A Monster's Life
- 6 months ago
- 159 min read
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Something shiny flashed through the grey fog in Ulric's mind. He was vaguely aware that he moved around, although it seemed he wasn't consciously doing it. He suspected he fell asleep while reading on the couch but it didn't explain the sensation of using his arms and legs. It made even less sense than his usual strange dreams and it worried him.
Willing himself to wake up, the fog lifted slowly while another flash went through it and he jerked backwards. His vision became a little more clear and vague shapes appeared with one moving in front of him while swinging a long shiny object at him. His mind registered danger and he jumped back in a reflex.
'Oy!' he said but heard a snarl.
His vision cleared up more and he recognised the shiny object as a straight sword. And the hooded person in a green cloak wielding it thrust it at him again.
'Hey! Stop that!' he shouted but once more he only heard sharp snarls.
The attacker backed off quickly and he took the opportunity to glance around at the grey stone walled chamber lit by floor standing candelabras dripping enough wax to have created stalactites and stalagmites underneath. A couple of candles lit an occult circle on the stone slab floor with an overturned wooden table on one side, surrounded by vials, books, and twisted copper and coloured glass instruments. The sight of an open doorway made him think of escape and he rushed towards it until a large black and red canine monster rushing at him from that doorway startled him into jumping back and crashing into a couple of small tables with more books, jars, candles, and assorted magical props. He grabbed the large and heavy candlestick that fell on the floor beside him and swung it at the monster.
Except there was no monster.
Panting hard he crawled away from the doorway while aiming the candlestick at it and hit the wall with his back. He glanced left and right for a sign of the monster but all he saw was that cloaked person standing on the other side of the chamber. 'Where'd it go!?' he said, heard a growl and whine this time and looked quickly in all directions to see where it came from. There was still only that one person present, who pulled back the hood of the cloak.
Ulric stared with open mouth at a young woman with short brown hair as wild as if it had never been touched by comb or brush. She frowned at him with confusion in her doe-like hazel eyes as if he was something she'd never seen before. He surely didn't feel like he belonged wherever he was now and understood her expression.
'Where am I?' he said which turned into a half growl, half whine.
Another nagging sensation went up in the back of his mind. His whole body felt weird and his heart stopped when he noticed his hand holding the candle stick. He thrust it away from him as if it was burning hot and stared at the half hand, half paw with long and thick digits and sharp claws in front of his eyes. He turned it around, looked at his other hand which was now half paw as well, then looked down to see the body he had occupied since birth was gone and had been replaced by a black canine body.
A whine escaped him and he reached out to a polished silver tray, and whined more at the reflection of the black fur monstrous canine that scared him moments ago. Only now did he notice the large mirror on the wall at the other side of the doorway. He looked at the woman. 'Why!? What happened to me!?' he whined.
Iphigenia watched the bloodwolf with great puzzlement as he held out his open paws to her, then pat all over his body whining like a lost puppy. She approached him carefully with her short sword aimed at him. He held up his paws like a man would in surrender and recognised despair in his eyes, which only had a hint of the earlier glow of violent red left in their rich golden pupils. The demonic killing aura she'd sensed from him during the fight was gone without a trace.
She pondered killing him or not, knowing how deceitful demons could be, but she had never seen his kind reacting other than aggressive, and certainly not as un-animal as this. The doubt made her groan in frustration but she had to be sure and the only way to do that was through a familiar bond so they could understand each other. She didn't want to get close to such a dangerous creature or be linked to it's savage mind but she could always break the bond again.
He reeled back and stared at her sword as she took a step closer. She held up her hand, lowered her sword a little, gestured for him to stay put and shook her head while placing her hand on the blade. She gestured at him and growled, and pointed her sword upwards. He gazed at her for a moment and nodded once. She was glad he understood, lowered her sword far enough so that she could still stab him if he attacked her, went down on one knee at his side, touched her forehead, gestured at his, and leaned her head forwards. He understood again and carefully held his forehead against hers. She spoke the incantation and as she concentrated on him the mind link opened. His fear and anguish nearly overwhelmed her.
Ulric caught the young woman before she fell on the floor. 'Are you okay?' he asked as she blinked at him.
She nodded and tensed a little when she realised he held her in his strong arms. 'It's nothing.'
'You understand me now!?'
She rolled out of his arms and sat down on the floor. 'Yes. Through the mind link from the familiar bond that I made with you. We don't need to speak directly either if we focus on who we want to talk to.
He nodded although he didn't quite understood it, and glanced around at the chamber again. 'Where am I?'
'This is a dark wizard's lair. You don't know how you got here? Where did you come from?'
He sighed. 'Last thing I remember was reading an old fantasy book that I picked up at a used book shop on the couch.' he said and looked around again. 'And now it seems I'm stuck in this dream.'
She raised an eyebrow. 'You think you're dreaming?'
He held out his p aws. 'How else would you explain this medieval environment and whatever this body is that I have now?'
She stared at him for a moment while his behaviour started to make sense to her. 'You're not really a bloodwolf from the demon realm?'
'I'm human for real! And where on Earth would a demon realm exist?'
She frowned slightly again. 'Ehmm, what is Earth?'
He gestured around him. 'The planet. This planet?'
She sat upright. 'This is Leandria.'
It was his turn to stare at her for a moment while a realisation nagged at the back of his mind. 'This isn't Earth? And I suppose it's not the twenty-first century either?'
'The common year is seven hundred and sixty-eight. More precisely, it's the forty-second day of the fourth month.'
His jaw dropped. 'This has to be a dream.'
She shook her head.
He grabbed a large book from the floor, weighed it in his paws, and hit his head as hard as he could with it.
She snatched the bent book away from him. 'What are you doing!?'
He shook his head and sighed. Although he was a lot stronger now, so was his skull. 'I wanted to wake myself up.'
She noticed the title of the book and skimmed through it. 'This explains it.' she said and showed him a page with the same magic circle as had been drawn on the floor. 'The wizard tried to summon a demon but something must have gone wrong and you were summoned here at the same time.'
He groaned. 'So where is he? Make him send me back.'
She looked away. 'About that.' she said and cleared her throat. 'I don't think he'll be able to do that.'
His eyes went wide. 'What!? Why!? He must!'
She glanced at a corner and he looked. The blood soaked robe covering the body was enough of an answer. 'You killed him after he summoned me?'
'I'm sorry! I thought he hadn't completed the ritual! And I didn't expect something like this to happen!'
He put his face in his paws, barely hanging on to his sanity and logic. 'Does it say in the book how to send me back?'
She skimmed through it one more time. 'Only to the demon realm.' she said and put the book away. 'I also never heard of any other realm used for summoning.'
He sighed and gave up his resistance to his nightmare. 'So I'm stuck here in this world and in this monster body.'
She looked down. 'Sorry.'
They sat for a while in silence when she quickly looked up. 'I know! Maybe the magic council can help!' she said and he looked at her from between his fingers. 'They are the wisest of wizards and they might know of a way.'
A spark of hope lit up in his chest and he sat up. 'Where can I find them?'
'At Winter City. But it's a long journey and in your present situation you'll be targeted as a demon.'
He shook his head. 'I've got no choice if I want to return to my life. I'll just have to risk it.'
She nodded. 'I'll come with you. If anyone sees me with you they might not attack. Besides, I feel somewhat responsible for what happened.'
He smiled a little. 'Thanks. I can use all the help I can get right now.'
She smiled back at him. The familiar sight of black fur with thick blood red stripes across the back and neck had always filled her with loathing but he made it look good. She was surprised at this thought, wondered if it was an influence he had, and realised she hadn't checked his capabilities yet. 'Mind if I see your tallies?'
He raised one of his large ears. 'Tallies?'
She nodded. 'You know, what you can do, how strong you are.'
'Oh, I have no idea what I can do or show you.'
'Can't you summon the list of your skills in your world?'
He shook his head. 'We don't have magic in my world. Or at least no public knowledge of it.'
She moved closer. 'But maybe you can do it here. Just imagine a list on a page.'
'I might as well try.' he said, closed his eyes, and imagined a form with items like height, weight, academic results, and a few moments later one appeared before his eyes. 'I see it now.'
'Good. I can use the mind link to see yours now as well.' she said and focussed on his status. 'Hang on, your health, strength, dexterity, and magic power are all zero!'
He looked them up. 'Indeed. Did I imagine it wrong?'
'I don't think so because there are abilities listed. It's probably because you're not from this world and some things might not work.'
'Sounds logical. I'd like to have seen it though and compare it with others.'
'So did I.' she said and summoned her own tallies. 'You can see mine if you focus on it.'
He directed his mind to hers and her numbers appeared before his eyes. 'Oh, I see them!'
'My strength is at one hundred and twenty-eight as you can see. One hundred is the average for humans and the average for bloodwolves is one hundred and sixteen.' He nodded. 'Magic power is not high in my case at forty-eight. Just enough to heal myself from anything but really serious wounds.'
He chuckled. 'I doubt I have even a single point for that.'
'I don't understand your abilities though. Essence of healing, hedgehog? I've never heard of those.'
He reread them and pondered. 'I have no clue either. Maybe another thing that doesn't work right because it's me.'
'I'm afraid so, sorry.' she said. 'All that's left on the tallies are any familiar bonds that you made. You should see it as familiar to with my name.'
He checked. 'Iphigenia.' he said and smiled. 'That's a beautiful name.'
She blushed to her own surprise. 'Ah, ehm, thank you.' she said and cleared her throat. 'I see your name is Ulric. That sounds strong.'
He chuckled. 'With this body it fits that strength for once. I never was very athletic.'
She chuckled and read the entry in her list again. Then once more. 'Wait, why does it say familiar to you!?'
He looked up. 'Hmm?'
She checked his list. 'It should state that you're my familiar but it says I'm yours!'
He reread both entries. 'I see. How's that possible?'
'That can't be! Only the initiator can be the master!' she said, drew her sword, and glared at him as she aimed it at him. 'What did you do!? Are you trying to trap me with that whole other world story!?'
He leaned back and held up his paws. 'I didn't do anything! Why would I even want to!?'
'Because familiars can't harm their masters or anyone they say! And now you'll prevent me from killing your kind while they do evil!'
'I can't undo the bond! You break it!'
'I don't know how!'
'Just think hard about it!'
'Okay, okay! I will!' he said and imagined pulling a chain apart.
She pointed the tip of her sword at his throat. 'Do it!
'I'm already trying!' he said and shut his eyes tight in deep concentration. He breathed deep after a while. 'I can't break the link.'
She glared at him. 'I don't believe you!'
He sighed. 'Look, whatever happened is probably for the same reason why the rest of my status thing doesn't work. I don't want to be a master over you, I just want to go home to my real and quiet life.'
Doubt crossed her mind about her accusation with his logical explanation but she wasn't ready to fully trust him. 'So you say.'
'Won't that magic council know how to break it? You were willing to take me there so let's have them take care of that as well.'
She groaned in frustration when she had to admit he was right. 'Fine! We stick together like this for now.' she said and backed off. 'But as soon as we're there we're breaking this thing!'
He nodded. 'It's a promise.'
When they both stepped outside the small tower that was the wizard's lair and into a bright night, Ulric took a deep breath of the unpolluted air and stared at a planetary ring and two moons at either side of the horizon, the light grey one smaller than the bright white one. Together, their reflections of the sun's light made the night much brighter than he'd experienced during full moon at home. 'This is definitely not my home.'
Iphigenia glanced at him while she picked up her pack that she had left near the door. 'Much different?'
He nodded. 'We only have one moon, and no rings around the planet. Are there more moons here beside these two?'
She watched the horizon. 'One more. It's light blue and almost as big as Zurine, the white one, and is called Zydre. The grey one is Ziadan. The ring we call Vahan.' He took in the sight for a little longer when she began walking. 'Come. We have quite a journey to make and I'd like to get out of this forest before we rest.'
He hurried to catch up with her and walked on all fours next to her. 'Wait, didn't you threaten to kill me if I didn't break the familiar bond while it prevented you from harming me in the first place?'
Iphigenia flinched. 'Ah!'