Part 76: Change

8 to Wakening Sun, Inalis, 43 days remaining

Looking around, we found ourselves alive but injured. Kyra disappeared around a corner again, hiding her face. The only sound we heard was our own labored breathing and the incessant clicking sound from the scorpion Briar had charmed. Clio tried to read its mind at Briar’s behest. Perhaps there was still some form of the centaur in there? But no, Clio could tell right away that it was a mindless monster, enraptured by the charm, and it would immediately attack us as soon as the magic wore off.

I didn’t want to be a part of killing it so I followed Clio over to where Actaeon was. Even Actaeon was breathing heavily at this point. I might have to do some magic on his armor to fix a few scratches. He managed to free poor Rhea from her magical shackles as Clio and I came over. She gave us a quick warning before Clio removed the magical gem eye from Morta’s headpiece, and we kind of wondered if it was still full of volatile energy.

But as we were thinking about that, we suddenly heard a “One, two, three, GO!” yell from around the corner, followed by swishing and crunching sounds, and a “Dammit Rendu!” coming from Torag. And then Briar sobbing. We raced around the corner to see what happened. There’s Torag, angry and bleeding, with a severed scorpion claw around his waist. Briar is just crying. Rendu is clutching the scorpion’s tail, now removed from the body. The scorpion lies dead with a few arrows in it, and Ilharg’s scimitar sticking out of its head. They must have tried to put it out of its misery, but not before it got a cheap shot on Torag and Briar.

I called out to Kyra, and she stepped back out, still hiding her face and staring at the floor. Clio and I went to talk with her. She said that the Lady of Dreams called her ‘defective’, which Clio clarified to me that this means she wasn’t easily controlled like the other dryads. The others were turned into weapons to torment Clio, and while Kyra isn’t who she was before, she could not be made into a weapon now. Clio gave her a gentle hug and bade her to stay close.

I hate this part. To say that we looted the bodies of the Fates makes me sound like we’re monsters or something. Thieves or bandits, and I hate being associated with that profession. No, it’s more like we took what was useful from their remains in order to better protect ourselves. I found a strange dagger on Nona, a neat shield on Decima, and a staff on Morta. Morta also had the hags’ heartstone. While I can’t access its magic (I’m not a hag), I can access some of its properties. Now I’ll be a more effective medic on the ship! This heartstone cures diseases with a touch. How neat is that?

The others were resting and recovering magical essences and reagents from our fallen foes while I sent a quick message to the Oracle, telling her to come join us now that the cave was safe and secure (though still very smelly). She came soon enough, and began a conversation with Clio on our purpose here.

That is simple enough to explain. With the overthrow of the Fates, wicked as they were, the allies of Kiora and Eos have gained a powerful new tool at their disposal. With the creation of three new Fates, we will create a force that can protect the Emerald Isles from the evil Twin Titans. While we could leave fate to its own devices, having its power to use against our enemies is incredible.

The Oracle and Rhea both suggested that it would be irresponsible to not use the power of fate against the destruction seen in the Oracle’s visions, and Clio agreed. They made a deal to do this, but only so far as the three agreed to control fate collectively. Should any of them wish to relinquish that power, they would do so together.

Oh, I almost forgot! Torag and Actaeon wandered off while we were discussing things. They came back after a while with another dragon egg! It’s large and copper, I think, and it has a bunch of weird spikes all over it. Perish the thought of the poor mother dragon who laid that egg! Torag seems very happy to have it, though it’s quite large. Even he is struggling to carry it.

The rest of us decided to leave them to discuss this at length and make whatever oaths they needed to do. We found ourselves back outside at the fetid pool with the swimming worm creatures. Kyra explained that these were hellish demon spirits that the former Fates brought in to feed on, and tormented them while doing it. So we decided to clear out the pool! But before we got in to start cleaning, Kyra quickly warned us that submerging ourselves in the pool would cause us to irreversibly change our forms. This was a pool of reincarnation, a power of Eos herself. Submitting ourselves to the pool would mean our bodies would change into something else entirely.

That’s fine with me! I do this all the time, and I changed into Kyra. To my surprise, though, she shrunk back. I guess she feels that her form as a lampad is hideous, but I felt impressed to tell her otherwise. She’s really very pretty, and I spoke the truth when I told her so. That must have been the first time anyone ever told her that, ever since she was changed during Khar’shan’s weird ritual. Poor girl! She deserves so much better!

Shadow and Torag made some jokes while we cleaned out the worms. Jokes about changing. It was funny in jest, but can you imagine if someone were to change themselves entirely like that? I mean, I do it all the time, but either to show Briar how silly her hair looks when she doesn’t brush it, or to show Clio how long her hair has grown. One time I transformed into Torag to show him his hair, and he just kind of shrugged and didn’t care much. Unless he puts it in a bun, that minotaur has permanent bed-head.

The jokes were about changing their forms, and we all got into a silly argument about how that would work. If Shadow changed, River would be so incredibly mad at him! And Rare might not even recognize her father, haha! What if Torag became a little gnome girl? (or Kyra had mentioned that was entirely within the realm of chance). What if Actaeon became a taller version of Actaeon? Endless are the possibilities! And we all agreed that such was a gamble that would benefit none of us.

Except Briar. She was focused on the pool, echoing Kyra’s warning of the pool over and over in her head. To her, what would happen if she changed? Her body was cursed and it held a mark of that curse on her back, one that she hid for years with a mess of hair unkempt on purpose. Her centaur heritage was strange. Her children would have her curse, too. Her mate would have her curse, and they’d be under the control of someone else entirely, unable to be who they truly are. Mind control and charm spells always sat wrong with Briar, and this was the reason. Someday her curse would bind her to a mate, and she would have no say in the matter. She’d be tormented the entire time while putting on a smiling face for a child who would take on that curse, too, and then watch as its parents perished without reason.

Would changing her form change her fate? Would it change the curse? What would happen?

Versi said, “It is ultimately up to you, Briar” as she, Rhea, and Clio emerged from the cavern, now the new Three Fates of the Emerald Isles, regaled in headdresses that signified their position and power.

And Briar said, “I will not be responsible for trapping another person.” She stepped into the water.

I know exactly why Briar did this. To us, she was a proud centaur, one of the fey and a lineage of Eos. She was powerful, a little arrogant, but very wise and kind. And yet, no matter what she can do, she will always, always pass on her curse to a child that doesn’t deserve it. She will pass on her curse to a mate that doesn’t deserve it. And endless will the cycle of torment and torture continue until the end of days. With even the slightest chance of changing her fate available, she took it. I get it. I really do. And I think all of us do, truly. What would you have done in this case?

She’s different now, and she’s absolutely stunningly beautiful. The murkiness of the waters of the pool dissipated in a flash of light, and a purple-skinned, winged tiefling girl emerged. She has Briar’s hair (though it’s significantly softer now) and Briar’s mismatched eyes, and all of Briar’s silly and endearing personality. The only difference is her physical self. Gone is the centaur, and present is the tall, proud woman who needs to learn to walk on two feet instead of four.

How does she feel about this? I don’t know yet. She immediately fell down in pain upon emerging from the water. The tattoo was no longer on her back, but its image seared into her skin as soon as she escaped the pool, and its pain made her pass out. Ilharg and I caught her, and he’s going to help carry her to the infirmary on the ship.

The Fates – again, that’s Clio, Versi, and Rhea now! – had some work to do. Very Fate-like. I don’t understand it. But Clio assured me they would be fine there. The rest of us – save Torag and Theo – returned to the Gjallarhorn to rest. The day is finally waning and the sun is setting beautifully on the sea. It’s a good omen for change. The crew on the Gjallarhorn was quite confused as to why they dropped us off on this island and then immediately had to come back to get us again. Rendu made some announcements that we’ll have to make preparations to set sail once again. Clio, Torag, and Theo were going to join us in an hour or so.

Briar is resting in the infirmary now. She looks so different, but she’s mumbling in her sleep – it’s exactly her, and it’s hilarious. What weird things she says when she’s tired! “Apples…” and “It’s too hot to pick back up…” and “I almost thought it was a gate, but you can move all the trees…” Non-sensical, and one hundred percent proof that this is the same Briar as before. After I’m done writing this little journal entry, I need to make her some undergarments and a skirt. Centaurs didn’t wear such things, and she’s naked from the waist down. I need to find her some shoes, too. I wonder what size she wears now?

We’ve set sail once again, and Rendu’s playing has given us a strong tailwind. We’re off to Scorpion Island!

Oh, I should explain. While Briar was asleep and Clio was doing Fate things with the Fates, the rest of us and Malikos gathered together to discuss our plans. We’re not ready to go to the Golden Heart just yet, so we decided to see about Briar. Her role in the prophecy requires her to talk to the Lotus Witch on Scorpion Island. And the matter is absolutely killing us: is her curse gone, or is it just changed like her form? The Lotus Witch will have answers, and we need Briar to be at one hundred percent. It’ll put some peace in her mind, too, and we all agreed that Briar definitely needs some peace.

Clio and Torag returned together after a short while. Clio said that Versi and Rhea will remain on the Isle of the Fates for the present until they get things settled there. They mentioned that the island itself may change now that good-aligned creatures are the Fates. Maybe it’ll become a beautiful garden instead of a hideous hole with bad weather. I wonder what Vanadon-Necroth will think of it? He needs a new front porch. But anyway, Theo opted to stay behind with Versi and Rhea to act as protection for them. Kyra will stay behind, too. She’s sorely afraid that being with us will make her a target for the Lady of Dreams’s vengeance (she’s probably right about that). With Theo there, I’m certain they’ll all be safe.

I have probably a thousand questions for Clio. What kind of new power do you have? Can you still do that whoosh-kick thing with your psyblades? Do you still like plumerias? Or are you more into lillies now? That’s a dumb question. Why would your preference of flowers change now that you have a- Wait, is that new headdress heavy? Do you need some new flowers to go with it? You’re not going to grow taller now, are you? (the hags were tall) I don’t want to be the shortest person on the ship. Even if I can make myself taller, I want to be who I am. But I still don’t want to be the shortest.

Actaeon set up the Antikythera on the beach, made some calculations, and we have our heading! Scorpion Island, here we come!

Briar woke up right about when Clio and Torag returned and we set sail. She says laying down to sleep is weird, but given her previous form, I can understand that. I transformed into her so she could see what she looked like, and I’m happy to write that she seems fine with the transition. She got into the new clothes I made for her, and we began walking-on-two-legs lessons. The rest of us have our “sea legs” (we can balance just fine while the ship is moving), but Briar needs to get used to it again. She’s nervous about going to Scorpion Island, even more so now that she’s no longer a centaur. I imagine that can be quite the difference for her.

I don’t like changing my form much. As a child, I was scolded and struck whenever I did it and someone else noticed. Lately, I’ve felt much more comfortable in my true form than anything else – although I have taken on a feminine appearance again as it makes me happier. I like it when Father calls me ‘He’ or ‘She’ or whatever. Changing, for me, is second nature and I can do it with a simple thought. Briar’s is permanent, unless she were to gamble with fate again and bathe once more in the pool. That said, she’s taking it in stride. Not centaur stride, but she’s taking it very well. I’m glad she’s accepting of her transition. She deserves to be happy. I just hope the curse is lighter on her now. We’re all certain it’s still there, but Briar very literally seems much happier.

That might be because stairs are easier for her to climb now.

There’s a bit of a panic on the ship at the moment. It seems that our dragon egg incubator is missing. Perhaps it fell overboard, or we have a traitor in our midst? Or, more likely, Briar misplaced it when Zirconis hatched. Father hid himself in his room, and Torag is very scared. You know, I’ve never seen Torag scared before? Maybe this isn’t fear. It’s more of… well… anger stilled. He feels that someone might steal his egg. He’s running about the ship, looking for the incubator. Kind of in a panic. It’s manic and silly at the same time.

No worry, though, I told him. Briar and I can both cast spells to locate objects. It’ll be found. We just need to rest and prepare the spell from my scriptures. Well, not Briar. She prepares it from… You know what? I have no idea how Briar prepares spells. I have to do some scripture studying and memorize rune patterns. Say a prayer to the Morninglord or Kiora (or whoever is answering my prayers at the time), perform a few rituals with holy water. That sort of stuff. Half the time, I don’t remember what spells I’ve prepared anyway. Preparation takes me a few hours. I don’t know how she does it. I should ask sometime.

Regardless, it’ll be found. Maybe the incubator is in Briar’s room and she buried it under the ten thousand plants she has in there. I mean that sentence with love and admiration. Her room is a garden. But seriously, you can’t find anything in there.