User:Leasara/As Subtle as Sphinx

From Shifti
Jump to: navigation, search
Add new comment
Mutamancer, a poster on the Lab, had wanted to do a collaboration. He wanted a unique transformation, and after a little brainstorming we decided to do a sphinx. I wrote the story and he was going to illustrate it, but he's been delayed by medical problems.

As Subtle as Sphinx

Author: Shannon Robertson

It was cold outside but the theater was warm. Plus it gave Rose the opportunity to watch the new Garbo picture again. Rose had lost her home shortly after she lost her parents, and had learned to survive on the castoffs from the concession stand. When it was warmer, she would sell pencils and matches on the corners around Chicago, but in the winter she usually bounced from theater to theater, she became an expert at sneaking in, and eventually got to know the staff of several of the larger houses. Tonight she had snuck into the Adams, it was easy to hide somewhere under the six hundred seats until the doors were locked. 'Fin' appeared on the screen and she sat there dabbing tears before they could roll down her cheeks.

As the rest of the moviegoers rose and began to exit, she remembered herself and started to sink to the floor to seek a hiding place, but an usher had seen her and she was escorted from the building. In need of a place to sleep, she wandered a bit before arriving at a deep doorway of some business that looked to have already closed for the night. It at least offered shelter form the wind, so she huddled against the door and dozed off.

Richard hated being late, a late start meant he was going to have to stay late. He cursed his luck at having been pressed for information by some cut-rate detective about some imagined crime. He was a short man, with a mind for business and not much else. In his mind, he could be bigger than Capone, though some part of him knew he?d never make it as a tough guy. His knack for sitting on the edge of the underworld without actually getting into it too deep is what made the cops think he might be a decent informer, but he knew the loss in business outweighed whatever reward the police might give him, so he kept quiet. Turning the corner, he saw the band was already standing at the door, discussing something in hushed tones.

"Sorry, fellas! I got held up." he called to them. They looked up, startled, and the sax player put a hand to his lips before beckoning him over. He pulled his keys from his pocket and began searching for the one to the club, and the noise drew annoyed looks from the small group of musicians. "What's so interesting about my door?" he asked as he approached, the last word falling softly as he caught the vision sleeping on the threshold. "Fuck me," he swore under his breath.

He estimated she was eighteen or twenty, with a slight build, but ample breasts. He watched their slow rise and fall for a moment, mesmerized until the sound of his keys on the sidewalk reminded him he needed to get through that door. He bent down to pick them up and her eyes opened, a deep emerald green through her blinking away her sleep. Her black hair was dull and matted, and her face was a mess, but with a bath a haircut and a change of clothes, she could really bring in some money. Her eyes went wide and he realized he was starring, He bolted upright as she lithely gained her feet.

"I'm sorry!" she was frightened and looked like she might cry. "I thought you were closed!" She deftly moved between the men, whatever God had taken from her, he had returned in an unearthly grace. Now that she was standing, he could see that she had broad hips, but was in need of a few good meals to fill out her figure. "I'll go, please don't call the cops." She started to run down the sidewalk, she wore only stockings on her feet and made almost no noise. Rich tossed his keys to the base player and ran after her.

"Hey, honey! Stop! Please wait," he called to the fleeing girl. "I ain't angry, I swear." Damn, she could run too. He was running out of breath. "Why don'cha come back an I'll get yous a sandwich?" this turned her around. "C'mon, it's cold out here, and I got a guy what delivers." She began walking towards him.

"You sure?" She was being cautious, but now he knew which button to push.

"Sure, I'm sure." Time to sweeten the deal. "I got a club over here, but this guy, he's got an all night deli. C'mon back and I'll get 'im ta bring ya a nice reuben, or some roast beef. How's that sound?" She walked up to him and took his arm, the way she'd seen it done so many times in the movies, and gave him a big grin. "Oh, well, right this way, mademoiselle." He chuckled and led her back to the club.

Inside the club, the band was setting up. It wasn't quite like the movies, but it was closer than she'd ever been. She thought the dance floor was a little small, and maybe the tables were too close together. There were only four booths, and the decorations around the room weren't as elaborate as she would have expected, but still the place had a glamour to it. they crossed to a little door, which he opened and the glamour began to fade. The light in the stairwell seemed ill as it reflected off the dirty walls.

"So what's yer name, doll?" he asked as he lead her up the stairs.

"Rose, what's yours?"

"Richard, but everyone jus calls me Rich. You ain't got a place to stay?"

She shrugged, "Well, I have a couple flops."

"Right. Well, I might could let 'cha stay here, if you wanna work fer me, that is."

Her sudden stop pulled at his arm, turning him around to see her looking up at him. "You'd hire me?" Her eyes were shining with hope, and looked out of place set in her dirty face.

"Well, you could be a cigarette girl ta start." She looked ready to burst, and he started to realize just how naive she might be. "And it don't pay much, jus room an board, but you can keep fif... twenty percent of yer tips." She jumped up and hugged his neck like a girl half her age.

"Oh, thank you, thank you! I'll do my very best, I promise."

"Yeah, yeah, Don' mention it." He had a laugh in his voice as he pealed her off himself, "I'll call some girls over ta fix yous up tonight, then ya can start tomorrow." With that, he lead her up the rest of the stairs and to the dressing room across from his office. "There's a bath in here. Go ahead and get in it, an' when Mary and Suze get here, I'll send 'em in ta get you scrubbed up." She ran in and started drawing the bath. "Hey, what kinda sandwich you want?"

"Oh, whatever you like is fine," she couldn't remember the last time she ate more than stale popcorn, so she had no idea what to order. He just shook his head and went to his office. First he ordered the sandwiches, then he called Mary.

When she turned off the faucet, she could hear him in his office. "Hey, Mary? Rich. At the Dolphin. Yeah. No, not this time. I swear! Nah, it's cool, listen. I got a girl you gotta meet. No, you'll love her. Pretty young. Nah, not my type. Right, bring Susan, and that outfit you make for my girls. Big. No, like Fat Jenny's, but she's skinny. Right, she'll have it in an envelope. I got her in the bath now, so soon as you can. Good, jus go upstairs. I gotta go open the place. If I got time. Yeah, bye."

She finished getting undressed and slid into the bath trying to remember the last time she?d had access to so much water at one time. She heard him crossing the floor, and then the hall. She reached for her dress as she heard him at the door and pulled it into the bath to cover herself as he opened it.

"Hey, doll I... Oh." He looked up and saw her red face and covered his eyes. "Sorry, kid, that's how it's done in showbiz. Look, I got this envelope you gotta give to Mary when she gets here. Jus stay in the bath until then."

The bath was beginning to cool when the door opened again, and a pair of women blew into the room, startling her into covering up. "I'm Mary, this is Susan. She don't talk."

Rose watched wide-eyed as Mary crossed the room in three great strides and Susan followed behind her. "We're here to get you gussied up so you can do what you do downstairs." She stuck her hand in the bath water, then pulled out the plug and turned on the hot water. Susan produced a narrow packet from her coat and rolled it out revealing a comb, a hair brush, some hair clips, and a pair of scissors. from another hidden pocket she pulled a series of bottles and started pouring them on Rose's hair, then began massaging the soap and sweet smelling oils into her scalp.

Mary grabbed Rose's chin and turned her face from side to side. She let go, took a step back and brought a finger to her lower lip, the squinted. "Looks like you cleaned your face well enough at least. Let's give her the 'Queen of Sheba,' long. Hmm. Well, the rest can wait until she's out of the bath," and Mary reached in to take Rose's foot, but came up with the dress and looked into the water for the first time.

"Excuse me," Rose's voice was barely audible. "I-"

"Aw, honey." Mary rolled over her as if she hadn't heard the girl. "If you're going to work at the Dolphin, you have to get used to letting people see you. That's just the kind of joint it is." She pulled the dress out of the water and dropped it on the floor. "Don't need that anymore. A few weeks here and you'll be in furs before you know it. Just don't let that snake, Dick, take advantage of you." She produced a razor from the basket she had been carrying and pulled Roses leg out of the water, then decided it was hot enough, stopped the drain and turned off the faucet. Going back to the leg, she couldn't find a reason to use the razor so she switched to a washcloth and a bar of soap and went to work. Rose decided she couldn't fight these women and bore her embarrassment as best she could.

Mary was had finished the legs and was starting on her arms when Susan finished un-tangling Rose's hair. She sat Rose up in the tub and cut a line just below her shoulders, halving the length. Then she went to work. Mary moved to Rose's back while Susan kept cutting and shaping her hair. Rose could tell they were used to this situation, and it allowed her to relax a bit.

"That's better." Mary had noticed the lessened tension as she moved down her back and up her side. "But where did you come from? Skin like this, I can't believe you didn't have someone to take care of you. I bet you'll have five suitors in a week." She finished at her other arm. and started scrubbing her stomach. Rose gave a small yelp as she moved to her breasts, but the older woman was gentler there. She reached in and pulled the plug as Susan put down her scissors. Mary produced a large towel and wrapped Rose in it once the water was gone.

"That is quite a figure you've got there. We're not going to be able to get you fitted tonight, but you'll be ready tomorrow." She took out a tape and began barking out measurements, which Susan quickly wrote down. "I tell you, I've never heard of such a thing as a 38 D. Especially as undernourished as you are, which reminds me. Susan, where did those sandwiches go?" The taller woman reached into her coat again and pulled out two sandwiches wrapped in butcher's paper, which she handed to the towel clad Rose.

Rose sat down at the little vanity table and began eating while Mary went to the small wardrobe my the bath. "I know he keeps a dressing gown in here somewhere. Ahh. there we are." She put the dark garment on the table and picked up the envelope. "We'll just leave you to your supper then. Have a good night, and we'll see you tomorrow." The two women departed as suddenly as they had arrived, leaving Rose to find a place in the small room to sleep on her own.

Separator f.png

The weeks passed, and with Rich's instruction, she was beginning to earn more in tips from the customers. She would do her best Hollywood Vamp for the guests, and after her first week she had regular customers that waited to buy their cigars and cigarettes from her. By the end of her second week, the spectacle of such an innocent girl trying to act sultry, and unaware of how badly she failed, became quite a draw for the little dive. With the twenty percent of her tips, she had been able to buy a little cot to put in the dressing room, and had almost saved up enough to add a floor screen to the room. She was dressing for the beginning of her third weekend when she heard Rich's heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. She shrugged her little top on and began smoothing it out as he burst in.

"Hey, doll," he snapped his fingers, she was already dressed. "Listen. I got a guy commin' tonight, they're gonna help me out with easin' the pressure I been gettin' from the cops. I need yous ta really turn it on tonight, got it?" His nerves were getting to him, whoever was coming must be important.

"Sure, I've been practicing my Clara Bow all day, I think I can do her pretty well now." The gleam in her eye told him she was going into her dreamland again. "Who's coming? Could it be the Commissioner's son?" She could see the scene as the handsome and powerful man came to whisk her away from Rich's den of inequity. He would - She was interrupted as Rich garbed her by the arm and spun her around.

"No time for that now. You really gotta be on tonight. This is inportant." The fear in her eyes made him realize what he was doing, and he loosened his grip. "Sorry. I'm sorry. I shouldn'a done that, but these guys..." He brushed at her shoulders, trying to calm himself and reassure her. "These guys is bigger than the Commissioner. We get in good wit' dem and they could solve a lota' our problems. Now, you got thirty minutes, then I want you downstairs. They're gonna be here before we open." He held her shoulders for a moment, then a silly grin spread across his face and he left.

Rose walked to the vanity to start applying her makeup in a haze. Who could be bigger than the commissioner and hold sway over the police department? Maybe it was the mayor's son that was coming to take her away! She felt bad that the man that had rescued her weeks earlier had been cast as the villain in her life, but movies had taught her that the appearance of the villain usually meant the hero wasn't far behind. As she applied the finishing touches to her face, she had a feeling that she'd spent her last night on a little cot.

The band was warming up as she came down stairs, and they began improvising on a melody she couldn't place once she opened the door to the club. The piano and base players were smiling at her as she crossed the dance floor, but the scowl on Rich's face reminded her that the cameras were rolling, and she dropped into the character she had picked for the evening. Standing next to Rich was a striking man, dressed a level better than the clients she was used to seeing in the Dolphin. "He must be the mayor's son after all," she thought to herself as she neared the men.

James watched as the girl spilled out of the door and onto the dance floor. The band began playing a bawdy tune, accentuating how out of place this girl was at the club. Her walk, the way she carried herself, the cast of her shoulders, the loft of her chin, she was certainly meant for something grater than selling cigars and cigarettes in a run down gin joint. If she was half as trusting as Richard made her out to be, he knew the rest of his cabal would take to her in no time. He smiled at this opportune find. She seemed to notice them then, and she changed her stride until she was almost gliding across the floor. The change was shocking, to say the least. Her hair in a long bob directed an onlookers attention to her emerald eyes, which had not lost the glimmer of a hopeful dreamer, in spite of the budding sexuality the rest of her now exuded. However, the spell was broken as suddenly as it had been cast, as she fell off her four-inch heel and was pitched over her cigarette tray.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" she apologized as she righted herself and began collecting the spilled tobacco. Rich's rage was visibly percolating, and his fists worked themselves in small circles as face passed red and headed towards violet, but the well dressed man stepped forward with a smile of relief and stooped to help her gather what she had dropped.

James glanced over his shoulder at the fury behind him, "It's good to see this place hasn't gotten to you yet." His voice was smooth, and something about it reminded her of the milk chocolates her father used to bring home from his business trips to Europe. It drew her attention up from the floor, and looking up at him it was as if Valentino had stepped off of the screen. His hair was a darker chestnut color than she imagined Valentino's would be, and the man in front of her seemed even larger than the actor did up on the screen. She felt herself flush as his grin made her realize she was starring.

"I'm Rose, Rose Parker," her voice was nearly inaudible as she offered her hand to the dashing man, who took it with even more gentility than she had dared hope for.

"James Covington. Pleased to meet you, Ms. Parker." The way he said her name gave her a thrill, and she knew she couldn't deny any request he might ask of her with that voice. The moment was broken by Rich's heavy footsteps, as he crossed to them wringing the frustration from his hands.

"Good! Now that we're all friends, why don't I get us some drinks so we can get ta know each other a little bit?" He was trying to sound cheery, but his nerves were apparent.

"I don't think so," James replied, returning doubt to the overly jovial Richard. "If you don't mind, Ms. Parker, I haven't eaten yet, and I was thinking of trying a new place I've been hearing about in Woodlawn. Won't you join me?" Richard had told him of her flights of fancy, and her eyes indicated she was not entirely still in the dance hall, so he took the cigarette tray's band from around her neck and with the suggestion of motion through their clasped hands, helped her up. "Why don't you go put on something nice, I'll wait here," he suggested, and with another slight movement of his hand, sent her on her way back towards the stairway door.

Relieved, Rich lowered his voice, "You gonna take her then? You saw how outta' it she gets?"

James matched the man's whisper, "She's perfect. Just what we need. Though for a moment there, just before she dropped the tray, I thought you had ruined her."

"So you'll do your thing then? Cool the cops, like yous said?"

"She's certainly all you said she was. Besides, I'm sure the police have better things to worry about than a two-bit operator in such a rundown speakeasy." The round little man chuckled at the lackluster summation of his character and livelihood.

Rose stopped and turned suddenly, looking guilty. "Um, Mr. Covington? This is the nicest outfit I have."

He smiled and beckoned her back, "We'll just have to pick something up on the way then," he offered as he put his trench coat on her small shoulders. Taking her arm, he led her out of the dark room to his waiting black limousine.

Separator f.png

The night had been full of shopping, dining, and dancing, and now she found herself in a room where each wall could host a movie screen. The bed might have been as big as the room she had stayed in at the dolphin, and had a large canopy hanging over it contrasting the dark drapes tied back over the windows. The floor was a deep red cherry wood with rugs defining the sleeping area, dressing area, and sitting area. The sitting area was furnished with a couch and two chairs around a small table holding a china tea set for four, while the dressing area had a fine oak rack for hanging clothes and a floor screen for privacy. Rose was certain she would never be able to sleep in such a well appointed room, especially after the night she had just experienced. Having explored the room, she decided to draw a bath before trying to sleep, so she was surprised when she came back into the room for her new robe to find Mr. Covington standing by the bed with two drinks.

"I thought you might like a nightcap," he offered, as he handed her the small flute of clear greenish liquid. Taking a sip, she started coughing and sputtering, the sight made him laugh.

"There's alcohol in this!" It burned her throat and sinuses and made her eyes water, "That's illegal, and I'm underage besides! What would your father say?"

"My father? Dear child, he's been dead for three years now. I don't think he'd have much to say about anything." His smile seemed wrong for talking about his dead father.

"But, the mayor... the police..." She had never drank alcohol, but didn't think one sip should be making the room heave back and forth as it seemed to be doing. Her eyes didn't want to stay open either. "Wha-?" James caught her as she succumbed to the opiate in the absinthe, and casually wondered what her dreams would be like.

An acrid odor hung heavy in the air as the rhythmic chanting roused her from her drugged slumber. Forcing her eyes open, she could see dim points of light that writhed around the room adding to the dizzying miasma forming in the black circle drawn around her. Underneath her the floor was cold and slick against her bare skin, and combined with the stench it pulled her out of her stupor. She tried to sit up only to be forced back to the ground by a thick metal band on her neck and the short chain that wouldn't allow her to rise above her hands and knees. The silk sash from the robe that had been Mr. Covington's gift was bound around her mouth, keeping her from crying for help.

Picking up it's pace, the chanting was also becoming louder, adding to her confusion as the incomprehensible syllables slid past her. Smoke began to rise from the circle and the lines and symbols that were inscribed within it, as Mr. Covington's voice joined the growing din, adding a counterpoint to the rhythms of the rest of the chanters. Tears began rolling down her cheeks as the realization came to her of what part he had played in her betrayal. Her breaths came in great heaving sobs, inhaling more of the noxious fumes, as she understood her situation. Within the circle the smoke was getting deeper, and it caused a searing pain in her lungs as she tried to breathe.

In the faint candle light, she could see the edge of the circle clearly defined as the dark vapor stayed within it's confines. It obscured the floor below her, and crept along the skin of her hands and calves with a sickening oozing quality. A thinner fog floated above the black mass, and it was this that was stinging her lungs and eyes as the dark cloud below slowly engulfed her. Her heart pounded in her ears, as something seemed to whisper below the chanting. As it spoke, images filled her head, and something awoke in her mind. Shards of something were slowly coming together to create a vision, and as the picture resolved itself, she became panicked. Her desperation peaked, and she started struggling against the chain and collar that were keeping her prisoner. She thrashed about on the chain like a wild animal, then suddenly became calm.

She looked around herself, bewildered as understanding seeped into her with the smoke. The seven lines within the circle mad up a septagram. The symbols within the figure were blessings and wards. The circle had been drawn in an ichor brewed from fermented camel dung, papyrus, and blessed date wine. The fourteen candles... this was a circle of summoning. The chanting echoed off the bare concrete walls and floor and pounded a spike deep within her head. The words were becoming clearer, she could almost make them out. She looked up at the gleeful expression on her captor?s face as she gripped her ears to shut out the sounds, wincing at the pain they brought. The High Tongue continued to pound within her, but the sloppy accent of these cloaked figures gave it a hissing and a buzzing that was wholly wrong. They droned through the song of summoning, but had no feeling of meaning behind their words and the pain caused by their poor attempt was driving her mad. With relief, she finally found the answer, and pulled her consciousness in on itself.

She collapsed on the floor, and room became still. James felt a pang of regret at the loss of another beautiful girl. He had been certain she would be the one, but if she followed the last two to the asylum, the influence they could exert may not be enough. They had practiced for two months after the last girl had emerged from her trance in a catatonic state. The hospital had been reluctant to take her after the first one, but at least the second hadn't been as strangely deformed. Of their group, only he was able to see a fine mist that rose from the seven-pointed star on the floor. Some didn't believe in his sight, but the backing of the rest was enough for him to keep control. The mist continued to flow into the girl, so he kept them from breaking the circle. Everyone looked on intently, then a slight murmur rose as the changes appeared in her feet. His glance silenced them, and he watched with rapt attention, as if his concentration alone could save the girl from her predecessors' fate.

Withdrawn into the blissfully silent darkness, she found that she was still awake in her dream. A memory of the headache they had caused nagged at her, but she dismissed it easily enough. She was alone in the universe, floating in a void, when there was a sudden flash of light. Turning, she was unable to find the source of the momentary illumination, but she could feel a dark presence prowling in the silence. She peered into the inky blackness around her, but every time she thought she could make out a form in the shadows, it disappeared. She knew she should be frightened, but her need to know what was waiting just out of sight overrode her instincts of preservation. Finding her feet, she began wandering in strange realm, searching for whatever was in here with her. Weather she was stalking it or it was stalking her, she couldn't decide, but it gave her a thrill she had never imagined. Suddenly, she was stopped by the feeling of a hot breath on the back of her neck.

Slowly she turned, readying herself for whatever might be behind her. There was a winged creature there, smiling, and she felt that she had passed some test. The creature opened it?s mouth and began to whisper something. The familiar voice took on form as it left her mouth, and flooded the void with images. The emptiness suddenly becoming full caught her off guard, and the past flashed by her like the movies she had enjoyed in a simpler life, only now she could feel the character?s minds touch on her own. Every hope, every aspiration, every depraved thought and desire, in the moment their minds met, they were all laid bare. Soon she became aware of patterns within the chaos of the human mind, and the patterns those motives wove into history. Before Uruk, the first great city fell, she had found the patterns so complete, the secrets of the universe were laid bare.

Lying comatose on the concrete floor, her toes had already contorted themselves into a feline shape, and a fleshy black pad was growing from the balls behind them. As they settled into their new form, her toes flexed and relaxed, revealing the cruel black claws that had been her nails. Muscles in her calves twitched as her feet began to lengthen and her shins shrunk, moving her heel closer to her knee. A moan escaped her lips as the changes reshaped her thighs, and her arousal became apparent in her nipples. Her consciousness elsewhere left her body to it?s base tendencies, and one hand went to her groin as the other played on her bare breasts. Some of the group allowed her arousal to spark their own, but James stayed focused as her deep breaths drew in more of the magic mist.

The winged creature continued it's tale, unmindful of Rose's discomfort. Something was pulling her back to the waking world, but every new mind she touched brought new understanding to her expanding knowledge. New civilizations were rising to power in the world, and their ideas tinted her views. The people were racing past, and already the Greeks had fallen. How foolish she was to have thought the lives of one culture could explain the true nature of the universe. The patterns she had seen before were unrecognizable now, though some were still hinted at. Wisdom was added to her being, like milk poured into tea.

Tawny hair began to cover her paws, and a coat was running up her legs to the site of her enjoyment. She screamed, a mix of pure pleasure with an odd guttural roar, and arched her back as her hips softened and flowed into a new shape. The hand at her breasts became busy with new nubs of flesh that appeared in two rows down her belly. She climaxed again and a tail shot from her new hindquarters, the tip twitching in her ecstasy as brown-gold fur fought to cover the new appendage.

The pace of the figure's story had doubled again, dangerous things stirred and were slain in Europe as wars were being fought in the East. Rose imagined her mind was fit to burst as her awareness was being pushed to its limits. Still the tale continued and every aspect of every life added its resolution to the picture. Trends became obvious, and patterns were refined. The last of the Druids left for Avalon, and education ceased in the West. In the East, the understanding of subtle truths became paramount. History was passing in a headlong rush, and Rose could begin to make guesses about possible conclusions.

The changes slowed as they entered her torso, taking care with her organs as they moved about and reshaped. She slowed her play as gurgles and slurping noises echoed from her abdomen. Her face took on a pained look, and her hands crossed over her stomach as she rolled into a ball, stretching out her spine into it's own new configuration. Her paws were growing, her pads measuring about ten inches across at their widest. James did his best to keep his excitement restrained, this was much further than they had gotten in the past. He dared to hope they had succeeded.

Rose was getting lost in history, now keeping track of life on six continents. She struggled to keep up, but the simple complexities of some of the minds were staggering. She started to apply what she had learned, and was able to slow the story to a more manageable deluge. The one from who the story spilled smiled at the skill of her protégé. She learned from her application of magic, and began experimenting to find other practical uses for what had been filling her mind. Her teacher sped along again, but the influx of life experience was secondary now, as natural as rain falling, and she was able to soak up every ounce like parched desert sand. With a lurch, the show stopped. The scene was a room full of robed figures peering into a churning black pillar. Adjusting her eyes allowed her to see herself on the floor, the center of their attention. A quiet rage began to build in her chest. The story sprang back into motion, but was done in a flash, and her education was complete.

The mist was beginning to settle, and the girl on the floor was more lion than human. Her coat had reached to her shoulders on her back, but only brushed the bottom of her human breasts underneath. Her body was taking on mass from the haze, and he estimated her back would be as high as his shoulder once she stood, probably five and a half feet. At her shoulder, two naked wings pushed through her coat, and her head lifted as her eyes opened.

She rolled onto her belly, lying in a crouch in deference to the chain around her neck. She blinked around the room, her eyes casting a pale glow on the individuals starring back at her. Enjoying their unease, she yawned, changing her teeth and biting through the gag. She stretched her arms in front of her as they took on a more leonine shape and fur ran down them, but she stopped the transformation before it took her thumbs. She stood and stretched out her hind legs and back, her head and breasts growing to match her massive body. Finally she threw out her wings, and once they reached their full span, eagle?s feathers appeared in an instant to cover them. She turned her gaze over each of the people once more before folding her wings lightly on her back. Her eyes fixed on James, who took this as a sign and stepped to the edge of the circle.

"Great Sphinx!" he began the speech he had been wanting to give for over a year now. She sat and let him continue, "To you we have offered this innocent as a sacrifice in the manner we found in an ancient tome. We now request that you honor the ancient pact and impart your knowledge to us."

"I know." Her voice was the same, but it was accompanied by a low rumble in her chest. "I am a Guardian of Knowledge, after all. Your book told you I would appear, but you don't seem to have learned anything more."

"You stand in my circle! I will compel you to-" her laugh, with it's guttural undertones, filled him with dread.

"You would bind me with this? You do not begin to comprehend the idea behind the simplest of these sigils, how can you hope to imbue them with a power greater than my own? You, James Covington, have a slight gift, but the rest of these bored socialites are dullards of the worst kind." Most of the room began to move toward the exit, she grinned as they tried to escape. The first one to arrive at the door found it sealed, and with a flick of a forepaw, they vanished, their robes falling to the floor. A moment later they emerged from their discarded garments as large Egyptian temple cats, which returned and made a circle around their former leader. Rose stood, pulling the chain from the concrete floor. The steel band around her neck became gold, and the chain flowed into it as it expanded to cover her shoulders to the tops of her breasts. She paced out of his circle, and the pressure of her eyes on him made James lose control of his bladder.

"P-please. I only wanted..." his voice trailed off as he felt his power surge within him. He turned to follow Rose as she walked behind him and sat down.

"You do not know what you wanted, and what you thought you wanted is laughable." She fed him another sliver of magic and watched as he became drunk on his own energies. He staggered backwards as the heat of his power began to overwhelm him. As he crossed the border of the circle, she gave him one last crumb to send him over the precipice he'd been teetering on, and his eyes went wide as he lost hold of what he thought he wanted.

Blue flames burst from his skin, consuming his clothing and igniting the circle he'd drawn. He dropped to the floor, occupying the space Rose had recently vacated, and the temple cats that had been his friends ringed the edge of the circle. The fire of his magic glowed brighter, consuming his matter as his form began to shrink. He writhed in agony as Rose blew on the ember of his soul, fanning the flame and choosing his shape. The cats watched, his fire lending their eyes a frightening glow as it guttered and went out. They began pacing the circle, waiting for her to let them enter as his form settled into it's new shape.

"You should know, I took their minds as well as their forms. They don't remember ever having been anything other than a cat." She warned him as he regained consciousness. "I left you your wits so you might entertain them a bit longer." She drew up a portal to an ethereal plane, and as she entered, the cats fell on the rat that had been their master.