|The Transformation Story Archive||With Fur and Claws...|
The night was calm. The sounds of insects and forest creatures filled the air with their songs. The leaves in the trees fluttered in the light, cool breeze. The moon in its full brightness lit up the canyon. The dark figure stepped into the moonlight from the forest to the edge of the cliff. The long robe that hung from his shoulders rippled in the wind. He raised his arms and shouted a stream of liquid syllables from an ancient language.
The song of the night stopped and was replaced by thunder. Although it wasn't thunder from the sky. It was thunder from the ground. The lush floor of the canyon rumbled. The dirt flowed into clumps. Each clump was slightly larger than a human. And that is what they started to resemble. The lumps of soil were molded by invisible hands into the form of a large human.
The dark figure looked down upon his creations as they moved toward the city surrounding the castle. A twisted grin spread across his face.
Peten awoke to a bright sunny morning. He had many chores to do before breakfast. His uncle expected him to feed the horses and cows before he fed himself. Peten didn't mind. He was used to it by now. It had been four years since his parents died, and Uncle Jarmin gained custody of him.
Peten got dressed and left out the back door to go to the stables. He liked feeding the horses and cows just as much as the cows and horses like him feeding them. He opened the door to the stables and all the animals eagerly poked their heads out of their stable to see Peten approach. They loved their morning feedings. Peten would always pat them and they enjoyed it.
"Peten! Peten, are you in stables?" called his uncle from the back door to the house. "Peten, Turlon is here."
"Turlon?" Peten asked no one in particular. "What is he doing here this early?" Turlon never comes over before breakfast unless there is something important. "I'll be done shortly," Peten yelled back. He finished feeding Arna. Her stall was the last one in the barn. She was a pretty horse. And smart too. For a horse.
As Peten was walking back to the house, Turlon was coming out the back door. "Peten! Did you hear?" Turlon asked running up to his friend.
"Last night. Lortanell was attacked. They say dirt men invaded the town," Turlon answered.
"Yeah. Supposedly an army of men made of dirt attacked. They killed almost everybody."
Peten didn't know what to think. Lortanell was the closest city to the small town he lived in. If only the new Norrom would appear. There hadn't been a Norrom as long as Peten could remember.
"Hey, Peten," Turlon said interrupting Peten's thoughts. "Have you played the new Wizard Wars game yet?"
"No. Is it good?" Peten hadn't had a chance to go to the game hall. It just opened up a few months ago. This new invention of video games was becoming really popular. There were only a few games, but they seem to be very addicting.
"Oh, yeah. It is so much better than that Paddle Ball thing. Want to go play it?"
"Sure. But, I need to eat breakfast first," Peten said walking in the back door into the kitchen. He was getting hungry. His uncle had just finished making muffins and eggs. Peten usually helps, but he guessed that Uncle Jarmin got tired of waiting.
"Ah, Peten," his uncle said when Peten walked up to the table. "I see you are ready for breakfast. You can go play those games when you are finished."
"Thanks Uncle," Peten replied and took a bite of a muffin.
"I don't know why you kids want to play those games. They keep you from doing chores. I bet they are the spawn of Swurg himself," Jarmin said leaving the kitchen.
Turlon rolled his eyes as he sat down at the table.
"You want something to eat?" Peten asked.
"No, thanks. I just had some breakfast at home," Turlon answered.
Peten finished his meal, and they both walked to the game hall. The roads didn't have many horses and carts this time of day. So, they reached the game hall quicker than normal. The usual crowd was there. And as usual they were crowded around the new video game. Peten and Turlon sat down at one of the tables to wait the crowd out.
Turlon look toward the game to try to see through the crowd. "Hey, isn't that Jamk playing the game now?" he asked.
Peten turned to peer over the crowd. Sure enough there was Jamk playing the game. "It looks like we are going to be waiting for a while," Peten told Turlon. Jamk was the best video game player in Morselon.
"You want anything to drink?" Turlon asked standing up.
"Just some water. Thanks," Peten replied.
Turlon went to the drink counter. Peten looked back at the crowd around the game. All were eagerly waiting their turn while cheering Jamk on. The new game must be fantastic.
"The new game must be fantastic," Turlon said setting the glass of water in front of Peten. "Jamk seems to be really into it."
Peten took a sip of his water. Out of the corner of his eye he saw something through the window he was sitting next to. Something was happening in the road outside. A large group of people was gathering around three men standing in a cart in the middle of the road. Their horses looked like they had come a long way. "What's going on out there?" he asked.
"Don't know," Turlon replied.
The crowd around Jamk and the game noticed the crowd outside and joined them. Jamk continued to play his game. Peten and Turlon looked at Jamk and then the men on the cart outside. They both seemed to agree that the game can wait, and they joined the gathering out in the road.
"And it has guided us here," the bigger man on the cart said to the crowd. The people all started talking to each other in amazement.
Peten asked a woman next to him what was going on.
"They say the new Norrom is here," she replied.
"The Norrom!?" both Peten and Turlon said in unison.
"The Rigulor will point out the Norrom to us if he is here," the man said. He took some round disk from the other man on the cart and held it up over his head. A beam of light shot from the disk and focused on Turlon. "The Norrom is here!" the man yelled. "Long live the Norrom!"
The crowd all cheered and crowded around Turlon. "But I'm only 16," he protested. The people didn't care. They pushed and shoved to get closer to the Norrom. Peten was forced out of the crowd as they carried Turlon off down the street. Shouts of "The Norrom will save us from Swurg." and "Hail the Norrom." faded down the street as they paraded through the town.
Peten stood in the road near the game hall watching. He was in shock. All this time he had been hoping for a new Norrom to end Swurg's evil, and Turlon was the one.
"What's going on?" a voiced asked. Peten turned and saw Jamk run up to him from the game hall.
"So, you finally finished your game?" Peten asked jokingly.
"No, I just had to see what was happening," Jamk said.
"Well, Turlon supposedly is the new Norrom."
"What? Turlon? No," Jamk replied. "You have to be joking."
"No. These men came with some disk that shows who the Norrom is. It pointed out Turlon," Peten tried to convince him. It was difficult since he didn't believe it himself.
"Let's go find out why he is the Norrom," Jamk suggested.
"He's the Norrom because he was born the Norrom," Peten stated. "Besides, everybody is trying to talk to him. Let's wait until the excitement dies down."
"Ok," Jamk said reluctantly. Peten new it was because he missed the excitement the first time. "Hey, you want to play the new game?"
"Yeah. I'm sure it's free to use," Peten answered. They both went into the game hall and played the new video game.
That night the moon was still full. It light up the dark corners of the town. The street lights lit up the rest. Nobody was out tonight. Nobody except for Peten and Jamk. Peten wanted to see Turlon. He wanted to know what was going on. Jamk felt the same. Suddenly their friend was declared the Norrom, and they haven't seen him since.
The two approached Turlon's house. He was being kept there at his "castle" until better arrangements can be made. The three men that were in the cart were at the house. Their horses were tied up outside near their cart. It looked like one of the townsfolk was assigned to be guard. He was standing authoritatively at Turlon's door.
Peten walked up to the guard. "We have come to see Turlon. He is our friend," Peten told the guard.
"The Norrom is busy now," the guard said not looking at either of the boys.
"When can we see him?" asked Jamk.
"Try back tomorrow," the guard answered still not looking at either of them.
The door opened and Turlon's mother stepped out. "I'm going to the store to get some groceries," she told the guard.
The guard just nodded.
Turlon's mom saw Peten and Jamk standing there. "Ah. Hi, boys. Isn't this exciting?"
"Yes, Ma'am," they both said.
"I'll tell you that these people are eating all of our food. I'm already out, and I just went shopping yesterday," she said with a laugh. "Why don't you go in. Turlon has been asking to see you."
"The guard won't let us," Peten told her.
"I'll fix that," she said turning to the guard. "Guard, these boys are here to see Turlon by the Norrom's request."
"I haven't heard of this request," the guard said.
"Where have you been? The Norrom has been asking to see them all day," she said getting angry.
"Of course you didn't. Now, let these two boys in"
With that the guard opened the door. "There you go, boys," Turlon's mom said. "Turlon will be glad to see you."
"Thanks," Peten and Jamk said as they walked in the house. The guard closed the door behind them.
Inside was a group of people. The mayor of the town and other important people were among them. The rest Peten didn't recognize. The two boys ventured into the back rooms to find their friend.
"You there!" came a voice from in front of them. "What are you doing here?" One of the three men from the cart was walking toward them from Turlon's bedroom. He wasn't the one that was speaking to the crowd that morning. He was the one that handed the other man the disk.
"We are here to see Turlon," Peten said.
"You wouldn't happen to be Peten and Jamk, would you?" the man asked.
"That we are," Jamk replied.
"Well. The Norrom has been asking to see you all day. You are needed for his journey," the man said leading them to Turlon's room.
"Journey?" they both asked.
"It will be explained to you shortly," the man said.
The three entered Turlon's room. Turlon was sitting in a chair. The other two men were telling him things that the Norrom needed to know. Turlon seemed to be bored. He looked up and saw Peten and Jamk.
"Norrom, Peten and ....." the man begun.
"Peten! Jamk! I'm so glad to see you," Turlon interrupted. His bored face turned into one of excitement.
"So, how's it going, Norrom?" Peten asked.
"Don't you call me Norrom. I'll order your beheading," Turlon said grinning.
"Norrom, we need to inform you of your quest," the man that was speaking on the cart this morning said.
"But, I want to talk with my friends," Turlon said.
"You'll have plenty of time for that. They are going with you," the man said.
"What is this about a journey," Jamk asked.
"I'm sorry," the man said. "Let me start from the beginning. I am Jorman. This is Kenmor, and the man who lead you in is Isnal. We are the men who are to seek out the new Norrom. We had a vision a year ago to seek the Norrom. We found him today." He motioned to Turlon. "Now, we are his advisors."
"But, before he can become the Norrom, he must go on a quest for the Articulum," Kenmor said. "As his friends you must accompany him."
"Isn't it great?" Turlon said. "We are going on an adventure."
"What does this quest entail?" Jamk asked.
"Well," Jorman said pacing the room. "You see, the Articulum is the artifact that gives the human who is Norrom the power to be Norrom. It is in a different location each time a new Norrom is chosen. You are to seek it out."
"So, you don't know where it is?" Jamk asked.
"No," Jorman replied.
"Then how are we going to find it?" Jamk demanded.
"With this," Turlon held up a black cube. "It is going to guide us to the Articulum."
Peten didn't know how to take this. First his friend is the Norrom, and now they are going on a quest for some artifact. "When are we going to leave?" he asked.
"Tomorrow morning," Jorman answered. "The Norrom needs to be in his true form as soon as possible."
"Wait. Wait," Turlon interrupted. "What do you mean 'true form'?"
Jorman continued pacing. "The Norrom is born human. But once he finds the Articulum, his body will change to signify his destiny as Norrom."
"Change? Change into what?" Turlon asked. A hint of worry in his voice.
"We do not know," Isnal replied. "All the previous Norroms have been changed into part animal. Your predecessor was part bear. The one before was part elephant. Each one is different."
"Since the Norrom is the ruler of the world, the Norrom needs to be associated with the animals also," Kenmor continued.
"No one knows the pattern of animals the Norrom is transformed into," Jorman said. "As far as we know, it is completely random."
Peten saw Turlon's excitement turn to regret. The rest of the night, the three men informed the three boys on their quest. They didn't stay up too long, for they had to leave the next morning.
The next morning came and the three boys saddled up their horses. Jamk didn't have a horse so Peten let him ride Arna. Peten rode Metty. She was a good riding horse. Not as smart as Arna but better at long rides. Turlon was given the best horse in town, Dabb. Dabb was know throughout the region. He had won all horsing events in the past three years. Turlon didn't want to take the town's prize horse, but his protests went unnoticed.
Uncle Jarmin and Turlon's parents came to see them off. Jamk's father didn't come. He and Jamk never seem to get along.
"Take care of Metty and Arna," Uncle Jarmin told Peten.
"I will," Peten said with a grin.
Jorman, Kenmor, and Isnal were gathered around Turlon giving last minute instructions. Then Jorman walked away and addressed the group. "It is time to leave. Farewell, Norrom and good luck on your journey."
The three boys said their last farewells and rode out of town to the adventure that awaits them.
On the secluded mountain top, a castle stood. Lush ivy covered the well maintained stone walls. The garden was well groomed as well. Swurg like it that way. He loved his garden. He didn't like having a filthy castle like the other "bad guys" did. He just couldn't understand how they could live like that.
Swurg walked from the balcony overlooking the garden and entered his throne room. He was expecting a messenger to bring him the news anytime now. Hopefully it is good news. His attack the previous night on Lortanell proved worthless. The Norrom seekers had left the city before his dirt men arrived. That started the day off badly.
Swurg hated using the phone himself. He liked to speak to people face to face. So, he had his servants use the phone. For some of his servants, that is as close as they will get to talking to someone.
The door to the throne room started to open. Swurg casually strolled to his throne and sat down. A man's head poked around the corner. Swurg motioned him to enter. The man slowly entered and closed the door behind him.
"Master, I have important news," the servant said.
Swurg just nodded.
The servant swallowed. "We just received a call saying that the new Norrom has been discovered."
"What?!" Swurg shouted. He new he was to receive an important message, but he didn't know it would be this. "This is terrible. Are you sure?" The day was getting worse.
"Y-yes, sir. I heard it myself."
"Well, then maybe you need better ears," Swurg said with an twisted grin. Fright spread across the mans face. His ears turned gray and grew humongous. He man continued to stare at Swurg not noticing his new elephant ears. Swurg waited for the man to realize what had happened. But, the servant was completely oblivious of the change.
Swurg grew tired of this, so he pointed to his ears and then at the man. The man looked confused then turned to look. He still didn't notice since his ears moved with his head. Swurg jerked on his own ears. The man slowly reached up and felt of his. His eyes grew wide with horror as he felt the leathery ears.
"Th-thank you, Master. They will be a tremendous help," the servant sputtered out.
"You are dismissed," Swurg said making a shooing motion.
The man turned and walked out of the throne room still examining his new ears.
Swurg liked doing that to people. The only problem was that he could do that to people that were loyal to him. But that was a minor problem compared to what the man said. Somehow he was going to have to destroy the Norrom before the Norrom could claim his destiny. The Norrom must be on his way to receive the Articulum now.
"The Articulum," Swurg said out loud. The Articulum gives the Norrom the power to be the world's leader. It could be used only by the Norrom. But, somewhere Swurg had heard of another use for it. But what?
Swurg hurried out of the throne room and down the hall to the library. One of the old tomes had the information. He pulled the first volume of "Spells and Stuff" and looked up Articulum in the index. It would have been quicker if Swurg had put all the books in a computer, but he liked the old way better. It had more of a since of accomplishment. He thumbed to the page listed and found what he wanted.
The Articulum could be used with the following ritual to gain magic over all people. This is what Swurg was hoping for. If he could get the Articulum, he could be the ruler instead of the Norrom. But, that is going to be tricky. Only the Norrom can find the Articulum. He is just going to have to follow the Norrom, and let the Norrom lead him to the Articulum. Then he will destroy the Norrom and take the Articulum.
The day was turning out better.
The journey started out great. Turlon enjoyed traveling. He had always dreamed of going on an adventure. And now he is on one. That was be fine, but the goal of the adventure is what Turlon dreaded.
He didn't want to be Norrom. He didn't want to be ruler of the world. He didn't want to be part animal. He wanted to be Turlon the average. He wanted to be Turlon the normal. He wanted to be Turlon.
The other two boys thought Turlon being the Norrom was wonderful. Peten always wanted to know what it feels like knowing that you are the ruler of the world. Jamk just thought it was neat to know the Norrom.
Even though Turlon wouldn't like the outcome of the journey, he wanted to complete it. The sooner Swurg can be disposed of, the better. He just didn't like the idea that he had to do it.
"This horse is the worst!" Jamk interrupted Turlon's thoughts. Turlon didn't mind. He was starting to depress himself.
"Don't you complain about Arna," Peten jumped in. "She is a great horse."
"But, she doesn't ride well," Jamk fussed.
"To bad you couldn't have brought along a video game. You wouldn't even notice you were riding a horse," Peten snickered.
Jamk glared at Peten. The past few days were really getting to the three of them. One little remark will set them arguing for hours. Eventually it will blow over. At least Turlon hoped it does.
"But, she still doesn't ride well," Jamk added.
Suddenly, Jamk's horse bucked Jamk off the saddle. Jamk fell on his back and slowly sat up. Arna had turned around to face him. Turlon and Peten stopped their horses and turned to watch.
"Stupid horse," Jamk said.
"Stupid?" Arna said. All three boys' eyes grew with surprise. Arna walked toward Jamk. Jamk sat on the ground in terror. "I'm not a stupid horse!" she said standing over Jamk. But, she seemed to be shorter than before. Then the three noticed that Arna was shrinking. The saddle slipped off her and fell to the ground. Her equine features reformed into that of a human. A beautiful woman with black hair was in the place Arna was a few moments ago. Clothes magically appeared on her body. She still stood over the shocked Jamk.
Jamk looked up at the woman. He started to say something, but only a horse's whinney emerged from his mouth. His face pushed forward into that of a horse's face. His hands and feet became hooves. His clothes ripped as his body expanded to the size of a large stallion. Still laying on the ground Jamk looked at his new body. His horse's eyes were so wide the white was showing.
"Now, I will see how good of a riding horse you are," the woman said.
Jamk struggled to get up on all fours. He finally made it, and galloped over to where Turlon and Peten were. Turlon was terrified. He had just seen his friend get turned into a horse by a horse that turned into a woman.
"Don't worry, Turlon and Peten. I am just going to change Jamk," the woman said. "His complaining got the best of me." She let out a horsy laugh. The two boys didn't say anything. Their eyes were glued to her.
"I said, 'Don't Worry'," she repeated. "I am not going to change you into horses." The boys stayed silent. "It's still me. I am Arna. I'm just a human now."
"Ch-change him back," Peten sputtered.
"I can't. It's the rules of the spell. Either I'm a horse or Jamk is. And I think you would prefer me being human. I am much more experienced than your friend. I've been on so many adventures that I've lost count."
"But, Jamk doesn't want to be a horse," Turlon said. He finally got up the nerve to say something.
"How do you know?" Arna asked. They looked at Jamk. He shook his head. "Oh, give it a try. I've been a horse for years. It's pretty fun." The two boys looked at their horse friend and back at Arna. "Oh. all right. I'll at least give him his voice back."
Jamk tried to talk resulting only in horse sounds. Then the human voice came out. ".... be a horse. Good, I can talk now." His voice didn't sound anything like he use to. It sounded like a horse if a horse could talk. "Change me back!"
"I told you I can't," Arna said.
"You said either I'm a horse or you are. So, just change into a horse and change me back."
"That's not the only rules of the spell. I can't change back into a horse until a week from now."
"What!?" the boys and Jamk shouted.
"I can't cast the transformation spell until a week has passed. You are just going to have to get use to being a horse," she said.
"But, I don't want to be a horse," Jamk protested.
"Quit your whining," Arna said picking up the saddle. After a few attempts, she managed to let Jamk put it on his back. She then mounted. "Ok. Let's get on with the journey."
Peten and Turlon didn't move. Arna waited and then instructed Jamk to start walking. Turlon followed and Peten went next. Turlon was surprised that Jamk had taken to walking on four legs quite easily. Now, he just needed to get used to the fact that Jamk was now a horse.
The small group traveled a long distance since they left a week ago. Peten wished the quest was over with. He liked the idea of going on an adventure, but getting there was long and boring. Nothing has happened yet. Except the fact that Jamk was now a horse and Arna was now a woman. A very beautiful woman at that. It's hard to believe that she used to be a horse in his stable back home. But, it was equally hard to believe that the black horse she was riding used to be his human friend.
Jamk seemed to have adjusted well to his new form in the past two days. The other two horses, Metty and Dabb, had befriended him. Although Dabb was a little jealous now that he wasn't the only male horse in the group. This made Turlon's ride difficult.
Turlon had not spoken about his horse. He must be afraid to get changed into one like Jamk. He would get changed into half animal at the end of their journey. Peten knew that Turlon was not looking forward to that. Who would for that matter? Jamk, maybe. He would probably do anything to get his fingers back.
"We are about to enter the Forest of Trees," Arna said bringing Jamk to a halt.
Peten could see the forest in the distance. They had been in rolling hills for the past three days. "It would be a nice change of scenery," he said.
"No," Arna shouted. "The Forest of Trees is dangerous. Many predatory creatures live there."
"Then why don't we go around?" asked Turlon.
"Because, it would take days to go around the forest."
"thlo. i phuld rabher noght geth eathen," Jamk tried to say. He had a hard time talking as a horse. The bit in his mouth didn't make it easier.
"We won't get eaten," Arna said. "I'm an experience adventurer, remember?"
The other three rolled their eyes.
"We are going through the Forest of Trees and you are going to like it," Arna ordered. "Now, let's get going." She kicked Jamk on the sides and he reluctantly headed toward the forest.
Turlon and Peten shrugged at each other and followed.
The sun had set. The forest was dark. Jamk knew that the rest of the group couldn't see as well as he. That's why they stopped and made camp. Jamk was relieved when they stopped. He was getting tired. Although he hadn't walked to fast, the forest terrain tired him out. During the past two days, he had grown accustomed to his new body, but he wanted to be a human again. As the three humans slept, Jamk stood with the other two horses.
Dabb and Metty were good horses. One thing that Jamk didn't know, and he swore not to tell anyone, was that horses had their own language. Metty and Dabb had told him many pointers to getting around. That's why he picked up on walking on four legs rather quickly. Jamk was sure Arna knew about the language, since Peten's uncle had her as long as he could remember. She was keeping their secret, so he could too. She didn't even let on that Jamk could talk to the other horses. Even if she hadn't given him the ability to speak so the humans could understand, Jamk though he would be just as happy talking to the two horses. Now, he has all the other five to talk to. That's more than anyone else can say.
He heard a rustle. His ears perked up by themselves. [What was that?] he asked Metty who's ears had perked up also. Dabb had just snapped out of his sleep.
[I'm not sure. I think it is Gorrooks,] Metty replied.
[Gorrooks?] Jamk didn't like the sound of that. He hadn't heard of Gorrooks before.
[Oh, don't let any Gorrooks bother you, Jamk. Why, I can handle any Gorrooks that come this way,] Dabb boasted.
[Gorrooks are dangerous. They surround their prey and make awful noises to confuse their prey. Then they attack,] Metty said.
[Then we should warn the humans,] Jamk said trotting over to where his friends slept. He stopped over Peten. "Peten! Wake up."
Peten's eyes shot open. "What? What is it, Jamk?"
"Gorrooks!" Jamk shouted.
"Gorrooks!" Arna yelled as she hopped to her feet. She was very nimble. "Get the other horses, we must keep each other awake and not pay any attention to the Gorrooks."
Peten ran to the other horses and brought them to where the others were. Turlon was awake now. He had grabbed for his portable light from his bag.
"No! No light!" Arna yelled. "That will make them more viscous. If we don't fall under their confusion, then we will be fine."
"What do you mean their confusion?" Peten asked.
Just then the most obnoxious noise drifted from all around them. It sounded like chattering, but like sandpaper and metal. It was bad for the humans, but for the horses it was worse. Their sensitive ears picked up every detail of the offal sound. Peten and Turlon cupped their hands over their ears. Jamk wished he was human again with human hearing. Or at least be able to put his hand over his ears.
The noise seemed to pick at his brain. It made him want to run. He had to flee this place.
[No! Don't run,] Metty shouted over the horrible racket. [That is what they want you to do.]
[I'm trying not to,] Jamk yelled back. He concentrated on other sounds. He imagined the sound of a running stream. The sound of the breeze blowing through trees. The sounds of his favorite video game. Any sound he could think of. But the Gorrooks' chattering always found a place to sneak in.
"How long are they going to keep this up?" Peten asked.
"Until we surrender, or morning comes," Arna replied.
Morning! That's a long way away. How could they hold out for that long? Jamk hated this. He hated that his friends could cover their ears. He couldn't. He hated that his hearing was more sensitive. He hated that he was a horse. He was determined not to die as a horse. He was going to fight these Gorrooks. They were not going to eat him or his friends. Arna they could have. No. She was his ticket to being human again. If only he hadn't complained about her. He would have hands to cover his less sensitive ears.
The Gorrooks' noise got louder when they realized their prey was not giving in easily. Jamk wanted to run. He had to run. It was his only hope. He couldn't stand the racket any longer. He was swift now. His equine body could easily out run the Gorrooks. Or could he. He didn't know what a Gorrook was, except that they made the worst noise. But, maybe, just maybe, he can make it. It would be better than standing here and listening to their chatter.
Just as Jamk was about to gallop away, the noise changed. Or, at least part of it did. Some of the chattering turned to screams. Screams of pain and fright. It came from the north. The Gorrooks continued their noise, but Jamk could tell that the north was silent. No Gorrooks were making noises from there.
"I don't like the sound of that," Arna said. "That is not supposed to happen."
"What?" Turlon and Peten asked in unison.
"Gorrooks usually don't stop. Either they all stop or they all continue. Something happened to the ones in the north."
Jamk could hear something else now. Something coming toward them from the north. Something huge. Whatever it was it must be the thing that scared, or killed, the Gorrooks in that direction.
The sound of crashing branches drew closer. "What is that!?" Jamk yelled over the remaining Gorrooks. He looked to Arna for her reaction.
"I don't know," Arna shouted back.
Jamk turned back to the approaching sound. Suddenly the head of a dragon appeared followed by the rest of the dragon. The green scales rubbing against the trees as it ran through the forest. Branches and even some trees were broken by the huge creature. It was in a big hurry.
The dragon looked at the group with fear in its eyes. Jamk had never seen a real dragon before, but he knew noticeable fear was rare. "He's got the sword!" the dragon yelled at the humans. The closer he came Jamk noticed that his wings were badly wounded.
The dragon approached them and collapsed a few yards from Jamk. "Help!" was the last word to come out of the dragon's mouth. His eyes closed. Everyone stood around looking at each other and back to the dragon confused.
Then the dragon suddenly vanished into a cloud of smoke. The smoke rose above the ground a few feet and then quickly rushed into the forest in the same direction the dragon came from.
"What was that about?" Turlon asked no one in particular. The Gorrooks had stopped their chattering. The whole dragon incident must have frightened them off.
Jamk could hear another sound coming from the direction the dragon came from. It sounded like a horse. He looked in that direction waiting to see what was going to happen next.
Through the trees galloped a white horse. A knight in armor was on her back. He was carrying a portable light to search the surrounding woods. The knight rode up to Arna and brought the horse to a halt.
"Miss, have you seen a dragon come this way?" the knight said.
"Yes, I have," Arna replied. "It disappeared a few moments ago."
"Disappeared? You must be seeing things," the knight said.
"I know what I saw," Arna said glancing down to the hilt around the knights waist. "What is that sword? Is it the Dragon Sword?"
"It is," the knight said proudly. "I was given it by King Ralph."
"How many dragons have you slain with it?"
"One if you count this one. But, I'm not counting it until I see the body."
Arna shook her head. "You won't see the body. It vanished."
The knight looked to Peten. "It did vanish," Peten said.
"You expect me, Rarguf the Dragon Slayer, to believe that the dragon just vanished in a puff of smoke?"
"That's right," Arna cut in. She was still eyeing the sword. "Do you know of the legend of the Dragon Sword?"
"Only that it kills dragons," Rarguf replied.
"If I were you, Rarguf, I would remove my armor," Arna stated taking her eyes away from the sword to look at the man's face.
"Surly you must be joking."
"I'm not joking. And, the name's Arna, not Shirly."
"Why should I take....." the knight started. He stopped as he doubled over in pain. "Help me take the armor off!" Arna helped the man remove an arm piece. Jamk didn't know if it was the lighting, or his new horse vision, but the man's arm looked covered in green scales. Arna motioned for Peten and Turlon to help. Rarguf seemed to be getting too big for his armor. The exposed arms seemed to bulge painfully where they protruded from the body piece. That was the next part removed.
As the body piece was removed, the weight of the man seemed to explode. Rarguf removed his helmet to reveal a non-human face. His body continued to expand as Arna and Turlon helped remove the leg pieces. Two wings unfolded from the man's back. His fingers and feet became clawed. His neck elongated. Jamk just stood and watched as the knight that just killed a dragon was changing into a dragon.
After about 20 minutes, Rarguf seemed to be complete. He looked like the same dragon that tore through the woods. He looked himself over. "What's happened to me?" he bellowed.
"You used the Dragon Sword to kill a dragon," Arna explained. "The Dragon Sword was not made to kill dragons."
"But, I just made a little cut." The new dragon sounded to be on the verge of crying.
"Exactly, when a dragon is cut with the dragon sword, it dies. But, the human wielding the sword becomes a dragon," Arna explained.
"This is all a dream! This can't be happening!" Rarguf screamed. "I'm a DRAGON! A filthy stinky DRAGON!"
"Oh, dragons aren't that bad," Arna tried to comfort him.
"I don't want to be a dragon!"
"HEY!" Jamk yelled. He was getting tired of this guy complaining. "You think you have it rough. Look at me. I'm a HORSE! At least you still have hands/claws."
Rarguf sat back on his hind legs and looked at Jamk. "A talking horse. I had never heard of a talking horse." The dragon let out a snort laugh. Smoke streamed from his nostrils.
"I'm not a talking horse. I'm a human that was turned into a horse. I'm learning to live with it. You can too."
The dragon laughed. Jamk was furiated. This guy would not believe that he was a human.
Rarguf tried to stop laughing. "I'm not laughing at you, horse. I'm laughing at me. I mean. Look at me. I'm complaining that I am now fifty feet long, able to fly, and breath fire. I guess I got a pretty good deal."
"So, what are you doing out here in the Forest of Trees?" Rarguf asked the humans when he got his laughing under control.
"We are searching for the Articulum," Turlon replied. Arna shot him a glance.
"The Articulum? Don't tell me the horse is the Norrom," the dragon laughed again.
"No, he is," Arna said pointing to Turlon.
Rarguf stood up and bowed as best as he could. "Norrom, I ask your permission to join you on your quest."
"Granted," Turlon replied. He sure was getting into this Norrom role.
"I am honored," Rarguf said settling down onto all fours. "But, I suggest that we first get some sleep."
"I agree," Arna stated. "We have a long trip a head of us."
The three humans lay down on their blankets. The dragon tried to find a comfortable position to sleep. Jamk knew how hard it is the first time in a new body. The new horse, Vulla, joined the other horses at their area at the side of the camp. As he drifted off to sleep Jamk's thoughts drifted to the most attractive creature he had seen, Vulla.
The next day, the small band continued their journey through the Forest of Trees. Turlon was not enjoying the trip at all. First, his friend gets turned into a horse, while his horse changed into a "woman who knows everything." Then a knight becomes a dragon because of a sword. Turlon had never seen that much magic in his whole life. He felt sorry for the transformees.
He would soon be in their situation, though. The little black box he carried in his pouch was guiding him to his new life. His new body. He wished he would be as happy as Jamk seemed. The whole day, Jamk didn't say one thing against being a horse. Turlon wondered what changed his attitude.
A large shadow blocked what little light found its way through the trees. Turlon looked up and saw the shape of the dragon. "You are almost out of the forest," yelled the dragon. Rarguf was flying above the trees to scout ahead, but he is probably doing it to test out his new wings.
"Thanks, Rarguf!" Arna yelled back.
"I can't wait to get out of this forest," Peten said riding Metty up to get even with Turlon. "I don't think I could take another night of those Gorrooks."
"Me neither," Turlon replied. "And it looks like we will get out before nightfall."
"We are not out yet," Arna said as she trotted Jamk up to the two boys. Vulla who was tied to Jamk followed. "Not all dangers come out only at night."
"What do you mean?" Peten asked.
"There is still danger lurking around. We are not safe until we get out of the forest," she explained. She moved ahead of the two. Turlon and Peten just stared at her.
"Well, I feel better," Peten broke the silence.
"It's just ahead!" Rarguf updated them on their location. "Not too much farther."
"Let's get out now!" Turlon said. He couldn't take the forest any longer. Sure it was pretty. But, who has time to look at the scenery when something might jump out and eat you? He swatted Dabb on the side. Dabb took the hint and galloped as fast has he could.
"Turlon! Wait!" Arna shouted.
He didn't listen. Turlon steered Dabb through the trees and bushes. Many branches reached out to knock him off. He avoided everyone of them. He had to get out of the Forest of Trees. Dabb handled the obstacles well. He earned the title of "Best Horse in the region."
Turlon saw sky. Not the sky above him, but sky in front of him. Through the trees he saw the sky. He was there. He was at the edge of the forest. Dabb made a fantastic leap through the last wall of bushes and landed on the grassy plain. Turlon had to stop his horse, or he would have kept running. He could tell that Dabb was eager to get as far away from the forest has he was. But, he had to wait for the others.
Turlon dismounted Dabb and sat on the soft grass. He looked up at the sky unbroken by tree limbs. "I hope they hurry up." A large object landed behind him with a loud crash. Turlon sprang to his feet and whirled around. Dabb was prepared to fight, also.
A huge mass of green scales wobbled to its feet. "I've got the flying part down, but not the landing," Rarguf said. Turlon relaxed and tried to calm Dabb. "Turlon, why did you run off? You would be safe with Arna and Peten."
"I just couldn't take that forest anymore," Turlon said. "I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible."
"I understand, but you shouldn't have deserted your friends. They...." Rarguf trailed off. He stopped looking directly at Turlon but beyond him. Turlon spun around. And he saw them. Things that looked like men were coming out of the ground. "Dirt men!" Rarguf yelled.
The dirt men were visible in every direction. The fully formed ones were mindlessly approaching. Rarguf blasted a huge flame to the closer ones. The charred dirt continued to draw near.
Turlon pulled the sword his father gave him from Dabb's saddle bag. It was an old sword, but it was better than nothing. The larger-than-human dirt men were upon them. Turlon swung at the lifeless beings. His sword cut one's arm off. The disconnected dirt fell to the ground, only to be replaced by a new arm.
Dabb was holding his own by kicking. Knowing his flames were useless, Rarguf was slashing with his claws and his huge tail. Turlon continued to swing at the dirt men cutting off various limbs. The dirt men would slow a little to regenerate a new appendage. One dirt man tried to grab Turlon from behind. He spun around sword extended. The attacker was sliced in half at the torso. Both halves fell to the ground and became loose dirt.
"They can be killed!" shouted Turlon over the noise of battle. He sliced through another the same way. It lost its form also. "Slice them in half!"
"Roger!" Rarguf yelled back.
Turlon and Rarguf sliced and hacked all that came near in half. The more dirt men that fell, the more that joined the battle. Turlon was rapidly losing strength. Then he heard a sound. It was like chanting. It drifted above the rumble of the dirt men's attack. The dirt men froze in their tracks and merged back into the ground. Turlon, Rarguf, and Dabb looked around confused.
Turlon looked toward the forest and saw Arna. She was standing with her arms stretched out above her. Peten and the three horses emerged from the forest as Arna lowered her hands.
"You shouldn't have run off, Norrom," she said as she walked over to Turlon. He didn't like the inflection she gave his title.
"I wanted to get out of the forest," he said.
"That is no excuse." Arna turned to face the others. "We must ride." She mounted Jamk. Vulla was still tied to him. "Swurg may not stop at mere dirt men."
"Do you think Swurg did this?" Peten asked.
"Who else?" replied Arna.
Peten climbed on Metty as Rarguf took to the air. Turlon reluctantly pulled himself onto Dabb's back. He didn't feel like riding at the moment, but it would take him farther from the forest. The small group rode to the rest of their journey.
Swurg sat in his throne contemplating his plan to take the Articulum from the Norrom. All he can really do now is to wait until the Norrom has lead him to the location of the Articulum and then ambush his group. It sounded easy, but so does most of his plans that fail.
There was a knock at the door. "You may enter," called Swurg.
One of his servants poked his head through the opening of the door. Swurg remember him from a few days ago. He was the one that announced that the Norrom had been found. It was rather easy since the man had huge elephant ears.
"Master, I have bad news," the servant said.
"Not again," Swurg muttered under his breath. "What is it?"
"The Norrom's party has been attacked."
"What!?" Swurg leaped to his feet. "By whom?"
"Our spy reported that dirt men were sent by someone. We have not discovered who," the servant replied.
"Well, find out!" yelled Swurg. He sat back down in his throne. The servant stood in place. "Now! Find out now!"
"Yes, Master," the servant said. He turned toward the door and walked out. Swurg noticed the new elephant tail poking out of the servant's pants.
"He's going to have a surprise later today," Swurg thought to himself. He leaned back comfortably in his throne. "Now, who could be spoiling my plans?"
Riding Metty, Peten followed Arna. He was glad they were out of the forest, but out in the prairie the sun beat down on them. And the sun we setting. They were following a river though. Arna said it lead to the city of Yummmak. Peten couldn't wait. They haven't been in a city since they left home.
Turlon lingered behind. He appeared to be thinking. Peten didn't know if it was about his destiny or what happened earlier today. Turlon seemed to act more like the Norrom.
"This is the best camping spot," shouted Rarguf from above. The river made a slight turn and created a nice slope down to the water.
"We camp here," Arna announced after looking over the area.
"It's about time," Jamk responded as Arna dismounted him. "Would you mind untying Vulla? I want to get a drink from the river."
Arna untied the rope from Jamk's saddle. Jamk waited and Vulla trotted over to him. They both galloped down the slope to the river.
Peten dismounted Metty and pulled out supplies from the saddle bag. Turlon walked up behind him. "Peten, can I ask you something?"
"Sure," Peten said. "What is it?"
"I'm not sure I want to be the Norrom."
"Why? You would make a great leader. With some practice."
Turlon looked down. "It's not that. It's the fact that I am going to be something else. I'm going to be part animal. I don't even know what animal."
"I'm sure you could overcome that. Look at Jamk and Rarguf," Peten pointed to the dragon and horse at the river. "They have grown accustom to their new bodies."
"Yeah, but Jamk will change back in a few days. And Rarguf has that powerful dragon body. I might end up being half worm."
"Turlon, I doubt you will be...." Peten began.
"How do you know?" Turlon yelled. "How do you even know how Jamk and Rarguf feel? You haven't been transformed. You're the only one who won't be. Everybody else has. And I'm next."
Peten just stood there. Something must be really troubling Turlon. He never gets that angry.
"I'm sorry." Turlon broke the silence. "I didn't mean to yell at you. It's not your fault." He walked off.
Peten watched him remove his supplies from Dabb's bag. Peten hoped that Turlon would calm down. He had no idea of what to say. Turlon was right. He doesn't know how Rarguf and Jamk feel.
After settling for the night, the group fell asleep. Peten was awakened by horse hooves. He cracked his eyes open and saw two horses frolicking in the moonlight. The moon was full enough to see that it was Jamk and Vulla.
The next day started out the same. Everybody packed their supplies on their horses and they followed the river. Hopefully they would reach the city soon. Arna seemed to know a lot about the world, but Peten has had her as a horse for as long as he can remember. He didn't take her out of the pasture that often. And when he did, it was just around town. The world could have changed during that time.
"It's up ahead. Not too much farther!" Rarguf bellowed as he landed in front of them. He waited for them to catch up and then followed on all fours.
"Good. We must hurry to catch a ship," Arna replied. She sped Jamk up.
"I can't wait to get there," Turlon said.
Rarguf turn to look at him.
"Don't worry. I'm not going to run off this time," Turlon said.
As they rode on, Peten could see signs of civilization. Large buildings near the river appeared. "It must be a huge city to have that many turbines," he said.
"Huge city?" Rarguf said. "You haven't gotten out much. Yummmak isn't that large. Now, Wunkarn. That's a large city."
"Wunkarn? Where's that?" Peten asked.
"Why, it's my home," the dragon replied. "It is far north. The green summers and beautiful and the white winters are gorgeous. Mountains bigger than you can imagine. And plenty of potential adventures."
"Sounds wonderful," Peten said.
"It is. Too bad I can't go back."
"Why is that?"
Rarguf motioned at himself with his forearm. "I'm a dragon. Dragons are the target of all adventure-seeking men. Men like I used to be." He looked away. "But, now I am at the other end of the sword. And I like it." He jumped into the air, made a few loops, and landed on the other side of Peten.
"I'm glad you do. And I'm also glad you got your landings down." Peten said.
"I see the windmills!" shouted Turlon from behind them. Peten looked in the direction he was pointing. Sure enough the windmills were visible. The city couldn't be too much farther now.
As they rode into town, Peten and Turlon looked in amazement. Peten had never been in a city this big before. Crowds of people were everywhere. He could barely see the road under him. Rarguf, who flew around the city to avoid being seen, had said Yummmak wasn't very large. "If this isn't large, I have to see Wunkarn.," he said to himself.
"We must head to the docks," Arna shouted above the din. "We need to set sail as soon as possible."
"S-set sail?" Turlon sputtered.
"We have to cross the Zee Sea," Arna yelled back. "Come."
They wormed their way through the crowd. On one street corner, Peten saw an arcade. It was huge. Through the windows, he could see countless video games. "Jamk would love to be in there," he thought. He glanced down at Jamk. The horse looked at the arcade sadly before Arna steered him around a cart.
Finally they reached the docks on the other end of the city. Arna dismounted and marched over to a shack. She knocked and a man stepped out. The two of them began talking.
"Peten, I don't want to sail," Turlon said as he trotted Dabb over to him. "I hear the Zee Sea is the worst."
"I'm sure that's just exaggeration," Peten said. "Arna knows what she is doing."
"Peten! Turlon! Come over here!" Arna shouted at them. She was standing next to one of the medium sized boats.
The two dismounted their horses and walked over to Arna. "We have a boat." She bend down closer to them to whisper. "And since you are the Norrom, we have it for free."
A rugged man stepped off the boat and walked down the plank to the group. "These must be your friends," he said. "Welcome to my boat, the Mary Ann. Your horses can be put in the bottom."
"Thank you, sir," Peten replied.
"Call me Wilm. I hate being called 'sir.' We set sail in thirty minutes." He walked toward the shack.
"He seems nice," Turlon said and walked to the horses.
Everybody was aboard and ready to set sail. Peten, Turlon, and Arna were on the deck as Wilm prepared the ship. "Untie us, Ketta!" he shouted from the control deck.
A beautiful girl appeared from below deck. She was as rugged as Wilm, but beautifully rugged. She untied the boat from the dock. "Untied, Father!" she yelled back.
"Then off we go!" Wilm hollered. The boat lurched forward. The sails were full of wind. "If the wind stays this good, we will be at the other side in no time."
"Good," Peten heard Turlon mutter under his breath. Off in the distance, Peten could see the small shape of a dragon.
As the sun set, the wind died. The boat sat motionless in the waves. Peten was on the deck watching the sea under the moonlight. It was so beautiful.
"It's beautiful. Isn't it?" asked Ketta. She had walked up behind him without him knowing.
"Y-yes it is," Peten said.
"This is why I love working with my father." She sat down beside him.
"Is the Zee Sea as dangerous as the rumors?" he asked.
"Don't be silly. It's just a sea. If you don't know how to handle some of the weather, then it's dangerous. But don't worry. My father knows what he is doing. He grew up on a boat. I did too." She looked out across the water. "There isn't anything out here he hasn't seen before."
"I've never seen anything like that before in my life!" Wilm shouted from the cabin.
Peten and Ketta jumped to their feet and scanned the dark waters. "What is it, Father?" Ketta asked.
"It's a strange wave or something behind us," he yelled back.
Peten looked aft. Sure enough there was a strange looking wave. It was coming closer.
"You two get below with the others," Wilm ordered.
"But, Father...." Ketta protested.
"Get below! I can handle this," he shouted.
Peten and Ketta reluctantly ran below deck. Before closing the door, Peten saw that the wave appeared to have tentacles of water.
"What's going on?" Arna said seeing the look on Ketta's face.
"I don't know," Peten responded. "A strange wave with tentacles is approaching."
"A wave with tentacles!" Arna shouted. "Where's Wilm? He's not safe!"
"He's in the cabin," Ketta said.
"This is not good," Arna said pacing the room. "This is not good at all."
"Why what is that thing?" Ketta asked.
"It has no name. And it's effects are undetermined. But I know it's bad," Arna answered.
Ketta fell to the floor crying. Arna continued to pace. Peten sat down beside Ketta.
"I have to get him!" she yelled standing up. "I have to save him!" She bolted for the door.
Peten blocked her. "No! I'll do it." He opened the door and quickly shut it behind him. Nothing seemed different. Except that the wave was gone. He climbed the ladder to the cabin and froze. The wave was here. It had stopped along side the boat. A tentacle of water was extended into the cabin. "Wilm!" Peten shouted as he threw the door open.
The water tentacle had attached itself to Wilm's chest. Pulses flowed from the tentacle into Wilm. With each pulse Wilm's body expanded, getting rounder. He had already ripped his shirt. Peten grabbed Wilm's feet and pulled him. Wilm was heavy, and the tentacle was making him heavier with every pulse. When Peten pulled the captain out of the cabin, he slammed the door cutting the tentacle. Wilm was still unconscious. Peten continued to drag him toward the ladder.
Tentacles found where Peten and Wilm were. A tentacle connected with Wilm again. Peten picked up a board that was lying close by and sliced the water. The tentacle pulled back and charged again. Peten continued to drive it away. Another tentacle tried to attach itself to Peten, but Peten kept it at bay.
"Peten! Lower him down!" shouted a voice. Peten looked down the ladder. It was Turlon. Peten hacked at the tentacles and slowly lowered Wilm down the ladder. The man's arms and head had swollen also. Turlon received him at the bottom. Peten then climbed down the ladder himself.
The two boys helped Wilm to the door to go under the deck. The tentacles weren't bothering them since the wave was on the other side of the boat. They opened the door. Turlon pulled Wilm in as Peten closed the door.
"What's happened!" yelled Ketta. She ran to her father's side. "Father! Speak to me."
Wilm remained motionless. Arna kneeled beside Wilm. She felt of his swollen torso. "It might not be too late," she said. She pulled out a container from her pouch. She opened the container and sprinkled some power on Wilm. She then began to chant.
Ketta held her father's hand crying. "Stand back," Arna ordered Ketta and continued chanting. Ketta backed away slowly. Peten put his arm around her shoulder and they both sat against the other wall. They both watched in silence. Turlon was pacing the room and then walked to other room where the horses were.
Wilm's swelling was quickly going down. But as his body got smaller, it changed color. It turned shiny black with a hint of brown. He also seemed deformed. Arna lowered her head. "I'm sorry. It's the best I can do," she said never turning around to face Ketta.
Ketta jumped up and ran to her father's side. She looked in horror. Peten joined her. What he saw was awful. What he was looking at was not Wilm. It was a seal. The upper body of a seal attached to Wilm's legs.
The seal moved. It's dark, round eyes opened. It looked up at Ketta. It raised a flipper to her. It then saw its flipper and it eyes got wider. It sat up and examined its body. It stared at Arna and barked.
"I'm sorry, Wilm, but it's the best I could do," she said.
The seal/Wilm barked again.
"You are lucky to have only transformed this much. If Peten hadn't pulled you away from that wave tentacle, you would have been completely a seal."
"I said I was sorry. It's all I could do. There is a chance though. You can probably change back. Concentrate on your human body. Think human," Arna instructed.
Wilm closed his eyes and seemed to concentrate. Slowly, his seal body became more human. Ketta looked with glee. After a minute or two, Wilm was sitting there. He opened his eyes and looked at himself in surprise.
"What have you done to me?" he asked. "I'm a human."
"Wilm, you are a human," Arna said.
"I'm a seal. I was born a seal, and I am to stay a seal," he said.
Arna held his shoulders. "Listen. You are not a seal. You are Wilm."
"I am a seal!"
"OK, then concentrate on your seal body. You can change back," Arna told him.
The seal closed his human eyes and concentrated. Wilm's face, arms, and torso became that of a seal again. He opened his eyes, looked at himself, and barked.
"Yes. It did work," Arna replied. "But, your human body has a seal mind."
Wilm barked loudly.
"You can choose. Well, both of your minds have to choose. Do you want to be part seal with your own mind, or human with a seal's mind?"
Wilm looked down and raised a flipper to examine. He looked up at Ketta who was sitting there silently with tears in her eyes. He barked reluctantly.
"I thought you would choose that option. I'm sorry," Arna said. She looked to Ketta. "Your father has chosen to stay this way. I'll see what I can do about his speaking."
Tears swelled up in Ketta's eyes. She hugged her seal-like father. "I hoped YOU would stay."
Wilm barked and hugged his daughter with his flippers.
Turlon saw quietly in the room where the horses were. Peten and the others were taking care of Wilm. "If it weren't for me, Wilm would be ok now," Turlon said to himself.
"Don't say that," Jamk said trotting over to where Turlon sat. "You are the Norrom. You have to complete this quest."
Turlon looked up at the horse. "Have you looked at yourself lately, Jamk? You're a horse. You're a horse because of me!"
"No, I'm a horse because Arna turned me into one. You didn't have anything to do with it."
"Yes I did!" Turlon yelled. "You wouldn't have been complaining about riding her if we didn't go on this trip."
"But, it's not all bad. I rather like being a horse. You should try it someday," Jamk whinnied.
Turlon rolled his eyes. If only he knew what he would be changed into. Just then the door opened. Peten stepped in.
"Wilm is ok. He's half seal, but he is ok," Peten announced.
"That's great," Jamk said. "Not about the seal part, but that he is doing fine."
"See, yet someone else affected by being associated with me," Turlon said.
Peten sat down beside him. "Turlon, don't blame yourself. That wave didn't have anything to do with you."
Turlon shook his head and buried his face in his hands.
Swurg paced his throne room. He knew something was happening to the Norrom. Something was trying to stop him reaching his destination. And if the Norrom doesn't reach the Articulum, then Swurg couldn't take it from him. There was a knock at the door.
"Enter," Swurg commanded.
The same messenger walked in. His large elephant ears still looking ridiculous. "Master, the Norrom has been attacked again."
"What! Is he still alive?"
"Yes, Master. The Norrom was not affected by the attack," the servant said.
"Good. What attacked him?" Swurg asked.
"It was one of those wave tentacle things."
Those wave things were the work of only a few people. But, who would want to stop the Norrom? "Maybe it's.... No, it couldn't be," Swurg said to himself."
The servant stood near the door waiting for orders. His tail switching expectantly.
"You my go. I have some thinking to do," Swurg ordered.
"Yes, Master," the servant said leaving.
Swurg paced some more. He forgot to change the servant this time. But, these attacks on the Norrom must stop. If only he know if he was correct about who was behind them.
The next morning, fog had appeared. The sailboat drifted along the water, like a bowling ball wouldn't. Peten was helping Wilm with the boat. Wilm couldn't steer the boat very well with his flippers. Arna was in the cabin also to translate Wilm's barking. Peten wondered how she could understand what all that barking meant. He was giving lots of orders since none of them could really see through the thick fog.
"Arna, do you think Rarguf could fly above the fog?," Peten asked.
"I'm sure he could," Arna replied. "But, I'm not sure how helpful he would be. The fog might be too high to see anything."
"Rarguf is a friend of ours," Arna said. "He has been following us."
Wilm barked some more.
"He's been flying. He's a dragon," she said. "Peten, I'll take the wheel. You get Turlon and Ketta to help call Rarguf. I'm not sure how far away he is."
Peten dashed out the door and found Turlon and Ketta on the deck. "Hey, you two. Help me call Rarguf."
"Rarguf? Who's that?" Ketta asked.
"He's a dragon friend of ours," Peten said.
"You are a strange group," she said.
The three of them yelled for Rarguf. Eventually the dragon appeared. He was just far enough away to not disrupt the sails, but he was in talking distance. Which meant that he was barely visible.
"Isn't this fog dreadful?" the dragon said.
"Rarguf, how far does this fog go to up?" Peten asked.
"Not too far. I can fly above to navigate if that is what you are asking," Rarguf said.
"Would you do that?" Peten asked.
"Sure enough," the dragon said and flew higher. "Great timing, Peten. There's land in front of us right now."
"Land! This soon? It must be Room," Ketta said.
"Room?" Turlon asked.
"It's an island that everybody avoids. Nobody has returned from that island," she said.
"I'll go tell Wilm and Arna," Peten said heading for the main cabin.
"Peten," Rarguf yelled before Peten reached the door to the cabin, "I'll land on the beach and make noise. If you want to dock, just aim for the noise."
"Ok!" Peten yelled back and walked in the cabin. "We are heading for land. Ketta says it is the Island of Room."
Wilm barked angrily.
"We have to dock," Arna said. "We might find a way to cure you."
"Just follow Rarguf's noise," Peten said. "He landed on the beach to guide us." He leaned out one of the windows. In the distance he heard Rarguf's yells. He was simply yelling and banging rocks together. The fog must have been thick. Rarguf's voice sounded muffled.
Arna steered the boat carefully. Wilm was barking constantly. Peten couldn't tell if he was directing Arna or complaining. Then they ran aground.
"Go help Rarguf tie the boat to something," Arna told Peten. He ran out. Ketta and Turlon helped lower the plank to the ground. Peten went down the plank and caught the end of the rope Ketta threw at him. It was amazing that he caught the rope. The fog was so thick he couldn't see anything, and his legs were wobbly. He never realized how hard it was to get use to walking on solid land after being on a boat for a day. He stumbled up the beach searching for something secure to tie the rope.
"Rarguf, come help!" Peten yelled in the fog. "I need to find a place to tie the boat."
"I'll be there," Rarguf yelled back. "It's hard to see in this fog."
"No kidding," Peten said. He looked in the direction of Rarguf's voice. He finally could make out a figure coming toward him. But it wasn't a figure of a dragon. It was about human size, but not a human.
"Peten, there's a large rock over here," the figure said with Rarguf's voice.
"Who are you?" Peten asked.
"Oh, I'm Rarguf. I guess you wouldn't recognize me this way," the figure said.
"THIS way? What are you talking about?"
The figure, Rarguf, came closer. The closer he got the more Peten could tell he looked like a kangaroo. No not a kangaroo, but a human-kangaroo. "Rarguf? Is that really you?"
"Yes," the kangaroo man said. "Isn't it strange?"
"What happened to you?" Peten asked.
"I don't know," Rarguf said walking around Peten. "But, I see the same thing has happened to you." Rarguf held up a tail.
Peten felt it. It was his tail! He had a tail! He looked at himself the best he could in the fog and saw that he was kangarooish also. He felt of his head with his paw-like hands, and sure enough there were kangaroo features.
"Well, I'll tie the boat, while you admire yourself," Rarguf said taking the rope from Peten's new hands.
Peten felt of his long ears and face. He saw why it was hard walking, because his legs were build differently. But, the tail was the biggest change. It sent new sensations to his brain.
"The boat is tied!" Rarguf yelled.
"Ok, we're coming down," Arna yelled back. Peten hopped to the plank. It was easier to hop than walk. Arna was the first to come down. As soon as she set foot on the ground, she became a kangaroo person, too.
"Arna, what is going on?" Peten asked.
Arna looked at herself and then Peten and Rarguf walking up. "I do not know," she said. "Apparently we are kangaroos." She stepped back on the ramp. When she did, she was her human self again. She stepped off and became the kangaroo. "This must be Room. Turlon, bring everyone off the boat, even the horses.
Ketta was next. She was followed by Wilm. Both of them changed also. Wilm was looking at his hands/paws. "I have hands! And I can talk!" he yelled leaping for joy.
Turlon came down leading Metty. The other horses followed. Jamk was the last. One by one they became kangaroo people as their hooves stood on the ground. The horses looked at themselves in confusion.
"We have all been changed into kangaroo morphs," Arna said. "How is this possible?"
"I don't know, but I rather like it," Metty said. "I kind of like being able to talk to you humans."
"Well, I don't like it," Dabb said. "I was the perfect horse, and I want to stay the perfect horse."
Everybody rolled their eyes.
"Why did you bring us down here?" Dabb asked Arna. "Did you want us to all be kangaroo?"
"Yes," she responded.
"And if I may ask, why?" Dabb said.
"For your safety," she said.
As if on cue, about thirty kangaroo people leaped from the surrounding fog. Each of them had a spear pointed at the small group. One of the kangaroos lowered his spear and approached Arna.
"Ah, fellow roomen," he said. The others lower their spears. "Forgive us if we scared you, but we don't like intruders on our island."
"It's quite all right," Arna said. "We have journeyed across the sea."
"Across the sea? Not many return from there. Let us take you to our village," he said leading Arna inland. "We have much to talk about."
Arna followed the leader. Several of the other roomen hopped beside them. Peten and the others hopped in behind Arna. The rest of the roomen hopped behind them.
Turlon caught up to Peten. "I hope she knows what she is doing," he said.
"I hope so, too," Peten replied.
The fog lifted as the mob of roomen hopped farther inland. The terrain leveled off, becoming a vast flat area. Now, Jamk could actually see what everybody looked like. The native roomen all had green and brown uniforms, and they all had spears. The other roomen, Jamk's friends, were easy to spot. The former humans were wearing the same clothing they had as a human, but it had been altered to fit their kangarooish bodies. The former horses, however, had leather clothing. Their saddles were reshaped into clothes when they became these kangaroo people.
Jamk missed his old body. His horse body, that is. It had only been a week since he was turned into a horse, but he had grown fond of it. It was much better than his human body. Except the fact that he didn't have hands as a horse. He loved playing video games, but he couldn't as a horse. But, now, he had hands again. He could play games. That is if there were any video games on this island.
Arna was near the front of the mob talking with the leader. Supposedly they were heading for a village. Maybe they have an arcade.
"Jamk, I'm scared," Vulla said as she hopped up beside him. "This is so strange."
"I know," he said trying to hop in sync with Vulla. "I don't think I'll ever get used to hopping around all the time."
"It's not that we're kangaroos. It's.... I don't know. Something doesn't feel right." She scanned the horizon.
"Don't worry. I'm sure nothing will happen," he said putting his arm around her shoulders. That was something they couldn't do as horses. But, nuzzling was just a good.
They continued hopping. Eventually the leader stopped. "We are almost there. You can see the village on the horizon," he said and started hopping again.
Jamk looked and saw a small village spread out in the distance. But he didn't see any windmills or turbines. "No power. No video games," he mumbled to himself. "I get hands, and there aren't any games."
When the group arrived in the village, most of the roomen dispersed and went their own way. The leader and only a few remained with the ten new roomen. The village was more than a village. It looked like a city. It wasn't as big as Yummmak, but it was still big.
Jamk noticed that there were lights lining the streets. They weren't on at the moment since it was daytime, but they were definitely electric lights. "How could they have electric lights without windmills or turbines?" Jamk thought.
The leader lead them to a building. It looked to be the city hall or something. They all followed him in and hopped into a conference room with a large table. The leader sat down at the head of the table and motioned for the others to sit.
Jamk took a seat between Vulla and Peten. It felt strange for Jamk to sit again. The chairs were comfortable even with his thick tail.
"I welcome you to the village of Room on the island of Room. Your leader has told me that you have journeyed from across the sea," the leader said. Everyone glared at Arna. "I am Laufmer, the head of the guards and mayor of Room. The whole village will be thrilled that visitors from across the sea have arrived. We haven't had any visitors in one hundred years. None of us were even born then. So, how are you roomen in other parts of the world doing?"
"Roomen?" Peten asked.
Arna quickly cut him off. "We roomen are doing fine. Although we are on a very important journey. We need to complete it, or the world is doomed."
"Interesting," Laufmer said. "I wish you luck on your journey. But for now, please rest in our village."
"We will be honored," Arna said.
"I am pleased. Now, let us catch up on one hundred years," the leader said.
They talked for hours. Arna had reviewed most of the history that she knew of, but she kept the fact that the rest of the world wasn't populated with roomen secret. Jamk had learned that the village is supplied electricity by something called generators. He planned to see those generators sometime.
After the long visit, the leader opened the door and summoned two roomen. "If you don't mind, would you show our guests to the guest quarters?" he asked the two kangaroos.
"Follow us," one of the roomen said to the group. Everybody stood and followed the two roomen out of the room and out the building. They lead them to a hotel down the road. It was night now, and the street lights were on. Jamk couldn't wait to see those generators.
On the second floor of the hotel, the roomen stopped at one of the room doors. "The guest room are large enough for eight people. The ladies may use this one," the rooman said opening the door. "The men's room is the door down the hall. These are the only two rooms on this floor. I hope it meets your tastes."
"I'm sure they will," Arna said. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," the rooman said. The two escorts left.
"Now, everyone come in," Arna said as the two roomen walked down the stairs. It was a huge room. "Big enough for eight people" was an understatement. Arna closed the door after everyone was in. "I don't want any of you to say what you were. You are roomen now and have always been roomen. Do not let on that the people in the rest of the world are not roomen. Do you understand?"
Everyone nodded their heads.
"But, I don't like being a rooman," Dabb said. "These are weak bodies. I want to leave now."
"We will leave shortly," Arna said. "But, for now, you are a rooman, and you are going to act like one."
"I will only so Turlon can complete his quest," Dabb said.
"Very well. Now, we need to sail around the island. Wilm, how easy will that be?" Arna asked.
"It shouldn't be to difficult," Wilm said. "That is if the fog has lifted. Then there's the fact that I would be that seal creature again...."
"You'll manage. Turlon, how much farther do we have to go?" Arna said.
"I don't know. I just know it is west," Turlon answered.
Arna nodded. "Ok, do whatever you want tonight, but tomorrow we must prepare to leave."
The six men left the room and hopped down the hall to theirs. It was a huge room also. Not as big as the other room, but it was big enough for the six of them. They each tested out their beds. It was strange for Jamk. It had been a week since he could do what he used to as a human. But being mostly kangaroo put a twist on things.
"I think I'm going for a walk. Or is it hop?" Turlon said hopping to the door. "I want to see this city."
"I think I'll go, too," Dabb said. "I want to see how fit this body is."
"What do you mean by that?" Rarguf asked. "You better not go looking for a fight."
"Don't worry. I won't," Dabb said and hopped down the hall.
"I'll keep an eye on him," Turlon said and hopped after him.
"Well, I think I'm going to catch some Z's," Rarguf said. "Flying over the sea is tiring." He hit the pillow and was out like a light.
"I think that's a great idea," Wilm said getting comfortable in his bed.
"Well, Peten, what do you want to do?" Jamk asked.
"I don't know. I think I saw an arcade down the street," Peten replied.
Jamk's eyes lit up. "Arcade? Let's go." He quickly hopped out of the room. Peten followed.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they noticed something going on in the back room. They hopped over to see what. It was a party. Lots of roomen were dancing and eating snacks.
"It looks like they are having lots of fun," Peten said.
"Sure does," Jamk said.
"Want to join them?" Peten asked.
"I don't know about that," Jamk said. "We weren't invited."
"Oh, don't worry. We are guests of the village, remember? And as they always say, 'When in Room, do as the roomen do,'" Peten said.
"Who always says that?" Jamk asked.
"I'm sure someone does," Peten said and pushed Jamk into the room.
The next morning Turlon woke up before anyone else. That surprised him because he and Dabb were up very late the previous night. Room was an interesting place. They had developed things that people back home hadn't even dreamed of.
He enjoyed the self guided tour with Dabb though. Mostly because it gave them a chance to be friends. It's not very often when you and your horse are the same species.
"When you find the Articulum, how would you like to be part horse?" Dabb had asked him as they hopped down the street.
"I don't know," Turlon had answered. "I like being human. I don't want to be part anything."
"I can understand that," Dabb said. "I despise being this kangaroo thing. How can you stand to walk on two legs?"
"Not too loud," Turlon whispered. "This isn't anything like walking on human legs. Our feet aren't this big."
"Give me my hooves back, and I'll be happy," Dabb said.
There was a knock at the door which snapped Turlon back from his flashback. He hopped to it and cracked it open. Arna was standing there.
"Turlon? Wake everyone up. We need to prepare," she said.
"Ok," Turlon said closing the door. He hopped over to Peten. "Peten," he said shaking his friend. "Peten, wake up. Arna wants us up."
Peten slowly opened his eyes. "Turlon? You're a kangaroo?" He looked at his hands. "Oh yeah. We all are." Peten rolled to his feet. They both woke up the other four sleeping roomen.
As if on cue, Arna knocked on the door again. This time she didn't want for an answer. "Nice to see everyone up," she said hopping in the room. Another rooman was standing behind her in the hall. "Mulmer, here, has come to give us the tour of the generators that Jamk has been eager to see."
After everyone had gotten ready they all followed Mulmer to the generators. All that is except for Wilm and Rarguf. "We don't need to see those generators," Wilm said. "I would rather go see the town." The two of them hopped down the street.
"To each his own," Jamk said.
They arrived at the generator building just outside of town and were amazed. Jamk was so excited he was hopping all over the place. Turlon was astounded. They were generating electricity without water or wind.
"This is where it all happens," Mulmer said stopping in front of a large glass window. On the other side of the glass was a room full of machines turning. "We use a liquid called gas to power the engines through a process called internal combustion. It's too complicated to get into, but basically the gas fumes are ignited to turn the engines."
"Wow," Jamk said with his muzzle plastered to the glass.
"This is amazing," Metty said. "What else could you do with these engines?"
"Well, I don't know if I should tell you," Mulmer said, "but currently a cart that can move itself is being developed."
Dabb's ears perked up. "A cart that can move itself? What about the horses? What would the horses do?" he asked.
"Horses? What are those?" Mulmer asked.
"Why, horses are...." Dabb began before Arna elbowed him in the ribs.
"Horses are some creatures were we come from. They pull the carts for us," Arna said.
"Interesting," Mulmer said. "Let's go see the rest of the plant." He started hopping down the hall.
Peten hopped over to Jamk. "Jamk I'm sorry, but I think Rarguf and Wilm should see this. I'll go get them."
"Okay," Jamk said looking at the engines. "This is spectacular."
"I'll go, too," Turlon said. "Peten doesn't know the town as well as I do."
"Then let's get them before the tour is over," Peten said. The two of them hopped down the hall.
When they reached the front doors, they heard a voice. "Wait up," it said. Turlon looked back and saw Vulla hopping toward them. "I want to come, too," she said when she caught up with them.
"Okay," Peten said and opened the door for her.
The three hopped down the street toward town. Vulla seemed to want to say something, but she didn't.
"What do you want to talk about?" Turlon asked.
"You are very observant, Turlon," Vulla said. "You will make a great Norrom."
"Thanks," Turlon said rubbing the back of his head. "Now, what did you want to say?"
"Well, it's Jamk."
"What about him?" Peten asked.
"Well.... I was wondering. How good of a friend is he?" she asked.
"He's a great friend," the two boys said in unison.
"What type of girl does he like?" she asked.
"Boy, Vulla, you sure aren't a human," Turlon said.
"Why do you say that?" she asked.
"Most human girls wouldn't ask such questions to guys. I'm not sure why, but they don't," Turlon answered.
"Vulla, with what I see in Jamk, he loves you," Peten said.
"How do you know?" she asked.
"Well, he has been happy ever since he met you," Peten said.
"If I found a way, do you think he would mind if I became human?" she asked.
"Why would you want to do that?" Turlon asked.
"Because he is a human. I thought I should try to be the same species, and all that," she said.
"Are you sure? I mean the way Jamk has been acting, I don't think Jamk would want you to be a human. I don't think HE wants to be human," Turlon said. "I think he loves being a horse."
"Peten! Turlon!" a voice shouted. They had reached town and hadn't realized it. The three stopped and saw Wilm standing at the entrance to a building. It looked rather dark inside. They hopped over to Wilm.
"Hey, you three have to see this. They have pictures that move," he said. "Rarguf is inside watching one right now."
Mulmer lead the tour into a room that was used to demonstrate the engine. There was a small working model of the generators which Mulmer described how it works. Jamk could not believe all this stuff. Those gas powered generators were astounding. If they did get those "automatic" carts developed, he would have to get one. He would never have to use a horse. But, that wouldn't work. He was a horse. And so was Vulla. They wouldn't need a cart to begin with.
Suddenly the door burst open. An ugly twisted creature was standing in the door. It looked like bloated human with slimy gray skin. Its head vaguely resembled a human. It was twice as large relative to its body, and three horns jutting out from its forehead. It had four large tusks protruding out of its large mouth. Its beady black eyes stared at the group while its large nose sniffed of the air.
"They here!" it bellowed reveling sharp teeth. It charged in the room followed by twenty others just like it. All of the creatures carried huge clubs. Some of them had nets. Before any of the roomen could do anything, the creatures had knocked half of them out and stuffed the limp bodies in sacks.
Jamk hopped behind an overturned table with Metty and Ketta. He tried to break off a leg of the table to use as a weapon. He snapped one off and swung at one of the attackers. He hit the creature. The creature in return clubbed Jamk in the head. All went black.
After watching the pictures that moved, Turlon and the others decided to hop over to the generator building to catch up on the tour. The way Turlon, Peten, and Vulla described to generators to Wilm and Rarguf, the two older roomen were eager to see this new technology.
When they reached the plant, something didn't feel right to Turlon.
"Something doesn't feel right," Vulla said.
"You said it," Peten added.
The five roomen proceeded in the building with caution. Furniture in the lobby was overturned and nobody was around. "Hello!" Rarguf called out.
The humming of the generators was the only sound that answered him. They slowly hopped down the hall looking for anyone.
"Where is everybody?" Vulla asked.
As if to answer a moan came from behind a desk. Wilm hopped around cautiously to see who it was. He reached down to what was behind the desk. He helped a rooman up to a chair.
"What happened?" Wilm asked.
"B... B... Big beasts," the rooman stuttered.
"What?" Rarguf asked.
"Big beasts attacked. S... S... Stuffed them in sacks," the rooman said.
"Who?" Wilm asked.
"Everybody," the rooman answered. "Said something about sea."
"They're going across the sea?" Wilm asked.
The rooman nodded.
"Let's get you to a hospital," Wilm said picking up the rooman. He hopped out the door. "Then we will hunt down the big beasts."
Swurg knew something was wrong. The messenger was shaking in his boots. His elephant tail was switching nervously, and he kept fiddling with his large elephant ears.
"What news do you have now?" Swurg asked.
"They've been captured by trullums, Master," the messenger said.
"WHAT? TRULLUMS?" Swurg shouted. That proved his theory about who was attacking the Norrom.
"Yes, Master," the messenger replied.
"Prepare a band of twenty knights. We are going on a trip," Swurg ordered.
"Yes, Master," the man said backing out the door.
"Oh, and you are going, too. Someone needs to keep in contact with the spy," Swurg added.
"Yes, Master," the messenger said quickly leaving and closing the door.
The small army of Swurg's best knights was an impressive sight. And it didn't take too long either. That messenger did a fantastic job. Just one thing was missing. Swurg spotted the messenger talking with one of the knights. He strolled over to the man.
"Yes, Master?" the man asked as Swurg stopped near him.
"Where is my horse?" Swurg asked. "I need a ride."
The messenger looked frightened. "I was just going to report to you about that," he said. "Your horse is ill. He can go on a journey."
"WHAT?" Swurg yelled. "I have to have a horse. Do you expect your master to go on the journey on FOOT?"
"I thought not. Now, what could I do for a ride? A mere horse wouldn't be worthy of being my ride. No, I needs something grander." Swurg eyed the messenger. "Something like an elephant."
The messenger's eyes widened. "No, Master. Not th.....," the man began but it ended in a loud trumpet because his nose was now a trunk. His body swelled and reshaped itself into a large elephant. The elephant looked at himself shocked.
Swurg stroked the new elephant's trunk. "This wasn't a punishment," Swurg said. The elephant calmed down to listen to his master. "It was a gift. Instead of having that human body with your elephant ears and tail, I gave you the rest of the elephant. Don't you think it was a splendid gift?"
The elephant slowly nodded.
"Good. I'm sure you will never forget my generosity." Swurg turned away from the elephant and signaled one of the knights. "Prepare my elephant for the ride to Sorrora's castle."
The rooman that Wilm took to the hospital had recovered quickly. The doctors had stabilized him in a matter of minutes. Mostly he was in shock. Peten, Turlon, and Vulla were waiting in the lobby of the hospital. They had just come from talking with the injured rooman. He had described the attackers. Peten had never heard of creatures like that before. If only Arna were here. She might know.
Wilm and Rarguf had gone with the police to investigate the generator building. Why someone would attack the generator building and capture all the roomen there was beyond Peten. Maybe the roomen were doing something other than developing those "auto" carts.
"I sure hope nothing bad is happening to the others," Turlon said breaking the silence. "I just know they were looking for me."
"And why do you say that? Because you are the Norrom?" Peten asked. "Turlon, you have to stop blaming yourself. Those creatures might have just been attacking because it was the generator building."
"Peten, you know as well as I that everything that has happened to us is because of me. I'm the reason for this journey," Turlon said standing from his chair. He hopped outside. Vulla followed him.
Peten sat there. He didn't know what to say to Turlon. Just then Rarguf hopped in. "Peten, we think we know where they were taken."
"You do? Where?" Peten jumped up.
"Trullums. There were signs of trullums," Rarguf said.
"The rooman we brought here said they were attacked by huge gray things with horns and tusks," Peten said.
"Sounds like a trullum to me," Wilm said hopping in the door. "We best be getting off to rescue them."
"But where?" Peten asked.
"There's only one place trullums live," Rarguf stated. "That is Voginum. The land that Sorrora rules."
The five roomen headed off toward Wilm's boat after gathering supplies. Just before they left town, Laufmer stopped them with several of his guards.
"I must insist that you take some of my guards," the Room mayor said.
"If they are willing," Rarguf said. "We need all the help we can get."
"Only three are willing," Laufmer said. "I'm am sorry I could not get you more, but on this short notice and all."
"I understand," Rarguf said. "If they would follow us. We are in a hurry." He bounded off.
The others followed. The guards stayed put. Peten looked back at the roomen. "Come on now. We have to go," he said to the guards. Laufmer motioned for the guards to go and three of them hopped after the group.
Upon reaching the boat, Rarguf had stopped. He hopped over to Peten. "What about our real forms?" he whispered. "Arna didn't want these roomen to know."
"This is an emergency," Peten said. "We have to go." He hopped to the boarding plank. He looked back at the others. With a deep breath the hopped on the plank. A strange feeling rushed through him. He hopped farther up the plank and realized that hopping was awkward. He looked down at himself and saw that he DID change back to his human self.
There was a scream. "What are you?" yelled one of the rooman guards.
"Don't worry," Rarguf said. "We are not roomen or enemies. When we landed, the island changed us into roomen."
"We are the same people that need your help to rescue our friends and yours," Peten yelled from on deck.
"Okay. Fine. I'll go with you. But, only because fellow roomen were captured also," one guard said. The others replied similarly.
"Good. Now, let's be going then," Wilm said hopping on the plank. Peten saw his kangarooish body melt back into the strange creature Wilm had become. His legs were still human, but he had the upper body of a seal. This was going to be a hard voyage. The last time, Arna was here to translate Wilm's commands. Now, Peten didn't know how he was going to steer the sail boat.
Turlon was next to get his old human body back. He hurried aboard helping Wilm with the sails. Vulla followed. She hopped up and instantly fell to all fours. The horse carefully walked up the plank and went down in the horse room.
"You three go next," Rarguf said to the guards. "My form is too big to be on the boat, and I want to rest as long as I can. I see a lot of flying ahead of me."
The roomen looked confused and hopped aboard. They didn't change. Peten wondered if they were born roomen or that they live on the island so long that their true form was forgotten. The three helped raise the plank. Rarguf stayed on the bank and untied the boat from the rock.
The boat slowly backed away from the bank. Peten steered the boat out into the sea. Wilm was barking and gesturing with the flippers. Peten did the best he could with understanding the captain.
When the boat was out a good distance, Peten saw Rarguf wade out into the sea. When he must have gotten far away enough from the influence of the island, a huge dragon's body exploded from the rooman. The dragon took to the air and flew to the boat.
"I'll go keep a lookout for the trullums' boat," Rarguf shouted from above and few off to the west.
The journey across the sea and land passed faster than Jamk would have thought. Perhaps being knocked unconscious had something to do with it. Or it might have been the fact that he was tied up in a huge sack. He could hear the others around him. Their muffled noises suggested that their muzzles were tied shut like his own.
"We got them," said a gruff voice.
"Good," a female voice said. Her voice sang. "Throw them in the dungeon."
He was being dragged again. How far he couldn't tell. Eventually he was slung around. The sack was cut open. A huge gray hand reached in and yanked him out. It was one of those creatures that attacked them. The thing shoved Jamk against the wall. He landed beside other roomen. The creatures were standing behind bars. One closed the gate, and they walked away.
Jamk slowly sat up. He looked around him. The others were here too. Arna, Ketta, Dabb, and Metty. There were other roomen also. One looked like Mulmer. They were all looking around at their surroundings.
"We must be still on the island," Jamk said to Arna. "We are still roomen."
"No, we left the island," Arna said. "There was magic protecting the trullums from changing into roomen. The same magic must have protected us from returning to our true forms."
"You mean were stuck as kangaroos?" Dabb yelled. "Just great!"
"No, we are not stuck as kangaroos. There has to be a way to change us back," Arna said.
"But, you don't know how," Dabb said and started studying the walls.
"Trullums? What are trullums?" Metty asked.
"Those creatures that captured us are trullums," Arna said. "And as far as I know, only one place has trullums. And that is Sorrora's land."
"Voginum?" Ketta asked. Arna nodded. "I've heard about that place. Sorrora is an evil witch."
"'Wizard,' little kangaroo," said the singing voice that Jamk heard earlier. "I prefer to be called a 'wizard.' 'Witch' or 'sorceress' just doesn't do anything for me."
"Sorrora! Why are you doing this?" Arna yelled.
"That voice sounds familiar," Sorrora said pacing back and forth in front of the cell thinking. "I don't think I know any kangaroos though."
"'Roomen!'" Mulmer said. Peten recognized his voice. "We prefer to be called 'roomen.' 'Kangaroos' just doesn't do anything for us."
"Don't mock me, KANGAROO," Sorrora said. "Back to business. I know one of you is the Norrom. Now, which one of you is it?"
"What are you talking about? The Norrom? Here?" Arna said.
"That voice. Where have I heard it?" the wizard said. "Never mind. I want...."
"Mistress," one of the trullums bellowed from down the corridor. "Come quickly."
Sorrora glared at the trullum and then back at the roomen. "I'll be back. And when I return, I expect to learn who the Norrom is." She stormed down the corridor.
Peten was amazed that he could navigate the boat. Wilm's barking was kind of helpful, even though Peten had no idea what the sailor was trying to say. Rarguf had spotted the boat off on the distant shore. So, Peten just went where Rarguf said.
"I say, you are a mighty good sailor, Peten," Julmer, one of the roomen, said walking in the cabin. "But, if I might ask. What is that thing?" He pointed to the back of the boat.
Wilm looked at where the guard pointed and parked like crazy. Peten turned to look. It was another of those waves. The strange wave that transformed Wilm into his current state.
"Everybody below deck!" Peten yelled. Arna wasn't here to help them this time. So, the best thing to do was to not let the wave get them at all. The three rushed out of the cabin. Wilm and Peten hurriedly climbed down the ladder. Julmer just jumped. They grabbed Turlon and the other two roomen and ran to the door that led to the chambers below deck. Vulla was already there in her horse stall.
"You are afraid of that wave?" Julmer said as the wave drew closer. "It's just water."
The others were already below. Peten was at the door. "No. It's not just water. It's...."
But, his warning was too late. The wave had reached out a tentacle and grabbed the rooman. Julmer screamed as his body swelled with the pulses of the tentacle. This time, the tentacle lifted its victim in the air. Peten could only watch as the helpless rooman swelled. The brown fur of Julmer disappeared to reveal gray skin. The shinny gray ball that was once a kangaroo molded itself into a hammerhead shark. The shark dove in the water and swam away.
The wave reached a tentacle toward Peten. Peten slammed the door before the wave could get a hold of him and turned to the others. "Julmer didn't make it," he said. "He turned into a shark."
"A what? What is a shark?" Lewmer, one of the roomen, asked.
"Don't worry about it," Peten said. "The wave got Julmer. We can't leave this cabin until it leaves."
"And when will that be?" asked Mikmer, the other rooman.
"I don't know," Peten said.
"What are we going to do?" Ketta asked Arna.
"We must not tell them of the Norrom," Arna said.
Jamk figured that was what Arna was going to say. "I'm sure the others will come rescue us," he said.
"They better not," Arna said jumping to her feet and hopping over to Jamk. "They should be completing the quest. We are not important. The Norrom is."
Jamk met her gaze. "I don't think Turlon would let....."
"He better," Arna cut in. "We are the perfect distraction. Sorrora would not be looking for the Norrom when she thinks she has him here. We are not to inform her of that."
"But, you said you didn't know about the Norrom. Wouldn't she go looking for him again?" Metty asked.
"No," Arna said. "I know Sorrora. When she thinks she is right, she doesn't change her mind. She thinks we are lying when we say we don't know about the Norrom. Thus, we are feeding her false hope."
"I'm not sure it will work," Jamk said.
"Trust ....." Arna began but was cut off by the sound of footsteps down the hall.
Sorrora and one of the trullums walked up to the cell bars. "What were you just talking about?" she asked.
"We were just discussing the beautiful accommodations you gave us," Arna said.
"I know your voice from somewhere," the wizard said. "Anyway. I came down to see if you wanted to talk."
"We aren't going to talk to you, witch!" Dabb shouted hopping to his feet.
"My, my. You seem to have a little attitude, kangaroo," Sorrora said. "I think you know who the Norrom is. Don't you?"
Dabb glared at her. His kangaroo muzzle was in a snarl.
"Then, maybe not," Sorrora said. She flung her hand at Dabb. A small dart flew through the air and buried its point in Dabb's upper right arm. He screamed with pain.
"Little kangaroo, you shouldn't get an attitude with a wizard," Sorrora said smiling.
"I am not a kangaroo!" Dabb said grabbing the dart and pulled it out. "I am a...." He suddenly stopped. There was a loud whistling sound like air escaping from a balloon. Jamk stared in horror at Dabb when he realized where the air was coming from. Dabb was deflating. The rooman fell to the floor in a crumpled heap of empty skin never to be a horse again.
Ketta and Metty hid their heads in disgust. Arna turned her attention from the empty fur that was Dabb to the wizard. "Sorrora, you are...."
"What, kangaroo? I am what?" Sorrora interrupted. "You don't have the right to say anything, or this might happen to you. Or someone else. Now, are you going to tell me where the Norrom is?"
Arna didn't say anything. She just glared at Sorrora.
Sorrora ignored Arna and scanned the others. Jamk could feel the cold in her gaze as she passed over him. She stopped and looked at Mulmer. "You know, I don't think that the pile of skin should be in your cell. Do you?" she asked.
Mulmer slowly nodded.
"I thought not. Someone should take the skin to the taxidermist. I don't have a rooman in my collection. Why don't you do it?" she asked.
Mulmer mindlessly hopped over to what was left of Dabb and handed it to Sorrora through the bars. Everyone just watched helplessly.
"That's a good kangaroo," Sorrora said taking the skin and patting Mulmer on the head. "You are a good boy."
Mulmer closed his eyes to enjoy the patting.
"Why should a good boy like you be in a cell with the likes of them?" she said pointing to the other roomen. "You should be free. And since you minded so well, you should be my servant." Suddenly she grabbed the rooman and yanked him through the cell bars. Jamk would not have believed it if he didn't see it for himself. Those bars were so close that a snake would have a hard time going through them.
Sorrora continued petting Mulmer. "Now that you are out of that cell, you can be one of my servants."
When she said that Mulmer seemed to explode. Invisible hands were stretching and reshaping his rooman body into a large gray creature. The new trullum stood next to its master.
"Now, go take this to the taxidermist," she handed Dabb's skin to the trullum.
"Yes, Mistress," the trullum said and walked down the corridor.
"I have some business to take care of," Sorrora said to her prisoners. "I hope you will consider telling me about the Norrom." With that she glided down the hall.
Turlon sat near Vulla away from the others. Another person was killed because of him. Julmer wasn't really killed. He was turned into a shark, but the rooman that Julmer was is now completely gone. Turlon hated this journey. He hated what he was. He didn't ask to be the Norrom.
Vulla nuzzled Turlon. "I know. I have to complete the quest," he said to the horse. "But, does all this have to happen?"
Suddenly the boat crashed to a halt. Everybody but Vulla ran to the door. Peten slowly cracked the door to check for the mysterious wave. He opened the door and quickly walked out. The others followed. Turlon was last. The others were looking over the railing shouting for joy. When Turlon joined them he saw why. They had run aground. The whole time they sat in the storage cabin on the boat they were drifting to land. Luckily the wave wasn't anywhere to be seen.
Peten walked up to Turlon. "We made it," he said. "We reached land."
"But, now we have to rescue the others from the trullums," Turlon said.
"One step at a time, Turlon," Peten said and went below deck.
The two roomen had already lowered the plank and hopped to the ground. They leapt happily around on the dry sand. Wilm joined them barking. Why the half-seal-half-sailor was happy to reach land was beyond Turlon.
Rarguf appeared from behind some trees. The two roomen stopped hopping about and stood on guard. "You finally made it," the dragon bellowed. "I've been waiting for you. I tried to steer the boat in the right direction by creating wind with my wings, but it was so tiring. I had to come rest."
"Well, at least we got here," Turlon shouted back as he walked down the plank.
Peten lead Vulla down the plank. "Hey, Rarguf, have any idea of where to go next?"
"We head north," Rarguf answered. "I have seen the castle they took them to."
"Good, then let's not keep Sorrora waiting," Peten said. "Let's get our supplies packed and head for the castle."
Everybody looked reluctantly at Peten. Peten turned and walked back on board the ship. He went below to round up some more supplies. Slowly the others joined him.
The elephant that used to be Swurg's messenger was a very comfortable ride. Swurg was pleased that he came up with the idea. He had planned on changing the man back to normal when they returned, but the messenger made an excellent elephant. Well, he could always change him back into an elephant when he needed to go somewhere.
The forest had given way to grassy, rolling hills. Off in the distance, Swurg could see Sorrora's castle perched on top of a mountain. A very strategic place. Plus the fact that she had an army of trullums. Taking the Norrom from her dungeon would be a challenge. But not a huge one. He just hoped that the witch hadn't exiled the Norrom's spirit yet.
Jamk sat against the wall just like everyone else. The dungeon wasn't comfortable at all, but then it's a dungeon. His mind was busy of ways to get Sorrora to release them without giving away that Turlon was the Norrom. Arna was stubborn about not saying anything about the Norrom.
Metty sat next to Jamk. She hadn't said much since Dabb was killed. Jamk tried to comfort her, but he didn't know much about the emotions of horses. He had only been one for more than a week.
His train of thought was broken by the sound of footsteps. A trullum stopped in front of the bars. Jamk couldn't tell if it was Mulmer or not. If it was it wouldn't make any difference. The trullum stood guard as Sorrora appeared. She stopped at the bars and peered in.
"Hello again," she said. "I hope you have some news to tell me."
"We have nothing to say to you," Arna said standing up.
"You don't? Too bad. I was hoping to give you good news. Oh well, I'll just have to settle with this," Sorrora said pointing a finger at Kelmer, one of the roomen.
Kelmer seemed to freeze. He then began to show signs of turning into a trullum as Mulmer did. His fur on his arms fell out reveling gray skin underneath.
In a flash, Arna hopped to the bars and grabbed the arm Sorrora was pointing at the rooman. "Stop it!" she yelled.
Sorrora stood there shocked. The rooman had stopped changing, but Arna started. She wasn't turning into a trullum though. Her kangaroo features melted away to that of her human body. Sorrora's mouth hung open. Then it pushed out into a muzzle. Her ears grew longer and a thick tail pushed out from under her robe. Sorrora still in shock stared at her kangarooish body and the back at Arna. "Arna," she muttered as she regained her senses.
"Yes, Arna," Arna said.
"I see you still use that Species Swap spell you learned in our Freshman Spellcasters class. That was you best spell. And only spell."
Arna sneered. "Oh, I've didn't just swap our species. I have blocked all magic from the both of us."
Sorrora eyes grew big. She frantically concentrated. Jamk could tell that her spells weren't working. "How could you do this?" Sorrora screamed. "We are friends."
"WERE friends. Ever since you stole my family's talisman, I have not considered you a friend."
"Oh, that hurts. Don't you remember the great memories that we had as roommates?" Sorrora asked.
Arna didn't respond.
Sorrora paused and then glanced down at her hands. "Very well. I have other ways to deal with you...."
"Mistress!" a trullum yelled from down the hall. "We have an emergency!"
Sorrora glared at the trullum then turned to glare at Arna. "I'll be back," she said and angrily hopped down the hall. The trullum which was probably Mulmer walked behind her.
Arna walked away from the bars and sat down in her spot against the wall. Metty watched her the whole way.
"So, Sorrora can't cast any spells?" Ketta asked.
"No, she can't," Arna said. "And magic can't affect her. She's stuck as rooman for about a week."
"So, she can't harm anybody with magic?" Metty asked.
"No, she can't."
Metty leapt to her feet and in a single bound was next to Arna. She grabbed Arna by her collar and lifted her up. "Then why didn't you do it before she killed Dabb?"
"I... I...," Arna sputtered.
"I had to wait for the right time," Arna managed to get out.
"Right time? Saving Dabb wasn't the right time?" Metty pulled Arna closer to her muzzle.
"It was too late for Dabb. Even if I changed her after the dart hit Dabb, he still would have been killed," Arna said.
Metty snarled and threw the woman down. She then hopped over to the wall where Jamk was sitting and plopped down.
Arna straightened her dress. "I'm sorry about Dabb, but it was too late."
Metty snarled again and put her head between her knees.
Peten marched on towards Sorrora's castle. The others followed. Rarguf stayed on the ground most of the time, but occasionally he would be the groups' aerial scout. Peten couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like to fly, but he could imagine that it was tiring. Especially across the sea.
Vulla was drafted into carrying most of the supplies. Everyone else pitched in and carried some. Since Vulla was the only horse, she got the big load. While Rarguf was on the ground he carried a lot since he was the largest of the seven. But the extra weight was too much for him to fly.
The trees were still thick in this area, and Peten could not see the mountains. "Rarguf, how much farther to the castle?"
Rarguf placed his bundle of supplies on the ground and leaped into the air. Peten watched the dragon fly ahead and then circle around the group. "It's quite a ways, Peten," Rarguf bellowed. "I would say at least half a day."
"Then we camp here," Peten said.
Rarguf managed to land through the trees. He had gotten better at his landings. "No, Peten," he said. "If we camp now, then we have half a day to the castle. When we get there we will be tired. I say we get closer and then camp."
"But we might be spotted," Peten said.
"We can stay hidden. Besides we won't be camped right next to the wall," Rarguf said.
"He is right," Mikmer said hopping over to the two of them. "We could rescue our friends easier if we rested closer to the castle."
Peten looked to the others.
"Peten, I'm not that tired," Turlon said. "I could continue."
"Me to," Lewmer said.
Vulla and Wilm nodded in agreement.
"Well then, I guess we should head for the castle," Peten said and hiked through the trees towards their destination.
The mountains were crossed easily. Swurg's soldiers were the best in the business. And the elephant wasn't too bad either. They had reached half way up the mountain where Sorrora's castle was perched with no problem what so ever. The sun was just beginning to set.
"We camp here," Swurg shouted to his soldiers. He then whispered in his elephant's ear, "Let me down." The elephant raised his right front leg so the wizard could climb off his back. The soldiers were busy dismounting their horses and setting up camp.
"Tomorrow we will attack the castle," Swurg shouted. "So get a good night's sleep."
The soldiers let out a unison "Yes, Master," and went about their business. Tents sprung up while small fires began to glow. Of course Swurg's tent was the first up.
Swurg walked over to the captain. "Captain, when we attack tomorrow, the Norrom must not be killed."
"Understood, Master," the soldier said.
"I knew you would," Swurg said patting him on the shoulder. Swurg then opened the flap to his large tent and walked inside.
Peten was the first to wake up. He, Turlon, Wilm, and the two roomen were circled around the remains of their campfire. Vulla was off a ways just waking up also. Rarguf was farther in the woods, but his snoring was as loud as if he was sitting in the middle of the circle of sleeping bodies.
Off in the distance through the tops of the trees, Peten could see Sorrora's castle perched on top of a mountain. The rising sun reflected off the towers in a dazzling array of light. It wasn't too far from where they camped in the valley. All they had to do was scale the mountainside, sneak into the castle, find Jamk and the others, and sneak back out. Easy to say, but Peten knew it would be much harder.
Suddenly the woods were quiet. That meant one thing: Rarguf was awake. The dragon slowly crept towards camp rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
"Good morning, Rarguf," Peten said.
Rarguf stopped rubbing his eyes and squinted towards Peten. "Good morning," he yawned. He stretched his long neck and let out a loud moan. The others woke up from that. "Sorry," he said.
"It's time they needed to get up anyway," Peten said laughing.
Turlon propped himself up with his arms. "Well, since you were up, why didn't you make breakfast?" he asked.
"I already did," Peten pointed to the egg shells next to the burned out fire. "I'm surprised the smell didn't wake you."
"Thanks, for sharing," Turlon said and got up to stretch.
"You better get ready. We need to head for the castle soon," Peten said.
Mikmer hopped to his feet. "Are all you humans this pushy?" he asked.
"No. Peten just recently decided to be," Turlon said.
Peten just glared at the two.
"Peten's right though," Rarguf said. "We do need to reach the castle as soon as possible."
Lewmer nodded in agreement. "It would be to our advantage if we did."
"Well, I want to have breakfast first," Turlon said and dug out some eggs from his supply bag.
Peten packed his supplies up and prepared himself for the first castle raid of his life.
The small army reached the stone castle walls and stopped. Swurg couldn't believe how dirty the walls were. Living on a mountain was no excuse. He could never stay in a castle that looked like that.
Swurg scanned the wall. He could see trullums peering at them from the top waiting to attack. Swurg turned to the captain. "Attack when possible. I'm going to take care of some other business."
"Yes, Master," the captain said.
Swurg turned his elephant away from the walls and rode off. He circled around to the side of the castle where there weren't as many trullums. In the distance he could hear the charge of his soldiers and the battle cry of the trullums.
"What is that noise?" Ketta asked. Nobody responded.
Jamk heard it too. It sounded like thunder and shouts. "A battle?" he said.
"More than likely," Arna said. "Sorrora isn't noted for her hospitality."
Jamk listened to the ruckus outside the castle. It was hard to tell what it was through all the stone castle walls, but it sounded more like a battle the longer he listened. Then an idea struck him. "You know," he said hopping to his feet, "while they are out there battling, we could try to escape."
"I don't know if it would work," Kelmer said. "I mean, they might think the attackers are here to rescue us and thusly are guarding us more."
Arna walked to the bars and peered down the corridor. "If I know Sorrora, she would make sure the attackers don't make it in her castle to begin with," she said. "If we could get out of this cage, then we would have a good chance of escaping."
"But, how are we going to get out?" Jamk asked.
Everyone seemed to be lost in thought. Jamk could not think of a single plan to get out. Suddenly, Metty raised her head from her knees with a sly grin on her muzzle.
"Look! A way in!" shouted Rarguf from the air. "I see a drainage grate at the back of the castle." The dragon landed near Peten. Turlon scanned the area Rarguf was talking about and saw the grate.
"Would it be easy to get in that way?" Peten asked.
"It sure would," Rarguf said. "Well, not for me or Vulla. We are too big. But you five should be able to fit through."
"Then let's go," Turlon said. "I want this to be over with." He hated the idea of sneaking into a castle.
"Hey, what's that sound?" Mikmer asked.
"It sounds like a battle," Rarguf said. "That will make your job easier, since most of their forces would be at the battle. You better get going before somebody wins." Rarguf ripped the grate from the wall.
"You're right," Peten said and squeezed through.
Rarguf turned to Turlon. "Vulla and I will hide in that clump of trees over there," he said pointing to a clump of trees.
"Okay," Turlon said and followed Peten. Mikmer then Lewmer crawled through. Wilm managed to follow even though he had to crawl on his flippers.
"Metty, I'm sorry. We can't bring Dabb back," Arna said backing up against the bars.
Hate flared in Metty's eyes. She slowly hopped to the woman. "You could have changed Sorrora at the start!"
"But, I needed to wait!" Arna said.
Metty continued to approach Arna, and Arna continued to press herself against the cell bars.
Jamk hopped between the two. "Now, look here. I'm tired of you two fighting!"
"Get out of the way, Jamk!" Metty yelled and shoved him out of the way. She pounced on Arna and they rolled on the floor fighting.
"Guard! Guard!" Jamk yelled. Strangely enough, a trullum answered the call.
"What do you want, kangaroo?" the trullum said. Jamk had given up on trying to figure out which one used to be Mulmer.
"Stop those two from fighting," Jamk said.
The guard stepped closer to the bars just as Arna and Metty crashed into them. The guard began laughing a huge thunderous laugh.
"Aren't you going to stop them?" Jamk asked.
The guard was about to respond when Metty and Arna grabbed his ankles through the bars. The startled trullum didn't even suspect that Jamk would shove him over. With his ankles being held, the guard fell over with a loud thud and lay there unconscious.
Metty and Arna stood up and dusted themselves off. "That was easy," Metty said.
"You didn't have to get so into the part," Arna said.
"Who said I was acting?" Metty asked and helped Jamk retrieve the keys from the toppled guard.
Jamk rushed to the lock and began trying keys. One finally clicked.
"We're free!" everyone shouted and hopped, except for Arna who ran, out of the cell.
Turlon followed Peten through the small tunnel. It was dark, but he knew the others were behind him. Peten was carrying the portable light so at least one of them knew where they were going. The tunnel had gotten tall enough so they didn't have to crawl, but it was still narrow.
Then Peten stopped. In front of them was a type of door. I had a small hole which looked to be used as a handle.
"Help me open this," Peten said and pushed on the door. Turlon managed to squeeze next to Peten in the narrow tunnel and push also. Slowly the door opened. The two of them eventually forced the door to have a wide enough opening for them to go through.
The five of them emerged in what looked like a library. The door they had pushed open was actually a book shelf.
"I think we are in the library," Mikmer said.
"Now we have to find where they are holding our friends," Peten said and quietly ran to the other side of the room where the normal entrance door was located. He peeked out into the hall and signaled the others to come.
The others followed. When Turlon reached the door, Peten had already gone out in the hall. Turlon looked and saw the hall empty except for Peten. He followed him. One by one the others entered the hall, too.
About half way down the hall, there was a large door on their right. It was cracked open, so Peten peeked in. "Wow," he said and opened the door enough to go in.
Curious, Turlon looked through the doorway also. Inside was a room full of animals. Dead animals. All sorts of animals were stuffed and put on display in this room. There were bears, tigers, rabbits, and some that Turlon had never seen before. Like the one that seemed to be a mix between an eagle and a lion.
Then he heard a gasp. He turned and saw Mikmer and Lewmer staring at an animal off in the corner. Turlon walked over to see and stopped in his tracks. The animal they were looking at was a rooman. And not ANY rooman. "Dabb?" Turlon asked no one in particular.
Peten spun around from his tour and ran to the group. "We have to find the others!" he said.
"Who ever did this will pay!" Lewmer shouted. Wilm barked.
"Quiet. We don't want them to hear us," Peten said and peeked out into the hallway. After his signal, the group ventured out into the hall.
Swurg instructed the elephant to stay. The elephant nodded. The creature would be well hidden at this part of the fortress wall. There was a slight indention and trees growing around.
Swurg looked up at the wall towering above him. "Well, I guess I better get this over with," he said to himself. He never really liked Sorrora. He cast his levitation spell and floated above the wall. He spotted the open window to Sorrora's bedroom at the top of the tower. That's where he headed.
The battle was concentrated at the main entrance to the castle walls. Fortunately none of the trullums spotted the wizard floating above them. He glided through the window and gently touched down. Looking around the room, he saw it was empty. Surely he knew Sorrora better than this. She always watches battles from this window.
Then he heard footsteps. They didn't sound like Sorrora's though. They sounded more like thumping. Suddenly the door burst open. Swurg could hardly keep from laughing at what he saw enter. Sorrora barged in with a startled look on her face. But, it wasn't the look that got to Swurg, it was the face. A kangaroo's face.
"Swurg!" the kangaroo shouted.
"Sorrora? Is that you?" Swurg asked choking back a laugh.
"Shut up!" She said and hopped over to the window. "Why are you attacking me?"
"My dear kangaroo," Swurg said joining her at the window. Sorrora gave him an evil stare. "You have something I want."
"Like what? My talisman is gone, if that's what you want."
"Oh, come now. You know what I came for." Swurg looked out at the battle. Apparently the trullums were better than his soldiers. Well, at least in size. "I think we need to make the battle more even," he said and waved his hand.
Out on the battle field, the shiny armor of Swurg's soldiers glittered as it flew apart. The growing bodies of the men began to glitter itself as their skin grew green scales. The soldiers continued to fight oblivious of their new reptilian form. They even used their long tails as if they were born with them. The shocked trullums paused for only a second, then continued fighting their newly enhanced foes.
"Why did you do that?" Sorrora demanded.
"You aren't as much fun as you used to be," Swurg said. "You always transformed your trullums into something better than my soldiers."
"And then you will change your soldiers into something better. Yes, I know. But...."
"You can't do it," Swurg interrupted. "You can't cast a spell."
"How did you guess?" Sorrora said sarcastically. "Was it the fact that I am this kangaroo thing? Was it that I hadn't done anything magical in the battle?"
"Sorry," Swurg said putting his hands up in defense. "I thought the kangaroo body was just another phase you were going through."
"Humph!" Sorrora said and hopped away from the window and plopped down on her bed. She jerked up in pain and repositioned her tail.
Swurg held back his laugh. "Now, back to why I came..."
"I don't know what you are talking about," Sorrora said folding her arms.
"You don't? Then who thought that you would make a good kangaroo?" Swurg walked away from the window and sat in a chair next to her bed.
Sorrora didn't say anything. "I see," Swurg said. "Why don't we negotiate?"
Jamk followed Arna as she led them through the castle. She said she had been in it before, back when she was friends with Sorrora. But that was many years ago. Hopefully her memory is good enough to get them out.
Fortunately for them, no trullums have been around. All of them must have been out in the battle. They quickly hopped through the corridors hoping their luck lasts.
"In here," Arna said and ran through a huge doorway. Jamk and the others hopped in behind her into what looked like a library. Arna was already at the shelves searching.
"We don't have time to read," Metty said.
"I'm looking for the passage way. I'm sure I remember it around here somewhere," Arna said scanning the shelves of books. "I found it!" She pressed a small button behind some books. One of the shelves slid forward at one end as if it were on hinges. "Through there," Arna said and ran through.
Jamk was the last one and closed the door/bookcase behind him. The passage way was narrow and dark. He followed the sounds of the roomen's hops. Then he bumped into someone.
"Sorry," he said.
"It's ok," said the rooman. He couldn't tell who it was.
The reason they had stopped was because the height of the tunnel had gotten small enough that they had to crawl. Jamk's turn finally came. He squeezed his kangarooish body into the small passage. It was harder to crawl with the large feet and tail of a rooman than as a human.
Light eventually found it's way into the tunnel. Ketta and Kelmer were helping the others out of the passage and into the open world. The ground was slightly steep due to the fact that the castle they were just in was perched on top of a mountain.
"Now, let's get away from here before anyone notices that we are gone," Arna said and started down the mountain.
The others followed without hesitating. Then Jamk heard something in the bushes next to them. "Oh, no! We've already been spotted," he thought to himself.
"Hey everybody!" shouted the thing in the bushes. A dragon's head raised up from its hiding place.
"Rarguf!" Jamk yelled. "What are you doing here?"
"I came with Peten and the others to rescue you," Rarguf said looking at the crowd of roomen and Arna. "Where are they?"
"Peten and Turlon? There here?" Arna shouted. She marched over to the dragon. "You let them come here?"
"You needed rescuing," Rarguf said. "So the others went in the castle to find you. Of course Vulla and I couldn't fit through the tunnel."
"Vulla? She's here?" Jamk asked. He hopped over to the bushes. Vulla poked her head out. Jamk gave her a huge hug. "Vulla! I missed you!"
Jamk hugged her harder. He could not understand her at all. "Vulla. At least we are together."
She nuzzled him, and he nuzzled as best as his kangaroo snout could. He missed being with her.
"Well, we have to go get them," Arna said. "Turlon should not be putting himself in this much danger. No need for all of us to go back in. Jamk, you go in and get him."
Jamk let go of Vulla and faced Arna. "I was planning on going," he said.
"I'll go, too," Metty replied hopping next to Jamk.
Vulla let out a whinny.
"Vulla, I'll be careful," Jamk said and hopped back into the castle with Metty.
Peten led the group further down into the castle. He figured the dungeon would be at the bottom. They had gone down many stairs and corridors. Hopefully one will lead them to their friends.
As luck would have it. The door at the end of the corridor they were in lead to the dungeon. Unfortunately, all the cells were empty. Except one which contained an unconscious trullum.
"Now, what?" Turlon asked.
"They must have escaped," Peten said. "We just have to find them." He walked out of the dungeon and retraced their steps. And there was a lot of them.
Metty and Jamk retraced their steps. Hopefully, Peten and Turlon would be on the same path. Jamk looked in the rooms as he walked down the hall. All of them were empty. Then in one room he saw what he wasn't looking for. Dabb stood in the corner. Stuffed! He quickly shut the door.
"What is it, Peten?" Metty asked. "You look horrible."
"Nothing. Let's move on," Peten sputtered and hopped away. He looked back to see if Metty was following. She had already poked her head in the room. She stood there for a long time not saying anything.
"Come, Metty. We have to find the others," Jamk said.
She closed the door and muttered something under her breath. Jamk didn't ask her what she said. She hopped down the hall not saying a word. Jamk followed.
Jamk finally caught up with her before she started to go down the stairs. "Metty, we need to be careful."
"I am. I just want to get out of this castle as fast as possible," she said. They started down the stairs, then stopped. Jamk heard something. It was footsteps. Lost of them. It sounded like they were coming from the bottom of the stairs. The two of them hopped back up and hid around the corner.
As the sound of the footsteps approached, Jamk prepared himself for anything. He saw Metty concentrating on the stairs. The sound drew nearer. Then out walked Peten.
"Peten!" Jamk shouted. Then scolded himself for yelling.
"Jamk, you're all right. Where are the others?" Peten asked.
"They're outside," Jamk said. "We came back in to find you."
"Then let's get out of here," Turlon said.
The group of them retraced their steps again back to the library. On the way, Jamk explained why they were still roomen and that Sorrora and Arna switched species. He didn't bring up Dabb, but he figured they already knew because as they passed the room where his skin was, they all looked remorsefully at the door.
They eventually crawled their way out of the tunnel and joined the others down the mountain side in the clump of bushes and trees.
Arna stormed over to Turlon. "How dare you risk your life like that," she said.
Turlon glared at her. "I came to rescue my friends," he said.
"We are not important to your quest. You could have already acquired the Articulum by now."
"I had to do it, and I don't regret it," he said. He took out the black box that was to point out the Articulum. "If you want to know, the Articulum is west of here. We better get moving if I am to make up this wasted time." Turlon picked up his supply pack and headed down the mountain side.
"Turlon, wait!" Arna yelled. Turlon stopped and turned around. "We must make a slight detour."
Swurg sat back in his chair. The negotiations were going splendidly. "So, we have a deal then?"
"Yes," Sorrora reluctantly said. "I let you have the Norrom, and you will change me back to human."
"Yes, and I will also let your rule part of the world," Swurg said. He thought for a second. "Maybe you can have Room."
She glared at him with those kangaroo eyes.
Swurg laughed. "Don't worry. You can choose." He stood up from the chair. "Well then. I guess you should escort me to the Norrom."
"I guess I should," she said and hopped off of her bed. When she reached the door, the intercom buzzed. She reached over to press the button. "Yes?"
"Master," came a trullum's voice. "The prisoners have escaped."
"What?" she yelled.
"Interesting," Swurg said and walked toward the window. "I guess you don't have what I want after all." He cast his levitation spell and floated out the window.
"Swurg, wait!" she yelled hopping over to the window. "You promised!"
"So did you," he said and floated away. He could still hear her yelling at him when he reached his elephant. He touched down and patted the elephant on the trunk. "Good, boy," he said. "Let's go call off the attack and follow the Norrom. How does that sound?"
The elephant nodded his head in agreement. That was one trait Swurg liked in the messenger. The elephant kneeled so Swurg could mount him, and he lumbered off to the front of the castle.
When they approached, the trullums were still holding their ground from the Swurg's lizard warriors. "Soldiers!" he shouted above the battle noises. "Fall back!"
The lizards briefly looked confused and gradually backed away from the castle. Relieved the battle was over, the trullums did not pursue them. Swurg waited on the back of his elephant as the troops gathered around him.
"Good job, soldiers," he shouted to the lizard men. "But, our prize has left the castle. So, let's move on. Any word from the spy?"
The elephant seemed uneasy with that remark. Probably because that was the job he was supposed to be doing. One of the soldiers walked forward. "Sir, they are heading west."
"Excellent. West ward ho!" Swurg shouted. The elephant moved forward and the soldiers followed.
About half-way down the mountain, one of the soldiers approached Swurg. "Master, if I may ask, when are you going to change us back?"
Swurg recognized the lizard as the captain. No one else would dare ask him a question like that. "Oh, are you tired of your new bodies already? Then why not now," Swurg said and waved his hands toward the mass of soldiers. Slowly their reptilian forms shrank and became more human. The soldiers looked overjoyed to have their human bodies back. "Now, let's move on."
"But, Master. We have no armor. It was destroyed during our transformation," the captain said.
Swurg realized the captain was right. They soldiers were standing around naked. "True. I see your dilemma. What do you want me to do? I can't just conjure up armor."
The captain thought about it for a second. "Then change me back into my previous form. At least then I had scales."
"Good, choice," Swurg said and cast the spell.
The ten foot tall lizard captain looked back at the troops. "Soldiers," he shouted, "you must chose to remain human or have reptilian armor."
Unanimously, the army shouted to be lizards again. So, Swurg obliged. He was thrilled they wanted to stay lizards, so his plan would continue.
The canyon the group of roomen and various assortments of creatures were traveling through was fairly large. A good sized river flowed through the middle and both sides of the bank were lush with trees. The walls of the canyon were bare, with a small bush here and there.
Turlon walked beside Jamk and Peten. Since all the horses except Vulla were roomen at the moment, everyone walked. Arna had promised to take them to a place that will change everyone back to normal.
Jamk seemed thrilled that he would be a horse again. He stayed close to Vulla ever since they left the castle. Ketta and Wilm were also eager to regain their own bodies. Turlon would be glad that he wouldn't have to listen to Wilm's barking anymore.
Arna seemed to know where she was going. She made a bee line straight for their destination. He didn't mind taking this detour. The longer he has to wait to find the Articulum the better. And the fact that his friends would be in the form they wanted was even better.
Arna stopped at the mouth of a small cave in the canyon wall hidden behind some brush. A small tributary of the river flowed into the cave. "It's in there," she said. "Only one can fit at a time. When you go in there will be a small pool on the right. Take a sip from the pool, and you will be restored to your natural form."
Everybody looked at each other. Wilm barked and stepped forward.
"Good, I'm glad someone wants to do this," Arna said. "Go on, Wilm. You will be human again."
Wilm walked into the cavern. Turlon couldn't wait to see if it worked. Hopefully it will. After what seemed like an eternity, Wilm finally stepped out of the cave. He was completely human. No traces of seal at all. "It works," he said with a big grin.
Ketta went next. She hopped in as a rooman and walked out as her human self. She ran to her father and gave him a huge hug. "I'm glad you are back to normal, Father."
"I am glad we both are," Wilm said returning the hug. Turlon figured it was hard to hug with seal flippers.
One by one the others that needed changing went in the cave. Metty was obviously excited about being on four hooves again. She trotted around merrily. Kelmer's trullum arms were back to his normal rooman arms.
"Rarguf, you want to change back?" Arna yelled up at the dragon perched on the cliff above them.
"NO!" he bellowed back. "I am not going to be a human again!"
"Ok, Jamk. It looks like you are the last one," Arna said.
Jamk was standing next to Vulla. He seemed to be troubled. "I don't think I'm going to change back either," he said. "If I drink it, I will be human again, right?"
"It will change you to your original form, yes," Arna said.
"The I won't. If it won't change be into a horse, I will rather stay a rooman," he said.
"Are you sure?" Arna asked.
He looked at Vulla. "Yes, I'm sure."
"Very well. Then I see no reason to remain here. Turlon which direction is the Articulum?"
Turlon pulled out the small black box. "West," he said.
Mikmer stepped forward. "I don't want to desert you on your quest, Norrom, but I feel that we need to return to Room."
Turlon didn't know what to say. "I don't want to force you either way," he said. "Do what you think is best."
"Then, I say we return to Room," Mikmer said.
Wilm looked at Turlon. "If you don't mind, I could take them back."
"You may go, too, Wilm," Turlon said. "I'm not making any of you go on this quest." He didn't even want to be on the quest himself.
Arna stepped forward. "If you aren't coming with us, then we need to be on our way. Turlon, let's go."
Turlon watched Arna saddle up Vulla. Jamk hopped away from her and joined Turlon. "You know I'm with you through the end," Jamk said.
"I am, too," Peten said walking up.
"I know I can count on you," Turlon said.
After they prepared to leave, Turlon, Jamk, Peten, Arna, Metty, and Vulla set out to find the Articulum.
The seven of them had emerged from the valley a long ways back. All that lay around them now was endless desert. Arna rode Vulla with Jamk walking beside her. Turlon was riding Metty at the moment. Peten and he had been taking turns riding the horse. Jamk didn't want to ride. Peten figured it was either his new body wouldn't fit comfortably, or he was against riding horses. Rarguf mostly stayed on the ground. He said flying in all that heat exhausted him quicker.
Peten didn't mind walking, but the heat was bothering him, too. Luckily they filled up their water bottles at the river in the valley. However, it was almost gone.
"What's that up there?" Turlon asked.
Peten looked up and saw something in the distance. It was too far away to make out.
"It's an oasis!" Jamk yelled. "WATER!"
Rarguf took to the air and flew closer to the oasis. He turned around and bellowed, "It is an oasis!"
"Come on. Let's go!" Turlon said and quickened Metty's pace. Arna brought Vulla up to the same speed. Peten and Jamk were left to catch up. Jamk, on the other hand, had a huge advantage. He could hop twice as fast as Peten could run.
As they drew closer, Rarguf stopped. "What's that?" he asked.
Everybody looked. Peten could see something coming from the oasis. Something running toward them. Rarguf prepared himself to defend the group. As the shape drew nearer, Rarguf seemed to relax. Then Peten saw why. It was a camel. Just a camel running wild. The camel ran past them keeping its distance.
"That's what we need," Turlon said. "A camel."
With the false threat behind them, the group took off toward the oasis again.
Turlon was the first to arrive at the oasis. He leaped off of Metty and dashed to the pool of water. He knelt down and reached in to scoop up the refreshing liquid. He shoveled the water into his mouth. It was so refreshing.
"Turlon!" Arna shouted.
Turlon stopped drinking for only a second to glance at Arna. She and the others were standing near the edge of the oasis. He continued to drink the water. The other began shouting at him now. "Why aren't they drinking the water?" Turlon thought to himself.
"Turlon! Look up!" shouted Jamk.
Turlon raised his eyes a little to see what they were shouting about. In front of him was a large worm. The worm raised out of the water towering over 30 ft. Turlon froze in terror.
The worm quickly poised to strike with it's ugly open mouth with rows of teeth pointing inwards. Turlon rolled out of the way as the worm struck right where he was drinking. The worm jerked itself back up into striking position. Turlon crawled away quickly trying to get to his feet. The worm struck again missing Turlon for the second time.
Rarguf swooped down from the sky, but missed the worm as it lunged for Turlon again. The worm began to slither out of the water with its head continually poised in the air. It kept coming and coming, but its tail was still emerging from the water. Turlon struggled to his feet and ran as the humongous beast pursued him. He could hear the crackle of Rarguf's blast of flame, but the worm was unharmed.
Suddenly, high pitched shriek pierced through the air. Turlon glanced behind him and saw the worm frozen in pain. A beam of blue light was hitting the worm which seemed to be fading. As the beam grew stronger, the worm continued to dissolve until it had completely vanished. The blue light vanishes as soon as its target was gone.
Turlon looked toward the source of the light. He was expecting to find Arna, but she and the others walked up behind him.
"You ok?" Peten asked, putting his hand on Turlon's shoulder.
Turlon spun around still shocked from the experience. "Yeah," he said gasping for breath. He turned to Arna, "What was that blue.....?"
"Look what I found!" Rarguf bellowed emerging from some of the trees. He was forcing a strange looking creature to walk in front of him. The creature seemed to be almost human, but the proportions were all wrong. His head was larger than it should have been. His body was long and skinny, but he only came up to Turlon's waist.
"Hokmal!" Arna yelled as she ran to the creature.
"Arna?" he said quizzically. As she drew closer to him his beady eyes lit up. "Arna! It is you!" They gave each other an energetic hug.
"Hokmal, thanks for destroying that worm," Arna said. "I am temporarily out of magic."
"No problem. I can't stand those things anyway." He glanced over to where Turlon, Peten, and Jamk were standing. "He should be lucky that I didn't turn him into a camel like the last man who tried to drink from my oasis." He glanced back at the dragon who was still standing guard. "I see you have some interesting company. And I'm sure you have an interesting quest. Arna, if I remember correctly, you were going to live as a horse until the Norrom needed to find the Articulum. That means that one of these fellows is the Norrom."
He walked over to Turlon. He stared for a moment then moved on the Peten. He didn't even look at Jamk. He asked the two of them, "Which one of you is the Norrom?"
Turlon looked at Arna who nodded her head. "I am," he said.
Hokmal grabbed Turlon's hand and shook it. "I'm so glad to meet you! I should have known that the worm would attack the Norrom." He let go of Turlon's hand and turned to face the general group. "I guess I was lucky I didn't turn him into a camel."
The desert seemed to be enjoyable to the giant lizardmen that Swurg had as soldiers now. However, it was much to hot for himself. Both he and the elephant were in desperate need for water. There was no sign of the refreshing liquid anywhere.
"Master, I am getting strange sounds from the spy," said the soldier with the communication equipment.
"What type of sounds?" Swurg asked.
"I don't know. It's not static," the lizard replied.
"See if you can fix it," Swurg said. He had no idea how any of those electric devices worked. Magic was the power of the universe. And the Articulum will help him gain more of that power.
"Master, the spy is approaching. His signal is getting stronger," the communication lizard said.
"Approaching us? Why? He should be spying on the Norrom," Swurg yelled.
"Unknown, Master. I still can't make out what he is saying."
Swurg scanned the horizon for any signs of the spy. Sitting on top of an elephant gave him an excellent view. Off in the distance he saw something. It was approaching them. "I see something there," Swurg pointed. "It must be the spy."
The army all watched as the spy drew closer. Swurg hoped the spy had a good reason for leaving his duty for the spy's sake. As the spy became clear Swurg began to laugh.
"He's a camel!" Swurg yelled. The army was engulfed in laughter. The camel galloped at top speed through the ranks of lizards and stopped in front of the elephant. It started to bellow and make camel noises.
"What's he saying?" Swurg asked.
"I don't know, Master," the communication lizard said. "I don't understand camel."
"I can fix that," Swurg said and made a slight gesture toward the lizard. He watched as the lizard's face began to deform on his right side. Another eye opened to the right of the others. A second mouth formed and pushed itself out into a muzzle of a camel. The lizard felt of his face in shock. It was a lizard's head and camel's head merged together. "Now, you can speak and understand camel too."
The lizard stared in awe for a few more seconds and then muttered, "Thanks, Master," from both of his mouths. Of course Swurg couldn't understand what the camel mouth was saying.
"Now, ask him what he is doing here," Swurg demanded.
The lizard turned to the camel and asked some questions. The camel responded to all of them. Swurg sat impatiently for the interpretations.
"Master, he said that he was spying on the Norrom from an oasis when he was suddenly a camel," the communication lizard said.
"Oasis! Where?" Swurg shouted almost falling off the elephant.
"That way," the lizard said and pointed to the direction the camel came from.
"Then we go to the oasis!" Swurg ordered, and the army started marching toward the water.
Jamk relaxed under the shade of a slender tree with Vulla. He longed to be able to nuzzle up to here like he could as a horse. But, for now he was stuck in that Rooman body. He liked it more than his old human one, but it didn't compare to his horse self. He had noticed his change of attitude to his true self, but he didn't care. A horse was what he was destined to be.
Vulla was quietly sleeping while Jamk sat there watching the others. Turlon was in the middle of a conversation with Arna and Hokmal. Peten, Rarguf, and Metty were helping themselves to the water after surveying the area. They hadn't found any trace of any more worms. Although Jamk didn't know how looking about above ground would help. That one came from below.
He was about to doze off himself when Arna shouted his name. "Jamk! Come here!" she yelled.
Jamk hopped over to where she, Turlon, and Hokmal were talking. "Yes?"
"Jamk, I know how much you ended up loving your horse body," she began. Then she glanced at Hokmal. Turlon had a sly grin on his face. "So, we have discovered a way for you to become one again."
Jamk could hardly keep his calm. His kangaroo legs propelled him high into the air as he leaped for joy. "How? What? When?....." he sputtered.
Hokmal made calming gestures. "Control yourself, boy," he said. "I am one of the highest wizards of the Gormods. Thus, I had the privilege of obtaining this." He held out a medallion that hung around his neck. "This truly belongs to Arna, but she entrusted it to me during her horse years."
"And you may keep it, Hokmal until I regain my magic abilities," Arna interrupted.
"However," Hokmal continued, "Arna is the horse expert. I have never turned someone into a horse. Now camels are easy, but horses I need practice."
"What does that mean?" Jamk asked.
Hokmal seemed impatient. "It means that I can turn you into a horse, if you want. However, since this is my first horse transformation spell, it will take a long time to complete. It may take a few minutes, hours, or days for you to completely be a horse again."
"I'll do it," Jamk said.
Arna jumped in, "Now, wait, Jamk. You must think about this. Once the spell starts, we can't stop it."
Jamk nodded his head.
"You will be weak and semi-conscious at some points," she continued. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Jamk didn't need to think about it at all, but he glanced toward Vulla anyway. "I'll do it."
Turlon spoke up for the first time, "Jamk, we do need you on this quest. As a horse, rooman, or human. Any will do, but we need YOU."
"I'll be here, Turlon," Jamk said. "And Hokmal doesn't know how long it will take. He said it might take just a few minutes."
"That's true," Hokmal said, "but it might take several days, too."
Turlon spoke up again, "Jamk, it's up to you. I want you to be what you want to be."
Jamk stuck with his first decision. "I'll do it."
"Very well," Hokmal said. "Are you ready now?"
Jamk nodded. Hokmal held the medallion in front of him aiming it at Jamk. He began to mutter syllables Jamk would never have been able to pronounce. Suddenly, at green beam of light shot out from the face of the medallion and struck Jamk in the chest. Jamk flew backwards. Everything went black.
After they were set to travel again, Peten helped strap Jamk to Metty. Peten could notice the kangarooish features of his friend become equine. His reddish brown fur was becoming black, and he had gained a lot of body mass. Luckily Rarguf was there to pick him up and set him on the horse. Hokmal said it might take a while. Jamk was unconscious ever since the spell was cast upon him.
Peten guided Metty as they set off in the direction Turlon pointed out. Ever since Hokmal had learned that Turlon was the Norrom, the gormod had been by his side. So, the fact that Turlon and Hokmal were together in the lead wasn't a surprise. Arna, as usual, was riding Vulla, and Rarguf would fly then walk sporadically during the journey.
Hokmal had tried to convince Peten that he would serve the group better as a camel, but Peten didn't agree. He definitely did not want to be anything other that what he is. Being a rooman was the last he ever wanted to experience being in a different body. And Hokmal wanted him to be a camel? It made sense, but Peten would only be used for carrying Turlon. And Turlon could walk himself.
After a day's travel through the desert, everyone was ready to rest. They had plenty of water after their stop at the oasis, but every time someone took a drink of the water, Hokmal would say something like, "Now if you were a camel...." Peten didn't know how he could trust the gormod. Who knew if they would all wake up as camels the next morning.
Rarguf placed Jamk gently on the ground. He was definitely turning into a horse. Peten thought that he was about half way there. Vulla lay next to the future horse nuzzling him. The others slept close together. Except Rarguf, who always sleeps at a distance. Peten was glad that he does. No telling how bad the snoring would be of he was right next to the dragon.
Peten hardly got any sleep. He tried to, but his fear of being a camel the next morning kept him awake. Then he heard a noise, and it wasn't Rarguf snoring. Peten shot up and grabbed his portable light. He scanned the area and found the source of the sound. It was Jamk.
Jamk had awakened. Peten quietly walked over to his friend. Jamk was still drowsy, but he was determined to look at himself. He lifted his arms to look at his hands. "Hooves! I've got hooves again." Sure enough, Peten saw that the paw-like hands Jamk had earlier had completely changed into horse hooves.
"And, you're tail is bushy," Peten added.
Jamk tried to see his tail, but he was too tired to move that much. Jamk let out a slight horsy laugh. "I'm going to be a horse again," he said before he fell asleep again.
Peten watched Jamk for a while longer to see if he would wake up again. Just sitting there, Peten thought he could actually see the muzzle becoming more horse and less kangaroo.
Peten was glad that Jamk was becoming what he wanted, but he didn't know why. Actually, he knew why. Vulla was a pretty horse, even to a human. What Peten didn't understand was how Jamk could give up who he was. Jamk always loved and was great at video games and other hands on hobbies. Now, he doesn't even have hands. Just solid hooves. Peten settled back down in his sleeping bag wondering how anyone could do that.
Jamk woke from his sleep. The sun was just about to rise. He glanced around and saw that none of the others were awake. He had no idea of how long he slept, but he felt wonderful. However, he was thirsty. He pushed himself to all fours and trotted over to the supply bag. He tried to open the bag, but he couldn't get a hold of it with his hooves.
"That's strange," he thought. "I could open this bag before." Then it hit him. He realized that he was a horse. He looked himself over and over to make sure. No sign of kangaroo any more. Just a strong black stallion. He galloped around through the sand to get a feel of his long lost body and let out several joyful whinnies.
A roar erupted from over a dune. Jamk stopped in his tracks. Then the head of the dragon raised from over the sand. "Jamk, I'm glad you're a horse again, but will you keep it down?"
Jamk nodded and said, "Sorry, it's just that I'm a HORSE again!"
Rarguf looked confused. "Jamk, that is you, isn't it? I don't understand horse remember."
Jamk was confused then. He had spoken normally. Why couldn't Rarguf understand him? He said, "Sorry again." This time he actually listened to himself. He was making horse noises. Nothing was wrong with that. He liked whinnying and nickering. It was the fact that he couldn't get human words out that bothered him.
Rarguf walked over to the panicking horse. "Jamk, it's ok. I'm sure we can figure out a way to let you speak again. I always did like the fact we had a talking horse in our band."
Jamk let out more frustrated whinnies.
"Jamk, calm down," Rarguf said. "Please calm down."
Jamk continued to make noises trying to speak normally again. He wanted to be a horse, but he didn't want to be completely separated from what he used to be. He liked being able to speak human.
"What's going on?" Peten asked approaching Jamk and Rarguf. He didn't seem like he had been asleep.
"Peten's a horse now," Rarguf said. "But, there's a problem."
Jamk let out a loud whinny.
"He can't speak human," Rarguf added after Jamk finished.
Peten looked disappointed. "Jamk, it's going to be fine," Peten said with a tone that Jamk didn't like. Peten walked toward him.
Jamk stood there as Peten approached, but felt skittish. Here he was listening to his friend talk to him like he was talking to a real horse, and he can't talk back.
"Jamk, I see you are a horse again," Arna said. She had walked up without Jamk even knowing.
Peten faced her. "He can't speak!" he said.
Arna looked at Jamk and then back to Peten, "I didn't change him this time, remember. The amulet turned him into a horse, and horses don't speak. They don't speak human that is. Now, once I get my magic back, then I can fix that."
Jamk tried to ask how long would that be, but it still came out in horse. He didn't think he could ever get used to that. Loosing his hands was one thing, but his ability to communicate was another.
Peten looked at Jamk. Jamk tried to convey an expression, but didn't know if his new face would translate it correctly. Peten must have gotten the idea because he asked Arna the question Jamk wanted to ask.
"How long would that be?" Peten asked.
Arna shrugged. "I don't know. It's supposed to last for about two weeks."
"What do you mean you don't know?" Peten demanded.
Jamk listened to their bickering before someone trotted up to him. It was Vulla. He tuned out Peten and Arna and nuzzled Vulla. He hadn't been able to do that in a long time.
["It's glad to have you back,"] she said in horse to him.
["I'm glad to be back,"] he responded. They both trotted around together.
Turlon was sad that he missed the morning activities; however, he didn't want to get up early anyway. He was out like a log. He kept having dreams of camels for some reason. Hopefully that gormod doesn't get any ideas.
What woke Turlon up was two horses running by him. He just thought Vulla and Metty were getting exercise until he saw that it was Vulla and another horse. Jamk finally got what he wanted. He could see why a horse's body would be better than a human's, but there was so much that a horse couldn't do. Turlon had been thinking about what he was to become once he found the Articulum. Being part horse probably wouldn't be too bad. That way he would have the best of human and horse. Unfortunately, he wouldn't have any say in the matter. The Articulum would make him what the Articulum wanted.
"Turlon, glad to see you up," came a voice behind him. It was Hokmal. "It's time we started out."
"Already?" Turlon asked. "I just got up."
"No time. The Norrom needs to get the Articulum as soon as possible," the gormod said.
"He's right, Turlon," Arna said. "We need to get a move on. Everyone else is ready to go."
Turlon looked around and saw that she was right. Peten had finished packing Metty. Jamk and Vulla had their gear on while they were frolicking. Rarguf stood in the background waiting.
"Ok," he said getting up. "I'll be ready in a moment.
They were on the move in no time. Vulla was riding Jamk again. She must like his trot. Vulla let Turlon ride her, and Peten was on Metty again. Hokmal insisted on walking because they had no camels. Turlon felt sorry for Jamk. He was just a normal horse now. Well he seemed like one on the outside. Turlon was sure it was still Jamk inside.
The desert eventually gave way to a rolling prairie. As they journeyed on, Turlon noticed that the locator indicated the Articulum was getting closer. He felt a knot in his stomach. He knew it was going to happen sometime, but now it was too soon.
In the distance was a small town with a mountain range behind it. The windmills rose high generating power for the village. As they drew closer, several small farms could be scene around them. No one paid them much attention until they saw Rarguf flying above. He occasionally waved in a friendly way, but the people still either ran indoors or stared in shock.
The town was much smaller than Yummmak. Hardly anyone was on the streets. Rarguf stayed out of the town. He flew far enough around it that no one could see him.
Arna stopped Jamk in front of a store and went in. Peten and Turlon followed. Hokmal stayed with the horses. Inside, Turlon saw lots of foods he had missed eating since he had left. Unfortunately, Arna didn't listen to his requests.
After buying the supplies, the group headed out of town. Turlon watched the locator. The Articulum was drawing closer. Rarguf flew in to join them as they left the town behind them.
"Anything interesting happen?" Rarguf asked.
"Not a thing," Peten replied.
"Good," the dragon said. "I didn't want to miss anything."
They continued walking in the direction the locator pointed them. Eventually they arrived at the base of one of the mountains.
Turlon looked up at the peek towering above them. "It's in there," he said. "If I read this locator correctly, it's in this mountain."
Arna looked up at the mountain. "Very well," she said, "we must find a way up."
Jamk concentrated on keeping his footing on the mountain side. Vulla and Metty seemed to not have any trouble at all, but Jamk had never used his horse body on a mountain before. The fact that Arna was sitting on his back didn't help matters. He wished he could tell her to get off. Bucking her off wouldn't be a good idea, because she would probably tumble down the mountain side.
Peten and Turlon were off of their horses. They were just guiding them. Arna insisted on staying on Jamk. "Mountains aren't my thing," she had said. Jamk was beginning to believe that mountains aren't his thing either. If only he was a mountain goat. He threw that idea away as soon as he thought of it. With Hokmal there, he might just end up a mountain goat. Or worse, a camel.
"There's a cave up ahead," Rarguf bellowed from above. That's what Jamk wished he had at the moment: wings. He threw that idea away too. He had just gotten his horse body back, and now he wished for something more. He love being a horse, and that's what he was going to stay.
"Thanks, Rarguf," Arna yelled back.
"Having a dragon sure comes in handy," Hokmal said. "Good thing I didn't turn him into a camel."
"Hokmal, you should have learned more than camel transformations by now," Arna said.
Hokmal smiled. "I did, but camels are more fun."
Swurg lead his army toward the mountain range. The tracks in the desert sand indicated that the Norrom left the oasis in this direction. When he saw the town, he knew he could track them.
Swurg ordered the army of lizardmen to stay where they were. Only the captain and a few officers came with him. He guided his elephant mount over to one of the small farms on the outskirts of town. The four lizardmen followed.
The farmer and his wife were out in the back tending to their crops. The woman saw the elephant and fainted. The farmer ran to his wife and looked up at Swurg. "What brings you here, stranger?" he asked.
"I am looking for a friend of mine. I was wondering if you had seen him," Swurg said.
The farmer thought for a second, "I don't think I have. What does he look like?"
Swurg had no idea what any of the band looked like. Just that they had three horses and a dragon. The dragon! "A dragon was with him. Have you seen a dragon around here lately?"
"Oh, a dragon. Yes, I've seen a dragon," the farmer said. He headed off toward that way." The farmer pointed to the mountain range.
"Thank, you," Swurg said. He turned the elephant around and started back to the army. Then he stopped. "You don't know who I am do you?" he asked the farmer.
"No, I don't. Why?" the farmer asked.
"I am Swurg, the powerful."
The farmer stared in shock.
"You served me well, farmer. I'm glad I have loyal subjects as far away from my castle as this town is." Swurg loved loop holes like this. He waved his hand. The farmer started to grow. Scales covered his body as a tail burst through his paints. The farmer now stared in shock at his lizard-like body.
"There, why don't you join my army. You will make a fine soldier," Swurg said.
The lizard farmer didn't say anything for a few seconds. "But, my wife. I can't leave her."
"Wife? You don't have a wife," Swurg said.
The lizardman seemed dazed. "You're right, Master, I don't know what I was talking about." The lizardman walked away from the woman and joined the lizard soldiers.
Swurg thought about the wife. What would she do when she woke up? He didn't care. She couldn't say she was loyal to him when she was unconscious, so he couldn't change her. She would just have to learn to live without her husband from now on.
"Back to the army," Swurg ordered. His elephant and his lizardmen headed toward the others.
Peten pulled himself up to the rocky ledge. He had made it. The cave opening was gaping open right where he was. He helped Metty up. Then Turlon arrived.
"This is it," Turlon said. He had a hint of nervousness. Peten could understand. The thing that awaited him inside was going to change his life forever.
They helped the others up to the ledge. "Ok, let's go in," Arna said not even pausing to catch her breath. Peten knew it was Jamk who did all the work anyway. Arna forced Jamk into the cave opening. She dug out her portable light and disappeared in the darkness..
"Well, we have to go in sometime," Hokmal said and followed Arna into the cave.
Peten dug out his light from Metty's pack and Turlon did the same for his. They were about to go in when Hokmal, Jamk, and Arna returned.
"It's too small to bring the horses," Arna said.
"It's big enough to ride them in, but without a lot of room. It would be better to leave them here," Hokmal said.
Jamk seemed relieved; however, Arna didn't.
"Looks like I'll have to stay behind also," Rarguf said from his rocky perch several feet above the entrance to the cave. "Who's heard of a dragon that can't get into a cave?"
"Let's get this over with," Turlon said trying to sound brave.
The four of them turned on their portable lights and proceeded into the darkness. The cave didn't seem too bad. Just dark. Turlon didn't mind the dark or enclosed areas. The only problem he has was the fact that the cave twisted, turned, and branched everywhere.
"This is a MAZE!" Peten yelled. His voice echoed through the multiple tunnels.
"Shhhh," Arna said with her finger to her mouth. "No telling what is guarding the Articulum."
"Guarding the Articulum?" Turlon asked. "I thought I was the rightful owner."
"You are," Hokmal chimed in, "But whatever is guarding it won't know that at first." After saying that he put his finger up to his mouth. He whispered, "Listen."
Turlon listened to the emptiness of the cave. All he heard was water dripping on the limestone, a slight breeze coming from the entrance, and hoof steps.
"I hear hooves," Turlon said. The clopping of the hooves on the limestone was echoing so much, that he couldn't tell which direction it was coming from. "I thought the horses were staying behind."
"They're supposed to be," Arna scowled. "Wait, listen," Hokmal said again.
This time the hoofsteps were closer, but Turlon still couldn't tell where they were coming from.
"Those aren't horse's hooves," Hokmal said.
Just then a loud bellow blasted from behind them. They all spun around and shone the lights directly on a bulls face. The bull stared at them angrily. He stepped forward. As he did, Turlon saw that this wasn't a normal bull. It looked partly human. Enough human to be able to stand on two legs, and to have hoof-like hands that unfortunately was carrying a large ax.
"Who dares enter my maze?" bellowed the bull. He swung the ax at them, but hit the wall instead. Turlon felt it wasn't a miss, but just a threat.
Arna whispered in Turlon's ear, "Tell him who you are."
Turlon stared questioningly at Arna. She shoved him forward in response. The bull readied the ax, and focused directly on Turlon's eyes. Turlon met his gaze. His eyes were bovine, but had intelligence behind them.
"I am the new Norrom," Turlon said boldly.
The bull lowered his ax but kept it at a good swinging position. He walked closer to Turlon, his hooves echoing in the silent tension. Turlon stood there calmly. Well, he hoped it appeared calm. The bull stopped right next to Turlon and peered closer at Turlon's eyes. Turlon could smell that this was definitely a bull all to well. Did he never take a bath?
The bull snorted and stepped back. He lowered the ax head to the floor and knelt in front of Turlon holding the handle in front of his head. "You seem to be telling the truth, Master," the bull said.
Turlon was shocked. He didn't expect this kind of reaction. Of course, he will probably have to get used to it soon. "Rise," Turlon said. "May I ask who you are?"
"I am the guardian of the Articulum, Master Norrom. I have been guarding the Articulum for 18 years waiting for you arrival," the bull said.
"18 years?" Turlon couldn't believe it. The Articulum was sitting here waiting for him to pick it up since before he was born. "What is your name, guardian?"
"Mike," the bull said.
"Pleased to meet you, Mike. Let me introduce you to my friends," Turlon said and motioned the others to come. He ran through their names. Mike greeted each one by shaking their hands. He even kissed Arna's hand with his bovine lips.
"My, my," Arna responded, "Aren't you a gentleman?"
A quick flash of sadness flashed in Mike's eyes. "I used to be," he said. "Now, let me show you the way to the Articulum." He headed off down the tunnel.
Turlon began to follow. He looked back to see if the others were coming. Peten was coming, but Arna had Hokmal to the side.
"Go back and tell the others what we are doing," Arna told the gormod. "Think you can find your way back?"
"I sure can, Arna," Hokmal said. "I've been leaving a trail on the wall." He pointed out marks on the wall where he had casually used some paint.
"Good thinking," she said. "Now go."
Hokmal scampered off down the tunnel. Mike was in the distance waiting for them to follow him.
"We're coming," Turlon said, and they followed the bull through the tunnels.
Jamk was relieved that he didn't have to go into the cave. He didn't like spelunking as a human, and now he was much bigger. He gazed at the view from the high mountain ledge. He could see the small village from way up here. Metty and Vulla were admiring it too.
["It's beautiful. Isn't it?"] Vulla asked.
["It sure it,"] Jamk said.
["I would much rather be closer to the ground,"] Metty said and turned away from the ledge. She stood closer to the entrance to the cave.
["Oh, Metty,"] Jamk said nickering, ["It's not too bad. We aren't that high up."] He looked down to see exactly how far they were from the base. The rocky face of the mountain stretched downward for a long ways. And on that face was a hoard of lizard-like men climbing it. One group was just about to reach the ledge they were on.
["Oh, Geez!"] Jamk whinnied. ["There's some lizard things joining us."]
Rarguf who was resting above the cave entrance perked up at Jamk's cry. "What? What is it?"
Jamk motioned with his head to the slope below them. Rarguf leaped into the air and flew out to get a view. "It's Swurg's army!" he bellowed. "Swurg is down below."
Jamk looked over and sure enough he saw a human sitting on an elephant watching the army of lizards.
["What are we going to do?"] Vulla asked.
Jamk looked around and saw something that might work. ["Push boulders over the edge,"] he said. He trotted over to some loose rocks and pushed a medium sized one over the edge with his muzzle. The rock rolled over the edge and hit one of the lizards. However, it wasn't enough to stop him from climbing.
Metty and Vulla proceeded to help Jamk push rocks over. Several found their targets and caused the lizards to fall a few feet, but it wasn't enough to stop them.
Rarguf was circling above. He rose to a height and dove down fast. A blast of fire erupted from his mouth scorching many of the lizards. Jamk looked down and saw that the lizards, minus a few, continued to climb. Jamk and the other horses continued pushing rocks on the lizards while Rarguf roasted them. The lizards continued their assent.
"Wow! A battle!" shouted a voice behind Jamk. He glanced around and saw Hokmal standing in the entrance to the cave. He ran to the edge and held out his amulet. "Watch this," he said.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. A light beam shot from the amulet and hit one of the lizards causing a bright flash. When Jamk's eyes cleared so he could see again, a camel was where the lizardman was. The camel looked surprised. Jamk couldn't tell if it was from realizing that he was a camel or the fact that as a camel, his hold on the mountain was lost. Either way, the new camel rolled down the mountainside.
"Camels are funny that way," Hokmal said with a sly grin. He held out his amulet again and turned another lizardman into a camel. With the rocks, fire, and tumbling camels, Jamk hoped they could hold the lizard army off.
Swurg sat on his elephant watching his army scale the mountain. He wasn't about to climb that steep face. As he watched, he noticed someone throw a rock down. "This has to be the place," he said to himself.
Then the dragon showed up and toasted a few of his men. "NO!" Swurg yelled. He bent down a patted the elephant. "I'll be back. You stay here and be a good boy."
Swurg cast his levitating spell and floated off the elephant. He also cast an invisibility spell. I didn't last long, but he could make it into the cave before the others saw him. He flew up to the ledge where a group of horses and a gormod were throwing rocks at his army. Then he saw the gormod shoot a green beam at one of his lizards. The man instantly changed into a camel and plummeted. "How dare that little imp!" he thought.
However, he didn't deal with the gormod at the moment. He needed to get the Articulum. He quickly sneaked into the cave entrance and released the levitation and invisibility spells. After noticing how dark the cave was, he cast an illumination spell and began to follow the tunnels.
Peten followed behind Turlon who was following the bull creature. They were probably being lead into a trap. And if Mike decided to use that hefty ax of his against them, they didn't have much to defend themselves with. Arna didn't have her magic, and Turlon and his swords wouldn't hold up against that huge ax. Plus, it looked like the bull had many years experience toting that heavy thing around.
Turlon seemed to trust the creature Especially after Mike told them about his past. He had said that he used to be human living on a farm close to the mountain. Then one day he was climbing the mountain, found this cave, and discovered the Articulum. Since he wasn't the Norrom and he was the first one to find the cave, once he set foot inside the dark entrance, he became a bullman. His mind was tinkered with to keep him in the cave guarding the Articulum until the Norrom arrived.
"It's not too far now," Mike said.
"Are you sure you know where it is?" Peten asked.
"Listen, boy. I know these tunnels like the back of my hoof," Mike bellowed.
"Peten, Mike knows where the Articulum is," Turlon said. "So, let's just follow him." He turn away and followed Mike around a corner.
"Peten," Arna whispered placing her hand on his shoulder. "It's good to be cautious, but I think we can trust him."
Peten looked back at her then turned away and followed Turlon and the bull.
Jamk pushed another rock over the ledge and watched as the lizard it hit tumbled backwards. His muzzle bled from all the rocks he had pushed. Metty's and Vulla's nose weren't better off. Hokmal continued changing lizards into camels, but even he seemed tired. Rarguf had landed on a ledge to the side of where Jamk was to rest his wings. It was also a good spot to roast any approaching lizards. Jamk pushed the new rock over and hit another of the attackers.
["Jamk,"] Metty whinnied, ["We've pushed all the rocks over."]
Jamk turned around to face her, ["We are on a mountain. What do you mean, 'We pushed all the rocks over?'"] He looked around the ledge and saw that it was true. All the loose rocks, small and large were gone. Only the mountain side was left. He galloped over to the rocky side and hit the mountain with his hooves trying to break something off. Nothing happened. ["Now what are we going to do?"] he said to no one in particular.
"Jamk, if you are worried about no more rocks, I can probably speed up the camel transformation," Hokmal said.
Jamk whinnied an affirmative.
"Hey, what's that in the distance?" Rarguf bellowed just after roasting a few lizards and camels. Jamk looked out where the dragon was pointing.
Almost to the base of the mountain was a group of men. They way they were hopping around, they looked like roomen. The odd thing was what was with them. A huge metal thing rolled along with them. A long rod stuck out from the top pointing forward. Jamk had never seen anything like that in his life.
["What is that?"] Vulla asked.
Jamk just shook his head. He watched as the metal thing stopped at the base of the mountain and the rod pointed up. With a huge explosion, something blasted out of the rod and crashed above the lizards but below the ledge the horses were on. Rocks tumbled over the unsuspecting lizards.
Jamk regain his footing after the mountain shook. He looked down and saw a lot of the lizards falling. Unfortunately, most of the attackers were out of the way of the falling rocks and continued to climb.
["I hope they can do that again,"] Jamk said to no one in particular.
Turlon followed Mike through the maze of passages. Mike strode confidently through the twisting tunnels. Of course after living in the maze for eighteen years, anyone would be familiar with it.
"We are almost there," Mike said not stopping at all. "Just a few more turns."
Butterflies filled Turlon's stomach. He was quickly approaching his new life. A life that was forced upon him. He had mixed feelings about the whole thing. The thought about being in a different body didn't bother him as much, but the responsibilities that came with the job did.
"Here we are," Mike said. He reached over and flipped a switch on the wall. Light flooded the large room which opened up in front of the group. They all switched off their portable lights and stared at the room in awe.
One thing caught Turlon's eye. There was a raised platform near the far wall with a pedestal. On the pedestal was a small scepter glittered in the lights shining directly on it. "The Articulum," he said under his breath.
Arna placed a hand on his shoulder snapping him from his trance. "Turlon, the Articulum awaits," she said with a smile. That surprised Turlon.
He glanced at Peten who only smiled worriedly and nodded. Turning to face the Articulum again, Turlon walked toward the scepter. He slowly approached the sparkling artifact. He could feel the power flowing from it. He walked up the steps to the platform. He looked back at the others. Arna and Peten were standing halfway from the entrance to the room and the platform. Mike was near the entrance. Turlon turned around a paused slightly before continuing his short journey to the Articulum.
There was a thump from behind him. Turlon swung around and saw Mike unconscious on the floor. Out of the darkness of the entrance walked a dark figure.
"Greetings, Norrom," the man said. "I've been waiting for you to find the Articulum."
"Swurg, why you...." Arna said but she cut off as Swurg vanished. He reappeared behind her and swung a large club knocking her in the head. She fell unconscious just as Mike had.
Peten dashed for the man, but Swurg gracefully moved out of the way. Peten fell to the floor missing his target. Swurg waved his hands and Peten seemed to struggle. He couldn't get off the floor.
Swurg peered at Turlon with an evil grin. "I have no need for you now, Norrom. All I need is the Articulum," he said strolling to the platform.
Turlon dreaded picking up the Articulum and claiming his title as Norrom, but he had to do it before Swurg. He ran as fast as he could to the pedestal with Swurg racing right behind him.
The sound of the other man's foot steps behind him increased his adrenaline. Turlon reached the pedestal and grabbed the scepter. He spun around and held it up before Swurg who came to a stop. "I am the Norrom!" Turlon shouted.
Swurg stared at Turlon with fear in his eyes. Then the fear faded. The man grinned again. Then he began to snicker. The snicker turned into a chuckle, and the chuckle turned into a laugh. "You aren't the Norrom, fool," Swurg said between laughs. "If you were, you would have been changed by now."
Turlon was confused. The Rigulor pointed him out as Norrom. Why was he not the Norrom? He had come all this way for nothing.
Taking advantage of the confused state of the false Norrom, Swurg quickly grabbed the Articulum from the boy's hands. The boy snapped out of his trance and ran at Swurg to get the artifact back.
"Get back, boy," Swurg said. "I want to test this out." He pointed the scepter at the boy and he began to change.
"NO!" he shouted. "Noo.........." His voice faded as his vocal cords vanished along with his arms and legs. Where the boy once stood, slithered a giant slug. The slug squirmed around seeming terrified.
"This is perfect!" Swurg shouted. "I can change ANYONE!"
Peten struggled against the invisible chains that held him to the floor. The more he struggled, the more they held him tighter. He heard Turlon running and saw his friend take the scepter. However, nothing seemed to happen.
Then Swurg grabbed the Articulum from Turlon and pointed at him. Turlon quickly, but apparently painfully, turned into a slug. Swurg began laughing again.
Peten realized something while Swurg was busy gloating to himself. His chains were gone. Either the Articulum caused them to vanish or Swurg forgot about them. Either way, Peten quietly crawled to the edge of the platform and hid from Swurg's sight.
The wizard turned and walked to the stairs of the platform. Peten jumped up from his hiding spot and knocked Swurg to the ground. Swurg fought with him, but Peten managed keep him on the ground.
Swurg looked up in rage at him. "Let me go, boy, or you will end up like your friend."
"You turn him back," Peten commanded.
"And why should I? All I have to do is turn you into something like an ant," Swurg said with a sly grin.
Peten noticed the Articulum moving. Swurg was trying to point it at him.
"NO!" Peten yelled and grabbed the scepter. He felt strange. Power flowed through him. He saw brown fur growing from his body. Swurg was changing him. He looked down at the wizard. The grin was gone from Swurg's face and a fearful expression was in its place. Peten realized it wasn't Swurg's doing, but the Articulum's. Power continued to flow from the Articulum into Peten. His body changed to hold all the power. The energy swelled inside of him that it felt like he was going to burst. Peten stood on his new legs and bellowed in pain. A huge surge of energy released itself from him. He fell to the floor weak in spite of all the energy in his body.
Swurg realized too late that the slug wasn't the Norrom, but that this boy was. The boy began to change without Swurg's influence. Brown fur covered his body as a huge rack of antlers erupted from his head. The moose-man stood and bellowed as a visible energy bubble expanded from him.
That was not a good thing. As the bubble grew, Swurg was suddenly inside of it. His body began to change also. His hands became cloven hooves, and a rack of antlers grew from his head.
He staggered to all fours and looked around. Why was he in a cave. Moose aren't supposed to be in caves. He began to look around the large cavern for water plants.
Turlon hated what he had become. He didn't like slugs when they were crawling around on the ground. And now he was one. Then suddenly he felt his body changing again. Legs sprouted from his slimy body and fur grew. He looked himself over after the change was complete and was rather relieved to be back in his moose body again.
Jamk and the other two horses were bracing themselves for the next impact of the roomen's weapon. Hokmal was peering over the edge to see how the battle was going. Rarguf continued flaming the lizardmen as the strange weapon blasted another group of lizards to the ground.
Suddenly Jamk felt odd. A strange energy flowed through him. His hooves felt funny. When he looked at them, he saw they were cloven. Then he noticed he had brown fur. There was an odd weight to his head. He turned to ask Vulla what was happening, and he saw she wasn't a horse anymore, but a moose. She still looked beautiful as a moose.
["You're a moose,"] he said. He also noticed Metty was one also. So was Hokmal.
["Jamk, you have a great rack of antlers,"] Vulla said. ["But, I think I like you better as a horse."]
["Thanks, I like you better as a horse, too"]
["Man! Those lizardmen sure don't know how to stay on the side of a mountain as a camel or a moose,"] Hokmal said.
Gulm began his afternoon chores as usual. He loved his little farm next to the village. And the mountain created great scenery. He ventured into the barn. He grabbed his milking equipment and opened the stall to the cow.
"Afternoon, Bessy," he said sitting down on the milking stool. "It's time for your milking."
He had just begun to milk when he heard shouts coming from the village. He ran out of the barn and looked toward town. A strange thing happened. Villagers were running through town in the direction away from the mountain. But, one by one, they were changed into moose.
Then the strangest thing happened. He felt his body changing. He fell to his hands, which were now hooves, and looked at himself. He had become a moose also. The villagers seemed to stay in panic, but Gulm didn't mind. He had always liked moose, but he never had seen one in this part of the world.
He trotted back into the barn and saw Bessy was a moose, too. A good looking one at that. ["Hi, Bessy. Looks like everyone's a moose now,"] his said.
["Sure does,"] Bessy replied. ["I guess you aren't going to milk me anymore."]
Peten felt his strength returning to him. It was more strength than he had before, but now he could stand on his own two hooves. He looked himself over and felt of the strange weight on his head. He had become a moose man. He must be the Norrom. But, why? Turlon was the Norrom.
The looked around for the slug, but found only three moose and Arna. She must have still been protected by her spell. One moose seemed to be confused. Another was watching Peten carefully. The last moose was lying on the floor near the entrance to the room. It must have been Mike.
["Peten, you all right?"] the moose watching him asked.
The moose didn't actually talk, but he sort of felt the words. "Turlon, is that you?" Peten asked. He seemed to be able to speak Human and Moose at the same time.
The moose nodded.
"What happened?" Peten asked.
["You seem to be the Norrom,"] Turlon said. He seemed a little disappointed.
"Turlon, I'm sorry. I didn't want to be...."
["Don't worry. I didn't either. I'm sure you will make a great one,"] Turlon replied.
Peten heard a groan from behind him. Arna was waking up. So was the other moose who he thought was Mike. Both were startled with what they saw. Arna was more concerned about Peten, but Mike was more concerned about himself.
Arna walked up to Peten, "Turlon, how does it feel to be the Norrom?"
"I'm Peten, Arna," he said. "I was the Norrom all along."
"Interesting," she said and walked to Turlon. "So, this is Turlon I take it."
Turlon nodded. ["Who else would I be?"] Of course, Arna didn't understand Moose.
"Then that's Swurg?" she asked pointing to the moose wandering around.
"I think so," Peten said. "I haven't asked him."
He walked over to the confused moose. The moose looked pleased to see him. ["Oh, Norrom,"] the moose said in Moose, ["I am hungry and I can't find any water plants around in here. We moose aren't meant to be in caves, you know."]
Peten nodded and placed a hoof-like hand on the moose's back. "We will find some around here somewhere," he said.
The moose gave a happy look and walked back with Peten to join the others. Mike was walking around by then.
["So, now I'm a moose."] he said.
"Looks like a lot of people are," Peten said.
["What's wrong with being a moose?"] Turlon asked angrily. ["I've never had any problems with it."]
Peten was about to tell Turlon that he hadn't been a moose before, but Arna shook her head.
"How far do you think this has spread?" Peten asked her.
"I don't know," Arna said. You seemed to have a powerful effect on those near you, though."
["So, is this the reason we are moose?"] came a voice from the entrance to the room. Peten turned and saw five moose walk in. Two of them were female.
"Jamk?" Peten asked.
The moose in the front nodded. ["Peten? I thought Turlon was the Norrom."]
Peten just shrugged.
["I wish I didn't land on the mountain after everyone turned into moose,"] said the moose after Jamk. It must have been Rarguf. ["I hadn't changed until I touched the ground."]
["But, you did stop the attack,"] the moose that must have been Hokmal said. ["You turned every living thing that touched the ground into a moose, Peten. Even the roomen that came to help"]
"I didn't mean to," Peten said.
Suddenly there was a flash of light. Three older men appeared in the room. Peten recognized them as the Norrom Seekers that pointed Turlon out to be the Norrom. However, he didn't recognize them for long. As soon as they appeared, the changed into moose.
["I see we have another powerful Norrom on our hands,"] one of the old moose said.
["I see we also picked the wrong one,"] another said walking up to look at Peten.
["Well, at least he found the Articulum and stopped Swurg,"] the last old moose said glancing at the moose formerly known as Swurg. He was still looking for water plants.
"Why am I the Norrom?" Peten asked.
["We don't know. We just find the Norrom,"] the first elder moose said. ["The Articulum must have had it's reasons."]
["You are the most powerful Norrom we have had since the first Norrom,"] the second elder moose said. ["Every animal in about a ten mile radius is now a moose."]
["The first Norrom only had a radius of about 7 miles,"] the third said. ["And his transformative power is still in effect. I'm sure you have heard of Room?"]
"The roomen were the results of the Norrom?" Peten asked shocked. "But they have human qualities. Here, they are completely moose."
["Well, the first Norrom had appeared tens of thousands of years ago. I'm sure natural development and the magic origin of the roomen helped them develop their speech and hands,"] the first elder moose said. ["In time, the moose here will have more human qualities."]
["So, anyone who is in this ten mile radius will turn into a moose?"] Jamk asked.
The three elder moose nodded.
["And what if we leave? Well we turn back to our previous forms?"] Jamk asked.
["Yes, you will,"] the third elder moose said. He glanced at Turlon and Swurg. ["Except for the ones that were extremely close to the Norrom when he emitted the transformative power."]
["That's good. We want to be horses again, don't we?"] Jamk asked Vulla.
She nodded in response.
["Well, we better go and let you get on with your ruling,"] the first one said. The three gathered near each other and in a flash of light, they were gone.
Arna walked up to Peten, "Well, it looks like you are ready to rule," she said.
"I don't think I am," Peten responded.
"Trust me. You are," she said and pointed behind him.
He turned around and saw the pedestal which held the Articulum was now a grand throne. He looked at Arna. She gestured for him to sit in it.
He slowly walked to the throne. He was slow partially because of his reluctance to be the Norrom, and partially because of his new digitigrade legs. The others watched him proudly.
He reached the throne and turned to face the others. He then sat down trying to convey some authority. He hoped he pulled it off.
The moose lowered their heads in a bow and Arna curtsied to their new Norrom.
The Articulum copyright 1998 by Lance Holloway.
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