flying, a complicated skill of mine based on manipulating the air around me, making myself lighter, and lifting myself, but that 'spell' required a certain state of mind which, while easy to maintain, was nearly impossible to get into while being chased. I could probably turn around and take them out with a bunch of spells, but I was never one to kill when I did not need to so I continued to run for a mile or two anyway, hoping beyond reason to find some escape or at least a way to stall for enough time to teleport back south. When nothing presented itself after another mile, I started to get really annoyed. It really just wasn't FAIR that my luck shoots me into the middle of this forsaken place every chance it was given and now won't even give me a proper chance to get away! And EVERY time I was put here, I ended up on the bad side of an increasingly larger number of angry, weapon wielding lutins.
Well this time I wasn't going to just wait for an escape to present itself, I was going to take a stand and MAKE the time to get away! So, as I ran, I also gathered the winds around me, swirling them into an upward spiraling circle around and around until I stood in the center of a raging tornado which I directed back in the direction of the chasing lutins with the childish glee of one who knows he suddenly has the upper hand. At this point of course more than a few pursuing lutins had realized their sudden impeding plight and had turned the other way and were now running away from ME, but by now it was too late for them. I was well and truly annoyed at the world and everything in it and instead of letting them flee like I would have, and wished they would have done for me, I chased them down one by one, picking them up with the wind and flinging them into the air to land who knew where. They probably wouldn't die anymore than did the lutins chasing me the first three times I'd ended up here. After all, the ground was pretty soft, and I didn't really want to kill any of them anyway. I'm not a particularly violent person, but I did feel much better for the venting of my anger and frustration.
After a minute or two of continuing to blow for the heck of it and from pure momentum, I wound down my tornado and let it die out, staggering slightly as I felt the after affects of my little temper tantrum. Among other things, I had lost my brand new glasses (a new invention which did wonders for my bad eyesight) and I could feel the beginnings of a bad headache. I was still full of energy and could probably use any physical or magical spells I needed to, but I would definitely have this migraine for the rest of the day, if not longer. "No more of THAT kind of magic today I think..." I muttered to myself, wincing as my moving jaw jolted my head and continuing my thoughts silently. 'Ok, since I was attacked by lutins again, I'm probably in the far north... again.' I sighed, 'So the usual course of action then. Teleport south fifty miles or so and find out where I am from there.' I winced again when my headache throbbed once more as I drew the teleportation pattern in the air around me with the staff I had never actually dropped. 'Ugh. This time I wait a day first after getting there. Stupid headache...' I thought as I finished the spell, correctly this time, and found myself in a forest where I leaned against a tree, set up a basic ward, and went to sleep.
Far away, a wizard named Nasoj beat his fists on the table on either side of his scrying bowl. 'Him again?!?' he thought angrily. 'This is the fourth time he's popped out of nowhere and caused ensuing chaos.' Somehow this upstart mage always knew just exactly where to appear and how to act to cause entire troops of lutins to chase after him and fall into his traps. The first time this mage had appeared had been three years ago. He'd let out a scream with a terrified expression so genuine seeming that Nasoj himself thought it was real until he led about 20 chasing lutins off the side of a cliff leaving the mage hovering above them all, facing away, as if deigning not to notice the plummeting lutins behind him. Nasoj knew from that point that the mage's act had been just that, an act. After all, if the mage had the ability to fly and had truly been terrified, he would have just flown into the air immediately where the lutins couldn't attack him.
It would hardly be a problem if it had just been the once, but he had appeared twice more in the previous year, each time leading a sizeable group of lutins on a merry chase to their deaths. His second visit ended with another 30 lutins wandering lost in an underground labyrinth before they died of starvation one by one. The mage himself had somehow managed to find his way around perfectly and come out unscathed. After that incident, lutins had begun to refer to him as the "Monday Demon" because he only ever appeared on Mondays, and always left before the end of the day, but not before leaving chaos and death strewn behind him. The previous time he'd visited, he had managed to lead them into a dead end canyon. Nasoj sighed, as he remembered the avalanche triggered by the mage's shout that had torn down the sides of the canyon crushing the 35 lutins that had followed him that time. It was only more humiliating because no magic was actually used. He had hoped that after the Winter Assault disaster last year, the mage would stop coming, but he had instead somehow managed to find one of the very few lutin tribes still loyal to him.
The only real consolation of the entire situation was the fact that from everything Nasoj had been able to gather, this mage had no connection with his enemies at Metamor. Looking back into the scrying bowl, Nasoj saw that the mage this time had taken a far more direct approach to his previous efforts. He watched in disgust as the 45 lutins landed in various locations, all somehow managing to kill themselves in the process. Most impaled themselves on their own weapons as they landed but some broke their necks and one managed to find the only rock for miles around and land on it head first. Shaking in rage, Nasoj cut the flow of information, stalking off to destroy something large and explosive. This so called 'Monday Demon' would pay dearly for the chaos he sowed when Nasoj finally caught up to him.
In the end I slept through Tuesday and half of Wednesday before I felt good enough to do anything productive. When I finally did wake up, my first order of business was to make the area a bit more hospitable and get something to eat. I was a bit too weak to go hunting, and I didn't want to wait for a snare to catch something, so I pulled some jerky from my room and ate that while I figured out what to do. I developed a few plans that would hopefully get me back home. The first plan was to use the stars to orient myself and find my way from there. It was almost dark, so it seemed best to try this plan first. For it to work though, I needed to be able to actually see, which was a bit hard without my glasses. I DID have a spell to fix my eyes, but it only lasted for a set amount of time determined by how much magic was used to make it. I had been very happy when glasses were invented recently because they didn't run out of energy, but they were broken now. I decided to be generous and give myself a week to get back to somewhere I could get another pair. So I set myself up with a week of clear vision and looked to the sky to see if I could find my way home. However, my hopes were dashed almost before they could form as it started to rain before any stars came out. I took shelter under a tree and decided to just go to sleep, setting up an extra spell to keep out the rain. There was nothing worse than being stuck in wet clothing.
I woke up the next morning to try Plan B. I would talk to the voices and see what they knew. I really should have known better. <You are in the forest of the beasts!> Well that seemed obvious, although maybe these beasts were particularly vicious. I made a note to myself to keep away from them.
<You are north of south and south of north!> Again, an obvious statement, but this one seemed cryptic and might have another meaning.
<You were there but now you're here!> That one was just stupid, as well as blatantly obvious.
<No, I am here and you are there!> And that one didn't even have anything to do with the question!
<You are standing in deer poo!> I looked down and saw I was indeed standing in deer poo, a situation which I quickly remedied by moving and scraping my boot off on a nearby fallen log.
<If you're lost, click your heels three times and wish for home!> That one didn't even make sense at all, although I did try it just in case, but all that happened was me feeling silly. I sighed. None of these answers were helping me at all. The voices kept going but didn't get any more helpful, and I decided to tune them out for a bit, trying to think of more specific or helpful questions. The rest of the day passed similarly as I tried to pry useful information from them and following any leads I could. I learned that the 'beasts of the forest' lived north of where I was so I didn't want to go in that direction, but I must have wandered in every other direction there was. I also learned that the local strawberries were supposedly quite good and that a General Selint once marched an army through here long ago, but in the end I gave up defeated. It rained again that night.
Plan C involved dousing the location of the nearest person and asking for directions. I floated a small pebble into the air in front of me and cast my spell. The pebble started spinning and drifting off in a certain direction which I followed. The going was slow as the pebble didn't move very fast and would periodically stop as if changing targets, and also I was trying to make my way through the forest without making any noises. With my luck the first thing to find me would be an ambush. Eventually the pebble led me to a clearing and pointed at two deer, a rather proud looking buck that was surveying the forest around him, and his mate next to him. While it was rather odd for two deer to be on their own like this (usually in the north they traveled in herds), it was certainly clear that they weren't people. I looked at the pebble again to be sure, but it was still pointing at the closer of the two. Maybe the person was behind the deer? I circled the clearing just in case being careful not to alert the deer and possibly mess up the spell I had, but the pebble still pointed insistently at whichever deer was closer. As if to scorn me they flicked their ears and chose that moment to walk away. I glared at the pebble and tossed it into the woods. 'So much for that spell, guess it doesn't work as well as it's supposed to.' I thought, and sat down. It was getting dark and I wouldn't have much more success that day, so I decided to stay where I was. That night there was no rain, but the clouds still covered the sky.
Plan D was picking random directions and scrying for a long time. I needed a clear line of sight for the best results as well as something to warn me if anything got too close since while scrying this way I was completely blind to the world around me. So climbing to the top of a tree, I set wards of warning and protection and looked into the distance. All I really did was alter the spell already in place for my eyesight, so it was faster than actually setting up another spell, but the spell itself relied on my direction. I needn't have bothered though. As I searched, I found mountains and forests galore, but hardly anything useful. On the plus side the clouds had cleared somewhat so I was able to see the stars that night. I figured out that I was north of where I had started from, but south of where I had ended up, and a few other things. I suppose that's what the one voice had meant about 'north of south and south of north', but I couldn't tell much else from that. The clouds expanded again and no matter how much I waited, they didn't go away this time. Instead I eventually fell asleep.
I woke up with a big stretch and yawned widely. It was once again Monday as I had slept through Sunday, and I knew that I wouldn't get farther with my search than I had the rest of the week, and besides, I didn't have a plan E anyway. So instead of trying to figure one out, I opted to just walk around the place. It was a nice day after all, and if I wasn't going to get anything done, I might as well enjoy myself. With that in mind, I gathered my stuff together and stood up, deciding to go south since I knew that way eventually lay home. Looking around, I sighed in contentment. It wasn't often that I went wandering with no idea where I was and just took the time to enjoy myself. 'I should do this more often' I thought absently, watching the wind blow through the tops of the trees. Stopping for a moment I followed the path of the wind and grinned as a thought hit me. 'Why not?' I thought happily. 'It IS a nice day after all and the conditions are perfect.' Shortly afterwards, I'd shoved all my extra baggage back into my room and kicked off the ground, clearing the top of the trees and letting the winds take me where they would.
I spent most of the day just floating and being blown around, back and forth, looking at the scenery, before I started to get tired and looked for a place to land and rest for the night. I looked down, and surprisingly saw a castle in the distance. Gliding closer to get a better look, I soon recognized it as the place I had been to many times before and had meant to get to on the previous Monday. "Well what do you know." I muttered to myself softly. I had somehow managed to find my destination after all, and on a Monday to boot! I raised both arms in the sky in triumph with a big smile plastered on my face. "Ha! Take THAT Murphy!" I declared to no one in particular as I began a rather silly impromptu jig in midair. I would have to leave before the end of the week because of the curse, but I was only planning to visit anyway. And to think, if I had just gone wandering around the first day instead of wasting my time scrying I would have found my way all the sooner. I had wasted seven days trying to figure out where I was when I could have found my location just by going for a walk. Seven days! Why that was an entire wee.... a wee.... a week.
"Oh, crap." I stated, staring blankly at the castle that held another curse aimed at my head as realization struck me. So THAT was what my curse had been trying to do all this time. I hadn't managed to get around the curse by finding out where I was, I was just being taunted by it. But I hadn't been struck yet, so there was still time if I hurried. I let myself fall from the sky, catching myself just above the ground before landing and pulling my staff out of storage and beginning the spell that would take me away from this place where I would be safe from the impeding spell. I actually made it about halfway through before I inevitably felt the spell hit me. "Blast and infamy!" I swore angrily, and just as abruptly my anger vanished. 'Well so much for that.' I thought dejectedly as I canceled the spell, making sure this time not to accidentally activate what was already constructed. I sighed and sat down putting my staff on the ground next to me. Having failed to avoid the blow, the next step was damage control. I knew a lot of what it did from previous visits to Metamor, but I needed to examine just what this new curse would do to me and see if I could counter any of it and to what extent.
I closed my eyes, tuned out everything else that didn't matter, and focused my senses on the spell I had just been hit with. The world around me seemed to change and I found myself in a bizarre triangular room. There didn't seem to be a roof, but rather each of the three sides seemed to continue into infinity upwards and away from me. I doubted I'd get anywhere trying to follow that, so I looked at the rest of the room instead. At the center of the room was a shining light that seemed like a spinning top, wandering back and forth and around in circles on the floor. I examining it and quickly figured out that this light was the deciding factor for what was about to happen to me. Depending on which wall it hit, and possibly even where on that wall, I could either become a girl, a child, or an animal. I could probably try to keep the light from hitting any wall, but the light seemed to be accelerating slightly as it wobbled back and forth on the ground. Eventually it would probably become so chaotic that nothing I did would have any effect on it and the backlash would be horrendous.
'Well that seems simple enough!' I thought. All I had to do was push it towards the choice I wanted and there wouldn't be any problems. I just needed to make up my mind first and pushed the marker and I could move on in my life. I approached one wall and examined it. Judging from the various images upon it of toddlers, children, and babies, this wall would make me a child. However, while I suppose it would be nice to be young again, I hadn't had as much magic when I was younger, and that would be quite a setback to me, so I moved on. The next wall, had many images of various beasts and other creatures. It was rather obvious to me what this wall did, and I was worried about some of the results that might happen from this choice. I rather enjoyed having opposable thumbs, and too many possibilities would leave me too far changed for that. Furthermore, there were several choices in this wall that I did not like. If I were to choose this path, I could become an insect, a plant, a reptile, or any number or creatures that I did not want to even consider. I backed away and moved my attention to the third and final wall. This then, must be the choice that would make me female, and indeed, the middle of this wall was marked with a simple circle on top of a plus sign, the universal symbol for female. This seemed to be the best choice, as it would leave me both human and with intact magic power, but at the same time I had several reservations to living the rest of his life as a girl. I sighed once more looking down.
This would be a difficult decision and I'd have to live the rest of my life with what I chose here. It was a somewhat morbid thought and I didn't want to dwell on it long, but even if I did, I don't think I would have been able to. For as I looked downward, I saw something bright meandering by the third wall's base. It was the spinning light which would decide for me if I wasn't careful. "Oh no you don't, I'm not through deciding yet!" I muttered under my breath, giving the light a firm tug back towards the center. Perhaps my tug was a little too firm as the light shot backwards at a surprising speed, past the center of the room where it was supposed to stop and all the way into the opposite corner where it wedged itself with a concise clicking sound.
I was left standing over by the third wall, staring in shock and the beginnings of dismay as the light dissolved into the corner between child and creature and the rest of the room began to dissolve with it. The decision made, the room disappeared leaving me floating in a black void as the results were made clear. Like a memory called from nowhere, a child appeared in front of me. He seemed to be playing tag and his laughter as he ran sounded strangely distant though his image was no more than ten feet from where I stood. Looking more closely, I recognized the child as my younger self before the scene faded away into the nothingness it had come from. A different picture took its place then, like a large tree held upside down. A glowing ball appeared at the top where all of the branches met in one spot and began to roll downward, at each junction pausing a moment before choosing one path. It was soon clear that each fork was a decision of some sort. I sighed in relief as the ball passed the first fork ignoring the paths that lead to insects, plants, reptiles, and birds. It seemed I was to be some sort of mammal and that was a decision I was perfectly fine with.
As more forks were passed and more paths chosen, it became apparent that the final marker would fall on some sort of fox, and as the marker fell into place, the final result came forth. The picture shown this time was in a desert featuring a fox. The ears where somewhat wider than normal, and it was rather small. I recognized it from my travels as a kit fox that lived in the desert regions of the world. A sudden memory of my own stirred itself then, and I remembered something my mother had told me long ago. "I was once told that whatever I named you would come back and bite you someday because of the curse that was placed on you before you were born." If what mother had been told was correct, than this was one of the most important attacks on me by my own personal curse.
'Well this is one battle I am NOT going to let Murphy win!' I thought fiercely and positioned myself under where the marker had fallen and pushed back against it. If I could just push it far enough, I'd be able to get it into a different type of fox and I would win, but despite the ball's small size, it seemed as heavy as a mountain and nearly impossible to move. So gathering all the magical energy I had been saving for years, I shoved it at that marker. I gave it everything I had, forcing it to move up and away from this choice I was not willing to accept. I managed to get it halfway out of the groove when the curse started to fight back, trying to push the ball back into position. I pushed harder and seemed to be advancing, but progress got slower and slower as I got closer to the junction.
After what seemed an eternity, I managed to get the marker back to the previous fork, the last one that it had passed through and the marker's movement had slowed to a crawl. I had used up most of all my stored magic, but the hard part was over, all that I needed to do now was let it fall once more and make sure it didn't take the path to kit fox by pushing it sideways. So I released the magic holding it up to see which direction it would try to take and was caught quite off guard when the ball suddenly and without warning exploded, knocking me out from the backlash.
I woke up on the ground the next day, lying on my back with a pounding headache, my staff next to me on the ground. Everything around me looked strange and there was this persistent blind spot in my lower vision which wouldn't go away no matter where I looked or how much I blinked. This was a bit disturbing because none of my magical burnouts had ever been remotely like this and I was worried that the backlash of my attempt to go against the spell had done permanent damage to my brain. That was one powerful curse and I resolved to myself never to go head to head with it again, but the damage may have already been done. I figured a self analysis was in order so, groaning from my headache, I climbed to my feet using a nearby tree branch for support. I managed to take two steps away from the tree before overbalancing and falling backwards landing rather painfully on my butt. More painful than it should have been really, I must have landed on a stick or something.
Reaching my hand back to rub the offending spot, I encountered a... tail? That couldn't be right, yet... somehow it was. Then the implications of my battle with the curse finally caught up to me and I figured things out quickly enough from there. I felt a little stupid for having not noticed earlier, but the curse I'd fallen under had apparently worked quickly while I'd been out. It certainly explained a few things such as the strange balance and the weird vision. If that was the case, then the blind spot was really... I reached my hands up to touch my face... a muzzle. However, with my hands now in view, I could tell they were different too. Even if I ignored all the fur, I had pads on my palm and fingers and my fingertips had claws on them which I could almost retract.
I suppose that meant my desperate actions was successful then, because only grey foxes could retract their claws like that, but the fur coloring was off and seemed too long to be a typical grey fox. I frowned, or tried to anyway, the expression felt kind of different on this altered face of mine. But that not withstanding, something seemed off. I reached over to pick up my staff to use as a support and noticed that it had gotten longer. No, that wasn't right, I had gotten shorter, and in fact the clothes that I had been wearing did feel looser as well as ill fitting, especially where my tail was. I suppose I should have expected that if I'd been thinking, but then again, it had taken me almost a minute to notice I was a fox. Shaking my head, I dispelled the random thoughts that were distracting me. Right now what I really wanted was a good look at myself and since I had no mirror in my room I'd have to use a pool of water. I remembered seeing one nearby as I had descended earlier and I made my way over to it, using my staff as a third leg of sorts to catch my balance when I was in danger of falling over.
Despite all my efforts, I still managed to fall a total of three times before making it to the pool and nearly falling into it as well. Leaning heavily on the staff, I looked into the water and discovered a few things. The first is that I WAS shorter by at least a foot. Judging from the way I looked in comparison to my staff I was probably around four and a half feet tall now. The next thing that I noticed was that my earlier suspicion had been right. Something was definitely odd about the way I looked. My claws and paws seemed to match well enough with a grey fox, but my face was more the shape of a kit fox. My fur was long enough to be from the arctic fox of the north, and my tail was more similar to that of a steppe fox. I also recognized various features from cape, red, fennec, sand, and tibetan foxes, but this left me only more baffled than I was before. All these various mismatched pieces of different foxes shouldn't be together in one shape like this, and I knew for a fact that whatever I was shouldn't exist. I remembered with a slight grimace the explosion that had knocked me out. Had pieces of that marker ended up in all of the different paths at once leaving me as a mix between them all? Such an idea didn't sound possible, and yet it was the only explanation that I could think of, possible or otherwise.
Of course that still left me with the general question of what I was. I looked back into the reflective water and gave a start of surprise. The coloring of my fur had changed! Before the pattern had looked sort of like what one would typically see on a red fox, but right now my fur was a mismatched pattern of white, red, and black that I had only before seen on cats, although with them it was ginger and not red. I sat there in shock for a moment at the revelation that occurred to me shortly afterwards. Considering the facts, it did make sense. After all, my shape was as mismatched as the color patterning that currently adorned my fur, and this impossible form was just the sort of thing Murphy would pull.
"I'm a calico." I said flatly, glancing once more into the water. It wasn't a perfect match since no such thing existed, but if there were calico foxes, they would probably look a lot like what I was now. So that left me as a calico fox, something that shouldn't even exist or... no wait, that wasn't quite right since I was also a child. So that would actually make me a calico... kit. Somewhere in the very back of my mind I applauded Murphy for nailing me so well, but the rest of me was too busy fuming to care.
I let myself calm down after a minute or two of ranting and several destructive spells since there really wasn't anything I could do about it by now. I had had my chance and completely blown it so I really couldn't blame it on anything but myself and the curse for arranging the worst of circumstances. Shaking my head, I set off to the distant castle on a hill, my original goal from the previous week. Oh well, at least there was one upside to all of this. I wouldn't have to fear the curse anymore for it could do no more to me than it already had and nothing was really damaged except my pride... my very, very damaged pride. Aside from that however, I was able to balance a bit more steadily on my feet (or would that be paws?) by now and didn't need to support myself with my staff anymore, so I'd make it to the castle by the end of the day. After that... well tomorrow would be tomorrow and I'd just have to take things as they come. I chuckled to myself as a last thought occurred to me. Bora was going to absolutely freak out that he had missed this when he finally got back.