7000 Gold crowns a dance.
I joined up with the baron’s guards as a boy as much as I could as fast as I could. It was light things at first to escape myself. Escape the home where I was told relentlessly to stop crying, stop being a sissy and beaten by angry folk in my little steading fort for not being what they wanted.
It was apparent as soon as I could fathom that me being a lad was fundamentally wrong.
So it was working the fields and stables and cleaning and sharpening gear and staying warm and fed that was the biggest draw.
But every call of lad or boy still stung like the lashes from the switch on my back from my uncle and cousins.
And here I could watch the noble girls and the keep girls being everything that I was not. And when I was seen watching them and everything it was just well me going along with the men who teased me for chasing skirt early.
And then as I got older and bigger and more and more ugly and cursed…and I really thought that I was cursed by the gods I joined the skirmishers and fought with slings and javelins when called out against the foes of the baron.
I literally hoped that I would die and I’d come back in some other life truly who I should have been.
That was not the case.
Instead I became a warrior, a soldier until I could leave service and take my own jobs and see the realms outside and I wanted to do this. Because if I couldn’t be myself normally I could in my head at least and see the world, see wonders and just not feel as stupid and small town and cursed.
And if I died doing some good then still so be it.
Years passed and it took me two years of caravanning and guard work and other jobs to get enough real gear to start travelling as an adventurer.
I know the whole concept sounds just like something a bard would spin.
But we’re real and we’re out here doing the jobs that no one else is crazed enough to do. Helping those who can’t help themselves and sometimes for money too. Idealism is grand but that either fades or gets tempered by real life.
So I joined a band of people that didn’t mind my charities or my defending women and children and were like minded enough that we all usually got along quite well and it was in our second year that everything changed.
We were in the mountain country of Karapathia and we had been hired to rid the nation of a vampyre and it’s minion that had been ravaging the country and as we fought all sorts of creatures and beasts we discovered that the vampyre was the old dispossessed prince cursed by a cleric at the time the people rose up here in rebellion.
And that he planned on not just terrorizing the land and people but assassinating the young King on Wicked-Eve at the Grande masquerade.
We went as well and while disguised with large cloaks of velvet and fur trim to look as mysterious as possible and to fit in with the place until we could do battle for me it was torture.
Dancing, dresses and maidens and all the things that really would always be out of reach for someone like me.
I didn’t even really ever want all the frippery.
It’s not about that, never was, never will be.
And everything changed and it didn’t when we faced off against the evil.
And his minions including his doppelganger assassins.
And they doubled each of us except for me.
The one I faced became a simple hazel eyed brown haired girl in a modest scoop necked gown and slipper shoes.
Not the bracing six foot plus man in plate and chain armor with a zweihander sword covered in lost glyphs.
And in the end I killed myself.
Killed her and after the battle no one got it but for our wizard James.
He looked at me. “You know these creatures, the doppelgangers we fought in the ballroom they copy our inner selves, they use telepathy right?”
I just stared at him and he stared at me and I colored and I cried under my helm and stalked away.
And it’s been weeks since then, since we were royally and handsomely rewarded and the winter has closed the passes so we’re staying here.
It’s been weeks with me shutting out the world.
Then there’s a knock at my door and Thane’s there and he comes inside when I open my door enough to be seen.
Unshaven, ugly, feeling utterly wrecked and worthless.
He passes me a net shopping bag with soap and women’s scents and a neatly pressed box with a simple dress in faun brown trimmed with fur at the bottom and bosom…small but nice boots too.
“There’s a dance Kiri. (My name is Kirian usually and he made Kiri up.) it’s a block away and in a fest hall and they are making something apparently wonderful called hot…chocolate… I took your share and did wizardly things with requests for a potion from the alchemist’s guild.”
He passes me a potion bottle. “It’s a shape change potion, it’s good for only six hours and it cost…it cost a lot to have it distilled to this long an effect.”
“Enough damned torturing yourself Kiri, I like dancing too you know and I’m expected to do cantrips and lights there so get ready…you waited all your life for this.”
I changed and what I should really say is that I became myself for the first time ever.
I drank it down and it was like rosewater at the first taste and it had this taste of bitter Corsaris oranges and then there was this hit of something coppery and metallic like blood and then medicinals.
The pain was rip your breath away like but that went away as soon as I seen the start of the changes, the shrinking away of all that shouldn’t have been and the shifting of things fats moving around and more….the elation that same sort of rush that gets you through pain in the fight took over and helped me through it and the last two minutes of my change I missed because I fell to the rag weave rug crying in joy.
Relief from pain can bring such joy like you never thought that you would feel unless you lived with pain your entire life.
Then there was a bit of time that I just examined myself, touched myself and not in some erotic way or anything like that but to touch, to feel, to squeeze and most importantly breath it all in and memorize what this feels like.
What I really feel like.
It wasn’t a date, and it never lead to things and it was the fastest six hours of my life and the most treasured as well. Thane had actually gone all out himself with new robes that he had made with designs and sigils that after the few years I known him were mostly for decoration and this looked good on him with deep red wool that was lined with pleated cloth and edged on his hood in a nice broad band of leather, the same for his hem and his cuffs and he had shaved and washed and he looked a lot younger without his blonde patchy scruff of a beard.
But it still was a date of sorts and he offered his arm and we walked the short distance to the hall he was talking about.
It was just…he never cast it but it was the most powerful magic that to me he had ever wrought.
The dancing, the talking with people and just, just for the love of all the goddesses being myself.
Trying new things as the real me for the first time and even skipping out before the potion ran out with Thane and taking our drinks and just walking in the night air and the falling snow.
He only told me after three weeks of me pressuring him after what that had cost him….and me since there would not have been enough for a potion that strong.
And now I’m not adventuring to fill that void as much as I’m adventuring to find a cure and to live.
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