Is this a dagger I see before me?
Now this is interesting. You have always wondered what it's like to be a werebeast, and now these people are offering you a chance to try it out, and probably a weapon and other equipment as well. As a punishment? Right. Throw me in the briar patch, Brother Fox!
"I'll try the last one," you say, trying not to sound too enthusiastic about it. The guard just nods, then walks you into another room where he sits you down at a table and hands you a beaker with a dark liquid in in.
"Now. It won't work until activated."
You take the beaker and sip the lukewarm potion. It tastes like flat Mountain Dew with a drop of cat pee in it. Not that you ever tried drinking cat pee, but you have a vivid imagination. Maybe too vivid.
You take a deep breath and hold it while gulping down the rest of the vile liquid. The guard is right about one thing - apart from a slight gag reflex you don't feel any different.
The guard puts a card on the table in front of you. "These are the activation words. Picture the beast of your choice clearly in your mind and speak these words together to activate the spell."
You look at the card, blink, rub your eyes and look again. "You gotta be kidding me!"
"Look at me. Am I smiling?"
You shrug. The words probably don't have the same connotation on this world. Put it down to coincidence.
"The words only work when spoken together," the guard repeats. "Use them in three different sentences to check the pronounciation."
"Okay, so the first word is Bibbity."
"And the second is Bobbity."
"Spoken like a native!"
"Finally there's Boo!"
"You're not scaring me."
You look up and see a wide grin. "Now I'm kidding!"
Terrific. Now you've got the fairies' song from Sleeping Beauty running through your head. As you do your best not to start singing out loud, the guard removes the card and hands you a sheathed dagger. You pull it out carefully and look at it.
"Look normal?" You nod. "It isn't. It's tarnished silver made to look like iron. Very expensive. Whatever you do, don't touch the blade after you become a werebeast."
While you're busy putting the dagger back and attaching the sheath to your belt, you suddenly hear footsteps behind you, and feel something around your neck. As you become aware of the other guard standing behind you, the thing snaps together and seems to shrink until it fits snugly against your skin. You put up a hand to touch it, but can't feel anything.
"Geas collar," the guard explains. "It's invisible, intangible, and you can't tell anyone about it. Removing it is beyond your meagre skills, so the only way to get it off is to come back here."
"What, I can't even say that I..." Before you reach the middle of the sentence you have forgotten how you wanted to end it.
The guard nods again and unrolls a map on the table. It is pretty light on terrain details, but there is a mountain range running east-west, a town near a river to the south, a couple of villages in the north and a road coming up from the south through the town, crossing what seems to be a mountain pass and splitting up to connect with the villages. A blank area to the northwest has been filled in with the words HERE BE DRAGONS.
You put your finger on the blank area and look up to see if the guard is smiling. He is not. Grrreeeat...
You suddenly become aware of a thin red glowing line that encircles most of the northern area with a thin tail following the road through the mountains and ending in a small circle around the town.
"That is the collar's safe zone, "the guard explains. "Only we and you can see the line. Step outside that and the collar will tighten and choke you to death. In a forthnight the zone will start shrinking from the north." As he speaks, the big encircled area starts shrinking like a leaky balloon until only the tail is left, then it disappears like a burning fuse until only a circle around the town is left. You resist the urge to shout "BOOM!" as the lines return to how they were originally.
"So I guess we're here," you say, indicating the southern town. "that's the Whatchamacallit Pass, and beyond that is werebeast territory."
"Correct. Your target should be somewhere in the area, probably in one of the villages."
That doesn't sound to bad really. Starting tomorrow you can just jump realities and leave the problems for whoever takes your place...
"By the way, " the other guard chimes in, "when we say 'step outside' it means 'leave by any means'. You can't even teleport locally as that implies passing through the spirit plane." You decide not to ask about jumping realities...
Written by Won-Tolla on 22 September 2007
The end (for now)