This will change you, on a fundamental level – genetically, spiritually. It is highly theoretical, utterly untested. Not even I know the exact outcome this will have. Are you sure you want this?
Is it the only way?
That I know of.
Then do it, before I change my mind.
At first it feels like pins and needles, an uncomfortable prickling slowly spreading over my whole body. It isn’t exactly fun, but I can cope with this. Lyandra said the magic would take at least an hour – of course, I wouldn’t exactly expect something like this to be fast. Surgery is a delicate process and this is so much more than just surgery.
This will change you, on a fundamental level.
It’s too late to regret anything. I already let her bind me to this chair. I already drank the tar-like substance she gave me, felt it coating my throat all the way down in a disgusting viscous layer. I already told her to do it, to get it over with. A part of me wishes I had spent a little more time thinking about this, that I had consulted with my pack. A day here in Arcadia suddenly seems like too little time to make a decision like this. But if what Swizzlesticks said is true, there isn’t time to be wasting. The others knew that I was coming here, that I was asking for my boon. We all knew there would be some level of risk involved with what I want.
The prickling starts becoming uncomfortable, like actual needles are poking into my skin. I find it difficult not to wince. Is this what it’s like to get a tattoo? I’ve never had one – my packmates all have the mark of their tribe on their skin and Cal and Nahuel both have more ink besides, but my skin remains unmarked. The sensation grows stronger and I do wince, twitching a little in the chair. I don’t know if Lyandra notices.
She is walking around me, one hand raised almost casually as she speaks an unending flow of words, weaving them into something I couldn’t possibly hope to understand in strange languages that are utterly unfamiliar to me. Sometimes I think I hear brief fragments of human languages, even a little spirit speech, but it’s so hard to focus as the stabbing feeling becomes more intense. If I didn’t know what she was doing, I wouldn’t even think there was magic happening – there’s no sparkles or flashes of light, just me restrained in a chair and her talking as she paces around me. But the pain keeps getting worse. I work on moderating my breathing, trying not to be sick. The nausea has been growing for a while, along with everything else. I grit my teeth, trying to power through the discomfort. I’m a werewolf, this is nothing. I’ve suffered worse. Last time I was restrained by a magic user in a chair, I was pumped full of drugs and then had my throat cut.
Gaia, I wish I hadn’t thought about that.
After a while I feel like I’ve almost gotten used to the sensations, able to meditate a little and tune out the worst of it. The continuously chanting voice is soothing in a way, along with the bubbling liquids in the background in her workroom. I can hold down the nausea, I can ignore the entirely unnatural feeling under my skin and the lingering doubts in the back of my mind that maybe I chose wrong.
If the whole process is like this, I can survive it. And then I’ll be able to make a difference like I want to.
Swizzlesticks wandered down the stairs, one hand trailing casually against the stonework and leaving a streak of colour. He knew he shouldn’t be heading out of his room, but that had never stopped him before. Besides, Julia was still here and he wanted to ask her something. He’d watched her down in the city for the remainder of the day, wandering through the streets and sometimes sitting and just watching people. He hadn’t been sure what she was doing – why was she delaying? The decision seemed pretty clear to him. Take up the offer, get what she wanted, possibly become a rad new super-species with cool powers. What was there to think about? Maybe this was a mortal thing.
He paused in the stairwell outside his mothers’ room, a small frown on his face. He could hear movement inside. Normally at this time of day his mothers would be holding court or doing some other queen thing that he was bad at paying attention to. What was going on? Had somebody broken in? Behind him, the wall filled with a puddle of colour as his hand rested against it.
Should I go in? Technically I haven’t left the palace walls, so I’ve not broken the grounding if it is one of them…
He opened the door ever so slightly, just enough so that he could hear the movement better. It sounded like… pacing. Why would a thief be pacing back and forth? It had to be one of his mothers. There was a thud, as if something had been dropped. Swizzlesticks pushed the door the rest of the way open.
His mother looked up sharply from the other side of the room where she had been starting to bend over to pick up a book. She looked… messy. He was used to coming in here and finding one or both of his parents looking dishevelled – these were their private chambers, after all – but even then, they had looked artfully so. It just came naturally when you were fae, almost impossible not to look somehow perfect even when you weren’t. But right now Gwendolyn looked like someone had crumpled her up like a piece of paper. Her face was even slightly streaky, as if she’d been crying.
“Son, we’ve talked about this enough already. You know you aren’t supposed to come in here uninvited.” She raised her hand as if she was going to gesture so that the door would close in his face, and then apparently changed her mind.
“Sorry.” He shrugged awkwardly, stepping into the room. “I’ll be quick. Have you seen Julia? I wanted to ask her something before she left.”
His mother’s face went very stiff. “I… yes. She is still here.”
Swizzlesticks frowned. “Mom, are you OK? You look like someone put you through a ringer.”
“That’s not a very polite thing to say.” His mother frowned and stood up straight, reaching up to adjust her hair. The fae magics were already working to tidy her up so that the redness faded and the tear streaks disappeared. “We’ll need to do some work on manners again. When you’re ruling this kingdom, you can’t-”
“Ugh. Sure, whatever. Where’s Julia?”
For a moment Gwendolyn stayed very still, as if she was deliberating something, torn between two reactions. He wondered if she was going to shout at him, or perhaps teleport him back to his room – they did that sometimes when they were really cross. And then his mother’s face crumpled and she sat down on the little chaise-lounge.
“She’s… with your mother.”
“…OK.” He frowned, confused. “Where are they? Because I wanted to-”
“In the back room.” She waved her hand towards the door. It shimmered with wards, magic designed to keep people out and whatever Lyandra did in there safely locked inside. Swizzlesticks swallowed.
He was never allowed in the workroom. A sneaking part of him always wondered if it was the concession that had been made when the castles and the courts had merged, the piece of Unseelie that had been allowed here in their living quarters. After all, he heard relationships were about compromise, but outwardly the castle and surrounding lands seemed to be very much Seelie in their fashion. A small part of him was jealous that Julia had been allowed in there before him. Another small part was… not afraid, of course not afraid. Just concerned. His mother was Unseelie at heart, and he didn’t know what was behind that door. The sheer amount of magic on it didn’t suggest fluffy unicorns and rainbows.
But another part was also kind of excited, if he was right, if Julia had made her decision after all. He asked, even though he had a feeling he knew the answer. “What are they doing?”
“Your friend has decided on her boon, and taken up the offer that was made on how to achieve what she wants.”
“Oh, cool!” He came into the room eagerly, closing the door behind him. “I thought she’d do it! Do you think mom would let me watch?”
“No!” Gwendolyn said sharply. “This is not… how do you know about this?”
“She came to talk to me about it. I told her to go for it.” He grinned, coming over to crouch beside his mother. “It sounds awesome!”
“It is not…” Gwendolyn sighed with frustration. “You really do have a lot of Lyandra in you sometimes. Always wanting to dabble in experimental magics, without regard for the costs. There is a very real chance it could go wrong. Even if it doesn’t, it will change her forever. That isn’t something that we can undo, even with all the power at our disposal.” She reached out a hand to gently rest it on his shoulder. “This is not something to be taken lightly, especially for a mortal.”
“But think of how cool it would be!” He gestured eagerly. “She’d be… part-fae, part-werewolf, or something. That’s like a crazy hero from the tales, right? I’d love to be able to turn into a wolf man!” He made a growling noise, shaking his head enthusiastically, and his mother laughed despite herself.
“Ah, you’re still so young.” She shook her head, a thoughtful look passing over her face. “I suppose if she is less mortal, she would potentially be more viable as a marriage candidate for you down the line.”
“Mom! Stop it!”
“Sorry, son. You know I’m only thinking of your future. We won’t be here forever, you know.” She smiled sadly, stroking his hair.
“Sure, whatever. Just… give me a chance, alright? I’m too young to get married.” He shuffled uncomfortably. “I’m sure mom knows what she’s doing. How long have they been in there?”
“About forty-five minutes now.”
“Well, I don’t hear anything. It’s probably fine.”
“I’m sure you’re right.” Gwendolyn looked very tired, resting her hand on his arm. “I haven’t heard anything either. Your mother is very good at-”
Her fingers clenched tight on his shoulder and they both stiffened. Behind the door, ripping through every spell and ward, there was an ear-piercing scream of agony.
My skin is on fire. Not just in terms of the pain I feel, but at times quite literally. I arch out of the chair with a scream, my entire body spasming against the restraints as they cut into my arms and legs. Flames lick up my arms and then are suddenly overwhelmed with a sheet of ice, crackling with blue lightning and burning away at my skin. I’m choking on air as my lungs refuse to work, eyes wide as I see roots appear under my skin and my mind goes blank with terror. They disappear just as quickly as they came, but it’s enough.
Lyandra’s voice remains steady over the sound of my pain, continuing her chant even as my cries ring through her workroom. Why did I think this was a good idea? Gaia, I want her to stop, I want this to end. I feel like I’ve been in this chair forever, can’t seem to remember anything before this pain. I’ve never felt anything like it, as if every atom in my body is being ripped apart.
This will change you, on a fundamental level.
What have I done?