|The Transformation Story Archive||Mythical Beings|
"Hold, monstrous creature! The Queen of Elvendom commands your presence!" Keith was startled by the thunderous voice behind him, and twisted around to see a knight in polished silver armor. The medieval warrior looked a bit out of place standing in the hallway of a Holiday Inn, but then, so did a 7-foot minotaur.
Keith felt an instant thrill. The Elvendom group always swept the masquerade competitions wherever they showed up, and were usually quite aloof from the other convention participants. To be sought out by them was a terrific compliment to his costume.
Maneuvering on the foot-high lifts built into his hooves was tricky, but he managed a fairly smooth turn and bow. "Lead on, Sir Knight." Of course, a real minotaur would have made some sort of powerful bellow, but given his rather high-pitched voice, he was better off speaking.
The Knight made a short gesture for him to follow. Both of them got stares of admiration from the scores of people clogging the hallway, and Keith grinned behind his latex muzzle when more than a few shouted praise at him instead of his guide.
They continued down the hallways until the rumble of the convention faded away, and all that could be heard was the clomping of Keith's hooves and the occasional squeak of armor. After a few minutes, the hallway became some sort of long service corridor, which ended at a set of oversized double doors. The Knight pushed these open, and ushered Keith inside.
He was so startled that he almost fell over, stumbling in mid-stride as he gaped at the room. It was rumored that the Elvendom group had a lot of money, and Keith was getting first-hand evidence of that. Obviously one of the larger meeting halls, the entire space had been elaborately decorated as a medieval court, with heavy wooden furniture, elaborate tapestries, and even a grass-like carpet.
The dozen-or-so occupants were all in costume, and there was no sign of modern fixtures or walls. Even the ceiling was draped in light blue fabric that diffused the overhead fluorescence into a soft twilight effect. "Announcing the Monster." All eyes turned towards him as the Knight spoke, and then almost as one, everyone looked to the Queen.
Even surrounded by the spectacular characters of her court, the 'Queen of Elvendom' stood out. Tall and slender, she had shimmering silver hair which flowed to her waist, and a gown richly embroidered with silver threads and glittering jewels. She moved towards him, seeming to float rather than walk. Keith bowed automatically. "I am honored by thy invitation, your highness." He figured that he would stick to the character speech until they dropped the act.
"What a terrible voice!" He looked up to the Queen's face wrinkled in a frown, which remained as she began to pull and poke at his costume. "Legs are much to baggy, the muzzle isn't right, and that silly toy ax wouldn't scare anyone." Keith was taken aback by her blunt criticism. He had spent months working on this minotaur costume, carving foam, hand-stitching fake fur, and even designing the complicated lower legs.
Fuming silently, he allowed her to finish her examination. When she was done, the woman looked up at his face intently. "Ah, but such anger in the eyes. And those lovely horns." She clapped her hands suddenly, and turned to the Knight. "Oh, he is wonderful, Aeriel! Much better than I expected!"
Keith's anger turned to confusion. "I don't understand. Why did you want to see me?"
The Queen smiled up at him. "We have openings for certain positions in my court. However, I am very selective of those whom I ask to join us. There is a certain image connected with Elvendom, and only a handful of people display the dedication to detail that we demand."
Keith swallowed hard, hoping he knew what she was going to say next. "We are in need of a Monster, and minotaurs happen to be a personal favorite of mine. Your costume is a bit off here and there, but on the whole, it is a remarkable achievement. If you would allow us to make a few, ah, alterations later, I would like you to join us for the Grand Masquerade tonight. And after that, you will become a permanent member of my Court."
He could barely restrain himself. Master Costumers had sought to join these people and been turned down. And the Grand Masquerade was the premiere event of the costume contest! Bowing as low as he could without falling over, he took her outstretched hand and brushed his muzzle lightly across it. "I gratefully accept the honors your kind invitation bestows, your highness."
She gave him an amused smile. "Indeed? Then come back here an hour before the Grand Masquerade. Please don't tell anyone about this invitation. It might give away our presentation for the contest." Aeriel came back to stand by his side, and gestured towards the door. As much as he wanted to ask questions, Keith realized that he'd better not press his luck. This was like a junior high basketball player being asked to join the NBA!
The Knight walked him partly back, waving him on when they got to the main hotel corridor. Keith's attempts at conversation had been ignored, and he couldn't tell if the guy was just staying in character, or was really that rude. He didn't really care, though. The elation of being in the Elvendom group was worth a little put-down.
He spent the rest of the afternoon looking at other people's costumes, wondering if anyone else had been chosen. Most were aliens or spacemen from popular science fiction movies and shows, but there were a few fantasy characters that looked really good. Still, the only one he thought was really different was a black war-horse complete with rider.
Two brothers, obviously twins, made up the horse, with a rather silly-looking dummy glued to the saddle. The animal part was actually quite good, with a realistic head and body covered in black fake fur. The lower legs were too short and shaped wrong, but the biggest problem was a lack of coordination between the wearers.
Considering the similarities of their costumes, it was only natural that Keith and the twins would compare notes. He stopped to talk while the 'horse' was resting in two separate pieces. The sweat-soaked back-end was complaining about his sore back, and demanding a switch-off.
James and Nathan Hall were 17, two years younger than Keith, and had spent more than a year creating their Shire war-horse. Both costumes used a similar construction methods, including at least one part of a real animal. Nathan's end of the horse was graced with a long black horse's tail from a taxidermy supply house. Keith's bull's horns had been found at a local flea market.
The subject of the Elvendom group never came up, and he suspected that both of them were intentionally avoiding the subject for the same reason. Those suspicions were confirmed later when he saw the war-horse standing outside Elvendom's room. A rather stunning girl about Keith's age was with the twins, dressed as a wood nymph. Marie, as she introduced herself, had hand-stitched real oak leaves over a green leotard, and completed the effect with green body makeup and a matching wig. She grinned at him and nodded at the Shire. James and Nathan were still grousing with each other over who's turn it was to be the back end. "Talk about your stable relationships! A horse that can talk to itself and answer!"
The door opened before Keith could respond, and Aeriel motioned for them to come in. As they complied, a shaggy-haired child no more than 7 or 8 came running down the hall in a barbarian fighter's loincloth and boots, carrying a plastic sword. Keith thought the little boy was just lost, but he was ushered in with the rest.
The Queen greeted them all, still using their costume types rather than names. Of course, no one had ever asked him his name. It was sorta funny to be called 'Monster,' and the twins had to share 'Noble Stallion." "Wood Spirit" was at least better for Marie, but he almost laughed when the little boy was addressed as "Mighty Warrior."
The Elvendom group wasn't much on small talk. The Queen's Court immediately divided up equally, 3 to each of the newcomers. Keith was taken to a curtained-off corner by two men and a woman dressed as elves, and felt two of his 'helpers' tugging at the fur on his legs. Before he could look down to see what was being done, the woman slipped her fingers under his headpiece and pulled it off!
"Hey! It took me months to make that! Be careful!" His angry protest was ignored, and she turned away from him to set the mask on a worktable covered with jars and boxes. The sound of fabric being cut jerked his head back around to see pieces of his leg coverings now littering the floor. He sputtered, so outraged that he couldn't talk. What the hell were these people doing?
His anger faded as his left leg was quickly stitched back together. The 'elf' smirked as he tied off the last loop and smoothed the fake fur. Somehow, they had taken out all of the looseness of the covering, giving his lower leg a much more realistic contour. The other soon matched it, and they shifted their attention further up. He grinned sheepishly as they looked under his loincloth. As sort of a private joke, he had made his costume anatomically correct, with modest bull's equipment simulated with foam and an old sock.
Instead of kidding him, they both nodded in approval and moved onward to tighten and slightly reshape his chest and upper arms. He jerked slightly as a third pair of hand tugged at his tail, and seemed to be altering the foam of his bovine buttocks. It was nerve-wracking to have strangers doing so much to his costume, but they seemed to really know what they were doing.
Finally, the two males stepped back and smiled in satisfaction. The curtain across from him was pulled up to reveal a brightly polished sheet of metal which served as an almost perfect mirror. He turned slightly to get a better look, and grinned broadly. It was still the same costume, but their tailoring had made a dramatic difference. His thighs were a little flatter and deeper, with a much more bovine belly and chest. Even the fake fur looked dull and shaggier. However, the overall effect was comical, for the powerful minotaur's body had his very human head sticking out of it.
The girl retrieved the bull's headpiece and his mouth dropped when he saw it. She had somehow enlarged the muzzle and twisted it slightly into a snarl which revealed cruel new fangs. The forehead had been thickened to provide a more realistic base for his massive horns, which were now sharpened to points. She slipped it on carefully, and he was delighted to find that the muzzle was more flexible than before, moving easily with his jaw. One of the males handed him a massive, double-edged ax, which he grabbed just before he looked in the mirror.
He'd started out with mostly animal features, no more threatening than a cow. The creature staring back at him was a nightmare brought to life. His menacing sneer and vicious horns were accented by brows which had been pulled into a protruding scowl. Shadows in the deep sockets made his eyes look solid black. And the weapon was perfect. "This is fantastic! Can I keep the fangs and stuff? I'll pay you for.."
The girl shushed him and held up a tankard with a wooden tube for him to sip through. "This will numb your vocal chords slightly, and drop your voice. That way you can grunt and bellow properly." Sensing his hesitation, she got annoyed. "You look perfect! But one word in your normal voice would ruin the illusion. It's perfectly harmless!"
Having gone this far, Keith wasn't about to falter now. He managed to draw some of the liquid through the straw. It tasted like sugar water, but he did feel a slight tingling in his throat. After she took the mug back, he tried an experimental grunt. A deep rumble came from his mouth. Grinning, he stared at the mirror and snarled. The guttural sound which emerged gave even him a chill.
The elves took him back to the main area, where Marie was already waiting. As with him, the alterations were mostly minor, but the change was dramatic. Her makeup had been softened to a much more natural look, yet retained the greenish cast. And they had teased her hair up and added flowers and small leaves that actually seemed to be growing from her head. Her eyes widened when she saw him, and she covered her mouth in a pantomimed shriek.
Unable to speak, he bowed and grunted. As he was rising, a curtain on the opposite wall opened to reveal the war-horse. James and Nathan's costume had benefited from the same kind of tailoring that Keith's had received, and there were two major improvements as well. Somehow, the Elvendom group had constructed short stilts for the four legs which corrected the odd shape and proportions of before. And the stuffed rider had been replaced by a scowling, dirty warrior perfectly scaled to the Shire.
It had to be the boy, though there was nothing recognizable except parts of the costume and general size. They had added a padded tunic to give his chest and arms a thick, muscular shape, and used shaped wrappings to disguise his legs. A shining two-handed sword, scaled to his size, had replaced the plastic toy. But the boy's face was the real masterpiece. His jaw and nose had been given more adult shapes, and they had even stippled a light beard. Without anything else to provide perspective, he would look like a mighty giant of a barbarian fighter on a real horse.
The effect was ruined as soon as the twins started moving. Their poor coordination was only made worse by the stilts, and they stumbled badly. The familiar arguments had already started up again. "I can't move my arms! YOU shift around!" "No! Start with the left leg!" It was impossible to tell which was where, but he figured that Nathan was still in back.
"Silence!" Their bickering stopped at the Queen's command. She shook her head in disapproval. "This will not work at all." Stroking the Shire's side, she spoke in soothing tones. "Have but a single consciousness, the mind of the Noble Stallion who serves the will of the Mighty Warrior who rides him."
The twins made no response other than shifting around a bit inside the costume. However, as they moved this time, they had the smooth gait of a horse down perfectly. The Queen nodded in approval, and made a sweeping gesture with her hand. "It is time!"
The Elvendom group began their procession to the convention area, with Keith placed between Aeriel and the Queen. Marie flitted about, apparently setting up her character as she sniffed at some of the hotel plants. But it was the reaction of other people to his costume that really thrilled him. They actually fell back against the wall, staring in awe at his massive, shambling bulk. He growled every now and then, getting into the part. One child actually ran screaming, and even adults had a slight look of fear in their eyes that he found satisfying.
As last year's winners, Elvendom had the honor of going first. The procession had been timed to that they never missed a step as they went from the hallway into the wings of the Grand Masquerade stage. Keith felt a sudden panic, realizing that he didn't know what he was supposed to do. One of the elves whispered for him to just wait and listen.
The Queen swept out to center stage and began to speak. It was a little hard to make out what she was saying, but he realized she was starting some sort of narrative story. It concerned a young barbarian warrior traveling distant lands. Applause started up, and he saw that the twins and the boy had gone on stage, looking every bit the mighty horse and rider. The tale was about the barbarian's quest for adventure, and the perils he faced. Marie played the part of a seductive spirit of the forest who tried to tempt him with her body and failed. Aeriel appeared as a fierce knight who demanded battle, only to slain in mock combat by the 'warrior's' sword.
And then it was his turn. As the Queen began talking of dark woods and eerie sounds, he was pushed out onto the stage. There was a collective gasp from the audience, and then thunderous applause that forced the Queen to stop for a moment. When it died down, she spoke a horrible monster who had been terrorizing the lands. Keith growled for effect, and clomped around his side of the stage before attacking. The barbarian's small size made Keith feel even more powerful, and he swung his massive ax with a sudden bellow of rage. Leaping aside, the barbarian drew his sword, and the two fell into a battle that could have been choreographed. The ax seemed to lead his actions, twisting and turning in arcs that just missed the barbarian. After a few minutes of fierce battle, the barbarian struck Keith's side with his sword. A horrible scream broke from his muzzle, and he dropped to the ground, vanquished. The warrior's sword poised over his throat. But the tale did not end with the monster's death. The warrior delivered the minotaur to the Queen of the Elves, who placed a golden collar around his neck. The collar made him her slave, and the warrior was rewarded with a magic sword and the promise of many adventures to come.
Their standing ovation lasted for five minutes, and the group had to make three additional bows before the Queen led the group off the stage. Keith felt a little dizzy, probably from all the exertion, but he was too thrilled by his participation to care. How had he managed that wonderful fight? For the first time, it occurred to him that both weapons were real, and he could have really hurt the kid if he'd hit him. Yet even that didn't matter. Nothing had happened, and he had no doubt that the group would win.
Sure enough, after the last contestants in the Grand Masquerade had finished, the judges took only a few minutes to make decisions. Starting from the lesser awards, they worked their way up to the First Prize announcement. "Elvendom, for 'A Warrior's Tale."
Once more, they went on stage and received thunderous applause. Perhaps the Elvendom group was used to such accolades, but Keith was thrilled. He could hardly wait to tell his parents and friends!
As soon as the trophy was presented, the Queen led them out of the convention area and back to the room. There was a big dance set up for after the costume competition, but Elvendom must have some private party planned. Keith wondered how James and Nathan had managed to stay quiet so long. Their movement looked perfectly natural, and if he didn't know better, he'd almost swear the Shire was a real animal walking down the hallway. Nathan even managed to lift the tail up to the side, as if the horse were about to...
Green manure fell from under the tail. One of the elves raced to scoop the mess up as soon as it hit, but no one else even broke stride. To his sudden horror, that included Keith. He tried to stop, to speak, to do anything but follow along in the procession. But he continued to plod along behind the Shire and Barbarian. Worse, he realized that he really was following a horse, not two boys in a costume. The animal had started a prancing trot that was possibly only with true equine legs, and it looked around and snuffled the air with the horse's eyes and flaring nostrils.
As they entered the long service hall, both beast and rider began to get larger. The boy's leggings and padded tunic seemed to be absorbed as his body swelled and stretched. By the time they reached the door, the child had matured into a hulking, muscle-bound man who looked even older than Keith. Mounted on a now full-sized war-horse, the barbarian's head almost touched the high ceiling.
The entire wall ahead of them shimmered and vanished to reveal the courtyard as the procession approached. Still unable to control his movements, Keith found himself walking on real grass instead of carpet. Soft light filtered down from a real night sky, and he could smell and hear a rich variety of creatures and plants around him. It was a fairyland setting, and he was just starting to realize that fairyland was exactly where he was. The Queen and her court weren't wearing costumes.
Aeriel came over to him and pulled the battle ax from his unresponsive fingers, and one of the elves pulled his loincloth off. Keith's eyes seemed to be the only things he could control. Looking wildly from side to side, he saw the barbarian dismount and lead the horse to a pool to drink. A wispy green female was hovering near the edge of what looked like woods, looking far to tiny to be Marie.
Finally, the Queen approached him and stroked his furred chest. And for the first time, Keith realized the bovine shape he wore was no longer a costume. He could feel her fingers against his hide, and the soft fragrance of her body was drawn in by his massive snout. Just as the twins had become a horse, he had become a real minotaur!
"One left who is still confused." The Queen smiled up at him. "The woods call to you, my wonderful minotaur. There are others of your kind waiting." Her hand slipped down to massage a crotch which now housed far more than foam and an old sock. "Join them."
Keith could smell the others now, some of them appealing to the organ which the woman was already arousing. But he struggled against the urges, and managed to get his altered mouth to speak. "I don't want to be a monster." Though his words came out mangled, the woman seemed to understand him.
"Are you sure? A minotaur bull is a fearsome and mighty creature. You would be the terror of my forest, and the leader of the herd. Join me as the others have. A wondrous life awaits you here."
He shivered in fear. "What about our families? Everyone saw us with you. The police will..." He stopped, realizing that no authorities from his world could ever find this one.
"The police won't even get a report. None of your human identities exist anymore. It is as if you were never born. No one, not even your parents, remembers anything about you." She grinned. "The boy's mother was sitting in the first row during the Grand Masquerade, and didn't even know she was missing a child."
Keith looked at the grazing Shire. "What's happened to James and Nathan? Are they dead?"
The woman laughed. "Dead? Oh, no. They won't be arguing anymore, for they are, shall we say, of one mind now. I suppose they would not have chosen to be merged, but it's their own fault. I couldn't have them ruining the pageant, and it was the only way to get them to work together. After all, we did win."
Keith felt a chill at her matter-of-fact attitude. Regardless of whether or not the twins still existed in the Shire, they had been stripped of human thought and ability just to help these people win a trophy. "And the others?" He looked at Marie. She was almost the size the boy had been, with green, waxy skin and a mass of vines and tendrils on her head.
The Queen clapped her hands, and then shooed the nymph off. Keith was startled to see the creature that had been a human girl press against a tree trunk and vanish into it. "The girl is happy, and so is the warrior." She gestured towards the barbarian, who was making rather unchild-like advances towards a serving wench. "Even the quarreling fools have found peace and contentment in their shared body. It is only you who resists."
Her eyes narrowed, and her smile thinned into a more unpleasant look. "I gratefully accept the honors your kind invitation bestows, your highness." Keith's words were repeated mockingly. "You even sealed the bargain with a kiss. Why do you now refuse me?"
He answered her question with one of his own. "Why? Why have you done this to us? We never did anything to you!" He wanted to cry, but found that his minotaur eyes did not have that function.
The Queen shrugged delicately. "I need replacements. We elves live for centuries. Horses go lame, or get old. Nymphs die with their trees. And barbarian fighters and monsters kill each other off." She sighed. "I had hoped to find a dragon, but nobody seems to do those costumes anymore."
Keith swallowed, feeling fear build. "I don't want to be a monster! Please! Don't make me do this!" He dropped to his hands, unable to kneel as he begged. "I don't want to kill anyone!"
Her thin smile became a cold sneer. "A groveling minotaur? Perhaps I have made an error. I offer you strength, power, and the thrill of battle. Would you refuse that to be harmless and normal back in your own world again?" He nodded, still facing the ground.
"Very well. I still have three to enjoy, and a reluctant monster is worse than useless. Shall I return you to the convention?"
Keith was bewildered by the sudden release, but grabbed at her offer. "Oh, yes!" Once he got back, he could tell everyone what had happened, and even if they didn't believe him, he'd find a way to stop them from stealing anyone else.
The courtyard shimmered around him, tapestries and grass closing in to become painted walls and commercial carpet. As the last images of Elvendom faded, he thought he heard the Queen start to laugh.
Some girls saw him as they came around the corner and shrieked. Keith realized he was still a minotaur, despite the Queen's promise to make him normal. He could make out his muzzle, and feel the mass of his body. Oddly, the girls started laughing, and called to others as they approached him.
He wanted to tell them what had happened, but couldn't find the words in his head. One of the Convention officials was there now, shaking his head in incredulous disgust. "Now how the Hell did someone get a cow in here?"
Booby Prize copyright 1996 by Bob Stein.
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