FILE 1: “Watch how I soar.”
August 10th, 1618.
“Okay…” Tony Nori breathed out as he, Kendal Kaie, Ayako Mayoi, and his own sister, Miri Nori, settled down, sitting in a circle on the beach. Distantly, a few yards away, Ranagi Kaie, Kendal’s father, sat on a beach chair he’d brought with him, so that he could observe. “Are we ready to begin?”
Of the Lycans on this beach, three of them were naked- only Miri sat wearing her Mystryal Uniform- the Maternity version that seemed more like a casual sun dress for the moment than any real uniform. The reason for that was simple. They were going to get Kendal used to shifting forms- and getting whatever her fully transformed state would be under control.
Miri, presently, was also holding a series of large paper boards with various images painted on them- all lying face down and out of sight for the moment. They would come in handy shortly.
“I’m ready,” Kendal nodded.
“Alright,” Tony began, “we’re going to begin with the most basic of forced shifts.” And with that, Miri flipped up the first board- two circles, painted in the pink and blue of the moons Alcor and Mizar.
Kendal blinked as she looked at the board, and frowned. “…Was that supposed to do anything?”
“Nope,” Miri smiled. “Those were just two circles painted in the right colors, but not meant to be the moons. This- on the other hand-” And with that, Miri flipped up the next board- two circles of varying sizes, but no color to distinguish them. …And just like before, nothing happened.
“Um… wasn’t that supposed to force me to turn?” Kendal asked, frown deepening.
“It was, actually,” Tony said as he and Ayako shared a concerned glance.
They’d suspected this might be the case, honestly. Kendal’s post-turning behavior wasn’t consistent with most freshly turned Lycans. Really, one only had to go back to the early days of Lycanthropy- to the start of the Cataclysm War- to find cases where turned Lycans had the control they needed over their shape shifting from the very start.
This? This just confirmed their theory. Kendal Kaie was very likely a brand new breed of Lycan, born out of the Hecate’s Magic, just like the first generation of Lycans had been.
“Is that a problem?” Kendal asked.
“That just means we’re going to go through this quicker than we would have otherwise,” Tony said, smiling at her. “Miri,” he turned to his sister, “Cut to the lower half of the deck.”
“Kay,” Miri nodded, and then cut out about half of the top of her boards- putting them to the side, and then resting her hands on top of the remaining boards.
“Alright,” Ayako clapped her hands, grinning that wild grin Kendal and her father both recognized whenever she was in a joyful mood. Detective Kaie, even so distantly away, sat up a bit more upright in his seat upon seeing it. “Here’s where things get a little bit interesting! Tony and Miri were raised differently from how I was, so I’m going first. We’ll see if you can turn like I did when I was in the wild.”
“Right,” Kendal nodded, knowing that Ayako had been living in the wilds before Kana Mayoi had adopted her. It would obviously be a completely different technique from Tony and Miri’s way of doing it.
“Close your eyes,” Ayako instructed, and Kendal did such- all light from the world outside illuminating the sudden dark with a faint, dull red glow. The blood inside her eyelids- Kendal knew instinctively- but it was a little bit different than she’d been used to all her life before the life saving transformation into a Lycan.
Before, the Pyromander magic had made her blood glow somewhat brighter than it was now- like it was lava instead of blood. Whenever she’d closed her eyes, there’d always been a dull orange glow no matter the time of day or night. Now, the dull red would only show up with enough external lighting to shine through her eyelids. It was unnerving in a way more than having fox ears and a tail was.
“Dig down, deep inside…” Ayako spoke, “and look for a pool.”
“Look for a pool… of energy?” Kendal frowned. “You mean I need to imagine what my magicka reserves look like?”
“No,” Ayako no doubt was shaking her head, hair swishing side to side. “Just a pool. Like a pond, or a puddle of water. Just… liquid of some sort.”
“…Okay,” And so Kendal looked within herself. She couldn’t really find anything that felt like a pool of… well, anything! Instead, Kendal let her imagination do the work of creating one. She imagined a large metal bowl- no, a martini glass made out of metal and giant sized, decorated with golden trim and planted firmly on a bronze base that was sunken into the sand she felt beneath her legs. Why had she brought that into her imagination? Damn it- now there was sand in the basin. She’d gotten it poured in and that just wasn’t right.
Kendal imagined herself wanting to pick it up and dump it out, and yet the damned thing remained firmly, stubbornly wedged in the sand.
If only it was just a bit wetter- maybe then she could…?
A drop of brightly colored something landed in the giant, sand filled basin, wetting the sand and- no- it was dissolving it away.
Another drop, and then another- and soon there was a miniature rain cloud dumping a rainbow’s worth of color into the basin.
Soon, the sand was dissolved away, and the basin was just full of glowing…. water? The cloud disappeared, and the rainbow shine to the liquid in the basin was all that remained.
Somehow, Kendal knew this was what Ayako wanted her to have.
“I’ve got a basin of water,” She reported.
“Alright,” Ayako was likely grinning again. “Now look into it, and tell me what you see.”
Kendal did such, and saw her reflection shimmering back at her… except it wasn’t how she was now- it was how she’d been before, a Human-Pyromander hybrid. Her own face, laced with worry and fear- anger and dismay- stared back.
“I see me. As a human.” And then, as if her words were a pebble thrown into the water- it suddenly rippled and the reflection shifted- becoming herself as she was now- a fox type lycan. “Wait, no, now it’s me. Lycan me.” Wait. “Wait, no, it’s still shifting…” Her face elongated- fur began sprouting up and along everywhere in places she was sure fur shouldn’t be growing- and then her reflection opened her mouth and– “What the-!?” Kendal’s eyes snapped open- and the image was lost.
“What happened?” Ayako asked, frowning at her.
“…Fox me stuck her tongue out at me,” Was all Kendal could say.
“She… stuck her tongue out at you?” Miri asked- head tilting, ears adjusting towards clear confusion.
“Like… Blep!” Kendal stuck her own tongue out to show what she’d seen. Miri tried not to laugh. Ayako flat out giggled. Tony just sighed.
“Okay, clearly whatever alternate form you’ve got is a trickster and isn’t going to play nice at all,” he said, shaking his head. “My turn?”
“Yeah,” Ayako nodded.
“Okay,” Tony began, and Kendal turned to look at him. “The thing you need to know is that Miri and I didn’t initially know how to turn into our wolf forms. We didn’t start shifting until we were… two? Three? Which was it again?”
“I was just before our birthday, so two, and you were just after, so three,” Miri corrected him.
“Right,” Tony nodded. “Anyways, so we didn’t start shifting until we were old enough to start being able to handle it, physically. We started off with something similar to what Ayako had you doing- just looking in our reflections and then shifting. That didn’t last too long for us, though.”
“As we got older, we started developing different mental images tied to our own shifts,” Miri explained. “I started off with this little noise maker that I’d seen at someone’s birthday party. Might have been one of ours, might have been a friend’s- anyways, the point is I had this image in my head of a loud, popping thing.” Miri paused, then lifted up one of the boards. “This is what I see now.”
Kendal looked, and saw a vivid, green paint drawn image of Miri, standing in what looked like a standard runner’s starting position.
“I see myself crouching, ready to run, and then someone pulls a trigger and BANG!” Miri pulled up the next board, and on it, Kendal saw a crudely drawn stick figure running- and transforming as she ran, from human to werewolf. “I run. I run, and as I run, I shift from me, to the wolf.” Miri closed her eyes, smiling. “Usually, I’m standing still when it happens, but the change comes over me anyways.” She opened her eyes, and said, “And once I reach the finish line, I’m done turning.”
And with her visualizer done, Miri put her two boards away.
“I see something completely different,” Tony picked up the talk next, as Miri lifted her next board. “I see a large glass bottle containing a whirling storm- endless wind- endless power- endless potential. It could be a tornado, could be a hurricane- but it doesn’t matter as long as it’s contained. It’s just wind.” He paused, and then pointed at the small blob of green on the diagram of a blue whirling tornado. “Stuck in the middle is a leaf, and the leaf is me.”
Kendal stared at the board for a few moments before asking, “There’s a nozzle on the lid. What’s that for?”
“That’s how I control my transformation,” Tony explained, and Miri changed for the next board. “I turn the valve as much as I want, and wind blows out of the lid; the storm becomes a controlled stream.”
Kendal looked at the new image- and saw that the small green blob refused to leave the container of the massive wind storm. No matter how much wind escaped it, the little leaf seemed stubbornly to remain stationary.
“I can shift slightly-” Tony said, even as his arms bulked slightly, “or shift a lot more than that-” and then his chest bulked up a bit, followed by his legs, and the rest of the fur filling in across his body- yet his face stayed unchanged. “Or I can pull back on it-” And then the changes reverted, leaving Tony as he was. “I can close the valve, and I can return to how I was.” He took a few stabilizing breaths, and then smiled at her. “Or I could tear the lid off, and let the wind run rampant. But that would mean I’m not in control. If I let the wind run free, who knows what could get damaged.”
“I see,” Kendal nodded. “…So, the leaf?”
“No matter how much the wind gusts and bellows out of the jar I’ve put it in,” Tony cracked a grin, “I’m always still inside the jar. I’m always in control. I’m the leaf on the wind, but I will soar to my own whims, not that of the wolf inside.”
“Right,” Kendal nodded. She could understand that idea. It actually made a lot of sense, really.
“Now then,” Ayako spoke up with a giggle, “Back to me!”
“Okay,” Kendal looked back to Ayako, even as Miri put Tony’s two boards to the side with the rest of them. “What do you have to tell me now, o’ Wild Wolf of Mystryal?”
Ayako laughed at that- “Good one!”
“I try,” Kendal smiled.
“Right, well,” Ayako smiled back, “when I came to Mystryal, and I started living with Mom… I visited this music store that isn’t there any more, and I saw this… thing!” Miri raised a board, and Kendal looked, surprised to see a simple depiction of a metronome. “The guy at the store told me it was called a Metronome. You pull back the needle, let it go, and- Tick!” Ayako’s head twitched to one side, “Tock!” And then to the other. “Like a pattern, over and over. Natural, yet mechanical.”
Ayako settled her blue eyes on Kendal’s orange-brown, and held a strangely serious look within them. Kendal wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, except that it was a different look than the one that usually resided in Ayako’s eyes.
“When I go deep into my wolf form, I’m almost always about cause, and effect… and making sure my cause results in the most efficient effect possible. It was cheap, so I bought one, and for a couple months, I used it when I went to sleep.” Ayako paused, then said, “And then the damned thing broke because it was a cheap ass metronome that wasn’t all that well made. BUT! It had an effect on me.” Miri used that as a cue to move to the last card- the Metronome swinging side to side. “I started seeing it in my head when I transformed,” Ayako continued. “I see it idle as I am right now- and then when I set it in motion, I start pacing to the beat.”
Ayako got to her feet, and began pacing side to side, as she intoned “Tick, Tock,” over and over again. As she did such- the transformation came over her- rippling upwards from her feet- fur sprouting and then shifting upwards to meet the fur already on her legs- muscle shifted beneath that fur, and then upwards from the knees- fur growing to cover as the process continued.
Kendal had rarely ever seen Ayako transform, but Miri and Tony seemed familiar enough with it- Tony especially seemed taken in by the sight. Taken in enough for Miri to roll her eyes and elbow him slightly.
Once the fur reached Ayako’s shoulders, it settled to a stop while her face shifted outwards, becoming more wolf like than human. And then- with a rolling shudder that went all the way down her spine, Ayako shook out the last of the transformation jitters, and fell down onto all fours before stalking over to Tony, and giving him a big, fat lick across the face.
“Overly sappy,” Kendal mused, “but it gets the point across.”
Ayako just yipped at her, happily.
“So,” Miri smiled, “that’s what we want you to do now. Find a mechanism that lets you shift, and… well, we want you to use it, obviously!”
“I think I got it,” Kendal nodded, and so closed her eyes once more.
She took the water basin from before, and pulled it out of the sand before slamming it hard down onto a flat, wooden surface. A deck? A floor? It didn’t matter what- darkness was all around her except for this basin and the small bit of floor beneath her and it.
But what to do with it? Internally, Kendal’s own mental image closed its eyes, and all she saw was black. What a strange bit of meta-image recursion this was, she couldn’t help but giggle. Closing her eyes while her eyes were already closed.
The Wolf or Fox- whichever it was inside her- seemed keen to agree, and so did its own work, changing the image while both of her eyes were closed. When Kendal re-opened her eyes within her mental space- she saw that the basin was filled once more- but now with a massive black void that was the center of a spiraling galaxy- as flat as a table, and stretching out before her.
No, it was a table- a billiards table, in fact. There were six more black holes arranged around the edges, the pockets.
Kendal looked towards the black hole in the center, and she saw something trapped inside. She squinted- and her vision zoomed inwards, diving deep into the center pocket, until she saw something burning in the center…
In an instant, Kendal knew what it was: the remains of her Pyromander magic- crushed and condensed into a tiny sun.
Kendal exhaled in reality, “…Fox me really is a troll, I’ll say that much.”
“What is it?” Miri asked.
“Pool table made out of a galaxy, with black holes as the pockets,” Kendal flatly described. It really was beautiful, she wished the others could see it… but maybe she could draw it sometime.
As if with that thought, Kendal’s mental image looked down into her hand, and saw both a cue-ball and… a quill tipped pen, it’s tip glistened with a rainbow ink. Was she supposed to draw on the ball?
This really seemed like a weird kind of puzzle, just to transform.
No… there really had to be something simpler- right?
Kendal put the ball on the edge of the galaxy- and the damned thing glowed orange as it squished flat against an edge that shouldn’t be there. Kendal lifted her hand away, and watched as the former cue ball shifted into something resembling a triangular crystal, framed by a metal edge that definitely hadn’t been there a moment before.
Kendal looked to her other hand, and saw that the quill pen was gone.
When had it vanished?
No, she knew when, and where. It became the metal around the … button?
Yes, it definitely looked like a button.
Kendal pressed the orange triangle- and out from the other pockets emerged similar triangular shaped crystals locked in metal. Kendal shuddered.
“Hey- whatever you did, the fur on your legs grew by a bit,” Miri advised. “You’re on the right track.”
Kendal took a breath, and placed her hand on the button once more.
The floating button immediately to her left began to shift from an orange color to bright violet- then to a cobalt blue- and then— pitch black. The metal exploded away- and the darkened crystal shot deep into the black hole from which it came.
The Black Hole pocket began to glow with a bright crimson light- startling enough that Kendal let go of the button.
“You started to shift- then it stopped,” Miri spoke, concerned, “did something happen?”
“Just… a little surprised, that’s all,” Kendal admitted.
She had this… she could do this.
She put her hand back on the button- and the process continued, faster, now as she pressed the button harder.
Continuing in a circle from left to right- the six locks exploded, and their darkened centers dropped into the black holes from which they were born- before starting to glow brightly with all the light of a blood red sun.
Then- once the last of the locks was destroyed- all seven black holes shifted from their present coloring to that of a neon bright, yet still somehow welcoming pulsing orange and yellow.
[“Kendal? Are you there?”] Tony asked.
And then Kendal opened her eyes- and found that Tony and Ayako- in their wolf forms- were staring at her with concern. But why? Kendal opened her mouth- and found it not quite working the way she expected it to. She looked at her hands- then her feet- and then realized the most important thing of all.
[“I’m here,”] Kendal said, sticking her vixen tongue out at them. [“A little weirded out by how bright everything is all of a sudden, but I’m here.”]
[“Good!”] Ayako grinned. [“Now, let’s get you used to those new limbs before we work on shifting you back!”]
[“Run down the beach?”] Tony asked.
[“Run down the beach!”] Ayako answered with a joyous howl.
[“Race ya!”] Kendal grinned- and then took off with Ayako and Tony only a few leaps behind her.
Miri smiled as she picked up the signs under her left arm, sat up from her spot on the beach, and then walked over to Detective Kaie. “I’d say that’s a success,” she informed him.
“I just wish Kyoko could be here to see this,” Ranagi sighed. “She’d be so proud.”
Miri’s right hand drifted down to her stomach. “I’m sure she is, where-ever she is.”
And so the two parents- a nostalgic father, and a mother to be- watched the two werewolves and one werefox run up and down the beach with an excited glee.
Ranagi’s eyes locked with his daughter’s for a moment, and Kendal gave a smile that told him everything was going to be alright.
And yet here she was, just a little over half a year later, running out of the waygate, heart racing as she tried to figure out the best place to set up her spell circle.
There really was only one place she could do this on short notice.
Kendal started running for the cliff edge that overlooked the northern shore, and closed her eyes as she focused on holding down that imaginary button for just the right length of time.
Kendal’s feet pushed off the edge of the cliff- much to the surprise of the people she just ran past- and she soared.
“Like a leaf on the wind,” Kendal spoke within her own head, “Watch how I soar.”
Her limbs shifted from her human side to her animal side- muscle bulking, strengthening, and tensing in preparation to land on the sand below- PFWUMP! –Up the sand went as she hit- and Kendal relaxed her transformation, back to human. Oh, her legs were going to kill her for the stunt later- she was sure- but she’d survived without breaking any bones, and that was good enough for now.
Kendal hurried over towards a spot that looked good- if only because it was the same spot that she and the others had been sitting at all those months ago when she’d first learned how to transform- and began digging deep into her memories, and her own magical reserves, to bring up the spell circle that her long-ago past self had created.
‘I just hope this shield can-,’ Kendal squished the thought before the doubt could creep into her head. She didn’t need that here. She didn’t need that now.
Kendal closed her eyes as the spell circle lit up beneath her. The soft light shined against her eyelids- reacting strangely with her blood, and making it glow a faint green. Maybe that was the result of Yaovi’s work on the other circle on the other island- or maybe it was just something that she was imagining.
Imagining, like the melody that was worming its way into her head as she focused on bringing up the dome shield that, in the worst case scenario, would be the backup to prevent whatever dastardly death Kyiahlnah had rigged up for them.
And so, Kendal Kaie began to sing.
At some point- she lost track of time. At some point- the explosion went off, and broke through the first shield. The flash of light nearly blinded her, and so she felt, rather than saw, the impact of that same wall of fire hitting the shield was powering.
She nearly lost her balance- nearly dropped focus on the shield- but then two sets of hands came up from behind and steadied her. And then she heard the roaring of wind, caged in a bottle, timed perfectly to the metronome keeping pace to the song they were all singing.
It was in that state that Kendal could feel the power of the soul bond between Ayako and Tony- could feel it adding to her own magic- could feel it reinforcing the shield that was keeping them safe… could feel the dome shifting, ever so slightly so that it could feed on the raw energy pounding against it.
And then it was over- the fire gone, and the shield… self sustaining from the energy it had consumed.
Kendal, Ayako, and Tony collapsed onto the beach, and, as Kendal’s eyesight fell back to normal, she glanced over at her Father, standing nearby and watching proudly.
He gave her a smile that she returned- they both knew that, even if things had gone to hell tonight, they might just be able to make sure tomorrow turned out alright.