A group of adventurers come through the town of Raven's Crossing and bring a curse with them.
Raven's Crossing was a small town that was much more prosperous than most others of its size. This was not due to any special products or services that the people of the town offered but was entirely due to its location.
Raven's Crossing had been built where two ancient travel routes crossed. The road to the north led to enormous mountains and deep valleys, a region that was the ancestral home of several dwarf clans, rock trolls, and the occasional dragon. The road west led to a vast region of wild magic, sorcerers, and warlords. To the east and south were the more civilized kingdoms.
Few traders left Raven's Crossing to go north or west and fewer still returned. However, groups of adventurers would sometimes travel to those dangerous lands in search of fortune or glory. These adventurers would usually purchase their supplies in town, at the last outpost of civilization for some distance in either direction, and those who returned would have to buy new provisions. Sometimes, they would even return successful and wealthy.
Corwin was a young man and the owner of the town bakery which he was closing up for the day. He looked over his empty shelves, feeling pleased since one of the travelers coming through town had just bought everything he'd had left, saying that he and his friend's hadn't had fresh bread in months. The traveler had paid well for it too, nearly twice as much as the normal price, a sure sign that his journey to the west had been profitable.
"Not bad at all," Corwin mused as he considered his earnings. "I think this calls for a pint."
With that, Corwin started walking towards the inn. He hadn't gone very far though when he noticed a beautiful woman coming out of a clothing shop and locking it up. Corwin smiled at the sight, knowing that she wasn't the most beautiful woman in town but she was a close second. Amelia was also the woman he intended to marry...if he could get her to accept him. It wasn't an easy task when there were other suitors trying to catch her eye as well.
"Amelia," Corwin greeted her as they passed. "I'll be making more of that honey bread you like tomorrow if you want to stop by."
"That sounds very nice," Amelia responded with a genuine smile that made Corwin warm inside. "I do so love your honey bread... It goes fantastic with my grand-mother's jam."
Corwin nodded at that, "You'll have to let me try some of it sometime."
Amelia gave a light laugh, "I'll bring you some tomorrow then." Then she held up a small basket she clutched in her hand and said, "I fear I can't talk much now. I promised my mother I'd bring her some fabric and she worries if I'm late." Then she smiled again and added, "I will see you tomorrow then."
Once Amelia was gone, Corwin smiled to himself, looking forward to seeing Amelia. He made a mental note to make the honey bread with the jar of good honey he'd been saving.
Just then, Corwin saw three large men coming towards him though his attention was on the one in front, the tall one with bulging muscles. This was Brand, the village blacksmith and lout. He was physically powerful in a way that Corwin could only envy, and unfortunately, he too was interested in Amelia. The two men beside him were his friends, Jeke and Kell.
"I told you before," Brand exclaimed angrily, grabbing Corwin by his shirt and snarling in his face. "You don't talk to Amelia. She's mine. MINE!"
"Break his arm," Kell suggested. "That will make him think twice about touching her..."
Jeke shook his head. "No...he needs both arms to make bread...and my wife would kill me if she couldn't get fresh bread."
"Well you don't need your legs to make bread," Brand told Corwin, lifting him off the ground a little and glaring at him. "If I see you so much as talking to my woman again, I'll break both of them."
Then Brand shoved Corwin to the ground while his two friends laughed. The three of them glared at Corwin for a moment longer before they turned and walked away. Corwin got back to his feet and glared at the three men, wishing he could cut them to pieces with a sword but he didn't know how to use one. In fact, the only weapon he could use at all was a staff and not too reliably. As much as he might dislike the idea, the only thing he could do was stay out of their way.
"Except for Amelia," Corwin told himself. There was no way he was going to let anyone scare him away from her, not even that lout Brand. With that, Corwin brushed himself off and continued towards the inn, deciding that he needed a pint of ale even more than before.
The village inn was called the Oger's Head because long ago an adventurer returning from the west had left behind a severed oger's head. The oger's head and then skull had been kept on the mantle as a trophy for many years before some thief had wandered off with it. And though the trophy had been gone since before Corwin's father had even been born, the name still remained.
When Corwin stepped into the Oger's Head, he looked around and saw that it was much more busy than usual, though that wasn't any surprise. In one corner, he saw the group of adventurers gathered around a table having their meal and drinking. They were the reason the inn was so busy. Some of the people in town came just to get a look at the travelers and hear the stories of their adventures while others came for greed more than curiosity. Successful adventurers were often free with their coin and could be talked into games of chance or would buy drinks for the whole inn. It had become a near tradition for the villagers to gather around successful adventurers for just such reasons.
One of the travelers was a man with a green cloak who had a sword strapped to his side and carried a nice bow with him. This was the very man who had come to Corwin's shop to buy bread. However, this was the first time Corwin had gotten a look at his companions.
There was one older man with a red beard and dark gray clothes in a style which marked him as a wizard. There was a staff leaned up against the wall beside him which glowed faintly from a red jewel on the top. An attractive dark haired woman sat beside him, wearing blue and white clothes and jewelry that marked her as a priestess of some sort. There was also a large and muscular man in full armor, who looked as though he'd be ready to jump from his seat and pull out his large sword to begin fighting at a moment's notice.
The last person at the traveler's table was an extremely attractive and buxom young woman with golden blond hair. Her breasts were large and round, threatening to burst free from her clothes, which were oddly enough, made for a man. This woman was scowling and not looking the least bit happy.
As Corwin looked over the adventurers, he remembered them from when they'd come through Raven's Crossing two months ago. He knew for certain that this busty woman was not with them at that time. But if he remembered right, he was sure that this group did have another member, a skinny faced young man with a shifty look about him. Corwin remembered him mostly because he'd had the look of a thief about him though there was no sign of this man now.
Corwin turned his attention away from the travelers and instead looked to where Brand and his friends were sitting, gulping their ale and laughing loudly. They'd barely had a head start on Corwin but were already acting as though they were drunk. Branch casually slapped the ass of the serving wench while she took it with a fake smile plastered on her face. Corwin just scowled, hating the idea of a man like that being married to Amelia. She deserved much better than someone like Brand.
A moment later, Corwin went to the bar and nodded at the innkeeper Durgin. Durgin was a stocky man with thick muscular arms and a beard that would have done a dwarf proud. In fact, there were rumors that Durgin might even be part dwarf. He was also glaring at Brand and his friends due to the small fact that that the serving wench they were bothering was his daughter. However, Durgin would tolerate a great deal as long as they paid their tab and didn't go too far. However, Corwin suspected that they were edging very close to that line.
"I'll have a pint," Corwin told Durgin as he dropped his coins onto the counter.
Once Corwin had a drink in hand, he leaned back against a support column and looked around. There were no seats open at the moment so he had to make due with a good standing spot, something which was not unusual when the Oger's Head was at its busiest. Corwin was close enough to the travelers that when he paid attention he could even hear their conversation.
"I am so sick of this flaming curse," the buxom woman exclaimed in frustration, grabbing her breasts and scowling in annoyance. "I like these on my women...not on me."
"I've tried every trick I know to break the curse," the wizard told her patiently. "You know this is beyond my skills or I'd break it this moment…just to end your incessant complaining."
"I too have tried everything I can," the priestess assured her.
The man in green whom I assumed was some sort of hunter or ranger told her, "You know this is why we head to Arrivar. Hopefully we can find a wizard there who knows how to break your curse."
The buxom woman glared at them and snapped, "You have no idea how uncomfortable and embarrassing this is..."
At this point, the large warrior just laughed. "It's your own fault," the warrior told the woman. "You were the one who stole that amulet... Did you think that sorceress would just leave an amulet like that lying around if it wasn't some sort of trap?"
The woman grumbled and pulled out a gold amulet that had a large ruby in the middle of it and which was hung from a golden chain. "I wish I'd never seen this flaming thing," she exclaimed, tossing it on the table in front of her.
The other traveler's all jumped back and the man in green glared at her, saying, "Be careful with that... You know that thing is still cursed and I for one don't wish to catch it too."
Corwin frowned, wondering what it was that they were talking about. He could see the amulet and heard their talk of a curse but knew that there must be much more to the story than he could possibly guess. He shrugged, deciding it wasn't any of his business and continued his drinking.
Eventually, the travelers all got up and went upstairs to their rooms. It wasn't until they were gone that Corwin looked over and noticed that they'd left that golden amulet behind on the table. He started towards it, calling out, "Hey, you left..."
Suddenly, Kell shoved Corwin back and snatched up the medallion, looking at it greedily as he said, "Finders keepers... This is mine now."
However, a moment later, Brand yanked it out of his hand and exclaimed; "Now it's MINE." He flexed his thick muscles to make himself look even more intimidating and Kell scowled but backed down.
Corwin frowned, knowing that those travelers probably wouldn't be happy about having someone walk away with their property, even if they did accidentally leave it behind. He suspected that they'd come back and want to talk to whoever it was who had it.
Just then, Kell suddenly blurted out, "I feel strange..."
"Shut up," Brand snapped at him, then paused as he noticed something strange about Kell.
Corwin stared at Kell in stunned amazement, noticing the man's hair had grown nearly six inches longer than normal and was growing even more. The stubble which always adorned his face had vanished, leaving the skin as smooth and hairless as that of a young boy. Then Corwin realized that Kell was actually shrinking and transforming right before his eyes.
A moment later, Brand exclaimed, "By Scarn's seven tails..."
"What the...?" Corwin gasped, seeing that Brand was changing the same way Kell was. His hair was growing longer, his beard was getting shorter and fading away, and he was starting to lose some of his size of which he was so proud.
Kell grabbed his chest and gasped in horror as the flesh began to swell, pushing out underneath his clothes and stretching them with recognizable orbs. Brand followed immediately afterwards, dropping the amulet as he felt his own growing breasts with a look of disbelief. Most of the patrons in the inn had run out, horrified at the idea that whatever was happening to these two men might happen to them as well, and those who remained all stood and stared.
"What in Scarn's name is happening to me?" Brand demanded as he grabbed between his legs in obvious shock and terror. His voice sounded different, no longer rough but softer and higher pitched. At this point, his once impressive muscles had faded away almost entirely.
"It's flaming gone," Kell screamed in panic as he grabbed between his own legs.
Corwin could hardly believe what he was watching as their transformations both finished, leaving both men looking completely different than before. Both had shrunk and become shorter than Corwin by a noticeable amount, not to mention they were obviously female. In fact, Corwin realized that both of the newly transformed women in front of him looked much like the buxom woman from the group of travelers.
Brand had become a very attractive and busty young woman with long black hair and Kell looked very much the same except his hair was a reddish color. Both were frantically grabbing at their bodies with looks of horror and disbelief.
“You turned into girls,” Jeke exclaimed unnecessarily.
“Magic,” Corwin gasped, looking down at the amulet on the floor.
“A curse,” a new voice said.
Corwin turned and saw the green clothed adventurer standing there, staring at Brand and Kell with a deep scowl. Then he pulled out his dagger in a swift move that caused both former men to step back.
Corwin gulped, realizing that the traveler was going to kill those two for trying to steal the amulet. He hated Brand and Kell but wasn’t about to let that happen if he could help it.
“Don’t hurt them,” Corwin ordered, trying to sound confident and authorative.
The adventurer paused to look at Corwin in surprise before responding, “I have no intention of hurting them.” Then he bent over and used the blade of the dagger to pick up the amulet by the chain. “This cursed thing has caused too much trouble already…” Then he carefully dropped it into a canvas sack.
“Evil magic,” someone exclaimed fearfully though Corwin couldn’t see who.
“Aye,” the adventurer responded. “Cursed so any man who so much as touches it is turned into a woman. One of my own party has been so cursed so we’re taking him…her and this amulet in search of someone who can break the curse.” He paused to scratch his chin and added, “We haven’t had much success so far.”
“I…I’m stuck like this?” Brand gasped with a look of horror.
The adventurer just shrugged and answered, “It looks like it.” Then he turned and walked to the stairs to go up to his room, apparently deciding that Kell and Brand were no longer worth giving more attention to. However, Corwin heard him mutter, “Stupid thief couldn’t keep his hands off it…”
“I can’t be a woman,” Brand exclaimed, grabbing his bountiful chest and staring at it with a look of disgust. “What am I supposed to do? I can’t work my forge like this…”
“You probably can’t even lift your hammer now,” Jeke pointed out with a faint smirk, obviously pleased that he’d escaped the fate of his two friends.
Suddenly, Durgin grabbed Brand’s arm and exclaimed, “You owe me a large tab Brand…not to mention what you owe me from the tables you broke during your brawl last week.”
“What?” Brand gasped, afraid as he realized that Durgin was now much larger than him.
“I expect you to still pay me what you owe me,” Durgin told him with a scowl. “And if you can’t make money at the forge to pay me back then you’ll just have to work off your debt here…” He paused dramatically before adding, “I can use a couple new serving wenches…” He looked at Kell who gulped nervously.
Corwin watched in amazement as Durgin browbeat Brand and Kell, telling them in no uncertain words what he expected from them as his serving wenches, and that he would make sure they fulfilled those duties until their tabs had been fully paid off.
After a minute, Corwin turned and left the Oger’s Head, shaking his head in amazement at what he’d just seen. He’d seen some strange things in Raven’s Crossing, brought there by adventurers who were passing through. However, he’d never seen anything as strange as what had just happen to Brand and Kell.
Then Corwin suddenly realized something else about today’s events… Since Brand had been transformed into a woman by that curse and there didn’t look like there was a way to undo it…that meant he would no longer be able to woo Amelia. Corwin grinned as he considered the fate of his rival and the fact that he was no longer either a threat or competition for Amelia.
“I really should be getting to bed early tonight,” Corwin chuckled to himself as he started for home. “After all, I have to get up extra early to make the honey bread…”
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