|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
The slamming of the keep's door along with the explosive outburst that immediately followed brought Brythe's head up sharply. Tylan's voice cut through the stone walls clearly, and it didn't take much for the dragon to realize that his friend was very, very angry. "That fat-headed, stubborn, ignornant idiot of an excuse for a human!" Tylan shouted down below. "He's got all the intelligence of a mule, and likely is the bastard offspring of one as well!!" The vocal tirade continued as Tylan bellowed on, going into the various family lineages involving the Ducal Family of Hoarwood, none of which mentioned humans in the least. Brythe listened to the rantings with rapt fascination. Human anger always seemed so very explosive to him, unlike the anger dragons felt. Theirs was a slow, patient sort of anger that when the time was right led to razing of entire countrysides. Human anger, on the other hand, tended to be the kind of anger that could flare in an instant, burn itself out, then smolder for a while. He waited patiently for Tylan's outbursts to die down. Only then did he close the tome he was researching, head out of the library and go downstairs to see what the problem was. Making his way down the stairs, he found Tylan sitting sullenly in one of the many soft seats in the main parlor. His face was still quite flushed, and the eyes were dark, but he was still and quiet, which meant he had his anger in check. Purposefully Brythe walked over to a nearby chair, the claws clicking gently on the wooden floor. "I take it your meeting with Duke Hoarwood didn't go as you expected?" Brythe said lightly, a hint of amusement in his tone. Tylan gave the dragon a sharp glance in response. "You should know by now that the Duke isn't going to do anything that you or anyone else recommends unless he's thoroughly convinced will be a benefit." Tylan continued the sharp stare at Brythe, then sighed and looked down. "I know," he said in a rough voice. "But damn it all, does his entire clan have to be just as stubborn? I swear, if there's ever proof that animals can take human form, it's the Ducal household. Every one of them could be in a herd of mules, and not change that much." Brythe chuckled deeply at that. "I won't argue that point, Ty," he replied. "I've been tempted to turn at least the Duke and his wife into donkeys just to see when I've been annoyed at them." "Annoyed?" Tylan snorted. "Gods, they try even the King with their attitudes. Do you know how often he's had to issue Royal Decrees to get them to follow the rest of the kingdom?" "47 times, at last count," Brythe immediately shot back. "I kept count." "Figures you would," Tylan chuckled. A smile, be it a small one, formed on his lips. Brythe took it as a sign that Ty was feeling a little better. No better time to spring it on him than now. "So," Brythe continued, "have you thought of where you're going on vacation?" Tylan blinked in surprise. "Vacation? What vacation?" "The vacation you're going on." "Who said I'm going on vacation?" "I did." Brythe rumbled in amusement. "You're overworked, stressed out, and been cooped up in here far too often. Frankly you need a rest, as far away from this place as reasonably possible." Tylan shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Brythe, I can't take a vacation, you know that. Folks around here expect me to be of service. The king..." Brythe coughed a bit. "The king," he said, pulling out a parchment, "the king has ordered you to take a month off from your services. Actually, it's two months, but I know you better than he does." Tylan took the paper and read through it, then shook his head. "Caradon's being too generous," he muttered. "The last time I took personal time..." "The last time you took personal time was when his father was holding the throne," Brythe interjected. "Stop making excuses, Ty. I know you much better than that. You might be able to convince humans that you're needed, but you can't convince me." "Thick-skinned lizard," Tylan muttered. Brythe laughed, and Tylan smiled a bit more. "You're just as set in your ways as Duke Hoarwood." "Who's saying I'm not?" Brythe said. "Come on, you've got to finish packing. Then we're on holiday." Tylan laughed softly and stood up. "You've got this all planned, don't you?" Brythe grinned widely, making Tylan laugh again. "So just where are 'we' going, hmmm?" Brythe gave Tylan a sly wink. "Where else but a vacation on the coast?"
Of all the ancient cities on the twin continents, none had a more storied history than Aleppa. Originally founded by one of the elder Mage-Kings, the city has thrived for over two millennium as a beacon to all who wish to learn, trade or live. The city sat along the coast of the Great Sea, that body of water that split the northern and southern halves of Alindon. Ships sailed from all directions to unload their cargo, joined by caravans that travelled from every corner of the world. They would meet in the largest open air bazaar, the Great Bazaar. Deals would be struck, and wares sold under the watchful eyes of his Majesty's guards, specially trained as both peacekeepers and adjudicators. Equally attractive to those wishing to learn was the University. Founded at the same time as the city, it brought together scholars and students in an environment that promoted the concept of learning. The list of historical individuals who made their mark after leaving the university, politically or magically, was long. Being a place where magic existed peacefully, it was never surprising to the residents when a visitor would materialize from mid- air. Special spots, pads raised slightly above the street, dotted the metropolis, giving these visitors a place to arrive safely. On one such pad Tylan and Brythe appeared, the orange glow of their magics fading from around them. Tylan blinked in the bright sunlight, and shielded his eyes. "Gods, I've forgotten just how bright this place is in the daylight." Brythe rumbled in amusement. "I've never forgotten how bright this place is, day or night." He lifted easily the pack they both used for their belongings, and smiled. "Care to wander about before we find our home away from home?" Tylan chuckled. "You know I wouldn't pass up a chance to wander about here." He led the way down the steps to the street, and together they headed along with the prevailing traffic towards the center of town. A cacophony of sights, sounds and smells swirled around them as they took time in their walk. Figures passed by swathed in bright colors, reds, yellows, greens, golds. Small vendors shouted out their offerings for the day, engaging in spirited verbal jousts with neighbors. Scents drifted on the breeze, the cooking of at least a dozen cultures making Tylan's stomach rumble in response. Brythe chuckled and tilted his head at his friend. "Not enough lunch earlier?" he said gently, just enough volume to be heard. "There's a limit to how much you can stand stew," Tylan replied, chuckling. "I thought I'd grow as fat as some of my teachers when I was here, living and studying." A deep laugh came from Brythe. "That's one thing good about being a dragon, you can eat whatever you want, and you don't gain the weight." He grinned, and winked at Tylan. "Unlike you poor humans." "Poor?" Tylan chuckled. "I'm not the one who has to put up with itching like mad until you shed your skin every 10 years or so." He grinned a bit at the memory there. "That oak tree still hasn't recovered from the rubbing you did against it." "And you wouldn't lift a finger to even help oil me down," Brythe added, giving a mock glare. "Wouldn't even let me hire one of the ladies from the village to help me out." He would have added more, but a commotion from ahead grabbed their attention. A scream, the sound of wood splintering, then the crowds parted rapidly to give them a view of what was happening. Brythe spotted the source of the commotion, and let out a hissing sound. "Gods, a giant scorpion!" Tylan looked, and cursed. There, in a smaller bazaar, several guards were fighting to keep a Krygi giant scorpion at bay. The scorpion hissed and it's tail lashed out, knocking a cart into splinters as the guards danced out of reach. A glow surrounded Tylan's hands, and he started rushing forwards. Before he could cast a bolt, another guardsman suddenly stepped into his path, arms crossed at the wrist signaling him to cease. "Don't," the guardsman said in a gravel voice. "That's the daughter of his Majesty, the princess Jalina. She's under a curse that causes her to change forms, and we cannot harm her." Tylan dropped his hands, the glow vanishing rapidly. "Gods, what a mess," he muttered. Brythe walked up besides him, the guard's eyes widening a bit at the sight of the morphic dragon. "What is it?" the dragon asked. Tylan shook his head slowly. "She's the ruler's daughter," he told Brythe. "The guards have orders not to harm her, or allow her to be harmed." Brythe nodded, thinking a moment. "Maybe there's a better way," he said, and a gold ball of energy appeared in his talons. He tossed the ball towards the scorpion, and it struck her, covering her in a burst of light. When the light cleared, the scorpion was still, asleep. So was anyone within a dozen feet of the scorpion, crumpled to the ground from the power of the dragon's spell. The guard looked at the scene, then back at Brythe with a clearly visible amount of respect. Tylan shook his head at the dragon and smiled. "Showoff."
"Tylan, my friend. It's so good to see you here." Tylan embraced his teacher and mentor warmly. "It's good to be here, although I'm surprised that you're not with the university." Hali ben Nulassa, professor and master mage, smiled at his old protege. "Times change, and His Majesty's offer was one you don't refuse." He gave Tylan a look-over, then grinned. "I see time hasn't taken it's toll on you." Tylan hooked his thumb towards Brythe. "He keeps me on my toes, along with the demands of Caradon." He would have said more, but Brythe broke in. "Truth is I had to drag him here in the first place. Stubborn human wouldn't take a vacation willingly." Hali laughed. "Now that's the pair I remember from those times. The student and the party animal." His expression sobered, and he gave them both a stern look. "I don't know how you two managed to get involved in what happened today, but perhaps this is kismet." Hali sighed, and motioned for them to take a seat. "What had been happening to the princess is out of my ability to discern. Perhaps you two can instead solve what's happened." Tylan sat down in a velvet chair and nodded. "From what we learned in the market, she's been undergoing random transformations." Hali nodded. "The first was two months ago, during a state dinner. Jalina was sitting there as if nothing was wrong, then within an instant she had changed into a mountain ape. The disruption was bad enough, but after an hour she changed back to herself, crying from the experience. "The next one happened in the courtyard, when she became a Ferghian stallion. Again, people were in chaos, and it took the Royal handlers time to calm her down until she changed back." Hali sighed deeply and shook his head. "Then a few days ago, she turned into a diamond-back serpent, and now this scorpion." Tylan glanced over at Brythe, and saw he was paying close attention. "And there's no pattern to the changes at all? No idea what's causing them?" "None." Hali shook his head slowly. "They've happened in random places, at random times. No real pattern that I can tell. All that I have discovered is that there's a very faint magical aura around her, from where I have no clue." He spread his hands apart in evident frustration. Brythe rumbled softly to himself. "Perhaps there is no pattern, because it's not a curse." His statement made Tylan's head swing around in surprise. "At least, it's behaving like no curse I've ever heard of." He tilted his head at Hali, who nodded. "In fact," he continued, "it sounds more like someone or something is intentionally doing these changes. The question is why." Tylan thought about it a moment, then nodded. "Why, indeed. Is there anyone who's wanted revenge on his Majesty, or on the princess?" "None that I know of," Hali stated. "Everyone thinks well of the princess, and there's a few who have made offers of marriage to her." Tylan leaned forward. "Were any of them refused? By her or by his Majesty?" Hali considered the question. "Not directly, no. There were three who had approached for consideration, but all were politely turned down. One was the son of the current Ibram, but a month later had married a young lady from his homeland. Another was a prince from Turkaristan, while the last was from one of his Majesty's sultanates. He had to return home," Hali added, "due to his father falling ill." Brythe looked at Tylan. "Hmmm. Revenge on being refused looks to be out of the question." "Beginning to look like it," Tylan acknowledged. "What about any recent visitors to court that had a rude response?" Hali shook his head again. "His Majesty has maintain cordial relations with all of the neighboring kingdoms, and there's scarce been mention of any intrigue on their parts. I'm at a loss as to what has been happening." "Hrmm." Brythe rumbled softly to himself, then glanced at Tylan in a particular way. Tylan nodded slowly, then looked back at his mentor. "Hali, you've asked for our help, and we will give it." Hali looked up and a smile graced his lips. The next words, however, wiped that smile away. "What we might uncover might be a little, well, let's just say undiplomatic. Brythe thinks he knows what's going on, but we want to be absolutely certain of it. So we will need your help to arrange a test." "What kind of test?" Hali asked bluntly. "I'm not going to place the princess in any sort of danger." "She won't be," Brythe replied softly. "But it will prove who's doing this, and maybe even why."
"His name," Brythe rumbled, "is Zaur Terek-Kul. He's the second son of the current KhaKhan of Turkaristan, Salyukta. According to the records at the university, he's been a student there for two years now." Tylan stared out the window as he listened to Brythe, watching the sunset and the mage lights turning on outside. Even after all the years he still found the sight to be so interesting. He turned away from the view, and looked back at Brythe, who had paused in his recital. "And this is the same young man who asked for Jalina's hand in marriage?" Tylan asked. Brythe nodded. "The same one. But from the information I've collected, they've been seeing each other for at least a year now." Tylan shook his head and chuckled. When Brythe left in the morning to 'collect information', it was in the form of a young lady, properly attired for the location. Trust Brythe to find a way to coax out just what he wanted to know. "Ok," Tylan supplied, "how do you know that?" Brythe grinned. "A few ways." He held up a sheet of paper. "First off, they've been taking the same classes as much as possible at the university. When you have that much overlap, something's got to be up. "Secondly, they've been seen around the city together with a few other royal students, a social group that's been given the nickname the Firebirds." Brythe rumbled in amusement, and glanced at another sheet of paper. "They've been in the middle of a few minor altercations and disturbances when their socializing got a little out of hand, but so far nothing that would attract attention to them." "Huh. A nice, cozy little love affair, with cover provided." Tylan chuckled gently. "Sounds like nothing's changed over the years here." "Well, you'll love the last bit." Brythe sounded positively amused at this. "The last class that Zaur was in was a magical craftworks course, and I'm willing to bet that he created something that is causing the shapeshifting of Jalina." That definitely caught Tylan's attention. "An amulet, say? Hali mentioned this morning that she's been wearing one that was a gift to her. He brought it to me, and I tested it, but I didn't find anything other than a faint aura of magic." Brythe nodded in agreement. "From what I gathered, he actually produced two objects. One was an amulet, the other was a ring. I'm willing to bet that the ring is actually where the magic is stored, and the amulet acts as a collector, focusing the magic." Tylan let out a low whistle. "That's a good piece of work if he's actually doing it. What I'm not seeing is why would he change her form? If he's in love with her, I don't..." Tylan's voice trailed off as a very thoughtful look crossed his face. Brythe waited, knowing that Tylan was about to come to the same conclusion he had earlier. "Damn," Tylan whispered. "She's wanting to be changed." "Exactly." Brythe leaned back in the over large sofa and rumbled. "I'd bet a clipped coin she's rebelling against father's refusal to let her marry Zaur, and this was a way to get a little revenge. I wouldn't be surprised if it was her idea, either." Tylan whistled low again, and shook his head. "Gods, if his Majesty found out about this, he'd have a fit." "So do we go ahead with our plans?" Brythe looked at Tylan, waiting to see what he decided. For his part, Tylan shrugged his shoulders. "I don't see why not. Hali's counting on us to find out, and since we're not associated with the palace or the government, there's a good chance that our involvement will be swept under the rug." "Unless we blow it, and then we'll likely be on display for a month in the royal prison." Brythe gave a mock shudder, then grinned. "But we're not going to blow it." "I hope you're right," Tylan said in a quiet tone. "The last thing I need is royal displeasure over what we've found out."
Two days later they placed their plans in motion. A festival in the streets was scheduled, and the word was that the Princess Jalina was expected to lead the parade. After some discussions, Brythe and Tylan felt that would be the perfect time for the next transformation event. With some help from Hali, they secured clothing that would allow them to mix with the rest of the parade participants. Brythe would double as a guardsman, while Tylan would be back, watching the crowds. Between them, they hoped to catch Zaur in the act. Tylan grumbled a bit as he was busy dressing for his part. "I don't see why I have to be up on the platform with the princess," he complained. Brythe chuckled and shook his head. "Because I'm going to be down on the ground with the guards around the platform, and it wouldn't look right. And besides, I can play the big hulking guard bit better than you can." "Right. All muscles, no brains." Tylan chuckled softly and shook his head. "I'm just complaining, don't mind me." Brythe paused and grinned. "You know, that's the first sign that you're wanting to enjoy this vacation," he commented. "Huh?" Tylan stopped what he was doing to look over at the dragon. "What do you mean?" "Normally you gripe and complain when you don't have anything to do," Brythe pointed out. "Now you're complaining about having to work." Tylan laughed softly and smiled. "You know, you're right." He looked at the rest of his costume and shook his head. "Normally I would get into this without a second thought. Guess I do need the rest." "You've needed the rest for a while," Brythe said. "And once we've taken care of this, the rest of the time here is going to be just that. Rest and relaxation. No duties, no problems, no troubles." "Got it all planned out, do you?" Tylan grinned at his friend. "Just let me know when I'm involved, ok?" "Don't worry, I will." Brythe looked over at the door, and smiled. "Company's coming." There was a gentle knock, then the door opened to the sight of Hali. "It's time to go here." "Just finishing up." Tylan put on the last of his outfit, as Brythe picked up his staff. "I just hope this works."
The parade moved along through the streets, the crowds cheering and enjoying the spectacle. Any reason for a party in the streets was celebrated, and this one was no exception. So the parade moved slowly along it's path, winding it's way towards the temple complex. Princess Jalina was definitely enjoying her role as the center of attention, waving and occasionally tossing out copper coins to the crowds. Children scampered after the coins, special pieces that they could take to vendors for bags of candy and treats. Other members of the royal court danced and performed to the crowds, music mixing with the shouts of the people. Brythe walked along with the other guards, his eyes moving left to right as he watched the crowds. Even though he was pretending to be a protector of Jalina, he would be expected to take care of any threats to the princess. But he chuckled softly to himself, knowing that any normal threat would be ably handled by the guards around him. A face appeared in the crowd, and Brythe suddenly was tense. He backed towards the platform, where Tylan as an attendant leaned down. "He's in the crowd," Brythe hissed. "To the left, second row." Tylan glanced in a routine way, but his eyes locked on the face indicated by Brythe. The dark skin and hair, the distinctive face of one from the mountains of Turkaristan, he was younger than Tylan would have expected, perhaps 16 at the most. His dress was traditional for his people, but on his finger was a golden ring, one he was rubbing intently now. A wave of magic could be felt by Tylan, and he glanced at Jalina. She blinked, then stood up and spread her arms out in the air. The magic centered on her, and she began to change, her arms becoming wings, feathers growing over her, a beak quickly taking form. Shouts and cries came from folks, and with a squawking she took flight into the air. Tylan was sprinting, but not towards Jalina. Instead, he headed into the crowds, and grabbed ahold of Zaur. He yelped and twisted out of Tylan's grasp, and started fleeing. "Get the lad," Brythe shouted over the crowd noise. "I'll get the Princess." His form blurred, wings spreading out from tearing cloth, and took to the sky, zooming after Jalina. Tylan turned and raced after Zaur, shouting at the top of his lungs. Zaur weaved through the crowds, but he couldn't shake his pursuer, nor could he escape the cries concerning him. His only hope now was to find a place to hide, and wait until it was safe. A guardsman stepped out in front of him, and Zaur turned to the left. But before he was able to move more than a few feet, he was tackled to the ground. He tried to fight back, but the other person was stronger than him, and soon had him pinned to the ground. "Hello there, Zaur," Tylan said from over the lad. "I'm afraid you're in big trouble now."
Brythe's sharp eyes kept locked on Jalina, who flew out over the city. Despite being a desert eagle, she had no real experience with flying, particularly when someone was chasing her. So she tried to simply outdistance him, flying straight and level as fast as she could. Outdistancing a dragon, however, wasn't as easy as that. Brythe continued to close in on her, the eagle's movements becoming labored and more difficult. She started to drift down towards the ground, and it was then that he put on a burst of speed, catching her in his forelimbs and holding her. Wings batted feebly at him, and he merely chuckled as he swung around in a lazy arc back to the city. "You can stop protesting, your Highness," he rumbled. "We already know what's going on." His words took the fight out of her, and she dipped her head downwards in shame.
Caliph Ihsan Al-Sabah Bin Abdallah peered at the pair reflected in the scrying pool, huddling together in fear. He looked up at his court mage and the two foreigners who had brought him the news, along with the evidence of their actions. "So my daughter convinced him to create these artifacts for what, to embarrass me?" His deep voice cut easily through the background sounds of the court. Tylan shook his head. "From what Zaur has told me, the idea was for them to actually leave the city, him with a caravan headed back to his country, while she would be in animal form following behind a short ways. Then once they felt safe, they would meet up and continue on." "It might have worked, except that Zaur's magic ability wasn't quite as expert as either would have wished." Brythe rumbled softly, his own voice making an interesting counterpoint to the Caliph's. "And the only forms he knew were those of his land, so all of the forms Jalina changed into were those of the mountains." "Hrmmm." Ihsan looked over at Hali and sighed. "And you were the one who asked for the help in discovering this... affair?" Hali looked down towards the floor. "I did, your Majesty," he replied. "I felt that perhaps they would help. They were my former students, and have a reputation from their country." "I know of their reputation," Ihsan replied, making both Tylan and Brythe look up in surprise. "Caradon sent a message informing me that you were planning to visit my city. Perhaps it was a good thing." Tylan coughed discreetly, and Ihsan nodded. "What are your plans involving them?" he asked. "Their only crime was falling in love." Ihsan smiled gently. "That is true," he said, leaning back away from the scrying pool. "Even though I did tell him no, he still was willing to risk my anger in courting Jalina." "Your daughter is rather persuasive herself," Brythe interjected. "And it was her idea, not his." "You're right, dragon." Ihsan sighed deeply. "I can't fault her for wanting to follow her heart. So what should a father do?" "A suggestion, then." Tylan glanced over at Brythe. "How well do you know the KhaKhan?" Ihsan laughed. "Well enough. It was he who whispered words of delight to one of my ladies, and carried her off to his lands." A thought crossed his face, and he smiled. "Are you suggesting an arrangement here?" Brythe smiled wide. "Why not? Certainly you both would be angry at your children, but can you really stop them from being together?" "What designs they wish, no one can stand between." Ihsan smiled, and beckoned to Tylan. "Can you set a spell to let me speak to the KhaKhan?" Tylan grinned. "As you wish, your Majesty."
"Now this is the life. Soft silk pillows, all the food you can eat, hot and cold running pools." Brythe stretched indulgently across the floor and grinned. "Just call me when it's time to leave." Hali laughed from his seat and smiled at the dragon. "As I said before, the party animal at rest. You always did have a hedonistic streak in you." "Hedonist? You should see him trying to talk the village maids into giving him a bath." Tylan grinned, and tossed a cherry pit at Brythe. "But it'll be good to relax, and not have to worry about spending any silver." Hali chuckled. "His Majesty was very gracious to you both for your help," he said. "And your solution to the problem of Jalina and Zaur was, shall I say, inspired?" "I'm sure inspired isn't quite the word I'd use," Tylan admitted. "But it'll keep them both out of trouble for a while. For the most part." Brythe chuckled. "I'll say. Since they both wanted to finish their schooling, I thought the arrangement was fitting. Human by day, so that they can attend class, but at night they will be stallion and mare, placed in the royal stable for a year and a day. Not exactly a holiday for them, but..." "But," Tylan finished, "they'll both learn a little humility as well as testing their love. Given their willingness to undergo the spell, I'd say they will be more than able to take whatever happens." Hali nodded slowly, and stood up. "Well and good, as is fitting. And I must take my leave now, so I shall leave you two be." He bowed low, and Tylan escorted his mentor to the door. "Enjoy yourself," he said as a parting word, and left. Brythe rumbled softly to himself. "Mmmm, now all that's missing here are the serving ladies," he said. Tylan chuckled softly, and clapped his hands twice. "You want to be served?" he said, a rather sly smile on his lips. "Well, you're about to be served." From a different entrance a pair of ladies came into the room. Brythe's eyes widened as he stared at them, his jaw dropping down a bit in surprise. Serpentine tails coiled around, rising up to sleek hips and human chests, dark hair cascading behind them. They both smiled and bowed low, moving with grace. "I am Celi, and my sister is Nari," the almond-eyed one on the left said, her voice soft. "We are here to fulfill your wishes, honorable dragon." Brythe ignored the laughter coming from Tylan, and stood up. Transforming into his more serpentine form, he offered his arms to the two nagas. "Sweet serpents, let us discuss this in private, shall we?"
Roamin' Holiday copyright 1999 by Tal Greywolf.
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