Sarfina woke up groggily as someone was gently shaking her shoulder. The fact that someone had managed to approach her without waking her up was a clear indicator of how tired she had been the previous evening. She recognized the person waking her up as Qinlana, the head-maid.
“Master, you need to wake up.” Qinlana’s voice was slightly hurried and carried a note of worry.
“What is it? What’s the time?” Sarfina asked groggily. She really was tired.
“It’s two hours after your normal wake up time. You were clearly tired last night, so I wouldn’t normally wake you up, but something is wrong with Haydee.” Qinlana said. Her voice implied that the matter might be rather urgent.
“What wrong with Dee?” Sarfina asked as she bolted up and started pulling on some clothes.
“From what we can tell, she’ suffering from a high fever, and she seems to be delirious and half asleep. She keeps tossing as if in pain.” Although Qinlana still didn’t like Dee, she had softened her stance lately. Not by much, but still.
They quickly crossed the small distance into Dee’s room, while Qinlana explained further. “She seemed normal yesterday evening. We sent word to the Holy Order and they’re sending a healer. In the meantime, Fayliel used her magic to try and figure out what’s going on and heal her, with no luck.”
Sarfina saw Dee tossing and turning in the bed as soon as she entered the room. The girl was also covered with a sheen of sweat. “I thought she doesn’t sleep in her bed.” She mumbled as she pressed her hand against Dee’s forehead, noticing the clearly elevated temperature.
“She doesn’t.” Qinlana commented from behind her back. “She apparently slept on the support beam again, but fell down at some point. If she was injured by the fall, that injury already regenerated. We put her to bed to avoid further accidents.”
Fayliel was the resident healer, and if her power didn’t work there was little else they could do while waiting, except try to make Dee comfortable. Sarfina was quite surprised as she saw a familiar dwarven priestess march through the door and shoo off the servants. This priestess usually didn’t make house-calls. She had treated Dee before, so she was the most logical choice however.
“It seems you couldn’t keep the girl away from trouble more than few months.” The priestess said brusquely. “Should’ve known you wouldn’t take my advice, but I hoped for better.”
She reached down and put her hand on Dee’s forehead. Unlike Sarfina, she wasn’t checking for fever but Delving Dee in an attempt to figure out what was wrong. She frowned a little as she encountered resistance to her probing. She had heard psions were usually harder to Delve, but had forgotten that as she had Delved Dee so many times before. The exhaustion of Dee’s body had probably made it easier after she had been brought to the infirmary, after the attack against the assassins.
She managed to push through the resistance, mostly because she was much stronger than Dee and Dee wasn’t intentionally resisting the attempt. She couldn’t find anything obviously wrong within the girl’s body though. Oh she detected the fever and the cramping muscles, but those were symptoms and not the cause of whatever was ailing her.
“What’s wrong with her?” Sarfina asked impatiently as she saw the priestess frown. She misinterpreted that to mean there was something seriously wrong.
“I’m not sure. Has there been anything unusual about her in the last few days?” The priestess asked.
“Not to my knowledge.” Sarfina replied, and got an agreeing nod from Qinlana. “We’ve mostly been doing stamina training lately. It has been hard, but she seemed to be dealing with it fine. Yesterday she was running some errands, but seemed fine when she returned.”
The dwarven priestess kept tapping her cheek in thought. “I don’t think she has a disease, and I can’t find any trace of poison or harmful magic. In any case her regenerative abilities should counter most of those. Could this be something racial?” She said out loud, mostly talking to herself.
“Racial?” Sarfina asked in surprise.
“Yes. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out she isn’t exactly normal heritage-wise. It might be this is some sort of side effect from that. It might even be a normal part of growing up. I have little experience with growing demons.” She was more and more certain that whatever was ailing Dee wasn’t something that came from the outside.
“What can we do?” Sarfina asked with a voice filled with worry.
“That depends on how long this lasts. If it only takes a day or two, then we just have to try and keep her strength up. If it lasts longer, we’ll have to try and forcefully bring her temperature down. For now though, we wait.”
It only took a few hours for the situation to change. They were sitting by a table placed in Dee’s room drinking coffee, when every muscle in Dee’s body seemed to tense at the same time as she let out a scream of pain. Dee couldn’t control the pain while unconscious. She arched her back with her body fully rigid, with only her heels and head touching the mattress.
They rushed close to the bed, but stopped in wonder as Dee started to change. Her fur grew longer, now starting to look like the proper fur covering a wolf or a fox, a third tail suddenly appeared next to the previous two. Her hips, hands, feet and neck changed dramatically. Dee slowly took on the appearance of a more standard four legged animal with all that entailed.
She now appeared as if a mix between a nine-tailed fox, except with three tails, and her appearance as a Beowulf. She didn’t quite look like a fox or a wolf, but a bit of both. She retained her snow white fur, although now longer, but instead of a lean form of a fox, she had a more sturdy and muscled appearance of the werewolf. Her paws were still clawed as if ready to rend steel and, though the claws were mostly retracted at the moment. She was also rather large in her new form. She wasn’t quite the size of a horse, but definitely bigger than a small pony.
After the transformation was over, they watched as Dee slowly blinked her eyes open and started waking up. “Well this is new.” She calmly, if rather tiredly, said after taking a good look at herself.
“That’s a slight understatement.” The dwarven priestess chuckled. “Are you feeling any discomfort?”
Dee shook herself a bit, and tried moving her body in various ways. She jumped on the floor and stretched her body like only a four legged animal can, and walked around a bit. “Everything seems to be working fine. In fact I feel really comfortable. I also feel really strong.”
She lifted one of her front paws and looked at it for a moment in thought. Suddenly the paw turned into a hand from the ‘wrist’ down, perfectly looking like her old hand as a Beowulf. “Well that seems handy.”
“Can you turn back to your old form?” Sarfina asked slightly worried.
Dee tilted her head as if remembering something. “Apparently yes, though only after a few days. It seems there are some racial memories that I gained along with this transformation. According to those, the first transformation is always the roughest and takes tons more energy than it normally would. It’ll take me a couple of days to adjust to the new form and then I can change back and forth fairly freely.” She frowned a little. “The form is a bit different than the memories show though. I guess that’s the effect from my other heritage.”
“What happened?” Sarfina asked brimming with curiosity.
“Yeah, so I didn’t mention this, but I visited the Threads of Fate yesterday. They gave me some information that finally makes sense.” Dee decided to not lie. It was easier this way than trying to hide. Sarfina probably wouldn’t have stopped her from going, but asking for permission was harder than asking for forgiveness.
“Threads of Fate? Why?” Sarfina asked with a frown.
“I needed some information. Anyway, apparently today is my tenth birthday, and this is the result of that. From what I gather, I’m growing up and I’m unlocking new things about my so far dormant heritage. From what I can infer from their words, it seems this will be a rather common phenomenon, and I’ll be unlocking new things on my birthdays. At least my sixteenth birthday will be a biggie.” Dee explained her theory.
“Any idea what to expect?” The dwarven priestess asked, also filled with curiosity. This was something new to her. Truth be told, she’d prefer to study Dee in greater detail, but that seemed unlikely.
“Best guess? I still have some races inside me that have not woken up. I would guess that will be something to look forward to. They should be surfacing on my future birthdays.” Dee looked at herself again. “I’m not sure this is the direction I wanted to transform first, but whatever. I look better with fur anyway.” She mumbled to herself, although her words didn’t escape Sarfina’s elven ears.
“Any other surprises aside from this new form?” Sarfina asked.
“Well…” Dee looked at her third tail. “I’m pretty sure that means I’m officially a class 3 psion now. That’s what the memories seem to suggest at least.”
The next day Dee was enjoying testing out her new form. It was obvious her new form was much faster than her old one. She could run at least five times faster and could maintain that speed for what seemed like forever. It seems travel was much easier in this form, and her stamina was much improved. On a lark Sarfina had a race with Dee’s new form, but couldn’t keep up despite using all her holy power to strengthen herself. Dee could run rings around her and wasn’t even slightly winded as Sarfina collapsed in exhaustion.
Her stamina wasn’t the only part of her physical abilities that improved in this form. Maybe it was because she could be considered to be a monstrous creature with her current form, but all her physical attributes received a large boost. She was at least a dozen times stronger physically, and although she had already been agile in her old form, it couldn’t match her current movements. The servants became slightly unnerved as Dee easily leaped to the roof of the mansion just to see the view.
Dee theorized that the physical abilities of this new form would most likely grow with the abilities of her original form. That formed an interesting problem. She was so much stronger in her current form that it might be beneficial to do battle like this instead of her old form. She couldn’t use weapons, but she retained her claws and teeth. Just simple blows from her current body were enough to shatter rocks.
It was Croestia that finally suggested a solution. ‘Maybe you should use your old form when you want to surprise or stealthily kill someone, while using this form if you have to do battle? Of course, you’ll have to use your normal form when doing your duties as a templar.’ So far that idea seemed to be the best, though that might change as Dee’s ability with weapons improved. In any case, travel over distances was much easier and faster in the new form.
The real fun part came when Dee noticed that she could rather freely change her size in this new form. After she noticed this, she immediately shrinked to the size of a kitten and tested various ways of using Sarfina for transportation. She tried sitting on her shoulder and wrapping around her neck like a scarf, but finally decided that the comfiest method was to lie on top of Sarfina’s head.
In revenge Sarfina tried to ride on Dee’s back, but ended up in the pool fully dressed as Dee suddenly accelerated towards the pool and suddenly skidded to a halt while shrinking at the same time. The momentum did its job and Sarfina flew in a beautiful arc and landed in the pool. As her first attempt at revenge failed, Sarfina called in reinforcements in the form of Mazatl.
The Saurian immediately fell in love with Dee’s new form, and she spent the next few hours cooperating with Sarfina, while the two trapped Dee. They held her smaller form down and spent the next few hours petting her, as she futilely tried to struggle free. She didn’t struggle very hard though, as she rather enjoyed the petting. She would never admit it, but comfortable was comfortable, although she felt it was a little degrading.
There was something that Dee learned as a result of this period of petting. As time passed, she started feeling this weird sort of pressure building inside of her. It was not painful, at least not yet, but as time went on the pressure kept building and started becoming more noticeable and annoying. It wasn’t something she couldn’t deal with for now, but she decided to raise the question anyway.
“Ah, that’s probably the pressure that prevents long term shapeshifting. Your body wants to return to its true shape, and the building pressure is the result. Eventually you’ll be forced to change back, as the pressure will keep increasing forever and at some point you won’t be able to stand it.” Mazatl explained with an ‘a-ha!’ look.
“The further you are from your true form, the faster the pressure builds up.” Sarfina added. “Try going back to the size you woke up in.” She also suggested.
“The pressure is gone.” Dee said in marvel after complying.
“Yeah, that’s because that is your true form. The size change is the part that made the pressure build up. The more you shrink yourself, the bigger the effect.” Sarfina explained with a smile.
“But how can this be my true form? One would think that my original form would be my true form. Will I have trouble staying in my original form now?” Dee was starting to feel a little panicky. She liked this new form, but not that much.
Mazatl assuaged her quickly. “Ah you’re assuming people can have only one true form. It’s not uncommon for races that can inherently shapeshift to have more than one so called true form. Any of those works. As you have kitsune heritage, and the kitsune are one of the shapeshifting races, I’m assuming you have two true forms now. I’m surprised this thing wasn’t included in those memories you got.”
“It might actually be there, I just haven’t gone through all of them yet.” Dee grumbled.
“Well there’s your next project then.” Sarfina said with some amusement. “With your heritage, I would be surprised if you had only two true forms, so that’s something you should probably keep in mind for the future.”
“Duly noted.” Dee replied, still a little glum due to her miss.
“On a related topic, is it just me or does it look like your new form is heavily affected by your Beowulf heritage?” Mazatl posed a question.
“So it would appear.” Dee had also thought about it and had a theory. “I’m guessing this race soup that is my heritage has some unexpected consequences. That said it makes sense. Why combine several races if the effects never come together? This is purely a guess, but I’m fairly confident that this form of mine will change accordingly as new heritages wake up in the future. I just hope I won’t end up looking like a chimaera towards the end.”
“That seems plausible. And if you do end up looking like a chimaera, then at least we can say that we have a monstrous beast as a friend.” Mazatl revealed her toothy smile again.
“If you guys are done joking around, I think it’s time to get some rest. We’ve had a busy few days, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll get much less busy in the future.” Sarfina said with a faked serious face while getting up, signaling that the show was over for now.
“Ah, Mazatl I need to have a word with you before you go.” Dee suddenly said. Understanding their need for privacy, Sarfina took the hint and left the two of them alone.
“I’m guessing this has something to do with your visit to the Thread of Fate. Did you find out what you were looking for? Sarfina said you went to visit them.” Mazatl asked shrewdly.
Dee could see Mazatl had not revealed the reason of that visit. “To a certain extent, yes. They also gave me a couple of freebies that I didn’t even know to ask for. What are the requirements for the Ritual of Choosing?”
“That came out of nowhere. Why do you ask?” Mazatl asked.
“One of their freebies. They told me that it is important for me to go through the ritual as soon as possible, but definitely before I turn sixteen. The sooner the better.” Dee futzed their words a bit to encourage Mazatl to think for a way to make it happen sooner.
“Well, that can be a bit problematic. The rituals aren’t held at random. They can only happen on certain days of the year, and there are always people taking part in the ritual, so I can’t exactly sneak you in during some random night. I’m fairly sure I could teach you the necessary skills and knowledge before you reach sixteen even with your current training regimen. The problem is your age though. The ritual isn’t done to people who are too young. I personally don’t care much either way as people mature differently, but there are others who put weight on such ceremony.” Mazatl explained.
“So what can be done?” Dee asked. There had to be a way, there always was.
Mazatl was quiet for a while. “I’ll have to think about this a bit. I have some ideas, but I need more time to think this through thoroughly.”
Dee finally managed to turn back to her old form the following day. There seemed to be no changes, except the presence of a third tail, which was expected.
“I can see one problem.” Sarfina pointed out as Dee turned back.
“What?” Dee asked in confusion. She felt great and there was nothing wrong.
“Well it will be problematic if you’re naked every time you change back.” Sarfina huffed.
“Oh that. It’s hardly my fault. Whose idea was it to put in me in bed naked anyway? I’m pretty sure I was wearing clothes when I went to sleep.” Dee shot back.
Qinlana interrupted from the side. “Uh, that was us. You were feverish and tore the stitching on the clothes you were wearing as you fell.”
“Wait, you mean you wouldn’t be naked if you had been wearing clothes when you shifted?” Sarfina asked the more important question.
“I’m not entirely sure.” Dee answered while pulling on some pants and a shirt. “The first time was different, but from the information I got, any items I’m wearing are part of the transformation. Time to run some tests I think.”
Now that she was clothed again, she tried turning back into her new form and easily succeeded. The clothes she was wearing disappeared somewhere, because her new form was certainly not wearing them. The clothes reappeared as she turned back again. The test also showed that she could switch between the two forms rather freely. It drained some of her power to shift but not overly much. She repeated the test while wearing Sarfina’s sword belt and a small bag, and those disappeared somewhere too, and reappeared when she shifted back.
“Where do the items go?” Sarfina asked in wonder.
“I don’t have the foggiest idea. I’m glad it works that way though. Maybe that’s something I’ll learn in the future.” Dee replied with a satisfied smile.