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My first story of the 2009 crop. The aim of these short stories in the beginning was for me to dip in and out of various settings to find one I wanted to develop some more. Looking back; Esme's setting is not unique, I have some unspoken concept of how magic works, and it does admittedly go a bit "magic shop" in later stories, but I like her. She comes back, and that's always a bad sign. ;)


Author: Azimuth

The sun was rising in view of the room's large glass window, and Esme was tired. It had been a long night, but the young apprentice felt really good about her latest project, stirring the contents of a huge cauldron pot. Its faint scent prickled the back of her neck, the liquid gleaming by candlelight. It was totally unnecessary, since she lived in modern times and the room did have a proper fluorescent overhead, but Esme the young witch felt it just added to the mood, you know?

She saw a slightly milky reflection of herself in the pot, her pink hair loose and unkempt, icy blue eyes tired but proud. Pink wasn't her natural, but one of her early spells had been to adopt this colour, and she quite liked it. The young lady was just over five feet high and when she had been without her bright hair, she tended to be easy to lose in crowds. Esme had not been able to perfect growth spells, and she dared not risk it - her test mice all ended up the size of badgers, and rather more purple. Soon, though, she would work it out.

But that wasn't what she had done today, no. Today was special, because her teacher had set her this one. 'Take this task and complete it with the utmost precision, Esmerelda', she had bade. But potions were like cooking, and she was quite good at that. Everything was weighed and measured, right down to the minutiae. Like all good, successful potions, the air was rank with magic; a sweet and eerie tint that made her head swim. This was its own payment for doing her teacher's errand work, which is what Esme's experience suggested this was. Even witches as famous as she have to make a living.

The young girl could taste the scent on the air, grinning to herself. Even if it usually did this, it was never quite so overpowering; here the scent took over, made her drowsy and warm. The boiler was off for the night, but she had been reduced to a simple nightshirt over the time of her potion making. Indeed, Esme was always so careful, she'd keep well away from the cauldron and just sleep soundly in her bed. But not today, no. Today was a risky business, as the shaky witch placed her hands on the rim and leaned over to take deep breaths, kicking her feet out and giggling unnaturally. Something was a little off here, certainly. Had she mixed up the instructions? That would be a first, but sometimes these things happened.

Occasionally with the magical arts, things just happened, that was how it was. Magically, they called it 'natural risk'. The inherent unpredictability of magic coupled with the complex workings of the humans who would marshal it. Or maybe that's what her textbook said - Esme just thought of it as luck. It took a certain kind of luck to perform a spell and not turn into a purple badger, although it was one of her first lessons. Be sane and sound. And above all, don't get lost in things.

Esme was definitely lost in things as she rested her weight on the cauldron lip. It was like it wasn't her; a giddier young girl had somehow stepped into her nightie and began doing these irresponsible things. Almost unreal, she would have thought, so when the obvious happened and she slipped, it was hardly her expectation that this was actually happening. Some sort of dream, perhaps, where she clambered up and fell into a potion cauldron. Slipped in, just like that, winding up in a surprised dampness at the bottom of the warm vat. The world felt heavy and Esme was wrested back into sharp reality, unable to breathe, flailing and trying to get back upright. Everything spun as she stood up, spilling some potion onto the floor; Esme gasped and held her chest, drawing breath. Panting, almost. Milky liquid dripped from her hair and trickled down her neck, and she gave a choking sigh. Carefully she tried to lift herself out, but then the potion scent stole her attention in a great assault on her senses, and she toppled out ungracefully, rubbing her head.

She oohed and aahed, making confused yelps as she suddenly became a lot warmer. The intoxicating scent came off her now, her nightie and her body soaked in the stuff, and she held her head. (C'mon, think,) she thought. (I should... I should call for some help. Yes, that's exactly what I should do.) It was so obvious, but her body just didn't want to go anywhere. Some of the potion was in her nose and mouth, and that would be easing its way into her system; most of it was being absorbed into her skin, a longer procedure but no less effective. Esme's sense of magic was well attuned, and as far as she could detect, something was definitely happening. It hung as an unknown, weighed through her hands and legs; it was an instinctive anticipation that made her fidget. An awkward frown fell on her features, and she found herself wishing it would just do what it was going to do already. Nonetheless, the wait made her heat up. It was too warm in here now, despite being the dead of night. Much too warm for even a nightie, and she considered pulling it off. It was wet and she'd only get more of a dose if she kept it worn.

(Oh, that's right... I was going to call for help!), she realised. Before giggling aloud, lifting her head and resting against the side of the cauldron. What was going on with her mind? Thoughts were sifting through it like water through a sieve. And all around her, this well of feeling crept up. An impending, a something. A point she was heading towards, and then a point she was on top of, turning and brushing hands against the floor, trying to stand up. And then the moment was gone, and the anticipation lifted, and Esme breathed a sigh of pent-up relief. This was it, then. A big spell for a small little girl.

It started with her skin. All at once, head to toe, Esme felt her flesh burn and ache and her hands tried to scratch the itches, but there were just too many! Like little prickles, over her chest and around her back and arms. For a few seconds she scratched, but eventually gave up, wriggling on the floor and whining. Opening her eyes she looked down her arms, seeing the sprouting fur in some confusion, fingers digging into the fluffy softness as she gasped in surprise. It was thick, luxurious, and everywhere! It was engulfing her as she watched, pressing the palms of her hands against cheeks - there too. Her nightdress felt strange pressed against it, and she fought between taking it off and staying modest. She would certainly have no problem getting lost in crowds now, for sure.

Her hands and feet began to ache too, fingers curling, resisting her attempts to stop them. Her hands seemed to get smaller under their layer of fuzz, getting softer as pads formed underneath, and she yelped as claws slid out of her fingers and toes. Meanwhile her feet got bigger; bones clicking against one another as she mumbled uncomfortably and tried to sit up again. Her thumbs felt like they were bent backwards, but she could see the dewclaws and unease filled her. She was becoming an animal? This worried her, a window of clarity in the delicious haze she'd been in since she completed the potion, and she brought her paws to her face and took deep breaths.

Perhaps a mistake, as her fur was warm with the potion's scent and she again felt detached from the world, breathing in the lovely air. Her face then felt warm and tense, as her mouth and skull shaped forwards, ears beginning to slide upwards and form fuzzy tips. The next wave of magical air hit upon developing feline senses, and her eyes left focus as she slid down to the floor, drifting along in pleasure. Whiskers pushed out of her cheeks like needles, but she was thankfully cut off from their sharp appearance. She could see them appear at the edge of her vision, where she could giggle at them and pat them with her paws.

Then Esme felt like she was being clutched very tightly. The air squeezed and her, and she coughed and curled up, flailing and hugging her knees. It was like a vice around her body, trying to crush her, although the giddy which felt that being smushed might be a wonderfully different way to spend the night. It was not that at all though, as her body gave in and began to shrink, legs and arms shrivelling and pulling in closer, head scrunched up against her body. Shuddering here and there as she compressed, smaller and smaller. The cauldron seemed pretty high, this room which was usually so small was just spreading out of control. The nightie became a blanket, and as she disappeared into it she felt trapped, and claws slid through the air, and she sliced and wriggled her way out; free! On the still air, her calls of complaint and discomfort were becoming more and more like the yowls and meows of a cat.

Most tellingly, Esme began forgetting things, as her mind tried to work out how she'd got here, and failed; the cat brain could only do so much, and she had no doubt that she was a... whatever she'd just said. Any apprehension she had at this point slipped away, as she became unable to process the idea. And yet she was still her, in as much as she didn't feel odd. Something about this form was similar now. The changes had been uncomfortable and new, but this was at equilibrium. And this was her room, for her scent was everywhere.

It was plain as soon as her legs had reached their size, thin and lithe with long feet. She could turn and wind up on all fours, and that felt natural to walk on, as she stood up for the first time and shook off a bit, fur fluffing. The parts of her that were obviously human were being rubbed away quickly and quietly; pointed ears, a smaller rear, her breasts were not so prominent but a number of teats presented themselves down her belly. Her tongue felt raspy and rough against her teeth, which were sharpening. Esme's stomach complained of being empty, but a faint warmth ran from head down her back, and culminated in the growth of a tail, weaving and working out of her rear and wrapping about to sit by her back feet.

She was white furred up and down, with a splash of pink around her head and down her back, and her eyes as bright blue as ever. The irises changed and spread, pupils turning to slits as she watched the world in a cat's light - it was quite dark, and so she had more clarity than she did before. Esme couldn't remember that much, other than she was Esme. And, strangely, she still knew what she had learned about magic. She could tell that the scent of some magic was suffused through her fur, and the cauldron, and that the magic was the same. It was a curiosity, but not one she dwelled on. More importantly, she needed to groom. So, sitting down, that is what the kitty did. Esme made herself comfortable on the remnants of her nightie, flopped over, and began grooming. And, before too long, she was napping.

When her teacher found her the next morning, she wasn't too surprised at the feline asleep in what had previously been her sleepwear. Nor would she complain - a good familiar was really quite hard to come by these days.