Flesinoir Truths

by Hawl Enroygall

Flesinoir Truths by Jessica Kylie Nichols-Vernon aka HawlSera

Note: This story took too damn long to write and re-edit and I apologize for that.

Cedric was bandaged and laying on a small cot in Yariv’s house counting down the days until he could return to Cornflower, in a new body. He cursed that horrible woman who raised Claire to become a pikeswoman and come to worship the false god of war. It was enough to bring his blood to a boil, though in his boredom he began thinking that maybe he shouldn’t be mad at his sister.

Afterall, she still meant well and overall acted like a good person. Even bringing him baskets of fruit and meat that apparently she cooked. Cedric didn’t touch the fruit not being big on fruits or veggies, but he found it exotic that they had such strange fruits he had never seen before. Most curious was this yellow thing called a banana that was shaped more like half of a bow, or dare he say it, a lewd part of male, as opposed to being roundish like any fruit he had ever seen. Though that wasn’t even the weird part of it, the strangest thing was this pineapple. The pine part was right on as it resembled a pine cone, yet how it was meant to be eaten or if it even was supposed to be anything more than decoration he had no idea.

Claire brought far more meat than fruit knowing Cedric hated fruit, but she thought it was good to have it on standby as per his agreement with Yariv he would take the curse and there was a fair chance he could become a herbivore. Something the legendary meat eater gagged at as he felt it would be less insulting to become a finer, younger, and more shapely maiden than Yariv was. Hell it would be less insulting if he got that and age regression to the point of being a five year old. Was that even possible? A cold sweat began to run down Cedric’s forehead as he realized the worst part of that fate would be if Claire really was the same girl she was back when the two were kids, and outside of religion, species, and prowess with a pike than she would never be allow him to live it down. “By Eli’s thumbs! Yariv what the hell have you done to me?” he asked himself before grabbing one of the breakfast sausages that Claire had brought him this morning.

That was pretty much Cedric’s day for the two he had been here. Eating meats and thinking about what body he would soon be wearing and for the rest of his life. Even if he was in good enough of a shape to make a break for it and avoid unpleasantries, the insult to his honor for refusing to hold up his end of the bet would be horrendous. Even if it was with a woman warrior. Things finally changed from this norm when some kind of man-cheetah showed up at the door and asked to speak with him.

“Hey there buddy, I see you had a bit of an accident.. a friend of mine had one like that involving the sharp end of a Lutin’s spear.” The cheetah said, the cheetah was simply dressed and with satchel of letters and packages on his back.

“I see, and how did that turn out?” Cedric asked trying to make conversation as he had been quite bored without entertainment. He could read, but not very well. He had some books to read, a few gems from the Writer’s Guild though he found the writing too fanciful and the language too refined for him to understand it past the first few chapters of a fairy tale called “The Elk In The Sky.” it seemed interesting, but far too esoteric for his tastes to bother with the trouble of asking Yariv’s wife to read it to him.

“Well he made a quick recovery, not in time to save him from the curse though. Our infirmary is never speedy enough for that. It’s almost like some divine force causes normal humans to just become accident or injury prone upon entering the cursed lands, like it’s TRYING to find some excuse for them to stay here.” The cheetah said, contemplating this for a few seconds before ultimately deciding to dismiss the thought altogether.

Cedric nodded pretending to listen to the ramblings, but what he wanted to know was what happened to this friend of the cheetah’s. “What became of him?”

“Ah he’s just one of the best damn lumberjacks we’ve got here in Metamor, I mean he’s a beaver now, so go figure.” The cheetah laughed to himself, Cedric deciding to laugh with to be polite. “Anyway, my name’s Stealth, one of the couriers, and you’ve got a letter from the Duke himself! Well aren’t we moving up in the world? Hehe”

“It must be about the Transblade. Did he appraise it and decide a fair price?” Cedric asked, this was a spot of good news. At least potentially, this could end in the downfall or salvation of Cornflower. “We don’t have much of say in the matter, the blade is useless to us, so we’ll take what we can get. But I am giving up my adulthood, manhood, or humanity for th…”

“Wow wow there chief. I’m just the messenger. I don’t know what a Transblade is or what business you have with the Duke. That’s between you and him, you can give me a letter for him or you can go to the Keep and discuss it with him directly. I am not a Hassan nor married to one.” Stealth the cheetah clarified. “We keen on that? Yeah you look like a sharp one. Shall I read you his letter or do you want to do the honor yourself?”

“Can you read this to me?” Cedric asked as he handed the scroll back to the cheetah. “I can read, but not very well.”

“Alrighty then.” Stealth said with a birdlike chirp, something cheetahs could do which caused Cedric to jump as he didn’t know they could. “Ahem.. Dear Cedric Bariclauph of Cornflower. I have had my strongest and most skilled of mages appraise this Transblade as you call it and they find that although the relic is no more than eight years old the power used to create it is reminiscent of an ancient foul magick long thought extinct. So ancient that we’re actually having trouble deciphering where it came from or the identity of one that could even have such power. As such we will pay you a huge fee for the blade and continue to study it until we deem it safe. As this is a rare, one of a kind artifact with such danger surrounding it. It is in your best interest and ours that you mention the weapon to as few parties as possible. Stealth one of our most trusted couriers.” Stealth chirped again and laughed gaily. “Hey that’s me, oh you lovable ol’ stallion, you’re not so bad yourself!” he chuckled a bit before continuing. “As such we feel him most fitting to deliver this, a large satchel for you filled with enough crowns to feed a small army the most extravagant of meals and feasts for a decade. 5,000 Gold Coins. This is a very generous offer. Though it’s more compensation. Despite the risk of unpleasantries with Cornflower that came with this decision it is impossible for us to give it back to you. If the magicks are indeed as we have appraised it we have put ourselves in enough danger taking it off your hands. To allow you to carry it back to Cornflower could potentially end in disaster.”

“By Eli’s good graces…”Cedric blinked not following any of that as all that was said was blanked out of his mind when he heard 5,000 Crowns. “...Stealth… Where’s the money?”

“I left it with Yariv… That junk was heavy. Though I’m glad I didn’t open it. Yeesh, if anyone knew how expensive my load was I’d have been targeted. I mean crime doesn’t happen often in Metamor. We’re well united in that everyone hates us for being abominations under the gods thing, but no rest for the wicked ya know.” Stealth said before stretching his arms and hearing his bones crack. “Whelp I’ve got places to be, letters to give out, dames to pester. I’ll just leave the Duke’s words with you and be on my merry way.” The cheetah bowed and, as he said, was on his merry way.

“The mission is nearly done… if I can get the money back to Cornflower I can make Lord Aereolon proud.” Cedric said as he laid back, his side still hurting to much to walk around. Yariv’s dagger had gotten more of itself into him than he imagined it had during the duel.

“IF, you can get it back.” Spoke the soft, yet fearful toned voice of Sir Yariv who had entered while Cedric closed his eyes. “...Cedric I overheard everything. My father wasn’t a lord when I saw him last, but I do know he isn’t a greedy old man. If he thought he had something as dangerous as whatever this Transblade is he would have his old wizard friend destroy it. Yet here he is selling it to the highest bidder, and one like Metamor which is believed by the south to be corrupted by sin and daemons. What’s going on?”

“I came because my Lord Frelick Aereolon, your father, owns a small town far south. One that has been struggling in trade and has had to borrow funds from a town called Mugal which owns a series of mines called the Mugal Caverns, giving them riches and size far greater than most and they’ve just been buying up land…” Cedric said rubbing his temples as his voice became more dire. “The strange thing is though the caverns have proven fertile with wealthful deposits of magical rocks, no miner has ever left. Just the carts full of near-mythical substances such as mythril, pyrock, machinium,  you name it. Any magical mineral, those carts come back with it. Each time they buy a new land that land’s people become new miners, yet, though more continue to go in. Not a one has ever returned, their Duke has refused to comment upon it.”

“I haven’t seen a pyrock since that blasphemous fool Altera kept goldfish, idiot thought that they were made of real gold! I spit upon his shallow grave.” Yariv shuddered, repulsed at the memory of the foul lord whom he once served. “They’re quite rare, for them to continuously mine the stuff… No no Cedric, I must come with you when you depart. This matter requires proper investigation.” Yariv stood up and walked to a mirror that she had requested to her husband be put in the room for Cedric to see his body as it changed to the will of the curse. “....As does well… My father, he hasn’t seen me in forever and I’m sure he wishes to know what the curse has done to me. I prayed he never find out. Now that I am with a messanger of his I am realizing how selfish this prayer was.” Yariv turned back to Cedric with big emotion filled eyes. “He is my father and he has right to know what has become of his… daughter..”

“I… I understand, though if you like you can pose as a messenger and tell him that you became a mighty lion?” Cedric offered, though dishonorable to lie this seemed like one circumstance where the rule could be broken.

“No, he needs to know the truth and we have to leave the SECOND the curse has you. Though I don’t look it for the curse has given me eternal beauty and thus kept me young, I am actually quite old. If I’m old than you know that he has been of an age destined for expiration for longer than I’ve had a woman’s form. He is too close to Death’s door for me to delay.” Yariv said looking towards a nearby mirror closing her eyes and opening them again as if to expect to see a man’s visage when his eyes opened again, but of course he did not.

“What’s it like?” Cedric asked, having a curiosity that was as natural as it was improper for polite conversation.

“Womanhood?” Yariv asked for clarification, but began to speak again realizing there was not much else for Cedric to be talking about. “Well, quite frankly, it’s different. I know that’s plain as day, but you don’t realize how so. I’m a creature of wiles and beauty. I now embody the mystery that has eluded male-kind from you to your father, and his father before him.”

“Are you bragging? Are you saying you’ve come to enjoy it?” Cedric asked, he swore this sounded of a boast.

“That only happens in smut. Surely you’ve read a dozen tales to the tune of this. Either some shy virgin of a young man or a boastful braggart who fancies himself masculinity incarnate gets seduced from a mischievous woman mage who dresses our new former male up all like a proper woman. Taunting him throughout the night with stories of how much of a stud he used to be and how he now carries the visage of the most ladylike of cheap whores, then she is trained to find a mate and is thusly seduced into full compliance with her fate. I can name at least twenty tales like that, but the truth is nothing like this perverse fantasy. No instead, I find myself no longer a man nor part of the world from where they reside.” Yariv said laying down, no longer bearing to look at the mirror. “It would have been better had I been a beast. A beast is still something from man’s world. A woman is someone that a man meets when he ventures to the bridge between worlds out of natural curiosity, when he and she step out of their own. Neither of them are ever meant to cross that bridge into each other’s worlds. It is not what Eli intended. I however have been pushed violently across that bridge and been blocked off from ever seeing it again…. This is my true curse. Do you understand Cedric?”

A long winded explanation, but one Cedric nodded at in agreement. He had thoughts that he felt forbidden that perhaps a woman who once knew masculinity could answer. “There is… but one reason I would want womanhood, though it isn’t a strong one.”

“...Do you feel the other world is your true home? There is no shame in that, it’s something that happens. I once fought alongside a knight who confessed that he felt that way. Now she proudly calls herself Dame Seranima... never saw that one smile before that.” Yariv commented.

“No… Not that. The world of men is where I belong, but well.. I think I fit in a little too well…” Cedric swallowed his tongue, what he was about to tell Yariv was something he never told anyone for fear of the rejection, not even his sister knew of this.

“What do you mean?” Yariv pondered what it would mean to fit in too well. Could such a problem exist?

“I have read a few books, I’m not the most literate person though I can read some Galendish, though nothing too fancy. I have noted descriptions of young men courting women, letting those maidens become synonymous with their own hearts. The feelings described are definitely real and experienced by those whose hands or paws as a few I’ve read come from here. Yet I do not feel these feelings about women. I cannot name a single one that has made my heart blossom in such a way.” Cedric said recounting his complete apathy about the female sex. “I feel women have their place and all, I just, don’t see one having a place alongside me.”

“And this is why you disapprove so heavily of the idea of a woman warrior?” Yariv asked recalling how difficult it was for Cedric the previous night to even maintain the illusion of respect for herself and Claire.

“Not at all, I’ve just been raised with Eli’s word and he has different plans for women is all. No no, what I’m getting it is. Well..” Cedric froze up and scratched the back of his head nervously. “I feel… these feelings I mentioned… but about men. I often feel as though I want to share a meal or a walk during a beautiful night with a man. Though I don’t feel as though I belong in the woman’s world and I….” The young blonde warrior noted the look on Yariv’s face and wisely decided to cease speaking further.

“I think there is not a soul in Metamor Keep or even all of Galendor ready to ponder such thoughts Cedric Bariclauph, I suggest you continue to keep this to yourself.” Yariv said backing away from Cedric slowly and leaving the room saying only these parting words. “We leave in a week, you will be ready.”

Cedric nodded in agreement. “Of course, Cornflower cannot wait.” and with that he went back to rest, trying to get his mind off the disappointment he would surely feel when the news came and he was not selected for a body that at least tried to match his mind.

It wasn’t for a few days that the warrior was able to stand up and actually walk around he seemed to be healed entirely and yet also in incredible stress. “YARIV!” He screamed looking at the lower half of his body and seeing something that nearly made him faint.

Kilometers away at Metamor Keep, Claire was walking around with her Pike at her side, there was rarely any need for it but Metamor encouraged people to carry arms wherever possible, it didn’t matter if you were a woman, a child, a chicken, a deer, a tree, a muffin. If you were a citizen of Metamor, you needed to be on guard incase of anything. “I am glad your brother’s getting the curse, but do I really have to come with you to check on him?” Asked Jack, Claire’s red cardinal husband

“He could use the moral support from someone who the curse has hindered.” Claire said to her husband as they walked together through the gorgeous flowers of the royal garden. “I think he might have calmed down a bit anyway since he’s becoming one of us.”

“I suppose so…” Jack sighed, looking at his wings that had robbed him of his hands. “Well… there isn’t really a time like the present I suppose.” He said, stroking the back of Claire’s head as the two waited during their walk watching Laracin the Tree be tended to by Dan the gardener and a rare insect member of the keep being a grasshopper. As bad as Jack had it, he always felt sorry for Laracin and hoped for his sake more than anyone else’s that a cure was found for the curse, though many had given up on it ever coming to light for anyone except perhaps maybe when today’s infants have beards themselves.

“Do you think any of us will ever be human again?” Claire asked, as if reading Jack’s mind.

“I still hold out hope for it. It just feels temporary to me, polymorph spells didn’t start with Nasoj after all.” Jack responded after thinking for a bit.

“I’ve pretty much accepted that it’s here to stay myself.” Claire said, kissing Jack on his beak and smiling at him “To be quite to the point, I think I like you better as a bird, you’ve just got an air of handsomeness about you while still being kind of adorable. The only downside is that we… can’t have kids.”

“Mhm, and you Claire are more beautiful as a ferret instead of a woman. I think the crow’s feet and stretch marks would have shown if the fur wasn’t there.” Jack teased his spouse, earning a prod from the blunt end of the pike.

A few minutes later Xhyz, the apprentice to Pascal appeared in the garden in a cute green dress that showed her midriff in a diamond shape, stopping at her belly button. Though the red panda was normally male she had sometimes made the use of a gender swapping formula as part of what she called a religious experience. “Hey there Pascal wanted me to deliver this to you. It’s really powerful and should help in your travel.” Xhyz said handing a vial of a yellow liquid to Claire. “It’s for Jack, but you can hold it better.”

“Oh, the strength potion.” Claire said looking it over. “Right?”

“That’s the one..” Xhyz chirped and hummed to herself.

“Alright then.” Claire acknowledged, pouring the formula into Jack’s open beak and hoping it worked. The pleasured chirping noises were a good indicator that it was both working and tasted good. In fact it had a bit of a flavor like lemon cake as it rejuvenated him and his muscles to beyond their normal capabilities. Said muscles began to swell giving Jack quite the physique.

This buffer new body of the bird’s was caught a catch to the loving and somewhat lustful eyes of his darling wife. “Too bad it only lasts a few hours…” she said, transfixed by the muscle growth.

“Ehh… I prefer more of a slim build on men than a muscular one..” Xhyz shrugged giving her opinion on the matter.

The formula test was however cut short by an approaching guard, Xhyz’s good friend Dame Seranima, though she didn’t look like the happiest individual in Galendor. “I hate to break up your merriment, but Xhyz has a court summons. We found a dead body in Pascal’s tower..

“Oh no! is Mistress okay Sera?” Xhyz piped up with concern for his dear mentor

Sera exhaled throwing off her demeanor to comfort her friend. “I understand your worry. Pascal is fine, she just had a bit of an accident and melted into a puddle again, this happened before she’ll just reform eventually. But for now you’re the only one who can testify Xhyz.” she said putting a gauntlet upon the red panda’s shoulder. “The corpse is of  a mouse morph, gender unknown… the disgusting thing is we found her poisoned and her body…. partially eaten.. and.. skinned.. I don’t envy the poor bastard who found this mouse. we still haven’t been able to figure out who she was… I’m assuming it’s a she anyway, personal bet I have with a friend.”

“BY THE DIVINES! That sounds horrible!” Xhyz freaked upon hearing the description of the murder victim. “I didn’t see much of anything, I’ll take a memory clarity potion and… say what I can.” Xhyz said, drinking of a pink vial containing such a thing that she kept on her incase she ever felt like she forgot something.

“Do you want us to come with you Xhyz?” asked Claire. “For moral support.”

“If you want.” Xhyz answered the ferret and red cardinal.

The four journeyed to a small courtroom where Malisa was sitting behind the judge’s desk, which made sense seeing as she was of high status in the local government and had the authority to act as judge. For anything higher than a murder or involving the nobility, Duke Thomas, her father, would have resided over the case instead. “Ahh there she is... “

“Your highness” Xhyz curtsied before Malisa as she approached the Judge’s Desk. “I have already been briefed on the subject of why I’m here… It’s good to see you again Prince Matthew, but I wish it were under better circumstances.”

“Too true I’m afraid, too true.” Malisa Hassan sighed, she was dressed not in her usual purple outfit, but in a black outfit with a purple and yellow sash and a belt made of snakeskin in order to look more professional. “As a formality, can you please state your name and occupation for the court.”

“Shaman Xhyz of the Coyote Tribe.” She spoke, giving her name as requested. “Shaman, currently employed as an Apprentice Alchemist to Mistress Pascal Q. Porcupine.”

“Thank you Shaman Xhyz, In the flask I have here is the blood found in the body of the unfortunate victim.. as much of it as we could get from the deceased’s veins. Their expression was neutral as though they had been paralyzed so we can tell a poison was used, but not what kind...” Malisa said, the hairs on the back of her head sticking up as she discussed the uncomfortable case. “We suspect the killer is some kind of carnivorous insect who for whatever reason… can’t control his instincts.”

Xhyz nodded with a frown on her face, slowly approaching the flask, and much to the disturbance of everyone watching, dipping his finger inside of it and then that finger to his mouth. “Blood, mouse.. definitely male.”

“Well damn..” Sera muttered to herself, exchanging a few silver coins to the great dane sitting next to her.

Xhyz continued to speak. “There’s an aftertaste, venom… scorpion…to be specific…”

“You can tell that from tasting it?” Malisa raised an eyebrow of inquiry.  “I must say. Impressive, but isn’t that dangerous?”

“The blood has greatly watered it down, so unless I drnak the whole vial I’m fine. Even then I’d probably only get sick and have to lay down for awhile… This kind of venom would have to be continuously injected for it to retain the effect. I’d say it was the blood loss from being eaten that killed this mouse…. “ Xhyz drank a little more of the poisoned blood thinking hard and intently. “I’d say this venom came from an emperor scorpion… harmless if you gained the desire to keep one as a pet, but… a human sized one could be far more damaging….”

“Now while you were leaving the tower to deliver a potion of strength to my manservant Jack Itamar Flameheart who is here with his wife, Claire Bariclauph Flameheart did you bare witness to anyone match the description of a humanoid emperor scorpion?” Malisa continued her line of questioning.

“I thought I smelled someone like that, and I did hear a few chittering noises, but since we have everything from aardvarks to zebras I didn’t find it strange at the time. I mean heck, there’s a talking tree in the garden. Had I realized his intentions I could have found him…..” Xhyz rubbed her shoulder and gave herself a look of deep shame.

“You have done much for us already Xhyz, we can’t expect you to be omnipotent.” Malisa tried to comfort the assistant alchemist. “After all… we employed the best mages in the land to launch a magical defense when we learned the north was going to attack us… I think we all know how that went.” The prime minister said gesturing to her breasts. “Sometimes people get hurt and when we’re there when it happens.. it can make you feel terrible, that’s natural. I’m one of the people responsible for this kingdom and that’s how I feel about so much as an apple stolen from a cart… We all want to make things perfect, but even those of us with supernatural abilities can’t do that and shouldn’t try lest they drive themselves mad…” Malisa inhaled, flashing a sky blue color as she casted a calming charm on herself. The calming charm was something her now celibate lover Jenn insisted she get into, and something that appeared to be working as it helped her regain enough control over the curse to have short brown hair and smaller breasts like she had back in less stressful days.

“Mmm… It’s only a theory, well a hypothesis really, mostly a random guess but… Hawl’s a shapeshifter and associated with a cult called the Flesinoir.. one of whom he locked up in the jail cell when he escaped right? That’s very suspicious, especially since the Flesinoir haven’t existed for centuries.

“Xhyz… you have just revealed secrets of the government.. I’d count this as treason, but I am alarmed and curious as to how you know.” Malisa responded, deeply concerned. Earning gasps from the crowd.

“I have bigger ears to hear with than I used to.” Xhyz grinned, his smile big and wide.

“That doesn’t explain anything…” Malisa said scratching her head. Not sure if she should arrest Xhyz especially since being helpful wasn’t a crime. “I… I’m really not sure how to react…. though I guess the first place to start would be by… getting Regorez… Dame Seranima…” Malisa said, looking towards the knight in the courtroom.

“Understood!” Sera replied, getting up doing a light curtsey and marching out of the courtroom to head for the Mage’s Guild when Regorez had been kept for questioning. Last time Sera checked on Regorez he was speaking in vague riddles most of which had absolutely no relevance to anything, many stopped questioning him upon gaining the understanding a few of his riddles were just senseless references to famous tomes and ballads without proper context and frustratingly enough he appeared to have a strange immunity to truth serums. The only reason they didn’t torture him outright for this suspicious behavior was that he did prove helpful in solving previously unsolved missing pieces in magical equations. Nothing too major like undoing the curse, but the knowledge gained was five years worth of research that now no longer had to be done.

Upon having this explained Sera zoned out for the parts of it she didn’t understand, this paid off as she began to notice something that seemed very off to her. There was a small opening to allow avian members of the mage’s guild to just fly in when they needed, and as usual a bird came flying in and resumed anthropomorphic status. Though this still didn’t seem right, as such Sera felt the need to investigate. After silencing the jackal who was speaking to her as politely as she could she approached the bird who came in through the opening. “What kind of bird are you?”

“The best kind madame.” Spoke the bird, the strange thing is he appeared to some kind of eagle, though entered as a hawk, and even though this eagle’s feathers suggest that he is female his voice is male. “I’m a falcon!”

“And… how long have you been in the Keep?” Seranima thought to ask.

“About fifteen years.. Yes.. Been here a long time. Everybody knows me, my name is Cornbread!” The bird said with a huge reassuring grin

“What season did Nasoj last attack us in?” Seranima asked, reaching for her blade.

“The fall? Yes the fall, when he tried to release the fourth curse turning us all into… muffins! Yeah muffins!” The hawk calling himself a falcon said starting to realize the jig was up.

“Hawl, what are you doing here?” Seranima asked, unsheathing her sword.

“....Yeah I didn’t expect you’d ask me a real question.. I moreso expected you to play bluff the impostor as opposed to a sensible easy question… Alright I’m not going back to jail I mostly came by to pick something up. However I see that shall not be coming into my possession, so, how about you let me leave and I don’t turn into a giant manticore and tear off your face.”

“You’re joking right?” Sera asked. “You threatened a knight of Metamor Keep… while inside of the Mage’s Guild.”

“Yes, I did, with something I intend to follow up o…. AHH… The… friggity frig!?!” Hawl in his bird form screeched as a blinding light was pushed into his face. Though he could not see it the cause was by a young girl a moth who found herself transfixed by the beautiful light, while her eyes were wide open and staring Hawl’s were trying to stay shut to avoid the blinding light sizzling his eyes. This had given Seranima enough time to subdue Hawl and take him to court just as she intended. Regorez came with as did Raleigh, the moth girl, who kept Hawl subdued with blinding light.

Once Regorez and Hawl were at the trial it proved to be a useless gesture as Regorez refused to talk or say much of anything and Hawl was too blind to know what was going on at the time. Malisa found this in poor amusement.

“Look, Regorez, there’s been a murder, and if you can’t tell us anything about it?” Malisa said getting rather steamed at how nowhere she was getting with this.

“You don’t want me to reveal secrets of the murder, you want me to talk about Flesinoir. Death itself could not prevent me from taking punishment if I said too much about them. Just take what knowledge I’ve given your mage’s guild and let me. I was locked up in a dungeon because your incompetent scorpion locked me there, then I did nothing but pal around with the mage’s guild I never had the chance to kill anyone!” Regorez yelled. “May I leave?”

“I understand Hawl was recaptured as well…. Regorez is correct about his alibi and I have no further questions for him.” Malisa said disappointed, no one else in the courtroom was particularly excited about this either.

The blind bird standing in the far back walked forward and immediately took the form of a male tiger, restoring his eyes in the process. Picking up Regorez’s small five year old boy body and lifting him in the air. “You took the transblade from the Mage’s Guild!”

Everyone stared at Regorez. “Is this true?” Malisa asked.

“No… No it isn’t, it’s still at the mage’s guild.” Regorez said sternly.

“HE’S LYING!” Hawl roared.

“What proof do you have of this Hawl?” Malisa looked over Regorez, eyeing him with suspicion?

“Cause, he’s the bad guy, and bad guys do bad things. Like steal swords that I know are important to me.” Hawl said, picking up Regorez with one arm using his shapeshifting to amplify his muscles to allow him to do this. “THAT SWORD BELONGS TO ME SCUM!”

“You found out your father made it… Didn’t you? You know of your father the Keeper, who came to us. Provided us with……..” Regorez noted the blank stare on Hawl’s face. “He was a Keeper who was gender flipped and turned into a cheetah by the curses during three gates and found us on a soul-searching quest?”

“...I didn’t know any of that actually.” Hawl

“Shit.” Regorez said realizing he gave away too much. “Well can you put me down at least?”

“Fine.” Hawl dropped Regorez instantly, the child landing painfully on his rear. Annoyed that he would not be getting any further answers about his questions.

“Jerk. I’m a kid!” Regorez snapped brushing himself off.

Hawl admittedly took the form he currently had, but as a five year old version of it. “Jerk. I’m a kid! See I can pretend to be things I’m not too, it’s not that difficult.” the tiger smirked. “Well for me isn’t, unlike you… I can grow up.” Hawl said resuming the age of being a twenty something, the irony of his own immaturity was completely lost on him.

“Well Hawl, as much as it pains me to interrupt your gloating.” Malisa said sarcastically. “That leaves YOU as our prime suspect, you broke out of jail and for whatever reason killed a citizen of the keep and ate him. You can turn into an emperor scorpion!”

“Why would I do that? That sounds disgusting.” Hawl asked, looking visibly.

“When you came here you pretended to be Nasoj, to my father’s, the Duke who had his family and entire kingdom cursed, face. Pretty much anything is on the table for what I expect of you from making me a hearty breakfast to lighting the Deaf Mule on fire.” Malisa responded.”You’re already wanted for escaping jail and general stupidity, give me a reason not to think you murdered someone.”

“I don’t have it in me to kill, besides aren’t Malakai and Zyhx here?” Hawl said, sniffing Regorez’ coat. “I mean Regorez does smell like them.”

“Ahh… What!?!?!” Regorez took a deep breathe.

“You know Malakai and Zyhx?” Malisa asked stunned by this, she knew them as strange men who had recently decided to move in with the Sargosa girl she had met not too long ago. Of course she had never seen them, just heard of them second hand from Sargosa.

“Not personally… I just know they were regulars at the Tavern and that they gave me the creeps. Especially Zyhx, he was the quiet the guy with the strange red skin.”

“Red skin… the man who looked just like Xhyz… I see… Well it’s back to jail for you Hawl. I understand that it’s going to take some time to subdue you with those shape shifting abilities of yours but I have this book of Battlemage Tatics right on my desk to help with that.” Malisa opened her book and began to recite from it in a strange language that only she and the young Raleigh really understood when suddenly in came in a female knight with long white hair wearing a seal of the town of Mugal.

“...This isn’t the throne room, what the heck? Can someone tell me where I can find your Duke, I’m Sir Leo The Lancer. I was sent here to see if Hawl Enroygall made it here safely to serve his exile… He could really be anyone in this room so that’s why I’m asking.” The woman asked the room.

“Hey Leo The Lanceless, why don’t you keep me out of jail?” Hawl asked with nervous laughter accompanying his voice.

“....As far as I’m concerned they can burn you at the stake!” Leo snapped shaking her fist at the tiger.

“...Wait. Did you refer to Hawl as an Exile? you banished him here?” Malisa raised an eyebrow. “He’s only here under your orders?

“Those of Prince Klaus actually.” Leo responded with a light bow. “I assume from your attire that you are Princess Hassan? Funny, I figured Thomas would be more the kind to have a son… well I suppose he did, but, well… maybe I should keep my mouth shut.”

“Yes I am Prime Minister Malisa Hassan” Malisa said confirming Leo’s assumption. “However we didn’t approve of this. This is Metamor Keep, a prestigious kingdom with a bad reputation thanks to Nasoj, not your asylum for crazy shapeshifters. Though I see our reputation is one you now share in I see, how long have you been here Leo?” Malisa decided to get more details on this situation.

“An hour, but I’ve been here before.” Leo sighed, rubbing down her shoulder coldly recalling old memories. “...My entire troop died… and I was left… like this. A terrifying monster like in most stories would be better as they are feared… but instead I’m… beautiful..” Leo looked over her form in regret still not over having fallen victim to the Second Gate’s curse.

“Wait? Are you the same Leo that attacked me and Xhyz here over Pascal’s Morph Ring? Ha, I told you you’d regret staying in the area.” Dame Seranima asked interrupting Leo’s monologuing about her most undesired fate.

Leo grimaced and exhaled with frustration. “Look if Hawl’s in your care, I’m heading back to Mugal!”

“Hawl you’ll be free to get the hell out of my Kingdom if Leo can answer one question, and to ensure she answers truthfully.” Malisa looked into the Battlemage Tactics book she had on her table and recited one word that no one could really understand just that it started with a Zi sound. Upon doing this Leo has coated in a strange blue light, as though set on fire with a flame that didn’t burn.

Raleigh the Moth had stared intensely into the light enchanted by its beauty.

“What… what are you doing?!?!” Leo drew her weapon. “Are you threatening me?!”

Two guards and Claire immediately got and drew their own weapons at Leo, Seranima with her sword, a grasshopper in metal armor holding a machine, and of course Claire with her pike.

“We’ll find out if I am after you answer this question. Hawl is a nuisance, but from your experiences from dealing with him in Mugal do you think he has it in him to take a life?” Malisa asked raising an eyebrow. “Please answer truthfully.” The glow around Leo turned to a violent blood red.

Leo looked at Hawl and then at her body’s glow. “No…. Hawl’s an idiot, but he’s harmless. The worst thing he has ever done is be a little lewd and completely fail to understand the importance of Time or Place.”

“Thank you. If Hawl’s innocent than I beg you take him back to Mugal with you.. or don’t. I just want him out of my kingdom. I just don’t want him here, he’s nothing but an irritation and clearly too dangerous to keep alive due to his powers and lack of self-control, but isn’t guilty of enough for us to execute or imprison” Malisa took a deep breathe. “I’d offer him citizenship, but quite frankly he’s angered far too many people for that to be a good idea.”

“Mmm…” Xhyz seemed to contemplate something for a second, something that caught the intention of Malisa. “I wonder…”

“Something the matter Xhyz?” Malisa asked noting this.

“...No perhaps, yes, yes it’s best if Hawl leaves… For now.” Xhyz said clearly in the middle of deep thought.

“For now? Are you serious!?!” Seranima yelled. “After the shit he pulled with Matthias as the hawk? I’m amazed he survived! I mean I should have known he would because this is Charles Matthias we’re talking about, the rat can break a lutin’s spine with his pinky if he really wanted to, but still.”

“Thinking aloud.” Xhyz said nodding.

“Right… well I’m not taking him back with me to Mugal, but as long as he stays the fuck away he can go yuck it up in the Giants Downs for all I care!” Leo said hysterically. “Have a party with the Lutins! I just have one question… had I lied about Hawl… What would you have done to me?”

“Nothing, what I casted was a spell highlighting targets for troops to go after or to let them know who is important and should be protected. The problem with it though is that the enemy knows who you’ve highlighted and can react accordingly so as a result it’s not really useful, but still the spells were recorded for archival purposes.” Malisa informed, explaining the nature of the aura.

Naturally Leo was rather concerned and peeved at this, the woman warrior was cross that she had been interrogating with threats at all. “No matter Metamor Keep hasn’t been able to make friends since the curse is this is how you treat foreign diplomats!”

“You left Hawl on our door steps! I can think of only one worse act of war that could have been made against us, and that is literally only because we’ve once had an entire platoon of soldiers turned into infants and trampled to death by various beasts of burden.” Malisa rubbed her head in frustration. “The trial is over, I have a lot of research to do.”

No one saw Hawl after the trial, he vanished without a trace. One of the knights tried to follow him but Hawl eventually left the sight of everyone. It had been suspected he had turned into an insect to pull it off.

Jack used what was left of the strength potion to check on Cedric as he planned and bring him back to Keeptown if necessary, circumstances proved that it was as Cedric and Yarriv agreed it time to depart. Jack took them back to the Keep where Yariv prepared a transport.

Leo and Regorez however had a conversation somewhere private and out of the way, a large field outside of the Keep where no one would be listening.

“So the mighty Regorez is now a snot-nosed brat. It suits you! Do you know why the flesinoir never modified your body? You were the errand boy, nothing more! You were only given tasks too easy to screw up and still managed to, yet, you did. You’re much like Hawl in this regard.” Leo snickered.

“They never modified you either, Woman Warrior.” Regorez stuck his tongue out in mockery of Sir Leo.

“I’m not a Flesinoir, I’m a man of honor! You however are supposed to be this badass mage of forbidden knowledge and the only thing important you know how to make that bitter tasting potion of awakening… the warm brown one!” Leo gagged, she drank the stuff but she didn’t like it. Hawl once told her to put milk and sugar in it to make it taste better, such an idea seemed stupid just like she believed Hawl to be so she never tried it.

“Coffee, and that’s hardly a secret of the Flesinoir… You just take the right beans and… “ Regorez was in the middle explaining when he was rudely cut off.

“It’s still gross and you’re still a moron! You got yourself locked up and now I have to know how much you sequeled about the Flesinoir.” Leo unsheathed her blade and held it up to the neck of Regorez. “When they sent me up here I was told to kill you unless you did something to make up for your failure to capture Hawl. You weren’t ACTUALLY supposed to bring him to Metamor you dunce!”

“I was trying to get the Transblade….” Regorez pleaded. “Maybe I went a little… too far north.”

“And lost the Flesinoir creatures you rode up here which Malakai and Zyhx are hunting! It will be my pleasure spilling your blood!” Leo screamed taking the sword back and preparing for a vicious swing.

“Wait Leo… I didn’t give up any Flesnoir secrets! Nothing important, just enough to keep them distracted when I took this.”  Regorez put up his hand and resting on his small child like finger was a cheaply made ring made to fit a child

“Pathetic… DIE!” Leo screamed bearing the might of her steel upon the child mage ready to water the grass with the blood of a non-innocent youth. “It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to take a life!... wait huh?” CLANG! The blade hit a mighty shield embroidered with gold and gems. Carved into it were the words “Chill out Leo!”

“That ring was the Transblade? So you’re not worthless eh? Excellent. Cedric, the guy you took here, mentioned he was heading back to Cornflower when he sold this, I’m guessing he’ll want to go back.. We’ll board with him and take his loot.”

“Fair enough, but I’ll keep the Transblade safe with me. You know the last time you used it you went insane, the only reason you’re alive is because Cedric didn’t want to kill a woman.” Regorez said. “Magic of this caliber should only be wielded by those who know how to actually cast spells!”

“Yes, and for that I will KILL Cedric! How dare he not take me seriously because of this pathetic curse.” Leo gripped her blade. “I mean Regorez, I’m going to kill him dead for his insolence. Mistaking a knight like me for a common wench? I don’t care if I am beautiful, I wll not accept that.”

“Are you sure you’re not still crazy?” Regorez asked

“I’ve never felt more sane!” Leo clenched her teeth. “Come on, we have sucking up to do.”

Though it was a tough sale they did manage to join Cedric’s crew, Cedric more or less only agreeing with it because Leo could help butter the Duke of Cornflower up to potentially make paying off the debt a little easier. No one else in the group saw any reason to exclude them.

The whole group Cedric, Yariv, Leo, Jack, Regorez, and Claire huddled together right outside the castle ready to depart. “Alright, we will head there tonight! No delaying.” Yariv said pounding her gauntleted fist into her open palm.

“I’ll stay here and look after Malisa as usual, but I’ll be with you in spirit.” Jack responded.

“Does Claire have to come? There might be combat and…” Cedric was in the middle of saying. “Nevermind… I… I don’t think I can restrict Claire’s right to come…” he said in a huff, looking down at himself.

“Why’s that? Future Little Brother.” Claire asked with a snicker, having heard that Cedric is under the curse. “Or are you my Big Sister”

“Oh this will be good.” Yariv snickered.

Cedric stepped into a lantern lit to help people see at night and turned his back to Claire. “Focus on my posterior and thighs, wide and round like a woman’s, my legs have been getting more muscled too… I will join you in womanhood… I don’t know if I will give up being a warrior or not, but…”

“...I’m sorry.” Claire said, she wanted to laugh but her voice became somber. “I hold out hope that you’ll be cheered up soon, maybe you’ll still find yourself with a body that you enjoy… I have a really good feeling about it at least.”

Jack was about to laugh, but took a cue from Claire and decided to just leave and help Malisa get ready for the night so he didn’t risk laughing.

“I am doomed to a life of uncomfortable flesh as Leo and Yariv are…” Cedric groaned content to wallow in misery and feel sorry for himself. “Don’t lie to me...  Claire.”

Leo breathed a sigh of relief. “Right now I don’t care, I am not just a cursed woman, but a blessed one. I’m also free of Hawl, I don’t know where he is and I’m not going to ask EVERYONE in Metamor Keep if they happen to be him. Where ever he is, he isn’t my problem.”

The crew aside from Jack rented a traveling merchant’s cart being pulled by two traveling salesman horses in their feral form who had been heading for Mugal anyway. The two merchants were being driven by a young teenage woman, wearing charms to let them speak in that state as Cedric and crew stayed in the merchant cart it was pulling. “You’re lucky you ran into us, from that trial and Enroygall family business we decided an ambassador to help open a trade route would be very profitable. Mugal’s got a lot of magic rocks ya know.”

“I’m sure it has nothing to do with shirking on your promise to my father.” The young woman said to the horses pulling her merchant cart. “Oh sure we’ll look after the boy well during our barter route, he’ll make a fine apprentice. Oh Metamor Keep on our barter route? Naw don’t worry the curse won’t hit us, we’ll make a real man of the boy.”

The horses stopped for a second and looked at each other, then back at her. “..Well if someone didn’t lose the map!”

“Oh, still blaming me for that?” The young woman laughed. “It wouldn’t have done us any good if I hadn’t. Fred here was the one who forgot to secure the horses. Besides, you talked about getting a buxom young maiden to help shovel your crap and my voluptuousness can be increased at will!”

“You’re not… upset about becoming a woman?” Cedric asked overhearing this conversation.

“No, my dad had four sons, three of them entered trades and failed miserably at them. Now that he has a daughter we might not have to be poor anymore. The dowry for a maiden as fetching as me has got to be a lot. And by some irony it’s the one daughter of all of us who has come furthest in proving herself a man as she has yet to fail at her craft.” She laughed as she smiled at Cedric. “Please, call me Melody. It was a nickname from my failed profession as a Bard, people claimed my voice was too girlish to be taken seriously and too far out of tune to be enjoyed.”

“I see… Melody.. and you don’t mind you’ll be in a woman’s role forever?” Cedric asked, feverishly.

“Why should I? I’m a merchant and a merchant knows to make the best of any and every opportunity no matter how strange or outlandish.” Melody responded, with laughter. “Besides, I’m the only one who can peddle our wares now that they’re horses. So now my cut shall be more than fair. Unless you equine twins have any objection.”

Theodore, one of the two blonde furred stallions looked at the other, Fred. “She’s got us there... “

The party stepped to rest for the morning, setting up shop for travelers as they ate. Claire having cooked some of the less valuable of their meats and saved vegetables for her and the horses. Though Cedric wasn‘t much in the mood for eating, instead he watched Melody hoping to emulate her style of happy-go-luckiness about the change as she drew in a crowd.

“Step right up, step right up, we have wonders from here to there.” The red head said waving Fred’s old cane at her cart, with Claire’s feral form on her shoulder disguised as a pet. The cart was one that was empty when it carried people and yet full of their wares when it didn’t due to an enchantment upon it. “Jewels, Weapons, Potions, Food, Why our prices are so reasonable it’d make a horse talk. Right Fred?”

“I don’t believe your deals are that good.” The horse said as a joke for the crowd of passersby, many coming from a nearby settlement out for a walk. “No way, no how!” capitalizing this point by slamming his hoof.

The crowd Melody had attracted clapped at this though one naysayer asked. “Wait, those aren’t… you’ve been to Metamor Keep haven’t you? You’re bringing the curse upon us!”

“You do me too much honor.” Melody giggled in a typically girlish fashion betraying her intelligence. “You make a this ventriloquist feel like she knows what she’s doing. No need to fret, just an amature parlor trick. A child could do it.” she said swaying about in a feminine twirl as she nudged Theodore. “Right Teddy?”

“Just part of the show folks!” Theodore said laughing hesitantly.

“Now let’s get down to business! I’ve got a tonic will make your hair grow, the end all, be all cure for baldness! With some other possible side effects too.” Melody grinned, looking over the crowd which had Yariv in a dress standing with those gathered around, immediately she pointed at her and laughed heartily. “Miss, I’ve never seen you before correct?”

The brown haired Yariv walked up and nodded, her hair cut short. “Yes, my husband just hasn’t looked the same at me since a Warlock cursed my hair to fall out..” She felt conflicted about this as it felt dishonest, but she had to pay the fare somehow.

Cedric rolled his eyes, he couldn’t believe a knight would aid in such a con.

Melody waved her fingers through Yariv’s hair and made a few disapproving noises. “Tsk tsk tsk, well luckily for you, my Tonic not only restores hair growth, but it can have a few other benefits as well.” she laughed handing Yariv a bottle who drank deeply


“Wow, it even tastes good, but how long do I have to wait? Three days? A week? a month?” Yariv asked, playing dumb, he knew full well that it was nothing but water with sugar added, and a blue food dye to make it look like a potion.

“Try instantly!” Melody cheered, as Yariv began shifting into her fully cursed form, becoming not only very long haired, but incredibly well built, far more than any woman in a perverse sexual fantasy of a curious adolescent would have.

“Oh my, it works better than I expected. I can’t believe how hot it’s made me! Does it work on men too?  My husband’s been a little worse for wear himself.” Yariv giggled uncharacteristically girlishly as she helped sell Melody’s act.

“Of course it does, why would I only cater to one sex?” Melody asked rhetorically, as she looked towards the crowd blowing a kiss. “Who else is ready to experience beauty and handsomeness in a bottle? No need to go on a pilgrimage to Velena, just drink up!”

A random man in the crowd stepped forward and dropped two gold pieces in Melody’s hand, well than more what she was selling it for. “I think this guy over here needs it.” The man said handing it to a weighty man behind him.

“Mighty kindly of you.” He said, drinking up. “Oh I can feel it already I…” and in seconds he was now much easier on the eyes, mostly because he had now a slender waist and long hair, and a bosom, wide hips, and new private parts. “...WHAT IN BLAZES!?!?!” much to the surprise of him and everyone else, even Melody and crew.

“I should have been more specific about HOW it works on men hehehe..” Melody scratched the back of her head “EVERYONE GET IN THE CART!” she screeched before jumping in with the rest of her transport and taking off like a bat out of hell.

“I don’t get it, you said it was fake!” Yariv accused Melody of some form of witchcraft.

“Which makes me wonder why you went along with the scam.” Claire asked, tilting her head. “That’s not like you.”

“I had to pay for this voyage somehow…” Yariv admitted to her shameful action.

“I’m going to join him soon, I’m going to be stuck with a body I hate… forever..” Cedric commented, looking back at the angry mob.

Regorez folded his arms in disgust at Cedric’s lament. “Hey I’d rather be a woman than a kid!”

“I have faith brother, your body will be a good one. I just know it.” Claire repeated, rubbing Cedric’s back.

They traveled onward, making less frequent stops as Melody and the horses tried to figure out why the sugar water did what it was supposed to, but not getting anywhere close to an answer.

A few days of travel with Cedric’s hair getting longer and his rear becoming more shapely he contemplated killing himself, looking at this sword to do so. “...I… I can’t live a woman’s life…” he said to himself, before looking at Claire and breathing in. “No… I can’t….. She would never forgive me…” still Cedric kept the the blade close just in case, remembering Claire’s optimism, yet at once how Leo and Yariv hated being women. He could not find anything redeemable about Melody’s optimism, she was feminine and powerful yes, but still the deterioration into a woman’s role over the days frightened the warrior to the bone. Afterall, she was a merchant, one who gained coin from the crafting of falsehoods, not a soldier, one who gains honor from the crafting of victories! Though it was something that would pay off, once he got to Mugal the next day when Cedric was awoken by Claire.

“WAKE UP Big Sister, the change is complete!” Claire screamed at Cedric shaking him awake, Yariv and Leo looked over him as well.

“..Oh… no no.. I… wait… my voice is… manly!” Cedric mourned and then cheered. “Manlier than before, and my manhood feels… bigger not smaller…” He began to stand and noticed he felt bigger somehow. much stronger and faster, but with his face feeling funny. “I don’t understand.”

“Well lucky you!” Leo screamed and then exited the caravan bitterly jealous that what happened to Cedric didn’t happen to her.

“Indeed, you dodged an arrow there Sir Cedric.” Yariv smiled at the young man.

“What’s happened to me?” Cedric asked looking himself over, noticing his white fur, his hooves, and his tail. “...I’m not a woman, I’m a horse, my lower body did that because it was mimicking that trait in horses.. I… I’ve never been more happy.” He cheered. “Claire, you were right… I.. I don’t hate this body!” The new stallion said flexing his newly expanded muscles.

“Your confidence came just in time, we’re in Mugal. Dad, Leo, and Regorez are already in the town. I’ll give you some privacy to enjoy your new self. But first…” Claire hugged Cedric as tight as she could. “Know that you’re my big brother best friend forever. See I told you you’d be fine. I prayed every single night we traveled for this.”

“And you wished for this? Even after how I’ve treated you…” Cedric seemed confused. Why would his sister have wished him well after he disrespected her family so? It just didn’t make sense, it would have done so if she were spiteful and had wanted him to be a woman, but here. No, his sister wished him well and part of him felt that maybe that’s what made him a horse.

“You weren’t a keeper yet, now that you are, you’ll see what you did wrong.” Claire smiled, leaving the cart as Cedric tried to walk on hooves.

“Me a stallion! This is perfectly befitting a knight!” Cedric laughed, looking for some clothes that fit his new frame. “Perhaps I could learn to charge myself into battle?” He said to himself looking through the caravan supplies until he found armor the more properly fit him that he’d pay Melody and her stallions for after he got in contact with them again as they were off peddling their wares in Mugal. The cart parked somewhere safe and out of the way where no one would find it, though still close enough to Mugal to let it be known that it was owned by someone. Beyond that Cedric would lock it when he left. Once he did he left with Claire and Yariv to settle Mugal’s debts.

“Citizens of Mugal! We wish to speak with your Duke!” Yariv yelled as soon as Cedric came out and met with his fellow travelers outside of Castle Mugal, trying to look regal as he nearly tripped on his hooves. “About Cornflower and its debt!”

The Duke, a fat man, with way too many jewels drapped around him came out of his castle and took the Metamor crew somewhere private with his son Klaus beside him. Smiling and waiting to talk with them once they were out of earshot.“So you’re back from Metamor as my spies told me you or at least one of you were going there as Ambassadors of Cornflower. Most interesting.” The Duke looked towards Leo and said her name “Leo The Lanceless… Now”

“Regorez has the Transblade.” Leo smirked, holding out a sword out. “Hand over the coins.”

“Beg pardon?” Cedric asked, the stallion raising an eyebrow and reaching for his weapon. “This is a jest, yes?”

“How did Regorez get the Transblade?” Claire asked looking towards the child. “I.. Hawl was telling the truth about that?”

The Duke’s raspy voice laughed as Leo’s betrayed the caravan. “My plans involve you not paying off Mugal’s debt, and with the Flesinoir ensuring both Hawl and the Transblade came back, I knew I would get the Transblade AND the money. Yet, once you are all killed I will just claim you never came back.”

Yariv, Claire, and Cedric all drew weapons as Regorez merely walked to the side of the Duke of Mugal. “Then we’ll just strike you dead!” Cedric yelled loudly.

“I don’t think we will…” Claire said raising her ear.

“Why is that sister?” Cedric asked turning his head towards Claire’s direction and looking upon her for only a moment before he dropped his sword and shield to plug up his nostrils with both hooves as he smelt a stench that smelled of dung, mud, bugs, and decaying corpses that just assaulted his nose. Cedric knew as he smelled those things before. “GOOD GOD! BY ELI’S BEARD WHAT IS THAT FOUL STENCH!?!?!”

“...I smell it too… By Eli’s beard, I know you nobles stink of perfume… but… Loriod didn’t even wear anything that strong..” Yariv commented, before thinking for a bit. “Actually no… It’s not perfume it’s..  I haven’t smelled anything this rancidly repugnant since I came out of retirement for the Winter Assault.”

At once the familial trio all turned around and to the horror they found themselves aghast at a sight that had to be seen to believe, and the only reason it was believed was that fear like that could not be faked. Hearing it in a Tavern it would be laughed off as superstitious nonsense, but to gaze upon it was almost more than the three warriors could take.

Dressed in tattered rags where the rotting carcasses of three people who seemed to have been dead for some time, there was still flesh on the bones, though not much, there was tons of exposed meat and skull discolored with blood long since dried. The most horrifying thing was that these corpses, were standing and holding weapons. “Kill me… Please… Kill me.” one of them said as he readied an axe. “I’m… sorry..”

Cedric, Claire, and Yariv could not comprehend this horrible sight. “How is, how is such a monster even possible?” Yariv asked, almost too afraid

“A creation of Count Cloptis’.” Regorez snickered, rubbing his hands together giddily. “This is what happened to the enemies of his that opposed his will. They still live, but they are kept alive as their flesh is slowly devoured. Their actions aren’t their own. They can scream in agony and beg for death, they can’t see or hear you, their ears and eyes have been consumed by the bugs controlling them! I haven’t seen them in action in years.”

“Who is this Count Cloptis and how has he such horrifying power?” Yariv cried out, still shocked by the sight she saw.

“I’ll explain later.” Cedric said, keeping his large equine eyes on his opponents waiting for them to strike.

“Am I about to kill again? Eli forgive me!” Screamed a pain voice of one these walking dead.

“Execute the Cursed Ones” The Duke of Mugal said without a thought. Leo and Regorez looked towards the Duke with worry prompting him to clarify his request. “Execute the Horse, the Ferret, and the woman who fights by their side.”

The three walking decaying horrors descended upon Cedric, Yariv, and Claire. One with a small battleaxe, one with two fistdaggers, and the final with a large scythe. To their surprise these abominations were amazing fighters and had the three warriors immediately on the defensive.

Klaus looked at his father, and back to the caravan. “This isn’t right and you know it. No one deserves to die at the hands of those things… The bugs inside of them will just reproduce and overtake the Keepers… We shouldn’t condemn anyone to that fate”

“Quiet boy, the Flesinoir have done more for both you and me than you can imagine, if you don’t shut up I will send YOU into those mines.” The Duke warned his son, the look in his eyes said that he absolutely would not back down from placing his own offspring onto such a fate if he was angered. This Duke was not blowing smoke. “Or do you not like the power and increased lifespan that you possess.”

“I knew you were up to no good.” Cedric declared throwing up his shielded arm to block the scythe, wincing as sparks flew while a loud scraping noise went across his shield. “I knew this from the mines, I never expected you were this bad… when these corpses are freed from their horrible existence, you will be submitted before Eli’s judgement and I already have a good feeling about the verdict!”

Klaus looked towards his father with disgust and stepped forward to speak. “Their weapons are enchanted, if you do not go onto the offensive and kill them quickly you will suffer a fate worse than death.”

“Got ya!” Claire said in response to the prince, doing a flip backwards, narrowly avoiding the battle axe and tossing her pike threw the chest of one of the skull-headed warriors. “Struck through the heart, and I’m to blame! I give war, a good name!” she cheered as she hit her target. Turning around to face the Duke she glared at him.

“You think you’ve won ferret?” The Duke asked looking irritated.

“I know I have! I’m a Metamor Keeper! We’ve dealt with Nasoj’s trolls, lutins, humans, and other beasties for years. You flesinoir types are just a flash in the pan!” Claire screamed. “When my father and my brother are done with their opponents you three sons and daughter of whores shall perish by our paw, hand, and hoof!” Claire stomped as she brandished her claws. “WHY WAIT! I’M GOING TO MESS YOU UP NOW!”

Claire was met with laughter from all parties except for Prince Klaus who merely became incredibly worried.

“What’s so funny?” The ferret asked her bravado down. “Is there something on m…”

“CLAIRE GET DOWN!” Cedric yelled, the ferret doing so as an axe swept over her head.

“Damn! I love a good decapitation. Another reason to despise you Cedric Bariclauph!” Leo said clenching her fist as she recalled when she had the Transblade, she didn’t know what came over her when she had the weapon but the fact that she could have so much power added to her own and be felled by this simpleton who had the gall to refuse to fight her based on what the curse had forced onto her was so humilating. She was further humilated by looknig upon Cedric’s form and seeing his appearance became far more masculine, a body truly worthy of a Captain of Knights. It was given to him while all Leo got was beauty that made her fiance leave her, it just wasn’t fair. Leo hoped to see Cedric’s blood watering the flowers before too long, dying alongside this family of his.

“I’ll remember that comment!” Cedric shot Leo a quick evil eye before slashing at his opponent. Taking Klaus’ go offensive advise mostly because he had no plans of his own and his shield had become useless actually getting cut in half by his opponent’s scythe, it was definitely enchanted. He tried to swipe towards the screaming decaying warrior’s neck managing, making an incision, things were going in the right direction until a crunching sound was given off and the blade began to rust, breaking apart and giving away to dust.

“Oh bollocks, I forgot to mention that…” Klaus said biting his hand. “It looks like you hit one of the bugs keeping the thing alive which… has highly corrosive blood… a defensive mechanisms…”

“Highly corrosive seems to be an understatement.”Cedric threw back the handle as his blade was now useless as a weapon, hoping to hit Leo with it though sadly he did not. Cedric and Claire were both left on the defensive. Dodging more than anything.

“Can we touch them or… is that… not recommended?” Claire asked Klaus, taking advantage of her ferret agility.

“As long as you don’t get the bugs on you, though what I’d recommend at this point is their weakness, which is the destruction of their… mmmmphh…” Klaus was in the middle of talking when the child Regorez had tackled Klaus and covered his mouth with his hand.

“SHUT UP! If you keep helping them we won’t get to watch them die!” Regorez snapped.

Leo was aghast at this sight, quickly kicking Regorez in the face with a steel boot. “GET OFF OF MY PRINCE!” She screamed, kneeling over to check Klaus for wounds. “Are you alright sire? This DISGUSTING child should watch his tone, even if I do agree with him and humbly ask that you consider honoring his his…” Leo stopped to think about choosing her words better. “Rashly worded request.”

“I’m fine, I think you did more to him than he to me… He is but a manling… well.. he is now I mean.” Klaus said, looking over to Regorez’s bleeding face.

“You harlot, you broke my nose!” Regorez screamed, holding his nose, his voice sounding rather silly as a result of Leo’s attack.

Claire had continued dodging, looking over to her adopted father’s opponent, the one swinging the fist daggers. Continuing to narrowly avoid the battle axe and loses a few strands of fur from close calls that warned her she’d really need to keep her focus in this instance. Watching the arm of the one attacking with fist daggers she waited until there were no bugs crawling on said arm before gripping and attempting to dislocate it. Claire had to attempt this multiple times as she saw bugs crawling towards her and she dared not let a single one touch her. After three tries failing the fourth is what proved to be the charm.

The creature screamed loudly and violently upon the success of Claire’s attack. “OH GOD! Please.. please… the skull… Go for the skull…” It pleaded as it got kicked in the stomach by Yariv who took this advantage to get a few free hits in, concluding by driving her shield right into the being’s skull making an crack that was exploited by the sword of Yariv.

“Th… Thank you.” It said as it felt the sword hit its brain, the corpse fell over the bugs scattering from it in various directions. Yariv began running around hoping to crush as many of them as she could so they’d hurt no one.

Claire nodded, and grabbed the enchanted fistdaggers that had been discarded. Giving a few practice swipe with it she jumped upon her pike using it as leverage for a second jump stabbing both of the daggers into the decaying skull of the undead being. “Two down, Cedric, you’ve got the last one, just go for its skull. Me and Dad are going to go after the bu…..” The ferret woman was in the middle of saying before one of the black bugs that seemed to be a strange mix of Rhino Bettle and Scarab Beetle in appearance crawled right into Claire’s mouth one that she hadn’t noticed crawling around her back.

“Oh this going to be good.. Now you Cedric get to lose a loved one! Kill her, it’s the best thing for her at this point!” Leo gloated as the bug crawled down Claire’s throat.

Cedric glared in Leo’s direction again, this was all the warning he gave abandoning the fight to beat the woman savagely, giving blow after blow in the face. He didn’t care what he said about fighting women anymore, his rage was all that was fueling him at at this point. “YOU THINK THAT’S FUNNY!?! DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY YEARS I WENT WITHOUT MY SISTER!” Cedric screamed into Leo’s face who was too busy getting repeatedly punched to respond, the maiden had actually lost a few teeth as Klaus was getting close for a rescue, but backed off when he noticed the dead warrior walking towards Cedric and had no desire to accidentally get infested by one of its bugs.

Cedric picked up Leo’s head and slammed down against the ground knocking her out before doing an awkward handstand to allow his hoof access to the skull of the creature attacking from behind, telling of its approach by its foul scent. This knocked off said skull, which was crushed underneath Cedric’s hoof, now covered in skull and brain, now that he cared. “Duke Phlomore, Prince Klaus, Regorez… You are all going to die!” he said narrowing his brow at them.

Yariv looked at the situation and at Claire who began to seem quite feverish, the Duke looking towards the ferret with some interest. “I don’t feel so good… There’s… there’s gotta be something we can do.” she said. Thinking out of desperation Yariv punched Claire in the stomach with all of her might, forcing her to vomit out the bug which Yariv proceeded to stomp on.

Claire fell over feeling dizzy, but no longer in danger from the bugs. Her husband's pike was now ruined from the corrosive blood and where it had broken in half from her jumping on it,  but she grabbed the feather of her darling bird and put it behind her ear as she looked for the strength to get up. “...That was unpleasant… but… I think we won.”

“My my, how… stimulating. I’m glad you saved her. I think I could learn to love Claire.

Cedric smiled, glad his sister was safe, but this didn’t calm his rage as he picked up the axe from one of the dead warriors before turning to face Regorez, Klaus, and Phlomore once again. “Her safety changes nothing, beg for your lives. You won’t get them.”

“How cute, you think I can be felled by you idiots?.” The Duke laughed looking over his many fanciful rings. “Do you know why I have this weight?” He asked, rubbing his bulbous gut as his face slowly became more and more deformed. “The Flesinoir, has blessed me with this…” He said, revealing himself as a mutated frog-like entity looking sickly, with welts, visible noxious gasses flowing out of his rear end as he unapologetically passed noxious gas, his back and face loaded with sores and blemishes, and his bloated stomach covered in a rash which he scratched. The creature’s eyes were swollen and yellow with pus dripping of them, his hands were gross yellowish claws, he had a tongue for a tail he had a tentacle, and finally the tongue in his mouth was long and purple, appeared swollen too.

Regorez looked up at the Duke with admiration. “I hadn’t seen your true form yes, You’re beautiful!”

“Mmhmhm.. I know!” Said the creatures licking his lips and scratching his rash, parts of it breaking out in hives and bleeding. “I have been upgraded as we all shall be… Gods in our own way. I myself have become a Plague Bearer, I suffer all diseases at one time without dying. At first I thought the flesinoir had placed a horrible curse upon me but now I realize how beautiful I am. So full of disease, plague, and rot. Bloated with rashes, welts, warts, swellings, visible veins, aches, growths, and some of my skin has rotted off. I am in constant pain and illness and yet it’s wonderful, so full of life, life that wants to share itself I’ve grown to love it.” The Duke farted loudly leaving behind a cloud of death that killed the flowers around them.

All of the Metamor Warriors covered their noses, Cedric was the first to attack but the creature’s breathe knocked him out with it’s horrible stench, his new equine nose. Next up was Claire who tried poking the Duke’s belly with her daggers, only to have it pop with blood, puss, lard, and bile spreading out. Covering her and Yariv who became encased in it paralyzed as the Duke’s wound healed instantly. “Hehehe, I’m unperishable. Regorez take them to the mines to be experimented on.”

“Father… you know if you give into your Flesinoir side too much you’ll lose your humanity right? There’s still a way you can control it...” Klaus said, looking over the human suit his father took over.

“Now that I have the Transblade and Hawl’s around here somewhere. I don’t quite need my humanity son. The time will come soon when all people are mutated into perfection.” The Duke said, scratching his rash and licking the mucus his blubbish body gave off.

“Hawl has to be, I just remembered.. It slipped my mind, but I was cursed to be unable to leave Metamor until he did. Malakai did that! Oh God where is Malakai?” Regorez looked around. “If he’s still in Metamor he must be like me and Leo.”

“It’s not important..” Phlomore said. “We just need Hawl, Klaus… See if he snuck aboard their caravan. I’d only assume he’d try to be re-united with the Transblade his dear ol’ dad if he was coming back in this direction. You’re a skilled mage, surely you can sense him or something.”

“Of course father… I’m sensing something just from the outskirts of town… That unnatural power of his is very easy to spot when you know what you’re looking for.” Klaus said, heading off in that direction. “Oh right… and Leo probably wants her teeth back…” he paused, turning around and throwing a blue field of energy over Leo who woke up and screamed as her teeth regrew in seconds.

“Wait… can you fix my nose?” Regorez asked. “It REALLY hurts.”

“Yes I can child, but I won’t.” Prince Klaus said and with that he was off in the direction of Hawl.

Klaus didn’t expect it to take very long as though Hawl loved to change his appearance often it was very rare that he was a good enough of an actor for his bodily changes to be of much use to him as a disguise. Upon wandering the forest outside of Mugal for around thirty minutes he came across an unusual site. A black widow spider that appeared to be snoring on a tree branch, one that had no web. “How peculiar, I thought it was just the distance, but the power is faint even now… either he’s been through more forms in one hour than he’s been through in his entire eight years or someone really fought him when he tried to change them… Five hundred times the normal difficulty, but what could have had….” Klaus thought to himself. “Of course the curse...  I guess he can’t cure it.“

The Prince of Mugal swallowed as he tried to heal Hawl of his wounds having to bring himself to near exhaustion just to do so as Hawl seemed heavily, heavily drained of his power. He had to push himself to his very limits to do this without taking on his own Flesinoir side.

The spider yawned stretching out its eight legs as it got up. “God, I thought I’d be out for a week.” it spoke in the seductive tone that Hawl always used when he made himself female. The awkward one Klaus was familiar with where he, or right now she, tried to give it a seductive flair, but found herself talking far too fast for it to be effective. “Klaus… Yeah, umm, listen, I can explain why I’m not in Metamor.. Just don’t squash me bro.” she said.

“Bro?” Klaus asked before shaking his head. “Oh you and your nonsense words, listen it took a lot of my Flesinoir magic to restore you.. anymore and I would have lost my humanity completely… if I hadn’t I think you’d have been in hibernation for a month.”

Hawl jumped off her tree branch and shifted into a manticore, growling at Klaus. “You knew this was going on!?!?! The whole time!?! So did Leo? What about Evan?!?!” Hawl asked frantically.

“Hawl, I thought I could control it….” Klaus said slowly. “When the Flesinoir appeared me and dad thought we could keep them in line, but it’s been getting worse. Heck that’s why I bought your stupid I can cure the curse story. Whether you executed or gone, you needed to get… Leo’s always been more loyal to my dad than me. I think she only tried to help me keep you in Metamor because she assumed I knew something she didn’t. I don’t think she realizes I was having doubts about this plan.”

“Why do they need me?” Hawl asked easing up on Klaus a little.

“To summon Azatoth, their God. The further you are away from here, the safer everyone is. Honestly.” Klaus sighed, walking away from Hawl. “Let’s just go to Metamor and forgot about this… Metamor has a powerful magical nexus, if anywhere can keep you from the Fleisnoir, it’s them.”

“I can’t go back to Metamor, I don’t think it’s allowed.. besides… I need that Transblade. It’s the only link to my father that I have. I don’t have any family, but if you or that weapon can help me find him… I realize I probably don’t deserve it, but, please.. Help me get that and I’ll go as far as Yamato if you want me to.” Hawl had such determination in his eyes, Klaus had never seen him this serious, or serious at all.

“Yes…” Klaus responded, looking to the side. ”Okay I’ll help you…. but first we must rest.. Your power is nearly at its very limits, you use them too much more and they’ll be burnt out permanently and if I exert myself more my mutations will become visible, and it’s been getting harder to make it go away..… at least from what I’ve seen. I think the actual Flesinoir the CULTIST not the SPECIES know how. And do try to be.. somewhat subtle. I don’t have a completely unabridged list of who's a cultist, who is a flesinoir mutate, who is both and who is neither… Maybe we should stay in the forest.”

“Mutate.. So whatever you really are… Not every Flesinoir’s going to be that...” Hawl said connecting the pieces.

“I knew it was coming....” Klaus said sighing, his body beginning to deteriorate and fall off leaving behind a grey furred somewhat feminine shaped creature with a big head, literal sapphires for eyes, an angler fish light on his forehead and bat wings on his back….  I worry I’ve been becoming more like dad… This form is starting to feel better to me too… Don’t like, but I’m a Queen Cavener. I make Caveners and caves…” Klaus notice Hawl was giving him THAT look and groaned “Yes I’m technically female, though this form doesn’t really have traditional gender..., and no you cannot call me Princess K or I will smack you.” His voice in this form had somewhat of a mystical quality to it, like a soft echo.

“I don’t care I just want to stop the Flesinoir.” Hawl said petting Klaus’ furred head. “They say only a Sondeckis can, well guess what I am!” The manticore shifted his clothing to blue robes with a yellow belt. The clothing itself was enchanted to change, a gift from Hawl’s father, the only thing he had of his.

“Give me a break…” Klaus said rubbing his head, technically he was a she, but due to being a creature of the Flesinoir gender didn’t really mean anything to him as he didn’t really have one in the same way humans did. “Alright, tonight we’ll camp out.. I’ll go meditate and try to revert to my human form we’re going to put our plan into action for now, we rest, they’d be expecting an immediate counter attack!

Rest they did, waiting for the perfect moment to strike at the Flesinoir.