Blending In With Those Afflicted

Tales Of The Transblade

by Hawl Enroygall

by Hawl Enroygall a.k.a. Jessica Kylie Nichols-Vernon

Malakai and Zyhx had been in Metamor for a few hours without much accomplished. The two merely took it all in as a short vacation. The two transvestites merely had to lay down the groundwork to and help nurture what Nasoj had integrated into place here at the famous or infamous Keep, depending on who you asked, over 8 years ago.

Currently the young, but well read Malakai had been looking over the wares in an old trade shoppe looking for parchment to take notes on. he had already indulged a little and purchased a few quills. Because of the unique trades and talents of those who lived in this part of the Northern Midlands, the quill collection the duo had purchased was not only vast, but encompassing nearly every known species of avian and a few that left the Flesinoir Prince stumped. A Vacation this was to the duo, but a working vacation all the while. Zyhx, Malakai's large and quiet bodyguard had even spoken up in reminder of this. "Our purse can afford no more nick nacks, a simple warning." normally he was silent, and now he was trying his hardest to fight the urge to call his Prince "My liege" as the two were pretending to be former females afflicted by the curse, it was the first time Zyhx had worn a dress and he thought nothing of it. Maybe someone else would be driven to philosophize the meaning of gender and by extension sexuality. Maybe they'd ask like what does gender mean? If such magic existed to make such drastic alterations did it even have a point outside of senseless labeling? Questions like these did not cross the bodyguard's mind at all, he had the honor of protecting Malakai, not to bother with senseless questions like a bi-curious would-be philosopher.

Malakai nodded, he had been taken off guard by the various different types of birds, all a testament to the curse's strength and the beautiful canvas of nature. The young prince needed to stay focused. after all it was the duty and privilege of the Flesinoir and its members to laugh at the notion of reason and the laws of nature, to cut, maim, mutilate, transplant, enchant, curse, mix concoctions out of and intended for flesh. Whatever could be done to bring one closer to a state of perfection was the only reasonable thing to do, no matter how nightmarish it may seem to the squeamish. It wasn't their fault that the so called sensible people of the Earth simply lacked the vision required to understand the greatness of perfection and why it should be sought at all costs. Looking towards a female gila monster running the scribery vendor he got right to the point. "Your finest ink and a decent amount of parchment my good lizard."

The black scaled woman smiled and prepared the items. "12 copper for the parchment and five silver for the ink" she spoke forward to Malakai's uncertainty.

Malakai pondered this, money was nothing to him, his cult just didn't value it very much. They bred their own food and rationed it out, anything else they needed they either stole or engineered a creature that could create it, his own enchanted shape changing threads were made from giant mutant silkworms. At the same time though, he had to admit that five silver was a little off for a single vial of ink and thus he had no choice but to speak up and find out what the deal was.

"Five silver?" Malakai asked bluntly, with a look in of pure disbelief in his eye.

"Look, I feel sorry for you. Your dress shows that you clearly regret becoming a man, so I'm gonna let you in a little secret and a little discount." The gila monster said smugly with her eyes suddenly closed.

The royal drag queen knew to take advantage of any edge given, only a fool would reject charity or hospitality and thus he nodded. "I'm all ears."

"While you girls were rolling around in the manliness, We animal keepers got lucky, not only do we get to keep more of who we used to be than others. Sorry doll, just citing the statistics, but we also got a few extras." The black scaled merchant woman said as she walked around the store, but keeping her eyes carefully placed on her customers.

Malakai wasn't really a gender bent former female, and so instead of being offended at a display of egotism and unwarranted self-importance, was intrigued. The Prince was confident that he could guide the hand of the curse to make himself something wondrous that soared over all of creation, but what exactly to become he wasn't sure. He thought about giving himself multiple curses in order to heighten the effect, though womanhood and childhood are two things not to be taken lightly.

"Oh good good, you're intrigued, most people would get mad if I told them about the wonders of my condition." The gila monster snided, correctly reading Malakai's curious gazes.

Zyhx cocked his head to the side and put on a look as if to say "Gee I wonder why", although remained silent.

"I've got a friend in the basement, has his own little salt water tank. I don't keep him there, he's happy as can be and chooses to be there." She smiled more widely "And he rewards me for keeping his home maintained with precious ink."

Malakai was quick to see the obvious problem with this story. "Surely you jest, miss that would imply that your stock would be cheaper than the other vendors. If your goal was to talk me out of a sale, then congratulations." The skirted prince annoyed turned around and decided to walk out when he stopped to open the door for an older woman with white fur wearing a twin spiral necklace around her neck. She wasn't elderly, but this woman had certainly seen more of the world for much longer than most. Malakai stopped to look at her for a while as he was captivated by her, not out of the usual longing that brings a man and a woman together, but because she happened to be a morph of the animal that was displayed on his royal seal, a white rabbit.

Zyhx waited patiently as Malakai appraised the woman, who spoke up to the shopkeep. "Do you have anymore of that apple cider? Sargosa really seemed to enjoy it and she was wanting me to ask if you had anymore."

The Gila Monster smiled. "For you grandma, always. 5 Silver a jug."

The older woman, who was apparently older than she looked, in her plain green dress fetched out her coin purse. "Pricey, but, for mid-way into March when it's hard to find the main ingredient.... It's worth it. You do good by me Vercetti."

Malakai thought for a second, he normally didn't care when idiots wasted money, but he felt a strange connection to this woman and decided he should speak up before she was chided into spending out of house and home. "She just tried to sell me ink for five silver, and then tried telling me it was because she had a surplus..."

The rabbit woman gave Vercetti a stern disapproving look, one that contained more sadness than anger. "Dear please don't tell me you've gone back to ripping people off..."

"Oh not at all, I was just telling these lovely ladies about the rare Inka Squid who makes this ink and how I was going to take two coins off the already discounted price. Mainly because I know how tough being made male can be." Vercetti explained oddly with her eyes closed turning to Malakai, her eyes still closed shut. "This thing has an odorless scent it gives off. If you sniff of it your mind expands and literal creative juices flow from your brain!"

Malakai rubbed his chin. "And you say I get a discount? Alright...." he was still somewhat dubious. The Prince needed the ink and wasn't entirely sure it would work, but he knew that if he didn't think about it too hard placebo would work its course and thus cause the intended effect. "I'll take you up on it after all."

Vercetti The Gila Monster smiled a smile upon her accursed scaly visage and brought forth two full bottles. "So, three silver for both?"

"Far more reasonable." Malakai affirmed as Zyhx just stood by and watched the silver exchange from hand to... whatever you call lizard limbs, saying nothing, trusting Malakai's judgment no matter what it be. Truthfully, Malakai believed that if he accepted the deal it would enable him to get closer to the rabbit morph. These were not romantic feelings as she was his elder by many years, but he had a good feeling about her and felt some was entranced by the sight of the animal on his royal seal given human form.

Vercetti smiled as she handed the ink bottles over to Malakai. "A pleasure doing business ma'am."

Malakai smiled, this dress idea was brilliant no one would suspect a thing and provided he could leave when things started getting hairy. "Likewise." he said, collecting the ink and standing by as the older woman who caught his attention bought two jugs of Apple Cider.

"So Sargosa, she's your granddaughter I take it?" Malakai asked, Zyhx looking over the woman careful to ensure she was of no harm.

The old hare seemed taken aback, but tried to ignore Zyhx with her nervousness quite evident, her eyes drifting over to Zyhx as she spoke. "I suppose, I sort of just adopted her. I found her shortly after the Battle Of Three Gates" The white bunny thanked Vercetti and curtsied before leaning over to pick up two jugs that the gila monster had brought forth and set on the ground.

"Zyhx, be a dear and help our rabbit friend with her cider." Malakai said, trying to mimic the normal speaking patterns of a woman.

"Yes milady." Zyhx said coldly before curtseying to the bunny gal and lifting both bottles which were a little on the big side, but still were merely bottles and only the most lacking in mind and body would mistake this for a feat of strength. Still, Malakai for whatever reason was trying to get on this woman's good side and Zyhx had to respect anyone even his worst enemy if his master so wished it.

Once the trio was gone Vercetti laughed to herself. "You people are way too easy." The gila monster clerk placed the coins in a pocket and went downstairs making her way to the basement. The store had used to be an inn owned by Vercetti's very young uncle, but it had been driven out of business after the battle of three gates saw slowed tourism as people tended to not want to take a risk with the curse in the earliest days. Though Vercetti had found uses for it when her uncle had decided to spend his golden years in retirement, she walked downward into a basement she had a friend she needed to check on.

The rabbit woman lead Malakai and Zyhx back to her home, walking through crowds of children, crossdressers, and of course the entirety of the animal kingdom. Not just mammals, but birds, reptiles, and even insects and fish of all variants. The trio had overheard a green anole telling a male ladybug that he just couldn't wait for Spring to finally arrive as his coldblood could not take winter for very much longer. This was so far going better than Malakai imagined. He had to be careful though, he couldn't get too attached to this woman or make any friends that would wonder where he vanished off to when he left or notice him changing and realize that he and Zyhx were not actually Keepers. Though maybe in a desperation maneuver if he became a woman he might be able to try to convince people that the curse wore off on her, it would at least get people riled up long enough for him, or rather her in that instance, to leave town. Malakai shook his head no, that idea was stupid, he could not believe that he had even considered it. The Keepers would have to be the biggest idiots in all the lands to be so easily lead into a scheme like that.

The rabbit woman smiled as she opened her door for her guests "We're all ladies here, so guests first.... SARGOSA!" she called out before turning to Zyhx. "Zyhx dear could you please put those bottles on the table."

A young raccoon girl walked in with an extra large smile on her face. "Hey Grandma, ooooh! Is that Apple Cider?" Sargosa smiled a little bigger, this time showing some fang as she jumped up and tackled her grandmother. Who fell over with a smile.
"I'm not as young as I used to be, you can't keep doing that."

"Sargosa is your grandchild?" Malakai asked as the grandmother bunny spun around holding Sargosa whose hindpaws were resting on her hips "She's quite the energetic little muskrat."

"Weeeee!" Sargosa cried out in joy as she laughed, her grandmother eventually stopped and sat in a chair, Sargosa standing on her leg as the raccoon looked to Malakai "Well duh! I'm a raccoon sillynilly!"

"Sargosa, these are our guests." The grandmother stated, looking towards Zyhx and then Malakai. "I'm sorry I caught that your name was Zyhx, but yours was?"

"Mala.... Malisa miss..?" Malakai inquired, pondering the name of her kind host.

"Call me Amare." The rabbit woman said with a smile. "Though most people call me Grandma Amare or just Grandma"

Malakai grabbed the old woman's paw and kissed it. "Amare, a, beautiful name if ever I have heard one." Seconds later he realized this is not the kind of action a woman would have done and quickly stopped, thinking that he needed to justify this with an excuse before his cover was blown. "Sorry I'm not sure why I did that... I'm new in town, I only got cursed a month or two ago and I guess manhood is just getting to me."

Grandma Amare laughed to herself, laughter that swiftly became tears. "It happens dearie, I've been here since before the curse, we Three Gates survivors know better than anyone that the untrained mind isn't that much more than a child's toy for the body... I lost my husband in Three Gates" The rabbit's demeanor shifted from a happy one to a depressed tone revealing great sadness and a decade of mourning. ".......He was turned into a babe, not what they call young girls nowadays mind you, the other kind of babe, and with all those run away mounts running wild... It's something best not talked about in front of wee ones."

Malakai closed his eyes and frowned, showing legitimate concern. "Why didn't he just get out of the way? I've seen some of the child morphs about town and they cannot be older than three at the youngest." The Flesinoir had always believed Nasoj to be a fool who lacked vision. That his methods were simple and his ambitions to be as foolishly pointless as turning lead into gold, to a society that didn't value money that really meant something, and so Malakai felt guilt and solace in a brief moment for mocking Nasoj's cruelty. The rewinding of time, reversal of sex, and animal morphs seemed so tame compared to what mutations the infamous and fairytale Cult Of The Flesh could bring to the table that most of his kind were too busy belittling Nasoj that they never stopped to consider the more negative ramifications of what Nasoj could do. Zyhx was emotionless and saw no big deal in this to him, men die all the time, why should the circumstances make it any more or less tragic? Especially since as Flesinoirs both had been trained to do worse things and have the victims survive.

Malakai finally opened his eyes and brought his mouth to an insincere half smile, placing his hand on the shoulder of the woman known as Grandma. "I'm sorry that must have been terrible." wishing to change the subject, Malakai asked a new question. "So why does everyone call you Grandma?"

"It was." Grandma Amare said as she looked at a painting put on the wall, Sargosa yawning and looking quite anxious, but enjoying having her ears scratched by her rabbit care taker too much to jump up. The painting was amateurish at worst and mediocre at best, one of Amare hugging a male human child. "Well, it's simple really. Three Gates was a trying time for us all, those of us who could handle their new selves had to take care of those who were losing their minds. Well nothing bad happened to my body, I just got cute. My mind however was full of grief, sorrow, and loneliness for the loss of my dear husband. So for a time this place was turned into an orphanage while we tried to set straight who all was actually a child and who was an adult. Not only did some of the adults legitimately not know, but some of the children were trying to use it as an excuse to drink wine, cast spells, and do all sorts of various grown up things."

"Grandma, I'm thirsty." Sargosa interrupted, looking up at her lapine grandmother with puppy dog eyes.

Amare smiled at her raccoon child and spoke with the soft sweet voice of a beautiful long eared angel. "Of course dear, Malisa would you be so kind as to pour Sargosa some of the apple cider."

"Naturally." Malakai stated, at first he looked towards Zyhx as though he were about to say something to him and quickly realized that normal women turned men do not have manservants and thus he himself took to obliging with Amare's request, grabbing an old goblet from a cupboard and filling it with the apple cider. The cup was handed to Sargosa who smiled and sipped from it.

"Thank you Malissy! Ya know, you've got the same name as the princess." Sargosa smiled.

Malakai smiled at this coincidence, he himself being the Flesh Prince of the Fleisinoir. "You're most welcome, and what animal is she?"

"Hairless Ape." Sargosa said in a half confused tone. "Uhhh mister, what kind of Keeper doesn't know about the Princess' curse?"

"Uhh..... I'm sorry, I was forced to move here a couple of months ago after Zyhx and I lost our husbands and our homes, we were expecting to become something pretty, like wolves or vixens, and find new mates, but well, clearly that didn't happen." Malakai fibbed.

"I suppose that's what most newcomers expect." Amare said with a light laugh. "The curse dos strange things to us all. I know this one blacksmith's grandmother, as old as the hills, and yet, younger and littler than Sargosa. Almost as cute too, so's her granddaughter, well not the younger and littler part.."

"What does her granddaughter do?" Malakai asked trying to keep the conversation going.

"She's the blacksmith." Amare stated bluntly, this killed the conversation instantly, making Malakai's efforts all for naught.

Zyhx was sitting in silence trying to keep his mind as empty as his expression. So far he had no clue what his master was planning, but that did not matter he to follow along. He was honor bound not to ask questions and carry on with anything Malakai came up with, though he had to admit to himself that he understood this the least of his master's plans. The room got pretty quiet as Amare looked at the painting on her wall allowing nostalgia to wash over her mind. Wanting to break the awkward silence Malakai smiled. "So Sargosa do you like being an animal, how is that treating you?"

"It's fun and I've got a such a pretty coat too!" Sargosa said, smiling, jumping off the Rabbit Woman's lap who breathed a sigh of relief upon the raccoon's doing so. Sargosa smiled and spun around in a red dress that had a striking similarity to Malakai's own. If Malakai were more the joking kind he may have made some crack about the awkwardness of them wearing the same garb, however even if he was it would have been best to keep his mouth shut. A gender pun may have given away that he was really a man in all of the truest definitions of the word.

"Yes... you do." Malakai said, beginning to yawn. "Zyhx and I have been out for quite a long walk in the woods. If you don't mind may we spend a few days in your humble abode."

"Oh, but dears, do you not have homes of your own?" Grandma Amare asked, deep concern transfixed upon her face.

"Er, yes, but they're all the way in Glen Avery and we have quite a few things we need to get done here in Keep Town." Malakai lied as he stretched. "We'd be willing to pay you for the stay, we have had bad experiences with inns." In truth he wanted to minimize his involvement with the Keepers and since he already got acquainted with Amare and Sargosa he thought it best to leave traces of his personage with them and them alone.

"Oh think nothing of it, this is a big house with plenty of beds upstairs. If you're tired Sargosa would be happy to show you the rooms." Grandmother Amare said "Most of them are children's rooms, but they should suit your needs just fine dears."

Malakai yawned once more, half fake, half real, the walk to Metamor was long, even if he did use a Dernos to go half way and he would rather have liked to have a good lay down. "Very well, Saragosa, show me something comfy."

"Gee, ya sure ya don't want to play or something..... I mean you did just get here." Sargosa said, somewhat disappointed as it was the afternoon and for any child the presence of someone new means an opportunity to play, but there is no way anyone can play if they're asleep. Unless the game was, "Write On The White Furred Old Rabbit Woman Who Took Her Sleeping Elixir And Thus Can't Wake Up." in which case you can only play it whilst one of the parties is asleep.

"Perhaps on the morrow, I have a lot of paperwork that needs to be done." Malakai said as he stood up and turned to Zyhx. "Come follow Zyhx."

Sargosa laughed to herself. "Mister why do you do that?"

Malakai seemed rather confused at the raccoon girl's question. "Do what?"

"Grown up games are always sillier." Sargosa smiled and then immediately began walking and waving one of her forepaws in an angle beckoning the two transvestites to follow her."Come on slowpokes! I wanna get back to playing!"

Malakai stopped for a second, trying to think, how could a little raccoon girl have figured him out. Was she a Flesinoir Experiment he didn't know about? The only possible explanation was that she must have been someone he knew, but he did not recall being around children or raccoons. In fact, Malakai would have dared say that if he met a raccoon that could talk he'd make damn good note of it.The teenage prince pieced something together, it must be possible for someone to receive two curses at once, maybe even all three if they were a particularly unlucky bastard or a really good Flesinoir with a thirst for knowledge. The wheels in Malakai's head began turning, not only did he have a chance to become something truly terrifying, but something that could live forever as well. No more would he be put down by a father who refused to let him change, who had him present to watch mutation after alteration after transmogrification after transfiguration and yet never let him change so much as his hair color. Always telling him that he had to have his body preserved, to be modified only by the passage of time on his aging body. A fate, Malakai feared just as his colleagues believed, far worse than death, but now here in Metamor, by guiding the curse towards his whim, Malakai could have any body he wanted. He could only choose once due to the curse's permanency, but it was more times than one gets to pick in a normal curse-devoid life time. Any Flesinoir worth his, her, eir, hir, or its salt would argue that living life in a normal body would be the true curse, they were a little crazy that way.

"Mister Malissy?" Sargosa asked, snapping the Flesh Prince out of his day dream.

"Oh sorry. I zoned out for a second, yes, that'd so sweet of you, come Zyhx." Malakai beckoned, for what must have been the tenth time that day.

Sargosa frowned, pouted, shrugged, and began frolicking towards the stairway to the upper level of the house towards a small bedroom that was clearly intended for a child. "Alright, there's an identical room down the hall. You two figure out who gets what. Can I go now?" the raccoon child said in a tone that revealed her massive and infinite boredom. The same kind that all children get when they're asked to do anything other than play.

"Of course child." Malakai said "I'm rather tired, so I'll just be by myself for awhile."

"OKAY!" Sargosa yelled with great enthusiasm and was out of the house so quickly that Malakai swore that she had for a brief period of time become little more than a small brown and red blur.

Malakai waited for Sargosa to be out of earshot before he turned to his manservant. "Alright Zyhx, I want you to do some exploration, that idiot Regorez couldn't find manure in a crowded stable! You I trust."

Zyhx stood, his cold glare, perfect posture, sincere stance, one would swear he was a high ranking military officer. There was but one detail that made him seem off, his garb. Zyhx had been dressed in a frilly outfit intended for a maiden, and he was not the slightest bit a female. No much the opposite, this man's red-skinned body was incredibly buff and plenty hairy. His face was cold and devoid of emotion, that had been bottled away to make room for anything his master could require of him no matter how suicidal it sounded. Zyhx's life was not as important as Malakai's and he knew this, he had it indoctrinated into the most basest of bare instincts along with his hatred for one whose name his mirrored. If it weren't for his stylized long flowing black dress with a green top and magenta skirt he would like quite a force to be reckoned with, as it stands he looks quite ridiculous. However, one meeting him in a dark alleyway would likely be too scared to laugh. "I will have Hawl found by the week's end." the tall intimidating man bowed.

"Meet up with me in five days, the scrolls I've read on this place tell me that is when the change begins to show, you'll need to return to me then so that we'll know how to identify one another." Malakai said very straight forward and looking very deeply into Zyhx's eyes. This man clearly knew how to get to down to brass tacks. "To your duty, now."

Zyhx nodded. "Yes my liege", he asked Malakai nothing of the curse or what entailed, such details would be handled by his master. Malakai owned his flesh and blood, what happened to it was his decision and his decision alone and with that he went into action.

Malakai returned to his room, he needed to focus his mind onto the form he wished to assume and if his calculations were correct he could attune the curse towards his emotions and from there Nasoj's will becomes Malakai's will.. Though once he returned to his room, he noticed something a minor setback, he left his satchel at Vercetti's store! Looking towards a window and knowing Zyhx well the man realized he had enough time to give a reminder if he ran to the window and opened it, and that is what he did. "Zyhx! My satchel is with that con artist. Could you go get it and bring it back here before you begin your walk?" Malakai called out.

Zyhx turned around and nodded at his master, before walking off like he was in no hurry to do anything at all, exactly the image he wanted to convey. Fortunately Vercetti's shop was not far, both Amare's home and Vercetti's store being located in Southern Keeptown. The marketplace was now full of women, children, and animals in hustle and bustle, something had them more worked up. Not wanting to leave an impression Zyhx, merely eavesdropped on the conversation of two persons a lovely lady and a humble honey badger with a scar running down his face and across his muzzle, both in full armor while pretending to look over a fruit stall in deep contemplation.

A capybara smiled at Zyhx and prattled on about his stock of grapefruit, claiming it to be the finest around, Zyhx nodded and pretended to listen to his speech, when in actuality it was the guard he was more focused on. "So did you hear about Nasoj? I've heard the Duke locked him up. He just showed up, from the South Entrance too. Weird huh?" The gendermorph asked the honey badger.

Nasoj was a name of interest to Zyhx, the cult of the flesh would love to welcome he was responsible for the Keep's current condition, but that wasn't the part that took his intrigue. What had taken the loyal bodyguard's interest was the south entrance, Nasoj would not have taken the south entrance to get into Metamor, nor would he come here alone. This could potentially have been a case of mistaken identity. Given that Hawl much like Nasoj, also had powers over the flesh mistaking the two could be a simple task further investigation is required.

"That might be why I saw Malisa head into the dungeon earlier, she's never been savvy to the whole woman thing, might have gone to get herself cured." the amazon knight nodded in agreement as the honey badger kept talking. "What on God's green Earth was Nasoj doing here!?! There's no way it's really him, shouldn't be strong enough to just turn our dungeon into chocolate or something?"

"That's the really wild part!" The female explained with excitement. "Apparently he was trying to steal a magic sword called the Transblade from some bloke. He must really be scared of that thing! So... when do you think they'll cure us? I mean, if we have him in custody the first thing they'd do is get him to change us back."

"Eh I dunno, I don't really give a shit." Said the honey badger. " I mean it's been ten years and honestly I don't see anything wrong with being a honey badger, it's not like being human was that great to begin with, no offense."

"None taken. I actually see what you mean, after all this time being a man again would just feel off." The she-knight admitted.

The rest of their conversation was of no interest to Zyhx, who left the grapefruit stall be. "Drat! I came on too strong....I need to stop doing that" the capybara said to himself as he saw what appeared to be a potential customer walk away. So the castle itself harbored Hawl and the Duke MAY have the Transblade, or he might not, it was a difficult call. The Duke was mentioned to Zyhx as a man turned stallion named Thomas Hassan and given that he is no stranger to attack, his kingdom itself was proof of this, the changes in Zyhx's body that would be taking shape over the next week would make him into Exhibit Z, or at least it would if Tom hadn't run out of letters for this sort of thing years ago. The point being however that he could not break Hawl out so soon even with the time limit as Hawl losing his shapeshifting was a strong possibility if the curse were to hold him, and breaking into Hassan's private quarters on a suspicion would be beyond suicidal. Zyhx was trained to willing accept to perform tasks that could very well lead to his death, not throw his life away foolishly. This was not going to be easy, it was actually a shame he neither looked young nor the slightest bit a woman or he could disguise himself as a guard with ease, in another town in the world the dungeon could have been made a bloodbath and he'd be out of there with Hawl in tow, but this wasn't going to be easy, they think he's the worst war criminal in Metamor's History and every man, woman, and child in the entire cursed area would fight to their last breathe to pry him out of Zyhx's cold dead fingers. He could take out fifty men and find himself bored by it, but not an army, especially not one powered by the hysteria of the moon and sharp claws. For the first time in Zyhx's life he felt powerless, and this frustrated him greatly yet on the outside it manifested as little more than a powerfully angry scowl. The only chance he had was waiting until he changed and then posing as a guard, but by that time Hawl would be cursed as well and thus not as useful to the Cult of the Flesh as he could potentially be in his non-cursed state.

Zyhx would have to think it over, he had other things to accomplish, such as the return of his master's satchel, his next destination would be where he was originally headed. Vercetti's Home slash General Store. When he got there he saw Vercetti cleaning, she was without customers, in fact she had put a sign up saying she would be out to lunch soon. "Pardon me miss, a man named Malakai left his satchel here. He purchased ink and a variety of quills from every feather imaginable. Return it please." Zyhx said, being as straight and to the point as he possibly could.

"I don't know what you're talking about mister, but if you wanna buy something I'd hurry, I'm off to the Deaf Mule in a few minutes. As soon as my friend gets here." Vercetti said, Zyhx immediately deduced her to be lying for at least two reasons. The first was that Vercetti did not look him in the eye, something he noted earlier in the day, the gila monster would always have her eyes closed whenever she said something that wasn't true. The second was that he just plain did not trust her.

"Return the satchel." Zyhx warned, though only his posture was intimidating.

"I don't have it." Vercetti repeated and went back to sweeping her floor.

Zyhx blinked his eyes and exhaled, this was the only warning Vercetti received before Zyhx appeared behind and quickly maneuvered the broom out of her paws and over her neck, choking her with it. "Satchel!" he repeated before loosening his grip.

"Finder's Keepers! Loser's Weepers!" Vercetti taunted before attempting to kick backwards at Zyhx's crotch, however before the kick could connect Zyhx throw her into a table, knocking over various items as the table broke. Clearly this trick was not going to work.

Before Vercetti could get up, Zyhx had grabbed sheers intended for the cutting of sheep's wool off of one table, broke them in half, and pointed one of the blades at her neck. "Satchel." he repeated.

"And I thought I wasn't human, alright mister, it's in the back in the supply closet where I keep the cleaning stuff. I was gonna sell it, but you've got some nice stuff the guards wouldn't mind hearing about. If you catch my drift. I think you're actually a man, but I could be persuaded otherwise." Vercetti smiled, gesturing with what passed for her thumb rubbing against a few of her black claws.

Zyhx headed towards the closet giving the cold blooded crook no more attention, save for throwing the sheer half into Vercetti's neck, delivering a near fatal blow as her crimson life fluids poured from her as she gargled about trying to curse her killer, the greedy foolishly know not when to surrender. After checking through the satchel and deeming nearly everything to be in order, though Vercetti had torn some of the notes on both the area and a few spells when she was looking through them. Thinking quickly, Zyhx did one last thing before he left, grabbing a blank parchment, a quill, and an inkwell before writing a false suicide note to cover his trail.

To My Dear Friend

Where once skin and hair were present, now only scales remain
My life would still be mine if only from a curse did Nasoj refrain
My blood is cold, my skin is as blackened as badly burnt flesh, and the world is hollow and empty
The maiden who was Versity died long ago, so now her soul shall flee
In my shameful life I stole, lied, and cheated
Actions that shall now no longer be repeated
For now I ascend to the heavens forever in Eli's Care
Where I shall remain forever out of your hair.

In short, I just cannot take it anymore. I'm so sorry.....

Farewell Metamor, I wish it didn't have to be this way.
With all my love, Versity

Tragic, short, to the point, and with a poem. Zyhx had a thing for poetry, he wasn't sure why the words were just words to him. However, If he had a hobby, this was it. He figured now it was useful, people get so emotional when they took their own life. Zyhx crumpled the paper a little and made sure to write sloppily to make it seem like it had been written by someone unstable. He placed it into one of Vercetti's hands and closed it. Afterward he grabbed an empty bottle with a lid for the storing of potions and gathered up as much of her blood as he could. with that he left through the back door where it was less crowded, and quickly blended once more, making his way back to Amare's house. Had Zyhx gone through the front, he would have found that Metamor Keep was a lot smaller than it seemed for a little raccoon girl had this destination in mind.

"Auntie Vercetti! I'm here now, we can go to lunch!" Little Sargosa said as she came in the front door. "Auntie Vercetti? Are you hiding again? Come on! I bet you'll beat Mr. Copernicus at pool this time!... Auntie Vercetti?" the child was baffled as to why the woman she considered her aunt was not answering. "Are we playing Hide and Seek? Come out come out wherever you are!"

Sargosa stepped into the shop, she thought she had a trace of Vercetti's scent, she had to be close, but she smelt something else too, something coppery. She saw Vercetti, her head kneeling down and blood pouring from her. "Oh did you fall down, let me help you up... Auntie?" Sargosa tilted the head upward and saw cold dead lifeless eyes and the sheer piece stuck in her throat, the raccoon girl did the only thing a child could do in this situation, she screamed, loud, louder than she could under any other circumstances before rushing outside. "GUARDS GUARDS! COME QUICK! MY AUNTIE'S BEEN MURDERED!"

Nearly dropping the spear and axe they were holding the spearwoman and honey badger axeman knights ran towards the screaming. "That's Vercetti's place.... Damn it, I had a feeling this would happen one day. I'll comfort the child, you investigate the building." the spearmaiden said, children responded better to a mother figure than a scary dangerous animal. Had it been an adult they would have had opposite roles, people respond better to an aura of professionalism than a pretty face, the immense beauty of the she-knights had forced them to work twice as hard at maintaining this aura.

"Miss what happened?" Asked the armored female.

"I just came in, because Vercetti is a really good friend of my grandma, and sometimes she takes me out to lunch at the Deaf Mule and I watch her pool with this other lizard, she's never won though... and... and.. and Auntie Vercetti I came in because she was gonna take me again.. and... and... at first I thought she fell, and I was gonna help her up, but she had a knife in her neck.... and...." Sargosa couldn't talk much more, her tears were too heavy. "I WANT MY AUNTIE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK! I WANT MY GRANDMOMMY! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

The spear maiden put down her weapon and hugged the child, a tear rolling down her cheek as well. This wasn't anything for a child to see, she wondered if Sargosa would recover. The knight had been present at Three Gates, a lot of children from that time never got over the horror of that day. Several of their parents had died, especially at the first gate where the age regression proved just how good infant children can be at military defense which is to say, not at all. As she held Sargosa and rubbing her gauntlet bared hand through her fur she recalled her own son whom could not believe nor come to terms with exactly what happened to his father and lived his childhood in fear knowing that he would grow into the curse and which he did at fourteen, where he found himself to cease aging altogether. It was this warrior's fondest wish that she would see the day when children were no longer hurt by the thoughtless actions of evil men, this is what she reflected on as Sargosa hugged her deeply, tears pouring from her eyes like rain from the sky. The raccoon's heart was greatly comforted by the motherly soldier and peace keeper, but it would always ache for the aunt that was forever separated from her. "Come, we'll get you a nice warm meal and take you home. It's going to be alright, my partner and I will find the one who did this."

The scarred axe-bearing honey badger returned with his face heavy and bearing difficult emotions. "We already have... I'm sorry little one. I'm afraid she took her own life. This note I found says that she just couldn't live with the curse anymore. Oi... I thought we had saw the last of these suicides years ago. My only question is why she used sheers instead of a knife." his partner gave him a sharp looking for being that blunt infront of a cub.

"No! She wouldn't do that! My Auntie was never sad, that note's fake. A bad man killed her! We were supposed to get lunch together..." Sargosa screamed, her waterworks still on full blast. "You gotta find the bad man, it's what knights do! I'll tell the big horsey if you don't.. I'll do it!"

"You can read it yourself, this case is open and shut. You can read it yourself kid." The honey badger stated before handing the suicide note Zyhx forged to Sargosa, and turning to her partner. "I'm going to inform the coroner and grab a drink, are you coming?"

"Are you crazy!?! this little girl just lost someone dear to her. She needs to be cleaned up and sent home! I'm taking her to the keep!" The spearmaiden yelled before turning to Sargosa "What's your name sweetie?"

The raccoon sniffled, as she started reading the note. "Sar... Sargosa."

"Good, you can inform the coroner your damn self" The honey badger said and with that he was off to the pub.

"Heartless Bastard!" The spearmaiden called out "Come with me, I'll take you to the keep, we'll give you a nice warm bath and a nice cooked meal and then we'll send you home on a giraffe! Won't that be fun?!?!" she said to Sargosa.

"Oh... okay... what's your name lady?" Sargosa asked

"Gary." The spearmaiden replied with a smile.

"Dame Gary! Ha! Your name is funny!" Sargosa said, trying to laugh, but she found it forced, still it was a laugh nonetheless, the first.

"Yeah, I guess it is." Gary replied, laughing herself. "Hahahaha, Dame Gary." most of the knights took new names to help get over that there was no going back, Gary did not, and now she needed to laugh with all the joy she could muster, Sargosa needed to know that it was okay to laugh. It worked, she got the girl to smile again. Gary picked Sargosa up and lifted her onto her back who started cheering.

"Go Gary! Go! To the Keep! Giddy up!" Sargosa cheered as she wiped the tears from her cheeks, a few were still coming, but she was trying to smile.

Back at Sargosa's actual house Zyhx returned as the sun began to set, Amare opened the door. "Oh Zyhx you're back from Vercetti's, how is she?"

"Don't know, never made it, found the satchel in the marketplace." Zyhx lied and handed the rabbit woman a grapefruit he had stolen.

"Oh? Well I'll hear about it from Sargosa when she gets home. Once a week Vercetti takes Sargosa to lunch at the Deaf Mule, that's where she's gone now." Amare said taking the grapefruit and looking it over "It's getting late, I would have thought they'd be back by now... Thanks for the grapefruit."

"Indeed, don't mention it. I hope she has a nice time." Zyhx said, though his cold emotionless expression and voice revealed nothing he actually was quite terrified. He wondered if he should have just paid Vercetti off or threatened her instead of killing her, Malakai would know what to say. "I'll be retiring now, I have been walking all day."

"Of course, good night dear." Amare said as threw her arms around Zyhx and gave him a great big hug, it was in a rabbit's nature to be as soft and affectionate as possible. It made them terrible soldiers.

Zyhx stood there receiving the hug, unsure what to do for a second, no one had ever touched him like this before. Having been bred as a slave by the Flesinoir, few people had touched him to begin with, Zyhx hugged back merely copying her action and trying to blend in, no more. The gesture was entirely lost on Zyhx. "Good night Amare." he said before ascending to the stairs to speak with his lord and master.

"Master Malakai, my mission is complete, but there are many more to follow, I had to kill Vercetti." Zyhx stated bluntly, as normal jumping straight to the fact. He handed the satchel to Malakai who nodded and continued to listen. "Hawl is being guarded, they believe him to be Nasoj, escorting him out would be very difficult. The Transblade has no known whereabouts, though it is suspected that Thomas Hassan or one of the members of his court is in possession of it."

Malakai grimaced. "It seems for once that idiot Hawl has actually done something right. If I see Regorez I will skin him alive, have him cloned, and order the clone to pour salt on him. The COVER STORY was that he was taking him to the Keep, he wasn't supposed to actually do it! Well we're just going to have to find a way to capture the Duke won't we?"

"There is one more problem, in my foolishness I had killed Vercetti, I had to tell Amare that I found the bag in the marketplace. It turns out Sargosa had just went to see her the two are compatriots. I left a suicide note stating she had taken her life to escape the curse for any friends of Vercetti to find after I took a blood sample for your study which is in the satchel, but regardless we will have to stay on our toes." Zyhx said before bowing. "I did what I thought needed to be done, he had looked through your satchel and threatened to tell the guards of our true origins. I still accept full punishment for acting hastily."

Malakai sighed "This complicates matters, we can't randomly move to the inn it will cause too much suspicion. You are correct, we will have to stay on our toes. When Sargosa returns home she will likely be in tears and with guards asking questions. We must act ignorant and surprised, you stay up here and pretend to be asleep, your blank slate expression will be seen as reason for alarm. I'm going to try to make the curse work faster on you so that you may sneak around the Keep itself, there will be more mages in the building and they'd be able to see whether or not you have the curse. I have less knowledge of the curse than any wizard who practices here, and even I can see the difference between you and any other man in this town."

"Yes sir." Zyhx said

"Any concerns, questions, comments?" Malakai asked

"No sir, just that it will be an honor to be altered by you my liege." Zyhx stated coldly. "I must prepare for my nap now, it is approaching nightfall and they'll likely be bringing Sargosa back tonight so her grandmother doesn't worry or tomorrow morning if it is an emergency"

"Nicely calculated." Malakai congratulated before he heard a scream come from downstairs.

"BY THE RADIANT LIGHT OF AKKALA! SARGOSA ARE YOU OKAY!?!?!" Amare screeched.

Malakai smiled "Alright, unless I come up here and get you, make not a peep." and ran downstairs with a very worried expression on his face. "Amare what's wrong!?! Is Sargosa hurt!?!?!"

A small kid wearing a Follower Cross necklace stood outside the door. He was very small, looking younger than even little Sargosa at just barely past being a toddler and standing in a leather armor, likely because metal would have been too heavy for him, with a small dagger and the most laughably small shield ever seen by man, and behind him there was his mount which appeared to be a giraffe and riding that giraffe was a zebra. He was looking up at Amare who was holding Sargosa who had curled up into a ball of fluff in her arms. "I'm afraid to say that Vercetti, has killed herself.... We found a suicide note in her claw, she couldn't take being under the curse anymore it seems."

"Auntie wouldn't misspell her own name! This note is a fake!" Sargosa said pulling the parchment from her dress and pointing to where it read "Versity". "Someone killed her!"
Amare began petting Sargosa and telling her to shush.

"One of our ladies has seen to it little Sargosa...."

"I'm older than you!" Sargosa interrupted with a tease, but her heart wasn't all that into it as she immediately frowned and looked up at her grandmother with tears in her eyes.

"Sargosa, be quiet when an authority figure is talking to you." Amare scolded. "I'm so sorry, Please continue."

"Little Sargosa has had a well cooked meal, bathed, and brought home. We are very sorry for what happened and I understand this is a difficult time. I will ask on of the priests conduct a funeral service for her, but we must ask, was Vercetti a Follower, a Rebuilder, or Lothanasi?" the child asked.

"She was a Rebuilder like her Uncle. Poor dear, she was raised in this house after her uncle passed in three gates, she left us shortly after changing. That was just a year ago, the poor girl was only fifteen! I had no idea she felt so strongly about it.... Poor dear. I should have asked her to attend one of the Lightbringer's sermons, maybe she'd still be with us. It's that damn forgiveness routine Eli's followers are always going on about! They think break all the rules, but because Yahshua got him nailed to a tree they can just say I'm sorry and suddenly everything's peachy! Life doesn't work that way! Bah, damn Yahshua, damn Yanlin, and damn The Patriach!" Amare said with her normal cheerful smiled completely inverted as she half lost her temper and half wanted to cry, but knew she had to be strong for Sargosa right now. Amare had no real ill-will towards the Followers nor the Rebuilders, but she needed something to take her emotions out on. Something about this bothered Malakai, it was clear that bunny rabbits were not meant to frown. "I'm sorry Mickey. I didn't mean to say that..."

"Grandmother Amare?" The child called, a tad disturbed as he rubbed the Follower Cross he wore on his neck and silently prayed for patience as needed to keep his calm in a crisis situation. "I'm as torn about about this as you are.... Vercetti played with me here back when she was still human. It's hard for me to believe she's gone, and like this too... She always seemed so happy. Still I think you should see Raven tomorrow, I know I'll definitely be dropping by Father Hough's. I don't know if there are any Rebuilder Priests in Metamor, but I'll bring it up with Father Hough if I can't find anyone else to perform the ceremony." the child said. "Good night Amare, I hope we meet again soon under better circumstances. I still need to find a way to pay you back for what you did for me."

"Oh Mickey, I was only helping you heal, it's what Mother Akkala would have wanted." Amare smiled.

"Blessings of Eli upon you and your house." Mickey the youthful stated with a cheerful smile as headed back to the giraffe, where his partner lifted him up and placed him on the strange long-necked animal. Mickey found himself hugging to the beast's neck, actually another Metamor Knight in feral form, as his zebra companion remounted and held on tightly to Mickey, and the two were off.

"Good night miss." The zebra called back.

Malakai found himself overcome by Amare's mood and distraughtness, he could see that her aura was completely gray, unsure of what to feel. Clearly something unthinkable had happened to her the likes she could never have foreseen, someone who had been very close to her had taken their own life in a time of peace. "I..... Mother Amare, if there is anything me or Zyhx can do for you....."

"It's neither of your fault dears....." Amare said as she pet Sargosa like a cat.

"It could have been! We don't know these people, one of them could have killed my auntie! Vercetti HATED poetry! This note is fake!" Sargosa exclaimed once again going hysterical, rubbing it in Amare's face. "SEE SEE! The Princess believed me! Why can't YOU!?!?!"

Malakai began mentally kicking himself, it WAS all his fault and Sargosa had every right to be cross with him. If only he had gone after Hawl himself instead of letting that nimrod Regorez take him all the way up to Cursed Metamor, than he would not have entered Vercetti's life and thus Zyhx would not have taken it.

"Sargosa, I hate to say it... but... I think you might be right....." Amare said, looking over and seeing the misspelling and the poem. "Whatever sick twisted freak did this...... I almost wish I wasn't a disciple so that I could wring their neck! I'll talk to the guard tomorrow, they should to listen to me...." she finally turned to Malakai "There is something you can do for me."

"Yes Mother Amare?" Malakai said in the sweetest tone he'd ever used in his life, he felt absolutely abysmal for what happened to this woman, the thing that happened by his own hand. If he hadn't have left his satchel where Vercetti could have seen it, if he had just not been so transfixed by Amare's body. So many if's that he was responsible for, if there was anything he could do to make things better for Amare, he would.

"Attend the funeral with me and Sargosa?" Amare asked "We need strength in these times, and I hate that you got roped up in this, but... we need a friend right now."

"Of course" Malakai spoke softly and the deal was set, the contract laid out. "Do you want me to run out into town and pick up some food for you Mother Amare? I was thinking of grabbing a turkey leg for myself anyway."

"You don't have to Malakai, besides I'm too upset to eat right now." Amare said. "Let's get you to bed Sargosa, you've had too much excitement for one day." and that was quite the understatement.

"I'll bring you back a carrot, you need to keep your strength up with atleast a snack." Malakai said as he walked out the door.

Malakai sat alone in the Deaf Mule that night, he had barely touched his turkey leg, having only nibbled into it. He looked towards a lizard and a red panda with what seemed like blue hair, playing pool together.

"You're an alright guy Xhyz, I hope Pascal's not giving you too many problems she can be quite the pawful." Copernicus the lizard man said as he lined up his shot. At present Xhyz, the Red Panda, was ahead Copernicus had two more balls to sink before he could go for the eight ball. He bit down on his tongue as he hit the cue ball into the yellow nine ball, which was close enough to the blue ten that both were knocked into their holes.

"Not at all, she's a bit odd I'll admit. I think she's charming though." Xhyz said as he leaned in for his shot, his fluffy tail raised in anticipation of his guaranteed victory, the black eight ball was so close to the hole that Xhyz could BREATHE too hard and make it go in. This would surely mark the first time in the Keep's long history that the one thing that no one ever thought possible would occour at the Deaf Mule before thousands of young, furry, and female, faces. Copernicus, would lose at pool! "Hey, after this I gotta go. Tell your friend Vercetti I'll have to see her another time, have her drop by work. Any friend of Cope's is a friend of mine."

Copernicus scanned through the crowd, trying to spot the cute young Gila Monster. "I don't see her anywhere. I hope nothing's happened to her, she usually her niece. You'd love her, adorable little scamp."

Malakai buried his face in his hands, more people hurt by his miscalculations, but wait... what did that lizard called that red panda? There's no way he said "Zyhx". Impossible, how could he change so fast and be in two places at once, who the hell was Pascal? Unless, he had said "Xhyz." which would have been a curious thing indeed.

A honey badger with a large scar on his face turned to Copernicus and Xhyz, being more than a wee bit tipsy. "Aye mates, I wouldn't be waiting up for Vercetti if I were you. She killed herself, that adorable little scamp was crying her eyes out."

"What!?! WHY!?!" Copernicus called out, "She was fine when I saw her last night."

"She just couldn't take being a scaley freak anymore. Hic... With how ugly you are I wouldn't blame her." The honey badger nearly fell out of his chair as he leaned towards Copernicus. Who was quite pissed.
"You take that back you son of a bitch!" Copernicus screamed as he walked towards the honey badger with his claw backed into a fist. Xhyz was so distracted by this he hit the ball in the wrong direction, counting as a legal move.

"Cope, come back man, he's not worth it, he's a Keeptown Guard you'll just get into trouble." Xhyz said getting infront of Copernicus. "Look he's drunk he doesn't know what he's saying."

Copernicus grabbed Xhyz's shoulder and began sinking his claws into him, Xhyz winced in pain, but still he would not budge.

"Too drunk!" A human woman behind the counter dressed much in the way of a tavern wench, because she was one. "Look buddy, go home you're starting problems."

"You don't tell me when to come home. I can kick Cope's ass, I can kick anyone's ass! Bring me an ass, I'll kick it." the honey badger said. "I'm a honey badger, honey badger don't give a shit! I'll kick anyone's ass! I'll kick your ass bitch I work for the Duke! I can do whatever I want!"

"Will you stop threatening to kick me?" A donkey morph asked politely as he knocked back a shot.

"I was engaged to his daughter." The barmaid smiled. "Which of us do you think he's going to listen too when I tell him the reason you found yourself out in the woods naked with my name cut out of your chest fur was because you were making a scene in my pub.."

"Bah.. to hell with you." The honey badger said as he drunkenly wobbled out.

Copernicus grimaced at the guardsbadger as he realized that Xhyz was now bleeding. "Oh, I'm sorry I just lost it... Thanks Xhyz, sorry about the shoulder."

Xhyz growled as he reached for a pouch on his belt which contained a small vial of fluids which he poured on his bleeding area. "Gaah..." he said as it stung a little, but the wounds were healed instantly. "There we go...." Xhyz said as he flexed his arm muscle trying to battle the restless arm syndrome that he still hadn't managed to iron out of his healing solvent though he found a good use for it when he punched Copernicus in the face reeling him back a little. "Sorry, potion side effect, that'll wear off in a few minutes."

Copernicus rubbed his face, the punch wasn't that hard, and he did deserve it a little. "And thank you Jenn."

"No problem." Jenn said as she looked up from writing down an order for a boar and a little girl, a husband and wife here for a romantic if not cringe-worthy evening.

"I gotta get going Cope, this was fun we'll have to try again sometime." Xhyz said, as began to leave himself, taking the mulberries he had ordered as a snack for later, and to see if they could be used to improve the flavor of some of the more unsavory brews. Malakai however called out to him.

"Hey you red guy!" He yelled.

"Yes Sister Two-Spirit?" Xhyz asked he had been in a hurry to leave and had not quite recognized the person he was talking to due to the distance. If he had he would not have answered him.

"What's your name again, I think I've seen you around." Malakai lied.

"Xhyz, I'm Pascal's new assistant, the Fan Shoar guy who showed up last month." Xhyz called back, for a while he was known as ‘The Fan Shoar guy', but it died down after his change.

"Oh right, sorry I didn't recognize you with the fur." Malakai said following his mistruth with another mistruth. "What are you by the way?"

"I'm not entirely sure.... Well I better get going, Mistress Porcupine wants to teach about remedies, or potions as you here in Galendor call them, that react to moonlight." Xhyz said as he walked out the door.

Malakai left a few coins on the table. "Steamed Carrot to go?" he asked.

Jenn looked over on his table. "Really you didn't touch your turkey leg? Eh well it's your coin. I'm not your mother."

"It's for a friend, she's a rabbit. I'm taking the turkey leg with me. I told her I was only going to step out for a second. She must be worried." Malakai said, actually wishing to tell Zyhx something instead as he ran back to Amare's house with his turkey leg and the steamed carrot. He devoured the turkey leg on the way, gaining an appetite from all the running that he had been doing. If only he could have brought his Dernos into town, that thing as faster than even the most well bred of cheetahs. When Malakai returned to Amare's house she found her sitting, eyeing a bottle of brandy, giving some thought to drinking it, but ultimately pushing it away from herself.

"There's a lot of darkness in the world Malisa...." Amare said as Malakai placed forward a plate with a very large steamed carrot on it which Amare began picking at. "I just don't know what pushes someone to take another's life."

"So you think Sargosa's right? I mean, about Vercetti being murdered?" Malakai asked

"She didn't take literature seriously, not even her canticle, she wouldn't have written a poem. Maybe the killer in the Writer's Guild? I forget who is in charge of it these days" Amare said, her tone somber and heavy, she looked towards the brandy and pushed the bottle even further away from herself.

"I'm sorry... I.. Death is...." Malakai didn't know what to say and just found himself rubbing his hand through the lapine morph's fur. Finding the situation tense and inescapable. "..What's with the brandy? That bottle looks unopened, have you just been staring at it?" The conflicted magic user asked being unsure why someone would look over a bottle of brandy instead of drinking it.

"I found myself dying of consumption. Twelve years ago, I couldn't bare to think of my darling Theodore alone without me. We had spent such a large portion of our lives together and had two sons. Billy and Peter" Amare said, not taking her eyes off the bottle. "So I called on Akkala for a favor, I asked her to heal me and she did, but before I could repay this favor my home was raided by lutins on the same day I lost my husband and children, the same day I became a rabbit. I laid badly wounded and called out to Akkala, offering to devote my life to her if she would heal me one more time. I knew what that meant, but I thought I would see my family again if I made this sacrifice...."

"Did you?" Malakai asked, grabbing himself a seat, thinking this story might take awhile longer than he thought.

Amare buried her fuzzy white furred face into her forepaws. "They died in Three Gates. My husband trampled by a horse as he laid crying in a pile of his own clothes at the first gate, my sons I actually saw as I turned into my feral form for the first time. Billy became a flea and was stepped on as a lutin collared Peter who had become a wolf. Peter wasn't having any of it.... They said if he didn't start behaving they were going to eat him." Amare began to cry, remembering it all too well. His son being collared and dragged off like some kind of animal as she was powerless to do anything, but watch until she lost interest and began hopping around her kitchen looking for that scent of fresh vegetables. "I can only assume they did... I never saw him again... This was an hour after a wayward hour pierced my heart and I begged Akkala to save me."

"What does this have to do with the brandy?" Malakai asked, being from the Southlands where Lothanasi traditions are not as strong as they are up north. Besides, his loyalty was only to the god Azathoth. All others were unimportant to him and by extension his studies.

"I'm a disciple of Akkala. She doesn't let her disciples drink, have relations outside of marriage, or harm any living uncursed creature. The Lothanasi Gods are, not as forgiving of broken tenants as Eli is. If I drink I may die... but.. at a time like this.. I wonder if I should take my chances. I used to be quite the alcoholic... It's just, hard to believe that I've lost another one of my dear sweet children."

Malakai drifted his gaze downward before speaking. "It's getting late, we should go to bed..." he took the bottle of brandy from Amare. "Sargosa needs you more than ever... you let me hold onto this."

Amare hugged Malakai. "You're an angel Melissa...."

"No, I'm not..." Malakai said, returning the hug. "We should get some rest, tomorrow is a new day."
"Yes it is..." Amare said, before departing. "Pleasant dreams Melissa."

"Pleasent dreams Mother Amare." Malakai called back before walking slowly up the stairs, once he was sure Amare could not see him he began running. He had some important news for his manservant.

"Zyhx! Wake up!" Malakai called as he pushed on Zyhx. "You won't believe who I ran into. It seems we found your predecessor."

"Xhyz?" Zyhx asked. "I shall crush him on the morrow like the child he has become!"

"Actually. He's a, red and black fluffy, cat-dog-raccoon thing with blue hair." Malakai corrected. "He's the assistant of the local alchemist, one Porcupine named Pascal. We need to assess him and find out if she's anyone famous. If she is, it'll have to wait till you change. The guard has ruled Vercetti's death a suicide. They may re-open the case if someone the keep is attached to is found dead. However once we have new bodies we'll be in the middle of leaving anyway."

"I expected him to be a child." Zyhx said. "I will consider this a privilege. Thank you Prince Malakai."

"You're weclome." Malakai smiled, as he went to his bed and snuggled underneath the covers of the uncomfortable bed made for someone less than half his age, he thought once more of Vercetti. "Oh come now... in a week nothing about this accursed place will matter." he said to himself, but it didn't take. All he could see were the crying faces of Sargosa and Amare.

Zyhx however slept like a log, tomorrow was going to be a good day for him.

"Blending In With Those Afflicted", copyright Hawl Enroygall