How to start this ... hmm ... well I guess an introduction is as good a start as any.
My name is Kalder Jarnsmidr. I am ... was a 24 year old man from north beyond the Giantdowns. I came here accompanied by two friends who were more than friends and who are truly a part of me.
I must pause here and explain a bit. Those who saw me arrive and may read this will wonder about the friends I mention since they saw me arrive alone. Please, allow me to introduce them. My friends are Feodora, a female white tiger, and Matvei, a male polar bear. The names of both mean "Gift of God". I did this to honor how our friendships came to be. In both instances our meetings were identical.
I am not now, nor ever was, a people person. I enjoyed brief contact with the people of my homeland but preferred the peace and freedom of open spaces on my own. Six, maybe seven, years ago during my time roving the wilds, I bedded down for the night alone only to awaken in the morning with a polar bear cub curled up with me. Of course my first thought was "when is mama going to find me and have me for breakfast?" Obviously this did not happen. What did happen was, after breakfast, I backtracked the cub's trail to find its mother apparently killed defending her cub. Two years later it happened again. This time it was a tiger cub curled up between me and Matvei and with the same origin story. I was now accompanied by Feodora.
We came here because we were curious. Not much of a reason, but it was enough for us. It has taken us almost two years to get here. This is less because of distance; my homeland is only about six months of walking from Metamor, and more about the lack of urgency. We worked our way here doing anything that interested us or needed doing. This paid for our food and lodging when things were good and earned us friends to watch our backs when it was bad. I think we made and lost friends in equal measure. Such is the balance of life.
During our travels we met a wizard who asked us for help defending the people of his area from nasty little creatures called Lutins and the Trolls and Ogres that accompanied them. We spent time helping villagers raise palisades and dig ditches. We then filled them with sharpened stakes.
One day as we were cutting and trimming logs for the palisades, we were attacked by a group with several orcs in it. As I and my friends had the most fighting skills we sent the rest of the wood cutters running for the village while we fought a running rear guard. Sadly we lost some that stumbled and were over run. Just before we came in reach of the village archers Feodora took an axe blow to her shoulder that nearly took her left foreleg off. Matvei was not doing well either, though his wounds were less severe individually, the number did not bode well. I was in fair shape as I wore light armor along with a wood cutter's axe and my sword to fight with. With Matvei's help I managed to get Feodora on his back and get her safely inside the walls.
The village healer came running but stopped with a shocked, sad look before trying to staunch the flow of blood from Feodora's shoulder. I knew that look, I had seen it before. I told the healer to try her best but to not feel obligated to continue if she reached a point where she knew all was lost. I turned to Matvei calling for bandages and started cutting back the fur from the incredible number of wounds so that they may be stitched.
Much later that night I considered the possibility I might lose both of my friends. Amazingly Feodora still lived, but she had lost so much blood, she could still lose her leg, and infection was setting in. Matvei was better but infection had settled in his wounds too. I think that is part of what makes the creatures so horrible. The fact that they delight in smearing their weapons with things both foul and poisonous to take the heart out of those who must watch loved ones die a slow agonizing death from putrefaction and poison.
As I was washing out the wounds of my friends and applying poultices, the wizard came to me to let me know he had an extremely risky idea for saving the lives of my friends. He explained that while it would not save my friends bodies as independent creatures, it would save what made them my friends. He explained that he had been studying transformative magic as applied to living creatures. Now before you start thinking he had a hand somehow in The Curse or was trying to mimic it. He was not. His interest was in giving fighters the attributes of chosen animals for the duration of battles. When the attributes were no longer needed, they would be released. This would return the man and animal to individuals. The risk, he explained, was that sometimes the animal aspect is stronger than the human and the result is a berserker killing all in reach and needing killed if it could not be restrained until the spell was reversed. Knowing of my relationship with my friends he thought this unlikely but it had to be considered as they were injured so badly they may have little recognition of my presence in our bond.
The idea was that since I was relatively uninjured merging us would for most intent reduce the effects of their injuries. In effect it would be a sharing of the damage across all of our bodies. This meant as well that I would become badly injured and infected. The healer had the idea that if I ate well of foods to provide what my body needed for healing, rested as long as possible, took as much healing herbs as I could to fight infection from within and she and her assistants stood ready to stitch and bandage as necessary after the transformation, there was a fairly good chance we would survive. The one problem never before considered was, how to separate us when the healing was far enough along. The longer the merge was held, the harder it was to separate the merged individuals.
I told the wizard that if it meant my friends continued to live as part of me and I as part of them, "Do it." I was immediately led to a home where I was cleaned and fed as much as I could stuff myself with along with drinking and eating herbs known to fight infection and aid healing. When I could eat and drink no more, I was led to a bed a told to sleep as long as possible. Getting up only to eat and drink more. If my friends showed signs of dying I was to be awakened and the process begun immediately. Surprisingly I was able to rest a night and most of a day before the healer felt the process needed to begin if Feodora was to survive.
While I was resting the wizard and the healer worked together to arrange the materials they needed. When the time came I was placed in a spell circle with my friends and the healer and her assistants readied themselves. The wizard carefully finished the spell circle sealing us within. As the wizard cast his spell, the feeling of closeness I had always had with my friends deepened and surrounded us like the protective arms of a mother. As the spell took hold I saw two female forms. One was motherly with a rose-pink aura. The other reminded me of those who served as stewards of the forest for lords. They looked at us with sorrow and approval. I had no idea at the time who they were, as my attendance to any formal religion was at best very loose.
I awakened to a new world a week later. It was a world of pain. My only thought was that I had to be alive, a dead body certainly could not hurt this much. As my mind slowly grasped bits and pieces of what I saw, I realized where ever I was ... IT STUNK ... it was too noisy and ... even though there were no torches lit and the windows were shuttered I could see very well. The door opened, brightening the room painfully, allowing a woman to enter. Even though she was in silhouette I knew who it was as a draught brought a smell of herbs and salves to me. The healer came over and realized I was awake and not just conscious.
"You had the Gods cradling your lives you know." She said. I replied in the time honored tradition of the newly awakened, "Huh?" "When the wizard began his spell something happened that almost broke his concentration. The area of the spell circle filled with a rose-pink light. It was not what he expected. Nor were the two people inside the circle expected." She replied. I told her I remembered two women I did not recognize in the circle with me. The healer looked at me astonished and asked "Do you not know who that was in there with you?" "No." I replied. She shook her head as she commented, "How a person, especially one like you, could grow to your age and not have knowledge of such beings!" "Ok, ok." I groused. "So they were important people. Are you going to tell me who they were, or am I going to die without knowing?" She grumphed and exclaimed "That was none other than Akkala, the Queen of the Gods as well as the goddess of healing and purity accompanied by Artela the goddess of mercy and one of the goddesses of nature!" "Surely you've heard of them!?" ‘Oh great' I thought, goddesses taking a personal interest in my life unrequested. Please, do not get me wrong, I was not upset that they aided me. It was more the feeling that I now owed a debt I had not asked for and well ... debts to deities are very costly. I was not sure I could adequately repay such a debt. "Well yes, I know the names, but I never attended any services related to any deity and paid little attention to my instructors." I declared. She gave me a cross look and I bet if I wasn't in such bad shape she would have smacked my head as if that would instill the knowledge I was lacking. "Seeing as you are such a lackwit when it comes to the affairs of mortals and gods, let me just tell you that since you obviously did not ask for their aid, they provided it for a reason." She told me. "The two easiest to think of are they have a future use for you or the way you lived your life with your companions won their favor and aid." As this agreed with my thinking, I groaned and fervently said, "I hope it was the way I lived with my friends as being chosen by deities leads to lives that are too often interesting and short."
Sometime after the healer left the wizard visited me and confirmed a thought I had had upon being told I had been out of it for a week. The merge was permanent. His next comments were unexpected. After a bit of hemming and hawing while examining me he informed me that the deities' presence in the ritual had had a major effect on the merge. "If the merge had gone as I expected, you would be basically human with the attributes of your friends overlaid on your form." He explained. "Instead it appears you are three individual bodies sharing one." "Ooookaaay." I said "What exactly does that mean?" "Well, my best guess ..." the wizard started to say. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN ... BEST GUESS!?" I roared. I must say THAT scared the crap out of both of us. It seems I now had a new voice. A few blinks of time later when we both had looked at each other thinking ‘What the heck was that?' I asked again in a calmer though no less confused tone, "What do you mean by best guess?" The wizard put on his best lecturing tone and began explaining. It seems that I now was twice as big, more or less, as had been. As it was mostly bone and muscle, my height and width had not doubled. I had become about a quarter taller and wider. So just looking at me with nothing to measure me against you would miss the difference. He told me it was probably a side effect of the altered spell allowing one body to become any one of the three origin forms. "Let me get this straight," I said, "I can be myself, Feodora, or Matvei?" "Umm, sort of. It is more that you as a group decide on the form the host body takes." The wizard cautiously said. He told me to think of it as deciding how much of the host body will be what. "You could choose a balanced form having equal thirds of each origin form, or any variation you can conceive from full human to full tiger or bear." He explained. He then went on to say this was discovered after the merge when the healer and her assistants began to administer treatment. "As they treated you, your form changed. After they were done and had a chance to discuss the strange way you kept shifting forms, they decided that your shifting exposed your wounds in order of descending severity." He said. "Of course this had to have been directed in some fashion by the deities as you were unconscious." The wizard indicated that there was an aura of magic surrounding me that seemed much more than that needed for the transformations, but he had no clue the effects it might have. I was to discover what some of it was much later.
And what a way to discover it!
While healing in the wizard's village, we (my friends and I) experimented with our shapeshifting. I had had some uncertainty as to how the three of us would communicate. After all two of us did not speak. That turned out to be only a small problem. All one of us had to do was desire a shape and the others would get an image/feeling of the desired shape. Depending on each of our desire or resistance to the change, the change could, take place, not take place or be modified through consensus.
The big reveal came a few months farther along our travels. As you might expect we were once again in a battle for our lives when a surprising change occurred. I was in mixed form using my human form for the basic shape, tiger for roaring voice and claws, and bear for powerful muscles. We were about to be overwhelmed and I was wishing I could have Feodora by my side for her slashing claws in addition to my weapons when for a moment my legs felt painfully cramped for an instant and suddenly I was almost twice as tall! Only the shock the change caused in my attackers gave me the time to see why and still live. I looked down to see I had become a kind of centaur; only instead of man/horse I was man/tiger. The middle of battle is NOT the time to try out new things, but the single mindedness it invokes does allow instinct greater freedom to control your body's actions. You could say that by forgetting that my lower body was now a tiger's body allowed it to draw on my senses for information and Feodora's life instincts to guide it. The terror factor was a great help too. Heh, imagine how dry and clean YOUR pants would be if you opponent suddenly doubled in size and gained two more death dealing legs. Enough to say we survived that encounter.
Once we were safe and resting in a village we came to, we did the same kind of experimenting as when we were first merged. It seemed the limits of our transformation was only that the lower body had to be tiger, bear or a blend of both. This made sense as only they had four legs and *chuckle* the idea of a bear or tiger body on puny human legs was agreed to be useless at least and hilarious at best. One time I suggested a lower body of a bear with human legs and got the impression of being flattened under the weight of both my friends in response. Oomph, I'll pass on feeling that again.
And that friends is pretty much my story of how I came here. My trip was pretty normal. Some fighting, some working, some loving, and a lot of living.