I am a Shape shifter, but I know little else about myself because my memory starts with waking tied down flat on my back in the center of a clearing. I was surrounded by Rowan and Ash trees while seven voices sang and magic thrummed through everything. The blood slicked bonds held me tight as my entire body trembled and throbbed with pain. In short order, I realized I had full memory of object and idea, but none of person or place.
After a time, I stopped fighting the bonds and laid still within the flowers that shared the ground with me. One by one the voices dropped from the chant, leaving a single Tuatha Dé Danaan who came into sight as he knelt at my shoulder. Leaning over me the beautiful male looked into my eyes and and started the tale of how I came to be with them and what they “had” and “had not” accomplished.
When he was done, I was released and shown to a suite of rooms. There I was left alone to clean and refresh myself. Too dazed and exhausted to be amazed by my surroundings, I drug myself into the bathing room. Within the room I found a pack containing various herbs, spices, potions, travel gear, some clothing, a set of fine daggers and a dress made entirely of ring maile.
After a long soak and using some of the sacks supplies, I no longer felt quite so hollowed out and decided to join the household for last meal. Upon returning to my room, spread out on one side of the bed, there were two utilitarian swords, a fine bow and quiver set, and a rolled parchment. Examining each item in turn, I finally came to the scroll. Unrolling it revealed an accounting. The first part appeared to be written by those who turned me over to the fae. The second part was written by one of the household that currently sheltered me. It was all that anyone knew of me, as well as, what happened and why. This is what it said.
Please know dear lady, we did all we could to aid you. Though we were not responsible for what happened, the injury done you occurred because you stepped between one of ours and a very powerful, vengeful being. You saved my youngest daughter and we are forever grateful. We are a family of strong healers, but our youngest is truly exceptional. We were sought out by a village that had nearly half their number down with an ailment none had seen before. We sent her, along with an elder brother , to see what could be done. When she examined the worst affected, it became clear that it wasn’t a true ailment, but a psychic leeching of life essence.
Before thinking it through, she snapped the vile tether and instructed the family in how to nurse the afflicted back to health. Moving on to the next victim, she thought nothing of doing the same thing. This was the mistake of her youth. The first was likely passed off as the victim dying, but the second couldn’t be explained by anything other than direct intervention. It was only chance that allowed my daughter Mira to escape. She had stepped out of the room to once again give instructions to the rest of the family.
Sliding into the room from an outer window and seeing Mira’s brother sitting at the patients side, the being attacked and killed him. Although caught by surprise, Nathan was able to warn his sister while delaying the creature. Mira turned and ran with the being quickly making her pursuit. That is where you came in.
You were a stranger just coming into town. No one said they knew you when we asked. Mira ran around the curve in the road and slammed right into you, knocking you back a step and sending her careening off into the grass at the roadside. Mira said you took one look at her face and in what, to her, seemed a single move, you stepped sideways while knocking an arrow, placing yourself between her and whatever may be coming down the road. You bought Mira the time and concentration she needed.
We are healers and don’t know offensive magic but we are excellent at shielding. Mira is powerful, but so young. She hadn’t been taught how to shield more than herself yet, so shield herself she did. You must have magic of your own, though none of us recognized what kind, because Mira said your arrow started to glow white when the sound of her pursuer became audible. The Creature that came into view appeared as a middle aged woman that glowed with a fell aura. you let the arrow fly.
This time it was the being who was caught by surprise, going down with an arrow lodged in her throat. Knowing she couldn’t save herself, the Creature put every bit of magic and life essence she possessed into a curse. Mira, seeing her lips moving, knew what she was planning for you. Mira said she jumped up from the ground and wrapped herself around you in an attempt to give you some shielding. When it was clear to her that the shielding wasn’t going to stop it, she did the only other thing she could think of, she dug deep and slammed everything she had into putting you into an immediate healing coma.
It didn’t take long before villagers arrived, having responded to the raised alarm of those who witnessed the attack on our Son and the pursuit of Mira. Unable to leave you to get help, Mira sent a fast young lad from the village to the rest of us with the story of what had happened, as well as, Mira’s need of as many of her family as could come. I tell you dear lady, we made haste with every available member.
When we arrived, Mira already looked haggard. We used the combined strength of the entire family to combat the curse. We could feel your own magic doing the same, but the curse was the most powerful I had ever felt. Mira saw we were losing the battle. She reached for the only thing left, a favor owed. She ripped it from her neck and crushed it with a rock, this action sent her need into the night, winging its way to the Tuatha Dé Danaan that owed her.
As we fought the curse and waited, Mira told us the full extent of the vicious curse. It was to change you into a horrendous beast that would permanently be in a berserker state, killing every living thing it came across until you yourself were killed. It took one full and extremely taxing day for the fae to arrive. During that time we wrote this accounting, examined your belongings in an attempt to find out anything we could about you and fought to keep the curse from it’s goal. This is all we could discover of you.
You were already a shape changer before the curse. You possess healing magic of your own, yet you have a clear proficiency with weapons. You were formally educated and although we couldn’t find evidence of royal birth, you are clearly not a peasant. I gave all you had into the care of the Fae who came to our call. I am afraid it wasn’t much. A travelers pack with your personal items, a bag of coin that no one recognized and your weapons. You had a fine choker at your throat, very well made clothes, with fine metal work and gems, a beautiful bow and quiver as well as another pouch that held local currency. It is the hope of my entire family that the fae can do what we could not. We have been assured they will do all possible to aid and provide for you, for the favor owed Mira was large.
At this time I stopped reading and re-examined everything in the pack and on the bed, nothing. Everything was clearly mine. I knew what everything was, how to use the items and not a bloody thing about where or how I got them, and worse, no memory of my own name, family or country. Finally I sat and resumed reading. The second half was written by my current host, it began:
Lady Shape Shifter,
You have come to us cursed. If you are reading this, than you have survived. We found that we could not end the curse despite a full senite of trying. When we concluded the curse couldn’t be stopped, we altered our goals. The debt we owed to the young healer was great. For that reason, we were not willing to give up and end your existence. We also admired the strength and tenacity with which you waged your own internal war against the curse. We saw what your own magic was doing and decided to use a similar strategy.
Your innate magic kept dislodging the curse by changing your entire form, over and over again, preventing it from completing it’s initial goal of turning you into a horrific creature of it’s own design, but you were weakening. We endeavored to change the curse, allowing it to be satisfied that you were changed, regardless of what you changed into and with a tremendous effort we were able to bend the second half of the curse to give you berserker rage toward all “enemy” things, instead of toward all “living” things.
This second effort took more than a fortnight to accomplish. A moon has past since you came to us. As the scribe for my family, I gave considerable thought to you and the events that have taken place. We believe the being had been a psychic vampire schooled in sorcery. You changed into a tremendous array of creatures during your fight against the curse, but there were several forms you favored, especially the many forms of Taur. Nowhere in your mind could we find that you recalled yourself, nor your origins, so I sent for Niana who has a known capacity for true naming. Though she provided many of your true names, we have no idea if any are your given or family name.
The names she gave were these: Silver Blow, Healing Thorn, Ivy Hide, Sure Foot, Dire’s Dread, Iona of the Shea, Glad Heart, Wills Well, and Sojourner.
We think there were more names, but she was drained by her attempts to work around and through the curse in order to get at them. You can’t go back to where you were. The human villagers have never known your like and are very superstitious. We make the offer of our home and territory, should you wish to stay. If you do not, we believe you would fair best in a land known to us as Centauria. We must warn you though, never should you sleep in primarily human lands unless you are assured of privacy and security, for the curse takes it’s toll each night.
While you lay sleeping and your will is relegated to that of the subconscious, your form changes. Several times, as we worked to bend and seal the curse, you came to consciousness. During those times you stayed the form or forms of your choice, but as soon as you slept or lost consciousness, you changed. We have known other shape shifters and this is not the normal manner of things. Ordinarily what they fall asleep as is what they wake up as, and they would only change when in the presence of another that they wished to changed into. You however, are not held in your sleep, and you have no need of another of the type you wish to be. You simply change at will. We believe this is a result of the combination of the curse and your magics attempts to fight it, as well as, our own work to shape the form of the curse and seal it. Magic can be a tricky beast.
If you choose Centauria, we will provide you with any we have of the coin they use and the capability to travel to any location for which you have the coordinates. In the far reaches of our territory is an area called Dunstone. It is at the very edge of our territory and touches human territories, but you will be safe there. So long as you wish it, you will have a home with us in Dunstone. We will inform Mira of the outcome, and always keep a lookout for any who may be seeking you as family or friend. If you wish to write her yourself, we will deliver your writing, and if you wish to see her, we offer to bring her her to you. These things we do in the fulfillment of the favor owed her, but also for you, the new friend we have been calling Iona Shea.