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S1-1:A new universe
I was reading the papers one day when this advertisement appeared:
"Wanted - testers for new technology"
"Must have adventurous spirit and willingness to face danger."
"No other qualifications required"
"Pay variable on product tested"
"Food, lodging, medical coverage and life insurance provided"
"Return not guaranteed"
It sounded like an excellent job, despite the ominous last sentence. So I applied for the job - and wrote out a will.
Within a month, the reply came. I had been accepted!
I said my farewells and headed off to the company's listed location.
I had the feeling it would be the last time I saw home...
Once I arrived, half-dead from jet-lag, the staff there greeted me warmly. After the usual red-tape, they showed me to my room. I immediately collapsed on the soft bed and fell asleep.
I woke up in a totally different place. It was a complete complex of rooms within rooms, and the whole place was made of metal. I somehow doubted that I was still in the company building. It was then I noticed the sign on a wall:
"Welcome all new travellers.
To continue you must go through a series of doors.
After going through you will pick a costume. You will then become a half-human and half that creature.
After a week (100 mins a hour, 20 hrs a day, 10 days a week) has passed, you may morph and get another costume. To start off with you will only be able to become 40% human to 60% human.
If you put on a costume you will then become that creature, be teleported to its home town and have to wait a week before being able to morph.
After 50 costumes you may change into one of your other costumes and become 30% to 70% human. When changing costumes you must wait at least an hour before you can change costumes again.
100 different species/gender costumes allows you to gender-morph and become 20% to 80% human.
200 different species costumes allows you to combine costumes and become 10% to 90% human.
400 different species costumes allows you to return to your world with no more morphing.
And 800 different species costumes makes a polymorph and allows you to morph outside of this world.
Also, if you have a costume like a centaur, the human part will always be human and is counted towards the human percentage.
Any gender/species transformation magic of yours can only change your gender (if you have at least 100 costumes) and the animal part to a different animal.
When you change into a different costume (that you already have) you may teleport to that species home town but you will have the week penalty where you have no costume changes.
If you die while wearing a costume you will be reborn at the local inn (or appropriate location ). If you have more then 100 costumes you will lose the costume you had when you died and go to an appropriate place for your next costume.
If you fail to make it out in 100 years (100 weeks in a year) one of your possible forms will be chosen and you will be permanently stuck in that form (apart from magic) until you die. Also there will be no possibility of going back to your world.
Also, one final note: should you take a female form and become pregnant, you won't be able to change your gender until the child is born, though the other aspects of your form may change (the child will change to match.) That is all, and good luck!"
What?! I didn't volunteer for this kind of crap! I was simply looking for a job, and not this kind of trouble!
Now that I came to think of it, the last sentence now made sense. Not everyone would come back from this kind of adventure.
With no other choice, I picked one of the doors leading out of the room at random...
I ended up in a glass room, suspended high in the sky, with three more doors in front. The stairs I had just gone up by were blockaded with a force-field.
Trying not to look down, I stumbled through a door, which locked itself behind me. Then through another set of doors, which did the same.
I ended up in a room full of costumes. A panel proudly announced,
"Male, Myth, Air"
I figured it meant that the costumes were for males - or made you one - , consisted of creatures seen only in myths, and were airborne.
The selection included phoenixes, griffins, gargoyles, etc. But I was most interested in the costumes near the centre of the room.
Apparently, it was the "Dragon" section.
Now, I had always like reptiles, especially dragons, and I knew a few people who would agree. Thus, I had no hesitation in heading over and plucking a costume from the stand.
Mysteriously, everything else immediately vanished. Figuring there was nothing else to do, I stripped and began climbing into the dragon costume (which, incidentally, was gold).
After working my arms into the sleeves and legs into the...paws...I zipped up and pulled the hood (with muzzle) over my head.
Suddenly, a mirror appeared in front of me, ostensibly to let me view my transformation. I appreciated the front-row seat.
Within seconds, the costume bonded with my skin. I could feel the air on my scales and my whole body dimensions felt different.
Before I could get used to the sensation, however, the room abruptly disappeared, to be replaced by a thicket of trees. Overwhelmed with the disorientation, I fell over.
Embarrassed, I got up again and started doing a self-examination. For starters, I had received scales instead of bare skin. They overlapped each other and looked strong enough to resist steel - though I hoped not to test that too early.
My overall body size and proportion was close to human, except for a tail, wings and lack of...that. Oh, and claws for fingernails. I had become carnivorous, as evidenced by my teeth, my sheer jaw strength and my stomach's refusal to accept a nearby orange. In fact, I spat it out roasted black, testimonial to the fire I felt in my gut. Oddly enough, though it melted a nearby (now molten) rock, I was immune to it.
Finally, I decided to make sense of my situation. I was trapped here for an indeterminate amount of time, in the body of a dragon (or any other creature), and might not come out for practically eternity. Idly, I wondered who would get my house.
However, I was probably near a dragon town (or equivalent), which meant I should probably find out where it was first. I hazarded a guess it was at the mountain range in the distance.
I tried out my wings, and they worked wonders. I was at the mountains within a quarter-hour.
It looked more pockmarked than a teenager's face, with caves scattered here and there. I decided to take a look inside the only one which allowed me in easily.
Inside, it was so big two trains could park side-by-side, with room to spare. And the ceiling competed with St. Paul's cathedral for height.
Cautiously, I swooped inside. It was so dark I could hardly see anything at all.
As I went deeper inside, I breathed a bit of fire for light. Just then, something stirred and approached me.
I immediately roared at it, hoping for it to go away. To my surprise, though, it roared back (or was it an echo?).
"Who, in the name of Dragonlord Vralylth, dares to challenge His Lordship's guard?!" the figure growled.
Immediately, I hastened to make amends, using all I recalled of old English grammar.
"Forgive my impulsiveness, but I had mistaken you for a hostile creature of the wild, and reacted reflexively. I meant no offense," I apologized. It sounded suitably archaic.
"No offense taken, young one. However, please be cautious, as a challenge is not to be taken lightly," came the reply. Now that it had stepped into the limited light from the mouth, I saw that it was a copper dragon with a massive halberd. I wondered who would dare attack him.
He continued, "The clan is glad to welcome a fellow dragon, be he traveller or otherwise, for we could use another ally against the Great Evil. But for now, do enter the company of His Lordship, for he will curious as to what a young dragon is doing by himself in this dangerous area. Unless, of course, you have further business to attend to."
Curious about the "danger" referred to by the guard, I immediately accepted. Besides, I still had my own problems to deal with, and I could always use a few allies.
As I walked inside, escorted by the guard, I came across an amazing sight.
Inside the dimly-lit cave was a whole tribe of humanoid dragons. The cave was split into different areas, with different dragons going about their business. Off the main cave were a couple of smaller caves - I gathered these were "houses". Overall, the atmosphere was similar to that of a small town.
The dragons themselves were of every conceivable colour and age. They ranged from adult-sized to little child-dragons (the eggs were probably in the rooms). The cave was extremely large and could well span the entire mountain.
The scents in the cave were an assault upon my (enhanced) senses, for I could smell all sorts of by-products from the activities in the cave. I managed to identify one that smelled like water, another that seemed to be cooking meat and a less distinct, farm-like smell.
As I went by, they all spared a passing glance (or in the case of the children, a long stare), then returned back to their work, whatever it was. I spotted the equivalent of a blacksmith, but using his breath and fist instead.
Finally, we came to a crude wooden door set in a large doorway. Beyond it was what looked like a throne room, carved out of stone. Sitting on the throne was a large dragon, with purple scales.
"Welcome," he boomed. "I am Dragonlord Vralylth, last of the Dragonlord of this realm as currently known. I sense you have come on a long journey for a reason, and I wish to know your business around here. Any who come here are either brave or foolish, as this place is fraught with hazards for those of the dragonkind."
Curious, I always had the impression dragons were nigh invulnerable. I inquired, "What danger could there be in this area? It seems deserted enough, with only forests and mountains as far as the eye can see."
He frowned at me and said, “I see that you must have come from far away, in order not to have known about the humans who attempt to exterminate all of the other beasts who occupy their land."
"Their society has long held a ideology centred around speciesism, and to this end, their current leader has declared a perpetual state of war against all other creatures. Most of the beasts in this area have been exterminated or have migrated away, and the only lifeforms here are either bloodthirsty humans or us dragons, and we are badly outnumbered by them. It is only a matter of time before they overrun even our mountain stronghold."
Sounds typical of humans. He continued, "I feel that most of this trouble originates with the change of leadership of the humans. The old king had always left us alone, but with his death, the usurper, who was always a radical, took over the throne. We have tried to get at the usurper many times, but he has almost completely isolated himself within the city. Not to mention we do not know the layout of his castle itself."
As it happened, I did know the approximate layout of the castle, having studied architecture. We had studied medieval ruins so much I could draw them in my sleep.
Of course, my application for the job, despite my experience, had been rejected. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten into this mess.
However, I decided to apply for another job. At the very least, I could provide information while someone else stormed the castle. Then, I could finally address my own problems.
The problem was that they would immediately figure out I used to be human, since dragons didn’t go to university.
In the end, I simply decided to tell them that first, then offer my service and see if they would accept.
"Your Lordship, I must confess that I am actually of the human race, but was transformed into a dragon by an unknown spell, and have been in this form ever since. As such, I have knowledge of the castle that may be of use in disposing of this usurper."
Vralylth did seem quite shocked – it was quite a novelty. I also had the “privilege” of being treated as a potential assassin.
"Well then, tell me your story, for I am sure it is an interesting one," he responded at last. With no alternative, I poured out the events of the past few days onto him. By the end, he seemed interested.
Thoughtfully, he commented, "Your story is indeed fascinating. I do not know what this magic you speak of consists of, but our own magi may be able to make sense of this, or at least, find a temporary solution."
"As for you,” he adds, “You have shown great courage in admitting your true nature to us, after what your kind has done, but in all this time, you have not shown any hostility towards us and appear innocent of the crimes that besmirch others of your race." My heart soared at this.
"Therefore, we shall give you a chance to prove yourself our ally, and not our enemy. Find a way to eliminate this usurper, and we shall accept you as friend and help you however we can." It sank again. "Betray us, and the consequences will be dire," looking at me in the eye. It was quite a menacing stare, and it was all I could do not to collapse.
I considered first the benefits of such a situation. Killing the guy would earn a lot of respect and trust from them, which would be useful in this world. Since I knew the place inside-out, getting to him wouldn’t be a problem.
However, there were still guards posted around, and I wasn’t trained to fighting. I felt as though I could handle them, but I would rather have a proper soldier do the fighting.
Unfortunately, I doubted that the Dragonlord would risk his men on a risky mission with a stranger who could well betray them.
Ultimately, I decided that I would just have to rely on myself.
"Yes, I shall eliminate this usurper, and ensure the safety of your kind, at all costs," I pledged. In truth, the last three words were disputable.
"Then good fortune be with you, and we will meet under better times," Vralylth replied in turn.
After exiting the cave, I took immediate flight towards the city – I had been given instructions beforehand. I set off at sunset so by the time I reached there, it was already dark – perfect conditions.
I landed just outside the gate, where the guards’ blind spot was. Then, I sneaked up quietly to the gate.
The guy held pretty lax discipline. The guards had fallen asleep at the door. I simply walked in through the gates without so much as a shout from anyone else.
Going by the back alleys, I made my way to the back of the castle, which was, again, unguarded. After all, there was nothing but solid wall for a good ten metres up, and rappelling hooks on the window above would gain attention from the occupant.
However, the mortar between bricks had loosened, leaving it open to penetration by any sharp object, such as a claw.
It was hard work climbing up the wall, as I had to put a lot of weight on my claws, despite my wings helping to alleviate the burden slightly. But at last, I got to the window ledge. With a last effort, I tumbled in.
Inside was a single bed with an old man sleeping on it – he was probably a mage due to the cauldron with its foul smell in the corner and a book of spells on the table.
I quietly made my way over to his bed and gave him a concussion, just as he stirred. It was a close call – the mage’s spells could devastate half a legion of enemies, let along me. At least I had a more direct answer as to why the tower was unguarded.
Just for a souvenir, I stole the mage’s spellbook – it would make good bedtime reading, if nothing else. Then I went out of the room.
Once outside, I took side staircases and small corridors up, avoiding patrols at the crossings. The castle was built to what I had generally expected – nothing new here. Privately, I though that giving some soldiers the plans would have been faster and less messy. Quickly, I got to the top floor of the castle.
At the top, I spotted two guards in front of a door – probably my target. I simply smashed two helmets heads together and they slumped to the floor. Finally, I entered the room.
Comparatively, the room seems extremely open, with a four-poster bed (with guy) at the side, and a table next to the open window. The rest of the room was all carpet, which was extremely flammable.
I soon proved that last fact the hard way.
Oddly enough, the guy stayed asleep even when the flames started licking his bed. When he did wake up, I took it as my cue to leave.
As I flew out of the window, no one even noticed me. Instead, those who were awake were all staring at the smoking window.
As dawn broke, I dropped into the cave, ready to collapse on the floor from exhaustion. A smoke plume filled the air in the distance.
I made my report to Vralylth, who was extremely happy, and then was shown to a room. Contrary to expectations, the bed wasn’t gold coins, but simply a cloth-covered stone slab. Despite this, I fell asleep almost immediately.
After I woke up, I was granted an audience with Vralylth, who was quite happy to see me.
He said, "Now that that leader is lost, they should not be as eager to attack us now, for they are cowards at heart. The outside world will now be open to us again, without fear."
"You have fulfilled your end of the bargain, and so shall I. My magi, who command more intricate and ancient knowledge of magic than those humans, inform me that they may have a solution to your predicament. They inform me that they are unable to make you more human, but the reverse can be accomplished. However, it will lock you from transforming any further, except between full and morph form."
"However, if you choose to continue to try and break your curse, we will be happy to assist you however we can."
"Of course, you are also welcome to stay here and join our clan. We will accept you readily as blood-brother."
I considered the offer carefully.
On one hand, I still cherished life on my own world, and not seeing it again – ever − would be an emotional blow that would be hard to handle. I had dreams in my world that, if I stayed, would never be fulfilled. It would be hard to leave them all behind at once.
On the other hand, I realised I was not truly happy being human. Having a record of my race’s shortcomings, I always wanted to disassociate myself from that heritage. Here, the opportunity had just presented itself, and I might not get another chance. Besides, with 400 costumes, and a week in each, would make a total of at least eight years before − if − I went back. I might as well stay here and save the trouble.
In the end, I chose the latter option.
Vralylth looked pleased, and sent an instruction to his magi. In a few short moments, one of the magi appeared to escort me to their “labs”.
Inside the labs, several other magi were already hard at work, brewing a potion. It was clear and odourless, almost exactly like water. Just as we reached the cauldron, they ladled some potion into a goblet and told me to drink it.
I closed my mind to the consequences and drank.
Immediately, I noticed myself growing slightly, almost unnoticeably larger, and the inner fire in my guts burned impossibly hotter. My wings grew larger and my chest muscles strengthened – for flight, obviously. My figure became more draconic and less anthropomorphic and my tail lengthened.
Finally, I noticed a slight, psychological change as my mind became less human and adjusted. Though I still retained full mental capacity, I also received draconic “instincts”, so to speak.
At the end of it all, I had become a full-fledged dragon.
Somehow, the prospect seemed less deterring from this side of the fence.
The text from the sign was taken directly from  and corrected for spelling errors. The whole sign thus belongs to Catprog, but the rest of the story was written by me.