|The Transformation Story Archive||Strange Things and other Changes|
Iktharr was a thief. Not a master thief, due to his bad habit of taking shortcuts, but a pretty good one nonetheless. His teacher at the guild had told him with some despair that he would get himself killed or worse one day unless he paid attention to detail, but to date he'd gotten away with it. As a result he tended to take more and more chances since he always seemed to come out on top. However, his luck was about to run out.
The cold winter night was deserted as Iktharr silently scaled the wall to the yard of the merchant Teral's spice business. Dropping into the shallow snowdrift at the foot of the wall he crouched in the shadows for a few minutes, his senses straining to make out any sounds indicative of guards. Hearing nothing, he scuttled over the powdery ground toward the back wall of the warehouse and ducked into the cover of a small doorway. Once more he paused to listen carefully. There was no sign of anyone or anything, barring a large black cat watching him from on top of the wall he'd recently climbed. He grinned and insolently waved at it, whereupon it leapt to the ground and disappeared into the darkness.
Turning back to the work at hand he very slightly unshuttered the small lamp he had on his belt, directing the faint light at the door while being extremely cautious not to actually touch it or brush against it. He scanned the surface carefully, alert for any signs of traps or alarms, paying particular attention to the lock. Seeing nothing he pulled a small amulet from a pouch on his belt. Grasping this tightly with his eyes closed he recited a short cantrip under his breath, then opened his eyes. The door glowed with a dim blue light, which became more intense around the lock and the hinges. This indicated normal spells of strength and rust-proofing, nothing to worry about. There appeared to be no protective magic present which puzzled him briefly until he thought of a reason. The merchant was know to be rather tight with his funds, and Iktharr assumed that the old man had preferred to place his trust in strong locks rather than magic, which was considerably more expensive.
He smirked. The old miser would regret that decision. He was an expert at locks, and had not yet come across one he could not get past with a little effort. Kneeling down he probed the lock with a set of picks he removed from another pouch. Several minutes passed unsuccessfully, and he swore under his breath. This particular lock was tricky and he began to regret his previous attitude towards it. However, after a few seconds more his efforts were rewarded with a sharp click. He smiled, his confidence in his own abilities restored. Standing up again he rechecked for traps, both magical and mundane. This time there was a faint flicker of green light around the doorway, but it was only visible out of the corner of his eye for a second or so. Puzzled he rechecked his results, but this time saw nothing.
The detection amulet was not the most recent, since he seldom ran into magic and assumed he knew his ways around the standard spells. As a result he had not seen the point in upgrading the amulet to the latest version. Magic was pricey, and he saw no reason to waste his money on tools he didn't consider he needed. At the moment he was wondering whether this had been a good idea. The flickers he seemed to be seeing might be a warning of a spell he had not come across before. Then he thought about the merchant, and shook his head. If it was a spell it was a new one, and Teral would never pay for a newly developed spell. The light must have been a figment of his imagination.
Satisfied that he had produced a rationalisation for what he thought he'd seen, Iktharr oiled the hinges then reached out a gloved hand and placed it on the door latch. He had just begun to exert pressure on it when he felt a slight but anomalous downwards movement to the metalwork. Whipping his hand away he was barely in time to avoid the set of glinting needles that snapped out of a cunningly concealed row of holes on the doorframe. They protruded far enough to ensure that they would hit the wrist of a hand on the latch, and the tips were stained with a dark material. After a second or so they retracted slowly, and he caught his breath. That had been damned close. The merchant must have decided to pay real money after all. This was a trap he had not come across before, but he was pretty sure that the stuff on the needles wouldn't have been picked for its innocuousness.
Sweating a little, he removed a strip of thin steel from yet another pouch, along with a small bottle. Removing the cork he used the built-in brush to paint a glutinous liquid on one side of the strip, which was about three inches long by one wide. Replacing the stopper he put the bottle back in the pouch, then waited. After a minute or so he judged the glue had begun to set and carefully placed the steel strip on the stonework over the holes, holding it there for a few seconds. When he removed his hand the strip was adhering firmly to the stone. Giving it another thirty seconds for luck, he gingerly tried the latch again. This time the needles hit the back of the metal strip with a faint click, but the glue held. Smirking again in self-congratulation of his own skill he pushed the door open slowly, alert for any more traps.
Nothing happened and after a moment he slipped through into the dark of the warehouse. But as he closed the door silently behind himself he felt a sudden tingle shoot through his body. Jumping away in startlement he collided heavily with something in the dark, which fell over with a solid thud. Freezing in a half-crouched posture, he listened intently. A small scratching noise was followed a instant later by something warm brushing against his leg. He barely suppressed a yell, and lashed out with his foot, heart hammering in his chest. A yowl of anger echoed through the warehouse, and he relaxed slightly. It had just been another cat, or possibly the same one he'd seen outside. Nothing else stirred and he finally stood up, convinced that no-one had heard him.
Unshuttering his lamp cautiously he looked around, sweeping the beam of yellow light over the barrels and crates piled high all about him. The warehouse was very large, a veritable maze of tight corridors between the enormous quantities of goods stacked therein. The merchant was very wealthy, and it was in search of the rumoured strongroom and its cache of gold somewhere in the middle of the warehouse that Iktharr had come. As he was sidling down one of the narrow alleys between bales of yran-root he jumped as another cat shot out in front of him. Yet another was peering down from on top of a pile of barrels twenty feet away. The warehouse seemed to have many cats, which he thought were probably there to eliminate vermin. Ignoring them he continued on, only to stop a few feet later as his skin began to itch intensely all over.
Reaching inside his coat he scratched at his chest. The itching got worse, then abruptly subsided. As it did he started to feel warmer. The heat increased until he was forced to remove his coat and tuck it under one arm. Glancing at his bare arm while he did this he stared in horror.
He appeared to be growing FUR! Dropping his coat without a thought he grabbed a handful of the thick but short black fur sprouting from his skin and pulled. The pain that followed this action made his breath hiss between his teeth and he ceased his efforts to remove the stuff. It was obviously real, and as obviously the result of magic. There was nothing else that could explain it.
"The door!", he thought. "That green flicker. It must have been a spell after all. But why make a thief grow fur, of all things? It's hardly as deadly as the poison needles, and only a minor inconvenience. I just have to go to a mage after I finish and get him to undo the spell." Feeling it was probably an example of the warped sense of humour the trader was alleged to have, he felt the fur again, then shrugged and continued. If the man thought that the sudden acquisition of fur would stop Iktharr, he was going to be sadly disappointed. At least he would be nice and warm in the cold warehouse.
Pressing on he explored the building for some time. It was divided into a number of smaller rooms arranged somewhat concentrically over three levels, with the perishable goods nearest the outside where it was cooler. As the value of the merchandise increased it was stored further and further inside, under higher security. He located and disabled several more traps of varying degrees of lethality without incident. The cats, of which he had seen at least a dozen, were apparently not inconvenienced by the security arrangements at all. He considered this a pity since he didn't care for the things.
After half an hour or so he found his way to an inner room which had a stairwell in the middle, leading down. Descending the stairs he was rather surprised to find a lower level to the warehouse. His information hadn't mentioned anything like this at all. At the bottom of the stairs was a barred door, once more locked with an intricate mechanism. Looking through the bars he could see that the underground room was as large and packed as the ones above. There seemed to be bolts of cloth and chests that looked like they held things other than spices, as well as racks of weapons. This made him think that the merchant was quite possibly involved in some none-too-legal things himself, such as smuggling. These rooms would not be apparent to anyone not privy to the secret of their existence, or a thief like himself. Chuckling slightly at the hypocrisy of Teral, who was a vocal advocate of the banning of the thieves guild, he went through the careful ritual of checking for traps and spells. Once more he thought he saw a faint flicker of magic around the lock, this time red.
He stopped at this and thought it over. It might be another odd spell, similar to the one that grew him a coat of fur. On the other hand, it might be his eyes playing tricks, it was so faint and brief. Deciding to risk it in his greed for the riches he was all the more convinced lay deeper in, he nudged the door open. As he passed through the open portal he was struck once again by a tingling sensation. Half expecting it he didn't jump nearly as much this time. Looking quickly down at himself he waited, but nothing happened. When nothing continued to happen after a minute or so, he snorted and started off again. The trader had apparently paid for a dud spell. However, a little while later he became aware that his tunic was getting tight and reached up to loosen it, assuming that the tie-strings had gotten tangled.
When his hand touched a lump that shouldn't have been there he snapped his gaze down and gasped. For the second time something peculiar was happening. He appeared to be growing breasts. They swelled slowly but surely, reaching a respectable size before they ceased expanding. Feeling them incredulously he was appalled at the results of the latest spell. However, it wasn't yet finished. As he was touching the new additions to his body he became aware that his trousers were getting tighter, while his belt was becoming quite loose.
Some minutes later Iktharr found himself transformed completely into a well-developed female, with a narrow waist and wide hips that his tool belt was resting on. He still had fur, and had been forced to loosen his tunic considerable around the chest area.
He, now she, stood looking down at herself and muttering in a voice that was noticeably higher in pitch. That damn merchant must have been laughing himself sick when he had these spells installed. First furry, now a furry woman. What else could happen? She considered turning back, but stopped herself. If she returned to the thieves guild looking like this, without even the gold she had come to steal, her reputation would be ruined for good. She'd be a laughingstock. No, she would continue on, and to the hells with Teral and his spells. Once she had the gold she could get changed back easily enough.
Irritated and embarrassed Iktharr walked on, feeling her new wider hips sway from side to side as she moved. That, coupled with the way her breasts jiggled and bounced with every step, added to her feelings of disgust, and she resolved to beggar the merchant if at all possible.
Finally after another hour of searching she found a metal door set into the stone wall behind a false pile of crates. It had been well disguised but was not a match for her skills, she thought. The door had not one, but three different lock on it, and at least four obvious traps. Some careful searching disclosed a further two, one of which was so devious she was lost for a moment in sheer admiration of whoever had designed it.
It took nearly half an hour to disarm all the traps and pick the first two locks. The third one resisted all her efforts for another twenty minutes before finally submitting. When it finally clicked open she sighed in relief and stood, her hands on the small of her back, and stretched hugely. This made her breasts stand out against her tunic and she frowned down at them. Lost in the thrill of defeating the security measures she had forgotten for a moment what had happened to her, but the sight of her transformed body was an unpleasant reminder what magic was capable of.
Muttering obscenities at the deviousness of both wizards and merchants, she pulled hard and the vault door gradually swung open. It was nearly a foot thick and constructed of interleaved sheets of iron and copper, as could be seen from the side. When it was open sufficiently to see in she shone the light of her lantern through the gap and was momentarily struck speechless.
Displayed inside were a number of large barrels minus the tops. Each of them was full to overflowing with gold coins which glinted yellowly in the lantern light. However, even this unbelievable show of wealth was dwarfed by the chest at the back filled to the brim with jewellery and precious stones, glittering and winking. She gasped in awe and simply stared for a long while. There was more gold here than the entire thieves guild had stolen in the last two hundred years. Where had it all come from?
Slowly entering the vault she was almost unaware of the by-now familiar tingle of one of the peculiar spells the merchant appeared so fond of. Her eyes transfixed on the gold, she reached out a trembling hand and picked up a handful of coins, letting them trickle through her fingers while a wide grin played about her lips.
"Gods, I'll never have to steal again if I can get even a fraction of this outside", she thought, wondering abruptly how she was going to move the gold. Pondering the matter she decided the best thing was to take a number of the smaller stones from the chest, which could be fenced fairly readily and were a more concentrated form of wealth. Topping this off with a double handful of gold she filled the last of her belt pouches and drew the belt as tightly as it would go around her narrow waist. Turning to leave she suddenly noticed with absolute horror that the vault door had swung silently closed behind her.
Rushing to it she hit the featureless metal surface with her furry fists, shouting in rage. The muffled thud that resulted told clearly of the impossibility of breaking the door down by brute force. Stepping back she looked the problem over with growing despair. The inside of the vault showed none of the exploitable weaknesses of the outside, being solid stone except for the door. As she was looking helplessly around she was vaguely aware that her knees were trembling slightly, but put it down to stress. A few minutes later, however, she suddenly collapsed to the floor. Trying to stand up she was aghast to find her legs didn't seem to be working properly.
As Iktharr lay on the floor and looked at herself in despair, once more an odd transformation swept through her. This time her arms and legs slowly grew longer and thinner, becoming boneless and floppy. The change lasted several minutes and when it was complete she no longer had legs, or arms either, but fur-covered tentacles sprouting from her torso in their place. The tentacles were a good foot longer that the limbs they replaced, and quite muscular. Unfortunately they didn't allow her to stand, being unable due their construction to support her weight. With a lot of effort she found she could use all four tentacles together to push her torso off the floor, and could slither slowly around the room, but this was the best possible. Collapsing in a sitting position against the door she held the tentacle-tip that had been her right hand up in front of her and examined it wearily.
The things were very controllable, and she found she could open her belt pouches easily with them, even using the leg-tentacles. However, none of the pouches contained anything that would let her escape. Assuming she could get out these changes could be reversed given enough money, but even given she could pass the vault door how would she get up the stairs, or over the wall?
While wondering dully whether this was the place she would die, a faint light began to sparkle on the far wall. Looking up with sudden interest, she was surprised to see the face of Teral looking back at her from what appeared to be a moving picture. The image peered around the vault and smiled, then returned its gaze to her and laughed outright.
"My compliments, thief, you've managed to get further than anyone for ten years. Well done! However, you appear to have found my, how shall I put this, surprises, on the way. Like them?"
"Not really", replied Iktharr sardonically, making a rude gesture as best she was able to with the tentacles. The merchant laughed once more.
"As a reward for showing me where the holes in my security are I won't kill you. I've been watching your progress and I must say I haven't had so much fun for years."
"Instead I'll let you go." Iktharr was very surprised at this. Normally death awaited the careless thief, or slavery.
"Um, that's good of you", she ventured hopefully.
"It's not quite as easy at that, though."
"Ah. I thought not." She was thinking that the merchant was a sadistic bastard, and bracing herself for something nasty.
"You have two choices. The first is simple. I will trigger a spell that will return you to the common room of the thieves guild, as you are now. I'll even let you keep the gold and jewels you stole, as payment for the entertainment and service you gave me. The spell will do two other things. One is it will remove your memories of everything you did since you came over the wall, and the other is that it will lock in the transformations you've undergone tonight permanently. The wizard I bought the spells from assures me that it would take years of research to undo the changes after this, so you'd be a forever present reminder not to steal from me."
Iktharr was horrified. Stay like this forever? She thought it would almost be kinder if the merchant simply killed her. "I can't say I think much of that choice", she replied, attempting not to appear too scared at the thought.
"The other choice is slightly different, but offers me much more fun. I will unlock the vault door, and let you go. If you can make it out to the exit of the warehouse you get to live, and again you'll keep the money. However, there is a catch. One final transformation spell awaits you on the way through that door you're leaning against. It will turn you into a mouse. You'll retain your memory and intelligence, don't worry, and if you can make it outside the building you will be fully restored, although once again your memories of what happened will be erased. Can't have you passing on my secrets, can I? Thinking about it, I'll have to insist you keep the fur as a reminder, but I'm sure that you'll get used to it eventually. Those are the two choices. Which will it be?"
She thought it over. Life as a furry, female, tentacled freak, or a few hours as a mouse and then freedom with nothing more than a bit of fur. She could always shave, and with all that gold surely she could find a wizard to remove the spell anyway. Iktharr was about to say she'd take the second choice when she suddenly remembered, with a sinking heart, that the warehouse was full of cats. Cats to catch mice. Looking at the merchant's grin of delight at her expression of realisation, she was aware that the man had prepared well for her. She groaned in renewed despair.
What would she choose?
What COULD she choose?
Thief Trap copyright 1999 by Changer.
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